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Some things never change

Shopping for a new car is both great fun and great pain.   Our last car lease ran out and I waited til the last moment to start the shopping process.   Why?  Because even though test drives are fun the buying experience is not.  Every time I mentioned we were going car shopping, everyone assured us — “this is a great time to buy”.    I’m still not so sure.

We visited two dealerships who wanted our business, several that were desperate for our business, and even two who were indifferent.  What we experienced more this time than any other was the double-team or even the triple-team.   You couldn’t just talk to one salesman, you got his boss, his brother, his uncle all chasing you at the door.   I don’t mind the age-old trick of bringing the senior manager over to shake your hand, and welcome you to the dealership.   This year, they don’t leave.  Instead of saying your in good hands with “Joe” he’s one of our best and leaving you alone, they push their poor salesperson out of the way and start the hard sell.   We walked away in disgust multiple times.   Even when we loved the cars, we couldn’t imagine coming back to these dealerships.

We were surprised to find two dealerships who were seemingly indifferent.   Interestingly, one was a Toyota dealer the other a Honda dealer.   Both let us test drive, but neither seemed to care that we buy a car from them.  Very odd.

We found two who we would gladly give our business to.   One is Vic Alfonso Cadillac near downtown Portland, the other Beaverton Honda.   If GM survives it will be because of classy dealers like Vic.

Beaverton Honda was the star of the show.   What a first rate dealership.   Not only do they have an amazing stock of cars on hand, but they truly understand selling to today’s consumer.   Every car is marked with a nicely discounted just over invoice price, a few must have add-ons are on every car — the stuff you want like the 3m clear  bra & locking wheelnuts.  When the boss came over it was just to introduce himself.  Our salesman Tony Maldonado was amazing.  If you’re in the market for a car, and want a pleasant buying experience, go see Tony.   Beaverton Honda rocks.

For  buy american fans — our new Accord was built in Ohio !  It’s a gorgeous sedan — everyone is telling us we were nuts to lease a Honda as they last forever.

Making old news viral today? What’s up with Google Alerts?

I’m about ready to shut down my use of the google alerts feature.  When it first came out it was wonderful.   It’s a great way to get competitive & industry news as it happens.   Over the past year however, much of the news is old news — sometimes really old news.   circa 2001, 2, 3, 4 …

This phenomenon was noticed and blogged about last year.   I bet a little digging will show quite a few others complaining about this useful service gone bad.

Last month panic selling of United Airlines stock was attributed to google alerts.

A number of times I was ready to pass along old news as new news.  Lucky, each time as I was about to hit send  I caught the old-date and saved myself the embarrassment.   With the huge deluge of information out there, a service like google alerts is truly useful, but if and only if, the news is actually new news.

Google,  how hard it is to write a simple filter to kick out the news that is obviously back-dated by years?   How many other services are leveraging yours?   Seems like a lot.   Everytime I get old news — as emailed to me by google alerts — it shows up in my twitter stream, in my friend feed, and in …  Well you get the picture.

Google is a great brand – why tarnish it up by constantly sending out untrustworthy information?

Red Bull Flugtag Portland 2008

Red Bull’s Flugtag came to PDX yesterday.   What a fun event.  I hadn’t heard about it, I discovered all of the contraptions on the waterfront on my Saturday hike.    I headed home to grab a camera body and the long zoom (Canon 100-400 L series) and a tripod.

Watching the event is great fun even from a distance.   There were a hundred if not a thousand boats gathered along the shoreline, viewers lining both sides of the Willamette and of course a ton of people lining the Hawthorne bridge which was my vantage point.   To learn more about the entrants and the winner Team Yakima visit the official Red Bull Portland Flugtag web site. Not only did Team Yakima have the coolest ride (there were a lot of cool rides, I thought the giant trike was really fun), but they also had the longest flight.    The best designs combined a hang glider with a cool base.    Team Yakima soared 62 feet after the glider breaks away from the trike.

What a cool ride

What a cool ride

Check out the rest of my better shots here – My Flickr Pics of Portland Flugtag 2008.

If Flugtag makes it to a city near you check it out.  I even tried my first Red Bull Cola.

Max’s Oysterbar West Hartford Connecticut

On July 4th we discovered Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford.  We walked in about 3:30 in the afternoon to a very quiet restaurant. We’d missed lunch and Dinner service wasn’t until 5. However, the bar was open and we took our stools and discovered that not only was the bar open but so was the raw bar. Yum!

We ordered a sampler tray and drinks and received a joyous tray of sumptuous seafood. Different mussle preparations, big plump prawns, clams, oysters, scallops. Everything was fresh, the oysters with briny, the scallops delicious. What a treat. About 4:30 when starting in on our 2nd round of drinks we were handed the dinner menu where we both zero’ed in on the Lobster Dinner Special. A pile of clams and mussels with a boiled lobster for just $28.00.

Our lobster’s were perfect. On the west coast we never get lobster’s this fresh, tasting so sweet.  All of the meat (we ate was everything) was sweet and good. We don’t know when we will make it back to West Hartford, but if you read this and are headed that way make your Max’s reservation on open table.

Highly recommended.  Great bar, great seafood, wonderful staff.

What is Office Depot Thinking?

I am a big fan of making purchases online for in-store pickup.  This is especially true for buying office supplies.  I find office supply stores nearly impossible to shop.  A short list of 5 things takes 20-30 minutes to track down searching aisle after poorly marked aisle.  I dread shopping at any of the Office Supply Megastores.

Shopping online is a dream.   With just a few keystrokes I can find what I’m looking for,  load my cart and buy. I drive right by an office depot to and from work. It’s not even 1/2 block out of the way — it’s right on my route. For the past couple of years whenever I’ve needed ink, paper, pens you name it I buy online and make the 3 minute stop at office depot to pickup my order.

At least it USED to be 3 minutes. My order used to be waiting for me up front, fully processed, just waiting to verify my identify and out the door I go.  Couldn’t be easier.

Office Depot has since completely revised their procedures. I arrived at the store this morning while running errands and there’s my order waiting for me.  But,  the order hasn’t been processed its only been “picked”.   The clerk has to call up a manager to process the order.  The manager starts processing the order, and training the clerk at the same time (telling him he’s teaching him to fish).   Meanwhile, the computer system hangs and it takes quite a bit of time to get my order scanned in and processed.   Then the manager tells me he needs to print out my receipt but he can’t do it here — he heads off to another part of the store.

I’m hanging around waiting, wondering what’s he’s up to, and finally give up and head back to find out where he is.   I find him at a printer waiting for the receipt to come up.   At least 10 minutes have gone by since he finished processing my order.   We start a brief conversation where I started by lamenting that the reason I ordered online for in-store pickup was to save time.  So far I’ve spent over 30 minutes in the store (10* what it used to take) trying to pick up my order.   The manager proceeds to tell me that Office Depot (chain wide) no longer processes online pick-up orders in advance because too many customer’s weren’t showing up for their order.

Wow!   In short the manager is telling me I am being inconvenienced because Office Depot might have to restock some shelves.   Guess which customer Office Depot just lost to Staples?

Meanwhile,  the receipt for my order never comes out of the printer. The manager gives up too and creates a manual receipt.  A mere 40 minutes after I arrived to pick up my web order I’m finally on my way out of the store.

What good and bad experiences have you had with web/brick & mortar store integration (or lack thereof)?  I’ve had great experiences with REI & Best Buy.   Who’s getting it right?   Who’s got work to do?