Categories
Arizona business Arizona issues

When You Can’t See The Fine Print

How often do you read the fine print when you sign up for a new membership, open an account, or subscribe to a newsletter?

Unless there’s a credit card involved, I don’t even skim the fine print. And if there’s a lot of fine print, I cancel out.

But what do you do if you can’t even find the fine print?

With No Fine Print, I “Signed Up” For Amazon Prime

Just this morning, I discovered I signed up for Amazone Prime.

This isn’t the first time I’ve unintentionally signed up. It happened a few years ago and I didn’t know about it until I saw a $100 charge on my bank account. I couldn’t figure out how to cancel online so I called Amazon and got a refund.

The second time it happened, I had received a lot of Amazon emails but I thought they were simply marketing to me. I didn’t realize they were telling me about all my great benefits until the emails started asking why I wasn’t watching Amazon Prime TV. Didn’t I know what I was missing? After watching a few episodes of Sneaky Pete, I was hooked and kept the membership for a year until I received a renewal request and canceled.

Sad box person a la Amazon
You don’t want me? (Pixamaby/aixklusiv)

I suppose Prime would make sense if I was a constant Amazon customer but I’m not. I prefer to buy from local stores, even if they’re chains because most are independently owned. Plus, as a freelancer, it’s healthy for me to get outside the office once in a while and interact with real live people.

This morning I checked my emails and saw updates from an order I placed last night. My boyfriend gets a fair amount of Amazon gift cards where he works, and generously gives them to me when he needs to order something. My fee: I order stuff I need or want. So last night, we used up almost all of the remaining balance from the current card to get:

  • Dog food for his two dogs and
  • A beauty product and pickleball racquet for me

And there was a second email congratulating me on my Prime membership!

Amazon Tricked Me into Prime!

I know I didn’t sign up for Prime during this last purchase.

I think the problem is we ordered using my tablet, which is old and a bit slow. Maybe I missed the box to uncheck for Amazon Prime and signed up by default for a free 30-day trial. I noticed that whenever I added items to my cart the shipping changed to two-day shipping with a fee from my earlier request for free shipping. I always use free shipping because there’s a major Amazon warehouse in Phoenix and my stuff almost arrives within a couple of days anyway.

In this case, there wasn’t fine print but a default action to sign me up for a service I don’t want or need. Technical fine print, if you will.

Lesson learned: If you see an email from a source you know wants your money, open it. This time, I figured out how to cancel my Prime membership online and yes, I now have a confirmation email.

The Phoenix Suns and the Fine Print About Brooks

My boyfriend gave me the idea to write about fine print after we placed our Amazon orders. He had been talking about how the Phoenix Suns nearly traded for the wrong player last week.

“Wait…which Brooks Brother are we trading?” (Pixabay/sonomabcd)

For those who don’t follow sports, the Phoenix Suns are our disillusioned local NBA franchise. (That’s basketball.) I say this because they never recovered from losing Steve Nash to the LA Lakers, where an injury promptly ended his impressive career.

The Suns have never won a championship. They reached the NBA Finals twice and lost, first to the Boston Celtics and later to the Chicago Bulls.

Their record is surprisingly similar to the Phoenix Cardinals, who lost their single Super Bowl appearance to the New England Team That Shall Not Be Named.

Anyway, it seems that the Suns were prepared to do a three-way trade with the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies. Don’t ask me to explain three-way trades. What I do understand is that the Suns wanted Memphis’ Dillon Brooks but Memphis thought they wanted MarShon Brooks, and somehow, Washington’s Austin Rivers was left hanging between the two other cities.

At the time of the deal, Dillon Brooks was injured and not even playing so that would disqualify him from a trade. You’d think that these highly valuable professional franchises have attorneys and spokespeople would know this and be able to distinguish between two players with the same last name.

