Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gerry Harvey

Gerry Harvey is probably a business guy. Although he could be a writer, because tomorrow I'm researching a writer. Or maybe he's neither business or writing. I kind of remember a Harvey business in Australia though. Maybe it was electronics again?

Well, Lord Wiki says Harvey is a businessman. The retail chain he's known for is Harvey Norman. I know the name, but I'm not sure if we've been to the store. Probably.

Baby Gerry was born in rural New South Wales on 18 September 1939. He went to school in Bathurst and Katoomba, so that gives us an idea of where in rural New South Wales he lived. I totally forgot where/what Katoomba was! It's the Blue Mountains. Well, I knew I knew it from somewhere. My parents are going on a cruise to Australia in March. They have a few days in Sydney before the cruise, so they might do the Blue Mountains. I'm so excited that my parents are going to Australia. I just wish they were going for much longer. They've actually been to Australia though...before I went. They went in 2000, I think. But not for The Olympics. They saw Sydney, and they also went to the Great Barrier Reef, and a Rainforest. Maybe Daintree?

Back to Katoomba. That and Bathurst are about an hour and a half away from each other. Bathurst is to the west. Then Sydney is to the east of Katoomba. Harvey later moved there to go to university.

He went to the university for a few years, and hated it. He dropped out.

Is it my imagination, or is there a trend with successful Australian businessmen dropping out of school?

In his youth, Harvey wanted to be a farmer. I guess that didn't work out.

At some point, Harvey sold vacuums and fridges door to door. I've heard of vacuums being sold that way, but not fridges. Did he have the new fridges waiting in a truck? Did he bring them in the house for people? Did he help them get rid of their old fridge? OR maybe these were the days that not everyone had a fridge. Maybe he convinced people to join the refrigerator society?

This website says that refrigerators became common in the 1940's. Harvey would have been doing his selling in the 1950's. But maybe at that time they were common, but still not something almost everyone had.

Lord Wiki has a separate entry on the Harvey Norman store. I'll read that in a moment. It will probably give some good business history. Before that though, I'm going to finish up reading about Harvey's personal life and interests.

He's very involved with breeding racehorses.

He's been married twice. His current wife works for Harvey Norman. Here Lord Wiki say she's the CEO, but on the page where he talks about the company, he says she's the managing director.

Who knows.....

Oh wow. This guy said something pretty controversial. I remember hearing it, but didn't connect the quote to his name. He said, giving charity to the homeless was a waste of money, and that it was helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason. I totally agree with him. That's why when I see homeless people begging for money, I don't give to them. Instead, I grab the money they've already collected, and send it to rich people.

Yeah. I guess Harvey really goes for that whole survival of the fittest thing. Although he's outspoken about his opinion, I unfortunately know he's not alone in having this opinion. Some people believe the homeless are homeless because they deserve to be. It goes with the mindset that if you work hard enough, and you want it bad enough, you will definitely get what you want. So if someone is homeless, they must have not worked hard enough, and they didn't want to be successful.

Now Lord Wiki says that Harvey said he believes people should be helped to develop their potential. I'm not sure what he means here. But maybe (hopefully!) he was saying that he's not against helping the homeless. Maybe he's just against giving them charity. And by charity, he means a hand out. Maybe Harvey believes people should be given the help they need to become self-sufficient. If that's the case, I can respect that. Instead of giving to a shelter that simply feeds the homeless person, you could give the money to a program that helps homeless people get job interviews. Although I still think there are people in society who are past all that. Maybe they're mentally ill, or have some other issue that prevents them from working. I think for some folks, charity is all you can do for them.

Now I'm going to read about the Harvey Norman Company.

It started in 1961. Harvey opened it with a guy named Ian Norman. They sold electronic goods and appliances. The store was at first called Norman Ross. I guess Harvey wasn't vain enough to insist his name be part of the company.

By 1979, there were forty-two stores.

In the 1980's, there was a bidding war between two entities....Alan Bond and Grace Bros. They both wanted the company. Bond ended up with it. And then a little while later, he fired Harvey and Norman. Yikes.

In 1982, Norman and Harvey bought a shopping center in Auburn, a western suburb of Sydney. This became the Harvey Norman store. It's nice Harvey and Norman got together and tried again.

