31 December 2010

Tops Listing Cavalcade: New Year's Eve Edition

On this, the eve of a new year, I bring you a list of lists. Here are several "Tops Lists" for your enjoyment, consideration, and conversation:

10. The top cassette tapes of 2010. So you thought cassettes were dead? Not so fast... This list brings you 11 experiences you should hear, with digital samples to whet your musical appetite.

9. The world's top superyachts of 2010. Who can't look at these monstrosities and wonder at the ego behind each?

8. This is a two-fer... The highest earning U.S. athletes of 2010 and the top international earners, as well. Even if not a sports fan, this list will bring back memories of scandals and excitement. From Tiger to Beckham and beyond... Each and every one still earning the big bucks!

7. The best new songs you probably haven't heard, according to Esquire. Maybe you (like me) already have music by the Budos Band. If not, check these songs out and getta groove on!

6. Top wacky tax stories of 2010. Yep. Tax stories. Bringing together soccer, yachts... and pole dancing in one list??? Believe it.

5. The biggest surfing stories of the year, all here in one handy place. If for no other reason, click through to this list and watch the video of Cloudbreak in Fiji. Awesome waves even non-surfers will respect.

4. The top overall sports stories of 2010. How could I not include a "mainstream" list that includes - count'em - two soccer entries and my beloved SF Giants winning the World Series (neener neener, Cubs fans!)?

3. Top economic stories of the past year. Beware, this isn't fluffy stuff. Any list including an entry called "On Sovereign Debt Problems" isn't messing around. The good folks at the Brookings Institution take their work seriously, and the list is an interesting read.

2. The most awesome new (musical) artists of 2010. Ok, so I've loaded this list with music lists. Yeah? What of it. Stop wondering, find a song you like, get up and dance!

1. Events and trends you may have missed. This list comprises a special report by Foreign Policy. I used to subscribe to the print version of FP and continue to appreciate its perspective and analysis. From airport body scanners to sectarian clashes in India, these stories might be headlines in 2011.

Hope you enjoyed this installment of the TLC. Be on the lookout for another list of lists in January. Happy New Year's Eve!

30 December 2010

thanks again soccer.com!

Just checked my facebook account and got the following status update from the folks at soccer.com: "Reading this on the go? Head over to MOBILE.SOCCER.COM and check out our site, specially formatted for your hand-held device."

As I recently documented, the mobile site had been the source of some consternation for me. Lo and behold, though, my HTC phone running a Windows-based system now works on the mobile.soccer.com site! Yippee skippee!

Still not happy the site wasn't ready for "my phone" initially, but better late than never.

23 December 2010

The Tops Listing Cavalcade

I just did it. I read my first "Top 50" list looking back at 2010. I picked one posted on Monkey See and was delighted by the read... No oil spill, no war, no tragedies at all. As a starting point goes, I'm happy to have picked one called "50 Wonderful Things from 2010".

Given the time of year, this is merely the kick-off of what I'm now calling the TLC or "Tops Listing Cavalcade". I should trademark the term, as it's the first time I recall getting a "no results found" message from Google in response to a search.

What is the TLC? It's the swelling, stupefying, sometimes scintillating assortment of lists of top songs, shows, stories, social movements, and so forth which springs forth in the run up to x-mas and won't peter out until a few weeks into the new year. Lists of the tops of everything you could imagine. It happens every year. I just decided to brand it. Please use the term frequently, as I aspire to making either the Top Words or the Top Viral Products list next year.

I know it's the early phases of the TLC, because some participants are just building their lists. Case in point? The Huffington Post's Cutest Pets of 2010 contest was still seeking submissions this month, although the HuffPo is taking on the folks at cutestpetcontest.com. Perhaps we need to build a list of the Best Cute Pet Lists of 2010... Hmmm...

What are your favorite lists to review each year? Share'em here. Share'em with family. Share'em with strangers, if you're comfortable with that kind of thing. I'll put a List of Top Lists together, so you can share that list, too! All part of the the Tops Listing Cavalcade... Though maybe I should restage the brand to improve its appeal. Perhaps "Mega Cool Tops Listing Cavalcade of Joy and Power" is better... It just might get me on to the Top 10 Most Ludicrous Things Named in 2011 list!

19 December 2010

Soccer.com & Redemptive Customer Support

My relationship with soccer.com is complex.

On the one hand, I'm a fan of Eurosport - the retailer one finds at soccer.com. The firm's catalog contains a healthy dose of retailtainment in print form, enough to be a constant on my nightstand or - dare I say it? - the magazine rack near a certain porcelain bathroom fixture. It's my wishbook for all things soccer: shoes, uniforms, videos, and so forth... The sale section gets special focus.