Friday Night Tweets

Over several hours on a Friday night as the NBA trade deadlines approached, reporters from all three cities–Phoenix, Washington, and Memphis–and the national media repeated different stories about which Brooks was going to Arizona and who was claiming Washington’s Austin Rivers. Arizona’s sports radio station provided a helpful Twitter timeline for all this from no less than seven sportswriters reporting divergent stories from the three teams. It’s a pretty entertaining read:

  • “A [Memphis] Grizzlies source confirms it’s MarShon Brooks in the deal.”
  • “It’s Dillon Brooks coming to the [Phoenix] Suns. Reports of it being MarShon are wrong.”
  • “Two sources told me it was MarShon, not Dillon, after initial Dillon Brooks report, but then I was told deal was not complete.”
  • “Memphis ‘never’ discussed Dillon Brooks.”
  • “Washington believes it was told Dillon Brooks in conversations with Memphis. The Grizzlies insist they told Washington it was MarShon. One rival GM texted me and said: ‘Maybe Washington can put Scott Brooks in if there has to be a Brooks in the deal.’ “

My personal favorite: “Austin Rivers consistently repeated: ‘I don’t know where the hell I’m going right now.’ ”

According to the Twitter feed, Washington was supposed to be brokering the deal but hey, it’s Washington. Perhaps Javanka were involved with this. They get a lot of things confused.

As of this writing, Washington sent Austin Rivers and Kelly Oubre Jr. to Phoenix for Trevor Ariza who I’m not sure was part of the original deal. The “Brooks Brothers” remain in Memphis. Most importantly, my boyfriend seems pleased with the deal.

Side note: There is a Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis. It looks fantastic.

Lesson learned: get an independent broker for any business transaction involving more than two parties. And speak slowly so people can understand what you’re saying.

Should You Read the Fine Print?

There are a couple of takeaways I see from these two episodes.

  1. If you’re personally invested in a financial sense and you don’t see fine print to skim, look for it in places like email and Twitter.
  2. If your reputation is invested, get a skilled team to double-check everything, everywhere!

 

 

 

Categories
Lifestyle Marketing

The State of the Spoken Langauge

For the past several months I’ve been providing captioning services for people who are hard of hearing and use one of those caption phones that let them read their conversations. Many customers are older people who also use hearing aids. I’ve written about how people are speaking faster than ever before, which makes conversation harder to follow (and caption!), and how telemarketing staff can improve sales to older folks by adapting their speech. It’s an interesting perch that lets me observe the state of the spoken language for a few hours each week.

I’ve certainly become more aware of my own speech patterns and speed. I’ve got my own fast-talking teenager who is nice enough to slow it down for me and his elderly (89 years old) grandfather who refuses to wear hearing aids.

Here are some other observations I’ve jotted down over the past several weeks.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Huh?
I have not actually heard this one but I’m waiting…/Pixabay, QuinnTheIslander

Phrases Can Come Back

Some phrases, like Tony Bennet, can have popular comebacks.

The most recent one is “blah blah blah.” Maybe it’s because it’s summer and people are tired and don’t feel like talking. Between the heat, storm, floods, and wildfires, it’s not been an easy summer for a lot of people. I’ve even heard the occasional “yadda yadda yadda,” an even bigger surprise because that one really got overworked in the 1990s.

Several weeks ago, I started hearing a phrase I don’t think I’d heard since childhood: “okey-dokey.” And it wasn’t coming from the people for whom I caption—it was from people speaking to them. Many of them sounded middle-aged or younger, and they were from all different backgrounds including a guy who sold farm equipment, schedulers in physician offices, hair stylists, and even tech support people.

“Okey-dokey” is something I recall being said by adults to children and my first reaction upon hearing it was that it was from one of those well-meaning but annoying people who talk to older people as if they are children. But then the farm equipment guy used it after a discussion with a customer about the right kind of tubing to use for an irrigation project.  The two were clearly acquaintances–they commiserated over the mess known as the Colorado River Compact–and I recall they also discussed parts for a second-hand tractor someone was trying to sell.

By the way, the software we use to record our captions focuses on the other party to a call. We generally don’t hear our own customers very well since we are only captioning the speech of the other person on the line. Sometimes we don’t hear customers at all.

