Kevin's Insight on Products, Service and Information – Analytical & Reflective Thinking – Sifting through the News, Business Propaganda & Rhetoric – What's Really Happening

TRIP ADVISOR CITY GUIDES – MONTREAL

TRIP ADVISOR CITY GUIDES – MONTREAL

rdTopLaurel_L_TMBefore I begin, my wife suggested that I give this software a trial – I was initially resistant although I did realize our week long trip to Montreal was days away and didn’t have any other mobile alternatives.
It took some effort and trial and error work, however, I was overall pleased with the software after getting out of my comfort zone and giving it a try. There are a number of significant cities, or perhaps the largest, where you can download the City Guide. Categories include Europe, North America, Central and South America, Asia, Australia, Middle East and Africa. Europe has the most significant cities with 31 although North America (which includes Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto in Canada and Playa del Carmen in Mexico) and U.S. cities closely follow with 26.
After downloading the software, I added my destination (Montreal) to help me prepare for the trip. Once you settle in, you can search the target city by restaurants, hotels, attractions, nightlife, shopping and tours (tickets). Once you choose any of those items, the app is smart enough to ask you if your search should include the entire city or a given neighborhood. When I select the neighborhood of Old Montreal, a list of these restaurants appear to include overall rankings from Montreal even though just the neighborhood results appeared. The price range was included along with comments and rankings and the link provides additional information, if necessary. Two invaluable features includes the distance from my current location and the option, ‘Point Me There,’ which displays a large arrow on the screen to the correct direction. As a pedestrian, the ‘Point Me There’ feature is critical when my destination was within 1 kilometer or so. Another feature worth mentioning is the map — this supports the other directional features and by providing street names and intersections, give visitors another option to help get around the city.
After doing some basic searches on a hotel or restaurant, you can filter Montreal (the city) or Old Montreal (neighborhood) by price, either $, $$, $$$, or $$$$. If you’re price conscious and want a specific cuisine, you can also add another variable of ‘Search by Cuisine’ so while on the go, you drill down to get a pretty good idea what you’re searching for.
Being in a foreign country and even though the beautiful country of Canada is just to our north, I was unsure how our mobile data plan was going to cost. Therefore, my wife and I were quite careful with the amount of data we used. Much to my surprise, I learned most of these TripAdvisor features, including, Point Me There, or the distance from my destination did not use data. Again, a very pleasant surprise.
This app helped me gain quick feedback regarding a hotel, tourist attraction, shopping or restaurant. This may be more useful when travelers are on “the go” and need information fast. If you have more time to plan and acquire information, reading comments can supplement a rating. In my opinion, seeing 30 or so comments on a museum, shopping, or a restaurant, it typically will provide enough sampling information to acquire a good idea behind the product or service.
Regarding Montreal’s metro, TripAdvisor listed all the stations throughout the core of the urban area. To locate a given metro station, you could click on the nearest metro station and be pointed in that direction. It gave specific directions – whether there were more than one station nearby. Invaluable feature when weary or in a hurry to get from one point of the city to another without having to rely on a taxi.
TripAdvisor maps are designed to be used before or during travel although some mobile users may have some challenges clearly seeing the screen. For example, using an iPhone 5, that screen didn’t quite provide the amount of real estate in which to view the map. Regardless of how much one will “zoom in” on the map, some mobile users might see it a challenge to solely rely on that feature when maneuvering the city. As a working solution, I picked up a detailed map of Montreal to supplement the TripAdvisor map display. Having both of these tools was a “win-win” in my book – a mix of the old and new school and allowed me to alternative back and forth to leverage the most effective tool at the time to get the job done.
I can’t say the TripAdvisor tool was completely intuitive or the easiest tool to use. It takes some time to get the feel of how it’s designed so I became somewhat familiar with it prior to my trip. By using it in Montreal, I was exposed to some if not all the features – the tool will definitely be used again and I would definitely say, customer centric. Spending any more than a few days in a new city, learning the basics of this app would be time well spent. In fact, with our trip planned to Columbus, Ohio, in October, I’m reviewing some of the key tourist sites according to the past visitors who took the time to rate and possibly comment.
Airline Drama – To Recline or Not to Recline?

Airline Drama – To Recline or Not to Recline?

