in Tales From the Boat Supply Store

YOU RUINED MY WEEKEND … a lesson in management


“YOU RUINED MY WEEKEND!” screamed the man on the other end of the phone.

We got this kind of phone call from time to time at the store.

Someone would have come in, likely on a Thursday, and bought some part that they needed to repair their boat.

Their enjoyment of their weekend was, in fact, entirely predicated on using THAT PART to fix their boat.

Trailered boats aside, our store was relatively inland compared to where our customers boats actually were – by a couple hours drive. We were located near where they lived, not where they recreated. It made for convenient shopping, but not so convenient, uh, actually selecting the right damn part that they needed. And it would be especially inconvenient to drive back to the store, and back to their boat, doubly so if they had already started drinking (the more complex the repair, the more beers needed).

On the times where they didn’t select the right part (or perhaps it broke, or perhaps, even they weren’t sold the right part – which happened sometimes but not as often as the customer being wrong), some customers who were of particularly foul temper would choose to berate whoever it was who answered the phone, blaming us personally for their situation.

Usually though, the person working Saturday or Sunday wasn’t likely the person working that past Thursday, who sold them the part – but the weekend crew go the brunt of the complaints.

After being on the receiving end of a particularly bad call, I went and talked to my manager to try to explain the customer’s issue. He could tell that I was shaken and he asked what happened. I related a tale of many F-bombs and a truly unsolvable & unwinnable situation.

He told me, “Chris, you never have to take that kind of abuse from a customer. If they ever start cussing at you or making it personal, give them my name, and my number, then hang up the phone.”

Having that level of support – knowing that at work there was someone I could depend on in that way felt really great. It was definitely a lesson that I carry with me today. I try to make it a point to always be available for my team when the burden of client work, or a particular situation, gets unbearably unreasonable.

It’s important for your team to know you’ve got their back. If you aren’t sure they know that, make it explicitly clear to them, and when they need you, be there to back up your word.

Robinhood & Its Unofficial API Docs

During an impromptu conversation about investing/fintech startups today, I learned of a free app called Robinhood – a brokerage that does not charge commission for stock trades (they make their money off the interest earned on the cash deposits of their customers).

To my pleasant surprise, there is also an unofficial API. The author of that documentation, Sanko Robinson, has published it as part of a larger perl wrapper project called Finance::Robinhood.

This brings up the intriguing possibility of experimenting with simple stock trading bots at zero cost, other than time and potential loss. I’m thinking of some ideas for some simple node.js experiments…

Update: There is a node.js package already. I’ll try that first: npm robinhood

The Whistling Gopher Never Buys

“Go help that guy…” said Steve.

“Sir, how can I help you?” I asked.

The man poked at the knobs of the radar system and let out a slow, low whistle.

Without looking me in the eyes he asked, “What’s that one go fer?”

They always come into the store to look at the high end stuff, but the Whistling Gopher never buys.

Found the missing Apple Newton MessagePad 2000, what to do with it?

About twenty years ago I remember my stepdad using an Apple Newton for his job working as a hospital administrator. With the ascension of the iOS devices we’d always told ourselves we’d find it in his attic one day. In the midst of a massive clean-out he and my mom are working through, it finally turned up.

Being a gadget geek myself, I have a strong appreciation for this being one of the devices that had a significant role both in the history of portable computing, and also Apple as a company.

Over the coming months, I’m going to learn the ins and outs of it and see if I can find some purpose for it. Based on some initial searching, the more “modern” upgrades seem to be:

  • Wifi
  • Web browser
  • RSS reader

People also seem to use them as web servers, which is neat. I could see making it part of my home automation system, possibly a controller of some sort. That would play well with the (by today’s standards) limited processor power it has, but also the many options it has for expansion cards and serial ports. It would make a good conversation piece to give it some purpose for sure.

Reject the idea of running Google Analytics on your blog

The obsession with metrics and page views and all that can lead to unhealthy behavior when it comes to how you think about your blog. Write for yourself. Outcomes are what matter. Outcomes happen when good content is seen by the right people, maybe even just the right person.

The rest is just what Eric Ries and others would call vanity metrics.

I do care about inbound referring domains though, when they aren’t a bunch of link spam. They can lead to real outcomes.

The /drafts folder

There’s a lot of good ideas in there. Maybe a wiki is better than a blog so things can be stubbed out and evolved.

That’s what I was trying to do with the old version of this site on GitHub – treat it like a collection of HTML documents. Maybe I got sidetracked fiddling with Jekyll, maybe I got sidetracked by just not devoting enough time to make updates. If things weren’t in Drafts, they were likely on a Trello card somewhere.

Posting to Twitter and more recently Anchor appeal to me more than long form content like blogs, Medium, and Podcasts, but I find myself wanting to do things longer form. Focus is just so hard to find. Second to that, inspiration?