BossFeed: Soft Spot

The week in work: Jimmy John’s, Yakima, vaping, an alligator, an owl, and a wild boar.

It’s a hard-knock life

Yes there actually is a Jimmy John in Jimmy John’s, and according to an adoring business-side profile which ran this week in newspapers across the country, the success of his sandwich chain came only because of his learning in the “school of hard knocks”. The first lesson, however, came through a $25,000 start-up loan his father offered in 1983 upon his high school graduation — the equivalent of about $60,000 today, adjusted for inflation. Another hard knock involved his being photographed hunting for big game in various parts Africa. And then working with some underperforming franchises, that was the really hard part apparently.

Starting a business as an 18-year old with a massive investment from your parents, then going on to trophy hunt imperial-style, compounded by the stress of running a chain of 200+ shops — that’s not quite how we remember that song in Little Orphan Annie. (Or the Jay-Z version.)

That's because no matter how you slice it, there’s just not that much discipline at any “school of hard knocks” the rich enroll themselves in.

But how are their reviews on Trip Advisor?

The US Labor Department has turned up evidence of large-scale wage theft at Yakima’s Sunshine Motel. They charge that motel management repeatedly failed to pay employees overtime, instead doctoring payroll records and providing a room for the night in lieu of money.

A warm place to sleep can be an appealing offer when wages are so low and housing so expensive, and it actually can be legal to count lodging towards wages. However, Federal investigators found that in addition to the fraudulent records, the rooms provided simply weren’t worth enough to cover all the overtime owed — fairly obvious when you see that employees worked as many as 91 hours a week and then you consider the value of a motel stay in Yakima.

Labor standards enforcement isn’t funded at anywhere near the appropriate levels, but it’s good to see that at least the Department of Labor has left the light on.

It would definitely seem more healthy if they at least called it American Spirit

Turns out that e-cigarette flavoring is one of the few things worse for your lungs than working in a microwave popcorn factory. The major risk in both cases is diacetyl, which is the key ingredient in artificial butter flavoring and also a piece of the delicious chemical cocktail in more than 90% of e-cigarette flavors ranging from “tutti frutti” and “oatmeal cookie” to “classic”, “tobacco”, and “menthol”.

While microwaving popcorn in the breakroom is sure to irritate sensitive co-workers, it doesn’t actually create much danger of chemical exposure; however, manufacturing the flavoring typically involves inhaling large quantities of the chemical, leading to high risk of lung disease. Vaping has a similar exposure pathway, since users are literally inhaling the chemical, so the risk is likely similar. And the health impact of actually making the e-cigarette liquid? Likely to be even worse… but who knows, because there’s currently no legally-enforceable exposure limit for workers.

Boared to tears?

An 11-foot Florida alligator was trapped and euthanized by authorities after a burglary suspect was found dead from injuries consistent with an alligator attack. Local police recommend reptiles call 911 rather than engaging in vigilante activity.

Spotted owls may have been able to outcompete the Northwest lumberjack, but the birds are now losing ground to the rival barred owl, which certainly sounds more intimidating. Barred owl removal experiments are underway, but authorities believe “we are stuck with them.”

Banana, a wild boar whose species is generally considered “invasive and destructive”, left its home in the German forest for undetermined reasons and was adopted by a nearby herd of cattle. It is believed that the boar “knew what it was doing”, that cows are “not just a bunch of big animals with their heads down, chewing grass”, and that the story is a pleasant bit of European counter-programming to the worldwide wave of xenophobia and hatred