Well, that takes me back…

Was browsing youtube and had to giggle when I saw this ad. When it first aired I was about 13, and, even though I didn’t really like Crunchies at the time, the ‘coolness’ of the older kids, whose lives were so obviously transformed by their Crunchie-consuming experience, always made me long for one.

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American Things That I Miss #4

Reasonably Priced Cell Phone Plans

Our phone plan in the States gave us 2 free phones, regular upgrades, so many minutes they were basically unlimited, and free ‘family’ talk – HL and I could talk to each other for free and not use any minutes – for $70/month (altogether, not each). We used them almost continually: ‘Hey? I’m at the grocery store…Did you say we needed peanut butter?’; ‘Yep, stuck in traffic again. I’ll be a bit late, k?’; ‘Seriously dude, no…no, I do NOT want to watch Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey’; ‘Hey babe. So…how’s it going? Good, k, bye then.’

We were terribly disappointed when we checked out what was available here. I kept thinking that we’d missed something, that we’d asked the wrong questions and hadn’t been offered the full extent of all the phone plans…Nope…what you see is what you get. So we didn’t get a cell phone till about a year ago.

HL was going into withdrawals a little, and he needed one for his job – cab driver – so we bit the bullet and bought him a phone. At first we went with pre-paid, which is VERY common here, but that was ridiculously, prohibitively expensive, so we got the best plan we could find. $50/month, no free phones, no upgrades, some minutes, but not a lot, free 5 minute phone calls to a couple of designated numbers, and no internet.

I’m so pissed off at the difference in value for money between here and the US that I haven’t been able to bring myself to pay for a mobile here. One day, maybe, that’ll change, but, for now, I’ll just stay grumpy about it.

Commerce just seems easier in America…And we’re lazy here. We don’t seem to care enough to demand change.

I love 200 Nipples (It’s t-shirts, people, nothin’ creepy.)

I read Seth Godin’s blog. I find its tone funny, irritated, exasperated, wry, optimistic and helpful in just the right amounts. And he’s always on the look-out for new, interesting, different and useful ‘web stuff’ to direct readers to. Yesterday he directed me to 200 Nipples.

This is a truly well thought-out concept. The Brief Rundown: Exclusive artwork printed on tees. Limited edition runs of 100 shirts, each labelled with its number (i.e. Shirt #35 has the number 35 printed on the collar). Each shirt costs the amount printed on its collar (i.e. Shirt #35 costs $35).

This was my comment:

Aili Says:
July 12th, 2008

This is a BEAUTIFUL idea, and such a thoughtful, ‘out of the box’ piece of marketing. You feel like real people who are enthusiastic about this cool concept that you came up with, and your excitement is such an asset.

But you haven’t left it at the ‘enthusiastic amateurs who have forgotten that they’re trying to earn a living’ level. There is a cleanness and clearness about your website and the ‘concept’ which makes it easy to ‘get’.

And you have a built-in market economy with the simplicity of the pricing structure that reflects the cost vs scarcity equation. And a business model that drives demand (’Quick! The longer you delay about buying a design the more you’ll have to pay.’). And it’s Real Art! On a t-shirt! In strictly limited quantities!

I’m looking forward to watching the new designs as they come out, and maybe buying if one catches my eye. *smile* I wish you so much luck )

And then, I found a reply in my email inbox from Wade:

Aili,

Wow! Your kind words blew me away. We’ve put so much hard work and thought into the site. You made my day.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks. (And then there was some stuff about a coupon code.)
Cheers,
Wade
Partner
200nipples.com

And so I replied:

Dear Wade,

You are so welcome 🙂

I don’t often comment on blogs or websites, but when I do, it’s because there’s something special there. You guys have an excellent, elegant marketing concept, even down to the website name (intriguing, slightly eyebrow-raising, but entirely appropriate).

And I enjoyed your FAQ – just the right amount of ironic wackiness, but also answering questions clearly. And you’ve made it so easy for people to subscribe to your feeds. And you’ve got this excellent count-down on the shirt-numbers so we can watch people actually thinking about buying. And you’ve made the buying process so visual – people can choose the number they want rather than simply getting the next one in line (for example, someone chose to spend MORE THAN THEY HAD TO (amazing) just to buy shirt #69 (no surprises on the number they chose, you’ll prob’ly always sell out of that one pretty quickly).

Again, beautiful concept. Congratulations. And thanks for the personal email response – those things make a difference 🙂

Aili

This is a website that I’ll be watching – not only to check out new designs, but to watch their progress as they (hopefully) become something huge.

American Things That I Miss #2

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s used to make me feel hip and ‘in-the-know’ and healthy and like a wise shopper, all in one store. They’ve created a distinctive brand that’s an ‘experience’, as well as a location for sourcing interesting and unusual products, and it’s a store with an identity that rubs off on its customers, that turns shoppers into inspired and enthusiastic and thoughtful consumers…at least, that was my experience.

And I miss it.

