Black Friday

Just in time for this holiday season comes the latest tale of retail negotiation success.

I’ve been lusting after a new TV for awhile.  Since our move, my old big-screen just hasn’t been right.  Could be the five flights of stairs it traveled in the move.  Could be the two years of storage about a year into its life.  Could be the massive amount of evening TV I watch.  Whatever.  In any event, the TV repair folks told me that the cost to repair substantially outweighs the value.  Lucky (sorta’) for me, the deterioration causes visible problems that are driving Tina batty.  Hence my ability to actually look for a new TV.

The actual TV I’m interested in is irrelevant, so rather than bore you with the specifics, let’s just call it X.  X has been on sale recently, down about 45% from it’s suggested retail price.  I’ve been watching it on Amazon and at Best Buy and Amazon has beat BB by about $200.  So I was still debating the merits of X with Tina when I looked online this morning and saw it for another $150 off – essentially 50% from its MSRP.  Woo hoo!  Time to buy!

But I had to get final approval so I couldn’t click through quite yet.

A few minutes later and I was ready to go.  I clicked ‘Add to Cart’ and just before I clicked Buy, I noticed that we were back to the pre-Black Friday price.  Woah.

So rather than Buy, I called Amazon’s customer service line.  Invariably, I found “Peggy” (a person of obvious foreign persuasion, pretending to be in the US “for my comfort”).  It only took her 10 minutes to verify my account because she couldn’t spell, couldn’t validate my physical address and for whatever reason, would ask me the same question over and over.  But hey, once we got through that, I was confident that I would be able to explain my complicated issue to her and get resolution.

As Wayne Campbell might say “shah – and monkey’s might fly outta’ my butt!”  But hey, I’m nothing if not patient.  So I tried.

Twenty-five minutes later, we were no closer to resolution and nearly half that time had been spent with me on hold while Peggy tried to work things out on her end.  Her eventual response?  That I needed to talk with the folks in the “large items” area.  But, of course, they were closed (it was only 8am ET, so I was agreeable).  Peggy offered to take my phone number and have them call me back in an hour.

Perfect.  No problem.

Five hours later (after we were back in the car, having spent the day at the Zoo), I still hadn’t received a call, so I called back.  [Now, what I didn’t tell you was that I periodically called and after being on hold for 20-30 minutes at a time, decided to simply try later.]  This time, I almost immediately got through.  This support person was a native English speaker so we quickly got to the large item desk.

They explained that Amazon doesn’t guaranty prices until you actually Buy.  They also checked and told me that what I saw earlier in the day was “Sold by Amazon” and the one that was now in my cart was “Sold by” someone else, so Amazon had no power to make any changes.  If I wanted X, I was going to have to pay the higher price.  Grrrrr.  No deal (at least not yet).

I finished driving home and checked my e-mail.  Waiting for me was a “how’d we do” e-mail from Amazon.  Ahhh… revenge.  Only, I didn’t want revenge, I simply wanted to say how things were for me.  And, in my opinion, it wasn’t great.  So I gave the experience a bad grade.  Amazon’s automated process then asked me if I would be willing to let them take another chance to make it right – enter my phone number and let them call me.  So I did.

A few seconds later, I get a call from Mike at Amazon.  I explain the situation and he reiterates the earlier explanation of why they really can’t do anything.  So while he’s considering what he might be able to do, Cameron is yammering in the background.  This gives Mike the ability to be friendly… and for me to connect with Mike on a personal level.  He’s a dad, a grandfather and has been at Amazon for awhile.  He was able to see that I’ve been an Amazon customer for more than a decade (they keep the entire history).  We commiserated over the advances in technology and retail.

In between, however, I hear an opportunity – that if there’s a TV that *Amazon* sells, Amazon can budge on price.  I quickly locate the model of X that Amazon does sell – one model more advanced (this one has 3D, even though I don’t need/want it), let’s call it X+.  Unfortunately, it’s also a little more expensive.  I give Mike the updated model number and he pulls it up on his end.  I ask him if he can “work with me”.

While he’s checking (as he realizes I’ve asked for a pretty significant discount), we keep chatting.  A few minutes elapses.  He tells me that no one has responded to his inquiry, so he’s going to go ahead and do it.  A few seconds later, I get X+ for the earlier advertised price of X.  Schweet.

Effective savings:  >$300 off retail.  >$1000 off MSRP.
Cost:  3 phone calls and some schmoozing.
Totally worth it.


A few years ago, I blogged, asking for the secret password to get past Tier 0-level customer service “technicians”.  In fact, I’d even really forgotten about posting this request until I was revamping the site for my current return after a year+ hiatus.

Randall Munroe over at xkcd, as usual, read my mind:

Oh, and if you don’t understand the shibboleth reference, watch this clip from my favorite TV show, The West Wing (sorry, couldn’t embed).

