First Crack 31. The Wine Episode with Tim Elliott

Tim Elliott, from, and I met at Bev’s Wine Bar and talked wine, coffee, and technology.

Listen to the Wine Episode with Tim Elliott [32 min]

Got questions about coffee or comments about the show? Call: 206-20-BEAN-1

Like the show? Support the First Crack Podcast Tests Ship-To-Store

Big box retailers are continuing their search for the Holy Grail of Retail – increasing merchandise selection without increasing real estate costs.

For years, Click’n’Pull for years. Unlike Click’n’Pull which is only available for in-store items, “Ship to Store” is only available for Wal-Mart’s web exclusive items.

This development is interesting in 3 major ways:

  1. It recalls the heyday of Sears & JCPenney catalogs, where orders could be placed and picked-up in-store.
  2. Both Sears & JCPenney currently offer an “order online / pick-up in-store” service. has offered it for the past 4 years and seen 22% of online customers make additional sales while picking up their orders.
  3. This is for items not normally stocked by Wal-Mart. Knowing that merchandise is of higher quality and the store merchandise. Is this a way to gradually increase the quality of in-store merchandise, therefore a play against Target?

Dallas Morning News articles: Wal-Mart tests store pickup for online buys

Mobile Phone Etiquette Tips

SprintPCS has partnered with etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore to compile an excellent list of 10 mobile phone etiquette tips

Number 1…

Let your voicemail take your calls when you’re in meetings, courtrooms, restaurants and other busy areas. If you must speak to the caller, excuse yourself and find a secluded area where you can talk

Thank you SprintPCS for publishing this list. It should be distributed with every mobile phone sold.

On-Board Wi-Fi

The last place for wireless to penetrate may actually be where the money is – according to this Forbes article:

Boeing plans to charge $30 for flights longer than six hours, $19.95 for flights of four to six hours, $14.95 for shorter flights and $9.95 for a 30-minute trial.

Continuous access from Munich to LA for $30? Definitely.

How about Munich to Tokyo? Definitely.

Wi-Fi is a valuable amenity and airlines should use this offering as a stepping stone to more specific and valuable customer offerings.

This may just be what carriers like United need to cruise into the black.

In a related story, Two Apple managers videoconference at 35k feet

In what might have been the first in-air commercial videoconference, Apple product manager Kurt Knight, on the ground in Cupertino, hooked up over iChat AV with product line manager Eric Zelenka, returning to San Francisco from Munich, by leveraging Lufthansa’s new wireless high-speed broadband connection service.

Shopping Goes High-Tech

Wal-Mart’s aggressive efforts to implement RFID makes the news frequently, and you’ve probably noticed an increase in the number of stores offering self-checkout (Home Depot, Rainbow Foods, K-mart, among others). A number of other stores are experimenting other technologies poised to changed the shopping experience.

The Salisbury Post has an excellent article on Bloom, the new store concept from Food Lion.

Consider the technological changes, such as photo printing kiosks, complete with Bluetooth wireless capabilities, and personal scanners that shoppers can use to keep a running tally of what you’re buying.

Other information areas allow you to do things like scan in a cut of meat or piece of seafood and have a variety of recipes pop up that you can print out and take with you.

Their focus is on making grocery shopping better:

“We want people to feel like they’ve had a good experience.” – Robert Canipe, VP Business Stragety

“…take the pain points out of shopping” – Suzy McIntosh-Hinson, Bloom’s IT Design Lead.

A number of the experimental technologies at Bloom can also be found at the Metro Future Store in Rheinberg, Germany.

The last line in the article…

“There will always be certain areas where customers will not accept a high-technology store”.

…leads me to’s May 5 cover story, Prada’s Pratfall. The article describes Prada’s retail technology experimentation gone horribly wrong at their very visible Manhanttan flagship store.

RFID, interactive touch screens, liquid crystal changing room doors all back-firing when they’re functional at all.

Made from liquid crystal panels that darken for privacy, the doors were designed to open and close using a foot pedal and shift from clear to opaque with another. But it turns out that some Prada devotees missed the second pedal, revealing more than intended. Others stomped on the pedals in a futile attempt to open doors that frequently jam.

Paula Rosenblum, Director of Retail Research for the Aberdeen Group declares:

“In an attempt to be as chic about technology as they are about heels and handbags, they misjudged the customer’s acceptance as well as the sales associates’ willingness to embrace it.”?

This is an excellent counter to Mr. Canipe’s quote about improving the customer experience. Prada seemed more focused with looking cool than using technology to deepen the customer relationship. Did Prada conduct the depth of customer research described in the grocery store articles? Doubtful. Otherwise they would have realized that customers and sales associates prefer less technology and better service.

Collaborative Technologies at Work – Bottom Up Productivity

Corporate IT departments consider new collaborative technologies (Wikis, Weblogs, Instant Messaging) as rogue elements to be eliminated. When in fact, they are increase productivity.

Ross Mayfield points to this eWeek article describing one organization’s battle with its own people.

The most recent problems came to light when a network failure cut off e-mail and Web access throughout the company’s far-flung operations.

Instead of simply calling it a day, creative employees quickly implemented workarounds. One group installed a quick and dirty Wiki to enable team communications.

Another took advantage of America Online Inc.’s Instant Messenger application to route files and messages between geographically remote employees. Others used Web e-mail and wireless networking to keep the company’s business flowing.

The CIO’s response was predictable: He moved quickly to lock down corporate desktops and laptops to prohibit users from installing unapproved software or accessing unsupported Web services.

New technologies are not without risk, but by eliminating homegrown productivity innovations Corporate IT departments themselves risk being considering irrelevant – thereby increasing constituents finding their own unsupported solutions.