The Sell by Insulting method….hmmm….

About a week ago, I saw a reference to what could be a very interesting product. In fact, it was a product I thought would be cool before I knew anyone had actually done it. Trackstick is a GPS device with no display. It just tracks where you have gone over the course of weeks and months. When I carry a camera around, this can be incredibly useful to automatically geotag photos. Unfortunately the website is pretty basic. Usually I would expect to see a list of places I could buy a device like this. At the bottom of the page though, there was a link to request a retail location near where ever you are. I was going to be in New York City for a week so I requested the name of a dealer in New York City:

Where can I buy this? I live in Amsterdam now but I will be in New York City all next week.

That was on the Friday before I left. On Tuesday, I received a response from a dealer in Luxembourg. While thats great for when I am home in Amsterdam, I specifically requested a retailer in New York City. When I asked for that information from him, he suggested I contact Trackstick sales for more info. I thought I already had, but this time I replied to the actual email address he gave me for Andreana: andy@trackstick.com. And thats where things started to get interesting. I sent Andreana the following, incredibly simple email:

Is there a reseller in the nyc area?

I thought that would be an easy one to answer, and the response on Thursday was not quite what I was hoping for:

WE have resellers all over the world. Your best bet is to purchase in the Netherlands or online. We have an online dealer www.googleearthstore.com

This should have been my first indication that I should give up and not try to find a retailer and instead buy online. I had the address of a store in Luxembourg and when I return I could buy it there, but I really wanted to be able to walk into a store in New York and buy the thing right then and there. I persisted anyway:

But I am in nyc now. If there is a reseller here I will get it. I will not be home in nl for a while.

This is mostly true. With so much travel, I am pretty busy when I am home so its just far more convenient to make these types of purchases while I am away. That email got no response. Why did this have to be so difficult. As the original request asked, I just wanted to find a store in New York City. So on Saturday, more than a full week after my original query and a couple of days before I was leaving the US I sent the following….maybe I went a bit far with this one, but when dealing with someone who is obviously incompetent, its hard to restrain myself.

I was here for a week and was hoping to get a name of a reseller in the US, specifically New York. Not sure why that was difficult. But now I am leaving. Could you give me a reseller in my next two destinations: Dubai and Sydney Australia. Is there an online list of resellers? I can’t imagine the average consumer being willing to jump through so many hoops just to find out where to buy a product.

Yeah, that last line was a bit much, but it’s true, I can’t imagine the average consumer being willing to go through all this. But then I am not the average consumer. The average person who buys a product like this can buy online and have it shipped to their address because their address is pretty constant. I am on the move a lot and want to buy in a bricks and mortar store. But I don’t think I was prepared for what I got back from Trackstick:

Matt,

I have told you you can purchase at www.googleearthstore.com If you don’t like my choice, google TRackstick and you should be able to find our resellers all over the world.

Andy obviously had stronger thoughts brewing in her head so she sent another message almost immediately after that:

We do not know where all of our resellers are located. they are all over the world. If I knew every single store, person, online website that sold the Trackstick, that would be a waste of time.

I have told you where to purchase the TRackstick, you just don’t want to purchase it from Googleearthstore.

And, if you were savvy on the Internet, youwould know all you have to do is google Trackstick and all of our resellers will come up. You are the one who has wasted your own time

Wow!!! So, this tells me quite a bit. They are a pretty small operation and are really not sure how they are selling their own product. They are excited that their product is selling in a few outlets but aren’t really sure how to grow the operation. Their sales pipeline is a bit vague which may be their downfall over the next few months. I should assume that if I buy the product, I should not expect the organization to even exist a few months down the road and support may be difficult. They did tell me about an online store but they waited until Thursday to tell me about that. With only a single shipping day left before I would head home, buying online from California was no longer an option. Had they told me that on the day I actually requested the info, that might have been possible. But I followed Andy’s advice and looked on Google. Yeah, right. Go ahead, try it: a couple of links to the trackstick page, a link to the wonderful ThinkGeek, some other online stores, several review sites, but nothing for several pages on any bricks and mortar retailers where I can walk in and buy the product directly.

