Archive for November, 2007

Hotel Rip Off

November 8th, 2007

Last year, after we completed the Business Building Workshop we began looking for another hotel to hold the event. We were happy with the hotel we used, but felt that a larger meeting room would serve us better.

After searching for several weeks for a location that was convenient to food options so that attendees do not need to rent a car, we found a location that I thought would be perfect: The Comfort Suites on N. Texas Ave in Webster, Texas.

We went in on March 13, 2007 and spoke with Sales Manager Gina Garcia and negotiated a room rate that was LESS than what we were paying at the previous hotel.

We called a few months later, on May 11, 2007 just to touch base and make sure we were still on. We were told that Gina no longer works there but that Usman had our information on the computer and we were set to go.

But as we came down to the wire, and it became time for guests to begin registering for their hotel accommodations, suddenly the new manager (Jennifer) claimed she couldn’t find any records of our reservations. Out of the kindness of her heart she was willing to accommodate us at an increased room fee, but would not be honoring the negotiated price.

“Why not?” I asked

“This is the rate. If you want it, you can have it.”

“You don’t care that we had an agreement with you and two of your previous managers for a set rate for a very important event?”

“This is the rate” she repeated “If you want it, you can have it.”

“You mean that you are going to loose 120 room nights over $10 per room?”

“That’s what I’m prepared to do, yes.”

“Okay, because that’s what you just did.”

I refuse to do business with someone I can’t trust. So now we are back at the original hotel, paying what we would have paid with Jennifer, but instead we are dealing with someone with integrity.

The truth is I would be willing to pay MORE per room to know I’m dealing with someone with integrity.

20 rooms, times 6 nights, times $90 per room is $10,800. That should get me a free meeting room but I negotiate a lower room fee for my attendees instead so I end up paying $350 per day for the meeting room which is another $2,100 they lost.

So, Jennifer (as if she cares enough about what her customers think to actually read this), in an effort to get an extra $1,200 you instead lost $13,000 and you lost a customer for life.

Between work, vacation, and attending conferences I spend over $7,000 a year staying in hotels. I can assure you I will NEVER stay at a Comfort Suites or any of their related franchises (Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, MainStay Suites, Suburban, EconoLodge, or Rodeway Inn). Jennifer has not only lost $13,000 for her employer at THAT branch, but in my mind she has damaged the reputation of the chain as a whole and will continue to lose them money long after she has been fired.


Post Office Confusion

November 6th, 2007

One of the simple axioms of business is “Make it easy for your customer to spend money with you“.

Those making executive decisions at the US Post office have apparently never studied business or marketing. They might (though doubtful) know something about engineering or calculus and might have even discovered the most ingenious formula ever created to distribute the postage fee in a fair and equitable way.

But in the process they have made it IMPOSSIBLE for both their employees and their customers. This is a recipe for disaster.

Up until a few months ago we weighed all our packages and letters here at the house, put on the proper postage and sent it out. The only time I had to go into the post office was to drop off packages that weighed more than 16 oz. But because it was easy to calculate postage I would have them ready to go and I could simply drop them at the counter.

I even wrote about this in a recent column in “The Linking Ring”, but that column was put to paper BEFORE this new Postal rate changes.

Now the regulations are so confusing that even the postal employees don’t always know what to charge or how to assess fees.

Now it doesn’t matter just how much the envelope WEIGHS, you must also know the dimensions. Bigger envelopes get charged on a different scale. VERY large envelopes are called packages get charged on ANOTHER scale. So now there are THREE price scales and you need to know where your envelope falls.

You also need a spreadsheet to help figure out which combination of stamps will get you to the proper postage fee without going WAY over, but without being even a penny under. Before you only needed First Class stamps and Post Card stamps. The cost of an additional oz. was one more post card stamp. It was fast and simple. Not so any more.

To make matters worse, classifying envelopes, large envelopes and packages is not at ALL intuitive. You might have a big envelope but it is still considered “small” because the dimensions are proportionate in a height X length ratio, while a smaller envelope that is more square shaped will be charged as if it were a larger envelope.

Get it?

Me neither and it gets worse.

If your envelope is just a LITTLE bit too tall and you fold it over so that it meets the regs, you still pay a premium for folding and taping down the envelope.

If you have a metal brad that is used to close the flap on the envelope you pay an extra 33¢. If you don’t USE the brad, but instead tape the flap OVER the brad, they STILL charge you as if you used it! So now you have to rip off those metal brads or pay a 33¢ premium on everything you send in those envelopes.

If your envelope meets the criteria for a “large envelope” but it is padded, then it automatically jumps to becoming a “package”. It doesn’t matter how much or how little it weighs. It doesn’t matter if it is flexible enough to pass through their machines. If it has padding, you pay more to send it.

So, has all this new regulation make life easier on postal employees? Of course not! (Ask your local counter clerk if you doubt me).

Has it made life easier on the customers? Of course not!

Has it generated any new revenue for the Postal service? I don’t think so since many of the prices to ship things have actually gone DOWN.

That’s right, this is the first time that the post office has RAISED their rates in a way that resulted in LOWER fees which is a questionable practice in itself. But I don’t care about saving 4¢ on a 3 oz. letter if it takes me an extra minute to find the right combination of stamps to make that work.

I don’t care if I can save 7¢ on a 5 oz. large envelope if I’m not allowed to pad it, or if it takes me 5 minutes to go through a checklist figuring out whether it actually IS a large envelope of if it is a regular envelope. Or maybe it’s actually a package? No, it WAS a package, but I used the letter opener to pry off the metal brad so now it is back down to a large envelope…I think.

Now I have to spend time waiting in line at the post office for stuff I never used to have to wait for. The lines get longer, the employees have to work harder, the customers are more frustrated and confused and profits are going down.

This is a TERRIBLE decision to make in a time when technology is threatening the US Postal Monopoly like never before. E-mail really put a pinch in their first class mail operations starting several years ago. Fax machines, FedEx, UPS and other competitors are squeezing them from the sides and have been for quite some time.

This is part of the reason why I am working so hard to convert all of my products to digital formats so that rather than sending a book, I can e-mail a PDF file. Rather than mailing a CD, my customers can download an MP3 file.

The Postal Service is BEGGING us to change the way we do business. They really seem to WANT us to abandon them for easier, faster, and less expensive technologies. They are behaving like the dinosaurs they are, and if they are not careful, they may end up extinct.