by Alex on December 18, 2013
I do a lot of public speaking and a topic I frequently speak about is loyalty. One of the most effective ways to create enduring loyalty is bridge the gap between online and offline. I want to share with you the best example of this principle that I’ve ever experienced.
Last weekend I was flicking through Twitter and I came across this sponsored tweet in my feed.
— Pact (@pactcoffee) December 13, 2013
Now we use Pact at Rushmore and their service and their coffee are both very good. Subscription coffee delivered to your door. But I bristle at that word “proper”. It’s an awful word. A lazy word. An elitist word that implies you’re better than everyone. I immediately fired off a reply:
.@pactcoffee -1 for using the word “proper”. You’re better than that. Love, a loyal subscriber.
— Alex Hunter (@cubedweller) December 14, 2013
At the very least, my own “get off my lawn” itch was scratched and I put my phone away. But moments later, it dinged and there was a reply. From a company. On a Saturday. Within minutes of the initial contact.
@cubedweller Sorry! We didn’t mean to sound snobbish. Looking for a word that conveys good taste. Maybe just ‘tasty’?! Love, Pact.
— Pact (@pactcoffee) December 14, 2013
I get what they mean about trying to find the right word but I think companies have every right to be confident and assertive in their product descriptions IF they genuinely feel their products live up to the labels. Confidence in a brand, just like confidence in a person, is attractive.
@pactcoffee I think you could even legitimately refer to yourselves as “great!” – love the product, keep smashing it.
— Alex Hunter (@cubedweller) December 14, 2013
They graciously and promptly replied almost immediately.
@cubedweller Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
— Pact (@pactcoffee) December 14, 2013
I could end this story here and it would be a great example of a online customer service. But what happened next took it to a whole new level.
Today, as we were all sitting in the office, a delivery arrived. I opened up the recycled Amazon box and found 3 big bags of Pact’s fantastic coffee. No way. No freakin’ way. Did they…they couldn’t have…could they?
*slow clap* They did. They took the time to figure out who I was, where I worked, what our address was, package up the coffee and write out a note. Not only that, the message in the card was so perfect in its tone and context that I immediately got in touch with the company to express my appreciation and admiration.
Learn from Pact. It doesn’t get much better than this.
by Alex on December 8, 2013
A few days ago I had the opportunity to witness a revolution. Despite assuring my wife that I wouldn’t be anywhere near the protests in Kiev, on Wednesday night I found myself in the heart of Independence square, the epicentre of the Ukraine’s latest political struggle.
I was in the city to speak at an excellent conference and admittedly a little apprehensive about my first visit to a country gripped by political unrest. The latest news reports spoke of hundreds of thousands gathered in the square, police brutality against protesters and reporters, and the real possibility of national strikes. But we were assured by the organisers that the city was perfectly safe and the conference would carry on as planned. So I jumped on my flight early on Wednesday morning.
I was picked up at the airport by a member of the team that was putting on the event. During our drive to the hotel and then on to the conference venue, he gave us a thorough and fascinating recap of the events to date and his own personal take on what he thought the future held for the Ukraine. While western media was reporting around a hundred thousand people gathered in the square, local media was reporting closer to a million, and our companion, comparing his experiences from the Orange Revolution, was confident it was near a million.
As we drove through the city, life was going on as normal. Traffic was heavy, people were going to work and school, and commerce was happening freely. If you hadn’t picked up a newspaper recently, you wouldn’t have a sense that anything was out of the ordinary.
Later that night, during a private event at a lavish cocktail lounge overlooking Kiev, I heard rumblings of a possible trip to Independence Square. A few furtive glances between co-conspirators and we were out the door into the very cold Ukrainian night. With us was one of the conference organisers, who gave us a quick briefing to make sure we stayed out of harm’s way.
At first glance nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Christmas lights were up, people were crowding the bars and restaurants, and the transportation system was humming. But as we got closer to Independence Square, we could hear the dull, unsettling roar of a very large crowd.
We continued towards Independence Square only to discover the entire thing blocked off by a huge barricade made of every household item you could imagine. Doors, tables, lamp posts, shipping pallets, crowd control fences, artificial Christmas, trees, and stepladders were just a few of the construction items of choice.
Peering through the gaps in the barricade, we caught our first glimpse of the protests.
We decided that we’d come this far, we might as well carry on, so we rounded the barricade and walked towards the heart of the crowd.
People were hunkering down for a long, cold night and were building campsites and fires near the barricade.
The protestors had erected a huge stage with a jumbotron behind it. There were rousing speeches, patriotic music, and news updates from protest organisers.
I couldn’t tell you exactly how many people there were gathered in the square but it was easily in the tens of thousands. The atmosphere was not threatening or violent or unruly. It’s been suggested that the three main opposition parties are coordinating the protests and in fact the whole thing felt very well organised with toilet facilities and plenty of food and drink on offer. We never felt in danger or unwelcome during our hour or so trip.
