Where in the world…

I’ve been a bit quiet lately because I’ve been trying to get Bleezer to work with the new Blogger, but I think I’m almost there.

But I’ll be heading to Boston for a few days to visit friends for my, and my goddaughter’s, birthdays. Boston is home really, and I always experience an ethereal sense of calm when I can see Logan Airport and the city.

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Skype math.

Of course I waited until the last day to save 50% on Skype’s Unlimited Calling plan. It’s been advertised everywhere at $14.95.

So imagine my surprise when I went to sign up, only to be informed that the cost was $17.50.

Now I expect that is the result of exchange rates, but there is no mention of that anywhere on the site. How difficult would it be to add a little note about that really?

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Skype gift day? Unless it isn’t.

When I signed in to the Skype website today I was informed that today was "Skype Gift Day" and I would get 10 free minutes of Skype calling. When I clicked on the link I was taken to a "this page could not be found" page.

When I returned to the home page I was again informed that it was Skype Gift Day, but I must have already received my gift.

I guess that’s a greay way to save money on a marketing campaign. Don’t actually deliver what you promise the customer.

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Satisfy customers or else.

Daimnationprovides a bit of commentary on the slow demise of Ford.

When I was a kid there were basically only three car companies – GM, Ford, and Chrysler – and I grew up in a GM town. We drove cars from those companies.

Today I drive an Audi and my wife drives a Mazda. Though we do still own a Chrysler minivan and my son drives a GM – until we replace them probably with something from Japan.

American car companies don’t seem to be as adept as other companies at building what the customer wants. But for me their biggest problem, and the reason for our switch to foreign cars, was the horrendous customer service provided by their dealerships. A general feeling that they weren’t really concerned with me as a customer once the sale was completed. I have at least one horrible story to tell, as I’m sure many others do as well.

To me Ford is just an example of a company that forgot the need to keep customers satisfied.As a quick test, just name any Ford product you would want to own. An alternate test? Name any Ford product.

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They just noticed.

Canada’s other political party, the NDP, has suddenly noticed ATM fees, even though they have been around since the ATMs themselves. And they claim that banks are gouging customers with these fees:

Charging people to use automatic teller machines from a bank other than their own in order to access their own cash is a rip-off that should be outlawed, New Democrat Leader Jack Layton said Thursday.

In what Canada’s big banks dismissed as little more than a display of ignorant rhetoric, Layton said the $19-billion profits the financial institutions made last year should be enough to waive ATM convenience fees.

"We believe it’s gouging when a person comes up and they want $40 or $60 of their cash and a bank is charging them $1.50 or $2, $2.50," Mr. Layton said during an election-style announcement on a Toronto street corner.

"That’s a rate of payment which is very, very high — and unfair."

Unlike the American banking system consisting of thousands of banking institutions,there are only five or six Canadian banks. As far as I know, all of those banks charge service fees regardless of any balance in the account. And customer service is generally not that good. IN a recent attempt to move my US dollar account, not one bank could tell me what percentage they charge for a US to Canadian dollar exchange. It’s about 2% by the way.

When I first moved to Canada I incurred $45 in service charges in one month. We immediately switched to a financial institution run by a supermarket chain. Even though they are run by one of the banks, they had no service changes. So clearly a bank can run without service charges.

So is this gouging? When I was a kid there were no service charges. Banks made money by using your money. Then they felt the need for higher profits, so they started charging for service. Then they started increasing those charges.

You pay to deposit money. You pay to withdraw it. You pay to talk to a teller. You pay for every bit of service you get. And really, with the interest rates so low, you’d be better off keeping your money in your mattress.

I’m a capitalist, so I believe that people have a right to make a profit. Yet I don’t feel that the service the bank provides is worth what they charge, so I bank where there are no service fees. That’s consumer choice. I also believe that it might be more acceptable to charge a fee based on the amount withdrawn, rather than a fixed fee.

Of course the standard response by the banks of rising infrastructure and operational costs is ridiculous as well. Over time in a properly run system, the cost of operating a network of ATMs should be decreasing.

Either way, I just find it odd that after years of fees this political party just noticed this.

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Birthday cards for Shane.

Andrew Anderson of Bound By Gravity would like to help out a seven year old Ottawa boy named Shane, who is battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Andrew is a great blogger and a really nice guy, so I’ll ask you all to take a few minutes from your happy, healthy lives and spend a couple of bucks to send Shane a card.

I’ve copied Andrew’s entire post below.

A seven year old Ottawa boy, Shane, has a birthday wish: Shane would love to receive as many birthday cards as possible this year for his eighth.

The morning crew on KISS FM have been organizing birthday card drop-offs all over Ottawa and the surrounding area, however it would be so much cooler if he started receiving cards from the rest of the country too.

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Here is Shane’s story, from his site:

At almost 5 years old Shane was diagnosed with A.L.L. After 1 month into the treatment he was in early remission, meaning there were no cancer cells in his blood. Shane’s family was very pleased with the early results, but his protocol called for 130 weeks of treatment. Then on July 6th, 2006 Shane relapsed after completing 108 of the 130 weeks. It was a shock to everyone including his doctors. Shane may have to undergo a bone marrow transplant down the road, but the good thing is that his brother Jacob is a match. Presently, there is no sign of cancer in Shane’s system since relapsing.

I’d love it if any of you reading this could send Shane a birthday card. The address to send card to is:

SHANE
C/O KISS FM
2001 Thurston Dr.
Ottawa ON, K1G 6C9

Better yet, send a card, and then blog about Shane’s birthday card quest. Let’s spread the world and really give him a nice treat.

A bit of background from me: My younger brother, Douglas, battled the same cancer that Shane is fighting – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia – many years ago. The amount of time Douglas spent in hospitals had to be wearing on him, and the fact that he was able to put a smile on his face even in the hardest of times was always an inspiration. Sadly Douglas lost his fight twenty-three days shy of his thirteenth birthday.

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Rules were meant to be combined.

Andrea Learned lists seven principles from the "Mozilla School of Management" that will improve how you live and work:

  1. It’s the community, stupid
  2. Just ask
  3. Lead by following
  4. Nurture renegades
  5. Think hybrid
  6. Think globally
  7. Shut up

Her favorites, and mine, are principle #2 and #7. However, I think that they should be combined and stated this way:

Just ask, then shut up and listen.

Don’t interrupt, and don’t correct. Just listen to what your customers have to say. And then do something about it.

By the way, this isn’t bad marriage advice either.

Principle #4 is a pretty good one too. Everybody says they nurture renegades, but game-changing ideas rarely come from Fortune 500 companies.

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10 reasons not to get Vista.

From Australia, ten reasons why you shouldn’t get Windows Vista. The first? You don’t actually need it:

1. You don’t actually need it — No, think about this. Vista doesn’t do anything you can’t already do with XP. About the only significant shift requiring Vista is DirextX10, but as no titles support it yet and, according to John Carmack (the godfather of modern gaming) there’s no need to yet either.

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