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Archive for September, 2008

Dear Abby… I Mean Dear Merrill…I Need Some Advice…Help!

Monday, September 29th, 2008

As a result of the blog I have been getting more and more emails weekly regarding potential topics, advice and questions. Here is one of the emails that I thought I would share with you.

Dear Merrill’s Blog:

I’m a research telecommuter now after a long stretch as a research 9-5er. My former company was quite opposed to the practice. As a manager and salesman, I think this is the best thing ever. What I’ve I found, honestly, is that mentally I’m at 50% or so work-wise, but I’m on duty 100% of the time. What makes it work is that can ‘turn it up’ to 100% work mode at any time. This approach allows me to communicate smoothly with clients and colleagues all over the world and I’m much more productive overall than I ever was.

But here’s the thing: is there a risk I might become addicted to work?


Fred Tele-commute-a-holic

Are you in the same situation?

What advice do you have for Fred?

Both of us look forward to hearing your comments.

P.S. – the name has been changed

Attention Parents: I Need Your Help With My Children’s Allowance!

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Over the weekend I was reading an article about the need to teach your kids about finance at an early age. It was a very interesting article and gave me reason to pause. I had a flashback to when I was a child and remembered all the times I cut lawns or shoveled driveways for some cash. I tried to remember “way back when” about what my allowance was and what chores I had to do to get my full allowance on a weekly basis. Unfortunately with me being so old, I had trouble remembering what I received.

With my kids being so young, I haven’t started to give them allowance. Maybe that should change? Maybe we should give them $2.00 a week and their chores should include:

  • Cleaning up their room
  • Feeding the dog
  • Watering the flowers
  • Cleaning up the pool area
  • Not leaving wet towels on the floor
  • Making their bed

Of course we could come up with creative chores like:

  • Not crying
  • Not irritating their baby sister
  • Calling their grandparents weekly

The question is, when do people start giving their kids allowance?

  • What chores do they have to do?
  • How much do they get?
  • How does it vary by age?
  • How much do they get penalized for not doing something?

And the most important question:

  • At what age does the allowance stop?

I really look forward to reading your comments.

Here Are 3 Business Ideas…Good Idea Or Is It Back To The Drawing Board?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

The mind works in so many different ways and perhaps mine even works in even more different ways than most. For some reason I can be somewhere, look at something and all of a sudden start to daydream and see it in a different form or have a different meaning. Some people might call that strange and for some reason I am ok with that.

Since I spend a lot of time at the airport, I love to people watch and check out what is really happening at the airport. What are people doing, reading, what stores are busy, what restaurants are empty… etc.

I also think airports have changed a tremendous amount in the past decade. They have added shopping, restaurants and other businesses that help travelers. Well here are three business ideas that all sort of involve the airport. Your job is easy. Read the concept and let me know your thoughts:

Concept #1

Airport food cart (AFC). This concept is a combination of the little carts that help people around and food. These little carts could drive around the airport (yes slowly) and bring water, food, little accessories to people who are sitting in the terminals. This concept is totally based on convenience and the fact that some people would rather not get some food/drink and sit in the terminal than walk to a store and stand in line. This service might be really good for people traveling alone who don’t want to go into the little convenience store with their luggage and knock things down.

  • What do you think?
  • Good idea or back to the drawing board?

Concept #2

GPSLuggage – This to me is a no-brainer. More and more people are losing their luggage. This has happened to me three times in the past year and one of the times we were going to a wedding. The concept would be that you would secure something in your luggage that would tell you where it is and you could alert the airline or this is a service that the airline could offer for X amount dollars a bag. With all of the layoffs at the airlines, it has to affect the baggage handlers… meaning that losing your luggage will happen more often in the future.

  • What do you think?
  • Good idea or back to the drawing board?

Concept 3

AirportCARE for pets – Instead of dropping your dog/cat off at your neighbor’s or a kennel, you now can take your pet to the airport and drop them off at this new service. The service would have flexible hours so you could pick up your pet when you return. For me the time savings from not having to make a separate trip in a different direction to drop off our little dog Boston would make a difference.

  • What do you think? 
  • Good idea or back to the drawing board?

I look forward to hearing your comments and what you think of these three ideas.

Attention Clients And Researchers: Isn’t It Time To Bring Back Mystery Shopping?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

A few weeks ago I was flying back from Los Angeles to Dallas. Since I am a creature of habit, I always will buy a bottled water prior to getting on my flight. With that in mind, I walked into a convenience store called The Hudson News.

I noticed the aisles were really small in this store and the lines were very, very long. As I am trying not to knock down merchandise with my overstuffed bag, I noticed that there are 5 people behind the counter. One of them was ringing up customer after customer. Two of them were just standing there probably discussing what they are going to do over the weekend while the 4th and 5th person were also chatting while one of them was ringing up customers really, really slow. As the line was getting longer it got me to think about what the owners or regional manager of this store would think about this situation. Two customers who were behind me in line walked out while a few others were talking pretty loudly about what was happening with the lack of a sense of urgency on the part of the cashiers.

