This past week I have had some of my favorite customer service experiences.

First, we have the cashier at the grocery store that is too busy text messaging to ring up my purchases. I actually experience this problem all the time. From cashiers to grocery baggers – they are all too busy text messaging to do their job. When this happens I stop and wonder how these people keep their jobs. I mean, I am certain that there are people that would like to have their jobs, so how do they keep them? And what is so important that it cannot wait until they are done ringing up my purchases or bagging my groceries?

Then there was the guy at Kinko’s that helped the person in line behind me because that person wanted to pay for some copies and I was there to FedEx a package. I have had this sort of thing happen in retail stores before when I have been making a return as well. The idiot at the register wants to help the person that is easiest for them first. What do they think will happen – that I will disappear just because they skipped me? No. It doesn’t work that way. It just makes me mad and then I get rude. The person in line behind me can wait. I waited to get to the front of the line too. And the time of the person behind me is not worth any more than mine.

And finally, the cashier at order pickup desk at Best Buy that stopped helping me to answer the phone and help that person. I never understand this when it happens. Guess what, I am right in front of you. Why would you leave the person in front of you waiting to help someone that didn’t even have the motivation to come into the store. Obviously I am a more valuable customer since I am in the store making a purchase instead of calling you about something. It’s just like the scenario above – all you are accomplishing is making me mad because you are forcing me to wait. Sure, I get that a ringing phone is annoying. Here’s an idea – answer it and immediately ask them to hold. When I call a store for something I expect them to be busy with customers. I don’t get mad when they put me on hold.

Clearly I have some issues with being impatient, but I also have expectations for customer service. Is it too much to ask for these days to get good customer service?

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Since I am working on paying off debt and increasing my net worth, I have been looking for summer vacation ideas that don’t really require me to leave home. I used to make fun of the “staycation” term, while I was putting vacations I could not afford on credit cards. So, I’ve managed to come up with a few ideas that you might be able to do in your town or city. I’ve got ideas for people who live near a body of water and those who don’t. Hopefully, you’ll end up having a pretty great summer with some of these activities – I know that I’m already having a blast and I’ve spent hardly any money!

Outdoor patio games

When I was growing up, we had a badminton net out in the backyard that was a lot of fun. But now that I am living in Phoenix, I don’t want to be running around and working up a sweat when it is over 100 degrees outside. But at the same time, I want to be outside. The solution? Outdoor gaming tables! Sure, they have kind of high price tags to begin with, but you can get a lot of years of use out them, so it ends up pretty cheap for the lifetime use cost. I’m talking about outdoor ping pong tables like these and outdoor foosball tables like these. Pretty nifty, huh?

Visit a local water park or theme park

Most places in the U.S. have a water park or theme park not too far from them. When I lived in Dallas, there was a Six Flags in the city and a water park, so that was pretty cool. And out in Vegas there is also a park. So whether you live some place super hot like Phoenix or more mild, you can still have fun at a theme park or water park. And often these places have discounts for local residents or watch for when the soda cans have the discount coupon on them.

Check out local museums

I know what you’re thinking – groan, right? Well, hear me out for a moment. Museums are usually cheap and take a few hours to go through. Plus, some of them are really fun, like science museums. Depending on where you live, the local museums may also offer a discount for locals. Another thing to look into is getting a membership to the museum if you really like it. This way you can  go back as many times as you want in the next 12 months and it will be so cheap per visit.

Hit the water

Not all of us are lucky enough to live by the beach, but you don’t need a beach to have fun on the water. If there are local pools, then you can get a membership and spend a lot of time cooling off there. If there is a nice lake or river nearby, then you could do some fishing if that interests you, or buy yourself a cheap inflatable kayak or inflatable stand up paddle board so that the only cost will be driving to the lake or river. Plus, if you do something like paddle boarding or kayaking, you will get in some free exercise.

Those are my top ideas for fun summer staycation activities. Hope you enjoy!

