Posts tagged ‘behavior’

June 23, 2016

#113) You can’t give it away: #3 (The heartless bastard who wouldn’t let Amazon make a charitable donation for him)

“Would you like to make a donation to your favorite charity (at no cost to you?)” Amazon wanted to know. It turned out that some of the products in my cart were eligible for “AmazonSmile”, the online retailer’s charitable contributions program. Win-win, right? I mean, what kind of heartless bastard wouldn’t want to donate at no cost to themselves?

This guy. (Did I mention? I am the titular heartless bastard.)

In this edition of “You Can’t Give It Away” we will look at my motivation (or lack thereof) in not making a mouse click in the name of philanthropy. If making someone’s donation for them doesn’t do the trick, how are nonprofits supposed to raise a buck?

Whether it’s buying a product, ordering a service or even making a donation, “free” isn’t always the goal. Donors may have any number of motivations, be it emotional satisfaction, belief in the cause or Jewish guilt. According to this article on Philanthropy News Digest, “[P]ersonal connections — not trending topics, gimmicks, or social media engagement itself — are the key driver of charitable giving.” A prompt for a mouse click does not a personal connection make. Indeed, blogger John Kenyon articulates a skepticism many feel about donating through a corporation: “Unfortunately, for years I have seen nonprofits waste time, energy and hope on similar online charity malls…My issues with them – and with AmazonSmile – are…that they only benefit nonprofits with a large supporter base and they usually have a negative overall ROI for organizations that participate.”

Ease of donation can also mean a less rewarding experience for the donor–and makes it less likely that the donor will contribute more in the future. As this article about Amazon Smile notes, “Without a cost there is no actual exchange with the charity. Yet the charitable reward exists. So the question is if you’ve already received a reward, at no cost to you, are you more or less likely to give to a charity when the time comes?”

Let’s face it: when every other social media post in your feed is a Kickstarter or a Go Fund Me and  Rite-Aid asks you if you want to round up your change for charity,  you don’t have to be a heartless bastard to feel saturated by solicitations. Yes, we want to give but sometimes we just want to buy crap online and be done with it. When I am in that mood, vaguely altruistic ideas and omnipotent click buttons just don’t do the job the way a well thought-out invitation and the creation of a personal connection to the story can.

Well, that wraps up this edition of You Can’t Give It Away. I realize this post begs the question, “How can I find time to work on my blog but I can’t be bothered to click a button for the benefit of mankind?”

Told you I was a heartless bastard.

May 19, 2015

#93) Escape artists

Note: this is a simulblog, appearing both on “D-Theory” and “Positive Music Place.”

When one of my friends posted her concerns that the internet would spoil the finale of “Mad Men” before she had a chance to watch it, I reassured her in my typically smart-ass manner: “Already saw it. Vader is Luke’s father.”

My knowledge of “Mad Men” consists of having watched about 10 minutes of it and listening to people praise it. The show has helped me see that just because something is popular, that doesn’t make it bad. I get the show’s appeal: timeless themes of pride undone by a tragic flaw set against a glamorous ’60s backdrop is a winning combination. I’ve realized that the problem is not Don Draper; it’s another “D”. My tastes in TV are escapist (see #44 and #84 for more info). Thus, if I don’t want to be judged for favoring lighter entertainment when it comes to the tube, I shouldn’t judge those who prefer Adele to Mahler.

A few days ago I was listening to a popular country song that was the requested first dance at a wedding where I was performing with the 40-Oz. Band. Overhearing it, my wife gave me a look that needed no explanation. All I could do was tell her, “Not everyone wants to be challenged on their wedding day.” Similarly, not everyone wants to be challenged after a long day at the office.

Like all creative professionals, us musicians put so much work and heart into what we do that when someone doesn’t notice, it’s a hard pill to swallow. We shake our heads when people download Nicki Minaj tracks by the millions  while our heart-felt oeuvre, honed by the light of a midnight lamp, is met with indifference at Open Mic night.

