Overcoming Impossible Odds, I Got a Hotel Room in Sold Out San Francisco During Dreamforce

I had been tracking Hotel Tonight for days–it’s always a good indicator of availability and pricing. And I knew every single hotel room near SFO was sold out. I knew because even the Hyatt 800 reservation line which handles all their other lesser brands, said they were sold out for a 30-mile radius.

Dreamforce attendees took over the area. I was there on business having nothing to do with Saleforce and I am somewhat of a hotel snob. I won’t stay in a ‘basic’ hotel, I prefer ‘luxe’ whenever possible. But I had my sights set on the Hyatt in Burlingame. Unlike Hilton which will put their name on anything (have you seen the Hilton Oakland Airport? It is a total dump.), Hyatt has preserved standards for their brand.

Having recently read, “Heads in Beds” by Jacob Tomsky, I felt empowered to win at the hotel game. I walked into the lobby, tipped the bellman $20 and asked, “Who is my best friend at the fronts desk?”  He pointed.

I walk up to, let’s call her ‘Glenda’ to protect the innocent, and ask for a $100 bill for my 5 $20s. When she handed me the $100 bill I told her it’s was for her, but I needed a room. She felt guilty telling me they were sold out, oversold in fact. But went to the ‘back of the house’ and returned with two options: a smoking room (I later found out they keep 5 of them…stupid) or a parlor suite — the kind you get for a reception at a convention that is attached to your real room. I chose the parlor. The downside: it came with a sleeper couch, no bed. That’s what I chose.

Final score: Hyatt Burlingame, $349 for the night + $100 tip = $449 (vs. $750 a night and a $65 Uber ride into the San Francisco for the very nice, but much more expensive Four Seasons).

My Apple Thunderbolt monitor just started smoking

Well, technically it went ‘poof’ and then started smoking. I took this footage after the bulk of the smoke came out – I needed to unplug it and make sure there wasn’t going to be a fire.

I took it to my local Apple store and a technical ran through about 75 questions about the incident, including if I had been hurt – I did feign a whip lash injury but he didn’t buy it. He said I should hear from Apple within a few days about the monitor.

I will post an update here when I find our what they say.

UPDATE: Apple fixed it, it took about a week and they said they had to replace just about everything inside the monitor, but there was no charge.

Never Publish a Testimonial Without a Full Name

Lame testimonial without full name

If you are going to take the time to post testimonials on your web site or print them in marketing material, make sure they are real people.  And if they are real people, make sure to include their full name.

Seeing “Jeanne K.” after a glowing comment does not give me confidence there is a real person behind that testimonial.  If a customer or client doesn’t have a comfort-level with people knowing they endorse your offering, then use someone who does.

Even better, put their city, company and other identifying information so that a serious buyer might contact them for a first-hand account of their experience with your company/firm.

Focus on quality of testimonial, true believers, champions, people who are happy to take a minute to sing your praises to a prospect.  Having a handful of these people in your camp is much more impressive and valuable than dozens of anonymous comments from nobodies who don’t even look real.

Rental Car Keys Are Too Bulky

There has got to be a better way.

way too bulky

Way too bulky

Nothing says, “Hi, I’m not from here,” like a massive key chain with two huge identical car keys on it.  And leaving them in your pocket might make people think you are way too excited to see them.

I understand that a rental car moves around a lot and may only be in service for a year or so and then sold off.  So keeping the keys together means the rental agencies don’t have to have some massive repository of second keys that need to later be married up with their respective cars before auction.  But I still don’t have to like it.  And I still want to find a solution that gives me the user experience I am looking for, one free of bulky additions to my otherwise carefree pockets.

Perhaps carrying a small wire cutter and a zip tie?  Clip the wire, use just the one key throughout my trip, and then secure it all back together with the zip tie before I return it?

Any better ideas?  Do other people think this a problem or is it just me?

Always Include an Email Signature With Your Phone Number

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 3.27.10 PM

At least a few times a day I find myself searching for a phone number for someone who has emailed me.  If only they had included a simple email signature, including their phone number, they would save me this frustration.

Unless you are trying to be super secret or you have no interest in doing business, getting job or just generally want to be difficult, take the several minutes to set up your email program (and smart phone) to add a signature to every email, both new and replies.


I Bet There are 100 Libraries Within Ten Miles of Your House


I am a huge advocate for libraries and the power of quiet learning in places with books and technology and people who are there for the purpose of reading and expanding their minds. Every kid has/should have a fond memory of getting their first library card (or whatever the modern day equivalent is).  So I feel I am on solid ground when I suggest that we stop building libraries.

There are thousands of libraries that exist and are entirely under-utilitzed.  Think about every elementary, middle and high schools exist in your city.  How many community colleges and other institutions of higher learning are nearby?  Each one of these buildings  houses a library, if not several.  And depending on the age and size, can be updated and staffed to serve the community’s library needs for a fraction of the cost of building and staffing a new library.

Schools would benefit from these new resources and the community will benefit from having access to dozens of new libraries in neighborhoods.  Sure there are the issues of security on school campuses – so you make it so the public is only welcome after school hours.

So the next time someone suggests a massive spending project for a new library, tell them to fix-up the ones we already have at a fraction of the cost.



Enough with asking me to sign paper receipts


Why do stores what me to sign paper receipts?  Do they actually keep them?  Almost every store has a point of sale system – why not allow me to sign electronically?

RiteAid specifically is annoying, but the most egregious example of paper receipts is Mother’s Markets.  They appear to be green and pro-environment, yet they waste so much needless paper by printing receipts and requiring customers to sign them.


DO NOT staple anything, every again




This is simple…do not ever staple anything, ever again.  I don’t own a file cabinet nor do I keep paper documents.  I scan them.  So every time you staple something you piss me off because I have to remove the staple to scan the document. I am not the only one that functions like this and more and more scan and shred will become the rule.  So buy some paper clips or large envelopes or alligator clips and throw away that old stapler.

Thank you.

Have a physical address on your web site


Every business should have a physical address on their web site.  Call me old-school or skeptical, but I don’t trust you if I don’t know where you are, or at least where to serve you in a lawsuit.

However buried in the contact section or in fine print at the bottom of the screen, the address tells buyers that you are real.  Even it is a post office box or executive suite, at least people can have confidence that you exist in some place beyond the cloud.

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Don’t be stupid, let me see your demo


If you have a great product I will buy it from you, but do not make me sign-up or sign-in or otherwise commit to your company just to see what you have to offer.

I hesitate to name names, but we have all encountered a brand that thinks their offering is so special that it requires you to tell them who you are before they will show you what you can buy from them.  It isn’t that special, I am sure of it.

Companies should be proud of their screen shots and demo videos and feature lists.

In my experience the companies that require you to fill out a contact form, are the companies that offer a a product or service that has become commoditized and they need to project that they have a magic formula or secret sauce in order to show value.  Part of creating this perception of value, is hiding behind a contact form.  Then, when you realize they offer nothing special and you leave their site for another, less expensive or, better yet, free resource, they can still call you with the hard sell.