Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shawn's Graduation Speech


Shawn’s Graduation Speech for the GSU
Global Partners MBA Class of 2008

The four things I learned from my MBA program.

1. I’ve developed a physical dependency on PowerPoint.
2. I learned a new language.
3. I learned that anything worth learning can be conveyed in a chart
4. I learned to take existing models, charts, concepts and ideas and apply them to new sets of data.

I have elected to not simply tell you about these new competencies, but also to demonstrate them to you during the course of this speech. Item number one, my adeptness at PowerPoint that has been carefully honed over the course of the program, is best illustrated by the creation of this presentation. Number two is that I have learned a new language. To enter the global partners program, it is a prerequisite to know another language besides English. We were told that this was so that we would be able to quickly adapt and understand in the cultures and countries that we visited as part of the program. But we were lied to.

The REAL reason is that our professors wanted to make sure we would be able to learn a brand new language: the language of business. As MBA students, we have learned a brand new language, complete with its own vocabulary. I apologize to those who are in attendance who have not yet learned this language, because I would like to deliver the next segment of my speech in b-school-ese.

“4Q and 1600 ICH ago,
We determined that the FV of our WACC
Could be improved by exchanging CA for FA
and leveraging our IP.

After a SWOT analysis of our OTB,
We chose an MBA with GSU in the program called GP.
In Oct. 07 in CS 600, the Cof’08 began.
We met P-Y and KDL. And also Robin M.

We learned Econ and Pol Strat, Comm Dip and Int Bus,
Bus Law and Bus Mark, and Cost and Info Sys
In our IT class we read how HDVD
Would go DOA thanks to PS3
And in P-Y’s Ops class at IAE
We learned to streamline Mfg using JIT

We saw RDJ and flew to CDG
We changed our USD into RMB
In PRC we toured the BOG,
Then grabbed some US food at MickeyD’s

After all that, we’re back at GSU
Here in ATL with 1 thing to do,
To cross the stage and receive our degrees
And add 3 new letters to our CVs.”

The third thing that I learned was that anything worth learning can, and SHOULD, be communicated quickly and easily with a graph or chart. I would like to demonstrate the truth of that too you with a few examples.
· A Pie Chart About Pie
· A SWOT Analysis of the SWAT
· The f(x) = excitement x effort
· The Brown Cloud and
· The Classic Marketing Matrix

The fourth thing that I learned was how to apply existing models and analysis to new data sets to reveal new patterns and models. I feel that this skill can be accurately demonstration by taking the comedic model of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck” and applying it to our own particular data set.

You might be a GPMBA…
1. If you’ve ever tried to calculate your student loan debt in Euros.
2. If you know the right way to pronounce “Strategy” and “Tactic”
3. If you’ve ever used the word “widget” to describe a theoretical product line.
Or if you’ve ever looked up the translation for “widget” in French or Portuguese.
4. If you’ve ever checked with a fellow student to know not only what class you have tomorrow, but what country it’s in.
5. If you’ve ever sat in a class taught in English and had to think “What language am I hearing?”
6. If you’ve ever lost 150 thousand dollars in a virtual margin call on the virtual stock market.
7. If you’ve ever accidentally started a nuclear war in Brazil or depleted the world’s oceans of their fish population.
8. If you’ve ever spent more than 8 hours in the DC airport. Twice.
9. If you’ve ever begun a question with the phrase “I was reading in the Wall Street Journal…”
10. If you’ve ever bragged that your new suit was made in China
Finally, If you’ve studied 20 subjects across 4 continents and traveled around the entire world in 432 days as part of your international business education…

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Professionally Homemade

I found this amazing video of a guy biking through the song Prisoner of Society on Guitar Hero World Tour. (If that made no sense to you, then you need to take 3 and a half minutes and watch this video.)


For more on the video, you can read this guy's comment. As many of the nearly 1 million viewers noted, this video is good… a little TOO Good. Many YouTubers were immediately suspicious. Well, I first learned about the ad from Creativity.com, who was praising the work of Droga5, the agency that created it. So, yes, it was created by professional Ad Men. No, it was not shot by a group of GHWT loving kids in Indiana with a lot of free time on their hands, as we were deliberately meant to believe… but is that dishonest?

Another example is the band Boyce Avenue. The story is cliché and inspiring-- three brothers in Florida start recording cover songs on YouTube, quickly gather 3 million views and 1 million fans, then start recording their own stuff and now they are releasing multiple platinum-selling albums and going on a national tour. I saw the video. These guys are good… a little TOO Good. You be the judge.


The inventor of Murketing, Rob Walker points out that today’s consumers assert they are not influenced by the messaging of “the Man’s” corporate broadcast media nor the silver-coated brand imaging of Mad. Ave’s Ad Wizards. But all our consumer data reports that we are buying MORE than ever before and our purchasing is (even more) based on Branding and Perceived Value.

So, in conclusion, today’s consumers want to buy, they just don’t want to be sold to.

What this leaves us is companies manufacturing “Homemade” advertising. Professional advertisers and marketers are now turning their talents to making messaging that looks like it came from amateurs. That it was made by your peers. I add my own word to the marketing lexicon-

Promateurs. noun. def. - The ad agency that made Bike Hero, the recording label that created Boyce Avenue, the makers of LonelyGirl15, and others. Antonym – Amfessionals. def. – The makers of the Doritos Super Bowl commercials.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What Brand Authenticity is Not

A magical lesson in Brand Authenticity was learned this week by Johnson & Johnson: You can't fake it. My takeaway from this weekend's Twitter-Fueled Motrin Massacre over the "We Feel Your Pain" Ad is that people know when you don't know anything about them. The ad is here. More on my thesis below.



My wife, an official "baby-wearing" mother and Assoc. Editor at Pregnancy & Newborn magazine, saw the ad and laughed. She thought it was not very sensitive and not very well presented, but she could appreciate what they were going for.

J&J is a huge company with decades of experience in marketing. They helped create the system of running campaigns in front of test audiences and focus groups, so what happened this time? As Seth Godin points out, they treated this ad different because it was viral. Companies look at ads differently for the web than they do for broadcast media. And they should, but they don't know why...

Another case-in-point, a company called Celebrity Smile is trying to use viral to attract potential customers to their website. They created a fake blog about a mother who Wants to Whiten her Teeth that is so coated with insincerity that it is an insult to the internet-using populace. Faking a blog to draw "word-of-mouth" traffic to your site is a fast way to destroy any trust that could have been engendered by the idea of a real blog. It's like copying off the dumb kid in class, you're cheating and you're still going to fail.





