Is Oregon a Bad Place For Business?

Jesse Cornett

Poppycock. That’s what I have to say to those who’ve been standing up talking about how awful a place Oregon is to do business, especially not when compared to doing business with big business.

After nearly a decade working professionally in politics and government, I reverted back to my previous career late last year and in mid January opened up The Guild pub and restaurant. I spent a lot of time looking at what agencies I’d have to deal with and a couple of websites to point you in the right direction, it’s pretty easy. Now Comcast and Google, on the other hand, haven’t been as great to work with.

When Comcast required we change our phone number after the doors were open because they were too bureaucratic to figure out how to let us keep the number we’d been assigned originally, Google promised us they’d update The Guild’s places page within 3 weeks. Heck, CitySearch (yeah, remember them?) still hasn’t been able to update it.

Oh, and let’s talk about any vendor. This is a cash and carry business. If I go to the store to buy products, pay leases on equipment or accept delivery of goods, there’s one thing in common: it’s cash up front. The delivery driver or maintenance worker will stand there and wait for you to write a check each time.

And when I went to my credit union and a bank to inquire about any potential loan programs? Of course they’ll help a business. So long as I’ve been in business for at least two years!

And they say government’s the problem?

I’d been warned how tough the Oregon Liquor Control Commission was to deal with. I not only found them to be easy to work with but pleasant and informative. Anyone who thinks they’re tough to deal with has never had to deal with bureaucracy before. I was able to secure my temporary permit to operate in less time than it took Google to update my phone number online. Seriously. They weren't easy or lax but they were efficient.

Was it all rosy in dealing with the government? No. There was one interaction I thought was downright intimidating. There were a few steps that I’m sure could be simplified. But down to my health inspector who was obviously there to protect the public health more than play a game of gotcha, I’ve found fees reasonable and regulations understandable.

What has been an impediment? Having Comcast take a week to hook up my cable but in the mean time cutting off the previous tenants hours before we had our first customers walking in the door to watch the Ducks in the National Championship. Oh also, how cute to keep charging the previous tenants once you finally figured out how to charge us. Oh and when you sent them a bill for the equipment they didn’t return, did you think about how hard it would have been for them to return equipment you hooked up for me to use? Oh and disconnecting the phone while I was talking with you about getting it transferred over? Classy. If not for your monopoly of the Portland Trailblazers, I’d never do business with you again not at home and certainly not at my business.

But if I’m not successful as a business, there’s one finger I’ll point other than to myself and that’s to Google. You cannot simultaneously serve as such a center of information yet have such blatantly false information out there and be incapable of fixing it.

Despite, sending messages to them for over two months, The Guild’s Google Places page still contains the logo and reviews from the folks who previously rented the space I currently lease. It links to over a dozen reviews of the business that was there before us. Most of those links are dead because the other websites figured out that a business that closed nearly 4 months ago is no longer in business. Google can’t seem to figure out to make them go away – won’t even try. Bear in mind that the only similarity between the previous business and us is the space we now rent. Because of our address, Google is making sure my business is being held responsible for the sins of another business.

So why would I point the finger at Google? I mean, how do I know it’s impacted business? I’ve had dozens and dozens of friends mention seeing those bad reviews. They’re always happy to hear from me that those reviews are for the old place and if we generate our own reviews, those will get pushed out. Apparently that’s not so. We’ve generated a fair number of reviews for The Guild with the first one dating just days after our opening but Google doesn’t link to a single one of them. Most of them are good and a couple aren’t great but our reviews have been out there for a few weeks yet Google is too bureaucratic to fix my little problem. With as many people that have mentioned our bad reviews, it’s unimaginable that hundreds of others have just opted to go elsewhere.

So congrats Google. You’re a massive multi-billion dollar operation. My heavy use over the years has helped build the monster. But now you’re too big. Now you’re so big you can’t fix the smallest of problems. That’s something we need a little government regulation to fix.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Jesse,

    I'm sorry this has been your experience.

    As one who works in economic development and helps with business advocacy at many levels, I believe there's a combination of failure on both the side of government and private business.

    While it's necessary to call out those who fail to be helpful, it doesn't seem beneficial to me to try and pit business against government. Part of my job is to bridge that gap, and I truly believe it can be done - and Oregon needs that. We all benefit when government and business can find ways to overcome roadblocks and work together for the collective benefit of the entire state.

