Friday, January 26, 2007

SWA Strategies

I hate Southwest Airlines. In the past 15 years, I've probably taken 300 flights on Southwest. I have had the Companion Pass (which allows a person you designate to fly with you free on any Southwest flight for a year) 3 separate years. Now that I'm commuting between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I'm forced once again to fly Southwest. Over the years, I've come up with several strategies for dealing with flying on Southwest which I'll share with all of you.
  1. Check in online 24 hours in advance. You MUST do this so that you get to board in the A priority line. Failure to do so almost always guarantees a middle seat between two very large and smelly people.
  2. Don't just take the first available aisle seat. Go down a few rows because there are always people who just HAVE to sit in the first few rows even if it means sitting in the middle seat instead of going to the back where it's half empty.
  3. If the window seat is open, look for a fat guy coming down the aisle and try to intice him to sit in your row.
  4. Put a bunch of papers and clothes on the middle seat.
  5. Remove your shoes. For full effect, remove your socks as well. Cross your legs and have your foot dangling on the middle seat. While not exactly barging an extra seat, most people would rather sit next to the tattoo and dreadlock guy than your smelly foot.
  6. Take a tissue out and blow your noise constantly.
  7. Clutch a barf bang.
  8. If someone still insists on taking the middle seat next to you, fumble around clumsily until the person finally just gives up and moves on.

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know....

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Government Regulation Done Right

California just banned a toxic solvent commonly used in dry cleaning called perchloroethylene. The ban is to take effect by 2023 with some intermediary steps in between. Apparently, some people against the ban say that it will be harmful to small business owners who can't afford the more-expensive non-toxic alternative. This argument is just wrong. This regulation effects everyone in the industry and as such the entire supply curve will shift together, maintaining the relative positioning of everyone in the market. While dry cleaners may need to purchase new equipment, the fact that nearly every player in the industry faces this requirement means the costs can easily be passed to the customer. Since there is no real alternative to dry cleaning, demand shouldn't change. The bottom line is no dry cleaner should suffer as a result of this new regulation and everyone gains from the elimination of the toxic chemical.

The only people who should be upset are those who do a lot of dry cleaning. However, more expensive dry cleaning is basically a consumption tax and I'm all for consumption taxes, even when it hurts me personally. That being said, I'm already using a dry cleaner who uses the non-toxic stuff and I didn't need to watch Al Gore's propoganda to convince me to do so!

Thoughts on Successful Businesses

For the past few years, I've been thinking about a concise definition (or indicator) of successful businesses and I think I've narrowed the list down to two:

Successful Business, noun:
  1. an entity that has the ability to charge its customers a premium to comparable goods or services for no apparent reason.
  2. an entity that changes the way a vast majority of people live their lives.

The first definition includes companies such as Evian and Starbucks. It excludes fashion companies with no functional differences but discernable stylistic ones such as BMW, Mercedes, Nike, and so on. The key is to be able to charge more for the same amount of effort/value-add. Fashion companies arguably spend a great deal on superior branding and product development which warrent the premium. This definition acknowledges those companies who are able to get more for nothing.

The second definiton applies to companies such as Ford, RCA, and McDonnald's who respectively changed where people lived, what they did in their leisure time, and how quickly they ate their meals. These companies had an incredible amount of impact on the lives of many, many people.

Admittedly, my examples for the first definition are weak and the ones for the second definition are old. If you can think of any companies that fit my description or if you have a beter definition, please let me know.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Roulette Strategery

So I was in the elevator this morning when I overheard some guy trying to teach these two strangers what I can only describe as "Roulette Strategery". This idiot actually believed he had a "system" for beating roulette! He told the couple, "Just watch the numbers and when you see that 0 and 00 haven't come up in a while, bet both of those numbers. I guarantee O or OO will come up."

I wanted to ask the guy if he was one of the secret marketing employees some casinos hire to empart bad gambling advice to strangers. Just kidding, by the way.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hurray for the Democrats!

