Archive for July, 2013

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

The Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: The world’s first production hydrogen fuel cell car is actually here in limited quantities. This is a test vehicle for the company and we will not see this car on the roads or in dealerships for some time. Too bad!

Only 1000 cars in the next year and ramping to 15,000 in 2015, this car runs on hydrogen and needs to be refueled every 350 miles or so with hydrogen. As with pure electric vehicles there are not many places at this time to refuel them.  Although they plan to build 15,000 by 2015, the major obstacle for these cars will be refueling stations. You must plan your trip very carefully to avoid any problems with running out of fuel. At least with electric cars you can plug them into a 110 volt outlet, preferably 220 volt to recharge them. There will be no such solution for the average urban driver for a very long time and as a result they may not be seen in dealerships for many years.

Fleet Operators May Take Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

Initially they will be sold to fleet operators who will be able to provide refueling facilities as well. With a program of refueling each evening and a refueling station located on the premises of the fleet operator they may be interesting to the operator to use. Hyundai will need to provide a number of incentives to the operator to persuade then to take on a brand new car with a brand new power source.

The incentive will have to include pricing for the cars comparable to other gas of diesel powered cars and operating costs that will be lower than the traditional powered cars. Whether this is subsidized by Hyundai or actually lower , the operator must be convinced that they will end up with the same or lower costs. For Hyundai, this initial set of cars will be a giant laboratory which they can use to perfect the electronics, the fuel cells, the fuel distribution system and the power train.

We will keep an eye on this experiment and write further posts about hydrogen fuel cells as more information becomes available.


Real Estate Text Message Marketing

Real Estate Text Message MarketingWe were wondering how real estate agents would use real estate text message marketing in their business endeavors, so we did a little research and came across one application of this service that is marketed by a company in the business. Most real estate agents will use text messaging with their technical savvy clients to communicate with them, even negotiate prices for homes. This application brings another marketing tool for the agent and another means of gaining clients.

Basically the way that they have implemented real estate text message marketing is they provide a text ID to the agent which he includes on all of his advertising including for sale signs that go on the property and all handouts that might be provided as well to their customers. If potential clients send a text message to this ID they can then be sent information via SMS to their phones and receive web site information about homes they may be interested in on their smart phones. They will receive basic property information that may be of interest to them.

Real estate agents can also set up text message blasts as part of their real estate text message marketing plans advising clients of new listings and of sales that have taken place. It is an easy way to keep all of your clients up to date and help them remember you.

Real Estate Text Message Marketing or Snail Mail

One agent we know send out a letter every month with a short blurb about what is going on in the market which costs her a stamp and letters every time. She could really benefit by sending this same information by emails and also by SMS using real estate text message marketing techniques at far less cost. If some clients still want to receive the snail mail approach she can keep those clients satisfied using that medium, but also satisfy her regular clients with smart phones and computers by sending out messages using electronic media.

If you are not catering to customers with mobile phones and increasingly smart phones, then your real estate text message marketing program is missing a great opportunity and perhaps a lot of business opportunities. We have found that the younger generation and those people in general who are technically savvy with their phones prefer the impersonal means of communication since it is much more efficient. They do not have to have a voice conversation which is going to take a minimum of several minutes not including voice mails etc that are left with the client and take up air time. Text messaging has become a far more efficient method of communication with clients.

Real estate agents have even advised clients that their offer has been accepted or that they need to start thinking about countering an offer by text messaging.  We have seen people receive a text message advising them that they just had their home sold by text message. This is by far the best approach. You can always receive the details by email later on and if you must have a conversation, that too can be arranged at a later date or time.


Tire Prices

Best TiresConsumers really have to be alert when it comes to buying tires and figuring out whether the tire prices they are being quoted are really a good deal or not. Tire companies will have sales on at various times and if you catch one of these sales you can sometimes get a really good deal. You have to know what the normal prices are for the tires that you are looking for to be really able to compare and determine if the deal that is being offered is a good one or not. In other words do your homework and then make a decision using the criteria that fits with your needs.

