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Psychological Warfare Retailers Use Against Their Customers

(Image is in the Public Domain)

Today I found this great infographic outlining several of the psychological tricks companies use to manipulate your spending. The best defense against this kind of thing is awareness. Make sure you know the basics and don't fall for their lies.

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Dominos – For your pasta, shame on you

Given how bad Pizza Hut has become, Dominos has been my go-to. I like the pizza and breadsticks, but what I don't like is getting ripped off.

One of my kids prefers pasta so we order with every pizza night, but when we do, we get this. every. time:

Example 1
Example 2

Dominos can put as much pasta in their tins as they want and they can charge as much as they want, but what they can't do is give us the pathetic display above when what they advertise is this:

Dominos menu 20190928

And now… ENHANCE.

Nearly full. Nothing like any pasta I've ever seen from Dominos

I have never once recieved or seen a pasta from Dominos that has even close to the pictured amount of pasta. When we open it, it's half-full at best and we have to decide if we're going to complain and make one of their poor delivery people come all the way out to give us a second half-empty pasta or just let it go.

I'm generally a happy customer when it comes to Dominos, but being shorted over a $5 pasta dish over and over for years gets a little aggravating. Shame on you Dominos.

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Today, I Solve The Airline Industry

American Airlines
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

It seems that the Airlines haven't managed to hire enough problem-solvers to handle the various issues they face on a daily basis. They suffer from slow boarding, irritable customers and employees, and, of course, reduced profits due to the above. Since I have about 20 minutes of time available, I thought I'd lend a hand and solve all their problems:

Boarding

So far, only Southwest does a good job keeping people orderly and calm during boarding. This is because they not only have enough space for all the passengers AND their carry-on items (unlike American Airlines), but they use a simple A-B-C and 1-60 lineup system. People calmly line up according to their letter/number combination so there's no rushing the gate or tension while others get in line before they're supposed to.

Southwest's one error is having unassigned seating. Because of that the plane fills up from front-to back in the window and aisle seats first which makes it harder for people traveling as a group and takes a lot of time as people shuffle around to let the middle-seat folks in.

Solving it

All airlines should adopt the letter/number system that Southwest uses, but each ticket should be assigned seating. Further, all planes should board from the BACK to the front. If the first-class people want to deal with all the bumping and jealous stares, I guess we can let them go first, but otherwise back to front because duh.

The only reason I can imagine why we don't do it this way now is because the people who get on first get priority for the overhead space and they can sell early access for more. The answer of course is to stop being such greedy pricks and just make sure you have no more seats than your overhead space can accommodate. Firstly because it's customary and completely reasonable to expect each person to bring one bag and a "personal item" with them and you should have enough room for it all without theatrics (right, American?).

If you're not playing stupid games with your customers and your gate and plane staff put in a minimum effort to make sure people have the proscribed number/size of baggage and only use the bin space above their assigned seats (you know, actually manage the boarding process), then boarding back to front would be much faster, far lower stress, and translate to profits due to efficiency every time.

Bonus: if people's bags are only in the space above their seat, they won't be wandering the plane during the flight or after (when everyone's trying to get off) trying to get the bag that's nowhere near them

Sales Pitches

One of the things that annoys me most about theaters is that I already paid a ticket, I participated in their back-ally mugging for snacks, and I even sit and watch commercials for movies that are coming out soon in order to watch the film I paid to see. On top of that, they have the nerve to play annoying and distracting ads before the movie AND after the movie start time before the other movie previews. And then they wonder why I might go to a theater once a year or less…

Likewise, you have airlines that are haven't been able to make enough money by cheapening snack and meal service; now they have to hassle you on the plane with loud ads or flight attendant sales pitches for your "club" or BS credit card, or whatever. I'm surprised they haven't already figured out that a 4-hour flight of captives is a great time to pitch high-pressure timeshares.

Solving it

The answer to that is simple: STOP. Leave us alone. You want to pitch us for your blather? Do it on the ticketing website or in the ads on our tickets (which they already do too by the way). Outside of that, your window of acceptability has long since ended. Once we reach the airport, your job is to get us to our destination safely and professionally; not beg or steal for your scam deals while we're trying to deal with the stress of flying.

Rude and Angry

I have dealt with a variety of stressed, angry, and rude airport employees, but I don't fault them. I know that poor customer services is always a reflection of the hiring services and company policies and not the individual. Especially when you see it over and over or compare it to the companies whose employees are generally helpful, happy, and friendly (Southwest).

