Borders Enters Chapter 11

I feel as if I should say something about Borders going into Chapter 11. The thing is, I don’t really care.

I’ve never been that fond of Borders. I’ve always preferred Barnes & Noble. And now that I have a nook, that preference is more pronounced.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I don’t shop at Amazon anymore. I’ve been boycotting them for so long that I don’t even bother to go to the website anymore.

All of my links (well, all the ones that I’ve changed) lead to Powell’s books now.

With Borders starting it’s reboot phase, I’m sort of hoping that the way will be clear for smaller bookshops to start up again. I mean, it’s a pain in the butt to try to fight a 400 pound gorilla, when what you really want to do is sell a targeted type of book. (Heck, I bet you could do an entire store of romance novels and not break a sweat. Make a pretty penny too, I think.)

They’re closing 200 stores. I’m hoping that the one my writing group drinks coffee at isn’t on the list, but if it is? We’ll just move down the road a bit. I mean, seriously, there’s two Borders and a B&N on the same street.

In summary? It’s just Chapter 11 people. Stop with the doom and gloom predictions. Yes, it’s going to be a little hard for them, but like KMart/Sears/1000’s of other big businesses, they still have a chance to pull it out of the death spiral. You want them to survive? Why don’t you try shopping *there* instead of Amazon?

Advertisements

Newsline Winchester, VA: GE Factory shutting down

While I applaud the  movement away from incandescent bulbs for energy savings and everything else, I always feel sad when a factory shuts down as opposed to attempting to re-tool.

I know it’s hard. I know it’s expensive. But I also know that if you slapped a big-old “made in USA” on your CFL’s, you could still sell them – even if they do cost more. There are a lot of people in the states, in the DC area especially, who try to buy items that aren’t from China. Or simply are “locally made.”

Heck, think of it at the 100 miles consumption compact or something. (Hmm… wonder if we could swing that. The only thing I’m thinking could be an issue is cloth, but that might be doable as well. There are flax fields here.)

I’m not going to get ticked off at GE for closing down the plant. I’m just going to spend a little more money to give to the food bank and support the family shelters in the area. After all, a factory closing means jobs gone and right now, my business isn’t good enough to hire someone else.

Good luck guys and gals.

For more information: <a href=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/07/AR2010090706933.html”>Washington Post</a>

Faster is Not Better

There’s a growing issue at my local McDonald’s. (This is not about the quality of the food, the waste or any other large-scale issue. This seems to be completely isolated from the corporate entity and is strictly the owner of my local franchise.)
The issue is speed. The management has implemented a system at lunch time. There is one, sometimes two, order taker(s) at the drive-thru. On the surface this looks like a great idea. There’s no difficulty understanding the customer because of the microphone.

The problem is, that the person taking your order is nowhere near the menu. If you haven’t got the menu memorized or say the right number, you’re SOL. And heaven forbid you want something that isn’t a value meal or a special order.
Next, there is a roaming money taker who comes to the car and takes your money or runs your credit card to the window. Here’s the next fault line in the system. If they money taker gets off sequence, or heaven forbid you say cash when you meant to say credit the damage is almost impossible. The line is backed up for three or four minutes while they try to sort that debacle out.

Lastly, there’s the person who’s delivering the food. If you aren’t at the window, getting ketchup or sauce for nuggets or sugar for your coffee is next to impossible. Just suck it up and go without.

Now, here are some of the things that have gone wrong with this system in place:
1) Not receiving the items you ordered, even though when you glance in the box might look right, that doesn’t mean it is.

2) Not getting condiments. They no longer throw ketchup in the bags. Props for the environmental waste move. Boo for the customer service snafu. (Might be helpful if the girl handing out the food understood the English names for the condiments and sauces. I don’t really care if she doesn’t speak English as her first language as long as she understands it.)

3) Not getting charged the right amount on your card. This takes ages to fix. All the while the people in the cars behind you are getting anxious and upset because they have finished their transactions while you’re waiting to get yours fixed.

The problem is that the management of this location has demanded faster and faster serve times without thinking about the fact that there are going to be more mistakes. The service people are harried and I’m sure they get in trouble when their little “order time” ticker takes longer to complete. They’re artificially pushing the times down in the first place. And if you have a long order or a complicated one? Hello, I want to spend more money here and you’re acting as if this is an issue.

The faster, faster motto is getting stupid. There’s even a radio station that uses “you don’t have to listen to slow washed out music” anymore. Their examples of slow and washed out? The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and The Rolling Stones. Yeah, right, instead you’re making me listen to “Hey there Delilah.” How is this an improvement?

Needless to say, I think I’m at the top limit of this insanity now. I’m going to have to take my business to one of the other restaurants for lunch or *shudders* bring my own lunch in.

National Bankruptcy Day – Call to Action

In the Wall Street Journal, Rick Woldenberg was quoted as describing February 10, 2009 as National Bankruptcy Day because that’s the day when many of us will go out of business due to the implementation of the CPSIA Regulations. I’m dismayed at how little it’s been discussed online and in the news. I’m shocked that so few manufacturers know about it. Of the ones that do know, most think it either doesn’t apply to them or it will magically disappear or it won’t be enforced so they can ignore it. Come February 10th, a lot of people will be hit hard by reality when their products are returned or their financing is declined.

Fashion Incubator (quoted and linked above) has one of the best round ups on this issue I’ve seen.

