Won’t be Fooled Again! Ha!

Please see this article from today’s Newser:

(Newser)  That whole “subprime crisis” hasn’t scared banks away from the lucrative world of subprime lending. The nation’s top subprime lenders—like Capital One, GM Financial, HSBC, and JPMorgan Chase—are all trying to woo back less-creditworthy borrowers, who tend to rack up late fees while paying rates as high as 29%, the New York Timesreports. “It’s clear that we are returning to business as usual,” said a former Federal Reserve regulator. But that’s not entirely true; the focus hasn’t yet shifted to mortgages, it’s on auto loans.

Auto loans were left largely unaffected by new post-crisis regulations, and the market for bundled auto loan securities is expanding—so much so that Moody’s last year issued a report that it was growing “too much too fast.” In the fourth quarter of 2011, 23% of new auto loans were subprime. But lenders are also eager to roll out credit cards: In December, 1.1 million new cards were issued to people with damaged credit, the Times notes.


Now see the post I wrote in 2008:

Where Were You in ’32?

December 5, 2008 — Stephen Brooks


Are you a big-3 American automobile manufacturer?  Are you suddenly faced with a huge inventory of gas-guzzling SUVs that no-one wants to buy anymore?   Are you asking your federal government for a $24 billion to save your skins?  Here’s the answer to your woes!


I wonder if they’re doing credit checks on the people who take advantage of this offer, or if it’s another sub-prime crisis in the making.  “Sorry about losing the house, honey, but look at this great new truck I got!”  Three months later: “Sorry about losing the truck, honey, but look at this massive federal deficit our children got!”

It took about 40 years for people to forget the lessons of the Great Depression and start using credit cards and other, progressively more inventive, ways to spend more money than they had.  That’s what fueled the roaring ’80s until the crash in ’87.  Then people did the same thing, except with tech stocks in the ’90s, until the bubble burst.  And now the present sub-prime fiasco.  It has always been a case of too many people buying something which is going to decline in value — with someone else’s money.  Which is exactly what Ford is offering you now.


Update: What is Marriott Thinking?

This is a repost of an entry I did over 3 years ago.  Turns out I missed a litigious opportunity: http://www.newser.com/story/124744/hotel-guest-sues-over-75-cent-usa-today.html

Here’s the story; my original post follows.

Hotel Guest Sues Over 75-Cent USA Today

Hotels shouldn’t provide newspapers unless requested: federal lawsuit

(Newser) – You know those copies of USA Today that sometimes get left outside your hotel room door? Apparently they’re not free, at least not at the Hilton Garden Inn Sonoma County Airport, which one guest learned to his dismay. Now Rodney Harmon has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Hilton chain over the 75-cent charge, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Harmon says he stepped over the paper as he left the room. But a few days later, he noticed a small warning on his key card pouch informing him of the charge, according to the New York Times.

“He did not request a newspaper and assumed it had been placed there by hotel staff,” reads Harmon’s suit, which adds that the hotel allegedly tried to hide the charge by listing it in an “extremely small font which is difficult to notice or read” on the key sleeve. Further, the suit accuses the hotel of an “offensive waste of precious resources and energy,” since newspaper readership is down and most of the papers left for guests probably don’t get read. Though the 75 cents is “a piddly sum,” writes Ben Popken at the Consumerist, “the case could have big implications if it becomes the impetus to sue other hotel chains, since many hotels do just the same thing.”

 ORIGINAL POST FROM JULY 2008 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


I stayed at the Marriot Springhill Suites in Danbury, CT on Monday night.  I forgot to hand in my key card when I left, and found it in my briefcase today with the rest of my trip detritus.  Take a second to read what was printed about USA Today  on the back of the little envelope that contained the key card.

I didn’t even glance at it when it was handed to me at check-in.  I didn’t read it until I was about to throw it in my recycling just now.  Marriott just stole 75¢ from me!

This is an example of negative option marketing and it is a very bad idea.  It became famously unpopular here in Canada a few years ago when a cable TV company tried to gouge their customers, and the practice is consequently illegal.

It’s especially stupid in this particular instance.  Marriott charged me $209 before taxes for the room.  Was the 0.36% of that revenue that came from this ridiculous newspaper charge really worth pissing me off?  And they don’t even clear the whole amount: part of getting this three-quarters of a buck is administering the small charge in the system, printing these little envelopes (or sacrificing the message that could be placed in the notice’s place), and handling people’s objections when they encounter this foolishness.

Even the wording is dumb.  “I” have NOT requested the delivery.  Maybe if whatever genius came up with this idea had been forced to see it written out truthfully, he or she would have seen the error of their ways:

The newspaper that every halfway decent hotel leaves outside their guests’ rooms each morning is not complimentary at this facility.  It costs 75 cents.  We will be leaving one outside your door even though you didn’t ask for it, and we’ll be adding the cost to your bill.  If you don’t want us to perpetrate this cash-grab, you must take the time to call us and tell us not to steal your money, or go out of your way to check this box, and return this envelope to the front desk.  Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll have to peruse your bill at checkout to be sure that we honoured your request!  Have a nice stay.

What the Heck is That? Part V

In my continuing series 1, 2, 3, 4,  of stabs at advertising “professionals,”  I give you this:

I’ll grant you that anyone who lives in New Brunswick probably can decipher this.  But the region of Miramichi is presumably trying to draw tourists from afar.   And NB’s First Nations place names are already hard enough.  I’m thinking of Kouchibouguac and Magaguadavic (pronounced MACK-a-DAVE-ee), for instance.  Why throw in the inscrutable font factor?

