We're Not In Kansas Anymore

Bhuler, anyone…

Hard to say who won, but it’s easy to pick the loser

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It’s hard to say who won the debate last night, but the loser was clear: the public.  No debate had more hype going into it.  Just like a serial novel, the second debate was a major “to be continued” event: Was that the real Mitt we saw in Denver?  Will the differences continue to gel?  Will the president wake up?

Instead of answers we got arguments, and not about the issues but between the two “men” on stage.  I put men in quotes because I don’t know any (really any) men that acted the way they did last night.  Disrespectful, unfocused, unable to answer a question straight, and even arrogant.

I know people who have one or maybe two of those traits, but the sheer ability to display all of those simultaneously was laudable.  Mr Romney says he likes to fire people.  Well my guess is America would like to fire both of them.

People asked genuine questions – in real words.  Couldn’t the candidates answer that way?  The first question was from a nice kid who just wanted a job after college.  Instead he got a seven (Obama) then a five point (Romney) plan about the economy.  I was sitting next to my 14 year old who said “the kid did not go to college to work in a factory, why is Obama talking about manufacturing.  Those jobs suck.”  He was right, the kid probably had higher aspirations for himself and the answer – and he got neither.    Instead of hope he’s getting a stump speech.   The audience must have felt like props vs. people.  “Quick, how can I spin your question into my answer?”  was the M.O. for both candidates.

We don’t have to wonder if the economy is bad – four years of it is convincing enough: friends out of work, can’t sell our house, kids college getting too expensive, steak a rarity, vacation nonexistent.   And so what do they both seem to be hard at work at?  Finding solutions?  No, they seem to be working hard to find new, ever more clever and cynical ways to jab each other.

Is that really what they think we want them spending time on – perfecting their zinger skills?  This is more like grade school playground tactics than a debate.  At one point I sincerely thought they were going to hit each other.

The problems ahead of us are a) huge and b) many.  What is becoming ever more clear is we are going to have to solve them on our own.  These guys are just not interested and now we see not even equipped to solve them.  We’re sick of the fighting in government, but by the looks of it the best is yet to come.

Some people say “well that is just how a campaign is – it gets ugly.”   I will buy the fact that it is probably intense, but everyone of us has in our own way intense moments.  Is this how we act?  Can you imagine two moms at the PTO duking it out like that?  Or two co-workers on the job site?  Or even two kids on the soccer field?

What made me sad when I turned off the TV at 10:10 (I just could not watch anymore) is that I realized we are truly on our own in solving America’s problems.  Now along with making ends meet, I gotta take on the big issues, cause the guys who are running for office just are not going to be up to the task.

ImageMy guess is the biggest takeaway from the night is that Americans probably realized we’re going to have to solve these problems ourselves – we’re getting no help from the government.  The debate capped the last ten years of  bickering and unproductive behavior in government.  The system – and now the people in it – are truly dysfunctional.


Written by markhosbein

October 17, 2012 at 9:55 am

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Starbucks lines are getting too long

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Dear Starbucks –

Over the years, I know you have as a company prided yourself on consistency…and it seems to have worked.  In Paris this summer, the whole family was in “desperately seeking Starbucks” mode.  We’d all had too much Bastille day crowds and needed a breather – and your company was the one thing we all agreed on.  We wandered the streets using our broken French, and finally found one.  Ten plus Euro’s later, we all had our drink of choice (and mind you three of the my family are boys under 18, so they got the fun and expensive stuff), and our journey had a happy ending.

Well you have at least in my mind become consistent in another and probably not so flattering way.  The lines the morning have become too long for me.  I am 0 for 2 today – two Starbucks I normally stop at, one near my train and one near my office, had likely up to five minutes wait.  Granted, I am an impatient New Yorker, so don’t change your world for me.  But I also need my coffee.  So at the train I got station coffee, always cheaper, but you know what, not so bad.  And near the office I have started to patronize a place called The Bean.  I got a frequent coffee card, and I earned my free cup for ten punches.  And you know what, the coffee is better than yours. 

I am a frequent Starbucks card user – and used to use it a lot.  I was on auto reload for $25 bucks.  I would go through that in two weeks.  For the last two months I went to $15 bucks.  And I have found a way to make it last longer.  I am still drinking a lot of coffee – maybe even more. 

You have to something about the lines in the morning.  There is a person with headphones taking orders.  Does not work.  There is a system where people seem to be scurrying around behind the counter.  Doesn’t seem to speed things up (employees all seem to be asking each other questions all the time – not exactly battle ready in my view).  And save me if I order something fancy.  Forget about the wait then.

Most businesses have many problems.  You all seem to have just one problem.   Focus should help you fix it.  In this case, I won’t be waiting to see what happens, cause I just don’t have the time or patience to wait in line for your coffee. 

Let me know if I can elaborate further. 




Mark Hosbein
Frequent coffee card number: 6058 0109 0624 9126

Written by markhosbein

October 13, 2011 at 7:12 am

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with 2 comments

So it’s me, the guy who waited in line to get an iPad.  I was actually standing in line to get one for a school auction, not myself.  It is for a fundraiser this week.  Just another testament to its popularity is the fact we think people will overpay for it for charity.

I met some great people in line – Ito, who had been there for four days; Ben who been for three days, and a bunch of other folks.  We did start our own numbering system that the crowd honored, so that was a positive (we avoided the mad rush for the door when it opened). We had a good time, even many of us walked away without an iPad, but with the same amount of money as we showed up with.

Anyway, I appreciate all the feedback – certainly know there is a lot going on besides my getting an iPad.  One or two of the folks did get the point – it was about Apple’s lack of focus on the customer experience of getting the product – and the consequences that might have on it’s brand image over time.

I ordered one online.  I have managed until now without one, an extra four to six weeks won’t be that hard.

