October 4, 2012

The Singing Cerveza Salesman

Everyone needs work. Humans are inherently happier when they are busier.

This semester, I am studying in Valencia, Spain on a world-wide collegiate program called "European Project Semester."

I have been keeping a moleskin journal on some of the experiences which may be unveiled in the months to come on Frugal Son.

The initial phase of the project semester has been simple, yet difficult as students from Holland, Sweden, India, Germany, and many more are suddenly given a language barrier to work around and a large team project to complete.

Several ideas were presented including a project to construct an ecological, green friendly outdoor theatre on the University grounds, a new product line of toys for children, work on improving the micro-brewing process, an ever-growing industry, and many more.

The project I chose involves working with Torrecid, a frit and glaze company known for it's innovation and customer service. Our team is slated to do research into the new markets they are trying to emerge in: North Africa, India, and China. At the same time, we are going to help them change their logo and if it is economically feasible to do so.

Spain is undergoing hard economic times as the European Sovereign Debt Crisis is in full-swing. From a financial standpoint I have never lived in such a scary situation. Before the trip here, I was told the best option would be to set up a bank account. Now, I'm glad I didn't ( http://m.spiegel.de/international/europe/a-859235.html#spRedirectedFrom=www)

The unemployment rate is incredibly high here (I have my own ponderings and musings as to why, but we'll keep those silent for now). Of course "blue-collar" work is plentiful as I was offered a job at a local bar to do heavy lifting and cleaning work. Surprising, because my Spanish was terrible at the time of this offer.

We have talked in the past about "Side-Hustles" that you can do to increase secondary income. While some of these options are unavailable due to legal reasons in the United States, I wanted to expound on some of the business models employed, how it relates to the sales industry, and how you can construct similar models and succeed.

Due to the economy of surrounding countries in the Middle East and North Africa, immigration into southern Spain (legal and illegal) is a major issue for the governments here. The language barrier prevents many of the immigrants from attaining jobs and the other is possibly due to cultural differences and an inherent distrust of people from these regions by the locals. The downtrodden laborers must resort to selling items they can afford, or services they can do. These items often include, but not limited to: sunglasses, bracelets, fake roses, necklaces and beads, water, various snack foods, beer, and knick-knacks.

As I wander out of my apartment for evening strolls in the historic center of Valencia, I noticed one of these salesmen who looked like Harold Perrineu, or Michael, from the series "Lost":


He sold several sun-glasses and trinkets a-plenty. Michael looked healthy and happy the first time I saw him. Making a few sales to travellers out for an evening of fun in Valencia. Then two weeks later, I saw Michael again. This time, he seemed to have gray hair and gained a few pounds. As he approached a group of tourists to make a sale, they waved him off. A frown appeared on his face and an audible sigh could be heard. How any salesman can relate to this. A week of no sales weighs so heavily on you you lose control and express your unhappiness! This is a mortal sin in sales and on your happiness. No wonder Michael looked terrible, his mind was portraying how he felt: defeated by the tourists, a hard life, not thriving at all!

Meanwhile, the smiling salesman two groups over is selling bracelets and beer a-plenty. And this brings us to the singing cerveza salesman we met on the beach.

One of the big side-hustle industries for many of the emigrants is selling beer for 1 euro to the turistas and party-goers. A common cultural habit in Valencia and Barcelona (I have not seen other cities, but I hear this is typical Mediterranean culture) is the Botellon, which literally translates to street party. The cities here have small parks all over and it is common for young people to gather at a Botellon and talk, be merry, and enjoy spirits.

When the botellon starts and the students gather, your side-hustle starts. After a long day of keeping your small store open, selling anything you could find in a convenience store, you grab the ice-cold beer to take out and start selling. You don't know Spanish or English, but you can read the top of the can, "Birra, cerveza, beer, bier, cervesa" so you hope as you read it, someone will know what you are selling.  It's dangerous work, the police can arrest you for it, but there's a market. Thirsty tourists and penniless party-ers turn to you in times of need, willing to pay the 1 euro premium for a can of sub-par, super-cold beer. The competition is fierce, there are several other cerveza salesmen surrounding you and around the corner. Your success is largely based on luck and timing.

