Detroit shoots itself in the foot. Again.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of the city and love spending time in the ‘D’. I try to get my fellow suburbanites down to the city whenever I can, whether for sports, concerts, or dinner, I’m always pushing for Detroit. I want the city to succeed as much as anyone, but it seems like the city can’t stop shooting itself in the foot…

BMW in town for the North American International Auto Show stolen

Among all of the great news coming out of this year’s Auto Show, the one that seemed to get the most traction on Twitter was that one of the BMW’s used by executives in town for the show was stolen. My employer asked me to keep an eye on what was being said about this since, um, we had a vested interest in the theft and recovery. It seems like every single auto blogger and news outlet in the world carried the news. How many other non-celebrity owned car thefts in Detroit are reported in the Huffington Post? Or the Vancouver Sun?!? It’s not like this was the only BMW ever stolen, but it sure sounded like it. And our own local media was more than happy to keep throwing gas on the fire.

The national, and apparently international news media is more than happy to continue showing what a terrible, violent, and unsafe place Detroit is. But that’s not the reality. In the 12 years since I started working downtown, the city has made huge improvements with more on the way. There are more great bars and restaurants downtown than I can name and according to several reports, crime in downtown Detroit is lower than the national and Michigan average.

Ultimately, we’re responsible for the impression people from around the world have of our city.  Along with the work of many Detroit bloggers and the ever increasing number of groups engaged in making the city better, is for our own local news outlets to highlight the good happening in the city, not con

http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/region/detroit/stolen-bmw-in-town-for-auto-show

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Categories: Rants...

Maintaining ‘orphaned’ car owners

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The attached article scratches the surface of a problem I think few, if any, manufacturers are addressing well. As you may know, orphaned car owners are owners of vehicle brands that have been discontinued, such as Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Plymouth, and Mercury.

When these owners are shopping new cars, there is no brand loyalty they can follow.  Sure, they can show loyalty to the parent company of their now discontinued brand, but the article states that this only happens in 30% range.  Obviously this means that 70% are spending their money on a competitors brand!

I think the most common way manufacturers of former brands are trying to maintain loyalty is through the use of <gasp> incentives to purchase new vehicles.  If I were even remotely passionate about my brand and am mourning its passing, the last thing I want to get from the parent company is an incentive to buy one of their other vehicles.  ‘Sorry we’ve abandoned the brand you loved, but hey, buy another car from us and we promise not to do it again!’

I think they’re missing a huge opportunity with this approach.  These brands have large Facebook followings, blogs dedicated to them, and owner run communities.  Engage these owners through those sites, continue to show the love through posts that would appeal to those owners, even sponsor get-togethers for those owners so they don’t feel, well, so orphaned.

Yes, it costs money to do things like this.  Yes, you will have to continue to have a small dedicated staff monitoring social sites and organizing events. But the opportunity to rebuild the trust with these owners so that they will be loyal customers to a new brand will more than pay for itself in the long run.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimgorzelany/2012/05/07/the-battle-to-adopt-orphan-car-owners/?feed=rss_home

Brian Setzer concert at the Soundboard in Motor City Casino December 1st

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Last Thursday I had the great pleasure seeing Brian Setzer in concert, from the 3rd row!  Those who know me know that I absolutely love his music and think he’s one of the best guitarist in the world.  After this concert, my feelings were reinforced!  Given the time of year, I do miss his Christmas Extravaganza with his Orchestra, but this show made me forget all about that.

This was also the first show I’ve been to at the Soundboard, and I’ll absolutely go back for more.  Very intimate, easily accessible seats and beverages, and a great sound.  The location of the bathrooms for the lower level leave something to be desired, but that’s a small complaint on a great venue.

Here are a few pictures I took from the show.  Enjoy!

