Becoming a Salesman

Sales is not the evil of the world.

Although many would have you believe it is.

It is, instead, one of the most important skills you can have in life.

Because many of the things you have to do in your life involves selling something in one way or another.

As sales is just the business word for persuasion.

And the reality is, you have to persuade people to do things for you every day.

You need to persuade employers to give you a job. You have to persuade your coworkers that they need to finish the work you need on time. You have persuade your boss you need a raise. You have to persuade your friends the idea to go check out a certain activity you enjoy will be fun for them. Every day you’re persuading others.

Now just for a little fun, let’s say that last paragraph again but replace persuading with selling.

You need to sell yourself to employers to give you a job. You have to sell to your coworkers that they need to finish the work you need on time. You have sell your boss you need a raise. You have to sell your friends the idea to go check out a certain activity you enjoy will be fun for them. Every day you’re selling to others.

Therefore you have to build this fundamental skill if you truly want to be successful. Because no one will give you anything without being sold on it. Because of this, here are the 12 steps to

make a sale and in essence becoming a salesman.

Becoming a Salesman

Step One: Pre-Sale Prep – What gets you in zone?

· Talk yourself up

· Get Pumped up

· Flush Toxins

In this step, you have to get yourself ready for the sale.

You have to get your mind right.

If you do not get your mind right and ready to sell to someone, it will be easily noticeable by your prospects. They will not feel comfortable being with you and will ultimately shoot you down. Therefore, talk yourself up in a mirror with compliments, get pumped up with a ritual of coffee, yoga, or jumping jacks, and flush toxins by trying to get rid of all the bad energy and thoughts you have that can affect your abilities.

Step Two: Meet and Greet – Set the Stage for a Good 1st Impression

· Strong Handshake

· Good Eye Contact

· Establish rapport with compliments on their person and possessions

In the second stage, you have to have a good first impression as many times you can lose the sale in the first 10 seconds. Especially if they don’t like what they see and feel uncomfortable. Therefore, break the ice with a strong handshake and good eye contact. Don’t forget to wave a flag of peace by giving out a compliment and make them comfortable.

Step Three: Warm Up – Get them talking and warmed up

· Mini-Bio – Give them a Quick Background of you that makes you relatable to your prospects

· 5Alive – The 5 things you need to know to sell to people

o Activities – What you like to do?

o Lifestyle – How do you like to live your life? What represents you?

o Interests – What are your hobbies? What do you do for fun?

o Employment – What do you do for a living?

o Product Based – Ask a question that relates to the problem your product solves.

Stage 3 is when you get them talking and warmed up.

But first you have to give them a mini-bio of who you are so they have material to ask you questions about so there isn’t a lull in conversation. Once you’re done, you have to start work with the 5Alive Questions (The 5 Questions to Stay Alive in the Sale). Knowing this information is how you will quickly find commonalities between yourself and your prospect to build a relationship. Because the key in any sales transaction is to get your prospect to like you. Because no one wants to work with someone they hate. Especially in sales.

So ask questions based on their Activities, Lifestyle, Interests, and Employment. The Fifth-type of questions revolve around generalities on what you’re selling and will change based on what products you sell. For example, real estate agents will talk about where they live, if they rent or buy, and how they like that situation. A massage therapist will talk about their stresses in life and how it affects their everyday. And a software salesman will talk about how they feel about tech and the frustrations it may cause in their daily life.

Step Four: Set the Stage- Establish why you’re both here today

· Set the Bar- Tell them why your there and the problem your trying to solve

· Have them acknowledge that they need to give a yes or no at the end.

o Establish Responsibility – Tell them you came out specifically just for them.

o Establish Scarcity – say that this offer is for today only.

o Establish Commitment – ask them if they see the benefit of your service or product.

After talking about their 5Alive, your prospect should be nice and comfortable and ready to talk business. You should also have all the information you need to sell them. Which is why stage 4 is to set the stage for the rest of the sales transaction. Essentially, you are going to establish why you’re both here today, to do business and solve a problem they have or not. No in-betweens.

While you set the stage, a use these techniques to help close the sale. One is to establish that they are responsible for the fact you are there now just for them. They asked to hear more about your service and they need to respect your time and business. Two is to offer only in-person offers that you only offer once to create scarcity and give them a deal that only they can take advantage of. Three is to establish commitment from your prospect about the value of your product and what you do.

Step 5: Buying motives – Discover their buying motives

Write all the answers down and repeat major points…

· Ask questions to get the prospect to tell you more about the problems your product solves

· Ask questions to get information on negatives of the experiences and problems they have had in the past

· Ask questions that expose what objections they would have

o Tell me about this… tell me about that…

· Rope Them In

o Let’s see how much you think this will cost…

o What do you think it would cost from start to finish?

– This one?

– That one?

– Etc.

o So with or without my product you will spend this much money?

In stage 5, it’s time to ask specific product questions rather than the general one’s you asked in the 5Alive. Specifically about the problems your product solves, the negative experiences you may have had with those problems, and questions that expose any objections they may have later in the transaction.

A god technique to use here is a comparison technique of what they do now and how much more expensive it is to continue doing it that way or how inefficient it is compared to using your product.

Step Six: The Pitch – Show the product’s features and benefits and relate them to their buying motives

· Give them the pitch of how your product and service will solve their problems

· Appeal to the buying motives you have already discovered

· Have them actively participate in what your selling

· Use Stories of Others who have successfully used the product.

· Get vocal commitment at the end that what you’re selling will in fact benefit them.

In the sixth stage, you give them the pitch using everything you have learned so far. The key here is to only talk about the issues and points that are important to the prospect. For example, if your prospect only cares about the cost savings of your product, why would you talk about how the product will look in their office or something else that you already know the prospect doesn’t care about.

The prospect should be actively participating throughout the entire transaction, but it’s most important during this stage. Because nothing is worse than talking “at” a prospect who is no longer interested because you’re doing all the talking.

The last thing to remember is to use stories of others who have successfully used the prospect. A good can be from your company your company, your personal experiences with clients, and even your family and friends.

Just don’t forget to finish the pitch with a vocal commitment that they see that your product will benefit them.

Step 7: Give them a Sample/Example –

· Let them use the product / Let them see the product / Let them see themselves using it

· Paint a picture of the future where their problem is solved by the product

· Use Stories of Others again

In stage 7, its time to bring the product out and let them experience the product themselves. While they use it, paint a vision for your prospect using the product and solving that problem that has nagged them for years. Even use more stories form others who have used the product successfully to let them know they are not alone and it’s a proven product.

Step 8: Recap the Offer – Establish that this is once again a “One-Time Offer” they will never get again.

· Summarize the major points of the Offer

· Emphasizing what the prospect finds most valuable

After the pitch, it’s time to up the tempo of the encounter. Summarizing the offer to their specific points of interest. Emphasizing that you will only make this offer once. It’s the best deal they are going to get.

