A real-life scene from an open-air shopping mall in downtown San Francisco:
Two Treo 600 smartphones shine blue against the night sky. Two young men are holding their phones up, while a third joins them in watching identical Web pages download on both screens. When a passer-by inquires what the three are up to, one explains that, inspired by Sprint's current ad campaign, they're testing the download speeds of AT&T Wireless' and Sprint PCS' data networks. The Sprint phone appears to be winning by a landslide.
The passer-by offers to place his 2002-era, Sprint-powered Treo 300 in the race.
"Dude," says one of the Treo-testing trio. "You seriously need to upgrade that."
My wife’s boss lost her cell phone. She needed to get a new one, fast. Luckily, my wife, an executive assistant, had a $50 insurance policy so she could get a replacement phone -- valued at $250 -- for $50. The catch? A Cingular business sales specialist, reached on the phone, didn't want to ship a new phone over, and told her to go look in stores. One store, after they learned they were dealing with an insurance claim, said they didn’t have a suitable phone in stock. Another Cingular store effectively refused to honor the policy. They claimed to only have one of the phones in stock, and they couldn't use it for insurance replacements.
No problem. My wife switched herself, her boss, and my entire family -- all of whom are on my calling plan -- over to a new wireless carrier.
So here’s the tally:
Savings on replacement phone: $250 (retail price, no contract)
Loss in monthly business:
Me, $80 to $120 a month
My family, $20 to $30 a month
Her boss, a globe-traveling, cell-phone addicted SVP, $1,500 to $1,800 a month.
And it gets worse. Why? Because my wife supports a number of other people at her company, all of whom run up crazy $1,000-plus monthly mobile phone bills. D-oh.
Note that I didn't particularly care to switch carriers myself; my wife took action on her own. But there’s an important lesson here: breaking your promises to customers can cost you, big time. Could Cingular have avoided this debacle? Perhaps, if they'd read our recent Cheat Sheet on customer service.
It took awhile, but on Monday Nokia finally admitted what most people have known for some time: It's much-heralded N-Gage game platform is a dud. According to Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila sales were at the low end of expectations. This comes as no surprise. In January we highlighted the N-Gage's many flaws, pointing out that in trying to create a device that did too many things at once, they ended up with a device that did nothing well. While Nokia has stated it will give the N-Gage until 2005 to prove its worth, expect a completely overhauled model, minus the taco design, by fall.
Kleiner Perkins is the ever-hot It Girl of Sand Hill Road, the most-desired venture capital firm around. So it's big news when partners leave. Private Equity Weekreports that Vinod Khosla has gone part-time, and that Tom "T. J." Jermoluk left last year.
Khosla plans to spend more time encouraging entrepeneurs in his homeland of India, where he's currently traveling. As for Jermoluk, he's helping Netscape founder Jim Clark with Florida real-estate deals. Jermoluk, hailed by Kleiner Perkins uber-VC John Doerr as "AWESOME," was more of a painmaker than a rainmaker for the firm, which has unceremoniously yanked his bio from the site. (You can read a cached version, thanks to the wonders of Kleiner-funded Google, though.) The former CEO of the now-defunct Excite@Home was best known for investing in stinkers like teen-girl portal Kibu. Let's hope Doerr's next hire proves a little less AWESOME.
Though Quiznos landed on our Dumbest Moments list for its wolf-nursing ads, I was always a fan of those bizarre spots. Now, the sandwich chain has come up with another winner, albeit even weirder. Featuring the Spongmonkeys of RatherGood fame, the ads feature creepy sock-monkey-fruit-bat hybrids singing ridiculous, arhythmic, poorly penned lyrics ("they are tasty / they are crunchy / they are warm / because they toast them / they got a pepper bar!!!") in a stilted, off-key style that would make Ween proud. I don't know about you, but those little ditties really make me want a sammich. See for yourself here.
Bluefly.com recently posted a slim profit, its first ever, on a 42% jump in sales. How is the small designer-clothing outlet doing so well against competition from e-tailing giant Amazon.com? I went on both sites to find the answer. I was shocked by Amazon.com's site. The "world's most customer-centric company" displayed a page full of men's jeans -- the supposed best-sellers were all listed "out of stock," leaving me nothing to add to my cart. Bluefly, on the other hand, had the cleverest search tool I've seen on a clothing retailer's website -- an option to search by size, so you only see clothes that fit you. If Amazon.com's ever going to make profits outside its core books, music, and video business, it needs to figure out details like this.
The marketing never stops at Salesforce.com. According to Reuters, the startup's snagged the ticker symbol CRM for its upcoming IPO. Pretty snappy. But what will they do when CRM is no longer the acronym du jour?