Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Got Your Petty & Vindictive Right Here, Buddy!

Special Election Day.

Here in California we're being asked to voice our opinions on several measures that will help us balance our state's budget and get us out of our current financial crisis. As per usual, I waited until the last minute to read the arguments for and against the propositions before going to vote this evening.

The California Secretary of State always has details of ballot measures posted online so we can read a bit more in depth about what's going on than what is sent in mail. Usually I have a pretty good idea which way I'm going to vote after reading the impartial analysis of the measure. Just for fun, I read the arguments for and against on the next page.

And that's where I lost my goat.

Maybe it's just my week for my goat to keep getting got, but I really don't take kindly to being called "petty, vindictive and childish" because I don't think legislators should get a raise during economic crises such as this one.

Maybe it's just me, but if the State can't afford pay little things like income tax refunds, then they can't afford to give folks raises. That's not childish. That's smart money management. You don't go out and buy a new car if the other one works fine and you're having trouble paying your light bill. Well, some folks do, but they're silly, too.

The proposition might have given me more pause if it would take money away from legislators. After all, we all need something to live on. But I think they can manage to hold out a bit longer at their current pay level with no hardship whatsoever.

The argument that the average salary of $116,000 is only middle class is really insulting to those of us who are nowhere near that level, but somehow manage to get by just fine. What a jackass. If they need more money, do what the rest of us do and get a 2nd job.

Or hey, here's a novel concept, manage that $116,000 better so you can get everything you need without too much stress. Honestly, if you can't handle a salary at that level, then what makes you think you can handle the State's budget? Oh wait. You can't. That's why we're in this mess to begin with.

So I guess it's a good thing he didn't call me snarky. I'd have to accept that move on. I digress.

Back to the pros and cons arguments on the Secretary of State website. It seems to me that the guy who wrote the argument against shutting these raises down missed the day they taught persuasive writing. I can't for the life of me figure any other reason for his beginning with such an inflammatory statement that is going to do nothing but alienate people and close their minds to any valid arguments he may have actually had.

Of course I couldn't find any because my reflex is to poke holes in anything the man says. If he were to tell me that the sky was blue, I'd look for a way to prove it was red just to spite him.

I'm sure you've figured out how I voted on this Prop by now. To be honest, I only clicked on the argument page to see if someone could convince me to vote the other way, but my mind had already been pretty much made up before I got there.

It's just that Pete Stahl and his name calling ticked me off. And now I'm letting it go.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Do You Need That Many Mustards?"

Since I've been learning how to shop for free, I've been having a blast. The last two days, however, I've hit a couple of snags. Yesterday, Target refused to adjust a coupon amount down to the purchase price of seven items I wanted to buy - per their own corporate policy - so I ended up only buying one of the nine total items I'd planned to purchase for a grand total of $.95. Then today, I get into an annoying discussion with the cashier at Pavilions when I tried to purchase 4 bottles of French's mustard.

Perhaps it's because the Pavilions thing happened on the tail end the Target fiasco that it has really stuck in my head. Here's the background:

Safeway (Vons, Pavilions, etc.) has a double coupon policy where they will double coupons up to $1. Not as good as it has been in the past, but that's still something. I ran into an issue at Ralphs where they only double one like coupon per transaction and I wanted to know if Pavilions had the same policy.

Instead of a simple 'yes' or 'no,' the cashier asks, "Do you need that many mustards?"

Huh? Really? Why is the number of mustards I wish to purchase your business? I don't have much of a poker face so I'm sure my expression immediately conveyed my annoyance and the woman got super nice. Turns out the answer to my original question is, 'yes.' They will only double one like coupon per transaction.

I'd been prepared for that answer and had already separated everything out on the conveyor belt into transaction groups so things went pretty smoothly from there, but I still can't get this woman's initial reaction out of my head.

Given the state of our economy, it always amazes me when people turn down money. Not that I'm in a position to do any major economic stimulation by myself right now, but every little bit helps. Under that theory, it's really bad business for stores to turn away sales like this.

Yesterday, Target had the opportunity to earn an additional $7.56 from me. Instead, they only got $.87. Granted, my out of pocket expense after coupons would've been less than $.50, but Target would've gotten the value of the coupon plus $.08 additional per coupon used from the manufacturer. Instead, they settled for $.87. If this is the corporate business model, it's no wonder sales are down.

Today, Pavilions got everything I'd planned to spend and more because the mustard hadn't been on my original list. I happened to walk down that aisle and see the bottles on sale at 2 for $3 making them $1.50 each. I had about six $.50 off coupons when doubled would make the mustard $.50 each. Of course I'm going to stock up at that price. It's silly not to. That's if you can consider four bottles stocking up.

So, yes. I do need that many mustards. Given that the purpose of a grocery store is to make money by selling products to customers, don't you think it's a pretty bad idea to try to talk those customers out of buying the products that cause the stores to make money?

Granted, $2 is not a very large drop in Pavilions profit bucket, but it is a drop. If you are trying to talk me out of a sale, you can bet there are cashiers all over the country trying to talk other customers out of a sale. It doesn't take very long for that same $2 to snowball into hundreds of thousands of dollars in missed sales.

Before long, the store will cut costs by cutting jobs if they don't have to go out of business altogether. And then where will you be?

What's really sad is that we, as average Americans, don't seem to get that we're all connected. This applies equally to both the cashier who negatively impacts the bottom line by talking customers out of sales then wonders why when they get caught in a massive layoff and the CEO who cuts jobs at the company only to wonder why no one is buying his goods anymore.

So to answer the woman's question, "Yes. I do need that many mustards. You need me to need that many mustards. The people we've annoyed in the line behind me with this stupid conversation need me to need that many mustards."