The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Samsung Are Right, Apple Do Lead The Blind, But Sometimes That’s A Great Thing …

A few weeks ago, I smashed the screen of my iPhone 7.

To say I was annoyed was an understatement, especially when I was told that all of Shanghai’s Genius Bars were fully booked for 6 weeks so the only thing I could do – if I wanted things to be sorted quickly – was to turn up at an Apple store and queue up for hours on end.

So I did.

I got up early and was at the store at 8am so I could be first when the doors opened.

And you know what, I’m glad I did because otherwise I would not have been able to see this …

“What’s that you ask?”

It’s a group of blind people being given access to the store before it opens so they can shop safely and comfortably.

It may seem a little thing to us, but it would be a huge thing for them.

As we saw with Asda doing a special open store for customers suffering with autism, the retail industry is miles ahead of most organisations in terms of customer understanding and service.

Not to mention being light years ahead of adland and their often embarrassing attempts to make a difference to culture. Though, to be fair, that’s because most of them are only doing it because they want to win an industry award [namely a Cannes Lion] than to actually make something that has any real benefit for society.

Why Differences Are Brilliant …

One of the things I absolutely love is when you hear a perspective on something that you never thought about.

Something that makes you stop and reconsider what you thought you know.

Not that it means your original perspective was wrong – as I’ve said before, there’s rarely a really wrong answer, just lots of degrees of right – but you just feel your eyes have been opened to something that you thought had no way of surprising you.

It’s like a revelation to me.

The reason I say this is because it happened when I read this interview with a bouncer …

Now maybe you’re thinking his statement was massively obvious, but I never looked at bouncers that way.

To me, they were there to stop trouble and maintain order.

Oh … and to look menacing.

[Except my best friend Paul is sometimes one and he is the opposite of menacing]

However, after reading “If you’re too drunk you’re not going to buy any drink”, I now realise their actions are as much about securing the profitability of the business as it is securing the reputation and environment of the premises.

In essence, they’re more than bouncers, they’re business managers.

Now of course, you could say this is a classic case of ‘reframing’, and maybe it is … but in my experience, it only works when it is born from a truth that people can immediately relate too, so even if that is the case, it’s still better than 95% of the stuff our industry has done.

Welcome To Australia, Please Put Your Watches Back 20 Years …

Before I begin, this is not Australia bashing week.

I know I wrote something about the place yesterday, but this is entirely coincidental.

Besides, laughing at the misguided taste of an Australian government department is not the same as laughing at the entire nation.

A nation where my wife originates.

A nation that my son holds a passport from.

A nation where I am classed as a permanent resident. For tax reasons. [Bastards]

OK? Good … so I will now begin.

Cynic stopped being a legal entity in 2010.

We had a great run and had a great time, but opportunities meant we wanted to explore other paths in life.

While we kept the website up, it was for nostalgia purposes rather than any belief we would one day restart it again.

Besides, legally we wouldn’t be able to do that because the name – and all property of it – belongs to someone else now.

So imagine my surprise when I received this …

Yep, seven years after putting the shutters up, an Australian award group have recognised our brilliance. Or something.

Of course it’s bound to be a scam because business situation aside, the website is very dated and so to be nominated for anything other than ‘website best maintained in mothballs’ there’s no way we should be on any list.

But of course I’ve accepted the offer because I am very keen to see how far this goes.

I appreciate competition is tough these days … but I am astounded how many emails/letters I get from companies that have obviously done no due diligence. The amount of companies who write to me without realising I’m based in China is amazing.

Let’s be honest, if these companies can’t get their basic information right, then why would I believe they could do a good job for me?

Given the importance of reputation, I am shocked how many organisations don’t seem to give a shit about it. And I appreciate that’s saying something coming from me and my Birkenstocks.

Fly The Unfriendly Skies …

Remember a long time ago I wrote about the Air France lounge in Paris.

In that post, I talked about the brief I got from Richard Branson for his Virgin Atlantic lounge at Heathrow.

Well recently I was in LA and went into the United lounge and this is what I saw.

Now I appreciate this may come across as a massive ‘first world problem’ and it is … but it’s also a massive brand problem for United, because if this is how they treat their business class passengers, god knows how you must feel if you’re in coach.

Seriously, how hard is it to put a bit of effort into your lounge.

Now they will claim they’re in a temporary location because they’re building something new and special … but that’s not really an excuse. Surely they could have sorted out a viable alternative while work was going on.

Is it so hard to arrange the room to look like it has had some care put into it. Offer some food that looks like you actually give a damn about the passengers who are going to eat it.

But here’s the bigger thing.

If your normal standards are going to be inhibited due to building work, then I’d imagine the sensible thing to do would be to over-deliver in terms of food and service so that your customers still feel valued, despite being in a smaller room with less natural facilities.

But not United … oh no … for them, they see this as a cost saving exercise, which is why they’re about as friendly as sitting next to Donald Trump on Air Force One.

A Reminder Why Apple Are Special …

So Apple has had a lot of stick recently.

A lot of it has come from me.

However recently I was walking through the Shanghai Apple store when I saw this …

Yep, it’s a ‘how to use an iPhone’ class for the elderly.

