Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things Media

Tag Archives: Shopping

We’re Living In The Now Economy

Of late, I’ve had a string of familiar in-store shopping experiences. I’d like X. I’d like X in color Y. I’d like X in color Y and size Z. The person helping me at the store, comes out from the back room with a disappointed look on his/her face and says, “I’m sorry, we don’t have it here, but we can order it for you and have it sent to your house at no charge.” Three years ago, this would have been the store going above and beyond, while filling a distribution gap and retaining my business. When Nordstrom first started offering this model, it was mind-blowing and revolutionary.

But, what worked 3 years ago, doesn’t satisfy the hunger for those of us living in the Now Economy. Want a song? Download it from a plethora of options. Want to watch a movie, fire up NetFlix, HBO Go, Amazon Video or another platform, click on it and stream away. Want dinner? Order it on your phone and have it delivered to you in 30 minutes from GrubHub. We are in a Now Economy. We want it now. And if you can’t satisfy the itch, that is now, we’ll find someone who will.

Now, I Want It Now

A few months back I stopped into the Nieman Marcus at King of Prussia mall. There was a jacket I’d lusted for, the past 2 years. Elliott, the salesman, who at this point, knew me by name because of all the times I’d stopped in to see the jacket, was there that day. I said to Elliott, “today’s the day I buy the jacket.” He smiled. Went over to the rack. We both had the same look. I’m a 40R and the smallest jacket was a 44R. That’s far too big to tailor. Now at this point, Elliott could have said, “I’m sorry, we don’t have it here, but we can order it for you and have it sent to your house at no charge.” But, he didn’t. He understood the Now Economy. Elliott did 3 things:

  1. He checked to see if there were other stores in the area that had the jacket in my size.
  2. He found one and called to confirm the data in the computer matched what was really there.
  3. He said, I can have it sent to your place today, via courier, for a nominal fee, if I wanted it today (aka now).

That’s pretty amazing service. There’s no denying that. But that amazing service stems from understanding that we were both operating in the Now Economy. Elliott knew he’d miss out on the commission if he didn’t sell it now and he knew I wasn’t going to wait. This wasn’t easy, I’m sure. I’m also sure, today, it would be nearly impossible to scale to 100s of 1000s of shoppers, every day. But, as Amazon teases the idea of drones that can bring you same day delivery, make no mistake, we’re all destined to be part of the Now Economy. ZipCar is the Now Economy. iTunes is the Now Economy. The food you see on the perimeter of grocery stores, is the Now Economy. Uber is the Now Economy. The XBOX One enabling you to download games instead of buying the in-store, is the Now Economy. It’s everywhere, if we only look.

The Now Economy brings about even more disruption for retailers and service providers. Specifically, I think there are three critical challenges they must solve for.

  1. Incorporating An On-Demand Service Model: This isn’t a new idea. Ever have dinner delivered, where there’s a delivery/service charge on top of the cost of goods? Great, then you’re familiar with an on-demand service model. When we get something on demand we usually pay a premium. In theory, this would be great for the retailer or service provider. In practice, it’s mayhem, because it brings about the need to create new models to support an on-demand consumer. For example, we’re all familiar with restaurants that simply won’t deliver. There are good reasons for them not to deliver. Some chefs will say the quality of the food experience is marginalized. That’s a fair reason not to deliver. But, a bigger reason is trying to figure out the business model around predicting demand and staffing for that demand.
  2. Surge/Value Pricing: People love to hate on Uber for their Surge Pricing model. For those not familiar, let me offer a quick explanation. Uber has a fixed pricing model for time/mileage. You request a Uber and the car ride is governed by those rates. This is similar to every cab you’ve ever taken. You pay a premium on those rates for a better car and having the car come to you. Simple enough. Well, during peak times, when there are more people requesting Uber rides, than there are drivers, Uber charges a massive up-charge. How massive? It could turn a ride that would normally cost $40, into a ride that costs $240. Folks, that’s economics. It’s the simple supply and demand concept. Nothing new. Even the surge pricing isn’t really a new concept; it’s just a slight modification of a “rush charge” associated with services like tailoring. But, let’s say you’re a clothing retailer. You have a shirt I really want. I call to see if you have it in my size. You do! If you’re like most stores, you might hold it to the side for an hour or a day. But, if it’s something that’s inherently in limited supply, it’s unlikely that you will. But, what if I offered to pay double your asking price? Crazy? Perhaps. But, if you have the financial means and value it at 2x the asking price, why wouldn’t you accept that? I can give you a great reason…your prices are governed at a corporate level and your point of sale system can accept a discount, but not an up-charge. Infrastructure, logistics and policy…all holding you back.
  3. Sourcing Logistics: Have you heard of Pappy Van Winkle? It’s a bourbon. But, not just any bourbon. It’s made in limited supply and without traditional distribution. Bottles are allotted to stores. Your store might get 4. It might get 12. It might get 1. The bottles retail for roughly $50.00. They’re re-sold on the secondary market (aka Craigslist) for 3X – 10X that amount. That’s the free market economy at work for you. Capitalism, at its finest. There’s an urban legend story about a Zappos customer care specialist going well above the call of duty. A woman had called to inquire about a pair of boots/shoes. Zappos didn’t have the size the customer needed. Rather than lose the sale, the specialist, ordered the shoes from Nordstrom, who had them in the size needed and then cross-shipped them to the consumer. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this urban legend were 100% true. That’s the Zappos way and I think it represents the future. Auto Dealers are quite adept with this model. Let’s say you want a specific car with a specific set of features. It’s not uncommon for your dealer to trade a car on their lot with a dealer that has the car with your specifications. In fact, that’s exactly what happened when I purchased my last car. These dealers are simply swapping inventory. This works well when you’re all a part of the same family, but it’s much more difficult to do what Zappos may have done. I think organizations are going to need to grapple with a logistics model in which they don’t own all the inventory that they may sell you.

