Sunday, November 25, 2012

What are they thinking with the free Wi-Fi at the mall?

Simon Property Group, Inc. (NYSE:SPG) is an S&P 100 company and the largest real estate company in the world. The Company currently owns or has an interest in 332 retail real estate properties in North America and Asia comprising 241 million square feet as well as a 29% interest in Kl├ępierre, a publicly-traded French REIT with a portfolio of more than 260 shopping centers in 13 countries in Europe. They are headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana and employ approximately 5,500 people in the U.S.

  If you visit you will most likely find a Simon Property Mall near you. I went shopping on “Black Friday” with my two sons, mostly for the entertainment factor. Of course it was at a Simon Mall.

Here is what I found to be amazing. The entire mall had free Wi-Fi, even in the parking lot. Every shopper in the mall had smartphones in their hands. Not just cell phones - but smartphones.  I would say that most had iPhones, but I could not find a “regular” cell phone in the building.

For the first time I witnessed people using their smartphones while they were actively shopping. Simply scanning the bar codes of the item told you if the price on the item you were look at was good, great or terrible. It showed you what you could get the same item for online, also saving you sales tax and shipping. It showed product reviews. It was like having a professional shopper in your hand. All it took was one person doing it, and everyone would learn from the leader. People would say to strangers "would you scan this for me" if they did not know how to do it. 

And let the haggling begin!

I saw people holding up their smartphones, showing the clerks behind the counter why their sale price was no good. Or why they could get it cheaper online. Or why the store 200 feet away had a better price, or had a better instant coupon. All of these poor kids with holiday jobs at the mall, they did not know what to do but shrug their shoulders and smile. Happy Holidays!

Here is the question: why did the largest real estate company in the world give FREE Wi-Fi to everyone in the mall - so that the smartphone shoppers could beat up their rent paying tenants in said mall? Many people did not need the free Wi-Fi to use their smartphones, but now Simon Properties made it way too easy. By giving free Wi-Fi to every single shopper, they basically gave all the power to the consumer. Anyone with an item “on sale” at 50% off was caught red-handed, as we all can see that they just raised the prices just days before to then offer the 50% off discount. How embarrassing for the store owner.

Shopping with a smartphone. The smartphone genie is officially out of the bottle. The shopping malls of the future will continue to morph. Retail stores will need to compete against the smartphone shopper, battling against free shipping, no sales tax and hassle free returns without having to leave your home or office.  

I did my best to shop locally on Small Business Saturday, but it was very hard to not check pricing with my smartphone. I knew I was paying more, but I was supporting my local community. I don’t know how long this will last, but I am thinking that the era of the smartphone shopper is here to stay. 

And not just during the holidays.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fade to Black

Black Friday is the name given to the day following Thanksgiving Day, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, often at 4 am, or earlier, and offer promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season. 

Black Friday is not an official US holiday, but many non-retail employers also observe this day as a holiday along with Thanksgiving, giving their employees the day off, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year.
The day's name originated in Philadelphia, where it was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that "Black Friday" indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit for the year, or are finally "in the black".
For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 am, but recently many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00. This was taken to a new extreme last year when several retailers (including Target, Kohls, Macy's, and Best Buy) opened at midnight for the first time. This year, Walmart led several other retailers in announcing it would open its stores at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, prompting calls for a walkout among some workers.
Black Friday is now the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Black Sunday??? You can go online today buying anything that you want at "Black Friday" pricing. You can make your purchase via your iPad, and pick up at the store at your convenience. What's next? Are we going to just jump to Black November? Why not just make the entire month of November "black" and be done with it?

Now I have an idea.  
Every year when I pay my taxes, I am asked if I would like to donate $1 to the Presidential Campaign fund. I always say yes, out of fear that someone at the IRS is flagging all returns that say no. 

This year, why not have all online stores do the same?  Ask: "Would you like to donate $1 to Hurricane Sandy Relief"?  You are already shopping online. You are saving gas, tolls, parking. You are saving shipping fees and sales tax by shopping online. Think about it. 

$1 vs. the billions of dollars that will be spent online between now and Christmas. One single dollar would not be missed. One hundred pennies. What would this money do for the families that have been devastated by the storm? The money generated for those who need it the most would be truly amazing. If we used last years numbers, $1 times 226m equals just short of a quarter of a billion dollars raised for Hurricane Sandy relief in one single day. In one day!

