Category Archives: Business

Now That’s an Order Confirmation

I just ordered an energy drink for my wife that will be delivered to our home with a personalized message. Big deal right? What made it cool was the order confirmation served up by the folks at Drink the Sunshine after I finished paying which you can see below. Very creative, but that shouldn’t be surprising considering the folks behind the product.



FYI, I’m both “The Ball and Chain” and the “doofus husband.”

Dealing With Surprising Social Media Fame

Update 8/2/14 – NPR has a story about this and in it mention that they are checking with the Justice Department to see if the restaurant’s policy is a violation of the prohibition against public businesses like restaurant’s discrimating based on religion. It would seem not since the discount is supposedly at the discretion of each server, but then again stuff like this is often not obvious or all that logical. I wouldn’t blame the restaurant for discontinuing the policy just to play it safe.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner on Trade Street in Winston-Salem just found out what it’s like to have something go viral. From a story on HLNTV:

The tab belonged to Jordan Smith, who had traveled to Winston-Salem for a business trip and stopped for breakfast at Mary’s with two colleagues Wednesday morning.

She tells HLN the group “prayed over our meal and the waitress came over at the end of the meal and said, ‘Just so you know, we gave you a 15% discount for praying,’ which I’d never seen before.”

Impressed, Smith shared a photo of the receipt on her Facebook page. A mutual friend then posted the pic on the page of Orlando Christian radio station Z88.3 and it’s taken off from there, being shared more than 1,700 times as of Thursday afternoon.

Well, apparently things heated up on Facebook thanks to all the attention, causing Mary to post the following on her business’ Facebook page:


Here’s the text in case that’s hard to read:

There’s a lot of craziness going on in regard to the 15% discount. I will not respond to all the posts. I will say that it is not a “policy”, it’s a gift we give at random to customers who take a moment before their meal. This could be prayer or just a moment to breathe & push the busyness of the world away. Who you talk to or meditate on etc. is your business. I have lived in a 3rd world country, there are people starving. We live in a country with an abundance of beautiful food. I NEVER take that for granted. It warms my heart to see people with an attitude of gratitude. Prayer, meditation or just breathing while being grateful opens the heart chakra. It’s good for everyone!!!! Thanks to my local community for your support…you know who I am. As for all the people posting negative comments about me & my restaurant who have never met me or been to the restaurant, thanks for sharing, it’s your right to speak out, just as it is mine. Peace, love & happy eating!!!!

It’s a sign of our times that doing almost anything positive can be turned into a negative. Sheesh.

We were talking about this at work and we all had the same thought before Mary posted on Facebook: if we know they’re giving 15% off just for praying we’d bow our heads in a heartbeat. Of course that kind of defeats the purpose, but I wonder how many people around Winston were thinking the same thing?

Our Rapidly Changing Culture

Making the social media rounds recently was this observation shared on Craigslist by the management of a New York City restaurant who were trying to figure out why service was so much slower in 2014 than in 2004 despite a simplified menu and increased staff size. They found security footage from 2004 and compared it to current footage. Some results they shared in their post:

Before even opening the menu they take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are simply doing something else on their phone (sorry we have no clue what they are doing and do not monitor customer WIFI activity).

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant. 

They studied 45 customers in both cases and found that, on average, the time spent in the restaurant went from 1:05 in 2004 to 1:55 in 2014. It’s fairly safe to assume that other service businesses are experiencing similar behavioral changes in their customers, and it’s stunning to think about how quickly it’s happened.

BTW, I’m a notorious food-porner, but I can’t imagine taking more than 10 or 15 seconds to snap a pic of my snapper. I like my food way too much to waste more time than necessary before I dig in.

Bitcoin 101

Here’s a nice primer on Bitcoin from BoingBoing:

Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer network, a set of protocols (standards for interoperability), client interfaces (called wallets) and a currency that operates on top of all of those technologies. The bitcoin system allows any person to send or receive a fraction of a bitcoin (the currency unit) to another person, anywhere in the world. The bitcoin system operates on the Internet without the need for banks or bank accounts and allows people to send money like they send email.

To start using bitcoin, you need a bitcoin client, or “wallet” application. The bitcoin client allows you to use the bitcoin network, just like a web browser allows you to use the web. There are many different types and makers of bitcoin wallets, for desktop and mobile operating systems and also available as web applications. To receive bitcoin, you need a bitcoin “address”, which is a bit like an email address or bank account number. If someone knows your bitcoin address, they can send you money, but cannot do anything more, not even identify who you are or where you are. Therefore, you can freely share your bitcoin addresses with anyone without fear or security risk. Once you have a “wallet,” it can create any number of bitcoin addresses for you, even one per transaction. Give those addresses to anyone you want to send you bitcoin. Tip: bitcoin addresses are created by your wallet and do not need to be registered with anyone, or linked to your identity or email address. They can be used immediately to receive money from anyone and become part of the network once they have some bitcoin sent to them. Bitcoin addresses always start with the number “1” and they look like a long string of number. One of my bitcoin addresses is “1andreas3batLhQa2FawWjeyjCqyBzypd”. This is known as a vanity address, because it has my name in the beginning, but it works just the same as if it was a long string of random letters and numbers. I use it to receive tips and donations from people all around the world.

The remainder of the article explains the entire process, including how to pay for things using bitcoins, tips on securing your bitcoin keys, how to find vendors that accept bitcoins, etc.

Winston-Salem Doc’s Orgasmatron Can’t Get Lift Off

Following is the true story of a Winston-Salem doctor who has discovered a way to give women an orgasm with the push of a button, but can't get his device to market because of a surprising lack of volunteers and funding:

The doctor who discovered in 2001 that a pain-relief implant could also trigger orgasms is still struggling to raise interest in studying it further.

Stuart Meloy, a surgeon at Piedmont Anesthesia and Pain Consultants in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was investigating how the device could be used to treat woman who have difficulty achieving orgasm, but we reported in 2003 that volunteers for early tests were proving hard to find.

As of 2014, the massive media interest in the device has not translated into the $6 million that Meloy estimates would be needed to run a full trial…

Meloy stumbled on the idea while performing a routine pain-relief operation. "We implant electrodes into the spine and use electrical pulses to modify the pain signals passing along the nerves," he told New Scientist in 2001. The patient remains conscious during the operation to help the surgeon find the best position for the electrodes. Meloy's breakthrough came one day when he failed to hit the right spot. "I was placing the electrodes and suddenly the woman started exclaiming emphatically," he says. "I asked her what was up and she said, `You're going to have to teach my husband to do that'."

This is an obvious candidate for a Kickstarter campaign.

Gender Pay Disparity

The American Association of University Women just released a report showing that gender pay disparity is alive and well in the US:

  • There is a pay gap in all 50 states. In 2012, the disparity was smallest in Washington, DC, where women were paid 90 percent of what men were paid. It was largest in Wyoming, where women earned 64 percent of what men did.
  • The pay gap does not discriminate based on occupation or education level. Women working in female-dominated, male-dominated, and gender-balanced occupations earned less than men. And women’s median earnings were less than men’s at every level of academic achievement.
  • As women age, so does the pay gap. Women 25 and younger typically were paid around 90 percent what men were paid, while those 35 and older earned about 75 percent to 80 percent of men’s pay.

That last bullet point is very interesting because it begs the question about what's behind the change as women age. Is it because women pay a price for motherhood? Or, is it a relatively new phenomenon that reflects the trend of more women getting a higher education than men and thus holding more of the better paying jobs? It's hard to say without looking at the data to see if the study authors are doing an "apples to apples" comparison of people in similar jobs or are just looking at averages across all industries/jobs by age.

No matter the reason the smaller pay gap for younger women is still not fair and in a perfect world compensation would be purely merit based and not skewed by factors like gender or race. Of course the world isn't perfect and there's unfair pay even within genders and races, but at a minimum we should do everything we can to remove the blatant biases that still exist. 

With current demographic trends the gender bias might take care of itself. Fewer and fewer men are seeking a higher education and in an ever more complex economy like ours their lack of education might lead to the majority of men being the second income in their household and/or the primary caregiver for their children. Will women still be paid less than their peers with the same job? Maybe, but as the ranks of women in those positions grow it seems less likely.

Hanesbrands vs Hanes Hummus

Winston-Salem's very own Hanesbrands seems to feel threatened by a tiny Canadian hummus maker and they aren't going to sit back and let those Canuck chickpea smashers get away with riding on their branding coattails:

The difference between underwear and hummus may be as vast as the distance between Hanesbrands' headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., and the food business that Yohannes Petros built in the city of Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan, Canada, five years ago.

But earlier this month, the gulf was closed, just like the plastic container sealing his hummus products when Petros received a two-page letter from Hanes' legal department.

The letter said Hanesbrands Inc. objects to Petros' use of the mark Hanes Hummus in his application to register the name in the U.S. and Canada. The company required a response by Dec. 16 in its request to "cease and desist from all use of the mark Hanes Hummus" and withdraw its pending trademark applications.

Petros decided to fight back and retained his own attorney who, thankfully, seems to have a sense of humor:

In response, Petros' attorney, Nathan Dooley, wrote a three-page letter to Hanesbrands with 36 pages of supporting case law saying he disagrees with Hanesbrands' conclusion that consumers will confuse the hummus maker with the apparel brand.

"I was not aware that HBI [Hanesbrands Inc.] was in the business of manufacturing and selling hummus. In fact, I am confident that HBI is not in the food production business at all, let alone the production of fine and tasty hummus of the type manufactured and sold by Hanes Hummus," Dooley writes.

"I was not aware that HBI's T-shirts were edible, made with chick peas, lemon or garlic," Dooley adds…

Dooley holds back no punches, writing to Hanes, "It is safe to assume that you have done no research whatsoever" and "If you had done that research, you would not have sent the letter because, in reality, no rational person who is familiar with Hanes Hummus could possibly allege any confusion between Hanes Hummus and HBI's Mark or HBI's product."

I pity the HBI PR person who caught this one. 

A Fun (and Inexpensive!) Member Recognition Idea

At PTAA our membership director and Ambassador Committee came up with a really fun member recognition program:

  • They ordered blank Chinese take-out boxes
  • They ordered fortune cookies with fun messages including:
    • We can see your
      future with PTAA!
    • For a good time call 336.294.4428!
    • LIKE us on Facebook!
    • Happy Anniversary from PTAA!
    • Legislation and Education. We do it all!
    • Your lucky number is 
  • They put eight cookies in each box and sealed the box with a sticker printed with our logo.
  • Then the ambassadors split up our member list and each agreed to visit six of them to hand deliver each a box and window cling with our logo printed on it.

It's a really creative and inexpensive way to acknowledge our members, and of course you could use it as a customer recognition tool in non-membership businesses.

Easy Way to Record a Meeting

Today at our office (I work for a trade association) we hosted a board meeting and the secretary asked if we could record it so that she could reference the recording later in case she missed anything for her notes. We don't have a digital recorder in the office so our solution was the following:

  • Signed up for a free Google Voice account. 
  • Tied the Voice account to my office phone since you have to tie the Google Voice number to an existing number. 
  • From our conference room phone I called my office phone and had someone answer it and then press "4" to start the recording process. (Google Voice allows you to record any incoming call, but currently you can't record outbound calls which is why we called my office phone from the conference room and not vice versa).
  • The recording is automatically saved as an MP3 in your Google inbox which you can then share as a link you email to whomever you want, embed in a webpage/blog post or download to share offline. 
  • When the meeting was over I simply hung up the phone which ended the recording.
  • After the meeting was over I emailed the secretary the link to the recording and that was that.

Other uses I can picture for this setup:

  • Recording interviews with industry experts over the phone to share on our blog.
  • Recording our educational offerings to be archived or posted online for others to access.

All of this was unbelievably easy to do and the price was definitely right.

Who Owns Your Friends?

Here's an interesting tidbit from about a reporter who had built a following on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, and what happened when the new owner of her station put in place a social media policy:

At this juncture, I am retaining ownership of my existingFacebook and Twitter pages. Therefore, the company has started new social media accounts in my name for me to use during work hours when I am covering stories. The company has administrative control over these accounts.

It would be easy to think this kind of thing only applies to businesses with "talents" like news organizations, theaters, etc., but that would be wrong. As social media in its varying forms becomes  ingrained in the way we do business, the question of who "owns" friends/followers will be as fundamental as who "owns" a salesperson's contact list.  Many companies avoid this problem by having only one official company Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn page, etc. so there's no question about who "owns" those followers, but for those companies that decide to allow their employees to develop distinct social media presences as company representatives this is a vital consideration.

 You might wonder why any company would allow an employee to develop a distinct social media presence. After all, you'd think that would distract from the company's core social media property. That's a valid concern, but when you stop to consider what you pay people to do in the "real world" – attend industry conferences, develop sales channels, develop relationships with the trade media, etc. – why wouldn't you want them to do the same things via social media? If you're willing to embrace the messiness and chaos that this brings to your social media portfolio then you're likely to generate plenty of business through these efforts, but you also better be ready to protect your business by making it clear who "owns" those channels and the related followers/fans/friends.