I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.

(With apologies to Carly Simon)

This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Day 95 - Once Burned ...

Daily Kup (What I Did On My Reality Vacation)
The power belt of pain (see distressing picture on yesterday's post) kept me out of the sun or basically from moving in any fashion that required flexing. Instead, I cleaned up more finances. I could choke when I think of all the money we previously threw away by not questioning our suppliers in more detail. See the next section for a process for easy cost savings that one can make by a simple phone call or two.

Daily Grind
One simple secret to reducing spending is to ask to pay less. It can be done without coming off as some kind of a nut. For charges for periodic services that are commodities, a phone call or two can result in 20-40% savings in about 15 minutes time. The first call is the more pleasant one. You can always call back and turn up the heat the second time.

++ Think through your agenda and what you want from the communication before you start. Write it on a piece of paper and have it in front of you.

++ Try to be current on your bill when you call unless your intention is to work out a payment plan. Negotiation comes from strength.

++ Some research beforehand is invaluable. Know about any introductory rates, specials, and what your neighbor is paying for any service that you think may have variable rates. Check on the competition's pricing. Ten minutes of checking websites may give you everything you need.

++ Just because you know something like perhaps an introductory rate or what you'd like to pay doesn't mean that you should share that immediately. They don't have to know what you know.

++ Most service reps say his or her name at the beginning of the conversation. Call them by their names in a pleasant tone -- not sounding like your tenth grade English teacher who said each student's name tinged with sarcasm -- and keep the focus on "you" and "me," not some faceless company who can crush the little consumer.

++ Experience in flea market negotiating is very helpful. The flow of the call is: 1) Engage in a focused but pleasant introductory conversation to set the tone and communicate the value of the product. 2) Ask them to suggest an improvement in price or coverage or both. 3) An important skill that I learned from my sales friends at Porkus is to SHUT UP until it's useful to your agenda to say something.

Here's an example of a conversation that I had with our garbage hauler. My objective was to see if I could reduce my cost by at least 25% and also adopt a greener service option. It went something like this:

Me: [Using smiling voice] Good morning. I have a question about my account. I'm Burning Khrome and my account number is xxxxxxxx.
Garbage Company: Let me look up your account. [Chit-chat about nice weather] Here it is. [Reads back service level, pick-up frequency, pricing, and account status] How can I help?
Me: I'm thinking about adding your organics service but I'm also interested in reducing my overall bill. What can you do for me? [Depending on the tone of the person to whom you are speaking, other good ways of phrasing this are -- What can you do to help me out? {best for sob stories and if the person seems sympathetic], What options can you suggest? {if the contact is less engaged but seems knowledgeable}, I'm looking to make changes to improve my budget and am evaluating some different options {if you think that the supplier has a different pricing protocol for situations where the customer is going to a competitor}.
Garbage Company: You can add the organics to your current service and it will cost $X more per month. But we are trying to encourage people to use this service. [Me staying quiet and letting her process her thoughts][Pause] People often find that they don't need as big a regular container when they are using the organics container. Reducing the frequency of your pickups from weekly to every other week would also cut the cost by $x. [Pause] Do you want to see if we can reduce later or put in the changes now and then see if you need to add back a larger container or more pick-ups?
Me: Let's make the changes now and I'll call back if we need to upsize anything.
Garbage Company: All done. Your new containers will be delivered Monday. Please leave your old container by the curb for pick-up. Thank you for your business.
Me: I appreciate your help. Have a nice weekend.

Result = 30% savings and a lower ecological footprint.

I've used this approach or a variation with cable TV, telephone/internet, daycare, the newspaper, and home and auto insurances. The phone and newspaper are a special subset because neither seems to be invested in consumer satisfaction nor understand the sand upon which their current service offerings are built. With these guys, you need to demand what you want in no uncertain terms and be ready to replace or eliminate their services. I cut our infrequently used landline long distance in favor of T's cell phone, haven't missed it, and will save $150 or more this year.

It's your money -- keep it where you want it.

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