Step 9: The Talk – Discuss the different options and what the prospect would like to buy

· Talk with the prospect to show the different packages and what fits their specific needs

· Emphasize the benefits to their buying motives

· Have an active conversation and let them lead it

o Is there anything keeping you from being our customer today?

Once your prospect has interest, it’s time to go over the different packages, products, and services you offer, and find the one that fits their needs exactly. In this conversation, it ii imperative to let them lead the conversation and ask questions of you to find out which deal will be the best for them. Once they feel comfortable with one, tell them your recommendation from what you have learned and why. This will most likely be the one they have chosen for themselves or an option that you know from expertise will work better.

This is also the time where you answer any objections they would have. None of what they say should surprise you because with everything you have discussed, it should be fairly obvious what they don’t like about the product. Just don’t make it be ‘You”.

Step 10: Show Prices / Negotiate – See if they like what they see or need extra incentives

· Push the package they like the most and fits their needs

· If they aren’t liking what they hear and see, it’s time to throw some extras in

· Last Ditch Effort – if all else fails, give them the best deal you have to get them through the door

You can reveal the prices to the packages long before this stage as long as when you do, they are comfortable enough to hear them. As many times, people reveal the prices too quickly and end up scaring off their prospect long before they get to this point.

If your prospect isn’t receptive to the prices, you have to emphasize again the value you will be creating for them. You are letting them see that the product will more than cover its cost through savings or cash flow creation. Otherwise start negotiating the price down until you hit a price they are happy with. If all else fails, give them your “Last Ditch Effort” and give them the best offer you can afford.

Step 11: Close the Deal – Get them to sign the documents for a fruitful relationship

· Have them sign all the documents and keep them motivated and on a purchasing high

Once they say yes. It’s time to get the closing documents and finalize the deal. This is a great time to pump them up and get them excited for all the wonderful things they will experience with your product and service. Tell them you’re excited to be in their service.

Step 12: Follow-up – Don’t lose them when they get buyer’s remorse

· Give them a congratulations note and gift basket

· Have lunch with them within 24 hours to do a mini-sales / pep rally to keep their high going

· Phone Call in 48 hours.

· Ensure they are on your email list and maintain contact over the years

o Ping once a year to see how everything is going

The worst part of any deal is when everything is going great. Documents are signed. Everyone is happy.

Then it happens…

The buyer call in the next few days that he would like to rescind the contract. He doesn’t know what he was thinking and doesn’t want to do business with you anymore. This is called buyer’s remorse. And it happens to everyone who doesn’t follow up with their new clients.

Don’t let it happen.

It’s your job to ensure that your new client feels comfortable before, during and especially after the sale. Therefore, congratulate them on their decision, give them thank you notes and gift baskets, have lunch with them within 24 hours to make them feel good about the decision. A phone call within 48. And a email every month for a lifetime.


Now you understand the Power of Becoming a Salesman.

The fundamentalism of it as a basic skill to live.

And exactly how to become one through the sales process.

It’s time to become one and go out there and practice.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Because it is a skill you will only master through hours of rejection and failure.

But once you get past that, you will able to persuade people to give you what you want.

Can a Seller’s Real Estate Agent Be Removed From a Sale Due to Non-Compliance?

Ending an agreement with a real estate agent can be a tricky process, but it is possible of the agent has failed to live up to their end of the agreement, or if the seller is unhappy with the agent’s work for whatever reason.

Conditions for removal tend to vary from state to state, but there are a number of steps that you can take in order to get a real estate agent removed from the sale.


Your first step should always be to discuss your issues with your agent. This can often be quite difficult to do, particularly if the relationship between the two of you has already gone south. Many disputes between agent and seller fall down to a lack of communication, so establishing that line of communication can go some way to repairing a damaged relationship.

However, if the relationship is beyond repair, a polite meeting where you explain your issues is often all that you need to get your agent to agree to remove themselves from the sale. Try this step before moving on to any type of legal action.

Contract Breaching

If direct communication has failed and you believe that you agent has not provided you with the service that you agreed upon when entering in a contract with them, it is possible to terminate the relationship by asserting a breach of contract. This should always be considered a last resort, especially as there are a number of legal recourses that the agent can take if they believe they have provided the level of service required. In some cases, sellers have been sued after alleging a breach, with the broker aiming to claim back their commission.

As such, if this is the route you are looking to go down you are going to need to know what constitutes a breach of contract. In essence, it is the failure to provide the services agreed upon, but this doesn’t amount to something like over or under-pricing a house.

Instead, it is more along the line of the agent failing to create a proper listing for the home, not taking pictures, not being present during visits from potential buyers, failing to respond in good time to questions are not exercising proper financial responsibility during the process.

In many cases, dismissing your broker for breach of contract creates a lot of drama that can affect the house sale negatively. It should only be used if the agent is so terrible at their job that you don’t believe you will face any issues from a legal standpoint for doing it.

Additional Fees

As unpleasant as they may be to pay to somebody who you don’t believe is doing their job properly, it can often be easier to pay termination fees for a contract and avoid the legal disputes that could arise. In most cases a termination clause will be in place that requires you to pay somewhere in the region of $300-500 to cancel the contract. You should discuss this with your agent if you would like to resolve the issue peacefully.

Product Managers: The Fight’s Not Over Until It’s Over

As product managers, our job is to do everything in our power to make sure that our product is a success. It would be a wonderful world if only our potential customers would come to us and ask us to please sell them our product. However, it rarely happens that way. Instead, more often than not customers issue Requests For Proposals (RFPs) and we’re invited to submit a proposal along with several other vendors. I was recently involved in an RFP process and it went very, very badly…

The RFP Process

The large customer in this case had been happily using a product that was provided to them by a competitor of my firm. We had done a pilot of our product with this company and they had been very pleased with what our product could do. We had convinced them that their existing product was not doing all that our product could do for them and that they had to make a change. Because of the rules and regulations that they live with, they needed to create an RFP and get multiple bids. My firm was invited to submit a bid.

And submit a bid we did! Over the course of my career I have been involved in the creation of many different proposals and I can tell you that this one was a true piece of art that laid out our entire product development definition. The graphics team had gotten involved from the very beginning and the whole thing looked like one seamlessly put together professional document. The customer reviewed the proposals and we were selected as one of the four vendors (out of a total of 12 that submitted proposals) to make a presentation to a review committee. We practiced for this presentation and four of us delivered it, each of us covering our own area of expertise. There was no way that we could lose!

We lost. Not only did we lose, but we were informed that we had come in third place. This was not going to look good on my product manager resume. The firm that had won the RFP process was the incumbent that was already providing the service to the customer. We were speechless. The customer provided us with a “grading sheet” that showed us how we had ranked with the top two winners. We had lost by points in every category with the exception of one – “small business”. Damn it – what had happened?

