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Why can international airline businesses build multi-million dollar jets capable of flying 450 people safely to the other side of the world but cannot install in Inter-Com that works?

In the last few hours on two huge jets, Delta and Cyprus Air, I never understood a word the pilot said over the com line and I missed much of what the flight attendants said on one of the jets. I also experienced this the past three weekends on trips to KS, PA, and OR. What gives?

If safety is a factor in what the pilot or flight attendant is saying, than we are not safe because we can’t hear at all, the sound is muffled, or it squawks. If customer service is the issue than we aren’t well served because we weren’t able to learn anything.

I mean, really, I’m not making this up. I experience this regularly. Sometimes it is so bad you hear nothing more than a whisper of static. Don’t maintenance people check com lines? Don’t flight attendants report they can’t hear and, if so, presumably the guy in 27B can’t hear either?

And if your company made and installed these communications devices wouldn’t you want to make them top of the line?

Well, what can I say other than to lodge a viewpoint? It would be laughable it if weren’t more important than an annoyance.

My recommendation? Fix the communications systems before “We have a problem, Houston” becomes more than a cliché.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012 *This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Apple, Inc. products aren’t perfect. But compared to other technology I’ve used, they’re close.

I have a MacBook and an iPhone that belong to SAT-7, the organization with which I serve. I’ve used them for more than two years and I’m a confirmed believer.

As of today, I acquired by way of a birthday/Christmas present an iPad 1. The Mac, iPhone, and iPad are cool tools, let me tell you: easy to use, reliable, incredible color clarity, sleek and attractive, cutting edge—what’s not to like? And the iCloud? Also a neat nuance making life easier.

And Apple Store employees? Efficient and effective in my experiences, whenever I’ve had questions or a problem. The company stands by its products and the staffs’ attitude is “How can I help you?”

The blue T-shirt kids out front and the techies at the Genius Bar and in the back have come through for me time and again. I have not experienced this kind of customer service with most other companies—not just technology but you name it, airlines, hotels, restaurants, car rental companies. Some have been responsive, but no one has come through as consistently as Apple.

One of the reasons for this is that the blue-t-shirt crowd actually believes in the product. They “own” them and the company. They’re pleased, even excited, and maybe proud to be part of the Apple story, part of the hip but practical, even if at times demanding, company culture.

I was a long-time user of other computer products until a board member convinced my organization to make the switch. He was right: the Apple stuff works and works well. We don’t want to go back.

I said Apple isn’t perfect. I don’t appreciate its sometimes monopolistic, big-guy influence on the industry, i.e. Apples way or no way. I don’t appreciate Apple’s goofy resistance to Adobe Flash. I don't understand who designed Apple's "Finder" file management system, which sometimes makes no intuitive sense. But hey, with the wheat comes a little chaff.

Steve Jobs is gone, but hopefully Apple will continue its innovative ways. Only time will tell.

I wish other companies would take notes, at least in terms of customer service if not product excellence. For now, I'm happy to be an Apple fan.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

Benetton has done it again. The Italian clothing company whose American empire has dropped from 800 to 61 stores is once again making a marketing move that advertises more about edgy sexuality than clothing.

The so-called Unhate campaign features public domain pictures of world leaders kissing one another. President Barack Obama is featured kissing China’s Hu Jintao. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is portrayed kissing Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbbas, and Pope Benedict is kissing Imam of the Al-Ashar mosque Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb. So far, only the Pope-Imam smooch has been dropped after loud protests from the Vatican.

To say the same-sex pictures of the campaign are disgusting, or at least tasteless, doesn’t quite cover it. What’s more disgusting is the Benetton executive debuty chairman’s, the son of the founder, claim the advertising campaign is not about Benetton’s brand but about the “need to have courage to not hate others.” Sure, the company is spending millions to promote love and peace. That’s Benetton balderdash.