  • (Show?)

    I too have somehow missed all of the government harassment of businessmen.

    When I worked at AcryMed, which used a chemical coating process for medical devices, we had to deal with EPA regulations for the disposal of fluids. We set up processing equipment to filter the fluid to meet federal standards. We were then visited by the local water agency that informed us that the local standards were tighter than federal. Now according to the vocal anti-government crowd this would have been a classic Oregon anti-business attitude. Instead the agency worked with us to find a low-cost easy to implement solution. They were helpful and cooperative.

    At the same time I have found similar experiences as Jesse with big corporate vendors or customers.If you read the complaints about government from the anti-government crowd they always talk about regulation, but when they talk about specifics I find myself wondering why they think they have the right to pollute or destroy without any accountability. Would they really want to live in a place that did not have the regulations we have today? Sure some bureaucrats and some regulations are too rigid and need to be modified, but so too do the practices of many big corporations.

  • (Show?)

    Thanks, Jesse.

    And let me just post a review right here: The food is good, the drinks are great, the service is fantastic (it helps to know the owner!) and everything is very affordable.

    And here's the best thing about The Guild Pub. They may just be starting up, but Jesse's already giving back to the community. I do believe the Guild donated to the Multnomah County Democrats Celsi Dinner. He's also doing happy-hour-all-night nights weekly for veterans, union members, and - as is traditional - service industry folks.

    But most of all, the Guild is just a comfortable place to hang out. And given the heavy political audience, it seems there's always somebody you know there.

    It's about time Oregon politicos had a place like Cheers!

  • (Show?)

    Jesse - great post and I do hope to stop by this week to check out The Guild.

    My all-time favorite bumper sticker is/was "Ma Bell - She's got you by the Calls." -- and it is still timely as it applies to Comcast and Google and others too large to do good by their customers (like the old SNL Exxon ad about being too big to care).

    For years (maybe still) my landlord here kept getting a bill for less than 50 cents from Verizon...and he'd keep paying it knowing the mailing and processing by Verizon was costing them more than the wrongful bill...just to get back at them. And he's a die-hard limited government R!

  • (Show?)

    No, no, Jesse, that's not it an all. Oregon is a bad place for business because businesses have to pay taxes here, and that drives them out of the state to wherever businesses go where they don't have to pay any taxes at all. (I'm not sure where that is, exactly, but Somalia is a possibility.) You don't have the proper talking points down AT ALL.

    (Besides, what the hell are you doing bringing facts and real-world experience to a discussion about doing business in Oregon? Don't you know that topic is supposed to be a fact-free zone?)

    • (Show?)

      Also, I'm gonna check the place out. If the food's good, I'll be back. If you offer free wifi, I might become a regular.

  • (Show?)

    Good luck on your new business, Jesse!

    Somebody needs to change the argument from "bad for all business" to "good for the right business." There are businesses that would do better in other states - let them go, no hard feelings. Oregon attracts the kind of business it wants - no need to wring our hands.

  • (Show?)

    About ten years ago or so I had an odd stretch of about a week where I had terrrible customer service from a number of different private businesses, and great customer service from the DMV.

    I've actually had quite good experiences from a number of different government agencies. Despite Reagan's bit about the scariest words in the English language, I've found most government employees, like most private employees, want to be helpful.

  • (Show?)

    First: the Guild rocks. I hear Jesse has some guidance on the beer list, and whoever that genius is has done a great job. Second Kari's comment about great service--and I've been there when they didn't know I knew Jesse. Same good service.

    Second: one of the biggest lies in politics is the one that says private companies are efficient because of market dictates. Anyone who's worked with a large company over any issue--tech support, customer service, billing changes, etc.--knows what a effing Kafkaesque nightmare it can be. I recently did a switch on my health insurance at Kaiser--we had been covered under a policy from my work and we switched to my wife's. The date of the changeover was Jan 1, but it STILL hasn't gotten changed in Kaiser's massive, bloated system.

    Don't tell me about the efficiency of business. Big institutions are almost always inefficient.

    • (Show?)

      Yes, Jeff: Thank you for helping with the beer selection. It's right up there with the best beer bars in town. (With, admittedly, fewer taps.)

  • (Show?)

    Don't even get me started on medical insurance companies.

connect with blueoregon