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It seemed like just last year that I was bragging before a marketing crowd that I had spent $600 on the new iPhone. Sure, I got my $100 “apology” Apple Store gift certificate from Steve Jobs (which was brilliant, btw, you can’t buy anything at the Apple store for under 100 bucks!). I’m an early adopter when it comes to things that make my business easier.

A couple of months ago Mark and I thought nothing of standing in line for 45 minutes at the U Village Apple store (in the rain) so he could get the new 3G iPhone (making my purchase look like kind of like a slug).

But apparently today I can grab some ground beef, saline solution, toilet paper and oh, an iPhone at WalMart!!!

I’m okay with that so long as Steve sends me a letter of authenticity that I can stick to my forehead that says “Proudly spent too much for my phone – ORIGINAL iPhone owner. Doesn’t shop at WalMart.”

cWhat the hell? That would be like Cheryl Tiegs deciding to partner with SEARS or Martha Stewart with K-Mart – oh wait…….story4kmart

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My how Christmas shopping has changed. Used to have to fight for parking at the mall, only to enter the tunnel of hell. Screaming children, butchered Christmas songs, bad decorations, and picked over merchandise sold by surly sales clerks.

Yesterday was different. My niece mentioned over Thanksgiving that she could not find boots to fit over her calves (that would be a problem we both have thanks to years of careful breeding). Anyway, I dialed her up yesterday, said “Get online! I think I’ve found them!” Together we surfed the pages of Zappos.com for “wide calf” boots and found what we think will be the perfect pair.

I practically “one-clicked” ordered them (I’m a huge Zappos.com fan) and up pops this fabulous message – Arrives in time for Christmas and shipping is FREE!! Shut up! I’m telling my niece this and she says “How DO they do it?” Probably pad the shipping in the cost of the boots? Who knows – but it’s definitely a GOOD profit.

This morning I got an email from Zappos.com letting me know the boots are on-time to be delivered TODAY! I went to the UPS site and verified. They are on a truck – in transit! She should get them by 9:30am EST. That’s less than 24 hours from the time we surfed their site. AND there’s tons of snow where she lives (Massachusetts). WOW!

I get to meet the CEO of Zappos.com next month. I’ve been asked to speak at the Satmetrix conference with Tammy Gallegos from America First Credit Union AND Tony Hsieh will be key-noting with this presentation:

If the Shoe Fits: How Zappos.com is Transforming Online Shopping by Creating a Culture Powered by Service!

Word-of-mouth is it baby! If you’re not wowing your members today, you need to attend this conference!

steve_koolaid2Susan Epperson (VP Marketing for Henrico FCU) admittedly “lurks” on the Money Under 30 blog. Makes a wonderful comment about credit unions.

Author responds with this post. Includes link to NCUA.

Ron Jooss picks up story and posts on CUES Skybox.

I tell you about it here.

For all credit union marketers out there wondering if you should blog – this is how it works. Pretty cool, huh?

Dale Kerslake, President/CEO of Cascade FCU has declared an NSF Fee Holiday. For the month of December the credit union is waiving all NSF fees for members.

In January, they will get a letter advising them of the dollar amount that was not charged and encouraging members to start the New Year with Balance.

Wow. Happy Holidays Dale! You rock!

A dear friend of mine sent me this. I had to post it.
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Dear United Airlines,

dataThanks for yesterday. I really appreciate it. Sure, we had to move 188 passengers from a completely loaded plane in Chicago (Gate B18) to a fresh new (not broken) plane at Gate B8. But I still made my connection in Denver. Thank you for giving me my luggage back in Albuquerque. Sure, it was unzipped and my panty bag was sticking out – but I know that’s not YOUR fault. You were actually “early” to ABQ, sadly the gate crew wasn’t ready for us, so we DID have to sit on the tarmac until it was time, but darnit you tried.

We celebrated our 111,670th mile-in-the-sky for 2008 last night. That’s me boarding 113 United airplanes in just under 12 months. Or, on average, 9.41 times each month I stood in line, your “preferred” line, to check my luggage, go through security and board your planes.

I stayed with you after 9-11. I endured your pilot’s strike – twice. I try to be compassionate in the winter months and understand your decision to place your hubs in Chicago and Denver. I’m even okay with you not serving pretzels anymore.