Let me say that I don’t believe this issue is specific to Hudson News. I believe this problem goes much deeper than that. I believe lots of companies have the same issue which is a lack of urgency, poor customer service and work ethic that doesn’t seem to be what it was in the past.

Why is that? Hudson News lost business because of this situation. At least two customers walked out and probably bought what they wanted in another store.

  • Is it lack of training?
  • Is it because companies are trying to save money and pay low wages?
  • Do companies care?

I am not sure what the answers are but can’t mystery shopping help them with this issue? Years ago when I was working for Marianne Schafer at Field Facts we had lots of mystery shop programs. I know there are companies out there that focus specifically on this type of research and I am wondering if their business is booming. It seems to me mystery shopping research is needed more than ever right now.

Do you agree?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

If You Want Useless Facts…You May Have Come To The Right Place

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Over the years a number of people have said that I know odd things, weird facts and most of them have said “you are king of useless information.” Who knows? Maybe they are right. But today I won’t debate that.

Since I have moved to the great state of Texas, one of my favorite useless facts is the Dallas/FT Worth (DFW) airport is bigger than the island of Manhattan. Yes, Manhattan NY. Yes it is true… I promise you. Another useless fact is who was the last switch hitter in baseball to win the MVP award? It’s actually a little bit of a trick question…Vida Blue in 1971. The tricky part is that most pitchers aren’t switch hitters and don’t win the MVP award –which makes it a real tough question.

I came across a site that is the 2007 – guide to funny facts, useless facts, amazing facts, fun facts.

I thought I would share some of the useless facts with you:


  1. On average a woman smiles more often than a man
  2. On average, a person laughs about 15 times each day
  3. A bowling pin will fall down at a tilt of 7.5 degrees
  4. Married men tip better than unmarried men


  1. The average person falls asleep in seven minutes
  2. 25% of all fires of unknown origin are rat-caused
  3. The average criminal sentence length is 137 years in Colombia
  4. Sylvester Stallone earned $23,000 for the film Rocky in 1976
  5. On average, about 40% of all hotel rooms in the U.S. remain empty every night


  1. Americans spend approximately $30 billion a year trying to lose weight
  2. Ten years ago, only 500 people in China could ski. This year, an estimated 5,000,000 Chinese will visit ski resorts
  3. Thirty-five percent of the people who use personal ads for dating are already married
  4. You share your birthday with at least 9 million other people in the world
  5. Donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes


  1. If you toss a penny 10000 times, it will not be heads 5000 times, but more like 4950. The heads picture weighs more, so it ends up on the bottom
  2. Sri Lanka has lowest divorce rate in the world – and the highest rate of female suicide
  3. You burn over 25 calories in a one minute kiss
  4. Tennis was originally played with bare hands
  5. The only two days of the year in which there are no professional sports games in USA like the NFL,NBA, MLB, NHL or NFL are the day before and after the Major League all-stars Game


  • Which useless fact is your favorite?
  • Do you have any useless facts you would like to share?

I look forward to reading your comments.

Don’t We All Want To Be Like Japanese Research Companies?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

One of the things I look forward to every year is the Honomichl Top 50 and top 25 Global Research Organizations. The two reports are published during the summer, year after year in AMA Marketing News. We are probably a few weeks away from all receiving the top 25 Global Research Organization list.

One of the things that is always amazing to me is revenue by employee. For years companies have used this as a metric and if you had revenue of over $200,000 per employee you were doing well.  Less than that you may have had some issues. I will admit that this isn’t a 100% scientific absolute, but more times than not it does hold true. In 2008 the numbers are higher than that and I have heard at conferences that executives are using a number of $250,000 as a benchmark.

When you look at revenue by employee, you will see a few companies that exceed the rest. In 2005 the companies with the highest revenue per employee were:


Dentsu Research $517,000
Video Research $468,000
Nikkei Research $312,000
Arbitron $293,000

First of all, congratulations for all achieving this revenue per employee. Amazing. Do you see a trend? Ok. Read on and I will ask that question again.

In 2006 the companies with the highest revenue per employee were:

Dentsu Research $518,000
Video Research $436,000
Arbitron $315,000
Nikkei Research $298,000

It is interesting that the same four companies occupied the top four spots. When you look at the companies comparing the years, Dentsu was flat. Video Research and Nikkei slipped while Arbitron went up.

The real interesting thing to me is where these companies are located:

Dentsu Research Japan
Video Research Japan
Nikkei Research Japan
Arbitron New York

To me that is amazing. In the past few years (I am sure if I went back further the same thing is true) the companies with the highest revenue per employee last year are all located in the same country, all located in the same city and yes, all located outside of the United States. They are all based in Tokyo!

Ok I will be the first one to admit that our revenue at M/A/R/C Research isn’t $500,000 per person or even $400,000 per person but obviously I would like it to be.

