How to Simply Solve the Internet Sales Tax Problem

sales tx

Here’s a solution that most people on either side of the issue won’t tell you…the whole issue of collecting sales tax on internet sales can be solved without hurting small businesses. My simple solution?

Have all larger internet retailers that sell $20 million or more online collect sales tax.

You might ask, “won’t that leave a pile of money on the table?” The simple answer is no. If you want the complicated answer, read on.

The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act does not create a level playing field, but rather just picks new winners and losers. For instance, under current international trade agreements, the individual states do not have the power to require foreign companies shipping from outside the USA to collect tax on individual transactions. Due to the reciprocity agreements with the USPS, foreign retailers would have a natural price advantage with US retailers pushing more business and more jobs offshore.

Additionally multi billion dollar companies like Amazon.com would have a HUGE competitive advantage over small businesses like ours because they have the volume to amortize costs of collecting and reporting tax to 50 different states. Within some of those states, multiple taxing jurisdictions exist- Alabama alone has 49 separate reporting authorities (http://1.usa.gov/106Jdzb). According to the Washington Post, a minimum of 7,600 different tax rates exist and some estimates top 14,000. The reason they can’t give us an exact number? There were 259 rate changes alone in 2012. (http://wapo.st/14MxEQu)

There is a $1 million dollar exemption in the Marketplace Fairness Act for small businesses but that exemption is laughable. Any small business can tell you that if you are internet based and have less than $1 million in sales, you are not a business but rather a hobby. Since margins are typically small with online businesses and since large businesses like Amazon make up the vast majority of online sales, a more reasonable exemption would be along the lines of Internet Retailers Top 500 list (http://bit.ly/106K2bd). For 2013, the last member of the Internet Retailer Top 500 had $21,375,000 in sales.

These Top 500 retailers comprise over 97% of all 2013 online sales (latest published year) so assuming an average sales tax rate across all jurisdictions of 7%, states would collect nearly $18 BILLION in uncollected sales taxes if the cutoff was being a business the size of a member of the Top 500 retailers, the only cost to states would be roughly $10 million per state in uncollected sales tax and would save numerous jobs from retailers that will simply be put out of business due to compliance costs associated with collecting sales taxes in a myriad of jurisdictions. See individual sales tax rates here http://bit.ly/106L4UC.

In summary, the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act will:

1. Place a heavy burden on tiny businesses that will close companies and cost jobs.

2. Unfairly take from small businesses and give to the giants like Amazon.com (that’s why Amazon heartily supports the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act).

3. Collect an amount from small businesses so tiny that it is a rounding error in most state budgets.

What should be done:

1. Pass a bill that exempts businesses with less than $20 million in online sales.

2. Collect between 97% and 98% of sales tax that should be collected.

3. Quit trying to steal from small businesses and give to big businesses!

Using California as an example, their budget for 2014-2015 is $156 billion (http://wapo.st/1FZTZIC). If companies less than $20 million in online sales were exempted from collecting online sales tax, California would collect over an additional $2.3 BILLION in sales tax and would only lose less than 1/2 of 1% of the state’s total budget and small businesses would be SAVED from a punishing compliance burden.

Eat More Chocolate! An Unusual Piece of Advice from a Fitness Expert

dark chocolate

I’ve lost and maintained the loss of nearly 100 lbs. over the last four years. You probably want to know, how did you do it? My answer is easy, I ate chocolate!

Let’s start that my expertise lies in the area of fitness equipment but fortunately, over my life I have learned volumes about the human body from some of the smartest PhD’s in the areas of kinesiology, fitness, and nutrition.

That brings me back to my general advice- Eat More Chocolate! What I learned is why I already knew but never practiced. To have sustained weight loss you must increase physical activity (Facebook doesn’t count), change your mindset regarding food, and eat better- don’t go on a diet.

Starting with the last piece of advice first, dark chocolate has tons of antioxidants primarily from Flavonoids which according to the University of Michigan, can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, help prevent blood clots, and might decrease blood pressure. This is the same ingredient in red wine that has health benefits.

Eating less is not good enough. Now I will readily eat a spinach salad instead of having a side of fries. I don’t prefer but I choose a piece of skinless grilled chicken instead of a burger, and instead of having a milk chocolate Hershey’s Kiss, I eat a small piece of dark chocolate.

