April 2008 - Posts - The Dollar Stretcher
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The Dollar Stretcher

The Dollar Stretcher blog will explore people and money.

April 2008 - Posts

  • From Bad to Worse

    Had a really interesting conversation with a friend of mine. She had gone to a new dentist the day before and related her experiences to me. Turns out that there are a number of things that she could (should?) have done. She expected that. When she got there, she found that like most dentist's offices, this one works with more than one hygienist. My friend was surprised with how many hygienists that were working for one dentist. The patient first sees the hygienist. They'll clean your teeth and perform an examination of your choppers. Then a trip back out to the waiting room.

    Next a call back into another private room and a quick visit from the dentist. The dentist will proceed to tell you any if anything needs urgent attention. Nothing unusual there. Maybe an extra trip to the waiting room, but nothing too significant. Your dentist probably works mostly the same way. But, here's where it started getting interesting. 

    The dentist suggested a couple of things that my friend might want to do. Then he left the room. Next the hygienist reviewed the options for each procedure with my friend. From the most expensive solution, down through the other choices until they got to the basic no-frills solution. Complete with visual aids in some cases! What was once a doctor-patient relationship has evolved (or devolved) into just another sales transaction.

    As my friend was describing it to me we realized that the process was very much like going into a car dealership. First, the salesperson examines your needs. Then they present the different options (hoping that you'll want all the gee whiz features of the more expensive model). Next is a visit to the sales cubicles. Finally, they bring in a closer to seal the deal.  

    We couldn't help but laugh over the situation. Think about it. Most people dislike shopping for cars. All the high pressure tactics. And, many people that I know have a fear of the dentist. Something about drilling out parts of your body while you're still alive! Now my friend's dentist has managed to combine the two! What a daily double!

    What I really wonder is does this dentist even know that's how his practice appears to the patient? Was it a step-by-step evolution? Where every step included just a little more sales effort and pressure? Or did he attend a conference and some expert told him how he could turn his practice from sleepy to super successful? In either case, I bet he doesn't know how his patients see his practice.

    Now don't get me wrong. I'm under no illusions that he's probably making more money than...well...a less aggressive dentist. There's a reason that most car dealers are known for being relentless in attempting to close a sale. The reason is that it helps them make more money.

    But, you have to wonder if it's worth the price. One poll I found showed that 56% of respondents thought that dentists displayed honest and ethical standards. Car salesmen ranked in last place at 8%! That poll was from 2001 (before some of the newer dental practice techniques became common). I can't help but wonder what a similar poll will look like in a few years. 

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!


  • The Psychology of Money

    One part of my job that I really like is talking to people about money. About two weeks ago I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Dr. Howard Gluss Show. Dr. Gluss is a clinical psychologist. I've done quite a few interviews, but this was the first one that focused on the mental aspects of finances. Had a real nice visit with Dr. Gluss. If you've ever wondered what I sound like, or if you just have about 20 minutes for some entertainment, the interview is available here. Look for segment 3 from the 4/15 show.

    Keep on Stretching those dollars!


  • Hanging Around the Shopping Center

     I don't go shopping very often. Like most guys I don't like to shop. So I do as little of it as possible. This past Saturday I spent some time in a local shopping center. While I was waiting for my son I sat back in my car and observed.

    It's a fairly typical shopping center. Marshall's was the big anchor at one end. A variety of stores. I was there for the music store.

    I scanned the different stores. I couldn't help but notice the tanning salon and nail salon. They were next door to each other and had similar names. Might even have the same owner. There was also a Merle Norman cosmetics store.

    Near the music store was a dentist. The sign out front said "Bright Now!" I thought that was an interesting name for a dentist's office. Guess they do more dental cosmetics than dental repair.

    Nearby, although not apparently connected in any way, was an orthodontist's office.

    Looking around the center it appeared that about half of the businesses were in business to help us look better. Or at least feel better about the way we look.

    Don't misunderstand. I like to look good and to be surrounded by good looking people. We probably all do.

    But it seems strange to me that there's enough business keeping people looking good to support that many stores. I don't know what was all available to shoppers 100 years ago. But, I'd almost be willing to bet that half of retailing wasn't dedicated to appearances.