Let’s all pause for a moment…

  • What are they doing right?
  • What are they doing that we aren’t doing?
  • Are they better researchers?
  • Are their services that much better than ours?

I look forward to hearing and learning from your thoughts and comments.

Paper Or Plastic–Watch The Presentation And You Tell Me

Monday, September 15th, 2008

As I have mentioned, I have been getting a tremendous amount of emails that contain ideas, pictures and videos for the blog. This posting is no different. Thanks PS for sending me a PowerPoint presentation that opened up my eyes on a subject I knew very little about. I truly hope you take three minutes and watch this interesting, thought-provoking and appropriate presentation.

  • What were your thoughts as you were watching the presentation?
  • Do you think it will change your life?
  • What was the most surprising thing you learned?

This has had a dramatic impact on my life. I hope it did the same for you.

P.S. Usually I give my opinion and thoughts but this time I decided against doing that not to give away the video.

What Are Some Of The Best Life Lessons You Have Been Taught?

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Over my career I have had a number of bosses (some of which were really great–although I may not have known it at the time). I have also been very fortunate to be around a number of other very smart, successful and caring people.

Over the past few decades I must admit that I have learned so many things from so many people. I thought I would share some of those things with you:

  • JD (my dad) — Thanks for teaching me to be the best you could be.
  • Sandy Schwartz — Thanks for teaching me to believe in people and trust your instincts.
  • John Boni — Thanks for teaching me to never make a decision when you are emotional.
  • Marianne Schafer — Thanks for teaching me to always look for a better way to do something.
  • Trish — Thanks for teaching me not to make the same mistake twice.
  • Uncle John — Thanks for teaching me to experience different things.
  • Mom — Thanks for teaching me how important family is and always should be.
  • Alan, Andrew, Gary, Kenny, Rich, Rick — Thanks for teaching me how important friends are and will always be.

I have mentioned this to a number of people that life is such a great learning experience. All of us should not only learn something new each and every day but get better at something each and every day.

  • What are some of life’s greatest lessons that you have learned?
  • Who taught you those lessons?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

Attention Baseball Fans: Today Is Salute Fenway Park Day!

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

If you haven’t had the opportunity of going to a game at Fenway Park, it truly is a special experience. Whether you are a fan of the home team or not, it is as good (if not better) as going to Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium. For some stadiums, the atmosphere and experience is so great it doesn’t even matter if you are a fan of baseball, and in my opinion Fenway
Park is just that. It is a destination for lots of visitors when they are in Boston.

Earlier this week, the Boston Red Sox enjoyed their 456th sellout in a row and broke the major league record for consecutive sellouts. That truly is amazing that for almost SIX years Fenway Park has been completely sold out day after day, week after week. Below is one way the Boston Red Sox have thanked the fans of Red Sox Nation.

(Click to enlarge.)

Click to Enlarge

Today is Salute Fenway Park Day!

  • What is your favorite game that you ever attended at Fenway Park?
  • Do you like the improvements that have been made over the years?
  • Don’t you love the Monster seats?
  • Regardless of who you are rooting for, what is your favorite part of Fenway Park?
  • Have you ever had a Remdog?
  • If you don’t like Fenway park I would love to hear why as well.

I really look forward to reading your comments.

How Do You Feel About Money?

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Recently I was reading a review for Susan McCarthy’s new book, The Value of Money.

Susan discusses a number of things in her book, one of which was very interesting. She mentions that she encountered seven basic types of relationships people have with money.

Here are the seven different types with short descriptions:

  1. Money is King. This type judges themselves and others by how much money they have.
  2. Little Lambs. This person, McCarthy writes, has a childlike relationship with money and favors the “I’ll think about it tomorrow” approach to finances.
  3. “I’ll Pick Up the Bill If You Just …” This type uses money as a weapon to manipulate others. As an example, McCarthy cites a client who structured a trust that included some family members and explicitly left out others.
  4. Wolf Never Leaves My Door. No matter how much money this person has, they always feel poor. Fear dominates this person’s attitude toward money — fear of running out of money, fear of losing it and fear of someone else taking it, McCarthy writes.
  5. The Money Martyr. For a person bent on being a victim, money can easily provide the means for self-sabotage, McCarthy says. This relationship, she warns, is an easy one to unknowingly pass on to children.
  6. All is Well. These people appreciate money for what it is: a simple tool. Wealthy or not, they feel calm and confident about their finances.
  7. Spread the Joy. People with this attitude use their money generously and compassionately, McCarthy says, adding that they are never controlled by it.

When I was looking at the seven different descriptions I was trying to see which one I fit in. I had trouble with just one. I think I am 75% “All is Well” and 25% “Spread the Joy.” The funny thing is I believe that I have always been that way regardless of how much I made–which is very interesting. Not sure I have ever been “Wolf Never Leaves My Door”, but maybe I was in college or early in my career.

  • I know this is dangerous but for those that know me, what category do you think I am?
  • What category are you?
  • What about some of your friends?

I look forward to hearing your comments.