To know me is to know I love the Apple store, just like I love Starbucks, just like I love… well, actually, now that I think about it, I don’t love all that many retail businesses.
In fact, among my two favorites cited above, I had bad experiences with both yesterday.
And in both cases, the issue was the same: The employees (associates) who “serviced” me acted a if I was interrupting their day. Seriously.
The young man at the Apple Store (Crocker Park) greeted me warmly, but quickly stifled my desire to purchase $60 worth of cords because, “although we open at 9:00 a.m., we don’t start selling product until 10.” And while I do not blame the kid for the company’s ridiculous policy, I must acknowledge that he did not appear to care less that I was unable to purchase the cords. He simply looked down at his iPad screen and made me disappear.
So we went to Radio Shack, where we were warmly received, and gave them our money instead.
A few hours later I stopped at Starbucks (Hudson) to purchase $30 worth of bakery and coffee for a client meeting. The young woman who never greeted me at all, but rather simply stared at me, acted as if I was completely bothering her from doing whatever it was she was doing behind the counter. And to be clear, I was the only customer and there were four Starbucks employees behind the counter. If this young lady had a personality, she clearly left it at home. She never said thanks, she never said goodbye, she never said please come back again.
I truly admire the fun and often quirky environments created by Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz. And I really love their products. But I could truly do without all the bad attitude and total lack of service.
You want my $100? Then earn it. Otherwise, Radio Shack and Dunkin Donuts are my two new favorite retailers.
Resistance may be futile, but acceptance is insane.
Yes, the convenience of paying your dog walker or your baby sitter with a credit card instead of cash may seem alluring. But at what price? You are inviting the world to take an exclusive and all-inclusive peak into your personal diary.
Talk about insidious, the reader is free (just like the first snort of cocaine… on the house). And users are encouraged to share their world with the rest of the world. This way Square can have “a better understanding of their reputation in the ecosystem.”
Yes, those are the precise words of Square founder Jack Dorsey. He wants to know everything about you so he can protect you from fraud. Suddenly “transparency” has a whole new meaning. Square isn’t looking at your payment history, they are looking at your social media history. Through Square you can be completely naked to anyone and everyone who wants to know what you do and where you do it and how you do it. You are officially the biggest, fattest target on the street.
And why is Howard Schultz (Starbucks) so interested? In the words of the Borg, “Resistance is futile. Negotiation is irrelevant. You will be assimilated.” And oh yeah, there is money to be made here.
Not so long ago, much like Apple and Steve Jobs, Starbucks and Howard Schultz were being dismissed as down and out.
And therein lies the beauty of rear view mirrors. Only now – looking back – can we see the true genius of both.
Some believe that Starbucks re-established itself by getting back to what it did best. And sure enough, it cut back on selling books and movies and extraneous equipment, and refocused on selling really great coffee in really great environments. But that is not the secret. Much like Tony Hsieh realized that Zappos was not a great shoe retailer, but rather a great service company that happened to sell shoes, Howard Schultz realized (or perhaps always knew) that Starbucks is also a great service company that happens to sell coffee.
At some point – around 2006 or 2007 – success started to spoil Rock Hunter. Fortunately, Howard Schultz realized that and quickly began making changes in order to return to the original culture he so successfully created. So instead of focusing on growth and expansion, it refocused on loyalty and enhancement. In other words, instead of worrying about getting more customers, it concentrated on understanding and servicing the ones it already had.
And the company returned to its roots and its core – innovating and investing in new ideas… like exceptionally high quality instant coffee and light roast coffee. And it got back to community initiatives, like “Jobs for the USA” wristbands that raise money to fund local start-up businesses. And it is looking forward with new retail services and new retail store ideas.
Last week my son (the scientist) schooled me on the subject of inertia. He reminded me of Newton’s Law that objects in motion tend to stay in motion. One need look no further than Howard Schultz or Steve Jobs to see that even the most successful business leaders never cease innovating. As my old boss Ellen McConneell often told me, “there is always one more thing to be done.”
Once upon a time, you couldn’t read “once upon a time” unless you first visited the local library. But that’s no longer the case… and it is causing a serious problem.
Due to decreased funding, libraries are short on technology, short on hours and short on visitors. In fact, library closings have become a viable alternative for many public and even school libraries.
