My Reply to Joe’s Diner

 Posted by on 21 February 2012 at 8:00 am  Business, Funny
Feb 212012
 

Undoubtedly, I was a bit snippy in my reply here. But… if you e-mail me to promote “Joe’s Diner located across for the Post Office,” and said post office is located in Ohio, you can expect a bit of snip in my reply!

Upselling Versus Building Relationships

 Posted by on 28 December 2011 at 8:00 am  Business, Ethics
Dec 282011
 

Ron Johnson on What I Learned Building the Apple Store:

People come to the Apple Store for the experience — and they’re willing to pay a premium for that. There are lots of components to that experience, but maybe the most important — and this is something that can translate to any retailer — is that the staff isn’t focused on selling stuff, it’s focused on building relationships and trying to make people’s lives better.

That may sound hokey, but it’s true.

The staff is exceptionally well trained, and they’re not on commission, so it makes no difference to them if they sell you an expensive new computer or help you make your old one run better so you’re happy with it. Their job is to figure out what you need and help you get it, even if it’s a product Apple doesn’t carry.

Compare that with other retailers where the emphasis is on cross-selling and upselling and, basically, encouraging customers to buy more, even if they don’t want or need it. That doesn’t enrich their lives, and it doesn’t deepen the retailer’s relationship with them. It just makes their wallets lighter.

That’s awesome… and worth remembering in business. Also, I’d be curious to know whether the Microsoft Stores — which seem like rip-offs of Apple Stores on the surface — are run on the same underlying principles or not.

Nov 182011
 

Ari Armstrong created a good video contrasting Occupy Wall Street with the friendly capitalist exchanges at the nearby McDonald’s.

I love Ari’s interview style of just letting people speak for themselves, particularly in this case, where the occupiers reveal so much.

On a funnier note, I loved this segment from The Daily Show:

And the two segments with Stephen Colbert — Part 1 and Part 2 were funny too:

Steve Jobs, Gone Forever

 Posted by on 5 October 2011 at 4:44 pm  Business, Heroes, Steve Jobs
Oct 052011
 

Apple reports that Steve Jobs has died.

Thank you Steve, for all that you did to make my life so much more productive, interesting, easy, and fun. The world is a bleaker place today.

I just want to cry.

Update: I created a Facebook page to express my gratitude to Steve Jobs and allow others to do so too: Thank You, Steve Jobs:

Please post your personal thank-you to Steve Jobs on its wall.

 

Hooray! The fourth and final event of Capitalism Awareness Week is tonight… and you can watch it live via streaming! Here’s the announcement:

The Financial Crisis: Causes, Consequences and Cures

John Allison, Former Chairman and CEO, BB&T Corporation

The cause of the recent financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn has been hotly debated over the last few years. The media, politicians, and even many businessmen have placed the blame on the supposed excesses of free-market capitalism. In this lecture, John Allison, former Chairman and CEO of BB&T, argues that this crisis is in fact a legacy of government’s anti-capitalist policies.

Mr. Allison presents his unique perspective of the financial services industry to support his argument that massive government intervention into the U.S. economy—from the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 to a reckless crusade to encourage home-ownership—laid the groundwork for an unsustainable real estate boom. He offers his views on what contributed to the financial crisis and how the government’s response to the inevitable bust—a frenzied series of bailouts, nationalizations, and “stimulus” efforts—is only making things worse.

Finally, Mr. Allison discusses some of his proposed immediate and long-term solutions for moving us towards a stronger economy. Mr. Allison will demonstrate that capitalism, far from being the cause of our financial troubles, is its only cure.

Tuesday, October 4th
5:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Mountain, 7:00 PM Central, 8:00 PM Eastern
North Carolina State University and live streamed online worldwide

You can watch the event live from this page.

Remember, if you’ve not yet contributed to these awesome efforts by The Undercurrent but you’d like to do so… it’s not too late! Paul and I won’t be matching funds as with the first $2000 contributed, but your money will be well-spent!

To make a one-time donation, use this PayPal link. To make a recurring donation, visit TU’s donation page and follow the instructions for “Recurring Monthly Payments.”

NetFlix Shoots Its Own Foot

 Posted by on 19 September 2011 at 1:00 pm  Business, Film
Sep 192011
 

NetFlix announces a major change to its business model:

…we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently. It’s hard for me to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary and best: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”.

… Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to qwikster.com to access their DVD queues and choose movies. … A negative of the renaming and separation is that the Qwikster.com and Netflix.com websites will not be integrated. So if you subscribe to both services, and if you need to change your credit card or email address, you would need to do it in two places. Similarly, if you rate or review a movie on Qwikster, it doesn’t show up on Netflix, and vice-versa.

My reaction? I immediately cancelled my streaming account — something that I didn’t even consider after the price increase a few months ago. I don’t use that nearly as much as the DVDs, and I’m just not interested in the hassle of managing two separate queues. Instead, I’ll likely check out Amazon’s streaming service.

Based on the 11,000-plus comments, I’m not alone.

Video: The Morality of Extreme Couponing

 Posted by on 16 September 2011 at 1:00 pm  Business, Ethics, Videocast
Sep 162011
 

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed the morality of extreme couponing. The question was:

Is “extreme couponing” moral? Earlier this year, the Boston Globe wrote about people who engage in “extreme couponing.” Basically, they find ways to redeem store coupons in a fashion that still abides by the rules, but they get free stuff out of the deal. Are these people moral, or are they parasites because they don’t actually live by trading value for value? Are they violating rights?

Here’s the video of my answer:

If you like it, please share it! Also, all my webcast and other videos can be found on my YouTube channel.

 

On Monday, Jonathan Hoenig of Capitalist Pig interviewed me on WLS 890 AM of Chicago about the meaning of Labor Day and the role of the mind in production. (He was acting as a substitute host.)

It was the first radio interview that I’ve done, and I hope the first of many. While I see much room for improvement, I’m darn pleased with how it went. Many thanks to Jonathan Hoenig!

Listen Now

    12:35 minutes

Download This Episode

Subscribe to the Feed

Jul 262011
 

The NPR show Planet Money recently aired a fascinating story about the underground online market for stolen credit card numbers. (Click on the link to listen to the audio file.)

Basically, this underground market has many features of legitimate online sales websites (such as eBay or Amazon), but with some curious inversions.

For instance, you can’t get an account unless two other current members (who are also criminals) can “vouch” for you as also being a fellow criminal.

However, to do any kind of “business” they still have to rely on some of the same mechanisms that honest marketplaces use. For instance, there are rating systems for buyers to give feedback on sellers of these stolen credit cards. Getting a good A+ rating as a seller is critical to this sort of “commercial” success. Many sellers also have FAQ’s (“Do you offer discounts for bulk purchases?”, etc.) that mirror the sorts of FAQs one sees on eBay.

Of course, the transactions are conducted not via credit card (heh), but through other forms of secure digital currency.

Other funny/bizarre tidbits:

  • The site moderator warns users not to use ALL CAPS in their posts, otherwise, they’ll be banned.

  • To get in, you also have to click on a “Terms of Use” box that states you’re not a journalist nor a law enforcement officer. In other words, they are relying on the “honesty” of the bad guys. (Of course, the story was aired by an NPR journalist working with an FBI agent who quite appropriately “agreed” to those terms without any moral qualms.)

    (Update: SteveD points out that the Terms of Use are relying on the honest of the good guys, not the bad guys. Yes — quite right!)

  • Many of the big operations end up functioning like real businesses, hiring employees, etc. In other words, they “successful” bad guys have to work hard for their ill-gotten gains — which makes one wonder why they don’t just get honest jobs.

As I listened to the story, it really struck me how the bad guys were in so many ways parasitical upon methods and practices of genuine honest producers.

The full story lasts about 30 minutes and I highly recommend listening to the whole thing! (Download the audio file.)

Video: Responsibility and Wealth

 Posted by on 25 May 2011 at 7:00 am  Business, Ethics, Videocast
May 252011
 

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I answered the following question about wealth and responsibility from Objectivist Answers:

Doesn’t greater wealth entail greater responsibility? If you have amassed a great fortune, don’t you also have to shoulder a greater responsibility to society and your fellow man than others? After all, success in business doesn’t occur in a vacuum: it always depends on the community to some extent. People like Michael Bloomberg or George Lucas know that they would not be where they are today without some pretty significant assistance from others. So shouldn’t they assume more responsibility for their fellow man than others?

Here’s my brief answer, now posted to YouTube:

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