Speed is life, as Facebook says. I say, Speed wins. We live in an on demand world, where our phones hold more power than the computers from 10 years ago. The business, operating and logistics models of the past will not be able to support the Now Economy. Start rethinking about rewiring now. You don’t have time to wait.

Donut Shop Reviews

If there’s one thing I know, it’s food. When it comes to food, there are 3 things I know really well: pizza, BBQ and donuts. If ever a place should open, that has all 3…look out.

A familiar part of my Sunday morning routine is taking the kids out for donuts and hot chocolate. For the past 4 years, we’ve always done donuts at Sunrise Donuts in Bloomington, MN.

Decisions...decisions

Never one to be satisfied, we’ve been on the hunt for new donut places to try. Between, Yelp!, the web at large and recommendations from friends, we tried:

Mel-o-Glaze: let’s start by saying the owner let’s is cat roam the kitchen. Not cool. The donuts weren’t fresh. All were tasteless and hard, except the traditional glaze. I’ve never had a glaze donut like this. It was thick and cake-like, but with all the flavor of a traditional glaze. It was tasty, but a one trick pony and in a hard to reach location.

Glam Doll: this came recommended by several folks I’m friends with on foursquare. The location is great and the character-driven retail model works. There are ’50s style pinup paintings and photos hanging on the walls, and all the waitresses are dressed up in the vain of Bettie Paige. It must cost a lot to create that ambiance, because a dozen donuts will set you back more than $20. Yes, I’m serious. You do get some creative donut flavor creations that are given fun and whimsical names, like Bombshell and Femme Fatale. Overall a great tasting donut, but overpriced to the point, it makes NYC look inexpensive. Add in the time to travel to uptown (15 minutes) and these just aren’t worth the trip on for our Sunday journey.

Yo-Yo: located in a strip mall in Minnetonka (yes, I too was blown away that Minnetonka had strip malls) this donut shop is somewhere between Glam Doll and Sunrise. Let me explain…you get creatively decorated donuts, like the cake one with Fruity Pebbles adorned on top. There’s also a s’mores donut, that plugs the donut hole with a marshmallow. You also have simple bear claws and twists. A dozen will run you $17, nearly 3x the cost of a dozen at Sunrise. Add in the 15 minute drive and Yo-Yo is a no-no for me.

Look, there are two types of donut shops, just like there’s two types of bars. There are those that trade on flash (you pay a lot for this) and there are those that trade on substance. The substance places usually lack the polish and sizzle of the flash places. This usually leads to people preferring the flash places. No thanks. I will not be visiting the ROOF at the Wit in Chicago to pay $20+ for a mojito. Especially, not when I can get a great authentic pitcher at Havana. I digress. What makes Sunrise great is 3 things:

1. Consistency: always a great experience. Always friendly people. Always open when it’s supposed to be. Always the same people there. I’m practically a regular!

2. Taste: in my humble opinion, they make the best tasting glaze, cake and cruller style donuts I’ve ever had. They’re always fresh, with the right balance of topping to base.

3. Fair Value: a dozen is $6. Yep, $6. They could charge double that and I would pay it.

I’ll keep checking out other donut places, but I can’t imagine another place in the Minneapolis area besting Sunrise on consistency, taste and value.