You also have to change your ideas about food. Food is fuel and for my first 40 years it was about celebration and enjoyment. That gravy train is over! I don’t deprive myself completely but now I realize that to keep 100 lbs. off I have to think differently about food and it all can’t be a treat.

Physical activity was what I always turned to because that was my specialty. At one time I weighed 285 lbs. and had body fat that was just north of 11% body fat. For those laymen out there, that’s good, really good! The problem was I was an in-shape big man and when I stopped playing college football, the activity slowed but the eating didn’t.

It took decades but the weight added up until my body couldn’t take it any more. With this revelation 4 years ago, I am now on a course to live healthy and that includes activity. It doesn’t have to be much but 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking per day can make a world of difference. Get a dog and walk her around the block a few times a day. She’ll love you for it and you’ll get your walking done.

It might require radical change but it doesn’t have to require a radical lifestyle change. The first is mindset (1) think about food differently, (2) eat smaller portions of the right foods, and (3) get moving and build up…even if you start with a minute a day…each journey starts with the first step. Remember, movement is life but it isn’t everything. Don’t forget, food is fuel so Eat More Chocolate, just make sure it is the right kind!

Workout While You Work! – Exercise at Work Tips from Treadmill Doctor – 2015

Treadmill Desk

There has been consistent excitement over the last several years about exercising while you work.  The idea is to walk very slowly for a long period of time while you work or simply something as simple as standing periodically.  It won’t get you a good cardio workout but it burns calories and it beats the alternative of sitting on your butt and looking like a human but slowly transforming in a shape that resembles a gourd (trust me- I was there about four years ago but I changed and so can you).  Like I’ve said some times- I’m in shape- round is a shape, isn’t it?

There are multitudes of ways you can workout while you work. From something simple like a simple hand exerciser to a balance ball all the way to a desk where you pedal or walk all day, there are a great number of choices. We know the choice has arisen from the popularity and with the building scientific proof that sitting all day is a very bad thing to do.

So far, the most popular type of workout at work is a treadmill desk. Treadmill Doctor gets hundreds of questions about treadmill desks every year.  In the past, most people get a regular treadmill and then modify the area around it to make it work.  Some high-end providers that are making the whole workstation are Steelcase (the office furniture company) and Woodway (a high-end provider of commercial treadmills). Some cheap alternatives are out there but the quality is less than that of a department store treadmill on the whole.  For 2012 Lifespan created a new machine just for this type of use.  The TR 1200-DT was Lifespan’s purpose built treadmill desk with the controls and display integrated right on the leading edge of the desk and apparently, they sold a bunch of them because last year they came out with 6 models and for 2014 the expanded to 9 models. We would stay away from the 800 series but the 1200 and 5000 series desks are serious treadmills.

Since Lifespan has such a good design, they are wholeselling their machines to other companies to combine with their own desks. The ones we have found reselling Lifespan machines are TreadmillDeskInc.com, Multi-Table, Xybix, Next Desk, Ergoprise, Human Solution, SpecialT, UpDesk, and Compel.

You know the market is getting crowded when Icon introduces multiple models and that is what they have done with two new Proform treadmill desks and a NordicTrack treadmill desk. Once again, Icon takes things to a new level with an innovative design on the Proform machines where they can be used and have the features of a regular treadmill but you simply flip down the console to use it as a treadmill desk. On the NordicTrack model, the desk portion swings out of the way so you can fold it up and still electronically adjust the desk height to use it as a sitting or standing desk. Pretty innovative since the major complaint we ran into about purpose built treadmill desks is that you couldn’t easily use them as a regular treadmill and you can with both of these.

Treadmill Doctor provides a couple of important points to keep in mind when designing your workspace:

  1. Do not create a condition where you could be trapped.  People have fallen when using a treadmill so always use the safety cord and don’t build your desk where you could be trapped on top of a running treadmill if you forget to use the safety cord or if something malfunctions.
  2. When creating the work area make sure not to close the area around the motor off to a good circulation of air (more of this in the next point).
  3. Remember that low speed use for extended periods of time is the hardest on a treadmill.  Most people think sprinting on a treadmill for 10 minutes daily really wears a treadmill out.  That is not necessarily the case.  We regularly see more problems on treadmills that are used at very low speeds for extended periods of time because little air circulates to cool the motor and electronics and the heat has a cumulative effect, causing component failure.
  4. It is important to keep the treadmill clean and also keep the belt well lubricated because dirt and friction are the two biggest causes of failure on machines used at low speeds for extended periods.
  5. We also suggest additional cooling.  Whether you install a fan in the motor cover (what I would do personally) or simply have an external fan keeping the air circulated around the motor area.  It will help the treadmill last years longer.