Benetton is known for pushing the envelope in advertising, featuring the bloody clothes of a soldier killed in battle, black children kissing wrapped in the American and Soviet flags, or convicted murders each given a chance to share their view of life. Benetton is not alone. Remember Calvin Klein’s “heroin chic” ads in the 1990s? These pictures featured emaciated people, usually young women, with dark circles under their eyes. The ads drew fire even from the White House. And then there’s Abercrombie and Fitch, which generally features partially nude models, often in compromising positions, in its advertisements. Abercrombie and Fitch has also sold push-up or padded bra bathing suits for little girls under 10 years of age.

Supposedly the owners and leadership in these companies hold rather liberal social and political views. Ostensibly these advertisements are about clothing or fashions, yet few of the actual pictures or messages feature clothing. Ostensibly, at least for Benetton, these ads are about a political message, clearly a nihilistic one. But in the end, the ads are really about creating controversy to advance the brand. The companies want their name to be known so that, what, they can make more money, a decidedly capitalistic viewpoint.

Benetton claims no moral responsibility for its ads. Indeed in using political leaders’ names and images for commercial purposes without permission or compensation the companies are probably breaking the law. But Benetton does not care. Certainly Benetton and the other companies are responsible for promoting debased sexuality, the drug culture, and maybe even pedophilia, but no matter, the brand and cash flow are what matter.

One hopes that the American public would not be so gullible. One hopes Americans, and for that matter consumers in other countries, would walk away from Benetton, Calvin Klein, and Abercrombie and Fitch. One hopes.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

Friday evening we came home late and discovered an UPS package delivery sticker on our door. I followed instructions and logged on the UPS website at 9:15 pm, intending to place a Hold and Will Call on my package so I could pick it up the next morning, Saturday.

I soon discovered that the site would not let me pick up the next morning because I had not logged on to the UPS Customer Service Center website by 7:00 pm. This meant I couldn’t get my package until Monday. But I was scheduled to fly out to the Middle East Saturday afternoon and wanted to take that package, a laptop for a SAT-7 international staff member.

So the next morning early I called the local UPS Customer Service Center and on the third try, got a human being. She eagerly tracked my package, came back to the phone, and happily announced, “Yes, it’s here.” So I asked if I could come to retrieve it and she told me I had not logged on by 7:00 pm the night before, so she could not give me the package. I told her I’d logged on, only to learn of the deadline. I told her that I was leaving for the Middle East that afternoon. I told her I’d gladly pick it up. No go. I didn’t get my package though it was right there within her reach.

This is “bureaucracy” in all of its negative manifestations. This is a company that's focused more on the means than the ends, something called “ends/means inversion,” wherein UPS forced policies upon customers and personnel with no discretion, policies more about the system than the purpose—to help me get a package.

I know companies, especially large ones, must have systems and cannot make exceptions for everyone who wants one. But come on. Remember, “Yes, it’s here.” But so what? It didn’t do me any good and the bureaucracy prevailed. This is poor customer service happened in a big-box-company but would not generally have happened in the typical Mom n Pop.

The same morning I made a run to the Apple store at the mall. I did not have an appointment, but I had been invoiced by email for software that had not downloaded. I also had a few questions.

As usual, when I walked into the store it was packed with customers and at least 20 techs in blue Apple t-shirts. I found the floor general and shared my problem. He hailed another tech who listened, asked to see the receipt on my iPhone and then said, “Do you have your laptop with you?” I did. He checked the diagnostics, discovered I already had one kind of software I thought I needed to purchase and showed it to me, then directed me to “Sit right here and download your other software on the store’s fast internet.”

Then, he made sure my download was working. After that, he stuck out his hand for a handshake and said, “Glad to help you. Come back and see us.” Needless to say the contrast with UPS could not have been greater.

This is not my first positive experience with Apple. In fact, every time I’ve gone to the store I’ve walked out pleased, even when I had to wait. They care about your problem or your interest, love their products and what they do, and are trained to treat the customer, including non-techies, with respect.

I’ll go back to Apple, and I’ll avoid UPS.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him a www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

In the past month the D&W grocery store chain in our area suddenly, at least to the general public, announced a new “rewards card” program. That’s what they called it anyway, “rewards.” Actually, it’s a new club-not-called-a-club in which customers must enroll or join if they want to take advantage of sales discounts in the store.

