Thursday 08 December 2005 : Sprint DSL Still Sucks
Sprint DSL sucks, but mainly only because nearly all DSL services suck.
Sunday 30 October 2005 : Anatomy of a Customer Service Failure
Tuesday 04 October 2005 : Sell Your Gap Stock Now
The Gap’s website debacle continues
Saturday 03 September 2005 : Back to Circuit City
Circuit city gets the big 382-5968 from me.
Tuesday 19 July 2005 : When Marketing Takes Over
I saw this sticker inside a household freezer door this weekend: Note the wording: The Whirlpool Brand is committed to designing quality products that consistently perform for you to make your life easier Er, no. The Whirlpool brand is a wholly conceptual and imaginary thing, dreamt up and managed by the marketing department. This makes as much sense as saying,...
Friday 01 July 2005 : Adventures (not) In The Cinema
Going to the movies generally sucks these days, and the movie and exhibition businesses don’t seem to notice, much less care.
Thursday 30 June 2005 : Adventures As A Retail Consumer
So this morning, while drinking the tea and eating the croissants etc., I saw in the Wall Street Journal that the Slingbox is out, and that it’s apparently good. If you’ve never heard of the thing, the Slingbox is a device that plugs in, on one end, to your TV signal, and on the other to the Internet. You can...
Thursday 16 June 2005 : Cell Phones On Planes
Airline crews need silence to do their work safely, it seems. Uh-oh.
Friday 03 June 2005 : How Not To Do It: Customer Service In An Age Of Fraud
Apple’s .Mac service says they want me back, but they have a funny way of showing it. I like to consider that I’m a pretty savvy person, without being paranoid. I’ve been abused of a couple of times by sleazy online merchants, but I’ve never actually been ripped off, nor have I ever been the victim of ‘identity theft’. I...
Monday 02 May 2005 : The Woes Of The Newspaper Industry
Newspaper vending machines have almost completely disappeared from Front Royal. They’re hardly ever found outside major urban areas now: it’s likely that the increasing difficulty of purchasing their product is part of the newspaper industry’s slide into irrelevance.
Thursday 14 April 2005 : Victoria’s Secret: Men Are Dogs
Annoying, crude anti-male sexism still appears to be a growing trend. This time, it's courtesy of Victoria's Secret.
Thursday 24 March 2005 : Yet More Rebate Fraud
The terms of Western Digital's rebate require the customer to send in a UPC barcode. Trouble is, there's no UPC barcode on the box. This is, of course, the customer's problem.
Wednesday 23 March 2005 : Superstardom And Business
Superstars often behave like spoiled children.
Friday 25 February 2005 : Doing The Unthinkable
Sears has rejiggered its 119-year-old customer satisfaction guarantee, to the at least nominal disadvantage of the customer. This does not bode particularly well.
Thursday 27 January 2005 : Central Planning and Big Business
Don Boudreaux quotes Chris Dillow: We all know a centrally planned economy is a stinking idea. So why is a centrally planned company a good one? (This question was raised by Hilary Wainwright years ago in Arguing for a New Left. Disappointingly, it’s been ignored.) Hayekian arguments can be applied to company bosses as well as central planners. For me,...
Thursday 06 January 2005 : Unpredictable DRM
DRM is a giant well of inefficiency-by-unpredictability
Friday 15 October 2004 : OQO and customer service
Tino tries to spend $2,000 and fails. How do these companies expect to stay in business?
Friday 01 October 2004 : Yet More Problems At Panera
UPDATE: Tino eventually succeeds, but only by jumping through yet more hoops.
UPDATE 2: Sometimes things get better if you complain.
Panera's wireless network blocks Tinotopia. Apparently this site is 'adult' or 'mature'.
Monday 30 August 2004 : C-SPAN Pay Per View?!
DirecTV thinks that C-SPAN is pay-per-view this morning.
Thursday 19 August 2004 : You Don’t Know Who Your Customers Are
T-Mobile pisses off someone with a soapbox.
Wednesday 28 July 2004 : Product Placement and Video Games
Advertisers are turning to video-game product placement in an effort to offset declining interest in their TV ads. That they don’t understand what the problem is with their existing TV ads suggests that they’re not going to be able to pull off any new types of product placement, either.
Sunday 25 July 2004 : Cultural Production and Audiences
TV is lousy, and so are movies. A book review in The Atlantic hints at one reason this might be so, for movies at least.
Sunday 27 June 2004 : The Customer Service Rules
The Tinotopia Rules For Retailers, or Customer Service Rules. If you are in any public-facing business, you should be aware of these.
