Thursday, December 27, 2007

Shopping for Christmas Online

I am not one who shops alot online but this year, I decided that it might be the best place to find a good deal. Boy was I wrong!

I started off by purchasing a laptop for my youngest daughter. I found a good reconditioned "like new" laptop from a group calling themselves "Laptop Group" on ebay. They had pretty good feedback for the most part and seemed to know their stuff. I gave myself plenty of time to get it in time for Christmas. In two weeks, when he had not arrived, I called the company. I was told that they were out of that particular type but they could upgrade me to a machine twice as nice for another $150. I was now over $400 but from their sales pitch, it sounded pretty good. A couple of weeks later, I received a beat up old HP laptop with a broken switch and dead batteries that would not charge. I called and they said that I could send it back if I wanted less any charges that the business had entailed such as shipping and handling or let them hand pick me out an even better Dell laptop and send it to me. I had to pay all shipping charges for sending mine back however. To get it back in time, I sent mine two day for over $50. I was now pushing $500. In the mean time, I found a Gateway with twice the stuff in it at Walmart for $400. The Dell that I recieved just before Christmas was a 6 yr old model but it does work. I then discovered that I could have purchased a brand new one from Dell for a little over $400.

I then went to purchase my other daughter a camera. I went to a site called ShopUSA which claimed to screen website companies for the best buys. I found a very nice buy of the one that she wanted from Budgetphoto. ShopUSA gave them a five star rating with over 5000 glowing reviews. I purchased the camera and was sent a email asking me to call the company to verify. I was first left on hold for around 15 minutes. While on hold, the voice told me that they strove to have the best customer service around. They said if you have any problems, please let them know as customer satisfaction was their job one. The voice at the other end of the line said, "Yea, can I help you?". I explained about my purchase and my email. He then said "hold on". This happened twice more until he said that he was having problems with his computer. He had no personality that I could tell. He then asked me for my order number. I gave it to him and he said that I needed to verify what was in the order. I went over the package item by item and when I got to the last (mp4 player), I asked him what an mp4 player was. Only then did I realize that no one was on the other line. A phone started to ring. It rang for around 3 minutes. I was then put on hold again for about 10 minutes. Since I had placed the order, I did not want to mess it up, so I patiently waited. A voice came on saying "how can I help you?". I told him I was not sure how he could and explained in detail how my phone call had been going. uncaring, he said "I'm sorry, can I verify your order. I said, certainly and gave him my number.

He went over the order with me and then said, "Would you like to order batteries?". Shocked, I said, "you mean it doesnt come with batteries? It comes with a case, two lenses, two tripods, a cleaning kit, and lens protectors but no batteries?". "You bought the cheap set." he explained, "What do you expect?". "Batteries.", I returned. "Well, the cheap set does not come with them." I asked how much and he said $160 each (I later discovered that they could be bought from the manufacture for $40. He then asked me if I wanted a charger for another $160. I now had had enough. I told him how I felt his company had baited me. He merely said, "If you don't like to deal, cancel it." I promptly did. He said, "Fine, your cancel order number is the same as your order." He then hung up.

I was fit to be tied. I went on the ShopUSA site to put in my own review. I signed up to give reviews and had to go through a few of those pages where they try to sell you stuff until I was finally allowed to give my review. After I had finished and posted, I went back to the site only to find that my review had been ignored. They had the same 5008 glowing reviews. I then relized that the sites were in business with each other.

The moral of the story. Don't shop online unless you know for a fact that the company is a reputable one and know exactly what you are ordering.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Traveling Billboard

If you own a business, you know that the cost of advertising can be pretty substantial. When I first purchased the Jake's van, it was for that purpose but in a different way than it turned out. In my first winter at the new site, I worried about my sales, especially since the signage did not seem to be adequate (some people drove back and forth and still did not see it.). So, I came up with the idea of buying a van with large windows, placing the Jake's on both sides and the "We're still open" on the back. I would park it out on the road pointing inward towards the diner as kind of an arrow of sorts.