Tire Prices

Tire Services

In addition, most tire prices may or may not include services such as warranty, road hazard warranties, balancing, nitrogen filled tires, tire rotation, tire checks and top up of nitrogen or air depending on the type of tire you have. If these services are not included, they can be expensive if they have to be paid for separately. For example tire rotation and balancing can start at $15 per tire and go higher in many cases. If this service is included in the price, it can mean a substantial savings for as long as you own the car and have those tires on your car. These are details that the buyer needs to pay attention to in addition to the price of the tire.

Tire Mileage

Tire prices are also based on how many miles the tire is warranted for. Cheaper tires will only last 20,000 miles while more expensive tires will last much longer, upwards of 50,0000 or 60,000 miles. If cash flow is an issue or if you do not plan to keep your car very long, you may want to go with a tire that is warranted for lower mileage and save some money. If you plan to keep your car for some time go with a tire that will last longer. You will need more tire rotations and balancing as a result so this also becomes an important issue for most car owners.

Older Tires

Finally sometimes tire companies have a sale to get rid of older tires. These are tires that have been sitting around literally for a few years and they want to sell them at a discount to get them off their inventory. A tire should not be used if it is more than 7 years old. The rubber begins to deteriorate and will not last very long on your car. You can ask the tire sales person to show you the age of the tire and explain how to tell how old the tire is. Tire prices are complex and have many variables, so do your homework before buying new tires for your car.

Can you imagine driving around on really old tires! It is one thing to travel at city speeds of perhaps 30 miles per hour, but what happens to an old tire when it heats up when driven at highway speeds of 60 miles per hour or even higher. In many of the western states it is not uncommon to see highway and interstate speeds of 75 miles per hour. If your tire blows out at that speed, you could suffer a bad accident if you lose control of your vehicle at those speeds. always check on the age of the tire in addition to all of the other things we mention when considering tire prices.


Hardwood Floors Refinishing

If you are considering hardwood floor refinishing because your floor is beginning to show a lot of wear and tear due to age or just a lot of traffic, take the time to investigate how to complete the job without damaging the floor further. Most hardwood flooring stores will put on seminars for those people who plan to do the job themselves to show them how to sand the floor properly and make any repairs that may be needed. They of course want you to rent their equipment and may even give you a discount if you attended the course. Don’t hesitate to ask for a discount. The worst that can happen is that they say sorry, there is no discount. You got the training for free so you really cannot complain too much.

Remove all Furniture

Start by removing all of the furniture from the room and also all paintings or wall hangings along with any window coverings. There will be lots of dust and there is no use getting these things covered in dust as well. We would also recommend that you seal all doorways to other rooms to prevent as much dust as possible from being distributed to other areas of the house. If your furnace is running for air conditioning or heating, you may also want to block the cold air return vents to keep dust from being sucked into the heating system and also be distributed to the rest of the home.

Hardwood Floors Refinishing

Refinish by Hand

If you are refinishing the floor by hand be prepared to use lots of elbow grease. This will be hard work and you will also reduce the amount of wood that is actually removed from the floor and reduce the total amount of dust that is generated. Always sand in the direction of the grain, never across the grain. There may be gauges or marks that you cannot remove with simple hand sanding. Most professionals will just sand the board down until the defect is no longer present. The problem with this approach is that it removes a great deal of wood and decreases the number of times the floor can be sanded that a floor can tolerate before it must be replaced. If you can tolerate the marks, then we would suggest you leave the marks, clean them out if there is any dirt and then reseal it with whatever coating you are applying to the floor.

Belt Sanders

Belt sanders make a faster job and also are much easier to use than a hand sander. The problem with belt sanders is that they can remove a great deal of wood in a hurry if you are not careful. They also remove more wood when they are used on a floor. Operators need to take care that they only remove what is needed to expose bare wood that can be treated with a coating of stain and protective cover. Some belt sanders will also come with vacuums that can exhaust the dust outside of the home into a dust bag.

