Case Rip Cord Hits Four Continents

Let’s go in reverse alphabetical order today, just for kicks:

WebMD: “The health care industry received an average score of only 2 out of 10 in ratings of `customer friendliness.'” Does this really say anything about the people involved? Because a doctor can be the friendliest person in the world, but if he sticks a chunk of cold metal into a human orifice, doesn’t he automatically lose at least 5 out of 10 on that scale?

Unemployment in France: Kudos to the septembre French contingent for showing up to class in berets, carrying baguettes and wine, and striking in class. Nice work. Now regarding the case, could the text jump around any more among different time periods, presidents, prime ministers, ministers, and ministers’ fathers? Can we get some kind of lineup card please?

A Technology Legend in China: Legend CEO Liu Chuanzhi made a very clear analogy describing a joint venture as “the Blind carrying the Lame.” These terms aren’t the most politically correct, but this must have been a translator problem. He must have really said the equivalent of “vision challenged” and “mobility challenged.”

The Standard Bank of South Africa and Nedcor Ltd.: Two Strategies Collide: “`The traditional approach is to lend at huge interest rates and break the legs of clients who fail to service their debts. Since it is not possible for large financial firms to adopt this business model and remain reputable, they often ignore the poor.’ Traditional banks considered such lending tactics immoral.” Aren’t we using the term “business model” a bit loosely here? It’s good to see traditional banks upholding some level of morality. What an understatement. And as our language in section has become more and more vulgar over the year, so has that of the casewriters: “Nedcor has a reputation for stirring the pot. They were cheeky bastards and it’s no wonder [Standard] turned around and gave them the one-fingered salute.” [Thanks to Michael Polay, ND]

Korea: On the Back of a Tiger: During the Asian monetary crisis, “Women donated their jewelry to boost the state’s gold reserves.” Now see, this would never happen in America, short of another world war. Yet in BGIE we keep trying to judge other country’s actions according to American capitalist standards. Other quotes that keep enticing businesses to go to South Korea: “Rhee easily won [Presidential elections that] were usually preceded by the sudden deaths of opposition candidates.” “[Park] arrested all the prominent businessmen and paraded them through the streets (carrying placards such as `I am a corrupt swine.’).” “[Presidential candidate] Kim Dae Jung was run over by a truck; kidnapped and put under house arrest in 1979; and finally sentenced to death.” “Deaths attributed to stress-related illness among Korean males were 2.3 times higher than Japanese males; the ratio was even higher for Korean females.” “Corruption scandals-apparently involving Chun’s wife-brought the Korean money market to near collapse.” Wonder what kind of fun happens in North Korea?

Keurig: This coffee brewing company forced its founder to resign because he was a bad businessman, yet they kept the company name he picked the out of a Dutch dictionary because it meant “Excellent.” Could he have picked a word that’s more confusing to pronounce in English? They should have thrown some misplaced umlauts in there too, like Ha„gen-Dazs does. Luckily they have a sense of humor, calling themselves “crackpots” and making jokes about needing a cup of coffee. And it’s good to see that casewriter Jeremy B. Dann is a devout Seinfeld fan. When disguising the name of a Keurig supplier, he uses the name “Vandelay Industries.” How is old George Costanza doing there at Vandelay? And is HBS Publishing paying royalties to Castle Rock Entertainment for use of that name? To the tune of four cents a case, perhaps.

Germany in the 1990s: Managing Reunification: Once again, we hand it to the French: “Novelist Francois Mauriac succinctly [stated], `I love Germany so much, I’m glad there are two of them.'” Mauriac’s of course forgetting a third part of Germany, Alsace-Lorraine, which was back speaking French again. I’m sure he was all for this, and the Eastern parts that were back to Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the USSR. By the way, this case is nine-years old-maybe it’s time for an update? Or at least a B case?

European Monetary Union: The case calls Maastricht “a small Dutch town.” There are now over 150,000 Dutchmen whispering, “Keurig. No more tourists from that uppity HBS place, where any number short of seven figures is considered peanuts.”

April 23, 2001
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