Chris Hardie

Blog, Tech, Business and Community Building

consumerist

September 15, 2011

Truth in advertising

False advertising?At some point when I was fairly young, I was excited to learn about the concept of "truth in advertising" - the notion that it actually matters whether what you say in a public announcement or description of products or services is true or not.  I was even more excited to learn that there was an official government entity (in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission) empowered to enforce truth in advertising standards, and punish those who would dare publish falsehoods.  It totally knocked my socks off to further learn that ordinary citizens could submit claims of false advertising and compel advertisers to change or withdraw their deceptive advertising pieces.

What a world of pure and unflinching justice we could then live in!  To walk around knowing that the slogans and invitations on billboards, newspaper ads and television were all required by law to be true, and that onerous fines and the shame of the public eye awaited the occasional miscreant who would stray from this noble code.  No need to worry about being deceived or misled as a consumer; we could always have confidence that advertisers would stand by their claims.

Like I said, I was young.

But at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I do think there's been a notable shift in the standards we hold marketers and public figures to when it comes to truth in advertising.  Seems like somewhere around the mid 1990's, we kind of gave up on it.

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September 8, 2011

Anatomy of a modern tech support case

Based on a true story:

Them: "Please fill out our online form and we'll get back to you right away!"

You in online form: "Hi.  I'm trying to find the button that does the thing I want, and your documentation says it should be there but it's not - can you tell me how to do the thing I want?"

Them: "Thank you for opening your tech support case - your question is very important to us.  We will get back to you very soon now."

Them: "Hi there, my name is Tech Support Rep#2342 and I'm going to be assisting you with your question."

Them: "It's me, Rep#2342 again, and I wanted to let you know that you can find out everything you'd ever want to know about the button you're looking for on our online knowledgebase, which is at http:....  I hope you enjoy all the information that will be at your fingertips there."

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November 21, 2010

Why can't those downtown merchants get it right?

There's an interesting and sad article in today's Palladium-Item, Main Street struggles for survival.  Articles like it are being written about struggling downtown areas across the country, so of course it's nothing new in "this economy," but because it's about the downtown in my community, I take special notice.

The article contains some interviews with downtown business owners, some perspective on the history of the Main Street organization there, and some talk of renewed activity from merchants and business owners (myself among them) in helping make the area thrive.  But there's something missing from the picture the article paints.

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April 21, 2010

Customer service FAILs (and a WIN)

A few short stories of recent FAIL and WIN experiences in customer service:

Trying to stop getting unsolicited postal mail from Comcast

I'm not a Comcast customer, haven't been for a long time, and never at my current address. I get postcards, letters and brochures from them on a regular basis - sometimes several times a week.  It's annoying and wasteful.  I searched the Comcast website and the Internet at large for a while for a web-based form to get on a "do not send me mail" list, and couldn't find one.  I called their 800 number and hung up after too many minutes on hold.  I finally sent in a generic inquiry through their online form, providing the addresses I wanted removed.

Done, right?  Nope.

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December 14, 2008

Fireplaces, kitchen supplies and Indian food, oh my

What a pretty ceramic thing that is!This weekend I had the opportunity to sample three local/regional shopping destinations that were all new to me:

1) The Fireplace Shop at 1000 North F Street in Richmond is an amazing little brick complex that showcases all that can be done with wood and other heat sources. From traditional fireplaces to wood burning stoves to corn pellet stoves to crazy other conflagrant configurations, it was quite a wonderland of temperature control. With the added bits of atmosphere like lazy cats sprawled across warm surfaces, fireplace and chimney sweep nostalgia everywhere, and the hustle-bustle of workers in workshops catering to the demands of the cold season, it was a nice place just to be and observe. The store also adjoins a ceramic tile store (which sells the locally made Terra Green Ceramics line) and a brick/stone store, so you can knock out quite a bit of home improvement planning in one place. I can't imagine there's one of these in every community these days, and I'm certainly grateful to have one here. - Read More -

December 7, 2008

Review of Ready Made magazine

Ready Made Magazine coverThe "do it yourself" (DIY) movement is sometimes talked about as a new or emerging phenomenon, but when you reduce it to its essence - "people creating or repairing things for themselves without the aid of paid professionals" - it's clear that DIY is just a new label for a way of living that is as old as human existence itself.

Our culture likes to take the old and repackage it as the new so it's more exciting and engaging. I don't have any problem with that per se - there can be something creative and innovative in finding different ways to present ideas, world-views, ways of living so that they're more accessible to more people. We all go through different kinds of personal discovery about what we're capable of, so why not have a "new movement" that helps support and nurture that for folks who are in that place right now?

This is what I thought I was being pitched when I got an invitation to subscribe to Ready Made magazine, which presents itself as "the only do-it-yourself (DIY)/lifestyle magazine for young people. It entertains and informs through DIY projects for fast-evolving lifestyles." It sounded like a good support resource for learning more about self-sufficient living. I showed the invite to Anna Lisa and we both agreed that it looked like it would be useful, AND that we were excited such a publication existed at all. But when the first issue arrived, it only took me a few hours before I knew we'd be canceling the subscription. Here's why:

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August 14, 2008

Discussion of Pal-Item.com Terms of Service

This is a republishing of a series of blog posts looking at the pal-item.com Terms of Service, discussing what they actually mean and how they might impact your use of the Palladium-Item website.  (The Palladium-Item is Richmond, Indiana's daily newspaper.)  You can view the original posts where they appeared on the Pal-Item site: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

The pal-item.com Terms of Service (TOS) are the policies and terms that the Palladium-Item and its parent corporation, Gannett, have set forth for the use of their website at pal-item.com.  When you visit the site in your web browser, you are subject to those terms.  Opinions vary about whether the TOS can be considered a legal contract between you and the Palladium-Item, and how enforceable the terms might be.  But one thing is clear: as websites like pal-item.com become more interactive and encourage more user submission of content, it’s in your best interest to understand these terms and how they affect you. - Read More -

December 16, 2007

Links for the Week - December 16, 2007

The Story of Stuff - "From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns." The Official Blog […]

December 2, 2007

Links for the Week - December 2, 2007

Are you brave enough to say no to a high-stress holiday? "The problem with Christmas is not the batteries. The problem isn't even really the stuff. The problem with Christmas is that no one much likes it anymore." Richmond News Review podcast episode #23: Debate bid followup, buying local, media coverage gaps from last weekend. […]

October 2, 2007

My VOIP home phone setup using trixbox

004 1I've generally been content not having a physical phone line at home and using my cell phone instead. I'm not much of a phone person anyway, my back yard looked a lot nicer when Verizon cut down the unsightly cable, and it's certainly a cost savings. But sometimes, I still long to have a regular old phone sitting on my desk that I can pick up and make a call on. Recently, for various reasons, I've been playing with having just that setup, but with a twist: my new home phone setup is run on open source software, and the conversations are carried over my broadband Internet connection.

Here's my configuration (perhaps mostly for geeks, but hopefully also for anyone who's interested):

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