Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The 10 Biggest Blunders in TV - 21st century edition

The Hollywood Reporter ( is running a series called "Ranks for the Memories" - a look at the highs and lows of the past decade.

Its Top 10 list of TV industry blunders include overleveraging promising shows, taking stupid chances on untried execs, and a $6-billion bad call.

Here's the Blunderful TV Top 10:

10. Fox canceling "Family Guy" (now its second-highest-rated scripted series).

9. NBC hiring Ben Silverman: fine agent, bad exec (he masterminded American Gladiator and the remake of "Knight Rider")

8. ABC's overload on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (seriously, four times a week? ABC's ratings took years to recover.)

7. The casting of Ryan Jenkins on a VH1 dating show (He was later charged with the murder of his spouse and took his own life.)

6. Dumping Jay Leno from NBC's "Tonight Show" (Jay dominated late-night; now he's flailing in prime time).

5. Election Night coverage in 2000 (Remember how Florida ended up being called for Gore, then Bush, then "too close to call"?)

4. MyNetworkTV (The UPN and WB stations that didn't merge into The CW were regrouped by Fox Entertainment Group into a network called MyNetworkTV. Inexplicably, its plan to run all low-cost telenovelas flopped.)

3. Janet Jackson's Super Bowl nipple slip (The infamous "wardrobe malfunction" led to pre-emptive editing of risque content and more vigilance on live telecasts.)

2. ABC passing on "CSI" (The franchise has since generated $6 billion for CBS.)

1. The 2007-08 Writers' Strike (An avoidable, mutually destructive act at exactly the wrong time. A season was lost, and nobody won.)

Why are stupid people paid so much?

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's not just businesses that screw things up

I enjoyed the lead paragraph on this CBC news story today.

U.S. reaches climate deal with 4 countries
Last Updated: Friday, December 18, 2009 4:49 PM ET
CBC News
The United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa have reached a "meaningful" climate change agreement, although nothing large enough in scope to truly combat global warming, a senior U.S. official says.

Keep on leading, o fearless leaders.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dear Bell Canada:

Please stop calling me.

I always know it’s you calling, because there’s a huge long gap between when I pick up the phone and say “Hello,” and when someone actually responds. It is very annoying. It’s a much longer lag than I get when the lawn-care companies call, so if you are not sure what kind of telephone solicitation systems to use, maybe you could call and ask The Weed Man.

Secondly: Please don't call me with people who can barely speak English. It reflects badly upon you.

And please, don't tell me my name has been randomly drawn to receive a great offer. I already knew it’s a sale pitch. But now I know you also think I’m stupid.

Oh, and don't say it’s a courtesy call when you're just trying to sell me stuff. That goes beyond incompetence to hypocrisy. And it’s bad manners.

And finally, when I say, very politely, that I'm not interested in this great offer, train your people what to say. Don't let them respond, “Oh, ok, goodbye.” Showing that little confidence in their product tells me that they are bad salespeople, and that you hire bad salespeople.

I would really like to believe that the company that supplies my telephone services is good at something.

Yours Sincerely
A Loyal Customer

Monday, December 7, 2009

A story out of the Dark Ages

This a true story. Names and places have been obscured to protect the innocent.

In an unnamed American city on the weekend, I was sitting with my family members at a fast-food restaurant. We got to talking to the waiter and he admitted he was off his game that night. Seems his nephew had gone missing that day.

We of course expressed shock, and asked what he was doing here, at work. Surely his place that night was helping out his family?

Yes, he agreed. But when he called in to say he wanted to stay home, his boss said he needed him to work. The boss apparently said, "If you want to stay home, you have to bring in a note saying your nephew is missing. Or there won't be a job to come back to."

Circumstances being what they are today in the Land of the Free, he came in. And provided exemplary service, I might add. We gave him a big tip and wished him all the best.

Sounds like a story out of the Dark Ages.

Those who have achieved a modicum of success and autonomy in their working lives often need to be reminded that not everyone has it so good. Scrooge ("Are there no workhouses?") is alive and well, especially in the current economy when even low-paying positions are so essential to so many - giving bad bosses too much power.

My heart goes out to all employees who are still subject to the whims and arbitrary decisions of flint-hearted bosses and inflexible organizations. Enlightened management welcome.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chevettes and Pintos and Netbooks, oh my!

Holy Lemons! A study quoted in a recent New York Times GadgetWise column says 20.4% of laptops fail over three years.

The study, produced by SquareTrade, an online vendor of extended warranties, found evidence that netbooks fail at a higher rate, 5.4% in the first year of use compared with 4.2% for a premium-level laptop.