An example of a really bad answer on a test question. Funny, but wrong.

And, just for laughs, here is the (fictitious) List of Ideas that Motrin Ditched before Going with the Baby-Wearing Ad.
I'm cutting and pasting my favorite...



3. I’ve always been a staunch supporter of abstinence as a birth control method. Then, right after I decided to run for Vice-President, my 16-year old daughter told me she was pregnant. Motrin: We Feel Your Pain.

The trick with viral is you have to be SO in touch with your audience, you have to already have SO much "authenticity," that your customers hear your voice as their own voice. Your audience has to know that you get them, otherwise they will suspect that you are mocking them or worse, condescending and alienating them. A company with strong branding does NOT own its brand, instead it recognizes that its brand is the property of its customers.


Brands that have done this right: Nike Sports, Mac, Converse Shoes, Weezer, Target



Brands that have failed to do this: Hurley, Microsoft, New Coke, Southwest Airlines, and now, Motrin. Feel free to add your own examples...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

McMonopoly: "I'm Losin' It"

For those of you without your McCalendars handy, we are in Week 3 of the 2008 McDonald's Monopoly game. (If you don't know what this is about, you can educate yourself on the topic on your own time using the greatest reference known to man, wikipedia.org, then come back here and read the rest.)

For many of us Die-Hard monopoly fans (I use the 1st person plural, here) this is an exciting annual event where a classic American board game involving fake money and dumb luck is paired with the international icon of American sloth and gluttony. And big macs.

The biggest difference in McOpoly this year (that's mine, by the way, I just made it up but I am registering it as soon as I finish typing this) is that you can not only play it with the old-school paper tear-off "game pieces" tabby-things, you can also play online! Well, that and the grand prize is reduced from $5 million to a $1 million annuity paid out over 20 years, which, using the present value of an annuity formula:

PVoa = PMT [(1 - (1 / (1 + i)n)) / i]

We can determine to be, approximately, something much less than $1 million dollars. (Do your own math, I'm busy.)

All that being said, I am on my 24th consecutive day of eating only McDonald's food -but not just any food- you see, they've tied the tear-off paper pieces ONLY to what he wants you to buy, Big Mac, Large Fries, Large Coke, that kind of stuff. "He" being the clown, of course.

At any rate, I did a little searching to see why I haven't won yet, and I learned this bit of interesting knowledge: my odds of winning are actually “approximately 1 in 184,698,474,” To give that any sort of comparison, the oft-quoted odds of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 244,000. So, I am actually 75 and a half times MORE likely to get struck by lightning than to win the million dollar McOpoly® prize.

You see, the little paper bits are rigged. There's nothing random about it. They're all distributed "randomly" except for 1 piece of each set, the most famous being Boardwalk, of which there are 3. In the world. And don't fool yourself by thinking, Well, I can still win the online prize. That's rigged, too!

The same properties you can't win in "Real Life," namely the last property in each set listed alphabetically and Boardwalk, you can't win online. The code you put in on each paper bit to roll the virtual dice determines where you can land. The Clown has successfully taken all of the fun out of the fake money and dumb luck game that so many Americans have cherished.

In summary, with the 2008 McOpoly® Game, the only Real Winners are the people that did not realize the Game was happening, Collected no game pieces, did not pass Go, and did not endure the ultimate price of contest entry- 1 month of eating reheated burgers and greasy fries.
--Shawn Butler

Oh, and the attribution for the awesome McSticker above is that superhero of the blogosphere, Steve Sneeds. The equally awesome McJoker image is from a post on HALOLZ.com.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Heroes Season 3 = Season 1 Repeated


Ummm...
I kept thinking 1 thing as I watched the 2nd Episode of Season 3...
Have the writers already run out of ideas for powers?
I mean, we've got another guy that shoots fire, another guy that can miraculously heal, and another guy that can paint the future.
And About Monica's power... please see this article--> wwv.heroes.com/most-ridiculous-hero-power-ever-are-we-idiots?
I'm not alone in this sentiment.
A Heroes Authority, SmellyPirateHooker, said,
"Who is saying that the painter is just a rehash of season 1? This entire show is just a rehash of season 1. Someone time travels, sees a bleak future, and comes back to stop it and a painter makes absolute visions of the future that take all the suspense out of things. It's this show's MO."
I mean, come on, Tim Kring. You're what, 25 episodes into the series, and you're re-using powers like crazy?! To support this statement, I was forced to research and open up excel sheets. You jerks better appreciate this. Below, I present my findings...

Heroes Super-Power Repeats:
(Source: Wikipedia.org. Of course.)
Painting the Future: ·Isaac Mendez ·Usutu the African guy
Super Memory Skills:
·Charlie (who works at a Diner) ·Monica (who works at a Diner)
Pyrokinesis (Making Fire):
·Meredith (Claire's Mom) ·Flint (the Convict guy from Lvl 5)
(To distinguish these two, his is blue while hers is fire-colored)
Cellular Regeneration (Super Healing): ·Claire Bennet ·Adam Monroe
Telepathy: ·Matt Parkman ·And his Dad
Flying: ·Nathan Petrelli ·Claire's boyfriend, West
Collecting Other People's Powers: ·Peter Petrelli ·Sylar

And Now Let's Just be REALLY Honest...
Re-hashed Repeats of Already-Used Superhero Powers:
·The German Magnetic Guy = Magneto
·Claire and Kensei = Wolverine
·Parkman and his dad = Professor X
·Jesse the Convict = Banshee
·Claire's Mom = Human Torch
·Daphne = A female Flash
·Tracy Strauss = girl version of Ice Man
·Nathan Petrelli, West Rosen, & Niki Sanders = Are All Really Just Trying to Be Superman

Which reminds me of my un-published Season 2 take-away...
The only difference between Heroes in the Present and the Heroes in the Future = Hair Gel.

Hey Tim Kring, I got a great suggestion for your next Super Hero Power... How about when Mohinder gets angry, I mean REALLY angry, he grows larger, rips out of his shirt and gets super-strength! And he turns Green. --Shawn Butler

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shawn's Bail-Out Plan

Everybody's getting in on it! Bernanke has a plan. Paulson has a plan. McCain has a plan. Obama is working on a plan. Bush... well, I just hope Bush is working on anything. Ryan Peeler has a brilliant plan that will both inject the economy with cash and determine the next president.

