Doing Business the Amazon Way

One of the things the Internet has given consumers is a soapbox on which to whine and complain about being wronged by this or that company.  It’s a powerful tool.  This is a problem for companies, of course, as a 1% error rate (I wish my track record could be that good) can become a steady stream of complaints about its products and/or policies if nothing is done about it.

Conversely, the Internet has provided companies with tools to better serve customers, if they use them.  Having Twitter accounts with an action person managing the account, making good support people available via email, and even the use of targeted advertising helps companies keep customers happy.

Sadly, few companies have caught on to the fact that the Internet is doing something that is quite ironic.  It is personalizing customer relations.  Over the past 100 years or so, we’ve moved from small-town business models where owners knew their customers and vice-versa to a time when large brick-n-mortar stores couldn’t care less about their customers and who hire people who will work cheap but don’t know a thing about the products being sold.  They try to paint a different picture in their ads but we all shop.  We know the truth.  Now, as people debate whether the Internet is destroying our ability to interact directly with humans, the Internet is moving us back to a ‘small town’, knowledgable owner way of doing business.  In an earlier post I mentioned one company, Goulet Pens, as an example of this.

It might surprise some who are down on Amazon as being the ‘big brother’ of the book industry, that I like them… very much.  In my dealings with them, they very much live up to their email signature line of “We’re Building Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.”  Unlike so many online companies, they are responsive and often do things that surprise this cynical consumer.

And so it was this morning when I received an email from Amazon saying they were refunding $14.40 to my account.  The email explained that when I’d purchased two Kindle covers (the ones with lights) they’d charged me $7.20 each for “import fee deposit.”  I vaguely remembered these charges, both when I bought these covers and when I’d bought my Kindles.  I remembered not being very happy about those charges but given that the vagaries and expense of having products shipped across the Canadian/US border, which is akin to moving from west to east in 1960s Germany, I accepted the charges as part of doing business.

The interesting thing is that this transaction took place at the beginning of February!  I’d long since forgotten about it.  I had to look it up to figure why they were refunding money to me.  I had filed no complaint.  I never asked for a refund.

But Amazon kept track of it… somehow, and they reimbursed me because, I guess, they didn’t need to use the money to buy off the Canadian government to allow my package to get to me.  I really don’t know the details.

What I do know is that this stuff breeds loyalty.  These sorts of actions breed consumer confidence.  And this sort of consumer-centric thinking is rare in our world.  Is it any wonder that Amazon leads the pack and is pulling away?  Give consumers what they want, for fair prices and we’ll flock to your stores, be they online or otherwise.  Treat us fairly while you’re at it and we’ll be yours for life.

Cheers — Larry

It’s National Poetry Month

I have a friend who has an ability that I very much envy.  She is able to quote poetry on virtually any subject.  I’m always a bit awestruck when she does it.  I’m also ashamed at my level of ignorance in this area as other than rose are red, violets are blue kinds of poetry, I know little of the literary form.

 

April is Poetry Month.  Established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, it’s been celebrated every year since.  I’ve decided to celebrate with them, and possibly do something about my ignorance.  I’ve just signed up for their “Poem-a-Day” program and will certainly be the better for it.

 

Cheers — Larry

larry@larrydmarshall.com

Do You Know About Goulet Pens?

I live in the frozen north – in Quebec.  But my favorite place to shop for pens and paper is in Virginia.  If not for the Internet, it would be a long walk.  The place is Goulet Pens.

They stock my favorite Rhodia and Clairfontaine journals and notepads.  They stock a wide array of fountain pens, though mostly those that are reasonably priced.  Oh…and the array of inks they sell is to die for.  I sometimes play with their “Swab Shop” which is an online facility that lets me compare colors of all of their inks even though I tell myself I don’t need any new ink.  It’s just fun.  And, of course, one can never have too many inks.

But it’s not their products that excite me about Goulet Pens. It’s Rachel and Brian Goulet and their approach to business.  They’re not just selling pens and paper.  They LOVE pens and paper and they LOVE their customers.  Well, maybe that last thing is a bit strong but they sure act like they like them.

Each week they conduct “Write Time”, which is a live-streamed video and associated chat room. They discuss new products, answer questions, and laugh and joke with their customers.  It’s a hoot.

Brian and Rachel also produce a great blog called Ink Nouveau where they provide a lot of great information about fountain pens, and the various paper products they sell.  They have a YouTube channel where you can access a growing catalog of videos (currently 87 of them), and each provides valuable information about paper and pen products, tricks for maintaining and improving pens, etc.  In short, they work hard for their customers and regularly bring a couple of bright-eyed smiles to our computer screens.  We all smile back.

I’m having one small problem with one of their products, though.  I just received an order and they included a freebie.  It was one of their new Goulet Pens bookmarks.  Just the thing, they say, for marking your place in a book.  I guess it works ok but I’m having trouble getting used to using it.

Cheers — Larry

larry@larrydmarshall.com

Writing With a Passion

Hi everybody,

I thought my first post should be one that states the website goals.  Long ago, I created my first website, shortly after Mosaic came into being.  There was no Netscape, Explorer or Firefox.  Google didn’t exist.  Blogs, Twitter, nor Facebook had been invented.

At the time I was a scientist.  I wrote constantly, in science fashion, but I needed more, so I wrote on the new creation called the world wide web.  Nobody really read that website as the notion of surfing the web was unknown to most at the time.  That never bothered me much.  I wrote because I felt the need.

Since then I left science.  I’ve spent time as editor-in-chief of a couple magazines.  I’ve written monthly columns for several magazines and I’ve written feature articles for others.  I even wrote marketing materials for a couple businesses.  The only common thread throughout was words, strung together to form thoughts.

I love words, and I love the various ways of putting them in an order that makes sense.  While I’m a long-time computer geek, I’m also a fountain pen afficionado and I spend far too much time pondering the wide array of journals and notebooks available today.  So while I have an ongoing love affair with my laptop, I often put pen to paper.  A couple of years ago I recycled a small mountain’s worth of notebooks that I’d used but here’s a photo of the notebooks I’ve accumulated since in the past two years.  It’s a sickness but a very pleasant one.

This website will reflect these preferences.  I will talk about my trials and tribulations as an author, views on the industry, and my thoughts on the writing process itself.  But I’ll also talk about my passion for pens and paper.   Some say it’s old-fashioned to write with pen and paper.  I find doing so is inexorably linked to my success as an author, regardless of what I’m writing.

I do hope you’ll follow along and provide your own insights by leaving comments.  Do you use notebooks in support of your writing?  How do they help you?

Cheers — Larry

larry@larrydmarshall.com