Tumi, You’re Killing Me

UPDATED 8/1/2012

After publishing this post and sending it to the Tumi twitter account, Tumi responded via twitter with a 1-800 # to call and instructions to ask for a manager. I spoke with a manager who was already prepped that I would be calling (awesome end to end customer service for nailing that). She acknoledged that they were having some product quality issues with the case and that they were actually in Asia working to address the known issue. You have to love when a company admits there’s a problem and tells you they are fixing it. What they offered to do was:

1. Refund my money

2. Send me a new case of the same design AND THEN replace it when the product was updated to newer specs at NO COST.

3. Let me choose from any other case they had.

I chose option 2. Folks, this is customer service at its best. Well done Tumi. Thank You.

I love Tumi. Great brand. Great products. Great customer service. I’m a huge advocate of the brand. When I purchase luggage it’s Tumi. When I recommend luggage, it’s Tumi. My daughter, 5 year’s old, nearly received a Tumi backpack for kindergarten, before I was over-ruled.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe I have 4 Tumi pieces registered with their outstanding Tumi Tracer program.

All that said, I have to tell you, while they may make great luggage and great bags, I have to question their ability to make accessories. A couple of months back, I purchased a Tumi Ballistic Snap Case for my iPad. After a month of use, it developed a crack in the plastic backing, on the lower right corner. I tweeted the Tumi twitter account, they recommended I call the 1-800 number. I called the 1-800 number, who wanted me to mail back my case, they would assess it and then determine if a replacement was warranted. The estimated time frame for the entire experience was expected to be 14 days. Not cool, in my opinion. I instead visited the Tumi store at the Philadelphia airport. I explained everything that I had explained on the phone and the manager, fixed the problem. How? By, taking back the clearly defective item and replacing it with a new one. Like I said GREAT customer service.

It’s not been a month since receiving a replacement case, and the EXACT same problem has happened. Now look, I get that coincidences happen. But this seems a bit out there, don’t you think? Here’s a photo to illustrate the issue.

Tumi Ballistic iPad Cover Broken

Look, I’m not a whiner. I get it, stuff happens. I get that you can’t respond to everyone. Having worked in digital and social for a long time, I get all of that. But, as a consumer, I don’t understand how an item that retails for $95.00 from a brand like Tumi, can have the same defect in two separate cases. I also don’t understand, how, as a consumer it makes sense for me to have to pay to send it out and wait nearly 14 days to maybe receive a new one. It just doesn’t add up.

Tumi, by their own words states:

Product quality and selection are key attributes that have made Tumi a leader. Simply put, there is no other product made like Tumi. This is what we call the Tumi Difference. It is how we approach every aspect and detail of product design. We regard each component — from the smallest, case-hardened solid steel machine screw to our exclusive, virtually abrasion-proof FXT ballistic nylon fabric-of each item as if it were the most important. It means that our products are made from hundreds of custom-designed and engineered parts.

I have to be honest with you, this product doesn’t deliver on that brand promise. It just doesn’t. So Tumi, yes, I still love you, but you’re killing me.

What’s In The Box Doesn’t Matter

One of the truly wonderful things about having kids and becoming a parent is the authenticity you get to experience when engaging with your kids.  Yes, kids lie, that’s true.  But, ask a child if she likes the dinner you’ve plated, that’s based on some new recipe, and you’ll know the truth.  Ask an adult the same question and you’ll be met with a very politically correct answer.  Well, unless of course, you ask me :)

Christmas is one of those occasions where we seem to always try and out do one another, keep up with the Jones’ and impress with labels. Labels, you ask? Yes, labels. We’re all guilty of it, even I am. Under the Kmiec tree this year, there was no Louis, Jimmy or Tory.  Nada on the Prada, MK and Hermes.  Sorry, not a single item from Armani, Versace or Gucci – yes, we avoided the holy trinity. No Christian, Coach or Coco. Also, I must confess, there was no Lexus under the tree either.

Now, mind you, this is no assault on the wealthy, chic or stylish.  Without the label segment, we wouldn’t have people to gawk at, velvet ropes to envy and of course nothing to lust for.  And this isn’t me being above such items or brands.  I’m the first person to encourage purchasing 1 quality purse over 50 cheap ones.  Ditto on shoes, watches and umbrellas (trust me on this one).

No, this is more about the observation that kids don’t care what’s in the box, what the label is on the gift or the logo they’ll be displaying. And with good reason…they couldn’t tell you the difference between Coach and and Couch.  If anything they care more about the wrapping paper…or rather the joy of unwrapping their present. They’re equally as satisfied with 1 gift as they are with 100.  Seriously. I’ve watched this up close for 4+ years now.  It’s a really amazing thing to witness.  Honestly, it leaves me wanting to be as genuinely label disinterested as they are.  But, alas, though I’ve witnessed this authenticity and I’m a marketer, even I fall prey to label love…but I’m getting better!

