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    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2009
    Its currently Sunday where I am, and I had an hour of work to do this morning so I don't have to start early tomorrow, and OF COURSE when I got in the answering machine had a new batch of messages from people ringing up for estimates outside of business hours. Here's a free tip for anyone trying to get a quote from ANY trade -- if you get the answering machine and you're going to leave a message for someone to call you back, SLLLOOOOOWW DOOOOOWWWWWN. Rattling off your phone number in a single breath without any pause at all between the numbers means I have to replay your entire message three or four times before I manage to write down the whole thing and be sure I got it correct. This leaves me very much less inclined to call you back any time soon. Or at all.
    • CommentAuthorkozmund
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2009
    I am in the position of having my Secrets be mostly of the overly technical, or from the less interesting side of the transaction. I do computer things, but not in the way that would ever get me access to your porn stash. If eurohackers have owned your server and turned it into a ftp dump, I may see that, but not at the consumer level that previous commenters have mentioned. None the less, here's a few things that some people might find interesting.

    Software Development, for software people.
    - I know, commenting your code when you're on a roll is a pain. The reasons your professors or bosses give you is a bunch of bunk, but look at it this way: If you had the choice between getting an emergency call while on vacation or not, which would you choose? Often times, a quick explanation of what a piece of your code is doing is the difference between someone else being able to handle an issue (or at least be able to rule your code out as the source of the problem.) So, try to find a sweet spot between writing function header code as long as the function and writing nothing at all. I've found that what works for me is that every time I think to myself "Oh, that's clever..." I comment it. Often those things are merely clever if you understand everything that's going on but cross the line to inscrutable for someone who's diving into the source to try to put out a fire.

    Business Travel When You're A Hired Nerd And Not A Bitter Businessman
    - As all sorts of people have pointed out, don't be a dick. "The Help" have various ways of making your life shit. And for longer term stays, they have more time to get sick of your ass, as well as fuck with you.

    - Seriously. Car services rule. I always just thought of them as expensive cabs, but they're so much more. The drivers are usually more open to telling stories, and will actually use the climate control of their cars to make you as comfortable as possible. I imagine that there's a class of people who're So Over car services, but I recently stopped declining them from customers and I'm hooked. I always turned them down because I wanted the freedom to take a cab somewhere I wanted to go from the airport and then figure out how to get to my hotel later. But really, they're trained to make you feel special. It's probably sad that I consider an air conditioned car in Texas or a heated car in Boston's winter decadent.

    - If the customer is already signed up to pick up your room and tax, the hotel will still try to take down your credit card number. For the love of shit, do not give it to them. Depending on the length of stay, cost of the room and the hotel set up, you may find yourself with a hold on your card for the full amount until a day after you check out and the customer has actually put up the funds. Often, you'll be told that this is entirely essential, there's no way around it, etc. They're lying because they're supposed to. This is what you do: tell them to turn every chargeable service off to your room. That's why they're supposed to insist that they get a card. The hotel wants you to watch White Trash Whores 8 and get room service. Just tell them that you intend to use cash or card at the hotel restaurant, don't intend to use anything that would have to be billed to the room. The other upside of this is that you're insulated from the classic hotel fuck up of having something mistakenly billed to your room, since you told them to make it impossible for anything to be billed to your room.

    - During the "Where will you be putting me up while I'm there?" stage of things, check if the hotel your client wants you to stay in has free internet. If it only has a couple of Courtesy Computers in a business center, it's probably a high-end hotel. On the high end, charging for internet access isn't a competitive disadvantage since the customer will either pay $15 per day without blinking or will pass the charge on to someone else. Middle and low level hotels still compete on that. I won't say that "high end" hotels are the way to go (I've stayed in nicer Holiday Inns than the Newark Penn Station Hilton, but in all fairness...Newark.) but right now that's a quick gauge for the newbie.
    • CommentAuthorkozmund
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2009 edited
    (Shit, what software are we running here? I want to dive in and have the Preview tell if you've violated the character limit, as opposed to just submit. I mean...preview...that's what these things are for, right?)

