Archive for December, 2007

Feel-Good Romantic Comedy

Friday, December 28th, 2007

All month, I’ve been seeing ads for a new movie I won’t be going to see. According to ads earlier this month, "PS I Love You" is about a woman who is totally in love with her husband. He loves her. This sounds great! He evidently dies early in the movie. She receives letters from him after he dies. And according to the ads, these letters and things he asks her to go and do evidently help her deal with his death. The ads show her getting drunk and singing karaoke. I’m not sure any of the things she is doing would help me deal with my husband dying. But this is a movie.

The ads changed. In mid-December, I noticed the ads stopped mentioning that the husband dies. Scenes with him are in the commercials MORE. The voice-over tells me this is the best romantic comedy of the season. They still show her getting drunk and singing karaoke. They just don’t mention why. So now, someone who is just seeing these ads won’t realise that this "romantic comedy" is about a woman’s husband dying. Evidently her trying to pick up the pieces after his sudden death is the fodder for comedy.

Did the movie get recut this month? Will I really find a young widow dealing with her young husband’s death funny? Does a movie like this come out every Xmas? I feel like every Xmas, we’re hit with a movie about a young couple being torn apart by one of them suddenly dying or finally succumbing to a deadly disease. I just don’t remember those marketed as COMEDIES.

Well, I’m not too worried. I imagine nobody will go see this movie anyway. But the commercials are bothering me.


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My SUV is Not The Devil

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

I know there is a lot of talk about SUVs not being green or environmentally friendly. I’m not going to say they are. But I will say this.

My current car is a 2007 Toyota 4Runner, 2WD V6 model. I am getting 23.1 mpg on average across all of my local and highway driving. I mostly drive our local roads, whose speed limits range from 35 to 55.

My previous car was the small and sporty 2005 Scion tC (think Toyota Celica), V4 model. I was getting around 26 mpg across all of my driving.

My sister at one point had a Volvo C70 I think it was, and that was in the late 1990’s. She told me it got around 13 mpg.

When I recently visited Disney World in Florida, they drove me around in a new Cadillac DeVille. It had a readout that said what gas mileage it was getting, and it showed 14.3 mpg.

I’m not sure the SUVs are the biggest problem. It sounds like some of the sedans are worse gas guzzlers than many of the SUVs. So stop demonising me and my SUV.

We do plan to get a second car that is small and very fuel efficient so that we can only use the SUV when we need the seating/cargo room. We’ll do our best. :)


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So Is Mine

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

I’ve lived in Oro Valley, AZ (part of Tucson) for nearly 3 years. One thing that amazes me constantly is how friendly the teenagers are. I mean they’re not putting on an act. They are genuinely friendly… when you meet them on the street, when they are working at the smoothie place, it just seems like an entire town of good kids. You rarely see them smoking.

I compare this in my mind to growing up in the suburbs of NYC. Nearly every kid smoked. Kids were bitchy to each other and to adults. Kids working jobs acted like they were too good to make your sandwich, and going to shops staffed by teens was always a nightmare of attitude and bad service.

So what is it? What is going on here that kids are so different? I thought maybe they all had military parents and were beaten into being "nicer." I was wrong. I recently caught up with a boy and girl who work in a local place. I think they’re in their later years of high school. I asked them what is up with teens. Paraphrasing, here is what I learned.

  • Lots of kids drink. Many kids smoke pot. But nearly zero smoke cigarettes. It’s just seen as disgusting around here.
  • If you live in Oro Valley, your family has money. There is no "bad" part of town. Everybody here is pretty much equally upper middle class. As one kid put it, you get to a friend’s house. His house is REALLY nice. You say, "Your house is really nice!" And you think to yourself, "So is mine."
  • That means a few things. First of all, there’s no class struggle. Most kids see themselves as the same "class" as the other kids. Second, it means they understand what they have. If they can look at their own home or car or possessions, and see how NICE they are, then they have an appreciation for all of this.
  • They kids here told me that kids from the town north of us, Catalina, get bussed in because they evidently have no high school in their town. The OV kids think the Catalina kids range from weird to lame, mostly because the Catalina kids have a chip on their shoulder. That chip is the class struggle. The Catalina kids don’t have what the OV kids have, and I guess they have some sort of attitude. It sounds like the kids here don’t play into that much. They just think those kids are weird and should lighten up.

I’ve rarely met a kid from Long Island who had an appreciation for what he or she had… who didn’t feel a class struggle with those perceived as richer or poorer. I’ve spoken to Long Island kids who have told me that the whole school will judge their status by which cell phone they had, so they always had to have the newest and best cell phones for that status.