Updates on a few of the things I’ve written about

Well, it’s not like I’m some sort of prescient person and know what the world is really thinking about… but there have been a few instances of things I write about in the last few months actually capturing some amount of world-wide attention. So this post is simply a note to the file on what happened.

Randy Pausch
Remember the post from a few months ago about the Last Lecture? Randy was diagnosed with cancer, fought a hell of a fight and along the way, delivered what many people consider to be the greatest inspirational speech of all time. He died on July 25, 2008. It’s not only a tragedy for his wife and children… but also for the millions of people he was able (and will continue) to inspire.

McFly Nikes
Much less important than Randy, Nike actually responded to the cultural request of my generation and has released the Hyperdunks’s. Here is info. And more info. And even more. Awesome. Now people are working on the auto-lacing mechanism.

Pandering to my Generation
Songs from the 80s continue to permeate the current cultural zeitgeist. Which isn’t really saying much. In fact, with the Olympics on TV, I get the same round of commercials over and over and over and over and… oops, sorry. Stuck in a loop.

Anyways, what I was saying is that I get to see a lot of the same commercials. One of them is for JC Penny. The commercial’s background music is Simple Minds’ classic “Don’t You (forget about me)” from one of my favorite movies, The Breakfast Club. The kids in the commercial are reenacting several of the scenes from the movie – and I turn to Tina and ask – “so, do you think the director had to explain to them: OK… now I want you to run down this hallway really fast, then do a floor-slide past the turn and run back towards the camera? Or do you think he just showed them the movie?”

But commercials aren’t the only things participating in this recycling lifestyle. I actually saved money by getting digital cable the other day… which now gives me access to all of my favorite shows from my formative years. Emergency!, CHiPs, Quincy, Kojak, A-Team, Knight Rider (though the new series starts on 9/24!!!). But I realized that these shows, while all cutesily fatally flawed (it’s really funny to see some of the “procedures” performed by John and Roy on Emergency! and compare them to what I learned as an EMT 19 years later), are really the genesis for almost all of TV today:

Emergency! is now ER or any other hospital/ambulance show
Quincy is CSI before they realized that people WANT to see the science
Kojak is The Shield; and Barney Miller is The Closer, Law and Order and any other cop show
A-Team is Burn Notice
Brady Bunch is now Jon & Kate Plus 8 (why invent what really exists?)
Knight Rider is now Knight Rider (some things have to be cloned exactly)


I grew up watching all sorts of shows about people my age trying to deal with life. The Facts of Life, 90201, then on to Melrose Place and Friends. Most of these shows had a fatal flaw. They were populated by self-centered, narcissistic, vapid characters.

Well, no more. Now’s there’s ‘llectuals.

Flashpoint TV Show

There’s a new show on CBS called Flashpoint. It’s about hostage negotiators and snipers.

Now… I’m into negotiation, so you’d think that I’d love this show. I mean sure, the technology is cool – I wouldn’t mind having someone assist every now and again with a voice in my ear while I’m in the middle of a negotiation… but the rest of the show just drags on.

To be honest, I was hoping for a little less talky-talky and a little more shooty-shooty.

The Mole – Subliminal Advertising?

Back in 2001, ABC television launched a new reality gameshow called “The Mole.”

The concept was simple… play a game to win money, but try to figure out who is trying to sabotage the game (thus reducing the amount of money available to win). Each week, players would attempt to identify the Mole – and eliminate those that they thought WERE the Mole.

There were two sequels, Mole 2 and Celebrity Mole (if I remember correctly, Stephen Baldwin was the best Mole ever). In any event, I’d pretty much forgotten about the show until a few weeks ago.

It’s no secret that I have Tivo and love skipping commercials. But even with a great trigger finger, I still usually have to pop back with just a few seconds left before the end of the commercial break. And a few weeks ago, I caught sight of a single dark frame with “the mole was here” written on it during Lost. I didn’t think much of it… thinking that maybe someone was just playing around and messed something up.

But I’m watching Brothers and Sisters right now… and here it is again at the 21 minute mark.

A quick jump to IMDB says that it looks like they’re doing a new “season” in 2008. And Wikipedia confirms what I’m seeing, too, as an advertisement for the Mole.

But how is this not subliminal advertising? I think the argument is that it’s actually consciously visible (ie: you actually KNOW that you’re seeing the logo and words) and thus it’s not actually subliminal.

I don’t know that I buy that, though. Any experts in advertising law out there?


I watch a lot of TV and movies. More than I should, I suppose. TiVo will go down as one of the best inventions of my lifetime.

But I’m curious.

Who actually has those perfect TV/movie moments in their life?

You know the ones I’m talking about. Where the guy and girl are sitting together having that instant karmic connection. Where the athlete runs faster, jumps higher, plays longer or through the pain to win the gold. Where the worker gets the big career move that they actually deserve. Any of those.

Because I don’t know where or when they happen. I don’t know anyone who has them – but I know that I don’t get them.

Or… maybe I do.

Maybe the moments in my life are the TV/movie moments for someone else’s life.