Good Customer Service: Fayetteville Uno

With a gift card in hand, we made our way last night to the Uno Chicago Grill in Fayetteville. As most of you know, I'm not one for chains, typically. With the gift card, the money's already spent, so I don't see any benefit to not using it.

Aside: The going wisdom is that for every dollar spent at a locally owned shop, 73 cents are spent in the community. For every dollar spent at a chain, 43 cents are spent in the community. Over a large population, that's quite a boost to the local economy when the money's spent at local shops.

One thing Uno does that I like is that when he first approaches your table, the server writes his name on a napkin and places it on your table. Brian did so, and then commenced the "I'm Brian, I'll be your server routine."

Brian's first win was having the bartender pour my Sam Adams in the brewery's "Ultimate Beer Glass." He noticed the Boston hat, and commented to the positive.

But he also noticed the gift card sitting on the table, which had to scare him, because people have the bad habit of tipping on the cash they pay, not the full bill. So if we had spent $30 on food and had a $25 gift card, would he be getting a big fat $1 tip?

The other exceptional thing Brian did that I liked was when we had a half dinner salad left (we each ordered an entree and shared a dinner salad), he offered us "boxes" – not assuming we had the same destination, even though we did – and then followed up by asking if we'd prefer just one (which we did).

Another aside: I was once at a local establishment with a female friend having wings and watching a football game. "He thinks we're on a date," I told her. "Why do you say that?" she asked. "Because he's being awfully attentive to me, assuming I'm picking up the bill, and we have fresh glasses when there's still three sips in the ones we're working on while everyone else has to wait. He wants me to impress you with a big tip." She didn't believe me. We moved to a table away from the crowd at the bar when it got busy, and when he brought the bill over, he said, "I knew you just wanted to be alone."

Brian stopped me on the way out the door to talk baseball, too. Big win for the restaurant.

Freelancer’s Lament: Be Clear With Deadlines

I put a fair number of proposals out there. Knowing that many come back for negotiation, others come back for long-term discussion, and some just don't come back, it does take a fair bit of planning ahead and organization.

I woke up this morning (August 30) to a query email that said the full text to be proofread was 10,000 words (that's about 40 double-spaced pages, so a large-ish document but not huge), that the site was due to be online September 1, and the entire project had to be completed September 10.

There are two different dates in that email. They are nine days apart, but more importantly, they are between two and 11 days from now. If the deadline is in two days, that's fine – but it makes me think you're very close to hiring me and I want that copy now. It's one thing to want a quick turnaround; it's another to want a rushed job that will read like a rushed job because you didn't give me enough time to do it.

If, on the other hand, you want that job done on September 10, I can wait a couple of days for the copy, and I don't have to worry about pushing a couple of things off – or whether I'm going to take the time out to run to my local coffee shop before it closes at 9 p.m. or whether I'm going to make coffee at the house.

But now I'm stuck emailing back and forth, and if I find out that the deadline is two days, we've had to spend time on basic communication when I could have been actually doing the work.

The moral of this story: If you're hiring a freelancer, know when you need the job done, and communicate that to the person who's going to do the job. It's one of those things that's fundamental to you being happy with the job, and it's one of the things that's fundamental to the freelancer being able to do the job to your satisfaction. Yours isn't the only project that person has in the pipeline – think about what you're paying her and how much you would need to pay your bills – so if your project is to get done on your time line, it's important that you clearly communicate it.

Photo by Martin Kingsley.

Free Advice for Expensive Chairs


If you want to sell me a chair that comes with controls, woo me. Photo by sleepyneko.

I got an email on LinkedIn from someone I don't know. It essentially said, "Hey! I see you're in Internet marketing. Do you have ideas for how to market my website?" Umm, OK. How to approach this? I do usually get paid for this sort of thing.