How do you set yourself apart? After you learn a few more words: fria, cold, and hello beautiful, how are you? you can interact much better with your prospective parched clientele. When out and about it is not uncommon to be approached several times within 1 minute by different salesmen. They are all carbon copies of each other saying "cerveza, beer-a?" in monotone, no smiles, no cheer. You turn them away with a wave of a hand and they move on to another group hoping to make a sale.

When sales take a turn for the worse and you realize it's time for a new tactic, what did one salesman turn to? Singing! Although hardly the melodious harmonies or your favorite singer, with no essence of timing or rhythm, it was annoying at first. Our group had just finished working for four hours on the Logo and Tile research. We wanted to relax on the beach, not listen to another cerveza salesman sing clashing cantations of "very very very coooooooold beeer. freeeee-aahhhhhh ceeeeervayyyysaaaaaa~"

A few members of the group started to poke fun at the singing salesman. On his third pass, I was taken back to my youth at a minor-league baseball game where the aisle-workers sold cotton candy, drinks, and Budweiser. You can hear them now as the make their rounds, up and down the stadium stairs, "Cotton candy here!, Ice cold Coca-cola." A guttural, "Budweiser, Bud Light, Cold Beer! Get your cold beer here!" As I had the quick trip down memory lane, I couldn't help but shout them back as he sang. Not understanding, he approached our group. Instead of giving up when we waved him off, he squatted down near us, and started singing and interacting, he tried two times, three times, four times to sell us a beer. He would leave disappointed as it was too early to start drinking!

After he left, we began discussing how atleast he is trying to set himself apart from the monotone, carbon-copies of his brethren. I felt respect, I wanted to buy a beer for this alone. Here is a guy who is trying. Alas, I hadn't eaten, a beer and no protein first? Blasphemy! Plus, there was a party planned with the rest of the European Project students that promised free food and drink. I wasn't ready. Marshmallow test time.

I went for a walk on the beach and came back, ready to relax some more. Not even a few minutes later could I hear the sing-song rhythm of the cerveza salesman. He joined our group, and playfully interacted with us again, offering beer, coca-cola, or potato chips.

"Not yet." I thought.

Renz and Ben bought a beer after the salesman's third try.

"Ok, maybe." I allowed myself the temptation.

Then Tom bought one too.

I heard myself say, "Ok, well if everyone else is going to start..." and forked over one of my sweetly saved euros.

I took the can, icy-cold to the touch. Popped the top and took a few sips. The beer, Amstel, was refreshing. The beach was hot. After a 16 hour fast, the calories were needed by my body. It felt good.

After some time, I finished the beer and I told myself, "no more, you need to eat!"

Woe is me, for the salesman returned shortly with the same consistency as before. We all bought another one, even though we had been approached by several other beer-men in the meantime. The Singing cerveza salesman won our hearts. We only wanted to buy from him.

Our group later talked about how we remember this man's face and how his simple tactics won us over in the end.

There's a very important lesson in this story that can be applied to all areas of sales and even life.

On the days it feels like you're on the hot beach, wearing jeans and a polo, doing your best to look presentable. You're tired, sweaty, upset. If you keep a smile and playful attitude your clients will love you. Be original, find a quirk and capitalize on it. Adjust your sales-pitch to your audience even if you can't speak the language.

To turn this into a Side-Hustle you can set up outside of a stadium after a major sporting event and sell bottled water and cold drinks. Maybe some cheap snacks. The people just leaving will feel refreshed to see much lower prices than they were just exposed to inside. This can spur someone to action.

Be happy, the parents are upset because they just spent $6 on a coke and $18 on hot dogs and pretzels for the kids. They don't want to see the same financial misery in you as you try to sell them a bottle of water for $2.