The National Retail Federation releases figures on the sales for each Thanksgiving weekend.
YearDateSurvey PublishedShoppers, millionsAverage SpendTotal SpendConsumers PolledMargin for Error
2011Nov 24Nov 27226m$398.62$52.5 billion3,8261.6%
2010Nov 25Nov 28212m$365.34$45.0 billion4,3061.5%
2009Nov 26Nov 29195m$343.31$41.2 billion4,9851.4%
2008Nov 27Nov 30172m$372.57$41.0 billion3,3701.7%
2007Nov 22Nov 25147m$347.55n/a2,3951.5%
2006Nov 23Nov 26140m$360.15n/a3,0901.5%
2005Nov 24Nov 27n/a$302.81n/an/an/a
Now, I would love to see Amazon, Best Buy and everyone else make this an option at online shopping cart check out. I would like to see this option at every cash register in the retails stores as well. In 2011, we spent $52.5 billion on Black Friday. The average person spent $398.62 on Black Friday last year. This year, it will be even more. 

It might be too late for this $1 donation idea to take off. This year, the Capone household will keep track of what we spend on Black Friday. We will then send a nice donation to the Red Cross and to Catholic Charities USA. The Capone clan will be saving a ton of money on Black Friday, and we can't send some of that savings to those who have lost everything? Ahem. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Take a picture

Geek Alert Begins here: Digitizing or digitization is the representation of an object, image, sound, document or a signal (usually an analog signal) by a discrete set of its points or samples. The result is called digital representation or, more specifically, a digital image, for the object, and digital form, for the signal. Strictly speaking, digitizing means simply capturing an analog signal in digital form. For a document the term means to trace the document image or capture the "corners" where the lines end or change direction. A digital camera is a camera that takes video or still photographs by recording images on an electronic image sensor. Most cameras sold today are digital, and digital cameras are incorporated into many devices ranging from PDAs and mobile phones(called camera phones) to vehicles. <End of Geek Alert>

Google eBook - Image Scanned from Paper Book Original

Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast. As of this blog post, there are still areas of New York without power. Lives were lost. The damage from Sandy might exceed $50 Billion. Is climate change real? Is this a trend?

When people are interviewed standing among the rubble of Hurricane Sandy’s damage, there is one theme that is common. What was lost that can never be replaced? What is the one loss that is the most avoidable?

We lost our pictures. We lost our documents. We lost our memories.

Buildings can be rebuilt. Cars can be replaced. Even the most serious physical damage can be addressed. But the one thing that cannot be replaced, the thing that no amount of money can repair, the thing that even the most comprehensive insurance policy cannot possibly cover is ironically the most avoidable.

Every photo, every document, every slide, every video can be digitized. Baby Pictures. College Diplomas. Birthday Party Photos. Wedding Photos. Little League Game Trophies. Class Pictures. All of the things that were hung on the refrigerator in the kitchen could be (and should be) digitized.

 Who has a calendar hanging somewhere in their kitchen? Each month, use a cell phone and take a picture. Capture those 30 days of memories. What did that take, four seconds? That one photo will trigger a flood of memories.

We live in a digital world. Paper books are constantly being replaced by eBooks. “Physical” assets are constantly being replaced by digital copies.

When we talk about “backing up your files” we think of hard drives that crash, and laptops that get dropped, lost or stolen. In today’s world, there is no excuse to ever lose a digital asset, not with all of the internet cloud tools at our disposal.

Maybe we can change this thinking.  Maybe we can start thinking of it as “backing up your life”.

Take your cell phone and stand in the corner of the room. Take a picture. Move to the other corner, take a picture, and repeat this process until you have a full image of the contents of the room. You now have a digital archive of that room.  If you did this just a few minutes several times a year, you now have:

  • A time capsule for your family memories
  • An invaluable tool for insurance claims
  • A way to reconstruct and recover after a disaster

Go into your children’s bedroom. Do this before or after cleaning up, up to you. Take a picture of the contents of the room. Take a picture of the handmade art. Take a picture of the school awards hanging from the bedpost. The stuffed animals on the bed, the posters on the wall, the contents on the nightstand. What books were you children reading at the time? Now you will remember - ten, twenty, thirty years from now. You have it all in an archive, safe and secure off-site in the cloud.

Ladies: how long would it take for you to make a photographic digital archive of the contents of your closet? If you lost all of your shoes due to Hurricane Sandy, and you wanted to claim them on your insurance policy, what would such a digital archive mean to you? I understand that one single pair of “Jimmy Choo” shoes can be more than $100 to replace. Can this possibly be true? Do people really pay a lot of money for shoes?