We hope this becomes a healthy habit for you and if you follow our recommendations you will have much more success from a reliability standpoint than if you just wing it.

Copyright © 2014 by TreadmillDoctor.com, Inc.

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What to Look for in a Treadmill or Elliptical in 2015

Fitness equipment- as a business- continues to evolve and more and more of the transactions are occurring online. Plenty of purchases still occur in physical stores but when you consider that only a few years ago there were over 1,100 fitness specialty store locations and today we estimate that the number is now under 300, it is easy to see that the dynamics of where treadmills and ellipticals are bought has changed rapidly. Many more units of fitness equipment are bought on the web and in mass-market stores.

As far as how the market divides, we have seen a shift in dollars spent as well. It mirrors much of what has been reported in the broader economy. The very high end of the market has done well and actually expanded. On the more economical side, more and more purchases that used to be at the $2,500 level have moved in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. Much of the business that used to be at the $1,500 price point has moved lower too. Places like Amazon.com, Sears, and Dick’s Sporting Goods commonly today sell machines that are in the $1,500 price point or higher and just a few years ago, it was uncommon for these retailers to sell anything above $1,000 and most of their sales were at $799 or below.

What does this mean for you? First, you will find better quality in the mass market. Joggers on treadmills and moderate users of ellipticals are now able to get on a machine as low as $1,000 without significant problems. The one caveat is that most treadmills in this price range have ¾” decks and those can break with a runner since they put a pounding on a deck. That’s why we have developed a deck reinforcement kit so if you are a runner and get a machine with a ¾” deck, we would recommend our reinforcement kit or simply buy a machine with a 1” deck. The ellipticals in this range typically use bushings instead of bearings on the major load points so you will have less life engineered into the machine but the elliptical will cost significantly less and you can easily stay with the latest gadget trend with a new machine in 5 years.

At the $1,500 price point, you can get a durable machine. More and more people report to us that they are 5k and 10k training on a $1,500 machine! Icon has put great pressure on the mass market and has effectively grabbed a huge share of the market under $2,000 and now they are moving into higher price points. The company that once dominated the under $1,000 price range now makes home treadmills that cost as much as $4,000.

With all of the turbulence, some matters that were not terribly important in the past are incredibly important today. In the past, manufacturers and distributors had leeway in operations since there were only a few companies and missteps could be easily corrected next year. Competition is now so cutthroat, in all price ranges, that a small misstep could mean your company won’t be around next year to service your treadmill or elliptical. Never fear! We are here to help you make sense of this mess.

The point is that you should consider the channel that you are buying from and the company that makes your treadmill as much as you should consider the model. In our overviews of companies, we give our opinions and thoughts about the stability of the company as well as how we expect them to do over the long run. Check the local BBB (Better Business Bureau) to see how the retailer takes care of their customers. You may also want to check the factories with the national BBB. Since product support is very important with fitness equipment, pay careful attention to our outlook for the brands and consider our comments in regard to their long-term prospects.

Many people email us each year asking about specific components, most notably motors and rollers in relation to treadmills or should I buy a front-drive or rear-drive elliptical. Component buying is almost always a trap that you don’t want to fall into and these are two areas of a treadmill or elliptical that has been muddied over the last 10 to 15 years. First, the motor situation is almost laughable. Since there is no accepted standard for rating treadmill motors, it is easy for a company to put virtually any rating they want on a treadmill motor. With some fear and trembling, we launched a new motor standard four years ago. At first, we had some big players wanting to help out but this fell apart when some factories realized we were going to tell the truth so we have had to go it alone. When we rate the motor, we attempt to rate it based on the size of the windings in the armature in relation to the permanent magnets. It is the only good way to determine the actual horsepower of a treadmill motor and that is why our power ratings may vary significantly from a manufacturer’s stated ratings. In other words, don’t buy a treadmill based upon what the factory claims in HP rating.

Another related point is treadmill roller size. Factories claim a bigger roller is a better roller. In theory, the larger the roller, the slower it will turn causing less wear on the bearings and less stress on the walking belt since the belt can operate at a lower tension. The truth is that many larger rollers have just as many problems as smaller rollers (and some larger rollers have more problems than smaller rollers) because companies skimp on the quality of the parts used to make the rollers, so overall quality is much more important than size of the roller so pay attention in the reviews to the quality ratings. This is just an example of how factories can muddy the waters.