According to the NY Times article, there was a recent disturbance on a flight from Newark to Denver where a woman was unable to recline her seat. Another flier who sat directly behind her had installed the Knee Defender, a $21.95 device on her seat preventing her from reclining. After a heated argument and the inability for her to recline, she threw water on this individual. Both were escorted off the plane in Chicago.

This NY Times article, written by Josh Barro, argues in favor of reclining. His premise, by purchasing a flight ticket, you are not only paying for your seat, you’re paying for a certain amount of space and part of that space is having the ability to recline your seat, regardless of the size or height of the person who sits behind you. The author also suggests, in lieu of any potential confrontation about this matter, a key option is to explain the situation to the flight attendant and possibly get one of those parties to move. Of course, with many flights running at capacity of near capacity, having someone move is not always an option.

The author also suggests that women are less likely to recline which should indicate men are more likely to do so. Ironically, this situation involved a woman wanting to recline. For what it’s worth, my last two flights involved two women reclining their seat in front of me without asking if that would be OK.

From my perspective, I will never recline my seat if someone is sitting behind me. That’s just me – perhaps my empathy kicks in and as my close friends know, when this occurs to me, I’m not smiling so it’s not something I’d subject others too.

In today’s world, as anyone would have noticed if they’ve flown recently, the incredible thing about coach is you barely have enough legroom. It’s just manageable and with those travelers who do recline their seats when they can, those impacted can be quite inconvenienced. Forget about trying to do any work on a computer or effectively manage a newspaper. Perhaps carry on magazines which may be all you can do.

So who’s at fault? Both parties were escorted off the airplane for disorderly conduct. I thought that was a bit over the top although that’s getting off topic. Where should the focus lie? On the airlines? Years ago, reclining your seat was less of an issue when you had more legroom. To maximize profits, airlines are continuing to search for every manageable way to make money on each flight – sometimes these methods may border on the unmanageable. With less legroom than ever, many airlines have never adjusted or changed their seat reclining policy.

Instead of turning your anger towards the airlines, where I believe the blame should lie, customers may eventually argue with one another about this controversial habit. I know, I know, the airlines will be glad to sit on the sidelines and let both sides of this issue hack it out through social media. Haven’t the airlines created this pressure cooker? If those Knee Defenders are becoming more common, even though they are forbidden on most, if not all airlines, should not the presences of these devices indicate to the airlines the need to be more proactive in mitigating future issues? Is not the solution to create more legroom for all passengers to mitigate the inconvenience? Or, if no legroom is available, prevent the seats from reclining?

Will something serious have to occur before these airlines will make significant space improvements while flying?

Slate.com

Airline Drama – To Recline or Not to Recline?

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/28/upshot/dont-want-me-to-recline-my-airline-seat-you-can-pay-me.html?src=me&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Most%20Emailed&pgtype=article&abt=0002&abg=0 According to the NY Times article, there was a recent disturbance on a flight from Newark to Denver where a woman was unable to recline her seat....

Good Service at Libertyville Toyota

Good Service at Libertyville Toyota

Libertyville Toyota (image courtesy of Fox Lake Toyota) I’ve been patronizing Libertyville Toyota since we bought our ’97 Camry one year after that car was made. I’ve been exposed to the sales and service department a number of times. Speaking of sales, it may depend on the time of year or time of month but they may be willing to deal. Of course, it also depends on the salesperson.

When it comes to service, I certainly appreciate their service department waiting area. With free coffee and donuts during early hours, most waiting customers have difficulty not partaking – especially the donuts. Later in the day, popcorn is on the menu. Not the healthiest but sometimes it’s OK to splurge. Late in the afternoon and if luck is on your side, fresh coffee is available. 

Free Wi-Fi is available and they’ve had Wi-Fi so long I can’t remember when it wasn’t available. If you tire of looking at a computer screen or your mobile device, the Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald are scattered about and may provide a diversion. Their service hours are until 9 pm, for those folks who work outside the area, many are appreciative of those longer hours.

Early on Wednesday, our 2014 Toyota Corolla displayed a Trac Off message that didn’t go away, even after following some troubleshooting steps from the owner’s manual. Time to call the service department. I was able to get an appointment later in the afternoon and Garrett Munson handled my service work. 