The Urban Dictionary says “okey-dokey” first appeared around 1930. Another contributor said it’s a way to agree with something that’s pretty lame (like your boss reminding you about getting reports in on time), and yet another said it’s another way to tell someone to go fuck yourself.

Bless Their Hearts

Which brings me to another phrase: “bless your heart.” I was made aware by a friend who grew up in Tennessee, in a town literally halfway between Memphis and Nashville, that this is the Southerners’ way of saying precisely the same thing. It made me rethink a lot of people who I thought were my friends when I lived in the DC area.

I hear “bless your heart” so often among southerners that I assumed the phrase is intended for Yankees. But it’s all in the context of the conversation, as this Bless Your Heart 101 article from Southern Living explains. After reading it, I’m pretty sure that the empathetic version is only intended for fellow Southerners. Either that or they spend a lot of time on the phone with people they don’t like, bless their hearts.

Here are some other phrases Southern Living says are unique to the south but I declare I heard many of these growing up in New Jersey. I won’t argue their origin, though, because that conversation won’t amount to a hill of beans and we can talk about it til the cows come home. Be sure to watch the accompanying video, too—it’s a hoot.

Sports Idioms Live On In Spoken Language

Sports idioms in the spoken language live on and it’s a crowded field out there.

All across the nation, people leave voice messages that they “just wanted to touch base,” a phrase I rarely hear spoken live to another person. Interestingly, I hear this most often in messages left by women, usually to men.

Men talk a lot about “Monday Morning quarterbacking” oddly enough, it seems, mid-week. I could be imagining it but I caption more men mid-week than on Mondays and Fridays. I hear this particular phrase in the rare political conversation and among people who got stuck in a bad weather situation. Farmers also use it: many have thrown their hands up in the air when it comes to the weather.

And those tests the doctor orders? They want the whole nine yards. But if you want to know how much a medication will cost, even a ballpark figure, forget it. They say they have to jump through too many hoops to get this.

I once worked with someone who broke up with a guy because she couldn’t stand that he said “okey-dokey.”

Do you have a favorite or least favorite colloquialism, idiom, or clichè?

 

 

 

Categories
Arizona business Marketing

Marketing Lessons From WordCamp Phoenix

I recently volunteered at WordCamp Phoenix, an event I’ve attended in the past. For those who aren’t familiar with WordCamp, it’s a WordPress conference. Most WordCamps are strictly local.

I use WordPress for this website and with a few of my clients. I’ve even developed a couple of sites with it.

WordPress was created to be free (open source) blogging software like Blogger but quickly became the world’s most popular website software. I’ve had my ups and downs with it. However, I still prefer it especially when I compare it to the handful of other website software I’ve used. If you can use word processing software, you can write on a WordPress platform.

WordCamp is a Place Where Everyone is Interested in What You Do

One thing I immediately liked about the first WordCamp I attended a few years ago is that its enthusiasts (they call themselves “evangelists”) aren’t snobby about their WordPress knowledge. They’re eager to share what they know. I was introduced to it in 2009 by a friend who offered to show me how to set up a website for my new writing business. Prior to this exposure, I assumed website software was the tangle known as Dreamweaver that seemed far above my fledgling skills.

WordCamp is a welcoming place where everybody is interested in what everyone else does for a living. If you’re just setting up a website for the first time, there are sponsors and vendors who can explain how they can help you create your site and host it. There are specialists in website security whose tools integrate with WordPress, and website developers who specialize in creating e-commerce sites. And then there are freelance professionals who provide a variety of WordPress technical services and writers (ahem) who can create content for your website.

This WordCamp was a little more friendly to non-technical professionals than past ones. There was a session to show WordPress beginners the main functions. Othere sessions discussed marketing topics that could fit into most business conferences and included topics like best practices for social media, how to create your own website design, and how to develop content that’s likely to answer a Google search.

Even if You Think You’re Pretty Seasoned, a WordCamp Will Tell You Something You Didn’t Know or Forgot About

Frankly, there are so many changes going on in marketing that any good marketing presentation is going to either tell you something new or remind you of a basic concept you’d forgotten about while chasing SEO butterflies.