In summation, the market has improved again this year; especially for the consumer because you can get more quality for your money. Some of the mass-market brands still have a way to go in regards to their customer service but the quality of their products has improved so much that in most cases poor service is a moot point. Treadmill Doctor suggests selecting carefully and make sure you pick one from a company that has good prospects to be around for a long time so you can get the parts you need in 10 years. If you are buying from a specialty retailer in order to receive a higher level of service, double-check the retailer’s service level with an organization like the BBB to make sure they take care of customers because if you are buying a high priced treadmill or elliptical, you deserve the best service.

7 Critical Criteria That You Must Know Before Buying a Treadmill or Elliptical This Year

Treadmill Doctor Tips

1. The Internet is a Great Place. 

The great disrupter for the fitness industry has been the internet.  10 years ago, the industry was packed with companies that simply no longer exist today due primarily to online competition. With that said, it is also a great place to do your research and then go to a local store and try to have them match the price.  Keep in mind that the delivery of a treadmill or elliptical from an online seller is much different than when you buy from a local store.  Curbside delivery literally means that.  Most people find that paying extra for “white glove” or inside delivery and assembly is well worth the cost.  Also, it is much easier for a single unit to be damaged in shipping rather than when you buy from a local store so inspect your box carefully before accepting delivery.

2. Unbundling Isn’t Just for Airlines Any Longer.

An ongoing trend is to get very aggressive on the price of the machine but take away things that were once free and that you would expect to be included in the price…remember there is no free lunch.  Just like the airlines now charge for bags, drinks, snacks, a seat larger than a thimble, and breathing (we’ll maybe not breathing yet but it wouldn’t surprise me) and Ryan Air is trying to charge to use the restroom.  Some companies have so aggressively priced their products that they have essentially priced the product where they don’t have the ability to effectively service the product.

3. Don’t Buy on Specs.

Especially if you visit a specialty retailer, you will get all kinds of facts and figures thrown at you…typically at the mass-market retailers all you will hear about is the motor HP.  All of these figures are about as helpful as a fire hose for a drowning person.  These facts and figures are, many times, designed to confuse most consumers because HP ratings can be manipulated wildly and bigger is not necessarily better.  You are better off looking only at quality brands from a quality retailer and not let your head get too clouded with all the hyperbole.  We help you cut through the nonsense with our quality ratings.  We also have our own standard for motor ratings because there is no standard in the treadmill business and we wanted you to have an apples to apples comparison.  Keep in mind that even if a company uses good parts, if it is assembled or engineered poorly, the parts won’t work well together.

4. If It Sounds Too Good to Be True It Probably Is.

Some companies will talk about LIFETIME warranties and other come-ons that sound great but if the factory is no longer in business, you can take the warranty and use it for toilet paper because that will be all that it is worth.  Others claim massively inflated MSRP’s with a “sale” price that is only good for today.  If you feel pressure to make a decision today, you are probably getting the short end of the stick.  Get all your ducks in a row and learn all you can (and the new habit- pull out your smartphone and check prices on the net while you are in the store).  Try out different models because this is an important purchase…we are talking about your health here so it is important to get a good product that will support your fitness goals, weight loss goals, heart health, etc.  This is a great business because it improves people’s lives but remember there are sharks in every business.

5. The Quality is Getting Better & Better at the Low End.

Just as other consumer products are getting better while the price is going down, treadmills and ellipticals are no exception.  Just a few years ago, you had to spend $1,500 to get a decent treadmill and $1,500 was the minimum on an elliptical too.  That is no longer the case and in fact, the $1,000 machines on the market today are better than the $1,500 machines from just a few years ago although we still recommend $1,500 for runners although for those people, we used to recommend a minimum of $2,000.  Sears has really stepped up in quality; as have some of the big sporting goods companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods.  On the whole, the consumer is the real beneficiary. If you want something for occasional, light use, you can really save some money on a lower-end unit.  If you are a marathon runner or someone who pounds the heck out of a machine, still be prepared to shell out the bucks for something that is a long-term treadmill.  If you put 10 miles on an elliptical every morning, you will want to shell out more for a better quality machine.  If you want the best, open up your wallet and be ready to spend thousands but the lower end is as strong as it has ever been in this business.