I am a long-time member of the Goal Club, the brand's frequent buyer group, and periodically I'll splurge my accrued points on the best sale items I can find. I've purchased apparel, uniforms for teams, shoes for myself, shoes for others, highlight videos, and more from Eurosport. I'm loyal, almost to a fault.

Which brings me to "the other hand"... Soccer.com is a clunky website. Periodically, it causes me such fits that I consider leaving it. Like a grumpy girlfriend, it refuses to talk to me, not allowing me to log in. Or, when I try to put that special something in my cart, it tells me I've selected an "invalid item" - though it may have actually placed the item appropriately and simply decided to have a bit of fun by telling me it didn't.

Recently, I had two bouts of frustration which brought me closer to a painful break-up than ever before. The first resulted from a lovely email announcement: "We're Mobile! Find us at MOBILE.SOCCER.COM". O Joy! I picked up the message on my smartphone, only to find I couldn't click through to the mobile site. The only link in the message actually went to the standard URL. Grrrr...

Not to be denied, I punched in the http://mobile.soccer.com/ address and hopped excitedly as the new site loaded. Loading done, I could see the new site but I couldn't use it. Once again, the only link that seemed to work took me back to the base URL. Double Grrrr... I tried again from my newer, touchscreen featured other smartphone... Denied.

It seems my Windows-based system wasn't good enough for mobile.soccer.com. A friend with a Droid confirmed it. The mobile site worked for that phone. But, how many potential customers out there were stymied by the botched implementation?

Which brings us to my latest challenge: my seeming inability to sign in as a Goal Club member over the past week or so. Over and over and over, what had always worked failed. I'd input my username and password, only to be told I needed to input my password. Huh? I clicked "Forget your username/password", got a reset on the password, and tried again. By now, you've figured it out - I had gone crazy, trying the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different outcome.

Incredulity took hold... "How could this be?" "This has never happened before!" "There's got to be a mistake!" I sent a note to Customer Service and stewed. Customer Service sent me a very nice note back to inform me that they'd checked, and nothing was amiss with my account. Really? Really?!?!

"Can't you see I can't get in?" I thought as loudly as possible. Nobody heard, so I tried a different approach. I contemplated my own assumptions, and lo and behold, one BIG one jumped out at me. I'd assumed that soccer.com would react to all browsers the same way, which of course I should have realized wasn't too bright on my part given the previous challenges with the mobile site. What if I were to head to the site using a browser other than my standard, Google Chrome?

I fired up Internet Explorer. I typed the soccer.com URL. I held my breath. I clicked "Sign In". I entered my username and password. I waited. By now, I was noticing how long my breath had been held; my mind wandered to thoughts of "Shouldn't I be able to hold my breath longer? I should work out more..." and then it happened: I was in (again)! All it took was for me to switch browsers. Whew! Soccer.com was still there for me... but wait a minute!

Why should I have to troubleshoot and switch browsers just to get to stuff I might want to buy??? I mean Chrome doesn't have the greatest market share among browsers, but it's up around 10% these days. Imagine a normal retailer telling every 10th potential customer, "No thanks, you can't come in... Don't like the car you drive, so you're not welcome." It makes no sense.

At a minimum, I wish I'd been told of the incompatibility. Who knows, in the case of the mobile site I may have concluded that it was time for an iPhone or a Droid... Instead, I felt spurned. I wasn't happy. I was gonna do something about it, too, except...


Except that the Customer Support people at Eurosport are fantastic. Whether because their bosses create so many problems for them to solve, great training, or inherent good Samaritanism, it doesn't actually matter. They rock. During my trials and tribulations, they kept up a constant friendly dialog with me.

They offered to send me gift card for my troubles. They apologized for the fact that I was having trouble. They reminded me, ever so politely, that I could always call when I had an issue; a real human being would be happy to confirm my membership and place an order. They thanked me for my feedback. They thanked me for my loyalty over the years. They simply did everything right.

Know what? It worked. Remember the girlfriend I mentioned before? We made up. She's got her faults. She's actually got quite a few of them. But deep down, her heart is pure. She wants to do the right thing. She knows she's not the best at what she does, but she's trying hard to do it well.

Eurosport, I'll be back to soccer.com. Please keep sending me your catalog. And, at this busy time of year for all e-tailers, hug your Customer Support team. Hug'em from me, too!