I'm on the National Express East Coast train traveling from Edinburgh to London and am delighted to discover that internet access is now free (you had to pay for it on GNER). Calling it "broadband" is a stretch, though - according to BroadbandSpeedchecker it's 136Kpbs Down and 85Kbps Up - but then again I am able to do *this* for free so I shouldn't complain.
Anyway to get the free internet you have to log in with an email address - technically there's no real reason why this is necessary... Once you give your email address you are then offered the usual "can we and some other random people send you spam" tick box. However, it's worded thus:
"If you do not wish to receive ... please untick the box"
For the second time this week such an option has strained my brain trying to figure out whether ticking the box will result in me getting spam or not. Go on, try to figure it out yourself. Methinks the vagueness is intentional...
Royal Bank of Scotland (sorry, RBS...)
My VISA card expires on 30 Jun 2008. Having phoned you today (18 June) you tell me that the replacement card was posted yesterday on a service that takes 5 working days. If my existing card expires in a week, why are you sending me my card (1) a week before it expires (2) on a service that takes a week?
This offers no margin for error, and considering how much money we pay you in interest and service charges it's insulting to know you're using the cheapest delivery service you can get away with. (And you refuse to send it anywhere other than my home, requiring my taking a day off work when you have to re-deliver it)
My company VISA card expires on 30 June 2008. You have sent me a replacement card with a start date of 1 July 2008. My Inbox is full of emails from companies saying my VISA card is due to expire can I update the details? Am I expected to wait up until midnight on 30 June to update all of these details online, because I can't replace them now in case a payment is made between now and 30 June and is rejected? Would it not have been easier to have a one month overlap?
I often wonder why companies don't employ people to just use their products and services until they break, then feed back to pre-empt problems, instead of waiting for enough people complaining about a problem before they're motivated enough to provide a service that actually works.
It's always been a mystery to me why so many shop signs and café menus have glaring typos and spelling mistakes. Surely the core job requirement for a printer or signmakers is basic grammer and owning a dictionary? (See, I don't even expect them to be able to spell, owning a dictionary would be good enough).
Well, here in Walthamstow I've discovered what I suspect is the source of at least some of these howlers. Would you buy a sign from this company...?
ps In case you can't see it - apostrophe abuse...
John Browett, DSG's new Chief Executive said, "customers have become increasingly promotion and deal driven, impacting margins".
I think he's wrong.
(1) Currys historically sold washing machines, vaccuum cleaners and such. Sister company Dixons sold TVs, videos, camcorders, computers etc. In April 2006, DSG axed the Dixons brand and renamed the whole group Currys.digital. Now, I was never a big fan of Dixons, but they knew what their niche was and they sometimes attracted the odd geeky store assistant whose opinion you could trust (indeed in 1989 I was one over the Christmas holidays..).
Who in their right mind, though, wants to buy a computer in a store where they sell washing machines? I often pay a premium to buy an item in a store as opposed to online if I can get some good advice I trust (eg Micro Anvika). How can a customer possibly believe that the minimum-wage, disinterested teenage sales assistant is an expert on DV camcorders as well as dishwashers?
(2) DSG took the low-rent "Currys" name, then added ".digital" in a lime green italicised Arial font and placed it against an unfeasibly bright-red background. It is by a very long way the worst logo I have ever had the misfortune to cast my eyes upon.
I cannot imagine any reason why, given a choice, I would ever entrust this retailer with my custom.
And clearly I'm not alone.
• The email is not personalised to me
• Links in the email lead me to a web page asking me for lots of personal information, yet it acknowledges me as an existing customer (so they'd surely have this information?)
• Links in the email are not to BT's main web site
However, after much digging in the email's Raw Source and just a gut feeling, I think the email is real.
1. If the email is a phishing email, it's worryingly good and likely effective.
2. If the email is genuine, then someone at BT's marketing department should be fired for sending out this incompetent and reckless email.
I searched for "phishing" on BT's web site to find out who to forward the email to for verification - there were no results. Are BT ignorant of this problem? Even my useless bank have such a service.
I've emailed a general enquiry to BT. I'll let you know the result.
My wife and I mortgaged the house the other week so we could afford to go to the local Vue cinema. I can't believe that anyone in the film industry thinks that a customer being gouged more than a tenner to see a film isn't going to feel resentful and motivated just to buy a camcorded DVD off a bloke on the high street or just download movies from a Bit-Torrent site. Seriously, every time I go to the cinema I feel like I've been mugged.
