Sunday, August 30, 2020

What is your return policy?

If reading on a smartphone, hold sideways and read in landscape mode

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. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Working From Home - Expert Level

[ If you are on a smartphone, view in landscape, hold sideways ]

Long before COVID-19 flipped our world upside down, Zoom became a verb. I love it when the Sunday Morning TV pundits talk about the "Zoom Companies" or "Zoom Schools" when they are really talking about ALL of the major global collaboration and communication tools in the marketplace. Imagine being the CEO of a Zoom competitor, and the world keeps calling you a Zoom Company. Working from home gives me the ability to keep CNN, MSNBC, NPR (and other news channels ) "always on" via one of my many monitors in my home office. I think it was the highlight of my week last week, when Delaware Sen. Tom Carper dropped the F--bomb three times after a technical difficulty nearly caused him to miss his time for questioning during the hearing on Friday.

Carper, a Democrat, was set to ask questions of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy when his muted microphone caused Chairman Ron Johnson to call on the next senator. When Carper's microphone kicked on, the string of curse words was aired to the world. 

OK, so the REAL highlight of my week was watching the (virtual) Democratic National Convention. Tuesday's roll-call vote featured a "virtual trip around America" as they gave Joe Biden the Democratic nomination for President. 

And now I have a man crush on Glenn Weiss.

Glenn Weiss is an American producer and director of television and live events. He has won 14 Emmy Awards and six Director Guild of America Awards as a director and producer for various awards shows and reality shows including the Tony Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, and Academy Awards. During the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards on September 17, 2018, Weiss made headlines by proposing to long-time girlfriend Jan Svendsen during his acceptance speech for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special for his work on that year's Academy Awards. He proposed by saying, "You wonder why I don't like to call you my girlfriend? Because I want to call you my wife." The ring previously belonged to his mother, who died two and a half weeks prior. The moment was shared with millions via social media. 

The various posts about the DNC highlight the endless Zoom calls (for months) leading up to the convention. Throughout these past few months, the pandemic has had their production team members remotely collaborating on a daily basis. Glenn had to travel to Milwaukee, then Delaware and in then finally had an entire control room set up in his home. Whether he likes it or not, Glenn is probably the first inductee to the Work From Home Hall of Fame. Hindsight being 20/20 if Glenn was wearing a pair of Nike cross-trainers here in this shot, rather than going barefoot, he would have a few extra million in the bank. Just my humble opinion. 

Working From Home - Expert Level 

The DNC gave America a sense of how everyone, celebrities, actors, athletes, political heavyweights - everyone - might look like if they dropped into your company's Zoom call. Some of the best TV is not on TV anymore. All collaboration tools - especially Zoom - has become entertainment: a new kind of appointment television where people watch their friends, family and coworkers lives unfold.

So many of the changes in the world were a long time coming. Distance Education was becoming just EDUCATION. Telemedicine was becoming just MEDICINE. eCommerce was becoming just COMMERCE. Remote Work was becoming just WORK. All of these changes were coming - they just now happened in months, rather than years. Zoom became "a verb" long before COVID changed our world forever. 

We are now all living, learning, working, playing - in the clouds. And there is no pre-COVID and post-COVID world. There was pre-COVID and now just....COVID. 

It makes me pause and think about the biggest TV event of the year: The Super Bowl. 

Will there even be a Super Bowl this year? And if yes, will there be anyone in the stands? Will there be Super Bowl parties? Will the bars and restaurants even be open come Super Bowl time? Can we even have "company over" for such an in-person live party? Yeah, there will probably be Super Bowl parties, but they will be on Zoom. We will probably watch the game on the big screen in the living room, and host the Super Bowl parties around the country on our little screens - in ANY room. I see that Facebook's Portal devices now support all of the major video collaboration platforms, like Zoom. If I were Facebook I would be getting ready for the Super Bowl party rush. 

I will make a prediction, right here and now. If there IS a Super Bowl this year, the Super Bowl MVP shall be:

Glenn Weiss. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Country Mouse or City Mouse?

My buddy James Altucher made a blog post: "NYC IS DEAD FOREVER...HERE'S WHY." 

It is really good. I don't want to hijack my own blog - but you should really read it. In fact, why not go read HIS BLOG FIRST, and them come back here. It's OK, I'll wait. 

[ Playing Jeopardy! Music....... ]

Welcome back! That was pretty amazing, right? James is wicked smart. Now, the way I see it, he is either 100% right, or 100% wrong. I don't see a middle ground here. And, I don't think that his above linked blog post is only about New York City. I think that it fits Orlando, Chicago, pretty much ANY major center of population in the world.  

I was born in 1960, and I remember when Disney World had its grand opening. The Orlando area (heck, all of The Sunshine State) was transformed because of Disney. Just think of the number of people that would fly in and out of Orlando Airport every day, pre-COVID. And now...I have no idea if Orlando is going to make it. To make the "business model" of Florida work, you need lots of people flying in and out of the airports. Both Orlando and New York City rely on tourism for a large part of the annual revenue. If people ain't flying - then tourism is dying.

It looks like up to one-third of New York's small businesses may be gone forever. Not just restaurants, but small businesses across the board. Even though new places continue to open, this is an incredibly challenging time for restaurants. The shutdown, reopening at reduced capacity, and concerns for health and safety have forced many to close their doors permanently. So many business models need X people or greater, just to break-even. Restaurants and Theaters and Airlines are the most obvious examples of this. 