As I have mentioned before I have some credit card debt that I am trying to give the smackdown to and I have recently found myself unemployed. When you put those two things together, what do you get? Me getting rid of junk around my apartment by selling it on eBay.

Okay, so it is not exactly junk but more stuff that I do not need. And it is mostly stuff that I charged on those credit cards.

Anyways, I  really hate selling things on eBay. I tend to go through an eBay cycle that goes a little something like this…

  • I put a bunch of stuff on eBay
  • People email me with stupid questions about my listings
  • I grumble about people’s stupidity as I answer their questions
  • People buy my stuff
  • I am then bombarded with even more stupid questions
  • I grumble
  • I ship people their stuff
  • They get their stuff and send me more stupid questions because apparently they never looked at the photos on the auction or read the info on the auction
  • People want their money back because they couldn’t read
  • I get angry and vow to never use eBay again
  • Months pass and I forget why I stopped selling stuff on eBay
  • grumble and repeat above steps

So, I put a couple of things up on eBay last week. Amazingly there were no stupid questions during the auction period. The auctions ended over the weekend. That is when the real fun began.

One of the auctions was won by someone in Norway that doesn’t realize that it is not cheap to ship something that weighs a little over a pound from the US to Norway.  No, this person wants to pay around $5 instead of the $20-ish it will cost.

The other auction was paid for almost immediately by the winning bidder – at 6pm on Saturday. Yesterday I get an angry ALL CAPS email from this person wanting to know why I have not sent them their tracking number. They suggest that I am scamming them and so on. This is humorous for two reasons.

  1. My feedback is 98.7% positive with a rating of almost 500.
  2. Clearly the post office was closed when he paid. It was closed yesterday and it is closed today.

When I get emails like this from winning bidders it takes a lot of restraint to not write back an email that begins “Dear idiot…” Then my other half reminds me that there is no reasoning with stupid people. And I suddenly remember why I stopped selling things on eBay.

Only the stupid people find my auctions on eBay!

Criticizing people is something that we all have do it. It can be at work or at home or even with friends. Thing about criticizing people though is that it has to be done carefully because people’s feelings get hurt. I do not think that there is any real way to avoid that as it is just part of human nature to get hurt when we get criticized. The key though is to criticize in a manner that does not leave the other person angry at you. You expect them to feel a bit hurt but you definitely do not want to get them mad at you!

If you can criticize effectively then you will not need to worry about someone getting mad.

A good thing to remember is to always to to bookend your criticism with compliments. That way you will not be thought of as a bringer of negativity.

Also remember what you are criticizing and direct your thoughts to that and not to the person. Remember you are criticizing an action, or inaction, and not the person.

Do not be rude when you are delivering your criticism. If you do so in a condescending or a snarky type of tone then you are going to get nowhere fast. And the person you are talking to is going to get really angry really fast.

Do not be vague. Instead of saying “I don’t like how you have been acting lately” make some specific observation such as “I don’t like how you have been so rude and snippy with your co-workers.” And be even more specific than that if you can!

You do not need an audience. If you have a criticism for one person but are in a group with that person it is best to wait. There is no need to share the criticisms of one person with people that are not directly involved. It will just make that person feel even worse.

Don’t place blame. Choose your words carefully to avoid placing blame. Offer to help if you can.

Don’t rush into criticism. You don’t want it to seem like an attack, so when you feel the overwhelming urge to criticize – wait. Let your thoughts marinate. Then you will avoid an emotional explosion.

I hate getting hit up for money at work.

I have only been at this job for about a month. My first week there I was hit up for money for United Way. If I want to wear jeans at work I have to pay $1.00 per day for that “privilege” and the money is for United Way. Screw that I say.

