Thursday, July 17, 2014

50,000 Page Views for the Red Velvet Lawyer

50,000 Page Views
Friends, family, and colleagues:

Another milestone reached! 50,000 page views!

My blogging experience started in March 2013. Like everything, success relates directly to the attention and energy invested in the project.

As I blogged more frequently, built my relationship with other bloggers, got more posts shared by my FB friends, and continued to create content I hoped you would like, page views grew exponentially.

Here is a summary of my experience:

5,000 page views on August 2013.
10,000 page views on November 7, 2013.
15,000 page views on November 27, 2013.
20,000 page views on December 9, 2013.
25,000 page views on January 1, 2014. 
50,00 page views on July 17, 2014.

Obviously, I am a very long way from getting the million hits a day that top bloggers see (and I don't expect that kind of attention), but I am very grateful for this opportunity for growth, connection, voice, and influence.

Thanks for supporting The Red Velvet Lawyer.

Buying a New Car: Negotiating the Best Deal

Web Tools 
That Make 
the Negotiation Easier

After graduating from law school and joining the largest law firm in Oklahoma, I bought my first new car.  It was a Toyota Camry.  Beforehand, I thoroughly read and applied the advice found in a book on buying a new car.  

Today, the web puts you a few clicks away from very good advice on the subject.  This morning, I found this site offered by CNN Money on Tips for Buying a New Car.  It offered advice on a number of topics:

The page on setting your target price was especially helpful. It cited sources of objective criteria that equalize the negotiating power of the parties.  First, it gives you links to online sources that provide three pieces of price information:
  • The manufacturer's suggested retail price (the sticker price) or MSRP.
  • The average price paid in your area for the car.
  • The factory invoice price.
The website explains:
Using websites like or Kelly Blue Book, you can find out the dealer's cost for any vehicle. You can also find out about customer or dealer rebates, subsidized lease deals, or other special breaks that can cut your cost. Best of all, you can decide exactly what you intend to pay for the car or truck before you ever go near a showroom.

The next page tells you how to use this objective criteria to get a great deal.  In the end, it recommends that you pay about 2% more than the factory invoice price.  

On the 2014 Hyundai Sante Fe Sport SUV I like, that negotiating approach would bring the factory invoice price of $25,436 up by $509 to $25,295.

That number still makes my head swim.  But recently, I calculated the cost today of that stripped down, low feature VW bug my parents owned as newlyweds.  In 1959, the VW bug cost $1,995. Adjusted for inflation, you'd pay $16,309 for that car.  Seeing that number, I truly appreciate how much more value manufacturers are now adding to cars.  For one thing, they all have gas gauges.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Buying a New Car: More About My Family's Car Buying Mindset

Reason for My Preference for Used SUVs?

Last week, as I pondered where this series was headed, I asked my Dad to describe all the cars he had owned in his life.  The three things that his description made clear was this.  First, the cars were often used. Second, they were always very utilitarian. They hauled people and things.  Third, my parents drove them into the ground before they bought something new (or newer). So, here's my Dad's narrative. Photos show model and style, but not necessarily the color of his cars. 

