Thursday, December 3, 2009

Like Clockwork - TV Salespeople

So, it's Thursday and I'm in the mood to write again. I'm up obnoxiously early compared to the time I'm USUALLY awake- but I've been starting this new thing called "Go to bed earlier so you can wake up earlier." It's crazy, I can't believe no one told me about it in the past.

I'm hoping it can continue- I'm really enjoying being up normal times-- when other people are awake.

Lately, I've been watching a ton of QVC. I look back to my earlier days, when I "had" to sleep with a TV on in order to go to sleep. My parents bought it-- but I couldn't watch ESPN, like I wanted to back in second or third grade, they made me leave QVC on to go to sleep.

So, here I was, like a kid in the candy store sometimes (during the sports and electronics show, my taste was not yet refined enough for the gourmet food shows) and wanting to pull my hair during all of the fashion and jewelry shows. I soon enough became enamored by this idea of someone on my TV screen selling stuff and being able to sell tens of thousands of items in 2 or 3 minute spots.

I personified the term "window shopping". If QVC's goal was to sell me something- they were unsuccessful. Heck, I was only 9 or 10. I actually wrote my favorite host an email (he would read emails during the shows) and he read mine on air. I know- I'm cool. I was about as starstruck as the old ladies that call in moaning in excitement to "finally" be able to meet their favorite on-air personality.

So what does this have to do with now? Well, I feel nostalgic. I've been watching QVC a lot lately, this time -I- get to choose when to watch. I say I feel nostalgic because nothing much has changed except for the fact that if jewelry or fashion is on (besides the guy who looks like a bear and talks like Harvey Fierstein) I have the ability to change to something else! I'm still the observant, not-very-profitable, window-shopper.

I've been watching it a lot, especially when I'm with Jess, but I have no intention of ever buying anything, which is surprising- go with me to a mall or Best Buy- better yet, a gourmet grocery store. It would be rare to find a time where I DIDN'T buy something.

I think its more the selling-on-the-fly, seeing how people get so attached to products they simply have to call in and tell a bunch of people they don't know how great the products are, as well as the sheer variety offered that makes me so intrigued by this idea.

I know this blog is a diversion from what I usually write, don't really know why, I just decided to blog about something odd today.

How many of you still consistently "window shop" without ever intending to buy anything? I mean, I'm sure you walk by Tiffany & Co. and don't buy anything (and there's probably good reason for that *stares at empty wallet*) but what about in situations where you CAN afford it? Where do you go where you just observe? Why don't you buy?

On the same token- can someone tell me why I choose QVC over most other programming on TV? Is there any logical reason for this? Or is it just a test of self-control?

I'm going to answer my first set of questions, but I look forward to hearing any responses. EVERY time I go to the mall, it never fails, the Apple Store is one of my first stops. I rarely have any intention to buy anything, but I own a Mac and an iPhone- I'm a Mac geek. I feel like a part of the community in there, I just browse, like I'm sure 80% of everyone who goes into an Apple Store. I love the atmosphere and the hustle and bustle of that store, it's a very welcoming store- and those are the stores that are going to last. I think my next blog might be more about Apple :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009


As I'm sitting here, 3:10am the day of Thanksgiving, last year I would be fast asleep. Last year I worked for a certain food service company who is in charge of all of the food at Eagles games, I was a supervisor and ran about 6 stands-- about 25 people and saw more money in one night than I would make in 2 years at my current job :)

I had to get to the stadium by 2pm for a game that started at 8pm. This company told us that working on Thanksgiving day was not optional. Aside from that, they notified us that we (supervisors, mainly) would NOT be home in any time for dinner. They also told us that we would not be paid any sort of overtime for our inconvenience. They didn't even give us dinner. My thanksgiving dinner was a hot dog last year.

What's wrong with this situation? What -isn't- wrong with this situation. I completely understand that the goal of a company is to be profitable, but isn't this taking it a bit too far? How much "in the black" do you seriously need to be? Would it hurt you that bad to put together a pre-game Thanksgiving dinner for so many people who are giving up time with their loved ones to make money that they need to put food on the table that they can't even enjoy? Or would it hurt to give people time and half for not ditching work to be with their family the ONE day a year (that isn't religious) where you are SUPPOSED to be with your family?