I looked at his site briefly. He is a Florida-based franchisee with a sales rep in New Jersey. He sells $3,000 chairs. He has some canned articles that he set and left. There's no blog, no Twitter account, no Facebook, nothing that says, "You should spend $3,000 on a chair, and not only that, you should buy it from me."

Here is the free advice I gave him. I figured you should have it, too.

Find your audience, figure out where they are, and give them a reason to buy your chairs. Become an expert in them, connect with them, and really woo them. Start a blog, get on Twitter, get on Facebook and make them feel like they're getting something more than a fancy chair with a hefty price tag.

Based on your demographics (what browsers and operating systems you're using, where you're coming from), you probably already knew that. So why didn't this guy?

What's your 30 seconds of free advice?

Perspective

The other day I wrote one of those why are we all writing the same thing? posts, and Mitch Joel hit me with a dose of reality in comments:

I can’t speak for the other authors, but I didn’t write this book – specifically – for you (and I stated as much before publishing). I wrote Six Pixels of Separation, for those who aren’t deeply engaged in the channel...

Makes sense. If I know this basic stuff, why am I reading books about the basics?

Done.

I've been seeing R—'s face a lot. R— skipped town a few years ago but left me with an inscribed copy of Eastern Wisdom that I haven't touched yet. Maybe it's time to gain a little more perspective – put down the business basics books and find inspiration where I find it, not worrying about where other people find it.

As for who I'm writing for, I'd like to say I write for me, but I'd be lying. My blog stats say there are more of you reading every week, and the fact that I look at those stats says to me I'm writing for others.

And now, onward.

Assault City Roller Derby Closes Out Home Season

Krispy Kremya Otto A Linement Roller Derby Wedding

Assault City Roller Derby hosted its final home bout of the 2010 season on Saturday, falling 161-57 to the Tri-City Roller Girls of Waterloo, Ontario. Which is in Canada, by the way.

• What I love about roller derby »
• Roller derby in the context of a derby girl's life »

This to love about this bout:

Canadian national spirit. I've often taken the "grateful, not proud" stance on being an American. We have some great freedoms here, but (and forgive the brief foray into politics) we do some pretty crappy things to our own people and to the world. And we all stand respectfully and take our hats off when our national anthem is sung before sporting events, but Canadians actually sing along. Loudly. [Maybe it's because their anthem wasn't written by a prisoner to the tune of a drinking song popular among the people imprisoning him, but still.]

Announcers. DeafGeoff (aka Funk Roll Brother) and Jason (aka Rebel Without a Pulse) called the bout. Geoff is a radio guy and Jason is an actor. They are both also part of the Quadfathers, a men's roller derby team out of Utica. And they're friends. So the personalities are great, the banter was hysterical, they know derby and can explain it, and just all-around they enhanced the experience.

Solidarity and Bad-Assitude. About three minutes into the bout, Assault City's Deb Crush leveled Lippy Wrongstocking. Deb makes her living in the penalty box (though this was a clean hit) and is known for, er, not being gentle. When someone gets hurt, everybody (both teams and the refs) immediately takes a knee – it's the best way to ensure there's no further damage and it shows some solidarity – but any time the EMTs have to make their way out, it's scary. After about five minutes (which is a long time to be down), Lippy managed to skate off, and Deb made a bee-line for the Tri-City bench to check in on her. And while Lippy didn't skate again in the first half, she was right back at it in the second half, making up for lost time.

Wedding! Ref Otto A. Linement and Assault City skater Krispy Kremya renewed their vows at halftime (that's the photo up there at the top of the post). And about time, since apparently the first time they ran off and got married, then had a lot of phone calls to make and splainin' to do.

No more derby in B'ville this season, but Assault City skates in Utica on Sept. 19 and in a double header at Utica on Oct. 9. We'll also have some skaters at the October meeting of the 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force.

Who are we writing for, and why are we reading?

Blah, blah, blah.

