Exxon: Corporate Hater?

15 March 2010

Dear Mr. Tillerson:

I hope this message finds you well.

I am sure that you receive many letters from angry environmentalists, angry customers, angry activists of all types. I am writing to you today not because I am angry, but because I am confused.

My family has long been a “Mobil family,” in fact, I’ve been Mobil customer for four decades. My dad, a semi-professional automobile racer, proudly displayed the Mobil logo on his car. My grandfather swore by Standard Oil. There is a Mobil on the corner of my street, and it has, for a long time, been my gas station of choice. I am proud to support my local franchise owner, and her employees. I have had both a Speedpass and a ExxonMobil MasterCard for many years and I gladly suggest Mobil to my friends, colleagues, students, and co-workers.

I write today with a request: Would you explain to me the policy of ExxonMobil with regard to its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered employees? My understanding is that your policy enshrines discrimination against this group of people. While I understand that the leaders of large corporations often have to make unpopular choices for the good of the company and its shareholders, I cannot understand your seemingly discriminatory policy. Your policy toward GLBT people, Mr. Tillerson, simply does not make sense. By offending and in effect shutting out gay and lesbian consumers, it alienates the largest market of discretionary spenders in the world. Personally, I find your policy not only absurd—a bullying bout of Texas bravado—but offensive.

I am willing to hear the reasons for your choice, Mr. Tillerson, and I look forward to your expedient reply to my request. I ask that your letter of reply actually be from you, not an assistant or a corporate communications person, as I would truly like to know your thoughts on this matter and your reasons for this decision. I know you will understand, Mr. Tillerson, that until I receive your reply, I cannot in good conscience continue to patronize any ExxonMobil outlets. With this letter, I have put my Speedpass and ExxonMobil MasterCard on hiatus until I receive your reply. Your reply will determine whether or not I continue to be a proud ExxonMobil customer for the next four decades, or whether your reply will clarify what can seemingly be construed as a choice of intolerance and hatred.

I have posted this letter (as I will with your response) on my blog, and will share it with my friends, colleagues, students, and co-workers.

I look forward to your reply, Mr. Tillerson, thank you for your time and attention to this letter.

Sincerely,

More info at: HRC | Corporate Equality Index.

People are really rotten.

When the big 4-0 closes in on you (and you make the realization that you’re more than half way to being 80), it’s a good time to pause and reassess. One thing that I’ve learned is that people are really rotten. I’m not exempting myself from this, but it’s an interesting footnote on the human condition that we are, really, still animals. Often, our primal behaviour betrays our rationality and reminds us of this fact.

I was thrilled to find out a few weeks back that my friend, Adam Giambrone was running for mayor of Toronto. Adam is 32 and is one of the most accomplished people I know, and plus, he’s a nice guy. I met Adam a few years ago at an envisioning session for the TTC at the Design Exchange in Toronto (which is lead in a seemingly effortless fashion by another good friend, Samantha Sanella). Adam struck me instantly because of his age, younger than me, he had done a lot of interesting stuff. He speaks more languages than I do, and he managed to get elected in a tough riding (read: district for U.S. readers) running as NDP, the 3rd place (or arguably 4th place, if you’re in Quebec) political party in Canada.

After getting elected, Adam—a public transit aficionado—had the audacity to envision a Southern Ontario with plentiful public transit that stretched out from Toronto to the edges of the peninsula. His more senior colleagues laughed at his plan to develop “Transit City” and very publically denounced his energy and efforts. Adam, however, pushed forward and secured nearly $20 billion (yes billion) in provincial and federal funding for the project. All of a sudden, folks weren’t laughing any more. This guy had the energy and the can-do attitude to get things done.

Adam also took the position as TTC chair, that is, the leader of one of the largest public transit systems in the world. He didn’t take the position, collect a paycheck, and go on vacation. Instead, he became a tireless and vocal advocate for public transit and the expansion of it.

In the US, we don’t have many leaders by that. Many of us “south of the border” have been watching Adam and his accomplishments with amazement. His enthusiasm is contagious, whether through his constant Twitter posts, or his on-the-fly Facebook updates. However, despite his incredibly busy schedule, Adam remained accessible. He’d bounce an e-mail back in a moment or two, and was always cheerful and polite.

He really earned my respect.

I was thrilled earlier this year to learn that he was planning a run for mayor of Toronto. I could only begin to imagine what he had in store for the city.

But, I digress. This week was a rough week for Adam. He made a mistake, and it was called out in the press. What’s shocking, is that the interwebs lit up with nasty comments about his inability to manage his work, fueled by spiteful anger about a TTC fare hike that happened a while back.

These comments struck me. Adam is a good guy, and he’s an authentic, hard working visionary. Good, right? Probably not. He, like many hard working, diligent, young professionals become targets for lazy, disenfranchised, armchair grumps. I’ve been there, and I know how it is. It’s way easier for folks to take aim than it is for them to take action. It’s easier to call Adam a loser than it is to get involved in a neighborhood association. It’s more interesting to read about his relationship that it is to think about your own. The ugly side of the human spirit comes in many flavors, and never more does it shine than when someone is down. It seems kicking a man when he’s down has become a Canadian pastime, and the tweets and posts have been nothing less than shocking. My only explanation for this vitriol can be that people are jealous of him… which given his record, seems to make sense.