This is a huge advantage because the last thing you want is a lot of dust through out your house.  The dust will get into everything all over the home unless you take some precautions such as using a vacuum while the belt sander is running. The vacuum should also be exhausted outside into a bag that is designed to catch the dust to avoid the dust be distributed all over your neighborhood. Most rental companies have this kind of equipment and can show you how to use them if you are doing this work yourself.

Also be prepared to do some hand sanding as well to get at the corners and other hard to reach locations. Be careful to always sand in the direction of the grain and never across the grain of the wood. Other wise you will end up with scratches across the grain which will not look very nice.


Reducing Energy Use

reducing energy useReducing energy use has become a favorite pass time for many people these days with the increasing cost of oil, gasoline, electricity and so on in the news almost all of the time. Every day along with the value of the stock market, the price of oil is quoted to give everyone some idea of where the price of gasoline is headed. When it goes up, not only does gasoline go up, but everything that is remotely related to gasoline goes up as well. If oil is used as a byproduct to make something, to run an engine in shipping or farming as an example, then the prices for goods are going up as well. At the time of writing, oil prices are at $108 and headed higher, which means the price of anything produced with oil is going to increase. Gasoline is over $4.00 a gallon in the US and over $1.30 a liter in Canada. In case you are wondering at $1.30 / liter is equivalent to $5.00 a gallon. They expect prices to go even higher which makes a lot more worth our while to reduce our energy use and save money on the bottom line.

How Can Consumers Reduce Energy Use?

Aside from just using less fuel and less electricity etc, consumers can use less packaging, less plastic bags and on and on to make a contribution to reducing energy. The first step of course is to apply reducing energy use in things you control and directly affect your wallet. This is gasoline you use in your car, electricity you use to do virtually everything in your home and office and fuel for heating your home or running small garden tools around your home. We have written several posts about reducing energy use in this manner on this blog. Consumers can literally save hundreds of dollars a month by cutting back just a bit in their energy use.

Other Ways of Reducing Energy Use

In some cases consumers must take a stand and not purchase products that are energy hogs which will send a message to manufacturers. If you must purchase something, then send a message by buying items that use far less energy in your everyday use. The best example is deciding to purchase a car that gets really great gas mileage vs. one that maybe looks better, has more power but uses a lot of gasoline per mile.

You may not want to pay a premium for a battery operated car or one that is battery assisted, but you can purchase a car that gets in excess of 30 miles to the gallon or higher to reduce your own personal energy use and decrease your overall cost to operate a car. Walking or biking to work is another approach that really has benefits. Not only do you save money, you get some exercise as well which will help in your overall life.

Most appliances are not manufactured with an energy star rating. Purchase those that have the best ratings overall. In fact every time you purchase an electrical device, check out how much energy it uses and if there is something more efficient available. Upgrade your furnace to high efficiency for example. You will save on fuel as well as electricity when you upgrade. Take advantage of incentive programs offered by your local government. Many offer to provide rebates when you upgrade a furnace or air conditioner to a more efficient model. These subsidies can amount to hundred of dollars.

If you have not converted all of your light bulbs from incandescent to either LED or fluorescent bulbs you should do it now. This is actually a quick win in terms of energy use reduction. Look for coupons and incentives to buy these newer bulbs at a discount. You can immediately begin saving money when you install these efficient light bulbs and the payback is relatively short.  You can easily calculate the savings by using some of the calculations on the packaging and applying your current energy rate for electricity that is provided in your state. If you plan to be in your home for a long time, investing in LED lights, which are expensive, can payback as well relatively quick.

Take a few minutes now to review some of our other posts about specific things you can do when reducing energy use in your home and office.


Land lines vs. Mobility Cell phone rates

Mobility Cell phone ratesLiterally thousands of consumers have dumped their land line in favor of just having a cell phone to reduce their costs and to have much more flexibility. We thought we would talk about this approach on this post because it is another way to reduce your overall costs of communications cost and save you money. We still have a land line simply because my wife does not want to give it up. She also has a cell phone as do I and we are paying for both of these services.

Fortunately I have reduced the cost of the land line as much as possible by avoiding any services such as voice mail and calling line ID etc. It still costs us $55 a month including taxes for this land line which is over $650 a year in total costs. This also includes long distance all over North American which is the one redeeming feature of keeping this service.