First, I am not paying just to be able to wear what I am most comfortable in. If a company is too stupid to realize that I would get more done if I was more comfortable then it is their loss. Second, why would I want to give money to my company so that they can donate it in their name and then get heralded as such a giver to the community for their generous contribution to United Way? Third, why don’t I get to choose who the money goes to? Even better, let’s knock out the middleman and let me just bring you in a receipt of where I gave money to my charity of choice.

And then when you don’t give your money away you have your co-workers and such treating you like crap because they think you are just a stingy wanker about it all. Or they do something to try to make you feel like crap like letting everyone that contributed have a pizza party …. or they get to wear jeans. The point is that it becomes obvious who did and who did not give, and then you get the people that did give doing that whole “holier than thou” routine to the people that did not give.

Anyways, last week I was hit up for money at work. On Wednesday I arrived at work to see a present on my desk and all of my co-workers. My boss had given everyone $25 restaurant gift cards for Christmas. That afternoon one of my co-workers goes around telling everyone that money is being taken up and on Friday they are going to buy a gift card for the boss for Christmas. Clearly, there was no intention here of buying the boss anything at all until the boss gave them something. Guess they didn’t want it to be in bad taste if they did not turn around and give her something. And I won’t even go into how annoyed I was that they just assumed that I celebrated Christmas.

So, as you know from my mentioning how I make free iced tea at work with the hot tea station and the ice machine, then you probably know that I was not too interested in giving money for the boss. First, I am so totally focused on debt reduction it is almost crazy. Second, I am not really all that fond of the boss. Remember, she held me hostage last week for mucho hours of work. Third, if I wanted to give the boss a present then I would go out and get something myself. And I wasn’t going to give just because reciprocal gifting has become expected the societal norm.

I give when I want to and I don’t wait for a holiday as an excuse to give. When I see something that makes me think of someone else – that is when I give. I feel like it has more meaning than just “oh, it’s Christmas, here is your annual gift from me.”

On Friday, the gift money collection calvary started making their rounds in my department around 10 am. They get to my desk and tell me that they are taking up money for the gift card for the boss — here is the best part — and she actually said to me, “everyone has been giving $15 to $20, so how much do you want me to put you down for?” I almost choked on my gum. See, I try to put a $20 cap on gifts for people that I actually love and care about. So, I decided to secure my place as the office leper.

“I’ll have to pass this time,” is what I told her.

Well, you would have thought that I had spit in her face.  And the rest of the afternoon involved everyone playing their part in the “holier than thou” production that was going on in my department.

I am a big fan of the holidays.

Big feasts, time with family and friends, time off from work, less rush hour traffic due to people taking time off work – what is there not to love about the holidays?  And let us not forget the presents.

Getting presents from people is always a fun time, but I find that I have more fun trying to pick out something for someone else instead of getting gifts from that person.

One of the things that I hate about the holiday season is gift giving. It’s not that I hate giving people gifts, but that I hate the reason that a lot of people give gifts.

I was talking to my mother on the phone yesterday and she was on her way out to the mall. She told me how one of her co-workers had given her a gift and that now she had to go to the mall to pick up something for said co-worker.

Giving someone a gift just because they gave you one is not the reason to give a gift. Unfortunately a lot of people see it as that.

My mother told me that it would look bad and “be in bad taste” to not show up with a gift for the co-worker after being given a gift by said co-worker. Personally, I think it is in bad taste that her only motivation to gift this person with anything at all was because of being given something.

Then my mother went on to tell me how she had gotten her mother (my granny) a gift card but was only going to give it to her if she showed up at the house on Christmas day. What is that?!? She had enough motivation and initiative to buy something but does not want to make any real effort to give it away? Clearly this is another of those “in bad taste” moments.

On a side note, do you ever look at your parents and wonder, “How did I come from that?” and “How can I be so different from them?”

I am one of the most impatient people that I know.

I tell myself that I am impatient because I hate wasting time. And I do. But I know that I need to learn to be more patient because most of the time I just end up frustrated due to impatience.

Trying to be more patient is not something that can be accomplished overnight though.