Sunday 27 June 2004 : Retail Pricing and Competition
Another retail rule: you are in competition with everyone selling the same thing.
Tuesday 25 May 2004 : Online Advertising Sucks
Advertisers might soon start to pay attention
Monday 10 May 2004 : More Wal-Mart in Front Royal
Wal-Mart shows what they think of towns they are considering moving into, in the Washington Post.
Sunday 18 January 2004 : Why We Love The Airlines, Part CXVII
Flight-attendant attitudes are dangerous in the War On Terrorism
Monday 05 January 2004 : Intellectual Property, Control, and Profit
There's an opportunity cost to keeping your intellectual property locked up, something that Time-Life illustrates with the handling of their photographic archive.
Wednesday 12 November 2003 : Why Airlines Suck, Part XXXVIII
A US Airways spokesman is caught in an undeniable, if inconsequential, lie in the Washington Post.
Saturday 18 October 2003 : Synergy, The Wrong Way
A sparking example of what's wrong with the AOL-Time Warner combination.
Thursday 25 September 2003 : Universal Pictures to Customers: Fuck You
Universal Pictures forces buyers of some of its DVDs to sit through ads before being able to use the product they've paid for. This practice has cost them much of Tino's business for the foreseeable future.
Wednesday 16 July 2003 : There’s No There Here
Yahoo's recent purchase of Overture shows that their minds are still in 1995.
Monday 09 June 2003 : Why The Music Industry Is Doomed
Today's New York Post reports that the Apple iTunes Music Store's sales have fallen off since its initial launch in late April. At the outset, the store was selling about a million songs a week. Now the company is averaging about 500,000 downloads a week, sources say Apple executives told independent music label execs at a recent meeting in California....
Tuesday 13 May 2003 : Professional Responsibility And Consequences
The New York Times was reduced, Sunday, to running a boxed correction on the top of its front page -- a correction that jumps to four full pages inside. The Times itself describes this as a "low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper". While it's almost certainly not actually the lowest point in the Times' history (that would...
Wednesday 02 April 2003 : Book Publishing and Classics
Slate has a story about the sales of classic books. The gist is that classics sell surprising numbers of copies, more than just about anything other than current best-sellers. Book publishing is in serious trouble as a business, because of a strong emphasis on best-sellers. Every publisher wants at least one Tom Clancy-type author on their list. Clancy's novels sell...
Saturday 08 March 2003 : AOL Time Warner, Mergers, and Cooperation
I was surprised to find Virginia Postrel saying that she'd always been skeptical of the AOL Time Warner merger. Or, rather, I wasn't particularly surprised that she'd been skeptical, but surprised by the reasoning behidn her skepticism: [N]o one who applied economically informed strategic thinking to that merger would find any reason for it. What could these companies do as...
Thursday 20 February 2003 : Ted Turner and The Media
Ted Turner appears to be a nut, but the Washington Post doesn't care because he's their kind of nut -- the kind who hates AOL Time Warner.
Tuesday 28 January 2003 : Product Placement Quickie
Apropos of a couple of things I've written recently: Miramax secured an unspecified annual cash consideration when it struck the corporate agreement with the Denver brewery early last year. And the pact grants Coors the right to nix Miramax's showing rival beer brands in its movies. So, in keeping with the spirit of the agreement, Miramax decided to digitally alter...
Friday 24 January 2003 : Dangers of Product Placement
TV networks cut product placement from movies they broadcast, while at the same time hoping to make money from product placement themselves.
Tuesday 21 January 2003 : AOL Time Warner, Part II
An article in Sunday's New York Times about AOL Time Warner contains an interesting passage: Although America Online is still profitable and its margins are better than the parent company's music and movie divisions, they are rapidly diminishing. America Online's customers are increasingly shifting to high-speed Internet access, an area in which AOL faces much lower margins and much tougher...
Monday 20 January 2003 : Air Rage, From The Other Direction, Part II
Airline cabin crews are now actually attacking passengers. Proposed solution: sock it to the passengers, again.
Friday 17 January 2003 : Television ‘Branding’ and The Future
TV networks as we know them are doomed, as viewers take on the role of programming themselves.
Monday 13 January 2003 : AOL Time Warner
The media conglomerate's troubles are the result of them not knowing what they've got.
Saturday 11 January 2003 : TV Prepares To Shoot Itself In The Foot
TV's current plans for fighting an erosion of their ability to advertise is to annoy viewers. It won't work.
Tuesday 17 December 2002 : Corporate Trickery
Resorting to raw deceit in your customer relations is a sign that you should really just throw in the towel.
Thursday 12 December 2002 : More Catalog Follies
On the same day, Tino got two catalogues from different companies with the exact same picture on the cover.