Even those Libertarian Madison Avenue-types are getting onboard the Bail-Out planning bus, albeit for different reasons:
But don't worry, even ACTUAL recession won't reduce the Ad Industry's precious consumer spending, let alone RUMORS of recession.

Remember that spike 9 days ago when your mutual fund bounced back and things didn't look so bad? What the NYTimes reported as "the stock market soar[ing] last week on rumors that there would be a bailout." RUMORS, people. Stay with me, here.

And this morning, Goldman shares jumped back towards their pre-Lehman Brothers price just on rumors of Warren Buffet's $5 billion or $10 billion dollar investment. Again, RUMORS.

So JEC Chairman Chuck Schumer (Sen. D-NY) says "Americans are furious" about the price tag on the current plan for bail-out. The people are getting angry--furious--but absolutely nothing has been done, yet. So far it's just talk. Just RUMORS that things are going bad, RUMORS that things are going to get worse.

So, if the largest obstacle to approving the bail-out is the price tag and the strongest force on the US economy today is the rumor mill, I propose a 100% Free Plan to bolster the economy, save the struggling markets and stimulate America's move back to a happy, ignorant, credit-based, stable financial economy.

We need to start the rumor that everything is going great. I recommend it start with a speech from the White House-- George Bush puts one arm around McCain and another around Obama and he tells the cameras that "They'd miscalculated. Bernanke did his math wrong. Everything's good. Going great."

Then we shoot this via satellites and internet, and of course, YouTube, over to Europe and Asia and they hear that the US economy is fine, that the "crisis" was just a "bank error," and it renews the confidence of global financial markets who are quick to swoop up the deals of the weakened dollar, buying more Converse shoes and Michelin tires.

Finally, I suggest we get some people on megaphones to stand around on Wall Street and read government reports on how much more ethanol fuel we produced, how many more pairs of boots, and how much higher our standard of living is compared to years past. We could put a few Squeelers right on the steps of the Capitol building. Just to remind everybody that times are good and that you're not really in as much debt as you think you are.

Either that, or admit that the threat of recession and the entire subprime mortgage crisis was a trick to get Sen. McCain out of Friday night's debate with Sen. Obama.

But more importantly: The Browns are gonna go with Anderson again this week. Anderson! Let's just say we're a country that loves a losing streak.

Bernanke Warns of Sinking US Economy

Meanwhile, the world of South American consumer goods is rocking out!



If your day was going at all bad, this will cheer you up.
The song Microdancing by Babasónicos of Argentina.
Happy and Awesome.
The Spanish Lyrics and their Translation (by Shawn)
Si te llevo de favor
If I like you and we go out
me prometes que esta vez
do you promise me that this time
no vas a arruinar la fiesta?
you are not going to ruin the celebration?
Apretados Tightened (or Tense)
Microdancing
No esperes nada de mí
Don't expect anything from me.
No esperes nada de mí
Apretados Microdancing
Si de onda te acompaño
If it happens that I acompany you
a salir esta vez
to go out this time
no me vas a dar vergüenza?
you are not going to make me embarassed?
Haciendo lo que más me gusta.
I'm doing what I like most.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Globalization's Patent Medicine

Translation Services are today’s Snake Oil and Magic Dust. I have just completed an over 15-hour translation project turning this company's over 75 product descriptions from English into the material for a Spanish/Latin America Catalog. About half of that time was spent with a Native-speaker who is also an industry-insider. At the completion of our translation, I still feel like there may be some confusing descriptions, but at least I've straightened out my terms for "pan" and "tray." You see, the trick in translating Industry-Specific terms, is that even when you have an exactly-right literal translation, it can still be utter nonsense to your expert readers.



So, a Translation Service offers translation into German and is doing the same translation that I just completed, but has no industry experience. She says she has access to an engineer that she uses as a resource to improve the accuracy of her translating. She states that it took 7 hours for the first 2 pages of the document (out of 8 total) and claims it will take 40 to 50 hours to complete the translation. There is no reason given for this time estimate. We pay by the hour.

We have no way of checking that the translation she has provided so far is correct or of verifying that it has taken her as long as she claims. Essentially, our options are:
1) to allow her as much time as she estimates and pay her as much as she requests,
2) to bargain and negotiate based solely on my experience that the Spanish took 1/5 the time she is estimating (and still no guarantee that she is providing usable translation),
3) to find another source that is somehow verifiable and perhaps works faster/cheaper.

She has us at her mercy. Basically, we are going to take whatever she gives us, and we are going to pay her whatever she asks. It's Doc Terminus' Magic Dragon Elixir. The only way to test it is to try it. And if we get back pages full of German words, we have to go ahead and pay her. If only we had someone that knew our industry and was fluent in German?

In October we are going to begin sales into France. We don't speak that language either...

Friday, July 25, 2008

How to Get a Job

Unemployment is currently at a 4 year high in the US. As one of the 8.8 million Americans looking for jobs, I offer tried-and-true advice for job searching.

First, don’t get discouraged. People have been finding employment for 6,000 years. The key is to keep believing in yourself so that other people will feel that they have a reason to believe in you; other people like: your family, your friends, and your network of potential referrals, in addition to your future company. Also, remember that sometimes, the option is not to find another “job,” but to find a new source of generating income.

Facts:
40% of positions are created. Decision makers meet you and want your skills because they are convinced that hiring you will help them make money.
90% of management positions come through networking. How do you create a network? Use the tools that are available. It is embarrassing, but let people around you know that you are looking for a new job. Use friends, family, church, and social connections, and also the internet.

Networking:
Everybody uses this word and we keep saying that you should build one. What nobody tells you is that you should TARGET your networks. Making good friends with just ANYBODY has a much lower chance of revealing a quality connection. Instead, create a network that focuses on your industry or on the specific companies you want to work for: talk to people that know those companies or join groups specific to your industry.

Questions:
All of that requires answering some fundamental questions that will focus your search:
-Are you employed? If not, what have you liked most about your past positions? If you are employed, why are you seeking a new position?
-What type and level of position are you seeking, and with what compensation?
-How are you valuable to a company that is trying to fill that position? And How can you make yourself more valuable in that position?
-What people do you know that could teach you more or help you get to this position?
-What are you willing to do to make this happen?