Here are a few of the marketing items I learned, or re-learned, at WordCamp Phoenix:

Figure out your goals and work backward to plan a way to reach them. It’s OK to do this in steps.

Treat your goals like a target.
State your target, at least to yourself

Mindie Kniss somehow made the concept of planning less threatening, at least to this writer. In fact, I realized that I’ve been doing some of this all along which was very reassuring. Kniss also stressed the importance of building a client list and following up with clients; for example, just checking in, asking how things are going, and so on. I’ve actually landed new assignments this way, by “reminding” clients that they needed a white paper, a new email approach, or someone to ghost-write for one of their own clients.

Poetry serves as a mind hack.

I’m actually tired of the word “hack” but Shawn Pfunder’s use of it makes sense here. Pfunder is a senior communications director for GoDaddy and loves to write, particularly stories for businesses to share with readers. This is an approach I heartily endorse. Pfunder read a few lines from poems and demonstrated how anticipation of the conclusion actually activates neurons. It didn’t hurt that he recited lines from my favorite poet, Bruce Springsteen.

Think about data as you prepare to write.

Data are your friends! (Really, and I’m one of those who sees this as a plural word.) Nikki VanRy, a content marketer who manages Nivan Content, says to do a little

A Google search can highlight keywords and synonyms.
Talk to Google before you write.

research before you sit down to write on a topic to see how people search for it. For example, I conducted these searches in incognito mode to prepare for this article:

  1. is wordcamp useful for marketing
  2. what happens at wordcamp
  3. i hate wordcamp

I’m wondering about the incognito function since a discussion at WordCamp Phoenix was the first item to come up for the first search and it auto-populated my search even though I switched that function off. I guess incognito search still looks at search history even if it’s not recording current searches.

The second search was more of what I’d expect to see–articles that answer the question and used my exact search term. I got a listing for WordCamp Las Vegas (“What happens at WordCamp stays at WordCamp.”)

That last one brought up posts that sought to deny anyone hates WordPress or explain that haters have been given incorrect information. This is helpful because I’m careful to explain terms that probably sound like jargon to non-WordPress users, or at least those who use it as a tool and aren’t particularly interested in understanding its functionalities. I understand where they’re coming from.

Two interesting facts I got from Nikki’s talk:

  1. Only 15% of Google searches are actually unique and have never been done before.
  2. 1 in 20 Google searches are about healthcare.

Technical Topics Impact Marketing, Too

I didn’t go to the higher-end technical sessions, which were easy to identify because I had to look up the acronyms in their titles. But there are topics that lean toward the technical side of things that I think are important for marketers to think about.

The first is security. This happens to be an interest of mine; I volunteer with the Cloud Security Alliance and have a layman’s understanding of why cloud security is actually much safer than you might think.

What does marketing have to do with security? Well for starters, if your site is hacked at the very least it can stop running your brilliant content and replace it with something completely inappropriate, such as advertisements you aren’t being paid for, the President’s taxes, or the absolute worst: your site shuts down altogether.

So it was enlightening to go through Aaron Campbell’s list of website security myths and facts, including:

  • The vast majority of attacks are scripted and not targeted, so even if you feel you’re too insignificant to be a target, you are anyway.
  • If you think changing a WordPress file prefix will protect the file, you’re also losing the opportunity for WordPress to update a vulnerable file since it won’t recognize it.
  • A username like Admin isn’t a security risk. It’s the password that’s the security. The longer and more random a password is, the more security it will provide.
  • Every sight should now have an SSL.

    Don't fear weird-looking Google Analytics.
    Analytics are also your friends.

Aaron, who is the Team Lead for WordPress security, is funded by GoDaddy.

The other sort-of technical topic had to do with analytics. WordCamp usually includes a how-to presentation on analytics. Instead of going through Analytics 101, Google Analytics Explainer Brandy Lawson of FieryFX introduced us to Google Data Studio, which helps build custom reports on analytics that update as they change. I wouldn’t have had a clue this existed at all. If your clients don’t understand Google Analytics’ default reporting, this could be a great solution.

