Are you a rubbernecker?

Ever wonder why it takes you so long to get home on the freeway when the crash is going in the other direction? 

It never ceases to amaze me how many people just need a quick loopy look. Just a second is all they need and they’ll be satisfied.

Tell me you’ve never done it.

Surely a little look won’t matter?

Don’t worry folks, there’s nothing to see hUere, Oh well there wasn’t!

Need I say more?

How do we change people’s innate need to know what’s going on?

Posted in accidents, car accidents, car crash, Crash, distracted driving, DistractedDriving, rubberneckers | 1 Comment

Retail Isn’t Dead, It Just Needs to Keep Reinventing Itself

I read an interesting story this morning from the Business Insider, saying that Amazon is opening up over 100 Pop Up Stores around the US. The irony is inescapable that Jeff Bezos’ business that supposedly was the demise of many retailers, especially in books and music, is now going to become not only a retailer, but in some of the most expensive mall locations.

It will of course be super successful, especially if they have knowledgeable staff. Even people like me who hate shopping, have certain weaknesses. For me it is cool electronics, gadgets, books and music. I have a Kindle but I also have a library of a least a thousand books, having given a similar amount away to hospice shops and other charities. It is now more of a collection of some of my favorite authors.

I have written countless blogs about Dick Smith Electronics, Borders, Sounds and other stores that could and should still be here and the common thread was they didn’t keep their best staff who had sales skills and product knowledge, because they didn’t pay them enough or value them, they tried to become mainstream lookalikes and compete on price instead of value and customer delight.

They certainly opened the door to Amazon, Ali Baba, Deal Extreme and lots of other sites, but as my blogs (largely focused around BAU) pointed out,  many of the reasons for failure were poor management or board decisions, not because the market didn’t want to spend money with them.

One of the last times I shopped at Dick Smith, I wanted to buy some Kindles for my family. I wanted to see the difference between the Fire and the Paperwhite and confirm that you can access Auckland Public Library eBooks, which as you can see on the story, their Point of Sale material says you could. You’ll find the story here. I bought the Kindles from Amazon.

In other blogs I predicted the demise of Dick Smith Electronics for several of reasons, starting probably 3 years or more before they went down. The rot was a lot worse than I realized and the court cases continue. In my humble opinion, shareholders and customers were badly ripped off and a successful business lost its way. It should still be here and profitable. It frequently amazes me how poorly some businesses are run. It seems that not only did they not listen to what their customers wanted, but they failed in even basic things like aged stock and stock turn, which is criminal in retail and wholesale. But they also lost track of what their customers wanted, in fact my experiences suggested they didn’t give a damn about their customers or in fact most of their staff in later years. They became an also ran and left the reasons people went to them to businesses like JB Hifi and Jaycar.

Even smaller niche stores, like local hardware DIY stores can fight against the mega stores, but they need help and don’t have time. When they close their doors for the last time, they might like to think back about whether they should have made time. There are people that can help them. One thing I do recommend is when you buy a retailer from someone who has failed in their business, don’t let them train you!

Borders was one of my favorite stores for lots of reasons. They still have a few stores around I believe, selling soft toys and all sorts of things to survive. Their model needed to change a little, but not a lot. I had a few ideas. I didn’t share them all, but I did share quite a lot. I have learned that there are too many people who aren’t prepared to pay a consultant a few hundred dollars for information that can save or earn them hundreds of thousands or millions. I have taught retail millionaires how to make more money. If only I had asked for a profit share on the results they gained from my advice and training! If I had another life I would be a large store grocer or a mega hardware DIY retailer. Both are licenses to print money and only scratching the surface of their potential.

It’s a beautiful day today and I’m going to take the roof off the car and go for a drive. But I guarantee if I went to the local mall it will be busy with people checking out products, touching them, asking questions and spending lots of money. The companies that are doing the basics right including looking after their staff, giving them PK and teaching them about the importance of customers, listening to their customers, managing inventory, maintaining a point of difference, will make a reasonable profit.

