Sam Sloan for USCF Executive Director

Somebody proposed my name sarcastically for USCF Executive Director, so I have responded by saying what I would do:

On 15 Nov 2001 13:50:50 -0800, Kevin L. Bachler wrote:

>In article <>, says...

>>OK. I accept.

>>My first priority is to re-start the books and equipment business.

>>Sam Sloan


>Kevin L. Bachler

Since you asked, I will answer.

In the first place, while I do not wish to trivialize the problems the USCF faces, they are not nearly as bad as depicted. The USCF is not in debt and is not bankrupt. The money which people keep saying that the USCF owes is money which the USCF owes to itself. The operations aspect of the USCF owes money to the LMA aspect of the USCF. However, this debt is over an artificially created Chinese Wall. The real problem the USCF faces is not debt but is the horrendous losses it has suffered. In the one year that Tim Redman was president, the USCF lost at least $257,000 and this was while Redman was claiming that this was a "turn-around year" with a profit of $14,000. Tim Redman was falsely claiming a profit in order to get his slate of candidates elected.

This process of cooking the books to make a loss look like a profit did not start with Tim Redman, of course. However, what made the Redman year especially bad was that it occurred during a big decline in sales by the USCF. When an organization is growing and sales are increasing, the fact that the accountants are reporting a loss does not necessarily mean much. Recall the case of America Online. For years, AOL was sending out free disks and software and offering all kinds of free deals just to sign people up. Stockholders complained that AOL was losing money. Steve Case replied not to worry about the red ink. Just keep signing up new customers, Case said.

His approach seemed foolhardy, but he was right, as AOL has become one of the biggest companies in the world now.

By contrast, however, the Redman board lost $257,000 while at the same time sales dropped from $6.5 million to $5.1 million. The only reason sales were even $5.1 million is that customers were not aware of the internal collapse of the USCF and kept sending in their money, not knowing that they could no longer expect to receive the same level of service.

What to do now?, which is what Kevin is asking. Of course, DeFeis needs to be moved completely out the door. I understand that he has been given until January 31 to clean out his desk and leave in order to avoid paying him severance pay. However, I feel that this is a mistake. The man has proven himself to be utterly worthless. He should never have been hired in the first place. Nobody yet has been able to explain what his supposed qualifications were. Now that he is going, he should be booted completely out and not just kept as a door stop. He can still manage to do a lot of harm to the USCF during the next two and a half months and has never done any good during the two years that he has been here.

Of course, George DeFeis has one very positive quality. He is a nice guy with a nice personality. If I wanted to go out to a bar, have a few drinks and have a pleasant conversation with somebody, I can think of nobody better to have along as my drinking companion than George DeFeis.

However, being a nice guy is not enough. One also needs to be able to do something. I assumed when DeFeis was hired that he was a computer techi. I thought this because the reason Cavallo was supposedly fired was that he failed to complete the computer upgrade within the one month deadline given to him by the newly elected executive board. However, it turns out that DeFeis is computer illiterate and he does not want to learn either. Also, DeFeis has no managerial experience, knows nothing about chess, has no experience in the mail order business and indeed he does not have any of the skills and qualifications which an Executive Director of the USCF would be expected to have, plus he has shown no inclination to want to learn or to improve his capabilities. For example, I can feel confident that he will not be reading this, because he apparently never reads anything of concern to the chess world.

One thing which I find interesting is that DeFeis has virtually never been criticized on the chess newsgroups. The previous several EDs have been severely criticized. Al Lawrence, George Filippone, Mike Cavallo and Gerald Dullea were all severely criticized on the chess newsgroups. George DeFeis has proven himself to be far worse that any of them. I have never been a big fan of Filippone or Dullea, but I agree that both of them were much better than DeFeis.

The reason I feel that DeFeis has not been criticized is that he is such a nice guy that nobody wants to say anything bad about him. Because he is lazy and does nothing, he also does not often take measures which anger anybody.

Now, back to the main question of how to restart the USCF.

The big advantage is that most people do not know that the USCF is moribund. The public is still ordering books, not realizing that there is nothing left to order. That is one reason why there is still hope.

The USCF website is terrible. Contrary to popular belief, it does not take a lot of money to have a good website. My company Ishi Press has a web site. We have one C Language Programmer in Japan who wrote our shopping cart. I do not even think we paid her anything. We sell a lot of books that way without any problem. I cannot understand why the USCF cannot do that.