Yet we ignore, too: whether it’s by eating fast food instead of going to the farmer’s market; by reading “Twilight” instead of Shakespeare or by watching “The League” and “Shipping Wars” instead of “Mad Man.” That doesn’t make us bad people; everyone needs convenience and escapes now and then. Most dieticians agree that you can’t expect yourself to eat perfectly 24/7. Play for the people who want the challenge, don’t let the ones who don’t bring you down and step outside your own comfort zone now and then. You may pleasantly surprise a writer, chef, candle maker or photographer who assumed you were just looking for an escape.

September 21, 2014

#86) Facebook and the NFL: When sucking doesn’t matter

Everyone’s pissed off at the NFL. Everyone’s disgusted with Facebook. Everyone will be watching the NFL this Sunday and letting Facebook know about it.  Yes, despite–or perhaps because of–their efforts to alienate their fan/consumer bases, Facebook and the NFL aren’t going anywhere.

We hate them but we can’t look away. It’s more than the car-crash-staring instinct; it’s a true love-hate relationship. Nobody hates Myspace or baseball. You can only hate something or someone that you once truly loved.

We started loving football in the 1950s and 60s. Football looked better on television than baseball.  Baseball expanded, diluting the talent pool and bringing the game to cities where it didn’t have a chance, such as Miami*. Free agency meant that baseball teams no longer stayed together. World Series games started too late but the Super Bowl was always on a Sunday and the whole family could watch it. With far fewer games than any other sport, each one was an event. We’d anticipate them and spend Monday talking about what those damn Steelers should have done differently. The NFL became so big that it thrived even without a team in the country’s second biggest market, Los Angeles. Rotisserie leagues in baseball became a thing, but NFL fantasy leagues became a bigger thing.

We started loving Facebook in the late ’00s–April of 2008, to be precise, when it officially became the #1 most visited social network site. Myspace had shown us how easy and fun it can be to put together an online scrapbook of photos, websites, songs and pithy quotations, but it had become too messy and impersonal. Facebook made connecting with that kid you used to beat the crap out of (or perhaps vice versa) back in 8th grade simple and easy. Facebook translated better to smartphones.

Then, to use Facebook relationship status terminology, it got complicated. Facebook faced questions about the privacy of its users’ information. Naysayers pointed out that it was losing ground to Instagram and Pinterest. The user experience started to seem more about getting into political arguments with virtual strangers than reuniting with long lost friends. In the NFL, Janet Jackson happened. Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress happened. Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson followed. Yes, it got complicated.

Or did it?

As of this writing, Facebook is ranked as the second-most visited site in the world according to Alexa. The NFL saw a 7% increase in viewers of the first Thursday game of this season compared to the first Thursday game of last season. We may say that Facebook is dead and that the NFL only cares once its sponsors pull out. We’re going to watch anyways. According to Alexa, we’re going to spend an average of 27 minutes per day on Facebook this month. Some of us might even call 911 if we can’t log on. No number of poorly handled press conferences or allegations of privacy violations can change that.

It’s not that we buy in in spite of the fact that the NFL and Facebook suck. It’s not that we buy in because they suck. It doesn’t matter if the NFL and Facebook suck or not. We’re married to them. Myspace was our high school crush whom it was easy to leave when things didn’t work out; Facebook is our spouse.  Facebook and the NFL made good impressions on us when it counted and continued to not suck for long enough to convince us to spend the rest of our lives with them. Yes, some of us might get divorced–we all have the friend who has actually followed through on their plans to swear off Facebook and goes to the park on Sunday to feed the ducks while the rest of us watch ball–but most of us won’t. Years of marriage has taught us that fighting usually leads to great make-up sex.  Besides, is it really worth it just to have to file all of that paperwork and decide who gets what? We’ve all got better things to do.

Like watch the New York Jets and post about it on Facebook.

*Yes, I know the Marlins have won the World Series twice. Nobody gives a fuck.

July 14, 2014

#80) The restaurant time forgot (and what musicians can learn from it)

Note: this is a simulblog, posted on both D-Theory and Positive Music Place.