There are many things that obviously should be digitized, backed up and archived in the internet cloud. But it is the non-obvious things that people easily miss. The family pictures. Grandma’s hand-written recipes on index cards. Grade school handmade art saved in shoe boxes from their proud days on display on the kitchen refrigerator. Some things are easier to digitize than others, but once you start down this road, it is amazing what you discover. Make it a hobby, make it as important as changing the batteries in the smoke detectors. Just do it.

  • Take a picture / scan it / copy it / digitize it
  • Backup it all up in the internet cloud

Think of this as your family archive, your family time capsule. Yes, the internet has changed everything, but you need to help it along, to be a hero after the disaster. With or without the reminders from Mother Nature, you should digitize your life. It is the right thing to do.

"For Excellence in Digital Archiving"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Listen to your mother

Hurricane Sandy was a tropical cyclone that devastated portions of the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States in late October 2012. In diameter, it was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, with winds spanning 1,100 miles.

Sandy is estimated in early calculations to have caused damage of at least $20 billion. Preliminary estimates of losses that include business interruption surpass $50 billion (2012 USD), which, if confirmed, would make it the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane in history behind only Hurricane Katrina.

It had a notable influence on the presidential election by raising the issue of global warming. In the United States, Hurricane Sandy affected at least 24 states, from Florida to Maine, with tropical storm force winds causing impact in states as far west as Michigan and Wisconsin. The cyclone brought a destructive storm surge to New York City on the evening of October 29, flooding numerous streets, tunnels and subway lines in Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, Coney Island, the Rockaways and other areas of the city and cutting off electricity to parts of the city and its suburbs, especially Zone A areas near waterways which were issued evacuation orders. Severe damage occurred in New Jersey, especially in the communities along the Jersey Shore.

I live in New Jersey. The damage from Hurricane Sandy is beyond words. As of this blog post, the temperature is dropping, and there will be many without power tonight. And, they are predicting a Nor’easter for this week. My wife and I were spared from the storm, as we checked in to a local hotel early Tuesday morning. I was able to work comfortably without interruption. My wife, our dog Bella and I survived with very little damage to our home.

It is times like this that I think of my mother. My mother always knew best. Mom always said that “Mother Nature” was never a force to be ignored. No one ever takes on Mother Nature and wins. My mother would always worry if we had enough warm clothes, a blanket in the car, and a flashlight with fresh batteries. I was born in New Jersey, but when I was twelve years old we moved to Boca Raton, Florida. I remember living in “Hurricane Alley” for years, and we were the best prepared family for any tropical storm.

My mother was my muse when I formed  We cannot hope to win a battle with Mother Nature. But we can do our part to be prepared, to do our best to survive and recover. And then, to help others. FEMA says that “the first 72 are on you” which means that for 72 hours after a disaster, you need to expect to receive little or no help from the government. You need to be prepared to take care of yourself, for at least 72 hours.

Everyone reading this Sunday blog post has survived Hurricane Sandy, but will we ever learn? Will we take the necessary steps to prepare and to be ready for the next storm? Will we finally listen to our mothers? 

Be safe.


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Solar and Hand-Crank Powered Emergency LED Flashlight with Radio and Mobile Phone Charger. Free to all MyTotalProtection clients.

Product Features

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  • Hand Crank Power-Built in generator allows you to charge the internal battery by cranking with your hand so that you never run out of battery power.
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Flo n' Go pump gives you gas station functionality with away-from-the-pump convenience. Patented design prevents overflows with auto shut-off, restart and siphon control, so fuel transfer is fast and safe. Attaches to all plastic Jerry cans; adapter included to fit Jerry cans. EPA approved.  Free to all MyTotalProtection clients courtesy of MTP.

NeatDesk is a high-speed, duplex desktop scanner and Digital Filing System. Scan receipts, business cards and documents in one batch while the software identifies, extracts and organizes key information. Scan every important document and photo, have have digital files save and secure in the cloud. How many people lost family photos or other irreplaceable paper documents during the storm?

  Data backup is essential to a business’ survival.  If a sound backup plan is not in place a business is vulnerable to valuable data loss and it can result in business closure.  They just can’t recover from the loss of data.  Data is the heart of a business.  Without files, documents, and operating systems a business simply can not function.  Backing up data using removable storage such as external hard drives, flash drives, cd’s, tapes, etc are at best unreliable.  Fires, theft, hurricane, tornado's, power surges, unintentional deletion and more are real dangers for any business no matter the size.  These types of dangers can affect anyone and are the main reasons why removable storage is not the most effective way to back up data.  They are susceptible to the same dangers as the computer itself and if both are lost what would a business do?  Try it for free:

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