Thursday, July 17, 2008

How good are your meetings?

A friend of mine questioned my apparent need to have fully formed thoughts before I post them in my blog. He's right, of course. So today, I'm just going to question someone's judgement.

I was walking across the street the other day when I saw this ad.

In case you can't read it, it says "Meetings" - "This is how it should feel."

Now, I actually quite like Westin. Their hotels have always been great and they take good care of me. But I'm starting to wonder if any of them have ever been in a meeting.

I've been in some good meetings over the years. The kind that you walk out of and feel all pumped up and ready to change the world. The kind where you high-five each other, then fell like a big loser for giving someone a high-five. But no meeting I've ever been in has ever felt like sky diving.

And, while I could perhaps understand that this might be seen as aspirational, this just might be taking things a little too far. Because, even if my meeting took place on a plane at 10,000 ft. and at the end we all jumped out the door and freefell to earth, it still probably wouldn't be as good as the meeting shown in the picture.

I suspect that anyone booking a meeting at Westin expecting this experience is going to be sorely disappointed. I wonder if there's a guarantee available. I think I have to accuse Westin of overpromising.

(For the record, I have been skydiving. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't the greatest experience of my life. I've never gone again.)

Lastly, maybe I'm reading this all wrong. Maybe meetings aren't supposed to be this good, but this bad. Maybe a meeting is supposed to feel like you've just jumped from a plane, you're plummeting to earth, and your chute won't open. I'll admit that I have been in some meetings that were like that.

Or, maybe I'm still missing the point altogether. Is there some brilliant insight I'm missing?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Starbuck's Little Green Sticks

So, I'm at Starbucks the other day getting my morning coffee.

When they gave me my pipin' hot cup, I also had the option of taking a little green stick with a wide bit at the end, to put into the hole in the plastic lid on my cup. It's a nice looking little stick, with a mermaid at the end.

At first glance, this stick is brilliant. After years of walking around with my cup, facing the danger of hot coffee jumping out of the cup and onto my hand, Starbucks had found a way to protect me and my tender skin. (Or shirt, which has also frequently been the victim of a coffee escape.)

I had been thinking about this coffee spillage situation recently, when I had gone to a Tim Horton's, which uses the old school folding-back lid for its cups. This prevents splashing when you're carrying around the coffee, but it gives you a potentially sharp edge when you're drinking, which isn't entirely pleasant. Timmy had focussed on convenience while Starbucks had focussed on the drinking experience.

Upon further consideration, this stick is just a little bit of a terrible idea. First, let's say I do grab one of the sticks to keep my coffee from spilling on me while I drive. Now, when I decide to remove the stick to drink my coffee, what am I supposed to do with the stick? It's now dirty from being in my coffee, so I don't really want to put it on my car, but it can't stay in the cup if I'm going to drink. They seemed to consider the portability issue without actually considering that someone would at some point want to actually drink their coffee.

Secondly, the place where the sticks were kept was an open container at the counter where they give you your coffee. (I didn't get a photo of that.) It's conveniently placed, but isn't everyone's hand going into that container. And then your stick is going in the coffee, which you're about to drink. Ick. Not terribly sanitary.

Then there's my biggest issue with this - it's just added crap. I know, I should be taking my own reusable cup to Starbucks. I feel actually a little guilty about this. But I don't think that Starbucks should be adding another hunk of plastic to the tens of millions of cups of coffee that they must sell every day. Even if only 10% of customers take one of these cup plugs, it will still be a massive number.

Chris Jordan's art is a great way of demonstrating the truth behind huge numbers. If you haven't seen it, check out his talk at TED, where he shows what the 40 million paper cups used each day in the US look like. It's about about 1:50 into this video.

Now, imagine 4 million little green stir sticks. Non-biodegradable. Non-recyclable. Or, even if they are recyclable, what percent would actually make it into a blue box.

I'm personally a little stunned that Starbucks would try to roll this out. Maybe I was just in a test market. I can't imagine that they'd go forward with this. I can't imagine that they can't figure out a better way to stop the coffee from spilling out of the cup. And I can't imagine that they'd be so deaf to the level of garbage that they create that they'd carry on with this idea.

Was the green stick a good solution to the specific problem of coffee jumping out of the cup? Yes. Was it a good solution that helped consumer usage, that left a positive brand impression, and that took into account the larger impact that the company has in the world. No, no and no.

btw - this morning, July 17, I have discovered the sticks in a Starbucks in SF. So it clearly wasn't a test run. Pity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bad men on the bus.