Broadway in The Big Apple is now dark. AMC Theaters, the world's biggest movie theater chain said that it has substantial doubt it can remain in business after closing locations across the globe during the coronavirus pandemic. The problem is that without VOLUME, without enough people attending shows, the business model fails. Reopening with a reduced capacity is not a sustainable option.  

Columbia University, an amazing Ivy League School in the heart of the city, is going 100% online. K-12 schools, colleges and universities throughout the Tri-State area are struggling with going back to school. ANYONE that knows me, knows that I love, love, LOVE Zoom. But one of the things that I also love is NOT using Zoom. There is a time and a place for online - anything.   

Yes indeed, Midtown NYC has reopened, but it is still a ghost town. I live around 25 miles west of this exact location shown here. I could normally leave my home in Northern New Jersey at around 10:20 in the morning, and easily be crossing this street before noon for a "lunch 'n learn" with vendors, clients and sponsors of I have not been in the city (for any reason) for many months. There is just no reason for me to go into the city, as of August 2020. 

When I grew up in Cedar Grove, New Jersey (before moving to Florida) going into New York City was an adventure. Mostly, because going into "the city" was like taking your life into your hands. It was not safe! In the 1980's over 250 felonies were committed every week, making the New York subway the most dangerous mass transit system in the world. When I was growing up, you would have to have your head examined to walk the streets of New York City, much less Times Square. 

Last week, we recorded a really great video podcast with Rita McGrath of Columbia University. Her new book "Seeing Around Corners" represents a new approach to strategy formulation and management in a digital world. Recognizing and acting on inflection points is the central reason why leaders need to see around the corners of their business, the industry and customers. McGrath defines an inflection point as a single point in time when everything changes irrevocably. Disruption is an outcome of an inflection point. Could there be a bigger example of this than COVID-19? I don't know if anyone could have predicted what we are now experiencing with the pandemic. We had the Spanish Flu, also known as the 1918 pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza virus. Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected 500 million people - about a third of the world's population at the time - in four successive waves. How did they stop the Spanish Flu? The most effective efforts had simultaneous closed schools, churches, and theaters, and banned public gatherings. This would allow time for vaccine development and lessened the strain on health care systems. 

I am not as pessimistic as my friend James. I do think that New York (and Orlando, and Chicago, and.....) will bounce back.  I think that humans are social creatures, and that we shall find a way to live closer than six feet apart. But I also think that it shall be a slog. It will take years to get back to anything that looks like pre-COVID, not months. And I think that the long-term damage will be much higher than anyone could have predicted. 

I do invite you to Join as we have both free and paid memberships. When and where can help you to thrive, not just survive in the COVID-19 world, we shall do so. After all, we are all living, learning, working, playing - in the clouds. While wearing a mask. 

New York City - 1918

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Get me Dick Fosbury!

[ If you are on a smartphone, view in landscape, hold sideways ]

The Fosbury Flop is a style used in the event of high jump. It was popularized and perfected by American athlete Dick Fosbury, whose gold medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City brought it to the world's attention.

The genius of the Fosbury Flop is that it allows the athlete to bend his or her back around the bar at the peak, causing the athletes body to clear the bar while his or her center of mass actually travels below the bar. 

Fosbury developed "the Flop" at the age of 16 after finding the standard techniques difficult. 

So, a few things:

Timing. Given that landing surfaces had previously been sandpits or low piles of matting, high jumpers of earlier years had to land on their feet to prevent injury. With the advent of deep foam matting, high jumpers were able to move to be more adventurous in their landing styles, and hence experiment with new styles of jumping. 

So, Dick Fosbury came along at a time in history where "the Flop" would not mean you would break your neck during (the less than forgiving) landing. 

On the world stage, Fosbury jumped, shockingly at the time, with his back to the bar. His head and shoulders cleared the high jump bar first, his legs and feet trailed. On October 20, 1968, 21 year old Dick Fosbury wins GOLD - and sets an Olympic record with "a Flop" that changed the sport - forever. 

The way that every serious high jumper does it now - they Flop. "I think quite a few kids will begin trying it my way now," he said when the Olympic Games were over. Within a decade, almost every elite high-jumper was doing it Fosbury's way. Since 1980, no one using any other technique has held the world record.

In sports, when you know better, you do better.

Especially in the global Olympics games. Every country, from all around the world, in competition. In 1968, the world was a witness to "the better way" to do the high jump. And you did not have to tell the world twice. 

Today, we are fighting a global pandemic. COVID-19 is ravaging the world. But the pandemic is especially rampant in the United States. As of today's numbers there are more cases of COVID-19 in the State of Florida, than in the entire European Union with 440M+ people. Let that sink in. 

Florida has more new cases of COVID-19 than the ENTIRE European Union. 

There is a "Dick Fosbury" of COVID-19. There are countries (right now, today) that are doing better than the United States in fighting COVID-19. WAY BETTER. The pandemic numbers don't lie. Today, the USA is not, not NOT the Dick Fosbury of pandemic management and mitigation. If fighting a pandemic was an Olympic Game, I don't even think the USA would get an honorable mention. 

The thing that I cannot understand, is why we (as a nation) don't copy, adapt or put into play the obvious better way to fight the pandemic. Other countries are "crushing it" in combating COVID-19. I mean, we are not talking about trying to win a GOLD MEDAL, we are talking about trying to save lives. 

America, where is our Dick Fosbury of COVID-19? 

[ Hint: they might be living in Europe, start there ]