You Pick Two with a Side of NOBODY!

February 18, 2015 7:21pm
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paneraThis isn’t an advertisement … I wish it was … but I’ve got to say that I’m kind of loving Panera’s new Rapid Pick-Up service, and I think my recent orders reflect that because lately we’ve been eating out from Panera at least once a week as opposed to maybe once a month or whatever in the past.

The biggest selling point by far is simply put – I don’t have to interact with anyone to get food anymore!

I order on the app, pay on the app, drive to the restaurant down the street from me, and without fail every time there’s my order just waiting patiently on the pick-up shelf for me! No stupid pagers, no haggling with the cashier to see if they’re willing to make the sandwich that I want on a given day – just in and out.

Anti-social Scott LOVES Panera Rapid Pick-Up!!!

It also doesn’t hurt that parking at my nearest Panera absolutely sucks. It’s in an outdoor mall where apparently people getting to the mall was an afterthought and so even if their own parking lot was actually big enough for the store, you’ve got people from eighteen other mall stores bogarting spaces when they’re not even eating at Panera in the first place!

I seriously used to spend so much time circling parking lots that I’d be absolutely fuming by the time I finally made my way into the store … not exactly getting your customers started off on the right foot! But as for the Rapid Pick-Up spaces up front, surprisingly I’ve yet to see people really abusing them yet and there’s always been at least one open when I pull up … I’m literally in the store less than a minute, so if they can keep those spots dedicated for pick-up only it’ll be a godsend…

And lastly, I’ve also been enjoying the new program because it seems to give me a little more elbow room to experiment with their menu, whereas when I’m standing there in line and there are half a dozen soccer Moms behind me, I kind of feel obliged to just pick something off of the menu and get out of the way! But the app gives me all the time I need to browse and consider my options … I wonder how many people realize that not only can you pretty much get your sandwich on any kind of bread that they have, but you can also swap out sauces, cheeses, and even meats.

Lately I’ve been doing their Steak & White Cheddar, but I get it with BBQ sauce instead of horseradish and a different kind of bread, too. It’s nice to actually have options when there are so many things on their menu that are almost, but not quite what you’re in the mood for eating! 😉

So anyways, we ended up ordering from there tonight and I felt compelled to write a bit about a company actually doing good. It’s nice to have an option that’s as fast or faster than fast food, but considerably healthier.

Now if Red Robin next door could jump on the same bandwagon… 😀

Reporting Ebola Right

October 17, 2014 1:54pm
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I’ll proudly admit that I’m usually pretty critical of Fox News and how their programming typically ends up doing far more harm than good, however I also believe in acknowledging when the bad apple does something right, and I’ve got to say that I was pretty damn impressed when I came across this commentary from Fox’s own Shepard Smith in which he addresses the reality of Ebola in America today and how all of the fear-mongering from politicians and the media is completely out of line with the science that we actually know today about such a horrible disease.

This is what news coverage is supposed to look like – factual and rational.

Drop the Ice Bucket Negativity

August 24, 2014 8:18pm
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I’m the last person you’ll see standing in line to film myself dumping a bucket of ice water over my head, but it’s hard to sit on the sidelines and look down at all of these people when the result is having raised over $50 million for ALS in just a couple of months!

Yet a lot of people … well, some people – definitely not as many as those participating in the challenge … feel the need to do that sideline jeering about how you shouldn’t need peer pressure to donate to charity or you could just send them money without making a spectacle. The critique of some videos making it seem like they’re dumping buckets over their heads to avoid making a donation is another common one, and to that I can only say … WHO CARES???

I don’t think that the people who make this critique understand the concept of viral momentum, or even how fundraising is supposed to work.

See, I could pull out my checkbook and write a donation to ALS for $100 right now – no big deal.

But nobody else knows that I did it, and that’s not to say from a bragging standpoint, but more from an influential standpoint.

If nobody knows that I did it, then nobody has the opportunity to say, “Hey, Scott gave $100 to ALS. That’s a good idea – I think I’ll do it, too!