Retailers in today’s age of mobile, location based services and customers who have a variety of ways to purchase product, need to be switched on. Those who have managers and boards who focus on old school BAU (or not as in the apparent case of DSE now playing out in court) and just expect increased profit and decreased overheads will find ways to say that it was a fait accomplis that they went under, that it was out of their control because of online retailers, will fade from memory.

All business needs to constantly learn and make an effort to keep up with the play. It’s not rocket science. Most of the things we are starting to do now were predicted by Gartner, by Arthur Anderson (they may have died through a scandal but they were prophetic when it came to the future of retail), by the NRF which still has amazing conferences in New York every year. This is an evolution and its all about timing. The things that are happening today, the successes and failures were predicted 10-20 years ago.

In fairness, sometimes things are obvious from outside, but you don’t have to use consultants. Invest in a tax deductible business trip to New York for NRF or the best of the best conference for your industry segment, you can sight-see at the same time and make it your annual holiday. You have time for that right? Learn and try some things and your Return on Investment will be massive.

If you can’t do that, read. There are awesome papers and books on everything you can imagine, passionate people who want to share their knowledge. As Einstein said, if you do the same things you always did and expect a different result……. Actually he was wrong. Luigi Cappel says, “If you do the same things every day, you will atrophy and so will your business”.

I could go forever but the sun beckons. Nothing is a given. New wild cards aren’t that new, its just that they have taken the initiative. Businesses like Uber, AirBnB, Turo, Lyft and others that are popping up every day are challenging BAU and taking business from others who could have just as easily taken an agile model, asked their customers what they wanted and delivered, which would have meant these new businesses wouldn’t have had an opening. In fact, it’s not too late. Instead of complaining when you see a new cool model trying to attract your customers, why not build it into your existing business and shut them out by becoming better than you were? Be thankful that despite the fact that you didn’t ask your customers what they wanted, someone else did.

Posted in Amazon, New retail ideas, Retail, retail survival, retail systems | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looky Loo or Rubbernecker – growing my traffic jargon vocabulary

looky looI was monitoring RTTI or Real Time Traffic Twitter accounts yesterday and read a new name for an old problem, that I hadn’t heard of before. Down Under we call them rubberneckers. It’s the same result though. Frequently when there is a bad accident on a freeway, it’s people driving on the other side in the other direction that slow down for a look that often causes more problems than the accident itself. In fact I would question, if someone has a nose-to-tail because they were looking at another crash, is it actually an accident?

Not long ago there was a five car nose-to-tail crash on an Auckland motorway. Police and emergencies managed to keep one lane flowing and traffic was moving pretty well. In the opposite direction traffic was almost at a standstill. The reason was because of people slowing down to look at the crash. Frequently in those sorts of conditions there are secondary crashes, caused purely because of people’s innate curiosity. Then of course the situation gets worse.

This happens around the world all the time. People try to blame the state for not enough lanes or for other reasons, the fact is, you could have ten lanes and its still going to happen, because people want to know what’s going on. Some countries have tried barriers, mostly used to protect people from seeing very nasty injury accidents, that even more makes people want to slow down.

This blog from Contract Hire and Leasing in the UK says that‘Rubbernecking’ has been known to increase congestion and cause minor accidents or fatal collisions, with an estimated knock-on cost of £750m to the economy every year, according to the Department for Transport. Check out the photo here. Which side of the road do you reckon the accident was on?

Apparently some 75% of people admit to rubbernecking and I expect a very large percentage of them also complain about rubberneckers especially when they are in a hurry.

Do a search on Twitter for rubberneckers and you’ll find it is a massive pet hate. So how do we stop it?



Posted in car accidents, car crash, distracted driving, real time traffic, rubberneckers, safer driving, traffic congestion, Traffic jam | Leave a comment

Remember the jokes about what if computer manufacturers built cars?

Mashable Australia put out a story this month about A Tesla that crashed while on Autopilot, where the ‘driver’ died and discussed the implications to the industry.

