December 2007 - Posts

A company worse than Comcast?

I hereby declare that a new low has been reached in the "treat your oldest customers best" pricing strategy and the new winner after many years of Comcast holding the medal is Blockbuster.

There are 2 pricing strategies that seem to work very well here in the USA (maybe in Europe as well too - been a while since I lived there)

Strategy #1

  1. Assume all people are idiots
  2. Tell them you are giving them something very expensive FOR FREE
  3. Tell them that this free thing will have a service cost of just $X9.99 or $X9.95 per month - even if you don't use it
  4. ...very quietly say "for 2 years"
  5. ...and even more quietly say "and if you lose it you have to buy another one for full price"
  6. ...because they are not really free but we know you are too stupid to work that out

Strategy #2

  1. Assume all people are lazy and hate confrontation
  2. Tell them that this service will cost just $X9.99 or $X9.95 per month
  3. Tell them that you will throw in an upgrade to the next level FOR FREE
  4. ...but only for 3/6/9 months
  5. ...and we won't tell you what the real cost will be afterwards
  6. ...nor will we downgrade you back to the level you original asked for
  7. ...we hope you wont notice the increase on your bill
  8. ...because know that most of you are too lazy or embarrassed to call and cancel

#1 is every cell phone company in America and #2 is every cable/satellite provider

But most of those companies seem to make lots of money thereby proving that these strategies work well and that the assumptions of people being idiots ad lazy is a very good assumption.

Its long bothered me that Comcast prefers new customers over the ones who have stayed with them for years - but I've never switched from Comcast so I guess I am very lazy (though satellite doesn't work well with my ReplayTV boxes) and I can't switch from my cell company because there really are no alternatives and the pay as you go all have minutes that expire even if you've paid for them.

I blogged about blockbusters 30% increase back in October so I was quite surprised when 2 months later I get another email saying that they had increased my bill another $2 to $9.99. Do the math folks that's a 100% increase in 3 months. DVD costs don't appear to have gone up where I shop, postage has risen a few cents and I think their staff probably deserve a 4% pay rise (quite generous for 2007) so where the hell is the extra money going?

I see only 3 alternatives:

  • Fat cat executives - got to get that 1.6 million from somewhere eh?
  • Somebody did the math wrong when they added in the 'in store return' for free. Suddenly they doubled the amount of videos people used and removed half the stock from the local stores without increasing revenue. I suspect this is partly true based on this article 
  • The whole thing was a huge bait and switch similar to strategy #2 above except they didn't even have the integrity to call it an 'introductory offer'. Comcast may be annoying with their so called 'special offers' but at least they call it by its correct name.

I, of course, sent them my usual polite complaint email and they, of course, sent me their 'written by a team of lawyers and marketing managers' standard response. I shouldn't really expect more I think 

Well blockbuster - it seems like NetFlix have a 1 DVD at a time unlimited plan for $1 less than your 2 by mail 2 in store plan. I rarely get through more than 1 a week anyway so I think we will be parting company real soon - apparently blockbuster is happy to lose some customers.


Trumpets, Happy Clappys and Lumpy Grumpys

Last night J and I headed out to the Seattle Symphony to see the Canadian Brass. I've seen then once before and they were just as good this time. Some good christmas songs to get me in the mood and they are very funny when they speak between numbers. Heck they even managed to find a reason to do a square dance while playing which was particularly interesting for the guy with the trombone - they must practise this a lot. All the musicians are good but one of the trumpeters Joe Bergstaller was amazing. I swear in one piece he played for 2 minutes without taking a breath and his fingers were moving very fast. Of course since I am a scientist type instead of an arty music lover type I have to use the concert as a reason to learn something. The trumpeters had 5 different trumpets in front of them - in one piece Manon LaFrance was actually switching during the song. I also noticed that the piccolo trumpet had 4 valves rather than the normal 3 so this means learning a  totally different system for the notes and they have to remember which trumpet they are playing. The really interesting thing that I just found out is that there is essentially no range difference between the trumpets which is what I assumed the main difference would be. So that's today's "Something you didn't know" from the ZMan.

"We don't care about that ZMan", I hear you all yell, "what are these Happy Clappy folk that you tantalized us with in the title". Well Happy Clappy is the name I gave to some theater goer types many years ago. You know those folk who are the first to clap (often before they are supposed to), the last to stop clapping and (worst of all) the ones who feel that every single performance needs a standing ovation and that it is their personal responsibility to start it. Personally I blame the ever rising ticket prices at live events. When you pay $100 for a couple of hours some people feel an obligation to be able to tell all their friends that it was the most amazing thing they have seen since those stupid pet tricks on Letterman last night. But how could it be amazing unless they can describe the standing ovation that happened. "Yes I know it was just the afternoon dress rehearsal performance and 3 of the cast threw up due to food poisoning but we all loved it so much that there was an instant ovation". My personal favourite moments at the theater are when 1 or 2 of the Happy Clappys start a standing ovation and nobody else joins in. Its especially funny when the Happy Clappy's spouse looks up at them with the "sit down dear" look.

Last night at the symphony I learned about the Happy Clappy's evil cousin - the Lumpy Grumpy. Firstly you need to know that the Canadian Brass is a very different kind of concert. I know that at a proper symphony you are expected to sit very quietly and only clap at the correct moments. But last night was much more interactive. The ensemble told jokes and made the audience laugh, they encouraged some cheering out on some numbers, singing on others and we even clapped along to Frosty the Snowman. But for some reason the trailer trash sitting behind us decided that the couple on the end of our row was being a little too boisterous. Oddly enough nobody in our row noticed such a problem but at the interval the Lumpy family called over an usher and complained. You would have thought that this poor couple had ripped their seats out and set fire to them given the vitriol with which they complained. Mr Lumpy kept yelling "just move them" while his wife pissed and moaned about how her night was being ruined. When the couple returned the ushers had a quiet word and they immediately tried to apologise for these supposed offences. But that wasn't good enough and Mr Grumpy repeated his request. Eventually they did move them - I hope to some much better seats. Of course then we had to listen to the Lumpy family crow about their victory - at one point we heard the words "They must be Canadians"!! I wish I had the balls to say something to them at the end of the performance but I don't want to bump into them next time we go. Instead I will blog anonymously and mock them with a new title... Lumpy Grumpys welcome to ZMan's theater stereotype list.

Hairy Ears

I was happily reading a magazine these evening when I casually reached up to scratch my head and brushed my hand near my ear. Like a cat touching something with its whisker I felt the unmistakable sense of hair movement but not in a place I really want to feel it. Ear hairs are not new to me - I invested in a device to stop me turning into a grandfather sometime last year but this one was special. Firstly it was not tufting out of my ear like a friendly old Santa Claus but instead appeared to be growing out of my ear lobe and secondly based on my limited hair follicle nerve stimuli it was about 2 feet long. After some inspection in the mirror and 10 minutes aiming the reflection of a pair of tweezers in the wrong place (can you go to a special school to learn how to do tweezers in a mirror?) I removed the offending item. Sadly it was not 2 feet long but even the half inch I got was scary enough. Scary enough that I washed it down the sink before I thought "damn I should have taken a photo for my blog". This is why I will never be Scoble!

So to all you guys younger than me this is what you have got to look forward to. You see the last few smooth places on your body? The ones that you are sure have no hair follicles in them? Well go and get them zapped by a lase now before its too late. Otherwise in a few years you will be getting your ear lobes waxed and that's jut not a sexy thought!

Posted 17 December 2007 11:02 PM by zman | 3 comment(s)
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