Basically, what’s happening is that new regulations are going into effect. These regulations can be interpreted require that all lines of clothing, toys, cribs, etc. or anything that is in the environment of a child, to be tested by the manufacturer. This will cripple small businesses who cannot afford the testing, and harm large businesses who’s lines for February were manufactured six months ago. Everything, from zippers to paints will need to be tested. Small crafters and marginal businesses (such as those who focus on small customers like the disabled who need custom garments/toys/etc) will be hit the hardest.

Call or write to your congressperson and tell them to fight or repeal these regulations.

Book Review: The Warren Buffet CEO

The Warren Buffett CEO: Secrets from the Berkshire Hathaway Managers by Robert P. Miles, is not a book about Warren Buffett. Yes, he is talked about. Yes, he is referenced often. Yes, he is quoted. No, this is not a Warren Buffett book.

The Warren Buffett CEO investigates the men and women who built and manage the companies that Berkshire Hathaway owns. The author managed to secure interviews with 19 of the managers/CEOs of the companies that make up Berkshire Hathaway. It’s fascinating reading.

Every one of the profiled CEO’s has an incredible story of business sense, drive, and talent. These men and women were not placed in their positions by Buffett, but rather they are the main reason that Buffett purchased thier business. The stories they share intertwine family and business, while managing to impart some sound advice and paint a portrait of an incredible organization.

The Warren Buffett CEO is the story of Geico, of FlightSafety, and of The Buffalo Evening News. It is the story of a small town Russian immigrant woman who built the largest furniture store in Nebraska. It is the story of a family who’s appliance business started on the back of a pick-up truck.

It’s excellent reading. It has business advice. And it’s a model that I want my own business to run off of: Hire good people, then get out of the way.

Pretty People Make More Money

No, seriously.

In this nicely presented and researched post, “Get Hired, Get a Raise, and Get Paid More by Improving Your Appearance, Digerati Life presents some surprising statistics.

I am over-weight. Okay, spade a spade time, I am considered obese by the medical community. I never worry about whether I’ll float in the swimming pool. Still, I’m lucky enough to be proportional and with a large, yet hour-glass shape. That means I can still wear fashionable styles.

We just had an announcement come down from HQ on a formal dress code for the company (day job). It eliminated casual Fridays and the wearing of jeans unless necessary for one’s job. (For example the janitorial staff and the cabling guy who crawls through the ceiling.) It came about because a customer mentioned that we were very “lax” in our dress. In other words, some engineer or software person was entering the office in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt or something typical like that and it ticked off the customer who has to wear a suit or at least suit-pants and business casual wear every day.

I know that how one dresses makes an incredible impact on how one is percieved. I noticed it most not at the office, where I work with a lot of blue-collar tradesmen as well as business people, but rather at shows where I am selling my own wears. When my partner and I wore matching aprons (we sell cookies and bread), we didn’t get nearly as much business or social interaction as when we switched to jeans and matching polo shirts. Suddenly, the assumption was that we were the bakers and owners as opposed to worker drones. Sales increased and we get a lot more opportunities to talk to people.

It’s all about the culture where you work. The woman who was handling the drivers before me (Back to the day job at the office now) is older and always wears a uniform of polo-shirt and kakhis. She doesn’t do full make-up, but she does do some make-up where I do not. She always has trouble with the guys. Me, I’m younger than some of them and the same age as the others. Even with my wearing more traditional black business pants and dressier shirts, I’ve been accepted as “one of them.” They laugh and joke with me and will actually do what I tell them to do.(Maybe it helps that I’m not afraid of them either. My co-worker could be snapped in half by some of the material handlers, not that they’d ever lay a finger on her, but me? Not so big a problem. One plus to not being average sized.)

When I am going to deal directly with customers, I dress more formally than I do in the office. And two weeks, when I go to corporate HQ for a meeting, I will be dressing IBM professional. That means I’ll be wearing a suit and some form of girl shoes. (Meaning at least a one in heeled loafer.) If I were going to meet with someone even higher level than I am, I’d be wearing a skirt with my suit. As it is, I’m meeting with mostly my level, so I’ll wear pants. I know that you must wear a suit at corporate. It’s a given. They never *had* casual Fridays so their elimination made no.

Selling the threat of Bioterrorism

Selling the threat of Bioterrorism: LA Times:

Quote:

“No biological weapon of mass destruction has been found in Iraq. [Dr. Kanatjan Alibek’s] most sensational research findings, with U.S. colleagues, have not withstood peer review by scientific specialists. His promotion of nonprescription pills — sold in his name over the Internet and claiming to bolster the immune system — was ridiculed by some scientists. He resigned as executive director of a Virginia university’s biodefense center 10 months ago while facing internal strife over his stewardship.

And, as Alibek raised fear of bioterrorism in the United States, he also has sought to profit from that fear.

By his count, Alibek has won about $28 million in federal grants or contracts for himself or entities that hired him.

He has had well-placed help. Some of the money has been allocated because of a Southern California congressman’s “earmarks,” controversial budget maneuvers that direct federal agencies’ spending. Moreover, two senior aides to a New Jersey congressman who also provided crucial help to Alibek left government and promptly joined his commercial efforts.

Alibek now is seeking new government contracts related to countering biological terrorism that could be worth tens of millions of dollars.”

Now, I agree that bioterroism is probably the next big attack to come down the pike. Why? Because it’s practically impossible to defend against. I know how easy it is to get my hands on germs that could easily kill from the very simple vector point of the inside of the subway train that stops at the airport. Get the people on those trains to be your carriers by spraying a simple aerosol into the air through the door or spreading a fine layer of dust down in a few areas. And if you aren’t afraid to die yourself? You become the infection vector.

Do I think this is the right way to award our contracts to people trying to research bio-terror and protect us? No.