And being patient is really a big part of personal development. As I work more and more with personal development principles I have discovered that my impatience usually leads to me spending a lot of time running place, so to speak.

I have no sage words of wisdom to offer up on how to have more patience. What I can tell you is that working to have more patience takes time. And once you start working towards it you will notice that your stress levels are down and your general mood is a bit better. And it is nice to not have that ‘rushed’ feeling so much.

Even Shakespeare wrote in Othello, “How poor are they that have not patience!”

There are numerous reasons to save for retirement, although they are not all obvious.

Once you retire, it is hard to obtain a full time job and keep yourself financially stable. Medical reasons can be a reason to retire and the cost of living is increasing year on year so it is hard to support yourself. Even the most frugalof retirements can set you back a little bit.

Although medical advances have increased the amount of life you will lead, they also have the implication that you will need to fund yourself during this period.

Compound Interest- Friend or Foe?

In debt, compound interest can work against you although in saving it can be your friend. The more you have in your Roth IRA, the more interest that you accrue, as things can be compounded. It makes sense to start saving earlier for retirement so that you can earn more money.

The argument for Debt Payoff

Debt costs a significant amount of money. Debt can stop you from moving to the next phase of your life and progressing to where you want to be in life. Paying off debt can give you some increased freedom.

Whatever manner you choose to pay your debt off, you need to pay in excessof the minimum payments so that you can keep making progress and pay your debt off at an accelerated rate.

However, if you are living in anticipation of your next paycheck then it can be quite difficult to pay your debt off. Even if you are not in this situation, then it can be quite hard to pay debt off particularly if it is compounding and there is not much you can do about that. You need to have the dedication and discipline to donate any extra money that you have to paying debts off and then everything will be ok.

The Balance

It is possible to strike a balance between paying debt off and saving for retirement. You don’t have to go for one or the other, it is entirely possible to do both. Ceasing accruing debt is the first step to a healthier financial future as is setting achieveable targets.

An alternative method of striking a balance is utilising the retirement resources which are at your disposal already such as a 401 (k) employer match. If your employer matches your contributions this gives you a chance to double your retirement funds and keep things ticking along quite nicely.

As you sit there, you know that sometimes it pays just to get away from the world and focus on something else. Focus on your growth and remove all the stress in your life. Now, take a breath and just imagine how it feels.

Do it. Throw all your negative thoughts away just for a minute. Experience the power you can gain from just stepping out of the rush and taking the time to go to the place you want to be. Smile.

This is what this little meditation and visualization technique is all about. It’s just a little tool in your belt to fight against the constant rush of the modern world and to keep you focused on what counts. Your goals and the feelings and power associated with them.

  1. Take a goal you want to focus on and imagine what you could do if you had it. For example if you are after wealth, picture going into the most expensive restaurant in town and not caring about the price.This is your picture. (If it helps draw out this picture beforehand).
  2. Make sure you are somewhere where you won’t be disturbed.
  3. Sit in a comfortable and upright posture and close your eyes.
  4. Take 3 deep breaths, slowly breathing in, holding, letting go.
  5. Focus on the thoughts in your mind. Take each one, acknowledge it and tell it you will attend to it in 5 minutes time.
  6. Keep going until your mind is clear.
  7. Take 10 breaths, focusing on the air going in and out. Focus on the rhythm.
  8. Now take that picture of your goal. Visualize it ( if you need help with this take a look at this exercise for you imagination). Feel it. Be part of it and enjoy the experience.
  9. Smile and say thank you to yourself and the world. You are done.

As with any kind of meditation or visualization, the benefits come through doing it regularly and repeatedly. Take self improvement one step at a time. Success needn’t be difficult. The natural power of meditation and visualization is way beyond the simplicity of this exercise.

Your Task

Just take 5 minutes to escape everyday and make sure you focus on something you want. Remember to say thank you.

