Do You Want My Opinion or Not?

Any restaurant owner worth his/her salt will tell you that weighing customer comments can be the difference between packed houses and closed doors. If the hostess hears critique from exiting dinners, it is her duty to pass it along to the owner. I once worked for a great friend who owned a sports retail business and his biggest emphasis to his employees was the amount of focus placed on the customers. He would regularly consider the layout of his store in figuring out how to make shopping easier. He even restructured his pricing if his customers mentioned better deals elsewhere. If you want your business to succeed, you had better pay close attention to your customers. This is why the survey has been an indelible tool in shaping America’s capitalistic landscape.

But do you want my opinion or not? Recently, I’ve observed questionable tactics by the employees of a few major corporations when asking customers to take surveys.

These businesses are Taco Bell and Old Navy.

Last month, after she totaled my order, a Taco Bell employee attempted to persuade me to give her store’s location all perfect scores on a survey which could be found at the website printed on the back of my receipt. Her exact words were, “We need all 5s”. Puzzled and shocked I nodded my head and proceeded to the end of the counter, picked up my food, and sat down to eat. Not long into my meal, the same employee made rounds through the dining room reminding customers to take the survey and to rate the store, “all 5s”.

When she came to my table, she recited her lines and began to quickly move on, assuming I’d agree. But I put down my taco and asked her if she was more interested in my honest opinion or in getting all 5s.

She stood speechless.

After stammering for a few seconds, she reiterated the survey instructions as if I had misunderstood her before. Seeing that she misunderstood me, I thanked her for her attentive service and she walked to the next table to beg for perfect scores.

Just today, while doing my final stint of Christmas shopping, an Old Navy associate tried to pull the same shtick but with a subtle word change. Rather than say that her store ‘needed all 5s’, she nicely but rapidly explained that ‘they strive for all 9s and 10s’ on the survey that ‘I had been included in for shopping with them today’.

Firstly, please don’t treat me as if I have won the prize of taking part in a survey. While I appreciate the avenue through which I may communicate to your corporate office the details of my yule-tide experience, attempting to trick me into feeling that this opportunity is some free bonus is belittling.

Secondly, by rewording the tired message of all high marks, Old Navy must believe me to be out of tune with reality, have a short attention span, or possess a lower Intelligence Quotient than their Performance Fleece sweatshirts as to not fully comprehend I’ve just been asked to forgo my true thoughts/feelings and blindly obey their suggestion. By saying the numbers 9 and 10, Old Navy is banking that I’ll mark them as such…subliminal messaging…on my survey.

If Old Navy wishes to regain esteem in my eyes, they will simply make each customer aware of the survey while making very clear that they want the customer’s real impressions of his/her shopping experience. After all, what good is all 9s and 10s if the scores aren’t earned.

I’m not in such a benevolent mood with Taco Bell because I’ve heard their exact pitch for a few years now. Obviously, Taco Bell thinks it’s customers are too distracted with their hunger or the pretty, colorful window displays to realize they’ve just been told to lie on a survey.

And the lure of winning 5,000 dollars for taking the survey? I’m not buying it. It may be that you’re only entered in the cash drawing if you give ‘all 5s’. If this is the case, then you receive a double helping of shame to you this Christmas, Taco Bell, Inc!

You don’t want me to fill out a survey now, Taco Bell and Old Navy. Trust me!

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Anti-war or anti-veterans?

I don’t like war. I don’t know anyone who does, BUT…

Today was Veterans Day and rather than take that time to reflect on those who gave their lives so we could be free, some have used the national holiday to do some political grandstanding on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Here’s an example of some teen aged angst I noticed this evening:

2,995 deaths on September 11th, 92,489 total Iraqi civilian deaths. Happy veterans day.

On one hand you have to give it to this kid, he has a clear opinion on the war in Iraq. At least he’s informed and cares enough about the situation to stay so. And let’s not forget that our beloved Constitution affords this young man the right to freedom of speech.

On the other hand, do you think someone should really give it to this kid?

It’s one thing to be against the war in Iraq. After all, America was not directly attacked yet we went in there with guns blazing and evidence lacking. But even the staunchest anti-war protester shows some manner of respect for fallen American Heroes on Veterans Day.

Perhaps this kid isn’t anti-veterans, I have no idea. But, thanks to his own words, you’d be hard pressed to convince me otherwise.

Tonight,  American troops find themselves at the front of two completely different wars. One, the Iraq war in it’s sixth year, is winding down to little more than a police action as brave men and women of the armed forces wait to come home. The other in Afghanistan, some would say the only war we should be fighting, has seen fighting escalate as of late.