Lord Wiki says that in the 1990's, they adopted the superstore format of the United States. I guess that refers to the huge stores that we have all over the place here.

By 2000, Harvey Norman had a hundred stores.

In the stores, each department is controlled by a different franchisee. Therefore, if you need help with electronics stuff, the guy working in bedding can't help you. I wonder if that's the same for our stores here. Probably? Well, I don't think each department is a separate franchisee. But I don't think you can ask the guy in the shoe department for help with bedding issues.

Harvey Norman has gone international. They have stores in New Zealand, Singapore, Ireland, Slovenia, and Malaysia.

Lord Wiki talks about some controversies in the company. I don't really understand them. The first two don't really interest me, so I'm just going to ignore them....at least for now. The third is interesting, but I don't fully understand it.

Harvey insulted the Irish by comparing Ireland's economic problems with the Irish potato famine. Maybe he made light of it? They were mad. Harvey refuses to apologize. He says, It doesn’t say much about a people when they can’t take something like that on the chin and get on with it.

It also doesn't say much for someone when they fail to understand why something might be offensive, AND they refuse to apologize. Or if he doesn't want to apologize, he could at least explain why he doesn't think the joke should be seen as offensive. Or maybe he did do that.

Here's the Harvey Norman website. They sell digital cameras there. You know. Maybe that's why I've heard of Harvey Norman. Tim may have bought one of our cameras there....or maybe he bought both there.

This electronics website has an interview with Harvey. They say he's going to talk about his troubled childhood. That kind of article seems out of place on this website. This doesn't look like a Andrew Denton/Barbara Walters platform. It looks more like an industry website...one where you find reviews on new products.


Harvey's family had money. I guess he means his relatives? But Daddy Harvey ended up making them broke, and the family had their struggles.

When Harvey was at university, he studied during the night, and worked at a bank during the day. He wasn't happy with this, and felt it wasn't going to be rewarding enough.

Then he was offered the door-to-door salesman job. Refrigerators are not mentioned here. It says Harvey was selling vacuums and TV sets. At the bank, Harvey was making eight dollars a week. With this job, Harvey was making about a hundred dollars a week. Wow. That's a big difference.

Didn't Australia use pounds at some point? Maybe not.

Ah, Lord Wiki says I was right. They used pounds up to 1966. So I'm guessing whoever wrote this article converted pounds to dollars.

Harvey says at one time he had the record for most vacuums sold. He said he did this by offering them interest free. That's funny because there's a big flashing advertisement on the Harvey Norman Site saying you can buy now for 500 days interest free. But it looks like you have to apply for a special Mastercard, in order to receive this privilege.

After the door to door salesman adventure, Harvey did some brief time with real estate. Then he had an auction business. He talks about how they managed to get customers. One of the things they did was have a band play right outside the store. That attracted people. And they managed to build capital (merchandise) by telling the sellers they'd pay them more, IF the sellers allowed them more time in making them money. So from what I'm reading, this must be the Norman Ross business. So originally it was an auction-type thing?

Harvey says the reason he got fired by Alan Bond was that he called Alan Bond a crook. I can see Harvey is someone who does not fear speaking his mind....no matter what the consequence.

Harvey had some issue with a guy from ACCC named Alan Fells. I don't even know what ACCC is. Maybe it's an advertising thing, because the issue was regarding bait advertising.

Here we go. It's the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. They deal with fair trade and consumer protection.

Now I'm going to find out what bait advertising is. America's Federal Trade Commission has information about it on their website. They say it's when a company advertises a product they really don't intend to sell. Then when you come, they try to sell you a different and more expensive product. I remember this from NYC real estate. A real estate firm will advertise a great and affordable apartment. Then when you call them and they take you around the city, they give you the bad news. The apartment was already sold. They take you to other apartments that are too small, too gross, and too expensive. The other trick they do is take you to really disgusting apartments for the price range you said you can afford. You get really depressed, and then they take you to much nicer apartments that cost a lot of money. This gives you the idea that if you want something halfway decent, you're going to have to stop being so damn cheap.

I HATED looking for apartments in New York. It's a total nightmare.