I wasn't mad at this situation for myself either. I was going to have leftovers when I got home, I didn't have family flying in or anything like that. I was upset because of all of the people I worked with. My co-workers that I supervised. One woman told me she had cooked the whole meal and then went to work- she made EVERYTHING, she had a "soul food" Thanksgiving, she told me the meal consisted of turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, mac and cheese, collard greens, corn bread, stuffing, pumpkin pies-- my mouth was watering while she described the whole meal she set up for her family. I asked "Did you at least get to eat with your family before coming?" Her response? "No, I had to leave, I will have leftovers after the game though."

I couldn't believe it. Here was a woman so dedicated to her minimum-wage, benefit-less job that she would prepare a whole meal for her family and then come into work to work for about 10 hours before going home to FINALLY enjoy her meal- and I am sure she enjoyed every bit of it.

What does this story have to do with anything? Well, lots of things. First of all, this company is a SHINING example of putting profits before people and because of that behavior, their profits will never be at their maximum. Second, it shows how dedicated some people are to their jobs and how employers rarely realize and/or recognize that. Third, if you are making it mandatory for your employees to abandon their families on a family-based holiday- DO SOMETHING FOR THEM- cook up a few damn turkeys. Finally, it just shows that I am still thinking of this woman and while I really did not enjoy my time with this company- people like her were what made me happy to be there.

That small conversation I had with that co-worker made me realize just how much some people have to sacrifice for their family and it makes me really value the family dinners that I have and how lucky I am to not have to commit to working Thanksgiving this year.

I may not have been the best with using all of the computer programs exclusive to that company (mainly because nobody ever showed me how to use them during orientation and I just kind of winged it) but I hope that I touched some co-workers during my time there because I made it a point to get to know all of my co-workers and really cared about the ones I saw week-to-week and definitely am still thinking about those.... extended family members I was fortunate enough to spend my 2008 Thanksgiving with :)

Oh, and did I mention how the company rewarded me for my service? Hah! I got a Pin :) Yes.. pick up your jaw now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Best Buy? I think you should rethink that adjective.

Work? Check. Long-past-due blog? Finally, check.

Okay, well I've been incredibly busy lately, busy enough to put my blog and various other projects on hold (my website, collections, etc.. the things I've been doing to pass time while only having one part time job).

Now that I'm starting to manage my time more effectively, I'm putting enough hours into my job daily and still finding time to go to the gym and now I have free time again! So, without further ado- my latest rambling...

A few weeks ago, I decided to go into Best Buy to pick up a video game. Video games are universally the same price, most of the time. So, I normally go to Best Buy so I can get loyalty points (to get more money to spend at Best Buy... and so the cycle continues.) But, after this visit, I've begun to re-think my loyalties.

For every $250 I spend at Best Buy, I get $5. It may not seem like a lot, but when I'm buying a new movie or something, it's a pretty significant discount. Not to mention at Christmastime where my parents use my card because they don't have one. So, at this time of the year- I'm raking in the points. This is the main reason I'm a loyal Best Buy customer.

I'm not a loyal Best Buy customer because of their knowledgeable staff (more annoying than knowledgeable, they ambush you asking you if you need help, I'm a fan of enthusiastic employees but this feels more forced than enthusiastic.) I'm not a loyal Best Buy customer because I love the experience behind their brand. I'm not a loyal Best Buy customer because they run the best sales (honestly, Target has cheaper DVDs most of the time, BB just has a better selection). And I'm not a Best Buy customer because of their friendly and helpful cashiers....

Wait, friendly and helpful? Scratch that. I can't remember the last time a cashier at Best Buy made me smile, let alone smiled at me! In fact, the instance that drove me to write this blog happened a few weeks ago (I mentioned it above but then went off on a tangent.. I do that sometimes)...

I was in Best Buy to pick up a video game, I go to the section, grab the game, and head to the cashier line. I'm in line waiting- behind no one. I wait until I am called- I try to be courteous in this case, I don't know if the cashier is finished with her last transaction or whether or not she is ready- so I usually just hang right before the register, close enough for them to see me, but far enough away to not be intrusive. I notice that the lady who is about to ring me up is texting.

