Sunday, October 18, 2020

How do you take your Topia?

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This past week was Zoomtopia 2020. Normally we would have been just now returning from California, back to The Big Apple. But this year due to COVID, the October 14-15 2020 event was virtual and it was free. I highly recommend that you check out the archives and session recordings. 

Anyone who knows me, is very aware that I am big fan of Zoom. I have been selling telecom and technology since the early 80's (damn, I'm old). I am so old in fact that the FIRST thing I think of when someone says the word Zoom is the PBS kids show out of Boston

Because I have been selling, marketing, installing, servicing audio - web - video conferencing since the old Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) days, I was an early adopter of Zoom. I was using Zoom long before Zoom became a verb. 

In today's blog, I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about Zoom vs. the competition. There are plenty of people doing the post-trade show wrap up this weekend, post Zoomtopia. 

I want to focus on the Topia. 

Greek topos, place. The key term here is utopia, an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. Paradise.  

I recently hosted a video podcast with Chris Herd, the Founder & CEO of Firstbase. We chatted about how: 

The 2020s will be known as the Remote Work Decade. 

Third Space: Office and Working from Home will be joined by somewhere close by that a number of people will use. Supermarkets or local bank branches should emerge as a convenient ubiquitous location option – if they are smart.

Asynchronous Work: Offices are instantaneous gratification distraction factories where synchronous work makes it impossible to get stuff done. Tools that enable asynchronous work are the most important thing globally remote teams need. A lot of startups will try to tackle this.

Hobbie Renaissance: Remote working will lead to a rise in people participating in hobbies and activities which link them to people in their local community. This will lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships which overcome societal issues of loneliness and isolation.

Rural Living: World-class people will move to smaller cities, have a lower cost of living & higher quality of life. These regions must innovate quickly to attract that wealth. Better schools, faster internet connections are a must.

Constant Presence: Asynchronous work lets you have the isolation to do deep work but it's not always required. Communication solutions which enable presence, like an open mic while gaming, will become more compelling.

Bad Tech: Remote will grow so popular so quickly that it will attract people who have no interest in it other than greed – like blockchain/crypto in 2017. Their lack of understanding of remote work will lead to them replicating the bad parts of office working remotely.

Remote Rejection: Certain demographics and generations will reject the transition. Their benefit – that everyone in the office is like them and it's easier for them to progress – will be their reason. Companies that don't transition will be left behind. 

Diversity & Inclusion: The most diverse and inclusive teams in history will emerge rapidly. Companies who embrace it have a first-mover advantage to attract great talent globally. Companies who don't will lose their best people to their biggest competitors. 

Output focus: time will be replaced as the main KPI for judging performance by productivity and output. Great workers will be the ones who deliver what they promise consistently. Advancement decisions will be decided by capability rather than who you drink beer with after work. 

Single Car Households: The rise of remote will have tremendous indirect benefits towards slashing pollution. Families will benefit from only needing one car slashing cost of living, potentially cutting commuting a lot. 

Private Equity: the hottest trend of the next decade for private equity will see them purchase companies, make them remote-first. The cost saving in real-estate at scale will be eye-watering. The productivity gains will be the final nail in the coffin for the office.

The death of Coworking: The last recession was the beginning of the end for bespoke vanity office. The next recession will spell the same thing for co-working spaces. The rise of remote will mean a majority of the 255M+ desk jobs globally are remote by 2029. 

Talent Wars: Remote work is the perk that is most sought after by workers globally. This will only increase. Remote-first companies will disrupt every incumbent who doesn't/isn't able to make that transition. 

Written Communication: the most important skill for workers to cultivate. Reading and understanding also key. Cultural issues arising from misunderstanding meaning behind the way people write becomes a big issue.

Working Too Much: Companies worry that the workers won't work enough when operating remotely. The opposite will be true and become a big problem. Remote workers burning out because they work too much will have to be addressed. 

Distraction Avoidance: The home office will skyrocket in popularity. A space at home to get away a necessity. There will be an explosion of people purchasing standalone units for their backyards for this.

Global Citizens: Individuals with no national attachment become ubiquitous. Challenges of paying people cross border due to compliance and legal issues slowly fade away as the world becomes more borderless. 