Timing:
How Long Will it Take? The answer is "NOT FOREVER." I mean, nobody has ever searched for a job for forever. It really depends on how hard you work and how much time you are investing. Job seeking firms recommend 20 to 40 minutes a day. I would double that and then qualify it: You should spend 20 to 40 minutes two times a day, once in the early morning when you’re clearest and then again at lunch hour or at business close. So, 80 minutes spread across the day of focused time should be dedicated to your job search. But here is the qualifier:
“focused” time means you’re writing letters to an individual
or you’re on the phone making calls!
That is the business of “Getting a Job.”
The rest of your activities, such as researching companies and finding names and addresses to send your letters to, are done with your personal time. Think of it this way, if you had a job, you would spend 40 or more hours doing that job. But on the job, you still are expected to put in time at meetings, fill out forms, file paperwork, etc. The point is, perhaps only about ¼ of your work day is spent “adding to the bottom line.” The other 6 hours are preparing you to really shine when you get down to business. Proportion your job search in a similar way. --Shawn Butler

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Job Search: Lessons from Booksellers

What You Can Learn about Job Searching from the Publishing Industry

When you are job searching, it's easy to get caught up in the process and overlook the big picture. So, let’s look at the way YOU will look to your future empoyer by examining the old adage

YOU CAN'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.
“The bookstore browser averages less than eight seconds looking at the front cover and fifteen seconds reading the back cover. You must hook them immediately and keep them reading the back cover or they will put the book back on the shelf.” [1]

The 5th “P” of marketing is “Packaging.” How’s your Appearance? In our society where book covers are the #1 indicator of book sales, you cannot overlook the importance of your own packaging. A career change is the perfect reason to go out and spend some money on a nice haircut and updated professional clothes. Get a good night’s sleep. Use your free time to exercise and eat well. Just because you're Job Searching is no reason to LOOK unemployed! If you feel good about your appearance, then others will see that you have poise, confidence, and value.

“Book publishers spend more than $50 billion on product packaging design. $50 billion, not for the products or even for the wrappers, but $50 billion just for the design of the wrapper.”[1]

What is your wrapper? Or what is the first thing that an employer will see about you that will formulate his decision to Buy or Keep Browsing. A key part of your wrapper is your Resume. Update it with all new things. Don’t just add your most recent position; update your skills, recognitions, awards and accomplishments. Add any new groups you’ve joined. No new groups to add? Quick, go out and join a group. I mean, you’ve got some free time right now, huh? Then, add it to your resume. Also, breeze back over the years of experience you’ve had and do some re-write to touch up those tired histories through the lens of your greater life experience. Add or update your value statement and 2 key accomplishments right up at the top under your name and contact info, like the headline of a newspaper:
Extra! Extra!
Here’s why you should read about this guy.
Remember, this is your leave behind, so in most cases, may be the last thing a potential employer sees. Make sure it gets them excited about what you can do for them.

With your packaging covered, it’s time to get started. Create your list of contacts and your list of companies you’re interested in. These are organic lists, which means they WILL keep changing! Each contact has a network that they can lead you to, the goal is to get the names of decision makers, their titles and their business addresses. Then you’re going to write them a letter. Not an email. Write them a letter.

The letter should say:
I’m this guy, I know this person that you also know. I am interested in your company because … (“It is the top performer in the industry”, “It fits my values and interests,” stuff like that. Just communicate that you know the company.) You’d be interested to know that in my past, I have done these things and would like to help your company do these things. Please feel free to reach me by phone or email at your convenience. Or, I will call your office on this day.

Really, write that stuff? Yes. Employers get upwards of 125 emails a day. They read about 20%. They also return about 20% of phone calls. The question you are answering for them is this:


“How Determined are You to Get This Job?”
Ready for the key secret to this process? Make the Call! Writing the letter already set you apart from every other person that just hit “Apply” on monster.com. Now, when you said you would call about 4 days after you send the letter, you MUST pick up the phone and make the call. Call early in the morning (Before 8:30 or 9:30). Call again at lunch time. Call again after work hours. This way you have a better chance of getting someone who is not the professional Gatekeeper. Or perhaps even getting the person you’re looking for! Be prepared to leave a professional message.

“Hi, I’m this guy. I sent you a letter regarding my interest in coming to work for your company. I think you would be excited to hear how I could help (company’s name).”

If you get the gatekeeper, you can simply say: “I’m calling for whoever.” And when they ask what it is regarding, you can say: “I am following up on a correspondence he and I had last week.” Or even, on a good day, “He’s expecting my call.” Sales people use this technique all the time. Warning: don’t make the Gatekeeper think you’re a salesperson!

So When Do I Use Email?
Emailing your resume is your closing tool. It is your leave behind. You did not include it in your first letter, therefore, it is important that after you have talked on the phone to the person and they have requested your resume, that you get their email address. Ask them if they would like you to include references, and then tell them that you will email it to them. And then of course, you follow through with that . --Shawn Butler
[1] http://www.parapublishing.com/files/articles/ArticleAB-202CoversSellBooks.pdf

Friday, July 11, 2008

Balloons, Popcorn, and Snow Cones

A Little about Cost Markups: What do Balloons, Movie Theater Popcorn, Snow Cones and Starbucks Coffee have in common? They, along with Cotton Candy and Fountain Drinks are on the list of

the Consumer Products with the Highest Markups

But what is a “Markup?” and "What does this mean to us?" Markup, or Margin, is a marketing term for the price that a business puts on a product above what it costs to produce and deliver the good, usually determined as a percentage. In other words: the part that is straight profit.

Certainly there are more expensive items than coffee, cotton candy and popcorn --like porsches, condominiums and golf resorts-- so what makes these items special? What kind of a markup would cause such a big deal?

How about this: No matter what a company sells, their price is a combination of two numbers: the cost of making and transporting the good they are selling (COGS) and the margin of profit (Markup).

COGS + Markup = Price

COGS is a set cost determined by the various expenses, fixed—such as overhead and insurance, and variable—such as raw materials and employee wages, that go into producing the product. Companies can do very little to affect this aspect of price, or at least that’s how I see it from the marketing side of the fence. The second part of price, however, the markup, can be shifted easily—this has no basis other than the price your customer is willing to bear.

For most consumer products, the average markup ("Retail") is about 30%. For commodities --sugar, soap, pillowcases-- markup is closer to 10%. But for "Premium" products --retail items aimed at the very rich, or the very demading (this is where we talked about Porsches, but also includes watches, Italian shoes, and vodka)-- markups often approach 200% of Cost. And then "Ultra Premium" --products called by names like Mikimoto, Piaget, and Alfa Romeo-- enjoy 400 and 500% markups. People gladly paying $750,000 for a car that costs around $20,000 to produce. For more on this, here is a great link.

