Staying Clear of Scoundrels

A guy selling gutter screens stopped by the house last week. We had inquired about his product because we need something over our gutters so we don’t have to climb high ladders several times a year to clean them out. The surrounding maples and those darn helicopters they spawn are a royal pain in the a**. In any case, the product this guy’s company sells is highly rated and seemed like it should do the trick. If it hadn’t been for the sales guy.

In short, he was a liar. I’m sure he thought he was smooth and that his tactics were effective. And perhaps they were. Most of the time. But not with me. Not this time.

Earlier in my life, Vera, I may have been more inclined to overlook his conduct as salesman puffery. Or just the manipulative way some sales people operate. But no more. Because of what he said and how he acted, I couldn’t trust him.

Unfortunately for him, I no longer will do business with people I can’t trust. It’s as simple as that. Even if they’re a client — a former client, that is. For if I can’t trust them, I don’t want them as a client either. Even if it means I’d be forgoing money.

I was reminded of something I’d heard Warren Buffett say. Buffett, of course, is highly successful, as judged by society’s standards: money. He’s one of the world’s richest men. While I don’t embrace all of Buffett’s principles, I do find a lot of wisdom in most of them. And this is one.

Shane Parrish has this to say about this particular principle: Continue reading

The Good Kind of Battle

If you don’t know what this is, you haven’t lived.

I suggest you get yourself to Costco or Dicks or some other retailer who carries these puppies.

And then let the battle begin!

P.S. I hope you learn to love these, Vera. If you recall, we had them at your birthday party. You would drop them on my feet but weren’t keen on throwing or trying to catch them. Your grandma said the bruise on her leg, from one of my well-placed throws, took two weeks to disappear.

Things I Think This Morning

Inflation has heated up, meaning your dollar won’t go as far, which is bad news for savers, retirees and working-class people. At least in the short run, the president’s tariff policies are bound to increase costs, hurting more people than they help. As always, oil and gas prices matter, too. There’s no consensus on where they’re headed.

Roundup was found to have caused cancer this week, a reminder that people are too cavalier about all those home and garden chemicals. People fail to appreciate how toxic and hazardous many chemicals are. We need to be careful what we inhale and what we allow to come into direct contact with our skin. I was thinking quite a lot about cancer this week. I have a friend who is battling it, and my dad died from it. It’s a hideous disease. I hope we defeat it soon.

The stock market had a bad day yesterday. There’s a fierce debate raging over whether the market is a bubble or not. By historical standards, it’s certainly pricey. Whether that means we’re in for a crash at some point or merely a decade of poor returns, I have no idea. But it’s probably not the time to be taking too many risks. That said, I continue to cherry pick some stocks here and there, all the time being mindful that it’s more important not to lose money than to make money. I’m constantly surprised by the risks some people are willing to take. Given the debt people and companies have taken on the past few years, there will be a lot of pain when the market eventually corrects (or craters) and when interest rates rise significantly. When will that happen? I have no idea. Perhaps this year; perhaps well into the future. But it will happen. Someday.

For anyone considering a European vacation, there is good news: the greenback is continuing to strengthen.  We’re planning on going to England next year so I hope the exchange rate continues to improve.

We were at Costco yesterday. It’s my favorite store by a wide margin. I struck up a conversation at the gas pump with the attendant. Nice guy. He’s worked there 13 years. I asked him if Costco treated its employees as well as it’s been reported. He emphatically replied, “Yes, it’s a great company to work for.” Costco and R.E.I. are living proof that you can treat your employees well, do business the right way and still succeed. Indeed, you can excel. I don’t know why so many employers treat their employers so poorly. It’s short-sighted and, frankly, stupid from a business standpoint. Yet it’s prevalent. I suppose we simply have too many assholes running things.

Wife and I took another walk last night through center city Carmel, as we frequently do. It’s great to see so much happening here, proof that progressive community leadership can make a difference. When I compare it to ultra-conservative Loveland, Colorado, where we last lived, the difference is night and day. The people were great in Loveland, and we have some super friends there. But the community leadership was poor. Very poor. If I were young and starting out, I’d want to be sure to put stakes down in a place that was going somewhere, and not a place that was desperately trying to cling to the past. We live in the present and prepare for the future. The past is the past. Let go.

 

The Higher Ed Scam

As I pointed out Monday, there is a clear correlation between income and college degrees. In particular, certain graduate and professional degrees carry a punch. But, to be fair, certain undergraduate degrees do not. In fact, it’s pretty clear to me that certain degrees from certain colleges are basically a waste of time, or worse if one considers the high cost of attaining the degree, including lost opportunity cost.

Thus far, the high water mark in the U.S. for undergraduate education was 2010, the same year I assumed the presidency of a small liberal arts college. Since then, overall undergraduate enrollment has dropped by 6.6 percent. But just look at what student-loan debt has done since that time:

Continue reading