6. Don’t Expect a Cheaper Machine to Be Perfect. 

We regularly get an email from someone that bought a warehouse club machine and they comment that it has plastic on the side rails or doesn’t feel as sturdy as the model at the club…here’s a news flash- when you buy a $999 from a club or even a $2,500 model from a fitness store, they aren’t the same as a $8,000 club model.  That’s right, list price on most club models is now approaching or over $8 grand and there are now models over $20,000!  You get what you pay for.  With that said, the cheaper units don’t have as high quality components overall as the more expensive machines.  Many of the lower end units are now using the same motors as the higher end units but they cut corners on the quality of the heart rate grips, cut quality of the rollers, use a thinner deck, cut as much expense out of the electronics as possible, or use an incline motor that is slower than the ones on the more expensive machines.  If you want a great machine with no disappointments, you have to pay for that.  If you are willing to make a few compromises, you can get a heck of a deal on a cheaper machine.

7. Figure Out the Angle. 

We are always ready to let you know that we accept advertising from factories and the links are clearly labeled as sponsored links- just like on Google.  We know Google makes piles of cash but NOT our little advertising program.  Our advertising program is finally getting to the point where it helps cover costs…we make our money by selling replacement parts and we are the leader on the Internet in parts sales so that’s how we make a living.  We’ve been doing this for 17 years now so if we were trying to push an agenda or trick the public, we would have been figured out a long time ago- especially how it is impossible to keep a secret on the internet- just ask Miley Cyrus.  Our policy has always been to tell people what we would buy if we were standing in the consumer’s shoes.  As always, we NEVER accept any compensation in any form for the reviews we do.  When we finally figured out that we were spending six figures on the reviews, we knew we had to accept advertising because our readers told us they didn’t want to pay for it.  Reviews like Consumer Reports are also easy to figure out and are above board.  Many affiliate sites are on the web and they get paid if you click through from the affiliate site over to the manufacturer to buy the product…many times they get hundreds of dollars for a single click.  Even Runner’s World has moved to the affiliate model! No wonder they push certain products.  A recycled idea is for factories to start doing their own reviews.  Some have tried to create an arms-length arrangement to make it look independent but you need to ask yourself a simple question; “how does this site make money?”  If you see a well developed review site, it costs a bunch of money and they have to get it back somehow.  Many unwitting sheep are getting served up as lamb chops when they don’t ask this simple question.

Treadmill Doctor’s 11 Tips for Buying a Home Treadmill or Elliptical

1. Remember when you are buying a home treadmill or elliptical, that in most instances a specialty dealer will have more ability to work with you on price than a mass market store.  Usually at Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, Academy Sports, etc., you have to wait on a coupon, sale, or closeout if you want a discount.

2. When buying exercise equipment, make sure to consider where you will put the machine before you buy it.  If you are locating the equipment in a garage, porch or other area that is not climate controlled, expect problems.  Since most models use lubricants that can freeze or lose their ability to properly lubricate at very high heat or extreme cold, you can run into problems on both extremes.  Other problems you will experience in an open area is dust and dirt…these are the #1 reason for failure, not to mention corrosion and other problems associated with areas that have high humidity.  Additionally, arid climates quickly evaporate some belt lubricants for treadmills and joint lubricants for ellipticals.

3. Be sure to buy machines that are built sturdily enough to handle the workload that you want to give them.  Usually the higher the original list price, the better the engineering, the better quality of components, the better overall machine you will get for your money.  Conversely, if your budget is tight, don’t buy more of a machine than you need.  Our grandmother had a cheap $500 treadmill that received very light use every weekday.  Since it was lubricated and cleaned, it didn’t have a single problem in over 10 years.

4. For treadmills- We are starting to temper our view on orthopedic belts.  With that said, we still don’t recommend them because 1) a good pair of running shoes provide more cushioning 2) they hold in heat which shortens belt life, motor life, and electronics life 3) the increased weight of the belt shortens bearing life in the rollers.  We have tempered our view somewhat because the manufacturers of these belts have thinned them a bit which makes them weigh less and the backings have become much more friction-free on many models which has lessened the stress the belt places on the system.  The best way for the average person to see the effect of the belt is stand on the treadmill without any power to the machine and manually walk the belt to see how much friction it has and then compare it with a treadmill with a regular belt.

5. Do your research and get several price quotes from several different stores.  Typically, the more you deal with the various companies, the better deals they will come up with such as discounts, free accessories, financing specials, etc.

