There was surprise waiting for me in my mailbox yesterday. Nestled between the bills, newspapers and Whitsunday promotional offers was a silver package. It looked a little like a box of luxury chocolate pralines, but it made no sound when I shook it next to my ear. I was intrigued, until I saw the name of the sender:
Wretched dishwasher: it stopped running just minutes before the end of the program, leaving the plates in a damp, cold mist. It is always a grim moment when one realises that a call to the repairman is unavoidable. While Siemens’ 24-hour hotline is a nice feature in cases like these, I couldn’t help but wonder what good it was when all it could offer was a repair appointment one week later.
My latest business trip took me to a renowned five-star hotel. At check-in I discovered my travel agent, American Express, had left me a dining coupon for use in the hotel restaurant. The amount, €85, surpassed my expectations for such promotions. Even in a hotel in this category, I thought to myself, one could pay for an entire meal with such a gift. So what was the catch? Of course, Amex wanted to galvanise client fidelity, but this still seemed like an expensive way to do it.
I am rather demanding when it comes to coffee. I must have tried everything in my ambition to have a decent from my own kitchen – from the hand-filtered, but invariably too strong stuff my mother used to brew, to the dish-water the vast majority of popular coffee machines spit out. I almost forgot the Bialetti espresso maker I got in Venice, but it doesn’t work on my stove. However, two years ago, my coffee odyssey brought me to the delightful Nespresso coffee machine. These little insertable capsules are the realisation of my espresso dreams.
A blogger railed against Apple’s decision to change the docking connector on its latest iPhone because it rendered his beloved internet radio obsolete. This blogger does not yet own an iPhone 5, nor is he under any obligation to buy one. Yet the notion that he absolutely must have one as soon as it goes on sale is so self-evident that it simply did not occur to him that he could just as easily keep his existing iPhone 4S and keep on docking it to the internet radio.
Actually, I’m a fan of FC Freiburg, not FC Schalke 04, but I found the idea of creating a cemetery for Schalke fans in the shadow of the stadium in Gelsenkirchen absolutely absorbing. In honour of its founding year, the club plans 1904 graves in this ‘terminal turf’. Only the most faithful fans will be able to rest there after their final whistle, but they will enjoy an unimpeded view of the Veltins-Arena and the posthumous feeling of being part of every home game.
Even beggars are getting wise to behavioural economics these days. Instead of asking whether you have any spare change, they ask instead for the time of day. Who can refuse a simple request for the time? However, once you have stopped and pushed back your cuff to look at your watch, it becomes more difficult to refuse a subsequent request for spare change.
That mothers multi-task, manage households with meagre budgets, and are concerned about providing adequate guidance to their kids, is well-known. But when a survey of 4,000 mums confirms these realities the mother in me feels appreciated. I also felt good that the survey was called Mumdex, the name that drew me to the Financial Times article in the first place. The article revealed that 75 percent of mums surveyed in the UK were worse off than a year ago, and that 93 percent had altered their lifestyle to adjust to new economic realities. A large number of them had even resorted to loans to make ends meet.
India surprised me. I was fascinated by the beautiful landscapes, and sometimes the helpfulness shown to me at some of the places I stayed on my trip went far beyond my expectations. On the other hand, I loathed seeing the stinking piles of waste everywhere. Plastic bottles seemed to have been tossed everywhere and the smouldering dumps at the outskirts of town polluted the air. But I nevertheless became accustomed to it: “This too is India,” I said to myself.
In the animal world, the status of each member of a group is easy to determine. The stag in the forest with the biggest antlers has the best chances with the lady-deer and has privileged access to the group’s resources. Even without a fight, the fearsomeness of the antlers alone is sufficient to identify the stag’s position within the herd. In Darwinian terms: the better an animal’s ability to prevail in this positional competition, the greater its odds of survival. The same applies to people. Here too, there is competition for access to resources and to power.
Phony outrage broke out in the office this morning when we learned that some snack manufacturers had achieved the feat of producing lower-calorie candy bars by simply reducing their size. The smaller bars contain the same proportion of sugar and fat as their high-calorie counterparts – and cost the same price – but there is simply less of it in the package.
Upmarket porcelain maker, Villeroy & Boch’s, long relationship with women’s football has brought them into the press during the current World Championship. But the coverage has been less than flattering. Back in 1989, the European Championship-winning German team received no cash bonus from the Football Federation. So, as a goodwill gesture,Villeroy & Boch rewarded each player with an item from their tableware range: a 41-piece coffee service, bearing the design ‘Mariposa’.
How many decisions have you made so far today? Feeling tired? You may not be surprised to learn that a decision-charged day will leave you mentally-fatigued and progressively worsen your decision-making ability. But did know you that this worsening takes place in a systematic way? As a rule, the greater the fatigue, the more the decision-maker will opt for the choice that is mentally the least demanding, namely the default or the status-quo. This means it is possible to predict what people will choose based solely on the number of decisions they have already made.
“Dynamism for your car, security for your portfolio.” This headline emblazoned the flyer that fell out of my newspaper this morning. It was an advertisement from one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of alloy wheels for the automotive industry. The flyer didn’t just show off some shiny new rims, it also vaunted the qualities of a shiny new bond: a €50m five-year debt offering with a 7.5 percent coupon.
I roll my eyes whenever Panini or the other trading card companies release a new collectors’ book for children, no matter whether it concerns the Football League or the newest ‘Star Wars’ production. My 10-year-old son and his classmates like to collect and trade the cards and I can understand that he doesn’t want to be left out. But for him the collecting mania has become something like a little addiction
Holiday at last – hello Africa! I have been musing over the possibilities for months. South Africa’s picturesque Cape Town stands out in my mind, although Namibia’s isolation and expansiveness also beckons; Zambia offers Victoria Falls, but the biodiversity of Botswana’s Okavango Delta is positively enchanting. I can’t decide.
We are a captive audience, aren’t we? Those of us who step into an underground train without some reading material or a fully-charged mobile-phone are obliged after a while to read some of the on-board advertising out of sheer boredom.
Another popular and long-established company has decided to change its instantly-recognisable logo. Starbucks Corp. yesterday unveiled a new version of its Siren logo. The alluring lady is still encased in a circular window; but she is much bigger. She is so big, in fact, that she displaces the surrounding ‘Starbucks Coffee’ text completely.
I have had a nagging sore throat the last few days. At home, things are even worse: both kids have had a horrible cough for over a week and both complain about the same painful symptoms. So when I mentioned this to my doctor during my regular allergy treatment, she immediately suggested a brand new medication.
Everybody was talking about Gap yesterday. The press reported on the fashion company’s dramatic about-turn on its decision to scrap its iconic 20-year-old logo. The new version – the word ‘Gap’ in a standard black font, Ariel bold, on a white background with a little blue box in the corner – was so inane and the complaints so numerous, the company withdrew it after seven days and reinstated the old one.