So after a weeks worth of emails, I am no closer to finding a place that sells the Trackstick. At least I have the address of a store in Luxembourg. The Trackstick device itself looks incredibly cool. Unfortunately it costs nearly 200 USD more in Europe vs buying in the US due to the extremely weak dollar (322 Euro = 432 USD, 269 USD for the same device on GoogleEarthStore.com). If only Andy told me that buying online was the only option a week ago rather than waiting and dancing around the answer.

I probably will buy this device eventually. I hope the company will be around long enough for that to happen. I think they could sell something like this to every prosumer photographer on the planet. In fact, if I had any say in the company, I would make a modest investment in the website to make it easier to get the information I needed and to make the company look more professional. I would start talking to some of the major photography stores and outdoor stores in the US like B&H, REI, and others to get them to sell the product. And I would fire some of the dead weight at the company who are just dragging them down. I think you could imagine who my first pick would be…

Transitioning the Blogs

As a reader of this blog, you know there are three things that I care about and write about: Travel, Gadgets, and Captaris. But most of you are interested in only one of those topics. Well, at the recent Captaris International Partner Conference I was invited to start blogging on the Captaris Developer Portal and saw this as a chance to move one of the audiences to a place that is more relevant to them. So starting now all posts about Captaris Workflow, Rightfax, and Alchemy will be posted on my new blog at the Captaris Developer Portal. On the site I am TrainerMatt and my blog is: http://www.captaris.com/DeveloperProgram/blogs/trainermatt_blog/default.aspx

Does it get any worse???

I am typing this in the middle of the worst journey of my life. The overall trip has been great, but this leg, or set of legs, is painfully bad. It started this morning at 6AM at the Le Meridien in Siem Reap in Cambodia. Thats when I checked out of my fairly opulent hotel and got onto the free transport provided by the boat company. The plan was that this van would take me to a small boat. Due to the low water levels, this small boat would take me to a bigger boat that would go all the way to Phnom Penh. But I am already getting ahead of myself.

The van that picked me up had room for maybe 8 people plus a driver. So for the two people already on board plus me, it was a spacious ride. After my hotel we stopped at another to get two more, then two more at another hotel. Two more….two more…two more. Yeah, I know….thats 13 plus luggage and I said there was room for 8. Well, we stopped again to get the last person. Then we drove down a very bumpy road for about 30 minutes to the dock. Now when I say dock, i may be exagerating just a bit. Maybe mosquito-infested sewage dump is a better description. They checked our tickets and we got on board this tiny boat, but as I mentioned, I was expecting this. 

Turns out that some of the van riders were for a different boat, but two other trucks met us there. In all we had about 21 going with us to Phnom Penh. Based on the picture of the boat on the ticket, that wouldn’t be a problem. So we all squeezed onto this small boat which was about 20 feet long by about 4 or 5 feet wide. After about 30 minutes of sitting in these tight quarters, the little shuttle boat started moving. On the trip out, one of the other passengers joked that we would be in this boat for the next four hours. We all nervously laughed it off. But an hour into the ride we started to realize he may be right. Four hours later we wished he were right. But wait, I am getting ahead of myself.

This boat ride was taking us down a massive freshwater lake called the Tonle Sap. The wet season began a couple days ago, so we are basically at the end of 6 months of dry. The lake water levels probably wont get any lower. I was told this would mean that the boat would have to take a longer route to avoid the really shallow parts. It turns out what they meant to tell me was that they would actually use a boat meant for 6 people to carry 21 to Phnom Penh over 200 km south.

In a recent post I mentioned how much better Singapore Airlines is for leg room compared to other airlines. Well even the worst of airline seats (those on American and KLM come to mind) are cavernous compared to what we were stuck with on this boat. Every now and then we would have to stand to stretch our legs…but you couldnt stand upright because the roof was only 4 foot high. You could sit on the gunwhale of the boat, but then the driver would honk the horn to get your attention so that he could wave you off. Sitting on the gunwhale threw off the balance of the boat and it would turn to the left or right.

