Monthly Archives: March 2008

Turning the Sales Logic Inside-Out

salesguy.jpgIn the need for profit, in order to sustain ourselves, we sometimes get carried away into greed. Greed, as I mentioned earlier, is not a sustainable philosophy – even if some might suggest it is a fun way to live your life. Eventually, someone has to pay for your greed, and if it isn’t your own children, it’s someone else’s innocent children. However, when you go into business, your goal in capitalism is not to break even, you have to make a profit. So, when you make choices about your daily life, you’re always looking at the pros and cons of a particular decision and that’s often when the sales people walk in trying to sell you benefits that really aren’t all they’re cracked up to be or that aren’t in line with your own personal values (when you really look at it from an objective point of view). And, their goal is to get you to argue with them about the benefits so they can eventually convince you that you’d be an idiot not to close the deal. So, it’s quite funny when a couple of people figured out how to turn the tables on this sales logic.

Reaping All Those Juicy Profits!

Take, for instance, the owner of the auto shop that I visited. He told me that he no longer does state inspections because the equipment to do them was constantly innovated and the last one would have cost him something like $19,000 to install. All he charged for inspections was about $20 and approx. $2.00 went back to the state for the sticker. So, he really only made about $18 off each inspection. He could not see justifying the expense of a new inspection machine with that sort of return on investment, with newer innovations coming out too often that made the investment useless.

That’s when the sales guy appealed to his greed. “Oh, yes, it’s true that now you don’t make that much off of inspections, but having this machine will mean you can attract new business! You only need to attract so much percentage more to cover the cost of the machine and then the rest of the money is pure profit.” Well, that auto shop owner decided he hadn’t be born in the back of a turnip truck and when the sales guy came along again, he told him he’d thought about it and decided that he would take one of those machines – on one condition: He’d let the sales guy take up this grand opportunity that he was willing to give him by allowing him to buy the machine for him. Then, the shop owner would do the inspections as a service to his customers for free and would turn around and give the sales guy all those juicy profits, plus the extra $2 on top that he was going to have to pay the state for the stickers. The sales guy left and never came back. Apparently, he wasn’t smart enough to close on the same deal he’d offered the owner of the shop.

Turning Brown Without Envy?

Then, there’s the story of the guy who was sold a lawn package for his lawn that for years had defied being green. The first year, the lawn company did what they said they would do: they made the lawn green. But, all of a sudden, the lawn developed a brown spot, and it kept getting bigger. They apparently didn’t know how a brown spot could develop on a lawn they were maintaining, but they sure knew how to fix it – for the right price. It was at that point that the homeowner started to wonder why he should pay a lawn company to fix a lawn that was browning, when they already had a contract. So, he did not buy the newer services. A year passed and the brown spot grew and grew and the lawn companies kept calling – until he finally let them in on his secret: He’d decided to let the brown spot grow and take the entire lawn so it would be all one color and he wouldn’t have to deal with the lawn companies anymore. A little extreme, but no one ever said a lawn has to be green. He never got another call after they realized that brown was his new favorite color.

So, when a sales person tries to sell you the benefits, ask yourself if the following questions:

1. If they were in your position, would they take themselves up on the same offer?

  • Most would not, and that’s why they make money selling, not buying. If you don’t believe in your own product enough to buy it yourself, well, that says an awful lot about the product.

2. Is the benefit they are selling something you want for yourself or is it something that is being pressured upon you by a keeping up with the Jones’ mentality?

  • It’s okay to buy something just to show off, if you understand that’s what is making you feel good. At the point where the costs outweigh the benefits though, it might be just easier to decide to start a new trend and opt out.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by Howdy, I’m H. Michael Karshis

How Much Does Our Pedal Power Save?

gas-mileage.jpgEver since I took that lovely stroll to the local market, I’ve been wondering if I should do this more often. The only thing that kept me from doing it was the fact that I would have too many groceries to carry back home at one time. Also, lazy as it may seem, I didn’t want to carry them! Then, I saw a wire cart for $19.99 at Walgreens to carry my groceries and the idea just sort of solidified. I thought: “How much gas does it cost to go from my driveway to the store and back versus using this $19.99 carrier?” Then, I thought about how nice it would be to get that exercise in too, especially around spring time. If someone wanted to do this instead of a gym membership, it would probably save them a lot of money too.