Speaking of the bus...

So, I got into a bit of an altercation the other day. I'll give the short version, because this doesn't really fit in my blog, but I thought it was interesting...

I was waiting at my local bus stop and a guy walked up with his wife. They were an older couple and had probably just been at the hospital, which is just a block or so from my place.

He offered his wife a Starburst. She accepted. He unwrapped it for her and threw the wrapper on the ground. Then he did the same for himself, throwing the wrapper on the ground.

I stood by, incredulous, and finally had to say something. I likely could have been more convincing if I'd been more polite, but I was a bit shocked. I said "Excuse me. Are you going to pick that up?" 

To which he replied "No. Why should I?"

Well, I really didn't know what to say to this. It caught me a bit off-guard. So I said "Because I live here and I don't want garbage on the ground." 

At this point his wife retorts "Well if you don't want it then why don't you pick it up." 

To which I said "OK. I will." And I picked up the wrappers.

What I found so shocking here was the fact that they weren't embarrassed or anything. They were more surprised that anyone would have an issue with it.

Of course, I couldn't leave it at just this. So I said to the man and his wife "You're pathetic." Which perhaps could have been more clever, but it's pretty rare that I'm in a situation like this and the good lines always come an hour or so later.

I pocketed the garbage and one of the other passengers at the bus stop walked up to me and said "Good for you." Then he shook my hand. I was glad to have that to let me know I'd done the right thing.

Here's a photo I took of the back of the littering guy's head while I was on the bus. I probably should have taken a face shot but I'd had enough confrontation for one day. I am Canadian after all.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Loser Cruiser

I took the bus to one of my client's offices the other day.

Something occurred to me while taking the bus.

We used to call it the loser-cruiser. (I'm sorry, but we did.) Taking the bus was a sign that you couldn't afford a car. It was the option of last resort.

Now, taking the bus feels like you're doing something positive. It's a bit like recycling, the actual amount of change is tiny, but you feel like you're contributing. And, when taken as part of a larger whole, you actually are. Taking the bus is no longer for losers, it's for people who want to be a part of a positive change in the world.

Which is all a little ridiculous, since I think that a good percentage of bus newbies are riding only because gas has gotten so crazy expensive. So, maybe we need a good swift kick in the butt to force us to do something positive. Ruining the earth wasn't enough, but saving $0.50 just might be.

Sometimes the best way to get from A to B is through C. The shortcut.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Low shower-heads

One thing that has always driven me a little crazy is hotels that install their shower-heads right around neck level. I'm not a particularly tall guy, around 6', so it has always confused me to climb into a shower only to discover that the water is coming out well below my head. What is the thinking behind this? Maybe they're planning on saving that 10" of water as some part of an addle-brained water conservation scheme.

Anyway, I'm on the road right now, acting as support crew on my step-father David's Seattle to Portland bike ride. We checked-in to the lovely Chehalis Inn this afternoon. It was the only room left in the region as of Monday, which is when I informed my 68 year old step-father that he and my 67 year old mother might not want to be sleeping on the floor of a local church the night between the two day ride.

The Chehalis Inn is a little nasty, but beggars can't be choosers. However, when I went into the bathroom I was amazed. Someone had initially installed the shower-heads right around nipple level. But with some ingenious plumbing the heads had been elevated to a rational height. Yes, the shower may still have mildew stains, but at least I'll be able to have a proper soaking.

I wonder if there's a name for this shower-head elevating contraption. If so, I hope it's named after the genius who invented it. I'll assume that he was tall.

p.s. Go David Go!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Emergency posting - Thanks Scamp!

I took second place in a photography contest on the Scamp blog a few weeks back. Today Scamp (aka Simon) posted some info on the winners, and included a link to this blog. So I thought I'd damn well better get a posting up today, since I'm sure I'll get more traffic today than any day ever.

Second place in the contest was a set of 8 postcards from Kozyndan, an LA based artist. The work is surreal and fabulous. The kind of stuff that you can stare at and consider, without worrying that you're becoming pretentious. I'd highly recommend checking it out -

My favourite image from the collection was this slightly disturbing one:
A great prize. Thanks Scamp.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I'm back!

My apologies for the extended absence and lack of postings. I've been traveling down the west coast for the past couple of weeks, meeting with Omnicom shops and a client or two. Many fabulous new postings will come shortly.