Unfortunately, there were a lot of codes to review and the car would not be available until the following day. Rather than waiting for a potential of hours and hours and with very little hesitation, Garrett offered to get me home by one of his drivers and said he’d call later that night. He called shortly after 8 pm and said they’d need another day to review. He called me the following afternoon to say the car was ready, however, they could take care of the 5,000 mile maintenance and if so, they’d need another hour or so. Because it was convenient for me, I agreed and later picked up the car. 

I appreciated his explanation of the issue – he likened it to a computer – you have software and hardware and sometimes there’s an issue with the hardware. If it’s not functioning properly or the software is not effectively communicating, a “flash” or a software update is needed. After the software update, they kept it over night, drove it a number of times to ensure it was functioning properly. 

Prior to my first appointment, the car would not start and after talking over the codes with Garrett, he recommended calling a tow truck. Surprisingly, moments later, it started so I quickly called him back and he promptly cancelled the tow truck. I appreciated his service oriented approach and flexibility. 

I’ve dealt with Garrett before and he’s always displayed a nice and friendly demeanor. I’ve had other technicians who may talk down to you and ramble endlessly about car mechanics, however, Garrett would not qualify for that category. Customer centric? Absolutely.

Paris and Gnats…

Paris and Gnats…

PARIS AND GNATS
Some time ago, I spent about a week in Paris. A wonderful city and one that I viewed was more beautiful in person than in pictures, if that is possible. Besides the occasional communication challenges, the only issue I confronted were some of these pesky and obnoxious street vendors who would congregate around the touristy areas: Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur, Champs-Élysées, Notre-Dame, and the Louvre. Often, they would pester and harass gullible tourist to buy mini Eiffel Tour trinkets, carved wooden elephants or other mementos from Paris.

Many of these pesky vendors I would consider gnats, those who get close too close to your face (and violate your personal space without realizing it) and would not take ‘no’ for an answer, determined to sell any of their wares to tourists for a few euros.

You hear stories or experience these African men approach you quite aggressively at the base of the Sacre Coeur and want to trade bracelets or trinkets for money frustration may set in as you just want to enjoy the sights and sounds of the area and take in its Roman and Byzantine architecture. Often, they would surround you and offer you a bracelet for free as they slyly tie it to your wrist only to demand money once it’s part of you.

These hagglers and pesky merchants often pounce on prospective tourists and consumers like flies on horse dung from a romantic horse and buggy ride around the Place de la Concorde. Kind of like Pavlov’s Dogs, as soon as unsuspecting tourists arrive, some of these pesky merchants often do most anything to get a sale.

If you hang around the Champs-Élysées, you can see them in action. The observant visitor could quickly catch on to their game, especially around the world’s most popular street. It appears a well organized business some work in a group, one or two may be on lookout while a few may violate your personal space in order to get you to notice their inventory. These gnats certainly can distinguish tourists from Parisians so they zoom in on their target like mosquitoes searching for blood. I’ve read many of them display their wares (or do you prefer junk) on a blanket or sheet without the necessary permits and visas and when they’re about to be confronted by un agent de police, they grab their cord that collapses the blanket, including their wares and flee. Once un agent de police leave, they reappear like roaches with an absence of light. After seeing their game, I was quite skeptical about patronizing many of these street vendors.

Standing in line to visit the Eiffel Tower, I’m approached by a young women who is dressed like a gypsy who asks me if I speak English. Her approach is of desperation as she sticks a clipboard in my face so I can quickly relate to her apparent plight. She conveys a situation where she’s destitute and unable to support herself. This is not the Declaration of Independence or a Living Will, just enough copy to produce pity, but more important, your euros (I bet they’d take American dollars or the English Pound for that matter). There are many of these women around such a beautiful area. A newbie might show pity for them and give them some money – especially a tourist who realizes how fortunate they are to visit such a beautiful city. In my mind, there’s only one thing worst than a charity that spends most, if not all their donations on administrative costs without considerable results. It’s people who fake a plight in an attempt to swindle money from tourists.

Unfortunately, our family arrived at the Eiffel Tower late morning and by that time, the lines up to the top of Paris’ famous landmarks was about two hours. So what do tourists do besides purchase water and snacks at the local kiosks while slowly shuffling their feet towards the entrance? Act as sitting ducks for these young women with clipboards and a penchant for trying to swindle some of your money?

