Thursday, June 30, 2005

Negotiation 103; or the time I almost got us shot

Courtney and I agreed that I could buy a pistol. I knew exactly what I wanted: Glock .40 caliber compact. I knew how much it was worth from pricing through the net: about $450 street price.

I found a gun dealer that sells pistols online. You pay this guy, he ships the gun to a local gun dealer. You pay the local guy a transfer fee, and he gives you your pistol. The problem is finding a local dealer who will allow you to do the transfer, instead of insisting that you buy the gun from his shop. Not many people are going to help you buy a $500 item from someone else. And, there are the additional costs.

The cheapest I could find the gun in town was like $530. That's $80 difference. Surely I can do better than that.

What? There's a gun show this weekend? A place where individuals go to buy and sell guns. A veritable swap meet for guns? I am so there.

Courtney and I go to the gun show. We find one individual who has a 9mm compact, and the .40 caliber full size. Then, I see the mecca of Glock pistols. A gun dealer who apparently travels around from gun show to gun show selling glocks, instead of setting up a store in a building.

I approach the guy, and ask to see a .40 caliber compact glock. I ask him how much he wants for the gun. "$490". I walk away, saying thank you. I wander for a while, so the guy doesn't think I'm anxious to buy the gun. I come back, and play with it some more. I ask the current guy how much. "$475". Woah. That's $15 in ten minutes. Clearly these guys don't have set prices. Great, this is the perfect opportunity for negotiation. I might be able to get the gun for the online price, but miss the shipping and transfer fees.

Then it happens. The curse rises up and smacks me in the face.

I tell the guy "I'll give you $450". He takes the gun, looks at the marked price(MSRP $599), and tells me he could just raise the price back up to the normal price of $599. I tell him "Whatever, no one sells Glocks for that price". He tells me that he does.

He says "Well, I'm not going to lose money on the gun, so I'm not going to $450". Yeah right. So this guy is trying to tell me that the markup on Glocks is only $20. Sure. I believe you. And car dealers really are losing money when they pay more than they want for your trade in.

"Ok", I say to Courtney, "I'll just order it online". Keep in mind I'm talking in a low tone to Courtney, not to the guy.

He overhears me, and yells "Go ahead and buy it online. Once you've paid shipping and dealer transfer fees, come back, and we'll see who lost money".

At this point, I get mad. Not only is the guy a dick, but he's yelling at me in front of like 100 people.

So, I start yelling back. "You'll be the one losing money, when you pack that gun back up tomorrow, and take it with you, instead of selling it. What kind of jackass business approach is that?".

At this point, Courtney gets nervous, and pushes me away from the guy, towards the door. Apparently, she didn't think it was a good idea to get in an argument with an armed man, who was surrounded by guns, in the middle of a gun show. She was worried that the FBI was about to appear and tackle me.

The curse is alive and kicking.
Listening to: Aliens exist - Blink 182 - Enema of the State (02:48)

This is why I wanted XBox Live

This group of guys is the exact reason why I wanted to get on XBox live. They are living one of my dreams. A group of friends who get together regularly to play games online, without dealing with the crap you have to deal with playing 17 year-olds.


Post Race

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Negotiating 102

Lesson #2: Flea Market

What do you expect to do at a flea market? Haggle, right? Bargain with people. They're selling their junk, usually, so they should be pretty flexible on price, right? Not if your name is Cullen.

I was looking for a present for the pops. He's really into old, raggedy tools, so I was digging around in this stall. This place had a bunch of crap that was about ready to be sold for scrap metal. Seriously, this stuff was all rusty, and randomly scattered on shelves.

I dug down about three levels, and found a plane. It was broken, but fixable. There was no price on the plane, but I decided I would pay $10 for it. It needed at least 20 hours of work to get it useful again.

I grab the plane, and go as the "proprietor" what the price is. He tells me $15. I was shocked. The thing was really in bad shape. So I say "I'll give you $10". A great price for that hunk of broken scrap metal. This is where the curse kicks in. The guy snatches the plane from me, and states "I'll keep it". He puts it behind his counter, and walks away from me.