The Fight’s Not Over

It goes without saying that everyone at my company was shocked, dismayed, and mad. And that was just about it. They understood that the customer had made their decision and there was very little that could be done about it. I was all of those things also, but I’m also a product manager and that means that the fight is not over until I say that it’s over. Something didn’t seem right about the way that the points had been handed out. I called up the person at the customer who had been in charge of running the RFP and we had a talk. She answered a number of my questions. The discussion was polite and went very well.

I continued to think about what she had told me and so I called her department again. She was out and so I ended up speaking with her boss. That call went well, but not all of my questions were answered. I sent him an email with more questions and a request to talk again. He called me back. The purpose of his call was to inform me that he was done talking about this matter with me. Ha. I talked and talked with him. In the end, I got him to agree to set up a face-to-face meeting with his boss to discuss how the proposal had been handled. This was done.

In the meantime as per the customer’s processes, all of the proposals that the other vendors had submitted became available. I requested copies of each of them and I ended up driving across town to get them on a flash drive because they were so large. That made for some very interesting late night reading as I studied what the winners had proposed. In the end, I had created a PowerPoint deck that laid out 15 issues I had with the how the winner of the RFP process had been chosen.

This was the PowerPoint deck that I then took with me to my meeting with the head of the customer’s purchasing department. She was a very nice lady and she treated me with a great deal of respect. I identified myself as an angry vendor who had lost a bid and then I covered all of my 15 points in the 30 minutes that she had allocated to me. In the end she seemed to indicate that some of my issues had some credence to them, but she informed me that she was not going to pull the RFP – I was still screwed.

What All Of This Means For You

You would think that this is where the story ends. Thanks for your extra effort Dr. Jim, but you are still a loser. However, there’s just a bit more to my story. It turns out that when the head of purchasing took my issues with the proposal up the chain, it eventually got to the lady who runs the firm. When she discovered that the firm that was currently providing her with the service had won the RFP process she said “no way” and killed the entire project. Now nobody had won.

Look, no – this is not an ideal situation. My firm did not win this big contract. However, just a little while ago we had most defiantly lost it. If I had not stood up and made some calls and gone to some meetings the other firm would have gotten the contract and we would have been losers. Now what we need to do is to find a way to restart the process and allow the customer to select us without having to use their RFP process. Where we are today is a lot better than where we were just a little while ago.

The moral of this story for you is to never give up. This should be a part of every product manager job description. When you are deal with a customer who has selected someone else, the battle is not over. You need to take the time to find out why that other firm won. You may still be able to sweeten your offer and take that win away from them. Follow my lead – don’t give up until the fight is over!

Why Choose Decorative Concrete Pavers For Your Pool?

Decorative concrete pavers are considered to be very versatile, and make your swimming pool aesthetically more appealing. You can easily find them in many different styles and colors. It is quite easy to mix and match pavers of different colors and shapes to create a beautiful and unique pool.

Due to this, a lot of homeowners have been showing keen interest in decorative concrete pavers. There are many people who consider DIY projects, while others consult professional contractors for this job. In this post, we will explain some good reasons why more homeowners have been choosing pool paving with concrete pavers for their homes.


Concrete interlocking pavers have exceptional physical properties, and allow for more than 4 times the strength of regular concrete. Standard concrete slabs have weight capacity of around 2000 psi, while brick pavers can easily carry up to 8000 psi weights. Due to this, concrete pavers are more durable, and last for a very long time. Pavers are even more durable than asphalt, poured concrete and stamped concrete.


These days, you can buy paver stones in many different sizes, colors and shapes. Therefore, they have become more versatile. In simple terms, they allow you to create incredible patterns in your walkways and driveways. Some pavers even have smooth edges, while others display unique designs making them the perfect choice for interlocking.


The manufacturing process of concrete pavers has always been straightforward and simple, and makes them more affordable than poured concrete or asphalt surfaces. Concrete pool paving is even more affordable than other materials like clay, stone or granite. Most importantly, when you install them in your swimming pool, they last for a very long time.


Pool pavers are manufactured in a specially designed mould which packs the cement and sand tighter than you can get with poured or stamped concrete. Therefore, pavers always become a sturdier and stronger choice than asphalt, poured concrete and other surfaces.

Concrete pavers can easily expand and contract with changing temperatures or seasons. Thus, they never crack easily. They have joints, which allow for proper seasonal and seismic movement. Moreover, homeowners don’t need to spend their hard earned money for adding reinforcing or rebar material under pavers for additional strength. They’re manufactured quite durable and strong.

Low Maintenance

As mentioned above, pavers don’t require a lot of maintenance or care. You can keep your interlocking pavers in excellent condition with some regular, routine maintenance tasks. This may include sweeping the floor or washing it with a garden hose.

Aesthetic Value

While using gravel, regular concrete slabs or asphalt as the pool paving material, you’re limited by color choices, designs, patterns and styles. However, concrete pavers offer a wide range of choices, and look aesthetically very pleasing. Most concrete pavers’ manufacturers offer many different choices of colors, patterns, styles, designs and finishes ensuring the exclusiveness of the installation project. Your project always looks different from the rest in the neighborhood.

Pools constructed with pavers not only look beautiful, but even offer other benefits discussed above. When pavers are installed properly, they have the ability to last for many years, without requiring a lot of care or maintenance. Asphalt and regular concrete slabs can easily crack, and therefore, don’t match with the quality of decorative concrete pavers. It is very important to hire a professional, reliable and experienced contractor for your project.

How Tomorrow Moves, Again

One of the benefits of being old is that you remember things that they don’t want you to remember anymore. How about the Railway Express Agency? What the hell was that? Well, in the 1950s and 60s if you had a bunch of stuff that you needed to send somewhere. you boxed it up and dragged it into your green painted local office of the Railway Express Agency. They would dispatch it for you, on a freight train no less, to the proper destination. I guess they had some kind of vans or panel trucks that carried the shipment from the receiving REA office (which were always adjacent to the tracks) to the front door of the recipient. This was not such a radical idea in the 1950s since nearly everything in that era was shipped on the railroad. Milk, fruit, potatoes, livestock, you name it. It all traveled by rail.

If you are under fifty. you probably can not imagine that the U.S.A. existed without any Interstate Highways but it did. If you wanted to drive from New York to Miami in 1960 you journeyed through a hundred speed-trap type small towns and a thousand traffic lights. There was no I-95. It did not exist yet. So in a 1956 stroke of genius, President Eisenhower signed the first authorization bill to start the creation of the Interstate Highway System. We got real busy on the huge project and relatively quickly we built I-95, I-5, I-10 and even I -90 all the way from Boston to Seattle. We did it all for a mere 450 Billion dollars. If that sounds like a lot of money to you remember that a later and dumber occupant of the White House would go on to waste three times that much in order to invade and occupy Iraq for seven years. That’s how our government rolls. The good, the bad and the horrendous.

