$2 Convenience Fee?

Excuse me, can you look the other way so I can take $2 out of your pocket?

In yet another example of doing whatever it takes to grow revenue and take advantage of consumers our friends at Verizon will be dipping into your pocket, starting January 15, 2012, charging you a convenience fee of $2 for making a credit or debit card payment on-line or via call-in channels.  Now let me get this straight.  We will now be charged $2 for making an on-line payment?  So should we now cancel the paperless billing (Which of course was marketed as and is a true cost savings, green and all of that), so we can get our bill through the mail again and only pay $0.44 postage?  Is this a plot to save the postal service?  They can certainly use the help.

The web was supposed to alleviate many of these costs.  Buy instead it has just created another huge revenue stream for many companies.  Think about the convenience fees for purchasing tickets on line with companies like TicketMaster?  Head shaking!  Or of course the recent announcement by major banks to charge you $5 per debit card transaction?  This one has been stopped for now but do we think we have heard the last of this.  I think not.

$2 bucks here, $2 bucks there.  Well those $2 buck fees add up and we continue to be pinched by businesses whenever possible.

Let me know of other areas where this is happening in your life so we can share with our readers by commenting below.

Happy New Year to all!

Webman

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In Just 60 Seconds….

A lot happens in 60 seconds.

As you know by now, the Webman loves infographics.  I was introduced to this concept many years ago, through the work of Edward Tufte, an original infographer.  http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/

The world of infographics has exploded as the amount of new information has exploded.  Today I found a terrific infographic that defines what happens in our world today in 60 seconds.  I will cite just a few of the most interesting facts for you.

Every 60 seconds this happens:

  • 13,000 iPhone applications are downloaded
  • 98,000 tweets are sent
  • 6,600 new pictures are uploaded to Flickr
  • 695,000 statuses are updated on Facebook
  • 168,000,000 e-mails are sent
  • 694,445 search queries happen on Google
  • 600+ new videos are uploaded to You Tube
  • 1,820 terabytes of data are created
  • 11,000,000 conversations are happening on instant messenger
  • Google makes $75,000  in revenue
  • 925 iPhone 4S’s are sold
  • 81 iPads are sold
  • 18 Kindle Fires are sold

Here is the link to the infographic.  Enjoy!

http://www.businessinsider.com/incredible-things-that-happen-every-60-seconds-on-the-internet-2011-12?utm_source=twbutton&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=sai

Just amazing stuff!

Webman

I Paid a 22.2% Sales Tax!

This holiday weekend, the Webman played Santa Claus for the family, just like many of you.  One of the stops was to the Verizon store for an early smartphone upgrade for one of my daughters. (And yes, she is using my upgrade yet again)  Anyway, the upgrade price for a iPhone 4, white, is $99 so I am feeling pretty good about this purchase.

And then it broke down.  First news from the Verizon representative, was that their was a $20 charge for an early upgrade.  Hmm, so they have their hand in my pocket here as it does not cost them anything to do this, but they need to subsidize some cost or just boost the revenue line a bit.  I like this as much as I like change fees on airlines – NOT ONE BIT.  But hey, I am still doing pretty well by getting a new iPhone for $119 right.  So feeling a bit screwed but can tolerate.

And then the bomb hit…  The Verizon representative tells me to slide my credit card and that the total bill was $154.31 including the sales tax.  Hmm, I am pretty good with numbers and quickly realize that I am getting charged more than 20% tax on this transaction.  Here is a picture of the credit card receipt:

Not good at all!

What the heck is going on here?  $34.31 for tax on a $119 purchase?  You have got to be kidding me.  So the Verizon representation calming talks about Taxachusetts (He has had to explain this before I presume) and about how they need to pay tax to the state not on the sales price but on the “Value” of the smartphone, which as you can see on the receipt is $549.  So I am paying the 6.25% tax rate on $549 and not on the $99.  So I choose not to shoot the messenger and do a little research myself.

