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What do Zappos, Quirky, ARK and Pokerstars have in common?

The answer…. not all that much except the fact that I envy at least one part of each of their business.

Zappos

Zappos.com is an online shoe and clothing retailer, it was acquired by amazon.com last year, valuing the business at around 1.2billion.

I first came across Zappos when reading about its founder, the inimitable Tony Hsieh, in Inc magazine. (Actually the original article can still be found on its website here).

I was instantly struck by the fact that this guy cares about one thing and one thing only (on the surface anyway) and thats customer service. He has made himself act in a certain way so that his employees will look up to him, feel comfortable around him and want to work for and with him.

Zappos wages are lower then the industry average per employee job spec, yet when there is an opening each position could be filled hundreds, if not thousands, of times over. Why is this? Well obviously it’s down to the fact that it is an awesome working environment.

Each would be employee undergoes an extensive training program and at anytime during this they can quit and get $2000 as a parting gift! But yet hardly anybody does it, They get below average pay and turn down the offer of a nice little lump sum to work for this e-tailer!

I recommend giving the article a read, but the point of it seems to be, look after your employees and they will look after your customer. (Another great thing about zappos is the autonomy that each employee is given, they can use their own common sense to make a customer happy, be it sending them flowers or whatever)

Quirky

Quirky.com is possibly the coolest business that I have come across over the past year. They call it social product development, I call it a great way to entice a community to get behind, develop, support and create a buzz about a new product. And I didnt mention that a new product happens every week or so!

Basically this is how it works. You submit your idea for a new product (Costs $100), then the community votes on which idea they think has the most promise, once one is selected the community makes suggestions for modifications to the product etc and finally the product is put up for sale through the website (And I think later on through other stores for the most successful ones) the original inventor of the product gets a cut and as a result can come out with a hefty sum of cash.

I think it’s a really unique business, and it’s well worth having a look around the website.

Ark

Acts of Random Kindness (Ark) is a not for profit movement (yes, a movement). It sells some pretty nice clothes (Tshirts, poloshirts, underwear) through it’s website, with the idea that every time you wear an Ark item of clothing you do at least one random act of kindness for a random member of the public. Some such acts of kindness would be  buying a beer for someone standing at the back of a long que at a music festival, or buying two packets of crisps in a vending machine and leaving one of them there for the next person to come along and find. Basically, its doing something that will brighten up some randomers day.

I think it’s a really nice idea, and would see no reason why anyone wouldn’t want to get involved in it.

After all, as a former teacher of mine used to say, it’s nice to be nice.

Pokerstars

And finally I come to Pokerstars, the worlds largest online poker room. Confused? Well I’m not adding this to my list because I think playing poker online is great, but more so because their customer service agents really are great. Shockingly so! This faceless online poker goliath has made responding to it’s customers a definite USP (especially given its stereotypical clientèle)

They now have a reputation for responding to absolutely any question, and this has created quite a buzz among poker forum frequenters,

Here is a random customer service representatives response to a question about global warming.

Sunday, March 7, 2010 6:55 AM
RE: Global Warming

Hello xxxxx,

Thank you for your email.

While there are the ‘Global Warming Believers’ and the Global Warming
Skeptics’ it is my personal belief that whether or not there is a direct
relationship between our activities and the earth warming up, can we really
afford to take the risk? It also makes Economic sense in the long run to be
Green and sustainable.

We have the technology and ability to be completely sustainable, let us just
hope that the laws are put in place to make sure that this happens soon.

Worst comes to the worst at least there will be PokerStars when we are
locked away hiding from the Sun.

Should you need any further assistance we are here 24 hours a day 7 days a
week at your disposal.

Best of luck at the tables and thank you for choosing PokerStars.

Regards,

Teymour
PokerStars Support Team

While not the most hilarious of responses, it does show the effort that these people put into responding to their customers. And with online poker rooms having notoriously poor customer relations, this type of thing will only serve to strengthen pokerstars position.

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Boards.ie post of the day, well worth a mention!

I spend a lot of time trawling around on boards.ie, I inevitably check out the post of the day. Something which is by no means an indication of a good post.

However I found todays post of the day to be ingenius!

