Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Note to ecommerce people: how to win a loyal customer even though you screw something up

Chart690_106.jpgA couple week ago, I ordered two Web Color KiloCharts from VisiBone. The charts arrived in one of those triangle tubes the USPS swears is perfect for posters and stuff like that. The tube was mangled at one end and had obviously been flattened at some point during its journey from Florida to Connecticut.

I pulled out the posters (I didn't have to open the package, the post office did that for me) and found that they were bent, but not damaged (the coating wasn't cracked or anything) and would be okay if I ironed them flat (it a wonderful poster - giving me exactly the information I need and no extraneous crap). I also found a nice letter from Bob Stein, the chief and only cook and bottle washer at VisiBone. In the letter, he said he wanted to hear from me (me as customer), so I thought I'd let him know that the triangle things are a bad, bad choice for mailing his wonderful posters.

I heard back from him within a few minutes, with an apology, an explanation, and an offer to replace the posters at no cost/hassle to me. (The explanation is that they ran out of the tubes normally used so switched to the USPS tubes so people wouldn't have to wait.)

I replied that my posters are just fine and already on the wall, thank you very much. I told him to spend the postage money making more useful products. He wrote back telling me to let him know if I change my mind. Then, yesterday, I got another message from him - one he sent out to all his recent customers I would imagine - again apologizing, explaining, and offering replacements and, essentially, thanking us for letting him know the triangle crap mailers from the USPS were a bad idea.

All of this indicates to me that he has pride in his products and he's smart enough to make customers feel he cares more about them than he cares about his bottom line.

What it boils down to for me is that even if another vendor offers essentially the same type of product with the same quality at a lower price - even at a fraction of the price - I'll buy these products ONLY from VisiBone.
posted by lee on 05/01/02 at 11:05 AM
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Thursday, May 02, 2002

diagram without tears

If you've ever had to map a website or make a flowchart, you know what a horrible process it can be. Especially using MS Visio. Inspiration, however, makes it very easy and (almost) fun. The business version costs just $109 USD - I got it a few days ago and it's paid for itself already. Truly a great program, for either the PC or the Mac. Disclosure: I am not getting paid by Inspiration to write this, nor do I have any affiliate agreement with them. I just really, really like the software. Makes my life easier.
posted by lee on 05/02/02 at 08:01 AM
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Saturday, May 04, 2002

Stanley and I played hooky

Stanley and I played hooky yesterday afternoon and went to see Spiderman. Since I am not, nor have I ever been, a comic book reader/Spiderman freak, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Stanley did. I thought it was a good, fun movie that had the potential to be a really good movie. Jamison and the whole newspaper scenes were done perfectly - I would've loved the movie had it been done as well as the newspaper scenes (pure comic book).

It was weird to see the spider exhibit in the Rotunda of Low Library at Columbia University - my grad school alma mater - because I don't remember it being used for anything but banquets and ceremonies - mostly it was just empty. And it was also weird seeing traffic on 116th Street on the campus mall - when I went there (way back in the Middle Ages), there was no traffic allowed.

On the whole, though, the movie was fun. A little less pointless web swinging, a little more dialogue by Spidey, and a less-stupid ending, would've made it even more fun.

posted by lee on 05/04/02 at 08:03 AM
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i’m guilty guilty guilty!

This is funny: Top Ten New Copyright Crimes. Hey, if going to pee during the tv commercials makes me a criminal, arrest me. After I pee.

I'd buy this if we didn't have to pay Cablevision in order to get "broadcast" tv without the snow. Since we're already paying for the "broadcast" 24/7, we can use it to line the birdcage if we want to. The only people who count when it comes to watching the commercials during the broadcasts are the Nielsen drones. Let the Nielsen Family schmucks forego pissing.
posted by lee on 05/04/02 at 10:50 AM
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Sunday, May 05, 2002

Good Fences Make good neighbors

According to Robert Frost. I never truly understood that until living next door to a weasel.

Here's the deal. We have a row of willows growing along the front third of our property line, planted a few years ago to block the view of the cement retaining wall of the house next door (a hideous, ugly house that we suspect will get toxic mold pretty soon since it went up so fast and so cheaply). The willows are austrees, and if you prune them properly they make a nice thick hedge - a pretty one that has the added advantage of acting as a noise barrier. If you keep them topped off, it's even better.

But we live next door to a weasel. His name is James D. Koutsoukos, and he's a dentist (he's so icky I always though he was a used car salesman or something) with an office on Main Street in Stamford, CT. (The thought of this weasel getting anywhere near my face makes me want to vomit. He's so ignorant it makes me wonder how he got through an American dental school. He probably went to dental school in Turkey.)

One year the weasel attacks the austrees, hacking off all the lower branches that would let them fill out. Last year he hacked off the tops and every branch on his side of the property line. Though Stanley was pretty steamed, he did not beat the weasel into a bloody pulp and restrained me from doing so.

About a week ago, the weasel came over and told us he was having tree people come over and trim the trees on his property and, as long as they were there, could he ask them to top and trim the austrees. Tree people, Stanley thought, would know how to do it properly. So he said okay, but top and trim only.