I feel quite privileged to have witnessed this monumental event in person. Sure it was a risk and just about every guide book and travel survival book urges you to stay well away from large crowds or political rallies but we witnessed history in the making. The Ukraine is a country in flux and I hope the Ukrainian people get the change they’re fighting for.
by Alex on September 26, 2013
- There are not enough Dunkin’ Donuts in New England. Wait, I mistyped that. There are more Dunkin’ Donuts than people in New England.
- Almost every single New Englander I met was outgoing, friendly, confident, and chatty. Even the surly ones were hugely entertaining. e.g. When I enquired as to how a supermarket worker’s day was going, she replied “It’s Saturday, I’m stuck inside, it’s busy as hell…so pretty lousy. But the Sox clinched last night so I can’t complain. That’ll be 23 bucks, hun.”
- A lot of people still smoke there. California and London have skewed my sense of “normal” on this one.
- It’s one of the most beautiful parts of America I’ve ever seen. Water everywhere, tree-lined boulevards, quaint towns, pristine beaches.
- Hot sauce is quite hard to come by. My brother’s explanation is that while west coast food has heavy latin american influence, east coast food is mainly influenced by European cuisine and therefore not as hot-sauceable. (It is so a word, shut up.)
- You haven’t had clam chowder until you’ve had it in New England.
- Boston Logan International takes the crown for the worst airport in the developed world. Try parking there, I dare you.
- Tom Brady is 16ft tall and once threw over 400 touchdown passes in a single season.
- Clam bakes are delicious, entertaining, and scaleable. Everything good food should be.
- I could listen to a Boston accent forever.
- “Wicked pisser” means really great. And a “shit buddy” is a great friend. Not a shit friend. Counter-intuitive, I know.
by Alex on September 26, 2013
A few weeks ago I posted on Twitter about the shittiness of the Saturday-night stay rule that airlines use to fleece business travellers. If you’re not familiar with the rule, many airlines require passengers to spend a Saturday night in their destination city to get a half-decent fare. Wikipedia explains it further:
The rule is based on the airlines’ assumption that business travellers are more likely than leisure travellers to spend Saturday night at home. For example, a business traveler may depart on a Sunday or Monday and then return home that Friday or Saturday.
Business travellers’ demand for travel is less elastic and airlines attempt to increase their profits by price discriminating business travellers and leisure travellers. Business travels are also more loyal to a particular airline, and therefore are more likely to accept higher price.
Today, I came across a perfect example:
London to New York, roundtrip.
Leave on Wednesday, fly back at 10:25pm on Saturday night = £1521.45
Leave on Wednesday, fly back at 7:20am on Sunday morning = £480.45
Less than 9 hours difference in departure time but a cost increase of over £1000.
Dick move, right? The rule assumes that all businesses are big businesses and have huge travel budgets. What about the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that DON’T have big travel budgets. Or the leisure traveler who gets caught up in a rule that is purposely designed to screw the consumer?
Oh and here’s the hilarious “WTF?” cherry on this horse poo cake. The base fare on the Sunday flight is only £124. The rest is taxes and fees. And yes, the taxes and fees are exactly the same on the Saturday flight. So the airline jacked up the base fare by 850%. So there you have it, a £1000 “convenience” fee for business travellers to make it home in time to spend the weekend with their families.
by Alex on August 17, 2013
This mockup was made to show the difference between a single-deck and double-deck version of the new Boeing plane that eventually became the 747. It’s purpose was to convince former PanAm chairman Juan Trippe that he didn’t need a double-deck airplane and that a new category of single-deck plane, which came to be known as the “jumbo jet”, would scratch his “ocean liner style” itch.
To give an idea of what the single deck cabin and the double deck cabin would look like, two lumber and plywood mock-ups were built (see picture above for the single deck mock-up). PanAm chairman & his team flew down west to evaluate the options. “Would PanAm agree for the single deck?” It was a tense moment for Joe. After reviewing the mock-ups Trippe told Joe, “You made the right decision”.
by Alex on July 13, 2013
Recently I finished an interesting experiment. And as a result I’m 12 lbs lighter. But that’s not the headline outcome, not by a long shot.
About a year ago I started my weight loss journey and I’m delighted to say I’ve managed to keep 50lbs off ever since. However in the last few months my diet lapsed a bit, I was traveling a lot, and embarked on a new career chapter – none of which are conducive to a healthy lifestyle. As a result, I gave back a few of the pounds I lost. Maybe 5 or 6, tops. But it was enough for me to reconsider my approach to food, drink, and exercise.
But instead of going back to the regimen that was so successful for me in the first place, I thought I’d try a body hacking experiment. What would happen if I adopted an ultra-strict regimen with no cheat days? What would the effect be on my physique, my mood, my sleep, my concentration? The results were fascinating.