When I spoke at my high school some years ago, I spent the day watching the kids in the hallways before my talk. When I spoke to them, I told them that they all look at and treat each other like "my retro bellbottoms cost more than your retro bellbottoms." I could SEE the class struggle even just in the hallways… the looks they shot each other, the way they treated each other.

That’s just not happening here. It’s a very different world. I prefer this world. I just wonder if this can be spread around the country to places where bitchy, jerky boys and girls are being raised with some huge (and often undeserved) sense of entitlement.

I wonder how you raise kids to be grateful for what they have without being envious of what others have. That somehow seems to be the key here. It ripples out into everything these kids do and believe.


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Christmas Music

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

Starting some time in November, we’ve all been hearing Christmas music. Probably everywhere. Stores start playing it, usually in mid-November. Hold music has it. But that’s not all!

We’re offered lots of CDs in case we want to play Xmas music on demand. Even famous Jewish musicians have put out Christmas albums. :)

The digital music channels on cable TV have a seasonal channel, so you can dial Xmas music up there. XM Radio has some holiday channels. One of them is funny holiday songs, all darn day.

If there’s one thing I have never heard in my 35 years of life, it’s a Christmas season going by and anybody telling me they wish they had heard more Xmas music. I think it’s like fruitcake. It’s there, we’re glad it’s there, but when it’s gone, we’re ready for it to be gone.

So when I saw a commercial on TV on 10 Dec, I was surprised. Our local lite (spelled that way) music station was advertising that they’re playing Christmas and holiday music, I guess for the next few weeks. What are they thinking? Do they really think that the average person at work is not hearing enough Xmas music the rest of the day, and needs to hear more Xmas music at work instead of those lite hits?

I don’t get it.

Oh and merry Xmas. Remember that music will get fresher tomorrow! :)


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Spam Email

Monday, December 24th, 2007

I had just been thinking about writing about spam email when I read this. I have used so many spam filters over the years, and I’ve finally stumbled on one that’s really good. I use SpamArrest.com, and have been for about 2 years.

But it’s not perfect. I spend time every day in the "unverified" folder, which is everything is catches as possible or definite spam. I arrange it alphabetically by email subject, and I look for any subject that might actually be for me from an email that doesn’t look like a stupid fake name. I then look at it, and "authorise" it if it’s not spam.

Most mornings, I wake up to over 1000 emails in the Unverified folder, which require my personal review. I could choose to NOT review these, and say F*** anybody who emailed me, got the auto-email back from SpammArrest asking them to verify themselves, and didn’t do it. But that doesn’t sound good for business. :)

Some people email me, don’t fill out SpamArrest’s form, live in my Unverified folder, and don’t look like an email for me, so they get deleted. Then I might notice a 2nd email from them asking if I got the first.

Note to everybody. I personally answer every email meant for me every day. If you don’t hear from me and it’s more than 24 hours since you emailed me or any address at my company, you probably got stuck in the spam filter. Give us a call, or check your inbox or spam filter for the email asking you to verify yourself.

Meanwhile, it’s a shame and a waste of my time that I get these spam emails. Spammers track every email they send. Somebody should be able to look at a list, and say, "Hey, we’ve been spamming this address for years and years. This person has never called a single phone number we listed… never bought a product, never visited a website from a spam. Let’s take this person off of lists since he/she doesn’t fit the profile of someone who’s going to buy from us." Most business do that! I do NOT email dead leads. Spammers should know who is absolutely not going to visit that link or buy that products, and eventually stop, turning their attentions to the people who DO. You have someone who has bought Viagra from your website? Stop emailing me and hit that guy harder! He reads spam email and buys from it!

Spam needs a Do Not Call style service like the American government has to stop telemarketers. Since I’ve been on that list, I think I have received 3 calls, though from the same company. So that list WORKS. Something like that should be in place for spam so I can truly be blocked. SpamArrest’s model is good, and is generally working for me, but while people don’t fill out verification forms and end up being eaten, it’s not perfect. While Viagra ads can appear to be sent from my staff’s email addresses, it’s not perfect.

As I tend to wake up to over 1000 spams, and tend to get another 1000 during the day, I need something more perfect. I’m willing to pay for it, but it needs to work better than SpamArrest. Otherwise why move and change?


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Our Top Story Today

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Tucson, AZ is a "small market." We are not a big city with the big city news people. We have about a million people spread out over around 900 square miles (the greater Tucson area-ish). Many areas are rural, lots of ranches, and we’re on wildlife’s territory for sure.