The curse bites again.

What the hell kind of flea market salesman refuses to counter an offer, and then is rude about it? Who wants to take their crap home instead of selling it? How do you make a living by packing your stuff up, displaying it in a booth, and then packing it back up at night to take it home? I don't get it. Where is the profit in taking your stuff back and forth from the house to the flea market? That is a business model that I just cannot understand.

A few stalls later, Re found me three planes, in better shape. The total for the three planes, as marked, was $25.50. Re wanted me to talk the owner down to $25.00. She figured it would be easy(she was an Ingram then, you know). Having just been bit big time by the curse, I knew better. I really wanted to get dad a present. So, I talked them down a lesser amount, but did it successfully.

I bought the three planes for $25.00 even.

Negotiation 101

Courtney wanted me to share some stories with you all. She thinks you'll get a big kick out of these stories.

Lesson #1: Car Dealerships
Everyone knows that when you go to buy a car (particularly a used car), you are going to have to 'wheel and deal' to get a decent ride. Well, unless you're me, that is.

Three times now, I have gone to dealerships, and done what all the financial types recommend. I've given the dealer an offer. Nearly every offer was within $1000 of blue book. I've told the sales person that I won't pay more than X. Twice, I have gotten the sales guy to within $500 of what I wanted to pay. Each time, I have gone home in my old car, deal unmade.

I learned from my friends in sales that the sales guy never wants you to leave the lot. He knows that if you leave the lot, you probably won't come back. Courtney and I went to the Dodge dealership to buy her car. I thought I had all the answers. I knew what the car was worth. I new what the market was like for that model car. I had financing through an outside agency, so they couldn't hose me on financing or add-on services. The dealership had 5 of the cars. No other dealer had more than 1. They clearly had more supply than the market had demand. We were trading in an excellent vehicle. We were a couple thousand in the hole on Re's old car, but I had figured that all out.

My goal was to get blue book for her trade in, and then pay sticker for the new car. Since the dealer's price was $4000 over blue book, I thought that would be a good deal. I came in with all my research and market stats. I wooed the guy with my knowledge and cut to the chase. We got to within $300 in like 5 minutes. The guy told me he couldn't help me, and to come back if I got more money.

Just to reiterate, the guy passed on a $25,000 deal over $300. Who does that? No car salesman in his right mind does that. Unless he's dealing with me, that is. The curse is identified.

EBay tips

Here is the text of an email I sent to my pop:

You can be paid to your paypal account. My suggestion is to only accept paypal. All other forms of payment are too slow. Generally, if you accept checks, people expect that you will make them wait 7 days for the check to clear. Plus, you have to wait for them to mail it and for it to be delivered.
If you are selling any big-ticket items, I would put a statement on the listing that you will cancel bids from buyers with low or no feedback. The feedback system tells you how reliable a buyer will be (past actions are the best predictors of future behavior).
It's usually worth the extra few cents to do a 10 day auction. Start the auction really low, and if you absolutely can't part with something for less than a certain amount, put a reserve on the auction. Don't put reserves unless you really care about the sales price, it scares away bidders.
Always put that the buyer is responsible for shipping. I generally put the shipping calculator on the page, and tell it to add a couple dollars of 'handling'. That's a couple more dollars of profit for each item, and most people will pay that handling fee without blinking, even if they wouldn't have raised their bid by that much.
If you decide to eat the shipping costs, you'll get more bids. One thing I have seen is when people put a statement that if the price goes over $x, the seller will pay for shipping. That's kind of an enticement.

Friday, June 24, 2005

What a crappy bit of news

Courtney got some horrible news today. One of the dogs she grew up with may have to be put to sleep. Her mom found a lot of blood spread around the house this morning, so she is taking the dogs to the vet. My guess is that it was Cookie, because she has been having health problems the last couple of years. Either way, we will all really miss them if someone has to be put to sleep.