This is a middle-aged lady, not some 15 year old girl who is glued to her cell phone. I kind of wanted to clear my throat, but I went through a bunch of scenarios in my head that could be reasons why I shouldn't be rude- finally I narrowed it down to maybe her kid needed her for something. I didn't want to be rude if it was something important for her child- so I just stood there and waited.

She finished texting, finally looks up (finally looks up-- a sign you're NOT doing your job), and acknowledges me. She takes my item, scans it and then asks if that's everything. Before I can utter a word, her phone vibrates and she picks it up- SHE PICKS IT UP IN THE MIDDLE OF MY TRANSACTION... Okay, now that's just saying 'Customer, you're unimportant. Please pay for your item and leave. I have no time for you.' This cashier started having a conversation consisting of topics completely unimportant and completely unnecessary to be talking about when on your employer's dime.

Did I mention that this woman finished the whole transaction while holding her phone up to her ear with her shoulder? A sad skill no cashier should ever be proficient at.

Oh- and when she was finished? Didn't even look at me. Didn't say a word... Nothing. She continued her super-important conversation.

When your job is to work the front lines and be the face of your company to its customers- NOBODY. IS. MORE. IMPORTANT. THAN. THE. PERSON. STANDING. IN. FRONT. OF. YOU. Nobody. If the Pope walked into Best Buy to pick up the new Black Eyed Peas CD and you're ringing someone up, someone else will have to help His Holiness. Your attention should be solely on the person in front of you, not another customer, not your boss, not your co-worker, not your buddy on the other end of the phone. NOBODY. See where I'm going?

I grabbed my bag and left.

This was not the first case of employee indifference, but it was the most significant.

I have since been back to Best Buy, but the amount of times I've been there has been significantly less. I've determined that I would rather pay the same amount somewhere else and not be forced to continuously shop there unless they are having a sale.

So, the message here, Best Buy, if you're going to call yourself "Best Buy" without being the cheapest or the friendliest retailer, what exactly is it that you're "Best" at?

I'm a big advocate of banning texting for frontline employees when in public view- on break or behind closed doors- text the night away- but when your attention should solely be on the customer, put your damn phone away.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sushi and September

I can remember the first time I had sushi. It was at some cheap chinese food buffet in a town right next to mine. I was in eighth grade and had nothing near the palate I have now. My meal of choice was probably chicken fingers. Naturally, I was pretty squeamish at the thought of raw fish wrapped in seaweed, but I decided to give it a shot because it was slowly becoming the new phase. After eating the food I can remember instantly regretting it, and so began my dislike for sushi.

Lets rewind from this moment and go about 8 years prior. It was September and there I was, going back to school. From that moment, I'd associate September to this "back to school" feeling of helplessness and finality. My summer was over, and there I was, going back to this 8 hour day spent in a classroom. Much like sushi, September usually always struck a bad note with me.

College was where this all changed, though. No longer was I dreading the arrival of the fall. In fact, Fall became my favorite season and September? One of my favorite months. College was like my summer and summer, more like my winter. Although the sun went away (a few impromptu trips to Florida can incorporate the sun into anyone's fall/winter :)) I was with my friends, actually learning subjects that interested me, and being independent. Furthermore, I -LOVED- sushi!

How does someone take a complete 180 like that? I guess my appetite/appreciation for fine foods matured just like my desire to advance myself. Summer wasn't the "cool thing" anymore. Now, don't get me wrong, I still like summer just as much as the next guy; there's something to be said for staying in bed til 1pm, watching endless episodes of your favorite TV shows, swimming and playing video games all day, rinse and repeat... but that gets old.. quick.. well, not really QUICK but, after about 4 months or so.

August came along and I was still in my house, hanging with friends, playing video games, and the like. When suddenly I found myself staring at my calendar, counting down the days until September because I knew it was going to be different. I knew that I wouldn't let myself sit idly by during the month in which I'm used to working the hardest nor would I let myself be disheartened by anything that happens in my life in a month that has been dreaded by me at one point, and loved at another. I know both feelings, and I would much prefer the latter, and that's what its going to be.