Here’s the whole ad:

Is this man taking a dump?  Is he panning for gold?  Is he “discovering what ‘WE’ know”?  No, he’s FISHING.  That’s what Miramichi is famous for.  Why go to such great lengths to hide it?

So, my righteous self has a problem with this ad on many levels:

1. I know that written-word fonts are all the rage now, but if they become so “human” that they’re unreadable, what’s the point?

2. Print ads should NEVER have URLs in them.  If you want to provide a link in your print ad, include a scannable barcode like this:










3.  “Discover what we know.” is one of the most ambiguous (almost creepy) taglines I’ve ever heard.  What if  “what we know” is how to re-animate the dead?  Or, more benignly, how to pick up things from the water?

4. And the topper is that this ad appeared in the Moncton Times & Transcript, which serves a market where EVERYONE already knows that the Miramichi has the best salmon fishing in the world.  Whom are we trying to reach, here?  Visiting business people who might come back to NB because of a photo of an old guy grabbing something out of the river?  Sheesh.

When a Product Tries to Be TOO “Easy to Use”

<< Sigh. >>

Yesterday, I wanted to transfer all the photos that my daughter has on her digital camera to my hard drive, so she could email one of them to her teacher.  The camera is fairly new to her, so I had never had to do this before.

In my dream world, plugging a camera into a USB port would be the same as plugging in a flash drive — you would see a whole bunch of files, and you could pick the ones that you want to grab.  (Similar to how I wish iPods would work.)

Alas, that is not the case.  As soon as the camera is plugged in, it makes your computer go to a web site to download an application.  You CANNOT retrieve the images from the camera without doing this first.

I already feel like someone’s takin’ me for a ride.

THEN, once you’ve downloaded and installed the app, and even before you have the actual photos off the camera, Kodak asks you to log into facebook.  Did you hear me?  LOG INTO FACEBOOK!!!  I presume they think that everybody wants to share every pic they take, with the entire planet, instantly.  Well I don’t.  And neither does my daughter.

I did NOT log onto facebook, and the Kodak app was mad at me, but let me continue nonetheless.  So I accomplished my goal (eventually).

For a complete neophyte, I can see how this might be a way to help them out.  But it just smells bad.  It’s like if they gave an appendectomy to every human who walked into a hospital.  Sure, you may need one someday, but MAKING you do it isn’t the right way.

I ♥ My Audi

First, I’ll tell you a story, and then I’ll tell you how it applies to marketing and product management.

Yesterday, the highway drive from my office in Saint John to my home in Moncton (about 150km) was a MESS. There was snow, rain, freezing rain, sleet, hail, and ice pellets. (Canadian readers will know there’s a difference between those last 4 items.) Most sane individuals had already abandoned any idea of driving through this crap, and those that were still on the road were going painfully slow – about 40km/h. And there were many motorists going nowhere, because they had slid off the road.

I, however, was gleefully cruising along at the speed limit – 110km/h. My Audi S4 has Quattro all-wheel drive. This is a suspension/computer system that dominated the European rally racing circuit in the early ‘80s because it was so good – Audi won nearly all the races. After learning in my youth how to winter-drive in conventional front-engine, real-wheel-drive vehicles; the difference in an S4 is shocking. In any road condition, at any speed, it feels like you are glued  to the road. My car probably saved my life yesterday.

Now to my point. Thirty/forty years ago, people expected  their cars to be unmanageable in snow, to break down periodically, to rust out after a few years, to be expensive to maintain, and to be sold by unscrupulous hucksters. Because of the entry of QUALITY vehicles into the North American market, all this changed. Now all vehicles are expected  to be well-made, easy to service, reliable, and available through honest distributors; whether they’re from Japan, Korea, Germany, Sweden, or Detroit.

Did the automobile industry increase their focus on quality, causing consumers to upgrade their expectations; or did consumers begin to realize that cars could be well-made, and start to demand it? Probably a little of both, but it was marketers who gauged the public expectations, and product managers who made the changes to their products. Chicken and egg, I know, but who cares? The lesson is that QUALITY became more important. I think this is a transferrable concept. Designing/making/selling/maintaining a higher quality product will almost always lead to success with your market.

Well, That Was Easy

I know that, as consumers, we are always supposed to try and get the best deal.  That’s one of the lynchpins of a free market.  I have been partially successful at this in the past.  For instance, we low-balled the offer on the house we currently occupy, and they accepted.  However, when I bought our old BMW in Vancouver, I actually walked out of the office when the salesperson would not accept our price, only to walk back in an hour later (with my tail between my legs) to pay his price.  But today, I got something just by asking.

It started when my cell phone, which is from the Pleistocene epoch, was getting no signal.  I called Rogers (Canadians will know that company), and the friendly tech support lady fixed me right up.  I figured, while I was on the phone with them, I would ask about something Bell Aliant (the OTHER Canadian telco giant) is doing in my neighbourhood.  For the last few weeks they have been stringing FibreOp cables on all the hydro poles.  Also, there is a billboard campaign throughout the city, advertising much lower rates than I currently pay Rogers for my broadband and cable TV.

So, the friendly tech support lady transferred me to a friendly “customer retention specialist,” who, on the spot, knocked 20% off my cable, land line, cell, and internet.  90 seconds of my time just saved me ~$40 per month.

Just by asking.

I Made a “Top Ten” List!

Dan Martell, who is sort of a techie-entrepreneur-evangelist local success story, made a list of the, “Top 10 New Brunswick Bloggers Worth Checking Out.”  And I’m on it!