What Brown did for me

This is an example of how treating customers right (or at least correcting errors) not only avoids a United Breaks Guitars fiasco: it can actually lead to positive social media buzz.

As I reported in October, Meredith Gould is a great humanitarian, having bailed me out by recovering the Flip video camera I left on the podium at a speaking engagement in Philadelphia. She sent it to me via UPS, and said she would let me know the cost when it showed up on her credit card statement.

I was more than a little surprised, however, when she sent me a direct message tweet in early December, with the bad news:

Although I was shocked at the bill, I told her I would of course reimburse her, but asked if she could send me a scan of the statement. As I tweeted:

I just want to use it as a graphic for a fun post: “What did Brown do to you?

I figured that if it was going to cost me nearly $80, I should at least get a blog post out of it…especially since I had forgotten my iPod in Florida in mid-November and the FedEx bill for that shipping was $17.97. But then Meredith said:

In subsequent consecutive tweets, I told her:

  • “If you wouldn’t mind calling UPS about it (and telling them the FedEx charge in a similar situation was $18) it wld be cool”
  • “And depending how it works out, we’d either get a smaller bill or a better story to tell on my blog ;-)”
  • “Might as well have some fun with it…like I do when I run out of gas.”
  • “Between leaving a Flip and an iPod behind, and running out of gas, maybe I should stop and think a bit.”

(By the way, here’s the post I did about my out of gas experience.)

Meredith’s response:

Two days later, I got this happy email:


  1. If you think a bill is outrageous, don’t just pay it. Contest it. It may be a mistake.
  2. If your business made a mistake, fix it, and you’ll not only avoid the bad word-of-mouth, but will instead get kudos. Fixing a mistake can be better for you marketing-wise than not having made the mistake in the first place. If the UPS bill had been correct originally, I wouldn’t have been the subject of my conversations, much less a blog post.
  3. Don’t make mistakes on purpose so you can benefit from fixing them. If you’re systematically overcharging and hoping people won’t notice, it will catch up with you.
  4. Hire more customer service people like Tiffany, and fewer like Ms. Irlweg.
  5. Don’t mess with @MeredithGould!

Chancellor’s Choice Award: iPhone 3G

This won’t be a surprise to anyone, but the first Chancellor’s Choice award, in the category of Smart Phones, goes to the Apple iPhone 3G.


I formerly used a Blackberry (and liked it), but was blown away by the iPhone. And since at least one of the future Chancellor’s Choice winners is an iPhone application, I can’t hardly give that without also honoring the platform that made it possible.

Here are the Top 10 Things I Love about My iPhone (and since Chancellor’s Choice awards go only to products that cost money, some of the free applications for iPhone are mentioned here):

  1. Easy sync with Outlook email and calendar. It’s just flawless. When a new meeting is added to my work calendar, it shows up on my iPhone calendar. And when I add an appointment on my iPhone, it syncs back to Outlook.
  2. Mail folder structure matches my Outlook folders. I can read and delete emails in batches when I’m on the go, and when I get back to my laptop, the ones I deleted from my iPhone aren’t in Outlook either.
  3. Built-in iPod is elegant. If I get a call while listening to music, the sound fades automatically while I answer and talk on the phone, then resumes (again with gradual volume increase) exactly where I was.
  4. Maps program and location services provide a usable GPS system. Garmin on a budget, without turn-by-turn audible directions. But I’ve used it to find my way in unfamiliar surroundings.
  5. The Facebook application. Great way to upload photos to Facebook from the built-in camera.
  6. Did I mention the camera? It’s not super-high resolution, but it’s decent. And it syncs nicely with iPhoto and connects with Facebook, Twitter, WordPress or other applications.
  7. Did I mention the WordPress application? That’s really slick, too. Great to be able to do photo blog posts on the go. 
  8. The Calculator app is excellent. When you hold the iPhone vertically it’s a standard four-function calculator. When you rotate to landscape mode, it becomes a scientific calculator with trigonometry functions. No need to remember SOHCAHTOA.
  9. You can do SMS texting while on a phone call when using the earbuds that come with your iPhone. Try that with a regular phone.
  10. Even though I often don’t use the 3G connection to save battery life, when I do turn it on the speed boost for applications that access the Web is impressive.

Unlike every other Chancellor’s Choice winner, the iPhone isn’t cheap. But I still believe it’s an excellent value, particularly since it provides a platform for lots of other innovations. The minimum price is $199 to $299, plus a two-year service contract with AT&T. I recommend the 16 GB version, because it only adds about $4 a month to the overall cost, but I’ve never wished I had less memory. But if the 8GB is all you can afford, go for it. 

What other free iPhone applications do you like? Or what other paid applications would you nominate for the Chancellor’s Choice recognition?

What My iPhone Has Replaced

I’m coming up on my two-week anniversary of getting my iPhone, and I thought it would be fun to use my iPhone to take a picture of the devices it is replacing in my coat pocket.

On the left is my Blackberry, which had my calendar and email. In the center is my 80 gig iPod, which had the advantage of carrying every bit of my music and spoken word audio. On the right is my personal cell phone.

I didn’t have a digital camera previously; now with the iPhone I have that functionality. The iPhone keyboard is a little touchier than the Blackberry and is more susceptible to typos, but the smart error correction is pretty nifty.

With the Blackberry, Web browsing was possible but intolerably slow for all but emergency situations.

I had an interesting experience this week as I was on a phone call using the ear buds, when I got a text message. I returned the text without having to leave the call. That was pretty nifty too.

Some people wish the iPhone had a video camera. Personally, as regular readers and all SMUGgles know, I prefer the Flip for video. It has a built-in USB connector for uploading video.

So if the iPhone were to add video functionality it would be OK, but it’s not a huge priority. I like the Flip because I can put it on a tripod to get better quality Web video. The iPhone is so thin and sleek that it couldn’t accommodate a tripod adapter, so without that I would just as soon leave out video capability

The really great thing about the iPhone, though, is its application platform, which enables others to add functions, like the WordPress app I’m using to write this post (and incorporating a photo from the iPhone camera).

I couldn’t have gotten the iPhone, though, if it didn’t support Exchange e-mail. This is really well done, and the calendar also synchs automatically.

As I do blog posts using the iPhone, I expect they will mostly be less text-heavy than this one. The WordPress app for iPhone is nice for mobile blogging and incorporating photos, but you can’t insert links. So I guess I would need to edit posts later from my computer to add links.

Anyway, I’m quite satisfied with my experience with iPhone. And it has been nice to lighten and unclutter my sportcoat pockets.

If you have an iPhone, I would love to hear what applications you find most helpful.