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

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!

http://kevinschwarm.com/

How Do You Create Great Peanut Butter?

How Do You Create Great Peanut Butter?

What’s this product??? 
 

It’s rich and delicious. It’s the best I’ve tasted and trust me, I’ve tried much peanut butter in my day. Special roasting process brings out the highest flavor. And the best peanuts – Valencia! It’s not emulsified and only two ingredients – Valencia peanuts and sea salt. It goes with bread, crackers, pita bread and apples, bananas and much more. And a very good value, especially if you love peanut butter as it’s less than 14 cents per ounce. 

What is it? 

Well of course, it’s the Kirkland (Costco brand) Signature peanut butter. The label states these peanuts are grown in the American Southwest and known for their “natural sweetness and flavor.” One may argue this brand doesn’t need to add sugar as a flavor enhancer as they are using peanuts with natural sweetness and highest flavor.
According to the article, Working for Peanuts in the Costco Connection, the Costco buying team experimented with the roasting process until they landed on a dark roast that, like coffee, brings out a stronger peanut flavor, both more robust and sweeter. 
You can find two 40 ounce jars for around $10.99. Some might think “sticker shock,” having to spend nearly $6 for a jar of peanut butter but let’s look deeper into the Kirkland peanut butter world. 
First, Kirkland Signature uses Valencia peanuts, and of the four varieties of peanuts (Virginia, Spanish and Runner), Valencia peanuts are the hardest to grow. When it comes to harvesting the peanut, because the stems are sometimes weak, it can be quite challenging to gather the pods. Even though the Valencia peanuts have the shortest growing season, the yield is smaller than other varieties. Lastly, some peanut butter connoisseurs may not realize it takes at least 1800 peanuts to make one Kirkland Signature jar. 
Even though Kirkland peanut butter requires stirring with the oil at the top, you don’t necessarily have to stir all the peanut butter in the jar after opening. Yes, initially you can stir the top half of the jar but “stir as you go” applies here which means every so often, you may need to “stir as you go” and one will continue to find delicious, creamy and smooth peanut butter all the way to the end.
I used to transfer peanut butter from a knife to my bread until I recently found a spoon is the way to go and if you’re dealing with a deep jar, a long spoon may have to suffice. Unfortunately, because this peanut butter is incredibly delicious, I suspect more consumption is done each time I partake in this delectable endeavor. 
As I mentioned earlier, Kirkland Signature peanut butter keeps it simple with only one ingredient besides the Valencia peanuts. Other peanut butter, such as Skippy and Jif contains hydrogenated vegetable oils (to prevent separation) and sugar (to add taste). It’s nice to have that option at Costco to choose a peanut butter that not only tastes superior to the traditional peanut butter brands and doesn’t include sugar and incorporate chemical processing. Consumer centric in their approach? 
One more piece of advice for consumers. If you choose not to try or sample this peanut butter, realize first this peanut butter is made from the best peanuts. If you want to compare it to other brand-name peanut butters, check out their label and tell me what peanuts the brand-name producers use. Chances are, it will not say Valencia peanuts as part of the ingredient list for products such as Jif or Skippy so is it possible they are using the same high quality ingredients? Trust me when I say that peanut butter manufacturers would not be shy about advertising they used the best peanuts if they indeed did. If they don’t, would it not be a significant challenge for product developers to compete with the outstanding flavor of Kirkland peanut butter without additional flavor enhancers? If you want an incredible peanut butter experience, give this product a try. But be forewarned, there may be no turning back.
Before consumers automatically discount this

  http://kevinschwarm.com/

Work, Life & Critical Thoughts 2013-10-27 19:35:00

Work, Life & Critical Thoughts 2013-10-27 19:35:00

IMG_7894_newWould you Recommend the Oatmeal, Mac? 

On a Sunday morning in July and not familiar with breakfast restaurants in Hudson, Wisconsin, and the surrounding areas, I drove along the beautiful St. Croix valley to find somewhere that served breakfast. The only restaurant that appeared to come through in the clutch was McDonald’s – I don’t typically eat breakfast at Mickey D’s but thought, “why not?”

Trying to start my day healthy, I ordered coffee and oatmeal.  As I had surveyed the menu, I saw oatmeal priced at $1.99 so I thought I’d give this relatively new item (to me) a try.

While I’m enjoying my oatmeal and allowing my coffee to cool to a manageable temperature, I notice the paper that typically covers the brown serving trays. It says this is printed on 100% recycled paper, great, I thought. For some of their packaging, they are using 100% recycled paper. Then I thought about this restaurant and McDonald’s corporation located in Oak Brook, if you’re trying to be eco-conscious, why not have recycling containers in restaurants? Would it be bad for business to help coax some customers to recycle most of their trash after a meal? Is it presumptuous to think McDonald’s only signed up for the part-time eco-conscious platform? 

Anyway, back to the oatmeal. The $1.99 variety did not eliminate my hunger pangs – even after waiting 20 minutes to allow my stomach to send that signal to my brain. Less than 2 greenbacks is quite reasonable for a container of oatmeal until you realize we’re dealing with oats…I’m not a huge eater but I needed a second container of oatmeal to feel slightly satiated.

The first container of oatmeal was good except it was too sweet for my tastes so before ordering a second one, I asked the friendly cashier if they are allowed to serve it plain – allowing customers to add items to suit their taste but this was not allowed. Their oatmeal came prepackaged so no deviation could be done for those oatmeal lovers who like their oatmeal a certain way. 