Today I heard some disturbing news. A dear friend of mine told me that she can “buy” my status from you for a mere $25.00 per trip. This can’t be true I told her. That’s why I’m so loyal to United. Because they recognize my undying devotion by giving me that one extra little perk – not having to wait as long as casual travelers as I commute to work (yesterday my commute home was a total of 9 1/2 hours).

Nope, she said, now ANYONE can buy that convenience. Oh, but United wanted to make sure that 1K flyers know they can still get that for FREE! But, United….um, I HAVE paid for it. On average my business spends $30,000.00 in airline travel. To YOU!!! And now it’s going to cost ME more, by giving up a little chunk of my soul on each flight.

Rookie travelers will be vying for my overhead bin space, slowing me down in the TSA line with their bottled water and cans of hairspray, and refusing to queue up to a machine because they never travel and want to talk to a live person (of which there are only two working per major airport) thereby clogging the flow of frequent flyers.

I know you need the money. Times are tight and all that. But if we’re going to go there – and by “there” I mean straight to bad profit hell – then I might as well fly an airline that is cheaper, friendlier, has the best on-time record AND peanuts.

Good bye United.
Hello Southwest!

I am a very loyal Target shopper. I love love love Target’s store layout, lighting, quality merchandise at cheap prices. I’ve decorated my new home in almost all Target stuff! Love Target.

My loyalty is waning. The one thing Target has never figured out (especially during holiday shopping) is that one of the critical components of customer loyalty is the moment when we part with our money. The check-out process at Target has always sucked IMHO. But I put up with it.
I got the Target Red Card a few years back. I got it for a couple of reasons.

1. Cash flow. I’ve been known to lay down some serious coin at the TarJay and it’s nice to have 30 days to pay it off.
2. Discounts. When you use your red card you get these nifty coupons in the mail for lots of money off.

But the number one reason? So the Target checker will stop asking me “Would you like to save 10% today by opening a Target account?” Gawd! Every single time. Now I use my Red Card religiously. Pay it off each month.

So, I’m at the Albuquerque Target this week loading up on Christmas stuff. My cart was FULL, but I had my 10% off your entire purchase coupon burning a hole in my pocket, so life was good.
Grand total $211.36! Wow – swipe my coupon – $190.23. Sweet! I just got my Christmas ornaments for free! Swipe my red card.

Checker casually says, “Your card was not approved.”
What?
“Just swipe it again,” she says, bored with me. Swipe. “Nope, still not approved.”

Even though I KNOW that my balance is zero on this card, you still feel like a deadbeat when you get this news. And I’m sure all the people in line behind me thought the same thing.
I’m embarrassed so I swipe my debit card.

NOW she says, “Oh, if you don’t use your Red Card, you can’t get the 10% discount.” Seriously?
“Okay, can you tell me WHY my card is not working?” I asked.
“Nope, they don’t tell us that,” she says pointing to the computer/cash register.
“Is there a number you can call?” I calmly asked.
“I don’t know,” she replies.

She asks me to step into the penalty box (which is near the returns) and she’ll have a manager help me.

Arty was great.

He said, “Sometimes it’s just the terminal, let’s try and ring this up here.” So he took this cool suspend slip with one bar code on it that magically tallies up my load. Fun to watch. Swipe red card……same message.

I flipped the card over and suggested “we” call the number on the back. Arty lets me.

So now I’m standing in the penalty box on my iPhone screaming into the receiver because Target’s customer service line begins with the voice activated menu from hell and it’s picking up all the noise around me….finally the “computer” says…”I’m sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you, let me transfer you to the next available agent….” Whew. Finally.

On hold message reminds me that the Red Card can save me 10% on all purchase and if I’d like to apply for one, I can visit their website at http://www.target.com!!!

“Thank you for calling Target Corporation, how can I help you?”
I explain to him that I’m AT a Target and my Red Card isn’t working.
Punch, punch, punch.
“Nope, says here you have $500 available on your card. Should be fine,” he says. I hand the phone to Arty. Arty listens, hangs up.
“Well, let’s try it again.” Swipe. “Nope, still not working.”

Now I try to reason with Arty. I’ll gladly pay with my debit card but can I still get my 10% discount? And here’s where it goes to sh*t.

“No. We can’t control that, only the computer can (again, pointing to the computer/cash register. You’ll have to use your debit card and lose the 10%. Oh, and we’ll have to take everything out of your cart and re-ring it!”

