You Can’t Please Everyone

I’m constantly fascinated by the perceptions that different people will have of one business. For instance there’s a BBQ restaurant that I absolutely love, I think it’s the best in town, but during a casual conversation about weekend plans I had a relative tell me she thought the food was terrible.  I couldn’t for the life of me understand it.  On the other hand I have friends who LOVE a certain downtown restaurant that I think has mediocre food (at best) and terrible service.  I gave the place three tries and in my mind it failed to please all three times so it struck out with me.

From a business’s standpoint it just has to try and please enough people enough times that it can be profitable.  Of course it, or rather the people who run it, should always strive to improve and provide the best product/service possible, but they will never please everyone all of the time.  I was reminded of this when I read this comment at Consumerist about the service one family received from American Express:

In 1989, my father died while traveling in another country. We were told by the State Dept. that we needed to deposit $2500 into an account to cover all costs of cremation, processing, and shipping him and his belongings home. Any monies not spent would be refunded to us.

It was a Sunday and none of our banks were open. My mom was frantic. In the course of a conversation with… someone from one of the banks? I don’t remember… the woman whispered into her phone that if I had an AmEx card, I should call them, but not tell anyone she had suggested it.

So I called AmEx and spoke with an impossibly perky 15-year-old-sounding person who promised to take care of everything for me. Fifteen minutes later, she called with the transfer confirmation number and said that the State Dept. now had our funds. She also wanted to send the AmEx rep to take care of everything, but by then my poor dad was so wrapped up in red tape that no one could have gotten near him or his stuff.

In the course of the next few days, the State Dept. managed to lose my father in transit so he missed his own funeral, but that’s another story. During that time, I got two more calls from managers at AmEx, asking if there was anything they could do to help us…

I know a lot of vendors don’t take AmEx because their fees are higher, but I will never forget what they did for us when we had no other way out, and that they actually paid the substantial State Dept. fee for us and wouldn’t let us repay them.

We have a friend who has had similar experiences with AmEx.

It’s a pain to have to pay it all off every month, but well worth it to me, just to ensure that they are in my corner if, God forbid, I ever need them.

The same relative who disagreed with me about the BBQ place has a lifelong animosity towards AmEx for a reason I can’t remember, but I can tell you that hell will likely be frozen over before she ever uses an AmEx card again. There again we have the same company with two wildly divergent perceptions.  Obviously AmEx has pleased enough people to build a very profitable business so I suspect the ‘lovers’ outweigh the ‘haters,’ but it’s good for all of us to keep in mind that no matter how well we think we’re doing we absolutely have someone out there who isn’t pleased with us.

BTW, my wife and I just applied for our Costco/AmEx card.  Hopefully we’ll find our experience to be more like the Consumerist commentor’s and less like my relative’s.

Posted by Jon Lowder.

PooPrints

Have dog owners in your community?  Do they let their precious little pooch poop anywhere it pleases and then not bother to pick it up?  Well, we might have a solution for you:  a doggy doo-doo DNA testing service called PooPrints.  From the website:

We all love our pets. We also care about our environment and would do anything possible to keep our communities green and clean! With dog ownership rapidly increasing in the U.S., waste is really starting to “pile up” in communities like yours across the nation. We have the solution to your pet pollution, and we want you to get started today! 

Each property will have their own reference database to include all community dogs

To build your database, a DNA profile is created for each dog using a cheek swab collection kit

Samples are mailed to BioPet’s lab. DNA from cheek swabs are analyzed to create a unique genetic profile for each dog

Each genetic profile is uploaded to your property’s private and secure database provided through the DNA World Pet Registry

Once all genetic profiles are complete, PooPrints is fully enforceable by means of simple comparison 

 

Piedmont Triad Vacancy Rate Decline is Among Three Sharpest in US

From the Wall Street Journal:

The average effective rent, the amount paid after discounting, was $997 in the second quarter of the year, up from $974 a year earlier, according to a report scheduled for release Thursday byReis Inc., which tracks leasing data for 82 markets. Second-quarter rents rose in all but two markets.

Rent levels rose fastest in San Jose, Calif., to $1,501 in the second quarter. The average effective rent in San Francisco was $1,806; Wichita, Kan., $495, and New York, $2,826.

Vacancies, meanwhile, fell in 72 of the 82 markets during the second-quarter vacancy rate to 6%, the lowest since 2008 and compared with 7.8% a year earlier, according to Reis. Vacancies declined fastest in Charleston, W.Va., Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C., and Richmond, Va. (emphasis added.)

“Rising rents and falling vacancies are the perfect situation for landlords,” said Rich Anderson, an analyst for BMO Capital Markets. “It’s like drinking without the hangover.”

That’s some good news!

