Thursday, June 17, 2010

Class, Coupons, and Oil Changes

Hello again,

For those of you brave souls still reading on Post #2, I bet you're wondering how getting the oil changed went. Thanks for asking! It was surprisingly wonderful thanks to Elspeth, Al, and my coupon.

Since I had to bring my car back to get the oil changed this morning, I had to leave early. Sufficiently grouchy, I drove way over the speed limit, but made "I'm-in-my-car-and-don't-even-know-what-you-look-like-but-I-think-our-cars-are-friends" friends with a white truck carrying a ladder, who kept trying to get ahead of me and failing. I think the failure part is probably why I found him so loveable.

Anyway, I made great time, and got to the dealership five minutes early - glory! Elspeth (a blonde, medium-height, slightly thick British lady with a giant wedding ring) had helped me yesterday, and I was glad to see her again. I was thrilled when she popped the hood of my car and poked her nose around - while in a boucle skirt, heels, and rhinestoned shirt. It was like the business casual version of Megan Fox's character in the Transformers movies (and thus way more sophisticated)! Women who know things about cars (admittedly, not me) are really cool, and women who do things like lift heavy boxes, inspect engines, or cook dinner in heels are a source of endless inspiration. Thus, Elspeth won a place in my heart forever, and made me wish I spent my summers rebuilding roadsters, instead of working at my office job (for those of you with roadsters, trust me when I say you want me to stay in the office).

Not only was Elspeth wonderful, but she had the luck of working with me on a day when I HAD A COUPON! Coupons are to the middle class what petri dishes are to penicillin. They give you a little more (quantity, quality, experience) for a little less (time, money, effort). My coupon was why I got to get my oil changed at the dealership instead of some scuzzy hole-in-the-wall (because when given the choice between spending money on clothes and on my car, I will always choose clothes. This is probably also why I will always admire women like Elspeth - they do both). My coupon gave me more than half off my oil change, and let me experience the classier side of the automotive world.

This included a FREE shuttle service - a blue minivan painted with the dealership logo and driven by Al, a man about the age where you retire if it's a good year and drive people to work if it's a recession. We didn't talk much on the way to my office, but he made an effort and it wasn't awkward. He was nice, genuine, and quiet - all the reassurance of a grandfather, without the armrest-gripping fear of a geriatric driver.

During work, I got free lunch (no really, I did - and you thought this was an economics blog!), and got a nice call from Elspeth telling me my car was ready, complimenting me on my voicemail message recording (I don't actually remember what it is, but people usually comment, so I leave it be), and giving me Al's number so he could pick me up.

Al was right on time, and we had a nice chat about professional sports on the way back to the dealership (I bluffed through most of it). When I got there, Elspeth took me inside to the cashier's window, which was tiled with "Wal-Mart tiles" (the kind that are intentionally made to look dirty so that you can never really say they're dirty) - it wasn't Orbitz-commercial-white, but it was clean.

While waiting to pay, I got once-overs from two young male auto techs, and one middle-aged male auto tech - all of whom implied that they wanted to have adventures in MY business casual. It was then that I appreciated not only coupons, but all the nice, classy people who worked there, like Al and Elspeth. They understood that car-related places tend to be scuzzy and that no one wants to feel a turtleneck in June is a necessity. So each took care to be classy in his or her own way - Elspeth in her heels, Al with his small talk. Thanks to them, the auto techs were the exception, and it was, dare I say it, a delightful day at the dealership.

I did all this in:
Gray wide-leg sailor-button pants (originally over $100, I got them at a store closing sale for $8!), short-sleeve cornflower blue button-down (tucked in), blue floral disk earrings, silver circle-link watch, silver ring with daisy pattern, and black and gray pointed-toe wingtip-inspired heels.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Where, oh where is my Jamba?

Hi everyone!
Welcome to my blog, Adventures in Business Casual. We'll focus on economics as it relates to real life, because I like economics and adventures, and I wear business casual six days a week. I'll write what I wore that day at the end, for all you economically-minded fashionistas (and those of you who wonder why adventure books describe the scenery and not the outfits).

As a college student in NYC, I have developed a love for bargain-hunting. While I would never stoop to the level of "freegan," finding deals is a way for me to compete and gloat without being rude. Last night, I saw that today Jamba Juice would be selling select flavors for $1 (today only)! Even though I'm home for the summer and no longer have to live on cereal and grilled cheese, I was still pretty excited for sale smoothies. I also had to get the oil changed in my car, so I figured my Jamba would be a nice touch to sitting in the waiting dungeon of the dealership.

I left work and set out for a little R&R (rebated refreshment) - last night, I had searched for the nearest Jamba Juice to my office, and routed a happy trip from office to beverage to dingy-room-full-of-old-magazines-and-mildly-scary-people, as I am notoriously bad with directions. I had my course loaded on my phone, and set off confident, stomach rumbling.

I got on the highway, exited appropriately, and followed the directions - down to the Google-Maps-instructed U-turn (because everyone knows, most roads simply won't allow you to turn left on the first try). The problem was, I couldn't see any building numbers, so I didn't know if I was close to smoothie heaven or not. I turned into a parking lot and looked at my route - deciding written directions weren't enough, I used my phone's map feature to see my blue dot in relation to the red dot of bargain beverage. I didn't know, but it was actually the address of the car dealership. Oops. So, I hung a U, and put in the right address. Except, bummer for me, it was STILL THE CAR DEALERSHIP'S ADDRESS. So after hanging a U and still not seeing Jamba, I hung another U and could only see car dealerships. I found another parking lot, realized my mistake, and put in the really, really, really right address, and drove there easily, only accidentally cutting off one minivan in the parking lot.

It took me 25 minutes to drive to the Jamba Juice that should have taken seven minutes to get to. Super. But, it was still $1 Jamba - yum. I'm also trying a new thing called "flirting in no-risk situations," because unlike business casual and economics, flirting isn't one of my natural talents. However, like practicing anything else, from sports to piano to spilling oil like BP, it's best to start small and work up. So I started with being smiley, pleasant, asking questions, and still smiling when the guy condescendingly called me "honey" and wrote my name as "Alexander." I wonder how many Alexanders he's seen come through wanting a "Pomegranate Pick Me Up" in a pencil skirt?

I then got back in the car and realized that I had spent 30 minutes getting my smoothie (I make $10 an hour at my desk job, but had budgeted seven minutes, so the 23 extra minutes cost me $3.33) and I drove around five extra miles (my adorable car gets great gas mileage, so I'm saying this cost me about $.60). Add that to the $1.07 cost of the smoothie with tax, and I spent $5.00 for my "bargain" beverage. Not to mention I almost died three times because people wouldn't let me over into the left lane to hang a U (and the mom from the parking lot shot me a death glare), and when I got to the dealership they said that after 4:30 they really couldn't do anything, and since it was 4:20 I should probably come in in the morning and take their shuttle to work. Wheeeeee.

In economics there are a lot of hidden costs - opportunity costs, like what I could have been doing with that half hour (in my calculations, I figured I could have spent it working), or even the $.07 sales tax. Frequently I find that my bargain-hunting involves trade-offs between time and money. Or in this case, between turning around five times with the satisfaction of a deal hunted, and paying a couple extra bucks for an unnecessary snack like anyone with a good sense of direction.

And I did all of this in:
Gray-brown pencil skirt, lime green and white patterned tube top, white and gold crocheted shrug, bamboo earrings, gun-metal-gray owl necklace, and black patent peep-toe slingbacks with wicker wedges.