Disney, back off from my paper towel!

If you have small kids you are probably aware of my challenge: The million-Euro-marketing-budget cartoon characters are discovering the kid’s minds. Suddenly their bed is full of (plush toys of) handicapped fish or ice-cold princesses like Nemo and Elsa, respectively. Recently, I observed a quantum leap in cleanness after meal time because of Dory on our paper towels. How could Disney intrude so deeply into our family life?

  1. The characters are addressing the kids wishes, needs, and fears: The story behind is comprehensible and is circulating around love and denial as well as relationships and loneliness.
  2. They are cute and well made. Big eyes, scheme of childlike characteristics, strong and pleasing colors and high recognition value.
  3. They reached the critical mass that everybody wants and needs them, who does not want to become and outsider. My 3 and 5 year old kids are not allowed to watch the stressful and too brutal movies. However, they indirectly learn about the story and absorb every grain of information they can get.
  4. The merchandising machinery places the characters everywhere (including my paper towels) and by doing so, they easily go viral.

Respect Mr. Disney, you invented sub-cutaneous marketing for toddlers with a pinch of brain wash. If you read a few of my blog posts, you probably know, what comes next. The checklist how to escape from this conspiracy:

  1. Promote all kinds of alternatives within your family. In the bath-tube, take the water bird’s whistle instead of the self swimming, electric Dory. If this is your only strategy, you are lost. This just works in combination with other measures.
  2. Damage the image of Elsa, Anna, Dory, Nemo, lion king and Arielle by expressing your dislike and explaining the advantages and uniqueness not to be the seventh Elsa in the carnival party.
  3. Trash toothbrushes with Minions and remove all stickers from furniture.
  4. Avoid supermarkets with Disney gifts for customer’s loyalty.

Most importantly don’t turn this into a religious war. There are more important things in life, than fighting against cartoons. Show your kids, that you love them and spend as much time together as possible. Get used to it, that you can never win. And maybe you even start liking Disney-cartoons a little bit.

No excuses

At my birthday last week, I got a fantastic new laptop. It’s a Lenovo Yoga 3 pro. To be honest it was originally a Macbook pro, but I could replace it with the mentioned model. The main reason, why I want a Windows laptop is the fact that I can (easily) replace the operating system (OS) with Linux.

After trying out Windows 8.1 for a couple of hours, I realized that Microsoft made a lot of progress with their latest OS version. The interface looks clean and tidy and everything seems to work as expected. Only the Microsoft Service Agreement is unacceptable. However, I don’t have the impression, that my new laptop is under my control. So I switched to Fedora 21. Turning off UEFI was not strait forward, but as soon as the Linux live image booted, I could overwrite Windows on my disk.

Now I synchronize my home directory with our home server, where it resided in the last couple of years. Autofs is connecting the server shares when requested. Wireless internet is provided by our blackhawk router. To make a long story short. I am really happy, how well my computer infrastructure works. Thanks to my lovely wife, who (together with my parents) provided silicon luxury for me.

Since I have now fantastic tools, there is no excuse, not to start or continue my other projects.

  • Make digital music easily accessible to everybody in the household. (Btw. did you see the Nuimo). I am thinking about pulse audio and a few satellite mini computers connected to speakers in different rooms.
  • Work on home automation (heating). Security is gold. I will never connect door locks to this system. Not only because of high-tech burglars but also not to be trapped in case of fire.
  • Write more frequently for this blog.

I am determined to report about progress I could make. My technological vein is recovering. Suggestions welcomed.

Fly me to the moon

From time to time I take an airplane to bring me to my holiday destination or to a conference. Usually everything goes smooth an easy, even though transatlantic flights are getting more tiresome lately. However, there seems to be a huge imbalance, when it comes to customer rights.

Last year in June, my wife and I went to Paris for 4 days. On the way back, we missed the plane, because we got stuck in a train to the airport. We arrived at the check-in 27 minutes before the planned departure back to Vienna. 3 minutes too late as it turned out. The check-in staff as well as the employees at the Austrian airlines counter told us, we lost all rights for the transport back home 3 minutes ago. Other customers, who were there 5 minutes before us, did not. Since the plane was over-booked (they sell more tickets than seats in the plane and hope that not everybody takes the flight), these other customers got a hotel room for the night and a boarding pass for the next morning’s plane, while we only got some unfriendly comments about our delay. The plane that we missed had a 30-40 minutes delay, too. My pregnant wife and me, we had to pay for another flight ticket and a hotel room for the night.