The story sounds familiar: a restaurant consistently received bad reviews, so they looked over surveillance videos to see what was going on.  The plot twist came when management looked over the film.  The results were surprising–not because they were shocking, but just the opposite.  There were no bodily functions performed on the prime rib; no one playing Words with Friends as a grease fire broke out; no managers putting the make on waitresses in the office; none of the employee hijinks that might be expected.  In fact, when they compared the recent footage to tapes from ten years earlier, the employee behavior was pretty much the same.  It was the customers that were different.

According the article about this restaurant’s findings, seven out of the 45 customers observed on the recent video asked their servers for the Wifi password.  Twenty-seven of the 45 requested that their waiter take a picture of their group; 14 of those 27 asked for a second picture.  Long story short: the restaurant’s conclusion was that customer behavior increased the average length of stay by 50 minutes compared to ten years ago.

Here’s where the restaurant missed the mark.  “We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant, after all there are so many choices out there.  But you please be a little more considerate?” they implore at the end of the article.

The problem is, the restaurant doesn’t accept the fact that–whether or not they agree with it–for many customers, the cell phone is as important a part of the meal as the locally sourced vegetables and the craft beers.  The restaurant customer of 2014 expects to be able to take photos of their food and themselves enjoying it.  Savvy restauranteurs embrace the free advertising and integrate cell phones into the dining experience they provide;  proprietors stuck in the past complain about how kids today have no manners instead of trying to figure out how to better cater to them, thus resulting in poor online reviews.

So far you’ve read over 300 of my words (which I appreciate, thank you!); none of which is “music.”  What does this restaurant and their grievances with cell phones have to do with music?

Musicians face a similar dilemma in terms of getting their product out to new audiences.  Yes, we all want to do it our way, but trends, buying habits and tastes change.  Many consumers expect to be able to get music for free.  Music fans often see Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as ways of connecting with their favorite bands.  (Check out this post on CD Baby’s DIY Musician blog for more thoughts on the subject.)  The musician who evolves to fit the needs of  2014’s audience will likely have more gigs than the one who shakes his fist and rants about how no one appreciates AC/DC, Zeppelin or Sabbath anymore (the fact that I am writing this blog instead of playing a show might give a hint about the category in which I belong).

Elitism can have its place.  Fattburger’s slogan is “We’re not for everyone”; the Stone Brewing Company Arrogant Bastard’s bottle reads, “You’re not worthy.”  Businesses sometimes have funny have signs mocking Wifi obsessiveness.  Similarly, the independent musician who doggedly sticks to their guns and refuses to cave in to any trends, technological or otherwise, sometimes succeeds.  Let’s be honest though; these are usually the exception, not the rule.

I don’t claim to have much experience in the food service business (unless you count the lemonade stand my brother and I had as kids) but I do know this: the restaurant’s choices are to either to brand themselves as a cell-phone free zone (a move which may make their following smaller but more loyal) or adapt to changing times and train waiters to accept taking pictures of drunken customers as part of their job description.

Today’s consumer typically has more options for night life, dining and entertainment than they do time or money; as a band, restaurant or other purveyor of goods and services, you have a lot of competition for customers/fans.  If you look down on Wifi use at your restaurant, customers will likely go to the place down the block where it’s embraced.

Let’s face it, time can be a harsh mistress.  Yesterday’s rock star is today’s grumpy old man telling kids to get off their lawn.  Today’s rock stars–culinary, musical or otherwise–are often ones that let people on their lawn, but charge extra for Wifi.


December 29, 2012

#51) New Year’s resolutions inspired by 2012

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if 2012 was a year when the world was on edge.  From the tragic shootings in Connecticut, Colorado and Oregon to the acrimony of the presidential campaigns and election, it’s enough to make me understand why some many people believed in the Mayan Apocalypse.  It’s gotten me thinking about ways to make 2013 better.  Most of these are not goals I think are realistic to keep for the full year; rather they are more like “projects”; periods of sacrifice or behavior change, along the lines of Lent.  Perhaps as a result, the new behavior after the goal is completed.  We’ll know in 365 days.

