Archive for March, 2009

With all the recent fraud in the financial services and real estate sectors, it’s sometimes hard to believe the US has any reputable companies at all. Yet we have firms like Southwest, Trader Joe’s, and Amazon that seem to universally excel in treating customers and employees right, while still producing huge revenues. Why don’t we […]


I wonder if the way that an organization handles customer suggestions is a good predictor of its long-term success. Suggestions come in many forms: written on a comment card, sent via email, or just spoken verbally to an employee on the front lines. It can be a huge task to make sure that all of […]


Although online pioneers like Amazon provide very detailed emails after you complete a transaction, some companies are going the opposite route. Rather than telling you what took place, they just send an email with a generic message, e.g. “We completed your transaction — please log in to the website to view the transaction details.” This […]


Catching a taxi in the city is a fairly haphazard affair. You have to get the cab driver’s attention, make sure they take the payment method you want to use (e.g. credit card), and then verify that your trip isn’t too short or too long for where they’re willing to travel. To streamline this process, […]


During my trip to Vancouver, I stayed at a surprisingly nice Best Western hotel. Shortly after arriving, I was pleased to see two bottles of water right next to the in-room coffeemaker. At first, I was worried that they would charge some exorbitant hotel price if I so much as looked at the bottles. But […]


While visiting Vancouver last week, I noticed something strange on the restaurant menus. No, it wasn’t the high sales taxes that I expected from being in a major Canadian city: GST was only 5%, which is less than half what we pay in Chicago. Rather, the odd thing was that some restaurants charge for refills […]


People are traveling less these days, and airport revenues are down. Here are a few ways that airports could get more people interested in traveling and increase per-passenger revenue: – Introduce airport loyalty programs that aren’t tied to a specific airline, e.g. get a $20 meal coupon for every three flights you take. – Provide […]


Generally speaking, high rise buildings are more energy efficient than single family homes, at least on a per-resident basis. One of the innovations that makes this possible is sharing a series of large, efficient air conditioners, water heaters, and plumbing networks across hundreds or even thousands of people. However, these designs also introduce a problem: […]


When I was a kid, I collected scratch and sniff stickers. Unfortunately, I put them all in the same box, so every sticker ended up smelling like root beer. But that’s a story for another day. Speaking of scratch and sniff, I think scent is very underused within the product packaging world. Given how many […]


For a restaurant owner, periodic health inspections are probably viewed as a nuisance. Pass the inspection, avoid any sanctions from the city health department, and move on to the next task. Accordingly, restaurants are motivated to do just enough to pass, with little incentive to go beyond the minimum requirements. Obviously, this is a poor […]