Showrooming Becomes A Problem For Retailers

The way that people shop is changing and some larger retailers like Target don’t like it. A new trend that they’re seeing is “showrooming”, which is when a shopper goes into a brick and mortar store like Target to check out certain products (think TVs, toys, appliances, furniture, etc.), finds what they like and then goes online to do price comparisons and make the actual purchase (usually from somewhere like Amazon.com, eBay or other e-commerce stores).

The Wall Street Journal’s Ann Zimmerman wrote up a great piece on showrooming and how Target is trying to deal with it. Target was the focus due to an urgent letter they sent out to their vendors as a plea to help them fight the battle against savvy shoppers taking advantage of the time and money they spend on creating a great retail environment, only to be cut out of the equation when they end up buying online instead of in one of their stores.

Last week, in an urgent letter to vendors, the Minneapolis-based chain suggested that suppliers create special products that would set it apart from competitors and shield it from the price comparisons that have become so easy for shoppers to perform on their computers and smartphones. Where special products aren’t possible, Target asked the suppliers to help it match rivals’ prices. It also said it might create a subscription service that would give shoppers a discount on regularly purchased merchandise.

I think this is an interesting new behavior that shoppers are doing and it’s cool to see how Target is dealing with it. Target has to compete with the online retailers and really the only way to do it is through stronger relationships with their vendors (which basically means making them drop their prices and making the supply chain more efficient like Wal-Mart). It’s a competitive world out there and I think we’re just starting to see the effects that the efficiency of the web is bringing into the retail market.

I’ll admit that I’ve showroom’d before and I know it’s not going away anytime soon and it’s going to be up to Target (and their vendors) to adapt to the speed at which the web is changing the ways that we all shop. No matter what happens I think the end result is always going to be better prices for all of us consumers, so I guess we don’t have a lot to worry about.

Good luck, Target.

 

8 Year-Old Juliet and My First Hardcore Song Rocks Australia (and YouTube)

I just saw this video of an 8 year-old Juliet rocking out to her first hardcore song and had to post it. I’m sure it’ll have 10 gazillion views by this time tomorrow. [view on YouTube]

The video was produced by her mom Kristina Childs (“Mum” in Australia), who has a Tumblr blog for her photography business (and who seems to be really good) and who seems to be really into hardcore metal.

They also seem to have a really good sense of humor — here are their family portraits.

Awesome vide, even sweeter pics and a lot of fun — now OPEN UP THE PIIIIIT!

 

SOPA and PIPA Explained

The SOPA and PIPA bills that everyone has been talking about (and that all of the sites have been protesting against) can be pretty confusing depending on who you’re talking to. That’s why I’m going to make it easy for you.

Here’s a video of one of the geekiest of the geeks (and smartest of the smart), Clay Shirky, talking about what SOPA and PIPA really mean and how it could affect the collaborative web that we’ve grown to love so much. [view on YouTube]

Also, it looks like Hollywood fought the internet and the internet won.

 

The Tcho Chocolate Tour In San Francisco

Last weekend was Stephanie’s birthday, so we did all kinds of cool stuff including the Tcho chocolate factory tour in San Francisco. I decided to have it be part of her birthday weekend extravaganza for a few important reasons.

1. Timing: The tour was early on Saturday morning, but not too early which means it gets us out of bed, but it’s not too painful. The tour that we took started at 10:30am, so we had time to get up, get moving and grab some breakfast before heading over.

2. Location: The Tcho factory is right in the middle of the awesomeness that is the Embarcadero. More specifically it’s in the Pier 17 building, which is less than 2 miles from our apartment. It was a beautiful day out and Stephanie loves to walk, so it made for a nice little morning stroll.

3. Learning: One thing I learned after Stephanie and I did a tour of the Korbel Champagne Cellars in Sonoma for our anniversary was that we both really enjoy doing fun things that help us learn more about the stuff we like. Going all through Korbel and learning about how champagne is made was a lot of fun for us and it also gave us some great fun facts that we can use at parties (did you know that the wires on champagne toppers are are twisted 6.5 rotations? Well, now you do.).