Governor Signs Residential Rental Inspection Bill Into Law

From the Apartment Association of North Carolina’s (AANC) website:

 In a major victory for North Carolina rental housing providers, the Apartment Association of North Carolina-initiated Bill – Residential Building Inspections – was ratified by the N.C. Legislature on June 18th. Once signed by Governor Perdue, the bill will become law immediately, and will rein in advocacy-minded local units of government who have exceeded – or might want to exceed – their statutory limitations on housing inspections. The Bill:

  • Requires units of government to have reasonable cause to believe that unsafe housing conditions exist in order to inspect private housing, via landlord history, reports, or actual knowledge by a unit of government. This provision allows resources to be used to focus on unsafe conditions, problem properties and irresponsible owners and landlords.
  • Requires government housing inspection programs to be administered in a non-discriminatory way regarding housing type or ownership.
  • Provides local governments the authority to make an exception to the reasonable cause test in order to conduct periodic inspections as part of a targeted effort to arrest blight within designated Community Development or similar zones.  
  • Prohibits local governments from requiring permits as a condition of operating rental housing – unless a property has more than 3 violations in a twelve month period, or falls within the top 10% of local crime or disorder problems.
  • Prohibits local governments from levying rental registration fees unless a dwelling unit has more than 2 violations in a twelve month period, or falls within the top 10% of local crime or disorder problems.

 Context: North Carolina cities have historically been concerned about housing conditions in their jurisdictions, especially in older, poorer neighborhoods, and have appropriately adopted ordinances calling for minimum housing quality codes. The administration of these codes are an important tool in helping North Carolina municipalities fight neighborhood decline while ensuring to housing consumers that minimal health, safety, and sanitation conditions are maintained in residential structures.

Unfortunately, some N.C. municipalities have substantially broadened these programs aimed at stemming blighted conditions and now apply them to all housing, or at least all rental housing, as part of mandatory inspection approaches. Sometimes these programs are tied into required permits and fees as a condition of operating rental property. Programs designed to systematically inspect all rental housing for the purpose of improving housing quality are bad public policy and waste needed resources that could be used to combat problematic housing.

Inspection programs in these environments amount to a “housing tax” with no public benefit. The core of current NC law gives units of government the authority to respond to housing conditions that are unsafe, dangerous, and unfit for human habitation. The new law ensures that units of government don’t exceed their authority.

Rating Site Lawsuit

It will be interesting what effect, if any, a lawsuit filed by a hotel against a couple that posted an allegedly false bedbug complaint on TripAdvisor.com will have on other rating sites.  From the piece:

A hotel in suburban Oak Park, Ill., has sued a Massachusetts couple, claiming they made a false bedbug claim on Tripadvisor.com.

The suit claims Michael Gladstone and Liora Braun posted a review saying they found a bedbug on the third and final night of their April stay at the Carleton, but when they complained, the hotel did not take it seriously. Now they are facing claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, and tortious interference with business.Oakpark.com has the story.

A maintenance crew checked the room after the couple complained, but no problem was found, the lawsuit says. Michael Gladstone contacted the hotel manager to complain a second time, spurring the hotel to hire a pest control company. “Not a single bedbug, dead or alive, was observed,” according to the inspection report attached to the lawsuit.

Daily Deals for Apartments?

From NAA’s excellent APTly Spoken blog comes this interesting post about the potential use of  “daily deal” sites (think Groupon) by apartment communities.  Here’s an excerpt:

As Paul Bergeron reported in the article, “Crowds Flock to Online Deals!” in the June issue of units, the concept excited attendees at the 2011 AIM Conference in May who were looking for new and creative ways to attract prospective residents and gain market advantage. Attendees who may have purchased discounted kitty litter on a whim the week prior.

Greg Mazanec, LivingSocial Senior Director, Inside Sales, suggested that apartment owners or their communities consider sponsoring deals, such as attaching the phrase, “Brought to you by Rolling Hills Apartments” to a social commerce offer of $40 worth of dining at a nearby restaurant.

Apartment owners or communities also could try to provide a sense of value for renting at their community by making a deal exclusive only to their current, new or prospective residents, Mazanec said. Perhaps an offer to pay $50 for $100 worth of sclerotherapy will be included in my next resident e-newsletter.

Pew Releases Results of Social Media Survey

The Pew Research Center released a study called “Social Networking Sites and Our Lives.”  You can read the full thing here if you have a few hours of spare time, or you can read this short article that conveniently provides the highlights.  Here’s an interesting paragraph from the article:

It’s not surprising that more social network users are on Facebook — 92 percent — but some of the stats for other services are surprising. For example, there are more social networkers on LinkedIn than Twitter, 18 percent and 13 percent, respectively. But Twitter users, like Facebookers, are more engaged, with 52 percent and 33 percent, respectively, using the services daily. By comparison, only 6 percent of LinkedIn users go there daily. The finding is interesting for the timing. LinkedIn had a huge public offering last month, while Facebook is preparing its IPO. Pew described Facebook as the “nearly universal social networking site,” while “MySpace and LinkedIn are occasional destinations.”

Rent an Apartment and Share a Car

From the June 15, 2011 Wall Street Journal:

Equity Residential, the country’s largest residential real-estate investment trust, hopes its latest perk for its apartment tenants will drive traffic to its doors.

The company struck a deal with Zipcar Inc. to add car-rental services to more of its apartment communities in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

By the end of the summer, more than 100 Zipcars are slated to be parked in Equity Residential communities, giving more than 17,000 residents access to the vehicles, the company says. A small number of the company’s properties already had arrangements with Zipcar, but the program is being expanded and formalized.

Tenants receive discounts on Zipcar’s membership fees and on hourly rates. Neighbors of Equity Residential apartment complexes can also rent the cars.