Retreat Destinations: Global hubs will pop-up that cater to remote teams getaways. Resort-like escapes with a deep focus on team building, collaboration, planning, and efficiency. Hotels with facilitators and coaches who assist teams for the duration. 

Life-Work Balance: The rise of remote will lead to people re-prioritizing what is important to them. Organizing your work around your life will be the first noticeable switch. People realizing they are more than there job will lead to deeper purpose in other areas.

Fractional Ownership: remote work will make advancement less important/more difficult. Rather than reward being a better title, fractional ownership could enable workers to be more easily rewarded with ownership of their companies/make the market for equity more liquid. 

Bullshit Tasks: The need to pad out your 8 hour day will evaporate, replaced by clear tasks and responsibilities. Workers will do what needs to be done rather than wasting their trying to look busy with the rest of the office. 

Decentralized Opportunity: Remote work will do more for inequality than anything in history. Workers everywhere will find the best, highest paying job. The fear that this will depreciate wages will be unfounded as companies will need more talent than exists. 

Accessible Jobs: Remote work will make work more accessible than it has ever been. Nothing will stop workers getting the job they deserve because there will be no obstacles in their way. 

Remote Tools: Companies operating remotely now will have created tools every remote team on the planet needs. @Zapier,  @Gitlab,  @GitHub, will spawn Mafias who take these internal tools and create startups around them. Expect several $Billion Startups to emerge this way. 

Multiple Jobs: The gig/freelancer economy will evolve. Remote work allows workers to have multiple employers. The difference in terms of reliability and consistency will be huge, eradicating doubt, lead to better conditions for workers. 

Remote Jobs: There won't be enough remote jobs for at least the next 5 years. World-class people will drive the change. They will demand more remote opportunities and realize the influence they have to make their companies give it to them. 

Remote Infrastructure: The focus on the sexy won't change any time soon. There is a missing half of remote work that's neglected because it's difficult, boring, and unsexy. It will be the most critical. Until that's solved remote teams won't scale globally easily.

No Code: Will grows to dominate creation. @webflow@figmadesign amongst others will democratize access unlike ever before. Remote workers who have an area of expertise and one of these broad skills will be unicorns at first, before everyone else realizes the need.

Social Contact: Loneliness, disconnection neither improved or worsened by remote work. A number of people's main social contact comes at work, with people decided by their bosses hiring policy. Remote work must lead to deeper more meaningful relationships with friends and family. 

Health & Wellbeing: A lack of commute will give workers 25 extra days a year to do other things. Workers will exploit the freedom they have to organize things more freely in their day. Afternoon runs, morning meditation, two things a lot of people I know now do. 

Child Connection: Hearing your child's first laugh, seeing their first steps won't just be in the memory of one parent. Being there, feeling like your children know you. Dropping them at school each day. Small things that remote gives to you. 

Visa Issues: The problem with workers having to leave a job due to the expiry of their visas will no longer exist. Companies won't accept losing their best people simply because their right to be in a specific country expires. Remote will be an easy option. 

International Talent: Great for developing countries. International companies will access to talent globally. Access to opportunity will be decentralized. 

Job Title Death: What your job title is will become more irrelevant as remote work becomes more prominent. What you do, what you're capable of, the tools you can wield will enable you to do jobs that break you free from the shackles of a title. 

Universal Tools: Global workforce that understands and the same SaaS services means technical debt for training shall be $0. Companies add another seat to SaaS platform and worker uses the same tool they would use if they were in an office or with a different company. 

Older Workforce: Boomers may be standing in the way of the remote work revolution happening quickly, believe least in its benefits, lack the trust for it to emerge. Ironically, remote work will allow them to work far more easily later in life. 

Remote Living: Work from anywhere RVs will become huge business. Associated business parks and services will spring up. This will happen even more rapidly as self driving tech emerges. Expect a @Tesla type of product in this space.

Personal RPA: robotic process automation will transform work for individuals. No-code tools that enable workers to built bots that automate menial parts of their roles will be huge. 

Micro Co-working: a home on every street is transformed into a hyper-local co-working space. It comes with all the amenities needed, like high-quality coffee, and has on-demand fitness equipment like @onepeloton bikes. 