It is the first post in a thread entitled “life”, posted in the cesspool that is after hours.

I’m completely sick of my life. I’m almost 20 and haven’t been able to score a better job than a cook at a local fast food joint. What makes it worse is that I live in a small town so business is pretty limited, and where I work is the only place that’ll hire people who didn’t do the Leaving. I’d get the hell out of this town if I could actually drive too, but I’ve failed every damn test I’ve ever taken. I’m socially awkward, even my only other co-worker ****ing hates my guts. I have repressed lust for one of my best friends too; she’s athletic, smart and a gorgeous girl. I love her. You know what it’s like; I’ve been friend zoned real hard. She’s my only real friend, besides this one kid, who I’m pretty sure is only hanging around me because he is mentally challenged. I guess he’s the only one that can tolerate me. And what makes this all worse is that I live in a pineapple under the sea.
Anyone got a worse life than me? I doubt it.

So boards.ie poster giggsy664 I salute you, for you are an intelligent person that has made me smile.

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My new phone. WOW!

It all started on a fine summers day. My Nokia N97 was once again having problems, this time the slider button which locks/unlocks the phone had fallen off, seemingly not enough glue was used to hold it together, the result of which was a phone which was not able to lock.

So I took a quick trip up to Santry to have a look at phones, I was planning on just getting mine fixed, it was my girlfriend who was the one really looking for a new phone (Her LG was having major problems for the umpteenth time and she had had enough of it).

We went into carphone warehouse, had a look at some phones and finally I went up to the counter and asked the sales staff what the craic was with getting this phone fixed, given that all it required was probably a piece of glue. He told me what a piece of shit the phone was and how his dad had gone through five (something that I could well imagine, would of been a quality phone if it just worked properly). He then told me how Carphone Warehouse (his employer) had a trade in value of €150 on the N97 and as such I can get a brand new phone for next to nothing. As I’m a bill pay customer on o2 and have an upgrade available, I was able to get the HTC desire for 20 quid! Bargaintown!

Now I don’t know a lot about phones, I know that the iphone is supposedly amazingly brilliant with lots of useful and not so useful apps available for it. I also know that I’m not touching another nokia smartphone with a rubber glove on the end of a bargepoll again unless I hear of huge improvements and the final piece of pertinent information that I know is that HTC are supposed to be really handy phones, and that HTC manufacturer the Nexus one for google. All in all it sounded like the HTC Desire (the top of the range HTC) was the phone that I wanted.

Done and done! I walked out of their with a new phone.

On first glance it was great. Nice and light, incredibly quick and great looking touchscreen. Then I started looking into the apps you can get for it and this is where I feel it started getting really good.

Having had a Nokia, I had use of the Ovi store, a terrible piece of infrastructure that never worked properly for me, and don’t even get me started on the Nokia player and Ovi suite which I installed on my desktop. In stark contrast the android market looks great. Obviously it doesn’t have the volume of apps that the iphone had but (and it’s a big but) as google operate android it means that apps, such as google goggles, appear on the android market place first, meaning that it is quite possibly the first place to get some of the sickest (in a good way) apps.

So here’s a run down on what I’ve downloaded so far, two days after I first got the phone.

Air Horn – an app that simulates an airhorn when you press the screen (mainly used to wake up friends etc)

Barcode Scanner – Really impressive little app which recognises barcodes allowing you to look up the product online and compare prices etc. Also, the android market has developed their own barcode (As you can see on the right), which allows you to scan a screen and it downloads the application automatically to the phone. Very handy.

Doubletwist – A music playing application, dubbed the android itunes. Allows to synch music with pc application. Does the job, the stock music player on the HTC wasn’t great.

English-Spanish Dictionary – pretty self explanatory, haven’t used it yet really.

Evernote – I love evernote, I have it on my pc and use it all the time, having it on my phone is just going to make everything so much easier, I can now take pictures and file them onto evernote, sync them with my pc and keep them their forever and ever. If you don’t know what evernote is, you should definitely check it out.

Fring – Global IM application, allowing you to login to all instant messaging accounts simultaneously, also allows for skype calling, an independent app of which is still not available for android.