Good luck Cookie & Patches. Hopefully you just got cut or something else minor. We love you both.
Listening to: Really Might Be Gone - Bowling for Soup - A Hangover You Don't Deserve (03:43)

Exciting Ride

I had a great ride this morning. It was wonderful. I took the new exit from 295 to 9a. What a blast. I got to work super fast, too. I left the house at like 7:40 or 7:45, and was at work at 8:10. Gotta love the lack of traffic on that new part of 9a!
Listening to: Really Might Be Gone - Bowling for Soup - A Hangover You Don't Deserve (03:43)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Crazy busy

Work has been crazy busy lately. The last month is the first time since I left Okinawa that I have put in a significant amount of overtime. It's been pretty consistent, too. Yesterday I left at 5, and felt like I had an extra two hours to entertain myself.

Of course, I wasted an hour by making a bad gamble. I heard on the radio in the morning that the 295->9a connection was complete, and open. I figured that meant that you could go from 295s to 9a north, since it was rush hour, and that's the way traffic runs in the am.

When it was time to leave, I was struck by the thought that since they opened one direction, there was a decent chance that they had opened both directions. So, I would be able to take 9a south to 295 north. The only danger is that if the road weren't opened, I'd be stuck way south on Phillips, with no easy way to get home.

It was closed.

So, I thought "no problem, hit US1 N, and get on 95, then 295, should only waste another 5 mins". Not. Phillips was backed up all the way from 95 to 9a. That's a good 4 or 5 miles. Solid, bumper to bumper traffic. And there's the dumb woman who tried to brake check me. She thought I was too close, and I thought she was too slow, since there were like 4 empty car lengths in front of her.

Once I saw Phillips, I decided to hit Greenland, since there were very few people turning onto that road. Yeah, till I hit Mandarin HS. Backed up from there to St Aug. Solid line of cars, for like 2 miles. And they were all going straight. I wanted to go right. That is so frustrating, being stuck behind 200 drivers going straight, when you just want to turn right.

I jumped like 3 curbs yesterday.

Once I got on 295 at St Aug, it was pretty smooth sailing.

Course, it was still a 65 minute drive, which is about 25 minutes past my patience limit.

Definitely not going that route again until the new interchange is done.

Lazy bastard construction guys.
Listening to: Letterbomb - Green Day - American Idiot (Proper Retail) (04:06)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

It's great being a dad

Last night, when I got home, I found a couple of little notes around the house. Courtney put one right where I would be sure to see it when I first got home. Then she showed me where it was when I didn't notice it.

After following the clues all around the house, I ended up with some GOOD loot. She really took good care of me this father's day, and was pretty frugal too. Rock on babe, you did a great job.

I had such a blast following those clues around the house. Re is the best at gifts, hands down.

Friday, June 17, 2005

I got screwed( a little)

I signed up at this site, where if you have 5 people complete a special offer, you get a free ipod. Well, I had 5 people complete an offer, but not one of them got credit for it. I think the company went out of business or something. I read on Duncan Mackenzie's blog that he got some free stuff, and it wasn't a scam, but NONE of my people got credit for completing the offers. And, one of the offers never even showed up.

That sucks. I was excited about getting an ipod.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Frustrating Code

I have this function, written in unmanaged(native) C++. I need to call that function from within a .NET application. As I understand it, the only way to accomplish this is to use p/invoke. The only problem is that this method is meant to be added as part of an existing C++ app, so it isn't really designed to go into a .dll. You have to have(I think) your code in a dll to call it from .NET.

I tried creating a C++ dll several ways, but none worked. Anyone have any other ideas?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I could be worse

I could always be worse. I don't think Courtney has had to deal with more than 3 or 4 of these:

Dating an Apple Developer. Just take out the word Apple.
Listening to: Wild West Show - Big And Rich - Horse Of A Different Color (04:21)

Something got me worked up today

Today, on the way to work, I was thinking about something, and got worked up a little. I decided I would blog about it, so you could all share in my irritation.

