Supercuts Tip Reminder

I took two kids to Supercuts today. I sat on the empty couch and opened up Reeder on my iPhone to get caught up on my favorite blogs while the stylists went to work. 

The music playing over the store’s speakers was that mind-numbing pseudo-pop you hear in grocery stores with the lyrics removed. I barely noticed it until I heard a woman’s voice following at the end of a song:

“Please remember to tip your hair stylist.” 

And then the next song began. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. Was Supercuts so tacky that they send reminders to tip over their speaker system?

Yes, they are.

I turned around to look at the stylists working on my kids. They must hear this dozens of times each day, but have probably tuned it out by now. If I were a stylist at Supercuts I’d be embarrassed.

Supercuts headquarters must believe some people need a public reminder to tip. But they offend the rest of us who don’t need a reminder. Let us decide if the service we received is tip-worthy. This isn’t a restaurant where tips make up a good portion of a server’s wage.

Maybe Supercuts could take it a step further and just tell us how much to tip. Being told to tip takes the joy out of the act. And it feels wrong and almost subliminal given how quickly the message was delivered between songs.

Is this really as tacky as it appeared to me today or am I overreacting?

One of These Remotes

One of these remotes, with its curved design, felt like an extension of my mind the first time I held it in my hand.

One looks like it was designed by the government.

One is backlit and one isn’t. But the one that is doesn’t need it because the most used buttons fall exactly where my fingertips expect them to be. Even in the dark.

One has a button to turn it off and is a different size then the button designated to turn it off. And they are right next to each other so I’m constantly confusing one for the other.

One of these remotes has four colored buttons with no labels. I pretend they are Skittles.

One remote is largely unchanged from when it debuted nearly 15 years ago.  The 30 second forward, 7 second rewind and pause button can all be reached with my thumb.

The other came standard with my HD receiver delivered last month, and puts the most used buttons in the most awkward to reach areas. 

One remote tries to do everything and and succeeds in doing everything poorly.

One is built to perform a few tasks well and is so well designed that a two year old can use it.

I sure miss one of these remotes.

remotes

The Cheap and the Fast

Each day I speak with people looking for a new computer. They tend to fall into two camps:

  • Those searching for the cheapest
  • Those looking for the fastest (and usually most expensive)

Both groups eventually find what they’re after. But I’m left to wonder if either group is happy with their purchase.

For example, tell a group of coworkers you purchased a new car and wait for the stories to roll in. Someone has a friend who would have found it cheaper. Why didn’t you use Craigslist, eBay, Cheapcarsforsuckers.com? Man, I hope you checked Consumer Reports!  If you didn’t see the invoice, you paid too much.

It’s a race to the bottom. No matter what you paid, someone paid less. Or bargained harder for or had a secret offer code.

But buying the fastest or most expensive isn’t much better. I speak with people who want the most expensive processor or video card. Surely the most expensive golf clubs, vacuum or iPhone case is the best, right?

These people are happy, but only until a newer model arrives. If you equate “best” with “most expensive” any positive feelings towards the product comes with an expiration date.

Today, I spoke with a woman who took an entirely different approach. She explained how she plans to use her computer before asking,  “Can you help me select a model that fits my needs?”

How often do we search for the cheapest? Or the best reviewed? Or the one with the most Amazon comments?

Maybe we should be asking ourselves, “What do I need?” instead.

Doing Business In Person

With all the reports of Black Friday and Cyber Monday settings online sales records it’s easy to forgot what it’s like to do business in person.

Last week I had the chance to assist someone in selecting a new computer. She already had a good idea of what she wanted. I made a couple of suggestions that saved her a few bucks. Working for a company that’s entirely customer focused is something I haven’t done for a while.

We finished benchmarking and testing her system on Friday. I called to let her know it was ready for pickup. That evening, just before I went home for the weekend, I walked her through the basics of her new system.

That was the best part because I could see she was excited about what she’d purchased and could appreciate the workmanship that had gone into assembly of her system. That’s not something I’ve experienced when I purchased Kim’s computer from Dell because her case was never meant to be removed by someone who isn’t an electrical engineer.

I told her thank you and shook her hand before saying goodbye.

That evening I returned home to finish up my Christmas shopping at Amazon. But it wasn’t the same nor should I expect it to be.

Is meeting with customers only something the owner or senior management does at your company?

Face to face communication with customers can be time consuming and costly. There are many reasons why it won’t work for many businesses.

But when it does, it’s worth the effort. 

Indirect TV

I’ve avoided upgrading to an HDTV for a number of reasons. For one, I’d have to give up my wonderful DirecTivo receiver for someone else’s craptastic DVR.

