I picked my RV up from the dealership. My axle was reportedly broken, and, as far as I could tell, it was now fixed. Good. The cost was over a thousand bucks, money which I forked over, wishing the whole time I didn't have to.
A few weeks prior I was at an airport, desperate for something to eat. I got a poor quality sandwich at an above average price. I paid, and it served its purpose: to make me stop feeling starving.
When I visited Haiti I was staying with a couch surfer. My bus arrived just as dark was rolling in. I had my host's phone number, but I didn't have a usable phone. I was the only tourist on the bus (meaning the only white person), and I hadn't heard anyone else speak English. A cabbie spoke in broken English to get me to ride in his cab.
"Can I use your phone?"
I call my host and she sounds busy.
"I have to run but give the phone to your cab driver and he will bring you to my place. My sister is expecting you."
I hand the phone back and he gets the directions in Kreyol.
"Thirty dollars. And five for using the phone."
"That's too much. It's really close."
He knows he has me over a barrel and won't budge. I don't want to annoy my obviously busy host and have more taxi drivers call her. I take the taxi and in one fifteen minute ride he makes more than he made in the past two weeks.
That's the first kind of business. Businesses that you'll do business with if you have to. I mean "have to" loosely, of course. No one forced me to patronize any of them, but I did so because my options were limited.
If you saw me you would probably not be very impressed with my wardrobe. Three of my four shirts are plain colored T-shirts. The other one is a plain colored T-shirt with a simple line drawing of a mountain.
The thing is, these are the greatest T-shirts in the world. They are made from the finest Merino wool. They're warm when it's cold and cold when it's warm. They wash easy and dry fast. They never smell bad. Each one costs $60 retail ($30-40 when you find a good deal).
When I buy a new laptop (like I did three days ago), I buy a Thinkpad. They're built like tanks, use high quality parts, and impart the feeling that they were designed and built by people who care about-- and use-- laptops.
That's the second type of business. A business where you can't wait to buy from them. You spend your money with them and you feel good about it because you're getting something truly valuable in return, and further, you support the company's vision. When I spend forty dollars for a shirt at Icebreaker, I'm glad that they're marginally more successful than they were. I want to be a part of that success.
I hate to use them as an example, because I'm the opposite of a fan, but Apple really exemplifies this principle. People foam at the mouth to get a slightly newer, slightly shinier version of the same phone they bought six months ago.
Besides being a consumer, I want to be a producer of products or services that people are excited about buying. I want people to give me money not because they have to, but because they support what I'm doing and feel like they're getting an unbelievable value.
(the picture, as you might know, is of Vibram Five Finger shoes, the only shoes I've worn in the past year or so. They're definitely the latter business type.)
I used to have a bit of an obsession with Zero Halliburton luggage. Look familiar? That's because bad guys in all the movies use the briefcases to hold their money and bombs. Over the years I kept buying these things, and usually traveled with a huge 26" suitcase as well as a matching computer case.
I still really like my Zero Halliburton suitcases, but they're somewhat unweildy. Two day trips don't require a hectare of packing real estate.
Plus, there was the allure of the carry-on only passenger. I never really understood how it worked before. How do people carry everything in such small suitcases? Is it really that much more convenient? What's so bad about checking bags? I was curious.
“Taxi!” raising my hand to fetch a cab because I am running late. I normally walk, but I may or may not have enjoyed myself a little too much last night, hoping the Yankees-Red Sox game would happen, despite the stormy forecast. “Sweet,” giving a little fist pump, I never get a cab this quickly in the morning. It’s so nice today, how could it have been a shitty day yesterday? BEEP BEEP! I love this town and hate it at the same time. If I had a dollar for every time I had almost been hit by a taxi I would be a rich man, or would at least break even from the night before.
“Where you headed to?” asked the cab driver.
“Starbucks at 250 Vesey Street,” I yawned.
As I complain to the taxi driver about last night’s rain delay and my lack of effort this morning he shows no empathy and just like a one night stand he sends me packing at the end of our date.