Sunday, December 30, 2007

home from Scottsdale, AZ

Got back late this afternoon from Scottsdale (Phoenix), Arizona. Visits included Scottsdale Fashion Center, Taliesin West, and the Phoenix Zoo. We stayed in Old Town Scottsdale, at the Marriott. Very nice hotel.

I was pretty excited that I booked hotel/car rental/airfare for under $1400 for the two of us. While I think this is still an excellent way to book a vacation, we ended up paying an additional $140 in car rental. $10/day to upgrade from Economy A to Economy B, and then the killer tax and residual fees for about $100.

Weather was sunny, chilly and very dry. Tasty and cheap ethnic restaurants and movie arthouses were nowhere to be found. We tried a Thai restaurant in Old Town, but the dining room was a furnace and walked out.

When I was in NYC in October, I ate Chinese food everyday and when I got back, I didn't eat Chinese for a week. When we got back from Scottsdale, I ordered for dinner Singapore rice noodles for delivery. My love-hate relationship with Chinese food. Can't live with it, can't live without it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

98% of you need not apply



As it has been the past 3 months, I go online daily to look at job postings. Craigslist.org is a site I peruse daily, focusing on the finance/accounting and business/management listings. Every so often I look at the retail/wholesale and customer service listings.

This past Thursday, a CRM Implementation Analyst posting caught my attention with particular interest. "Implementation" has been a previous job title in my career, so I went to take a look. The duties described what I've done before, but a bit further down into the job requirements was something I found disturbing, "We are looking for someone with an IQ in the top 2% of the population, or better. "

This piqued my curiosty. I went to the link to direct me to their website and then to the job application. Although optional, the application asks you to provide your IQ. There's even a link to a website where a quick IQ test can be taken.

Now the academia in me (a few times straight A's, National Honor Society wannabe, finished in the top 10% in my graduation class) decided to take the test. I'd taken a previous IQ test at Tickle.com. My score was 122, which is considered high intelligence. The IQ test linked from the job application was a mere 107. This is considered average with a 14-15 point deviance. All the more confusing because I'm now either marginally retarded or highly intelligent! The website does tell mention the test is not intended for professional use.

I couldn't let this go. I took 2 more tests (FreeIQtest.net and TestCafe). FreeIQtest.net had me at 131, TestCafe, 107. I found my lower scores came from websites that had a time limit. My inferiority complex of not having scores among the brainy came flooding back.

Back to the job posting. I ended up not applying. I wouldn't want to work for a place where intelligence scores influences one's chances of being employed. I already have to be aware of age discrimination. Now IQ's!

I do not like this trend. No sir, not one bit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

last minute shopping

As the number of shopping days for the holiday season wind down, I headed to Irving Street and 9th Avenue to pick up some gifts. For me, there are 2 gift stores that are always required stops: Tutti Frutti on 718 Irving Street (near 8th Avenue) and Great Gifts on 1377 9th Avenue (near Judah Street).

Tutti Frutti is a fun, fun store. I always come here for office Secret Santa/gift exchange or White Elephant parties. Whenever Lisa visits, she has to come to Tutti Frutti and always ends up buying out half the store. Items include mini Etch-A-Sketches, Mr. T talking keychains, PEZ dispensers, Wonder Woman and Gumby lunch boxes, and Wallace & Gromit calendars. I rarely see anyone leave the store without a smile on their face.

The other store, Great Gifts, is a wonderful place to buy small personal items such as magnets, jewelry boxes, candles, and small cosmetic bags. They also sell puzzles, kites, toys, extremely cool shower curtains, bath items and household gadgets.

While both places are small and often get cramped with only a few people in the store, most items in the store are no more than $20. For me, it's a very inexpensive way to buy chic/retro/cool gifts from shopkeepers who obviously love being in the neighborhood.

Unless there's a last minute emergency, I'm pretty much wrapped up shopping for the year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Online service experiences





With all of the online shopping I've been doing recently, the deliveries from UPS and USPS are now coming to me directly and regularly. Ever since I left specific delivery instructions on a post-it a month ago, I'm no longer getting the supposed "missed you" notices I used to get even though I was home.

Today I encountered different experiences with 2 major online retailers, Zappos.com and Red Envelope. I have been ordering from Red Envelope for about the past 4 years. I first knew of them from my dot-com days when they were 911Gifts.com. When they changed their name to Red Envelope, I thought it was an excellent choice, since the name is taken from a long standing Asian tradition. As a child, I got red envelopes regularly on Chinese New Year.

Up until today, I've never had to exchange or return anything at Red Envelope. I bought Lisa's and Michael's wedding gift from there. She told me she read my blog entry from December 4 and graciously asked if it was OK to return my gift. I said of course. So after I got off the phone with Lisa, I went online to Red Envelope to get a Return Authorization Number (Gift Return number to Red Envelope).