6. Tread carefully when buying over the Internet.  Some companies, like Landice will void your warranty if it is not installed by a dealer and some have restrictions on delivery distances from an authorized dealer.  As more factories face the reality of the Internet, this is becoming less of a problem.  If in doubt, contact the factory.  Another issue related to Internet buying is delivery.  Many of us in the business know how difficult it is to ship a single treadmill or elliptical without having it damaged so deal with a company that has been doing it a long time and has already learned how to do it.  Another issue to keep in mind is what you are going to do if you don’t like the machine.  Most companies accept returns but the cost to ship the treadmill or elliptical back to the factory can easily cost hundreds of dollars so it is quite an expensive trial test if the machine is returned.  Also curbside delivery literally means what it says…the trucking company will sit it on the curb and it’s your problem to get it into the house so either purchase inside delivery or have help ready.  Another issue is service…some have good service networks and others don’t but remember that you probably won’t get the type of personalized service you should expect from a local dealer.  The best in the Internet business in our opinion are Icon- makers of the Epic, Gold’s Gym, Healthrider, Image, NordicTrack, Proform, Reebok, and Weslo brands, Johnson- makers of Horizon, Matrix, Merit, Tempo, and Vision brands, Lifespan, Precor, Sole, Star Trac, and True (listed in alphabetical order, not in any order of preference).

7. Do take care of your treadmill or elliptical.  Whether they require quite a bit or little maintenance, keeping the treadmill or elliptical clean and the walking belt lubricated on the treadmill can be the difference between either having a great machine or having a money pit.  Refer to our Treadmill or Elliptical Care Pamphlet for maintenance instructions.

8. If you are considering used machines, really do your homework, then do it again.  We do rebuilding jobs for local health clubs all the time and do this work occasionally for people who are buying health club models for the home but to do it right costs quite a bit and if someone is telling you they have a used or rebuilt at an amazing price, you typically aren’t getting the entire story.

9. Since buying a treadmill or elliptical is a huge investment for most people, choose your dealer and factory carefully.  As with any product, a brand new company may not be around in a few years and parts can be very specific to machines and spares may not be available if the factory isn’t around.  A dealer for a reputation for high quality and personalized service is necessary for some people.  Other people feel confident in servicing their own equipment, so figure out which one you are and buy accordingly.  If you know one end of a wrench from the other, you might want to save a few dollars with an Internet or warehouse club or department store purchase.  Others may need to pay for the full-service price you should get from a local dealer but if you pay the higher price, demand the higher service level.  Many of the Internet shippers are now offering an additional installation service to try to mimic the style of personalized installation you get from a local small specialty store.

10. Treadmills and ellipticals are different than many other home appliances.  Remember, we rate a treadmill average if it has a breakdown only once every 5 years…that’s average!  Extended warranties can make sense if the manufacturer has a short warranty and if you get it from a reputable extended warranty company.  Remember the dealer is typically not the warranty provider and many have gone out of business over the years and others are hard to deal with.  For instance, UTS (Icon’s warranty company) is one of the best on the market.  If you get an Icon machine, buy the UTS warranty…it will be well worth it.  UTS’s number is 800-677-3838.  Also, Sears has a good extended warranty program and typically pays for itself if you use the machine.  On the other hand, we have had problems with the company called N.E.W. and many others have gone out of business so do your research on your warranty company if you have never heard of them.  We now also have our own extended service program now too so it is available for any purchase you make up to 90 days past the date of purchase.

11. A great final tip is if you want to save a bit of money.  Since treadmills and ellipticals are becoming more commoditized, they are getting better and better while the prices are dropping.  The machines being made today in the $1000 range are much better than the $1500 machines made 10 years ago.  If you need to save a few bucks and your doctor says it is OK, use a few degrees of incline always when you use your machine.  If the machine is well maintained and if you use a bit of incline (on the treadmill), you can get by with a bit less of a machine than you might need otherwise.  The incline allows gravity to take over quite a bit of the workload from the drive system.  We are able to measure this by using a simple AC/DC ammeter.  The amp load (thus the load on the electrical system) is reduced when using even a degree or two of incline.  A treadmill used with just a slight incline will last much longer than a comparably cared for treadmill that is used at level.  Plus, if you are going green, you use fewer amps and that translates into less electricity.  If you keep it clean and keep the walking belt well lubricated, that keeps the amp load lower too.

