In need of an APP – Chicago Cabs Tops List

I’ve been in 4 cab accidents after 20 years of biz travel. Not bad, actually.  Three were in Chicago. At least the NYC cabbie cared that I hit the plexiglass with my face, which thankfully was not more than bruised.

I also have been abandoned on the freeway by a Chicago cabbie who spoke virtually no English. If not for cell phones (new at the time) my former boss KB and I would have been stuck. In July at 95 degrees. We, not the cabbie, saved ourselves by calling the number on the side of the cab, which the driver did not even know!

But never, until July 13, 2011, have I boarded a cab at a midtown Chicago hotel, (after the Shopper Insights in Action conference, no less), only to have the cabbie ditch us in less than five minutes!! This story is even funnier when you put it in context of the situation.

The SIA conference is over, and attendees are hustling to the luggage check out, and bustling even faster to the hotel cab line, which is long already and about to get crazy.

I ask the folks in line behind me “Who is going to Midway?” and thus share a cab with Brian Bennettes from HEB grocery.  As we’re getting acquainted, we are part of a rapid double attempt to dump us into another cab. It’s like a scene in a comedy. Talk about shopper rejection. We are acutely aware of the situation, and in fact, had to articulate the “real deal” to the second cabbie, who graciously took us on to Midway.  Our cabbie could not communicate in English, and I am being kind. Brian and I are by now talking about a case study of WHAT NOT TO DO to produce shopper delight. And we are laughing!

Of all things, it was the CLOCK that did us in. It reminds me of the night I was dumped by Northwest in Hartford, CT at because the crew time clock ran out at midnight

Our cabbie’s shift was over and he needed to clock out at ORD. Not MDW. And he was late. So we, the shoppers, were like smelly fish in his house. We were dumped like trash. Here’s the catch. Half or more people in the taxi line were headed to O’Hare.  We would have given that cab to an ORD bound friend in no time flat.

We have to ask – Why was there NO OPEN COMMUNICATION between the hotel doorman and the cabbie? When I was in the hospitality industry, the relationship between the providers was about the shopper. And the providers were more of a network to help not only shoppers, but each other. And Brian, a grocery insights pro, was stymied by the dysfunction as well.

It’s sad that we, as cab riders, have to break the language barrier for the hacks (I say that with respect) and moreover, to feel the “profound un-love” about a most basic form of transportation in big cities.

Why can’t hotel doorman and cabbies talk, or for gosh sakes, get an APP for that? Every cabbie has a smart phone, all they do is talk on the phone with their friend, while passengers pull up routes on GPS and tell the cabbie where to go.  Come on, Windy City digital gurus…. I’d use the “Open Table” model for cabs any day. I’d even check the driver references to avoid not only accidents, but the ultimate of insults, getting dumped.

For every shopper turn-off there is an opportunity to figure out the issue and fix it.

 

Say NO to the dress and move on.

What a journey. A dozen dresses shipped to and fro, seeking the yes from admittedly hard to fit Mother of the Bride (MOB). Then, a decision to buy pattern, fabric and a custom dressmaker. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

The #fail in the plan was the fabric.  Evidently, single-ply silk georgette is too soft and fine to hold up to the nuances of the pattern. Who knew? Stretch marks are bad enough on me, but on my dress for the wedding, not so much.  When the dressmaker made the pattern in muslin and fit it as the model for the silk, I was excited. My fitting today was a shock. The seamstress is off on a mission to perform “trickery” to fix it, but I think it’s a wash. She might have told me upfront that her gut told her no on the fabric/pattern match. And I did ask her.

So, it’s time to move back into shopper’s journey mode. I wanted a dress with a swirly skirt for dancing and twirling, I want to feel pretty when I wear it, as I’ll be celebrating one of life’s grand moments. And I want orange (ish) coral, with fabric to withstand Hilton Head Island June heat. My options are retail, online dress searching and a trip to Haberman’s for new fabric or new pattern or both.

I’m going to post up options here on the blog for CrowdBooster support. Will post pics of me in the dresses too, sans the tan I will work on attaining if it ever stops snowing in Michigan. Right now I have two “B” options.

Where’s my dress? It needs to find me. I’m happy to report the bride’s dress came in, fitting almost like a glove and she is stunning. I’m sure she’ll be the shining star anyway, but I want to look great as we enjoy the special day….

Green Bean Casserole. Under-baked at retail.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a loyal Target shopper. But lately, I’ve been seeing some rather troublesome merchandising trends in their stores. This one really stands out in my mind as a miss. In fact, had I not stopped my aisle-by-aisle journey in the food area to say hello to a neighbor, I’d have missed it the intent entirely.

Endcap at Target, April 2011

Take a good look at this photo. It’s an endcap with all the ingredients a shopper needs to make the classic family favorite – Green Bean Casserole, for Passover or Easter. Now, having been in the insights business for so long, I happen to know that shoppers LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to stick with family traditional recipes for holidays. They just aren’t interested in any new-fangled twist on a recipe then. So the good news is the endcap display contains all the right ingredients to deliver on what shoppers want; an easy one stop place to build the recipe right into the cart.

