Archive for August, 2005

The Entrepeneur

The temperature was a cool 97 degrees, and I was being pulled down the sidewalk by my panting dog Callie (who always seems to be in a hurry to get everywhere) when I saw the plywood sign:  “Cool Lemmon-aide 50 cents”. 

The words had been clearly printed in black magic marker in what looked like the handwriting of a 7 year old.  The plywood was leaning against an aluminum card table, which held a pitcher of icy lemonade and a sleeve of paper cups.  Next to the lemonade was a glass jar, filled about a quarter-full with loose change and crumpled dollar bills.  Seated behind the table was my old friend Rick O’Shea, who has not been 8 years old for quite some time. 

He stood up when he saw me walk over.  “Want some lemonade?” 

No.  What the heck are you doing? 

“I bought the stand from the kid who lives here.  The little bugger was making a killing.  I saw the opportunity and bought the rights to the stand for 50 bucks.  He threw in the supplies and the use of the yard and hose.  He’s inside somewhere, playing video games.” 

Uh, Rick.  Did you talk to his parents about this?  What if they come home and see some guy selling lemonade in their front yard? 

“Oh, I talked to the guy’s father.  He looked at me a little funny, but when I produced the 50 bucks, he agreed right away.” 

So, how’s business since the takeover? 

“I have to admit that it’s been a little slow.  Do you think it’s too hot for people to come outside?  Maybe I should offer a free hose-down with every cup.” 

Maybe it’s because people think it’s creepy to see a 34 year old guy selling lemonade in someone else’s yard? 

“Come on.  There is money to be made here.  Do you want a cup of lemonade or not?” 

Ah, that would be no, thanks. 

I turned, and Callie tugged me home. 

About three hours later, I was driving past the house when I saw Rick sitting on the grass next to the road.  The piece of plywood now read, “Cool RICK’S Lemmon-aide 50 cents AND FREE iPod”.  The 8-year old was back behind the card table, cheerfully serving a cup of lemonade to a grateful mailman.  The money jar was now about half-full with crumpled bills and loose change.  I pulled over and rolled down my window. 

Rick walked over and leaned on my car.  “Change your mind about the lemonade?” 

Not really, Mr. Trump.  What’s this about an iPod? 

“Well, after about a half-hour with no business, I started having thoughts about torching the place for the insurance money.” 

Yeah, probably not a good idea, since a) you don’t have insurance, and b) the owner is bigger than you and he might take exception if you burned down his house. 

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.  So, after another half-hour of zero business, I hired the kid back at 5 bucks an hour to sell the lemonade.  Business did pick up a bit, but it was clear that I wasn’t going to make a profit without some kind of marketing campaign.  That’s when I had the idea that if I gave away a chance at a free iPod with every cup, people would come running.” 

Did they? 

“No.” 

So, with the 50 bucks to rent the stand, the 5 bucks an hour for the kid, and the money for the iPod, you’re taking a real bath on this whole thing. 

“Not at all – I’m building brand loyalty.  I have a three Saturday option on this stand, and soon I hope to buy out that kid down on Chestnut Street.  Soon Rick’s Lemmon-aide will be a household name.” 

Doesn’t that container say ‘Country Time’? 

“Shhhhh…don’t be giving away trade secrets.”

The Day to Day Grind Tim 26 Aug 2005 No Comments

Hot Flashes

Some random thoughts that have recently shaken themselves loose from the dustbin that is my brain: 

I took advantage of the sales tax-free weekend recently and purchased a new Hi-Definition television set.  It’s strange that a mere 5% savings can get people, like me, into a “big purchase” frame of mind.  If the same stores threw a 5% sale on any other weekend of the year, it would never even show up on my radar screen.  I guess I need to feel like I’m sticking it to The Man to make the 5% savings worthwhile… 

…The new TV is great, except that it has a very strong gravity field.  The other day, I was walking through my living room on my way outside to mow the lawn.  I accidentally glanced at the TV and BANG – 2 hours had passed and I was still on the couch with my mouth agape, transfixed by yet another killer whale documentary… 

…One last thing about buying a Hi-Definition television.  At the store, the salespeople do their best to sell a special kind of cable (called a DVI), that will allow your new TV to give a better digital picture than other component cables.  I checked a few of the electronics stores in the area, and these cables retailed for something in the vicinity of $150. 

I then began whining to one of my coworkers, let’s call him Sniffy T., about how expensive these cables are.  Sniffy T. is my go-to guy on all things audiovisual, and he told me about a website (http://www.pacificcable.com) where I could find the same cables for about $23 (NOTE:  neither Sniffy nor I are connected to this company in any way). 

A savings of $127 sounded much too good to be true, and I was understandably skeptical.  But, Sniffy is a fanatic about things like picture quality, and he has been using the cables himself, so I bit the bullet and ordered the cable from the website. 