Why Our Minimum Wage Will Be $15 Per Hour

Treadmill Doctor Minimum Wage

Treadmill Doctor has announced that we will be gradually raising our minimum wage from $12 per hour on January 1, 2015 to $15 per hour on January 1, 2018. Today our minimum wage for a full time employee is $11 and when I looked at the payroll report several weeks ago, I found that if we tightened our belt just a bit and found ways to save, we could easily afford to raise our minimum wage to $15 per hour.

To put it into perspective, our town, Memphis, TN is one of the cheapest major metro areas to live in the United States. So using CNN Money’s cost of living calculator http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/, you find that making a minimum wage of $15 per hour in Memphis is like making nearly $80,000 in Manhattan, nearly $50,000 in Los Angeles, or nearly $60,000 in Atlanta.

Our goal is not to make a social statement but to help the people on the lowest rungs of the ladder in our company to have a standard of living that is above average for our area. This is not something for everyone. If I operated a burger stand instead of Treadmill Doctor, I don’t know what I would do. We aren’t trying to be an advocate for a higher minimum wage but I do think that from a personal perspective, our society ought to use a modicum of common sense. If your people can’t afford to buy your product, how are you going to prosper?

What I would encourage is for business owners to take a look at your next payroll report and see what is possible. I looked at our payroll report and then had a conversation with my brother about what is possible, so we decided to raise our minimum wage. This was what we believed was right for our business and our people.

Needless to say, the news has been well received in our company. When you know that every one is going to be paid fairly- whether they make the big decisions or they sweep the floors, it makes it easy for everyone to move the company in the right direction.

You Have the Life You Want

This week I attended a multi-day meeting with a gentleman, Steven Memel, who is becoming a friend and he made the statement “things happen in your life. It is not your fault but it is your responsibility.” He annunciated much more eloquently than I have a belief that I have had since late adolescence; which is, you have the life you want.

You might say that you don’t have any control over where you are born, where you grow up, or if you have a life-changing accident and if you say those things, you are absolutely correct. What I am saying is that when events happen in your life, you have a choice to overcome.

Tim (names are changed) was my first college roommate and a heck of a guy. We worked our first summer together at a truck dock on the graveyard shift, loading all kinds of heavy materials onto trucks during the night, lifting weights and running during the day, and doing the normal partying college things in-between. We were on the same college football team and we really “clicked” when we first met and he always had a good time in life no matter what he did.

Towards the end of the summer after a bunch of work, a bunch or working out, and a bunch of fun, we said goodbye at the end of a shift at 6 am at the truck dock and both got in our separate trucks to go home. That would be the last time I saw the Tim I had grown to love. To make the story short, a drunk driver ran a red light, smashing into his truck, and severing his spine- paralyzing him from the waist down.

I visited Tim in the hospital daily for a while but when he started to recover he pushed all his friends away. He dropped out of college, went home, and slowly died.

I had another friend in high school, Joe, that had almost the identical scenario happen to him and after he recovered from the drunk driver assault, he finished high school, got his accounting degree, and created a home-based CPA firm. He worked tirelessly to become the best CPA, studying tax law changes, to get the best deal for his clients and his practice grew exponentially. His income afforded him the ability to buy a large home built custom to accommodate his paralysis in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Memphis.

The difference was that Tim decided to give up on life and Joe said to himself, OK I’m in a mess not of my own doing but I’m in control of the rest of my life. Circumstances are not going to dictate that I am doomed to a lesser life.

Face it. We all have disadvantages in one way or another- unless you are Paris Hilton but I would suppose hers is that she has no shame. The same holds true for your fitness level. Did you know that they make fitness machines that will accommodate you if you have paralysis, or even less major disabilities?

We have been doing testing for a company called Alter-G that makes a weight assisted treadmill, essentially supporting the weight of the user so they can rehabilitate and slowly regain the ability to walk on their own. The world is filled with people who are trying to help anyone in any position. You just have to decide to start.

I like to say there is no tomorrow. There is only today, and more specifically there is right now. What are you doing right now to make the life you want? Are you Tim or are you Joe? You have a choice because as my friend Steven says, “things happen in your life. It’s not your fault but it is your responsibility.” Overcoming is a choice!

Vaping- Is it Good or Bad?

Nicotine vaporizers, also known as e-cigarettes, are starting to take the public by storm. The process of using a nicotine vaporizer is known as Vaping. Why is Vaping and why are e-cigs popular and are they good or bad? The answer to the second questions is…it depends.