Apparently this law is today only for cell phone because they come bundled with a plan.  Here is what I found on the State of Massachusetts Blog- http://revenue.blog.state.ma.us/blog/2011/04/new-directive-on-sales-tax-for-cellphone-bundled-transactions.html

“Starting July 1, 2011, D 11-2 announces rules amended in part because in the ensuing years since D 93-9 business models have changed. It may not be readily apparent to the retail customer who actually owns the cell phone store where they are making a purchase and which of the existing salestax rules would apply. The new Directive makes it clear that the tax must be calculated on the higher of the amount actually paid by the retail customer or the wholesale cost of the phone or other wireless communication device.”

“But it also provides — and this is new — that the vendor responsible for collecting and remitting the sales tax now has a choice. In situations where the wholesale cost of the phone or other device is used for calculating the tax (because it is higher than the amount paid by the customer), the seller may collect and remit tax from the customer on the wholesale cost. Alternatively, the vendor may elect to assume a portion of the tax by collecting only on the lesser amount actually paid by the customer, in which case the vendor must also remit tax on the difference between that lesser amount and the wholesale cost.  The seller may collect part or all of that tax from the retail customer.”

And there you have it.  A 22.2% tax on cellular phones in Massachusetts.  Be afraid, be very afraid of where this might lead.  You cannot make this stuff up.

Let me know what you think about this blog by commenting below.

Happy Holidays!

Webman

The Dongle

Over the last two days we have highlighted how a smartphone is changing the game for people globally by providing easy access, 24x7x365 to information that is relevant to your life, your shopping, your health, interests and breaking news.

Did you know that the average shopper used 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011, up from 5.3 sources in 2010?  Those 10.4 sources range from TV commercials and magazine articles, to recommendations from friends and family, to websites, ratings and blogs online.   www.zeromomentoftruth.com.

But I digress.  Today we are talking about dongles.  Technology folks have such interesting terms.  A bug for example – not good.  Some bugs are good, but not in technology.  Plus they have so many acronyms like SOAP, AJAX etc.  No, not kitchen cleaners.  And this brings us to the dongle.  What exactly is a dongle?  According to Dictionary.com a dongle is a hardware device attached to a computer without which a particular software program will not run: used to prevent unauthorized use.

Well, let’s see how a dongle is being used by an awesome new company called Squarewww.squareup.com.  Square transforms your smartphone into a mobile payment device that can be used by businesses and consumers to collect payments from a customer by swiping their credit cards through the dongle and integrating with Square’s very cool and user friendly application that of course if easily downloaded from the app stores to your mobile device.

Yes, Easy and Very Cool!

Good for business – you bet.  Sales can now be made without the high fees and long term contracts that come along with traditional credit card processing.   How about as an individual.  Having a yard sale this weekend – you can now accept credit cards as well by using the personal Square version.  Very cool.  You can visit www.entrepreneur.com for a great article on mobile payment systems.

There are a number of other companies in this space such as Pay Anywhere and Swipe.  The traditional credit card companies are working on alternative payment programs.  And of course, given the power of your smartphone, there will be a day when that is all you will need to make a payment.  We don’t need no stinking credit cards!

Let me know what you think by commenting below.

Have a great day!

Webman

InfoPower and You

Yesterday we briefly covered the topic of ZMOT, the zero moment of truth.  There are three key drivers making this pervasive:

Many of us already have smartphones and those that do not will likely own one in the next year or so.  Here is some interesting information from a recently published article in CNET, interviewing Marc Andreessen, general partner for the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz.  Mr. Andreessen  is an American entrepreneur, investor, software engineer, and multi-millionaire best known as co-author of Mosaic, the first widely-used web browser, and co-founder of Netscape Communications Corporation.

One of his key thoughts in the article centers on the prolific accessibility and growth of smartphones.  Mr. Andreessen states “Most of the people in the world still don’t have a personal computer, whereas in three to five years, most people in the world will have a smartphone…. If you’ve got a smartphone, then I can build a business in any domain or category and serve you as a customer no matter where you are in the world in just gigantic numbers–in terms of billions of people.”  So the headline is that unlike the PC world, most of the world’s population will be connected via a smartphone in the next three to five years.  Big wow!  Here is the link to the full interview with Mr. Andreessen http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57345138-93/marc-andreessen-predictions-for-2012-and-beyond/

Further supporting this incredible growth is the following technology adoption curve from Mary Meeker at Kleiner Perkins, one of the leading VC firms on the planet.