Today, I run the NYDLA, which (like Bell Atlantic) has now morphed into the NADLA, servicing all of North America. We went from servicing the 55M+ people living in the "New York Megalopolis" to servicing the 579M+ living across all of North America. I highly recommend viewing the session recordings from Zoomtopia 2020. For me, two days of Zoomtopia is like a trip to Disney World, virtually or otherwise. 

The future of work, the future of entertainment, the future of education, the future of medicine, the future of commerce - is all in the clouds. And now due to COVID, the future has indeed arrived early. 

Will the future be a Paradise? 

That is up to us. 

That is always up to all of us, since the future is what we make it. Together. 

From My Home To Yours 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Propelify Dunks!!!!

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Ever since COVID-19 changed our world, I have been paying close attention to how everything changed in the travel, hospitality and especially the events business. I live just 25 miles west of Times Square, The Big Apple. You know: The Center of the Known Universe. Living in the region, I really feel that I was able to see the most massive changes in behavior unfold in the most dramatic ways. 

Facebook has that feature that reminds you of exactly where you were and what you were doing 365 days ago. So many times we would have events in NYC, that would feel like "mini" vacations. I mean, who turns down an excuse to visit NEW YORK CITY?

COVID-19 caused me to start saying the following: Telemedicine has now become just Medicine. Distance Education has become just Education. eCommerce has become just Commerce. Remote Work has become just Work.

And Virtual Events have become just Events. 

Last week was the Propelify Innovation Festival, powered by TechUnited:NJ. Normally, this event is held outdoors on the waterfront in Hoboken, New Jersey. This year due to COVID, the event was virtual.

Memories of Propelify 2019

Normally, speakers, sponsors, and attendees from some of the most well-known groups in the world - and many of the innovation community's rising stars - would gather (thousands strong) with the New York City skyline as their backdrop. This year, virtually, the overall theme was building a better future for all. Each day centered around a different theme: Better Together, Better Wellness, Better Planet, Better Connected and Better Beta.

Over 5,000 attendees registered for Propelify 2020, for over 1,797,487 minutes of virtual content. 

Here is a quote from an attendee: 

"Phenomenal! Very rarely do I attend an event where I am upset that I have to be pulled away to attend a meeting or a call. I genuinely wish I could have watched every second - every speaker you've invited has been so very engaging!"

One more quote:

"This is one of the best events I have attended this year. I did not say virtual events, I said EVENTS. Period." 

That second quote is mine. And I am in the events business. Since 1983. 

If you missed out on attending the Propelify Innovation Festival live this year, paid members of TechUnited:NJ can view the archives. Just visit their website. 

This week, we have Zoomtopia, which is a FREE EVENT open to EVERYONE using Zoom - worldwide. What is that like 300M+ people? In December, we have Web Summit, with 100,000+ expected to attend their virtual event - from home. 

Zoom is a multi-billion dollar, global brand. Propelify, not so much. But one possible good thing that COVID-19 has brought to the world is this: it has forced our hands. The pandemic has indeed forced (all of us) to rethink the way that we live, learn, work and play. The technology powered changes we are all now experiencing will be with us forever. I do hope that Propelify will be back on the Hoboken waterfront this time next year. But I also hope that the virtual option will be available. I think that virtual events are indeed just events, now and in the future. 

At Propelify, we learned that every company (regardless of size) is a technology company. 

Here is another thing that members of learned this past week. They say, "Bigger is Better." Well, I think that as virtual events go, bigger is not better. BETTER is better. 

This past week, Propelify dunked on the bigger competition. Virtually. 

Aaron Price, CEO, TechUnited:NJ
In the Virtual Dunk Tank

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Birth Daze

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I do love that feature of Facebook that reminds you of where you were, what you are doing - ON THIS DAY - in the past. Last year, five years ago, all the way back to your first day on Facebook. It (usually) is a happy time, something that brings back memories of good times with friends, family or colleagues. The Facebook algorithm controls the ordering and presentation of posts, so users see what is relevant to them. Rather than publish content chronologically, posts and ads are presented based on what Facebook sees as relevant to you, the user. 

