Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

Archive for the ‘Companies’ Category

Cingular’s Website: A Mess

In Companies on October 14, 2006 at 11:43 pm

I spent half an hour and went through dozens of screens on the Cingular Wireless site to find the anwer to one of the most easily-anticipatable questions a cellular phone user could have: How do I check my messages.

I don’t know if the way Cingular has arranged their website is due to incompetence or is a purposeful strategy. When I finally found what I was looking for I thought I would drop them a line to encourage them to rethink their site’s architecture. But the obstacles between where I was and what I wanted had certainly not ended. It was patently impossible to register my opinion with the company without logging in (who knew I had a login?) and entering a password (password? what password?). Even then, no telling what further steps I would have had to have gone through. No simple email address listed for suggestions or complaints.

In a day and age when accessibility is prized and unwillingness to allow it is severely punished by the consumer, it is not terribly sensible to pursue a strategy of discouragement of and contempt for your customers.

Just ask Dell.

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Trumba Blog

In Blogging, Companies, Corporate blogging, Marketing, Social media, Work materials on May 7, 2006 at 4:33 pm

Some time back, Marshall and I went up to Seattle to visit Trumba, the online calendar company. We helped them set up their corporate blog and trained them in its use and upkeep. Now they’re at it like gangbusters. They’ve taken to blogging like fish to water. Ducks to water? Something watery to water. It’s a good feeling to see it take off. And it goes without saying that it’s really gratifying in any job to deal with smart, hard-working people with a sense of experimentation.

One of the things I really like about this blog is the feeling of openness it has. It definitely feels like a conversation instead of a tri-fold brochure. They have also encouraged what looks like the whole company to contribute to the blog, so you get a lot of personalities in it, with different emphases. Really good job, guys.

Visit the Trumba blog, “Conversations With Trumba.”

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Blockbuster’s Twilight

In Companies on December 24, 2005 at 12:01 am

Two months ago I went into the Blockbuster store on Willamette Street and 18th in Eugene, Oregon. As I passed by the counters I tossed into a black plastic garbage can a paper I had been carrying. When the attendent saw me, she did not greet me. Instead, in a disgusted tone she proclaimed, “That’s not the garbage!” I apologized and explained that the garbage can outside was missing. “We had to get rid of it,” she said impatiently. “There were all kinds of drug needles in it.”

Not only was there no polite greeting (despite the pronounced lack of customers competing for her attention), but her tone suggested that I was a something of a fool for not knowing something that not only could I not possibly have known, but which, were I an employee of a public-facing business, I would take care not to advertise.

I told myself I would never go into a Blockbuster again. Prior to that, I could never find the movie I wanted anyway, even if it were a popular new release. But a little while ago my wife really wanted to see the Brothers Grimm, so I clenched my teeth and called, to make sure it was in. When I asked if the store had a copy, the woman who responded would not tell me. Instead, she said, “I can’t hold anything for you!” I repeated my question, stressing that I only wanted to know if there was a copy in stock. “Yeah,” she said, ” but I can’t hold it for you.”

The distance from my house to the store is less than five minutes. I don’t need to tell you that there was no copy in, do I? It was only at that point that I realized the woman who answered the phone told me a copy was in in order to avoid having to go and check. Again, you won’t be suprised when I tell you there were only two other people in the store.

Well, with Hollywood Video, Silver Screen, Flicks and Picks and Albertson all within a mile of my house, there is no need to use Blockbuster again, to say nothing of Netflix.

I didn’t give this awful store one chance to not treat me horridly, I gave it two. And Blockbuster failed in helpfulness, service, manners and product. This experience, if the Blockbuster’s free-falling revenues are any indication, is not a unique one.

Blockbuster has continued to bleed cash on the dreadful subscription scheme it cobbled together to compete with Netflix. It lost its bid for Hollywood Video to Movie Gallery. As it experiences its long, painful twilight, look for it to blame “new technology” and its own customers. It is my experience that, as the old saying goes, “You will know the master by his dog.” That is to say, lousy customer service is, with virtually no exceptions, a direct result of the choices of management.

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Budget Taxi in Eugene Oregon

In Companies on November 25, 2005 at 7:52 am

If you live in, or visit, Eugene, Oregon, and have an occasion to take a taxi, DO NOT take Budget Taxi.

We called to have a cab pick up my mother-in-law from the hospital where she had gone, having broken her arm. The driver who showed up was drunk. I mean Foster Brooks, ashen-faced, bum-beard, eyes-at-half-mast drunk.

We called Budget back, figuring they would want to know, firstly, to protect the lives of their passengers; then to protect the lives of other drivers and pedestrians, not to mention the life and health of their driver. We also figured they would want to act quickly for the sake of their reputation. Taxi companies with drunk drivers don’t inspire confidence or repeat customers.

We could not have been more wrong. The dispatcher, instead of apologizing, argued with my wife, telling her she didn’t know what she was talking about. And off went Drinky Drinkerson, weaving out into the foggy night.