Once you’ve used Tivo’s elegant interface, the though of using another receiver made by Dish, DirecTV or Comcast is almost too much to stomach. It would be equivalent to using Apple’s OS X operating system for eight years until you’re told the only way to get on the internet is to move to a netbook running Windows 3.1.

 madmen

But the idea of watching Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones in HD has begun to trump the idea of taking a major step back in usability. I tell myself that if I can setup a Season Pass for my favorite shows, I’ll be OK. Or is Season Pass only available on Tivo? I’ll Google for it.

Since I’ve been a DirectTV customer since 1997, I decided to call them first to see what they could do for me. I told the rep I needed to swap out my DirecTivo for an HD DVR and add another HD receiver upstairs on the small TV.

The process was fairly painless. The rep told me on three occasions that I was already receiving their best deal. Translation: don’t ask for any discounts.

She walked through my programming selections. I told her I did not want to upgrade to more premium channels nor did I want to change my programming package.

“But I can offer you Showtime at a discounted rate for six months.”

No thank you. We only watch HBO.”

"Are you sure? I could add it now.”

“No, I’m happy with my current programming.”

“But…”

And so it went for the next few minutes. She wasn’t getting off the phone till I added Showtime. I have no need for Showtime and wasn’t budging. I can only imagine that Showtime is running a spiff and she’s making a run up the leaderboard. It was evident in her voice that she was unhappy I wasn’t willing to accept her offer.

But I’ve played this game before where a company makes it easy to add a service, but nearly impossible to quit. Welcome to the Hotel California where you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.

I’m sure DirecTV has a metric based on extensive research that shows “for every person offered Showtime, you will close “X” number of sales”. 

What that metric doesn’t calculate is how many customers you anger in the process.

The customer becomes merely a number to bombard with “special offers”. Some customers will hold firm. But many will accept the “free” programming with every intention to call back and cancel. Good luck with that.

The problem with this is that it leaves the customer feeling like a punching bag. Navigating the phone tree is tiresome enough without having to continually rebuff offers that have nothing to do with the reason I called.  Why would any business want their customers to get off the phone feeling harangued?

What I find baffling is that DirecTV is regularly rated at the top of Consumer Reports based on their high customer service marks.

In the meantime, give me Don and Joan in HD for Christmas and I’ll forget it happened.

Black Friday Collides With Thanksgiving

A few years back, I spent Thanksgiving with my in-laws in St. George, Utah. Although I prefer smaller gatherings around the holidays, I enjoyed visiting with relatives, many of which I’d never met before.

After the feast a group of men retreated to the living room to open their laptops and search for Black Friday deals. The women (at least most of them) remained together to discuss their plan of attack for hitting the stores early the next morning. I know this is a generalization, but it seems like men search the internet for bargains while the women prefer to visit the local stores.

And that’s, more or less, how each subsequent Thanksgiving has played out.

The last few years the gathering of friends and family has felt more like a formality that precedes the preparation for Black Friday. I’ve been right there with the rest of them, searching for deals I can’t possibly pass up. One year I was obsessed with finding a Nintendo Wii. I spent hours driving from one Target to another around the Seattle area until I gave up and bought one off Craigslist.

I sold the Wii on Craigslist a few weeks later when my kids decided they liked their old GameCube and N64 better.

While spending Thanksgiving at my brother-in-law’s home this year, I decided to focus my attention on my relative instead of my laptop full of Black Friday deals. I’d say I was 85% successful. I pulled out my iPad to check my email and view a few pictures of my parents who held Thanksgiving at their new home in North Ogden. So I have room to improve, but I did much better than in previous years.

With my kids sequestered downstairs with their cousins, I had the opportunity to speak with my brother-in-law and my in-laws without any distractions. I don’t recall anyone pulling out a laptop or checking their phones for bargains. It was as if I’d stepped back to 1992 when stores opened at 6 am the next morning instead of midnight.

Leading up to Thanksgiving it was impossible to turn on the TV or radio without hearing about the latest door-buster deals some retail store was advertising. This year I finally got tired of it all. The thought of adding more shiny things we don’t need and can’t afford makes me ill. The kids have so many games it would take them a few lifetimes to finish them all. I look out past my two large monitors and see three printers, a new router, and my iPad and iPhone and wonder how many gadgets I really need?

I’m not worried about the producers of Hoarders showing up at my door, but I feel like our home is shrinking in size due to all the unused junk piling up around me. All these machines, appliances, and gadgets that are supposed to make our lives easier actually make our lives a lot more cluttered. I often want to open the doors to our garage and toss everything we own into the street and start over. My mother is a minimalist and I must have inherited that gene because I can’t stand clutter around me. It makes me irritable.

So this year maybe I turned a corner. And I did so without getting trampled, pepper sprayed or tossed to the ground by cops.