Do un agent de police turn a blind eye to such behavior? Having spent almost a week in France’s capital, not once did I see any police question these street vendors or ask for their permits. I’d assume these gypsy women who harassed me at the Eiffel Tower make it a regular task of harassing other tourists on when the opportunity presents itself – would it be too difficult infiltrate the area with plain clothes officers who could arrest and interrogate such individuals?

I read over the last few years that Paris receives 60 to 70 million visitors annually. That trend has steadily increased over the years. If so, are these issues too trivial and insignificant for the police to worry about? Perhaps they turn a blind eye to such a thing unless it becomes a major issue? 

During the World Cup of 2014, France made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Germany, 1-0. Using tongue and cheek with my wife, I mentioned that we might have a good time to visit some of the touristy spots in Paris, while these street vendors or gnats on the Champs-Élysées and Sacré-Cœur take a break from such behavior and catch the game I know they love.

10 Reason Why I Would Not Buy Junk from Street Vendors…

  1. It is junk
  2. The street vendors are too aggressive and dress badly
  3. It is junk
  4. I don’t like gnats figuratively or literally
  5. It is junk
  6. It is overpriced
  7. It is junk
  8. Memories of Paris will be in the digital and personal memory form
  9. It is junk
  10. I’m afraid custom’s officials in the United States might target my bag for review and harass me for buying such junk in Paris from those aggressive street vendors
Hello, This is Scott for Scott’s

Hello, This is Scott for Scott’s

This is Scott for Scott's

Over the last year or two, Scott’s Lawn Care company has hired Phil McKee of Glasgow, Scotland to help pitch their products to those lawn owners who perhaps want a lawn of envy. Phil is from Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city and indeed Phil has the perfect Scottish accent to help sell this fertilizer stuff by connecting a Scot named Scott to Scott’s. He’s helping to convince those newbie suburban dads who may not know the difference between a drop spreader and a rotating one, what it takes to have a beautiful lawn.

Having this approach by Scott’s appears to be new, some of their ads in the past were quite plain, less personable and homogenous. Having their new spunky spokesman, Scott, definitely adds more personality to the brand. He’s smart, gregarious, honest looking and a great partner to improve the beauty of your greenscape up a few notches. With the cutest accent, red hair and a fair complexion, is he not perfect for the job? If so, with his fair complexion, he may recommend you do the majority of your yard work early in the morning to help protect your skin.

Will your neighbors not love you if you don’t use chemical fertilizer on your lawn? I guess it doesn’t matter which chemicals are dumped from which chemical provider as the reliance of lawn fertilizer is quite typical in suburbia. If you don’t, there may be love lost between you and your neighbors as those dandelions that are supposed to shrivel up and go away after some applications may remain and a wind from any direction will spread those nasty seeds onto those lawns that could be easily treated by the 4 Step program. Scott has an important question about your grass. You don’t want to be the only neighbor on your street with an inferior lawn so take my advice and follow the Four Step program by Scott’s. You know, first you address crabgrass in Step 1, and other weeds (although difficult to find on various Scott’s websites what those other weeds are) in the early spring. In late spring or early summer, the focus should be on eliminating dandelions and other broadleaf weeds – Step 2. Step 3 occurs late summer and Step 4 might be late fall. If you look at the chemical compositions of Step 3 and 4 (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium), there’s very little difference.I’ll be the first to admit I sometimes watch too much sports. That means I’ve seen these more times than I care to count. So, once you have consistently eliminated all crabgrass, dandelions and broadleaf weeds and have a lush and thick lawn, when will they have an honest dialogue about the potential damage to our water supply and ultimately, our drinking water?

I will give this company all the four leaf clovers that I find in my lawn in between my crabgrass for developing the 4 Step Lawn Care. They are keeping it simple for consumers. As the winter winds down and the last of the snow goes away, you begin with Step 1. Add each additional step as summer flashing before our eyes and then don’t forget the last application before winter is upon us for too many months to count. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4. You’re only responsibility is to feed that green monster every so often once the snow melts.

Thinking critically, having said the 4 Step program to promote a million dollar lawn, what credibility does Scott contain, seeing how he’s from Scotland. Being from Minnesota, Wisconsin or Illinois, does Scott really know what’s best for our lawns? If you’re from Georgia or Tennessee, how different is that climate from the rainy and cool climate of Glasgow? Should that come into play? You’re dealing with different growing seasons and different types of grass and soil conditions so there are several things to consider.

Is it merely because of his wonderful accent and poised demeanor that we automatically buy in to what he’s selling?