Result:  The cables were delivered quickly, and they work like a charm.  Conclusion:  Sniffy T. is a $127 GENIUS!… 

…Unfortunately, not all of my recent online experiences have been quite so rewarding.  I recently won an eBay auction for an old copy of a Winston Churchill book (A great deal!), and paid the seller $7.75 through PayPal (an online payment service) with my debit card.  I checked out the seller and, at the time of the sale, he only had positive feedback associated with his eBay account. 

After a couple of weeks and no book, I checked eBay to see how things were going, and noticed that the seller had recently de-activated his eBay account.  This was probably due to the sudden appearance of a number of negative comments associated with his account, a representative example of which was:  “FRAUD! Never sent items.” 

I decided to file a claim with the PayPal people, because, after all, $7.75 does not grow on trees.  After about 2 weeks, the folks at PayPal sent me the following email (I have edited it for the sake of space): 

Dear Timothy McCaffrey, 

We have decided in your favor, however, we were unable to recover any funds from the seller’s account. As stated in the PayPal User Agreement, recovery of funds associated with a Buyer Complaint cannot be guaranteed. 

To sum up:  “Gee, you got hosed, but we’re not going to do anything about it.  Thanks for using PayPal.”  The email then suggested that I check with eBay about getting money back, but whenever I go to the “I’ve been hosed” section on eBay, it only refers me back to PayPal.  This is very smooth, since both of these companies are owned by eBay and neither of them is willing to give me my $7.75 back.  Thank God it wasn’t a bigger ticket item. 

I would love to track down this thief and exact revenge.  At the very least, I would force him to spend the money on a ticket to Herbie:  Fully Loaded, but alas, eBay won’t give me his information; his privacy is important to them. 

So, the best I can hope for is that Mr. No Book For You Guy puts that $7.75 towards a shiny new $150 DVI cable.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 26 Aug 2005 No Comments

REJECTED!

I was standing in line at the Worcester Public Library, waiting to submit my library card application at the appropriate desk.  I would have simply used my Northboro Free Library card, but that is resting peacefully in my old wallet, which has been floating down the Saco River since 1997. 

The people in front of me in the line were attempting to negotiate down a fine they had received for a late book.  For the amount of time they spent at the desk, they might as well have been attempting a hostile takeover of the library. 

When the negotiators finally gave up and moved along, I walked up to the desk and placed my application down.  It was obvious that the woman’s patience had been worn thin by her previous customers, but she managed to give me a thin smile.  I explained that I wanted a card, and she began to type my information into the computer system. 

I was a bit anxious.  There was only an hour until closing time, and I needed to check out a couple of books. 

The woman behind the desk hit the Enter key and then frowned at her computer screen.  She turned to me with the look of a Registry employee who has just discovered some missing paperwork.  “Have you ever been to Northboro?” 

“I used to live there,” I answered.  I began to get a nervous feeling in my stomach. 

It was at that moment that I had a flashback.  It was last year, and I was helping my mother go through some old books that I had left at her house.  I was flipping through an ancient copy of Ripcord when my mother held up a book and yelled, “WHAT IS THIS?!” 

I tried to reply, but she cut me off immediately as she opened the book and saw the card in the back cover. 

“IT’S A LIBRARY BOOK?” 

I began to back away from her slowly, “Maybe.” 

“When was it due back?” 

“Um…it’s been a long time.” 

“AHEM!”  The librarian cleared her throat and I snapped out of my flashback.  She gave me a stern look as she read, “Standing Firm – A Compelling Portrait of the Politician and the Man by Dan Quayle…it was due back to the Northboro library in 1996.  It looks like they sent you a bill for $28.  You’ll have to clear things up with them before I can give you a card.” 

Yep.  I remembered that, in a burst of stupidity, I had actually checked Dan Quayle’s autobiography out of the library at some point in 1996.  “I think my mother returned that book…never mind.”  My shoulders slumped.  I hadn’t even READ the book written by “Mr. Potatoe Head”, yet somehow I had managed to keep it for 9 years past the due date.  There was no way I would be able to check out any books until I paid the Northboro people.  It didn’t matter whether my mother had returned it or wedged it under her air conditioner.  I began to walk away, but then I had a thought: 

“Can my wife apply for a card?” 

The librarian gave me a look and asked, “Is your wife here?” 

I could see that she fully expected me to ask if I could fill out my wife’s application, and then ask her to talk to my wife on the phone to approve the card.  The word “No” was already forming on the woman’s lips, but, none of that would be necessary. 

“Yes, she is.”  I had thoughtfully dragged my wife along for the ride.  Lucky for me, her picture isn’t plastered on the walls of libraries across the northeast. 

My wife was approved for a card and graciously agreed to check out my books for me. 

As we walked out of the library, I thought I saw the librarian wiping away a tear and waving goodbye to her books, but I might have been imagining it. 

I would like to reassure librarians everywhere that I will return these books on time.  Also, I called the Northboro Free Library, where a very nice woman offered to check the shelves to see whether or not my mother had returned Quayle’s tome.  I told her not to bother.  I figure that $28 is a small price to pay for 9 years of late fees, and to get my picture down from those library walls.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 19 Aug 2005 No Comments

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