Peddling Papers

I was walking down to the Post Office today. It's about an hour's walk round trip, which is just about right - long enough to be good exercise, short enough to fit into my day. Throughout some of my trip today I watched a young man driving a beat up little car delivering newspapers up and down the street, ducking into side streets, constantly stopping and starting, backing up.. tough duty for a car. I felt sorry for him. I think of that kind of work as desperation level: the kind of thing you'd do only if you have no other options. Even if you don't care about the lost sleep, I would think the true automotive costs would seriously eat up the rather meager pay you'd get.

Of course the newspapers don't care if you are really working below minimum wage, ruining your health and destroying your car. That's YOUR problem, pal.

But I always try to look at everything as opportunity. The little community I live in has private roads so you can drive an unregistered golf cart. As I walked, I wondered whether a person who lives here could make a decent profit if they used a golf cart to carry and deliver the newspapers. It's not something I'd do - I have enough to do in the morning - but cutting expenses like this might just turn a very ugly job into something half-way decent.

As I mulled that over, I realized that you could probably get away with deducting at least some golf cart related costs. You couldn't deduct more than your income, of course (at least not for very long) but for someone who already had a reason to own a golf cart, this could be icing on the cake. Yeah, it's a small cake and thin icing, but still..

There's plenty of time for thinking in an hour's walk, so I next wondered if someone like me who already has a work at home business could add work like that to their existing business and report all income under one business. After all, Microsoft doesn't have a separate business to sell Xboxes, right? Naww, and not only that, but Microsoft uses the profits from other parts of its business to help it compete in markets it is not doing so well in. I see that the most recent reports of their Xbox profits are rosy, but there are those who would say that they got there by predatory pricing: letting profits on XP help them charge less than they would have otherwise.

I'm sure Microsoft's accountants and lawyers would not agree with those who have made such vile accusations. I'm pretty sure that the IRS would agree that there's nothing wrong with that. I'm pretty sure that the IRS would NOT look so kindly on me trying to write off extra golf cart expenses. They might rightfully suggest that delivering newspapers doesn't fit well with the rest of my business. I could argue that an Xbox doesn't really fit with Microsoft's business, but I doubt that I'd get far.

They'd also point out that Microsoft eventually intends to turn a profit on that part of its business. Indeed, they seem to have done that now. My golf cart newspaper delivery division has limited growth prospects - the income potential has a pretty low upside.

But no, I protest. It's possible to outfit golf carts to be road-ready. With proper equipment and signage, these can be registered and legally driven all around town - you have to stay off the Interstates, but everywhere else is fine. My business plan has me as the Microsoft of home newspaper delivery inside of five years.. I just need to make some investments!

Actually, it might not be such a horrible idea. It might work like our lawn crews do it: a big truck delivers a dozen riding lawnmowers and the crew to ride them and then they fan out across the community. Imagine a truck hauling golf carts instead.. it might just be feasible. A guy doing that kind of lawn service might even use the same trucks and same crew for both jobs.

Not that I'd ever want employees again. As I reached that thought, I also reached home again. I'll never use this idea and won't even investigate the costs. It might not work out at all. But if you ARE getting desperate, thinking about ways to turn an ugly job into something better can sometimes pay off..

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© Anthony Lawrence

Sun Feb 22 23:15:29 2009: 5481   Friar

Companies typically re-imburse employees something like 40 cents per kilometer, if they have to use their car for work-related travel.

Feels like this is a lot of money. But it's NOT. That's probalby what it really costs to drive your car (taking into account gas, maintenance and insurance).

So those guys delivering papers...Ugh. Think of their operating costs. How can they expect to break even, then?

They'd probably be better off working at Burger King or something

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