Monthly Archives: May 2008

How to keep my business

It never ceases to amaze me how corporations will spend huge amounts of money to win new customers, but once they have your business they act like they are entitled to it, thus losing the most important marketing tool of all – word of mouth. Here are some of the ways that you can impress me.

  • Don’t hide from me! Too many businesses have an attitude that can be summed up as “give-us-your-money-but-don’t-talk-to-us”. They bury phone numbers deep within their websites and hide contact info, perhaps in the hope that you won’t ever trouble them again.
  • Pick up the phone! Part I : “Press 1 for the runaround, press two for a total waste of time. If you want to talk to a real person you are out of luck”
  • Pick up the phone! Part II : Don’t tell me that “Call Volume is high” unless you are going to tell me when it is not high. Don’t tell me that “All of our operators/associates/peons/slaves are busy” unless you are going to tell me when they are not busy or will offer a callback. Both of those phrases mean the same thing: We do not employ enough people and we’re hoping you don’t notice.
  • Indian Call Centers? Just Say NO! A lot of business farm out customer service and support to India. The first sign of this is when they pick up and give their name – and you know that’s not their real name. Think about it: the first thing that they tell you is a lie… and it usually goes downhill from there.
  • Answer the question! When e-mailing, I don’t mind getting an auto-generated “we-got-your-message” reply, but I would appreciate it if the subsequent reply was read and replied to with something that was not spat out of a boilerplate-cut-and-paste machine.
  • Share the love – and the paperless savings! “Going Paperless” may be and added convenience for me, but is a massive cost savings for you. So why not cut me in on those savings? A one-off $20 bonus – or $5 annually – should cover it.

Now reading: Me, myself and Bob, by Phil Vischer

Vote for me!

If I am elected President I promise to attempt the following:

  • Repeal the 16th amendment, abolish the Federal Income Tax, and replace it with a 15% Purchase tax on goods.
  • Abolish the Department of education, which costs taxpayers a billion dollars a year and educates nobody. Education belongs to the States and Counties – it is not the Federal Government’s job.
  • Expand and fund the INS so that they can do their job properly. Policing our borders is our job.
  • Bring our soldiers home – not right away, but soon – from the 130+ countries in which US Troops are currently stationed. They can’t all be vital to our national security, and we can no longer afford to be the world’s policeman.
  • Quit meddling in the internal affairs of other countries – or, as Jefferson put it, “Free Trade with all, entangling alliances with none
  • Quit sending Tax dollars overseas – reduce the Foreign Aid budget to $0. If you want to help the poor and needy overseas, knock yourself out – you just don’t have the right to do it with OPM (Other People’s Money).
  • Establish a trade policy of reciprocity. You tax our goods, we’ll tax yours. Fair?
  • Balance our budget. We expect you to live on less than you make, it’s time we did the same.
  • Allow anyone to opt out of Social Security, and refund their contributions. Again, this is not the Federal Government’s job – let the States take care of this.
  • Establish a referendum on energy policy. Do we drill for oil, build refineries and power stations and have cheap energy, or do we protect the environment at the cost of dependence on foreign oil? Hint: You can’t have both.

A letter to my Congressman

Every day, I record the prices at the eight gas stations that I pass en route to work. Once at my destination, I enter those prices into a web site ( I have been doing this for some years. During that time, I have noticed some patterns that I would like to share with you.

The overall trend is 7-14 days of slowly falling, interspersed by lightning price spikes.

In a falling phase, prices generally go down by 1-2 pennies per day. During a falling phase there is diversity in price among the eight stations I pass.

During a spike, the price rises by 15 to 40c. The petrol sitting in the underground tank is suddenly worth more than it was last night. At the end of the spike, everyone is selling at exactly the same price, except for a few stations that lower their prices by exactly penny – presumably this is what they call “competition”.

Here in Louisville, the price also spikes at Derby, The Car show, the Quartet Convention… basically, if the circus is coming to town, prices spike. Apparently they never saw it coming. Again.

I am less bothered by price than I am by volatility, which seems to be getting worse. Some stations have installed LED price signs, presumably so that they can jerk the price around more quickly and more often.

I believe in a free market. I don’t believe that price controls will solve anything, but it is axiomatic to anyone outside of the Petrochemical industry that something is rotten in the States of the Union.

At first I thought that one method to stop them bouncing the price around would be to mandate that they only set their price when they get a delivery (which I am told is every 2-7 days). However, they would simply take a small delivery every day, set their price as before… and nothing would change.

In the short term, one solution is to prevent the stations changing their prices by more than 5c per day. How Congress might choose to enforce that without violating free-market principles is a challenge.

In the medium term, Repealing the Federal Gas Tax and getting the states to agree to repeal their gas taxes would be a start. Auto manufacturers should also be manufacturing smaller more fuel-efficient vehicles instead of marketing SUVs and Trucks. One way to encourage this is to suspend the car-tax breaks on those vehicles (unless they are purchase by a business) and moved those tax breaks to vehicles that make over 40MPG. It’s time we admitted the obvious – SUVs are not trucks, they are passenger vehicles, and not all Trucks are business vehicles.

In the long term, we need to be drilling for oil and building refineries and power stations. Environmentalists will complain; if they want to save the Earth, let them limit or ration their electricity and gasoline. At some point, we will have to make a choice between the environment and progress; we cannot have both. That choice should be made on a State by State basis.

Just a few thoughts.