The study also says the accident rate for laptops is another 10%, so the total failure rate over three years is closer to 30%.

What’s most fascinating is that different manufacturers have compiled startlingly different failure rates.

SquareTrade concluded that Asus and Toshiba laptops fail about 15% of the time. At the other end of the scale is Hewlett-Packard, with a failure rate of more than 25% (my first laptop was one of those statistics - right out of the gate).

How sad is it that the report concludes, “In some cases, it would appear that failure is not only an option, but the expectation.”
We need higher manufacturing standards. Yes, price points are competitive, but the failure rate is just too high.
The big U.S. hardware brands should recall what happened to Detroit in the 1970s when foreign carmakers got the unique idea to focus on quality.

Learn from the past, or forfeit the future.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Friendly Challenge

According to , this banner was posted at the entrance to McGhee-Tyson Air National Guard Base, Knoxville, Tennessee.

New management would be very welcome.

Something is stalking the streets at night

Here's an epic piece of journalism I had to share with you.

New editor welcome.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Corporate carpetbaggers

Eight years ago. the city of New London, Conn., lured drug giant Pfizer to town by offering them a 10-year, 80% break on normal property taxes. The city even created an economic development corporation to expropriate houses near the Pfizer complex for a proposed new "urban village" of hotels, shops and condos that would better suit the new biggest employer in town.

Some local residents fought back on behalf of their neighborhood. The dispute went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5 to 4 in 2005 that municipalities indeed have the right to expropriate private homes for vague redevelopment plans.

Last week, Pfizer announced that in two years' time (about the time their tax holiday ends), they will be moving out of New London and consolidating operations at their campus in nearby Groton. New London will lose 1400 jobs - and any chance of seeing that "urban village" it fought so hard for.

As the New York Times reported, local residents now see Pfizer "as a corporate carpetbagger that took public money, in the form of big tax breaks, and now wants to run."

A spokesman for the landowners told the Times that Pfizer’s announcement “really shows the folly of these plans that use massive corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain for private development.”

The only good news is that 43 states have since moved to strengthen private property laws to prevent money-hungry municipalities from taking people's homes.

Which is worse? Overzealous bureaucrats, or corporate welfare bums?

Read the gruesome details here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Big companies are always doing stupid things"

You've heard about Pepsi's Amp energy drink, and its "Before You Score" iPhone application aimed at helping young men to objectify, stalk and bed young women?

Lots of great commentary all over the Web as marketing experts debate whether this is sheer genius ("they understand their target market!") or sheer stupidity ("Let's boycott everything Pepsi makes!").

I rather liked this comment on Linked-In by Keith Thirgood, Partner with Capstone Communications Group in Toronto. He puts Pepsi's stupidity into context.

"As far as a backlashes go, big companies are always doing stupid things with their ad campaigns and they survive. It's the small companies who attempt to emulate the big guys who really suffer, because they don't realize that big guys botch these things more often than they succeed. Big companies breeze through these mistakes because of their size and momentum. Small companies are really hurt by emulating the bad marketing moves the big guys make."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weird key, wrong chain

I've stayed lately in two Best Western hotels: the lovely, dated Sands by the Sea in Vancouver, and the newly modernized Lamplighter in London, Ont.

No complaints about either place (despite the growth of high-rises across the street, the Sands' balconies still have a slight sightline on the harbour). But my room "keycard" at the Lamplighter came bearing an unusual graphic: a photo of another company's hotel. With a terrible editing job that can only be called Early Photoshop.

What gremlin accentuated the roofline with a Sharpie? And whose idea was it to put the Banff Springs Hotel, crown jewel of the Fairmont chain, on a Best Western keycard?

New management wanted.
As well as a reason to go to Banff this winter.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

They messed up, then dissed the competition

I just transferred a URL I bought years ago to, a domain company that manages most of my other domain names. Yes, it's an American company, with a silly name and annoyingly sexist advertising, but its prices are cheap and its customer service is outstanding.

(Example: A year ago, one of their Customer Service reps noticed that I had never got around to using a monthly hosting service I had bought and paid for - so he offered me a refund on the spot. No one else, in any business, has ever offered to do that for me. Just yesterday, I realized I had bought another service I didn't need, and GoDaddy's CSR helpfully showed me how to cancel it and get my money back.)

But this is a blog about stupid business, so let's look at the company I no longer wanted to deal with: It inherited my account when it bought a previous company I had registered with, so I had no loyalty to it - or any problem with it either.

But Misk annoyed me with its poor online customer service documentation. I couldn't find the way to renew the URL. And when I dialled the help number on their website, I learned that their hotline is for faxes only. All other inquiries must come via email.

