A fun site that’s loaded with helpful tips & tricks from “people in the know” is called Tricks of the Trade.
The site has been on hiatus for over 6 months now, but there’s still a lot of valuable data in the archives!
Here are some of my favorites…
From a cartographer:
Mapmakers will often use “copyright traps,” bits of information in their maps that are purposefully wrong. They might label a body of water “Lake Strongbad,” for instance, and then examine the next editions of competitors’ maps to see if the incorrect information makes an appearance.
From a landscape architect:
You will often have to create a large presentation for clients, and will spend hours coloring in landscape illustrations with markers. But if you say the drawings are “rendered” rather than “colored,” you can charge four times as much.
From a bartender:
If someone sends back a drink complaining you shorted them on liquor and you know they are just trying to get more booze for free, add a drop or two of the liquor into the straw or on the rim of the glass. The first thing they taste is the alcohol, which will shut them right up.
From a fine-print reader:
Here’s a trick that works surprisingly well for the many occupations where you have to read fine-print: turn your hand into a magnifying glass. Just curl up your index finger and hold it shut with your thumb. Make a tiny pinhole in the middle of the “curl” by opening your finger a tiny bit. If you look through that pinhole, you’ll see that it magnifies anything that’s about an inch away and well-lit.
From a helmsman:
When boating, the lack of reference points on the water can distort your perception of the position of other craft or objects afloat. This trick won’t work in open water, but when another craft or object afloat seems to be motionless against the landmass visible behind it (from your perspective), you are, at that instant, on a collision course. If the other craft appears to be moving in her forward direction compared to the land, you’ll pass behind her; if she appears to be moving backwards, you’ll pass in front. Obviously certain caveats apply for large or fast vessels– just because the bow of the ship will pass in front of you doesn’t mean you aren’t on a collision course with her stern.
From a waiter:
The only thing worse than having a table of eight people in your section demanding water is a table for eight demanding water with lemon slices in it, thinking their sophisticated just because they have a hunk of citrus in their glasses. So, the first person asks for water “with lemon,” say “sparkling, spring, or tap” Now they either pony up for the bottled water or say “tap water” in front of all the friends they are trying to impress.
From someone who works for tips:
Drawing a smiley face on the check increases a waitress’s tips by 18 percent, but decreases a waiter’s tips by 9 percent.
From a radio personality:
A tip for listeners: when having a call-in contest, radio hosts prefer winners who sound excited. So if you call a station and sound fun, there’s a better chance of not only winning but getting on air as well. The whole “caller 9” thing is mostly a filtering trick, allowing the host to tell boring-sounding people “you’re caller number 7, sorry.
From a bartender:
To chill a bottle of white wine quickly, put the bottle in a bucket with ice, water and a large handful of salt. The salt reduces the freezing point of water and will allow it to become superchilled, which will in turn chill the bottle of wine in six minutes flat.
From a rafting guide:
If you are thrown into the water, exhale first and then inhale upon coming to the surface. People usually panic and try to inhale the moment they get their head out of the water — an almost useless gesture since their lungs are already full of expired air. That’s what gasping is all about.
From a frequent flier:
When all that is left are the middle seats on the plane, ask the person at the counter if you can be seated between two people with the same last name. Typically they will be family members traveling together and hoping to claim the whole row. If you split them up they will offer you a trade, and you’ll wind up by the window or on the aisle.
From a sandwich maker:
When ordering a “custom” sandwich from a deli, Subway, or college cafeteria, say the name of each ingredient with a air of finality, as though it will be the last ingredient on your sandwich. The sandwich-maker will pile plenty of the stuff on, trying to fill your sandwich to a respectable size, not realizing you intend to ask for more ingredients.
Listen to Bud Light’s Real American Heroes ”Mr. Supermarket Deli Meat Slicer”:
From a sleepyhead:
If you get up in the middle of the night to grab a glass of water, there’s a simple way to avoid stubbing toes on the way back to bed. Close one eye just before you you turn on the light or open the fridge door, and keep it closed the whole time the light is on. When you turn the lights off, open both eyes. The eye you kept closed will still be dilated, and allow you to see in the dark.
