Business

All about the money

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In the past few years I’ve been living in Spain, where for the last 4 years you will find a large scale economic crisis. I don’t want to prolong about this unsettling issue (a theme for a future post), now I simply want to reflect about the choices and decision-making that led people abuse the system so badly that left tens if not hundreds of thousands of people penniless.
Here’s an example for I mean. Yesterday I needed to change currency from Euros to pounds, something I have done many times in the past. This time it ended up being not only different but also illuminating (after being humiliating). The thing is that I got ripped off. From all the countries I’ve visited (developing world included), the first to rip me off in exchange shop is in Oxford, UK.
2014-03-29 17.22.11As I was saying, I was looking for a place to exchange money and came across this center shop with many signs that shows the currency rate and written in large letters 0% commission. I entered, said hello, asked if it possible to change from Euros to sterling and gave 100 Euros to the teller. The amount she gave me back was lacking little more than 10 pounds. I told her she made a mistake and she said no. I insisted that there should be ten more pounds (according to the 1.27 written all over). She said that it is the commission. Confused I looked at the sign and pointed on where it was written for blind that there is no commission. Little I knew how wrong I was. In small small prints it said on the bottom to ask about the 13.6% commission. Yes, to “ask” about the commission.
I immediately understood and asked to cancel the exchange. Calmly she said there is no refund, pointing to a little plat sign hidden behind the neighboring teller booth.
To be honest it is the last place I expected to be deceived in such a way (perhaps it is the exact reason why they chose that location). I felt cheated and helpless. So this is how people do business. I asked her why she didn’t say there is such a commission and she said she cannot or she will lose her job. The reply to my next question was interesting, I asked how she can do that if she knows the person will be deceived, and she replied that she doesn’t have the luxury not to work. I have to admit that after all the weird jobs I did, this answer was not surprising yet annoying. So that was self reasoning for daily deceiving people, as if it is either deceiving or drinking alcohol watching in a sinking sofa.
Fortunately for me, I´ve been taking a Mooc class of prof. Dan Ariely from Duke University about Behavior Economics and this was a real life application of the course. Ariely talks about how the Default option actually change our way of dealing and negotiating decisions. Having that in mind I couldn´t forget those small prints saying “Please ask about our 13.6% commission”. I began thinking that if someone asks, the teller will tell him there is no commission (or less, depending on how she looks), and it they simply assume they read well the large letters saying 0% commission (without venturing to the unseen letters), she will charge them without saying anything. I went back to the shop and asked. “well – she said – it is negotiable!”. “This is wrong – I said – who can I contact?”. She gave me an email address.

chequepoint
I have to admit that doing Ariely’s Mooc I learned quite a lot but I never really understood the use of it until yesterday. Ariely talks about it in doing good things (as setting the default to donate organs etc.) but now I understood how it is done to legally cheat, to be dishonest in a way that all you think about in the end of the day is how much money you made. Many people choose to blame Capitalism and free market with that, I wouldn´t go that far; I think it is simply people who decide to fraud and cheat, not the tool.
For any of you who arrive to the UK, beware of this company:
Chequepoint
28 Cornmarket Street, Oxford OX1 3EY

shop in Oxford

 

Weekly choice, by peers

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Never give up, Harvard Business Review

“I’ve always repeated the mantra “never, never, never, never give up.” These words of Winston Churchill’s have rallied me for years; they are a core tenet of our family motto, and hang, framed, on the wall just inside the front door of our home. But I’ve started to wonder if not giving up is sufficient.  (…)Dreaming is at the heart of disruption.  Whether we want to disrupt an industry or our personal status quo, in order to make that terrifying leap from one learning curve to the next, we must dream.  The good news is that the causal mechanism for achieving our dreams is always, always, always showing up:  and as we show up, our future will too.”

http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/10/always-always-always-show-up/

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R (Relationship) related

Spooning

“His love for himself is so strong he does not need to gain the acceptance of others by trying to be something he is not. His strength is not physical so much as it is in the clarity of his mind and emotions. These are character strengths that a woman not only admires, but feels safe with. (…)When a man is distant emotionally or physically from her it may bring up feelings of loneliness, or fear of a break up. Seeking this type of emotional safety can lead to emotional drama.(…) By discouraging him to do other things she is increasing their time together. It is possible the man ends up feeling guilty for having done the “wrong” thing that caused her to be upset. (…)A woman can choose to wait for a man with the character and integrity that she respects and wants. But as she waits she should prepare herself as well. Being with a man of integrity will not be like being with other men. He will be seeking a partner that will treat him with the same level of unconditional love with which he treats himself. If she brings her judgments, fears, and emotional reactions to the relationship, he may decide that he would rather be with someone else.”

http://www.pathwaytohappiness.com/relationship_safety.htm

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Embracing uncertainty

“We talked a lot about embracing uncertainty, especially because all of us were surrounded by doubt and fear as graduation loomed closer and our futures were seemingly blank. I learned not to interpret the future as empty, but as open, full of possibilities, full of opportunities waiting for me to be the key player. We often interpret the unknown as bad or scary, but it is all in the viewer’s perception. Just as you can choose to see the glass half full instead of empty, so can you choose to view the future as brimming with possibilities instead of emptiness.”

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/embracing-uncertainty-the-future-is-open-not-empty/

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TED’s best for the week:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

“Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.”

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Book of the week!

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain

While combining opposed principles: intellect and sensibility, spirit and nature, intrinsic and extrinsic, the main character of this novel succeeds to gain important cognition about the essence of life. “Death is just a moment in life and nothing more” says Hans Castorp paradoxically, in a near death experience. Thus, spiritual education, abundance of mythological allusions and ironical inversions accompany this masterpiece of realistic yet grotesque narration. As we see in the selected quotes below:

“Passionate—that means to live for the sake of living. But one knows that you all live for sake of experience. Passion, that is self-forgetfulness. But what you all want is self-enrichment.”

“Who then was the orthodox, who the freethinker? Where lay the true position, the true state of man? Should he descend into the all-consuming all-equalizing chaos, that ascetic-libertine state; or should he take his stand on the “Critical-Subjective,” where empty bombast and a bourgeois strictness of morals contradicted each other? Ah, the principles and points of view constantly did that; it became so hard for Hans Castorp’s civilian responsibility to distinguish between opposed positions, or even to keep the premises apart from each other and clear in his mind, that the temptation grew well-nigh irresistible to plunge head foremost into Naphtha’s “morally chaotic All.”

Here’s a short clip, part of a movie that was made based on the book (from 1982):

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjhjp7_hans-castorp-s-dream-in-thomas-mann-s-the-magic-mountain-1982-film_shortfilms

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Person of the week!

Canadian author Alice Munro holds one of
The Canadian Alice Munro, wizard of short stories, Nobel Prize Laureate 2013!

“In twenty years I’ve never had a day when I didn’t have to think about someone else’s needs. And this means the writing has to be fitted around it.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlsF_ZLpNHY

“Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind… When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”

Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness