Thursday, September 22, 2011

Surgery Prep

It's not often that I see two of my regularly-read bloggers agree so completely about something non-political. First, Dale at Faith in Honest Doubt.

So, to summarize: Netflix is joining the poor quality of its video streaming offerings to a less useful web site experience and more complex billing.

Now, James Lileks.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cool, nifty, successful company screw the pooch with such vigor before.

Here I must confess to missing out on yet another hot idea: I have never used Netflix, so I can't offer any firsthand commentary on this. But typically in the business world such an action is a prelude to selling/killing/filing bankruptcy proceedings for one of the entities. The fact that the DVD part is getting the new name would seem to indicate they are anticipating the streaming business taking off while the DVD business wanes, so they want to be in position to ditch the DVD part quietly and efficiently.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

But is It Still Hot and Juicy?

Big news in the burger world.

When Wendy's decided to remake its 42-year-old hamburger.....


Wendy's is trying to boost lackluster sales and fight growing competition from much bigger rival McDonald's on one end and expanding fast-casual chains like Five Guys on the other. Part of the problem is that Americans, who are being squeezed by the tight economy, are being pickier about how they spend their dining-out dollars. But the biggest issue is that Wendy's, which hadn't changed its burger since the chain began in 1969, let its food offerings get stale over the years while its competitors continued to update their menus.

Last year, McDonald's had 49.5 percent of the fast-food burger market in the U.S. up from 41.6 percent in 2002, according to research firm Technomic. In the same period, Wendy's share fell to 12.8 percent from 14 percent. Burger King's fell to 13.3 percent from 17 percent.

Fair enough, but McDonald's didn't change its core items; it just added other stuff to the menu (as has Burger King, with smoothies of its own). But I suppose this should have been expected after Dave Thomas died.

Then there's this.....

...Wendy's polled more than 10,000 people about their likes and dislikes in hamburgers. It found that people like the food at Wendy's but thought the brand hadn't kept up with the times.

So the food is fine but the image needs an update. So they change the food. Not just a little,either.

In the end, Wendy's researchers changed everything but the ketchup.

Personally, I didn't see the need to mess with what was the best big-chain burger out there. I've said it before: if someone would open a Wendy's here, the other chains would be dead to me.

Some of their other plans sound better.

Wendy's, which just got a new CEO last week, wants to expand overseas and on the West Coast, relaunch a breakfast line that's easier for on-the-go eating, and sell more high-margin snacks and beverages. And early next year, it will introduce new chicken sandwiches.

Just as long as they don't mess with the chili.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

As Fast As Possible

It's possible Jon Carroll needs to socialize a bit more.

So, see, my OnStar operator would be my invisible friend.

On a more serious note.....

There I'd be, driving along a lonely road late at night, and oops I would slip and I'd be up against the guardrail.

And then I'd push a blue button and my imaginary friend would wake up, and she'd call a tow truck and an ambulance (just in case), and soon all the benefits of a First World nation would be surrounding me in my hour of need.

This rang a bell with me because occasionally I'm the person they call for those services. They and the other roadside assistance companies like to present an image of having everything readily available at their fingertips to provide help in minutes, and On-Star seems to have an an extensive system.

But out here there are cracks in that system, and when they find one, they usually call us. Then we have to deal with the gap between what they advertise and what is possible. Sometimes response time is going to be in tens of minutes or even hours in certain parts of this state, a concept that often doesn't register with these often urban-based companies. Again, On-Star seems to be a pretty good one. But some companies seem to operate with the hope that their customers won't travel outside heavily populated areas.

School Days

Ah, September. The weather cools a bit from the August oven. More importantly, school starts, which means full-time paychecks for Wifey. She had some summer income, but things were pretty lean. Now we clean up the mess of deferred expenses and try to get a handle of things for next summer, which we rarely accomplish fully. I know, the sensible thing to do is set aside money, and I'd like to do that this year, but history is not encouraging.

Bean has taken her first step into the educational world with pre-school. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. Breakfast, reading books, play time, arts and crafts, lunch, and done. She is ecstatic about it so far. I know the enthusiasm will wane when real work starts in later years, but it's fun to see her all fired up now. Hopefully she'll retain a little of the upbeat spirit.

I personally didn't mind school, probably because it wasn't very hard for me, and it put variety into a small-town life. I never felt the urge to skip. What would I have done in a town of 350 people on a weekday morning/afternoon that would have been more entertaining? The only possible enticement would have been the thrill of breaking the rules, of defying authority, and frankly I didn't think the rules were all that onerous.

A small school (the high school only has 8 classrooms) has an intimacy to it that can be comforting; as a senior I knew not just everyone in my class but all the juniors and most of the sophomores and freshmen. The fact is my friends were all in school, so skipping would have been counter-productive. Hopefully, Bean will have a similar experience.