May 232009

Lately, been having conversations about people and donations. Just a philosophy in life I suppose. But donations, paying extra for service and tipping in general seem related…

A different conversation made me wonder about being so price conscious on things (before I buy things online, I usually search for coupons for that store…just today I saved 30% off an item cause I spent 5 minutes trying out various promotional codes).  We were talking about REI versus Any Mountain.  Recently, I was impressed with the staff at REI – they gave me some spare parts to attach a rear bike rack for my bike that doesn’t have mounts.  These are spare parts that come from a rack I did not buy from them.  Well, I bought a rack from them, but it was a different rack.  And I found out that they’re a co-op that will give you back 10% of your money spent with them on an annual basis – it just comes as a credit to be used in the store.

So I was kind of bullish on them from a little encounter. Sharing that story and someone else brings up that they used to work at REI and the people there are the best, but that they use REI to do the research and learn about what to buy, then go buy it from Any Mountain.  Any Mountain, when I’ve been in it, is kind of a mess.  Dishevled.  They agreed and called Any Mountain the Fry’s of sporting goods.  Which makes complete sense.  I don’t really like making any substantial purchase at Fry’s, cause I know they’re a little dicey.  But I like their convenience and their prices.

Which got me to thinking about why do I worry about a dollar or five here and there from store to store?  Sports Basement had the same rack that REI had for 3 dollars less, but they didn’t have as good a selection of panniers and I wasn’t gonna drive back and forth between the two for a couple of bucks (especially when the whole point of buying this stuff was to ride my bike instead of drive…)  So convenience was the selling point – not the service.

Yet I’ll tip 15-20% on reasonable service for a meal.  25% on excellent (they didn’t visibly complain while Sal was making a mess and calling for his dog to eat the food off the floor…and screaming when no dog came).  So why wouldn’t I pay an extra couple of percent to support a store that gives much better service?

So REI’s my store now.

And yes, the 10% kick back is really the main reason.  But it sounds like a better story if I phrase it like I’m supporting their overall company vision.

Biking to soccer practiceSal did get some really great biking gloves for 7 bucks there too – decked out in them over to the left.

But this whole tipping/service thing really hit home in Vegas.  There was a decent roll and afterwards, for the come out roll, I wanted to bet the world for me and the dealers.  And I had been messing around with $5 chips in my hand for most of the time cause that was usually all I had, but this was post decent roll and I had $25 chips in my hand, so since I didn’t look at my hands, I threw out 2 $25 chips for the bet.  I started to call it back, but then felt that would be cheap and so I let the bet stand.

First roll was a 7.  Which means you lose $20 and the other $5 pays $20 and the bet stays. Some dealers in some places take that $25 bet down since it was a winning bet, but some let the bet ride.  These dealers discussed it a bit, some wanting to pocket the $25, others wanting to risk it for more. They kept the bet alive.

Next roll was a 3.  Which means you lose $20 and the other $5 pays $75.  For my bet, they’ll take $20 off the $75 and leave my $25 bet there and give me $55 in change.  The dealers took their $80 and were pleased with the way things turned out. Since I got my $50 back for the initial bet for the 2 of us plus $5 and the dealers got an $80 tip, the bet was a positive all around.  And I still had $25 on the world bet.

Normally, I press these things.  But normally, I’m betting $5 on them.  So I’d throw another $10 there to press mine to $10 and put the dealers back on for $5.  I wasn’t going to do that with $25 chips though.

Next roll was a 12.  So I lost $20 and the other $5 pays $150.  They put $20 back on the world and pay me $130.  And the dealers complain to each other for taking their bet down…

…and I am reassured about the karma in tipping.

(Next roll was a 6 so there were no further lessons to be learned…)

Jan 012008

So, still haven’t bought the Feeding Frenzy for 10 bucks yet. And that sale might be over. But have advanced via a couple of free trials, to the point where we were a shark for a while. I was impressed that Sal recognized the, now smaller, barracudas, and was no longer afraid of them. Eager to devour them even. Impressed and a little scared maybe.

You can see he was a little excited about the Cars racetrack we got him. I say we, but mean I, since as he opened this gift, I couldn’t get swept up in the excitement because I glanced over at his mother who was just shaking her head in disapproval. The boys like it. Chapo a little less so, unless you consider barking at it and chasing the cars non-stop, liking it. He is wagging his tail.

