A Capital Offense
May, 2012

Why does last week’s fiasco at HSBC/Capital One seem like a tired Salinas rerun? Thinking they were being warmly welcomed into the Capital One family, former HSBC employees got lavish gift packs in tasteful brown cardboard boxes just hours before being led to the showers. They didn’t notice the instructions describing how to convert the boxes into “will work for food” signs, along with a neatly folded map suggesting lucrative county intersections. Suddenly becoming former Capital One employees, they were also given job training packets including web links to resume preparation sites, survival schools, a marker and useful street approaches. “Always say ‘God bless’ when someone sticks a dollar out the window.”

They’d spruced the place up and installed very temporaty Capital One signs; and a secret employee-swallowing trap door. Instantly, the company suffered the same fate as other businesses on our end of Eden. Sweet places like Nestle, Peter-Paul and Spreckels (they even got their own town); and manufacturers like Firestone, Radionics and that dopey electric car place.

Clearly, if you don’t want to get a little dirt under your fingernails, Salinas Valley isn’t a great a place to do business. Fearing for their own jobs, city leaders scrambled to explain how hard they worked to keep this from happening. Nevertheless, their vision of a business magnet nestled amid the strawberry fields forever remains undeterred.

Meantime, on the windswept Great Plains, another story was being reported: “Capital One today celebrated the addition of 400 new jobs and the completion of its acquisition of HSBC’s domestic credit card business in Sioux Falls during a ribbon cutting ceremony. Capital One will retain the 400 former HSBC employees, bringing the total number of positions at the Sioux Falls facility to 800 by Christmas. The company has already hired 225 new associates.” Hmph.

“These are overpaid jobs that will help keep my coffers full,” said Montgomery Burns, Chairman of the Board. “The new employees will work hard to make sure South Dakota’s economic boom become mine.” Oops. What’s Sioux Falls got that we haven’t got? Tornadoes for one thing, and crazy thunderstorms, lots of wide open spaces full of nothing, buffaloes and wheat fields or something. But credit card companies? No way.

"Capital One leaders have made the difficult decision to close the Salinas site by the middle of 2013 in order to meet the financial needs of our Chairman," said company spokesman Waylon Smithers, “actually, it wasn’t that difficult.” He would not elaborate on the reasons behind Mr. Burn’s decision. Oh, I could think of a few. It might have something to do with South Dakota’s Corporate Income Tax, which is zero. Here in the business-crushing Golden State, it’s about 9 precent. Lucky Capital One employees with jobs in South Dakota pay 4 percent sales tax and zero estate tax. They pay 22 cents on each gallon of gas; we pay 35 cents. I’m beginning to see why Mr. Burns thought this move would be excellent.

Then there’s the pesky gang problem. Sioux Falls Police say there are about 37 street gangs in the city, amounting to around 365 members, or about 10 hoodlums per gang. That’s basically one for each family living on the wrong side of the trail. The most active mob in Sioux Falls is a Native American gang – just ask General Custer about getting on their bad side. The projected murder/manslaughter rate for this year is four (4). With crime being such a problem, it makes you wonder why anyone would leave the security of Closter Park. Good thing South Dakota is gun-friendly so new settlers can protect themselves from bands of marauding Sioux.

You might want to think about those things when you’re talking to Mom tomorrow and she bugs you about the family being closer. Does she come here or do you go to her? If she says anything about Sioux Falls, watch out. You can’t trust those guys.