I just read a news article about rolling back the oil subsidies. As a firm believer in free market economics, I applaud any effort to reduce subsidies. Now some people may say that this measure will increase the price of gasoline to the consumer. While this statement is probably true, what the critics seem to be forgetting is that removing the subsidy should refund even more than that amount back to tax payers (subsidy amount plus administrative cost of running the subsidy). The winners should be the people in the highest tax bracket (who should get a disproportional share of the tax refund since they paid a disproportional share of the original taxes that provided the subsidy) and people who don't use a lot of gas. For full disclaimer, I'm currently in the latter category and hope to be in the former category one of these days. All this being said, I doubt the Democrats are going to issue tax refunds with the savings but that's a different argument altogether.

Oh yeah, the environmentalist in all of us also wins.

In general, I against government subsidies when there's no reason to believe a free market wouldn't provide effient results (click here to read my thoughts on stem cell research). Stay tuned for my blasting of, and subsequent support for, "free" public education....

Chappell Defending W's Iraq Strategery

Well, sort of. You decide....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Musings on The Price is Right

One of the TVs in the employee dining room had on The Price is Right this morning. One nuance of the show is that you get heavily penalized for overestimating the price of items. For example, you can't get passed the initial round or win the final showcase showdown if you've guessed over the actual retail value. I started wondering why they had this rule.

My first thought was to avoid a tie. If the value is $2 and one person guesses $1 and the other guesses $3, they'd both be off by exactly $1. However, this situation would be very rare and they could just stipulate that the in the event of a tie, the contestant with the lower (or higher) guess would be declared the winner.

My next thought has to do with anchoring and adjustment heuristic. Basically, if players have incentive to underestimate the value of the prizes, they will always be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. You wouldn't want someone guessing his or her final showcase is valued at $25,000 to then "win" a prize valued at only $10,000. It makes the prizes seem bigger and better than they are.

This theory seemed plausable enough and I couldn't find any holes in the logic, so I stopped considering other options and starting thinking about why the heck Bob Barker hasn't retired already....

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Who is Obama?

Can somebody tell me why Barack Obama is so popular? It's not that I dislike the guy; it's that I don't even know what he's all about and have yet to meet anyone who does. From what I can tell, he's popular because people say he's popular. So please, if you're an Obama fan, let me know why.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Random Vegas Airport Newsstand Thought

So I'm at the Vegas airport last Friday night after a VERY long week at work. I just finished with the book I had been reading and was looking for a magazine for the flight home when it suddenly dawned on me: Someone should come out with a nuddie magazine with a non-descript name and cover. I spend an awful lot of time in airport newsstands and from the plethora of choices, I can only assume that nuddie magazines are good business. That being said, I'd bet there are a lot of people who would buy the occasional porn mag but are too embarrassed by the magazine names and cover images to do so. Why not publish a magazine that has a serious-looking cover and name (e.g. "Asset Review") to capture this market?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Football in Los Angeles

Who says there's no football in LA? Does anyone want to go to a LA Galaxy game this year?

Details are still coming in but from what I've seen, it looks like Beckham's contract dwarfs A-Rod's deal: $250 million for 5 years. That's almost money than the average hedge fund manager makes!

And in case you didn't read the fine print, I think the most interesting detail is identity of the man who put the deal together: Simon Fuller.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Better Than White Castle!

In case I negelected to tell you, I'm now working in a Las Vegas casino. All casinos apparently have employee dining rooms where the employees can eat for free. From what I hear tell, the food is actually very good at most of these places. I can only speak to the dining room here and it is indeed quite good.

So I went in this morning to grab some breakfast and lo and behold they had steamed BBQ pork buns! Good thing my friend Jenkins doesn't work here or else there may have been a brawl in the dining room.

They had started setting up for lunch and they had some baked salmon I'm going to be thinking about for the next 2 hours or so....

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Where did THAT month go?

In case you haven't guessed, I've been COMPLETELY swamped! The brief update is that I'm now working in Vegas 5 days a week. Drop me a line if you're going to be in town!

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