I also have set up this line so that if a call comes in and we do not answer it, the call is forwarded to my cell phone. The only time I use this home phone land line is if I am at home and sitting beside the phone. Otherwise  I always answer the call on my cell phone. We feel we have the best of a bad situation. The family could save $650 a year in telephone costs if we cancelled this service, but we would then have to pay extra for long distance. We could talk a long time on long distance for $650!

Land lines vs. Mobility Cell phone rates – Long Distance

As far as long distance services are concerned, we would obviously spend more money on long distance on our cell phones, however with Skype, with face time and messaging on the cell phones, our long distance charges could be kept to a minimum. What I really need is a solution to how I can convince my wife to let us disconnect the home phone line and use cell phones only?  In addition to the $650 I pay every year for this phone, the telephone company has informed us that they are raising the charges by another $3.00 a month plus tax. They are really pushing us towards getting rid of this line.

It is getting more expensive to keep a land line and we think the telephone company is trying to push us off their service. So if you have ideas about how to persuade my wife to give up the land line, let me know and it will help save me $700 a year with the latest increase. For those of you who have this situation, consider dropping your land line and using your cell phone exclusively to reduce the cost of your monthly expenses.

If you do not want to answer your phone all of the time, e.g. when you are out with friends or trying to sleep, just turn it off or silence the ringer. You can actually have more privacy this way than you can with a regular land line. When we are out with friends, I usually keep our cell phone on vibrate so that I can make a decision t answer the phone or not. It can be very impolite to answer a phone when you are in the middle of conversation with someone or have it ringing while you are chatting with your friends.

Another reason I want to get rid of this land line is that we also go away for 4 months of the year. Now I am paying for a phone that I cannot use because I am not at home. This seems really silly to me to spend about $220 for something that I do not use at all while I am away. We just do not need this phone. My wife wants us to keep the phone because she prefers to talk on it vs the cell phone. She feels more comfortable with a regular phone cradled on her shoulder than she does holding a small cell phone. She also finds the cell phone too complicated to use as well. I think I am fighting an uphill battle here, so would really like some suggestions on this problem.

 

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Property Portfolio Management

Vacant Home Property ManagementProperty portfolio management must be considered for those organizations who have a large suite of properties to manage. This may consist of several buildings in several cities with each city represented by a property portfolio manager and reporting as a unit on the set of properties they are responsible to manage. On the other hand for large companies managing properties that consist of rental properties for consumers as well as commercial properties, there may be a different organizational approach to managing these properties. The portfolios may be divided commercial, residential apartment, residential homes etc depending on the quantity and the location of these properties. There must also be on site or at least in city property management personal as well to take care of local details.

Property Portfolio Management

Properties can be divided into portfolios that represent types of rental properties. Depending on the size of the company and the amount of specialization that is desired, this could mean the portfolios are divided between commercial and residential for example. Commercial could be further divided by the type of commercial property such as mall or big box type commercial properties vs. office buildings that have predominantly office workers with a small amount of store fronts serving that office building. Each type takes specialized knowledge and skills that will ensure that the properties are run well and the tenants are satisfied with their services.

Residential can be subdivided by single family homes, town homes and apartment style buildings. The type of tenant varies a great deal and the needs of the buildings are very different as well. Note that the property portfolio management approach still requires an onsite property manager to deal with day to day issues and solve immediate tenant concerns and issues, including rental of units and approval of prospective tenants.

It can become much more complex when you have multiple cities involved and a mix of commercial tenants with residential tenants. If a building is predominantly residential with a few commercial stores on the first floor, does the residential property manager look after the commercial tenants or does the commercial property portfolio management team look after them? Turns out the answer is probably yes to both.

Local superintendents will look after the entire building. Commercial property portfolio management will look after all contracts with the commercial companies and the residential property portfolio management will view this lease of the space by commercial customers as just another tenant in their predominantly residential building. Most companies will need to work through these details while ensuring that they provide the best service to their customers and maintaining a profit for the owner.