But these don't touch the 99.9% profit margins of the products mentioned above-- the less than 1/50 of a cent that it costs to produce the .5 grams of a latex balloon that is filled with a burst of helium valued at 1/80 of a penny and sold for $3.00 at fairs and circuses across the US. This equates to a 1000% markup above COGS. Similar equations can be run for cotton candy, snow cones, your super-value bucket at the movie theater and your double iced caramel machiatto.

Imagine paying a 1000% markup on your car or your next burrito. That would be a $20,000,000 Altima or an $850 dollar Carne Asada bowl.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Building Up for Beijing

Shawn Butler waving in front of a hazy perma-fog enshrouded Bird's Nest at the site of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
China is experiencing a quick build-up of population, infrastructure, and business investment visible up and down the eastern coast. This growth is fueled by the impending 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The awarding of the Games to Beijing on July 13, 2001 was seen by the Chinese as a sign from the world community that China has arrived. Peter Frank, the Olympics program director for UPS, defined the Chinese feeling for these Games by saying, “The Beijing Olympics are really the China Olympics. Winning the bid really vindicated China as a world power. The people here really look at the Games as a Coming Out Party.”

The idea of the Beijing Olympics as a “Coming Out Party” for China is echoed by many organizations across major industries in the country. Susan Davis of CARE, on loan to the Coca-Cola Company in Beijing for the duration of the Games, said “It’s a Coming Out Party—a chance for China’s big appearance on the world stage.” China has invested billions into the building up of facilities and infrastructure to support the Olympics and the forecasted eight million guests and visitors that will hit China’s major cities, airports, and traffic patterns during the summer of 2008.

China’s growth has transformed the once conservative nation “from Miser to Glutton.” China is now the worldwide top consumer of Coal, Water, Steel, Soybeans and Crude Oil. The nation is also facing head-on the very real effects of a shortage of clean air and water, as well as deforestation and desertification of land reserves. Respiratory and heart diseases related to air pollution are the leading cause of death in China. These horrifying statistics reveal the effects of rampant and unregulated growth without regard for the environment.

Coca-Cola & CARE
This issue has particularly come into focus as the eyes of the world settle on China for the 2008 Games. CARE’s Susan Davis states that these Games have already been subtitled “The Green Olympics,” with incredible focus being placed on sustainable or renewable resource usage, recycling of materials, and environmentally friendly practices. Davis says that CARE’s work with the Coca-Cola Company has aimed at “water, packaging, and climate.” All three are hot topics for the green-friendly movement that is late in coming to the Chinese people. Davis enumerated Coke’s goals at the Games “to give back all the drops of water they use, to take back all the bottles they make, and to grow the business, not the carbon.” The final goal relating to being “carbon neutral” refers to the act of off-setting carbon emissions created during the manufacturing and distribution of a product. Coke’s lead on the issue of improving environmental practices and being green-friendly could make great inroads for the Chinese people as they have a chance to see these ideals put into practice for the Olympic Games. But strong, grassroots governmental intervention and public education will still be required in order to create real change. The current environmental issues stem as much from the Chinese culture of indifference to nature as from the lack of environmental protection laws. --Shawn Butler

Friday, May 16, 2008

Room to Grow

I am going to share with you today’s observation of China. Close your eyes and envision a map of the United States. Okay, now open your eyes and keep reading… You’re going to point on that map to these locations as I list them: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose. These are the Top 10 U.S. Cities by Population and Rank. You may have noticed your finger stopped in about every major region of the country and crossed the continent at least 3 times. Further down that list you’d touch Detroit, Memphis, Jacksonville and Seattle at 23.

Now, the Top 10 Cities in China are Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guanzhou, Tianjin, Nanjing, Dalian, Hangzhou, Shenyang and Harbin. If you were to do the same mental map-pointing with this country, you’d find your finger never strayed from the east coast. In fact, you’d find that most of these cities, 8 out of 10, cluster like shotgun fire to within 2 hours of each other.


China is a huge country, roughly the same area as the United States, but with more than four times the population. Across such a broad expanse of people and geography, one expects the country to have developed several distinct and unique cities and cultures. In the US, for example, we have Northerners and Southerners, we have City People and Country People, but we also have Suburbanites, Rednecks, New Englanders, Westerners, Mid-Westerners, Snow Birds, Beach Bums, Grunge Rockers, Cowboys, and Californians. There are lots of different lifestyles with different cultures and values, but these groups are dispersed across the length and breadth of the country. From what I can tell, China does not work this way.

In China, the businesses, industries, infrastructure, government, and foreign political influence—not to mention the wealth and leading founts of culture—are all located on a stretch of the country’s east coast spanning from Beijing down to Shanghai, the rough equivalent of the state of California. Meanwhile, the western portion of the country, perhaps 90% of the land area, is occupied by about 60% of the population and responsible for less than 25% of the GDP.

So, why does this strong disparity between East and West exist in China? Similar to that of the industrial North and agrarian South in the antebellum US, the cause is the drastically different cost of doing business in the regions. “The government is doing things to move China west,” said Randy Creel, a logistics expert at a major MNC in China. “The hesitation is the lack of infrastructure and its effect on logistics costs.” Effects on logistics costs that work out to about 200% more investment per mile for companies to run their businesses in Western China. China is on a self-perpetuating cycle of eastern growth and western lag that will require more than government incentives to Western businesses and FDI spenders. It may require an all-out reallocation of infrastructure build-up that the country has never before undertaken. At least not until the 2008 Beijing Olympics. --Shawn Butler

Alibaba’s Forty-four Hundred

We arrived at the world headquarters of Alibaba.com in Hangzhou to a fanfare of music--music that could have come from the soundtrack to the original Super Mario Bros. Across the less than 1,000 sq. foot office floor, the 115 employees stood inside their 4x4 ft. cubicles and stretched their arms in the air. Then, in unison, the entire mass of twenty-somethings began doing jumping jacks. They continued their group exercises while our group of MBA students was escorted past the cube-clusters into a large meeting room.

The calisthenics are but a small, visible piece of the unique corporate culture of Alibaba Group, an English language web-based business-to-business eCommerce and eAuction service specializing in connecting international buyers and small- to medium-sized Chinese sellers. Our guide quickly made us aware that the company knew it was unique. “For most companies,” he said, “employee culture is like a cliché or a joke.” Well, it is not that way for the employees here. “Everybody is happy,” he continued. “It is our environment.”

