ARBOR WEALTH: Paying $4 a month for a Baltimore Cadillac

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

“He won’t buy nothing that he can’t fix." from “Made in America” by Toby Keith

“Tin Men” was directed by Barry Levinson who aalso directed “Diner," “The Big Chill” and “Mumford." Set in Baltimore in the 60’s, and starring Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss, the storyline involves aluminum siding salesmen who utilize various schemes to convince Maryland homeowners to purchase their product. The pair also compete for the affections of DeVito’s wife, played by Barbara Hershey, who begins dating Dreyfuss without realizing that, like her husband, Dreyfuss is just another “Tin Man."

DeVito and Dreyfuss think their potential customers are impressed if they arrive for a siding consultation in a Cadillac. One of the movie’s memorable scenes portrays Dreyfuss negotiating the price on his new Cadillac with the dealer, who asks him what he’s willing to pay. “What do I want to pay?” asks Dreyfuss. “I wanna’ pay four dollars, four dollars a month.” So whenever someone asks a member of our family what we’re willing to fork over for a particular service, we always say laughingly, “Four dollars. I wanna’ pay four dollars a month.”

Deciding what we’ll pay, or what we’ll charge, is a challenge that all of us contend with daily. The low bid is not always the best bid. We all know this because sometimes we’ve accepted a low bid, gotten poor workmanship, and end up saying, “Well, you get what you pay for.”

The ideal business arrangement is to contract with service providers who offer high quality work and a fair price. These business professionals often are so valued they have to turn away business. Some hair stylists and car mechanics have no openings, they’re so in demand. Why, then, don’t they charge more, if they’re so booked?

One reason is that smart business professionals understand that their profit can be better maximized by establishing and then maintaining a long term relationship with a client or customer. And that by providing both excellent service and a fair price, they are insuring that both parties are treated well for a long time. When both parties view the relationship as valuable and worthwhile, it’s a “win-win” in perpetuity.

Whether we’re choosing a home builder, a dentist, an attorney, a CPA, or an investment advisor, we seek exceptional service at a fair price. Some folks undervalue their services, afraid that clients won’t meet their price if they charge what they’re actually worth. Others overcharge, regardless of whether their product or service is top notch. Both arrangements usually wear thin quickly. The best compliment a service provider or professional can receive is when a client or customer says, “The cost or fee is inconsequential when I consider the value of the service that this person has rendered to me.”

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.