Buy Local press conference - at the mall?

It's not April first yet, so I couldn't really stop my jaw from dropping to the ground on this one: The Richmond-Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and the City of Richmond will be holding a press conference tomorrow afternoon to promote buying local - to be held at the mall, which is predominantly occupied by chain stores.

It seems like QUITE an unfortunate juxtaposition to me to have this kind of announcement in that kind of setting.

Malls like the Richmond Square Mall certainly provide great shopping opportunities, but tend to be populated by businesses that are not locally owned and that give less back to the local economy and community over the long run than businesses that are locally owned. In most "buy local" campaigns across the country, one of the primary goals is to get shoppers to expand their notion of shopping opportunities beyond "the mall" to once again consider what small business districts and downtowns have to offer.

If Richmond residents think that buying local just means going to a shop within city limits, the potential impact of the buy-local message is diluted as their dollars leave the community for corporate headquarters elsewhere.

I asked the Chamber and Mayor's office to reconsider the venue - feel free to do the same if you're so inclined.

Discussion of Terms of Service

This is a republishing of a series of blog posts looking at the Terms of Service, discussing what they actually mean and how they might impact your use of the Palladium-Item website.  (The Palladium-Item is Richmond, Indiana's daily newspaper.)  You can view the original posts where they appeared on the Pal-Item site: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

The Terms of Service (TOS) are the policies and terms that the Palladium-Item and its parent corporation, Gannett, have set forth for the use of their website at  When you visit the site in your web browser, you are subject to those terms.  Opinions vary about whether the TOS can be considered a legal contract between you and the Palladium-Item, and how enforceable the terms might be.  But one thing is clear: as websites like become more interactive and encourage more user submission of content, it’s in your best interest to understand these terms and how they affect you. Continue reading "Discussion of Terms of Service"

A $3 Trillion Shopping Spree

GunsWe all love to splurge a little once in a while. Save up some money and do something nice with it, really go a little beyond our normal spending - maybe it's a vacation, maybe it's a nice gift for a friend, or maybe it's buying universal healthcare for 300 million Americans.


Oh yeah, universal health care was one of the things I bought on my $3 Trillion Shopping Spree. I did it at the website, which asks the question: "The occupation of Iraq will cost $3 trillion...can YOU spend that money better?" It's an interesting exercise, and a great way to put the costs of the U.S. presence in Iraq into perspective.

Here is the full list of purchases I put in my cart:
Continue reading "A $3 Trillion Shopping Spree"

Trying out ads in my weblog

You may or may not notice that I've incorporated some Google Ads into my weblog. It's my unabashed attempt to make whatever moo-lah I can off of this exercise in public writing (which does not, for what it's worth, have moo-lah generation as a primary goal). I'm not sure if I'll keep the ads: the concept in general already grates against my sense that there's too much advertising on your average website, and because of my affiliation with a certain company that does webhosting, it's not like I'm trying to cover any expenses of having the thing online at all. And yet, I haven't yet felt the need to take such a principled stand that I can ignore the allure of 5 minutes of HTML rearranging work translating into some level of income that wasn't there before. In any case, if they offend your (and here I am addressing the imaginary person who reads these ramblings with regularity because they are just SO inspiring) sensibilities, please let me know. Conversely, if you enjoy this stuff and want to cheer me on - financially or otherwise - I'll appreciate that feedback too!

OfficeMax responds to customer service letter

I had a nice call this morning from Nick, the local store manager of the OfficeMax in Richmond. I'd recently had some really poor customer service experiences in that store with them and had submitted a narrative of those experiences for their review. I usually don't bother going back to a place after such occurrences - especially not a big box store - but in Richmond they are uniquely suited to sell a few products that I and/or Summersault consume, so I thought it worth at least trying to share my observations in hopes of improvement. Indeed, Nick mentioned that they'd "huddled" about/around the letter this morning as a staff, and that they'd be researching the issues I brought up. So I guess that means either (A) I'll be mugged in a dark alley by a bunch of disgruntled OfficeMax employees wielding letter-openers, or (B) I might actually have a better experience next time.

Instead of sitting on hold, get a call back

I called Vectren Energy Delivery (a.k.a. the gas company) the other day with a question about my bill, and was pleasantly surprised by a customer service measure they've implemented. When I had made my way through the phone tree to the point where I start to sit on hold, the system said "we'll call you back within the same period of time you might wait on hold - 47 minutes." Then they let me enter a phone number and record my name. Indeed, about 30 minutes later, I got a call back from an automated voice saying "please press 1 when Chris Hardie is on the line", and was then connected to a real person who promptly addressed my concern.

While I sort of question 47 minutes as a reasonable hold time (there was no known natural disaster occurring at the time of my call), I really appreciated having the option of making it their responsibility to follow up, instead of my responsibility to sit on hold. It also means they don't have to keep as many phone lines and support staff active, which theoretically reduces costs. I hope other call centers consider similar measures!

Big box stores eating big box stores

The forthcoming closing of Richmond's Target store, reported in the Palladium-Item on November 6th, is certainly a troubling development for the local economy. Jobs will be lost, the convenient shopping will need to be found elsewhere, and yet another "big box" piece of real estate will need to be filled.
Continue reading "Big box stores eating big box stores"

Suggestions for Timex's Stereo CD Clock Radio

I sent this letter to Timex, and have not yet received any response. They may well have trashed it, but I think I would like it if I received this kind of specific technical feedback on the products/services I create.

Timex Audio Products
135 Essex Avenue
Avenel, NJ 07001

September 25, 2004

To Whom It May Concern:

Greetings. I am writing with some comments and suggestions about one of your products, specifically the Model T618 Stereo CD Clock Radio with Digital Tuning and Nature Sounds.
Continue reading "Suggestions for Timex's Stereo CD Clock Radio"

Public Radio Fundraising == Hell

Well, it's that time of year again, when public radio stations completely abandon any pretense of professionalism and dignity, and begin soliciting their listeners for money.

Announcer #1: Well, we're sorry to break in to this news story about critical current events, but we've got a great jello recipe that can be yours for a pledge of just five dollars.
Announcer #2: That's right Tom. Unfortunately, the phones are all quiet right now. If we don't get a call in the next few minutes, well, I'm not sure we'll be able to avoid clubbing this baby seal. But it's up to you folks. Call now.

And then they repeat the phone number a bazillion times, placing emphasis on different numbers each time.

You sure don't get that nonsense with those big conglomerate media companies. Clear Channel doesn't bother me for my support, and that's one time when I appreciate being a helpless consumer eating at the trough of mindless mass media. Beat that, public radio! HA!

Oh, wait. I kinda need a new jello recipe.

A letter to Papa John's

My letter of Tuesday, Sep 7th, 8:30 PM:

Greetings. For the second time in a month, I recently ordered Papa John's breadsticks and had them delivered with only a Garlic sauce - no pizza sauce or cheese sauce as has been included in the past. Your website indicates that at least the pizza sauce should be included (perhaps you've discontinued the Cheese Sauce?). In any case, I've been fairly disappointed both times, and thought I'd take a moment to note that folks ordering breadsticks and pizza are probably expecting the extra dipping sauce variety with the breadsticks (since garlic sauce already comes with the pizza.



Their response of Tuesday, September 7th, 9:20 PM:

Thank you for bringing this situation to our attention. I apologize for the inconvenience and dissatisfaction that you have received from this location. I have forwarded your comments on to the proper people for review and resolution. Once again I apologize for the incident.


Online Ordering Team

Papa John's International Inc.