I'm in the middle of reading a very funny novel right now. I also have two other books on my nightstand, and I haven't managed to get past page 20 in either, though I hear they're very good – Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation and John Jantsch's The Referral Engine. I've read Joel's blog (same title as his book) and I'm familiar with Jantsch via his previous book, Duct Tape Marketing.

In the past year, I've also read Gary Vaynerchuk's Crush It, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, Journey to the Emerald City by Roger Connors and Tom Smith, Shama Kabani's Zen of Social Media Marketing, and Jeffrey Hayzlett's The Mirror Test.

On top of that, I wake up many mornings and read Brogan's blog as well as the blogs of Outspoken Media, Bruce Clay, and a half dozen other individuals and organizations with whom you're familiar if you've recognized most of the names here, or with whom you're not if you had to go read everybody's bio.

I walked by Scott Stratten's book in the bookshop today and it hit me: everybody's telling us more or less the same two things:

  1. If you want to run a business you must be willing to take some risks, work some long hours, and in general bust some ass.
  2. You need to be on social media, and you have to interact, giving away a lot for free and boosting other people.

Well, everybody except Connors and Smith, who just needed a way to extend their PowerPoint presentations into book form.

I'm becoming a bit jaded about it, I guess. It's not only the same information (albeit sometimes with slightly different action items), it's the same people going around in a circle. I picked up Joel's and Jantsch's books because Outspoken recommended them. Kabani's people told me I'd probably enjoy it after they saw I read Brogan's book – and it turns out he wrote the introduction for her. I still recommend Vaynerchuk's book to people seeking their passion and Trust Agents to people who just don't understand social media ROI. I just don't feel like reading anything this circle's putting out right now. It's not making me think about anything in a new way, and it's not leading me to any sort of creativity.

It leads me to wonder: Are we all (including the people I've mentioned here), writing for ourselves? For like-minded people? For famous people to write our introductions or to give us blurbs?

Where are you finding value today in words?

Photo Credit: JasonTromm

Foursquare as a travel journal

Some of you know my back and forth with Foursquare as a tool. Foursquare isn't going away, so I may as well embrace it – and my guess is that long-ish service outage we saw Sunday morning means they're getting their ducks in a row for some major funding, either in terms of a purchase or a round of venture capital.

I was in Saratoga Springs over the weekend, and I used Foursquare throughout the weekend to mark where I'd been, so that I could go back and recall names, and be able to find addresses and Web pages. It was a handy note-taking tool. I probably abused the "Tell Twitter" function a little, but I tried to take it easy on the anti-Foursquare amongst my followers (I've been telling Twitter less and less lately).

I found Foursquare to be a highly effective tool for the purpose. Even when Foursquare was down, I could tweet my location (I don't get people who tell Twitter where they are, but who claim to hate Foursquare – it's the same thing, just without the 4sq link). Sure, it means if you were stalking me, you could find me. You already knew I wasn't home because I told you on Twitter that I was heading out of town. That doesn't mean you could get by the dogs, the electrified lawn barrier, and the two other things I'm not telling you about.

The two things I like best about using this method:

1. It's digitized. When my brother and I drove from Massachusetts to California in 2003, neither of us had a smart phone, we weren't on Facebook, (what with it being still in development and us out of college) and we didn't have location-based services in general. We kept a road diary, and while I've referred to it for purposes of stories, I've never digitized it. My Foursquare travel journal is already digitized, and I can just copy and paste into a document if I want.

2. Contact information. Most of the venues in Foursquare have some modicum of correct information, including an accurate venue name. That makes a venue easy to find should I want to refer to it in a blog entry or get in touch so that I can go again.

Weekend in Saratoga

I went to Saratoga Springs for the first time over the weekend, visiting Todd Engel, a long-time horse lover and attorney specializing in Equine Law. He's local to the Syracuse area, but also spends much of the racing season in Saratoga Springs. We took a whirlwind tour for the weekend. The city has a walkable downtown with restaurants, art galleries and retail shops. The area has tradition and money. Here are some of the spots we hit.