The Single Guy's Car

Okay, before I was married, I had a [used] 1938 Chevy that I had overhauled professionally then salvaged replacement fenders and a steering gear from the local junkyard and installed them myself.  I paid good money for a sun visor that mounted above the window on the outside.  Of course, the fenders did not match the body so I used a brush and exterior paint to paint the whole damn thing brush-streaked black.  If I was not perceived as a hick at Washington (streetcar) University, before I showed up with that car, I think I probably made the grade afterwards.  I must say, though, JoAnn had no problem with it when we were dating.
For the Young Family 
By 1955, Dad and Mom upgraded and gave JoAnn and I their [used] 1950 Ford.  Then, they did the same thing with their [used] 1951 Chevy several years later, which is what we were
driving when we decided to get a second [used] car so JoAnn would not be trapped at home with three younguns.
That would be the VW bug, which was a '59 that we bought from a Hawaiian student before she went home in '60. Roger was an infant, and we still lived in St John, [MO].   
The first new car we bought was the reddish-brown 1965 Ford station wagon, which was the same color and year of the sedan John and Louise [JoAnn's parents] were driving, while we lived at 7558 Washington [in St. Louis].   
We replaced it with the [new] blue-green Ford [LTD Country Squire] station wagon, in 1969. When it was tied up for a while in the body shop after JoAnn wrecked it, I stopped driving the bug and bought the [new] '70 Clementine VW squareback (which I really liked). 
Planning for Severe Winters While my Dad was in Grad School 
We bought the [new] International Scout in '75.  When we went to Ann Arbor, we took the Scout and the Ford station wagon.  By that time, the bug had died and we left Clementine in STL.
The Empty Nest  
Upon returning from [Ann Arbor] in '78, we bought Mrs. Fischlowitz's [our neighbor whose house faced Delmar Boulevard] Volvo station wagon, which we drove until after we moved to Brentwood in 1989.   
When the Scout transmission malfunctioned in '86, we gave it to Greg [my brother] for hauling wood on his property and bought the [new] blue Plymouth minivan.   
After doing yeoman work in the move to Brentwood, the Volvo finally looked so bad and needed so many expensive repairs, JoAnn was willing to part with it (her favorite car of all time). Then we were a one-car couple until JoAnn died, even after trading up in minivans to the [new] '95 Chrysler minivan.
 When Dottie and I were married, she had the Ford station wagon and the blue Dodge minivan, and I had the Chrysler minivan, and all three had close to 200,000 miles on them. The blue Dodge died first, then the Chrysler.  A tree fell on the Ford.   
Since then, we have had two well-used minivans, a sedan, and a pickup.  [The latest sedan is a used, low-mileage car with the paint falling off of it.]

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Buying a New Car: Mindset Limitations - Our VW Bug

The Beloved Bug

Which brings me to the mindset limitations I've had to face about cars.  

My parents started married life driving a new VW bug.  It may have been one of the first imports to the U.S., which seem to have started in about 1956, two years after my birth.  It was beige with a beige interior.
I drove it as a teenager.  The battery sat on the floor on the driver's side.  Eventually, the floor rusted out. One day, as I was driving the bug to high school, the battery fell out on the street. Undaunted, my Dad cut a piece of shelving board long and wide enough to cover the hole in the floor, and I continued to drive the car until I left for college.  

I earned a reputation for two things while driving that car.  I learned to back up long distances. (Perhaps this is one reason I find the rear-collision inducing design of the cross-over styling so irksome. It makes me a less proficient back-up driver!)  

And, being even a distracted driver then, I'd forget to get gas after I had reached down to the front well of the car to flip to the one-gallon reserve tank.  You see, it did not have gas gauge.  Instead, you got one extra tank of gas that should have taken you immediately to the gas station.  Not me.  I was forever running out of gas.  And, now, I can't remember how I solved that recurring problem.  Perhaps I bothered my boyfriends to save me.

I also learned to drive a stick shift in that car (one of the few women I knew who could).  I was reminded of that recently when my first real boy friend, Tuscon fiddler Tim Barrett, sent me a copy of a film he directed back then.  I starred in his spy film as an heiress (I guess) who was taken hostage while sunbathing on the lawn of her estate (my backyard, actually), despite the careful watch of two security guards (two high school friends).

But, we only had one get-a-way car and one chase-car, both VW bugs, mine being the lead car in the film.  In re-watching the film, I laughed out loud when I saw myself driving the lead get-a-way car. Apparently, only two of us knew how to drive a manual transmission, so even as "the heiress," I had to orchestrate the hostage-takers' escape. 

Then my brother, Greg, drove it.  By that time, the car was at least sixteen years old.  In fact, as a baby, Greg had been tucked into the cubby hole behind the rear seat on our long trips back-and-forth between St. Louis and my parents' home-town of Virginia, Illinois. They returned twice a month to stock our pantry with free groceries from my Grandfather Paul Young's grocery store.   