You’re being short-sighted if you think that all of these videos are just about seeking fame and attention because what each and every one of these videos does, even if those in the video don’t personally donate afterwards, is that they help to spread the message just a little further. And that’s powerful.

Because think about it – until this summer, when was the last time that ALS even crossed your mind? Did you even realize that ALS is Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or were you like me and had to discretely look it up when all of these videos started to flood your Facebook feed?!

The data speaks for itself because according to the ALS Association’s latest press release, in the last two months alone they’ve attracted 1.3 million NEW donors and raised $67.7 million MORE than they did during the same period last year.

So seriously, who cares if your cousins post a video of them dumping water on their heads without any intentions of making a donation, or if President Obama “only gave $100” when you think that he should’ve given more. This goofy, little viral charity gimmick has been a monumental success this summer, and everyone from movie stars to politicians to athletes to CEOs to your obnoxious, little cousins are all helping to spread the word around the Internet that has gotten more donations for this terrible disease than ever before!

It’s a great thing, so stop being such a sourpuss about it and just be amazed! Unlike the next stupid cat video or political scandal, this one is actually doing a lot of good, so can’t we just enjoy that without trying to poke holes in the bucket?

Kudos to Keurig!

March 16, 2014 7:55pm
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So I figure that if I’m going to spend as much time as I do bitching about bad customer service, the least I can do is also share the stories when one of these companies actually does something right! 😉

Anyways, this is actually a pretty quick one – our Keurig machine stopped working a little while ago. You’d turn it on and it’d make all sorts of sounds like it was sucking up water, but then it wouldn’t actually do that.

So after a fair amount of procrastination, I called up Keurig and after a few minutes of troubleshooting to see if I could clear out the clogged nozzles or whatever on my own, the girl took down my address and said that my replacement would arrive in 3 – 7 days … simple as that!

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All they asked in return was to send a part from the broken machine back as proof that it was defective … no 20 questions, no trying to schlep their responsibility by arguing about what the warranty does and doesn’t cover – just a company that actually stands behind its product, which is pretty refreshing when you consider corporate America’s past track record!

Thanks again, Keurig – you’re definitely one of the good guys! 😀

So I did it. I went out for Black Friday shopping last night.

Well, sort of…

After we ate last night, the whole family ended up going out for a bit of the madness, and admittedly it was kind of fun! For what it’s worth, we did leave pretty late – we probably didn’t even show up at Best Buy until around 10pm, so it’s not like the whole adventure impacted dinner … if anything, it provided a much needed break in between dinner and dessert, actually! 😉

Anyways, a couple of thoughts about Black Friday:

#1 – I think that it sort of gets a bad rap … sort of.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – trampling is bad and if you’re one of those people who’ve been caught on tape being crazy, then you’re an asshole and you need to re-evaluate just how much a $5.99 DVD player is really worth to you.

But crazies aside, I do think that Black Friday serves a greater purpose because it gives people a chance to stretch their dollars farther in order to get more presents for the people that they care about. I’ve heard of many people who feel that they have to go shopping on Black Friday because it’s the only way that they can get things for all of their kids, or that Black Friday is how they’re able to justify getting that one big gift for the whole family like a new TV or a computer or something.

And I have no desire to get into a debate about the true meaning of Christmas, be it biblical or simply just not focused on presents, presents, and more presents.

I personally celebrate the commercial spirit of the season, and Black Friday allows that to flourish a bit more than usual, so if you have a problem with that, blame the economy, not people who go out shopping in the middle of the night in order to fill their kids’ wishlists that year…

Now that said, #2 – I also think that the slow creep of start times is getting kind of ridiculous.

This year a lot of the sales started at 6pm on Thanksgiving, which as far as I’m concerned is still prime turkey eating time! Now luckily it kind of worked out for us because we had little desire to be there the second the doors opened (aka Crazy Time), so heading in at 10pm gave us time to finish dinner and play a game of cards before heading out, and by then the initial crazy had pretty much died down when we walked into Best Buy. There were still a lot of people inside, but the line outside was like 10 people deep for some XBox One promo or something, so it wasn’t too bad.