Tuesday 12 November 2002 : MBA != Godhood
Once you're a CEO of anything, you are assumed to be all-capable, and not responsible for disasters that happen on your watch.
Thursday 07 November 2002 : Rules For Retailers
A number of rules for people and companies in direct and frequent contact with their customers.
Tuesday 05 November 2002 : BA and Yellow Cards
The airline industry sees such hostility from its customers because it shows them so little respect.
Friday 01 November 2002 : Wanted: Customers. Only Experienced Need Apply.
Not long ago I went to lunch at one of these chain noodle places that dot the suburban landscape. You know the kind: your choice of N pastas under your choice of sauces, with unlimited salad and rolls. It's not a gourmet feast, but it's cheap and you don't have to fetch the food yourself from a counter. As soon...
Tuesday 29 October 2002 : Declining Systems & Desperate Measures
The Washington Post reports that the TV ratings for this year's World Series were at an all-time low, down 50 percent in the last 11 years. Certainly some of this year's performance can be attributed to the fact that it was a California series; the previous all-time low ratings were for the 'subway series' between the Yankees and the Mets...
Thursday 15 August 2002 : A Radical Proposal
The Guardian suggests that services that meet the needs of consumers, rather than of the companies offering them, have a greater chance of success. Imagine that....
Wednesday 14 August 2002 : United Airlines Warns of Potential Bankruptcy
Today, the parent corporation of United Airlines warned that it may have to declare bankruptcy in the fall, unless it pulls some other magic solution out of its ass. "The world has changed," [UAL CEO Jack] Creighton said. "Revenue isnít coming back the way the industry expected. Demand isnít returning, fares remain low and the industry is grappling with how...
Wednesday 22 May 2002 : Company Size and Profits
In this week's New Yorker, there's a story in the "Talk of the Town" section called "The Goldilocks Effect", that points out that, generally, beyond a certain point, the larger a company gets, the more inefficient it gets. It suggests that inefficiencies inherent in the structure of large corporations result in diminishing economies of scale, as different parts of the...
Wednesday 22 May 2002 : Amtrak and Supply and Demand
Amtrak is famous for losing money nearly everywhere it operates except the Northeast Corridor, the largely-electrified main line between Washington and Boston. And, if you're familiar with Amtrak, you'll know that almost all their trains are largely empty -- except in the Northeast Corridor. In the Northeast Corridor, it's not uncommon on some trains to have to sit in the...
Tuesday 21 May 2002 : CARPing about Royalties
In a rare bit of heartening news about copyright, it appears that the Library of Congress has rejected the music industry's recent blatant attempt to kill off Internet 'radio'. However, this probably only means that the music industry will come up with something even more idiotic. The thought processes of these people are illustrated well by a comment made on...
Friday 17 May 2002 : AOL Time Warner Conflict of Visions
We pointed out the other day that AOL Time Warner's merger was failing because of a total failure of the company to actually exploit the much-vaunted synergies inherent in such a merger. Rather, we said, turf wars were the order of the day. The Wall Street Journal now has a story about royalties to be paid by online 'broadcasters' of...
Thursday 16 May 2002 : A Point To Chew On
Eugene Volokh recounts a recent experience while eating out....
Wednesday 15 May 2002 : A Model for Online Media Royalties
There appears to be another proposal afoot to legalize online music-trading: Kazaa lobbyist Phil Corwin says a $1-a-month fee per user on Internet providers alone (it's unclear whether costs would be passed along to subscribers) would generate $2 billion yearly: "We're talking about a modest fee on all the parties who benefit from the availability of this content." This isn't...
Tuesday 14 May 2002 : Mergers and ‘Synergy’ in the Media Business
A story on the front page of today's Washington Post discusses the merits of a number of recent mergers of large media companies. Headlined 'Big Media Mergers Raise Big Doubts', its tone is generally negative. It points out that Viacom, Vivendi, and AOL Time Warner are all bleeding money following mergers that were meant to introduce a new golden age...
Thursday 11 April 2002 : CNN Labels Ads As ‘News’
We all know that things have been tough lately over at AOL Time Warner -- and nowhere has it been tougher than at CNN. Most of the ads they're showing these days seem to be for other units of AOL. Anyway, they have now gone off the deep end in an attempt to raise some money. On their website, they're...
Thursday 21 March 2002 : The Wheels of Industry
The business pages lately have been filled with tales of woe, or of impending woe. Enron, Global Crossing, HP, XM Radio, the music industry, and many others are having their share of woe right now. The remarkable thing is that the financial press, and presumably the financial and business community in general, sees all this as happening in a vacuum,...