So, again, unless you are suicidal, do not call Budget Taxi. They do not care at all about the lives and safety of their passengers.

UPDATE: (November 29) Here’s a note I got from Denise. (The formatting problems and slap-dash nature are preserved from the original email.)

you are misinformed

1. The person your mother talked to was not a Budget Taxi driver. He was with another company.

2. The driver we sent over does not drink and did not talk to your mother. He could not find anyone wanting a ride.

3. Yes the dispatcher was confused when you called yelling and screaming about a drunk driver.

4. We do not appreciate your slanderous unfounded uninformed unconfirmed criticism.

We have been serving the Eugene area for 20 years. We have never had a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We have a drug testing policy. All of our drivers have been here many years. We service many seniors and people that need extra help.

We would be glad to provide that service for your mother if she should call, however hot heads such as yourself can call another company.


I responded:

Yes, the person I spoke to was a Budget driver. He got out of a Budget Taxi. If he told you he never found anyone, he was lying to you.

The fact that you respond telling me I’m a fool is further proof that the imcompetence and drunkenness of your driver is countenanced and encouraged by the owners.

The charge of slander of course requires, among many other things, that I be wrong. I am demonstrably not. There were witnesses. At any rate, let’s find out what our readers think.

Of course, as I said, it was my mother-in-law, not my mother, and my wife called, not me. Doesn’t seem that Denise reads any more carefully than her employees listen. And the essential point is that Budget Taxi exists in a world where dissatified customers are to be shouted down and insulted, not paid attention to. The difference is that the rest of us live in a world where you can let thousands of people know about your experience, instead of two or three.

To reiterate my original point: If you live in Eugene or are visiting and find you need a taxi, do what Denise says, “Call another company.”

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Super Diaper Babies Strike Again: Google

In Companies on August 9, 2005 at 3:18 pm

Joining the ranks of Super Diaper Babies is Google.

CNET‘s Elinor Mills, who also wrote about the CPB-associated MSN Spaces hack, used Google to find out information on that company’s CEO, which she published in an article. Google thereupon began to scream and beat the ground with its angry little fists. In a petulant and adolescent move, Google says it’s now refusing to answer any questions by CNET for a year.

Apparently, “getting grounded” is part of Google’s “corporate culture.”

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Wal-Mart as Censor

In Companies, Free speech on July 25, 2005 at 11:44 pm

Via Romanesko, I found a report in the Pensacola News Journal detailing a regional Wal-Mart manager’s attempt to pressure the paper into firing one of its columnists, Mark O’Brien. In one of his columns O’Brien had discussed the hidden cost of Wal-Mart’s price savings, primarily in additional health care burden borne by the state, since the company refuses to insure the majority of its employees.

“I like Wal-Mart prices the same as the next shopper, but there’s a downside, too. Many Wal-Mart employees lack the fringe benefits and insurance that makes the difference between existence and a good quality of life. Yet, we customers pay a surcharge from a different pocket — subsidizing health care for Wal-Mart employees who can’t afford it,” wrote O’Brien.

According to Randy Hammer, executive editor of the paper, “(Wal-Mart District Manager Bob) Hart, however, said he and his stores couldn’t tolerate a newspaper that would print the opinions of someone who was as mean and negative as Mark O’Brien…Mr. Hart said he wanted the newspaper to get its racks off his lots. But he also said that if I fired Mark, we could talk about continuing to sell the newspaper at his stores.”

Certainly a company is entitled to determine whether or not they wish to sell one product or another, including media products. But Mr. Hart honestly believed — and probably with good reason — that he could blackmail the paper into firing its columnist. (Thankfully, they did not.)

Mr. Hart seems not to realize he lives within a civil society in which other issues besides the sheer economic power of his employer still count.


Addendum: Wal-Mart bitch-slaps Bob Hart and restores the News Journal to its Pensacola-area stores.

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In Companies, Free speech, Human rights on June 18, 2005 at 12:29 am

Microsoft is assisting the Chinese government in muzzling the Chinese people. It has configured its MSN Spaces blogging software and service to ban words such as “freedom” and “democracy.”

MS’s prominent blogger, Robert Scoble, sacrifices in one fell swoop, every last hint of his credibility with this cheap PR weasel-bark.

It is deftly swept aside not only by Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman center and nine-year resident of China as Beijing bureau chief for CNN; but by every credible Chinese blogger as well.

Thankfully, Bennett Haselton has hacked a way out of MSN’s censorship.


In Companies, Social media on June 11, 2005 at 10:30 pm

Via BL Ochman, I was brought face-to-face with a sickening perversion of God’s natural law: the new Technorati beta site. What would compel a person to change a perferctly reasonable site to this monstrosity?

Good lord that’s ugly. It has that natural food store signage vibe that early web design had.


Technorati, for those who don’t know, is the number one blog search engine.