April 27, 2010

Successful Bank Marketing

I had some less than nice things to say about my bank recently. I was, and I remain, less than enthusiastic about the "upgrades" they made to their online banking system and the resultant hassle of their customer service system. It wasn't enough to make me go through the utter torture of changing banks but it was close.

Today they took a big step away from that line.

I went to their ATM machine at the supermarket and instead of advertising their mortgage rates or some free checking service there was this simple message:

168 Years. No Bailouts.

I like my bank today.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:26 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

Monday in Miami

I want to share a few thoughts that occurred to me during a recent travel adventure.

The first thought is that the 6:00 a.m. flight from LaGuardia to Miami is a killer. The Airline and the TSA suggest you arrive at the airport 2 hours before your flight. To get to the airport at 4:00 a.m. means I have to leave my house by 3:00 a.m.

When the alarm goes off at 2:40 a.m. it really really sucks.

And the real kick in the pants is that I got to the airport and checked in for my flight two hours early. At 4:00 a.m. I was at the gate ready to go through security. Security wasn’t open yet. Believe me, I was already grumpy before I had to wait half and hour for the TSA to open for business. I mean if they are going to ask you to be at the damned airport two hours before your flight in order to accommodate security screening at least have the decency to actually be doing screening two hours before the flight.

But they’re the government. They really don’t have to give a damn. I’m so happy they are going to be running health care soon.

So now I’m sitting at the gate with more than hour to wait. I tried to sleep but there is too much noise and activity. So I’m doing this and watching people go by trying to estimate how frequently they fly by how they deal with their luggage. This is an incredible conceit on my part as this is the first time I have by air in a couple of years.

There are people strolling by with nothing who must have checked several bags - and paid through the nose for the privilege of waiting around for them to get their luggage off the plane. There are the people who want to be expert fliers but they just aren’t than comfortable with a rolling bag - particularly if they are trying to pull off the second bag stacked on top. They are the most fun to watch. You just know they’ve seen Up In The Air and they imagine themselves going through the airport with the ruthless practiced efficiency of George Clooney.

I had a mission today. A client hired me to design a booth for a trade show and as part of the deal I made the tip to Miami to set the thing up. It was a fairly simple straight-forward project. Do you think there’s even the slightest chance that it went off without a hitch?

If you guessed slim and none, you’re correct.

The booth was supposed to contain two cafe tables and four chairs. Those had not arrived at the booth. There was a phone call to the display company to find out if perhaps they were in a separate container and the convention center just hadn't delivered them yet. It turns out they never arrived because they were never sent. Those will be overnighted at the vendor’s expense.

But that wasn’t the biggest problem. The booth was designed around a 4’x4’x8’ display tower. The vendor assured me that the assembly was simple and only required an allen wrench which they would provide. They promised the materials would arrive with the one and only tool I would need. Of course no tool was shipped with the booth. And of course to actually build the thing I needed three different sizes. So off I went to beg and borrow. The nearest hardware store was four blocks away - and it was pouring rain.

So I started checking out the neighboring booths for pieces with similar construction to try to borrow some tools. I got the main tool I needed from the guy at the labor desk at the convention center. Through the kindness of strangers I got my hands on the other tools I needed and the display was built. 

The other problem is that convention centers as a rule don't spend money on air conditioning during the days before a show when you are putting your booth together. It was a hot, humid and sweaty building process.

Most importantly though, the client was happy. 

The job done, I was out the door and luckily found an available cab waiting to take me back to Miami International where I was booked on the 7:40 flight back to New York. I was hoping that I might get lucky and find a seat on an earlier flight, but that didn’t happen. Then they rescheduled my flight to 8:10. then they bumped to 8:30. Then the changed it 8:38. This last change struck me as odd. I don't know the ins and outs of airline regulation but if I had to guess, there must be some regulatory or statistical significance to changing the scheduled time by and hour or more. By the time my head hits the pillow - estimated about 12:30 the entire adventure will have occurred in a 22 hour day.

Final Update: The return flight finally left Miami International Airport at 9:38 and arrived in New York at 11:50. They must have gotten clearance to fly extra fast. The original 7:40 flight was scheduled to land at 10:40. Somehow we made a three hour trip in just over two. Trust me, I’m not complaining about that. My head hit the pillow at 1:40 a.m. 

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:33 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

April 03, 2010

A Conversation on Race

I have a small sign in the rear window of my car that has provoked a number of interesting responses. If you look at the top of the sidebar to the right to will see the plug-in advertising the various items I have for sale at Zazzle.com. In the mix you will see a number of items with the “Socialism Sucks” graphics. This is what I have in my window.

I have had people on the highway honk and give me a thumbs up, I have had people honk and offer other hand gestures using other fingers. There have been a few comments of either support or derision made in parking lots. I’ve even sold a few of the shirts and bumper stickers.

And I’ve had one interesting conversation on race.

I was putting groceries in the trunk of my car when a gentleman approached me and told me he found my sign offensive. My normal flip response to a comment like that would be to suggest that he really wouldn’t like the t-shirt, but instead I asked him what he found offensive about the sign.

He told me the sign was racist and I should be ashamed to display it on my car.

Again I resisted the impulse to blow him off with a bit of snark and asked what specifically about the sign he saw as racist. I got the answer I expected - that it was about Obama because it uses the Obama campaign logo as the O in socialism.

So I asked him, if I had the same sign in my window with a regular O instead of the logo would the sign still be racist or would he just see it as an expression of my opinion about a political ideology?

He agreed that such a sign would not be racist.

I wanted to make sure I understood him so I pressed for clarification (reproduced from memory):

“So if my sign says Socialism Sucks without using the Obama logo it’s a non-racist expression of a political sentiment. But as soon as that same non-racial political sentiment is expressed about Obama it becomes racist?”

“Exactly. Because he’s black.”

“But I am merely expressing my judgement of the content of his character, not the color of his skin.”

“Yeah. But you’re only doing that because he’s black.”

“You’re saying that if a white person, like for instance Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, were advancing a socialist agenda that I wouldn’t judge them based on the content of their character?”

“I don’t see their names on your sign.”

“Neither of them are the President.”

“You mean neither of them are black.”

“I mean neither of them hold the highest elected office in the country.”

“And he’s black.”

“It seems to me that there is only one of us who is at all concerned with the color of his skin.”

“That’s because your a racist.”

I really wanted to explore this idea further and try to learn how in his mind the fact that I was not at all considering race in my political statement makes me racist. But I had frozen food in the trunk and it was kind of warm out. 

And I just didn’t see the point.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:52 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment

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