Apart from that, Paris was fantastic: Great architecture, romantic places, good food, we really liked our visit. So my sister and I invited my parents to a trip to Paris in May. Since we are careful people, we booked also an insurance at the same travel agency (Opodo Service Packet), in case one of them gets sick. But about 5 month before their departure, the airline canceled the flight. My parents hometown Klagenfurt was removed from the flight schedule, so no proper alternative was available. The airline offered to return the money and cancel my parent’s tickets or provide an alternative flight with an additional stop and 6 hours later arrival. Since my father had another appointment at that time in May, we decided to accept canceling the tickets and booked other tickets for June.
Even though we got back the money for the flight ticket, the travel agency Opodo refused to cancel the insurance, too. So we had to pay an insurance for a canceled flight.

My parents in law currently are visiting us over the Christmas holidays. Their flight left Rio de Janeiro with a 3 hours delay. They could not catch their connecting flight in Frankfurt and finally arrived with four and a half hours delay in Vienna. After queuing up more than an hour for their lost bag, they arrived totally exhausted at our place. And this was not the first time.

Let me summarize what I have learned from my negative experiences with flights:

  1. The airline can overbook flights. You don’t have a guaranteed seat in a booked flight.
  2. The airline does not have to transport you on the scheduled time or day. Several hours or even an entire day of delay are the customer’s problem.
  3. The customer looses all rights (and his money) when he is not in time at the airport, even when the flight is also delayed.
  4. When a customer cancels the flights, he usually does not get his money back. He has to make an extra insurance or pay a much higher fare for a partly refund.
  5. Travel agencies insist on the payment for an insurance for a canceled flight, even though both, the flight and the insurance were booked via their Internet portal.

In case of point 2 and 5, we could probably successfully sue them, but the amount of money involved in these cases do not justify the risk of the lawsuit. It is time to reconsider the contract between customers and airlines/travel agencies. Currently it is highly unfair, how they treat us.

Staying at home and not making contracts with airlines and travel agencies is no alternative. I love to travel. It is important for my recreation and professional life. But I would appreciate an appropriate legislation for these cases.

Who is a VIP?

Last week I got an invitation from a large clothes shop named Peek & Cloppenburg. I have a loyalpeek & cloppenburg VIP1ty card for a couple of years and I am buying clothes there from time to time. Now they are offering a 20% discount when I come to a shopping center close to Vienna on a weekday evening to the so called VIP-Shopping night.

In the last couple of years all large chains of shops developed their loyalty programms. More and more they switched from the habbit of competitive prices for everybody, to acceptable prices for frequent customers, who are willing to participate in their loyalty program. Everybody else pays more and doesn’t benefit from their additional goodies like annual refund, vouchers, or special offers for a limited time or part of their products.

Today it is very easy to loose overview of all the different offers. This is exactly what they have in mind: Diversification is the well proven strategy to make more money. For me as a customer, life is more complicated. If I don’t want to spend much more money for peek & cloppenburg VIP2the same product, I have to spend a lot of time comparing the different offers. I have to buy things, when they are on sale and not when I actually need them. My relationship to these shops and their image is suffering from this kind of marketing. The economy is not the supplier for goods to support the customers interest anymore. They are more and more focused on earning more money, even by abusing the normal customer like you and me.

Peek and Cloppenburg call me a VIP. They offer 20% price reduction, music, and champaign. They ask for an online registration, to connect my web browser on my computer with my customer ID. I am hard-boiled enough to understand that they are not my friends, and that they want my satisfaction about the deal only, because I might return later to buy more. Old fashined properties like trust, a personal relationship, honesty, and loyalty don’t count anymore, as long as it can not be turned into revenue.

I get so angry, when I see this >50% lower sale prices. Then I know, how overpriced it has been before. In another field, flight tickets, they use similar methods. In a TV spot I learn how stupid I was to pay too much for a flight ticket (Btw: I almost always pay at least as much as the stupid passenger). This is the motivation to participate in this game under the rules of large corporations.

The development described here, is neither good for the employee nor for the customer. I have to spend my free time and some employees have to act contrary to their moral certainty. Structural changes in economy, from small family business to word-wide corporations are responsible for this switch. It becomes more difficult to act against this 21st century dogma. We, the people, are loosing control. The individual interests are sacrified for a better streamlined and developed economy, that is focused on their profits and by doing so, gets even more powerful.