Employees in this mindset are likely to make mistakes that can be costly or embarrassing (like the poor doctor who was injured during a forced removal from a United flight). Trying to lead by spreadsheet is failure seeds that will eventually blossom into disaster.

Solving it

Run your company in collaboration with your workforce – listen to the problems they raise and do what you can to fix it. They want the company to run efficiently, so let them help you do it! That, and make sure you pay fairly and provide good benefits. In an industry where small mistakes are magnified immensely in terms of consequences, making sure that people are treated well.

In closing

There's probably more I could think of if I put some effort into it, but these problems aren't that complicated nor hard to solve. It will mean cutting profit margins somewhat in the short term, but the efficiency and loyalty you create will be far more profitable in the end. If you can't manage it, here is my simple trick for responsibly moving forward: shut the doors and go home. If you can't run a business fairly and well, don't. Tags: ,

American Airlines Has Too Much Baggage

American Airlines
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

As usual with any airline that's not Southwest, boarding is a pain. People rush the line, desperate not to be the last on the plane and have to search for overhead space that might not be near their seat. That is, that's how it used to be.

Moving from inconvenience to outright abuse, American Air has started "gate checking" your carry-on baggage if you're boarding near the back of the plane (group 7 and up). Assuming they have competent engineers, there should be plenty of room for everyone's carry-ons even without their new practice of asking everyone to put their "personal item" under the seat in front of them. There's no excuse for American to not have plenty of overhead room for every passenger… but it gets worse.

The bags taken during the boarding process aren't guaranteed to be there when you land. They didn't lose them between the walkway and the tarmac, they deliberately separated them to go on a later flight. How do I know? Because the "lost luggage" counter where a full staff of 5 employees was ready and waiting told me so just before they handed me the "sorry, not sorry" toiletries bag (nicely embossed with the American logo).

Sorry not sorry pack.
It's well stocked which I suppose is easy when you've perfected the process of customer inconvenience.

It's pretty easy to put the pieces together. There's no legroom, there's no baggage room, and they won't even put the bags in the hold of the plane that was already there and had the baggage door open and waiting. This is about maximizing people on each flight and spreading the luggage weight around. Or, put simply, profit before service. Of course, I got my bag the next day because their contract-delivery service (which I imagine is busy every day), delivered it as promised, but that's no excuse for getting it right in the first place.

Besides my own two instances of issues, the other attendees of my business trip reported late luggage and cancelled flights; always on American. I will definitely be looking to fly with someone who doesn't play stupid games with passengers.

Update: My wife and daughter heard me ranting and presented an alternative that I didn't think possible: what if they literally screwed up? What if, though they took the bag and dropped it down a chute from the walkway to about where the nose of the plane was, the employees loaded all the bags on a cart and took it back to a terminal by mistake.

It's always a tough choice when determining if a problem is due to maliciousness or incompetence and normally I would never assume malicious, but that's pretty incompetent… too incompetent to believe. Which brings me to a third possibility.

My wife found an article talking about how the execs at American had implemented a new policy of punishing the employees for being late for any reason. Under the policy, employees were desperate to get out and made decisions that inconvenience the customers because they don't have much choice. And now I think we found the answer that makes sense.

Basically, execs who make spreadsheet decisions didn't realize the actual effects of the new policies and rules on the actual business. As I assumed from the start, this is NOT the fault of the employees or pilots or flight attendants – this is all due to American Air. Though I may have been wrong about the "why", the reality is that a company putting (theoretical) profit before customers and employees makes everyone lose… including them. It may take some time, but the losses from rushed employees and customer frustrations will become apparent and they'll have to make adjustments.

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Mint Data Lets You See Anonymous Purchase Trends

I've never liked Mint.com. Not because they're bad at what they do (they're not), but because you have to give them too much access to take advantage of it. So you get a little money management help, so what? You have to give away your password to do it. Not only that, Mint is (surprise, surprise) using all that juicy data you provide for their own purposes.

For now, it seems that they're not actually telling you who purchased what, but there's no telling when and if they'll start selling your valuable personal data to 3rd parties. Until then, showing truly anonymous purchase information is kind of neat so long as they don't take it further than that.

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WellPoint Data Breach Due to Carelessness

Surprise, surprise. A company has giant data breach due to negligent security, but not to worry! They'll protect you by offering you credit monitoring for one year free!