Online tracking of rents, expenses, work orders etc is further complicated when there are multiple buildings in multiple cities to manage. Senior managers want to be updated each morning with a dashboard they can review that provides them with the current status of all of the issues they are interested in.

These could include rent collection status, delinquent rents, outstanding work orders, value of the work orders in terms of cost and so on. They also want to be able to drill down and examine details on any given report and take the appropriate action on items that they fell should be prioritized.  Data systems to store the data, collate it and present it in a format suitable for these needs must be purchased or designed. Data networks that provide connectivity to these systems from corporate offices as well as remote superintendent locations. Rental managers must be able to have access to rental contracts and systems that will allow them to track tenants as well as report up the line to senior managers. For larger companies they may even have an IT department to manage everything from email, data storage, accounting systems, PC needs, smart phone needs and telephone requirements.

Every rental property management company needs these services, however the size of the company will dictate how sophisticated the IT system will be.


Improve Energy Efficiency

How can home owners improve energy efficiency? And also reduce their energy bills as well? Frankly most consumers probably do not car that much how energy efficient their appliances etc are, they just want a lower monthly bill for their electrical usage and their heating or cooling energy use. The same applies to their car since most people just know what it will cost them to fill up their gas tank in their car and it is getting higher all of the time. In fact everything is going up and it is becoming more important to take advantage of every energy efficient thing you can do to reduce your total cost. In this post we will take a look at a few things that can at least reduce or control how much your energy bills are going to be.

Improve Energy Efficiency Around the Home

The first step is to know what your energy is costing you today and over the past 12 months. If people can see some improvement then they will feel a lot more motivated to control their energy costs and take steps to reduce their overall use of energy. Collect you bills for the past 12 months and add up the total cost of your electrical usage, your heating costs and your cooling costs. Electrical may already include your cooling costs if you use AC to cool your home.

Now that you know what you paid in the past 12 months, the next step is to determine if your utility plans to raise the price at all over the next 12 months. Most utilities try to work in a price increase every 12 months, so you need to be aware of this when you are comparing year over year.

The next step is to look at what you can do to reduce your overall energy usage. There is nothing scientific about this step. It is just being consistent and getting your family to participate and help you. Turn lights off when you are not in the room. Wash and dry clothes when in off peak hours if your electricity is billed in peak and non peak times. Set your air conditioner to do most of it’s work during non-peak times. Set your air conditioner one or two degrees higher on average to further reduce your power usage. The same applies if you need to heat your home in the winter. Set your temperature lower on average and lower when you are not at home. Make use of computer controlled thermostat to heat or cool your home accordingly.

Water usage can be decrease as well if you are careful. You do not want your lawn to die from lack of water, however you can water in the evening to reduce evaporation. You can water specific plants rather than watering everything. Wash dishes in the dishwasher when there is a full load. Apply the same rule to washing clothes in the washing machine. Install efficient toilets and efficient shower heads to further decrease the water use.

Compare your bills and in particular the usage rate for kilowatts used, or Ccf of water and so on along with the total cost to see how much energy and money you are saving. Allow for a few months and then look at the total for a quarter.

Improve Energy Efficiency While You Drive

All those jack rabbit stops and starts really use a lot of gas. So does driving around town and tires that are under pressurized. Your tires and brakes also wear faster as well. Keep your car properly turned up and walk or take the bus when you can instead of driving around the block to the corner store.

Reduce Utility Costs for Water, Cable, Telephone to Save Even More Money

You may not save money from an energy perspective, but consumers can save a great deal of money by negotiating lower rates for these services. Cut back on features or buy your own PVR instead of renting it forever. Sometimes by just talking to the utility and asking if there is a better deal for what you have is all that is needed to save a few dollars a month.

Some people will say that they are not concerned about a few dollars. It is not that much so why should I spend my time on a small amount. Well a few dollars on each utility can add up to a $100 a month or $1200 a year. Now that is worthwhile in my books to look at and consider. We all can do a lot with this kind of money!


Property Management Systems

Property Management SystemsProperty management systems can make a huge difference in terms of both managing multiple properties and providing information to your clients. Information at your finger tips has been the desired approach for some time for most property managers and owners. With property management systems that are available online or on your smart phone, many property managers can now answer questions instantly using their smart phones that are connected to the property management systems online. Access to rental contracts, work orders, setting up tracking lists and much more are not only available to the superintendent, but also to the management team responsible to manage the overall set of property investments. These sorts of applications save a great deal of time which in turn saves money.

Property Management Systems – Server based

These systems have come a long way from the time they were run on local computers using DOS systems. They now run on servers that can be accessed from almost anywhere remotely from systems that are located at the actual rental building on a wireless basis, from home and from smart phones that are carried by the local property manager superintendent. Imagine you have a tenant with a problem in their unit. Not only can you log the problem immediately, provide a status when it is assessed and issue a work order to have the issue dealt with right from your smart phone. When the problem is resolved, it can be reported, pictures taken, transmitted and closed using a smart phone application and all information is available to management and their customers.

Modern property management companies are adopting this software and providing their employees with the latest capabilities to their customers or clients as well. Now they can provide online reports that management has reviewed to their clients as well. This changes the total relationship with the customer and the tenants and makes it much easier to manage all properties.

Dealing with Property Owners

Property managers also must report to their owners and to the investors that have invested in the property that they are managing. This is extremely important if they are to retain contracts, year over year based on relationships with the owners and providing real time summaries and answers to their issues. Providing up to date and accurate information regarding rents collected, expenses during the month and a year to date comparison to the budget are the usual kinds of reports that most investors will look for.

The annual report is also one of the most important documents that is produced by the property manager. It may be subject to an audit and may also provide the information needed by owners to file their income taxes. This information must be accurate and meet all federal tax guidelines otherwise owners could end up paying more tax than they would normally have to pay.

Some condo boards and property owners will request that these reports be audited to satisfy themselves that all transactions are accurate and allocated appropriately. This provides a sense of confidence to the owners and the investors that their assets are being managed properly and that funds are not being used inappropriately. The tax department will also look on claims etc more favorably as well when a year end annual statement has been audited.

Property Management Systems – Tenants

Many people who are living in rented apartments are dissatisfied with the way their buildings are being managed. They may report that some item needs to be repaired and then nothing is done. Not only is it not corrected, there is no record of any report being made. This is typical of the older antiquated systems which do not have online access and paper or someone’s memories can simply be lost or forgotten. With an online system using smart phone access, reports can be completed immediately,  with pictures taken and then the item can be easily tracked.


Tesla 2013 All Electric

Tesla 2013 All ElectricThe Tesla 2013 all electric roadster all electric sports car that does 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds is really a spectacular looking car even if I could only look at it. I did manage to speak to the owner of the car who planned to drive it from Palm Springs California all the way up to Vancouver, Canada. This car is on par with all other sports cars in its range in terms of looks as well as in other areas such as speed and acceleration.

It will go 245 miles per charge and takes 45 minutes to charge on a 240 volt circuit, longer on a 120 volt circuit. The owner was planning his trip much the same way many people would in terms of driving time and routes that he was going to take. However there was one more attribute that he had to take into account that most regular car drivers do not unless they are going through western Texas where there are not many places you can stop for gas. He was planning where he could stop for an electric recharge of his batteries.

Tesla 2013 All Electric – Plan Electric Charging

Between stopping at friends and taking advantage of a fledgling recharging network, he had his route to Vancouver all planned out. He planned to stop at the Tesla dealer to recharge. Dealers now have recharging stations for their customers. If more would adopt this approach, especially the North American car dealers, there would be a network of recharging stations across the country before you know it. Also of a customer or an owner of another competitors car stops at your dealership for a recharge, this provides a great opportunity to get to know the customer and potentially convert them into a buying customer sometime in the future when they need another car.

This is a really fantastic car and owned by a Canadian. I was really surprised that the owner was a Canadian and was driving his car to Vancouver. This is an expensive car and not everyone can afford these types of cars.