There wasn’t a single present under the tree for me.  That’s what happens when you become a dad!  The likelihood your 4 year old is going to hop in the car, visit the mall and pick you a present that she paid for with her credit card…is…well…unlikely.  But, what I did get this Christmas was something much better than any company could provide:

John, Cora and Dad

I got to see those smiles and feel the real Christmas magic that we yearn for after watching a movie like Love Actually. Besides, if they were wearing a label it would say my name anyhow :)

Thinking Before You Buy

Roughly 9 months ago I wrote in a post titled, The Disposable World,

Of late I’ve been taking stock of a lot of things that all seem to be tied together. I know that seems vague and classically introspective, as if I’m trying to sound deep. I’m not. I promise. To sum it up, I think we live in a very disposable world – our mindset is always on short term, rarely on long term.

I’m not a tree hugging sort of fellow, but I do believe in not purchasing unnecessarily. I don’t do trinkets, nick-nacks or tchotchkies. When I buy something, I usually am willing to “over pay” for quality…something that’s timeless and will last. It’s the reason I’d gladly pay the seemingly outrageous price of a Burberry Trench that will last me more than a decade (I’m currently at 7 years) than several Michael Kors knockoff versions over the same time period. Generally what you pay is what you get. It’s what makes me shake my head at all the people who buy and wear Tory Burch shoes, Marc Jacobs bags or cheap sunglasses. I’d rather have a few items that will last than 100s that I’ll “go through” every season or year.

I think that’s why this new ad from Patagonia resonates so much to me:

I’ve never owned a single thing from Patagonia. I was always more of a Nike or a Columbia guy. That is, until this weekend. After seeing the ad, I did some digging to learn more about their Common Threads philosophy and their Ironclad Guarantee. I encourage you to read both…they’re over the top impressive and set a bar for every retailer. Well after doing some homework I looked at my coat closet and decided it was time to donate a Nike jacket I had that was similar to the Patagonia R3. I purchased an R3 and couldn’t happier. Next up is a thicker, warmer jacket for the winter that will protect from the wind and elements. That will replace a Columbia jacket that I’ve had for over 10 years.

Don't Buy This Jacket

I recognize that this campaign from Patagonia could all be marketing and not authentic. Either way, it’s working on me. I’ve bought in and I plan on getting others to do the same. Smart.

People Can Change

I’ve always been a guy who wore brown shoes or black shoes…besides sneakers of course. I’ve avoided grey shoes like the plague. Well, until the other day when I purchased my first pair ever. These are from Cushe, who is quickly becoming my go to brand for shoes. I love how comfortable and light weight they are. Give them a try. Nordstrom just started carrying them. I highly recommend.

Sunglasses At Night

Picked up a new pair of shades. I’ll be wearing them often as the weather gets a bit warmer.  I’ve never owned a pair of Ray Bans.  I’ve always been a Oakley guy. But, after a few mishaps with some Oakley sunglasses I finally decided to switch brands.

The Aviator Chair Is Mine

I first learned about the Aviator Chair from one of my favorite sites, Uncrate.  They described the chair as follows:

Don’t have what it takes to become a real pilot? Live out your WWII fighter pilot fantasies in the Aviator Chair ($1,300). This unique seat features riveted aluminum sides with a leather top rail, a distressed whiskey leather seat with a ribbed leather center area, a kiln-dried frame for longevity, and plastic feet to protect your precious floors from the inevitable inadvertent slide.

Yes, $1300 for a chair. Well technically, right now it’s $1695.  I paid less than $1300. I had a magic number in mind and when it hit the magic number I ordered it. You have to understand I’ve been lusting for this chair for roughly 4 months. So when it hit the magic number, there was no turning back.

It feels great finally having something I lusted after for so long. Now I can just sit back and enjoy.

Let There Be Light

My new lamp arrived today.  Well, technically, it arrived 5 days ago, but I finally made it back to Chicago to actually pick it up, unpack it and put it together.  I’m pretty excited about this lamp. It took roughly 60 days for it to arrive after I ordered it…a second time.  Yes, there’s a story for that.  Anyhow, I was able to say goodbye to a lamp that just didn’t fit and say hello to one that does.

This shot really pushed the limits of the project.

  1. I almost ran out of time.  I spent most of the day on the go in poor weather, so the camera stayed home.
  2. With my choice to not use a Flash for the project, I had to dial up the ISO, slow down the shutter speed and open up the aperture.  You can see a lot of grain.

Let’s see what’s up next.

Finally My All-Clad 8″ Non Stick Is Here

I’ve been lusting for an All-Clad (client) 8″ Non Stick, Brushed Steel frying pan.  This is the perfect size pan for making two over easy eggs.  I’ve wanted this pan for a long time, but held off purchasing it.  Not entirely sure why, since I’ll be using it a lot!  So today, I finally broke down and purchased it from Williams-Sonoma.  She’s gorgeous.