And so I've decided that this September will resemble the Septembers of my recent past, filled with learning and experience and eagerness to get the most out of it and to be able to have fun doing it. Of course, knowing that I'm going to be spending two of my weekends this month at the beach, and 2 of the nights at the end of the month seeing U2 in concert really helps my outlook :) But I also know that things like that are necessary in a month and time with such uncertainty. I have things that I know will make my month better and it's up to me to make the other 23 days this month as great.

In other news, Jingle All The Way, one of my all-time favorite movies was on TBS a few days ago. I love that movie and to see it on in August had to have been a sign that I will get the TurboMan soon, I just need to persist. (In this example, the "TurboMan" is actually a full-time job)

Anyway, how do you feel about September? Is there anything in your life that, at one time or another, you dreaded? But now, you can't live without it?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Customer Service

Hey everyone. This is my first blog so I'm not sure how to start everything off. I primarily intend on talking about my views on marketing and things like that, basically to keep my mind active in this subject until I can find a job!

This first blog is going to be about customer service which, sadly, isn't taken nearly as seriously as it should be in today's super-competitive market. The term "legendary customer service" is a term that is now only associated with a few companies. Zappos, which was just acquired by Amazon, is a company that is usually synonymous with legendary customer service.

Zappos is known for having customer service worthy of emulating. For a company with such a common offering of products, they realized that they needed a unique selling proposition. They decided to make their customer service exceed that of all of their competition. This USP made them stand out in such a way that people would go out of their way to deal with them. Unfortunately, companies decided that the best way to compete with Zappos wasn't to emulate their customer service but to try to offer similar deals with prices and shipping.

An example of this would be, a site opened by none other than Amazon to compete with Zappos. What did this site offer, you ask? Why, two things that are among Zappos' main USPs, free two-day shipping and free return shipping! Obviously, these two USPs were not enough to turn the fledgling shoe and apparel website into a formidable competitor for Zappos, even with Amazon's backing and deep pockets. So much so that, as most of you already know, Amazon just purchased Zappos for $847 million. I guess if you can't beat 'em... and your name is Jeff Bezos, buy 'em.

The good news is that not everyone has the money Amazon has. Not every business can just buy out its competition if they are not able to compete with them. So, this is going to force companies to compete!

If you can learn from Endless'/Amazon's mistake, not as many people seem to care about paying for shipping as they care about the service they receive. In other, more enlightening words, if you run a company and want to compete, you don't have to spend extra money on offering perks such as free shipping or free returns. You have to spend time finding quality people who can deliver the type of service that will make people go out of their way to deal with your business.

How often do you go somewhere and are absolutely "wow'ed" by the way you are treated? I'd like to guess not very often. 

How often do you go somewhere and are absolutely "wow'ed" by the way you are treated and then discover that you look forward to that treatment... and you go back?

The best part about this type of USP is that it doesn't cost you much money. You don't have to pay for your client's shipping and return costs. You don't have to offer a bunch of perks for return visits. All you need to do is find some dedicated employees who will do as much as they can to brighten their customers' day.

What is a dedicated employee, though? What type of actions can someone do that will endear a customer to a certain company or brand?

Think about the last time you went to a place that you go out of your way to go. What made you go there? My example is Starbucks, some baristas (Starbucks employees) go out of their way to remember you name and even your drink order! How cool would it be if you walked into Starbucks and immediately someone said "Hey John!" and got to work on your Chai Tea Latte. What about an employee who complimented you on your shirt? Or even an employee who told you about an upcoming sale to save you a couple of dollars?

There are many different things employees can do to make a difference. It doesn't require much effort, either. Employees, especially front line employees, need to realize how much of an effect they have on customers. Those employees represent the company, it is their responsibilities to ensure customers return again and again.

However, some companies fail to tell their front line employees (people that primarily deal with customers) just how integral of a part they play in representing the company. If companies started from the beginning, telling their employees how important of a role they play and how much of a difference they can make in the day of a customer simply by asking how their day is going, they would create much more passionate employees who will create loyal customers.

Passionate employees create loyal customers. Sounds simple doesn't it?

How does one find (or create..?) passionate employees? Well, that will just have to wait until my next blog!

I hope you enjoyed my first blog.