I searched the different styles and found that the window design on the Dodge/Chrysler suited me the best so I began looking for one (It had to be white). This became harder than I expected especially since I had a budget and a price in mind (no more than $15000). I looked and looked and tried making a deal with the Dodge lot but nothing seemed to fit. Every day, I drove by this one lot and saw the perfect one but the sign said $19,990 and I kept on going. One day, I drove into that lot and inquired on it. I was making a trip to Portland the next day. I had a price in mind and stuck to my guns on it. As the salesman went back and forth, I did not budge. I told him that my trip to Portland would probably find what I wanted. Then an idea came to me. "Would you take trade?", I asked. "What do you have in mind?", he came back. I explained to him that I owned Jake's and he said that he would check with the boss. He came back a few minutes later with a few more questions and before I knew it, I had my van....with a surprise on the side, a new account also. There lot had a sales meeting every month and they had not been happy with their existing restaurant (Slow food and uncaring attitude). I assured them that would not happen with us and talked them into calling in the order an hour ahead and I would have the food on the table when they walked in the door. I had a new van, they had a new meeting place just blocks from there lot, and the best thing was, their meetings would be paying for part of the monthly payment.

I had the signage placed on it and it turned out much better than I ever expected but I sooned realized that parking it out on the street was not going to work. I never realized just how much driving I do in one day. Back and forth to school for my grandson, going out for supplies or repairs, meetings with the accountant or insurance agent, or just getting away. Then I began to notice people were noticing me and I realized the greatest part of the whole thing, I had a traveling billboard. I even had people follow me back to the diner. One group jumped out of their rigs as I parked and shouted gleefully, "We found you! We have been looking all over!".

But there was a downside also. I tend to not have the best focus when I am driving. I am often off in thought of what I need to do or how I can better the business and people will tell me that they wave, honk, and try and get my attention and I just keep on driving. Now, the ones that know me, know that I don't mean to ignore them but I am sure that their are others who might not and I hope that they don't see me as ignoring them. And then their is the problem of when you don't focus well and make a mistake like pulling out in front of someone. That can be very detrimental when you are trying to increase your customers. I imagine them looking at the van that just cut them off and saying to themselves, "I will never eat there!".

I recalled a few years back when my kids were in Cascade Junior High. These were the days before round abouts and as I pulled out on to the road to Bachelor, I looked in my rear view mirror just as the car behind me that I had cut off, slammed on its brakes and narrowly missed hitting me. The car pulled into the Cascade lot behind me and a very large man stepped out and walked up the side of my car. His bulk filled my mirror and my mind raced. I imagined myself being pummeled by this big man right in front of my kids peers. I rolled down my window and with a gulp, said Hi. "I am sorry that I almost hit you.", he explained. "I wasn't keeping an eye on the road well, and you just ended up right in front of me.". I told him that it was me who had cut him off and that I was sorry. "Heck, no problem", the big man said, "I have done it myself before."

Just last week, another big man came across the diner floor and stopped me. "I owe you an apology.", he said. "Why?", I asked. "I cut you off the other day with my car. I really didn't mean to.". And I quickly realized that the driving thing can go both ways. With little deja vue in my head, I shook his hand and said, "Heck, no problem. I have done it myself before."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lars Larson

My daughter talked me into going out with her the other night to the Village Grill. KBND was having a party there in honor of Lars Larson doing his show there for the day.

We arrived right at 6PM and found the place totally packed. Looking around, we noticed an old friend, Dave Butler standing off to the side so we stood with him and waited. Some people invited us over to sit with them so we were able to get off of our feet and watched the football game while we waited for the festivities to begin.

I heard Carrie say "There he is." and I looked up to see Lars coming straight for us. He walked over and stuck out his hand and said, "Thanks for coming!". Now I measure a man very much by his handshake and his was very firm and assuring. Kind of one that says, "I mean what I say". We talked for a couple of minutes and Dave gave him something that his wife, BJ had put together for him. Dave had met Lars a few years ago at a celebrity baseball game. I stated that I wished that I had brought my camera so I could take a picture and put it up on the wall of the diner. Lars said, " I'll give you a picture" and turned to his assistant who gave him one. He signed it and told me that when he and his wife, Tina came to town again that he will try and get by to see me. We shook hands again and the shake said to me that he meant it.

I have met quite a few celebrities in my time but few as nice and down to earth as him. His picture now graces my celebrity wall.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

You had a great year, Cougars!

Every game day, the team would roll into the diner in the morning for Game Day Breakfast. As the year progressed and they remained undefeated, my crew came to really enjoy them when they came in. For all you parents, they were always very well manered and a true joy to serve.

One game away from the championship, they ran into the other undefeated team, West Albany. I worried that morning how things would go. A pass to drive over and little time to prepare for the game. Those are not excuses, however, as West Albany was very up for this one and very much prepared.

Congratulations to a great team and a great group of guys. Congratulations to Coach Neil, you will be missed and hard to replace.