The interstates made it possible to drive anywhere for any reason. They also unintentionally destroyed our fantastic rail system. It’s as simple as that. Commercial traffic was allowed toll free on the new public super-highways that were built for the traveling public. It’s the biggest subsidy ever handed to any industry by any government on earth. The total number of miles of custom engineered state of the art highway surface built by the taxpayers for the benefit of the Trucking Industry is now about 47,856 miles. Total number of miles of railroad track built by the taxpayers for the railroad industry. Zero. We didn’t only build highways for them, we also continue to maintain the network for them at a cost of billions of dollars per year. Ah, but the trucking industry allows us to drive on the roads too! Nice guys.

Oh “boo-hoo” you say. So we choose to use modern trucks instead of quaint old-fashioned choo-choo trains. The horse and buggy went out of style too after all. Yeah, well here’s the thing. Never mind that they are a dangerous nuisance on our highways. Never mind that. Trucks are and always will be a hideously inefficient way of moving freight. Do we have an oil crisis or don’t we have one? I guess not because we choose to eternally waste billions of barrels of oil every year by using a fleets of trucks to move all those things that we used to move by rail before the interstates were built.

If you care about the energy crisis you don’t even have to advocate the undoing of the transportation revolution. Even just diverting a mere 10% of the freight on our highways over to the railroad system would save us one billion gallons of diesel fuel per year. What could we do with a billion gallons of diesel fuel Well we could heat 1,000,000 homes through the bitterest of winters. Yeah, well let those senior citizens stop griping about five dollar heating oil and call 1-800 JOE FOR OIL.

OK that’s the story of the benefits of getting freight off of the highways but what about the costs. The number one go-to virtue of truck freight is purportedly speed. Routing a freight car is slow and complicated, while a truck just starts here at point A and zooms down our interstate highway (as fast as re-cap tires and amphetamines allow) until it screeches into the local K-Mart full of hula hoops and beach towels at point B.

Amazingly, the railroads don’t even disagree that vehemently. As an industry they prefer the easy high revenue jobs like hauling coal and chlorine gas. They like the heavy non-perishable loads because trucks just can’t touch the economics of handling those commodities. Basically they don’t want to compete with anybody. The Railroad managers prefer to run a simple system that minimizes their capital investment and maximizes their revenue. You can’t really blame them. They have shareholders. I am a shareholder and I want my quarterly dividends. So let the trains haul coal and chemicals and let the fuel guzzling eight-mile-per-gallon trucks run the consumer goods around the country. That’s good for everybody’s stockholders (right now) but its stupid and its bad public policy because of the realities of air-pollution, congestion, safety and energy usage. If we care about any or all of those issues we will stop having a stupid transportation policy as a nation.

In spite of their fear of competition, the railroads are now being dragged not the 21st century even if they aren’t that sure about it. The old excuses why trains don’t work as well as trucks are being met with common sense applications. Unit trains are one no-brainier. A unit train is loaded at the source with one single commodity and unloaded at the final destination. An Orange juice train moves from Orlando to Jersey City. It doesn’t stop to sort out and switch-out cars hauling paper and cement and scrap iron. There are no such cars on that train. Simple isn’t it.

The other thing that is making the rail business actually grow again is the intermodal revolution. It had to happen. The trucking industry turned to the railroad for the extra capacity that the government can’t or won’t build for them. The driver shortage and the ridiculous congestion on our roads have sent the trucking firms to the railroads for help. Trains now haul long lines of double stacked steel boxes hundreds of miles through the night until the same unopened boxes are hauled away by a road tractor for the local delivery portion of the journey. The truck drivers are home in their own beds at night and the efficiency of moving that untouched load those “middle” 2,000 miles was triple that of what a truck would have cost. Neither unit trains or intermodal trains. however, seem to have much use for the fleet of a million identical boxcars that dominated rail traffic Pre-Eisenhower. Those colorful cars with the catchy slogans are now very old and creaky and they may seem to be gone with the wind forever but history has shown us to be patient in these circumstances. It is probably too early to tell if we will need them again.

There is one relic of the 50s that I am calling for right now. Mail trains. Here is an excerpt from a recent news item from Florida. “A dump truck following the tractor trailer was unable to stop and collided with the rear of the tractor trailer. Both drivers exited their vehicles without injury before a fire erupted on the tractor trailer which was carrying mail.” That is just one of dozens of these incidents in which undelivered U.S. Mail has burned up on the highway. Can you imagine the loss? Among the tons of junk mail where certainly some heart-felt letters and birthday cards containing five dollar bills. Maybe a few thousand tax refund checks were on that truck. Mail is hauled on the highways by low bid contractors. When you see a dirty worn out nondescript “big rig” out on the highway it is probably a mail contractor trying to make a profit by overtaxing his equipment and his driver. It is absolutely unnecessary.

Every afternoon at 5 PM the same Amtrak train leaves Washington DC bound for Chicago where it arrives the next morning after passing through Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the dark. There is no mail on that rain. Why not? In the Pleistocene era of the 1950s there was a mail car on that rain and Post Office employees sorted that mail as it moved! It didn’t just arrive in Chicago the next day in a bunch of sacks. It arrived sorted and ready for delivery. The Amtrak train is going to Chicago anyway. Is there any conceivable reason why some sleepy, drugged-up truck driver is fighting his way out there through a blizzard, slipping and sliding toward Chicago in a busted up Freightliner full of unsorted mail when the darn Amtrak is going there anyway every single day – weather be dammed. Progress marches backward.

We probably don’t use Amtrak to carry mail because somebody outside the government is making big money on the truck contracts and somebody inside the government is corrupt. Even without the corruption factor however, it just seems that it is always easier to do the dumb thing. Railroads are complicated and they require a lot of management and planning. That’s too hard. We are not much of a planning type of country anymore. Communists plan. Cowboys just jump in the cab and go! Well I guess Dwight Eisenhower was a natural born communist because he sure planned the heck out of the biggest transportation project in the history of the world twelve years after he planned the liberation of Europe from the Nazi army.

All that planning and figuring stuff out was fine in the fifties but it requires a lot of people who can do math and engineer solutions to logistical problems. Borrrring! Now in the millennium we sure don’t want to go back to a bunch of guys in sort sleeved white shirts with pocket protectors crunching the numbers and inventing the rockets that landed men on the moon before you were born. Naw… lets just keep doing things the easy way.

Now finally, having ripped trucking up and down the freeway, I want to try to be fair for a moment or two. Truck drivers do an amazing job. If you have ever talked to an over-the-road driver you walked away with your head spinning after he described his itinerary over the last ten days. Just like Johnny Cash, he has been everywhere. Pocatella, Schenectady, Portland, Portland, Jacksonville and that was just one week! The other thing I have to concede is that most of these guys are driving artists. It is nothing less than incredible the way they can handle those behemoth rigs in traffic. By and large they are also more courteous and level headed than the average idiot behind the wheel of a private car. They have to be better drivers than the rest of us or else we can’t have them on our roads at all.