Credit monitoring is a waste of your time and is likely only offered to make it seem like they're doing something for you when they probably don't. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the credit monitoring companies have a "data breach plan" where companies can get a bulk discount by offering monitoring to all their victims.

It's a classic win-win-lose. The breach company wins PR points, the monitoring companies continue to make money for not providing any real service, and we all lose.

If you're worried about id theft, just freeze your credit reports!

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Kellogg’s Cereals Ordered to Stop Lying… Again

Liar, liar...

Would it surprise you to know that sugary cereals really aren't healthy? Sure! They have a vitamin or two and probably some kind of grain buried under all the fat and sugar and chemicals, but why pay attention to that?

Instead, Kellogg's corporation has been busy touting the healthy benefits of their kid's breakfast "foods":

Kellogg has agreed to expand a settlement order that was reached last year after the FTC alleged that the company made false claims that its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%.”

At about the same time that Kellogg agreed to stop making these kinds of false claims in its cereal ads, the company began a new advertising campaign promoting the purported health benefits of Rice Krispies, according to the FTC. On product packaging, Kellogg claimed that Rice Krispies cereal “now helps support your child’s immunity,” with “25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients – Vitamins A, B, C, and E.” The back of the cereal box stated that “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy.”

What did they get for such a misleading and blatantly manipulative campaign? An order from the FTC to stop making claims without proper scientific backing. Ooooh! Burn!

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ACLU and EFF to Cripple RIAA Lawsuits

(Image used under: Fair Use doctrine)

While I don't support downloading music and movies instead of buying them, I also don't support abusing the legal system to bully people and make money. The RIAA has been doing just that for a long time according to several consumer groups.

In this case, the The American Civil Liberties Union - ACLU and the The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are arguing that when the The RIAA - Who They Are In a Nutshell sues thousands of "infringers", they have to file thousands of separate lawsuits and not just one.

Filing one is cheaper and easier, but makes it harder and is unfair for the victims… er, I mean defendants.

If the court adopts the approach suggested here, the costs of the current anti-P2P litigation strategy could become untenable. If each anonymous defendant requires several hundred dollars in filing fees, individual paperwork, individual subpoenas, and detailed information on their alleged distribution, settling for a mere $1,500 doesn't sound so hot.

Let's hope for the best. Leave people alone and worry about pirating organizations and criminal groups instead.

Source: Ars Technica

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Despite Promises, Lifelock Knows Public Data is A Risk

(Image used under: Fair Use doctrine)

Todd Davis didn't post his social security number publicly because he thought his company could protect it. He did it as an advertising gimmick that netted him almost 2 million paying customers. At least, I have to assume that's what Todd's motivations were because I'm guessing he's not an idiot and knew his service wouldn't actually prevent ID theft. Even if he were, there have been so particularly telling clues recently such as:

  1. Having his own identity robbed 13 times since the stunt began.
  2. The 12 million dollar settlement with the FTC over false advertising relating to their gross misrepresentation of being able to prevent ID theft.

That's why when an employee's sensitive data showed up online, they worked to have it removed. No one should have their social security number posted publicly because the risk is too great. Unless of course you're the CEO of a company that charges $10/month to almost 2 million people and can afford any amount of ID theft you're hit with.

For those that are bad at math, that's 20 million a month income. Makes that $12 million settlement seem kind of inconsequential doesn't it?

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Why You Shouldn’t Trust Facebook’s Apology

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

I don't want this page to descend into an "everything about Facebook" page, but the news has been coming fast and hard the last few weeks. The article I found today isn't news, but instead a plea to the public to not buy in to Facebook's apology for their recent nastiness.

Parents of young children can spot an insincere apology from miles away.

"Sorry," your tot mumbles, after you find the dog half-shaved and your Xbox full of jam.

"Sorry for what?" you'll say. "Sorry for shaving the dog and putting jam in your Xbox," he'll say, looking at the floor. But he's lying. He's only sorry that he didn't get away with it.

Facebook's much-reported apology in the Washington Post is a bit like that. "Sorry," says Mark Zuckerberg. "Sorry for what?" the internet asks.

"Sorry for invading your privacy and making things confusing and stuff," Zuckerberg says. "Can I have an ice cream now?"

Funny and blisteringly accurate; that's a good combination. Check out the rest of the article here

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