Bradford Exchange Checks

I am old fashioned. I still pay all my bills with paper checks I send in the mail. Recently I found I was on my last book of checks. Time to order some more. I saw some good designs from Bradford Exchange Checks. I ordered from them before. So I place another order.

I had not received my checks. But I did receive a letter in the mail. It was an invoice from Bradford Exchange. WTF? I sent full payment when I placed my order. Looks like they added an extra $4 to the bill. Initially I was going to write to complain. But it was just 4 bucks.

I suspect the problem is that they charged full price for my checks. I was supposed to get a $4 discount because it was a reorder. The fail was the way my invoice was written. It said that this was my second invoice. Wrong. This is the first correspondence I got from them. In addition, there was no phone number on the letter. So I could not call up and sort this out.

The total order for my box of checks comes out to $20. Not a huge amount. But being an avid check writer, I am going to always need replacements. In other words, a good checking printing company can have me as a customer for life. But not Bradford Exchange. They are screwing up what should be a very simple transaction.

It is difficult to provide top notch customer service. You should try to though. It can earn you customers for life. Yeah. Their mistake. Maybe I will write them anyway and inform them of the problem. Give them a chance to win me back. Let's see how they perform.

School Projects for Sale

There is a new business opportunity over in India - creating projects for students in school. Tech students learn a lot of theory. But they are lacking in practical experience. Their colleges require them to submit worthy projects. Many students are finding this near impossible. They are turning to companies that can provide the finished products to them.

Former grads are racing to create companies to provide the "project support" to students. There is apparently a lot of demand. You got to know what you are doing. It also helps if you keep up with the engineering industry to see what is hot. I guess there is a bit of manual labor involved if you have to wire up the project yourself. The component prices might be cheap though, especially if you buy in bulk.

I hear the going rate for project is between $300 to $750. You pay more if you are trying to get an advanced degree. Luckily there is some competition, so the prices are not that high. Seems like a deal to me.

Now I would not recommend any student buy such a project. The whole point of a project is to learn while building the project. But perhaps purchasing a project will help you figure out how to do business in the future. Let's just hope these engineering graduates aren't designing the air planes you fly in.

Slackers Gonna Fail

While browsing around, I stumbled upon a site giving away a free book. Great. All I needed to do with register with them. Then I could get a free book. I guess it was going to be a free eBook. I was never able to find out. Read on to see why.

I clicked the button to get my free book. Oooops. The site was overloaded. I checked back a few times. Always overloaded. They said I could sign up and be emailed later when the site is back up. Ummm I need instant gratification. You can't get me worked up about my free book, and then have the site be overloaded.

I tried browsing around the site to see what they have. Found a good book. It cost twenty bucks. Tried to click on the tab that shows the chapters. Did not work. Okay. This must be an amateur site or something. I am not giving them my email. For all I know, this is just a scam to get my email.

Wait. Maybe I will sign up with a throw-away address. Let's see how that goes.

Big Company Failure

I got a checking account at a local back around 20 years ago. It was just a small bank local to our state. The staff was friendly. Life was good. If there was ever a problem, I just went down to the branch and sorted it out. This bank got acquired by a massive nation wide bank around 10 years ago. I guess things have changed. And it shows.

I needed to change the way some automatic payments were being made with my family's accounts. Went down to the local branch of the mega bank. The branch manager gave me instructions on how to suspend an important service I was using. He gave me directions on how to resume the service. I tried to follow the directions around a month or two later. I was supposed to call a number on the phone. I did so, but was told it was not possible to resume the service.

So I went back to the local branch of the mega bank. I told them what happened. Then I was shocked when I was told it was not possible to resume the serivce. I said hold up. They were the ones who told me how to do it. Turns out they were wrong. Dead wrong. Now I am messed up.

Mistakes happen. I get that. So I just told the local branch of mega bank to fix their mistake. They told me they were not able to do so. They blamed it on some corporate rules that govern them. WTF? That sounded like some sorry excuse. I don't know why I was getting excited and expected anything more from the mega bank. The solution is simple. Got to find a new local small bank. I give my business to those that earn it. Mega bank fail.