From a truck driver:
It’s hard to back up in a straight line while pulling a trailer, a camper, or a boat — even if you have years of experience. Here’s a simple rule to remember: if your trailer starts to get out of alignment, check both your side mirrors and turn your wheel toward the one the shows the most of whatever you’re towing.
From a bartender:
If you want to sell a guest a particular brand of liquor, nod your head slowly as you mention the brand. For extra effect, repeat the brand at the beginning and end of the list of brands you recite, e.g. “Well, we have Absolut (nod), Brands X, Y, Z, Q and R, and Absolut (nods again)”. This technique is called the Sullivan Nod and it works about 90% of the time – and no, nobody ever notices when you’re doing it.
From a dog groomer:
Use a hair-dye applicator squirt bottle, available at beauty supply stores, to apply a diluted mixture of shampoo to the animal. This makes it easier to get underneath the dog, and the lather will be thicker and more even. Fill with 1/4 shampoo and 3/4 water, and leave some space inside so that you can shake the bottle to mix the solution.
From a presenter:
If you want to get people to participate in a workshop or presentation, ask them “What questions do you have?” and wait for someone to answer. The usual “Any questions?” acts as a participation deterrent, as it requires the questioner to be a speed bump in the presentation. “What questions do you have?” implies that participants are expected to say something, and they often will.
From a hitchhiker:
Dress like the people you want to pick you up. Carry baby wipes to stay clean. Always stand up, look the driver in the eye, and if you can tell he isn’t going to stop, pull in your thumb, wave, and smile at him. No one owes you a ride. If you hitch at night, you will get rides from independent truckers. If you walk to the top of a grade, so they will be in low gear when they reach you, you have a much better chance they’ll stop. Don’t be a mooch. Have enough money (and class) to buy your ride lunch. Offer to chop wood, pump his gas, whatever. Never ride with a drunk, no matter how desperate you are.
From a gardener:
Mix grass seed with an equal amount of damp sand when planting on a windy day. It will not blow away as easy when you sprinkle it, and will stay in place once on the ground. Also, if you mix the seed with the damp sand a day in advance, it will get a head start on germination.
From a bartender:
If a customer asks you for a stiff drink but doesn’t want to pay the difference, place your finger over the hole on the back of the pour spout. By restricting the flow of air you are inhibiting the speed at which the liquor flows from the bottle, so you can make a big show of giving him a nice, long pour, all while serving him the same amount of alcohol.
From an office worker:
Here’s an easy way to label your soft drink when storing it in the company kitchen. Write your name on a thick rubber band and put it around your soda before putting it in the fridge; when you swap it out for a new one, just transfer the band. It’s a lot less hassle than a Post-it note or writing your name directly on the can every morning.
From a truck driver:
When backing a trailer, put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and remember this simple rule: the direction you move your hand is the direction that the back of the trailer moves.
From a busboy:
Occasionally a waiter will stack glasses when cleaning a table, nesting one inside another; if the outer glass is wet when this is done, the two may fuse together and become nearly impossible to separate. If all else fails, fill the inner glass with ice water and then place the outer glass in warm water. As the inner glass contracts and the outer glass expands, you can usually extract the inner glass with a slight twist.
From a delivery driver:
Plot your course ahead of time and make it a close to a circle as possible, so when you are done with your deliveries you are near the beginning of your route. Then, when driving the route, remember that it’s much faster to go clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, as you will have many more right-turns than left.
From a traveler:
If you’ve ever traveled, chances are you’ve lost/misplaced/forgotten your cell phone charger at some point. If you are at a hotel when you realize this, go to the front desk and ask if they have a spare. People forget their cell phone chargers all the time while traveling, and the hotel is likely to have an entire box of ‘left behinds.’ And, if you find one that fits your phone, they will almost always let you keep it.
From a programmer:
Don’t throw out that old mouse pad. Clean it off and keep it in the kitchen — you can use it as a jar opener for that occasional stubborn lid.