Written by markhosbein

March 20, 2011 at 3:49 pm

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iPad 2: good product, bad business

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I just returned from the Apple Store at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. I arrived at the mall at 5.20 AM to wait in line for my chance to buy an iPad 2. I was number 27 in line. I did not get one. The line went to 81. My wife had been there for the past two days, and both days she was shut out. She was number 39 yesterday, with no luck.
For a revered brand, Apple is risking customer will in the way they are managing the iPad launch. When you call, the stores cannot tell you when or how many they will get in. Even the night before when you call they cannot tell you what they are getting at the store less than ten hours later. If it’s coming from California, they have to know what is coming at that point, but the company is not telling their stores and their stores are simply telling people they don’t know. Does not sound like the operations of a company that makes sophisticated computer products and runs one of the most trafficked websites online, does it?
There are several people who have waited in line multiple days and still do not get product. I was with 70 angry customers this morning. Only ten people got iPads – there were twenty available and the first ten people – many of whom looked like resellers for eBay or were shipping them overseas – all bought two. Apple’s policy, we were told, was to sell two. The 70 customers in line requested that the manager not follow policy, but he would not listen.
By the calculation of someone in our line today, Apple sells 14,000 iPads a day through their stores – at that rate about 3.3 million a year. What they are not counting is the 70 people at each store each day who walk away frustrated. For their 700 stores, that equals 49,000 day. They are frustrating four times as many people as they are delighting. Ouch!
If this goes on for a month – and at this rate that is conservative – that will lead to 1.5M frustrated customers. Think about that, one the greatest brands in the world is now going to have more than a million people saying why they are not fans.
This was preventable and manageable if the company thought about the customer experience. The manager this am said to me and the other frustrated customers “that is the policy.” The company that reinvented computing now focusing on policy. Hmmm. He said that “this happens with every launch.” So does that mean they knew they were going to create all this ill will? Hmmm. I even said why not give every one in line a $5 itunes gift card. “Sir, I just can’t go do that” he said. Would have cost $350 and been the best money he spent – but it was outside of policy. Hmmm.
We’ll all go buy an iPad. My wife wants to try again on Monday. I am giving up. I will order online. But whether I like the iPad or not when I get it, my feeling toward Apple will never be same. They are big, they follow policy, they are not focused on customers. They make great products, but not happy customers.

Written by markhosbein

March 19, 2011 at 7:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Train Talk

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so I said this was about commuting – and one of the big issues on trains is whether people should have the courtesy to not talk on the train. the other day I was riding in and we had two old friends reunite – and strike up quite a lively conversation. A few things at issue on this:

1. it’s 6:57 am – keep it down, there are 291,427 other people on New Jersey transit who are trying to just wake it
2. I can’t help it – no matter how boring the conversation is I can’t help but listen. there is nothing else to listen to.
3. I can’t tell you to stop – but I want to. One of the best scenes in commuting is the talker – non talker fight. I witnessed this three times in commuting. Totally memorable. And i never want to be a part of that.

Talking on trains is not forbidden, but there should be a noisy car. It would help on a lot of levels. All those wanting to talk – and this seems to be a need for some – would be with other talkers. so if they ran out of stuff to say to someone, they are likely to find another chatting buddy. The noise would cancel out the noise, so to speak. If a lot of people are talking, then you can’t really hear any one conversation. And a talker car could be a great way to meet new people. And the cell phone crowd could hang there too.

I vote no on train talk, yes on the talker car.

Written by markhosbein

December 14, 2010 at 3:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Back to Blogging

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After an almost year long delay of figuring what to say, am going to start donig a blog on travel and commuting. there will be lots of content, the whole topic of body scanners has raised interest, and always a good story or two. don’t expect too much sophistication, but look for more frequent posts.

Written by markhosbein

December 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm

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The receiving end…

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It’s been a week since the Superbowl – which means there a week since 39 $3M attempts to get the collective American consumer attention.  The most memorable spot by the AdMeter was the Betty White Snickers ad.  I guess she was on Saturday Night Live last night.  Pretty late for some one like that to stay up.  Must have had a lot of Snickers to get that done.   Marketing theory suggests a big bang like the Superbowl Ad should be followed by other efforts that deepen the message and try to make the brand more personal.  Yet I cannot remember any strong follow up ads since the Superbowl.   It’s especially surprising the media brands like Tru TV have not followed up with online efforts.

Take Dockers.  There could have been a whole campaign of people in the NY Subway with no pants on (happens occasionally now, so it has to be legal).  That would have gotten people talking.  Or a taxi cab take over of great moments depicting males coming to terms with things – for Dove.  Or Charles Barkely living on Taco Bell for a week ($5 times 21 meals equal $85 buck for the week).    Too much effort goes into the ad and the event – and not enough on the follow up.  And considering most of the time I had to try and find the remote and turn the sound up, the $3M may have been a waste.

I did like the Google ad – it was something I could really relate to – and there was real insight to the viewing experience since it did not require sound.

One other note: was in a Jeep dealer this weekend.  Went to three car dealers this weekend: Jeep, Volvo and GM.  The GM dealer was full of people, who knows if any had decent credit, and not a sales guy came up to me.  One guy did say hi, he remembered me from earlier (we spent an hour with him, left saying we were going to decide if we wanted the car, never heard from him.  We bought an Acura.  The Jeep dealer was a guy I met earlier, pulled the old contact form out, said it had been tough, gave me the “what do we have to do to earn your business line.”  The Volvo guy hurried up, gave me a test drive, ran legit numbers, had a good car, and a good offer.

We should have let GM and Chrysler go – throwing good money after bad is not good.   And it’s not the product, it’s the front line sales folks that need help.

That’s it for now…

Written by markhosbein

February 14, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized