A lesson on how to stand behind your work

Does a guarantee really mean anything in this day and age? Think about it: When something goes wrong with an item you buy at a retail store, who bears the burden of proof? The consumer.

What do you hear when something goes wrong with something you purchase? Prove to me you bought it here when you say you did. Prove to me you didn’t break it through misuse.

With services, it can be even more tricky, unless you have it all in writing. And then you have the burden of keeping the paperwork filed someplace where you can retrieve it.

Recently I found someone who has put an end to all that nonsense. We’re in the market to have our exterior block wall covered with a stucco. I’m a bit of a bargain shopper so I called Dwight after seeing his handwritten sign on a neighborhood street corner.

As I worked my way through a litany questions in the backyard, I got around to asking if his work comes with a warranty.

“Yes!” was his response. “As long as I’m alive my work is warrantied. So for about another 25 to 30 years or so. After that, you’re on your own.”

I can’t ask for much more than that now can I?

Reflections on 12-12-12: No ordinary Wednesday

by @PaulFiarkoski

I’m not into numerology, so I don’t believe anything special happens when numbers line up in a certain way. That said, all the hype with 12-12-12 could have came and went for me with almost no significance. Same for last year on November 11, and October 10 the year before that. August 8, 2008 (08-08-08) was sort of cool since it was my sister’s birthday – and the day of the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.

My lack of interest in a numerically significant date notwithstanding, somehow a switch was flipped for me the morning of December 12, 2012. It actually started the night before when my 11 year-old daughter made me pinky promise I would take a picture of my iPod screen for her at exactly 12:12 pm since she would be at school.

Couldn’t avoid the buzz
When I checked in on Facebook the morning of the 12th, my feed was lit up with all things 12-12-12. Same thing on Twitter. One post in particular stood out to me: ” 12.12.12 …I have the DVR all ready to go!,” a friend from my high school posted. It was then that I remembered hearing about the benefit concert taking place later in the day at New York’s Madison Square Garden. I promptly set my DVR too.

Time check
I worked from home that day and started my lunch hour at exactly 12 noon, so could I stay focused on upholding the pledge I made to my daughter. An added bonus was being able to hug and kiss my wife like we do each New Year’s eve at midnight. I captured the special moment on my iPod and posted the image on Facebook with a snarky comment about surviving 12-12-12. Even though I know the Mayans alleged apacolypse was allegedly not to occur until December 21, so many people mistook the twelfth for D-day that I decided to play along.

The screen shot I took of my iPod screen at 12:12 on December 12, 2012.
The screen shot I took of my iPod screen at 12:12 on December 12, 2012.

Benefit concert
The day continued as any usual Wednesday would until 6:30 local time when the 12-12-12 benefit concert came on the tv. What a line up! When it kicked off with Bruce Springstein and Bon Jovi I quickly realized this was going to be a big event. The legends just kept parading out, one after another. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, the Who. Honestly, I got chills a few times just sitting there watching these larger than life rock stars humble themselves for the cause of raising money for those suffering from the effects of SuperStorm Sandy.

I checked in on Facebook and Twitter a couple times during the show to see how others were reacting to the performances. Most were impressed, although there were a few low points. Kanye West comes to mind. A personal favorite for me was Adam Sandler’s rendition of Hallelujah. An instant classic! The biggest shock for me was that Alicia Keys did not sing her hit “New York”. Maybe I’ll find out when I play the rest of the concert on the 13th that it was part of a finale. I hope so.

Like Farm Aid on steroids
Here was my one-liner that summarized how I felt about the concert: Farm Aid has been working out and taking roids for the last 25 years and has re-emerged as the #121212concert for Superstorm Sandy victims.

I mentioned to my wife that when we look back at tonight in ten years or so, we’re going to realize this was a bigger event than Woodstock, BandAid or any of the other big time concert events.

Meteor Shower
Another topic that others were commenting about on social media was the Geminid Meteor Shower – an event I would not have been aware of were it not for Facebook. Then Kanye West took the stage. About 45 seconds into his act I decided then was a good time to make a break for the hot tub. Everyone else in the family had already dozed off, so I was solo. Low and behold, I saw a few streaks from the meteors whizzing through the night sky, high above South Mountain on the south edge of Phoenix.