We were then given a rough translation of a company joke that concerned a stubborn donkey in a mill that refused to work for his master. The master enticed the donkey to do his work at the mill by threatening to send him to work for Alibaba.com. “Here we all work like donkeys!” he announced as the punch line. Indeed, the word “work” actually appears in 2 of the 6 points of their printed company motto. So, are hard work and teamwork the strong points that make Alibaba such a successful company? Or is there more to this unique start-up’s corporate culture?

The lobby of HQ is decorated in orange scarves and bright orange hanging plastic fruit. And one other ubiquitous decoration—photos of company founder, Jack Ma. Ma is the poster-child of the New Chinese, the modern entrepreneurial self-made success story that this newly-capitalistic nation adores. And he is on posters. Giant reprints of the man’s photo adorn 2 out of every 4 walls in the building and line the staircase up to the top floor. In ’88, Ma was an English teacher fresh out of college. 11 years later, after a visit to Seattle and a crash course in computers, Ma was founding his own eBay-esque business. Then, 8 years later, he took his company public on the HKSE to raise $3 billion USD and become the IPO with the greatest increment in stock price at first trading in 2007.

Jack Ma’s influence is everywhere and his success is a model to the employees of his company. “He has us call him Kwai Chang, from the TV series Kung Fu,” our guide told us. During our tour, every action and idle quip of the 43-year-old founder was revered as holy writ, and even offered as justification for the “spirit” that prevailed there at the company. When asked what he thought Alibaba would do to maintain its growth and close the gap on rival companies Google and Baidu, our guide’s response, stars nearly visible in his eyes: “I can’t answer that. I’m not Jack Ma.” --Shawn Butler


Alibaba.com's oddly unrecognized logo, and CEO/Founder Jack Ma

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My First Day in China

Well, it is a beautiful morning here in Shanghai and crowds of nearly-identical brown-haired and beige-skinned people pass below my second-story window of the Charms Hotel in cars, bikes and mopeds. Just as our professor told us, there is English—-or attempts at English-—written all over the place, but there are still plenty of unintelligible signs that feature characters made up of dashes, lines and boxes with no translation at all. This is definitely the most "foreign" of any country I have visited.

There are twenty-two of us including my program director and international business professor. We travel on a chartered bus and remain fairly sheltered from the realities of this, the most populated city in the most over-populated country in the world. We arrived after an 11 hour flight from Paris, on Sunday morning and cleared customs around noon. The time change was six hours from France, but a more convenient 12 hours from EST. Monday morning, at our first company visit with US Commercial Services of our own Nat'l State Dept., our guest speaker told us that Shanghai's population of 20 million people was like fitting the population of Texas into the state of Delaware. He said that this is a problem that many non-Chinese companies have when they come here, that all they see is a bubble of untapped population or an open market of 1.3 billion potential consumers. They don't see the reality that over 3/4s of this giant population is living on around $1 a day. The savage need for survival overshadows the wants for the people of most of this subcontinent.

On that note, we enjoyed a quick lunch at McDonald's; Big Mac, fries, and Sprite for under $2.00, thanks to the PRC's valuation control of the RMB, keeping the Chinese currency's exchange rate artificially low. And MickeyD's proves its core-competency of reproducing consistent "quality" in every venue worldwide. I can attest that the sandwiches served up in cardboard boxes are just as bad in China as they are anywhere in the States.

Yesterday afternoon's schedule took us to a field trip of Shanghai Krupp Stainless Steel, a Joint-Venure of ThyssenKrupp and the Chinese government that manufactures flat-rolled stainless steel for all sorts of stuff, knives, pots, car exhaust systems... Their British GM gave us an overview of how the German company was sorting out issues with Chinese government regulations and the oddly over-priced yet inexpensive Chinese labor. They are some of the lowest paid nationals in the developed world, but they work a full week and require 3 times pay for overtime and holidays. It's definitely an interesting system.

It was during our tour of the pounding and thrumming steel presses on the factory floor at about 3:30pm local time that the earthquake hit. And being less than 100 miles away from the epicenter of a 7.8-measured earthquake, it is lame to report that we didn't feel a thing. The news told us that "Skyscrapers swayed in Shanghai," and there are skyscrapers a-plenty in this city, but we were not in one at the time of the quake. So, sorry, not much to report there. The tour did get exciting when they used an overhead crane to haul a two ton roll of steel past us to load it on the press. I thought, "Hmmm, Jeff might have really enjoyed this little tour." My friend in the program, Jaime LaTorre, a GT engineering grad., said he thought it was a great factory tour. I admit I was rather bored.

Last night, we went to dinner at another Chinese food place that served us stir-fried vegetables, pork and rice that tasted like anything I could have ordered up from any mall-chinese restaurant in the US, but I did drink a delicious lemon-watermelon juice with it. So how's that for exotic Far Eastern cuisine? I’ll have to push my little horizons a bit further for meals tomorrow. --Shawn Butler



The Pearl Tower in Pudong District and Shawn Butler at People's Square

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Small World

This is a quick interim blog just to keep up a with the world from here in Paris. My daughter and I celebrated our birthdays last month in our own pseudo-European style, inviting about 15 people over for a party and birthday crêpes.

asmallworld.netshawn butler


After 5 weeks in France, I've decided that I'm pretty much exactly the kind of person that should be doing the Euro scene. To prove that I am now a jet-setting elitist, I am joining the exclusive group at aSmallWorld dot net, where I will be rubbing "virtual elbows" with supermodels and James Blunt. See you when you get there... shawnpbutler@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The World is Still Round…

In spite of Thomas L. Friedman’s best efforts to claim otherwise in his newly revised The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Release 3.0. Just as in his previous books, Friedman showcases his journalistic forte for information gathering, analysis, and insight-laden extrapolation. He supports well his own previous arguments for free trade, market specialization, and classical economic theories regarding absolute and comparative advantage. (Smith, Ricardo, ... Reich)

I’ll pause here to acknowledge that I, too, am a strong proponent of globalization. I have seen first-hand the dissolution of geographic and political barriers to trade and the ensuing benefits to the local economy. I find no fault in Friedman’s historical observations, including his 3 eras of globalization, his 10 flatteners, and even his recommendations for new hybrid fields of study he calls “Mash-Ups.” These ideas are spot-on in our global economy of increasing convergence.

But why all the doom and gloom, Mr. Friedman? Instead of telling your readers how the new “flattened” world will make lives better—spurring the economy of our New America into a greater leadership role as the birthplace of ideas and a nation of entrepreneurs—he focuses on the bad. Friedman follows the M.O. of Lou Dobbs, crying wolf over foreign theft of US jobs and a general disappearance of the American middle-class. Rather than pointing to the strengths of our human capital as inventors, creators, and brand builders, he tells readers that the American sky is falling in competition with Indian and Chinese ITs and engineers.

