Stumbling through Life

Making your way through the world one day at a time

Urban Escapes Wins Shine A Light Competition from AmericanExpress

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rafting hiking tubing

Well…not quite yet but hopefully.

You see, Urban Escapes is a company here in Manhattan that connects young professionals with two key things generally hard to come by living in the Big Apple: the outdoors and new friends.  And, they’re up for an award.  Actually, $100,000 award being given by AmericanExpress and NBC Universal to 3 companies that meet the key criterion of being Innovative, building a Community and having a strong focus on Customer Service.  Below, I’ve excerpted their nomination (written by yours truly).  If you find it compelling, we’d love you to take a few minutes and vote for Urban Escapes.  They need only 50 nominations by this Sunday to advance to the next round of judging but in an ideal world, we’d like to have over 100 votes.  So…read the below and then VOTE!

Living in New York in your twenties is not always an easy thing. It’s often a challenge to meet other young, successful professionals and to get settled into a life in the city that never sleeps. Each year, young people flock to the city in search of finding their dreams but what they more often find is a city that’s overcrowded, increasingly expensive and centered around the bar scene. For many, it can be hard to escape from the “bubble” of New York City. Urban Escapes provides a solution to this problem through unique excursions and adventures outside of the city. Geared towards adventurous young professionals looking to connect with nature and one another, Urban Escapes builds a community of like-minded people through their outdoor activities and excursions. The team leads hikes, camping trips, cookouts, wine tastings, white-water rafting trips and much, much more. They organize all the meticulous details so you – the busy young professional – just have to show up and be ready to have a great time.

Innovation is at the core of Urban Escapes in not only their concept but their execution as well. To keep their business growing, Urban Escapes ventured off the beaten path and partnered with another relatively new company called Groupon to offer a special deal on a River Tubing and Wine Tasting Adventure. This is actually how I first heard about Urban Escapes – I purchased a Groupon for this particular trip down the Delaware and guess what – their plan worked – they now have a customer for life.

The Urban Escapes guides are top-notch and completely focused on their guests. Not only are they attentive, well-trained and experienced guides, they also focus on fostering a sense of community on the excursion. These are not just people being paid to lead a tour group but rather passionate, driven people who are enjoying the excursion just as much as the people they’re leading. You truly feel like you’re all on the outing together, which makes this company unique from any tour group I’ve been involved with ever before. Beyond the actual event, the team at Urban Escapes stays virtually connected with its clientele through social media and the use of Facebook, Twitter and Flckr, and more directly connected through hosting social “alumni” events on a regular basis in the city.

I simply can’t say enough about Urban Escapes and the team – they are out to genuinely be innovative in their work, build a community among their clientele and excel at providing outstanding service to their customers. More companies should take a cue from this group and operate in a manner that is as focused on the customer as Urban Escapes does.

Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll be writing about our win in the next few weeks.

Written by stumbler

September 10, 2009 at 11:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

How much do YOU care about your money?

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pile of money

Today, I want to talk a little bit about finances.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this guy but Ramit is absolutely amazing.  He’s a personal finance guru just like a Suze Orman or whoever else is out there but for some reason, his approach is pretty unique.  I’ve never been someone (previously) who paid much attention to personal finance blogs or other information – in fact, I think most of it out there is pretty pointless.  It’s fairly obvious that if you bring your lunch to work vs. buying lunch everyday, you’re going to save money.  No way…really?!  What a revalation!

Fortunately, Ramit’s tips don’t really focus on that type of dialouge.  Ramit and his team focus on real strategies for earning more and saving more.  One of the first things I’d ever read by Ramit was focused on the CEO approach.  He was saying that to have income like a “CEO” you need to Cut Your Costs, Earn More Money and Optimize Your Spending.  It’s not a scam and you can (and should) read all about it here.