Gmote – Very impressive remote app, which allows you to control your pc via the wifi network it is on, meaning that I can now lie in bed and play videos/music on my pc, and then turn the pc off without having to get up. Very cool in my opinion.

Google goggles – one of the google apps which I was referring to, ridiculous technology must have gone into it and if it works as it says it does it should be fantastic. I tested it on a book and it worked properly. I feel I should leave it to google to explain what it really does, so here is a link to the video.

Google Sky Map – another pretty useless, but cool none the less, app which shows you whats in the sky. Using GPS (presumably) you  can point it up to the sky, and find out exactly what is that star you are looking at. Or alternatively, if you are looking for Uranus, you can find it with a scan of the sky through your phone.

Next Train Ireland – Allows you to see realtime information on when the next train is arriving at any given station. Particularly handy for dart users.

Qik – Cool piece of technology that allows you to stream from your phone online, I have it linked to my twitter account (@lteeling) so that whenever I stream a link is sent on twitter to all my followers.

World cup footmob – An app to help me keep track of the World cup, updates scores, tells me when matchs are on, who is playing who etc.

As well as these apps which I’ve downloaded, there are also pre-installed apps for facebook and twitter which do the job great. Also the obligatory map software which allows for gps navigation. And all the other stuff you are likely to find on a phone, Camera/Radio/E-mail/Weather etc.

I could very well be leaving out some of the capabilities of this phone, but needless to say I am delighted, nay, I’m in love with this phone.

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Productive summer… well not yet anyway.

I havenn’t really gotten anywhere with the summer goals.

Truth is despite the fact that I have no job for the summer I seem to be really busy.

I went to the Ireland vs Australia ODI (cricket) up the road from me last thursday. That was fuppin excellent. Blue skies lots of sun and a few swifties. Ireland did incredibly well, and in all truth should have won the match, (bitta cricket talk next, skip over if this kind of thing bores you) unfortunately the two best irish born batsmen are now playing for engerland. If they were playing against the ozzies I think ireland would have been hard pressed to lost the match! We really need a middle order.

I spent last weekend in London with my college class, one last hurrah until most people enter into the real world and I do a masters. (Quite surprised that out of my whole year only three of us are going onto do a masters straight away) 

So that was Saturday until Monday evening, Tuesday morning, my results came out and did a little bit of celebrating after that. Then Wednesday I went down to Galway to visit my Gran who I see nowhere near regularly enough. Came back up to Dublin yesterday and now i have my first free day in what seems like ages. 

I went to the bank, played computer games and now watching the football. Very productive…. I am going to go for a run later, my mate breff told me about this horrible sounding way to kill yourself. 3 pushups six situps and 9 squats, easy right? Wrong! You’ve to do that for 10mins without stopping and count how many sets you can do…. Sounds like torture but i’ll give it a go.

So before I do that, I’m going to watch this footie match (C’mon Brazil), then do some spanish and guitar.

Here’s a quick run down on how my goals have been going so far.

I have been checking on my portfolio everyday, but have yet to put any real effort into the whole deal, and as it stands my portfolio is now making a loss. (I’ll make a larger post on this in the next few days).

With regards to my gaining positive weight goal, I have been making a very poor attempt at this. The gym which I will be using (in the rugby club where I play) is currently under refurbishment, it was due to open on the 16th but as it stands it is still locked up and still “being done up”. So as I’ve no gym (weightlifting was a large part of the plan) I’ve been doing the odd bit of HIIT, it’s tiding me over, but mneh, I really want to get back in the gym.

My guitar and spanish learning goals haven’t taken off, mainly due to me not being around,or being busy.

Hmm maybe i’m just making excuses…

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Joining the masses!

This is not my first attempt at writing a blog. Previously I had one in order to keep track of my poker learnings… It lasted a few months, but faded out much like my poker playing. Then I had one based around the online football management simulator http://www.trophymanager.com, that one lasted about six posts before I got bored and stopped.

This blog is going to be slightly different. In it’s infancy i’m going to use it to track my summer goals, and I’ll throw some general musings into the mix as well.

My aim is primarily to provide myself with a timeline of my progress or lack there of, but where this blog goes from there, who’s to know?

So that’s it, first post of what will hopefully be a long standing blog!

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