Friedman leans toward the dramatic, but what do you expect from an Opinion Columnist? He opens with this quote from an Indian software CEO: “The global playing field is being leveled… and the US is not ready.” This is followed by other sensational statements of hyperbole. “Today, people in China and India are starving… for your job!” he warns his children. But then, you are given to flights of the inflammatory if you are to make your living as an op-ed writer. The Title The World is Friendlier to International Business because of Improvements in Technology and Transportation doesn’t sell books.
--Shawn Butler

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

U.S. Also Exports Dreams

The American Dream is no longer exclusive to America. During the past 20 years, 1.3 billion Chinese have also dared to dream as indulgently, as hedonistically, and as short-sightedly as our culture does. Long admirers of the reckless and materialistic American lifestyle portrayed in our Hollywood film exports, the rising core of the Chinese population is becoming free to pursue the American dream of self-indulgence and instant gratification of all their wants.

“Chinese dream of buying a car, a house, a first-class education for their children, and a range of consumer goods conferring status and convenience, just as they do to middle-class families in Europe and America. As disposable incomes rise, people are eating more protein and using more electricity to run their computers, televisions, and household appliances,” writes James Kynge in his book China Shakes the World (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). We are seeing China undergo in a very short period of time the changes that the U.S. and other developed countries underwent over the course of three centuries. China is being forced through this period of turbulence at an incredible pace because of the social, economic, and political pressures within and surrounding the country. The velocity of the change, rather than the change itself, is the root of the many ills currently plaguing the budding progress of China.

The rate of change in China has not allowed the nation to develop a mature social conscience and moral law. Chinese history is steeped in great thinkers, wise men and profound philosophical insight. This makes it all the more appalling that they have degenerated into a nation without a moral compass. The 1960’s rise of communism imposed atheism that undermined the current generation’s ethical foundation. Kynge states that “[t]he ideological vacuum that replaced communism undermines [trust]. The daily diet of propaganda disorients it. The venality of officials devalues it. The ascendance of a value system dominated by money hollows it out. What is left is a society in which describing someone as honest can just as easily be a gentle criticism as a compliment.”

Without a strong national moral compass, the country is rampant with instances of fraud, deceit and counterfeit. In many instances, these are only for the gain of wealth, but often the cost of the deception is human lives. We read from Kynge that “every time a Hollywood blockbuster was cut, it would appear on DVD in China before it had been released in the same format in America… A sixth volume in the series of Harry Potter novels appeared in China months before J.K. Rowling had written it… Kettles blow up, electrical transformers short-circuit, medicines have no effect, brake pads fail, alcoholic beverages poison those who drink them, and the use of inferior milk powder has caused several babies to starve to death.”

From our Western-centric point of view, it is simple to feel aloof from the morally remiss situations we read about in the East. However, we need to recognize that Americans are one of the leading forces causing the rapid changes to the Chinese nation. Kynge reports that “it is the advertising, marketing, and sales executives in Europe and the United States, as well as the shareholders of the brand-owning company, that take the lion’s share of the value from the product that the migrant workers create.” When we comment that the changes in China are happening too fast for the country to reasonably adapt, we cannot ignore the powerful influence that the demands and the unintentional export of the US culture have had on their current situation.

So it should be no surprise that the ambitions and appetites of its people are also following suit. China is adopting the same American dream of self-improvement, comfort and wealth that has been the calling card of immigrants to our country for so long. However, “in spite of the resemblance China bears to America in an earlier stage of its development, the chances that the Chinese will one day be able to consume at the same rate as Americans do today are close to zero. It is not that they will choose to be more frugal. It is simply that the world does not have the resources to cater to 1.3 billion Chinese behaving like Americans.” It should be added that the world in its current environmental situation does not have the resources for the 300 million Americans to continue behaving like Americans either. --Shawn Butler

Monday, February 4, 2008

Brazilians are like Chinese


Shawn and family stand in the shadow of the 130 foot O Cristo Redentor statue on Corcovado mountain.


Today we leave Rio to return to the United States. I'd like to conclude my four part series of Observations of the Brazilian People and Culture with this final conclusion: The Brazilian people are like the Chinese.


This may sound surprising, or even blaringly incorrect as it follows the other observations I have made, but they are like the Chinese insomuch as their culture exhibits the behaviors of a highly collectivist society. Brazil has one of the highest international rankings for Long Term Time Orientation, scoring 6th out of the 23 countries tested. Compare this to the number 15 rank of the United States' culture of independent living and short-term thinking. Interestingly, Brazil is the first of the non-asian countries to appear on the list.


Having a long term time orientation means that Brazilians value things like persistence, relationship orders determined by status, thriftiness, and having a sense of shame. These contrast starkly with the time-constrained structures of Americans. During my time here, I recognize that Brazilian collectivism and time perspective, although similar in their symptoms, differ greatly in their motivation from that of Asian collectivism.


Whereas Asian cultures seem to pursue collectivist behaviors in order to not stand out, to not draw attention to themselves or to engender unwanted notice, Brazilians observe collectivist behavior in search of a sense of unity. If one Brazilian is uniting with fellow Brazilians, it is not to escape notice or blend together. It is the stemming forth of a shared sense of brotherhood and patrimonio, the recognizing of a kindred spirit, and it is not quiet or subdued. Brazil's version of collectivist behavior is chanting at a fútbol game, loudly sharing a few drinks, or dancing samba with a very large group of friends.


In many regards, Brazil is exactly what others told me to expect. Brazil is the country described by paradoxes in many of the tour guidebooks. It is busy without seeming fast-paced. There is everything to do here, and plenty of nothing to do here. The beaches are covered with people, and the people are not covered with anything. The locals love the tourism and tolerate the tourists. But in so many more ways, the people, culture, and experience of Brazil defied or redefined the expectations that I had arrived with last month when I stepped off the plane at Galeão International Airport. I am thankful to the thousands of people that I have met here, that have offered me help, told me hello, or pinched my baby girl's thighs. I am thankful that they let me share a few moments of their time and see them as they experience life, their own daily lives, without any effort to be more like the Brazil defined by Frommer's Guidebook. --Shawn Butler

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Little About Brazilians

Shawn and Charlotte experience Futbol the Brazilian way at Maracanã Stadium

First of all, the country of Brazil is about the same size as the continental U.S. They are the largest country in South America and walk a fine line of being very typical of and also very distinct from the rest of the continent. They have the Latin American sense of time and relaxed schedules, being Polychronic in their sense of time stresses involvement with people and completion of transactions rather than adherence to a preset schedule. For the people of this continent, the future is not firm and therefore cannot be planned. Appointments can be broken and plans may be changed right up to their execution. They are interested in nature and clapping at the sunset. These are commonalities they share with other Latin American countries. At the same time, they seem intent on remaining unique and apart from the Spanish-speaking world. Brazilians are very proud of their country and find unity in their common patriotism.


