Monday, May 25, 2009

Milk is the new gateway drug

Tennessee Representative Steve Cohen made a comment (sarcastic I think) that illustrates one of the most common decision making errors - correlation is not causation. People call marijuana a gateway drug because people who use cocaine or other hard drugs often did marijuana first. But because they used it first (correlation), doesn't mean the use of marijuana CAUSED the hard drug use. If that were the case, then milk (up to age 8?) would be a gateway drug to juice (ages 5-12?), which would lead to soda (10-15), then to marijuana or maybe beer (I'm not sure which is easier to get in high school now) and then on to hard drugs. Maybe I should start this chain at infant formula?

Because legalization or at least decriminalization of marijuana has so many good features (for example), it would be nice to know for sure if it is or if it isn't. But with so many studies in both directions, it is impossible for anyone to know for sure. If someone tells you they know, they are succumbing to some other decision making fallacy (Read this to know more about DM fallacies. Great book and a quick read. But it will scare you about your own ability.).

I would like to see the same approach to this that we are taking in several other areas. Let's encourage a few states to decriminalize, with perhaps a 3-5 year sunset provision. Then we can see what happens. It won't be a perfectly controlled scientific study, because people will cross state lines to get it and other confounding factors. But I suspect we would still learn a lot. And on the off chance that it really does significantly reduce organized crime, overcrowded prisons, and other possible benefits - WOW.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kelloggs customer service???

I recently sent an email to Kelloggs customer service notifying them that a box of Corn Flakes I recently bought had zero taste and that I wanted a refund. Their response could have taken two approaches:

What they did:

Their response basically informed me that they disagree with my assessment because their QA department has determined that Kelloggs quality is consistently the best among corn flakes. This does two things. It discourages me from trying Kelloggs again because their claim is that my box tasted the way Kelloggs ALWAYS does. And they also insulted my sense of taste.

What they COULD have done:

Instead, they could have said that their QA department has determined that Kelloggs is meets is quality benchmark 99.9% of the time and when it does, it is the best tasting. Then they could have thanked me for identifying the bad batch and that they would look into it. This would have done two different things. It would have encouraged me to try Kelloggs again because what are the chances that I would get a bad batch twice. It would also have complimented me on my discerning taste to notice the difference and my initiative to notify them.

I'm no expert in marketing, but this seems like a no brainer. Unless they don't WANT me as a customer. You think????

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Avoiding the long line at the bar

There is a bar in Amsterdam that has solved the problem of long lines at the bar. They have incorporated minibars all along a huge wall. Each minibar has a selection of drinks so you can pick out whatever you like. You have to leave your drivers license with the concierge in exchange for they key so that they can charge you at the end. They also have snack minibars. I can't say if the prices are competitive because I don't know what regular bars charge in Amsterdam, but beer is EU 3.50, wine is EU 5.50, and liquors range from EU 4.20 to 6.50.

Interesting idea in customer service innovation. It follows the growing do it yourself trend (e.g. online airport check-in, pay at the pump gas). People like control and are willing to serve themselves if it saves time or money.