One snowy winter morning, when Greg was probably a junior in high school, my Mom got a call from a neighbor. The neighbor said: "JoAnn, Someone has gotten your VW bug into Lewis Park and nearly pushed it over the edge into the pond." Lewis Pond was a small stone-edged pond in the center of a small park located nearly across the street from our house in St. Louis. 

On far too many occasions, as the big sister in charge of my three younger brothers, we would "fish" in the pond.  It was a rather disgusting body of water, filled with sleds that had fallen through the ice the winter before.  (The park has some steep, but short runs for sledders.)  Inevitably, one of my brothers would land and haul out some disgusting bottom-feeding fish that I would inevitably announce had to be released back into the disgusting pond.  

I remember one time, when my brother John was running around the edge of the circular pond.  I shouted: "John, quit running!  You will fall into the pond!"  No sooner had I said it, he did.  He started screaming: "I'm drowning! I'm drowning!" In my typically unsympathetic, big-sister way, I said "Shut-up, you idiot! Just stand up!  The pond is only three feet deep at that end!"  He crawled out, covered in disgusting slime and fish poop.  And, I walked him back across Delmar Boulevard for a shower. 

So, that winter morning, our beloved VW bug hung half way over the pond's stone edge teetering towards the iced-over muck. 

My Mom, in her hurry to assess the situation, threw on her fur coat over her nightgown and robe, pulled on a pair of slip on boots, and headed out the back door. She loved that fur coat. It was 3/4 lengths, had a wide leather belt, and a fox-fur trim. I don't recall the type of fur making up the body of the coat, but it had a reddish brown color.  

She barreled across Delmar Boulevard to the park. At the top of the sledding hill, she tripped.  And, like an otter headed to a stream, she slid head-first down the hill, "faster 'n shit," towards the pond and the perilously perched VW bug. Those of us still at the top of the hill stood in dumbfounded disbelief. We thought we'd lose them both.  

I am not sure how long that car stayed in the family.  One of my brothers would have driven it during its final days.  We loved that car.  It signified freedom, independence, parental trust, and fun. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Shopping for a Car: Identifying Interests and Needs

You Betcha!  
Not so Much.

On the morning of July 4th, I headed to the Tri-Cities Mazda dealership. Shelly Fair, "Sales Consultant," saw me in the lot, walked out of the building, and greeted me with a warm smile and handshake.  She established rapport quickly, but gently, asking about my interests and needs.  Which car did I find attractive? Why?  What needs was I trying to meet?

Interest and Needs

Most cars today are well-built, well-designed, high-functioning pieces of technology. Even the more poorly rated vehicles would be just fine to own and drive. So, choosing a car requires focus on the attributes and features that, frankly, fall in what I'd call "lifestyle choices."

Surprisingly, I was looking to downsize from a 6-cylinder to a 4-cylinder engine.   Recently, I got my fifth speeding ticket. After I was no longer "madder than a wet hen," it occurred to me that I had gotten every darn one of them since I bought the zippier Nissan Murano (see photo). Obviously, I can't handle that much power, especially in an area notorious for its speed traps. 

Safety, yes.  Airbags and other safety features are very important to me. I spent five years recovering from a severe leg break that I suffered when I fell off my side porch steps. So, I appreciate design that would keep me from ever having to repeat an extended period of recovery from an accident. 

Next, I don't like cars with a real boxy front end.  I like the smoother, rounder, cross-over styling.  I do want it to look sporty because I do hold some fantasy that even as a disabled, over-weight, recently-turned 60-year old woman, I am still cool. 

And, now that I have settled on finding a red car -- I have become a connoisseur of the different shades of red.  The Mazda CX-5 comes in a a very vivid cherry red that I just don't like -- otherwise, the car would be my first choice.  They call it "Soul Red Metallic."  I guess I want to be cool, just not that cool. 