Both LinkedIn and Facebook have that feature that allows you to wish everyone a "Happy Birthday" online. For the last year, I would always start my day in Facebook by saying: " wishes you a very Happy Birthday!" which is a cool (sneaky?) way of having my 5,000 friends on Facebook ALSO connect with me on LinkedIn. Let's just say that I am indeed sneaky cool - and we'll leave it at that. So, every morning for at least the last year, I would say Happy Birthday to around 10 or 20 people on Facebook. All 5,000 of them would hear from me, over the course of 365 days. 

This past week, I had 5,000 people on Facebook wish me a Happy Birthday. And around 15,000 on LinkedIn. All at once. I'm not even sure how many of these people manually wished me Happy Birthday, or if a "bot" did the wishing for them. 

This year, I got one Birthday Card in the mail, from my sister. Just one. I'm not complaining, and I have zero stock in Hallmark. But I did notice the paper card that required a purchase, a stamp and effort many times more - thousands of times more - than the "Happy Birthday" wishes on social media. 

Birthday Cards made me start thinking about business cards. When was the last time I exchanged business cards with anyone? The new world of COVID-19 might have killed off the business card industry. I remember when "electronic" business cards were supposed to kill off paper business cards a few years ago. I remember when "bumping" your smartphones together would swap info, so that there would be no need to carry a pile of business cards to your next trade show or event. That never happened, the paper business card never went away. Until now. 

I tried saying "thank you" for all of the birthday wishes on social media, but it soon became too much. Someone on my staff made me a graphic to put up as a blanket "thanks" for everyone. This might be the future of the Happy Birthday thank you now and forevermore. I'll keep saying Happy Birthday to everyone on Facebook (manually) every day. I will not be doing the same on LinkedIn. I mean, I just can't do it. I just can't go there, it's too much!

I have learned that there is an automated way to say thank you (in bulk) to social media Happy Birthday posts. But this is starting to get a little weird for me. It's like "my bot" thanks you for "your bot" wishing the real me (not a bot) a Happy Birthday. I decided that I am not going to do that either. 

Yeah, Birthday Cards and Business Cards. For me they are (both) now a trip down memory lane. 

I have a box of business cards that might (now) last me for many years. I hope that I will need to re-order business cards sometime in 2021. I miss exchanging paper business cards, in person, in New York City. 

Yeah, exchanging business cards, in person. That might be the thing that I miss most of all. 

Thanks for all the birthday wishes, everyone!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Collective Defense

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Collective Defense means that an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies. The principle of collective defense is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States. 

So, NATO is the best-known collective defense organization, as its famous Article 5 calls on (but does not fully commit) member states to assist another member under attack. 

Our friends at IronNet applied the concept of Collective Defense as a proactive, collaborative approach to cybersecurity that involves organizations working together within and across sectors to defend against targeted cyber threats. 

Around a year ago, I met Brett Williams, Maj Gen USFA (Ret) on the INTREPID in New York City. Brett is the COO of IronNet Cybersecurity, a Keynote Speaker, and a Thought Leader in Leadership and all things Cyber. I just learned that our Coffee In The Clouds segment with Brett was the most watched of all time. 

Leadership. Collective Defense. has many thought leaders and subject matter experts in our global community. I think of people like Brett Williams, Lee Cockerell, Tom Peters, the list is long. People who have spent an entire lifetime in positions of leadership and authority. This weekend I took the time to watch (once again) the video podcasts that we have recorded with around a dozen such leaders from the fields of education, science, business and politics. I was looking for a common thread, a common theme, something that I could use to better understand what is happening in our country right now. I think I might have found it.

The concept of Collective Defense covers the three critical areas of a holistic cybersecurity strategy for protecting people, process, and technology. 

Article 5 of NATO calls on (but does not fully commit) member states to assist another member under attack. 

Here we are, the UNITED STATES of AMERICA. If one State is under attack, then EVERY STATE is under attack. If one of our citizens is a victim, we are all victims. Security in our daily lives is key to our well-being. Just as with NATO's purpose - to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations. 

NATO is an alliance of countries from Europe and North America. It provides a unique link between these two continents, enabling them to consult and cooperate in the field of defense and security, and conduct multinational crisis-management operations together. 

There are currently 30 members of NATO. There are currently 50 States in the USA.

There were originally 12 members of NATO, in 1949. It grew, over time. Just as the USA grew, over time. 

