Friday, June 4, 2010

Fooled by False Indicators?

We are bombarded daily from a myriad of distorted signals, including unreliable financial, market and real estate reports, and blatant advertising. It pops up everywhere. We become wary.  Thousands of tweets beckon our way; most are promotional in nature.

Software has been designed for social media marketing, in addition to existing sales sites, to make purchasing decisions based upon your clicks, and the type of merchandise you buy. Soon this 3.0 technology will be on hand-held device apps.

Does your intellect challenge the validity of the onslaught of these intertwined signals? Or, do we become thick-skinned; ignore what we can, as we grapple with it? It becomes a sorting process.

Now, there is an additional, insidious layer that many of us do not take into account or even recognize; False Indicators. According to Kelley Services (May 5, 2010, New Wave of Independent Contractors Emerging Around the World), more than one quarter, 26%, of the work force is self-employed as consultants or professionals, including legal, medical, technical, software developers, automotive, and website developers. Not easily obtaining your attention, they can also obtain your business through sales pressure, or even unethically, insidiously, through slow, deliberate measures. And, to top it all off, in many cases, you will overtly request and welcome them.

Independent professionals need to earn a living and obtain strong cash flow. Here is where false indicators come into play.

Every day we encounter a myriad of small-to- large problems. The biggest mistake we can make is not trusting our own problem-solving capabilities.  You can find yourself distorting your own insightful signals. It is time to believe in your own intuition and what makes sense.

Something goes wrong. Frustrated, we seek help, those who seemingly will have an immediate answer and can resolve the problem.

Assistors will have one thing in mind; capitalizing on your problem, whatever it may be. Can we trust them? They will offer cordial assistance so articulately; you will not suspect their motives. The problem seemingly resolved, you will smile, and thank them gratefully, and make payment.

I will list some situations, that could have been most unfortunate, to say the least. The examples will be followed by some insightful, problem-solving suggestions.

1)      Block Banking Theft.  Having a check payment to use as a model, an interloper prints and forges a counterfeit check to your account, cashing it at an out-of-town bank. This type of occurrence is typical, according to the bank.

Counterfeiters focus on numerical figures between 2- and 7K, a typical down-payment amount. Some large banks have fraud departments that scan checks for irregularities. A suspicious check is red flagged, and bank check inspectors then study close signature replicas. If not caught, the counterfeit check will clear by 11 AM in most banks. In most cases, you will be held accountable, and will have to notify the police, and fill out a report, before the bank can proceed with an investigation. The problem will take your time, energy, and money.

Advice: Have on-line banking accounts and check your accounts daily at 7-8 AM. Print them out and make sure they are copacetic. If there is an unusual large, unidentified check in the “pending” column, notify the bank immediately, and go there if possible, to have it blocked. In the case where checks have been printed, that infers that additional false checks may be pending.

Subsequently, when this scenario happens, banks recommend that you immediately close your account and open a new one to block any continuing fraud. It is also a good idea to have an additional, auxiliary (decoy) banking account open, and ready to go; not only to monitor unfamiliar vendors for your own personal safety, but so you do not have the sudden work of opening a new bank account, and then wait several days to install special features, such as covering bounced check charges. Better still, pay cash for any risky expenditure, like yard maintenance by a new vendor. Then, additionally, set up” Theft Block” for your credit cards and banking accounts.

2)     Printer Jam. Printing jams are common occurrences, and we are used to removing stuck paper feeds. But, this time, it seems different. Impatient, we rush to conclusions, and consider calling the printing tech. Yet, if we do this, we know he will say “it is the fuser roller” and we need a new one. Be sure to consider the age and condition of your printer, and whether it worth the repair investment. If the tech has come out to your office, there is an on site charge, plus time and equipment. We gratefully thank him for promptly coming and his time.

Advice:  Take your time, checking all of the feeding avenues for jammed paper. Check for paper over-fill beyond the guidelines. Make sure it is inserted squarely, and does not have crimped edges that will buckle during the feed. Turn the printer off and reset. Be patient, and carefully reprint. Only then, decide whether you need the tech person @ $75 an hour.

3)      Malfunctioning Car Ignition: Nothing is worse than your car not starting during the summertime. You are stuck, a couple of miles from home. Fortunately, you have a back-up car key, and try that. It works. Is it an electrical shortage with the ignition?

You take your car to a reputable, popular mechanic to have it checked, as you do not want it to happen again. You trust him, are reassured that he can problem-solve the issue, so you stay on the wait list. Overloaded with work, he keeps your car three weeks, even checking in with him daily. Undoubtedly, the cost will be more reasonable than the auto’s recognized dealer.

Final verdict: bad electrical system. For 1K he can repair it. And, soon.

Advice: Ask yourself, is this believable? I did not want to be fooled into spending 1K. Yet, you need your car, right?  It has been a three weeks’ wait.

Stop and think: The second key started the car intermittently – sometimes it worked, and sometimes it did not. Unbeknownst to us, there was a small burr on the new key. Yet, could it be the car key that was causing the ignition problem? We took our auto to the dealer. He tried both keys, and the one made by the locksmith was faulty. Three weeks without a car, but we saved 1K. Consider having a second mechanic’s diagnosis, always double check locksmith’s back-up keys – don’t switch it around with the original key, or go to the car maker’s dealer, where the company offers support to problems. Or, best yet, use your own intuition in combination with others’ help.

4)      Jammed cell phone settings:  I fiddled with the cell phone call settings, and suddenly could not make calls or hear ones entering. Read and reread the manual, until it was memorized. Found no appropriate info. Went to the dealer.
Verdict: speakers have gone out. Of course, need a new cell phone, coming complete with a 2-year contract. I insisted that it was not the speakers, and I wasn’t going to “fall for the sales pitch.” The agent, admitting that every cell phone model has different settings and sequences, finally said, “You may be on to something – the problem is not listed in the manual. It is part of the cell phone architecture.”

He unlocks the setting.

Advice:  Don’t jump to false conclusions regarding your cell phone. The best thing you can do is “dink with it” or find a tech savvy young person to problem-solve the settings. Bottom line: do not fall for new cell phone 2-year contracts. If forced to replace your cell phone, take time to consider the amount of phone time, convenience needs, and the cost benefits before jumping into a new purchase. In the meantime, consider buying an inexpensive “paid minutes by card” cell phone at a discount store.

5)      Extensive Dental work:  Dentists dream of big repair jobs, especially those requiring root canals and crowns. That will offer income to cover overhead costs, for a European summer vacation, or a down-payment on a condo. If you have bridges or partials, any additional missing tooth will require new appliances with extensive work. To keep a loose tooth, a post may be inserted. Without a root canal, it will abscess. That will require more work, and a new design for your mouth. Complex work architectures trying to maintain teeth are rewarding for dentists, but time-consuming, exhaustive, painful, and expensive for you.

Advice: Dentists, even prominent specialists, will never reveal missteps and issues of their fellow colleagues. If you are having potentially expensive, large project, dental questions or issues, do one- or-both of two options: 1) Get advice and a thorough evaluation from a prominent dental school instructor-specialist. 2) Go to another state for a complete evaluation by one or two dentists. They will give you an honest opinion, because it is a different state, and they have no obligatory ties to the lack of ethics, or poor dental treatment quality of those practicing in another jurisdiction.

These are examples of false indicators that can encapsulate you. Try to resolve your problems through careful, insightful problem-solving, and by considering the following steps:

-          Deal with only reputable people. Ask around.
-          Do not jump to false conclusions.
-          Give your decisions careful consideration and thought.
-          Do not be easily duped; stick to your rationale.

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