But, the cross-over styling has made it nearly impossible to see out the tiny triangular shaped back-side window that most of them feature.  I can't tell you how many hits and misses I have had backing up with the Murano.  A back-up camera now compensates for this design defect, as does a blind spot monitoring system that appears on the outside mirrors.   The engineers have solved through technology what they screwed up in design.

I still need a decent amount of cargo room.  During my first several years here -- living back in the woods, a long way from any decent shopping -- I found myself packing my SUV full (overfull) of needed purchases: furniture, lamps, rugs, remodeling supplies, fabric, gardening tools, mulch, and so on. My little house is pretty much a finished project, so the SUV no longer plays as important a role as mule carrier.  But, I still want the option to cart stuff around.  It's just who I am!

I also like a darker upholstery -- not black, but gray.    My Nissan Murano has a sickly-looking beige interior that almost kept me from buying it. 

Next, any car I buy must accommodate my long legs -- in both the front and back seats. And, as my rear end widens (mine, not the car's), I don't find narrow bucket seats all that comfortable.  And, with my disabled left leg, I like sitting more upright with my thighs parallel to the floor.  So, yes, the "8-way power-adjustable driver's seat with power-adjustable lumbar support" appeals to me far more than the manually adjustable seats.  My Murano has power-adjustable seats, and yes, it has spoiled me rotten. 
I also wanted a good sound system.  When it takes you three hours to drive to your dentist, doctor, or to a decent department store, you enjoy listening to music on the drive.  Newer cars allow you to access Pandora and HD Radio.  My Murano has a Bose sound system, and now I am spoiled rotten.  The loaded Mazda has a "Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System with AutoPilot and 9 speakers."  Audio heaven.

Unfortunately, the premium sound system comes packaged with features I don't care about, like the moon/sun roof.  But, the premium sound system also comes with premium features I have now come to enjoy, like leather seats.  Did I mention that my Murano has spoiled me rotten?

I like the dual-zone climate control.  Some folks just like more AC than I do.  

Not so Much

A lot of the features of the new cars just don't interest me that much.  The navigation systems are nice, but my Droid phone app works just fine.  Yes, it can be tricky to balance the phone on the dashboard.  And, the Mazda's system indicated the speed limit and then warned you if you were exceeding it.  Gotta say, that part of the package had great appeal to me.  

The Bluetooth hands-free phone system sounds like an ongoing invitation to distracted driving.  Distracted driving is the main reason I keep getting speeding tickets.  Oh, yea.  And, the newer cars will display text messages and give you an audible readout, to which you can audibly reply.  No thanks.  That sounds like the basis for my next law school exam scenario!

The "bi-xenon adaptive front-lighting system" allows the headlight to point down the road even when you are in a sharp turn.  Could be handy on the curvy Appalachian roads I drive, but just how much does this "system" add to the cost of the car?  After all, I've been doing pretty well all these years with statically mounted headlights.  I try not to out-drive the extent of the light beam because, if I did, that would suggest I was speeding!

The "advanced keyless entry" was novel for awhile.  Cool even.  But, I am still not sure what advantage it offers.  Some of the new cars allow you to start them remotely -- say from the shopping mall -- so you have a warm car to enter after walking the distance of the lot.  But, I usually park in the handicap parking space when I plan to carry some stuff to the car.   It would be a short walk, leaving little time for warm up.  So, I'd have to remember to turn the car on while waiting to pay for the stuff I planned to carry to the car.   

And, then there are the seat warmers.  I've never had them, so I can't say I have any desire for them. Perhaps if I lived in a much colder climate they would be a terrific feature.  

I am not cool enough to care about the feature that allows the automatic transmission to be driven as if it were a manual-stick shift transmission.  In fact, huh?  Nor am I cool enough to care about the alloy wheels. 