Ramit does an excellent job of not only telling you what to do but HOW to do it as well.  As an example, one of my favorite posts of his is related to the “E” of earning more money.  He suggests doing some freelance work.  While that’s all well and good, do you really think I’ve never thought of it before?  “I just don’t really know what I’d be able to do in terms of freelance work” was always my excuse.  (Side note but of importance – that’s one of the same reasons it’s taken me YEARS to start a blog — I just didn’t think I’d know what to write about.)  Anyway, the point is that’s just an excuse!  He literally walks you through different possible situations and makes it clear that freelance isn’t only for web designers and developers – there are plenty of things the more average Joe can do to make some extra cash.

I’m starting to ramble a bit but my point is simply this: check out this guy’s blog, http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog, it’s totally worth it and his tips are terrific.  Even if you’re not crazy about saving money, you should do it.  It’s the first time I’ve heard real talk on personal finances that I’ve been able to connect with and I’m sure you will to.
Enjoy.

Written by stumbler

August 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Almost Everything Can Be Done Online…What’s Next to Come?

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0611macbook_both

What can we not do online?  The possibilities are probably limitless.

I just finished an article I found in the New York Times today about sleep counseling – legitimate counseling for insomnia – being conducted and proving successful online.  If you’re an insomniac, you may no longer need to go into a doctor’s office to get treated; you can download and participate in a doctor-guided online course of treatment.

We order groceries online.  We find significant others (for short or long-term experiences) online.  We spend the bulk of our day online and there’s not much we can’t currently do.  Sports scores, the weather, the news and the latest gossip all can be found online.  We bank online.  We invest online.  We watch intently as our portfolios grow or crumble online.  Think about it: what is there that you can’t do online today?

I’ve got one: I can’t send out my laundry and dry cleaning online today.  There’s an idea, albeit a bit absurd.  Perfect for places like NYC and maybe college campuses; you can already do drop off/pick up for someone else to wash and fold your clothes.  Some services even do delivery but I can’t login to a site right now (that I know of, at least) and tell someone to come and pick up my laundry and the specifics of it all online.  Use Tide, not Gain, separate the colors from the whites, no bleach.  It’s an idea…maybe not the best, but an idea.

We can chat with our friends online in real-time.  We can keep in touch with people you wouldn’t have normally kept in touch with (thank you, Facebook).  You can cyber-stalk your new crush online. (I don’t, people do.  Thank you again, Facebook.)  We can watch TV and movies online.  We can apply for jobs online.  We can order delivery online (thank you, SeamlessWeb).

What else can’t you do?

It’s fascinating where technology has taken us.  And, simultaneously scary how dependent we’ve become as a society in being “connected”.  If I’m not on my laptop, I’ve got my iPhone with me at all times.  And, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t use one or the other, if not both, to find out something.

I wonder what the next 10 big things people would rather do online are and when they’ll come about.

Written by stumbler

August 14, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Posted in future, online, technology

JetBlue’s Fly Anywhere, Anytime, As Much As You’d Like for $599 (If We Think You’re Not Going To Use It) Promo

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JetBlue is apparently offering an “All You Can Jet” special to fly anywhere as much as you’d like for $599.  But not for everyone…only for certain folks.  You see, my friend received the below email from JetBlue encouraging her to hop on and fly all she likes, anywhere she likes for an entire month for $599 flat.  She could weekend in Bermuda every weekend between September 9th and October 9th if she’d like to or she could mix it up and hit up any of JetBlue’s international or domestic destinations.

JetBlue Promo for "Special Flyers"

JetBlue Promo for “Special Flyers”

Now, the question comes up – why did she receive this special offer from JetBlue while the rest of us are left to travel at full price?  The only “offer” I got from JetBlue is some baloney about it raining on my vacation or something.  This is the deal I wanted.

You see, I’m an active and frequent JetBlue traveler.  I am a member of TrueBlue.  I have the JetBlue American Express card.  In fact, I probably fly JetBlue at least once a month and always look to them first when booking travel.  (I’m just a loyal kind of guy.)  So, why did I not receive this promotion?

