One of those days...

June 29th, 2005 was certainly not a fun day for me. I thought about describing in chronological detail each thing that went wrong - but instead got tired just thinking about it. Here's the summary: 14 hours - All but 3 hours spent in ALL THREE New York city area airports, 4 car service rides in traffic, 3 cancelled flights and a 3:30 AM wake-up to be in Minneapolis for a 10:00 meeting in front of 40 marketing executives at a Fortune 100 company.

So - let's just chalk it up as "one of those days..." What I'd like to focus this post on, however, are 2 positive things I took away from the experience.

First Lesson: Everyone needs a little sympathy sometimes...
- I probably called Amy 16 times throughout the day, in hind-site for no other reason just to vent about what hell I was going through. Although I don't like to think of myself as a complainer (or a "hater" like my boy, Felch), I just needed a sanity check. Luckily, I have a great girlfriend who not only was mad supportive all day, but came to be with me for the 4 hours I was home.
(Side note: for all you peeps keeping track, today is the 2 year anniversary of Amy and I being together)

Second Lesson
: 90% of customer service people are miserable people...but... the other/best 10% tell it straight, offer all possible solutions, and do it with empathy and sincerity.
- I must have interacted with 20 customer service employees throughout my experience and 18 of them were rude, non-solutions oriented, and flat-out bad at their jobs. There were 2 people, however, who weren't - and I can't tell you how nice it felt to deal with them at the time... And it's not like these 2 people necessarily just gave me what I wanted (cuz a direct flight to Minneapolis, regardless of price was apparently not possible). It was the fact that they were empathetic and actually helpful. They outlined the 3 or 4 options I had and let me decide. No "company lines" like, "I'm sorry sir we can ONLY..." (fill in the blank). This bodes the question ... Who am I more frustrated with for the other 18 dip-shits... The actual people or the companies that employ them? Well - as much as I want to say both, it's the companies. If you are in the service business, then you have the responsibility to actually SERVICE your customers. If you fail to do this, you should - over time - fail as an organization.... But it's like all the airlines and hotel companies got together and said "let's just lower the bar as much as possible, and sooner or later customers will just get used to it .... AND WE HAVE!
It's for reasons like this that I try and fly JetBlue as much as possible. It's for reasons like this I try and get status at hotels so employees are mandated to kiss my ass... (well - maybe not).

Anyway - quick shot out to Amy and the 2 cool customer service peeps who helped me during "one of those days..."


Anyone in Philly on Tuesday?

In case anyone is in Philly on Tuesday (6/28), come to the DoubleTree hotel to hear me speak to the Philadelphia American Marketing Association (AMA) about Search Marketing. Click here for the event agenda and details.
Also, if anyone knows of a good spot to get CheeseSteaks while I'm there, please let me know.


My Bitterness with the NBA

Last night, the 2005 NBA season came to a close with Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs claiming the NBA title. I was actually very interested in the 2005 NBA season, until the play-offs really annoyed me.

Yes,– I am quite bitter because my beloved Miami Heat were ousted by the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, but there were things throughout the whole play-offs that rubbed me the wrong way (and yes, there is a right way to rub me). Anyway...I propose that next year 2 new rules are put in place for the NBA:

  1. No players other than the captain is allowed to speak to the refs. If a player speaks to a ref, regardless of what is said, it should be a technical foul. It seems nowadays ANY player (other than Shaq) has something to say to the ref on every call. Not every player does it every time (i.e. Kurt Thomas who has never committed a single foul according to him), but at some point I have seen the majority of players turn into cry-babies. Now clearly these players don'’t believe that by them arguing, the ref is going to reverse the call... BUT... What they do hope is that they guilt the ref into the next call or the one after that. So not only is it painful to watch, but I think it has some un-natural effects of the flow of the officiating.
  2. Technical Fouls for all flops. For those that don'’t know what I'’m talking about, anytime a player over-exaggerates the impact of contact, it i’s called a "flop"”Players flopping is beginning to become a worse and worse part of the game and there needs to be a penalty for it. Players cannot believe that there is no harm in doing it and the only thing I can thing of to get this point across is an immediate technical foul. I'’d even go as far as having a committee reviewing game tapes and fining players after the fact, even if the refs miss the call during the live game.