Of course, Harvey claims to be innocent of the bait advertising charges. He openly hates the man who made the accusations. He says, Professor Fells I hate you. When you go into a nursing home I will buy the nursing home. Yeah. That sounds real mature.

ABC had a news report about the whole issue in 2001. Here's the transcript.

I really don't understand what happened. Well, maybe. Harvey Norman advertised that they had Quicken....that financial software thing. They had two thousand packages, but the demand far exceeded that. I don't know. Could Harvey be telling the truth? Maybe they honestly didn't expect to get that many customers. Although it IS a big company. You'd kind of think they'd expect to sell more than two thousand. So could it have been bait advertising? Sorry, we're out of Quicken. But while you're here, are you interested in a new Laptop?

Harvey complains that his workers were bullied by legal people. He says their questioning made him employees cry. Maybe they were a little too rough. It's possible. OR it could be a form of bullying on Harvey's end. I've seen it before. Well, maybe bullying is too strong a word. Manipulation might be better.

An example would be this. Nancy is told by her friend Susan that she saw Nancy's husband having dinner with another woman. It looked romantic and very suspicious. When Ted comes home, Nancy asks him about this. Instead of explaining, confessing, or apologizing, he attacks Nancy. You're so damn paranoid and possessive. What is wrong with you? Why do you do this to me? I feel so suffocated. I feel trapped. You don't trust me. Do you? You trust Susan more than me. You've always been closer to Susan than you are to me. How do you think I feel? You probably don't care. You're so selfish.

Suddenly, instead of being angry at her husband, Nancy feels awful about herself. She backs away....unless she is smart enough to recognize manipulation and fight against it.

This blogger talks about the Irish issue. What Harvey did was compare his sales problems in Ireland to the potato famine in Ireland. Bock the Robber says,
What a prick. How dare he compare the troubles of his sofa shop with the greatest catastrophe this land has ever known? He asks, Would he go to Israel and compare his trading downturn to a Holocaust? Probably yes. People compare things to the Holocaust all the time...even Jewish people. Remember the Soup Nazi?

So far, in some ways, I'm on Harvey's side here. I think it's pretty common to make these analogies. I think for the most part people mean no harm. For example, someone might speak of construction near their house. It feels like a damn earthquake. I doubt they're trying to be insensitive to all the victims of Haiti's earthquake. If we're on a cruise ship and things get a bit rocky, we might say something like Oh no. It's the Titanic. We're just being silly, and not trying to disrespect all the people that died.

It's a thin line though, and sometimes you can end up saying something to someone who is especially sensitive to the situation. Most people wouldn't mind it if we complained after an intensive workout. I'm so sore. I feel like I'm DYING! But if you say that to a person with pancreatic cancer, it might not be so funny. It hits too close to home. I think the way the story should play out is this. The cancer victim explains why they are offended. The other person acts understanding and apologizes. The person with cancer accepts the apology.

We all have our sensitive spots, and that should be respected. My college boyfriend would make jokes about drunk driving. He'd talk in an intoxicated voice and pretend to be looking for his keys. Ha ha. For most people, that would get a good laugh. For me, it was a sensitive issue. My sister had been hit by a drunk driver just two years before. Even today, almost twenty years later, I still am somewhat sensitive about it. Tim and Jack have a video game where Homer Simpson runs people over in his car. I can understand why that's funny to most people. But to me, it's not. I find it uncomfortable to watch. I personally don't think it's funny. See though....I'm not writing to the game company to complain. Almost everything that's funny to one person can be hurtful to others. Most people think slipping on a banana peel is humor. But what if your grandma had slipped on one and died?

Now I'm going to look at the other issue. The homeless one. The Sydney Morning Herald has an article about it. Harvey angrily defends himself. He says, I'm furious. I haven't suggested that homeless people shouldn't get anything. What I said was that I believed in helping people reach their potential. In his original statement, he had said giving to the charities would be a waste.

The charities argued back. They said they're no longer just about giving handouts. They try to address the causes of poverty.

I think this is the earlier news report. Their opening line says, THE retail king Gerry Harvey may have a personal fortune of about $1.6 billion but the Harvey Norman founder thinks donating to charity is "just wasted". That sounds like an awful man. But maybe something was misunderstood or taken out of context.