So McDonald’s advertises this oatmeal is made with 100% whole grain (whole, sliced oats) but there are no ingredients listed on the side of the container but I do see the Monopoly game advertised on the side. I’m reminded that when I purchase a similar product in a grocery store, I’d see the ingredient list with nutritional information.

If my online research is correct, there are 290 calories per serving. If you need two servings to feel full, that’s close to 600 calories. Mind you, you’re dealing with oatmeal. There are almost as many grams of fat as protein (4g versus 5g), but plenty of carbohydrates (58g). If you’re lucky, you can eliminate 30 calories by opting out of the brown sugar although my restaurant didn’t provide that option. I won’t get into any other details about the oatmeal besides including there are a number of preservatives contained in the light cream and cranberry raisin blend.

My perfect McDonald’s breakfast would include at least two things, the ability to flavor the oatmeal to my personal tastes and include a larger size perhaps at $2.99 so only one container of oatmeal may suffice. Perhaps, if I could add a third, it would include free coffee refills.

One other thing, why a tax on oatmeal in Wisconsin? Oatmeal of all things! Isn’t that a basic necessity regardless of where it’s eaten?

http://kevinschwarm.com/

The Sharks are Alright

The Sharks are Alright

Shark Tank

Our entire family watches this show; we love to learn about new products or service from those passion self-starters and entrepreneurs. With a family of four, and sometimes five, to get all family members to watch and enjoy this program is remarkable. I could count on one hand the number of shows or movies the entire family could agree on – that makes the Shark Tank a valuable commodity in our TV viewing world.

Mind you, all family members are not shy about expressing their opinion during the show. This includes if the presenter did a good job presenting their wares. We are intrigued by the interaction between those pitching their products to the sharks. It’s fun interaction trying to predict if those budding entrepreneurs will cut a deal with one or more of the sharks. During commercials, it may be discussed what we would do if we had a desirable and high demand product or service. If a product or service doesn’t pass the “shark test,” we may discuss why? Was the issue the messenger or message? Could a different presenter have gotten different results or was it just a bad business deal that had little chance of surviving the sharks.

It’s educational. You hear what each of the sharks are looking for before they invest in the proposed business. A well thought out business and marketing plan is essential – it can’t just be a good sales pitch. Most of the sharks like to see consistent sales for at least a two or three-year period where sales are increasing at an attractive rate. In terms of your businesses’ valuation, you have to show these astute business people actual sales to justify your asking price. Otherwise, you’ll be eaten by a number of the sharks. As Kevin O’Leary constantly reminds his viewers and presenters, he’s not altruistic – only interested in sound business deals that will help maximize his investment. Sharks often aggressively circle around a business opportunity if the presenter has acquired patents – there are times they may “bite” on the offer with a patent or patent pending even if your sales are not exploding like Fourth of July fireworks.

All sharks have their unique approach in reviewing the prospective offers. Mark joined in season 2 and always reminds presenters that he’s terribly important and extremely busy so any deal he commits to has to resonate with him. Daymon John doesn’t often make many deals and typically the pitch has to align to his clothing or decorating sphere. Kevin sits in the middle of the five and is brash, arrogant and opinionated and rarely cuts deals. After watching him for years, I believe he relishes his role. He borders on being verbally abusive. I have seen both Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner in season 3, both of whom are not shy about taking a chance and making a deal. Typically, these two women may not always agree with the product or service being presented but they try to put a positive spin on it. Robert Herjavec is less abrasive than Kevin and not afraid to cut a deal and is typically “firm” in his offer and often uses the interaction as a teaching exercise even if he can’t promise you any money.

As mentioned earlier, it is absolutely essential for all business prospectors to be well prepared for the Shark Tank. In fact, it might be useful to over prepare. Preparing for Shark Tank might be comparable to a job interview. You have to prepare and be ready for unusual and challenging questions. It might behoove prospective presenters to role play to help prepare for this stressful and challenging venue. If this involves challenging and difficult questions, that may ultimately help you prepare so you can “hold your own” within the shark tank and make a deal.

I think there are two areas of questions for which to prepare. The first is personal. Some questions may include, are you paying yourself enough? Do you have room to grow? Are you entrepreneurial material? How much do you really love this work? Will your family support you in this endeavor? How badly do you want to succeed with your idea?

The second area of questions may be more strategic or financial? Have you done due diligence to ensure all your business sales are correct and easy to recall? Do you maintain good financial records? Will any of the sharks, especially Kevin, question your valuation? Will your business model pass the “sniff test?” If you’re offering a 30% stake in the company for $250,000 and they counter at 50% and $250,000 will you consider it? Will you walk? It may be beneficial to have the worst case scenario that you would accept and if you don’t get that amount, be prepared to walk. Just remember, the harder you prepare, the easier it will be dealing with the sharks and if you prepare very little, it may not be long before you’re eaten by the sharks.

Our family may record Shark Tank over a series of weeks and when we get the chance, the entire family may sit down for an evening and watch a number of these episodes. Because not every episode will provide a “meeting of the minds” between a shark and prospect, so we may have to watch a number of episodes to increase the chances of seeing some entrepreneurs extreme joy and happiness on national television. 

By watching the show and discussing the interactions, some of our family members may feel somewhat equipped to deal with the sharks if one was ever presented to them. However, what’s easy in one’s family room could be an entirely different story when confronted with mean or angry sharks during the bright lights of television.

http://kevinschwarm.com/