Wednesday, September 26, 2007

SEPTEMBER 26, 2007

You know, people... if you think it's ridiculous for stores to start putting out their Christmas stuff BEFORE they put out their Halloween stuff... then STOP letting them think it's OK by buying Christmas stuff on LABOR DAY.

According to a survey by the Marketing to Moms Coalition, 45% of mothers with kids under 18 have ALREADY started their holiday shopping this month... or are about to start soon.

Another 39% say they're going to wait until November to start shopping. 13% won't start until December.

The average mother will spend $700 on presents this year...
... Moms with at least one teenager will spend more... $835
... Moms with children under six will spend less... $664

It was a gentlemen's club when the male stars took the floor with their professional partners while the lady celebs were sidelined during last night's Dancing With the Stars. Performing either the fox trot or the cha-cha-cha, the couples took their turn to see how they compared to Monday night's female competition. Indy driver Helio Castroneves, partnered with last year's winning pro Julianne Hough, brought in the high score of the night -- a 25 -- with an ambitious fox trot. On the low end was current welterweight boxing champ Floyd Mayweather and partner Karina Smirnoff, who brought in a scant 18 for their cha-cha-cha. Although he only scored a 21 out of 30, the showstopper may have been male model Albert Reed and his partner Anna Trebunskaya, who brought down the house with their personality-laden cha-cha-cha. Wayne Newton's performance proved adequate enough to keep him from the bottom slot scoring 19, but it's doubtful that his partner, two-time winner Cheryl Burke, will see Victory Lane this year. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban turned in an unexpectedly okay performance with partner Kym Johnson, as did soap star Cameron Mathison and partner Edyta Sliwinska. Both received 21s.

Tonight both the male and female teams will face judgment and someone will be dismissed from the floor during Dancing With the Stars: The Results airing at 8:00 p-m [ET].

Dancing With the Stars leader board
Sabrina Bryan and Mark Ballas

Helio Castroneves and Julianne Hough

Mel B and Maksim Chmerkovsky

Jane Seymour and Tony Dovolani

Jennie Garth and Derek Hough

Marie Osmond and Jonathan Roberts

Cameron Mathison and Edyta Swilinska

Albert Reed and Anna Trebunskaya

Mark Cuban and Kym Johnson

Wayne Newton and Cheryl Burke

Floyd Mayweater and Karina Smirnoff

Josie Maran and Alec Mazo (**our prediction to go home**)

1. Go at off peak times. Showing up at a popular restaurant or other place at its busiest time makes it harder to get as much personal service as during quieter times. Few establishments staff their peak times as well as they would like to, so the service providers are often stretched quite thin. During quiet times, you can often get extraordinary service simply by keeping the person interested. If you do show up at a hotel or airport check-in counter at a peak time, you can still get great service but it usually involves being more organized than otherwise so that the service provider can meet your needs efficiently.

2. Make it personal – refer to people by their name. With few exceptions, addressing a person by his or her first name is the best approach. Check for a name badge or simply ask. If you are in a situation where you are not sure of the preferred protocol (first name, last name, doctor, etc.), simply ask the person for his or her preference.

3. Give a damn – smile and ask them how they are doing. This simple gesture can make a big difference with almost anyone and at any time, whether at an empty restaurant or crowded doctor’s office.

4. Become a regular or let them know you are a first timer. A typical business has a number of regular customers they care about. This might not be a big deal for the passport office where you might only show once every five years. It is certainly true for restaurants if you take at least one meal per week there, or hotels you stay at a few times per year. Most businesses love their regular clientele and will go out of their way to keep them happy. Service providers get to know you and your preferences. Things tend to go more smoothly the better they know you. First timers also seem to get better service if they let the service provider know this is their first visit. Like most people, service providers will usually make an extra effort to make a good first impression.

5. Check online reviews. You can match your service expectations to what you see in the reviews. Most reviews will mention something about service aspects so you won’t come completely unprepared for the service you receive. If something is a little off, you can mention what you saw in the reviews.

6. Be knowledgeable – being disorganized or indecisive does not help. Service providers are not mind readers. If you can clearly articulate your needs and interests to them, this makes it much easier for them to give you great service. Whether you are talking to your doctor, the person handling your airline reservation, or giving your destination to a taxi driver, having the relevant specific information handy can make a big difference.

7. Use proper etiquette and appropriate protocol. A round peg fits into a round hole better than a square one does. Even if a great fit can not be made, by attempting to match protocols and use proper etiquette, you can make your interaction with the service provider go much more smoothly.

8. Engage the management where appropriate– before, during and after your engagement with the service provider. This should not be confined only to situations where there is a problem. In some cases, follow up letters can be a great aid in improving service. If you mention to your service provider that you are thinking of writing a follow up letter to management and would like the contact information to address some sort of problem, you will likely get his or her attention. To make it positive, suggest that you would like to highlight the good points, while also addressing how the problem (if there was one) is being handled. If you are spending considerable time with your service provider, such as during a long voyage, and have time to write during the trip, show the draft and ask for additional input. Offer to send them a copy of the letter you are sending the CEO, manager, etcetera so that the person is kept in the loop.