Tonight, the uncertainty of the fates of US troops only adds to the wavering confidence the public has on matters such as the economy, job market, and the state of healthcare. Tonight an American president, who inherited both conflicts, must decide whether or not to bring more troops into the Afghan theater. There can be no doubt lives will be forever changed either way.

Sobering isn’t it?

Happy Veterans Day, young man. If it wasn’t for those heroes you wouldn’t be around today to mock their memory.

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Ohio Teams Looking Up?

It’s been no secret that Ohio sports teams have been in some what of a rut for the past several years.

At one point last season both the Bengals and the Browns were called out by Coach Mike Ditka thanks to their outrageously dismal play.

The Cincinnati Reds haven’t been a serious contender since they last won the World Series back in the early 90s.

The Cleveland Indians were supposed to be the team to beat at the beginning of last season but that never really panned out although there were some flashes of brilliance from the pitching staff.

Even my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes have had to weather a super cell storm of disappointment that showed up in January 2007 with an embarrassing loss to the Florida Gators in the national championship game. Those dark clouds still haven’t left Columbus thanks to an 0-6 record in big games that started with the 2007 NC loss (Florida, Illinois, LSU, USC, Penn State, Texas*).

With all of the gloom surrounding the Buckeye State sports world, it’s hard to find a local team of which we can be proud.

At least it used to be hard. Lately, there have been some “silver linings” spottings.

They started last November when the Columbus Crew soccer team won it’s first ever Major League Soccer Cup by beating the New York Red Bulls. A championship in a sport that most Americans care the least about but a world championship nonetheless. The city celebrated the Crew for their hard work in bringing home the cup just the same.

This season has been the best in franchise history for the Cleveland Cavaliers thanks in large part to the leadership and talent of Ohio-native LaBron James. The Cavs have the best record in the NBA going into the playoffs which includes an impressive thrashing of the defending champion Boston Celtics just days ago in Cleveland. The Cleveland ballers have pretty much sealed up home court advantage for the playoffs and should have a very manageable run to the championship this summer.

Also just days ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets secured a spot in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in their 8-year history. Rookie sensation goalie Steve Mason, who leads the league in ‘clean sheet’ shutouts with 10, along with Rick Nash and a host of very good support players have made Columbus an exciting place to watch professional-grade  hockey in a town that is clearly owned by the Scarlet and Gray.

Last Saturday was almost another red-letter day for Ohio when Miami (OH) played Boston University for the NCAA Men’s Hockey National Championship in Washington D.C. The Redhawks  led 3 – 1 with minutes to go in the third period when Boston scored two goals within a minute to push the game into overtime. Unfortunately for Miami, BU rode their momentum all the way to the golden goal victory and the title. Miami of Ohio had never played for a national championship in any sport until Saturday and it’s sad their historic run had to end the way it did. However, Ohio can be proud of the Redhawks for their gritty determination and for the prospects for another dynamic season next year as much of their group is expected to return.

Ohio sports have been awful lately? True. But it looks like there could be more reasons to get excited about Ohio teams very soon. And if not, we can take solace in that familiar adage: “there’s always next year”.

(* The 2009 Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas was not embarrassing as the Longhorns were losing to the Buckeyes when they scored the game winner with 18 seconds to go in the game.)

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Speeelunking!

We’ll be gone from central Ohio until tomorrow evening. We’ve decided to take advantage of the Spring weather and take a one-night trip to Mammoth Cave in south central Kentucky.

We’re really looking forward to seeing all the natural wonders and taking some unique pictures of the subterranean level.

You take care and I’ll see you on Monday!

Happy Easter. He is risen!

God Bless!

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More Deals Inked?

By now, even if the only post you’ve read of this whole blog is yesterday’s, you know that I’m trying to find new and creative ways to make money while I’m looking for a new career. You also know that designing Ohio State apparel for retail is one way I’m trying to do just that.

It’s not the only way!

I’ve been working on another OSU product that will be something fans can hang on their walls.

If you or someone you know is a rabid fan of a sports team then you know that it is often the case that a wall, corner, or even an entire room in the house is devoted to said team. It is no different in Columbus with the Buckeyes and you’re reading the words of a man who is suffering from a terminal bout of ‘Scarlet Fever’ (Scarlet and gray fever that is). My whole basement is a constantly evolving shrine to Script Ohio, Coach Hayes, the Block O, and the house that Chic built.