Tesla Recalls

Tesla has had two relatively minor recalls for their Model S sports car. The last one was for a bracket that sometimes would allow the rear seat to become loose and be a projectile inside the car. No injuries or even any incidents have been reported, however Tesla is taking no chances. All owners of these cars can either wait for 2 hours while the repair is being made or they can take a loaner car while theirs is being repaired. This is really great customer service, regardless of how much they actually paid for the car.

This particular Tesla all electric car was seen in Palm Springs at the 75th anniversary of the city. They had a number of exhibits commemorating the cities birthday along with a really fantastic fire works display. This was a wonderful evening capped by being able to see this car and speak to its owner about the car. He was obviously very proud of the car and looking forward to driving it home.


Text Message Blast

Text Message BlastMore and more companies are using the feature called Text Message Blast to get information out to their customers and employees quickly and efficiently. Universities are using this feature to get message to their students and faculty to update them on events at the university or the college. If there is some kind of emergency they can warn students and faculty to get inside or stay away from a specific area until the situation is brought under control. They can use the same messaging capability to tell everyone that they can stand down and that the emergency has been cleared. A tool such as text message blast can literally save lives. Find out more about this application.

Text Message Blast

Companies can use text message blast in the same manner for emergencies on their premises in offices and in factories. They can issue emails for detail messages, but not everyone has access to email instantly in the way that text messages are. Text messages are sent directly to a person’s mobile phone which everyone pretty much carries and they will be alerted to the message by a ring tone or alert on their phones. Later emails can be sent to provide them with more detail if needed.

Text message blasts to customers who have expressed an interest in receiving these messages can be a great way of advertising as well. Advising of sales at stores that are coming up is a great way to let your customers know that a sale is going on. Another use is to let them know that a new product or a new line of products has been added which they may be interest in. Customers can decide for themselves if they want to take the time to go online or visit the store to take advantage of these product offers.

Use With Care

But companies have to be careful and use this feature carefully. Too many messages and it starts to irritate the customer and then they stop looking at the text message, preferring to just ignore it. Messages that are not clear are also not useful to a customer or an employee for that matter. In addition text messages should only be sent via a text message blast format to people who have agreed to the service and have signed up for it. There is no better way to irritate a customer than to send unasked for messages advertising your product to them.  These people may not be your target market anyway and if you send them messages, they are just deleting them without reading them.

Give some thought to how you use this powerful tool before you press the send key! Once it the messages are sent there is no taking them back even if there is a spelling error or the message is not clear. Proofread it several times before you send it.


Wood Flooring Installation

Hardwood Floor InstallersPlanning a new hardwood floor is part figuring out which type of hardwood to install and what color to install in your home and then who to install the floor! Most people spend a lot of time on the type of hardwood and the color because they want the end result to look really nice of course and create the right look and atmosphere in their home and match it with their existing furniture. For most consumers this is the tough part and they give little consideration to the actual installation. They assume that the installer knows his business and will do a good job completing the installation. Sometimes the store were you purchase the hardwood will recommend an installer that they like to deal with. This is probably your best choice since he is associated with the store and you can take advantage of this relationship if there is any kind of problem with the installation itself.

Consumers may want to learn more about the installation so that they can save themselves some money and also ensure that they are totally happy with the installation when it is completed. For example the biggest complaint that many people have after their floor is installed is about the squeaks the floor makes when you walk across it. As the floor dries out the floor will move a little bit and gaps sometimes form. When a person walks across the floor, the wood will move and make that squeaking noise that can be irritating to some and add character for others. There are methods consumers can use to minimize the squeaks.

Wood Flooring Installation – Eliminate Squeaking Floors

You can never reduce or eliminate all of the squeaking, but you can certainly reduce the amount of squeaking if you take appropriate steps to make sure that the sub floor is strong enough to support the wood floor that is being installed and that the sub floor is securely nailed to the joists below. For example your sub floor should be at least 5/8 inches in thickness to support the hardwood floor and also hold the nails that will be used to nail the wood floor to it. Assuming that the thickness is sufficient, consumers should make sure that the sub floor is nailed to the joists securely with a nail every 12 inches to make sure there is no opportunity for the sub floor to move.

