Candy from a baby!

So it’s the weekend and time to do some shopping. You know, the regular items like groceries and the wanna have stuff meaning anything from the simple, a new clothing item, to the wild, let’s say new wheels. You would think that merchants would bend to your will like vassals to the king, but you’d be wrong. They, are up in their lairs devising ways to separate you from your bounty in the most profitable ways possible. You’re right,it’s kinda sad ,but we have to know or we just become one of the trampled ones. We do,after all work for our money and we know how much fun that is! The only reason most folks work,and pretty damn hard is for that money thing,so we can get stuff.

So let’s start with the regular stuff,like groceries. Pick up your paper and look for the weekly grocery ads. They’re all in four color multi page spreads (1st Clue,big bucks ads). In their version of this story they’re just about giving this stuff away and furthermore some of it is almost precious.For example, Black Angus beef on sale. Can you believe that? I mean isn’t that just for rich guys? But there it is,ON SALE in big letters. Then again, what does that mean? Does it mean that these special cattle haven’t spent their adult lives in feeder lots, eating corn and antibiotics and spending the balance of their days lounging around on mountains of bovine poop and rivers of ,…well you know. The answer sadly is that IS where it comes from,unless it says in big letters, grass fed. If it does say grass fed, then only rich guys buy it and it’s not on sale. EVER! You see where I;m going with this?

But why pick on those poor cows and ignore the rest. How about those fish in the display case. They’re supposed to be sorta gray pink,aren’t they? Isn’t that how they look when fresh? For those of us who have fished we know, for those who haven’t the answer is a resounding NO! It looks like that because they know you’ll buy it anyway, because it’s too much of a hassle to go to another store and it’s fish you want. Ever wonder how many days it gets displayed till no longer useful? Let’s say three for the sake of argument. No less than Benjamin Franklin said that house guests and fish are past their prime at three days. You’d think you’d get a progressive discount on each day past one but I haven’t seen that yet.

You could just stand in the exact middle of the store and gaze in awe at the 85 percent of the store that’s not fresh food. It’s preserved food, in the freezer with their legions of microwaved meals, frozen desserts and other alluring packages designed to make it easy to feed yourself without any effort on your behalf. A row or two over are the ever alluring, brightly colored cereal boxes packed with more sugar than any sane pediatrician would advise. Oh look theres all those chips and pork rinds and other SNACK FOODS, just brimming with little chemical ingredients you just can’t resist and for goodness sake lets not exclude desserts with their alluring array of sugars,gums, oxides and other tasty bits..

This empire of convenience is mainly corn or soy byproducts like high fructose corn syrup,guar gum, and any number of the 36 of so products of chemically cracked corn. Is your mouth watering yet? If not lets not forget the tablespoons of salt and sugar content for those of you that just love ambulance rides more than most.

You see the plain facts are these. Companies like Archer,Daniel’s and Midland and others figured out that corn was full of wonderful chemicals that could be separated and recombined in formulas that could be presented as food item. This is staggeringly profitable because they can take a cheap commodity like corn, and reconstitute it a a much more expensive chemical goodie. Ka-Ching!. I mean after all name ONE organic ingredient in Twinkies. That’s right you can’t because it’s a chemical Bon Bon made of so many chemical ingredients, that it can literally last longer than your own life span.

These are the packaged and frozen foods we’re all offered, most of them with those famous names that only massive advertising can generate for what Madison Avenue calls name brand recognition. After all, if you recognize the name brand easily, then you are somehow assured that this is something good to put into that sacred personal temple, your body.

Let’s finally look at grocery pricing in these times, because pricing is very different than it had been. For starters almost everything was sold or packaged in normally recognized units, like ounces and pounds, quarts and gallons,etc. Now you’ll find for example coffee in 10 0r 12 or 13 ounce packages, but the customer sees a full bag and assumes its a pound because we’ve experienced it that way most of our lives. Even when we’re aware of less content who has time to figure the price per pound?

Holding your horses?

In the time I’ve been in the commercial vehicle sales business, I’ve seen two schools of thought regarding the termination of fleet vehicles.

One school says that the most cost efficient method is a carefully strategized life-cycle for each vehicle. In this view all maintenance and repairs are prepaid and/or accounted for up front.Each vehicle is cycled out prior to warranty expiration. Low mileage vehicles have longer cycles and high mileage are moved out sooner. In either case there are no further costs after the initial acquisition, which can be cash,finance or commercially leased. At the termination of each vehicle a company plan accommodates disposal in several ways. They can be sold to employees who appreciate a known history and a balance of factory or factory extended warranty. They can be sold to the general public locally, advertised on a national website like or sent to auction. In each case there is a cash out value that can be applied to the acquisition value of the replacement vehicle. Operator liabilities are minimized,operating costs become increasingly predictable acquisition cost declines.

In the second school are those who”drive em till they die”. Their view is that vehicles are costly and you need to wring the maximum use out of each one before they’re terminated. Most of the time there is little value,if any, left and it’s not unusual to have added repair costs to the initial acquisition value as well. Add in the increasing maintenance costs of older vehicles and you get a likely picture of cost over time. In most cases operators acknowledge a higher overall operating cost over fleets with fresher vehicles at work, but feel that they’re still ahead by lengthening their fleet cycle.In some cases vehicles are parked with sold signs and they can sell, however there is usually not much money flowing back to the business to offset the replacement vehicle cost.

A case can be made for either plan and given enough cash flow either can work. So why bother reviewing you plan? The only reason that may get your undivided attention is the cost of your plan in today’s market. This market is best characterized by class two work vehicles that can run $30,000 to $50,000 per unit. If you go back and look and your own records, these are vehicles that cost about 50 percent less just ten years ago. From that you can easily infer replacement costs going forward as almost twice the cost of current vehicles. Furthermore replacement parts costs are greater and some repairs today would have paid for half a vehicle not too many years ago.

Which plan is better? Everyone has their own business to manage and with it a view of how best to keep their fleet on the road. The only sure bet is look at your fleet life-cycle very closely to insure a managed cost going into each vehicle and to plan the whole life of each vehicle based on it’s particular use. That way no matter what happens, you’ll have the assurance of knowing that you minimized your cost per mile and protected your business from unanticipated fleet costs.