Ways to Fail

I recently ordered a huge shed to be installed on my property. After install, I pointed out some small issues I found. On the second walk around the shed, I saw that my fence behind the shed was down on the ground. The install guy asked whether it was like that before they came. Dumb question.

I told the install guy that of course my fence was not on the ground before they came. He then told me that they did not touch the fence. This was an additional fail. I told the guy that I saw one of his workers toss a sheet of plywood down next to the fence, and the fence was up supporting the plywood.

This drama just kept getting worse. Next the install guy said that there must have been some problem with the poles supporting the fence. I went down to the portion of the fence still standing that was away from the shed. The poles were all solid there, being held in the ground with concrete.

The company later called to discuss final payment on the shed. I let them know that they needed to fix the damage before we could discuss final payment. I wish the install guy had any sense of customer service skills. Own up to mistakes when you make them. Don't lie to customers. It will only alienate you from them.

Vacation Funding

I work for an employer that provides three weeks of vacation. That is pretty good. Standard benefits in general only provide two weeks of vacation. I take full advantage of this. I schedule a few weeks of vacation each year.

Today I saw an amazing post from Full Contact API. I actually never heard of them before. Now I know and admire them. Many others want to work with them. In addition to three weeks of paid vacation, they will pay employees up to $7500 for the actual costs of the vacation. Bamm.

I always like to see extraordinary benefits for developers. You can always give a higher salary. But you stand out if you provide the actual funds for vacations. That can make for some awesome vacations. The only other time I was as excited as reading this was when I heard a company provided $14k yearly for training purposes.

Good work Full Contact API. I bet you are going to get a lot of applications for employment very soon.

Infinite Monkeys

Infinite Monkeys has a unique proposition. They allow you to create mobile apps without doing low level programming. I tried them out. You do a lot of drag and drop, choosing from a list of things for your app. The base app can be produced for free. You just have to be subjected to advertising in your app.

This system felt a lot like an early version of Blogger. Some items such as the app previewer were not as easy to use. I just used some RSS feeds to create blog buttons on my app. You publish the free one as a mobile web site. Infinite Monkeys hosts the app on their site for free.

There are also options to have Android and iPhone apps produced as well. I have not tested this out yet. Seems like a good plan if you don't know mobile development.

Catch Them and Keep Them

I went to a sub shop chain near my house. They did not take my American Express card. I guess that's okay. I have other credit cards. I was in the mood for fried. So I ordered a large. Imagine my disappointment when the large fries looked like a small. I wrote this place off for lunch.

The same chain at another location had a coupon in a flyer. Despite the bad experience at another one of their stores, I checked them out. I was pleased that they accepted American Express. Then I got my small fry order. The fries spilled out of the container, making me feel like I got a good deal.

Now I find myself returning to this other location a lot. I don't use coupons any more. I pay full price happily. Because I keep feeling like I am getting a good deal without any hassles. They got me with the coupon. They keep me with the good service. It is a win win. I am sure they are making money off me, since their prices are premium. But I am glad to pay it.

Windows Phone Fail

Sahas Katta entered Microsoft's Windows Phone Challenge. His phone beat out the Windows Phone at the contest. However the employees at the Microsoft Store robbed him of his $1000 laptop prize. They started making up some rules to disqualify him. Come on Microsoft. Stop your failing.

I am a Microsoft man. I say that because I have built a profitable career delivering Microsoft base solutions. However this move by Microsoft marketing really irks me. I get what they are doing. They are trying to win over some Android users for Windows phone. That mission, though it may seem impossible, might be a noble one. However putting together some sham challenge, then cheating users out when they win, is just pathestic.

Ben Rudolph, the guy who is apparently behind the challenge, is trying desperately to do some damage control. He apologized to Katta via Twitter. Then he offered to do a rematch. This is where Microsoft commits the double fail. Come on. Give the guy the damn laptop already. How can a company continue to dig its own grave deeper and deeper like this?

I have no love for Android products. They might be nice to program on if you like Java. However I don't think they are for me. I am going to stick with an old iPhone. One thing is for sure. Apple won't be pulling any pranks like Microsoft did. Apple is too winning. I don't even like Apple, and they have stole my smart phone business due to excellence.

