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.

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


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?



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

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.