Tagged: fail

Spammy babka even worse than the cinnamon kind

Nobody likes spam, but when it suddenly comes from a business that you like(d), it feels like a personal betrayal.  Check out this steaming pile of comment spam by Green’s Bakery, maker of my most favorite chocolate babka.

Babka spam makes me sad.

I don’t know what’s the worst part of this.  Is the the invasive nature of comment spam?  Is it the irritation that I have already blogged positively about this product and now get subjected to this?  Is it the dreadfully amateurish quality of the spamming?

Shame on you Green’s and your obnoxious, ignorant and ineffective attempt at social media marketing.  I hope your Hungarian grandmother haunts your operation.

Fathers day phone near fail with eBay T-Mobile

Dad wanted a phone “with a camera and internet and keys that aren’t too small to see”, so for Fathers’ Day I picked one up, a 3G flip phone from a major manufacturer with T-Mobile’s mobile web thing.  What dad wanted most was to be able to check his stuff on eBay.  So I set out to configure the phone for maximum mobile eBay usage by the on-the-go 70-year-old.

I thought I knew a thing or two about the interwebs, but in an effort to make things easy, T-Mobile has wrapped the web in a very confusing little phone package.  For starters, there’s no button or menu item for “surf the web” or even “mobile internet” – you have to know that the operative term is “T-Zones” which I always thought was the oily bit on your nose and forehead.  How is anybody supposed to figure that out?  Plus, when configuring “shortcuts” which are accessible with one click, you can’t add a URL or even a link to these “T-Zones”

Since “typing” on a phone with T9 “predictive” text entry is a chore for the most skilled and a terrible challenge for the newbie oldster, I figured the least I could do would be to set up Dad’s phone with eBay as a bookmark and enter his username and password for him.  After some poking around, I found that eBay has a special T-Mobile mobile portal, tmo.ebay.com, pre-configured in the phone.  I added it to the homepage bookmarks and thought I was pretty cool.

Then I clicked the “sign in” button and got a weird error.  The phone can’t display that page, it claimed.  Checked everything, tried again.  Same.  Rebooted, moved to a different location, same.  I even tried the same operation on my own T-Mobile phone. Fail. What good is special t-mobile eBay if you can’t log in?  Well, I suppose it could be good for one’s paypal balance.  Then, on a total lark, I tried the regular mobile eBay URL, m.ebay.com, and what do you know, everything worked fine.  let’s compare the two pages:

tmo.ebay.com vs. m.ebay.com

I can’t really be bothered to view the source, but it’s pretty clear that the T-Mobile version adds the “t-zones home” link and somehow subtracts the actual “sign in” functionality.  (Both seem to work fine on a full-blown PC browser) Rather a poor deal, if you ask me.  Now that I finally have the phone logged into eBay, it’s looking pretty good.  It remembers the login, and defaults to a nice compact “my eBay” view showing items you’re selling, buying, watching, etc.

The final step that almost defeated me was adding this non-standard eBay page to the phone’s little web homepage link list.  I was instructed to “enter a URL, such as msn.com” but apparently “ebay.com” or “m.ebay.com” didn’t count, so I ended up tortuously entering the “http://” in T9, and when I finally did, the page showed up in the menu under the full URL, not just “eBay”

So where does this all leave us?  Well, I’m pretty sure Dad will be able to check the status of his bids and sales on the go, but between the T9 text entry and the imperfect experience of the mobile versions of most websites, I doubt he’ll be doing much more.  Perhaps he’ll list this phone on eBay by next Fathers’ day.

I’m not a doctor, but I take surveys for money on the internet

I was mucking out my spam folder (where lots of not-quite-garbage bulk or automated email ends up) and accidentally opened this message which I ordinarily would have deleted on the basis of the subject line alone:

Six questions for $20

Interesting.  Some outfit that thinks I’m a doctor wants to give me $20 to answer six questions.  Or maybe it’s just phishing.  Actually, I think I know exactly the chain of fail that’s about to lead to this organization wasting $20 on me.

Fail #1: Somewhere out there, a contact form I filled in demanded that I give it my “title” and would not proceed until I did.  When this happens, I generally get annoyed and give a bogus answer which is usually “Dr.”  (when “Msgr.” is unavailable) If you want to know my gender or marital status or how to address me in a message, just ask, but those things better be related to what I’m applying for and I’d better be able to skip the nosy ones.

Fail #2: Somewhere out there, somebody sold my name to the medical survey people, or to some intermediary who sold it to them, probably for a premium, since I’m a doctor.  This isn’t necessarily against the law or even against the privacy policy of the site in Fail #1 (I wouldn’t know since I’m very unlikely to read such policies) but it is sort of annoying, and as we will soon see, unprofitable.

