Saturday, May 22, 2010

Internet Sales

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes:internetsales
According to the flyer a friend gave me, I would receive an MP3 player and lunch, just to sit in on a FREE 90-minute “2009 Internet Marketing Conference”. The leaflet included testimonials - people had already made bazillions of dollars following the advice given at these conferences.
I knew it was a sales pitch, probably software. The leaflet added, “join us at this fun, relaxed, informative 90-minute Conference that is guaranteed to give you a new way to think about making money like never before.”
I hoped to glean some internet savvy by attending. The invitation insisted on ‘business casual’ attire. The ironic thing is, people I talk to list working in their pajamas as the number one benefit of working on the internet at home.
I have attended sales seminars with “free” giveaways in the past and found them to be time consuming and irritating, the giveaways junk – I decided to go anyway.
As people showed up for the meeting, one and two at a time, staff ushered them to specific seats. I couldn’t help but notice the younger people were placed up front. They would be more enthusiastic and, had less shyster-exposure. As I write this, I think it likely there were one or more ‘plants’ in the front row. I have nothing to back that claim, other than the fact that those up front had an unrealistically enthusiastic passion for the sales pitch.
The further from the front, the greyer the hair was.
The speaker began by claiming to be a former FBI special agent and asked if there were any law enforcement people in the room. Negative responses assured him there were no police in the audience. That and the notice requesting no one record the event, made it so there was no need to stay within the confines of the law in this assembly.
The presentation started late and lasted far longer than the originally stated 90 minutes. The speaker was friendly and funny. He pitched software and a support system to build a website. You could vend whatever products you choose to, on line. There were stiff monthly fees and internet tool packages, some costing upwards of $3200.00.
The sales group passed around “business order forms”. The forms asked for your credit card information, needed so you could attend another conference in Erie Pa, to be held in several weeks. It would only cost $48. There, you would sit through a second push so these wonderful people could gain access to a larger portion of your bank account.
Our friendly speaker said we could eat lunch as soon as we filled out our order forms. The whole pitch had boiled down to this, after two hours of camaraderie, jokes and an impassioned plea for this software it would be an embarrassment not to fill out the form for this superb company. I did not feel friendly or pliable; I never do when backed into a corner.
As I stood to leave, I noticed the people in the front rows, bent over their forms, eagerly filling in the demanded information. I turned; most of those seated behind me, hair just a bit more grey than mine, had their arms stubbornly crossed in front of them, no pens in hand, no credit card info entered on their forms, they were ready for a fight. They wanted their “free” MP3 player and lunch.
It was nearing 2PM and I was hungry and extremely perturbed. I had not ‘gleaned’ a single useful fact.
Including drive time, I had invested four hours. I figured the lunch and MP3 player were at least half hour away, possibly longer, depending on how the standoff between the grey-hairs and the ‘friendly’ staff ended.
I cut my losses and walked out the door. Half an hour later after a nice lunch for which I gladly paid, I savored coffee and something I remembered.
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
I’m not sure about free MP3 players.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Blackberry Blues

I’ve always wondered what a Blackberry was and why President Obama was having such a hard time parting with his. I’ve had one for a while now. I have a slight headache, a stiff neck and sore thumbs from operating the clever little device. I’ve become very attached to it.
There was a time I kept every phone number of acquaintances, my employers and most addresses I considered necessary, in my head. I could also remember the list of a half dozen items I needed to get when I walked the aisles of my local super market. Back then, if I ambled to the living room from the kitchen with a purpose, I could recall what that purpose was. Now I wait for it to come to me or walk back empty handed. Somewhere along the line, my brain has turned to oatmeal.
Several years ago, I purchased a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) smart-phone. A long time before that, it had been cutting-edge technology, ridiculously overpriced. After years of production, (read ‘after it became much cheaper’) I bought one.
The smart-phone performed a plethora of important functions. It stored my appointments, my calendar, and address book. It contained my ‘to-do’ and grocery lists. Once a week I attached it to my computer with a cable and ‘synced’ all of the above. If I changed or added something on either the PDA or the computer, the two would talk it over during ‘sync-time’ and exchange the information. It even was a good calculator.
I loved the touch screen at first, but became less fond of that later. The PDA did many things wonderfully, but it wasn’t a good cell phone. It was a step backward in that area. When talking to someone, it felt as though I was holding a brick to the side of my head. Not a regular brick either. It was more like one of those heavy, dense Olean paving bricks. Some part of my face would hit the touch screen and end the call early or start a conference call, or play loud music. During the call, my ear would sometimes touch the screen in an inappropriate place and it would activate an unwanted application.
The volume settings were unruly, refusing to adjust the way I wanted. It would inexplicably convert to speakerphone between calls. After leaving scar tissue on my eardrums a few times, I knew to answer the phone carefully.
My two-year contract with Verizon wireless ended a year or so ago. Because I didn’t attempt to sign up for another service contract or get a new phone, Verizon began pestering me, sending me special “deals”, almost on a weekly basis. The longer I did not sign, the phones offered for “free”, got better and more elaborate. Competition in the wireless market is fierce and I was one guppy they didn’t want to lose. Verizon seemed frantic to win me back.
Following my brain’s example, my PDA smart-phones’ thinking became cloudy. When I entered information on the touch-screen, the wrong numbers and letters came up, I would hit a “t” on the virtual keyboard and an “r” would register on the screen. I had to ‘realign’ on a daily basis.
I finally accepted one of Verizon’s offers. My new Blackberry does all the things my old smart phone did, only faster and without prompting. I don’t turn on my computer many days because email comes to the Blackberry. I can get CNN news, the weather, and Google anything, anywhere, anytime. It reminds me to take my medications and to take out the garbage. I can download audio books from the library or listen to music from any number of sources and, it’s a great calculator.
Technology has come a long way. As evidence, when used as a phone, the Blackberry feels like a much smaller brick than the old PDA did. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
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