Poor Arty.

But my favorite part – and I’m NOT making this up. As Arty’s ringing up my purchase he says,

“Would you like to save 10% today by opening another Red Card?”

Aaaaarrrrgggghhhhh!!!!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving y’all…..Turkeys know the answer to this question.
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Nothing like sitting around the kitchen table to get inspiration for your next blog post. It began simple enough. I was in Portland, Oregon visiting my family when I mentioned to my brother that my favorite bar had closed. The Brasserie Montmarte. They were not only known for amazing French food, but they had this magician that could somehow flip a card onto the very high ceiling with your signature on it……creepy and cool. How could this place close? It was always crazy busy.
Some googling lead me to a blog…where it was revealed that the BM had some inspection issues – word on the street Abestos, black mold and lead paint,” The trifecta of badness. Maybe that’s why the cards stuck?

My brother went onto tell me that Foot Locker, Ann Taylor, Wilson’s Leather and Linens-n-Things had all closed their doors recently. Holy crap! What’s left at the mall…….crickets….crickets……so we got to talking about the companies that will survive this Great Recession and those that deserve to die.

One google search led me to a great site with an up-to-date list of retail closures and a “watch list” where over 5000 people wrote in and talked about stores that deserve to fail.

Here are a few of the closures with commentary:

1. Home Depot – for the first time ever – closing 15 underperforming stores in the US.
DOUBLE DOG DARE: Go ask a Home Depot employee (if you can find one) where the wood glue is. Hint: Aisle 11. Still can’t find it? Neither could I.

2. Ann Taylor – closing 117 stores in an attempt to make retailer “more agile”….
IMHO Ann Taylor has been selling the same slacks, blouses and jackets for 20 years.

3. Lillian Vernon – This holiday shopping season was not bright enough so LV filed for bankruptcy in February citing rising shipping and inventory costs. (Have you ever seen the Lilian Verner Mad TV skit?) WARNING: Sexual content and total weirdness.

4. Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video – Closing 400 of 3500 stores, in addition to the 520 stores closed last fall.
One word – Netflix.

5. Saks – Fort Lauderdale store to close.
Boo hoo.

6.Circuit City.
Big Box Blah……

7.Sprint Nextel Corp. Closing 125 stores reacting to a steep drop in its customer base. Good riddance.
Does anyone else think it’s ironic that you can never get a phone company ON THE PHONE?

Here’s the list of stores that the AOL Money & Finance readers THINK will fail and possibly could….

1. Starbucks – expanded too fast, partnered with the devil (grocery stores, airlines, bookstores)

sears-kmart-to-45072. KMart – Animated Blue Light is just creepy. Merged with Sears. In some markets they are now K-Mart/SEARS…..that would be like MACY’S/JCPenney – what’s the point?

3. Sears – See KMart above.

4. JC Penney – See KMart above.

5. Macy’s – see Kmart above AND they gobbled up Meier & Frank and Bon Marche’ just to get bigger……many loyal shoppers (including me) fled.

6. Kentucky Taco Hut – Okay, this one was contributed by my niece. They just got one of these in their town (thanks to the parent company Yum Brands). I hate to mix my smells – friend chicken, pizza and tacos….messes me up.

7. The Gap – Anytime you get spoofed on SNL – it’s good for your brand but ultimately bad for your business…..tried to stay young and hip and then detoured into “preppy” when we’d all moved onto Chicos…….or maybe that’s just me.

8. Mervyn’s of California….and therein lies their problem. Especially when they moved into Oregon where we are trained to hate Californians on principle.

9. Radio Shack – According to the website: “What a dinosaur. Poor service, crappy selection and commissioned sales clerks that don’t know anything. Has anyone bought anything from Radio Shack since the 1980’s? You want to talk about a store with product lines that need to be updated, it’s gotta be them. How many people need a new rotary phone?

One thing I think all of these have in common – inertia. We had a great idea say 20-30 years ago, so why change? I mean, if it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? (I HATE that saying btw).

This Great Recession that we’re in is definitely going to thin the herd. For that I am thankful. It’s going to be survival of the fittest. And not just lean and mean – but those that focus on customer service, a target audience, and the business they are in. The survivors are going to look like Southwest Airlines, Apple, Smith & Wesson, Absolut Vodka and WalMart.

Ahhh….back to basics.

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