Jolly Roger Telephone: A Cure for Telemarketers

The Washington Post: “A Los Angeles man with an unusual passion for phone systems created a new robotic answering service that wastes telemarketers’ time. Roger Anderson started the Jolly Roger Telephone, which lets users start a three-way call with the service so they can listen gleefully as the bot rambles on. It’s designed to provide entertainment and empowerment for everyone who has grown weary of the phone calls. Its first question of the telemarketers is often, ‘Is this a real person?'”

“Anderson experimented with different personalities for his robot before deciding that an odd man who just woke up from a nap worked best. For instance, the robot burned time by telling the telemarketer they sound like a former high school classmate, rambling on about needing coffee or asking them to start over again.”

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Some Uber Drivers Are Not Uber Happy

Christian Science Monitor: “Harry Campbell, author of The Rideshare Guy, a popular blog for rideshare drivers, asked his 10,234 e-mail subscribers to rate their experience with Uber. Of the 453 who responded, only 48 percent are happy with their employer.”

“A common perception of the difference between Uber and Lyft is that Lyft is a better company to work for, but Uber brings in higher pay. But Uber’s claim to fame among drivers – that it offers the highest wages in the game – is slowly eroding. To increase business during the slow winter months, Uber recently cut fares for passengers, and thus salaries for drivers, in over 100 cities.”

Some drivers say “weekly expenses like gas, toll fees, insurance and car maintenance detract the company’s impressive averages. In a company report last year, 11 percent of drivers said they actually lost money after being their employment with Uber.”

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Relativity is a Poor Theory at Retail

The New York Times: “In some ways, what we experience as consumers is like what we experience when we listen to music or lift a heavy object. For example, we are more likely to notice that a drumbeat is loud if we have been listening to, say, a gentle violin. And we will notice that we are lifting extra pounds if they are added to a lightly packed suitcase. The same additional weight is barely noticeable in a heavy one. Vision, heat perception, smell and taste all obey a similar law: Perception is largely a relative mechanism.”

This dynamic manifests itself when we compare prices: “We tend to focus on the percentage rather than the amount we save, and fall prey to a mental illusion. After all, when your shopping is done, it is dollars — not percentages — that will be in your bank account … Ofer H. Azar, an economist at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, asked consumers in the United States how much they needed to save to justify spending an extra 20 minutes … When shopping for a $10 pen, they required only a $3.75 savings, on average. For a $30,000 car, though, they needed $277.83 for that 20 minutes.”

Less affluent shoppers are less likely to fall prey to the illusion: “Poorer people tend to value a dollar more consistently, irrespective of the context. It is not simply that those with less money pinch more pennies; it is that they are compelled to value those pennies in absolute rather than relative terms … To them, a dollar has real tangible value. A dollar saved is a dollar to be spent elsewhere, not merely a piece of token accounting.”

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Fresh Air: Glade Discloses Ingredients

Huffington Post: SC Johnson is “the first major player in the household chemicals industry to list 100 percent of the ingredients used to create fragrance in one of its lines of scented products, the Glade Fresh Citrus Blossoms collection of wax melts and air fresheners. That includes the chemicals ordinarily glossed over with catch-all phrases like natural ingredients or essential oil.”

“Its goal, in part, is to create a new standard of transparency that would challenge upstart competitors, who sell themselves as greener alternatives, to disclose every single component in their fragrances.”

“It’s important to lay it all out there for the scrutiny of the world what goes into our products if consumers are going to trust us,” says Herbert Fisk Johnson III, the company’s chairman and chief executive. “In the absence of information, people tend to think the worst.”

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The Model ‘X’ Experience: Tesla Bans a Cranky Customer

Elon Musk cancelled an order for a new Tesla after the buyer criticized the Tesla CEO’s handling of “an event designed for customers.” The customer was venture capitalist Stewart Alsop, who complained that he “felt ignored” because he had spent two hours at a Musk-hosted event but never got to see the Tesla Model X he had on order and had been invited to see. “I suppose you think that I left too early at 9:00pm and should have stuck around longer if I really wanted to see the car,” Alsop wrote after being banned.

About Musk banning him as a customer: “I am mostly sorry not to be able to participate in the automobile revolution that Tesla started,” Alsop wrote. “You have created a car company when everybody decided decades ago that it was not possible. You have challenged the hateful and intimidating distribution system that forces people to be subjected to the hard sell even if they just want to buy a car they know they want. You have innovated on user experience, battery technology, autonomous operation, and virtually every other aspect of the automobile experience today. And you designed and produced a really beautiful and amazing car along the way!”

Noting that Tesla “does not have a marketing department,” Alsop suggested “it might be time for the company to take on such a function. At the very least, it might mean that your events start on time and they are designed for the people who are invited to attend.”

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Wild Turkey Inks an Older, Prouder Bird

Bottles of Wild Turkey bourbon and rye whiskey now feature an older, prouder bird, reports The Wall Street Journal. The newly redesigned labels cap a $100 million expansion and modernization of the Wild Turkey distillery, following its acquisition by Gruppo Campari.

Campari marketing vice president Melanie Batchelor says the previous turkey looked “a little sad … not proud.” Consumer research also found that the turkey looked too young, which “conflicted with the idea that the bourbon is aged.” The new illustration is “more of a close-up image, with prominent eyes and fluffy feathers.”

“Wild Turkey also wanted to better highlight its master distillers, Jimmy Russell and his son, Eddie,” whose “signatures are now larger and on the fronts of the bottles, rather than the necks … Bottles also include the words ‘Crafted With Conviction’ … They wanted to avoid using ‘handcrafted,’ a phrase Ms. Batchelor feels has become so common in the spirits industry that it sounds generic.

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Working on the (Supply) Chain Gang

“For many companies, competing both online and at the mall can mean trading fat profit margins for more customers—at least for now,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Fashion retailer DSW Inc. has given shoppers the option of placing online orders for out-of-stock items without leaving its stores. And, the chain is both fulfilling online orders and accepting returns at its growing number of locations.”

“The company is betting those efforts will pay off by increasing customer loyalty even though they aren’t adding to profits in the near term, said Roger Rawlins, who oversaw DSW’s omnichannel strategy before recently becoming CEO. He said customers who buy DSW products through multiple channels spend two or three times as much as those who shop exclusively in its stores or online only.”

“The strategy ‘ultimately allows you to grab additional market share, and then as we learn through using all these capabilities, we hopefully should be tweaking to be able to generate incremental profitability,’ Mr. Rawlins said.”

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