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

A recent visit to the doctor’s office…

April 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the office of my daughter’s doctor for her annual sports physical.  The office opened at 9:00, and we were scheduled for 9:20.  We arrived about 9:15 and were greeted with the usual ‘Have there been any changes in your insurance?’ question.  I then began filling out the obligatory paperwork, which I seem to fill out every time we visit.  Every time.  We sat patiently in the waiting room and were called back at about 9:45 for the standard triage, weight, blood pressure, height, etc.  The doctor came in promptly at 10:10, and after looking at my daughters ears, throat, listening to her heart, and a few general questions about how she feels, and after paying a copay we were on our way by. 10:45.  Another great visit…

Except that it wasn’t great.  It was yet another customer service nightmare by most other industry standards.  Why is it that we weren’t greeted with a friendly hello, how can I help you?  Why did I have to fill out the same reams of  paperwork I’ve filled out several times before?  Why weren’t we called in when scheduled?  Why weren’t we told they were running behind?  How can they be 25 minutes behind 20 minutes after opening?  Not to mention the fact that they close for an hour during lunch, which fortunately we didn’t run up against today.

Not to get into politics, but there is obviously a lot of debate on the passed National Health Care plan, or as I’ve heard it referred to ‘Obamacare’.  I think it’s supposed to make health care more efficient and accessible to more people.  I have to admit, I don’t know enough about it to really speak out for or against it, but I generally don’t like the government mandating what I have to do.  With that said, given my experience every time I visit a doctor, I think mandating a government solution to our nations health care woes is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too premature.

This ‘industry’ is so amazingly inefficient and completely out of touch with reality that I believe it’s un-fixable in its current form.  What other customer service industry doesn’t greet its customers when they come in?  What other business generates needless paperwork for their customers to fill out, when they already have the information?  What other business expects their customers to wait as a normal course of business, despite appointment times?  What other business closes for lunch?!?  Can you imagine going to Target, or the bank, or anywhere, only to find a sign saying they’ll be back in 45 minutes?  And what other business doesn’t provide you with an itemized bill when you’ve had a service done?  (Aside from the government, of course.  But that’s a different topic entirely…)

In my opinion, the medical industry needs to bring itself out of its arrogant, self-serving haze and enter the modern business era.  Treat customers, insurance carrying or not, like, well, customers.  We’re choosing to spend our insurance money in their office instead of someone else’s, show some appreciation and respect for that!  Make realistic schedules and stick to them.  If you’re running late, apologize and tell your customers when you’ll be able to help them.  Be available for your customers when it’s convenient for them, not you.  And give them a bill detailing the charges for everything that was performed, regardless of what they  ‘paid’!

No solution to fix health care, government mandated or not, will work without the medical industry fixing itself first.

Categories: Rants... Tags: ,

Metro Detroit Traffic and Lack of Public Transportation

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Last night, as I spent a typical 80 minutes traveling 39 miles on an ‘Expressway’ around Metro Detroit,  I was again reminded of the blatant, obvious, enraging fact that there is no real public transportation option in the Detroit area.  I know, I’ve heard the theories (some real and some conspiracy), about the local auto manufacturers doing everything in their evil power to keep public transportation out of the area so car sales weren’t lost, but those are anecdotes from a time long past and something needs to be done.

Those of us in Metro Detroit love our cars.  I can’t imagine ever not having one, regardless of public transportation options.  The automobile is too ingrained in our local culture to ever be replaced, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have alternatives for getting around the area.  We shouldn’t have to average 30 miles per hour for 80 minutes on roads with 70 mile per hour speed limits.  We shouldn’t have to wait 5 minutes to make it through a stop light on a 6 lane road at 4pm on a Sunday.   We shouldn’t have to be faced with deciding between a $50 cab fare, jail time, or worse when leaving an establishment early in the morning, perhaps not in the best frame of mind to make that decision.  We should have real, viable alternatives for getting around our highly sprawled Metro area.

Among the many steps Detroit has to take to become a major American city again, one of the most important is to create a great public transportation system.  With all of the no-strings attached cash that’s fallen off the federal government money tree the past couple of years, and the fact that everyone in the United States apparently wants to cut our dependency on foreign oil, I find it hard to believe that no one here asked for money to create a world class public transportation system.  Virtually every other major city in the world has one; it’s one of the main reasons they’re considered  ‘major’ cities.

Having had the opportunity to live and work in a few other large cities in the United States, I’ve been able to experience the relatively low cost, high value alternative of using a good public transportation system.  The model I would advocate for Detroit is similar to the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, or BART system in the San Francisco Bay area.  On BART trains, you can get from San Francisco to Oakland to Richmond to Pleasanton; all of the major urban and suburban cities in the area.  It’s a combination of subway and elevated trains, depending on existing obstructions  geography.  The trains run under the bay and over the freeways, through and around the cities.