I decided for 30 days I would have:
- NO white or refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, pasta, bread, potatoes, flour, etc)
- NO dairy
- NO alcohol
- NO red meat
- NO soda
- NO coffee
(For context, I drank 3-4 cups of coffee per day, at least one diet coke, and a glass of wine in the evening.)
The elimination of soda and coffee was to see the effect on my teeth and on my sleep and concentration.
Removing white/refined carbs, alcohol, red meat, and dairy was to see the effect on body composition and weight loss.
I wanted to see a) if I could even do this for 30 days and b) what the overall effect on my body would be.
I began the experiment on a Monday.
As I wandered bleary-eyed into the office on the first day, I instinctively lunged towards to the coffee machine but managed to catch myself before deploying the mediocre “americano” into my chipped and overused mug. I opted for green tea instead, a habit I maintained for the entire 30 days.
The rest of the day looked like this:
Breakfast: Protein shake first thing in the morning followed by fruit when I got to the office.
Lunch: The office salad bar (leaves, vegetables, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, tuna, etc) or cold grilled chicken and vegetables.
Dinner: All manner of chicken, fish, turkey, pork, eggs with every vegetable I could think of. Dinner was easy and satisfying every single time.
Snacks: Almonds, fruit, carrot sticks, etc.
Exercise: Nothing beyond my 4-mile roundtrip walk to/from work.
The first week was the toughest but not what I predicted. Giving up carbs, red meat and dairy was easy. It was the coffee and alcohol that proved very difficult. Coffee was such a habit that its absence in my daily routine was immediately noticeable. And I enjoyed a glass of red wine when I got home in the evening, especially after a hard day. But after the first week, the changes started to happen.
Immediately the weight started to come off. But I also had better concentration, more energy, no afternoon slumps, and the quality of my sleep had noticeably improved. The cravings also disappeared after the first two weeks as well.
I kept the routine up for a full 30 days, no cheat days, no cheat meals. And I dropped 12lbs and inches off my waist. I now wear a small size t-shirt and need a new belt.
But on the 31st day, something weird happened. I was finally free to eat whatever I wanted, drink a load of coffee, have a hunk of cake and wash it down with some wine. But I didn’t want to do any of that. Instead, I had my protein shake, my green tea, a salad for lunch, and a protein heavy dinner. It was the weirdest goddamn thing.
I kept thinking, if I’m going to have a cup of coffee then I want the best damn cup I can find. So I waited until I had access to one, and it was totally worth the wait. Made it all worthwhile. Same with wine, red meat, and soda. I actually paid £3 for a can of Diet Dr Pepper imported from the US so the reward would be so much sweeter.
So ultimately here’s what I found:
- for me 30 days seems to be what it takes to turn exception into rule, hardship into habit.
- it’s easy to lose weight even with kids and an office job as long as you have a shred of discipline.
- carbohydrates are a dangerous addiction with almost no value.
- good food is worth waiting for. If I want something that’s not so healthy, I’m going to find the most delicious, well made example I can.
I’m interested to see if I can apply this 30-day mentality to other challenges. Exercise, finance, learning, etc.
by Alex on June 17, 2013
Bust open a screw top wine at your next dinner party and your guests might assume you’ve nipped across the road to the gas station for the evening’s plonk. But does the screw cap deserve its reputation as the cheap and cheerful counterpart to the cork? Not so fast, bucko.
…the screw cap not only avoids the problem of tainted cork, it forms a tighter seal. Most critics say that this guarantees a better flavour for all but the more expensive wines (which may age better with more oxygen).
“We prefer seals that ensure the wine is not going to be faulty,” says Ewan Murray, spokesman for the Wine Society. “Wines that are ready to drink young are always going to be fresher under a screw cap.”
Wine experts and critics from across the spectrum, even Robert Parker, freely admit that from a pure technical perspective, a screw cap is a much more effective method of preserving the contents of a bottle, and it entirely removes the possibility of wine becoming “corked”.
But for a lot of people, the cork is so much more than just a device designed to keep the wine in the bottle. It’s an experience.
…for wine lovers, the distinctive creak and pop means something good is happening. It triggers associations – social intimacy, relaxation, nuanced aromas, celebration – that go far beyond just a slug of alcohol.
So a large bottling company and a cork conglomerate teamed up to make a handscrew cork. All the ceremony of a cork with the convenience of a screw cap. Clever compromise.
What do you think of screw cap wine?
by Alex on June 16, 2013
In the 1950s United Airlines had “men-only” flights between New York and Chicago. Manly cities, you see. The flights had everything the 1950s man could want; steak dinners, closing stock market numbers as you board, a pipe and slippers, and a card table in the dedicated in-flight lounge.
I remember seeing this ad in the wonderful San Francisco Airport museum and wondering how long the service lasted and what prompted its demise. God help an airline if they tried to implement something like this today.