Saturday, February 20, 2010

Experience and Getting Things Right

How comfortable are you buying a gallon of milk? A pair of jeans?

These decisions are frequent and low risk. Anybody who has ever shopped knows what to do with each. Check expiration date then buy. Check size, fit, match, price, then buy.

How comfortable are you purchasing a television?

This decision is a little less frequent, but the process is manageable. Think about your price range. Look for the features that you want. Ask a couple of friends how they like their TVs. Check some online reviews and maybe consumer reports. Find the store that's selling what you want at the best price, and buy.

Now let's push it: how comfortable are you purchasing a car or a house?

Who is honestly comfortable when buying a car or a house (unless the person is a car salesman or a real estate broker)? These purchases are very infrequent. They occur maybe 5-10 times in a lifetime. We don't have opportunities to try and fail. Worse, failure is extremely costly.

What to do in these situations?

I don't know. I've never bought a car or a house.

However, I do know people who have bought cars and houses, so talking to them might be a good starting point.

Hubris is still a tragic flaw. There's no shame in seeking support and knowledge when experience is low and the stakes are high.

Update: I talked with some people who know a thing or two about buying cars. The two best lessons that I learned are written here.