Never forget though. that they contributed nothing to the building of the roads and they make us share the cost of repairing and expanding the network by our tax contributions on gasoline that build up the massive Highway Trust Fund. They do not even use gasoline yet its is taxed for the benefit of the trucking industry. The trucking lobby when confronted with the cold facts of how wasteful of energy their entire business is. will fend off the charges by talking about new hybrid trucks on the horizon and about how they would be more efficient (like trains) if we would just let them pull multiple trailers behind their tractors. OK, no. If you were going to develop more economical power then just do it without being legislated. And as far as the tandem trailers go, no thank you. They are not safe and highway safety is not for sale for the sake of saving the trucking industry.

We can continue subsidize trucking to the nth degree but we have to realize the true cost of the subsidy. It seems quaint now but in the 70s Jimmy Carter described the energy crisis, particularly the need to limit the importation of middle eastern oil as “the moral equivalent of war.” If this is a war, the trucking industry is the moral equivalent to Switzerland. They are neutral! We were all given a list of things we must do as responsible Americans to conserve a few more gallons. Inflate your tires, ride a bicycle to work, sell your boat, get a push mower. Where was the trucking industry in this discussion? How come their 10 billion gallons a year was not on the table? Well it has taken us a while to realize that we are being idiotic to continue this diesel orgy but the issue actually has been there the whole time and it has gotten worse every year since Nixon and Carter put the rest of us in crisis mode.

Like so many other societal problems the answer is sitting right here in front us. We just have to tell the truckers enough is enough and reclaim our rail network that we moth-balled when our new toys arrived all shiny and sexy with Confederate flags airbrushed on the hood, the stripper mud flaps and crazy nicknames stenciled on the cab. Those Peterbilts sure look macho. all tricked out like that but they ought to have the Saudi Star and Crescent on the hood. It is the Royal Princes of the OPEC Muslim sheikdoms who the good ole boys in the audacious Big Rigs are making really rich and famous.

Addiction Treatment Is a Story in Search of a Villain

There’s a difference between something that’s interesting and worthy of comment vs. a journalistic attempt to concoct controversy and intrigue that people might buy. There’s not much of the former, but a lot of the latter. People in recovery being victimized by horrible, greedy people is an interesting story. Unfortunately, it’s off the mark and really not helpful to anyone.

There are three pretty safe assumptions we can almost all agree on: first, there are a lot of people who want to live life without active addiction. Second, many of them think they need help to create a better life. Third, some providers of help to people in recovery make a bunch of money providing that service.

There’s probably nothing new about any of this. What is new? Maybe this: we live in a time when the concept of privacy is rapidly changing. Lines between what’s said and what’s not said, between what’s OK on the TV at 6 at night have changed. And public discussion about all sorts of things that once were considered to be private, including addiction, is front and center. That sort of “boundary” change invites thing public discussion of addiction, gender identification and all sorts of stuff. Our culture has changed.

It also seems like the more “transparent” we become as a culture, the greater the tolerance and need for being entertained. Reality TV gets more and more shocking, interesting. And our need for a good story is the product of a voracious human appetite for stimulation. And that leads us to confuse what’s probative with what’s entertaining.

There’s a lot of entertaining stuff written about the addiction treatment industry, but not all of it is honest or even useful. Look, the fact that addiction is now part of the public conversation is probably a good thing. Maybe talking about it is a good step in the direction of addressing it like any other health related issue. Non one’s shocked, shamed or judged for dealing with arthritis, allergies or cancer, but addiction invites all of that nastiness.

So what’s fact versus entertainment? What’s the wheat vs. the chaff? The “story,” the one being pumped into the public consciousness about people in recovery, is that they’re powerless as powerless victims of wealthy people who want to steal from insurance companies. And I can’t ignore that the story arises in our culture at a time when a popularized belief is that only bad people have more money than they need to live, that there are “good” people and “bad” people and that the differentiating factor is money. Good people = don’t have a lot of money. Bad people = have a lot of money. And bad people can become good by giving money to good people.

Let’s dial back to the recent newspaper article: the guy they say was a “bad” man has never been charged with anything. It had a picture of the guy’s face. Is that so people can say he looks like he’s done something bad? I don’t get the value there. Maybe that’s entertaining, but of no value.

The lawsuit described in the article (that hadn’t been answered by the other party) says all sorts of things that anyone can say in a lawsuit. It may shock some to know that what lawyers say in lawsuits doesn’t have to be true. I didn’t see in the article the fact that the business sued is owed millions by the insurance company or that the parties have been trying to come to terms to settle an unrelated business issue for months. Seems relevant, but only if you want to discuss the facts. Otherwise, it’s just… entertainment.

And the bit about insurance companies paying a lot for tox lab services… No one tells an insurance company what to pay. They decide what to pay. Where’s the story? Where’s the villain, the victim? The story needs one, right? In order to be entertaining, there has to be a victim and a villain. That’s what makes it fun, right? It makes it entertainment. And that’s different from reporting facts about an issue.

In the drug and alcohol treatment space, there are serious elements of the truth that are missing, because they don’t sell, such as:

1. The treatment industry is undergoing a huge change because they’ve expanded from providing psychotherapeutic services to providing medical services;

2. Insurer challenges and law enforcement activity is a huge wake up call to an industry that needs to be woken up to compliance and viewing medical services in the same way traditional medical service providers view them-driven by scientifically validated and documented medical necessity. Physicians have played within these boundaries for many years, but treatment providers are new to what’s required to provide medical services;

3. Providers that make a lot of money from treating people in recovery do so almost entirely because they do a good job and know how to manage their expenses. Our community does not yet believe the healthcare providers ought to work solely for non-profit organizations and be part of a “healthcare clergy” (“If you really cared, you’d do it for free”);

4. Insurance companies have been masterful in managing the PR related to the treatment industry. In an era of record-breaking insurance company profits, they often don’t have any policies and procedures about how many or how much of anything people in recovery should receive, but then refuse to pay and point the finger at providers. And ironically, many treatment providers beg payers for such guidelines and have approached them to contract (at lower rates than the insurers are paying!);

5. Insurance companies decide how much to pay for services, not the providers; and

6. Neither treatment center owners nor those in recovery speak with one voice and have no effective political/legislative power. Insurance companies, however, have enormous political and legislative power.

Despite lots of talk that can sound very open minded when it comes to addiction, I’m not convinced that we actually are open minded. Articles fly around that oversimplify things and sell stories designed to entertain. There is a huge gap in available insurance benefits for people in recovery from addiction. The current squeeze (payment denials, delays and reductions) placed by insurers on treatment providers, for instance, is missing from any other aspect of healthcare.

In fact, the payer challenges to providers in this space reflect a view by insurers of addiction treatment as episodic, not chronic. Payers don’t challenge diabetes treatment like they challenge addiction treatment. Laws are passed (the recent sober home regulation law) that reflect the fact that the state of Florida won’t protect people in recovery who reside in sober homes (they kicked the issue to some unregulated, and unnamed “not for profit” entity). At the end of the day, there is really no consequence for this sort of showboating, since both the treatment industry and people in recovery are easy to kick around. They’re still outcasts and lack any serious political presence.

