Wednesday, July 29, 2009
A revolution is coming. Will you be ready? After spending four years and more than $100 million, Coca-Cola (KO) has developed a new soft drink fountain that could include over 100 varieties of its drink brands. Using Microsoft's Windows CE operating system and micro-dosing technology found in drug administering devices, the refrigerator-sized dispenser will replace the ubiquitous six and eight variety dispensers. Coca-Cola enlisted Italian auto designers, a former Apple iPod designer, an R&D company founded by the inventor of the Segway, and its own development team that grew from 7 to 50 full-time employees to create the next generation soda fountain.
The Coca-Cola Freestyle will utilize a touch screen similar to those on smart phones and have a single spigot near the center of the machine for vendees. A wide variety of Coca-Cola brands and their range of flavors, including Coke, Diet Coke, Dasani sparkling and flavored waters, Sprite, Fanta, Barq's, Powerade, and Minute Maid, will be represented with their trademark icons on a touch screen. The future of fountains incorporates new technological advancements. The typical five gallon syrup bags will be replaced by 46 ounce concentrate cartridges that will release the microdoses of our favorite drinks. The smaller size means Coca-Cola has room to offer us more than 100 choices. Radio frequency identification chips incorporated in the cartridges will transmit customer preferences to Coke headquarters and aid in supply and replacement of spent cartridges. (Phew! And I have trouble with the eight choices).
The new machines are currently being tested in Atlanta and Southern California. Test Jack in the Box locations in San Diego are offering 104 varieties. Are you ready for Orange Coke, Peach Fanta, and Strawberry Sprite? They're out there. Just don't take too much time looking for them – I hate cold french fries. Coke's testing has shown that a new user typically takes 22 to 27 seconds to make a selection compared to 15 to 17 seconds for a traditional machine. Consider this a public self-service announcement as soft drinks appear to be getting harder. The 40% space savings over traditional machines should make plenty of room for the lines to form. Let's hope they have more than one when they go national early next year. To move the line along, remain focused when choosing our beverages. This may be why they call it drink concentrate.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Maybe the afternoon will provide me a spark. Would someone like to call and give me said spark?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
For those of you who hate to to fly - not from fear of crashing, but rather fear of lost or broken luggage - here's a story just for you. And it's even in music video format.
On March 31, 2008 Sons of Maxwell began our week-long-tour of Nebraska by flying United Airlines from Halifax to Omaha, by way of Chicago. On that first leg of the flight were seated at the rear of the aircraft and upon landing and waiting to deplane in order to make our connection a woman sitting behind me, not aware that we were musicians cried out: "My god they're throwing guitars out there". Our bass player Mike looked out the window in time to see his bass being heaved without regard by the United baggage handlers. My $3500 710 Taylor had been thrown before his.
I immediately tried to communicate this to the flight attendant who cut me off saying: "Don't talk to me. Talk to the lead agent outside". I found the person she pointed to and that lady was an "acting" lead agent but refused to talk to me and disappeared into the crowd saying "I'm not the lead agent". I spoke to a third employee at the gate and when I told her the baggage handlers were throwing expensive instruments outside she dismissed me saying "but hun, that's why we make you sign the waiver". I explained that I didn't sign a waiver and that no waiver would excuse what was happening outside. She said to take it up with the ground crew in Omaha.
Another month went by and I received an email from a Ms. Irlweg, in Chicago I believe. Basically said she was sorry this happened and denied my claim. Some of her reasons included :Ahh, the travel voucher. Is there anything that can make a flier who's been screwed over one way or another by an airline angrier than a travel voucher? It's the proverbial lemon juice in the paper cut - "Here, we made you mad enough over something to pursue claims and actions, but our solution is to force you to use our service again anyway." It's like you're being punished for being a victim.
* I didn't report it to the United employees who weren't present when we landed in Omaha
* I didn't report to the Omaha airport within 24 hours while I was driving to places that weren't Omaha
* It was an Air Canada issue
* Air Canada already denied the claim (as I mentioned, because Air Canada would not pay for United's damages), but I'm still unsure as to why I needed to report it in Omaha within 24 hours if it was clearly Halifax's responsibility
* Someone from United would need to see the damage to a guitar that was repaired
So after nine months it came down to a series of emails with Ms. Irlweg and, despite her refusal to introduce me to her supervisor, our conversations ended with her saying United would not be taking any responsibility for what had happened and that that would be the last email on the matter. My final offer of a settlement of $1200 in flight vouchers, to cover my salvage costs repairing the Taylor, was rejected.
(And by the way, if United had no blame in this issue, why dole out $1,200 in vouchers in the first place?)
So Carroll, left with no option, turned to YouTube.
He and his band recorded a series of songs about the experience, culminating in "United Breaks Guitars," along with the above video. It's a tremendous effort in straight-forward storytelling, clever video making and a nice back-of-the-hand to United.
Oh, and it's a YouTube hit, churning out more than 466,000 views since it was posted July 6.
Not to mention the publicity it's quickly churning up for Dave and the band for roughly $1,200 worth of guitar repairs.
Of course, none of that makes the story right, which, shockingly, united now seems to get. The airline, headquartered in Chicago, is saying it's learned its lesson, thanks in no small part to Dave Carroll and his video tale of travel woe. So much so, in fact, that they want him to let them use his work as an in-house training guide for their customer service employees on how not to handle a "my bad" situation, reports the Tribune:
Rob Bradford, managing director of customer solutions at United, called Carroll Wednesday to apologize for the foul-up and to ask if the carrier could use the video internally to help change its culture.For those of us with luggage a lot less precious than a $1,200 song-writing guitar, let's hope it works. But I wouldn't put those hopes in a jar headed for baggage check just yet if I were you.
"It could be used to improve the way passengers are treated around the world," Carroll said.
And...the video to go with it.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Discount airliners Southwest, AirTran, and Frontier all announced fare sales yesterday. Many other carriers quickly followed. After reporting a traffic decline in June, the airlines are doing what they can to get more people on planes. A couple of discount airlines overseas have a different approach to get more people on planes. Spring Airlines of China and Ireland's Ryanair said they want to eliminate some seats altogether. Seats take up room and these discounters believe they can get up to 40% more passengers aboard if they have them stand. It works on subways and buses. Why not planes?
Spring Airlines currently has only 13 planes, but its passenger numbers are on the rise and it added new routes. The airline will only take a partial delivery next year of the 14 extra planes it ordered because of plane production lag time. It estimates adding standees could lower the carrier's cost by an estimated 20%, add 40% more capacity, and lead to lower airfares. Spring Airlines is confident the proposal will pass because it was suggested by China's vice premier Zhang Dejiang. As told by Spring's president, "He suggested that, for a lower price, passengers should be able to get on a plane like catching a bus, with no seat, no luggage consignment, no food, no water, but very convenient." Spring's president contends the safety belt is the most important feature and will still be required around the waist. He says Airbus has been consulted and the proposals were deemed safe.
Ryanair was inspired by the Spring Airlines idea. It estimates it can carry 30% more passengers on its shorter routes while trimming costs 20% as well. The CEO says talks were held with Boeing about standing room designs. Fliers could be perched on stools and strapped in. Ryanair has a history of cost cuts. After October it will no longer have conventional check-in. It will have online check-in only. Another proposal is to have passengers carry all their luggage to and from the plane themselves, or be charged significant fees. Another money maker under consideration by Ryanair is a coin slot on plane lavatories. Remember to pick up that pocket change at security.The idea of having airline passengers stand probably won't fly with the Federal Aviation Administration here in the U.S.