So three hours into this ride and we started to compare notes. Some had heard that this was a four hour journey, others heard it was closer to 6. Looking at the map of the Tonle Sap we could see that when we transitioned to a river from the lake we reached the half way point. But we seemed to be heading towards open water for the forseeable future, so we were nowhere close to half way. About an hour and a half later, we had reached this river section. This was good and bad. It told us we were half done, but it also said we should expect another four and a half hours. This is becoming the journey that just won’t end.

After  a short while we pulled off into a little floating village. If it weren’t hot as hell, humid like a rain forest, or covered in trash, it might be quaint. But as it was all of those things….hmmm, whats the right word to describe this….ahhh, yes: shithole!!! But I was relieved to see that we were starting to pull in to the shore. I was also puzzled to see the tour bus waiting by the waters edge. It seems that the driver of the boat had given up and arranged for a bus to take us the rest of the way. We got on board at 12 noon. And then the driver told us how much longer we had to go. THREE MORE HOURS!!!

And the first 30 minutes would be traveling down a 10 mile pothole. I am surprised no one threw up. An hour later we reached our first bathroom break of the trip. Based on the looks of what was being sold there, I hope no one had to go. As another hour went by I started to get excited that the trip was almost over. Although we were no longer on the dirt track, the pavement didn’t turn out to be much smoother. But then smoke started to come through the air vents. We pulled over so the driver could take a look at the engine. A few people got off the bus to wander a bit. I stayed on board. Moments later the driver was back, honked the horn, and waited for everyone to board. About a mile or two down the road, someone noticed that one of the seats on the bus was empty. There was definitely someone there before. We found him somewhere between where we stopped and where we figured out what happened. He must have had a momentary burst of energy as he saw his bus pull away and chased after us.

Another hour and we were in Phnom Penh. As we pulled into the parking lot of the dock we werent sure what was happening. We could see our boat…well, the one that was on the ticket so some of us were figuring that we would be transitioning back to the boat for the final few miles. But no, this was it. My first opinions of this town were far from positive.

I wrote much of the above while sitting on the bus, but then the last few paragraphs came from my hotel. I thought a quick mention of that is relevant to this post. The reviews of this hotel were stellar. The guidebook rated this as one of the top 5 places to stay in Phnom Penh. The testimonials on the website were amazing so I was looking forward to my stay at the Foreign Correspondents Club. I must be staying in a different FCC from the one I heard about. I have a bed that is hard as a rock, the noise outside is deafening, the door won’t fully close and it opens almost directly onto the street, the balcony door doesn’t lock, the in-room safe is tiny and required having someone come up to show me how to use it, internet is free but you have to call the front desk and have someone bring up a code every 2 hours. Two massive thumbs down.

If you are thinking about taking the boat from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh or the other way, DON’T!!! I heard that its better than the bus, so the only way I could recommend is to fly. And when you get to Phnom Penh, stay anywhere else besides the Foreign Correspondents Club. WAY OVER RATED!!! The FCC Angkor looked very nice and the next time I am in Siem Reap, I may try it, but this one is a dump.

ummm…..ok

Somewhere in my apartment there is a Compact Flash card reader to stick into a PCCard slot in my laptop. That doesn’t do me much good in Vietnam, so I bought a new reader. It seems standard practice to haggle your way down to an agreed price but it didn’t work out for this item. I got my bargaining mindset in place and when she told me the price, I was too shocked to do anything. All I could say was…ummmmm…ok. I was probably staring as I said yes, but she may be used to it. As I handed her the 100,000 Vietnam Dong, I got a better look. You see, her hand had four fingers which you would expect. But then she had two thumbs. They seemed to move independent of each other. And she had manicured nails on all 6 fingers. The second “thumb” seemed to start right at the knuckle of the main thumb and there seemed to be no downside…except maybe her manicure costs more than others. She seemed to be able to put pressure on it and grip the money even better using her extra thumb. For 100K VD (about 6 USDollars) I got both a card reader and a viewing of something amazing…perhaps my highlight of Vietnam.