Friday, November 28, 2008

A Neat Idea

I went to the Winter Park Athletic Club tonight, thinking I'd get a run in and purchase a pass for a day or two. When I got there, however, I had a surprise. The door is locked, with a bar code key system for access. No one was at the desk (4:00 on a Friday), so I couldn't knock on the door and get access. However they had a sign on the door, so I called the number.

A lady answered and said she'd be happy to set me up with a day pass. Actually I wanted 2, and they're $10 a day, but she said she'd do $15 for 2, so I said great and I was at the club.

So she walked me through their process. There's a lock box on the wall, which has bar code keys (keychain sized) inside. I grabbed one, which had a number written on it, and held it up to the reader in the glass. It let me inside and there were envelopes on the desk, each with numbers corresponding to the bar code keys. I grabbed mine, and inside mine was a waiver and info sheet that I filled out, including my credit card number, and marking 2 days along with the charge. I dropped it in the slot, my credit card in my wallet along with the bar code reader, and then worked out.

Tomorrow my bar code reader will work, and they'll have updated their system to mark it for 2 days. When I'm done I drop it in the slot and they reuse it. They have cameras set up for remove monitoring and recording, so they can tell who came in and double check their charges. I'm sure they do it randomly, but it's a neat way to run a business, track users, and save on employee costs.

I bet other businesses that are service related like this, or rental related, could work like this, at least on a small scale.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Fake Sale

I was driving the kids to soccer the other day and noticed someone standing on the corner of two busy streets, spinning a sign in his hands. It had the Circuit City logo on it and announced a store closing sale, and a big 20% off verbage. Smaller print said "up to" near the 20%, but more on this later.

I was surprised since this was a store that opened less than a few months ago, taking the place of a Target that moved down the road. It's a decent location, and I can only guess that the recent woes of Circuit City as a company are contributing to this. I guess I'd mention there's a Best Buy that's about 2 miles South of this store and another one that's about 5 miles North of it, so perhaps they can't get enough traffic in there.

I was busy that day, but with the need to purchase a bunch of prizes soon, I thought this would be a good place to load up on a few things. Typically I go to Best Buy every year, but Circuit City enticed me. So I stopped by there the next day to check things out.

I had every intention of buying something and picked up a basket when I walked in to put things in. I started wandering in the TV area, needing a LCD mount, but not really anything else. I went to see iPods and Zunes, then computer stuff, and I realized something. Almost everything in the store was marked at 5% or 10% off. Accessories tended to be in the 15% range, but I stopped and actually walked around, looking for something that was 20% off. It seemed to be limited to music CDs, although there were a few things at 30% off (auto install kits).

I felt cheated.

This feels like every other sale that they might normally run, 10% off, which I can get at Amazon, and likely Best Buy.

I know this is the beginning of their closure, and there's a chance I would go back, but honestly that's not likely. If I see a 30% or even a 50% off sign, I'm going to guess that most things are 10-20% off. Or that there is very little stuff left and why waste my time.

Something like this probably does more damage to the Circuit City brand to me than anything. I've bought stuff from them since I was 15 years old, over 25 years now, and I would buy more from them if they were closer. When this store opened, I needed a mouse and a couple things one day and went here instead of Best Buy.

That won't be the case anymore.

There has to be a decent cost to keeping the store open, paying employees, etc. Perhaps they're stuck with a certain level of fixed costs and don't want to sell out too quickly, but honestly they would be better off having a real sale, go 20% off on every thing, take some losses (you're going to anyway) and make people feel good. If you turn around things in the company, you're going to want that goodwill.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Learning from Chefs

or perhaps better titled "marketing through teaching"

This is worth watching and I think Jason Fried has great ideas. Perhaps not for everyone, but I think some people can make this work.

I hope I'm one of them.