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Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Steve Cole ponders various thoughts on business in America.
1. Recently, one of our employees went by a certain small business we buy things from to pick up something. The owner had been bored and had entered every one of his customers in a state website listing unclaimed money. He found that Yahoo owed us $109 for something Vanessa did 10 years ago. We all thought that this was something very nice for him to as a service for his customers. (Anyone running a business might do this for their customers. It costs you little money (just time) and might make a customer very happy.) Leanna claimed the money, then just for fun, started entering our names and the names of my late parents and brother and (shazam) found $800 that someone owed my father. Every state has a different database and I bet you can find them on Google easily enough, but make a note and check it every year. A little surprise Christmas bonus can make your holidays happy.
2. A lesson on negotiations. On the television show Sister Wives, one of the daughters (Madison) was getting married in June (the episode was filmed in May and aired in December). Another daughter (Mykelti) got engaged and wanted to get married in August (so she and Tony could live together during the fall semester of college). The parents didn¹t want her to get married that soon because (1) the couple hadn¹t known each other long enough, (2) there wasn¹t time to work up a wedding given they were busy with Madison¹s wedding, and (3) they couldn¹t afford a nice wedding that soon after Madison¹s. After some negotiation, Mykelti agreed to wait until December if the parents would pay for a nicer wedding and the honeymoon. The parents said they agreed but would work out the details later. Warning! Working it out later (i.e., after August) leaves Mykelti no bargaining power. What the parents should have done was to tell Mykelti she could have budget X in August or budget X+Y in December and let her choose. Mykelti should then have countered that she would wait for December in exchange for the specific budget offered plus a specific amount of money to contribute to the honeymoon. There is nothing to stop the parents (now) from taking the honeymoon money out of the unstated budget they would have offered for December.
3. Over the last few months, we had an increasing number of problems with our burglar alarm system. The company sent repair guys out here who declared the problem fixed, but as it kept happening we warned all of them that we were unhappy and likely to change companies when the contract expired. We got no answer and assumed that the company did not care; in fact the repair people (and the dispatchers who got the false alarms) never told their boss. We considered calling the boss directly, but for several reasons (busy, didn't think it would work, didn¹t want to have an argument) we did not. Out of desperation, we paid to change to a new (slightly more expensive) company, ending a seven-year relationship with the first company (by a formal letter). When that first company's boss heard he had lost a customer, he investigated, found the problem, and fixed it, but it was too late; the new system was already being installed. I had a very nice (and mutually sad) conversation with the first company, and we agreed that his repair and dispatch people should have reported the problem months earlier, and that I should have called him directly rather than just assuming that his employees were telling him the situation.