Getting back to different regions and soil types, perhaps Scott’s should customize and develop a specific fertilizer for specific regions and soil types?

A few other questions that might come into play when it comes to caring for your lawn. Do you mow? High or low in summer? Do you aerate every year or other year? Do you bag or mulch your grass clippings, thereby adding nitrogen back into the soil, reducing the need to fertilize so frequently.

One last thing…So I do an Internet search on “should I fertilize my lawn?” and the first thing that appears is Scott’s website not answering my question so it’s not a question of ‘it’ but ‘when’ one should fertilize your lawn. It’s not even an ad. Perhaps there’s a lot of $$$ in pedaling chemicals to those consumers who will merely bite the bullet and fork over a lot of dough this may mean Scott’s can hire expensive SEO kings and champions will know how to get the best rating even without advertising.

One more thing: Another search was listed as ‘Is it necessary to fertilize your lawn’? Guess which website was on the top of the list of about 4,780,000 results (0.52 seconds).

Good news, if I search ‘fertilize lawn’ there Scotts website is second on the list but the first non-ad. The top on the list is an ad for good lawns using Scott’s fertilizer.

Playing The Neutral Card Of Switzerland

Playing The Neutral Card Of Switzerland

PLAYING SWITZERLAND???

Isn’t it cute when you hear the expression on sports TV about “playing Switzerland?” To some not terribly familiar with the country, the term and image of Switzerland conveys a land of neutrality, prosperity and idyllic place to live (militarily neutral and won’t join other armies even though they have an army and will defend themselves).

Isn’t it cute to hear about the special land of Geneva, Bern and the Matterhorn and the only country portrayed as a neutral land in American media even though their neighbor, Austria, is also neutral but apparently does not get the same kind of love. Why not love for Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg too? Why just love Suisse? Perhaps Austria is neglected because of the absence of kangaroos and perhaps the Swiss have a better PR department and more influential lobbyists.

Decades ago, I lived in this beautiful place  for one year where at least four languages are spoken: Romansh, French, Italian & German. I still follow the ‘goings on’ from many kilometers away as I still find this land compelling. From my past experience, my perspective or take on this idyllic country is typically quite different from the American bus traveler who visits 20 European countries in 21 days.

It goes without saying that living in any country for an extended period may provide a unique “snapshot” of their culture.

In my mind, even though Switzerland is considered a neutral land, one might be prudent not to project much beyond that point. First, as mentioned earlier, military neutral means they have an army — and they’ll defend themselves tooth and nail. Military neutral doesn’t mean it doesn’t have social problems to deal with especially significant drug issues in their largest cities. Military neutral doesn’t mean it’s not ethnocentric in its thinking where any foreign worker or Gastarbeiter does much of the manual labor and is often looked down upon by the wealthy Swiss. Military neutral doesn’t mean there are many economists and business people who question their banking policies.

Perhaps this is overshadowed by the entire wonderful PR done by travelers who fall in love with pictures of Switzerland. Many of whom can’t wait to walk down those quaint and uber clean village streets, eat scrumptious chocolate, see snow-capped Alps, and hear the Brown Swiss cows casually ringing their bells while grazing in the mountainous regions.

Look, I don’t hate Switzerland and at the same time, I can’t love it either. Perhaps I hold a neutral position?  It offers a tremendous amount of beauty and many things to see and experience. However, it’s quite expensive so that experience may take a sizeable chunk from one’s wallet. Maybe in my mind, that’s the Achilles heel with Switzerland. If you’re extremely wealthy, they will welcome you with open arms. If you’re not, it might present many challenges. Of course, one might associate these conditions with many other countries and that might be true although, I’d argue, this is more acute with Switzerland.

Hearing references to ‘playing Switzerland’ during sports’ TV compelled me to provide another perspective about Switzerland – contrary to the common stereotype. Perhaps it’s only human nature to project “the grass is greener on the other side” about a foreign land. A place some may inspire to visit sometime.

The perception that Switzerland is a fairly tale place to live will be further reinforced by travelers who spend less than 36 hours there. One’s perception of the fairy tale land may be shattered by those outsiders who actually get a first- hand experience of how the Swiss actually think and feel.

