Ain’t Technology Grand?

My friend Steve, visiting Taiwan on business, posted this picture on facebook of a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been over there, but even back in the ’90s, American businesses were all over the island.  Even so, traveling to Taiwan and China was about as lonely an experience as you could imagine.

It’s not that the people weren’t friendly, not at all.  The Chinese are very friendly, hospitable people.  But it’s their home, not mine, and it’s normal to crave contact with your loved ones.  But in those days, phone calls were very expensive and we were allowed to expense only one call home per week.  Besides, there’s a twelve hour time difference between there and here.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m away from home I’m always wondering what Jan and the kids are doing.  When you’re in the Far East the answer is almost always the same.  They’re in bed.

The time change is still the same.  As I write this it’s 10:30 in the morning in Saint Louis and it’s 11:30 at night in Taipei.

But, thanks to the Internet, the communications gap is gone.  Facebook, Twitter, even video chat make instant communications possible.  A person in Taiwan can actually see live images of family and friends for just the cost of an Internet connection.  No time limits.  No bad connections.  Just instant communications.

There are a lot of things wrong with the Internet, but when it comes to staying in contact with family, friends, and business associates, there’s nothing like it.


All Star Weekend

Those of you who are sports fans know that Major League Baseball’s All Star Game takes place here in Saint Louis tomorrow (Tuesday) night.  It’s been forty-three years since the last Mid-Summer Classic was played in our town so I’m thinking this will be my last chance to get in on the fun without traveling.

Tickets to the game, and to tonight’s Home Run Derby were prohibitively expensive so I decided to check out the other activity going on in downtown Saint Louis today.  Fearing that parking might be a problem considering the thousands of visitors expected to be in town today combined with the people who normally work downtown, I parked in a neighborhood a couple of miles away  and rode my bike.

It turns out the only way to see everything, avoid traffic, and avoid paying thirty bucks to park, is to take two wheels.  I can’t believe more people weren’t doing it.

The actual All Star events will take place this evening, but there was plenty to do today.  One of our civic embarrassments is something called “Ball Park Village”.  It’s supposed to be a mixed-use development of hotels, residences, and retail located across the street from Busch Stadium.  It was supposed to be finished in time for this weekend’s festivities.  Sadly, the project still hasn’t gotten off the ground.  It’s still a huge vacant lot.  The good news is that the space provides a great venue for All-Star Game sponsors to set up exhibits of their merchandise.

There are new cars, and free food, sporting goods merchants and the famous Clydesdales to entertain the folks.  Nike has set up a temporary retail operation in the former Pro Bowling Hall of Fame.  (Yes, there is a bowling hall of fame.  It packed up its pins and trophies and moved to Texas a couple of years ago.  I believe they had to leave to make room for Ball Park Village.  Oh, well.)

The entire downtown area has been spruced up and it looks great for the money-spending visitors.  And they’re definitely here.  People are milling around downtown spending money like they had it.  And aparently they do.   I overheard a man waiting to cross the street tell his friend that he had paid $1,000 for tickets to the game.  I guess he must be one of the 90% of Americans who are working.

The point is that recession or no recession, people are spending money on the things they want and need.  People who will travel to a distant city and spend thousands of dollars to attend a baseball game that doesn’t count should be willing to buy what you sell too.  All you have to do is make them want it.

Here’s another phenomonon that I noticed today.   A beer cost $8.75 right in front of Busch Stadium.  Two blocks away it was $6.00.  I guess “location, location, location” works for beer as well as real estate.  By the way, the world’s largest brewery can be seen from the stadium.  If you want to make the trip a few blocks south, you can tour the brewery and get free samples.


Supporting “Local” Small Business When You’re Out of Town

3_50 project smallThis post is inspired by a comment on the 3/50 Project facebook page.  [In case you missed it, I wrote about the 3/50 Project earlier.  There’s also a link to their home page on your left.

Lili Johnstone wrote:  “Just wanted to say that even when you are far from home, you can still support local stores via the web. Many locally-owned, small business owners have created a cyberspace presence. Next time when shopping online search some of your local favorites.”

An excellent idea for many purchases and I couldn’t agree more.  But when traveling, there are a lot of things that you need to buy from a brick and mortar merchant.  If we support “buy local” at home, then it only makes sense to do the same when you travel.  Every town has excellent local merchants and we should patronize them just as we hope that travellers will visit our stores.

In my response to Lili’s comment, I mentioned restaurants.  When I travel, I never eat at chain places (with the exception of Waffle House.  Sorry, I’m addicted to the Fiesta Omelet.  Nobody’s perfect.))  Not only does eating at local restaurants support the local economy, it provides a local experience that you can’t get at the chains.  You almost always find better food and more interesting people at Mom’s Diner than you do at McDonald’s.

As the 3/50 movement spreads and more and more of their window stickers begin to appear, look for them when you travel.  Patronize your fellow small business owner.  It’s good for all of us.

Episode 15

This is a special edition of Mining the Store.  On September 27, 2008 I had the privilege of leading a session at Podcamp Ireland.  The one-day event was held at the Hotel Kilkenny (pictured) in the beautiful city of Kilkenny.  Episode 15 is a recording of the session.  I hope you enjoy it.

Our music is The Christmas Song by Calvin Owens and you can find it at the Podsafe Music Network.

Comments are always welcome and our contact information is listed to the left.

Direct download: Episode_15.mp3
Category: podcasts — posted at: 12:07 PM

Non-ticket Tickets

Yesterday we received our “travel documents” for our upcoming trip to Ireland.  I understand the economies and efficiencies that the airlines achieve by eliminating paper tickets, but there’s just something kind of unsatisfying about spending thousands of dollars for a trip and getting a couple of pieces of paper in an envelope.

It’s not so bad when you’re traveling on business, especially on someone else’s dime.  But for expensive personal travel, I’d really like something to hold in my hand.

Some Serious Information for Travelers

As you know, recent events have pushed the United States Terrorist Alert level up to orange, the second highest color.  Airport security has tightened considerably and there’s a new list of items that can and can’t be carried on a plane.

Since many of our dealers are going to be visiting St. Louis next week for Baby Lock Tech, our big annual sewing event, an update on the current rules might be in order.  Here’s a link to the "Transportation Safety Administration’s (TSA) current list of prohibited items.

Keep in mind that sharp, pointy things are still prohibited, but now virtually all liquids and gels are also banned.  According to the TSA site:

"To ensure the health and welfare of certain air travelers the following items are permitted.

You are permitted to bring solid cosmetics and personal hygiene
items as such lipstick, lip balm and similar solids. Please remember
these items must be solid and not liquid, gel or aerosol."

That’s it.  If it comes in a bottle, can, jar or tube, they’re probably going to make you throw it away.  Don’t think that they’re going to make exceptions, because they’re not.  If you try to sneak a container of Jello on the plane, they’re going to delay you and all the people in line behind you while they search your baggage.

The new rules also require that everybody remove their shoes and send them through the X-ray machine.  If you’re going to fly, do yourself and everyone else a favor and don’t wear shoes or boots that are hard to get on and off. 

Air travel isn’t as much fun as it used to be, but we all want to be safe.  Get there early, plan for delays, and leave the hair gel in your checked luggage.