Jul 162007

Starbucks, Starbucks, Everywhere, Part II

Starbucks, Starbucks, Everywhere, Part II

In 2004, I blogged about Starbucks’ implausible Forbidden City location (post includes picture) in the heart of one of China’s most prominent national monuments.

Today, under pressure from the Chinese government, Starbucks announced that they’re closing the location, reflecting “Chinese sensitivity about cultural symbols and unease over an influx of foreign pop culture,” according to a very short blurb about this in today’s Wall Street Journal.

It must be indescribably different to live in a society that’s so tightly controlled.

May 162006

Sticking it to United, Just a Little Bit

Sticking it to United, Just a Little Bit

I am sitting in the Red Carpet Club waiting for yet another delayed United flight, and there’s a small thing bringing me a little extra joy. I recently started using Verizon’s Broadband Wireless service, which is expensive at $60/month, but awesome since it basically works anywhere and eliminates the need for hotel, Starbucks, and other Wi Fi hot spot fees (and for a great tutorial on how to use the service to power two computers at once, read Brad’s post here).

I’ve long been annoyed at United — and American as well — for both charging a pretty sizeable annual fee to belong to their airport clubs and then soaking me for another $10 every time I’m in one just to use their T-Mobile hot spot.  Many people, including Fred here, believe that Wi Fi should be free everywhere.  While I think that’s a great idea, I don’t think it’s a god-given right.  And I don’t mind that Starbucks charges me to use their hot spots, since I may only be spending a couple dollars with them.  However, airline clubs that charge a lot of money for membership should definitely include WI Fi as part of the deal.

So my great joy today was *not* giving yet another $10 to United for the privilege of using the Internet. Thank you, Verizon (not that I don’t also have various complaints about Verizon, but that’s for another day).

It truly is the little things…

Filed under: Email

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Nov 172005

Book Short: Underdog Victorious

Book Short:  Underdog Victorious

The Underdog Advantage, by David Morey and Scott Miller, was a worthwhile read, though not a great book.  It was a little shallow, and although I enjoyed its case studies (who doesn’t love hearing about Ben & Jerry’s, Southwest, JetBlue, Starbucks?), I didn’t feel like the authors did enough to tie the details of the success of the case study companies back to the points they made in the book.

That said, the book had some great reminders in it for companies of all sizes and stages.  The main point was that successful companies always think of themselves as the underdog, the insurgent, and never get complacent.  They run themselves like a political campaign, needing to win an election every single day.  A lot of the tactics suggested are timeless and good to remember…things like never declare victory, always play offense, always respond to attacks, remember to communicate from the inside out, and remember to sell employees on a mision and purpose in order to make them your main ambassadors.  The laundry list of tactics is the book’s greatest strength.

Jul 112004

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

I’ve always thought that the ability to stare down adversity in business — or turning lemons into lemonade, as a former boss of mine used to say — is a critical part of being a mature professional. We had a prime example of this a couple weeks ago at Return Path.

We had scheduled a webinar on email deliverability, a critical topic for our market, and the moment of the webinar had come, with over 100 clients and prospects on the line for the audio and web conference. There was a major technical glitch with our provider, Webex (no link for you, Webex), and after 5 or 10 minutes, we had to cancel the webinar — telling all 100 members of our target audience that we were sorry, we’d have to reschedule. What a nightmare! Even worse, Webex displayed atrocious customer service to us, not apologizing for the problem, blaming it on us (as if somehow it was our fault that half the people on the line couldn’t hear anything), and not offering us any compensation for the situation.

As you can imagine, our marketing guru Jennifer Wilson was devastated. But instead of sulking, she turned the situation on its head. She rescheduled the event for three weeks out with a different provider who was technically competent and a pleasure to work with, Raindance, and sent every person who’d been on our aborted webinar a gift certificate to Starbucks so they could enjoy a snack on our dime during the rescheduled event. Not only did we have full attendance at the rescheduled event, but Jennifer received dozens of emails from clients sympathizing with her, commending her on her attitude, and of course thanking her for the free latte.

It’s hard to do, and you hate to have to do it, but successfully turning lemons into lemonade is one of the most satisfying feelings in business!

People rarely comment on this blog (or most non-political blogs, I’ve noticed), so feel free to share your best lemons-to-lemonade story with me in a comment, and I promise I’ll post the best couple of them pronto!

Filed under: Leadership

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Jun 292004

Starbucks, Starbucks, Everywhere

A while ago, Fred Wilson wrote a posting about the incredible ubiquity Starbucks has achieved in recent years. I wrote a comment at the time, but I never know who actually reads blog comments other than the author.

The comment was:

Talk about ubiquity…my wife and I were just travelling in Asia and saw many Starbucks there, which was not a surprise. The one that WAS a surprise, however, which completely blew me away, was the Starbucks located in the middle of the Forbidden City/Imperial Palace in Beijing, the 600+ year old home of China’s emperors from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. To be fair, it was tastefully done (no big green awning), and if it weren’t in its particular location, some other refreshment stand would be in its place, but still, I couldn’t help but feel like the conspicuous American in the crowd as I walked past it.

Anyway, now that Mariquita and I have finished our vacation web site, here’s the image of the implausible Starbucks Forbidden City location, in all its glory (even without the big green awning).

If you want to be tortured by a full complement of China and Japan pictures and the accompanying travelog, feel free. From the Wall to temples to big Buddhas to a well-chronicled sashimi dinner, it’s all here.

Filed under: Travel