Several weeks ago Reid Hoffman donated enough money for 38,000 people to make loans of HIS money at Kiva. I’ve been loaning money to entrepreneurs all over the world through that site for nearly 2 1/2 years. That’s using my own money. It’s sort of like charity except you get paid back at zero percent interest. You could theoretically lose money that you lend, but in this case you would be losing Reid Hoffman’s money. Who is Reid Hoffman? He’s the founder of LinkedIn. He’s a multi-millionaire or perhaps billionaire, so $950,000 isn’t as much to him as it is to you and me. That’s right. He is letting us loan $25 of his money. That is, 38,000 of us who aren’t already registered at the site are free to register (for free) and loan his money.
So YOU can’t lose money. Just Reid. I’ve been grateful that some people have taken me up on this offer, but I still believe more people would like to participate if they truly understand that this non-profit is doing some real good and they can be a part of it. No risk to you except for your time. Please don’t be cynical. Don’t miss your chance to see the impact of this website around the world. Out of 38,000 spots, there are now around 2400 left as I write this. I am amazed that it has taken this long to exhaust the money. Don’t miss your chance.
A road diverged in the woods…
Follow the link in the first paragraph. Now I’m done with my urging you on.
This writing is getting better and better. Do you find that? I guess I should say easier and easier. I’m not sure how you view the quality.
Whether tired or sleepy or wide awake or relaxed or keyed up, just keep on track. That’s what we all have to do. Keep on track. Again and again. If you fall off the horse, get back on and ignore the cliche. Just do it!
Shopping at Sprouts today I realized that they’re not as good a deal as Henry’s used to be. I think I’ll go to the other store whose name escapes me right now. Some of there stuff is just more expensive than other stores. Is it better? I can’t say that that is the case. Trader Joe’s beats them on a lot of products.
Maybe I just look for stuff that not everbody buys. We get goat’s milk and have for nearly 20 years since we figured out that our son can digest it more easily than cow’s milk. Trader Joe’s quart is $2.99 I think. They only have the Meyenberg(?) half gallon for $7.98. That’s a big jump. That’s not the only example.
More and more these types of price comparisons are available through applications. Soon you’ll be able to check nearly every store in your area to compare prices over your phone. I’m just not sure that a lot of these stores understand that. Maybe they are depending on a customer base that is old enough to largely be ignorant of these new possibilities. I don’t know.
I’ve also noticed that Trader Joe’s really, really tries to keep their checkout lines moving. They seem to be opening new lines all the time when they aren’t operating at full capacity and they actively come by and say, “I’m open over here, sir.” I don’t see Sprouts or Vons or Stater Bros. or Albertson’s or any other “old-fashioned” stores doing that. Between Costco and Trader Joe’s we can get most of what we need.
It’s like the old stores don’t pay attention or don’t care. But they aren’t really doing much to compete. They do have their “clubs”, but they take extra time in the line and they seem to operate like a factory in a way. There’s no real time for conversation and they expect you to answer their perfunctory questions and do what you have to do with your club member number as well as debit card or whatever and move right through. On top of that they are often verbally or electronically soliciting donations. I don’t recall that happening at Trader Joe’s or Costco.
They just seem not to get it.
Several years ago Vons employees went on strike and I supported them in their efforts to retain their pay and benefits, but they essentially lost. Things really haven’t been the same since. I realize that I’m getting older, but so many of these employees seem so young. Many of the employees I used to know and would have short conversations with are long gone. They simply got fewer and fewer hours on the schedule versus the younger employees who are paid less and many left on their own.
A friend of my son’s commented a few years ago that I seemed to know the names of many of the cashiers I encountered on a daily basis. I still strive to learn their names but we are moved through the lines so quickly now that I don’t know as many of them by name.
I wonder if it’s just a matter of time until Albertson’s combines with Ralph’s or Stater Bros. or Vons. How can they survive the way they do things? They can’t cut their employees pay much more, can they?
When I was around 20, Vons and Safeway combined and all the stores in our area are called Vons. I think only a few Safeways survive anywhere.
But, back then I don’t know if Trader Joe’s existed. I do know that there were none around here.
You also have the march of technology. At Albertson’s you have some checkout lines that are automated and usually I use those if I don’t have very many items. They also have those at Home Depot. It’s an interesting twist.
While that seems like it might be the inevitable march of progress, there’s something else that makes it slightly better than simply eliminating jobs. In my opinion, it’s a step up that the stores can trust customers to scan their own purchases. That seems like a good thing. They do that with headphones at Virgin Airlines in the pre-boarding area. You pay something like $2.00 for the headphones and they simply trust you to put the money in the slot. Part of that is Virgin simply being practical. It does take more time to have someone to police that and you would have to pay them to do that. Instead, they enhance the relationship with customers by trusting them and making it convenient for them.
Maybe grocery stores could look to Virgin’s example. Of course, I guess there will always be some neighborhoods where the stores wouldn’t trust the customers as much. Maybe not, though. Maybe the customers would respond to the trust.
In October of 2010 I decided to get “off the fence” about microlending when I discovered Kiva.org. Kiva’s website says that it is a “non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.”
When I started by depositing $50 I had no idea what a changing experience it would be for me. I’m old enough to remember when you could get 6% interest in a savings account and 12% in a money market account. Today you usually get nothing in a checking account and next-to-nothing in a savings account. Besides my inclination to do good and see where this experiment would take me, I thought about how little I was risking. When I started with Kiva their repayment rate was around 97% and as I write this it’s closer to 99%. I reasoned that it was unlikely that someone would default based upon Kiva’s track record and today I am happy to say that I have lost zero dollars to default or currency fluctuations. As for the interest – $2.00 a year or so on $100.00 doesn’t really excite my savings account. In effect, Kiva can become like a little savings account if you’re ok with the tiny risk.
An interesting thing happened on my journey into microlending – I got hooked. One of the first people to get a $25.00 loan from me was Malia Falaniko in Samoa. Here’s what Kiva says:
Malia Falaniko owns a vegetable garden and used her loan to buy seeds for pumpkin, beans, cabbage, cucumbers, and eggplant as well as Gramoxome to help kill weeds. She feels that since joining the loan program with SPBD, she has been able to extend her business and the purchase of Gramoxome has really helped promote vegetable growth. Malia notes that before her loan, she could only deliver her vegetables to the market once per week, but now that her garden has expanded, she is able to deliver from 2 to 3 times per week. Malia feels that her business is going well and since she has children, would like to be able to improve her home for their benefit.
Malia borrowed $425.00 through this loan and I was one of 17 lenders. She asked to borrow the money for 14 months and I was pleasantly surprised that she paid back the loan early. Malia bolstered my confidence in this new venture.
While the payments trickled in for a few months from Malia’s loan and another to a U.S. woman named Doracy, I noticed that I could add $11.00 to my account. Why? Because I wanted to make a third loan to someone else and I didn’t have to wait for Malia & Doracy to completely pay me back before I could “put my money to work” again!
Over the last 2 years or so I have added another little bit every so often to keep my money working to improve the lives of these entrepreneurs. Now I have a total of $247.00 invested/saved in Kiva’s entrepreneur’s dreams and I have made 35 loans of $25.00 each. Because I am interested in improving the lives of women I have made all loans to women or groups with a majority membership of women.
If you would like to join me in helping women entrepreneurs or anyone at Kiva, you can also join a team that I created under the Kiva umbrella – The Special Purpose Club – by clicking