    Maybe I'm being too critical. Then again, it might be a good idea to take a look at your check register and credit card statement. Separate out the items that you really needed vs those that just inhanced your appearance. You just might discover where all that missing money is going.

    Keep on Stretching those dollars!


  • Mr. Unwilling to Commit

    I admit that TV commercials fascinate me. What's really fun is peaking underneath the assumptions that they make. Take the latest one from Verizon. A young twenty-something man runs into a girl of about the same age. The conversation makes it clear that they knew each other in high school. The girl makes some comment about the guy being "Mr. Unwilling to Commit". She asks about the whole group of Verizon people that are following the guy. He explains that they came with his plan. And the biggest benefit is that he only pays for the minutes he uses. She comments "so you haven't changed a bit" as she walks away. The message is clear. He's still a loser because he doesn't make commitments.

    But I congratulate "Mr. Unwilling to Commit". He's smart not to commit to buying something he doesn't need. I only hope that he's as wise when he buys a car. How many people sign up for 5 years of payments only to regret it half way through the payments?

    Our friend might actually be a much better choice for the young lady. He's a better catch than someone who falls in love quickly, gets married quickly and puts her through a divorce a few years later. My guess is the young lady will learn that lesson herself someday.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!


  • Work-at-Home

    Incoming email: 

    I wondered if in your vast knowledge you would know of any honest, real work there is for stay at home moms? Not selling Avon or Herbalife, but actually taking advantage of my admin skills that I still possess. I worked for a Fortune 500 company before becoming a stay at home Mom, now I need to supplement our income and all I keep finding is scams left and right. Any ideas?
    Thanks much.

    Boy, has Michelle got a lot of company. This has got to be one of the five most frequently asked questions. The good news is that yes, I have some ideas. But, the bad news is that they're not an easy 'one size fits all' type of solution.

    Michelle has already framed the answer. She clearly doesn't want to do anything that is primarily sales (i.e. Avon or Herbalife) and that's understandable. Those are honest companies, but some people just aren't meant for sales. Just a different personality type. And Michelle is smart enough to avoid the scams (every time someone tells me they've been approached to stuff evelopes I cringe...).

    The key is where Michelle says that she wants to 'take advantage of my admin skills that I still possess'. That's the key for anyone in Michelle's position. Evaluate the skills you have. Preferably something that requires skill, training and/or experience to master. Look for something that other people want. In Michelle's case it might be some specific part of her job (scheduling, proof reading, phone skills, etc) or the entire 'admin asst' package.

    Once she has identified her skills, she can spend some time thinking of WHO can best use those skills. Specifically with Michelle working in a home environment. That might take some creative thinking. But some traditional 'office jobs' are becoming home jobs. Try to think like the employer. In one way it's a benefit for them when someone works at home. They don't have to provide office space. That's a big savings for them. So look for work that they can have done outside the office. If you find a way to help them make more money they WILL be interested.

    The next step is to find companies that can use that skill. Don't limit yourself to large or small companies. Even though Michelle is used to working at a big company, she should consider how some of her skills might translate to a mom & pop business. Many of them are used to trying something new. Remember, that the worst that can happen is that you get turned down. No reason to avoid approaching them with the idea.

    Michelle will also need to be creative in finding the right opportunity. It probably won't be advertised in the paper or on any of the job posting sites. In fact, there's a good chance that the people who hire her won't even know that they're looking for someone. At least, not until Michelle tells them about her idea how she can help them make more money! Yes, it will require some selling and Michelle doesn't like sales. But, it's different selling a product and selling yourself. Michelle has a product that she really believes in...herself!

    Where can she find these companies? Try everything. From the phone book, to contacts in the community, to walking in on a potential employer. Talk up your idea for work to everyone who will listen. Even if you think that there's no way that they can help you. They might not be able to help. But, they might know someone who can.

    It's also possible that Michelle will need more than one employer. She might need to work for two or three employers to get the hours/income that she wants.

    Will it be easy to find honest, paying work? Probably not. But it is possible. More and more people are working remotely. Michelle's skill and willingness to search out a job can produce the results she wants. And, I for one, am betting that she'll succeed!

    Keep on stretching those dollars!



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Gary is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who edits The Dollar Stretcher website <www.stretcher.com> and newsletters. You can follow Gary on Twitter.com/gary_foreman
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