Well, I'm reading his quotes further down and they are kind of horrible. It IS very survival-of-the-fittest. He says, So did that million you gave them help? It helped to keep them alive but did it help our society? No. Society might have been better off without them but we are supposed to look after the disadvantaged and so we do it. But it doesn't help the society.

I'm trying to imagine a society where no one helps the disadvantaged. What would that be like? Well, first we'd need a society where all the people are incredibly selfish and callous. And how do we define disadvantaged and worthless? Would it be the drug addict on the street corner? How about the family who lost all their money because of their child's hospital bills? Should we say, sorry about your child dying of leukemia, but we're not going to help you. You're a drain on society. Better if you just rot and die.

Let's say we all become selfish, and we don't really care about those who are less fortunate on us. On a very superficial level, what would that do to our city? Wouldn't it be a bit awful? Overcrowded. Illness everywhere. Horrible smells. And if the disadvantaged couldn't get help from charity, might they turn to a life of crime?

Oh! I know. There's a perfect solution. You stop the thievery by making it a crime punishable by death. You hang all the disadvantaged. And if the prisons get too crowded with people waiting to be hanged, we can send them off to a distant land!

Okay, but Harvey DOES say: That is not to say we don't give money away to charities because we have given plenty away over the years. At the end of the day, the more quality individuals you develop in the community, the better off the community should be.

I think I get what he's trying to say. I feel maybe he just chose the wrong words, and he's way too harsh. I don't think we should simply throw people away. But maybe it is best if we put priority in people who show potential in giving back to the community. It all depends though on why people can't give back to the community. Some ARE just lazy and want something for nothing. I can't deny that. But many people are too sick or too unqualified. Many people have had awful lives full of abuse, and they can't overcome it.

I just finished reading Richard Flanagan's Wanting. It's based loosely on the story of a Tasmanian Aboriginal girl named Mathinna. Mathinna died in her early twenties. She drowned in a puddle on the street. Supposedly she was drunk. What kind of person drowns in a puddle? A pitiful loser. But Mathinna didn't start out the way. She started out as a child living among her people. Then she was adopted by white people who wanted to see if they could tame a savage. They played with their experiment for awhile. Then they abandoned her to a horrible orphanage, and went off to London. How does one survive such a rejection? Well, maybe one DOES if there's someone out there who will give them kindness.

That's the other thing about Harvey's beliefs. Maybe disadvantaged people would be less disadvantaged if they felt like there was hope. Maybe if they stopped feeling society was out to hurt them, they'd be able and willing to contribute.

The thing is.... It's easier to criticize people than it is to help them. I can stop while walking in the city, take out my wallet, and find a dollar to give to the woman on the street corner. That's a pain though, and I'm usually in a rush. It's much easier to think to myself. She's just a lazy person who doesn't want to get a job. She'll probably use that money to buy drugs.

In this ABC interview, Harvey does more defending of himself. He says: I believe you should help people. My point was, kids go to school, we develop them at school, we develop them later on in the workplace so that we get better quality individuals, so that we get less people that are dependent or get into problems. So, my real point was, let's create better quality people, more of them so we have less people dependent.

That makes sense to me, although I'm not in love with the whole school focus. I think what Harvey is saying is that we SHOULD help the homeless, but it's better to help people in the beginning so they don't become homeless. That makes sense. It's fine to stop and give a homeless person a dollar or two....even though they might very well use it to buy drugs. But if you have a hundred dollars to give away, it's probably better not to give it to the homeless person. And instead have it go towards a scholarship or business loan. It's important for us to help the poor, but it's better to help prevent people from becoming poor.


  1. "It goes with the mindset that if you work hard enough, and you want it bad enough, you will definitely get what you want."
    Hey I like that mindset!

  2. HappyOrganist,

    I'd like that mindset if I felt it was true!

  3. It's true if you want it to be - badly enough..

  4. HappyOrganist,

    But I think that's kind of a cop-out of the Law of Attraction movement. I can REALLY want something...I'm wishing and hoping for it like crazy. I don't get it. Then the Law of Attraction Guru says it's because deep inside I didn't truly want it. Even though I FELT like I wanted, my deep inner self did not. But how do either of us know for sure what my deep inner self wants?