Monday 11 March 2002 : Camaro Production to End
CNN has picked up an AP story about GM’s announcement that production of the Chevrolet Camaro will end after the 2002 model year. The story is written by a Camaro fan, and it reads, in part: GM blames the demise of the vehicles on a 53-percent decline in the sports car market since 1990. The world is now a place...
Thursday 07 March 2002 : Music Industry Idiocy Again
It turns out that Michael Greene’s speech at the Grammys — which has been seen as insane on its face by most mainstream media commentators — seems to have consisted mostly of falsehoods anyway. This New York Times article has some interesting points to make: […] it seems strange that [Greene] would admit on national television that he hired three...
Monday 04 March 2002 : The Customer Is Always Wrong
An excellent Newsweek article on the music industry. The conventional wisdom now seems to very clearly be that the industry has gone off the deep end. Clearly, clamping locks on electronic equipment and intentionally crippling CDs wouldnít increase sales. Would it depress sales? Almost certainly. […] if new discs are copy-protected, someone who wants a classic James Taylor album might...
Thursday 28 February 2002 : The Music Industry and MP3s
Ken Layne has an excellent article on the Fox News website this week. He links an enormous number of valuable tidbits on the chaos that is the American music business, and has some good things to say of his own: What happens when an industry mistreats its customers and its suppliers? When 8,999 of 9,000 audits show shoddy accounting practices?...
Tuesday 12 February 2002 : Music Industry Headed Down The Tubes
This should come as no surprise to anyone paying even a little bit of attention over the past few years, but it’s official: The music industry’s attempts to replace Napster and other pirate services with legitimate music downloads have failed. Now, this should have been obvious. It was obvious to anyone who was not required, by virtue of employment bya...
Monday 28 January 2002 : Help Wanted: HR with a clue
An article in today’s Washington Post business section addresses the problem of corporate human resources departments without a clue. One technical job-seeker is quoted as saying “At my level, trying to get past human resources is a real difficulty.” So what good are human resources departments, at least as far as hiring people goes? I’ve never got a job by...
Friday 18 January 2002 : The Maggot Eating Jack Valenti’s Brain Soldiers Bravely On
In an article in the New York Times, Jack Valenti is quoted as saying, on behalf of the MPAA, that “We’re fighting our own terrorist war” against people who would pirate movies online.
Tuesday 08 January 2002 : Broadband and corporate politics
Lawrence Lessig suggests that corporate power-wrangling is one cause of the slow adoption of consumer broadband Internet access in the USA.
Friday 04 January 2002 : Witnesses say Secret Service Agent was not abusive to AA staff
Everyone seems to be missing the real story of the Secret Service agent being thrown off an American Airlines flight in December.
Thursday 03 January 2002 : Book Publishing Update
Book publishing doesn't make money, because the book publishers are swinging for the fences, rather than seeking steady income and growth.
Sunday 16 December 2001 : Book Prices
An article in the New York Times shows a frightening lack of basic economic knowledge in the publishing industry.
Tuesday 04 December 2001 : The best thing about my job
The best thing about my job is that from my window, I can see fire trucks going down the street a few times a day. They’re ten stories below, so you can hear the sirens, but not too loud. This tells you something about me; but in fact it probably tells you more about my job....
Tuesday 04 December 2001 : This is the best they can come up with?
The New York Times reports that the FTC has found problems with the music industry. What’s do they say the industry is up to? Price-fixing? Payola? Anti-competitive practices?
Wednesday 28 November 2001 : More recent reading
Another book I’ve been reading recently is dot.bomb: My Days and Nights at an Internet Goliath, by David Kuo. It’s an insider’s story of Value America. Value America, in case you missed it, was to be an on-line Wal-Mart, a purveyor of everything under the sun. It wound up crashing and burning in a remarkably short time as a result,...
Tuesday 27 November 2001 : Bureaucracy, Law, and Business
The other day, I picked up a book called Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Amazingly, it finds that companies that focus on their products and customers produce the greatest returns for shareholders. On the other hand, companies that focus on delivering higher returns to shareholders, well, usually don’t. It’s a matter of defining your output: does the...
Monday 19 November 2001 : Disgust, Not Fear
CNN reports today that 87 percent of those going on a trip of 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving will drive instead of flying because of “fears of flying” after the September 11 attacks. When will this idiocy end? It’s not fear of attack, but knowledge of the certainty of hassle, wasted time, long lines, and facing the bitterness of...
Wednesday 23 May 2001 : Dynamic Pricing at Burger King
Saturday 13 January 2001 : The U.S. Sugar Support Program
Vintage Tino! Sugar prices in the U.S.