So what exactly does autopilot mean. I’ve been on the jump seat on the  flight deck of aircraft several times when they are on autopilot. The crew keep an eye out and are ready to act, but they also might be having a coffee, a meal or turning around for a chat. They can do so safely and it is normal practice. Some captains might tell you that it is a safer and more comfortable flight.

There is one significant difference and that is there are no other planes within a potentially dangerous distance and as soon as something does come into their airspace, or there are environmental changes, the pilot is alerted and takes back control. The biggest difference is that they have time to take back control of the aircraft.

Now come back to the Tesla and various types of driverless or autonomous cars that share the road with a ton of other vehicles ‘manned by drivers of various degrees of skill. Remember the pilot has trained for years before he is allowed to fly a commercial airliner. The person in the car next to you might not even have a license!

Let’s look a bit closer at those people and compare their behaviour to the rigor of a commercial pilot. Half of them wouldn’t pass a road driving test, whereas a commercial pilot has to constantly re-qualify their ratings for each type of plane they command and that includes simulations of events that are tough and realistic enough to come out of a SIM , vomiting and emotionally shaken, so that they know how to deal with a situation if it really occurs.

One of the issues I have discussed in the past is visibility. In this story they talk about the color match between the truck trailer the Tesla hit and the car itself. It was difficult to distinguish.

In the street furniture data capture exercise I was involved with, on bad weather days or under intense low ambient light that Auckland commuters face every sunny day, it is very difficult frequently to see much of anything including speed restriction and others signs. Then on bad weather days like twilight in the rain we have to deal with things like ghost markings, where old lane markings can be difficult to distinguish from the new markings. They can be meters apart. Lots of crashes or incidents are blamed on people following poor quality data, which could be similar data to that which autonomous cars would use. Here are 18 examples.

How about other humans that want to interfere, like boy racers I drive a Corvette and frequently have young drivers wanting to bait me or show me how fast their Mazda Familia is. I choose to ignore them, but I have the ability to not only react to their frequently irrational behaviour, but also to their faces or gestures, something a LiDAR system can’t do.

Pokemon MapI heard a comment yesterday from someone quoting a driver who is big on Pokemon Go. He said “There was a Pokemon on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and I had to really slow down to get it.” That in itself is scary as hell, especially with the high winds and harsh weather conditions we have had recently, but more importantly, how will a driverless car cope with other vehicles individually or in groups, like the story above. That sort of behavior “does not compute”

It is interesting to read in the linked story that Tesla’s car is in fact a ‘Level 2’ and as such they expect the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel and if they don’t, an audible alarm will sound. In effect it is not yet a driverless car, it is a car that assists the driver.

This is interesting when I hear about the fact that a Tesla drove itself over the Harbour Bridge some months ago. Check out this link to the story and video from the NZ Herald http://bit. Apparently the driver had his arms folded. He therefore did not comply with Tesla’s regulations unless that car was more sophisticated than the current models. Here’s another example in Sydney:

Now put yourself in the ‘drivers seat’ of this car, if you could afford one and imagine showing it off to your friends, which of course you would do if you had one. Would you be demonstrating your driverless car with your hands on the steering wheel?

Once again, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for driverless vehicles when they are ready, safe and suitable for our road network and can operate safely next to all the people who run red lights, don’t indicate last second lane changes on motorways, are distracted by playing Pokemon Go or sending messages on their phone. I love the idea of distributed ownership and other concepts that will come from this. I just wonder if we are being a little hoodwinked by manufacturers who are looking to generate huge profits from their designs now, not in 10 years time.

Remember the jokes of what if Microsoft designed a car? Here is one of Bill Gate’s own stories Well guess what? Brands like Google are now doing exactly that. Are you ready for this? Would you buy one today?

Posted in Autonomous cars, bad gps, Best GPS, Car Nav Caused Crash, Car Navigation, commuting, driver distraction, Driverless car, GPS Accuracy, GPS Car Nav, GPS MAde Me Do IT, GPS Maps, GPS Nav, GPS Problems, Pokemon Go, traffic, traffic congestion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

8 Things to know before you start looking at buy a house

Buying a House Final Cover ArtI drive past people on my way to work daily, struggling to get their cars out of their driveways on busy streets, I mean they are waiting minutes just for a gap to safely get out of their driveway. I wonder to myself, did they research this hours? Surely they looked at it during rush hour (as someone recently pointed out, no one gets to rush st rush hour). Surely they did their homework on what it’s like to get in and out of the property.