I might remind my Canadian readers, that your friends south of the border would be very happy to have a politician like Adam who—might not be perfect—but is committed to doing the hard work of governing and planning for the future. Adam has still accomplished more at 32 than many people accomplish at 52. So those who take aim should be careful what they wish for. Politicians that care come along once in a generation. Adam is one of those, and while it make make interesting water cooler conversation for bored and lonely 30-somethings, or twitter tweeting for lazy 20-somethings, it’s important to remember that Adam isn’t a character, he is human. What I can imagine has been a tough time can only have been made tougher by the consistent onslaught of negative comments and barbs thrown his way over the past few days. It is truly shameful.

Despite the recent media reports, it is still my true pleasure to count Adam as a friend, and I am proud to very publicly say that I respect him tremendously. He made a mistake, and that doesn’t make him a monster, it makes him human, just like me, and just like you. He was honourable enough to publicly confess his misdoings, which is something that many of us would never be able to do. As a fellow human, he deserves our understanding and support, and despite any misdeeds in his personal life, he has done a lot for our bi-national region, and he—at the very least—has earned our respect.

Hang in there, Adam.

More about my Verizon HTC Eris

OK. I’m going on day 3 with my Verizon HTC Eris, and I’ve had about 500 hits on my blog for my recent post about it. So, considering how new the phone is (Verizon has had it for about 2 weeks), I thought I’d write a little more about it.

Here’s the background:

I had a Motorola RAZR for about 3 years, and it died this past spring. I really, really wanted an iPhone, but for a variety of reasons was reluctant to leave Verizon (primarily because everyone I talk to regularly is on Verizon) So, in late May, I bought an LG VX9700. It had a great camera, but the touch screen sucked. I took it back, and at the time, Verizon had a special on the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition. So, I grabbed one. It did all the things the iPhone did, but it just wasn’t as slick… so I thought.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Not only did the BlackBerry not do everything the iPhone did, but it also delivered an endless part-time IT job that consisted of configuring, backing up, reconfiguring, troubleshooting… it was a huge pain in the butt, because the phone simply didn’t work. After a few months of fighting with it, I called Verizon. No problem, they simply replaced it. They sent me one, and I sent the problem one back. Woo hoo. I had a working BlackBerry… for about a day. Oddly, all the same things (freezing, shutting off, etc.) started to happen again. I upgraded the software… it got worse. So, I called Verizon again. They were more argumentative this time, and walked me through resetting the device and re-installing the software (even though I had explained to them that I really didn’t want to do it). Oddly, during the reset, the phone shut down (as it had been doing for several months) and we had to start the reset process all over again. That was enough to prompt Verizon to send me yet another replacement 8830. I was thrilled to receive it, and shocked to find out that it was DOA. It wouldn’t start up, and wouldn’t work.

I called Verizon (almost in tears) and explained that this phone and I just weren’t meant to be, and asked if they could send me an HTC Eris instead. Shockingly, they did. (Note: I found something very interesting throughout this experience: consistently the female Verizon operators are helpful but the male Verizon operators are argumentative and combative.)

I was thrilled to receive the HTC Eris… which was sent as a replacement (meaning: no battery, no battery cover, no charger, no memory card.). So… another round of calls to Verizon. Luckily, my call was routed to a female operator, and she was kind enough to send along all the missing pieces. Finally! I had a phone that worked.

The phone took about 30 seconds to set up. No joke. I put in my gmail account username and password, facebook, flickr, and twitter details, and boom, it was working, and integrated. I downloaded a bunch of really great software (all free): a neat barcode reader that checks prices when you’re shopping, a neat barcode storage app that keeps all of your loyalty club barcodes in one place (your phone, rather than your keychain or wallet). The only app it lacks is AIM or an AIM-friendly interface. Google Talk works beautifully, but not many of my friends or colleagues use it.

The screen is beautiful and the phone comes loaded with great ringtones—most are pleasant, unlike most phones that are riddled with annoying ringtones. The on-screen typography is top shelf, very readable, and well-kerned, the hierarchy is very well developed. Navigation is pretty intuitive, and it’s easy to set things up and set preferences. The camera takes decent photographs, and integrates seamlessly with mail, gmail, flickr, and facebook. I like the way that apps are integrated with the phone software itself. For example, when I look at my contacts in the “People” application, facebook and flickr status is integrated… so are facebook images, so they change whenever a friend changes their profile pic.

Google voice search is amazing. Period.

The mysterious trackball (why is a trackball necessary on a touch screen phone?) is actually really handy. It’s great when using mobile websites in which links are too crowed to carefully pick out.

Battery life is just OK. Seems to me to be on the short side, but I think it’s because I haven’t really charged it fully, and I’ve been using it a lot. Even if I had to keep the Eris plugged in most of the time, I’d still like it.

I can’t say enough good things about this phone… other than that it beats the pants off any phone I’ve ever had, and comes in slightly ahead of my ipod touch in terms of overall usability.

I still give it a solid ***** stars. If you have Verizon and you’ve been waiting for the iPhone, RUN (don’t walk) to your closest Verizon store to grab yours now.

Feel free to comment and share your experiences below. 🙂