By the way, I had a bad experience today. A few weeks ago I bought a cell phone because my girlfriend was pregnant and about to give birth. I wanted her to have a cell phone with her at all times, because she might go into labor while she was in class or walking down the street.

Now, I have a Sprint cell phone. Today, I decided to pay the bill. I went to the website, but the website did not work. I called the 800 number on the Sprint invoice. The voice on the phone said "Press 2 to make a payment". I pressed 2, but the next voice said, "Sorry. This service is not available." Finally, I got in another way, entered my credit card number and expiration date and then the voice said "Now enter the three digit security code on the back." My credit card does not have a three digit security code on the back. Also, the Sprint 800 number, like the USCF telephone number, does not have anybody who can answer the phone. You can never get to speak to a human. Finally, I twice called the salesman who sold me the phone. He kept telling me that the website works, even though it does not. Finally, I started screaming at him. By this time I had been working on this problem for more than two hours. After I screamed at him for a while, he gave me a number which the Sprint salespeople are given to use but which the general public is not supposed to have. I called that number and after waiting for a half hour on hold, I finally got to speak to a human and paid the bill.

I give this example because Sprint is a billion dollar corporation and still their website does not work properly. So, DeFeis should not be completely faulted just because the USCF website does not work. Still, the board should have hired somebody who knows computers, instead of hiring DeFeis who knows zero.

The USCF needs a working website and somebody to answer the phone. What I did not realize until the first Executive Board meeting by the new board is that the USCF telephone system does not allow customers to speak to anybody. No matter how many buttons you press, you can still not get to speak to a human. Everything goes into voicemail. Stenographers come in at night and transcribe the voicemail messages, which are distributed the next day to staff members, who are supposed to return the calls but often do not.

DeFeis told the board that having someone to answer the phone would place a burden on the staff. However, I do not see why DeFeis cannot answer the phone himself, since he does not seem to be doing anything else.

The big question and I think the question which Kevin is really asking is how to increase sales when we have nothing left to sale. I asked this question repeatedly during the meetings in Framingham. This is what convinced me that Pechac is a moron, because he could not seem to understand a simple question which everybody else in the room understood. Pechac kept talking about reducing inventory in order to improve profitability and in the same sentence about keeping revenues at the same level. He was obviously contradicting himself, so I asked him how can he talk about continuing sales when he has nothing left to sell. Tim Redman clearly understood the question and even made a few jokes about it. Pechac was so stupid that he could not understand the question. This man obviously has an IQ less than 70, because any idiot could have understood my question.

Certainly Kevin understands the question and that is what he is asking.

My answer which I realize is not entirely satisfactory is walk into any bookstore and you will see thousands of books. Do you think that the bookstore owns all those books? Of course not. The average corner bookstore carries a million dollars worth of inventory. Usually, they have bought those books on 60 days credit with a right of return.

What I assume has happened is that the USCF has a bad record of paying and for that reason book publishers are unwilling to give credit to the USCF. I understand that Loomis was fired for being slow to pay bills, thereby ruining the USCFs credit. The answer is that the USCF should start paying their bills on time and then credit will be restored.

The other argument that the Redman Gang kept uttering was that the USCF cannot compete with Amazon Books. This is untrue. By the way, Amazon Books may not survive. They used to pay me about $100 per quarter for advertising their books on my website. I have not been paid in a while.

In the last Cavallo year, which was fiscal 1998-1999, the USCF sold $3.5 million in books and equipment. I will bet that that was more chess books than Amazon Books sold. If you want to buy a chess book, do you go to Amazon Books? I certainly do not. I go to somebody who knows something about chess books like Fred Wilson or Thad Rogers or Jay Blem. I used to go to the USCF, but that was way back when they were still selling chess books.

Does your average mother who has a 9-year-old son who knows the rules of chess and has a 600 rating and wants to improve go to the Amazon Books website and order a book for her son? Of course not, because she would have no idea which book her son needs. She would call the USCF and ask Vincent Klemm, but right now she cannot because the USCF is not answering their telephone.

I think you get the idea. It is not too late. If corrective action is taken now by changing the locks on the doors and locking out DeFeis and bringing in somebody who is serious about running the business, the situation can be rescued. However, the longer the delay, the less likelihood that the victim will be able to recover.

Sam Sloan

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