NATO membership is open to "any other European state in a position to further the principles of the Treaty, and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area." NATO was born out of the devastation of World War II. Article 5 was born out of the need to work together, to solve problems together, to come together in times of crisis. 

Here we are, in 2020 with the UNITED STATES of AMERICA under attack from enemies both seen and unseen, both foreign and domestic. If one part of the country is under attack, then we are all under attack. If one of our citizens is a victim, we are all victims. 

I think it is time for the USA to grow once again. It is time for the USA to be brave, courageous, bold once again. It is time for the USA to be INTREPID, starting with its own Article 5. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

LIVE Virtual Events Need More Cowbell

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I don't know about you, but I love that feature of Facebook that "reminds me" where I was and what I was doing exactly 365 days ago. It also freaks me out a little. 

Exactly one year ago, I was streaming LIVE, from NEW YORK! It was so cool to be using technology to communicate, collaborate, educate - pontificate - LIVE to the entire world. From the center of the known universe. You know, from the New York Megalopolis. I admit it, when the broadcast went LIVE that day, it was a big deal (for me). It was my first time streaming (live) with no edits. Oh, God please don't let me say anything stupid. Too often. 

I just turned 15 years old living in Boca Raton, Florida when Saturday Night Live (SNL) first went - live. October, 1975. It went on to become the longest-running, highest-rated show on late-night television. Wow, that was a lot of hyphens. 

I blog on Sundays. Sundays are my "blog days" and I try not to miss. Sometimes I'm lazy, or traveling, or have no muse. But my target is 52 blogs per year, and I think I got that from my early SNL fan days. 52 weeks in a year. Just not every week. Sure, got it. 

Blogs are cool, but there is no "live" magic with a blog. I can edit out the typos. There IS magic when things are broadcast LIVE. The extra pressure, the extra energy, the fact that this single moment in time is going to be viewed in real-time to an unlimited number of people around the world. Sports on TV - live. Super Bowl - live. Broadway - LIVE. There is indeed something about doing anything truly live.

Saturday Night Live at Home

Yeah. It wasn't. Whereas SNL typically consists of sketches performed live in-studio, these "at home" Powered By Zoom episodes were recorded remotely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. None of the sketches were actually performed live for any of these episodes. And none of the participants in any sketch from these shows were in the same physical location. That part was obvious, but it was not obvious that it was not really - live.

So this made me start to think about all of the VIRTUAL events that we are hosting these days. Exactly one year ago this time, we were LIVE in The Big Apple, streaming LIVE to the world. It was "LIVE" live, powered by our vendor/sponsor Intrado. Not taped live, but with a hat tip to the movie Spaceballs - it was "NOWnow. 

The media and entertainment critics finally said: it essentially isn't SNL at all: "Saturday Night Live without the live is dead" and they found that while certain sketches worked, most of them did not. Music live - great. Singers live, fine. But the live (not really live) sketches fell short. RECORDED LIVE, but not really live did not work. 

I think there are some lessons to be learned here, for the new world of VIRTUAL everything. The power of live - the energy of live comes from the fact we all know it is truly live, warts and all. I felt cheated when I later learned that Saturday Night Live at Home was not really actually, live. 

If a VIRTUAL event is not going to be truly LIVE LIVE, then we should call it a webinar. If a VIRTUAL event is going to be a bunch of pre-recorded sketches, then I don't need to watch it like I was actually there live, like attending a Broadway play in NYC. Watching something on YouTube when and where I feel like it, is not what was advertised. After all, an HBO Comedy Special is recorded live - and then they edit the hell out of it. We all know that TED Talks are not live - but they were recorded live. There is no trickery implied. 

Live is hard. Live is risky. Live (anything) has a natural energy to it. Let's be careful that we don't say that something is a LIVE event when we really mean it was recorded live, before a studio (or home) audience. 

I mean, of course it was LIVE at some point, right? 

LIVE Events Need More LIVE Cowbell - SNL
( "LIVE" live )

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Weights and Measures

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The New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures represents one of New Jersey's oldest efforts at consumer protection. Created in 1911, by then Governor Woodrow Wilson, the New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures is responsible for ensuring that all commercial and law enforcement weighing and measuring devices are tested and inspected for accuracy, and meet Federal guidelines for specifications and tolerances. 

