Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Problem With Incentives

Dear Community,

I really like this talk. It is given by the psychology professor at Swarthmore and I have made everyone in my life watch it. If you invite me over for dinner and there is a lull in the conversation, I will inevitable start in with "I was watching this amazing talk last week..." (this can be awkward when I start to go to dinners with repeat guest who wonder why I watch the video every week). So, if you are looking to sound like a total snob at your next social function (Lets face it 'I was reading this article in the Times' isn't going to cut it anymore), you should check this out. It makes you sound smart....mostly because he has a lot of really smart things to say.

Have a good week,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good service.

Dear Community,

My car got towed. Actually, it got towed (and impounded) twice. In 3 weeks. Part of me wants to spend the entire post regaling just how terrible it was (did I mention this happened twice) because Im a sympathy whore, but I'll spare you- don't let this keep you from lavishing the sympathy on though.

What I want to talk about is the people at the auto return place. It works kind of like this: you drive in California with a Colorado drivers license. The police pull you over and tow your car (you walk home). The towing company then takes your car to this third party auto return place where they immediately start charging you exorbitant fees for storage. If you want to get your car back, you go to this place and pay the exorbitant fees.

Which is exactly how I met "Ronald". When I went to pick up my car, he informed me it would $786.43. $786.43! Are you joking? For storing a car? And what the hell is the 43 cents for? The paper for "wait in line till your number is called" ticket?

I can't say I was nice to him. I was actually really mean. As if me yelling at him about how I actually was a great driver, with an impeccable record would cause him to suddenly break down and let me go with a lollipop. No luck. And no lollipop (although, its a great suggestion for a future customer service initiative).

And the truth is, Ronald was really nice about the whole thing. He told me about a similar experience he had driving across the country- which, at the times, being the self centered jerk I am, I responded to with "are-you-serious-this-is-the-worst-thing-that-has-ever-happened-to-anyone-ever-dont-even-try-to-compare-your-little-"accident"-to-my-life-altering-event". Which is too bad, because he was, in hindsight, a really good guy about the whole thing.

But all stories have a happy ending, because, as I explained earlier, my car was towed again a few weeks later. And who was there when I needed to pay another 700? Ronald! And, not wanting to make the same mistake, I was as pleasant as a peach. We were practically like college roommates meeting for a play date with our kids 10 years after graduating.

And here comes that annoying "conclusion" paragraph that is borderline pedantic. Some experiences just suck and its not supports fault. They are just the bearers of bad news. Which I rarely remember. Fortunately, I got to have the same terrible experience twice and correct my error. Lucky me.

Your favorite (now California registered) driver,