So a week ago I emailed Misk for help, and didn't hear back. I sent a second email saying this issue was important to me, and asking for a response within 24 hours. Nada.

I finally heard from them late last night - four and a half days after my second email. (Meantime, the transfer had gone through, thank goodness.) Here's what the service rep said:

"We apologize for the delay in responding to you. Due to a technical issue with our ticketing system, your email was misdirected and not yet answered." An online company that loses customers' email? Heads should roll.

But here's the kicker. The service rep said this: "Ca domains are much different than others and clearly your new registrar doesn't have much experience with .CA domains (GoDaddy) only recently starting registering these. You may want to pick another more experienced and ethical registrar."

Wow. What are they trying to say here? In my opinion, GoDaddy's ethics are better than most, and its support teams very experienced and knowledgeable. GoDaddy is now by far the largest domain registrar in the world, so of course there have been controversies, but no deep ethical problems that a competitor should be pointing out.

For its poor service and weirdly inappropriate bad-mouthing of the competition, definitely deserves our mantra: New Management Welcome.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Management Fail! is a site that mixes irony and humour with everyday glimpses, primarily through photographs, of places and things that are just wrong. It chronicles the failures and foibles of individuals, but also the dysfunction of organizations.

Just for fun, here are a few recent photos from the site that prove that way too many businesses and organizations are in desperate need of New Management.

You can check out more Fail photos at

Closing the Door on

I was just browsing this month's scratch-and-dent sale at My first time on the site.

I saw a book I liked and clicked on the "Add to cart" button. You know what I got? A screen that said, "Your shopping cart is empty." So I went back and clicked again. My shopping cart was still empty.

Perhaps I should have registered and logged in first. Well, why didn't they say that early on? And why don't they give me that option now? Why not make things dead easy for first timers?

Instead they gave me a nonsensical warning and no clear path to do anything about it.

I think I'll take my business to a website that understands customer care.
New Management Welcome.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

United Airlines: Breaker of Guitars, and Hearts

Note to big companies, and UAL baggage handlers in particular: Don't piss off Halifax musician Dave Carroll. He's liable to write a song about it, and that could go viral...

Note to smart marketers: Sure, Dave is angry that they busted his guitar. But he's even more upset at the airline's inability to take any responsibilty - or even just show remorse. What's so wrong with saying, "Sorry"?

UPDATE: United seems to be paying attention. Sure, now they're willing to talk...
Click here for the story.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"A Little Glitch in the System"

The other day I ordered some ink cartridges for my mother from an online retailer through eBay. The price was good, their feedback was hugely positive. But when I tried to check out, I couldn’t. The system told me “This order has no products associated with it.”

So I emailed the company to let them know I had a problem. I got a prompt and reassuring reply from someone named Janice:

"We had a little glitch in the system, which we have fixed. If you would like to try the checkout again, it should work this time. If it doesn’t please let me know and I will send you a PayPal request for the item."

So I tried again, And this time, in addition to the “no products” response, the system told me that “The company you are trying to pay does not have paypal account set up correctly.”

So I emailed Janice back, adding a screen shot of the offending error messages. This time my reply came from the President of the company. But it wasn't very reassuring.

“From our end, when we try to do the checkout there is no problem… In the meantime, would you like to pay direct to our PayPal account?”

I responded “yes,” but with a pithy note that “I am pleased you're not having any problem. Unfortunately, I am the customer, not you. And it's not fixed.”

48 hours later I am still waiting to hear back.

Why does management think that I care if the system works for them? If I've tried five times and it's not working, they should own the problem until it's fixed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How much is that again?

A discount store in New Jersey demonstrates the importance of unified branding.

(Note the discordant theme continues in the window posters as well as the roof signs. At least they're consistently inconsistent.)
(Poached from

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Be Afraid. Be very, very afraid

What do you do when big government and big business are equally stupid?

Case in point: Insurance giant AIG paying more than $165 million in bonuses following its receipt of billions in bailout money. Sure, the money is mainly a "retention investment," to keep talented employees from walking. But when your entire industry is imploding, and competitors are melting down, bonuses such as these are ridiculous. It's symbolic of the common sense and moral meltdown of Wall Street in the first place.

But the U.S. Congress and President Obama should not be getting so self-righteously angry about this whole thing, either. These bonuses were negotiated months ago. The leigislators grilling AIC CEO Edward Liddy in Washington today are the same bozos who approved the bailout. They don't seem to understand that their bailout enabled the company to go forward with the previously approved bonuses.

Makes you wonder what else they don't understand about the billions of tax dollars they're throwing at bailouts and miscellaneous pork-barrel stimulus packages.