Cat Food Opportunity

In 1999, Sacramento man David Phillips earned 1,253,000 frequent flyer miles by $3,125 worth of pudding cups.

For a travel nerd like Phillips, this was the deal of a lifetime.

The total value of frequent flyer miles he banked was $50,000 – enough for 50 roundtrip flights anywhere within the United States, 21 return trips between Australia and the USA, or 31 return trips to Europe.

And the story was made famous when it was used as the inspiration for the arthouse Adam Sandler flick, Punch-Drunk Love.

I always assumed these kinds of deals-of-a-lifetime happened once in a lifetime.

But they happen more regularly than you’d think.

In 2012, I watched as a frequent flyer community colleague banked 140,000 frequent flyer points at cents-in-the-dollar by mass-purchasing cat food and taco seasoning from Woolworths. In practical terms, it made long haul business-class and first-class flights cheaper than economy flights.

There are plenty more stories outside the frequent flyer community too. Like the retired former convenience store owners – Jerry and Marge Selbee – who banked $7.75m in winnings exploiting flaws in the Michigan and Massachusetts state lotteries.

And what about those like David Walsh – founder of Hobart’s incredible MONA gallery – whose fortune was earned through identifying (and wagering against) imbalances in betting markets.

Then there’s the abundant opportunities that property developers take advantage of. In a little over a decade, several colleagues have gone from work-a-day wage earners, to owning property portfolios in the tens-of-millions of dollars.

One way to look at this is that these people unfairly exploited scenarios for personal gain. That a lot of the population is locked out of the ability to make the kind of moves necessary to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities – because of lack of awareness, lack of education, or lack of capital.

Another way is to see that sometimes the steps of progression aren’t even. Sometimes it’s a small step. Sometimes you get lucky, and step onto a rocket that propels you into the stratosphere.

But another is to recognise that – in all of these scenarios – fortune favoured the people who could read the numbers.

In these current volatile times, there’s a lot of change and flux. These changes are creating a lot of pudding-cup-cat-food-taco-sauce-lotto-ticket-property-developer opportunities.

Like the Federal and State government stimulus grants that are adding $45,000 in extra profit to property developer margins.

…Or the fall in ad network spending which led to a doubling of pay-per-click lead profits in certain industries.
…Or the shifts in industry-wide spending, where some industries are booming when others are struggling, creating huge opportunities for those who adapt to serve.
…Or the luxurious top-tier airline who (this week) began selling travel vouchers (with 2 years validity) for 66% of their face value.

These shifts are creating “deals of a lifetime” right now.

If money has been added into the economy (i.e. through government stimulus) to sway the balance of supply and demand in your industry.

…Or if the price or terms of an offer have changed because of a special offer.
…Or if competitors have exited an industry en masse.

…Or if buyers have entered an industry en masse.

Then it’s probably time to re-do your numbers, and re-think your strategy.

Because chances are there’s a pudding cup opportunity waiting for you.