But really, Target, did you have to put Temporary Price Cut visual as the only shopper cue to buy? ( That same signage was on EVERY endcap in food area, sadly enough.) Not even one tantalizing picture of the steaming finished dish to make shoppers imagine the smell and taste the goodness? It should have made your mouth water. Nor any message that reminds the shopper that “this is the path to family joy on the holidays” for goodness sakes, because holiday meals really turn on the love and bonding to brands.

It’s a darn shame no strong brand (such as Campbell) could influence the just-awful price cut header cards. Target has taken over the signage and it ain’t pretty. Do you think they want shoppers to know they beat Walmart on price? Shoppers know it, so hang a nice big ceiling banner and give the emotional, visceral and engaging cue-space back the the brands. Campbell’s Target team knows what to do and how to do it well. Maybe it’s time to foster more collaboration?

And if there is research to support this ‘temporary price cut” merchandising strategy for every single aisle in the grocery section, I want to read it, truly I do. Because this display of discounts only messaging is not profitable for any of the brands that are supporting it. Target shoppers respond differently and in positive ways to the fashionable lifestyle it portrays in most other areas of the store. Why not in food as well? Target could own a differentiated from anyone else point-of-view in food, perhaps.

And while my boys (hubs and son) love classic green bean casserole, I didn’t buy the recipe because I was just so uninspired by the whole experience. I did buy the French’s fried onions, which boys will sprinkle on fresh beans and mushrooms from the farmer’s market.

So Target lost the sale. And I feel like the experience was not at all inspiring, sort of like Walmart was when it was a sea of yellow faces. But Target faces made me mad and sad and will keep me out of their food section for a while.

Liquid Living

I know, you probably think this post is about cocktail hour, but it’s not. It’s about that lovely, lusty vibe we all get swept up by when we’re at the lake or the beach.

I can’t help but hear the Avett Brothers song “At the Beach” when the vibe hits. If you haven’t heard the song, go check it out on iTunes or Pandora. Listen to the words, Whistle along. Hear the fireworks at the end.

Many of us have water in our souls, so to speak. I get that happy dance going on when I’m around water. Especially the non-frozen variety.

That’s where I get inspired. And I am inspired in a big way right now. There’s a concept bursting out of me this week that could be life-changing.

I’m virtually sailing along in the ideation phase right now. Feeling this way is as energizing as riding a big wave. I’m all in. Swimming with ideas, I am!

More to come as I get this concept rolling.

CyberMonday shopping reveals 3 faces of Zappos.com Core Values

As you can tell from my previous post, I’m not a big fan of Black Friday. But I shop on Cyber Monday, not really seeking the “offers” but enjoying the hassle-free convenience.

Cyber Monday 2010 was different. I encountered three amazing examples of brand culture in action at Zappos.com. It’s no wonder they broke a sales record (over $10M) yesterday. They “get” shopping and shoppers better than most.

Meet Renna. Otherwsie known as @pirate_razz on Twitter. I happen to know she’s a Zappo’s Zealot, which is the internal term for employees who are authorized to tweet out discounts in order to generate business and more Zealots. She and I met on Twitter a few years back after I met her boss (former COO Alfred Lin) at a conference. She delivered a discount offer Alfred extended to me at the conference. We still chat on Twitter sometimes. When I saw her tweeted offer for a discount code, I responded. She acted on Core Value #2 – Embrace and Drive Change.

When her tweet came in around 1:00 P.M. I had a cart full of socks, exercise pants, golf shorts and more on REI.com. I changed to Zappos.com to determine if I could replace everything I had in the REI cart, which I did, realizing I was saving money already. At 2:14 P.M. her email arrived with the 20% discount code. Of course I continued to browse and add things to the cart.

Meet Josh. It’s now after 5:00 P.M. He’s a “Live Help” guy. I was browsing for roasting pans and couldn’t info about compatibility with glass cooktops, so I jumped on.  The help he provided was only a link to the manufacturer website, but during our chat, which included queries about his job and the day’s business, he took action on Core Value #8 – Do More with Less.

He surprised my with a text saying he had upgraded my account to the VIP version of Zappos.com. He gave me a special link and when I logged in, my cart was still there. Below is the VIP benefit, which I pulled right off the site!

Welcome VIP! Guaranteed FREE OVERNIGHT SHIPPING Until The Cows Come Home!

This team rocks!

Meet David M. . He’s another LiveHelp guy. It’s now after 9:00 P.M. and I’ve let my 21 year old son shop for boots and a peacoat. My cart total is nearly $500.00. But I blew the checkout procedure and closed out the order WITHOUT entering my 20% discount code. And that’s when David M. put into action Core Value #1 – Deliver WOW through service.

He fixed it. I had to verify my e-mail, and provide the code Renna had sent. That is all. Took him about a minute. He also profusely apologized for the one minute wait time for an agent. He said they were on their way to a sales record. No kidding.

Tuesday morning I popped onto the Zappos.com site to refresh myself on the core values. Underneath is a link that allowed me to see random tweets from Zappos employees. Here’s one that says it all!

Gotta love a company that sponsors an impromptu downtown pub crawl on a Monday night to celebrate a record sales day.

teeves 12:18 AM Pacific – Tue 11/30/10