Ultimately our excursion only took us to 2/3 stores – Best Buy and Toys ‘R Us/Babies ‘R Us – and we were back home by something like 1am, but I still feel for all of the retail workers that had to go in super-early or miss Thanksgiving entirely in order to support Black Friday and I kind of wish that there was at least a little sentiment that Thanksgiving Day Proper be left to family and then maybe sales kicked up at midnight or 5am the next morning or something.

As it was, the TV that I wanted from Best Buy had been on sale all week and the guy cited that only one model was even going to have tickets – the rest we could come in and get any time, and if they were out, they could order them for us at the same price. In fact, my whole take was honestly pretty simple and didn’t require much going out of my way whatsoever…

  • AppleTV – I’ve wanted to play around with one of these things for a while to see about finally setting up a home media server and Best Buy had them for 15% off, so I logged onto BestBuy.com shortly after 6pm and ordered it no problem.
  • 2nd Desktop Monitor – They also had a monitor similar to the one I use now on sale for $99, so I ordered this at the same time as a predetermined Christmas gift from the wife.
  • New TV for Bedroom – This was the only one that posed the slightest challenge because it sold out online and they didn’t have any in the store because apparently they don’t even stock the model I want in the store! That said, I went up to customer service and asked about it, and somehow they were able to put one on order for me anyways that will be here sometime next week!
  • Misc. Toys & Baby Stuff – Honestly, Toys & Babies ‘R Us were basically dead by the time we showed up and it was more a chance to point out some of the stuff on our baby registry to family than snag any huge deals. We still grabbed a few random things anyways – a couple of kid gifts, a few things for the baby, and a couple of Wii games for us just because they had Mario Galaxy 2 for $30 and we didn’t have it yet. Sadly, Toys ‘R Us is typically kind of overpriced anyways, so nothing monumental here, but I still like walking through there because toys are fun, and as an added bonus, it’s always amusing to listen to parents go, “What the hell is a Skylander?! I don’t know – I think he wants the blue one…”

Not sure if we’ll stumble out to any other stores for sales throughout the weekend. My main point of interest at this point would be Legos, and most of the Lego sales are crap this year. We used to scan all of the cheap DVD sales, but I’ve been trying to steer us more digital anyways and we never even bothered to unpack our DVDs from when we moved last summer to boot! Maybe we’ll go looking for some decorations, though … trying to get the abode a bit more whimsical on account of soon having a child to celebrate Christmas with us, so that’s probably a pretty good excuse for lights and garlands and all sorts of Christmas whimsy spending around here!

Because apparently I’ve turned into Martha Stewart now.

Whatever. Say what you will, but the bitch knows how to build a centerpiece that will put your grandmother’s to shame. To shame!!! 😯

Good, old reliable karma…

April 2, 2012 11:57pm
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I didn’t really blog about it at the time because we had enough going on, but about a year ago when we first moved into the house where we lived now, I found myself really frustrated with the previous tenants because they kind of left us in a bind on a number of things when they moved out at the last minute. We ended up having to change the locks because they forgot to give us all of the keys back and then couldn’t be bothered to come back to hand them over later because “they didn’t even know which ones they were,” then I had to pay disposal fees for a couple of bigger items that they wanted thrown out, but the trash wouldn’t actually take. There were a lot of loose ends to clean up like mending the relationship with the lawn guy because they had stopped paying him, and a bunch of other nonsense that just seemed to drag on and on and on.

Anyways…

So fast forward a year when a very obvious envelope showed up in their name today. From the IRS. An envelope shaped precisely like what one’s federal tax refund tends to look like in its traditional check form.