It’s not that easy to find a place around here where you can purchase frozen, pre-cooked edamame ready to be reheated, $2.99 bottles of very drinkable table wine to stock up on, tiramisu gelato, everything you need for a picnic dinner at Shakespeare in the Park, and a shopping experience that’s both ‘organic, granola hippie’ and ‘trendy, contemporary hipster’.

The Little Things

The grocery store where I usually shop has one particular checker who stands out for me. He’s polite, quick, converses with the customer just the right amount and goes out of his way to make the tedious grocery shopping experience less so.

Last time he rang up my groceries (which he did efficiently and unobtrusively) he smiled and made eye contact, asked how I was, chit-chatted about relevant things and didn’t go into any un-asked-for details about his life. To cap off the experience, when he gave me the receipt to sign he folded a corner of it up so it would be easy to pick up off the rubber counter when I was done. Usually the thin papery receipt is quite difficult to lift off the rubber to hand back, so this thoughtful action delighted me and I told him so. He said that it was just a small thing that made everybody’s life a little easier. 

This stands in stark relief to the grocery checker I had today, at the same store. I said “Hi, how are you?” as she started scanning my purchases, and her response was “Ok…but I feel like someone hit me upside the head.”

It’s hard to know how to respond to that, really, but I said “Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not good.”, to which she replied ” Yeah, can’t wait for this shift to end and then I have to go home and study for an exam tomorrow morning for which I haven’t even opened a book all term, and I’m not going to be able to get any sleep and I’m going to fail, and…” (can’t remember the rest).

I didn’t really know what to say other than to make sympathetic noises throughout this long sharing, and when she gave me the receipt for a signature at the end of the transaction she just dumped it on the rubber counter, turned around and started organising some plastic bags, while talking under her breath about her horrible day and her upcoming exam. 

I left feeling quite awkward and as though I’d just had something unpleasant dumped on me that was running down my hair and into my ears. I hope her day tomorrow goes better for her.

Poor Marketing Decisions

Dear Not-As-Funky-As-You-Think-You-Are Local Music and Movie Store,
I visited your store today. My husband and I were out for a wander on a Sunday afternoon, ready to spend money on stuff that we like, and we popped in to see if there was anything that we might like to purchase in your establishment.

The first thing we noticed when we walked through the doors was that you take the ‘music’ side of your business VERY seriously. And by ‘seriously’ I mean playing the overhead music so loud that I couldn’t hear what my husband was saying to me, even when he put his mouth up to my ear. And by ‘music’ I mean a composition that appeals to about 3% of modern western listeners, and is composed of a very dominant beat and some discordant notes.

Now, my husband and I are both pretty keen on CDs and DVDs, and, being of dual income and having no kids, regularly indulge in the purchase of them, so we were pretty likely potential customers. However, after we had been in your store for about 30 seconds the vein in the side of my head was pulsing to the beat of your ‘music’ and my thoughts ceased to occur in logical patterns.

I half-heartedly (and futilely as it turned out) searched for an item that I thought I would like to own – no luck (aside: How hard can it be to carry an incredibly popular [in a cult-fashion-like way] Showtime series?). At this point I was barely thinking straight due to my ears trying, and failing, to process what was blasting through your loudspeakers. To illustrate – I backed into something soft behind me to make way for a sales assistant moving past and it took me about 30 seconds to register that I may have blithely run into an actual human (nope, it was a stand of t-shirts).

I couldn’t even think what else I might like to buy, and there was certainly no way I would be able to get an understandable response from an assistant to any requests for…well…assistance, so there was nothing left but to complain to my husband – loudly – that I couldn’t think and that I had to get out of there, so I did. I left a store that, theoretically, wanted to sell me something which I had wanted to buy (if I’d been able to think I could prob’ly have found half-a-dozen things to purchase).

A minute or two later my husband joined me outside the store with his single purchase – a cheap CD. He told me that he’d had the following conversation with the sales assistant who had rung up the sale:

Sales Assistant: fleeble farble atch it?
Husband: Sorry? I can’t hear you…
SA (yelling and mouthing clearly): Do. you. need. to. buy. a. CD. scratch. kit?
H: Aaahh…no thanks, just the CD thanks.
SA: OK…darby durgle fornication?
H: Sorry?
SA: Do. you. like. Californication?
H: Oh, no, not interested thanks.
SA (enunciating): You. can. pre-order. Californication. if. you. would. like.
H: No, really, no, thanks anyway, not interested, just the CD please…

After my husband relayed this conversation to me I had to wonder if you were trying to ‘upsize’ us, McDonalds-style. In order for further retail interaction with your store to be a vague possibility we had to enjoy the experience leading up to the – entirely-out-of-the-blue-and-unrelated-to-our-purchase – ‘upsizing’ suggestion. Perhaps if you train your staff to create an environment conducive to inducing your customer to spend time browsing; to be receptive and available to answer questions; and to offer suggestions vaguely related to our current purchase (and, thus, our taste and style), then, maybe, we might like to come back.

Yours sincerely,
Mrs Aili Caradoc