The Villages’ Subway – Eat Fresh but Try to Ignore the Disgruntled Employee

The Villages’ Subway – Eat Fresh but Try to Ignore the Disgruntled Employee

There is a busy Subway restaurant a few hundred feet from Highway 441/27 in The Villages, Florida. Nothing remarkable about the interior or exterior – most consumers looking for a quick sandwich are typically not concerned about the lack of ambiance as it’s all about the food.  

While down here for my parent’s wedding anniversary, a few of my siblings had a taste for sub sandwiches so this Subway restaurant quickly came to mind. Being just outside of this Friendliest Retirement Hometown and beautiful retirement community and a good seventy minute drive north of Orlando, the location was ideal. The weather was cooperative for early February and and our family wanted to enjoy these sandwiches at a nearby park on this sunny Sunday afternoon.  

As we arrived, there were about 12 people in queue to be served. No need to worry, these employees appeared to be working hard. In lieu of the restaurant’s location and the fact it was Sunday afternoon, I was surprised only two women were serving customers – one was fairly young and quite talkative and the older women, while working the register, did not appear to be emotionally engaged. Perhaps with limited management support, both employees and customers potentially might experience the brunt of questionable scheduling during such a busy time.

With all the options and combinations of building a sandwich, it took about 10 minutes before we received our order (even though the first woman had initially skipped over me). For a moment, I thought I was a potted plant! As I paid and because the woman working the cash register appeared to be somewhat agitated, I engaged in small talk to let her know her work mattered to me. I complimented her on how hard she was working on a Sunday afternoon. That touched a nerve or two as she begin to tell me management wanted to cut expenses so they only had 2 employees during the Sunday afternoon shift. She also voiced her frustration at not knowing how long she was going to work. Was it Noon or 3 pm? She could never rely on a schedule as her manager had a penchant for changing her hours without advanced notice. Piecing things together, it would not take a labor relation’s attorney to ascertain there was some history and friction between her and her manager about scheduling and working conditions.

If what she said was true I could certainly understand her frustration at the working conditions and lack of empowerment at this restaurant. Some critics of the harsh variety might say she should just quit if she’s unhappy but that’s not really a nuanced approach. My only comment was she needs to focus on what she says at a given time and who she says it to. 

Even though customers might feel her frustration, it’s certainly not professional to complain to those ordering a sandwich about her inadequate pay or lack of control with her work schedule. Most Subway sandwich lovers or patrons want to quickly stop in to get a sandwich, a soda and bag of chips and want to enjoy their day without feeling guilty that they helped contribute to this one employee who’s being overworked and perhaps under paid.

I chuckle at how many celebrities promote the Subway sandwiches and restaurant. This includes Michael Strahan, Michael Phelps, RGIII and Apollo Ono among others. I wonder what their reaction might be if they had a similar situation with this overworked and frustrated Subway employee? Would it be support? Kindness? Understanding? Or would they merely smile, ignore her work situation and go about their business.  

Subway, eat fresh but ignore the disgruntled employee!

Work, Life & Critical Thoughts 2014-03-30 19:19:00

Work, Life & Critical Thoughts 2014-03-30 19:19:00

DON’T GET TOO CLOSE TO THE FOOD AT THE LIBERTYVILLE CHIPOTLE

So I got yelled at the other day by the kitchen manager because I leaned over the counter and pointed at the food in the Chipotle restaurant in downtown Libertyville. Mind you, I was still a few feet away from the actual food although without any ingredient labels, what was a Chipotle Burrito lover to do in creating the ultimate sandwich?

You see, even though I enjoy Chipotle, for whatever reason, I’m not a regular so when it comes to determining what I want on my tacos or burritos, somehow, I need ingredient labels for assistance. Without signage, I revert to pointing which is contrary to restaurant policy especially if you lean over towards the food as you point. And the way the Chipotle Grill is designed in Libertyville with a lack of a barrier between the customers and how the ingredients are displayed, customers who are not vertically challenged may sometimes accidentally lean over and point at the food. Again, I learned, a big “no no.”

I’m all for hygiene and adhering to restaurant guidelines so for future visits to this Chipotle, I will certainly be cognizant about not getting close to the food and pointing. Oh yeah, and using my words (including adjectives) to specify what ingredients will comprise my ultimate sandwich.
Having said that, I’m wondering if this interaction could have been handled differently. The kitchen manager loudly told me not to reach over and point at the food. It was the first time I was ever scolded for pointing at restaurant food. I was more shocked than embarrassed as my intent was really benign, just trying to customize my burrito. Perhaps she could have taken me aside and mentioned this to me? Customer centric?