    I could say the same thing. Maybe the universe works in the opposite way. Maybe the universe gives you exactly what you DON'T want. People who wanted something and got it...well, maybe that worked because secretly deep inside they didn't want it.

    I could buy the fact that the universe gives us what our higher soul/spiritual self wants. I have REALLY wanted things at times...STRONGLY wanted them. I didn't them and now I feel it was probably for the best. Maybe my higher-self didn't want that for me, and that's who the universe listens to.

  5. Harvey Norman is a capitalist pig. He has said many other, even more revolting, things about giving to any charity at all. He is one of Australia's richest businessmen, but does not have an altruistic bone in his body. At one point, he refused even to donate a case of wine to a charity auction.

    I have boycotted his huge chain of stores for years, because of his ethos.

    I don't understand your mindset, HappyOrganist. I hope beyond hope that you don't ever find yourself in a situation over which you have no control. Say, cancer. Say, just after your company has folded and you have no health insurance. And say, (if you're American) that the medical bills caused you to lose your home. I'm pretty sure you'd be hoping that there were altruistic people out there, or a TRUE public health option, to help you get through it. Or do you really believe that you could "want" your way out of that?

    I'm sorry to sound so harsh, but I think that blaming the weakest in our society (homeless... and many closely follow that with single mothers) for their circumstances is a cop out.

    As a society, we are only as good as the way that we treat the most unfortunate among us.

    Or at least, that's what I believe.

  6. Fe,

    So do you think Harvey Norman was lying when he said his company does give to charity? I think it might be going too far to say he doesn't have a charitable bone in his body. But I could agree that for his level of wealth, he probably doesn't give enough.

    I don't follow or believe in the mindset that we can have anything if we want it badly enough. But I think when SOME people believe that, they don't apply it to those in horrific situations.

    Someone might say if I want it bad enough, I can become a concert pianist. But that same person might not necessarily apply the same philosophy to people with cancer or victims of an earthquake.

    I know of people who believe in the law of attraction, and they're pretty warm-hearted and charitable.

    My in-laws have shown some belief in it. I think for them it's more about increasing their level of material comfort. But they've adopted three kids with Cystic Fibrosis. They're very compassionate people. And I am pretty positive that they don't think their sons are sick because their wish for health wasn't strong enough.

    I know there ARE people who sit there and think "If I want a diamond bracelet, it shall be mine. And everyone with cancer deserves to have it because they obviously
    want that." But from what I know of HappyOrganist, I'm pretty sure she's not like that.

  7. You know what's interesting about Fe's comment is that I'm taking Carcinosin, homeopathic remedy made from breast cancer or something like that. I think it's helping me quite a bit.

    And the interesting thing about that is that part of the personality profile for someone whose constitutional type is Carcinosin is that they fear cancer.

    I personally (I know I'll take this back later. dont worry, I know that) do not fear cancer.
    To me - cancer is a way to go home.
    plus my grandma has had cancer for 20 years and she's not dead yet. So it really doesn't scare me. Couple that with the deep belief I have that everything is curable (yeah I know it doesn't always get cured in this life - but I very strongly believe there are cures available for everything that ails us in mortality..) So honestly - some things just don't scare me the way they scare other people.

    Now - that doesn't mean I dont' have fears. I have them by the bucketload.
    I'm terrified that my son will end up with autism (he shows zero sign of it - but that is one of my currently held fears. and it scares me a lot)

    wow I have really rambled on.

    well let's drop that.

    Dina - you know how to tell what your "higher/inner self" wants?

    (drum roll)
    Muscle Testing!

    anyway.. so there's my weird rebuttal.

    And for the record, I agree with Dina's 3rd paragraph.. blablabla. What we really want (and requested before we came here) is what the "Universe" (God) gives us. It's for our own benefit. Sometimes it sucks. But a lot of times (even if it sucks) it is beautiful (and will be beautiful forever)

  8. oh crap.

    what in the world. (stop laughing)

    - HO =)

  9. HappyOrganist,

    I think we're sort of on the same page. I could definitely buy into the idea that we choose our ailments before we're born. But I think we choose our problems for a number of reasons.

    1. Give us strength...what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And if it DOES kill us, maybe it makes our soul stronger for the next life/afterlife...whatever.

    2.It can give us compassion. We can be more compassionate if we've been there before, or a similar situation.