1) Read at least one article/blog post/etc. that contradicts your beliefs.  Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, pro-choice or pro-life, you can learn a lot from at least understanding the other side’s point of view. You may be even more convinced your own opinion is right, but the best way to be a solid debater is to know the other side’s arguments.

2) Idiot Driver Amnesty Day.  No matter where you live, whether you commute by car, bus, bike, skateboard or foot, odds are you have to deal with drivers who are dangerous, selfish, distracted or just plain not that bright.  I propose picking one day and simply forgiving drivers for these transgressions. I’m not suggesting a lack of follow-up if an accident occurs; I’m not suggesting you don’t use your horn for safety.  But don’t flip the bird; don’t flash your lights at the person in front of you, no matter how slowly they’re driving.  Is it a drag to be late to work because of slow traffic?  Of course it is.  It’s not the end of the world.  I don’t mind saying that this resolution is probably the one which with I will have the most difficulty.

3) Radio Silent Hour Week.  Every day for one week, disconnect from all media for one hour.  No email, voicemail, Facebook updates, tweets, Youtube; you get the idea.  Will you lose clients because you don’t get back to them quickly?  Maybe.  I recently missed a gig because when the call came in, I was having sex with my wife.  I am not sure that, should a similar situation arise in the future, I would do things any differently.

4) Piss someone off.  Huh?  Isn’t this supposed to be about making the world a better place and making our own life better?  Well, when I suggest pissing someone off, I don’t mean going out of the way to do it; I simply mean, saying “no” when you mean “no”; not doing something for someone else that benefits only them.  Someone once said that if everyone likes you, you’re not doing your job.  I forget who they were, but they were right.

5) Facebook free day.  Exactly what it sounds like.  You can always see pictures of your co-worker’s kids, pithy political cartoons and game invitations tomorrow.  As for your own posts: quality over quantity, people.

6) Media free food week.  Huh?  Yes, media free food week.  In other words: don’t eat in front of the TV.  Don’t eat while talking on your phone.  Don’t eat while driving.  Don’t eat while surfing the web.  Next to #2, this will probably be the toughest one on the list for me – but I’m giving it a shot.  Studies have linked eating in front of the TV (and one can reasonably conclude that the computer and its kin are also guilty) to weight gain; check out this article for more information.

7) Twitter free year.  Yes, year.  I have to say that while every technology and every website has its good and bad sides, with Twitter, the negative far outweighs the positive.  Lots of people have been disciplined over poorly timed tweets, whether it was Boston College soccer player Stephanie McCaffrey or collegiate football player Bradley Patterson.  True, one can always refrain from making offensive tweets, but regardless, what has Twitter really done for you lately?  We all loved watching Obama use it to build support in ’08, but I can’t help but feel as if the site’s days as an agent for publicity are done.  Maybe I’m wrong and will be eating my words at this time next year; all hating can be directed to @dlockeretz.

8) Write a letter.  A letter to the editor, a letter to a friend, a letter to family.  No postcards; you will probably do those anyways.  No holiday card either; no one wants to hear about how great your year was when theirs sucked.  While I have handwriting that is worse than any right-handed person I know (and I have a substantial number of the lefties beat too), I enjoy busting out the pen and paper from time to time; it’s a little more personal than an email or a text message.

9) Listen to one record that you haven’t heard before.  By record, I mean physical recording – compact disc, LP record, cassette, 8-track, wax cylinder.  Start to finish, no media interruptions, no conversations.  Maybe this is just the reactionary musician who doesn’t want to get with the times going on a rant, but just try it.  You might discover something new.  Might I suggest Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly” or Charles Mingus’s “Ah Um.” As with #8, I”m not trying to fight the new; I’m just suggesting that maybe the old isn’t completely obsolete.  Tweet @dlockeretz if you disagree.

10) Visit one place that you’ve never heard of.  Most people reading this probably use Google Maps or Mapquest to look up directions to appointments and meetings.  If you’ve done this, perhaps you’ve noticed a park, a local business or some other site that looks interesting, but never got around to checking it out.  I say: check it out!  You might even find a good hiking trail near you.  Not that I have any kind of vested interest in getting people interested in hiking, of course.

Thanks for reading & happy new year!