Fail #3: Somewhere out there, some medical survey people are aggregating data from real doctors and wiseasses like myself and selling it to who knows whom without so much as a double-check on the qualifications of the survey takers.

So let’s review the value chain here:

  1. I gave up my contact info for nearly nothing
  2. Somebody sold that info for a few cents
  3. Somebody else sold it on for a dollar or two
  4. Somebody offered me $20 for my unqualified opinion
  5. Somebody will sell the data from those opinions for thousands

Not a bad business, as long as you’re not left holding the bag of lousy data.

I think there are a few nuggets of wisdom here that marketers can use:

Nugget #1: When you require an answer to a question, you increase the chance of spurious data, especially when the question has a limited set of responses.  The sales guys always want a phone number, but if you make it required, they end up having to sift through a bunch of 555-1212 and 867-5309 and 382-5633 or worse.  So don’t ask anything more than you really really need to know.  And think seriously about whether the old Mr./Mrs./Ms. categories are really right for your audience.

Nugget #2: If you still insist on buying lists or leads or panels, ask hard questions about where the data came from and how it was collected.  Are they really opt-in?  How confident are we of their accuracy?  What response rate has this list produced for others?

Nugget #3: If you offer an incentive for a survey, be extra careful about how you qualify participants.  Too rich a prize and too loose a screen means money wasted and data watered down.  And for only six multiple-choice questions, $20 is pretty rich.

So I answered my six multiple-choice questions.  They weren’t difficult.  I didn’t even have to fib.  They looked a lot like more qualifiers for future questioning than actual research, but given my answers I probably won’t get called back.  But I did get my $20 gift card.

In an admittedly feeble effort to restore balance to the world, I’m making an offsetting $20 donation to Mrs. F’s classroom in New York State via donorschoose to help buy a globe and some maps.  If you’ve committed data sins like those above, maybe you’ll donate too.

I’d like a nice glass of light, please

We got this spiffy new fridge at the office months ago, and every time I went to get water through the door, I had to  pause for a moment.  I finally figured out why.  Look at this:

The spout on the left dispenses ice, and you can select ice particles or ice wedges.  The spout on the right dispenses water, but it says “light.”  Sure, anybody with an ounce of common sense can figure this out, but is it too much to expect that buttons with similar shapes and positions will do similar, or at least analagous things?

Rockport shoe ad bait and ditch

You may have noticed that I’ve been critical of print advertising, especially in general interest publications.  But oddly enough, not that long ago, I encountered a print ad so compelling that I took action.  Repeatedly.  And yet the merchant did not win the sale.  Here’s what I saw in an expensive early page of Fast Company :

I don’t think it’s an invite to move up to Cape Ann.  It’s about the shoes, and I like the look of those shoes, so I clicked over to Rockport’s web site but couldn’t find them.  There were other nice shoes, but I really wanted to learn more about the pair pictured.  I tore out the page and kept it for future reference.  That’s the second action the ad compelled me to take.

The third action was to visit the website a couple more times, and then the fourth was to visit the retail store on Newbury street.  A friendly Rockporter asked, “can I help you find something?” and to both of our surprise, I said, “yes!” and handed over the ad.

He consulted with another, apparently more senior, employee who came over and explained, “That shoe wasn’t made.  We have it but not in brown and not with suede, and not in the store but we can order it.  You’re the third person to come in with this ad.”

The shoe wasn’t made?  Never?  Not even one pair for the photo shoot?  I guess it’s all done with computer graphics these days.  What do you mean you have it but in a different color and different material and not in the store?  Then it’s not really the same shoe, is it?  And if it’s not in the store, then you don’t really have it, do you?  I’m the third person to bring in this ad?  Maybe somebody should tell HQ that there’s interest in this imaginary shoe?

A friend suggested that I should sue for false advertising.  I’m not sure if I really have a case on that, but I must say this is a pretty lame bait and switch since there’s not even much switch.  More like bait and ditch.  Further, it’s not that the shoe played a supporting role in a lifestyle ad or an ad with a celebrity endorsement – the shoe is very nearly all there is to the ad.  The copy at the bottom reads in part (my emphasis), “There’s nothing timid about you – or these shoes.  Torsion(R) system technology by Adidas.  Rockport.com”

I guess they didn’t really mean those shoes in particular.  There are at least six pairs of Rockport shoes in my closet (and scattered about the hallway) – there would have been one more. I give this ad and the almost-geniuses at Rockport a grade of fail.