Have fun. Having a side-hustle should be entertaining and fulfilling for you. Thrive on the fact that you are helping people save money from the "evil corporate giant" or imagine you are living the American dream, because you are!

October 3, 2012

Expect More Truck Advertisements.

As the stock market and economy is beginning to pick up, I thought it was time for a post on how to invest money. More specifically, where to invest money.

Car advertising is everywhere these days and I'm sure you are just as tired of it as I am. So ask yourself, "How can I take advantage of this?"

While browsing through email, I received the nightly update from WSJ.com, "The Evening Wrap." As I browsed the titles and articles, one caught my eye: "Toyota, Honda lead car sales gains." No need to read the article to guess what it means for the auto industry.

As the green movement picks up there is an inherent demand for more ecological, gas friendly cars. These just happen to be mostly passenger cars.

Over and over again, 2 years ago, I heard how Toyota was toying with the idea of electric because they were suffering in the auto market, more than Ford. Honda was hunkering down from lack of sales. The earthquake in 2011 did not help sales for the struggling companies.
As they fought tooth and nail to emerge on the top, they arrive victorious in quarter 3 with a 42% and 31% gain, respectively.
What does this mean for Ford and GM? More importantly, what does it mean for you?
Just like any good giant corporation is going to do when faced with a problem of posting 4th quart profits, what do they do? They throw money at the problem.
To attain the holy grail of the corporate machine of posting a profit in the 4th quarter (Important for every corporation) you must show an increase in sales and value added to the stake-holder.
Now's your chance to earn some extra spending money for the after Christmas sales. Ford and GM are going to be marketing their current truck line-up into the stars and pushing next years models. Not only that, they are expecting solid growth in the next few months. Faced with this current slap in the face from their Asian competitors, you can bet that they are about to crank up the heat on selling more trucks. Ford and GM want to earn their fair share and they have more incentive now.
With Ford stock selling for just under $10/share and GM for just under $24/share, an ember is about to be ignited into a fire to post profits.
Pick up some stock in the companies today and expect to sell them around January 1st (or after Christmas to beat the "Holiday Effect") and enjoy the post-holiday sales with the extra money!
WSJ article

Don't forget to review your mutual funds to see where your advisers are allocating the money. If the foreign or off-shore investments include Toyota or other Japanese car-makers, you might want to write a quick email or make a phone call!

Investing money can be fun, what are some of your experiences? Where have you had success investing in stocks and what kind of stocks did you invest in? What are the best stocks to invest in?

September 30, 2012

The new direction of Frugalson.com and what it means for you

I began my adventure when I was just a freshman in college. Not knowing where I wanted to go, but knowing there has to be a secret to getting there. Trying to find the secret is like trying to find a needle in a haystack in the dark and there's several haystacks to choose from.

Ive been spending a lot of time in this dark field and I've come up with some pretty solid explanations of why there is a good reason to keep moving and looking.

Defining the Title
What is frugal? Frugal is making economical choices in the expenditure of resources. Frugality translates to all of life in our finances, well-being, health, and social interactions. We make minor adjustments here and there depending on the situation, hoping for the best. But the best never comes.

We spend so much time letting the problems distract us. All of our problems are on a similar system akin to inflation. We put them away and they feed off each other to create more problems. We have forgotten when the original deposit was made and if it even exists anymore. We have forgotten why we deposited the problem, where it is, and how it came to us.

This lack of focus then requires us to spend more emotional energy on the problems we didn't even know we had! Therefore we must be frugal with our emotions. Quit overspending angry only to have anger returned to you, inflated.

Stop sending sadness and depression to the proverbial bank only to get a big depression filled tax return.

Send daily deposits of happiness so you can get a return of happiness tomorrow when you wake up.

Rack up on positivity points and store them away to get a positive point filled purse at bonus time.

The trick is not to chase wealth, health, and happiness.

The trick is to tell yourself I already am healthy, wealthy, and happy.

Through frugality of your emotions you can do whatever it is you want to.

I'm going to make my dream come true.