Sunday, April 27, 2008

This Post Will Provide No More Than One Laugh

Every post on this blog starts out the same way, I really should save it somewhere to reuse it and save myself the trouble of the 'I know I haven't written a blog entry in a long time' paragraph.

Hey, that's kind of different.

So I know I haven't been writing as much as I'd like to. A bunch of stuff has happened since my last entry, none of which involve me finding a place to live in NYC for the summer. Don't worry though, I'm taking care of it. After blogging I'm going to google 'Relatively Clean NYC Bus Stations' and see what comes back. Hopefully something near the office with a nice selection of vending machines.

Anyway. I went on Spring Break. Vegas. Fun, but my stories stayed there.

I also just went back home for a bachelor party/Passover weekend, that's a good combo, although Yom Kippur would've been more appropriate to just put the sins right before the atonement. Spent a lot of time traveling up to NYC to see a game at Yankee Stadium and then to Boston for a game at Fenway.

Verdicts: I still don't like either of their fan bases, but Fenway is way better than Yankee stadium and it's not even close. Of course, neither will ever approach the old Philadelphia Vet for history, ambiance, and foul-smelling concrete.

So I've been jetting around a little bit, and starting wondering about this marketing phenomenon I've been noticing and I'm wondering if it happens far more often than I realize.

The act of underpromising and overdelivering. Maybe that's acts, because it's two things, but I view them as parts of a whole, so we'll go with act.

I fly Southwest when I go back to Philadelphia. I like Southwest because they reward people with foresight. If you want a good seat, all you have to do is check-in online early, and you'll be on the plane before all those suckers in the 'B' class (which gives you a great chance to secure overhead compartment space. That's actually my greatest flying-related fear, no room in the overhead. Number two is 'miraculously surviving a fiery crash into a mountain only to have to eat the dead to survive. Number three is no peanuts.)

Anyway, the pilots at Southwest, they always get on the intercom sometimes during the flight. And while the flight time for MDW-PHL is two hours, they always ALWAYS talk about how they'll probably be able to get us in 'ahead of schedule'.

That makes me think about the Seinfeld routine on air travel. Basically, no cops in the sky means the pilots should floor it.

He tells it better.

When I heard that for the first time, I thought, 'Finally, a pilot who gets the fact that being on a plane totally sucks' I really liked that they were trying to beat their expected time of arrival.

Then I heard it again, and again, and again.

I figured there were two possibilities at work. Either Southwest (and maybe the whole airline industry) schedule small delays into the flight plans. Or, they want their customers to think what I thought the firsts time I heard that (and not the cynical feeling I felt on subsequent hearings).

Underpromising and overdelivering, a hallmark of my personal work habits, might have a larger place in the broader commerical markets.

I thought about the Southwest pilot off-and-on, wondering if that happens anywhere else. I'm still waiting for the day I go into McDonald's, order a double quarter pounder, and have them come back saying, 'Actually, we were able to make this a triple'

But I did order shoes recently. And I observed the phenomenon again (which made it significant enough that I thought it was blog-worthy)

I needed a new pair of sneakers, considering my old pair of New Balances were both A) Old as heck and B) worthy of fashion emergency status according to the stylish people I know (meaning girls)

But I kept putting off going to a shoe store, and finally tried when my gross looking shoes outweighed my inertia., if you didn't know, sells shoes and other stuff on the internet. They offer free shipping, and after placing your order it will arrive in between 4 and 5 business days. I figured I could wait that long, and placed my order.

No more than a day later, I got an email from the good people at zappos.

"Good news!

Although you originally ordered Standard (4 to 5 business days)
shipping and handling, we have given your order special priority processing in
our warehouse and are upgrading the shipping and delivery time frame
for your order.

Your order will ship out Monday, April 14th 2008 and be given a special
priority shipping status so that you can receive your order even faster than we originally promised!"

Hmm, I thought, that's good news. But as with any good news, I was suspicious.

Special priority processing??? Or maybe they just saw it was my first order and they want to convince me they actually treat their customers well! I can see their plan clearly now, they envision me living my life, wearing my new shoes at cocktail parties...

"Nice shoes, where did you get them?"

"I got them on It actually worked really well and they ended up shipping them to me EARLY!"

"Wow, I should give them ALL my shoe-ordering money!!!"

"If you didn't, you'd be a damned fool. They sure treat you great at!"

But I'm on to them. And it makes me wonder if there are other firms/industries out there that might try to do the same stuff regularly. In that they'll set some initial expectation of service, and then exceed it with what's actually their normal level of service.

One thing's for sure, I'm not going to be telling all my friends about Zappos. I'm not going to tell them about the expedited shipping, I won't bring it up in conversation, and I won't post the details of my experience on a widely viewed medium like the Internet.


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