My thinking: JetBlue consciously removed people who travel over a certain threshold with them.  The company knows that I may travel once or twice during that period and this would definitely appeal to me.  In fact, it would probably encourage me to travel more so they would risk losing money on the offer to me.  My friend on the other hand, rarely travels.  She’s a member of TrueBlue and likes JetBlue but isn’t the type to jet away for the weekend somewhere on a normal occasion.  JetBlue knows that they probably would sell me a flight during that time period regardless and probably wouldn’t sell my friend a flight so they wanted to sweeten the pot for her a little.  Smart, I guess.  I mean, I guess from a marketing perspective it makes sense to try to encourage people you’re probably not going to otherwise get revenue from to spend.

My problem with it: What happens when this email gets forwarded along to very loyal JetBlue customers (like myself) who now look on their web site and can’t find the offer anywhere.  Who are left to wonder why they’ve been excluded from this special treatment.  I mean, I understand not emailing it out and the benefits of segmenting your lists but you’re seriously now going to block me from purchasing the pass?  I can’t believe it, JetBlue.

I am all for segmenting your list.  In fact, I wish many companies did a better job at it – I’m tired of getting crewcuts and email blasts for women’s shoes when I’ve CLEARLY told J.Crew that I’m only interested in Men’s.  I’ve literally written them and said, PLEASE J.CREW, PLEASE, do not send me any more email blasts about woman’s shoes.  I see your catchy subject line in my Inbox, I get all excited, I open the email and there it is: a pair of stilettos.  My heart sinks.  It’s just bad marketing practice.

BUT, I would argue that JetBlue is equally bad here.  I’m a loyal, loyal customer and it frankly feels like a slap in the face to not receive an offer like this.  In all sincerity, did you not think it would get forwarded around?!  Or, did you just not care how your regular, loyal, devoted customers would feel?

Written by stumbler

August 13, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Really, Bank of America? REALLY?!

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bank-of-america2

Dear Bank of America:

I have been a long-time customer of yours and have been extremely loyal.  Honestly though, I’m not sure why.  You’ve actually never given me any good reason.  In fact, you’ve given me nothing but reasons to leave you and switch banks.  What’s my most recent cause for concern?  Your waste.

As I mentioned above, I’ve been a Bank of America customer for a long time…more than 10 years, in fact.  I recently referred a friend who had just moved to New York to open a Bank of America account and we would both get a little bonus.  Sounds great, right?  (As a side note, we’re not talking about a great deal of money.  We’re literally talking about a $25 bonus for me and a $35 bonus for her.)  Anyway, my issue is not with the minuscule amount of money being offered, it’s still a nice gesture.  My issue is with how the actual process is carried out.

Imagine how one would think this would work.  Ask yourself, have I ever gotten a referral bonus from other banks and how did they do it?  You see, I have.  I’ve received bonus from both Chase and ING Direct.  The methods they use are similar and actually make sense.  Those companies actually just simply deposit your bonus into your account electronically.  The funds simply appear one day and they send you an email to let you know.  Makes pretty good sense, right?  I mean…you’re my bank.  You have my account number.  It’s easy enough to do an electronic transfer of funds.

Apparently, that’s too complicated for you though, Bank of America.  Apparently, you’re not familiar with an electronic transfer.  Apparently, you think that a better way is to mail me a paper check with a letter.  And, for me to then have to go to a banking center and deposit said check.  Now, I’m going to be honest, I just don’t get it.

Is it really that hard to electronically deposit funds from your bank account to mine, Bank of America corporation?  I mean, you certainly are able to do that with millions of transactions on a daily basis.  I just logged online and transferred funds from my checking to my savings.  Oh, look…back to my checking.  I can even transfer funds to other Bank of America customers!  In fact, my friend just transferred me some money.

So, it’s not like your unfamiliar with the concept.  And, you can’t possibly think that it’s easier to mail a paper check.  Who would it be easier for?  It’s not easier for me…I now have to go to the bank!  It’s certainly not more cost-effective.  With an electronic transfer, you have fairly minimal costs.  Here, you had to pay for the check being printed, the envelope, the postage and not to mention all the back-end expenses of tracking it.  It’s certainly not more friendly for the environment…in fact, if you’re doing this for all of your customers, how many trees do you think you’ve wasted on this initiative?