But I like that. I love it, in fact. But with it goes the "drama" that local news needs to show people. Back in NY, every half hour and hour of news all through the morning and evening had mostly new info. Plenty of crimes to report, all kinds of negativity and drama. Here, our 5am, 5:30am, 6am, and 6:30am news are the same as each other. Our 5pm and 6pm news are the same (5:30, they show the national hews half hour, and 6:30 is still like Access Hollywood and Wheel of Fortune). Our 10pm news doesn’t say too many new things (we don’t have the 11pm news). Channel 4 also does a 4pm news, which mostly seems to be lifestyle stories.

So you can get news programmes all day here, yet not much news. Not much drama here. So I wanted to tell you some of the TOP STORIES of the day and other important news we’ve heard in my nearly 3 years here.

  • The university basketball coach is taking a leave of absence. Many follow-up stories about his leave of absence were the top stories of the day.
  • A woman on the university basketball team died. This story was run before what was the big story in most cities, which was about a number of trampling deaths at a Wal-Mart (it was the holiday shopping season).
  • A cat named Robert was hurt in an apartment fire. This wasn’t a top story, but this story has two amazing features. 1) They didn’t ask for any money, but people who say the report sent in enough money to pay the cat’s $6K of vet bills. 2) A year later, the news reader says, "Remember Robert the cat?" Well, I did, and they did a FOLLOW UP story on how Robert the cat was doing. He’s evidently OK. Fur grew back. :)
  • Going to our NBC affiliate’s website right now and clicking news, I am shown these stories in this order:
    • A Tucson woman was robbed at the mall.
    • A local woman died after giving birth to triplets.
    • Our state universities will see a tuition hike.
    • Bush’s plan to deal with the subprime mortgage crises (this was the fourth story under "news")
    • The health department sent a man with TB to jail.
    • The continued debate over whether an illegal border crosser who saved a little kid’s life (on the American side of the border but was sent back to Mexico) be given a work permit because he is being hailed as a hero.
  • Going to our ABC affiliate’s website right now and clicking news, I am shown these stories in this order:
    • Homicide detectives found human remains in concrete on the south side of town.
    • Our basketball coach will not be back this season (the leave of absence story).
    • We may get rain on our big Fourth Avenue Street Fair this weekend.
    • A local woman died after giving birth to triplets.
    • Ground will soon be broken on what will be the area’s biggest shopping mall.
    • House fires happen around hte holidays!
    • The Rodeo Parade needs to make changes after last year’s death and the accidents that happened the year before.

These are the types of stories we see, which means that unlike in NY, I can watch the news here. Not so much drama. Way less carnage. I am so happy with our news as it’s watchable and mostly not depressing! I love the news readers bantering. They seem to be having fun. Maybe that’s because 10 people are watching rather than the millions in the big city markets.


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Guaranteed Traffic

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

I just had a conversation with someone who had just about been sold on some sort of website that was going to have 50,000 drop shipped products. Most of you already know that I find that business model to fail more than it succeeds, and I’m stlil waiting for someone to tell me they succeeded with something like that!

What was interesting was that the guy on the phone was sure it was going to work because the company that was offering this system was promising him that over the course of a year, he’d get "100,000 in traffic." 100K hits? 100K unique visitors?

More importantly, will he sell anything? Guaranteed traffic is easy. I get emails from companies in India wanting to know if I want to hire them to hit websites and click on links where clicking on links makes people money. That means that I could promise people traffic, and then hire one of these Indian companies to hit those websites, therefore providing the promised traffic. Hey, I promised 100,000 hits to your website over a year, and wow, you got over 100,000 hits over a year. But are those qualified leads? Are those shoppers?

When I shop online, I am nearly never shown a website that has 50,000 drop ship products. They don’t show up in my search results. They probably don’t show up in my search results because the "owner" of such a website is not the target audience for strong search engine marketing. He’s doing a website like this usually to be cheap… hey, I don’t have to look at these products, I don’t have to ship them, I don’t have to take them back. It’s cheap and easy, and they’ll sell in my sleep.

And why shouldn’t he think that? That’s what the commercial or infomercial or seminar promised. I hear those commercials all the time now on XM Radio. Just set up this website with products you don’t have to deal with, and they will just sell in your sleep. Really? I’ve been consulting with online sellers for nearly 13 years, and I know NOBODY making money like this. You’d think I’d meet somebody by now who made the money the commercials claim you can make, but no, I haven’t.

So beware of anybody guaranteeing traffic. If your system is so great, why not tell me what I can reasonably expect to sell each month that I run that website, and how much time and effort I have to put into marketing and advertising the website to achieve that average. Then, we’ll all have something realistic on which to base decisions. Just promising "traffic" when I make no money solely from traffic (I would make money from buyers, not visitors) really means nothing.