The website said to call Customer Service to get the Gift Return number. But when I saw the Chat Online option, I decided to try it. I used it once for an REI order where I mistakenly entered San Diego rather than San Carlos for store pickup. My experience online with the REI rep was quick and pleasant. Got everything wrapped up in less than 10 minutes.

Because this week is reaching critical stage for holiday shopping, I'm willing to cut a bit of slack, but the Chat Online experience at Red Envelope was less than satisfactory. It took about 5 minutes before I got a rep named Mustafa. I immediately wrote that I needed a Gift Return number. It took Mustafa another 5 minutes to tell me I need to be transferred to Whitney. After another 5 minutes, I got Rae Ann instead. When I wrote AGAIN that I need a Gift Return number, Rae Ann told me I needed to CALL customer service. I said OK and closed the chat.

This is what gets me. I call Red Envelope customer service. A person named (I kid you not) Rae Ann answers the phone. I don't understand why I couldn't get the Gift Return number via chat. I went back to the Return + Exchanges policy to see if I erred in reading the instructions. The website does say to call, but it doesn't specifically state that you can't chat.

My other online experience is with mega-shoe purveyor Zappos.com. I've known about them for a few years, but mostly kept my shoe ordering to Nordstrom.com. But when I kept seeing FREE OVERNIGHT shipping everytime I went to the site, it pulled me in. I just returned my Eddie Bauer boots, and last night I decided to try Zappos.com out. It took me awhile before I finally decided on what I wanted as 3 previous pairs of shoes I liked were sold out. Ah, the demands of Christmas.

At 8:04 p.m., I got a confirmation e-mail that my order had been placed. At 11:58 p.m., I got my UPS Overnight tracking number. At 10:30 am this morning, UPS delivered my shoes. Wow, extremely comfy. I am still floored at the FREE OVERNIGHT shipping. ZERO SHIPPING FEE. OVERNIGHT. Even got friendly instructions advising to try on the shoes on carpet to minimize wear so that returns can be made easily.

I wish I was told this when I bought a pair of Ecco loafers at an unnamed shoe store in San Mateo's Hillsdale Mall 3 years ago. I wore them outside for a few minutes. When I realized they didn't fit as I thought, I went back the NEXT day in an attempt to exchange, NOT RETURN them. The store manager bitched that he wouldn't be able to resell the shoes, how expensive they were, etc. I yelled back and told him Nordstrom's located 2 doors down would take the shoes back without the attitude. He finally relented, apologized because he was having a bad day. I ended up exchanging the Eccos for a pair of Dansko clogs I absolutely love. But I will NEVER shop at that store again.

OK Lani, deep breaths now. As a longtime retail finance professional who's talked to hundreds of customers, it's something I get passionate about. While I can't argue about the lack of intelligence and compassion of many sales associates, customers are just as bad. STORES Magazine Executive Editor Susan Reda recently blogged about a recent shopping experience.

I'll stop for tonight. Happy Shopping!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Top 10 Blogging Cities

I read from SFGate's Technology Chronicles Nielsen's top 10 cities for blogging in 2007:
  1. Austin, TX
  2. Portland, OR
  3. SF Bay Area, CA
  4. Seattle, WA
  5. Honolulu, HI
  6. San Diego, CA
  7. Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
  8. Columbus, OH
  9. Nashville, TN
  10. Colorado Springs, CO

My initial thoughts would have the SF Bay Area #1, Austin #2, and Portland in the top 10, but lower, like #6 or #7. For me, the most surprising was to see my birthplace, Columbus, as number 8. I know 24 years is a long time to be away from a city, but I am still astounded by how much Columbus has grown in size and sophistication whenever I now visit.

No kidding. Sizewise (according to Wikipedia), Columbus is the 15th largest city in the United States. Right behind number 14, San Francisco.

Columbus, number 8???????????????????

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My Cyber Monday


I spent most of Monday online. I spent the first half chatting via e-mail and phone to 2 recruiters about possible job leads. I've talked to so many recruiters in the past 6 months that it's starting to make my head spin. I don't take anything seriously until I hear from the company's hiring manager.

I spent the second half shopping for gifts. I got a good chunk of shopping done. Following in Josh's footsteps, I also updated my wish lists for the holiday. I added yesterday a second wish list from Amazon. I fully agree that wish lists can be construed as arrogant and self-centered. Then again, I think wish lists aren't that much different than wedding registries. I've always loved wedding registries because it takes the guesswork out of what to buy.

So, those of you out there that know me and seek gift ideas, look no further. The links are located on the left side of my blog page. I've tried to keep the list to items that won't break a person's piggy bank, but there are a few that are really "wishes". These are items I'd want to buy once I get back to work.