If there is ever going to be meaningful treatment for addiction, then the entire story needs to be told, and all the players need to work together to agree on meaningful solutions. The problem with the treatment industry isn’t that there are a bunch of fat cats taking advantage of addicts. The problem is that our culture is more interested in pointing fingers and sticking our heads in the sand on this issue (imagine how real treatment might affect the prison conglomerate!) than we are in creating solutions. Right now, there is no urgency to the issue of treatment (because it’s not being pressed). Instead, we’re just entertaining ourselves.

3 Tips for WOW Customer Service Through Systems And Leadership

How bad is it that our own lawn service company came by recently and knocked on our door to “sell us their services” because our lawn was in such bad shape?

First, it’s unreal that our lawn looks this bad.

Second, it’s even more unreal that our lawn service actually sent a guy to our neighborhood to sell door-to-door without bothering to tell him whose door to avoid because they were already customers!

Third, how embarrassing was it for the salesperson at the door to not only realize that his company was so disorganized that he didn’t know we were customers, but that he had inadvertently “trashed” his own company’s service?

Unfortunately, they’re not alone in their disorganization. Our air conditioning service company constantly calls us (multiple times) every year… to schedule our annual maintenance service… right after we’ve had it done. (sigh) They’ve even asked us, “Who installed this system for you?” “Uh… you did!” (double sigh)

… and the list goes on.

However, below are a few simple tips (beyond the obvious tip of being much better at your job!) to help you design and implement systems that will help you be (and LOOK) more organized and keep your customers happy:

1. Invest in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system – and USE it! (Sounds basic, right? But how many companies don’t have them, don’t use them, or don’t enforce their use?)

Nothing makes a customer feel LESS VALUED than having one of their own service providers approach them and ask them to become a customer! Investing in a CRM will help you list your customers, keep tabs on what’s happening with them, and allow you to print a list – by demographic – that you can give to salespeople, so they don’t go to those very customers and ask them to buy your service. If you can’t afford an expensive CRM system, at least use Outlook or some other free or relatively inexpensive online contact management system to enter, track, and sort customers by various criteria so you at least know who they are.

However, investing in the system and then not using it (or allowing your field personnel to NOT use it) is just a waste of money, time and effort. Be sure to use the systems to get yourself organized and ensure that everyone is using them! You can’t be an industry leader without exercising leadership that lets associates know what’s acceptable and what’s not… and that using the systems is mandatory in order to provide the kind of service (and reputation) you desire.

2. Give your field technicians a way to report in and capture information on the customer visit, as well as a trigger mechanism for “outlier reporting” (reporting that identifies those who fall outside of acceptable limits of service, performance and other measures).

Nothing makes a customer feel LESS TRUSTING than having a sales representative promise to do a customized job, personally-supervised by exceptionally knowledgeable people – and then having the company destroy their (possessions, investments, you name it) before their very eyes.

Yes, here’s the part I omitted: after getting us into a one-year contract, the people who promised to take care of our lawn proceeded to destroy it.

When we called them, they knew nothing about any problems (even though it was obvious when our technician treated the lawn that something bad was starting to happen). They refused to come out right away to investigate, made us wait until our next scheduled treatment (at which time our technician told us it was awatering problem – so we began watering more… even though we told him we thought it was chinch bugs); then more of the lawn died, and THEN a different technician came out and told us it was NOT watering… it was – guess what: chinch bugs!!

So, this tip does concern your systems; you must ensure that your field technicians can and do report what’s going on at the customer’s location every time they visit! Put a “trigger” into the system to report any customers who have unusual or chronic issues, so someone else can check into it and ensure customer satisfaction before a problem gets too big.

But, this systems-related tip will only work if the field personnel are competent, observant and diligent – and if leadership is paying attention to the data. If our technician had been any of these things, we probably wouldn’t have lost our lawn because the technician would have noticed that something was happening before it went too far.

3. Use systems to calculate your full and complete cost of goods and then give the customer a fixed price that represents their full investment.

We were quoted a monthly (or annual) price for our service, which we thought included everything we needed to keep our lawn healthy. However, after we began, we started getting phone calls: now you need aeration (it’s an integral part of keeping your lawn healthy): that’s an additional $129. Oh, now you need a new chinch bug treatment: that’s an additional $29. Oh, now you need (enter service here): that’s an additional (whatever the cost!)

Here’s the rub: nothing makes a customer feel MORE TRICKED than being “nickel-and-dimed” to death after signing up for the service. In their efforts to look like a low-cost provider, service providers sometimes “omit” certain services from the regular treatments, but then add them in later as “necessary” to allow them to do their job properly.

Really? If they are necessary, here’s the tip: Add all of the costs into the price you quote, and let the customer make an informed decision up front on the true cost of the service! Believe me when I tell you that most customers will not be favorably inclined to order and pay for extra services later, simply because they hadn’t been told about them up front. In fact, when that happens, customers resent them.

But if you are honest with customers up front about the true cost, and they make the decision of their own accord, they will not resent it – in fact, they will be thankful that you were honest with them AND provided the service you promised! Customers are OK with you making a profit, as long as you’re reasonable and honest with them about your price and your performance… and then deliver on your promises!

It’s simply a matter of respect, not only for the customer, but for the people you put into the field. Field technicians cannot possibly feel good about doing a bad job because they don’t have the knowledge, training or tools to do it better… and sales personnel could certainly live without the embarrassment that the sales rep above endured when he appeared at our door, trashed his own company, and then asked us to become new customers.

Following these few simple tips can help take your customer service – and your business – to unimaginable heights… but only if leadership enables it to happen by implementing and enforcing proper use of systems that will help everyone in the organization be more organized, more service-oriented and more up front and profitable.

I Am Hurt and Angry But Somewhat Relieved

I had a friend who was sometimes an ally, sometimes a spy, and sometimes a baffling individual. We have known each other for over twenty years, taken and taught classes together, and had many a laugh and a few tears. I helped her through the death of her first husband. My husband and I hosted and witnessed her second marriage and then helped her after his death. On the third marriage we weren’t invited or even informed. At that point my husband said, “Honey, you need to realize that she just doesn’t like you that much.” This was hard to take but also resounded with truth.

This former friend spouts ideas of frugality and disconnecting from wants and focusing on needs, a minimalist she calls it, as she buys horses, motorcycles, cars, trucks, houses, and every other whim on a whim. Then she trades them in and starts all over again. She proclaims her independence but I have found her to be one of the neediest people I know. Her fancy car sports the plate ZEN and that sums it all up quite nicely.

