Several years ago, the started a little sidebar called"Tricks of the Trade" offering insightsfrom experts in various niches. The ideawas to offer practical how-to informationon saving or making money or gettingthings done in a clever manner. Keepingin mind that one person's "aha!" isanother person's "duh!" Let's present afew ideas from various sources and see ifany of these can improve the quality ofsomebody's life. And if you know of agood one that I can share, please let meknow—I need all the help that I can get.
•The best time to buy an airlineticket is 1 AM on a Wednesday becauseairlines adjust their prices just aftermidnight. And the best time to travelis in "shoulder season," which is Maythrough June or September throughOctober. During these months, crowdshave diminished, prices are down, andthe weather is mild.
•The best time to buy goods is inJanuary during the after-Christmassales. It takes discipline to wait, butthings like men's clothing and shoestypically have but two sales per year(the other being in July).
•You might be able to get yourproperty tax bill reduced if you can documentwith photographs, records, andmeasurements that either the assessor'soffice overstated what is actually on yourproperty or that, in a rush to increasereceipts to a pinched government in atime of escalating realty values, an over-exuberantvaluation was foisted uponyou. Homework pays off when you aredealing with a bureaucracy.
•If you mark your baggage "fragile"when flying, it will go on top of the baggageheap. That means it comes off firstand you are out of the airport a lotfaster. If not, at least more care will betaken with your beaten-up possessions.
•If you get poor service of any kind,don't grumble or chew out the poorclerk. Immediately, and politely, speak tothe highest individual on the food chainthat you can access. Calmly explain whathappened, how you were disadvantaged,and ask how the organization isgoing to make you feel better. If nothingis offered other than an apology, be preparedwith a suggestion—a refund, acredit, an upgrade, whatever. You willoften be happily surprised, because managementknows that disgruntlementamong customers is infectious.
•Change your phone carrier andyour credit cards. Or even easier, call upeach business office and tell them youare going to change unless they giveyou a better deal. Both of these businessesare changing so fast that almostcertainly whatever plan you have is notthe best you can do, by far. I recently got a promotion in the mailthat offered me two tickets to Europe toentice me to switch credit cards. I didn't,because I read the small print, but youget the idea.
•According to Anthony Bourdain,the chef who wrote (Harper Perennial; 2001), never order fishin a restaurant on a Monday, mussels anywhereyou don't know the chef, and anyprepared dish at a brunch (aka, "get ridof leftovers day"). Also, for you well-donesteak lovers, aside from the carcinogens,keep in mind that you will not get yourcut from the regular array but from theskanky "hold for well-done" pile.
It's a testament to how complicatedmodern life is that we have to gleanstuff like this to get through our day ingood order. So, and keepfighting the good fight.
practicing physician who is a
partner on the Stanford University
Graduate School of
Business Alumni Consulting
Team. He welcomes questions
or comments at email@example.com.
Jeff Brown, MD, CPE,