I have often believed NBA games were way to controlled by referee’s. It is for this reason, there is always up and down flows in most games…It is also the reason why David Stern is consistently being accused of having control of the outcome of games. Although this conspiracy theory is quite interesting, I don't buy it. If this was the case, the boring San Antonio Spurs would not have been playing the boring Detroit Pistons in the Finals… However, David does have a lot of power and control. I like to consider him a smarter, more successful version of Vince McMahon. Just as much a bully, but with his brain rather than brute force. And he, too, prefers his organizations'’ single personalities to be the face of the entire league. Will he face the same fate as Vince and his Organization? No, I don'’t think so, but he is endanger of his league becoming more of a soap opera than a competition, and that is just not cool with me.


The "Create-your-own" concept

Growing up, I was taught that if I wanted something at a restaurant a certain way - that I should ask for it. If I wanted chicken instead of turkey, my fries well-done, or a lime with my iced tea instead of lemon (and in my dads case - "LIMZE-AH" - to emphasis the desire for multiple pieces of lime) that it was my right as a consumer to ask and receive that.
In some parts of the world, this is seen as a rude or pushy thing. Now, I agree it is all in HOW you ask, however, I firmly believe that a paying costumer should get what he/she wants, as long as it is in reason AND asked politely. Furthermore, if the requested change goes beyond what the menu offers, we should be willing to pay for it.
In New York and LA, I feel like most waiters expect to write a paragraph per customer on their pads rather than 3 words - but outside of these 2 cities, I feel like you are viewed as "that guy.
It is this belief that I propose to ALL every-day restaurants nation-wide (sans fancy places) to begin adopting the "create-your-own" concept. In New York, I have become hooked on the make-your-own salad. I give the servers a bowl of lettuce and pick-and-choose what vegetables, proteins, cheeses, dressings or whatever I want. The server then mixes it all up, puts it back in the bowl and charges me $8.00 MINIMALLY. But, this is fine with me - I'd much rather pay $9.00 for something customized exactly what I want, than $6.50 for the standard.
So, my question is why can't every place do this? Charge a base amount for the main ingredient (chicken, pasta, sandwich, omelet, sushi, whatever) and corresponding variable costs for all of the possible toppings or ingredients. If you wanted tomato, but not lettuce, you wouldn't have to pay $0.50 for "lettuce and tomato" you would just pay $0.25. It's truly a simple concept. I can't seem to think of financial reasons, inventory drawbacks, or anything else...so why don't places do this now? I have no clue. If someone knows why, please leave a comment. If you agree - then continue to ask your favorite restaurants for this. We are consumers and we are who decides which businesses succeed. If we want it - they will offer it!


Iced Coffee Mark-up

In case anyone living in New York didn’t notice … Summer is here! The clear signs of this are: City being empty on the weekends, the feeling of needing another shower within 2 minutes of leaving your home, and the prevalence of Iced Coffee.

The burning question in my mind, though, is what makes the price of regular hot coffee at $1.00 versus the price of iced coffee at $1.75? Is it the cost of ice? Do these places use freakin bottled water to make their ice? Is it the fancy clear plastic cups? Is it the shelf-space within the refrigerator? Although it certainly doesn’t make sense to me, the most logical explanation I can think of is that due to the ice, in order to fill up a 12 Oz. cup – 75% more coffee is needed. (I’m sure the local corner coffee stand guys have done thorough scientific measurements on this in case you doubt the system)

Just as we have decided that good ol’ H20 packaged in a fancy bottle is worth $1.50 (Rant for another post), it seems as consumers, we have also decided that the mark-up from hot coffee to iced coffee is worth $0.75. And the truth is that if you tried to “beat the system” by buying hot coffee and pouring it over ice – it just doesn’t seem to do the trick.

Speaking of not doing the trick – I firmly believe that 75% of Iced coffee drinkers use artificial sweetener rather than sugar. Although using sugar makes the last few sips of that iced coffee damn good – the fact that sugar just doesn’t seem to dissolve equally throughout the cold liquid versus the hot liquid has made me go back to using sweetener after a 3 year absence. (I’m on a Splenda-yellow kick right now…)

So anyway - Enjoy the empty city on the weekends, make sure you wear an undershirt, and bring some extra quarters for your coffee (with sweetener) this summer!


Google now most valuable media company

I definitely love the company I work for, but, by no means want to consistently write blog entries about it. That being said, I was reading this article, and the first paragraph just made me say "wow" outloud, while I am unfortunately alone in a hotel room. (Thus ... I thought I would share):
(Reuters) - Google Inc. took over the top spot as the most highly valued media company this week, surpassing Time Warner Inc. in just 10 months of trading as a public company. Google's share price on the Nasdaq rose another $2.18, or 0.75 percent, to close at $293.12 on Tuesday, an all-time high.