Elegant wheels and Zen are a non-match. It is difficult to put these words in the same sentence or even paragraph. She has meddled in placements for my students without me having made a request, placing me in awkward positions when I have other plans. She makes statements as if she is the only thinking person around. She insults my decorating and my cloths. Recently, after months of no calls and a last minute cancellation on an invitation to my home, I declared, “I quit!” and I did for a little while. And then another friend, a true friend, begged me to try once more and so we three met for breakfast. The former friend had no idea I was even upset and besides, she had too much to tell about herself. I listened, interjected occasionally, and waited to dive into my food and then exit as quickly as possible. Somewhere in the conversation, however, I made a fatal professional error. I made a negative comment about a former student, one who had just signed a contract for a job. It was an event from many years ago, and I blurted it out for no good reason, just to fill the air, I suppose. Regrets now run aplenty.

I thought nothing of this conversation at the time and went about my work. Then one day when I entered a room for an observation of the new employee, I sensed a seething rage not far beneath her skin. I suggested that we chat and that is when she unloaded and unloaded, and then tacked on some more. Dumbfounded, I tried to regain my bearings so I could address the issue and solve several misconceptions. One rant, of course, included the poor comment I had made. The old ex-friend had told her and then added multiple, ugly embellishments. At first I had no reply; I couldn’t even remember saying this nasty thing. And the rest was a ground up mistake: I didn’t say this or that and on one enormous accusation, I wasn’t even in the job at the time. She finally fumed out, I apologized for her anguish and thought we were settled, at least the atmosphere seemed far less dangerous.

I jumped in the car and headed to the rumormonger’s office. I asked her exactly what she had said and yep, there was the single, actual event and then a whole bunch more. Reaching my capacity for her vitriol, I stated that if that was what she thought of me, and that was the type of friend she wanted to be, I wanted no more, stood, and left. Of course she didn’t follow, or call, or email, or respond in any fashion. That is the methodology of mean people. They never understand that they have committed a wrong.

It took me all evening and half of the night to replay, rethink, and refigure this disaster. After tossing and turning I eventually concluded, “Relief! I feel relief that the tie is finally broken and I resolve to never trust her, meet with her, or speak to her again.” It was a huge step in strength for me. While I will try to mend the fences and bridge the gap with the new employee, I know this may be impossible. It is most unlikely that she will bend or understand my lousy words really meant no harm, I was just mouthing off. I learned, for the thousandth time, it is invaluable to maintain silence most of the time and to speak with much forethought the rest of the time. I will say it is very quiet now at my house. I guess relief sounds like that.

The Best Ways To Save Money On Lodging and Avoid Being Over-Charged

Whether you travel on business or just for vacations and special occasions like meet ups, weddings or family gatherings, you should not have to pay through the nose for a nice place to stay. I have spent a good portion of my life traveling by myself and with my family for both business and pleasure. I learned a lot of hard lessons along the way and am happy to share them with you. Keep an open mind and if you are new to traveling avoid the number one problem all new travelers face: Wishful Thinking. That comes from the double-edged sword of the excitement about being away for the first time and believing all the hype that hotel and attraction brochures, web sites and ads try to create for travelers. Use your head, keep calm and take the steps necessary to make any trip you take a successful one.

Some Simple Tips

Everyone who has tired of spending the big holidays with relatives eventually decides to visit one of the top theme parks or attractions in the USA during those busy times. In just Orlando alone that means that an extra four to six million people will invade that area and visit the Florida mouse house, as well as other well-known area attractions, during the weeks that include the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays. During these peak times everything costs more and that is Lesson One for vacationers: Visit these kinds of places during the off season and save a bundle. Not only will hotels and other rental choices be much cheaper, but you will also save on gas, food, attraction tickets and just about anything else you need to buy or spend money for on the road.

Experienced travelers know that hotels charge much more from Friday to Sunday. If you can stay during the Monday to Thursday corridor, you will probably get a better rate and might benefit from specials involving discount food, beverages or other amenities innkeepers throw in to attract travelers during the mid-week slump. Add to those savings by joining loyalty clubs or using discount cards that some hotels give out (Stay Two Days, Get One Free; Get A Free Upgrade and so on).

Check the social media sites of places where you might want to stay. Get promotion codes and then get on the phone. Call the front desk of the hotel where you are interested in staying and ask for their best or lowest non-refundable rate. Truckers usually get the best “rack rates” by making calls like these because all most of them care about is a bed and shower, so hotels can palm off their less then desirable rooms on them without many complaints. Vacationers or business travelers will likely end up with the sane rate and a higher quality room because these travelers expect more and tend to complain when they feel slighted or cheated. Today’s innkeepers fear bad online feedback more than anything else.

Check YELP!, the online Better Business Bureau and other similar web sites for honest reviews and assessments of hotels. If bed bugs are mentioned, stay away! Look for other important issues like excessive or unfair room charges or complaints about credit card fraud. I used to say that I would rather give my credit card to a complete stranger than to a front desk hotel clerk because I have been over-charged so many times over the years. For a while I simply paid cash until that became impractical, however, I still suggest using cash instead of credit whenever you can. And by the way: READ those room charges and fees CAREFULLY to make sure they are correct BEFORE you sign any final hotel bill upon checking out. Always check out in person even if it takes some time and question any charges that you do not recognize or understand. Dispute them there and then and get any billing problems resolved before you leave the property. Using automatic check out is a great way for some properties to overcharge your card and many will.

Start any journey with a strict budget if that is possible. Vacationers and new travelers often fall prey to impulse spending on deals and offers thrown in front of them. Fast talking tour and entertainment sales people often attack travelers waiting in line to check in and fast talk them into all sorts of deals. When you walk past those kinds of salespeople in kiosks or at desks in the lobby, keep walking! Save even more and stay smart by learning as much about the places you plan on visiting as possible. Sometimes you can save a small fortune, avoid crowd crushes and still get to where you need to go by staying a few blocks or miles away. That also tends to have the added affect of saving you on things like parking and food which go for premium prices in busy or very popular areas.

Save Money With Hotel Alternatives

Some people have been renting individual-owned condos or vacation houses for years as an alternative to staying in hotels. I began doing this in the early 1990s when I visited the Orlando, Florida area. I saved money and had what amounted to a complete home or apartment set up available to myself and my family. That often meant two bathrooms, lots of room for the kids to be kids, easily accessible or even in-rental laundry facilities, and a comfortable setting where you can kick back and relax after a long day of visiting the tourist traps. In many cases local calls are free, a pool is available nearby or (in the case of vacation homes) on the rental property and there is normally easy “pull right up to the rental” parking. Despite all these plusses, there can be down sides.

Some of the condos we rented were not as clean or well kept as moderately priced hotel rooms. Others had to be paid well in advance and were made available through a broker who only collected the money, had you sign the rental contract on the dotted line and handed you a key all before you even got to inspect the property. That meant that if there were any sort of problems like a lack of cleanliness, no towels or kitchen supplies, bugs or even air conditioning that was not operating correctly, you had to contact the owner directly and good luck doing that. And there can often be some other un-welcomed surprises as well…

The first time I rented a vacation home in Orlando we found out that it had a pool, but that we had to pay an extra daily charge for the pool heater to be turned on. Since it that happened in the fall, it was a real problem. In another case the owner had scheduled extensive landscaping and some basic upgrades to his home while we were renting it. Almost every time we wanted to go into the pool there was dust and loose grass flying around everywhere as the Landscaping Crew did their work. The kitchen and one bathroom out of two were unavailable to us for several days of our rental while contractors performed the upgrades.