They Laughed at Me at the Auto Shop

When they were fixing my car, they asked me if the car got good gas mileage. I said that it used to but that now the car seemed to take a whole lot more gas. They said:”Well, what kind of mileage are you getting?” And, I had to admit, I didn’t know. I used to know, but recently I was going by how much money I was putting in the tank. That’s when they reminded me that gas had risen in cost to three to four times what it was a few years ago and that this wasn’t sufficient to tell whether I had the same miles per gallon or not! Of course, that seems obvious now. So, I really don’t know what mileage I am getting, but I’m going to find out. At $4/gallon this summer, I’d only have to save five gallons to pay for the wire cart with the pretty wheels and large area for multiple bags. In the meantime, check out how to calculate your gas mileage here. That’s the process I will have to follow to figure out how much it actually costs in miles per gallon to go to the local store and back. I bet the answer is going to surprise me.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by redgoober4life

Holding the Rudder Steady in a Perfect Storm

storm.jpgIf you aren’t aware of the convergence of different sectors of our economy that seem to be poised to create a perfect storm of potential economic catastrophes, you must be one of the few. The media has been trumpeting bad news since they first were created as bad news seems to sell a whole lot better than good news. So, we hear about the housing collapse, the $4/gallon gasoline expected this summer, the falling dollar, the rising food prices, the increase in unemployment, and the tightening of the credit rules. There are even people who are insisting that we are close to peak oil and doomsday is right around the corner.

Recognize the Storm, but Don’t Lend it More Energy

If you find yourself in a perfect storm, there’s not much you can do about it except to hold the rudder and hope it passes. In spiritual circles, if you spend too much time agonizing over the outer conditions, your inner state of being contributes to the manifestation of more outward problems. The only way to hold the rudder steady is to recognize the outer conditions as a temporary illusion that does not have control of your life. You create your life, not the outer manifestations making it for you.

Some people do this by focusing on the Divine or their angels in times of trouble This is why many Christians tend to have an almost teflon-like quality to their lives, even when everything around them is destructing. They don’t place their attention on the manifestations and often more problems just cause them to turn more to God. For those of us that believe in the Divine within, turning our attention inward can cause more condemnation than relief, or joyous devotion. If we create our own reality, then why are we creating such disasters? This can lead to a spiral of downward motion that is difficult to readjust without the proper attitude, and yet, it is crucial if we want to get ourselves out of victim mode.

The Powerful “I AM” Statements

If you’ve ever seen the St. Germain information, they say decrees that start with the words “I AM.” So, instead of focusing on the negative problems around you, you focus on the Divine within with these statements. Some are like this:

  • I AM the opulence of God made manifest in my use now and continuously.
  • I AM the Presence acting in my world.
  • I AM the wealth – God in Action – now manifest in my life, my world.

There are many other such affirmations that can help us to hold the rudder steady in a perfect storm.

How to Put Them to Use

Interestingly enough, my friend with the brain tumor went to see a hypnotherapist. When I asked him what they did, he said they had focused on putting suggestions of affirmations in his head. One of them was like “I AM the perfect functioning in my brain, improving more and more.” When I heard him say that I thought it was quite funny that someone who hasn’t even heard of the Saint Germain teachings used the same statements. What is even more interesting is that I was already trying it with other things, besides myself. I was saying: “I AM the perfect health in my friend, (his name here).” And also, I am using it for my car: “I AM the perfection in my car.” This may seem absolutely ridiculous to some, but separation between us and others is only in the mind. In the power of the Divine there is no me and thee, there is only God, the Divine. So, what I decree for me can be used to help someone else or even an inanimate object. The trick, they say, is to really believe and feel what you are decreeing. So, that’s my spiritual tip for the day, and I will continue to update you on exactly how they are working in my life. At the very least, it provides some positive affirmations that can help us feel inspired when times are tough.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by Fabiano & Gabriel

Community and Sustainability

feast.jpgI have been trying to figure out how to build community within our self-centered, capitalistic, system. It doesn’t seem like the two go hand-in-hand. I remember I tried to set up a community freelance site for writers and it flopped before I got it done. I think it didn’t work because people don’t want to have to work without cash to get a community system up – they expect to be paid for it. I also tried to set up a community website at a non-profit, and again, the community refused to step up to the plate. People say they are going to be involved but then the majority find ways to excuse themselves from being involved in a community project. It takes up too much of their time and they are simply too busy unless it has a dollar attached to it. But, then, places like Craigslist and Wikipedia are able to set up communities without paying people, however, not eveyone makes a profit either. So, how would you set up a community that is sustainable without engaging in overt greed and profit mongering?

