Tag Archives: research

The Power of Perspective: How Shopping for a Mattress Changed Me

10 Jan

I learned something the other day.

I didn’t learn an interesting fact about another country or how to work some new software program. I learned something about myself, about my job, about my future; it wasn’t life changing but it was important…and that’s what matters. I learned about the power of perspective.

You see, I spent the larger portion of my afternoon at work, not answering phones or responding to inquiries or managing a guest list like usual, but doing research on a mattress. Where was it cheapest? Who had it in stock? What was a comparable mattress to the one we wanted? Do they offer free delivery? Pillowtop or firm?

It was exhausting, annoying and tedious. Not to mention, it wasn’t exactly a cheap mattress and since my employer is supplying this mattress to a white collar employee, it was frustrating, given my current pay grade…

I digress.

After hours of searching and contacting random salespeople at mattress factories and outlets in my state – a surprising amount, actually – we finally made the purchase (got it on the cheap, too!) and scheduled the delivery.

“This is not what I went to college for!” I thought, angrily. It was task work – monotonous and lacked autonomy – and I wanted nothing to do with it. But I did what was asked of me with a smile on my face while I died a little inside with every phone call or “View the Collection!” click. I was so ready to go home and complain about how irritated I was with this task.

Upon leaving, though, I felt no sense of anger, no frustration. Sure, I didn’t go to college to end up purchasing mattresses for my boss’s boss’s whoever. Sure it was a pain in the ass and sure it wasn’t exactly in my job description. But I got the job done and after I was able to look at it from a different perspective, I realized that from this task alone, I gained a lot of hands-on experience and helped someone in the process. I learned some skills that could be applied in many other ways at work and in my personal life. Who knew?

The power of perspective allowed me to understand that this task wasn’t about ordering a mattress, it was about learning life lessons:

The Early Bird Gets The Worm

I contacted tons of salespeople regarding this mattress. In some cases, I got representatives from the company who directed me to another representative, in some cases I got directed to another store, and in some cases, I heard no response. In one case, however, I received an immediate email response from an actual representative. Throughout the afternoon, as I asked question after question, she responded promptly and in full. Ultimately, we purchased the mattress from her. She provided answers, fast…and that was just what we needed.

Lesson Learned: If you have the time, take the time. If you don’t have the time, make the time.  You’ll see results.

Customer Service is Key

When I called one company, the phone directory prompted me to press 7 for the bed and bath department. The representative who answered, however, was not in this department and forwarded my call to what he thought would be the mattress department. I was greeted by a woman who barely spoke English when she told me, “there is no one in the mattress department today but perhaps I can help.” After some time, though, she ultimately asked me to “check online.” This was a complete turn off as a customer. The woman from whom we purchased the mattress never once sent me a copied/pasted email. She was prompt, friendly, and informative. It was refreshing.

Lesson Learned: A customer or caller should never be bounced from line to line to line. This is a waste of time. Companies should take the time to review their directories and messages to ensure satisfactory service. Also, people want a personalized experience, not a computer-generated message.

Research Leads to Success

If our office purchased the first mattress I found in the collection and style we wanted, it would have cost us nearly $1,500 more than what we spent for the same thing. After researching, though, I was able to find similar mattresses, similar brands, and lower prices.

Lesson Learned: The internet is a beautiful, beautiful thing! Research changes the game. You’ll never know what’s really out there unless you do the research. If you think you’re an expert, look harder.

Assistants are Assets

Ordering a mattress is something my bosses cannot be bothered with. They have so much on their plates…and then some! As their assistant, it is my duty to make their lives easier, even when it means typing “mattress companies in my town” into Google. At the end of the day, I am paid to assist in whatever they need and I know that by completing this task, they are able to check one thing off of their to-do lists and I know they appreciate that help.

Lesson Learned: Assistants make the world go round! Leaders: appreciate your assistants and show it. Assistants: reassure your leaders you are there for them, no matter what, by doing an excellent job.

By taking a different perspective, I was able to shift my attitude from “screw this” to something that was a benefit for me. That’s the power of perspective, ladies and gentlemen.

What life lessons have you learned by taking a different perspective? Share your stories with me!

The Countdown to Student Loan Repayment

11 Dec

Let’s be honest, for most college grads, student loan repayment is the first big payment obligation. Some of us have purchased cars since graduating (me!), and some maybe even a home or a motorcycle. However, a certain stigma exists around the topic of student loans and the process of repayment. It is an agonizing phrase that when uttered brings sharp pains to many. I should have known what to expect when choosing that big out-of-state university, right? Trust me, it was worth every penny. And every painful penny I shall spend…

15 days until first payment

Confirm that mom and/or dad will be contributing and to what extent. Despite the country’s slow economic recovery and a proven decrease in parent contributions, some lucky students have the luxury of wealthy parents who plan to completely cover their child’s higher education investment. According to Sallie Mae’s annual “How America Pays for College” study, 27 percent of college costs were paid by parent income and savings this year, although this number has significantly decreased since its peak in 2010 when 37 percent of parents paid out of pocket. Others, like me, have parents who choose to contribute a portion either because that’s what they can afford or because they want to reinforce the importance of money, bills, and investments. And many students across the nation, about three in 10 students in 2012-2013, have no choice but to take on student loan debt in order to make an attempt at The American Dream. Keyword being “attempt.”