There’s a WordCamp going on somewhere in the world nearly every day. Phoenix will host another one in February; follow it’s Twitter feed at #phxwordcamp. Or visit the WordCamp page on WordPress.com to find one near you.

Categories
Grammar Marketing

Relax. You’re Using Grammarly.

I am so glad I found Grammarly.

One of the frustrations I have with WordPress is that it refuses to incorporate a spell or grammar check in its dashboard.

Sure, I can draft in Word, which has its own built-in spelling and grammar check, and upload new pages to WP. But this is rarely a smooth process. There are format SNAFUs with paragraphs, photo imports, and callouts. Frankly, it’s easier to draft directly on WP and save often, just like you do with Word.

Word’s built-in spell and grammar tool isn’t very accurate. It can be as clunky as a high school essay. So I’m using Grammarly to check my own work.

Grammarly Works Wherever You Need It

I’m not about to stop using Office documents. But now I rely on this great grammar tool to review my work everywhere I type.

I downloaded the Grammarly app to my desktop and have been delighted to see, in real-time, where my writing might be a bit off.

(I know, how can this happen?)

Grammarly is a free tool that reviews your work as you create. As I write this piece, it’s already noted where I initially misspelled its name and offered the correct spelling as well as other options: ignore, add to its dictionary, or go into the Grammarly tool to see other examples where I used a particular convention.

It also auto-corrects obvious misspellings without making an issue.

Is it perfect? No. I got a caution in my third paragraph above to change “isn’t” into “aren’t.” That’s not correct since the object of that sentence is the singular word “tool.” It apparently saw “spell and grammar,” a plural phrase, as the object.  But it’s also learning my style as I work and I don’t think I’ll see something like this over and over again.

The White House needs Grammarly to check its Instagram posts.
Grammarly works in social media, too!

I’ve been using the Grammarly app for a couple of weeks now as I’ve updated website pages and blogs here on my site and on LinkedIn. It’s shown spelling (oops) and grammatical errors (yikes!) on my pages.

One thing I really miss about working solo is the lack of other writers around me to look over my work before I publish. I thought I had solved this problem by waiting a day or two to publish, but I still spot errors afterward. Plus, I often want to publish right away.

I’ve been really happy to see Grammarly pop up as I work on social media sites and in my Gmail account as I compose. I don’t find it intrusive although I can see how others would. Somehow, it isn’t as annoying as Clippy, the much-hated Microsoft Office “assistant.”

 

Free Versus Premium Grammarly

I’ve been using the free Grammarly tool for now. A Premium feature includes these services:

  • Additional checks on vocabulary, writing style, and sentence structure
  • Customized reviews
  • 24/7 report via email
  • Full integration with MS Office

Costs are very reasonable, from $11/month for a yearly plan. There are higher rates for monthly and quarterly plans. All have a money-back guarantee.

Grammarly is a great freebie for professional writers. I’d recommend it to those who want to write but worry about their skills or who have tons of work and little time to review. It won’t take the place of another writer colleague, but so far I’d say it comes pretty darn close.

Categories
Grammar

Understanding English in England

 

 

Author’s Note: I wrote this blog just prior to the terrible attack on Westminster Bridge March 22. I sincerely hope this event won’t dissuade anyone from traveling there. There really is no place like England, regardless of how you speak English.

England is Part of Great Britain and the United Kingdom

England itself is a nation that is part of Great Britain, an island that includes two other nations, Scotland and Wales.

The United Kingdom (full name: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is just that. Northern Ireland is the fourth nation within the UK. People from all four nations are carry British passports and are considered British although most prefer the more exacting definition of their nation.

The island of Ireland is divided by the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Most people who identify as Irish are from the Republic. The Northern Irish are just that.

Both the Republic and Northern Ireland are part of the geographic designation “British Isles.” This also includes several islands governed by England, Wales, and Scotland:

  • The Isle of Wight, off England’s southern coast, belongs to England only.
  • The Isle of Anglesey, off the Welsh coast, belongs to Wales.
  • Scotland claims the Shetland, Hebrides, and Orkney Islands.

Then there’s the Isle of Man, Guernsey, and Jersey, islands that do not belong to any of these nations but are properties of the British Crown.

I highly recommend this five-minute video by CGP Grey for more information on the UK’s reach across the British Isles and the world.

Don’t Assume a Person is English!

It’s tempting to assume a person you meet in England is English. However, there are lots of non-English in England who identify with their nation. Even many Irish (as in Republic) emigrate to study or work in England.

Mistaking a Scot as English could be enough for  him to whip out his dubh or dirk.  Even some Welsh can get riled up. f they start speaking their native language (it’s now taught in their schools), you’ll be lost. “Rwy’n Cymraeg!”

I facebombed Queen Elizabeth whilst in England.
Facebombing the English Queen, circa 1995

While we’re at it, don’t bring up the Queen or her family unless you’re certain the person with whom you are speaking is English or from Northern Ireland. People from Wales and Scotland tolerate her at best.

The Scots refer to her as Elizabeth I since the historic Elizabeth wasn’t their Queen during her lifetime. Scotland had its own monarchs, including the disastrous Mary Queen of Scots, who Elizabeth arrested, imprisoned for 20 years, and beheaded. Mary’s son James ended up inheriting her throne and Elizabeth’s, joining the two nations in an uneasy alliance since 1603.

Stay tuned to see what happens after Brexit.

How do you know if you’re speaking with someone who’s Norn Iron or from the Republic? I don’t know. Best to let sleeping royals lie.

Key Differences in American and Queen’s English

I don’t know if you can call it Queen’s English everywhere. Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, the topic of anything Royal can become a touchy one.

Regardless, here’s a list of important linguistic differences between English spoken in the UK and in the US. I learned most of them through personal, sometimes embarrassing, experiences.

  1. Tea is any kind of snack. It’s rarely the whole afternoon ritual and might not even include actual tea!
  2. Spotted dick is not an STD. It’s a popular dessert: bread pudding with raisins.
  3. Pudding isn’t anything like our pudding. It’s soft cake, usually served with cream.
  4. Yorkshire Pudding isn’t cake but a kind of soufflé.
  5. Blood pudding is a pork sausage that includes pork blood and oatmeal. It’s also called black pudding.
  6. Bangers are also sausages.
  7. Sultanas are a type of raisin, not exotic foreigners.
  8. A rubber is an eraser. Galoshes are still galoshes.
  9. A lift isn’t a ride home but an elevator.
  10. “Mind the gap” means “watch your step.” You see it mostly in the London Underground and train stations.
  11. The Underground is London’s subway, not a club.
  12.  A coach is a bus. You won’t have your Jane Austen experience on a coach.
  13. A boot sale isn’t a sale on boots. It’s more like a swap meet or trunk sale.
  14. A boot is a car trunk.
  15. A bonnet is a car hood.
  16. A fag is a cigarette.
  17. Infant school is daycare or preschool.
  18. Someone who’s mad is crazy. Madness = insanity.
  19. “Sod it” means “screw it.” “Feck” is Irish for a similar expression.
  20. The phrase Hobson’s Choice—take it or leave it—came from a Cambridge stable owner. A horse is a horse of course of course.

Grammar Anarchy

There are some grammatical differences as well. The one I noticed the most involves plural versus singular distinctions.

Is a team or band a group or separate individuals? Grammatically, we screw this up.

Americans tend to consider everything and anything that ends with an “s” as a plural, even if it’s a singular item. Not so in the UK.

  • There: Pink Floyd reunite in a one-time reunion. (I wish.)
  • Here: Pink Floyd reunites in a one-time reunion.

Yet we’d both say “The Rolling Stones play” because we see an “s” at the end of the band’s name. They just see everything as plural.

Personally, I’d treat the Yankees and say, Manchester United as a singular entity. The Yankees would agree; they don’t even put players’ names on their uniform shirts! But it would sound odd to say “Manchester United play an exhibition game against Phoenix United next week.”

Have you travelled and heard unusual phrases to American ears? Add your comments below!