4. Chocolate: The only thing that Stephanie loves more than chocolate is Kool-Whip, so this tour was pretty much a no-brainer.

5. It’s Free: All of the Tcho tours are completely free, how awesome is that?

6. Weird Connection: Our first neighbor while living in Palo Alto was an early investor in Tcho, so he would always give us beta chocolate that looked like this so that we could give him feedback. That was over 3 years ago, so it’s cool to see how far along the company has come since then.

Some of the highlights for me included learning all about how chocolate is made, where it comes from and what the real ingredients are. It was also interesting to hear about how other larger chocolate companies like Hershey’s make their chocolate and how Tcho differentiates themselves in the market. Being from the startup world, it was also really cool to see how innovative they are with how they run their factory and create their product. Getting to wear hairnets was fun, too and some of the guys there had to wear beard nets, which I had never seen before.

The ultimate highlight for both of us was the tasting at the end of the tour. This is where we had the chance to taste all the different types of chocolate that Tcho has to offer. There were six in total and they were all separated out individually so that we could taste them one at a time. We were guided by our awesomely excited tour guide Jose through each of them, starting with the darkest, hardest chocolate (which also has the strongest taste) and ending with their lightest, softest.

Just as if we were at a wine tasting in Nappa, Jose was sure to let us know how to properly taste the chocolate. First you warm it up in your hand, then you smell it, then you hold it up to your ear while you snap it in half so that you can hear it and then the best part — you put it in your mouth and let it melt so that that you can get the full flavor that Tcho has to offer. Never bite into the chocolate. Ever.

While we were tasting all of the different flavors Jose would sprinkle in some entertaining color commentary and wouldn’t hold back his contagious sense of passion and excitement for chocolate. So much so that I’m not sure which was more memorable, the chocolate or Jose.


photo by Lisa Goell Sinicki

If you’re wanting to check out the Tcho factory tour there are two daily times that you can sign up for — 10:30am and 2pm and you can schedule your time over here. I would highly recommend the tour to any couple for a fun daytime date or to a group of friends who are looking for something cool to do while in San Francisco. Both locals and tourists will have a good time learning about and tasting some tasty chocolate that’s unique to San Francisco. If you end up going be sure to get there at least 10 minutes early, bring some money to buy some of the chocolate (they give you a 10% off coupon to use that day) and don’t wear open-toed shoes.

Want more info on Tcho? Here you go. [view on YouTube]


 

One Hour Obsession: Walk Off The Earth

My latest one hour obsession is with a Canadian Indie band called Walk Off The Earth. If you’ve been keeping an eye on the YouTubes lately you will probably know them better by a song that they covered called “Somebody That I Used To Know” in a video where the five members of the band all played one guitar at the same time. At this point the video has been views over 25 million times with about 50 of those coming from me.

Here’s the video I’m talking about. [view on YouTube]

Like I said before, this song is actually a cover which I didn’t realize until after I watched the video like 5 or 6 times. I didn’t really even think about it being a cover due to the fact that the song seems like it’s made for the three people in the band who sing it. All three of them have incredible voices and the fact that they decided to take on the challenge of having all of the play the same guitar was an awesome way to grab the internet’s attention.

Of course, having the guy in the beard just standing there being awesome doesn’t hurt, either.

The song that they covered was originally sung by Gotye (here’s how you pronounce it) and a woman named Kimbra — you can watch it below. [view on YouTube]

I’ve always been interested in viral videos and the background of how they come together, especially for videos like this one that was intentionally created to become viral. Some videos are so crazy that they go viral for unknown reasons, but this one in particular was planned out and executed in a way that I’m sure exceeded the bands wildest expectations.