    Extended notes on Business Drinking (AKA, Being A Nice Person in Style)
    - If you're staying at a hotel that's centered around business travel, damn near everyone is tipping between 12.5 and 20%. On anything. Mostly the staff aren't getting stiffed, but no customers are standing out. If you're stuck in a hotel in the middle of an office park in suburban Dallas, you'll probably be regularly spending time eating / drinking in the hotel. If you want incredible service for the evening, go in and get a couple of drinks. Let's say it's about $10. Get your check and tip 'em $5. Go take care of the shit you need to do after a day of working remotely, write a status email to your office, call your wife, whatever. Go back, get your dinner and a few more drinks. At the end, make sure you tip 20%. Repeat daily and you're pretty much maxing out the service-meter.

    The key here is that in business-centric situations, everyone is putting shit on their expense account. They're generally approved to tip between 15% and 20%, depending on circumstances. Even if you're on an expense account, or can invoice customers for incidentals, or whatever, $5 in your own cash can make the difference between you being another check-list schmuck served in order, and someone the staff slip free beers to, or let keep drinking during their clean up, or walk past a group of trashed life insurance salesmen who've been waiting a while to serve first the moment you walk in, etc. And frankly, business travel can be incredibly fucking boring, so just asking bartenders about their jobs and the shit they see (For the love of God, when it's slow as shit and too early for them to be going through their checklists, don't be the chatter guy when they start stowing their limes and washing their blenders) can be a great way to learn things and get bonus points.

    - Do you see those comment cards? Something like 99% of them are used by angry people. That means that positive ones really get noticed. Seriously, you're on first name basis with the hotel bar staff after being a bored and restless pain in the ass for two weeks in a city you despise and if you've dealt with good people, it's time to give back. Take names. Write them a kick ass comment card. Use hotel industry language like "focused on service" and "made me feel at home" and "went out of their way to go above and beyond in the spirit of service." Not that last one, though. The thing to keep in mind here is that you can make someone's day simply by telling them that you wrote them an awesome comment card, much less when their manager finally gives them props or they can use it in raise negotiations.

    Now, this is where you can walk the tight rope between sweet customer and manipulative asshole. I actually have ambiguous feelings about this when I do it, even though I do actually tip well, write people nice comment cards, etc. I'll be interested to see if anyone in the hospitality can clarify whether I'm a flaming douche-nozzle. If you fill a comment card out part way into your stay, you'll often find a treat in your room in a day or two. Last time for me was a heaping bowl of mixed nuts and a couple cans of soda sitting in half-melted ice. Simply mention that this happened and that it must have been from your comment card. Ears will perk up all over, questions will be asked. Tell them quite honestly that you thought they were excellent, that you knew that only pissed off people use those cards, so you wrote a nice one for them. You are now the hero, and will get the really *good* stories about the behavior of those white-collar bastards you're nominally a member of. The shit they didn't say before because you were an admittedly a decently tipping Them, as opposed to quasi-Us.

    That's all for now.
  1.  (4956.4)
    @Adam - if you get the answering machine and you're going to leave a message for someone to call you back, SLLLOOOOOWW DOOOOOWWWWWN

    THANK YOU, yes. This applies to EVERYONE.
    For the love of god people, you may know your phone number backwards and forwards, but I do not.
  2.  (4956.5)
    i am a smut peddler.

    i have a hammer for special occasions, such as: people who try to steal from me, people who try to jerk off in my store, and people who ask me for beastiality, and people who try to return used sex toys.

    we sell penis enlargement pills that never work, for around 10x what they cost us.

    generally the longer a dvd is the shittier the quality, both of video and of the performers.

    buying 2 regular, and 1 tranny dvd and then saying it's a gag for a bachelor party isn't fooling anyone.

    also, buying tranny porn and telling me you're not gay... makes you kind of gay.

    generally most porn stars have herpes or genital warts, or both, and personally that makes them severely less fuckable...

    i never really see women in here and they're generally old and unattractive when i do.

    i do about 45 minutes to an hour of actual work in a 10 hour work day.