The recently released 2010-2011 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study concludes that libraries are “grappling with a “new normal” of flat or decreased funding, paired with increased demand for public library technology resources. The result is a mix of the grim austerity, reflected in decreased operating hours and closed library outlets, in contrast with the robust delivery of technology resources that support workforce development, e-government services, and skills training for the competitive global marketplace.”
So what’s a library to do?
On college campuses, the bookless library is not just taking shape, it is taking the place of the traditional library. As reported in TIME on Monday, “At Drexel University’s new Library Learning Terrace, which opened just last month, there is nary a bound volume, just rows of computers and plenty of seating offering access to the Philadelphia university’s 170 million electronic items.” And Drexel is just one of hundreds of schools making the transition.
On the public front, big city institutions continue to secure essential funding. The New York Public Library for example is preparing to unveil a transformed main branch that architect Norman Foster says “anticipates the parallel and integrated worlds of electronic digital systems and traditional books.”
Meanwhile, in smaller towns like Kent, Ohio, funding is a little harder to come by. Kent Free Library has been faced with diminishing state support. In response, it has reduced its hours and cut its materials budget from $360,000 in 2008 to $120,000 this year. Library director Stacey Richardson must now market a 1.8 mill continuing levy just to secure necessary operating funds.
As a man who covets his original copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, and still owns his first library card, I am sad to think libraries may one day become little more than glorified Starbucks stores that “fit seamlessly within a neighborhood and provide visitors a place to find a connection.” Think it’s a crazy comparison?
According to the Starbucks website, “it’s the wonderful people you meet that make Starbucks so special. People like you. People with ideas, passion and curiosity. We’d like to help you have fun, dream big and connect to the people and ideas that interest you. Because we believe marvelous things happen when you put great coffee and great people together.”
According to American Library Association president Roberta Stevens, “Libraries have been and are continuing to transform themselves to be responsive to the needs of the populations they serve. Libraries are busy because they are central to the lives of millions of families, students, older adults, entrepreneurs and those who require assistance in weathering the economic challenges of the past few years.”
Maybe we should just put Howard Schultz in charge of this issue and see what he can work out.
I’d like a Big Mac, Mc BLT, A Quarter-Pounder with some cheese, Filet-O-Fish, A Hamburger, A Cheeseburger, A Happy Meal. Hot chocolate, iced mocha, latte, cappuccino ?!
Today I gave in and headed to the golden arches for a Coke and some fries. As I pulled into the double drive through, a fairly new addition to the Gordon Road McDonald’s, the employee asked me over the loud speaker “Would you like to try our hot chocolate today?”
I contemplated trying it for a moment because I was so perplexed that McDonald’s was promoting its hot chocolate. Their premium roast coffee maybe… but hot chocolate? I politely declined and drove away with my Coke and fries.
Intrigued, I did some reach and discovered McDonald’s is actually installing McCafes into their locations. McCafes serve mochas, hot or iced; lattes, hot or iced; cappuccinos; and hot chocolates. McDonald’s premium roast coffee and iced coffees are still available as well. According to an article in the New York Times (http://tinyurl.com/a5arkx), McCafes have been installed in 6,500 of McDonald’s more than 14,000 stores nationwide.
In fact, you can visit http://www.mymccafe.com/ and see if a McCafe has been installed at your local McDonald’s and download free coupons for a mocha, latte and cappuccino.
Will the McCafes be successful? Even though Starbucks has been closing numerous locations, I think the McCafes have an excellent opportunity to expand McDonald’s and further establish its presence in the beverage category. After all, look at the popularity of the McDonald’s shakes and orange drink. And according to the New York Times, in the two years since McDonald’s introduced premium coffee, sales of drip coffee are up 70 percent. It is so easy to run through the drive through (especially since they have expanded many) and get your cup of joe for the day.
McDonald’s has certainly been making some smart decisions throughout the recent years and McCafes will likely be added to the list of successful business decisions. According to the New York Times, “as of November, the latest data available, the company had delivered 55 consecutive months of increases in global same-store sales. During a year when the stock market lost a third of its value — its worst performance since the Great Depression — shares of McDonald’s gained nearly 6 percent, making the company one of only two in the Dow Jones industrial average whose share price rose in 2008. (The other was Wal-Mart.)”