The answer to the first question is Vaping is simply inhaling a vaporized combination of of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings. (Wikipedia) To the uniformed, that sounds like dangerous chemicals but all of these with the exception of nicotine, these have been used in food products for decades. We will leave the debate about those components for another day.

It simply takes the liquid mixture and vaporizes it in a heating chamber and then the process of inhalation allows you to absorb the nicotine into your lungs. If you think this doesn’t sound healthy, you are right…it isn’t! Studies have been done that show that the reaction to inhaled Vaping fluids is almost unrecognizable in regard to cellular damage as tobacco smoke (Clinical Cancer Research). The difference is that Vaping liquid does not contain 69 known carcinogenic components while tobacco smoke does (American Lung Association).

So why would we discuss Vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking? Because it is. In an unscientific series of conversations with people who have been long-term smokers who have tried Vaping, they have all reported that it is the easiest method they have ever used to try to quit smoking. Treadmill Doctor’s head of Information Technology has smoked for decades and while he works out regularly, he has been concerned about smoking and has tried patches, nicotine gum, etc.

Two months ago, he started Vaping and since you can control how much nicotine you include in the liquid, he has been able to slowly dial the nicotine down to zero. Now he says that he has to solve his oral fixation without overeating but he has seen a real difference in his pulmonary functioning and he says he has more energy and is sleeping better as well.

Another person that I have known for almost two decades started Vaping about 3 months ago and he has lost nearly 20 lbs, has stopped using the e-cigs altogether, and said he was bordering COPD and now his doctor says that he has seen a massive reversal and improvement in his lung function.

So to fully answer the second question, we would recommend that if you don’t smoke, don’t start Vaping. Nicotine is a dangerous drug and contrary to the tobacco company CEO’s, we all know it is highly addictive. Even a small teaspoon of highly diluted Vaping fluid is LETHAL to some people. In small doses, it has causes vomiting, seizures, and even death when absorbed through the skin. When inhaled, it can cause the arteries to narrow and constrict. (WebMD)

If you do smoke, I have seen firsthand evidence that it is very effective at helping you quit smoking but it isn’t a great long-term replacement due to the health effects of nicotine exposure and the possible side-effects of Vaping liquid. There is a push to regulate e-cigs and from the research, it looks like that is a good idea. (How Stuff Works)

3 Reasons Why You Are Worthy

With our focus on fitness, we sometimes forget some of the basic tenants that we need to remember about life. It is amazing what just a bit of encouraging can do for people. Most people don’t know that Hitler was twice rejected as a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. How would the world be different if he was encouraged to become an artist instead of a monster.

Remember that while you are pursing excellent health, you should also pursue personal excellence as well. With this in mind, I came up with three statements that I believe you should keep in mind on a daily basis.

You are worthy to be loved.

We sometimes forget our value to the human race and not only are you worthy of love,    you are also worthy to give and receive love. My guess is that is why a dog is such a popular pet. He poops in the middle of your floor and then you angrily shoo him outside to cool down. In 10 minutes when you open the door, he is ready to be your best friend again…which brings up my second point.

You are worthy to be forgiven.

What I found years ago is that the hardest person in the world to forgive is yourself. We    carry around the baggage of things that we have done for years. No matter what your stance is on spirituality, it is cathartic to forgive yourself. It is also cathartic to forgive others. When you carry around a grudge, typically you are the only one that knows about it. Yes, there are the curmudgeons that let you know about everything that you’ve done but they are the exception. Forgiving yourself and others will feel like you set down an 80 lb. weighted vest that you were carrying around.

You are worthy to be your best.

If you remember that you are worthy to be loved and you forgive like there is no cost, you are ready to be your best. Your best is different for every person but that’s what is great about freedom. You can choose your path and then pursue it with reckless abandon. When things don’t work out, forgive yourself and move on. The world becomes a better place when people are pursuing excellence and focusing on what drives them.

The world would be a different place without Steve Jobs but think about how different his work became when he was staring death in the face. Having massive obstacles makes us focus like nothing else. What is your massive obstacle. Is it losing 50 or 100 lbs? Is it betting it all on that business idea you have had in the back of your mind forever? Is it making that call to the old friend that let you down 10 years ago? Whatever it is, remember that you are worthy to be loved, forgiven, and to be your best.