To add insult to injury, though, I'm then expected to queue for 10 minutes at the food counter because there's only two bored and un-motivated McWorkers serving, and they want to charge me "ONLY £8.08" for two bottles of water and a large popcorn. ONLY?! ONLY!? Some water (that you get out a tap for free) and a handful of corn kernels that have been popped.
First of all, this is absolutely the biggest rip-off in the history of food retailing. There must be a crime being committed here.
Secondly, how on earth did they come up with the bizarre price of £8.08? Is it because the numbers are bisymmetrical? Not that £7.99 would be more of a bargain, but it at least would have had the illusion of being about seven pounds and thus cheaper!
ps We didn't buy the "Sharer Combo". We bring our own water...
Marketing guru Seth Godin published his book "The Dip" last year. The New York Times best-seller turns the "winners don't quit" maxim on its head by pointing out that when your company hits "The Dip" then it *is* time to quit.
Ever innovative, Seth asks his blog readers today to help double the readership of his book - not by buying more copies, but by loaning it to friends.
"Loaning"? How can one make money out of that? Well, personal recommendation is the ultimate form of advertising, and Seth will sell copies of his other books by the barrowload as a result. It's not rocket science.
Here's the problem. I bought The Dip as a download for my Amazon Kindle. Because of the DRM I am unable to share the file with anyone. In fact, by putting DRM on the Kindle files Amazon are saying that *loaning* is at best a no-no, and at worse illegal.
Looks like my friends won't be buying Seth Godin books from Amazon on my recommendation then...
ps Of course, I don't own a Kindle, and I'm being facetious. But hopefully you get the point...
Ah, the great engineers of the North of England, how I *loved* to read about them in my Arthur Mee Children's Enclopedia. Manchester in particular seemed to be the most exciting city in the world, being home to great inventors such as:
So, they must be swelling with pride in their graves at this idiotic piece of design for Public Transport for Greater Manchester, created by one of the children of the wondrous North of England Industrial Revolution inheritance. It takes a special kind of ineptitude to create a mechanism that cannot possibly work out of only three working parts. Not a child who played with Mecanno then...
The irony is, we've just delivered a programme to the DFES aimed at encouraging kids to do STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at school.
Truly, I despair.
Why do shop assistants still put items in carrier bags without asking me if I want one? I despair at the vast amount of collateral I gather if I ever go to McDonalds, and at my local baker's the assistant smiles with mocking recognition at me when I buy a single cake saying "you don't want a carrier bag do you". Surely we're all aware these days of the impact that needless waste has on our environment?
What I just don't get, though, is that training staff to ask "would you like a carrier bag" instead of assuming is an opportunity to (1) save your business the cost of the carrier bag (2) demonstrate to your customer that you care about the environment, both local and worldwide, and (3) encourage people to recycle their old carrier bags.
What brought this on was reading a post about packaging on Seth Godin's blog. A watch purchase led to a ridiculous amount of accompanying packaging. I couldn't resist sharing a photo I took of the packaging that came with the watch I bought my wife for her birthday in November. A pound and a half of wood, plastic cloth, cardboard and paper. The vast bulk being completely unnecessary. Surely all of the brochures at least could be online?
Seriously, as opposed to making products more luxurious, I see the waste and it turns me off. Not a good feeling to create in a prospective customer.
Actually I'm more disturbed that not a single person in the entire Woolworths organisation is aware of the book or film "Lolita". How can this be? I don't expect everyone to have read the book, or seen the films (to be honest I haven't) but SURELY "Lolita" is a popular culture reference? I know I'm going to sound like my father, but seriously what do they teach people in schools these days?
A spokesman for Woolworth told The Times: “What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either. We had to look it up on Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now.”
Wow. That statement didn't come from a humble store-worker not knowing about one of the English language's great pieces of literature. That statement came from a "spokesman" - a person Woolworths entrust as an ambassador of their brand. Personally I've always been rather shy about my ignorance, and, although I use Wikipedia a lot, I wouldn't quote it as an authoritative source...
I'm not going to boycott Woolworths for stocking the Lolita Midsleeper Combi, but this silly-season story has certainly tainted my impression of the quality of the staff at Woolworths. How can I ever trust their judgement about anything? How can I ever trust the quality of their goods? How can I ever trust the opinion of one of their staff? Every aspect of the relationship between a vendor or supplier and a customer is about trust.
Woolworths should sack their ill-educated spokesman. And their staff should read more.
Toshiba have purchased a 30-second $2.7 million Superbowl advertising slot in a last ditch effort to support the flailing HD-DVD format - having obviously noticed that *no-one* is buying their decks or discs.
I reckon that the very act of doing this magnifies their desperation.