Some lessons I learned through all this was to never pay cash for vacation rentals, never give the broker or owner a large cash deposit and avoid “cash only” vacation homes. Those who wanted cash or debit cards normally had something to hide; or charged extra or excessive fees for things like heated pools, cable, basic phone service or things that others provided for free like towels and kitchen supplies (pots, pans, utensils). By using a credit card you can always dispute the charges if you find things are not the way you expected them to be. If you plan on disputing any charges make sure you take lots of photos for evidence and provide your card company or issuer with copies of all the documents you signed before you checked in (get copies of those immediately) or that you might have received when you turned in your key. NEVER leave your key at the property. There is almost always an extra fee for that. Read the fine print at check in. Most of these types of rentals offer no housekeeping services and require you to leave the property clean (many ask you to wash all the linens and make the beds before you leave or face more charges) which may be deducted from your cash deposit or credit card.

Time Shares are still popular with many people despite all the complaints and hassles covered by any number of reliable travel reviewers and writers. Let’s face it: Time Shares are more about making money (or trying to save money even if you don’t) than satisfying the people who stay in them. I could talk until I was blue in the face and list any number of disadvantages that people who use Time Shares as places to stay face and they would still would believe that they were getting the deal of the century or a free vacation property to use at their leisure. So I will simply say that I do not recommend Time Shares as places to stay in our modern world of so many lodging choices.

Hostels have been popular for years outside of the USA. Now they are starting to make a dent in USA travel and tourism as well. The important thing to do is choose a Hostel wisely by checking as many online reviews as you can find. If you do not choose the right Hostel, these places can be just as expensive as moderately-priced hotel rooms without any of the privacy, amenities or comforts. Hostels are more for the younger, backpack crowd than anyone else. Definitely not for family travel. However, if you are looking for work in other areas and do not have a lot of cash to spend, Hostels can be a real value as a place to stay while you job hunt. Some of them are used to financially strapped travelers and will go the extra mile by doing things like posting local employment opportunities, providing meal discounts at local restaurants, offering cheap food choices like brown bag meals and taking as many messages as they need to for folks who have used up all their monthly cell phone minutes.

Credit Cards can be your best friends or worst enemies. When it comes to lodging deals you can sometimes strike gold by paying attention to any offers they send to you. You can even call and ask if they have any current hotel, vacation or travel deals and offers. Sign up to receive online travel, vacation, lodging or attraction coupons and promotions. When you do choose a place to stay beware of hidden charges. The more you do for yourself, the more money you will save. Doing your own laundry, cooking your own food or planning your own itinerary can save you hundred of dollars a week. Avoid most entertainment packages sold in hotel lobbies at all costs because they offer little for a lot. Watch for extra fees for things like wifi, pets and even housekeeping fees. Yes, some discount hotels offer you an extremely low rack rate and you think it is the deal of a lifetime until you find out there is a fee for daily room cleaning, towels, bathroom sundries (soap, shampoo, shaving kits, etc), ice and all those goodies that hotels place in the fridge or mini-bar.

Suites Verses Hotel Rooms and Other Rentals

It is easy to get taken in by the promise of a lavish hotel suite with comfortable furniture, cooking facilities and lots of amenities. In most cases you pay a lot and do not get what you pay for when it comes to suites. Many are one room, studio style set-ups that are not much larger than a normal hotel room. A few still deliver, especially older properties with the bedroom, living room, kitchen and hallway separate. However, many of those are pricey and showing their age. If you plan on staying anywhere for a few days you will have to do your homework before you make that reservation. Most modern suite hotels are very expensive even if you pay by the month. Value hotels that offer long term rental suites are unlikely to be very uncomfortable, offer little or no amenities and may not even be all that safe.

Check out the best to moderately priced lodging choices in the area you will be visiting. Look at the photos they offer, then call and ask if the photos actually represent the current state of their rooms or suites. With the economy being what it is these days most three to five star hotels that are not in areas where everyone is rich or business is great tend to offer some good and off season deals through discount hotel and travel web sites that compare prices and properties. This helps the hotels to keep their lights on during the bad times and may save you big bucks. However, call the property and ask any questions you have or try to get an even better deal before you book online. In some cases you may find that some of the well known and moderately priced hotels offer rooms that include most or all the amenities of a suite hotel at a much lower price. For example, many hotel chains now offer comfortable chairs and/or couches, microwaves, stove tops and a refrigerator, a small work area or desk with extra outlets and wifi, along with king or queen size beds in their deluxe rooms or mini-suites for a much better rate than suite hotels charge.

Some travelers prefer the room/rental sharing route that allows them to stay in someone’s home, apartment or other property (condos, cabins, luxury tents and even parked recreational vehicles) with or without the owners present. This works like Uber does for car service. You view properties listed on various web sites, book and pay. The downside is that you have no real idea whether you will get along with the people you are staying with (if they are home) or whether the property is what it appears to be (if they are not there). The best web sites that market these types of rentals are those which offer honest reviews and allow reviewer photos and videos. I would not recommend these choices for stays of more than one or two days.

These types of rentals are mostly for younger single people, some thirty or forty something couples without kids and the back packing set. These are generally not a good choice for families or folks who are retired or near retirement age. That is because parking is usually not very close to the rental since many of these choices are located in major cities and are actually apartments or condos. That means a lot of walking, carrying your own luggage a long way and possible parking fees which can be expensive in places like New York and San Francisco.

Too many travelers think of these choices as Bed and Breakfast-type rentals: They are not. On top of that people of all ages should know that there may be no or extremely limited access to laundry facilities and property owners that are present may not like it if you are a light sleeper who likes to watch their TV late at night instead of sleeping or flush the toilet at three in the morning. If you plan on watching the big game and must share a TV, that can be another problem. Some property owners are also a little too social and will bend you ears for hours even if you do not want them to do that.

If You Are Doing Business, Try Bundling

If you have to rent a hotel meeting or banquet room you should always bundle that with however many sleeping rooms you need. I did that a lot during my travels and always managed to get a decent discount on either the meeting room or sleeping rooms. Hotels have special rates and discounts that they will never tell you about unless you ask them. In other cases you can get a better overall rate by dealing directly with the hotel and/or banquet/meeting room managers. If you know others who will be coming to the area to rent meeting and sleeping rooms, play that card. Let the managers have their names and numbers (with permission). They will take their best shot at selling their facilities and services to people you recommend and you will get a discount. Your friends or business associates may also get a discount making you the hero both ways.