Einstein Bros. Bagels – Smart E-mail Approach for Mobile

Last week Einstein Bros. posted an offer on Facebook. Of course I was drawn to it since I am the “Koupon King” and love to save money. A Buy One Get One Sandwich for lunch is a great deal. A user can save ~$7.00 – I walked away with lunch for two people for $8.50 with one drink.

That said, I was quite impressed with the approach Einstein’s took in handling the printing aspect for the coupon. Assuming many people may be checking FB on a mobile device or away from an attached printer, they added an option to e-mail the coupon to be grabbed and printed later (see red arrow below).

Genius on two fronts –

1) The coupon is more likely to be used; thus, accomplishing the goal of driving traffic. And,

2) Einstein’snow has the FB contact AND an e-mail contact (and ostensibly a preference on where to get coupons sent).

Einstein Bros. BOGO Sandwich



Toys R Us Express Comes to Town

I noticed this morning that a Toys R Us Express has quietly opened in the Shops at Legacy in Plano, Texas. This area is a high traffic shopping spot and the “express” nature of the store is great for the strong corporate profile around the location. I have noticed more retailers adding these “express” concepts to malls and lifestyle centers. I wonder if this a fad or a trend.

Moldy Bagels at LAX Starbucks

I stopped into the Starbucks in the LAX American terminal (the first one passed walking toward the end of the terminal). I thought a bagel would be a good snack until I saw noticeable green mold spots. I mentioned it to the “partner” and she said “have you had an asiago bagel before? That is normal.”

Not normal for me – no thanks.

The Great State of Cabana

Chili_Man_w-Logo_biggerAs I have done from time to time on this blog, I recount customer service experiences (good or bad) to highlight companies that either get it or don’t. This time, it is Taco Cabana (a place I have enjoyed for close to 20 years now – OK, now I feel a bit older). This particular location was in Frisco, TX.

Craving TC’s queso (it is real cheese, unlike others who are less than cheese), we drove thru last night to pick up some dinner to take home. We placed our order and were given a large single bag of multiple items. I never seem to learn to check my order at the window and usually face the consequences. We get home and the one thing missing from the order is the bowl of 8 oz. queso. I figured “oh well” and called the number on the receipt to just ask them to refund me the amount for the missing item and avoid driving all the way back over there. However, noone answered the phone. At that point, I decided I might as well go back and get the queso and ask for a discount for the trouble.

When I get there, the assistant manager was receptive to fulfilling the order, but confounded me when I suggested it would have saved us both a hassle had someone just answered the phone. He responded by saying “we don’t answer the phone between 6-8. We need to focus on the customers”. Not really the answer I expected – I was a customer and my order apparently did not get the “focus”. So, I saw this as two negatives – not handling the initial order correctly and not answering the phone to help a customer.

Luckily the manager was there and she quickly suggested not only fulfilling the order correctly, but also providing a full refund for the order. I did not expect the latter (a “nice to have” would have been a refund for the item and then a complimentary order of queso). Therefore, Taco Cabana went above and beyond and has now successfully retained me as a customer. This ended up being a bad initial experience with a good ending.

What is Better – Saving More with Deals or Getting Cash Back/Miles?

Loyalty programs are something that have always intrigued me.  Sometimes it seems like the sheep follow a little too closely instead of actually looking at the price of what is being paid.  For example, is it better to fly RT to a place you want to go for $199 on an airline you never really use, or pay $239 for the airline you always use just to get miles in your loyalty program?  I know people who are so loyal and determined to get the miles that they will (gladly) pay the extra $40.  Let’s say that trip is from DFW to ORD (Chicago).  Having flown that route about 150 times, I am very aware that it is 802 miles each way for the purpose of calculating FF miles.  Even if I am platinum, that is 3,208 miles.  If I am paying $40 for those miles ($.0125 per mile) I am valuing them at even less than the airlines do (they accrue $.02 per mile on their books).  To look at it another way, 3,208 miles is roughly 1/8th of a “free ticket”.  $40 x 8 = $320.  What could you do with $320?  Buy another $199 ticket to Chicago and have a really good dinner at Shula’s…gives new meaning to the phrase “Dollars and SENSE”.

