Monday, November 23, 2009

628a The Suitcase Dilemma

628a The Suitcase Dilemma

Planning a trip to Asia gets us into the Suitcase Dilemma. A trip that lasts a month or six weeks will require new luggage. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong.

Do you get a really good set that'll take the pounding that a 20-thousand mile round trip will no doubt administer? Or do you buy cheap stuff that you can throw away on returning home? The inclination is to get something "good," that'll stand up. But these days, people are coming to the airports and swiping luggage from the carousel before the passenger gets through customs. Good may be what the insurance people call an "attractive nuisance."

On the other hand, something really inexpensive may fall apart halfway through the journey.

So the best answer is to get no luggage at all, and FedEx your stuff to the first stop, pick up a duffel bag or two there and send the bags back home FedEx before returning. No danger of theft. Scarce little danger of loss. Pricey, but not as pricey as buying good stuff and having the bags lost or stolen.

Sounds like a brilliant plan. But there's a downside. And the downside is the Homeland Security folks. "You're going from New York to Hong Kong or Shanghai or Taipei and you don't have luggage?" It's a legitimate question, but one that will get you shunted off the check-in line and into a small windowless room with a one way mirror, and metal chairs and a table bolted to the floor.

"But officer, we were worried that our stuff would get lost or stolen so we shipped it ahead."

"You have a receipt?"

"Sure, right here."

"This says you shipped two boxes to someone named 'Uncle K.' in Taipei. But it doesn't say what was in them. And who is this 'Uncle K,' anyway?"

Uncle is an upright, accomplished retired official of the Taiwan government. He is old, smart, well spoken, dignified, respected and a pillar of his community (and his mosque.)

"Mosque, you say?" You can see where this is going.

Maybe FedEx ain't such a hot idea.

Oh. How about this variation: ship the stuff by carrier and take two small suitcases filled with nothing in particular, to check in at the airport counter.

All bases covered. Who cares if the suitcases are stolen at the airport -- either here or there. No hassle about having no luggage. If it gets lost or stolen, who cares.

Phone rings. "Hello."

"This is China Air. We have some lost luggage here that apparently belongs to you."

"Oh, okay."

"May I ask why you never reported it missing?"

Re-enter Homeland Security.

All this over a couple of suitcases.

"Umm. We never reported it missing because we didn't realize it was missing?"

That's not going to fly. Maybe we should take a boat. The trip's way longer, but a whole lot less trouble.


--Talk about "wiggle room." Guy coming in from Australia tries to get through customs at LAX by strapping 15 lizards to his chest. The charge: transporting lizards without a license -- really.

The Weekly Book Look

Today we resume a regular feature of Bloomberg On The Weekend, the weekly Book Look, which will talk about various volumes, many of which will be available at the "Books For A Buck" bin at your local store, some of which will not. Rather than starting with a specific work, today -- some advice on a particular form of reading: self help and business books.

Here's how to read both categories.

Please remember that anyone publishing any of these has an ax to grind. It doesn't matter whether it's "How to Dream Your Way to a Billion..." or "How to play the Gold Market" or "How to Win the Heart of a Reluctant Lover, there's an ax -- even if there doesn't seem to be.

Most of this advice comes from one of the most prolific of self help writers, Napoleon Hill, author of "Think and Grow Rich" and any number of sequels. Hill suggested that before you buy one of these books, you open it and read the table of contents. This, he says, will show you the direction in which the author is going and the topics he or she covers.

You can learn a lot from "Contents." And you usually can tell from it (or the index) what you'll be finding in the pages and of what use it will be to you.

Most self-help books are a combination of irrelevance and common sense. One of the most famous, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie can be summarized in a few words. In this case, the single most important line between the covers is "bait the hook to suit the fish." You don't need to read "Friends" to get this. All you have to do is think about the idea and act accordingly.

"See You At the Top" by Zig Ziglar is another mainstay in the self help world. If you examine the contents, you'll quickly realize that this is not only about money, but also is about Christianity. Interested? Fine. But not for everyone.

Hill's advice on business and self help books is worth more than anything he has to say in any of his own books.

A lot of what we talk about in this section will be about cheap novels -- stuff to read for fun. But some will be serious.

Next time: "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" by Anne C. Heller.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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