13 days until first payment

Awkwardly bring up how I’ll receive funds from mom and/or dad – set up a reminder in my phone. I use the word “awkwardly” because in this financial climate, the topic of spending money brings stress and discomfort to most. Marist College released a poll which said 59% of United States residents feel that talking about money problems with their children adds to family stress. Contributing parents are doing what they can to provide for their children because it is American culture to do so. Our parents bought us toys, video games, cell phones, and our first cars. No parent wants to be the bearer of bad news to a struggling new grad. Most new grads, unfortunately not all, understand that it is asking a lot to request help with student loans so they tread lightly when discussing the painful subject.

12 days until first payment

Completely rethink my loose monthly budget. Since I graduated, I’ve moved to another state and purchased a brand new car so a budget was absolutely necessary. Fidelity Investments, an online financial services company, says only about half of recent grads have a plan in place to meet their financial goals and 63 percent of that group have created a budget. To me, the control freak, this is not good news for the financial future of our country. The possibility of ruining my credit is not one I want to gamble with so determining a strict budget and monthly, quarterly and yearly goals is incredibly important and should be to all recent grads.

10 days until first payment

Confirm total amounts for each separate loan and decide against buying a new sweater for the ugly sweater Christmas party. I’ll whip out last year’s classic. Its all about making justifiable purchases, right? The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Craze has reached an all-time and embarrassing high according to ABC News and the cost of these sweaters has followed suit. Justin Bieber sported a $1,650 monstrosity this year. Instead, I need coffee-mate and baby carrots this weekend so a one-time gig complete with dancing reindeer and jingle bells just didn’t make the cut. Having a handful of student loans is no secret to most borrowers. According to Sallie Mae, student borrowing has slightly decreased over recent years but the amount has greatly increased. Students now owe private and federal loans so keeping track of all these debts has put a great pressure on recent grads.

9 days until first payment

Pregame at home with that dusty bottle of Burnett’s and buy one (okay, three) domestic draft beers at the bar knowing I’m about to drop a couple hundo. I’m so responsible. While my younger student friends spend carelessly at the bar and my older, successful friends feel confident in their purchasing decisions, I have to be strategic about getting drunk. What a buzz kill. Like a true college student would, I scrounged up my last bit of alcohol to save a few bucks and decided my bar tab was my Christmas present to myself.

7 days until first payment

Consider grad school for the sake of loan deferment and nothing else. As if the pressure of entering the real world wasn’t already enough, banks are now encouraging recent undergrads to attend graduate school, although their reasoning only has one ultimate goal in mind: money. They make it sound so tempting, “Sometimes it may seem impossible to make your student loan payment,” they say. “You are so right,” I respond as I think, “wow they really know my personal life.” But the cost of graduate school is a hefty one beginning with the $150 GRE test, not to mention books (again), housing (again), and more! In an effort to postpone payments, recent undergrads actually might struggle more later! A graduate degree should only be sought for all the right reasons, not driven by financial insecurity.

6 days until first payment

Google “how to make money while working full-time” and when the results come up short, Google “cute puppies” to feel better. The sad truth is that it is common practice for most young graduates to work multiple jobs, according to Carl E. Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. While I let go of the dreams I had of a yearly salary, I work my hourly job because it’s what pays the bills and hope my Etsy shop takes off.

3 days until first payment

Finish the Burnett’s from last week and sit on the couch watching ABC Family’s 25 days of Christmas because it’s all the fun I can afford. Just me and my friend Cheap Vodka chilling on a Saturday night. With my upcoming payment, another night out was not in the cards so like a true 90’s baby, I choose Home Alone and The Santa Clause.

1 day until first payment

Make the payment early because I’m a boss. Also, because I can no longer prolong the agony of anticipation. The control freak in me pays early because at any second my bank could crash and I could become totally poor and then my interest rate would skyrocket even more and that would literally be the end of the world. Instead, I choose punctuality because making debt payments on time is the largest factor to building good credit.

Debt, credit, deadlines…they’re no walk in the park. If this is what it takes to achieve financial success and happiness, I’m willing to walk the walk. Now that I’ve released nearly $1k into thin air, it is time to write my Christmas List filled with all the joyful essentials: hand soap, toilet paper, dryer sheets, ramen, and more Christmasy fun!

(a 2nd version of this post can be found under my columns with PostGradProblems.com)
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