After the verbal reprimand, I constructively asked her if it was possible to include an ingredient list so I would not have to point. Seconds later, she just walked away as she was not interested in my suggestions. Perhaps she was not interested in addressing the issue, but rather just do her job by ensuring the food stay pure with proper hygiene. I understand she has a job to do, however, being a representative of the restaurant, she could have “heard me out” and told me she’d submit my suggestion to the store manager for consideration.

As I was leaving, I met a woman who had heard the interaction who quietly told me her boyfriend had been yelled at two nights ago because he too pointed at the food. I’m sure others have been scolded over the first years of the restaurant’s existence. At some point will she or other employees talk about this issue and decide to take some action to help mitigate this issue from occurring again?

 

REACTIVE VERSUS REACTIONARY

As I was listening to the Dan Patrick podcast the other day a term caught my attention as I heard it was improperly used. The host, Dan Patrick was talking about the upcoming 2014 NFL draft and the fickle sports media when it came to the flavor of the month and suggested the NFL media are so reactionary.

After hearing this, I rolled my eyes regarding Dan’s misuse of this term. According to Wikipedia, reactionary refers to a person who holds political viewpoints that favor a return to a previous state in a society. I believe he should have said ‘reactive’ instead.

According to Bing, the term reactive relates to a response to events or situations rather than initiating or instigating. This dictionary also suggests it’s something caused by stimuli or events.

That’s not the first time I’ve heard Dan misuse that term. The last time it was used, I reached out to the Dan Patrick show pointing out the misuse of the term without ever receiving a response. Regardless, I won’t just call out Dan Patrick. I’ve heard other sports’ talk show hosts use ‘reactionary’ when in fact they should say ‘reactive’ instead.

Whenever the term ‘reactionary’ is improperly used, it raises my ire in a number of ways. First, reactive and proactive go hand and hand — especially in a corporate environment or dealing with customer service. Do you react to events or are you proactive or anticipate new events or possible problem areas? If I hear reactionary, the last association would not have anything to do with proactive behavior. Two, the term ‘reactionary’ suggests having political views in favor or going back to a previous state of society – not something I would necessary endorse.

Dan, in the future, please consider using reactive instead of reactionary when describing a response to events.

Exceeding Expectations at Publix Super Market in The Villages

Exceeding Expectations at Publix Super Market in The Villages

Publix Super Market at La Plaza Grande West Focusing on the Customer

So my mother and father were a day away from celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary which meant last minute errands to help make the party a success. Being residents of Florida’s Friendliest Retirement Hometown (The Villages) in Central Florida, my parents appeared to pick the right venue in which to celebrate this wonderful event.  

My brother and I had some literal and figurative running to do before the party – our last stop for that day, a Publix grocery store just south of The Villages Spanish Springs Town Square to get our party balloons inflated. We initially went to customer service who steered us to the balloon inflation area quite close to the produce department.  
 
We waited there for about 3 minutes until one employee came by and asked us who we were waiting for. Our reply was, “waiting to get our balloons filled.” A few minutes later, a different employee inquired about our needs and we basically had the same response. Finally, the manager, Alfred, came by after about 10 minutes of waiting and he said he’d take care of us. Alfred inflated all 9 balloons for us – having a nice chat as we streamlined this process together to get these done and over to the party hall ASAP. In the back of my mind, I felt like asking him for a discount for our inconvenience but decided against it. I was just happy to get this done.  

After Alfred finished, he told us the service was no cost – he apologized for our wait and stipulated that we should not be charged anything at checkout. What a pleasant surprise! Look, with no service for 10 minutes, he did his best to rectify the situation. By doing this, he made us more determined to come back and shop – it was an expense of $10 or so although that “good will gesture” had a lasting impression on us and to others as we felt compelled to tell this story a number of times.  

In October of last year, while doing some preliminary planning for the February party, my two sisters and parents had visited the same store to get some ideas about the 65th Anniversary cake options. They had worked with Karen, a bakery specialist, to learn about pricing and the types of cakes available for our parent’s anniversary.  

When it was time to make the cake in February, Karen made the wedding cake top as her gift to my parents. She also had her bakery staff sign the anniversary card for them. Talk about going above and beyond! 

