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Tag Archives: competitive

Coming Soon, Housing Crisis 2.0

This guy I know, well, I know him because he’s the one who used to own my house, but anyway, he keeps me around to do computer work for him.  And I do it.  And I get compensated handsomely, despite me telling him I don’t really need the money.  Well, anyway, I was at his house the other night doing computer stuff and he and his GF were having a conversation in hushed tones.  But I was right there beside them, and I was the only other one in the room, so I don’t know exactly why they were talking like that.  Except, I kinda do.

But let me first say this about the guy.  He’s successful.  Quite so.  He runs his own business in a subset of an industry where there is little to no competition and he is sought out for that skill and expertise.  He’s down to earth, but at the same time, he’s got plenty of money to spend.  You name it, he’s got it.  Boat, Corvette, camper, truck, huge house on a large plot of land, huge TVs everywhere.  Just got a divorce and is swallowing multi-thousand dollar alimony payments without slowing down.  Has someone who runs over right away when he has a computer problem and pays them much more than necessary.

And he’s pretty business smart.  I mean, he has a very successful business of his own, but he also had the sense to buy the land his house was built on when it only had a couple of trailers on it.  He now rents out the trailers and that pays his mortgage and then some.  So, I guess you would say he’s a successful landlord as well.

But now, in whispers, he’s talking to his GF in front of me about an opportunity to become a house flipper.  He has heard of an opportunity to buy a distressed house and he thinks he can flip it without investing any time or effort and learn how to do it correctly.  He may be right or he may not be.  But when I hear, “I just want to be the middleman”, it kind of rubs me the wrong way.  Maybe he’s been watching too much Flip or Flop.  Maybe he’s been inspired from stories from his GF (who’s a property appraiser).  Maybe he’s just got too much cash lying around (what a problem to have). 

The thing is, experts say that when the rabble starts acting like experts, it’s time to make for the exits.  I’ve been reading stories about the increase of flipping and I’ve seen the HGTV shows that are promoting this more and more.  It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we were here.  But here we are.  I’m going to have to get myself prepared for this.

In Memoriam, In Advance

I stopped by my local pool place last weekend for some chlorine.  At the checkout they had a sign stating that as of August 1st, they will no long accept credit cards – cash or check only.  I asked for more clarification, no debit cards either.  So, I give them about 2 months to live.  Definitely won’t see 2017.

This business had recently tried implementing a “cash discount” and that didn’t seem to work, because I don’t see those signs anymore.  I’m very confused as to what their logic is.  Accepting a check is probably more risky than accepting a credit card.  No one carries $500 around with them to buy a chlorine generator.  It’s unlikely businesses would set up accounts with them unless they can do monthly invoicing and hold out the net 30 terms.

I thought this would make their online sales unworkable, but a quick check shows that their website cart uses PayPal.  This raises even more questions.  Why not get a PayPal mobile card reader and use the same account for store sales and online sales?

I mean, if they are getting hammered with CC swipe fees and TX charges, they need to renegotiate.  Or they need to look at their margins.  I’ve always known that the ones paying cash were getting shafted because a store’s prices had to assume that CC fees would be included.  I’m puzzled by this in the same way I’m puzzled that gas stations can survive with Cash/Credit pricing.

But in the end, my guess is they won’t be sticking around much longer.  Here’s the important thing.  They’ve made a decision they can’t easily take back.  They may get one more transaction out of each customer (they already got mine).  But after that, customers like me aren’t going to return.  If they realize their decision has now brought the business into a death spiral and they want to start accepting credit cards again, who’s going to know?  All the former customers have written the business off.  They could put a banner out front saying “We fucked up and we accept credit cards again!” but that’s some serious crow to eat.  Maybe the banner will be “Under New Ownership!” which might invite old customers back to see if the payment options have returned.

It’s sounds like another case of small-business America dying, but sometimes that death is caused by a self-inflicted injury.

Gas Runners

A few days ago, I was driving home and saw a couple of gas stations with different gas prices.  The one station’s prices were “cash only”.  It got me thinking about a couple of things.  First off, I thought that there isn’t any incentive to go to a cash-only station if the prices are practically the same.  I wondered if it was a desperate concession for the station owner to implement surcharges for credit cards.  This led me to consider gas stations as a whole business.

With any business, you have income and expenses.  You can play with these elements in any possible way to create profit, that is, more income than expenses.  When you are selling gas, you have one income source – gas sales.  You would have many, many expenses – licenses, maintenance, labor, taxes, utilities, and on and on.  One of those expenses would be credit card processing fees.  Like I said, play with these sources to create profit.  Eliminate CC fees and you may make a profit, or more of a profit.

With larger gas stations – ones with integrated convenience stores – you would have multiple sources of income, including food/merchandise sales and possibly lottery ticket sales commissions.  Your other expenses may go up too, but we all know that buying anything from a convenience store is not the cheapest choice.  You are paying dearly for the convenience.

So, by having the C-store, your profits from one sector can offset the expenses from the other.  You can absorb the CC fees because your C-store sales are subsidizing them.  This made me wonder how gas stations could even survive without solid c-store sales.  Maybe this is why they have to sacrifice CC processing.

So now, on to my idea.  You have a gas station with customized gas pumps.  The pumps have a large touchscreen that performs as a kiosk.  After you swipe your card to activate the pump, the screen allows you to purchase items in the store.  Within the store are one or more “runners” that will pick and run the items out to you at the pump.  That’s it.  A simple idea.

But more than just simple, this is an improved form of convenience – you don’t even have to go inside the store.  You don’t have to run your credit card twice – your gas and purchases are combined on one receipt.  The store doesn’t even have to be customer-accessible.  It could be optimized for quick-picking.

The ordering kiosk software could remember people by their credit card numbers and provide frequent, recent, and favorite item lists to choose from.  As with everything modern now, you could tie it to an online profile where the customer could review purchases and create lists of favorite items to be shown on their next visit.

If you haven’t determined it by now, this is how a small station could compete with a large C-store.  You have the extra income stream of the merchandise sales, but a much lower overhead of running a large store, including maintenance, taxes, cleaning, utilities, and more.  And, in some ways, the service level would be higher.  With so many people in a rush, saving the time of going in, shopping, and standing in line to pay (again), all that time is saved.

I’m a Gamer

I’m actually the worst kind of gamer, the casual gamer.

On my Windows Phone, I recently installed the Microsoft Solitaire pack and naturally, I’ve been non-productive ever since.  What a stupid game and why must I spend so much time on it, trying to get a “high score”?

And the scoring is the really horrible part.  I mean, yeah, I can finish the game, but maybe I’ve taken too long, or I got distracted and let my timer count up too far so I don’t get crap for a time bonus.  So I abandon the game.  Why?  Like finishing the game just isn’t enough.  I have to finish and get a high score.

One of the interesting quirks I found is that if I finish a game in a decent time, I’m getting a score of something like 3000 or 4000.  However, if the game is shot right off the bat and I run out of moves, I end up with a score like 190.  What stupid scoring model is that?  It’s bad enough you were unable to finish, but not only that, your score is so low, you don’t even want to mention it to anyone.

But anyway, I am really one of the least competitive people I know.  I don’t really see a need for it.  It’s just for bragging rights and what’s the point of bragging?  I gave that crap up a long time ago.  And yet, I challenge myself to get a better score?  Is this going to get to the level where every time I see myself in a mirror I have to point and yell, “Fuck you, I’m going to kick my ass!  In Solitaire.”