Like most avid fans, my basement walls are starting to fill up which means space for more pictures is limited. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a never-before-executed Ohio State wall hanging that is small enough to fit on the wall of even the most insane fans in the land and yet is large enough to perfectly and sharply commemorate great Buckeye moments.

Just as my clothing designs, I need to go through a vendor who already has a licsense to produce Ohio State merchandise. I’ve found someone whom I will call “Jeff” who has had a license for 25 years and is willing to help pitch the idea to Ohio State’s License and Trademark department!

Today I called Jeff and he said that he’s scheduling an appointment with OSU LTd for next week to pitch the initial idea and get the ball rolling on bringing my wall hanging to life.

To be perfectly clear, the ball is at a dead stop right now and if OSU LTd says, “no”, then the ball will stay right where it is and never leave the starting gate. So, while I am excited about the possibility of more of my ideas coming to fruition, I must remain aware of the fact that my ideas may not come to fruition at all.

Let’s just hope…

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Let’s Make a Deal

And now, we bring you another story from the “hopes of selling my designs” file.

To bring you up to speed, I’ve been designing Ohio State apparel during the slow hours at work and, after talking with some friends and network contacts, am trying to sell them to clothing manufacturers for retail. I’ve been in contact with two, OSU-licensed clothing businesses and have scheduled a meeting with both.

This afternoon, I had my meeting with the first company. The owner is a mid-to-late 20s, self-motivated visionary with a knack for authentic vintage clothing. I’ll call him “Bruce”. He graciously agreed to meet with me and go over my artwork at his shop in Columbus. For the most part Bruce liked what he saw and even remarked that a few of my designs looked almost exactly like ones he had simultaneously been working on and was looking to get approved by Ohio State University. He recognized that we both have an identical passion for bringing classic OSU apparel into the 21st century.

While most of what I had to offer he called a “Fashion Forward” style (which didn’t quite mesh with his “authentic vintage” vibe) Bruce did like one of my concepts which was, indeed, authentic 1970s Ohio State material. He said he would take all of my work on that concept, develop and play with it, and if it gets approved he’ll produce it and I’ll get royalties.

He was more than hospitable in looking at the workings of a former professional broadcaster turned amateur graphic artist. Bruce went over the top in kindness when he offered to call the owner of the second company I have a meeting with in order to speed up the process. Bruce sees my “fashion forward” style fitting in perfectly with the second company so he’d like to get my stuff in front of the powers that be over there so we can get some shirts rolling in time for the spring game later this month!

Talk about a quick reaction!

I can’t express how excited I am at the prospect of seeing my graphics on the retail rack…not to mention a regular check for the residuals. I never imagined that doodling in boredom could translate into money in the bank!

Nothing is final, of course, because so much has yet to be done. Bruce must work with my concept, make a few designs from that, pick a few he likes, and get them approved for production by Ohio State but if all of that pans out then anyone in the state of Ohio should be able to see my work on the rack and folks anywhere in the world would have the capability to order them from online!

So, one of my concepts has been choosen for development and the owner of that shop thinks the rest of my concepts would be perfect for another shop. I’d have to say, all things considered, I’ve made a pretty good deal already!

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Witnesses

Some days it’s easy to be a warrior for Christ. The other 364 days however…

In Acts chapter 1 verse 8, Jesus says (paraphrasing) …and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.

This is something the apostles didn’t necessarily want to hear because Jesus wasn’t letting them off the hook. You see, Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish world. The 12 knew that city well. It wouldn’t be a big deal to preach and teach there; they had already. Judea was the home region of most of the apostles so it wasn’t out of their comfort zone to heal, make the lame walk, or raise people from the dead in that location. It would take a bit more effort but it was completely do-able.

Samaria was a new ballgame.

Nobody wanted to go to Samaria. Jews hated Samaritans because they were half-breeds and Gentiles hated them because, on the social scale, they were even lower than Jews. Traveling Jewish pilgrims would go hundreds of miles out of their way to go around Samaria if necessary. In the Jewish eye, nothing good could ever come from Samaria.

Jesus didn’t care about the social ramifications. He knew that the people of Samaria needed to hear His gospel and be given the chance to be saved. Christ knew his apostles wouldn’t like it. He knew they would be uncomfortable. He knew they would loath every minute of it. Jesus knew His followers would worry about what others would think if they knew where they where.

Jesus knew…and sent them anyway.

When I find it more difficult to let my light shine, I think on Acts 1:8. It reminds me that Jesus understands. He knows that it can be hard for me to share my faith. It can be uncomfortable to tell others what He has done for me. It can be a very vulnerable, scary experience.

Jesus knows…but He expects us to do it anyway.

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