Imagine being able to take a train from Clarkston to the airport, Detroit to shopping in Troy, Flint to Warren, Royal Oak to Ann Arbor; The possibilities are endless!  By running the trains down the center of our existing freeways, with stations at the freeway hubs (75/696, 275/96, 23/94, etc.), and at 2, 3, 4 miles intervals in-between, there wouldn’t much disruption to existing buildings, homes, etc., and the state owns the freeways so the cost would be much lower to acquire needed land.  Need to get to the airport?  Get on a train in Brighton, transfer at the 23/94 station, and be at the airport station in plenty of time for your flight.  Flying in for business?  Get on the train at the airport, transfer at the 94/75 station and be at your meeting in Auburn Hills in record time. No traffic delays! No airport parking fees! No rental car fees!  Woohoo!

The economic impact would be felt almost immediately through employing people to construct and run the system, and long term through increased business presence in the area. I’m not an engineer or a politician, so maybe I’m over simplifying the whole thing. But in order for Detroit and Michigan to dramatically improve our economy long term, draw businesses back to the state, and to overcome the true and false perceptions of the area, we NEED a world class transportation system.  Soon.

This isn't a new problem... Detroit Traffic Jam, 1965 (from umich.edu)

It’s been far too long. Again…

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s not that I don’t like burdening people with my opinion on random topics, I really do.  It’s that I seem to be striving to write something witty or profound every time I put something down.  I want my opinion, whether one agrees or disagrees, to be ‘value added’ to the general conversation it takes place in.  Sure, I come up with lots of things I think I want to write about, but work, children, life, seem to get in the way.  That, and that one with a casual eye to the employment market may be slightly concerned with writing something a potential employer may not agree with…

So with that said, I’m going to try to get back to my ranting ways, starting now…

Categories: About Me...

Initial thoughts on Foursquare…

I’ve been using Foursquare (http://foursquare.com/user/gcagreg), one of the more popular up and coming location based social networking sites/applications for a couple of months now, and maybe I’m just a social geek, but I’m hooked.  I’m sure Foursquare understands what they have on their hands, but I’m not sure most of the literally millions of businesses listed on their service, many of which are user added, have any idea of the nearly free marketing gold mine operating right under their noses.  For me, Foursquare and it’s mayorships and reward badges, is like internet crack.  I want more. No, I need more.

Many businesses struggle to get visitors to become frequent, repeat customers.  In the age of ubiquitous internet enabled smartphones, support of Foursquare users is an easy and inexpensive way to drive just that type of business.  Some businesses are starting to see the value in rewarding Foursquare users, like Beggar’s Banquent in East Lansing, Michigan (coincidentally in the same city the most awesome college in the world is in, but I digress…), which offers 20% off the mayor’s individual bill when they visit. (http://foursquare.com/venue/172434) Among Foursquare users, this type of offer, especially in a college town, starts the equivalent of a frequent visitor arms race to see who can get the coveted discount.  Other venues have promoted the opportunity to earn a ‘Swarm’ badge (earned when 50 Foursquare users are checked in at the same venue) if they attend on a certain night, event, etc.  And events, like the 2010 SXSW in Austin, TX had vendors create specific badges for visiting their convention booths, businesses, etc.

Unlike facebook, where friends are most likely to be ‘real’ friends and acquaintences, twitter, where followers have a common interest with you, and LinkedIn, where connections are for business, Foursquare friends are location based.  You find and become friends with people who visit the same businesses you do.  For a business looking to increase it’s customer base, marketing to Foursquare users is a self feeding proposition, users want to hang out where other users hang out.  The more people you draw in, the more people you are going to draw in.  (A side note on Foursquare friends, are most people’s friends from the opposite sex, or is it just me?  Yet another hook to draw customers in…)

Of course there are criticisms; it’s easy to cheat (you can simply drive by a place to ‘check-in’), and some have complained that Foursquare shout-outs are choking ‘legitimate’ twitter posts (‘Who cares if you just became to mayor of Diapers-R-Us?!?’).  What can’t be denied is that Foursquare, until something bigger and better comes along, is a great way to increase your customer base and virtually reward your visitors with very little out of pocket expense.