Smartphones Rock

Right now we are all comfortable with text search but search has already taken on new forms, such as image search, QR (Quick response) codes and through new services such as Pinterest, which lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.  You can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.  So now you can also search for specific items of interest within the “context” of your search criteria.  This is really advancing quickly!

All of this infopower is now in the palm of your hands.  A very powerful way for all of us to become smarter, more knowledgeable, buy the right products and importantly save money for our lives.

Now you are the one in control!

Let me know what you think of this blog by commenting below.

Have an awesome day.

Webman

ZMOT – You Have Changed

Continuing our thread on information overload and the power of information in our lives, I had the opportunity this weekend to read a recently published book, ZMOT, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth.  It was written by Jim Lecinski.  Jim is the managing director, US Sales & Service for Google.  He works with many major brand marketers and media agency partners.  His book is brilliant and articulates clearly just how much has changed for consumers because of technology, information, Google and mobile devices.

You can download the book for free at www.zeromomentoftruth.com.   Today’s blog will highlight some fascinating statistics about behaviors and influences in our lives.  Please download the book and read it.  A fast read, full of great nuggets and game changing to your business.  If you are not thinking about ZMOT, you better start.

Here are some initial nuggets:

  • 70% of Americans look at product reviews before making a purchase
  • 79% of consumers use a smart-phone to help with shopping
  • 83% of mom’s do on-line research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them

ZMOT, or Zero Moment of Truth, is Google’s definition of the critical moments that lead to an individual’s decision to purchase a product or service.  Since we are now connected almost all the time through high bandwidth connections, we now have the ability to learn about products that interest us whenever we want; watching a ball game, in the store, walking down the street or engaged in a conversation with our friends.  We can now be experts whenever we want – well we can certainly believe we are experts anyway!

  • As consumers, we are in charge
  • We get smart on stuff quickly
  • We engage in multiple conversations with friends, strangers, marketers, websites and experts in real time

Think about how your behavior has changed.  Would we ever consider buying a car without extensive research on quality, price, options, availability or comparing brands?  Nope.  This same behavior has now cascaded down to everyday products such as groceries, school supplies and gas prices. Mom’s are leading the charge, but we are all doing it.

People are now asking three questions before making purchases:

  1. Will it save me money?
  2. Will it save me time?
  3. Will it improve my life?

Hmm, tough battlefield to compete on.  You bet.  The reality is if you are a selling a product or service the ZMOT is becoming more and more critical to being considered.  If you are a business owner, start learning.  If you are a consumer, enjoy the power that you now have.  It will only continue to grow.

I have only scratched the surface on this topic and will dig in a little deeper over the upcoming weeks.  Read the short book though – it does a terrific job of identifying what is going on and what has changed.

Let me know what you think about this blog and about the book when you can.

Have a great day.

Webman

Focus is Critical!

This blog has recently discussed the challenges with information overload.  One of the issues confronting us is that we let things like e-mail control our day.  This prevents us from focusing on the key areas of creating either personal or business value.  We end up being distracted by any number of things during the day.  Whether you work in an office or at home, there are many external distractions that can easily get us off track.

I came across a great article in Inc. magazine the other day.  Ilya Pozin, from Inc.,  interviewed TonyWong, a project management blackbelt whose client list includes Toyota, Honda, and Disney, to name a few. He’s an expert in keeping people on task.

Headlines are:

  1. Work backwards from goals to milestones to tasks.
  2. Stop multi-tasking.
  3. Be militant about eliminating distractions.
  4. Schedule your email.
  5. Use the phone.
  6. Work on your own agenda.
  7. Work in 60 to 90 minute intervals.

Check out the full article for the details and advice.  My favorite was the one on multi-tasking.  Switching from task to task quickly does not work. In fact, changing tasks more than 10 times in a day makes you dumber than being stoned. When you’re stoned, your IQ drops by five points. When you multitask, it drops by an average of 10 points, 15 for men, five for women (yes, men are three times as bad at multitasking than women).

Thanks to Ilya and Tony for the excellent advice.

Here is the link to the full article.  http://www.inc.com/ilya-pozin/7-things-highly-productive-peolple-do.html

Let me know what you think about this post by commenting below.

Have a great weekend!

Webman