It is Winter….

DFW Plane De-icingDallas enjoys relatively moderate temperatures in the winter.  Sure we get an occasional snow here and there (1″ or less usually).  I have flown in and out of Dallas many times during the winter and have never actually seen a de-icing truck used there.  Today the temp dropped to 32 degrees just after noon.  And the performance began.  So, I snapped this pic from seat 9B on American flight 1180 just to show that those trucks do get used. 

After watching the military-like  precision efforts of the ORD ground crews through the winter of 2004, I have to say this was like watching ice skating on carpet.  But, in the end, American provided a safe plane and a good flight.

Sprint Stores Get Customer Service

For four years, we have used Sprint for our cellular phone service.  Nothing extraordinary about the service that has made us stay, but it was easy to renew the last time and it seemed this time would be easy as well.

Sprint Cell Phones

Sprint Cell Phones

Last month I received a retention offer to get a $50 credit to sign up for another two years.  That was much less than the 10% off per month that was offered last time.  So I asked for a renewal with the 10% off offer again.  The “retention representative” on the phone said that the offer was not available.  Because of that I said that I would be looking around at other carriers.

The next day, in the mail, I received a 10% off offer from Sprint (that supposedly was not available).  This was 12/15/08.  I called the number on the offer, waded through the littany of prompts, waited on hold for five more minutes, then got a message that said the office was closed for the holidays from 11/28 – 12/1.  OK!!  I waited a few more days and tried again – same result.  I tried by phone one more time on 12/29 – same result. 

This was obviously going nowhere.  I went to my local Sprint store.  There I met Brian Paige – Assistant Store Manager.  Despite the constraints of how Sprints retention programs work, Brian was amazing in how he worked to get the deal done.  He admitted that we needed to call someone in Sprint Retention because of certain rules, but he made the call on my behalf and let the representative know of my issues.  She (didn’t get a name) was not helpful at all.  She refused to provide the 10% off offer unless I faxed her the offer to prove I really had it (while I am in a Sprint store – hmmmm).  Finally Brian did what a smart and responsive “customer service” person should do – he went outside the box and made the deal happen.  The specifics of the work around are not important.  What is important is that Brian retained me as a customer – not because it was easy like last time but because he invested his time for Sprint to keep a customer.

I have heard that customer service will die in the next few years.  I just hope that there are more Brian Paiges out there to help keep it alive.

Babe’s – Great Chicken, Interesting Customer Service

Being on vacation is a nice thing.  It gives me time to relax, spend time with my amazing family, write a few blog posts (I need to write more) and enjoy a few good meals.

My wife turned me onto a great place in Highland Park, Texas called Bubba’s.  They have the BEST fried chicken I have ever tasted.  The company has a sibling restaurant that is called Babe’s(more of a family style, sit down version).  We had gotten used to driving the 20 miles to get Bubba’s until Babe’s opened up just a few miles away from our home.

I have to say, the smoked chicken at Babe’s is, in it’s own right, the best SMOKED chicken I have ever had.  They serve the meals home-style, which means “eat all you want” of the sides of corn, green beans, and mashed potatoes.  We ate there today and it was fantastic.

So, for the interesting customer service part.  We had a bit of chicken left over when we got done eating, as well as some mashed potatoes, green beans, and corn.  Our server asked if we would like to take the chicken home with us.  Of course  :).  I also asked her to include the left-over sides.  She responded by saying that “I was trained that we cannot let customers take home the left over sides”.  So I asked if they would be thrown away, and she said yes.  Curious to say the least.

Now I understand that they want to curtail people from ordering additional sides just to get some to take home, but we only got one round of sides and had left-overs – no advantage to us.

We will be eating there again – often.  However, I find the “left-over” policy to be interesting.

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