In case you’re wondering how close the cover is to the original, check out this video that puts them side-by-side. [view on YouTube]

It’s interesting when something like this happens to a someone who’s ready for it, like a band, as opposed to someone randomly getting a one-hit viral wonder because the pay-off it much better. The fact that Walk Off The Earth already has a solid following on YouTube and has been posting videos for a long time feeds the public’s interest in them once they hit the big time with their viral video. This means that they can leverage the attention they’re getting into selling more of their music, booking more shows and potentially getting a label deal (if they want it). In other words, they’re prepared for the success that they’re having, which means that it’s going to benefit them for the long term and not just help them sell a few songs though iTunes.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the video was shot (26 takes for about 14 hours in a kitchen) and the effects of having a viral video of this magnitude you can watch video of an interview below that was posted when their video had around 10 million views. It’s long, but there’s some good stuff in there. [view on YouTube]

It’s going to be fun to keep track of these guys and see what happens from here, but for now I’m going to listen to their song (that I’ve downloaded from both Amazon and iTunes) a few more times.

UPDATE: It looks like things are about to get even crazier for these guys — they just got booked on Ellen for a live performance of their video. No pressure, guys.

What’s The Deal With The Big Cardboard Heads At The Indiana University Basketball Games?

A few days ago I was watching an Indiana University basketball game with some friends of mine and while the opposing team was shooting free throws I saw something awesome in the crowd — a bunch of big cardboard cut-out heads of random famous people and characters. The students were waving them around and I was laughing while I was calling out all of the random people I could call out.

“Pee-Wee Herman! Hulk Hogan! Barack Obama! Happy Gilmore! Bob Knight! Oscar The Grouch! Apolo Ohno!” and the list went on and on. I had no idea how they came up with these different heads, but I was very curious.

Yesterday I got my answer when my buddy sent me over a link to this article about how the big, funny heads came to be. It’s an interesting story and definitely worth a read if you’ve ever wondered about how the tradition first got started.

Nice work, IU. Nice work.


photo credit Indianapolis Star

Happy Birthday To Frank

Yesterday was Frank’s third birthday and to celebrate I wanted to not only sing him happy birthday, but I wanted to play it on the guitar as well. I’ve had a guitar for about 10 years now and despite a few attempts to learn how to play I’ve never had the discipline to pick it up.

Over Christmas break I got a lesson from one of my buddies and I’ve been practicing every day since (as long as my fingers weren’t hurting too much), so I thought that I would give playing happy birthday to Frank a shot. As you can see below or over here on YouTube I still have a long way to go, but if you listen close enough you can almost make out that it’s the happy birthday song.

Oh, and sorry about the singing, too. I might need to look for a lead singer when putting together my band.

Happy birthday, Frank — it’s hard to imagine a time when Stephanie and I didn’t have you in our lives. You’re an awesomely weird dog and we love you like our own child. Weird, but true.

The Hupfer Christmas Dance-Off — Party Rock Shuffle Edition

While I was home for Christmas we had yet another Hupfer Dance-Off, which was awesome as usual. Instead of doing the normal dance-off which usually includes all of the Hupfer’s involved simply one-upping each other with ridiculous dance moves until a winner is declared, it was decided that we would all learn the LMFAO Party Rock Shuffle dance and see who can pull it off the best. I posted a video of when I first learned the Party Rock Shuffle over here in a post before I headed back to Indiana for vacation and I was looking pretty good.

When the time for the dance-off finally came I wasn’t really sure how I would end up doing, but after my sister (who was my only real competition) forgot some of the steps halfway through I was officially declared the winner. The dance-off was a lot of fun and even though most of my family didn’t know the entire dance that didn’t stop them from getting out on the dance floor and doing their thing (more video of that coming soon).

Here’s a side-by-side video of my entry into the Hupfer Party Rock Shuffle Dance-Off and the actual LMFAO video where they bust it out for real. Not too bad for a tall white guy, huh?

Can’t see the video? You can check it out over here on YouTube.

 

Hustling At Home For The Holidays

My body feels all out of whack and I think I just had my first good night’s sleep in about twelve days. No, I don’t have insomnia and I wasn’t forced to burn the midnight oil thanks to some tight deadline at work. Believe it or not, I was on vacation. Christmas vacation.

You see, when Stephanie and I head back to Indiana for Christmas and New Years it’s always an amazing time, but it’s also a marathon that starts when we get off the plane in Indianapolis and stops the night before we leave. It’s no surprise that it’s like this, it always has been since we’ve starting making the annual trip back to our home in the Midwest after moving to California nearly four years ago. We go, go, go and it doesn’t stop. To he honest there’s really no other way to do it and it’s something that we’ve just had to get used to.