In Peter Chippendale's excellent book "Dished: The Rise and Fall of BSB", he reported that BSB's CEO Anthony Simmonds-Gooding said that on the brink of bankruptcy (prior to the merger with Sky) they had spent so much money marketing the enterprise it would have been cheaper to have just given the Squarials away (and thus built up a large and appreciative audience).
If Toshiba are at the stage of desperately throwing money about, have they not considered building up a user-base by giving away their players for free, like Xerox do with printers? I'd have a free one thanks! The software business realised years ago how to establish a market by initially giving their product away (eg RealPlayer and Macromedia Flash). That $2.7 million could have been used to give away 21,428 $126 Tosh decks to anyone who bought an HD-DVD film from Amazon/HMV/Walmart/whoever - all who would have done the marketing of the great giveaway offer at no cost to Toshiba.
I thought that one of the biggest jaw-drop moments of the 15 Jan Macworld was a comment by Jim Gianopulos, Chairman & CEO of 20th Century Fox. Watch this clip and not only hear Jim declare Blu-ray the winner, listen to the non-partizan audience laugh in mocking agreement. Very telling.
ps Yes Blu-ray is the better technology, but so was Betamax...
Nice move Hasbro. Scrabble, a dying, minority boardgame played by old people has been given an amazing and new lease of life on the hottest social network site out there, played by around 600,000 people (and the App subscribed to by just short of 2.4 million people). So shutting it down would be a good move then?!
Didn't Hasbro think of buying the property and re-naming it Online Scrabble? Or, doing some kind of licencing deal? It would have been worth just giving them the license for free. Didn't they see the marketing opportunities, keeping the game alive. At the very least Scrabulous users could have been offering discounts off the boardgame?
As one Scrabulous fan wrote on the "Save Scrabulous" Facebook page "I didn't have any Scrabble sets when I started playing Scrabulous a few months ago. I got hooked and have since bought two sets."
Scrabulous has surely been the most innovative of marketing for a board game ever, certainly I know of no better example of using the concept of the Social Object to market a product. This kind of marketing is phenomenal - it cost Hasbro nothing and was driven by fans who have no other motivation other than passion for the game. No-one is making a bean out of Scrabulous (it's a free game) except Hasbro who are selling more more Scrabble board games as a result of Scrabulous introducing the game to a new online generation.
Hasbro are grade "A" idiots, compounded by the fact that, with their marketing millions, they really should have thought of it first.
The ad proclaims that "a new Underground movement is starting under the streets of London right now. One that will challenge the established thinking of glib headlines or huge phone numbers."
At least that what is says if you stand six inches away from it (on a moving train?!) and have perfect vision.
The ad, suggesting that the reader could become the Next Great Underground Writer is illustrated by two postage-stamp-sized pictures of - wait a minute until I get out my binoculars, no that doesn't work because the train's shaking too much, I'll go up close and get out my magnifying glass, oh it's William S. Burroughs ("Underground" - geddit?!) and, nope I can't read that other guy's name at all, but he looks a bit like Andy Garcia.
Secondly, re the mocking of "glib headlines and huge phone number" - you know something guys, at least I can read those headlines and phone numbers. I'm not saying they're great adverts, but glass houses and all that.
Yes, I get that making Tube Cards is probably considered the job of least stature in ad agencies, which explains why they're generally uninspired and full of typos (my wife's an editor, don't even ask me about her apostrophe adventures with a red marker pen). However this ad by CBS Outdoor with its big white spaces and miniscule text is the clearest example I've ever seen of an advertiser not understanding the medium. In the case of a Tube Card, you've got to be able to read it from the seat opposite - a good six to eight feet away.
As opposed to inspiring me, the ad reminded me of those deliberately bad Advertising Standards Authority posters which ended with the caption "We're here to make advertising better, not to make better advertising. Sorry."
Frankly, it's just a pretentious advert made by an agency who think they're above writing Tube Cards.
Spotted in the Gents toilets at the Fort Kinnaird Odeon Cinema in Edinburgh.
Can I just point out how utterly broken this is?
Every tap had a "DANGER Hot" sign on it, and by their wear and tear had clearly been there for some time. My wife told me that the ladies toilets were the same.
So, the sticker being there is an acknowledgment by someone that the water coming out of the taps is scalding hot. However, instead of turning down the thermostat, or actually doing something about it, it was deemed easier to just put up warning stickers (which are actually hidden by the mirror jutting out and partially covering the stickers - I had to crouch to take the picture).
But who cares, if someone gets badly burned Odeon's lawyers can say that there were warning stickers so they're not responsible.