They test and inspect all commercially used devices from prescription pharmacy balances to large capacity truck scales. They test and inspect fuel meters, airplane fuel trucks, laser guns and radar tuning forks used for speed enforcement. 

The office of Weights and Measures core mission is to protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices and maintain equity in the marketplace. Consumers can rest assured that when they are selling gold, buying groceries or fuel, or making any transaction involving a weighing or measuring device, the consumers are protected from fraud. 

1911, wow. It was not until 1925 that half the homes in the U.S. had electric power. 

Early on, it was evident that without "true measurements" there can be no progress. If you cannot trust the weight, if you cannot trust the size, if you cannot trust the volume or trust the quality or trust the integrity or trust the speed or the...(whatever) you cannot build anything. You cannot operate in business, or in society if you cannot have faith in the "Weights and Measures" of the thing you are buying, selling, shipping or consuming. Trust and confidence is the key - the foundation to everything we do.

Where are you going with this, Tom?

Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and techniques of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits. The field is primarily concerned with the study of differences between individuals. 

Types of Tests Designed in Psychometrics 

Aptitude and Ability Tests: These tests may assess the following skills/abilities: verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning, numeric reasoning, mechanical reasoning, data checking, and work sampling.

Personality Tests: These tests are usually based on research by psychologists such as Carl Jung or Isabel Briggs Myers. These tests can be used to determine basic characteristics of an individual, assess their ability to fit in to a specific work environment or with specific personality types.

I'm getting ready to leave your blog, Tom.....

OK, OK. Here is my point. We care deeply that a gallon of gas is indeed a true gallon when we buy it. We care deeply that the weight of the truck is true and accurate, when it crosses the bridge just ahead of us. We care deeply that the MPG and emissions that we advertise is true and accurate - just ask Volkswagen

We care deeply that the voltage and amperage of the electricity flowing through the wires in our homes is indeed as promised, otherwise our appliances might not work. And we care that the speed of the Internet (broadband) that we are using to connect to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube is what we were promised. Google: Truth in Advertising. 

BUT: we do not seem to care that the MEDIA that we consume, the content that we download, the lessons that we learn are indeed truthful and accurate and verified. We care about the SPEED of our Internet, but we do not care about the truth, or accuracy, or the honesty of what flows to our eyes and ears VIA the Internet. That's just nuts. 

We now spend more time online than on the roads. We spend more of our lives connected to the Internet, than riding in a car. And many times more than flying. I say it is time for the Office of Weights and Measures to start focusing on what really matters to society. It's 2020, not 1911. We care about the safety of the skies, but not the safety of the Internet. We use the Internet every day - when was the last time you flew in a commercial airliner? 

Remember, one more time: Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and techniques of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits. The field is primarily concerned with the study of differences between individuals. 

Psychometrics is how Mark Zuckerberg made all of his money. Same for Google and Amazon and Twitter and Apple. And Psychometrics is how and why the integrity of our nation's elections is (once again) under attack. 

The Office of Weights and Measures needs to get "the thumb off the scale" in those areas of our society that matter the most. We took Volkswagen to the woodshed for lying to us - for violating our trust. 

THE INTERNET is: the car we are all driving, the food we are all eating, the MEDIA we are all consuming - it's needs consumer protection. 

Not everyone is going to fly commercially this year, or drive a car this week. But (all) consumers are consuming - the INTERNET. Every. Single. Day. 

We need to trust the media we consume, the same way we trust the food we consume. We need an Office of Weights and Measures for the new online world we live in - AND WE NEED IT NOW. 

We all know that the Dept. of Homeland Security was born as a result of the attacks on 9/11, right? I think we are due for something new and current and relevant to protect ALL OF US. Our personal digital security - the quality and integrity of the media we are consuming needs protecting. 

At a minimum, make 'em stop the lying. That might be a good start. 

Hey, you did it for Volkswagen, right? 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

What is your return policy?

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When was the last time you asked for a refund? Or, when was the last time you bought something, brought it home, and only then found out it was defective? Did you ask for your money back, or did you just exchange it for a non-defective item? Or did you just - do nothing - because it was not worth the hassle?

