Monday, October 29, 2012

Survey Says

Place: Cici's Pizza
Lunch: Buffet, Coke

Cici's (at least this particular one) is having a special where you get the buffet during pre-dinner hours (10:30am-4:00pm) for $2.99 with drink purchase, making this lunch $4.85 including sales tax.  This usually comes to $6.97.  Jeepers.  They really weren't cheap enough already?

Smiling Store Manager takes my money and hands me my change.  I grab the receipt directly from the cash register.  "I always forget you keep those!", she exclaims.  "Hey!  Will you take the survey?  Nobody ever does."

Me: "Huh?"

She points me to the sign inviting me to take the survey, which also prints on the back of the receipt.  "Our regional rep was here and says they've never received a survey for this store.  I don't know why.  It takes like ten minutes and you get a discount when you come in next time."

Me:  "They probably think they're going to get their e-mail address on a marketing mailing list."

Her:  "Oh.  Hadn't thought of that.  But we don't do that"

You see these survey invitations a lot anymore, and some companies have their front line people verbally encouraging customers to take them.  Sometimes you get a coupon or discount in return, sometimes you're entered in a contest to win a prize.  $1000 in gas, free appetizers, edible shoes...apparently it's cheaper and considered to provide more accurate customer feedback than traditional research methods.

I doubt a lot of people take these.  You forget about it the second you exit the door of the business.  The only surveys I take are ones requested of me by e-mail, usually by hotels or airlines based on recent business, because they're right in front of me and accessible immediately.  But those aren't necessarily anonymous.  I found that out when the manager of a hotel I stayed at replied to me about my survey responses.  (It wasn't like I punked the survey with silly responses...I pointed out some legitimate concerns and he addressed them professionally.)

Some companies are going further with this.  One I do a lot of business with sent out invites to certain customers to join a secured community website that is full of surveys for new product ideas, community discussions, company news, and the like.  It's like a hardcore customer fan site where you get real input into the product.  There's enough information here that I actually feel like I have a better idea of where they're going with their product than even the company I work for is going with theirs.

Anyhoo, I took the Cici's survey.  I responded favorably.   And no e-mail address or other personal information was collected.  Just some generic multiple-choice questions and a couple of comment fields.

Sort of boring, really.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: CBO, fries that have been sitting WAY too long, Coke

"CBO" stands for Cheddar, Bacon, Onion.  It's a 1/3 pound burger from the Angus line (they still do the Angus burgers?  Yes, who knows why) with a white cheddar, bacon, and grilled onions.  It also has a mystery sauce that appears to be some sort of pepper mayo.  I tried to find out what exactly the sauce is because McDonald's doesn't even acknowledge the thing has a sauce at all, but the best answer I got was "a mustard sauce".  I disagree, but what do I know.

It's okay overall,  I'm not a fan of their Angus patty to begin with.

They also have a chicken version of the CBO. know...chicken instead of beef.  You could always buy one of each and morph the two into one freaky monstrosity.  You rock, freaky foodie.

"Monopoly" is over.  I didn't win a Fiat.  WHY MONOPOLY GODS!  WHY COULDN'T YOU THROW ONE MEASLY 500 MY WAY????

I suppose I could always just buy one.  They're pretty cheap.

Nah.  Winter's coming.  Not terribly sensible.

We did finally get a local Fiat dealership.  A South Dakota dealership group who's never ever done business here before got conned into it.  They bought a seriously old long-abandoned dealership building on the cheap that they plan to remodel into something more Fiat-y, but apparently people got wind of them coming and started calling their South Dakota office freaking out about Fiats, so they brought some down and are already selling them.

That's a positive, I guess.

It was 80 and humid yesterday.  It's windy, rainy, and 41 today.

I'll take windy, rainy, and 41 over warm and humid any day.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Local LUV

Place: Wendy's
Lunch: Bacon Portabella Melt (single), chili, grape Fanta

This sandwich sure seems familiar.  Web sources match it up to the Bacon Mushroom Melt of 2011.  Except with "portabella" (Wendy's spelling) mushrooms.  I always thought it was spelled "portabello", but a Google search revealed that people and restaurants go either way.  My spell-check doesn't like either spelling, and in both cases suggests "Portability".  Portable mushrooms?  Has spell-check ever tried hand-carrying around mushrooms sauteed in butter, let alone drenched in liquid cheese like on this sandwich?

Stupid spell-check.

Anyway, the burger is actually pretty decent, but I wouldn't go out of the way for one.  You can get it in a single or double.

There are certain milestones every city wants to hit before it's considered all grown up.  The big milestone for any city with commercial air service is getting Southwest Airlines.  And this weekend, we got them.

On Saturday afternoon, N929WN, a Southwest Boeing 737-700, flew in from Southwest's home base in Dallas.  On Sunday morning, that aircraft made its first scheduled revenue flight, officially making us the 77th city Southwest serves.

Southwest replaced AirTran's service here.  AirTran was acquired by Southwest a few years ago, and the phasing out of that brand is still in process.  Not all AirTran cities will continue to be serviced by Southwest.  We sort of got lucky there.

Initially, we get service only to Chicago-Midway.  This means I'll almost never use them out of the local airport.  Give me DAL or DEN non-stops and I'll stop driving to other airports to use Southwest.

Southwest's big selling point is low fares (though truth be known, my experience is that Southwest isn't really all that low anymore) but there are other benefits.  Major aircraft being one of them.  Southwest operates Boeing 737's exclusively, and will be operating the first 737's seen in this market in years.  That's an amazing statement considering the 737 dominates the single-aisle aircraft market.

Most of the aircraft for local flights are smaller regional Embraers or Bombardiers.  Some of these are REALLY small.  And the MD-80's Delta and Allegiant fly don't count because I hate MD-80's.  That leaves United, who flies an Airbus A-300 series in once or twice a day.  Frontier did briefly too, but went back to E190's.

Operating efficiency and quality of service is another perk.  I'm amazed at how quickly Southwest can turn a flight around.  I love watching the process.  Employees, especially flight crews, tend to be fun people who are encouraged to put a little personality into their job.  They make the other discount airlines look amateur by comparison.

I also love that I can book a flight just a few days in advance without being punished for doing so.  On most airlines, regular fares increase as the date to the flight approaches and the flight fills up.  So the same class seat I booked a month ago for $400 may be $700 or more if I tried to book it today instead.  I once was booking a flight on a major airline, and the price increased WHILE I WAS BOOKING THE SEAT.  I got the quote, went through the process, had my payment info inputted, and when I clicked the last button, I got a warning screen that the price had increased since I'd started the booking process a few minutes previous, asking if I wished to continue.


But with Southwest, I've never seen that.  I can look a day or a month into the future and see the same price.  I have some of the prices memorized on certain routes.

Hey!  It's October!

I love October.