Brilliant … almost as brilliant as these elderly people wanting to know how to use it.

I know I’ve said in the past how I admire Apple for developing an operating system that is so intuitive, that even babies know how to use it, but I also have to admire them for making sure they pay attention to their users at the other end of the age spectrum.

Of course, part of this is because the ‘younger audience’ segment has been well and truly exploited – but that still doesn’t take away Apple’s desire to help people – all people – get the most out of their product, without dumbing down their brand.

For example, unlike brands like Samsung and LG they never created a ‘smart phone character’ to appeal to kids – they just made their store experience accessible to kids.

Smart. Intelligent. Sophisticated.

The thing I’ve always loved about Apple is that while they want their products to be in as many hands as possible, they’ve never treated their audience like idiots. They appreciate that if you want to be respected, you better act in a way that can be respected.

While that message is obviously deeply ingrained with the product and retail folks, I would say their advertising team need a reminder – because apart from the odd moment of understated niceness [the recent photo billboard stuff for example], they’ve been acting like a total bunch of tossers. [Or, as this guys says, unendingly arrogant]

If it’s not an iPhone, it’s not an iPhone.

The only thing that’s changed is everything.

The funnest iPod ever. [OK, so it’s not for the iPhone, but it’s possible Apple at their shite-est]


On the bright side, I suppose it shows how powerful making a great product can be, because it sure-as-shit wasn’t the advertising that made people want to go out and buy that stuff.

How about that for an endorsement Baz? Well, if you ignore the ad slag-off.

Surely that qualifies me for a freebie when the iPhone 7 comes out. Ha.

Disconnected From Reality …

For reasons that are too boring to go into, I still maintain my Australian mobile number.

It doesn’t cost me much each month and it’s very easy to manage.

I’ve been doing this for over 10 years and there’s never been an issue.

Then last month I saw that Telstra had decided to double my monthly subscription.

They decided to do this without telling me.

I’d certainly not asked for it and I certainly didn’t want it … but they did it all the same.

Sure, it’s not a huge amount, but that’s not the point.

Here is a company that claims to be customer focused, doubling a long-term clients subscription at a whim.

So I wrote to them to find out what was happening and a few days later, I got this.

Yes, that’s an email telling me they don’t have any answers or solutions for me and – this is the kicker – I hope I find that helpful.

No Telstra, I don’t find that useful.

In fact, I find it insulting, patronising and condescending.

To be honest, it’s the I hope that was helpful comment that I find most distasteful.

Getting an email telling me they were looking into my grievance and would be back to me soon, at least let me feel I was being heard – which, as any councillor will tell you, helps create an atmosphere that is more conducive to a positive outcome – but when they added ‘I hope that was helpful’, they ruined any good will because it just reeked of sarcasm and a complete lack of care.

Maybe that wasn’t their intention, but it sure as hell came across that way.

To be fair to Telstra, maybe they did this simply to prepare me for their ‘proper answer’ that arrived by email a few days later.

On the bright side it didn’t include any blatantly disrespectful language.

But then their ‘answer’ did that for them.

Let’s remember this is a situation caused and yet despite that, they tried to position their behaviour an act of consideration, claiming it was a much better plan for my needs DESPITE THE FACT I DON’T MAKE – OR RECEIVE – ANY CALLS ON THAT NUMBER AND NEVER HAVE FOR TEN BLOODY YEARS.

If they really cared about my needs, they should be recommending I cancel my plan, not double down on it.

Why couldn’t they just say they fucked up?

Why couldn’t they have said they were going to put things back to as it was?

Why couldn’t they have just left things alone?

I know why … because they thought they could make a few extra bucks with minimal effort and if they do that to enough people who don’t notice – or think arguing is too much hassle – they can boost their revenues without any effort.

For over a decade I had no beef with Telstra. In one email, they fucked that all up.

Ironically, it’s not because they screwed me over – we all make mistakes – it’s because they then didn’t take responsibility for it.

My attitude towards them has gone from ‘idiots’ to ‘liars’ and my relationship has gone from ‘customer’ to ‘ex-customer’.

I’ve said it many times, that getting someone to buy is relatively easy, but loyalty gets built by how you act after you’ve got the money.

The problem starts when companies view customer service as a rigid, automated and one-size-fits-all process.

I get that you need to have systems in place to manage this sort of thing, but when it delivers solutions tailored to the benefit of the company rather than to the individual, then it’s more of a customer disservice process than something built to develop trust, loyalty and mutual satisfaction.

And that’s where Telstra went wrong, because at no point did they want to help me.

They may claim they wanted to … they may run ads that say they want to … but as the old adage goes, actions speaks louder than words.

If Only All Monday’s Could Feel This Way …
July 6, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Customer Service, Hotels

That photo above is of the mini-bar price list for the East Hotel in Bejing.

And no, that’s not a typo … everything in the mini-bar is free.



At a time where so many hotels are trying to charge you bloody fortune for basic amenities … like toothbrushes and water.

I have written many posts over the years about how customer service in Asian hotels is better than anywhere else in the World and this is another reason why … though I must admit it would have been better if they’d told me about the freebie mini-bar when I checked into the hotel rather than having me realise it just as I was checking out.

Cunning bastards.