I live in Auckland where the prices are going up every hour as 3 more people move into the city. hat’s right we average a new resident every 20 minutes, supply isn’t meeting demand and it won’t for some time.

I was in Europe last year and I noticed in the Netherlands that property which used to have a similar value to New Zealand houses on my previous trip was now cheaper. I looked at real estate in Nashville 4 years ago and there were beautiful homes on an acre or more of land, you know with the big pillars at the front door, for less than half of the value of my Auckland property. I was sorely tempted to buy one, except that I couldn’t afford to travel there frequently to enjoy it.

Those homes weren’t always cheap, but the market bubbled and many say it will eventually happen in Auckland. I don’t think that will be any time soon despite the interventions of Government, simply because so many people want to live here. Council predicts that we will grow by around a million people in under 30 years. That’s a few apartments and houses that will be needed and we already have a shortage, frequently stated as around 30,000. There is even a shortage of quality building materials. Now there’s a thought, what if you bought a house on an unsound concrete base or it was a leaky home.

It astounds me that people put more time into planning a wedding than they do in researching where to live for a big chunk of their lives. They leave it up to the Real Estate Agents to guide them round. I have bought and sold a few houses in my lifetime and  can tell you there are some awesome agents around, but like any profession, there are also a lot of people who go through the motions or are simply focused on getting their next commission cheque. (Kiwi spelling folks:))

So what should you be thinking about? Here are a few links of short blogs related to my book.

  • Crime statistics on a map. Have you ever been burgled? Some streets have more problems than others, even in the best neighborhoods.
  • Value in relation to distance from the city by train stop. With new light rail and improved rail services, this will have an impact on your investment in Auckland. Here’s an example from London.
  • Where can an average earner buy in your area?
  • I find the racial divide interesting. I didn’t consider that when I bought my latest house because it means nothing to me, but in some areas it can mean a lot to property values. Like it or not, its a fact, even in New Zealand where we truly celebrate the differences. Check out the gaps in America. Is that scary or what?
  • How about pollution. Do you have kids with asthmatic tendencies? Did you check out things like pollen? One of the things we liked about our first home was the fruit orchard over the back fence. What we didn’t know was that they regularly sprayed it with pesticides.
  • Do you want to live near people who are like you? Have the same income levels, the same interests and opportunities as you, or perhaps slightly better? Do you want to live somewhere where unemployment is high and times are tough. People that have similar values to you might be of concern.
  • Does school zone matter? Do you want kids to go to a certain school? Do they have aptitude for something that a particular school offers, but where zoning restrictions limit where you can live if you want to be eligible to go to it?
  • What about the looking process, how do you remember which house had the mold in the bedroom and which one had the nice carpet, nice view, man-cave. There are tools and tips.

These are just a few items to think about. There are so many more in my Kindle eBook which will cost you less than 2 small coffees. In fact it looks like they are running a promotion on it, because when I looked this morning it was $5.32! If you got one simple tip out of it that’s worth it’s weight in gold! If that’s too much, have a look at that blogs in the Real Estate stream of my blog. There are plenty.

Posted in Buying a House, Crime, Education, location based apps, Location Based Education, location based marketing, Location Based Servces, Location Based Services, New Zealand, New Zealand Maps, Real Estate | Leave a comment

Sell More Beer With Pokemon Go

Or anything else at your destination retail or hospitality business.

I’ve spent years trying to get businesses to invest in location based services, apps, maps and the like. Now if you are in the business and are a little bit savvy, you can potentially make a lot of sales for next to nothing.