    3. It can help those surrounding us become more compassionate.

    So if I believe that someone chose to have cancer...either their higher self or they made the choice before they were born. And I say well, "they made the choice...it's their problem", then I'm kind of negating part of the whole purpose.

    I personally believe the main reason we have disease, evil, disasters, etc. is it brings opportunities for goodness.

    As for fears, we all have different ones. I'm scared of cancer...not just the bit about potentially dying young. But I'm terrified of the symptoms and the treatment.

    I'm not scared of Autism because I think many autistic people are much more awesome than neurotypical people. Have you heard of Temple Grandin? There was a movie about her recently.

    When Jack was young though, I was scared of Autism. I think it's because I associated it with stuff like Rainman. It's not always like that. I'm pretty sure Jack is somewhere on that Autism spectrum. I think I might be too.

    Anyway, I'd be afraid of severe Autism, but I think the other types and degrees are pretty awesome. I think the worst part of Autism is probably society's perceptions and expectations.

  10. Gerry Harvey won't give away a CENT of his own personal fortune, but the company (which has a board etc) does give to charity. It's his own personal lack of altruism, when he could well afford it, that gets my goat.

    I too know people who lovingly apply the Law of Attraction to their lives, and it sounds as though your in-laws are a lovely example of that.

    I just hate the interpretation of that way of thinking that allows our least vocal and least powerful members of society to be denied help and dignity because they don't deserve it. I feel that nobody can judge another person's intention unless they walk in their shoes, and a homeless person may have done and tried everything within their power but may have still fallen through the cracks. This is certainly the case for many who cannot remedy or compensate for a lack of education or a mental illness.

    I'm also sensitive to this because of my own experiences battling breast cancer. I made so many wonderful friends who were much more positive than I was, much more pro-active in their treatment (I was also suffering severe depression) and yet I survived and they didn't.

    I know that I want and deserve many things that I don't currently have in my life, and I also know that I didn't want and didn't deserve the outcomes of my recent family court dramas and my having had cancer and depression.

    Call me tired and pessimistic about this stuff, but I believe that there is a lot that happens "to" us that is outside our area of control. We can only control how we respond to it all.

    I also believe that every human being on this planet who does no intentional harm to others, regardless of personal choices or circumstances, deserves the benefit of the doubt.

    I love this conversation.

  11. Fe,

    Wow. Yeah that is sad that he won't give away his personal fortune. I don't understand that at all.

    I agree with you so much about not judging someone until you've walked in their shoes. And since we can't literally do that usually, we have to give people the benefit of the doubt.

    I also agree about wanting and deserving stuff. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Life doesn't always work out the way that we should. Wishing, wanting, and praying doesn't always get you the results that you desire.

    I think you also make an important point about how you were less positive than some of your friends who had cancer. There's that idea that if you keep your chin up and have faith, you'll be cured. That's so not true.

    In my life, I'm often very negative about things and they turn out to be great.

    I have no personal experience to show that a positive attitude will make good things happen, and worrying will make bad things happen.

    I STRONGLY agree with what you say here:

    "I believe that there is a lot that happens "to" us that is outside our area of control. We can only control how we respond to it all."

    I'm not one of those who believes we choose our cards (at least not our living conscious selfs). I believe cards are dealt to us, and it's up to us to decide how to handle them.

  12. when john howard was prime-minister of australia, gerry harvey wanted to import workers from overseas and pay them half wages. at the same time gerry went to his company and asked to for his company to double his pay (payrise). john howard said no. im not sure about his payrise. but this shows how low he can get...and now a similar example exists in australia with gina rinehart saying she wants to import workes and pay them $2 a day. gerry is so cheap he sells hes used shoes instead to donating the old shoes. about bait selling, hes done the same to me, advetising was made for a cheap computer, i went to the store and the computer was a second hand computer, when i protested the manager told me they had for some years sold second hand...i said the advertising does not state that and you are not known for selling second hand items but you are known for retailing new items, so if you dont state it on the ad , then thats what i expect. he is a crook!!

  13. Anonymous,

    Thanks for your input.

    I think there's a difference between being cheap and thrifty. And Gerry Harvey seems to fit the latter...at least in some circumstances.

    I really hate the bait and switch stuff.