Anyway, Cars race track (and maybe you can see a little of the XO laptop box in the bottom, but that new computer has yet to be fully explored) lead to Cars dvd sampling at the store, which lead to blu-ray discovery, which lead to 16:9 tv dimensions and the realization that the Playstation 3 is also a blu-ray player, and if one is going to get a blu-ray player, one might as well get a PS3.

Most husbands would be surprised on the sides that my wife and I take in these discussions. I was against it. We don’t really buy DVDs, so why would we start buying more expensive DVDs? Instead of just enjoying HD movies. Plus, if we do get a PS3, since Sal is severly monitored for his exposure to video games, it is just torturous to have the PS3 in the house and not be able to play games on it.

Well, that I guess is my sentence. It is a tough life, but someone’s got to live it.

So, dropping several bucks on a PS3, with a blu-ray DVD (Spiderman 3) that Sal won’t even be able to watch, cause it’s too dark/violent even though it’s got his favorite character in it, happened in a matter of minutes. 10 bucks on Feeding Frenzy? Not yet still.

40 bucks on Cheech Marin books and CDs just cause Ian recommends them? 32 seconds. Swordfish blu-ray DVD is a free gift, but that’ll just make the jonesing for Travolta’s car go through the roof.

Maybe the new Grand Theft Auto game will be a nice compromise…

May 272007

There’s a better picture to go with this title – but since I don’t have a Blackberry Curve yet, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture at the Watsonville Fly In that we went to. It was much colder than we anticipated and Sal was finding that the gobs of sunscreen he had on was not providing much warmth. No jacket packed. Sal was even saying “jacket” as we were walking to the entrance.

The attendant told me that they had kids sweatshirts inside. So instead of turning around, we forged onward. Still hearing a little dude demand a jacket. We get to the booth. All sold out of children’s sizes. Not many other booths selling clothes – we circled around and came back. Okay – we’ll buy an adult sweatshirt – we just need to keep him warm.

They only have one left. A Large. Whatever. This is life when traveling without Moms. But – it was on sale – 10 bucks (instead of 25) cause it had a torn cuff. I think that Sal was instantly comforted as my heart warmed up 100%. It was nice picture, once we rolled the sleeves up to the armpits. Sal was wearing shorts too – so the overhang of the sweatshirt was actually really good.

The airshow was fun – the F-18’s didn’t want to go home, repeatedly doing fly bys interrupting the Marines who were talking about their Harriers. Trying to talk about their Harriers. I guess the F-18’s were from the Navy and there’s a little rivalry going on? It was all kind of loud. Afterburners especially.

Another photo op maybe was Sal jumping down out of some transport helicopter in his adult L sweatshirt. Curve release date is supposed to be next week. Or the week after. It has been the same gossip story for the last 3 weeks. Every week I fall for it.

But that isn’t what I really wanted to talk about.

I’ve wanted to ship a package for a while now. But then Catherine saw this dude on the cover of the San Jose Metro and if I could work things out – then I could send two things in a package and that’d save me some postage.

The dude is this author that I used to work with. I’m not particularly fond of his writing, but others are. As commented, when he signed the first book for us, he didn’t get Catherine’s name right. And when we asked him to fix it, he asked us if we wanted to buy another book. Ha ha. No thanks, funny joke though.

Wasn’t a joke. He just crossed out the bad version and wrote the corrected version above the crossed out one. His books are that freaking precious. Catherine once went to get a picture autographed from a film star for me – and she put an ‘h’ in my name. Catherine corrected her and without a moment’s hesitation a new autograph was being started. Those are my two data points. I don’t know what it says about industries, cause I don’t generalize or stereotype. I just know I have my favorites for a reason.

Anyway – so I email this guy cause I thought he’d be flattered that someone would notice his picture and then send a note a long. And after a gentle bit of ribbing (hey, were we expecting pure flattery?) I asked him if he could send a personalized copy of the book to a friend – as they are big fans and would get a kick out of it. I offered to paypal him some money for the book, shipping and handling and time and trouble.

All I got back in response was a time and date for his next book signing. Jesus. I’m not vain enough to think that it was cause he wanted to meet up again. Plus, it didn’t say any of that in the reply. And I would have gone, except I had to drive my mother down to Los Angeles on that day.

So – where are we now? An original package delayed and no book. And spite around the book now too.

Being cheap has its perks…but I guess it doesn’t always get you friends. Or sweatshirts that fit. Maybe it builds character though.

[editor’s note: my favorite part of writing this was finding the link by doing a search for “world’s finest crap barry eisler” – 2nd result]