But, I forgot what got me so worked up. Is senility really setting in this early?(Shut up, Re).
Listening to: Inside Out - Eve 6 - Eve 6 (03:39)

This is cool

I'm sitting in the airport in Cincinnati, using their wireless network to connect to the world. This rocks, man. Free wifi should be everywhere.

Halfway to Minneapolis, about 2 hours till I land(I think). I'm not really sure what time zone MN is in, so I'm not sure if I have two hours or three.

Guess I ought to do a little research.

Hmm. Guess I was a little wrong about the wonderfulness. Turns out, there's a charge from Cincinnati broadband. Crap. Oh well, guess you'll have to wait until I get back to see this one.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Great Geek Parody

Rico Mariani is great. Not only is he incredibly good at analyzing performance and improving it, he has a great sense of humor.

Today he did a good parody of the 'You can't handle the truth' scene in "A Few Good Men". (If I quoted those wrong, get over it. I'm not an englits major, and can't ever remember what gets underlined and what gets quotes).

Here's the link:

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Security Awareness for Ma, Pa and the Corporate Clueless

Over on Over on, a guy named Winn is documenting his company's move from Windows to Mac. This could be a really good thing, give a bunch of users a chance to see the upside and downside to moving from one platform and OS to another.

For those who don't know about Macs, they use different hardware, and vastly different software from PCs. The common belief is that Mac OSs are more secure than Windows OSs. I believe this is probably true, although I believe the reason is different than the ones given in most online forums. I don't particularly think Mac's OS is better written, although parts of it seem to be. I think that there are a lot more malicious users targeting Windows, and that there are a lot more half-baked software companies writing poor software for Windows. The mac community is much smaller than the Windows community, so there is less commercial software available for it.

If you are starting a software development company, I urge you to target Windows first, and Mac second, because there are a LOT fewer users using Macs. Those users may be happier, and more secure, but there are still fewer, which means fewer potential sales, which means exponentially fewer actual sales.

Back to the point, though. Why does a simple choice of operating system create more emotional response than two rival football teams meeting head-to-head? This is a business decision folks, and the rest of your life doesn't depend on it. If you read some of the comments, you will see that the responders are clearly in one camp or the other. And they are rabid about defending their position.

I don't get that part. Why be rabid about something so unimportant? I can understand Winn getting fed up with problems, and writing some rants as he was changing over. I wish he would focus more on the mechanics of the switchover, and which things are hard to adjust to, rather than restating what a million other people have written. Clearly, there are a lot of people who feel that the Mac is better, and that Windows users are fools. Those people usually write it as M$ and Windoze.

As another aside, I don't get why people are suprised that MS is all about making money. Duh. They are a for-profit company. That is the purpose in life for MS. And they are really, really, really good at it. Apple is all about making money, too. Why do people not get so upset with Apple for pursuing riches?

It sure gets boring reading so many people's remarks about how Windows sucks, or Mac is too hard. Mr Winn, just give us the facts about switching, please. I'd like to know what was hard for you to adjust to on the mac, and what was easy. You touched on that some in part IV, but mostly fell back on 'Windows is not secure. Mac is more secure'. I grant you that point. How about getting into specifics on the switchover. Do the rest of your users like the new systems? Would you really recommend this for the average corporation of 50+ people? How hard is it to train your network/computer guy to fix the Mac? Or configure the Mac? What are the hidden costs or bonuses in switching. I know you are going to mostly write from the standpoint of security, but hook the rest of us, non-security types, up with some concrete examples of what is better in Mac, or what sucks more in Mac.

5 Months is not long enough

If you are debating with your significant other whether your 5 month old baby is old enough for a weekend trip, in a hotel, don't. Mikayla was not a good girl this weekend. It wouldn't have been so bad, except Courtney and I stayed in a hotel, so we were trapped in a very small room together, and we felt guilty for disturbing the other guests with her screaming.

Either go earlier, when she hasn't developed as much personality and lung capacity, or wait until later, when she can tell you what's wrong, so you can fix it, and she can be happy.

Just my $.02
Listening to: Believe - Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue (04:31)