You Work For Her

A dozen years ago, I was sitting in the senior design lab at Ferris State University with the soon-to-be graduating class. Looking around the room, it was hard not to notice that I was only one of three guys in the room. My freshman year, close to fifty students had gathered in the survey courses. Whittled down to a dozen through the pressures of the program and a rigorous portfolio review, I found myself within the gender minority. In fact, all the professors of my core classes were also women.

Last fall, partially due to an increasing percentage of my studio‘s clientele being female, we rebranded the company to better appeal to women. This Spring, looking up from a dozen concurrent projects, I realized that, other than a few long-term clients from the previous decade, 100% of the projects I was working on were for women. Even those accounts built on the life and work of men were being driven and managed by female liaisons. And the digital peripherals of the design world also have afforded me the privilege of working with a rising number of women stars—notably Krystyn Heide (@SquareGirl) of SquareSpace and Caroline Schnapp (@CarolineSchnapp) of Shopify.

It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. Read more

Verizon’s $30 “Upgrade” Fee

The following is a post from a friend that I thought was interesting enough to add to the blog. As I don’t have a category for bad business practices (despite such posts as:  Don’t Upgrade Quickbooks, Overdue Casualties of the Recession, Free, Online, Too,  Free, Online, Adventures in Small Business Banking, A Representative will be with You Shortly, Network Solutions is Utter Garbage, Guaranteed Value vs. Value Assessments (or MyPanera vs. My Starbucks Rewards), Sears v. NJCEP v. PSE&G v. Sears (again), Goodbye Windows Mobile, etc.), I’ll settle will categorizing this post under Rants. However, consider Verizon added to my Bad Businesses List.


I just wanted to share my recent discussion with a Verizon representative over the chat feature. I felt like I was in the land of Orwell’s double speak. My mother-in-law’s phone isn’t working and I needed to replace it. Our free phone every two years option was not used since we don’t use all of the bells and whistles and we like saving the new phone for when we actually needed a phone. So I went to check out my “free” phone and saw an “upgrade fee” of $30 dollars.

Confused with the charge on my free phone I opened a chat window and chatted with the nice Verizon representative. Here is a copy and paste of the conversation:

Read more

9/11 Memorial

This Saturday, I finally got the chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center construction site. The week of the attacks, all my friends and family expressed a desire to help with the rescue effort at Ground Zero. Because I lived in NYC at the time, I was lucky enough to be able to do something.   Read more

Free, Online, Too

Every once in a while, I receive an email like the above, which reminds me that there are honorable companies out there that strive for their positive initiatives and ethical practices to help sell their products (Notice that Dropbox doubled our storage capacity ‘as a thank you for being a Dropbox Pro customer’ and uses ‘an extra thanks’ to help promote their paid services to our friends, colleagues and/or family members.)

In light of my post about online companies promoting free products and gradually stripping them away (Free, Online), as well as the recent rant, Don’t Upgrade Quickbooks, I decided to compile two lists of  online businesses:

1. Bad Practices: Those that have been guilty of luring customers in and paring down their offerings (or steepening their prices)
2. Good Practices: Those that have withstood the trend by doing the complete opposite, providing additional free services.

I’d love your help with these lists, citing company names and examples of how they’ve fallen into one of these two categories. Send me an email or comment on this post to be added to the list.

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Don’t Upgrade QuickBooks

I’ve been using QuickBooks for my businesses for about a decade now (and Quicken, for personal finances, since Microsoft Money closed-up shop in 2009). It is single-handedly the ugliest, worst designed and most unintuitive piece of software that I’ve ever used, but it works. It does what it needs to do. So I simply: take notes on where I need to re-locate those elusive little features that intuitively should be located in different places, squint my eyes and try to ignore the antiquated icons, the poorly conceived aesthetic and grid, and the painfully amateur process flow and organization of the product.

QuickBooks had been bad since before Money went south, and still it found a way to best Microsoft. Now, with no real competition in the well-designed corporate financial applications sector (other than Intacct Winter, Sage 50 Pro Accounting, FreshBooks, Mint, Quosal, Concur Expense, Xactly Incent Express, etc.), Intuit can keep on unabashedly releasing terrible software. But I digress.

I’ve been using QuickBooks 2009 through last month, when I received a notification that they would no longer be supporting the QuickBooks Email feature for older versions. It’s a free feature that allows me to easily and quickly provide digital copies of invoices and statements to clients. In fact, it was the only intuitive process they had in the whole application: You simply log-in to QuickBooks, browse to the invoice or statement and click “Send” and it’ll prepopulate an email to the client, print a PDF of the document, attach and send. The notification detailed that they wanted to focus on providing this feature to more current customers/versions and that I needed to upgrade in order to use the service.