Tomorrow, I'll describe my conversation with Mazda's Sales Consultant, Shelly Fair. This pleasant grandmother was by far the most effective salesperson.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Shopping for New Car: How I Spent July 4th and 5th

Bargaining Between 
Sophisticated Negotiators

I've decided to replace my 2005 Nissan Murano with a newer model, used car.  I applied all the rules of interest-based and distributive bargaining that I teach in my course.  I plan to blog about the experience over the next several days. 


People hate shopping for cars.  We are not a "haggle" culture.  It's the reason that Saturn's "no-dicker-sticker" proved to be such a popular selling technique.  

Studies show that U.S. buyers tolerate about 3 or 4 rounds of bargaining.  In contrast, people living in haggling cultures will engage in 10 to 15 rounds of bargaining.  Guess who typically gets the better deal?

Because we lack experience in bargaining for small things like food and clothing, bargaining for an expensive car brings great anxiety to most people in the U.S.

But, I teach negotiation.  In fact, I am one of the very few law professors in the U.S. to teach how to effectively bargain over money.  I expected these negotiations to be fun and interesting.

Round 1 - Insist on Using Objective Criteria:

My goal for this past week-end was to collect information about the vehicles I might want to buy.

First, I collected objective criteria so I could have an informed conversation with each salesperson.  I bought a Blue Book for less than $10 and two issues of Consumer Reports.  Over a lovely dinner of French food and wine at Cafe Lola in Johnson City, TN, I circled in the magazine the descriptions of the small SUVs recommended by Consumer Reports' June 2104 "New Car Ratings & Review" issue.

The following vehicles made my short list.  The stars show my relative interest:

  • Honda CR-V *
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport ****
  • Kia Sorento
  • Mazda CX-5 ****
  • Nissan Rogue (even though the magazine did not recommend it; shows my brand loyalty) ****
  • Subaru Forester ****
  • Subaru Outback **
  • Subaru XV Crosstrek **
  • Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
  • Volkswagen Tiquan
I made notes about each vehicle in a format allowing easy cross-referencing.  

The magazine discusses the road test score, the car's reliability, owner cost, owner satisfaction, safety rating, and fuel economy.  It describes the features of each car and its base price range.

Before I returned to my hotel Thursday night, I drove through the parking lots of the nearby movie theater and the mall to see which body styles I liked.  This proved a quick way to see quite a few cars in a very short time.

The next morning I got on the websites of the local dealers. This research gave me more information about body styles and price ranges for the earlier models for each car that looked promising.  I also decided I wanted a red car this time around.

Next, I drove through the dealer lots that were closed on the 4th to see what they had on their used cars lots. I also visited the Mazda and Hyundai dealers (which were open) so I could drive a fully loaded version of the new vehicles they offered. The next day I visited the Nissan dealer before I left town.

Tomorrow, I'll start describing my conversations with each salesperson.  Who hit the sweet spot?  Who fumbled?  Why?

October 2014 Update:  Found this article discussing when you should buy new versus used car based on dealer incentives. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The UpLevel Vortex: Finding Clients (Part 2)

Make a List.
Do it Twice.

In my last post, I described the first steps in finding clients for your products or services.  Today, I promised to talk about the sources of clients.  Christine Kane, in her business coaching programs, suggests we consider three sources of clients:

  • People you know;
  • People other people know; and
  • People "who gather."

People You Know

Selling yourself to people you know if by far the easiest place to start.  After all, if you have lived and acted appropriately, these people love you, respect you, and care about your success.  Quite simply: "People buy from people they know, like, and trust," says Christine.  

These folks, however, need information about what you offer, how you work, and whom you want to serve before they can refer ideal clients to you, including themselves. 

Make a List

So, list one hundred people that you know.  Yes, sit down with two blank pieces of paper and put one name on every line of both sheets.  Then, try to expand the list to two hundred people. Then, try to extend the circle of potential contacts even wider. 

Include extended family members, school friends, church family members, and people you know through associations, civic organizations, or recreational groups.

Next post, I'll talk briefly about the concept of the "warm letter" as a referral generating tool.  For more information, you'll have to read the books I listed in my last post.