Church Communities

I’ve noticed church communities are great for building sustainable communities, but the wealth is really not spread across its membership. If you give to the church, they take that money and use it to pay their staff and the buildings. Extra doesn’t go back to the membership. Yet, many volunteers donate lots of time to run a church and they don’t get paid for their services. However, we all need to survive in a capitalistic economy, so why aren’t they compensated if they need their services so much? There should be other ways besides money to compensate volunteers. If we are engaged in a capitalistic system, it doesn’t seem fair then to engage free labor. I think it’s this mentality that volunteers are free labor that is killing non-profits. There is a conflict between our economic environment and the needs of the volunteers. It’s hardly a sustainable community if the membership isn’t being supported materially as well as spiritually.

Tribal Communities

When you look at how some of the older tribal communities worked, things were a bit more even and co-operative. If one person had too much wealth, they were expected to share that wealth with others in their village by hosting feasts. It was a privilege to be asked to host a feast because people recognized that you were in God’s favor and had wealth to spare. It also provided a great deal of unity within a village and helped those who were less well off. This type of community isn’t just about supporting a structure or a building, but about taking care of all the villager’s needs. There was some sense of social responsibility that, to put it bluntly, we just don’t have in the United States. Everyone is in it for themselves. Is it a difference in culture or is it just our own self-centeredness and short-sightedness that keeps us from helping others in need? Or is the capitalistic system just set up as a competitive game that will never make it easy to build community within? I wish I knew. I do know that you do have to return something back to the community that gives to you, even if you don’t give it back to the individual. Otherwise, it is not sustainable. Community and sustainability go hand-in-hand, even if they conflict with capitalism right now.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by ^riza^

What Argentina Can and Can’t Teach Us

funny-money.jpgI am fascinated by some of the stories of economic collapse, like Argentina in late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The bankruptcy of a previously rich country like Argentina holds a number of lessons for all countries, not the least of which is the United States. As the stock market veers precariously up and down and even Buffett says we’re in recession, the idea that our economy might collapse isn’t that far-fetched. So, what happens when an economy collapses, typically? Argentina can answer that question.

  • There’s a run on the banks,
  • Stock market stops trading,
  • Banks close and don’t reopen,
  • Employers close shop or disappear without paying employees,
  • Rich people get out of the country,
  • Cash becomes king,
  • Prices sky-rocket,
  • Unemployment goes through the roof,
  • Crime increases several hundred percent,
  • People starve.

Not a pretty picture, right? It’s an understatement. Take a look at this posting if you want to see the true horror of a collapsed economic system. Which brings me to my next subject: How do we prepare for a recession or a potential economic collapse?

Preparing For Tough Economic Times

Even if you have a job right now, the fact is that an economic down-turn means an increase in unemployment. If you don’t have a way to make income through your own skills or hobbies, you will want to start developing some now. One of the things that I found interesting about the first person account of what happened in Argentina is how some of the more notable and skilled workers left the country. People like doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc. all took off. You can expect the same thing. If your area is depressed, those with money will leave – making it hard to get medical and specialized skills. In that case, you will have to make due with what you have. When an economy collapses, it’s time to put on your survival gear big-time.

Economic Survival Kit

This is what you will want to have on hand:

Skills – Learn to sew, hunt, fix things, plant food, or even make paper. Any skill that will keep you marketable in a black market economy is going to help you survive. In a recession, it helps to make ends meet. In an economic collapse, it could mean the difference between living or dying or starvation.

Cash – Keep cash on hand so that if the banks close you can still have some power to buy items. Don’t think keeping your funds offshore helps much. In Argentina, many people couldn’t access their outside accounts because of problems with electric services and communications.

No debts – You may be wondering why bother to pay off debts if the system collapses? Well, because those without debt won’t have their mortgages foreclosed upon and/or cars repossessed. If you lose your home or your car, you are toast – the crime wave will eventually get you. Also, outside creditors from other sources may pop in to help those who aren’t already debt-ridden.

Food – Food prices will go sky high. If you have a stash of food, you are better prepared than most. If you shoot your mouth off about it, you can be sure to get some nasty visitors. Store it secretly.