Today we went to brunch with our friend Helene, stopping at the doomed* Orem's Diner for brunch and then heading into Young's Nursery to get started on our gardens. We dropped Helene off at her daughter's house and had a lovely drive past the Aspetuck Reservoir. A pleasant day. Until we pulled into our yard.

The weasel had a couple of men at work hacking the austrees. They were not tree trimmers - they're lawn guys, you know, the guys who do a great job mowing the lawn and getting rid of the leaves but don't know squat about pruning or trimming trees. They'd already hacked up half of them. The pictures below don't do much justice to the crime unless you know what the trees looked like before and what they're supposed to look like. They supposed to look like a nice, full hedge by now. But the weasel keeps destroying them. In these pictures, too, you can't see the torn barks and ripped up trunks where they hacked through instead of getting a pruning saw and doing it properly.



So, that's it. We've had enough. We're going to call the surveyor in and have him mark our property line (with dayglo tape, I insist) and then bite the bullet and put up as high a fence as we can get away with here in Norwalk (I think it's eight feet), and plant bamboo in front of the fence - down the entire property line (I think it's 160 feet or something like that). We'll try to find fencing with as ugly an away side as possible to give Weasel Koutsoukos something to really make his day.

* Orem's Diner is doomed because the powers that be decided it was more important to put in a highway down Route 7 between Danbury and the Norwalk extension than it was to do anything remotely far sighted or decent such as preserve what little heritage is left along that stretch. Orem's is too close to the road, so it's going to be gone. What really makes it such a crime is that stretch runs parallel to a commuter line - the Danbury extension of Metro North. Could they possibly do something to make it attractive to the SUV hogs to use public transportation? Out of the question - the morons of Fairfield County MUST use their cars ...
posted by lee on 05/05/02 at 12:36 PM
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guess i’m just a sucker for silly quizzes

You are Spaceman Spiff!

Zounds! You are the intrepid Spaceman Spiff, the engaging explorer ensconsed in an unending universe of exotic and evil extraterrestrials! You're brave, but you should give that dictionary a rest.

Take the What Calvin are You? Quiz by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)!
posted by lee on 05/05/02 at 03:09 PM
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Monday, May 06, 2002

keeping track of bushisms

not a crackhead anymore

by Michael Angeles

Who also published a little useful app I use all the time: Greeked text. Thank you, Michael. (who is the author of iaslash)
posted by lee on 05/06/02 at 10:12 PM
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Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Spool rolls away

Jared Spool's current UIEtips newsletter features an article about categorization - Strategies for Categorizing Categories - which I imagine he'll post on his website some day. At any rate, in this article he talks about looking at several ecommerce sites to see if certains types of categorization schemes worked better than others when it came to customers locating and buying items from a list given to them. The result of the study was that Land's End has the best categorization scheme because the most people bought the most stuff successfully from them.

"Lands' End used a design that had both product descriptions and departments."

Old Navy was the next best performer in the study: "Old Navy used a combination department and gallery page where sometimes the left nav contains galleries and sometimes it contains products."

Whatever. Since I don't have access to the data, or the protocols, I have no way of evaluating if these are appropriate, or even meaningful, rankings.

But reading on, I came to this paragraph, which made me question once again whether Spool has a clue about how to analyze the research he conducts:

"The pictures on Lands' End's department page were helpful sometimes and ignorable the rest. Seeing a picture of a "twinset" helps identify
what it is, whereas the pictures of "Fine Gauge Cotton" and regular "Cotton" could be swapped and nobody would probably notice or care (except Lands' End's buyers). This means that content that doesn't lend itself to pictures (such as diseases) doesn't really need them -- it's not a necessary part of this specific design."

First of all, I bet Lands' End's online sales would plummet without pictures of the items for sale. Would you buy something, particularly clothing or home decor items, without knowing what it looks like? I sure wouldn't unless it was something I buy over and over. Just because Spool can't see the difference between a sweater made in cotton vs. fine-gauge cotton doesn't mean most people can't. And, since he didn't test to see if pictures make a difference, he shouldn't present his opinions as research findings. If it's his opinion, he should say so.

Then he says content that doesn't lend itself to pictures - he cites diseases as an example - doesn't really need them. Since he cited diseases, I can only conclude that he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about when it comes to whether or specific content lends itself to pictures or not. Pictures are essential in content about diseases - whether it's a picture of a rash or an organism or the effects of a disease or all of them.

It's these stupid, blanket comments Spool makes that leads me to discount his work. Makes me wonder what ecommerce websites he's designed - or which companies have implemented all of his recommendations and showed a significant ROI as a result.
posted by lee on 05/07/02 at 10:26 AM
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Wednesday, May 08, 2002

who woulda thunk ...

Pipe bomb suspect 'mild-mannered kid' / Friends, family express surprise. So Luke Helder was just your average punk rocker artist wannabe college student. So much for being able to profile terrorists.
posted by lee on 05/08/02 at 04:02 PM
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Friday, May 10, 2002

Internet Radio Guide

Visit RadioJump for a list of good Internet radio stations. And if you like Internet radio, visit Save Internet Radio and do you part lest Internet radio vanishes on May 22nd. (It's easy. Really.)
posted by lee on 05/10/02 at 11:15 AM
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