How about before you make the purchase? On some things, you might make the purchase only after asking "What is your return policy?" Other times, you don't ask. You make the purchase, and the thought of returning and/or not using the item really does not enter your mind. Even if the deal goes bad, you won't be coming back to complain. You just might not be coming back, period. 

Nordstrom Snow Tire Return

If you Google "Nordstrom Snow Tire Return" the classic story comes up, about the guy who returns used snow tires to a Nordstrom store, and gets his $145 refund. And, of course, Nordstrom never sold - does not sell snow tires. But the customer is always right.

The "Nordstrom Tire Return Story" is possibly the greatest consumer relations story of modern times. I have no idea if is true but it makes for a great story. 

Today my brain is stuck on this topic of money-back guarantees, service guarantees, and the science behind human behavior. 

The other day, my wife pointed out that the last loaf of bread that I purchased was moldy. "Did you not look at the expiration date?" Nope. Nor did I look at the price. I just grabbed a loaf of bread (Vermont, Blue) without even slowing down the cart. Same with milk (non-fat, store brand). I just made the assumption that if it was on the shelf, it was good to go. I assumed that it was safe to purchase. And yet, same store, same day, I bought fish. My mind went to ask myself: wait, what day is it?

Is Friday really the best day to buy fish? Is it dumb to buy fish on a Thursday, and is it truly BEST to buy fish on a Friday? Without even thinking about it, I did ask the guy behind the counter if the fish was fresh. And - I also smelled it. I smelled the fish to see if it "smelled fresh" even though I have no idea what I was smelling for. It just seems like the right thing to do - sniff the fish before saying with conviction "Yes, I'll take a pound of the salmon. This salmon IS wild caught, right?" 

A money-back guarantee, also known as a satisfaction guarantee, is essentially a simple guarantee that if a buyer is not satisfied with a product or a service, a refund will be made. The money-back guarantee was a major tool of early U.S. mail order pioneers in the United States, such as Richard Sears. If folks like Sears could not win the confidence of the consumer, their mail order business would not stand a chance. Sears did pretty good, right?

Ah, but what about false claims? Very often, unreliable businesses use a money-back guarantee to reel the customer into a false sense of safety. Many guarantees by sellers often fall outside the allowed scope of their merchant agreements with their banks. For example, Visa and MasterCard explicitly bar the seller from offering a money-back guarantee past 90 days from the purchase. 

Issues relating to FALSE GUARANTEES have become so common that the Federal Trade Commission has specifically addressed the issue in the Code of Federal Regulations Handbook. 

Where are you going with this, Tom?

Two things. We are now living deeply in a virtual world. Movies at home, rather than at a movie theater. Food delivery to home, rather than a night out with the family. Medicine at home, rather than a trip to the doctor's office. And of course, education from home, rather than from a campus. So many of the decisions we make, so many the purchases that we make, do not come with a guarantee. It's buyer beware, Caveat Emptor. Garage Sales are great examples of caveat emptor. Buyers purchase goods "as is" and have little or no recourse if those goods turn out to be defective. Thus, buyers are responsible for testing and examining those products before purchase. 

Ah, but what about Caveat Venditor? Let the SELLER beware. The principle of caveat venditor cautions that the seller is responsible for any problems that the buyer might encounter with a service or product. So, for example, if a Medical Doctor said that they graduated from Medical School and it turns out they did not - that will be a major legal problem for the fake doctor. 

Here in the USA we have an election in November. Sooner if you vote by mail. 

I guess one of the points of today's blog - hidden message or otherwise - is how we come to buy (or not buy) the things that affect our lives matters. The cars we drive, the schools we attend, the foods we eat. The elected officials we vote into office. Everything is a result of the amount of time (and money) we choose to invest in our decision. 

There is no return policy on our elected officials. You cannot get a "refund" on your vote, even if you learn later than you voted for a fraud. If you vote for someone (anyone) who makes FALSE GUARANTEES to win your vote - you really have no recourse. There are no returns.

Voting for politicians is like buying fish. The time to find out if they are BAD is before you make the purchase (before you cast your vote). Ah, but a bad fish you can throw out. A bad choice of a politician will stink for years. Only a fool will KNOWINGLY buy fish that is rotten. 

And, being forced to eat rotten fish (for years) is not something you want to experience.

There is no Caveat Venditor in politics.