Here’s how you do it. If you own a bar, microbrewery, restaurant, cafe, how would you like to make some profit and have some fun?

lureAll you need to do is get a Pokemon player to come to your location and set up a lure. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what that is, find a teenager or someone of legal age, if you are selling alcohol and get them to set up a lure at your premises.

Comp them a beer or product for their trouble or give them $1.99 which will buy them the 100 coins needed to set up a lure which will attract Pokemon players from all over the place, who are walking around right now trying to catch Pokemon characters.

It will last or half an hour and if you sell one beer, you will have made a profit! I would hope that my friends at BBC (Birkenhead Brewing company)will have already thought of this and of course the awesome Giapo in Auckland City for those looking for something non alcoholic like an amazing gelato.

coinsOf course you could keep that going for quite a while while the novelty lasts and it doesn’t have to be limited to retail, it could be the zoo, a theater or pretty much any destination. It could be a bus or a train even. You could have people jumping on public transport just to play the game.

Anyway, if I had a destination, that’s what I’d be doing right now and if you follow my advice and it works for you, I could be open for a small thank-you of a lager or an ice cream, although it is a bit cold right now! At the very least, please share my blog with someone you think could benefit from it and help me pay it forward. I would also welcome comments, positive or negative:) OK, I’d prefer positive lol.




Posted in Gamification, GPS Games, Hospitality, location based apps, Location Based Consultant, Location based games, location based marketing, Location Based Servces, New retail ideas, Retail, retail apps | 1 Comment

Synthia – A Simulation of Driverless Car Training

It’s an nice cartoon simulation, but I want to see the real video. In the simulation I noted:
-Ambient light. Cool, that’s a real problem in only a few parts of the world, like New Zealand. As are long periods of sun-strike as a consequence of the low zenith of the sun, especially in winter, but also all year round which has caused problems for other technologies, like supermarket scanners (ask me about it)
-It didn’t seem to slow down for speed humps. Very bad for car suspension as taxi drivers at airports keep telling me.
-It didn’t seem to slow down for pedestrian crossings. As we all know, a large percentage of people walk with 2 eyes on their smartphone and relying on peripheral vision for way-finding. The law says they have right of way on a pedestrian crossing that doesn’t have signals.
-It appeared to be good in snow and other weather conditions, but this appears to be based on locations where it already has great information about existing street furniture. The problem there is things can change daily. Road maintenance for example can be unplanned, or may proceed at different times to what is planned. In many cases that information is not shared with car navigation and other data sources and it is also not specific. It may say that there is a project happening on Monday to Friday between the hours of 09:00 and 16:00, but not that there will be a digger and a big hole in the middle of the road surrounded by cones as there are outside my driveway right now. In bad weather such as snow, the systems might not see holes surrounded by cones or covered with cloth.
-People are unpredictable, look at the number of crashes where cars (driven by intelligent people) hit parked vehicles, crash into trees and buildings where there are no other vehicles involved, or people just walk into the path of a car that can’t stop in time.

In 50 years or so when almost all cars (other than classics) have V2V communications, normal driving will be more predictable for autonomous vehicles, but a lot of people are predictably irrational.

If there were zones that were only allowed to be used by vehicles with compatible communications technology, that could work, but you would still have to bar pedestrians from those locations.

This is also so easy in a perfect world, but humans are not perfect and they train AI’s. These simulations are important and we will enjoy many fringe technologies that will come from this testing that can go into people driven cars and make them safer as interim steps. That will save money and lives.

It’s interesting to see how well people can walk on bust Manhattan streets while looking at their mobiles, but we have all seen people walk into poles. 2 steps or a sudden slip onto a road with an average speed of 30mph.

If you think driverless cars will become commonplace in the next 10 years, I think you are being overly optimistic. I have spent a lifetime asking “when the benefits are so obvious, why aren’t we all doing it?” The answer is because we are people and we are not highly motivated to change and especially not when the change is expensive or inconvenient. Of course without idealists nothing would change and today its no longer the minority of us who want change.



Posted in Artificial intelligence, Autonomous cars, car accidents, car crash, Crash, distracted pedestrians, Driverless car, People | Tagged | Leave a comment