I still don’t believe there is any thing special about how certain numbers line up. But thanks to the large contingent of others that do believe, 12-12-12 was anything but an ordinary Wednesday for me.

How to save over $6,000 a year with your dishwasher

Photo courtesy of lifehacker.com
Not just a dishwasher.
Think of it as a money saving machine.
Photo courtesy of lifehacker.com

Nobody in my family of four likes washing dishes. Especially not me. But we still take turns getting them done. Our system for determining whose turn it is works a little like the game of “Not it!”

As with any modern family, washing the dishes at our house means getting the scraps into the trash or disposal then placing them into the dishwasher. Not that hard, but we still despise it.

Inevitably my turn comes up at least once a week. I’ve been on this ‘Financial Peace’ kick inspired by Dave Ramsey, so I’ve adopted a little mind game to make doing the dishes a little more bearable.

I tell myself that for every load of dishes we wash we’re saving about $30. It’s not a precise calculation, but here’s the rationale: Typically we drop around $50 every time we go out to eat as a family. I guesstimate that we spend about $10 to $15 on groceries when we cook a meal at home. Add to that another $3 to $5 for water, electricity and dishwasher detergent. If you’re an accountant, you can factor in depreciation of the plates, silverware and dishwasher itself, but I prefer to keep things simple. So basically, we spend $20 for a meal at home instead of $50 at a restaurant. Voila – $30 savings.

Consider how this example can play out over a year’s time.  We run the dishwasher four to five times per week. Cha-ching! I estimate: we’re saving $120 a week by washing dishes at home. Multiply that by 52 weeks in a year. That’s a savings of $6,240 over the course of year. Now that’s something I can get excited about.

Economics of running the dishwasher:

$30 savings per load versus not dining out
$120 saved per week at 4 loads per week
x 52  weeks
$6,240 potential savings per year

Okay sure, nobody eats out 100% of the time; I get that. The point here is for me to find reasons to overcome my dislike for doing the dishes. And I’m telling you that the belief that I’m saving $6,240 a year does it for me.

The takeaway: If your family hates doing dishes as much as ours, calculate the cost of the alternative – dining out – or use my numbers. Once you have convinced yourself that washing dishes at home more often is better than dining out, it will give you the will to step up and wash dishes a little more frequently. That goes a long way in boosting your credibility when you assign the task to others in the household.

Ever wonder what happened to waterbeds? This explanation may surprise you.

By @PaulFiarkoski

Vintage 1990s waterbed
Vintage 1990s waterbed

Shortly after relocating from Denver to Phoenix in the summer of 2012 my wife and I were in the market for a new bed. In the process, we met a furniture store owner who has been in the business for over 30 years. Saying he knows his stuff would be a gross understatement. This guy can school anyone in the business, regardless of their experience level.

Needless to say, he earned utmost credibility with me in just a few minutes. He also knows a lot about backs, especially bad backs. After all, he has helped many people over the years who had come to him because they just can’t get a good night’s sleep with their back/mattress combination. He even has a bad back himself.

Since my wife has back issues, I found it natural to ask the question: What kind of mattress do you sleep on? A waterbed was his answer, followed by a quick dissertation on flotation being the most natural fit for any body.

My look surely went from convert to disbeliever as I scanned the showroom looking for a waterbed.

“I don’t sell them. They don’t make waterbeds anymore,” he said.

The explanation
He went on to tell me that back in the 90s, the three S’s of the mattress industry (Simmons, Sealy & Serta) pooled together to buy out all the remaining waterbed manufacturing plants under the stated intention of modernizing the facilities. They ended up shutting them down altogether and in effect killed off an entire industry, leaving consumers with only their high margin spring-loaded and new age foam models to choose from.

Sounds like a far-fetched conspiracy theory, I know. But it’s not the first time I’ve heard of companies playing hardball to eliminate threats to their profits.

Makes me wonder if the three S’s are buying up landfills too. Have you tried to dispose of a mattress lately? The cost is outrageous.

Incidentally, we had to exchange the high-end memory foam mattress we initially bought for a moderately priced coil and pillow top model. That’s just what feels best on my wife’s back.

The moral? Higher cost doesn’t always equal better. And you can’t trust companies that start with the letter ‘S’.