The cable guy

Part of this weekend's activities includes fixing the in-laws TiVo system and getting their home entertainment system working. Since we were to help set it up initially they've moved it to a new cabinet and had the local cable guy out to help troubleshoot.

Somewhat unsurprisingly the cable guy's answer is to give up on TiVo and go to the cable company's second rate DVR system. Ultimately the problem stemmed from two cables that the cable guy wasn't sure what to do with and just stuck in the back of the case. Low and behold when the TiVo says it can't connect it is possible that the network connection cable is important. Similarly when the cable guy says "TiVo doesn't work with our system," it really means he wants to sell you something else more than help you. It also means that he won't take the time to read the one-page instruction sheet or think for a few minutes about why the TiVo can't control the cable box without the connectors. Imagine.

Basic advice for everyone. Don't let the cable guy do more than pull the cable to your house. If you need help with your system find a local independent expert and get them to come help you. You'll get a much better deal and you'll have hair left at the end of the process.

Crazy Amazon Cutsomer Service

Customer Service note makes no sense The reindeer are running the asylum over at Amazon I'm afraid. Pardon the insult my reindeer friends. I placed an order a few days ago. Amazon said it would ship in two packages. One item was available from several sources but I went to the trouble of making sure it shipped from Amazon and not a third party. I paid extra to buy it from them.

Long story shorter, one item shipped as promised. The others continued to show they would be delivered December 20th. Oddly enough it showed them as not shipped so I sent an email asking about it. Customer service sent back the email pictured above. Funny that something which hasn't shipped by 5:30 p.m. on the 20th will arrive by the 20th. Must be using super fast reindeer to get the packages out. Espresso, check, teleporter, check.

Skepticim about employees persists

Recently I've discussed the December 2006 Harvard Business Review article The High Cost of Low Wages with several small business owners. The article's well supported thesis is "stingy pay and benefits don’t necessarily translate into lower costs in the long run".

Certainly when looking at a counter-intuitive suggestion like this it is comfortable to be dismissive out of hand. What is harder to put aside is that in case study after case study this model holds true. Many business owners, however, are convinced it doesn't apply to their industry. There is certainly support for the idea that pay and benefits are not the only thing that matters in many industries.

While employee pay is not a direct indicator of success, the Costco model certainly suggests it is a part of the puzzle. Further employee compensation plans say a great deal about management's attitudes towards employees. If I as a manager expect an employee will be stealing from me, a short timer and not worth investing in guess what I'll get?

Universal looking for share of iPod sales

According to this article Universal music may be looking for royalties on each iPod sale. Let's rewind a bit and see how funny this request really is. Two weeks ago Universal said that iPod owners were thieves. This came at the time when they were announcing their support of the Zune which seems to be under performing the weakest of expectations.

Going back further one sees that Universal, and their traditional music label comrades, didn't have much use for the iPod. When it came to be five years ago they seemed to think it was just another crappy MP3 player and who would care. Since then Apple Computer has managed to set the music distribution business on it's ear. Not only is it not a crappy player but with increasing ease we, the consumers, don't need the labels, or want the labels, to filter music for us. Instead we can go directly to the source and get music. Best of all our dollars go to supporting the artists not the same executives who think we're all a bunch of thieves.

Five tips for getting new employees started

The anticipation's been building. You've been through the first and second round interviews and the phone rings. As the first day of the new job starts you are excited and ready to go to work.

As much as employees need to take advantage of this situation employers have a lot to gain or lose as well. Several places I've started it's been clear that they just plain weren't ready for me. If the job involves more than flipping hamburgers it's worth spending some time planning out the first days and weeks of a new hire's work with some care.

1. Make the tools available - Nothing is more unsettling than going in to a new company and not having the basics. At the minimum a phone, email and office or cubicle need to be ready to go on day one. Make sure the employee has keys or whatever things are necessary to get in so they can come in early or stay late (which they will often want to do).

All Tower Records Stores to close

Thanks to a reader for pointing out this article talking about the shuttering of all Tower Records stores.

While the 90 Tower Records stores may not be a huge impact on overall retail sales, it does send a strong signal where the bricks and mortar record industry is going. The real question is when the record labels will catch up with the times or if they too will fall victim as artists figure out that the companies have outlived their usefulness.


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