Olde Saratoga Brewing Company. Olde Saratoga does Red Tail, King Fisher, and a bunch of other brews – including Schmaltz, which is a nice coffee porter. They've also taken over Sackets Harbor's 1812 Ale. They have a tasting room that draws a variety of people (both tourists and townies). We saw people in their early 20s and people in their 60s and 70s.

Gaffney's and Sperry's. These are two bars across the street from each other. They both have large patios (we didn't go inside either place) with outdoor bars. Gaffney's has music and is a bit rowdier; Sperry's includes outdoor dining space and is a bit more upscale.

Frankie Flores Gallery. Frankie Flores is a talented painter and illustrator. He had an opening for some new works. He's got storefront show space with a beauty salon in back. Turns out he's a nice guy, too; he joined us for dinner after the opening.

Jacob & Anthony's. A grille with a very pretty bar and a large patio (complete with fire pit), Jacob & Anthony's boasts good service and good food. The Cuban is good, the fries are very good, and I had tastes of the fish tacos and jambalaya as well. Well done, all around. And bonus: You can get something in your price range, whether it's $12 a plate or $30 a plate.

Yaddo. An artists' and writers' retreat, Yaddo boasts a large rose garden with over 200 varieties of roses, and a team of volunteers tending the gardens three times a week. Great spot for photos (oh yeah, I have a few hundred photos I need to pull off my camera – yipes).

Saratoga Saddlery. I'm not big into the whole shopping thing, but the Saddlery has some nice stuff. Cowboy boots, varying styles of hats, horse gear (as in gear you'd wear while riding), and, of course, saddles.

Saratoga Coffee Traders and Uncommon Grounds. Uncommon Grounds is clearly the more popular spot – it's huge, and the line for coffee was 20 people deep when we got there on Sunday morning. Coffee Traders is quaint, has better coffee (also organic/fair trade, I hear), and penny candy (which doesn't cost a penny anymore, but still is within reach).

Saratoga Reading Rooms. The Reading Rooms is a private club abutting the racetrack. I'm told they were founded in the 1930s as a place for men to read the dailies before the races; I feel like I may be placing myself and the people who read my blog in danger if I say any more (even if there's not a Masonic eye on the building).

Saratoga Race Track. We made two trips to the track – in the morning to watch the horses work out, get baths, etc., and again in the afternoon for the races. It was a new experience for me. Workouts were fun, and it was interesting learning about the business. Races were also fun – who doesn't love dressing up and sitting amongst people who are out to be seen? I didn't do any betting, which is probably just as well because in my head I would have bet a show on a horse that won and would have lost every other race we saw.

Siro's. Apparently this was once the place to be seen after the races (it's adjacent to the track). Now it's the place all the tourists go to try to see. The outdoor bar and raw bar are fun, and there were a lot of people.

Hatties. Best fried chicken north of the Mason-Dixon Line. That is all.

9 Maple. Despite the hideously uncreative name (it's just the address of the joint) 9 Maple Avenue is a bar with a ginormous whiskey list, broken into the regions of Scotland (those would be scotches), as well as having both Irish Whiskys and a fair bunch of bourbons (which are an American thing, despite the French word). Very classy, intimate, with a nice jazz quartet playing in the corner.

Adelphi. The Adelphi has done its best to recreate the atmosphere of its origins (Civil War-era), with the exceptions of modern electricity, plumbing and pricing. Their patio is gorgeous, with Adirondack chairs, candlelight, visible stars, and they manage to block the sounds of the city.

Country Corner Cafe. Ah, breakfast. Potato pancakes (but not latkes, which are cooked in olive oil) on the menu in various incarnations, but more importantly a Syracuse favorite – Paul de Lima coffee.

Lyrical Ballad. This is a bookstore built in old bank vaults. As such, it twists and turns, and the first editions are still gated. Sweet little spot I could have spent hours in if we had time.

Definitely worth the trip; I'll probably do it again next year!