During the days we’re focused on getting to see as many family members we can squeeze in. The amount of time we have to visit with them is usually dependent on how late we stayed out the night before with our friends. It’s all about family during the day and it’s all about friends at night. And when I say night I sometimes mean morning. I can remember at least three or four nights that didn’t end until four in the morning and those don’t make for very early mornings.

One packed day with the family went something like this:

  1. Waking up in Pendleton at my parents house after hanging out with our friends the night before.
  2. Meeting Stephanie’s parents at their church in Noblesville at 9:30am.
  3. After church we ended up driving to Greenfield to hang with my side of the family.
  4. After hanging in Greenfield for a few hours we drove to Greencastle and to hang with Stephanie’s side of the family.
  5. After hanging out in Greencastle for a few hours we then drove back to Noblesville to crash at Stephanie’s parents house.

Here’s what a full map of where all we drove that day looks like — it turned out being about four hours total round trip.


View Larger Map

Overall it was an awesome trip home and it was so good to see all of the family and friends that we were able to squeeze in while we were there. Was it exhausting? Oh yeah, but it’s always totally worth it.

 

 

Back Home In Indiana For The Holidays

After a four hour layover in Chicago, I made it home for my yearly holiday pilgrimage to Indiana. This year I’m home for about 10 days and just like previous years they’re going to fly by. When I’m home there’s a lot of people to see and a lot of things to do, which means that the days don’t tend to hang around for very long.

When it comes to vacations back home there are some things that I really look forward to like:

1. Getting to see my family and friends — I have lots of friends who still live in Indianapolis and tons of family (for example, I have 8 nieces and nephews) so it’s always great to see as many of them as I can while I’m home.

2. Eating at buffets — the midwest is the king of the buffets and I usually take full advantage of them.

3. White Castle and Hotbox Pizza — these two restaurants always make it into our agendas, usually around 3 in the morning.

4. Seeing my high school basketball team in action — it doesn’t always work out, but it’s always fun to sneak in a Pendleton Heights High School basketball game when I’m home.

5. Catching a Colts game — thanks to the fact that my brother has season tickets and that he’s actually nice to me now I usually get to catch the last Colt’s home game of the season when I’m home. Stephanie and I have done this for the last 3 years now and it’s always an awesome game (even if we ARE 2-13 this year)

6. Seeing snow on Christmas — you don’t see snow out in California unless you drive to Tahoe, so seeing some of the white stuff while in Indiana for Christmas is pretty cool.

7. Christmas decorations — most people in San Francisco don’t decorate a whole lot for Christmas, but all kinds of people do in Indiana. This makes it feel like a lot more like Christmas.

With all that being said, there are a few things that I don’t look forward to when heading back to Indiana, too.

1. It’s really cold — with the snow comes freeing weather, which I’m not used to anymore. Call me a wuss, but anything under 50 degrees feels freezing cold to me.

2. So much driving — out of the 10 days that I’ll be in Indiana I think that 4 of them are spent driving.

3. So much eating — I know I said that I like all of the food that I get to eat while being home, but there’s also a part of me that hates it. My problem is that when there’s food in front of me, I’m probably going to eat it. Yeah, that’s all my fault, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

4. Working out indoors — I’ve gotten used to running outside whenever I want to and that’s just not going to happen when it’s 30 degrees out. This means that I’ll be hitting the treadmills, which I’m not a huge fan of (at least they have TVs I can watch).

5. Not having Frank around — the past couple of years we’ve brought Frank home with us to Indiana, but this year we decided to to leave the little guy at home with one of his buddies. It looks like he’s having fun without us, so I don’t feel too guilty about it.

No matter what I don’t like sometimes, I’ve realized just how blessed I am to be living in San Francisco and to be able to fly home with Stephanie back to Indiana for the holidays. I feel awesome this year and it’s always great to be able to spend so much time with my friends and family.