Karen also had the idea of adding the wedding photo be placed on their cake. Because she added everything up and forgot to add the charge for the photo, she decided otherwise about adding that extra fee to the order. She duplicated the color and design from the invitation on both cakes – totally unexpected but incredible, as you can see by the photos. 

Her attitude toward this very special event indicated to my sisters that she takes her work very seriously and is all about service. She acted as though she was making these cakes for someone in her family for a very special event. Having the cakes just right was a big deal for our family and Karen did the necessary “leg work” to make it a big deal for her.  

You don’t always know what impact the little things employees do that can impact the reputation of a business. Because my father was so impressed by Karen’s leadership, he mentioned her caring attitude and excellent customer service to about 75 attendees at his anniversary party. In addition, because my father is an extrovert, hundreds of others he meets during his active lifestyle in The Villages may hear the same positive story about Karen and her employer, Publix. One can’t forget the customer centric approach by Publix motivated me to write about this encouraging experience and share with hundreds through my customer service blog.  

During special events, you hope things fall into place and when they don’t, you hope that you’re working with the type of service provider who will do what it takes to help ensure your event is special. This is what took place.  

One more thing, some consumer advocates say customers are more likely to distribute bad press after a negative situation than a positive experience. I understand that logic as it’s sometimes easier to disseminate bad news but this isn’t always the case. After being wowed by Publix’s commitment to service, many members of my large family have told these positive stories to others – in addition to what positive things my mother and father will say about Publix around The Villages. And again, when I see and experience a good product or service, there are several channels I will utilize to ensure other consumers are aware of the positive experiences my family had at Publix La Plaza Grande West.        

I Want to Live in the Cialis World

I Want to Live in the Cialis World

010I want to be that man in the Cialis commercial. You know, the one where the middle aged man and woman (probably husband and wife) are working so pleasantly and lovingly together. I will call them Mr and Mrs C.
It appears Mr and Mrs C have been a couple for many a year although they act contrary to that fact as they have that look about them – you know what I mean. I want to be that man!  

I want to live in the Cialis world where my wife would be interested in staining and varnishing, wear stylish clothes and not create any permanent stains on her attire during the entire project. What talent! 
Like Mrs. C, I want my lady to remain a brunette for many years to come and wrinkle free, even though she may have recently celebrated her 30 or 35 year high school reunion. Any gray from age, stress or needless worry will be placed on the man’s head courtesy of the age gods. In this glamorous world of Cialis, and contrary to the ‘Just for men’ hair care commercials, any man can have much gray hair and still be oh so desirable by his partner. 

It goes without saying that my Cialis world would include my precious bride giving me a concerned and loving look regardless of what we’re doing. I may be fixing a leaky kitchen faucet or stopping the toilet from excessive water waste but that special bond transcends issues, even if she’s handing me a phillips screwdriver or a pipe wrench.

Remember, you’re in the Cialis world so neither partner is tired or has a back ache after working on various projects. Neither of you have cephalalgia or continuous head pain or smell like you haven’t had shower in 4 days. Neither of you have any weight issues – perhaps the Cialis world is exempt from excessive weight gain. Neither of you would ever resist sex or intimacy from your life partner and neither of you would misconstrue an advance by the other. Thank God for such a scenario that allows Mr. and Mrs C to consummate their commitment in compassionate love to each other over and over again. 
Who really knows how long that special world may last, but when things are going so well, let’s just enjoy this special ride! How can you go wrong when your partner not only helps you with a project outside, which eventually includes cuddling and could lead to a touchdown celebration later that afternoon. Perhaps the smell of varnish or wood stain acts as an aphrodisiac? Perhaps paint would too? With this new approach, the “Honey Do List” would no longer apply as tasks and projects would be a collaborative and loving experience.
I want to relive that beautiful fall day of staining your romantic “sitting bench” in such a relaxed and loving manner. No errands to run that day, no toilets to clean, no grocery shopping to execute, just unlimited time with me and my bride. No leaves falling in your yard or into your gutters so yard clean-up is not an outdoor priority. On this glorious autumn day, no hungry hornets or wasps flying around the loving couple searching for flowers that can still provide nourishment or possible sugary substances. And no wind whatsoever. Just love, companionship and pleasure. 
Ah, what a glorious Cialis life and I’d like to try that on to see if it fits!

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