British Pretroleum Fail

I went to my bank to pick up some cash. I passed my normal gas station without going in. After visting the bank, I headed home. I saw a British Pretoleum gas station with cheaper gas than my normal station. So I pulled in.

I noted that the price was for cash only. There was nobody in the booth to collect my money. Another custmoer told me to go into the gas station for help. I should have known something was wrong. Inside I counted out my small bills, and told the clerk that I wanted $17 on pump number 6.

Outside I pumped the gas, but it stopped at $16. I went in and asked for my change. The clerk said I used up all my money. I told him I had a dollar left. He said I paid $16. I corrected him, telling him that I actually told him I was buying $17 worth when I handed him the cash.

Another employee next to me started arguing with me. He said the clerk counts the money twice, and would not cheat me out of a buck. He also said they have video of the transaction as well. I told this employee that I clearly stated that I was giving the clerk $17, and that we should listen to the tapes. The employee then said that there was no audio on the tapes.

In retrospect, it is possible that I had counted the money wrong. However when I had you some cash and state that there is more than you are given, that is the time to bring the discrepancy up. By the time I have pumped my gas and feel I got cheated, it is way too late.

The whole reason I always state how much money I am handing over is that I encountered the same problem at Exxon Mobile one time. The clerk gave me the extra buck, and asked me to clearly state the amount I am handing over so we can avoid any mistakes up front. There is one clear lesson from all of this for me. Avoid this BP gas station, and stick with the local Exxon Mobile station. They appear honest and customer friendly. That's always good business, even if the price is higher.

Sport of Recycled Bride

I saw an episode of This Week in Venture Capital on YouTube. It featured Tracy DiNunzio. She is founder of the Recycled Bride web site. The site features second hand wedding items. Tracy initially bootstrapped the site. She relied on renting out her bedrooms using AirBnb, sleeping on her couch.

Tracy first hired a freelancer to put together her web site. That resulted in failure. Then she turned to a firm to put together the web site for a cost of $20k. Tracy hand optimized the web site for SEO purposes. She learned enough to be able to do SEO training herself.
Not all of DiNunzio's efforts were successful. She launched a follow-up site called Recycled Tyke that bombed. Soon she plans to launch another follow-up site called Recycled Style. Also it appears that she has taken some investments. She plans to use the use the funds to hire employees such as technical people. Or perhaps she may take on a technical cofounder. I love it when a start up turns a profit.

The Kotaku Viewpoint

It seems like the whole world has jumped on the bandwagon of speaking out against Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing. The guy did have an epic fail in customer support for N-Control Avenger game controllers. Was the backlash overdone? You know it. Did the schlub deserve it. Probably. But what about the other perps in this fiasco?

N-Control obviously hired Christoforo. They might not have done their due diligence. Or they were too busy. Maybe Christoforo made them an offer they could not refuse. They should have. I think we should look at the customer Dave. We should definitely look to Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade for his involvement. This last stance could get my lynched as well. Mike seems to have an arsenal of supporters in the game industry.

What I find remarkable is Owen Good's piece on Kotaku citing Krahulik as the real bully in this mess. Now some argue that Good is just trying to get some page views. You know how controversy draws eyeballs. I hope this was not his intent. Instead I rather like to think of him as going against the mobs on the net, when jumping on the mob bandwagon would be much easier.

For his somewhat unique perspective, and courageous outlike, I salute Owen Good. I am looking forward to more of this on Kotaku.

Damage Control

N-Control has a disaster on their hands. To start with, they seem to be unable to fulfill orders for their Avenger controllers. To make matters infinitely worse, the customer support fiasco with Paul Christoforo is dragging them down into the gutter. What is a company to do in such a situation?

They fired Ocean Marketing and Christoforo to start with. Then a guy named Eli Schwartz claimed to be the Marketing Director for the company. He tried to deal with outraged gamers dissing the controller on Amazon. It turns out that Schwartz was a high school intern for the company. He was in over his head.

Since then, Moises Chiullan has taken the helm. He is doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over on Reddit. That might be difficult as the Redditors are a tough crowd. Moises is spinning the best he can. One technique is to make Christoforo to be the common bad guy. And he can try to make N-Control look like another victim. This also might be tricky, as they are probably not blameless. Let's see how this eventually pans out.