If your sub floor is not sufficient thickness, you may have to add additional sub floor and nail it to the existing sub floor. Adding an additional sub floor layer and then the hardwood floor on top of that adds additional height to the floor which can be a problem when matching to other floors in other rooms. Consumers should take this into account when they are making their decisions and discuss these requirements with the hardwood flooring stores. There are products that can be purchased that will bridge between floors and gradually slope from one floor to the other to provide a more gradual interface instead of an abrupt step from one floor to another.

Discuss How the Floor Will be Laid Out with the Installer

Discuss this issue and others with your flooring provider before you arrange for hardwood flooring installation. Also before the installer begins his installation, discuss how he plans to lay the floor out. A key decision is for the grain of the wood or the planks of the wood to be lain across the joists in the floor rather than in the same direction of the joists.  You may have to confirm by looking in the basement to see which direction they are running. Also the boards should run the length of the hall rather than across a hall. This makes the room look larger when viewed from the beginning or entry point into the hall.

All of the above items that were discussed  are easy to control and implement. It can make a huge difference in your long-term enjoyment of your new hardwood floor. For more information about installing hardwood floors, click here.


Always Ask for Discounts

Always Ask for DiscountsThe motto of this post is always, “Always Ask for Discounts”. The worst that will happen is that the person will say no, they even may apologize for not being able to offer a discount! But in most situations, if the person you are dealing with can offer a discount or at least something, they will.

Discount for an Oil Change

This morning I took my car in go get the oil changed. This includes the oil change, a full 100 point check of the car and a car wash for $41. This by itself is not a bad deal compared to what I normally have to pay. We pay over $50 in Canada and we do not get the car wash or the 100 point check, so at $41 this is a really good deal.

I asked if there was a discount for seniors or triple A. He said he was sorry, there were no discounts for these but he could offer me $10 off bringing the price down to $31! Now that is what I call good service that inspires loyalty and saves me money at the same time. It also demonstrates another way to save money. Always ask for a discount!

The person I was dealing with did not have to meet my request. He could have said no and although perhaps a bit disappointed, I still would have been satisfied with the service and the price. I get to wait in a nice air conditioned reception area and they also provided free coffee as well. But the fact that he offered a discount was really the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Ask for a Discount at MacDonald’s

Another example and this applies to seniors. If you are a senior, always ask for a senior discount. At MacDonald’s for example, if you are buying a coffee, you can ask for a senior coffee and they will be happy to oblige you. The coffee is a small cup and is always discounted for seniors. They provide free refills on their coffee as well so having coffee is an even better deal. The funny thing about MacDonald’s is that the price varies across provinces and states. I have paid as much as $.98 for a senior coffee and as low as $.38 for a coffee. It is always less than the regular price, but some locations are really inexpensive.

Always Ask for Discounts – How Much Money can you Save

It obviously depends on your spending habits, but let’s say you save $10 a week by always asking for discount when you make a purchase. If you save $10 a week that adds up to $520 a year. What can you do with $540? A lot is the answer and you might just save a great deal more than that on some deals, which pushes your average way up.

Some people suggest that you not worry about the small stuff and focus on the big deals to save a lot of money. Yes, you can save a lot on large deals, buying a car for example and getting a discount etc on the price. But industry has figured out that it is the small transactions that have really made the cash flow issue for them. The banks nickel and dime you with every transaction. The coffee shops increase their price by a couple of cents and make millions. Same with the restaurants. Any transaction you make a lot of is also where you should focus. Don’t forget the large ones but also focus on the small daily cash flow as well for discounts.

For example at Starbucks, if you have a registered Starbucks card, you can refill your coffee for free. In addition after 12 coffees, you can have any drink of your choice at Starbucks. That’s a good deal and although Starbucks is an expensive place for fancy drinks it is on par with most other places for good coffee. If for example you have a refill 50% of the time and get your free drink, your coffee is working out to less than a dollar on average at Starbucks. Pretty good deal and this is one of the best discounts for coffee next to MacDonald’s.

As we said our motto is “always ask for a discount”?


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