Water – Store water in containers too. Services like water, sewage, electricity, gas, and more can go down when the economy gets walloped and no one is getting paid.

Survival tools – This can include cranked radios and flashlights, generators, wool socks and sturdy clothing, camping or solar or wood-burning stoves, hiking boots, bicycles, tools, you name it. If you think the stuff is expensive now, wait until the economy collapses.

Spiritual Survival Kit

If you want to really know how to avoid some of the problems that we might end up seeing if our economy collapses or degrades significantly, then you have to start learning how to be a Powerful Creator right now. It’s like learning how to swim before the tsunami hits. Why wait until the wave is right over you to try to find someone who can teach you to swim? Instead, start to focus on how to be Self-sustaining right now. That does include material happiness, but also more importantly, your spiritual perspective and mental alignment can greatly increase your chances of surviving terrible ordeals. If you begin to focus on how to bring the Divine into more focus in your life, when adversity hits you are infinitely better prepared than most. Miracles can happen. You will already be plugged into your Source of supply and you will already have community as part of your survival gear, ready to be implemented when you need it most.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by idogcow

DIY Rain Barrels and Profit Motives

rain-barrel.jpgIf there is one big problem with capitalism it has to be the profit motive. I’ve heard it over and over again: “Well, sure, it’s not “criminal” to charge an exorbitant profit (unless you are a regulated industry).” If it’s not criminal, we’ve certainly learned it is not sustainable. Profit motives are the reason people in starving countries like Argentina in 2002 couldn’t buy the food they produced in their own country. Instead, it was shipped out to other countries where they make a higher profit. Profit motive is why real estate became a speculator’s sport that ended up costing millions of people their homes in the end. Profit motive is the reason gas will never go down and always up, no matter what anyone says about supply and demand. Profit motive is why the pharmaceutical industry will never fund a study on any natural healing products that will undercut their profits in their own drugs, even if they find out they are effective. Profit motive is why people don’t have time to help other people in need, because there’s nothing in it for them. And profit motive is why in a drought a rain barrel would be priced at $150, as if this was not something you could make on your own for cheap. In short, profit motive is just another name for good, old-fashioned, greed when it becomes unsustainable.

Global Warming and Green Products

In one of those astounding synchronicities, I had to pay my water bill and ended up at the Raleigh website. There, to my surprise, I found they were selling rain barrels for only $80 to $90 approximately. Yesterday, I had been wondering how NC State could be doing a civic duty selling rain barrels for $150, and now I think I know they’re not. It’s one of those, “oh look we’re in a drought and people need water. Let’s sell over-priced rain barrels!” deals. And, imagine this! The Raleigh site even showed you how to make your own rain barrel out of an old trash can. There were also links for kits listed with the pre-made rain barrels too. So, now I have a good idea of what a rain barrel costs to do-it-yourself: approximately $16, if you already have an old trash can (like I do). Otherwise, it will cost you more like $45, which is close to the $30 I estimated yesterday.

Go Green Frugally

There are a lot of experts suggesting that green products and those that deal with environmental or global warming concerns, such as drought, will end up being a large industry as the years move ahead. You can expect people getting into these markets to have profit as their primary motive more than social conscience. If you want to uphold the standards and ethics of green industries, don’t patronize these people. Green isn’t just about taking care of the ecology and environment, it’s also about a sustainable way of life. Sustainability is not about price gouging. So, keep a sharp eye out and remember to pass along free information so others can also help to build a sustainable culture in their back yards for less.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by gilintx

Thinking about setting up additional freelancing profiles

I’ve been pretty fortunate in the past to be able to get contract jobs through word of mouth and referrals. I’ve actually had very few jobs I’ve had to go after and bid on. However, the economy is doing some screwy things lately, and I am wondering about setting up additional online profiles. Setting up multiple freelancing profiles is a way to network on the Internet. There are a number of contract job portals that one can use to try to find additional work: guru.com, elance.com, and many more. I had an entire listing before my pc crashed and left me struggling to put the pieces back together. Now, I have to try to find the listings I had before. I really should think of a way to keep this from happening every time my pc crashes. Maybe I should build a bookmark list for just my online profiles? It would help me when things slow down to quickly jump on them and update them. Also, I would know where to go when work slows without having to jump back and forth through them. I did originally have them bookmarked and some of these places still exist. I’ll have to see about generating a larger listing for the future…