A man we encountered in Jardím Botánico, Manoel Amorím, who spent 10 years in the U.S. where he attended Harvard Business School and then became Country Manager for Proctor & Gamble Venezuela, and is the current CEO of Ponte Frio, told us that Brazil was too big and Brazilians were too diverse to try and label them all. He said that there are 3 things all Brazilians everywhere have in common.



Number one was soccer. “If there is a World Cup or National Team game playing,” he promised us, “You can go to the busiest street in town and lay down in the road without any fear.” Unfortunately, club teams are just beginning their regular playing seasons right now, so we will be unable to test his assertion during our stay in Rio.


Number two was national pride. He said that all Brazilians agree that they are part of a great country with an exciting culture. Just don’t force them to define which culture that is.



Number three was not given to me by sr. Amorím during our discussion, but I have used my intuition to deduce what it could be: Brazilians love babies.


At the end of my first week in Rio de Janeiro, my wife and our 8-month-old baby girl flew down and to join me for the rest of our residency. During my first week here, I had only limited interactions with the local residents. By “limited” I mean they spoke to me when they were spoken to. The Brazilian people never initiated conversation with me and seemed content to let me wander their country in my own Gringo universe.




This all changed when I was carrying my chubby-thighed, blonde-haired and blue-eyed little girl. People came from half a block away sometimes, children dropped what they were doing, old women crossed the street, and parents of other babies were drawn to us as if by a magnet. We had no lack of attention when we had our baby with us. On more than a few occasions, as I waited to cross the street, I found the person next to me holding onto the hand of or squeezing the little thighs of my daughter while she hung against me in my arms.


I embarrassed myself several times by attempting to respond to an enthusiastic “Oi!” from a local, only to realize that the greeting was not directed at all to me, but to the baby in my arms who is yet to say her first word in English, let alone make any reply in Portuguese. A favorite episode of our experience here in Brazil will be the lady in the Hippy Fair that labored to find a translator when we were unable to understand time and time again the words that she was saying to us about our baby. An exhaustive and stressful search finally yielded an individual capable of translating her missive. And what was this all important, cross-cultural communique? “Your daughter should be on the cover of a magazine." --Shawn Butler
This is Tiny Baby Charlotte in Rio saying, "Well, Of Course I Should."



Sunday, January 20, 2008

Clapping At the Sun


I believe that the Cariocas (what the people here in Rio de Janeiro call themselves) epitomize the Hispanic idea of polychronic time. Hoffstede’s cultural dimensions study places Brazilians on a par with the Asian cultures for long-term time orientation. It can be commonly observed that these people take the long-view time perspective rather than allowing themselves to be confined by things like schedules and apparently clocks.

The people of Rio de Janeiro have a custom which perfectly illustrates this distinction. Each evening, be it a work day or weekend, thousands gather on the beach and the small stone hill in Parque Garota de Ipanema and stand in silence to watch the sunset. At the completion of this event, the audience erupts in applause. It is a sign of appreciation, like the close of an opera or the finale of a symphony performance, where the people express gratitude for the talents of great artists through collective applause. Standing together in their timeless and clockless ritual, the people collectively take in the splendor of nature’s artistry and together celebrate the end of another day.

Hearing of this quaint and poetic ritual, we made our way down the beach as the sun fell into the ocean. We climbed to a nice point on the short hill to watch the setting sun. There was a considerable mass of people already gathered, so I assumed that the moment of “spontaneous” applause at nature’s wonder was near at hand, but as any of you who have taken the time to watch a sunset already know, a sunset will be held to no one’s schedule. We shifted restlessly on the hillside, moving locations three different times to get a better view. I didn’t like the man in the meditative stance, his feet interlaced lotus-style, ahead of me blocking my view of the horizon. I didn’t like being so close to the straight-haired girl and bandana-ed boy playing a recorder and dancing. After a few minutes, maybe twenty in all, I was pretty bored with the sun and the big rock. I admitted to myself that the clouds and the colors were nice. The whole scene was admittedly nice. I looked around at my business school friends and said, “Alright, let’s go. We’d better leave now so we can beat the crowds.” I lead us back down the hill, cutting across the entranced gazes of the rapt nature-viewers and onto the road up towards the hotel. Behind us I heard a bunch of people clapping. One of the students walking behind me commented, “That was nice, somebody ought to video tape that. Then we could watch it all in fast forward.” --Shawn Butler

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Uma Ausência de Relógios

Rio de Janeiro is everything I was told to expect. There is, however, one factor in the everyday life of Rio that bothers me. Everywhere I go, stores, bus stations, sporting events, places that one would expect might benefit from keeping track of the time, I find the exact same thing: An Absence of Clocks.

Time-tellers of any sort are no where to be found. Many South American countries, and most of the Spanish-speaking world, are pretty relaxed on time. But they at least seem to consider it important enough to merit placing a clock in the bedroom of their hotel guests. In 2006, California-based Hilton Hotels Corporation believed that their innovative new guestroom alarm clock would have such an impact on customer preference, it was made the focus of a year-long multi-channel media campaign.

The five room suite I’m in at the Ipanema Tower in Rio has not even one clock anywhere in it. Correction, there is apparently a clock on the microwave, but it is flashing 12:00 and I can only see it if I am directly in front of the cupboards against the kitchen wall. Neither is there a clock in the gym, the lobby, or the dining area. There are actually three (3) clocks at the reception desk; however, being that they give the hour in Rio de Janeiro, New York, and Rome, I have determined they are more for decoration than actual time-telling.

My own cultural distinction becomes very apparent to me in that I feel completely lost without knowing what time it is. I find myself constantly reaching for the cell phone that has doubled as a watch for me since its inception in 1999. Imagine my frustration now that, since my cell phone can neither send or receive calls, I have ceased carrying it with me to serve in its time-keeper capacity, but have now, instead, left it on the hotel nightstand by our bed. Where the clock should be. --Shawn Butler

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