A lot of self help uses stuff requiring visualization, which if you aren’t a visual kind of person can be very difficult. Simply put, by learning to improve your visualization, you can in turn help improve your life. Just try these exercises now to give yourself the chance to start truly using your imagination for your ultimate enjoyment and unlimited benefit.

Is it really possible to improve my visualization?

Simply put… yes!! I stumbled upon a great way to practice using your imagination when I was reading through a book on memory improvement. When training your memory to be effective, a lot of the techniques involve using visualization and so the exercises involved are naturally good at getting you used to and practicing vivid visualization techniques.

There are some important things to bear in mind when making these images in your head:

  • They should involve movement
  • They should be extreme (for the sake of effective memory and this visualization exercise)
  • You should use all your senses to give yourself the full picture (smell it, hear it, see it, feel it, taste it)

In memory, the use of pegs to remember something is very common. This simple method just pegs what you want to know to something you already know. In order to remember the new stuff you simple have to remember what you already know. It is incredibly simple and incredibly powerful.

So lets take a look at how you might do this and how you can use this exercise to power up your imagination.

  • Step 1 is to take 4 rooms in your house (for me I chose my bedroom, lounge, kitchen & bathroom)
  • Step 2 is to then take 5 things in each room as you would naturally find them as you walk around the room (for example, I chose: bedroom – bed, light, cot, closet, vacuum. Lounge – TV, stereo, bookshelf, picture frame, laptop. Kitchen – toaster, kettle, table, fridge, sink. Bathroom – toilet, razor, towels, mirror, shower)
  • Step 3 is to start to peg stuff… let me show you how now…

So here is a list of 20 words off the top of my head that we are going to try and peg to these objects in order to practice our visualization:

orange, car, pineapple, notebook, George Bush, pencil, telephone, school, paper clip, book, tomato, cloud, tree, light switch, money, football, chainsaw, coffee, battery, cow.

Take the first one, in my case I have a bed + orange. Next you just need to use your imagination to combine them in some way so they get joined together. At this stage, get extreme, it’s much more fun and makes it miles more memorable. As I said, you need to use all your senses and add strong movements and emotion as well.

So for example I will take my bed and turn it into a bed made from oranges. Then I will add in a bit of lateral jogging for fun and the oranges begin to burst. I can feel them pressing against my skin. I can smell that smell of oranges in my nostrils. It’s implanted in my head.

OK, now take the next one, you can use mine (light + car) or your own if you want.

Here, I have just taken the image of a car made from lightbulbs. Then it starts to break up as I drive it, leaving glass splattering everywhere. I can hear the glass breaking with the car crumbling beneath me. I can see the shattered glass left everywhere down the road.

I take the next one, cot + pineapple.

I imagine a hungry cot which I have to feed pineapples to. It takes them in whole in one big crunch. Listen to it. Crunch.

Are you getting the idea now? Try the next one and let your imagination run wild. If you want to use my examples just take a notebook and closet. Let’s see what you can come up with. Don’t look beyond this picture until you’ve tried it.

Now, what did you get?

I pictured my self sorting through my closet to find the notebook I wanted. Looking for that important memo. I could feel the notebooks and here the sound as I shifted them about.

Ok. One more. We have a vacuum and George Bush. Take the two things and make it extreme. See if you can make me laugh. Add movement and feel whats happening. Smell it. Live it. Be it.

What did you get?

I had a picture of George Bush in just his underpants, vacuuming the oval office. Guess my imagination ran wild :D

Anyway, you can get the idea now and continue until you have done the entire list. Make the images as strong, dramatic and powerful as you can. Your imagination will gradually grow stronger and more vivid with every time you practice this. You will begin to notice changes as you start to use it in all aspects of your life.

You also have the added bonus, you have also just memorized a random list of 20 objects! That’s how easy it is to make huge and lasting changes. Just believe it and act now.

Please check out some more of this site and come back tomorrow for a follow up post to see how you can use your visualizations effectively.