Let’s just say that it was incredibly rewarding to scribble RETURN TO SENDER – NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS!!! on the outside of that envelope and pop it back in the mailbox.  :mrgreen:

It’s not like I have any way of getting a hold of those jerks anyways…

I thought this was a really intriguing article:

How Companies Learn Your Secrets
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html

On one hand, the analytics behind the data is kinda brilliant – the idea of building a customer profile to be able to predict specific life-changing events within a few months time is just amazing to me. It reminds me of a documentary I saw a while ago about how Walmart’s automated shipping system works because they actually take into account weather patterns to ship not only hurricane supplies like water and canned foods in preparation for upcoming storms, but also Pop-Tarts because, well, their sales data shows that people go through a lot of Pop-Tarts when there’s a hurricane bearing down on them off the coast!  🙂

On the other hand, though, I can’t necessarily overlook all of the ethical quandaries that stem from such digging – like the fact that they not only use membership cards, but also just straight up credit card purchases as a way to tie all of your sales data together (neat, in my eyes), and the idea that they also buy consumer data from other conglomerates to merge together with their own (not as neat).

And of course, the glaring issue stemmed from this particular article – what happens when a profile is built that you would’ve preferred to keep quiet due to personal reasons, or perhaps even tragedy??? The woman who starts getting coupons for her unborn baby is one story when Target predicts that she’s pregnant before she’s even told her own family, but what about in the case where somebody has a miscarriage and thus no longer wants to get those kinds of coupons? Maybe this isn’t really that big of a deal – I don’t know, because of all those Target coupon books that I’ve gotten to date, none have been filled with deals on frozen pizzas and LEGOs and video games and Pop-Tarts that would drive me to make an impromptu visit to their store!

I think part of the reason why I’m not so concerned with the overall ethical implication here, though, is that as a general rule, I honestly don’t really have a problem with targeted advertising simply because I’d much rather view ads relating to things that I personally care about than just random crap that doesn’t affect me in the slightest. I know a lot of people would throw out the notion that they don’t like having to view ads altogether, and maybe I don’t share that philosophy because I sell advertising on all of my websites and have come to accept that without them, a lot of content creators would never get paid for their work. So if I’m visiting a video game review site and they run ads pimping out a new RPG that I might actually want to play myself, that’s better in my eyes because instead running something like an ad for Raisins (*because I have a bag of raisins on my desk as I write this…) doesn’t really help either of us – I’m not going to click the ad because I have no desire to see raisin-related ads intermixed with video game reviews, and the publisher misses a click because an ad for the new Zelda game might’ve stood a better chance at gaining my attention because I actually care about that.

Now whether the general public is, well, in general ok with this sort of thing … that’s a little trickier to tell. My gut would be that honestly, I don’t think most people care simply because they wouldn’t even think about what’s being assumed about them behind the scenes unless you told them. And I don’t necessarily think that it’s deceptive for a store to do intelligence like this to help improve their own sales, either – it’s really just another step down the path of making the store inviting, doing market research to identify which products sell the best at which positions on shelves, how many different choices are the optimum to give a customer, and so forth. A lot of people want to criminalize the types of things that take place here, much like the efforts that go into keeping a gambler inside a casino spending money, but at the end of the day the consumer still had to step through the front doors in the first place.

Bottom line – I’m going to go grocery shopping anyways, so if Target wants to analyze my purchases and send me coupons for FREE LEGOS to get me in the door to buy other crap, then more power to ’em!  :mrgreen:

a new year, a new paywall?

January 4, 2012 9:14pm
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It’s kinda long, but I think this is one of the most complete critiques I’ve read in a while with regards to exactly why paywalls truly are a horrible idea as an attempt to help “save” mainstream newspapers in the digital age. Ironically, although it may be sad to see the medium itself eventually dry up altogether, it’s kind of interesting to think of this new generation of media distribution which, although may not bear the same (blind) numbers that traditional papers used to command, will actually end up producing more engaged readers and as a result, probably more valuable content for those passionate fans to enjoy.

Now what everyone else will be reading in the meantime, I don’t know, but then again, there really was never much proof of what they were genuinely engaging with in newspaper, either…

Newspapers, Paywalls, and Core Users
http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2012/01/newspapers-paywalls-and-core-users/

There has never been a mass market for good journalism in this country. What there used to be was a mass market for print ads, coupled with a mass market for a physical bundle of entertainment, opinion, and information; these were tied to an institutional agreement to subsidize a modicum of real journalism.

solar power

July 29, 2011 9:26pm
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Sometimes I wish that more people were excited about the prospect of solar power.