After receiving the notification, I debated with my accountant the point of upgrading to QuickBooks 2012. I’d already memorized the quixotic process flow and figured out their capricious organization. If the only issue I was having with the software was the QuickBooks Email feature, why upgrade? A new copy of 2012 is only $200-400, he said, and it’s always good to have a current version of the software. (I, who am perpetually annoyed at Apple foisting upgrades to their bazillion little helper apps, am inclined to disagree). But I relented and spent $185.00 on the upgrade.

After installing and upgrading my corporate files, I finally got around to sending a client an overdue invoice. I click the “Send” button and I see the following message: “QuickBooks Email is only available to customers who have monthly subscriptions to the following online Intuit applications…” And despite being conned into spending almost $200 on a new version of QuickBooks, subscribing to a monthly payroll service provided by Intuit (which isn’t one of those required online Intuit applications) and being able to have the QuickBooks Email service for free for the past decade of loyal patronage, I still couldn’t use this feature.

I contacted tech support. They sent me an email providing a link to their help home page and closed the ticket. I called customer care. They passed me around to 7 different representatives (I’m not kidding, SEVEN!) where I had to provide my name, my phone number, my company name, my email address, my QuickBooks License number, my QuickBooks customer number — all in painfully slow monotone, repeated 2-3 times to confirm. After 4 hours of being on the phone, here’s what I learned:

While this feature used to be free, it is no longer free and would only be provided to customers with monthly subscriptions now (read: their highest paying customers).  

I hung up the phone in a rage. Naturally, the representatives didn’t bother to ask me to complete a survey.

Intuit is simply following in the footsteps of, Spotify, and all those other greedy corporations out there that have decided that gradually stripping away features to squeeze more money out of customers is a strong business ethic. It isn’t the first time they’ve done it, either. On May 15, 2011, Intuit sent a note to their customers informing them that QuickBooks Document Management will no longer be included in QuickBooks, starting with version 2011 (click the image for details). Why?

“A change in our accounting policies requires us to stop offering free services in any version of QuickBooks after 2011.” 

If these are the ethics that QuickBooks uses in treating their loyal paying customers, I am beginning to wonder about my own ethical policies. Why should I continue to give money to a corporation that is seemingly turning this practice into a business model?

In the meantime, I’ve found a work-around for the QuickBooks Email issue where I can send invoices using an external SMTP server. This feature wasn’t available in QuickBooks 2009 because it wasn’t needed when the email feature was free. Again, it’s in a hidden, convoluted location in the software.

If you find yourself in the same predicament and need assistance setting up the QuickBooks Webmail feature for Invoices and Statements, drop me a line. Or leave a comment if you’re irritated by Intuit’s practice or have an equally frustrating story to share.

Why Aren’t You Following Me on Pinterest?

Pin Me on Pinterest (You Have My Permission)
After noticing I only have a handful of followers on Pinterest, I recently updated my Facebook status with the question: why aren’t you following me on Pinterest? To which I received a rather snarky, but provocative reply from a friend: Because pinterest is for chicks dude.

And he’s 80% right, too. Pinterest’s user base is predominantly women. According to recent data from Google Ad Planner, as presented by Ignite Social Media, only 20% of their users are guys. Pinterest’s popularity among women in their late 20s and early 30s is illustrated (quite literally, ReadWriteWeb says) by the proliferation of images related to wedding planning and home decor.

But is Pinterest really for chicks, dude? Yes and no. Read more

Free, Online

As we all know too well, free doesn’t always mean free. How often have you clicked on a link in emails or from search results only to be brought to a page that informs you that you must enter a credit card or complete a series of obstacles in order to get access to the elusive free product? Television offers for games, such as McDonald’s Monopoly game, always boast the “no purchase necessary” option to play. Gevalia touts a free percolator while also subscribing you to a coffee-o-the-month club for outrageously overpriced java. And dozens of pop-up “Free iPad” sites require you to enlist friends, sign-up for credit cards or buy magazine subscriptions in order to qualify for free products that you probably will never see. In fact, most spam blockers specifically look for the word “free” in the subjects or bodies of emails to elevate the email’s spam ranking simply because they know that free, online, isn’t always free. Free, online, means “free trial,” “free if you enter a credit card,” “free if you complete these tasks,” and “free*“. Read more