Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Simple Way to Improve On-Hold Messages

If you've been stuck on hold waiting to talk to a customer service rep, you've undoubtedly been mentally numbed by patronizing pre-recorded sales pitches or rendered temporarily deaf by blaring muzak or told repeatedly that somebody will be with you in just a moment. One choice is worse than the next.

Couldn't this be a chance, instead, for the company to put the customer at ease?

With all the creative folks in this world, one would hope that a better option would be made available.

Here's one simple idea to start the brainstorming:

A selection of classic, clean comic bits such as Abbott & Costello's "Who's on First?" or virtually any Jerry Seinfeld clip or even a clip from the Cosby Show.

Let the customer get comfortable and have a laugh. Is that such a bad thing?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Car Manufacturing: There's Gotta Be a Better Way

I don't proclaim to know much about the car manufacturing or sales industry, but one thing seems very peculiar to me... the dealership formula.

Even in good times, this concept doesn't make sense to me, and now in bad times it's even more confusing. Here's what I'm talking about:

You go to a dealer and they have hundreds, perhaps thousands of cars just sitting there in the lot. For starters, this seems like a tremendous expense in terms of maintaining inventory, paying for property and associated taxes, keeping the cars clean and safe, and even trying to match up the right car with the right person.

It seems to me that it would make more sense to have one central holding space for a large amount of cars (or even a produce-on-demand type system that would only produce cars when needed), and then the dealers themselves would have only a few dozen on their lot to use as test drive or showroom models. Then if somebody wanted a certain car the dealer would order it and ship it out (which seems to happen a lot anyway).

Again, the automobile industry is not my forte, but having cars just sit there for weeks/months on end doesn't make sense to me.

Who knows, maybe things will change... down the road...

Monday, March 2, 2009

How to Feel Good about Toilet Paper

Normally, toilet paper is not something that the average Joe Consumer thinks about on a daily basis. But I found a way to actually feel good about the humble TP roll:

By buying recycled.

All these years I've bought brands like Procter and Gamble's Charmin for use in the bathroom. But on a whim, I bought recycled toilet paper from Trader Joe's and I actually kinda feel good about myself. Granted, the Charmin TP has a better texture to it, and it may be cheaper (I'm not sure), but at what cost am I harming the environment so I can have a luxury tissue take care of you know what. Scary to think about how many trees are chopped down to produce something that has a useful existence of about 5 seconds.

The advantages of buying recycled toilet paper are many, including:

-Saving trees
-Minimizing or eliminating bleach from the production process, since bleach is a harsh chemical
-Minimizing or eliminating mercury, which is a by-product in some toilet paper production processes
-Giving good reason for people to recycle... since townships often actually make money on recycling, there's an added incentive to recycle more in order to give back to municipalities (well, that's my theory at least)
-And even the packaging on Trader Joe's (and perhaps other brands) is biodegradable in 18 months (or so it says on the plastic)

Once again, we need to stop thinking like we live in a disposable world since what we've been doing has just been dragging us into a dangerous spiral economically, environmentally, and socially. Time to think differently, from our head down to our feet, and other stopovers in between.

I suggest for anybody interested in purchasing recycled toilet paper, to check out this informative NRDC page, which gives an insightful comparison of various brands.

Thanks for your time and happy wiping! (C'mon, I have a picture of a toilet plunger on this blog for Pete's sakes... you didn't actually expect me to leave without some sort of bathroom humor, did you?)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Vacuum: The Chump of the Storage Closet

As a follow up to this morning's post about the excellence of my calculator, I would now like to focus on the poorest performing product in my possession: the vacuum.

Never have I had a vacuum that doesn't, pardon the phrase, suck. I've had several vacuums in the past six or seven years, and they all start off working great, but manage to falter soon thereafter. Admittedly, I'm not a guy who is good at tinkering around to fix something like a vacuum, so I either have to drag it over to my dad (who is a tinkerer by nature), or take it to get fixed at a repair shop, or lug it back to the store to get a new one (if still under warranty), or find that it would cost too much to fix it so I have to replace it instead.

Unfortunately with vacuums there are too many moving parts and virtually the entire body is made of cheap plastic which doesn't last very long (although it certainly lasts for eons in the landfill... I digress). At times my frustration with vacuum cleaners makes me just want to get flooring for the entire house so I can permanently exhile the space-hogging appliance from the building. I haven't gone this far yet, but I am tempted to launch my vacuum, which broke today, out the window. And then calculate how far out into the yard it soared, in inches, using my trusty calculator...

The Calculator: Unheralded King of the Junk Drawer

Everybody has a calculator or two lying around the house, taking up space in a junk drawer somewhere.

If you're like me, you probably take out the calculator for a total of about five minutes every month or so, and then forget about it for the rest of the time.

But you know what? If your calculator is anything like mine... it works every time without a hitch.

I have a basic solar powered Casio calculator that probably dates back to about the early 90s or so, which means it's at least 15 years old at this point. It never ceases to amaze me how it sits in the dark 99% of its life, but when I take it out to use it, like magic, it starts right up every time. Ingenious invention, that.

This leads me to dream about a world where everything is powered by solar energy. Can you imagine if you were able to park your car in your garage, turn it on and have it run for as long as you'd need it to without having to fill up for gas? Obviously, a car and a calculator are two totally different electronic beasts, but I hope that we can one day get close(r) to that reality.

In the meantime, my humble Casio calculator reigns as king of my junk drawer. Let's check back together in another 15 years or so and see if it still springs to life after spending countless hours in the dark. And maybe by that time we'll have cars and other electronic appliances that are capable of the same impressive feats.