I mean, I understand that it’s still kind of expensive and all, but I’ve got to think that it would be a big step in the right direction even if every new home that was built these days had its own solar panels, thus requiring only a fraction of power from the grid as existing homes … if not being able to sell back a little excess to boot! It just seems like with resources becoming more and more limited and pollution going through the roof, maybe it’s time to invest in clean energy solutions that don’t come with the harmful effects that buying coal or nuclear-based power from the local utility is associated with.

This post was inspired by a couple of links that I stumbled across the other day – the first being a really cool infographic citing the financial impacts of homes going solar:
http://1bog.org/blog/infographic-what-if-solar-were-on-every-roof/

And the second (possibly from the comments of the first) being a 1-year review of solar power from a consumer who installed it in his home last year:
http://snorkie.com/post/2011/07/27/One-Year-of-Solar-Power.aspx

The second blogger does make mention that part of his motivation for doing this was being conservation conscious himself, which I know some folks may not put a priority on over cost, but I’d like to think that if enough people who were in that position to make the choice began err’ing to the side of solar, one would think that eventually the costs would work themselves down to an area that would be more affordable for the average Joe. Besides, after seeing some of the crazy electric bills that we’ve gotten this summer, who wouldn’t drool at the thought of not getting a bill in the mail each month?!

So I finally got around to watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon last night and with one very important caveat, I really enjoyed it!

Specifically, that caveat was as follows:
I went into this movie with almost zero expectations.

Giant robots fighting, lots of explosions – that’s what I wanted to see from Transformers 3 and if nothing else, it was certainly fun to watch gigantic things shoot at each other and blow up for 2.5 hours. We saw it on the IMAX giant screen downtown and specifically addressing those two movie-going expectations, Transformers did quite well.

Outside of that, I mean, sure – the movie was horrible. The story was ridiculous, even considering that it was a movie about giant robots trying to invade the planet, Megan Fox’s replacement was essentially a cardboard cut-out of a lingerie model, and not for nothing, but why was Megatron wearing a cape?! Was that supposed to tell us that he’s only a fractured pauper of the king that he used to be??? Because at the end of the day despite missing half of his head, he’s still a 40-foot tall robot with guns on every conceivable part of his body!

In particular, I wasn’t too crazy about the opening scenes where they doctored the footage from Kennedy talking about the original moon landing, just because it didn’t seem like it was very well done; same with the Obama scene where Sam gets his medal. Buzz Aldrin’s cameo was kind of cool, except that it seemed silly when Optimus said in return that it was an “honor” to meet him as well, which seemed a bit too humble even for Optimus Prime…

“You’ve been to the moon? Congratulations – I could go there right now if I wanted to … should I bring you back something?!”

I guess it says something where the most obnoxious character in the last movies – Agent Simmons (the Sector 7 guy) – was now one of the most entertaining. I mean, John Malkovich was weird, but really, John Malkovich is just a weird guy, so no surprises there. I still have no idea why Sam’s parents were there, except maybe the writers needed to fill 5 minutes and were running out of explosions or something. Honestly, the best character interaction was probably during the last fight scene (i.e. the last hour of the movie) where the only dialog was variations of “Holy shit – that’s a big fucking robot!” and “Holy shit – this is fucking insane!”

I did really enjoy the robot fighting and the explosions, though – I suspect that roughly 95% of the budget went into the special effects, and it shows. The giant worm robot that eats entire buildings was pretty cool, and both Bumblebee and Optimus got to show off their general badass-ed-ness in one form or another. The twist at the very end was a little unexpected, however the last movies have basically proven dying to not be that big of a deal among Autobots and Decepticons alike, so I don’t really expect the outcome to have much of an impact on future sequels to come.

Honestly, at this point if they wanted to just give up on the whole “script” thing and toss that money into even more explosions and CGI robots, I think I’d be fine with that, too.

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