    we buy dvds for pennies on the dollar. i think our customers would have nervous breakdowns if they really knew how much porn costs. i.e. $49.00 dvd = $15.00

    contrary to what some might believe it is not amusing to explain how to use anal beads, lube, and butt plugs to people. it is awkward and annoying.

    i don't give a fuck about customer service because 1. customers don't have anyone to complain to, 2. people don't really care about customer service in a porn shop, they want anonymity and to not be remembered. 3. i don't really like 90% of the customers that come into my store because they are obnoxious, greasy, cheap, perverted fuckheads.

    seeing teachers from my old high school buying imported japanese porno almost makes my job worth it.
  3.  (4956.6)
    In Graphic Design, you normally get what you pay for skills wise.

    Any graphic designer who can't organise print ready artwork, or doesn't understand BASIC colour theory or printing jargon is NOT a graphic designer.

    The amount of money spent by people having to have designs and artwork fixed by me (when its originally done by cousin Jenny's son who can do this for nothing for me) is scary. It would of been cheaper for you to have it done by me in the first place.

    Giving me an image you stole off the internet as the image you want printed on your business card is wrong on so many levels. Have you never heard of copyright?

    Standard design contract with client normally states we OWN the rights and copyright to the design UNTIL you pay for it. So shopping the design around to other people to do the artwork cheaper is going to make me sue you.

    If you hire a designer, LISTEN to what we say about the design. Just because you like the colours purple and orange, does not mean they go together. And then when you change the layout totally and add three times the text you originally specified, don't complain it looks different and not as good as the first concept you were sent.

    And calling me on the phone to do a quick change gets you charged the same if you had just emailed me, and it can piss me off when you do it thirty times a day. Expect to see it in your bill, all charged in minimum fifteen minute lots.
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2009
    I'm an EFL teacher in Japan, been so for about 8.5 years. So I've racked up some good ones....

    If you're teaching English:

    • Your textbook probably sucks. Feel free to adapt and modify lessons.

    • If there's something you want to teach and your textbook doesn't have a lesson for it, make it yourself. The EFL fairy isn't going to come.

    • If you see another teacher do something awesome, ask them about what they did. We're an incestuous group, and so long as you don't have overlapping students, most teachers are willing to share ideas.

    • Like most human beings, your students will want maximum return for minimum effort. Most of your students expect that they'll improve simply by coming to class once a week. Disabuse them of this notion as soon as possible.

    • "It's the students' fault," is not an acceptable excuse when a lesson goes badly. You're a professional - act like it.

    • Know your godsdamned grammar. Students will ask the most arcane questions, and you either need to know the answer or know how to find out. "Because" is not an answer.

    • You're not getting paid enough not to have fun.

    If you're learning English:

    • Take control of your own learning. There's no such thing as "English by osmosis."

    • The world is your textbook - there are a million ways you can study outside the classroom.

    • Grammar isn't everything. You may know the future perfect passive cold, but that doesn't make you a better speaker.

    • You won't be a better speaker unless you speak. All the book learnin' in the world won't make speaking easier.

    • Study what interests you, or what you need. If you're not a businessperson, don't bother with the business meeting lessons right now. If you don't think you'll ever have to order home repairs, don't put that high on your study list.

    • There's no reason learning English has to be boring. Find ways to make it interesting.

    • Your teacher is tired. Bring him or her chocolates from time to time.

    That last one is really important....
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2009
    @Mshades I've never taught English to Japanese people but I have had several run-ins with people who have University qualifications; write English more proficiently than many native-speakers - and have difficulty saying more than "Sank you."
      CommentAuthorPaul Sizer
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2009
    It does my soul good to hear other designers bring up the points you did. Amen, brother, been there, done those, had some done to me...
    • CommentTimeFeb 23rd 2009
    And another addendum to the Graphic Designer tips - if you're a freelancer, then actually charge what you're WORTH. I mean it. You might have some potential clients walk away, but those ones are unequivocal cheapskates who will bleed you dry and end up having you do twice the amount of work for them than they're paying for. You have to educate these people about how much design actually costs, and that footstamping isn't going to get them quality work any cheaper.

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