Now there’s nothing wrong, it seems to me, in a food corporation developing a new “rewards” program. Indeed I am more than supportive of the free enterprise system and allowing companies to offer initiatives and compete.

But there’s more to this story. The real reason for the new program is not to “reward” the customer, though admittedly customers can accumulate points toward acquiring products. The real reason is to channel customers into using the new system. Once enrolled, every purchase a customer makes is cataloged, just like so-called rewards programs at the casino. So one’s consumer inclinations are tracked.

But there’s still more to the story, the one that causes me to question the grocery chain’s ethics. They say joining the rewards program is voluntary, except there’s a catch. If you don’t join you are blocked from all in-store sales discounts. All of them. In other words, after shopping in this store for 20 years, if I choose not to give them my email and home address and not to subject my purchases to regular tracking, I no longer can purchase anything on sale. The company calls its program a “reward,” yet the company dismisses out of hand any and all customers who do not sign up, no matter how long they’ve been a loyal customer.

If this isn’t enough, the company has changed all of its sale signage, proclaiming a price, for example $2.99 for a pumpkin, and then in the corner in small print stating “$1.00 Less With Yes Card,” the name of the rewards program.

This actually happened to me. I saw a pumpkin for $2.99 with the accompanying statement that if I have a “Yes” card I may purchase the pumpkin for $1 less. So I think, “Oh, I don’t have that card, but I’m willing to pay $2.99 for that pumpkin.” When it’s run through the register, the price comes up $3.99. I point this out and am told the price advertised already included the discount—for which I do not qualify. But that’s not what the sign said and when I made this observation I was told “All our signs are that way,” as if this is an explanation. The new signage is, in my estimation, misleading at best.

As I said earlier, I have no problem with a company developing an optional club or rewards program. But D&W’s rewards program is an in or out, either you opt to join or you will be denied access to sales. It’s not really optional. It amounts to a members-only program like Sam’s Club.

D&W should re-think their program. It’s more of a reward to the company than to the customer.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

I’ve long believed that the American airline industry’s record of customer service is the worst out there. I don’t mean nice airline personnel don’t exist. Of course they do. But the industry, the companies, inflicts a long list of irrational indignities upon its captive customers.

Some airlines demand inordinate change fees even when you arrive unexpectedly early and simply want to take another available earlier-than-booked flight. Makes no sense.

Baggage fees keep going up, as was announced in today’s news. And not only up but up a lot. This only results in passengers taking more “carry-on” luggage with them to the plane where the rest of us stand in lines waiting for their bags to be checked—why does it cost to check a bag at the registration desk, but it doesn’t cost to check the same bag at the plane?

Or passengers carry-on too-large and too-many bags, than attempt to jam them in overhead compartments. Doesn’t work. Meanwhile, the rest of us captives stand and wait.

I have a Delta Sky Miles account, a frequent-flier mileage program that's supposed to reward me for my loyalty to the airline. In some ways it does, like a free upgrade to first class from time to time.

But here’s the kicker: I pay money for my tickets and thus earn miles. I theoretically “own” these miles. They are mine to give away, for example, to nonprofit causes. But if I want to transfer these miles to a friend or family member—remember, these are miles I earned from tickets I purchased—I must pay an exorbitant “transfer fee.” Recently I checked into this and discovered that I’d be required to pay $280 to transfer enough miles for a “free ticket.” Ridiculous. Irritating.

Except for a drink and a peanut bag, airlines charge for meals unless you fly first class. Why? Why not simply add $5 or even $10 to a ticket and cover this cost? Airlines say it’s because not all passengers want the meal. Maybe, but my guess is that most would be willing to pay the bundled rate rather than be nickel and dimed to death by these kinds of avoidable traveling irritants.

Meanwhile, international airlines serve the meals, even wine, offer free newspapers, and treat their customers, captive though they may be, like the airline actually hoped the customer might return.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.