The political arguments around government and business are well understood. At one extreme are people who despise profit-making businesses, considering them a necessary evil at best, and who’d prefer to see governments take more action to protect their and society’s interests. At the other are those who’d prefer to see governments scaled down significantly and businesses given more freedom. People with my political opinions often make arguments for the latter based on either practical or moral arguments.
I’ve written many times before about the poor quality customer service I’ve received from LOVEFiLM, the UK’s largest DVD rental service, and those posts have solicited a lot of complaints from other people too. I’ve finally bitten the bullet and cancelled my account: a combination of frustration with poor delivery times, them never sending me the titles high on my list, and that they won’t allow me to freely suspend my account for a reasonable amount of time.
Faffing with the contents of my wallet today in the supermarket, I began wondering about reward cards - are they still worth the plastic they’re printed on? They’ve been around in the UK for over a decade, and two major supermarkets - Tesco and Sainsbury’s - still use them. I have one of each. However, I sometimes wonder why I don’t throw them away - cash rewards of approximately 1% (presumably all that the supermarkets can afford) hardly seem worth the bother of carrying them.
I travelled just enough last year (although mostly not on business) to start analysing air travel, as some of my colleagues have done for a while. And so I’m afraid this post is another whinge about airports. Why o why do they ever put interesting stuff (i.e., shops) before security control? OK, sure, some relatives come to see people off, so a coffee shop or two might not go amiss in larger terminals.
This year has clearly been the year of YouTube, Google Video and other pretenders to the throne. And as I’ve discussed before, I think Flash-based video is really cool. However, not everything it’s used for involves cats falling off trees as per You’ve Been Framed, or actors fooling people. One of the best uses has been the huge amount of compelling video that’s been released free from conferences this year. I’ve absorbed tens of hours of it this year, on subjects as diverse as life coaching from legend Tony Robbins (Alexander Kjerulf has been to one of his seminars, and I want to go too), the marketing of spaghetti sauce, and curing aging.
I’ve written several times before about LOVEFiLM and their deteriorating customer service. They’ve just got worse - sometime during or after the merger with Screenselect, it seems that they sneaked in a change - you can now only ‘go on holiday’ (pause the service) for a maximum of 4 weeks a year, and only 2 weeks at a time (with a holiday size measured in units of 1 week). No doubt this is within the T&Cs;, but this clearly isn’t going to suit lots of people (myself included), and is just another ill-considered attempt to shave costs (maintaining your account details is essentially zero cost).
Some of the marketing efforts I’m most impressed by are the little, obvious things. I recently ordered some replacement ink cartridges from The Ink Factory (excellent service, by the way - next day delivery and cheap prices, as well as good quality non-OEM cartridges). I’ve ordered from them twice now - this time round I had to dig out their name from my email archives - searching Google for printer ink uk brings up a lot of sites.
A sign in the Winchester branch states that WHSmith have joined the list of retailers who have stopped accepting cheques - Shell made headlines when they announced they were to do the same back in September last year. Apparently WHSmith are concerned about fraud, and this news story implies that it’s only an experiment, but it wouldn’t surprise me if part of the decision is also related to the cost of processing and handling, and that this will become permanent - after all, it’s rare that you see a cheque being used in a shop now, and with good reason - they are tedious, awkward, and slow to process.
Google have created a powerful brand based on creating simplicity from complexity (what all good IT is about). Their tools aren’t perfect, but they’ve made life easier for billions, and so I think they still deserve some free feedback from time-to-time. So, a few thoughts: Mr. Google, please develop a podcast search engine. So much interesting content is now being released as podcasts (quick plug for my favourite: EconTalk), that it would be useful to be able to search them.
On a trip to London the other week, I was wearing a nice pinstripe suit. With my neatly ironed shirt, conservative tie, and smart cufflinks, I thought I looked very presentable. But as I’ve already admitted, I also bought some pomegranate juice. What was I thinking? Sure, it was OK, but what a yuppie. So here’s a question: does how you’re dressed and what you’re doing affect what you buy? Do you feel compelled to buy more expensive stuff because you look like you should be able to afford it?