Honestly, Bank of America, are you that stupid?  I know people talk about big dumb corporations but this may take the proverbial cake.  I mean, is this what you’re wasting the bailout money on?

And, if you’re this incompetent with something nice you’re trying to do for customers, I can only imagine how ridiculously incompetent your organization must be on the important stuff.  Do you still send each other snail mail and faxes?  I don’t know if this will do the trick and make me switch banks (why I take your abuse, I don’t know) but HOLY MOLY…you have got to be kidding me.

A paper check?  Really, Bank of America?  Really?!!  Maybe it’s time you thought about upgrading the process…I mean, it is 2009.

Written by stumbler

August 13, 2009 at 9:49 am

Why Blog, Why Now?

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Lots of people have jumped on the blog bandwagon recently and I’ve been hesitant.  Why you might wonder?  Well, if everyone is doing it, is it still worthwhile?  Fulfilling?  Rewarding?  Or, do you just become another one of those idiots with a blog.

And…don’t blogs – good ones at least – have some sort of a theme?  Something that strings them together, draws readership.  Unfortunately, I’m at a loss for a theme.  Well, that’s not entirely accurate – I’ve thought about a number of themes – a travel blog, a restaurant blog, a blog about funny office things, a blog focused on customer/client service, a blog focused on relationships…honestly, the list goes on and on and ON!

And…don’t you need a tone for your blog?  I mean, is it going to be a humorous blog that people read and laugh about while at work or a serious blog that brings meaning to peoples’ lives and that they talk about in conversation with the friends and family.  (I know, I know – the second one is a bit of reach to think that my little ol’ blog might actually be impactful but, a boy can dream.)

And…shouldn’t a blog have a purpose?  A mission statement, if you will.  I mean…what am I really writing this blog for?  What’s my goal?  Is it for professional reasons, to advance my career or provide tips and advice, to become a “voice” in my industry?  (Clearly not since this is my first post.)  Is it to XXX?  Or, is it just to get out of my own head?  Is it just to be able to express myself through the written word?

And…how do you gain traction as a blogger?  I mean, I’m not looking to develop a “following” or something cult-like but, you know, it would be nice to know that people are reading your work.  I’d assume most people start by telling their friends but, frankly, I don’t know if I want my friends reading this.  And, definitely not as my primary audience.  I mean, if I wanted to communicate my thoughts to them, well, I’ll pick up the phone!  So, how do you organically grow an audience?  And, with all the damn analytics and tracking sites out there, they make it abundantly clear how many people are visiting your site so it really puts the pressure on!

And…finally, aren’t there, like, rules or something about blogs.  I remember when I was working for my last company we did a lot with high school and college-aged students in the technology realm.  One of the services we offered were student blogs.  And, one of my responsibilities, along with our Creative Director, was to make recommendations to students on blogging – topics of interest, how frequently to blog, when and how to include photos, etc.  Now, here I am, challenged with creating my own blog and I’m at a complete loss.  Not a loss for words, obviously, but at a loss for the rules…for the precedent behind starting a blog.

As you can see, I had quite a bit on my mind related to starting a blog and, unfortunately, none of the concerns have really gone away or been addressed.  I simply decided, to heck with it, I am going to start a blog and just see where it goes from there.  Ultimately, it’s for me.  It’s something that I’m doing for myself, to get my thoughts out there, to have a creative outlet and all the rest really doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things anyway.

So, why blog, why now?  Well, the answer is simple: the time has come to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard to screen to web preview to editing screen to live on the interweb, if you prefer).  Well, that’s it I guess…I’m officially a blogger now.  Welcome and I hope you’ve enjoyed our first encounter together.  And, I do hope you’ll stick around.  (Not trying to “hard-sell you or anything but I do think it will be interesting.  And…see point 4 above…I need all the “followers” I can get…at least for now.  :)

Written by stumbler

August 12, 2009 at 12:12 pm

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