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Why Can’t We Just Give Marketing Advice?

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

We recently got a call from someone who wanted help with marketing. I looked at her eBay listings and Store, and saw a lot of room for improvement. I wanted to change those listings.

She wanted to know if I could just give marketing advice and not change the listings. Well, what if some of my advice is to change the listings? :) I explained that even if I gave her marketing strategies, Adwords strategies, and website promo ideas, what if we’re driving people to something that isn’t doing the best job making the sale? The sale happens on the item, and I see room for improvement in her item listings. I see room for improvement in her eBay Store.

No, she wants to keep her design and just get the consulting. I wonder who would take on that consulting project. That would be like going to a spa and salon for a total makeover but telling them they have to keep your hair the same colour, same cut, and use the same blue eye shadow that you like. Well, OK we’ll just change what you are OK changing… but then will you really be happy with the results? Could the results have been better if you had been more open to change?

So in general, we won’t take on projects where people just want our marketing or strategy advice. The best advice executed for a website that’s not the easiest to use or eBay listings that could do a better job making the sale is advice that’s likely to fall short. Then what happens? You end up with an upset client, someone who is resentful at what he or she paid for "these results."

That’s why we won’t get involved where we the client isn’t open to changes. I mean hey, if you’re going to hire us for our recommendations, it doesn’t make sense to be closed to some of them while the advice is still free. :) That isn’t the roap map to a good working relationship or trust for our consulting and advice. Someone who wants a new look but the same haircut and eye shadow isn’t our target client. We hope that when these people are open to our ideas for cut and colour that they’ll call back. :)

We think our decision is good marketing for us. I only want to take responsibility for what we do. It doesn’t make sense to put us in charge of marketing what might be someone else’s poor or lacking design (or total mess in some cases). There’s only so much we can polish turds, and only so much we want to be on the hook for the success of marketing those turds.


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What To Do With Spare Time and Spare Money

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

http://www.channeladvisor.com/tank/

???


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How To Not Become My Landlord

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

I have been looking at rental homes in my area. I found what I thought was a perfect on using the Multiple Listing Service. I contacted the owners and spoke to them on the phone. Based on that, here is your step-by-step guide on how to not become my landlord.

  1. List your property with a big YES next to pets. Draw me in.
  2. On the phone, completely grill me about my entire financial history because you happen to be a loan officer, and you’re approaching renting your house for $1595/month the same way you approach giving somebody a mortgage for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  3. Treat me like you’ll take have to take whatever I look like on paper "into consideration" even though I’ve been renting for over 10 years, and have easily paid more than $1595/month in many places. I can document this!
  4. Tell me that it’s mort important to you to find someone who looks like they can afford this than to find tenants with certain personalities or renting histories.
  5. Keep telling me how you have already shown this house to two other people to whom you gave applications but haven’t returned them yet, so ya know, this house is really in demand.
  6. Make an appointment with me 4 days later to show me the house, and
    tell me you’ll call me that morning to confirm the property showing.
  7. Tell me that as soon as we get off the phone you’ll email me an application so I can get started, and submit it if I like the house.
  8. When we get off the phone, email me that you’re not sending me an application, and that you’ll give it to me when I come see the property.
  9. All this time, I’ve been talking to the wife, but have the husband email me an hour before I’m due to be at the property to tell me that you don’t want to rent to somebody with a cat. Nobody had the decency to call. They were lucky that I was here reading email rather than out, waiting for my cell phone to ring, and eventually knocking on the door of the home where they still live.
  10. Treat me like I’m a fool for not seeing where you wrote that you won’t consider cats and you’ll only consider dogs. But it’s not in your listing. And your realtor didn’t filter me out when I told her I had a cat. She had me call you. And your wife knew I had a cat, spent the whole conversation talking about my finances, and made an appointment for me to see the property. Please don’t treat me like I didn’t see your "no cats" declaration that wasn’t there. If you want no cats, your realtor should have filtered me out so that I never got grilled by your wife or had an appointment to see your rental home. Just a tip!

OK I get it! You are not going to be good landlords! I’ve got it, thanks! I wrote them back and said that as I was putting off seeing other properties because I thought theirs was going to be perfect, I would have appreciated hearing the NO CATS thing when they decided to not email me the application.

The housing market is still down. I have my pick of rental properties that have pools and accept pets in my zip code. Note to self, don’t rent from a loan officer or someone who treats you like one. Considering I’m leaving an apartment where I feel like the front office has no heart, no flexibility, and prefers that tenants lie to them, I think I should be more picky about who my landlord is. I can afford to be. :) Let the rental homes fight over me, the best tenant they’ll ever have. :)


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