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I Won’t Miss Tim Horton’s One Bit

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By now everyone in central New York realizes that Tim Horton’s for this area is history. For whatever reason, which I’m sure we’ll hear about at some point, they have pulled out of the area, costing a lot of people their jobs, and a few people their favorite coffee.

IMG_20151120_114706_resizedFrankly, I’m not a fan; never have been. The only reason I went to one particular location was because they had a Cold Stone Creamery attached to it that was closer and easier than having to go to the mall. Other than that, they were never on my radar, especially after the very first time I went to one.

A few years ago, the grand opening of a Tim Horton’s was being held at the location on Route 11 in North Syracuse. I had no intention of going, but my wife and I had gotten our hands on coupons for some kind of free chicken sandwich. We decided to head over there to grab one and try it out. Since I knew nothing about them, I was also intrigued to see what it was all about.

We got there about 11:15, and though it wasn’t out the door, there was a long line. I figured that was standard for the opening of a new place, so it wasn’t all that big a deal. At least it wasn’t a big deal until it was finally my turn to order something.

I ordered the chicken sandwich. The guy behind the counter said “We’ve run out of chicken.”

I stared at him for a minute, and then I said “How can you run out of chicken on your very first day when it’s the special?” Of course I knew he wouldn’t have an answer and it wasn’t his fault, but it was something that needed to be said. At that point my wife put her coupon away because she wasn’t interested anymore. However, I was hungry so I decided to order a ham sandwich instead. I also bought one of their cinnamon buns, which looked pretty inviting.

We decided to just take our food and leave. For once my wife was driving instead of me, which I saw as a good sign because it meant I would be able to just open my sandwich and enjoy it.

Imagine my surprise when I bit into the sandwich and found that the ham was totally frozen. Of all things, they had toasted the bread but left the ham alone.

I couldn’t believe it! What kind of customer service was this? What kind of lousy leadership was it to not prepare for things like running out of supplies for lunch, before noon, and not making sure that other things were prepared just in case?

So much for the sandwich. I still had the cinnamon bun, which I pulled out of the bag and bit into. Nothing. I couldn’t taste a thing. I didn’t taste any cinnamon, and I couldn’t even taste the icing on the bun.

It’s possible that the soda tasted okay since I have no memory of that, but come on. As far as an opening goes, they had failed miserably. I stuck to my resolve that I would never again buy anything from Tim Horton’s, and it’s my belief that going into one so I can get ice cream from their counterparts doesn’t mean I broke my word.

What it does mean is that I’m not sorry to see them go. In actuality, I don’t have much of a reaction about their not being in central New York anymore except for the fact that a lot of people lost their jobs because they didn’t see it coming. In another stroke of bad leadership, people lost their jobs immediately as we head into the holidays with no notification ahead of time.

I hope this spells the death toll for the chain across the country because whoever is running it, and it just might be the Burger King people, not only deserves to lose their job but they never be hired by anyone else ever again.  

Are You Kidding Me IHOP?

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Suffice it to say I eat out often. It’s probably because my wife and I both have unconventional jobs that leave us out of town often. When we’re in town, because we’re not always sure how long we’re going to be here, we tend to buy very little food and try to catch something while we’re out.

This sometimes leads to some very interesting experiences when we encounter restaurants. I’ve had three specific instances that I’m going to mention.

cheeseburger002The first happened about 16 years ago. It was a restaurant called Steak and Sundae, and my wife and I were out with another couple at dinner. This is when it was still located on James Street.

After dinner, I was looking forward to having some kind of spectacular ice cream sundae. However, when I asked them what kind of flavors they had, the waitress said “We’ve run out of ice cream.” I looked at her, then I exclaimed “How could you run out of ice cream? How can a place called Steak and Sundae not have any sundae?” I thought it was a fair question to as,k even though there was nothing she could do about it. I decided I wasn’t in the mood for dessert after that.

The next interesting event happened to be at an IHOP when my wife and I were in Virginia Beach for a family reunion. We decided to go there for breakfast along with some of my other relatives and I noticed they had grits on the menu. There’s not a lot of restaurants that have grits on the restaurant up north, but my thought was Virginia Beach is in Virginia, which is in the south, so I ordered them.

When the bowl of grits came, it had about a half inch of water sitting on top of them. I’m not sure if everyone is familiar with grits, but you’re familiar with food and there is no food I can think of that’s not called “soup” that has half an inch of water on top of it. When she came back I pointed at the grits and said “These haven’t been cooked properly.” She asked me if I wanted them to microwave it. I stared at her first, then informed her that you can’t microwave grits (which they didn’t have in 2001), and that I didn’t want them.

With those experiences in my life, you would think I would have been prepared for what happened last Saturday night.

I went out with a few friends to celebrate the birthday for one of them. We started out the night in Revolutions at DestinyNY with a little snack, then a round of bowling, which I didn’t participate in because of my bad knees. After an hour (that’s how they charge for bowling now; intriguing…), someone suggested we go to IHOP for whatever reason. I figured that would be cool because then I could have some pancakes. I hadn’t had pancakes since the IHOP closed in Camillus a couple of years ago.

We walked over to IHOP and get our table. There were probably more people in there than I’ve ever seen before, but it wasn’t close to being packed. It took us a while before we could actually order our meals, and the person waiting on us was Terry. This is a guy by the way just so I get that out of the way up front; he’s prominent in this story.

Out of the five of us, four ordered something that came with pancakes. I specifically ordered pancakes with a slice of ham because I wasn’t overly hungry, but figured since I rarely get to an IHOP, as it’s the only place I ever eat pancakes, I would take a shot. I was feeling pretty good because when I get good pancakes I usually love them.

I should have known trouble might be coming when I got my soda and it tasted a bit off. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I hadn’t thought that much about it although I wasn’t drinking much of it.

About 15 minutes later, Terry comes back and announces that he has been told that they have run out of buttermilk pancake mix in the back and therefore there are no pancakes. He said that they would switch it over to French toast instead if we didn’t mind that. The other three people decided they could make that switch, but I’m not quite that accommodating.

The first thing I said why is that I wouldn’t eat French toast because the thought of dipping my bread in egg and then cooking it didn’t fit my sensibilities.

The second thing I said was “How does a place called IHOP, International House of Pancakes, which is open 24/7 in a large mall, run out of the things are specifically known for?” I probably said a couple of other things, but since I’m generally nice they were probably more sarcastic than anything else. However, it was nice to realize that my thought patterns are still the same 16 years later.

Instead of pancakes, I ordered the cheeseburger with onion rings that you see in the picture above, though it took me about 10 minutes to decide what I wanted since their specialty is breakfast stuff, and almost all of it comes with pancakes. I can tell you that the hamburger was pretty pedestrian, the bun was stale, and the onion rings were soft and smushy; ugh. By the way, it turns out the reason my soda didn’t taste right was because I had asked for a diet soda and they brought me regular. At least I didn’t get too far into that.

To his credit, Terry never showed a single sign of stress. Actually, he never showed any real emotion at all, though he did talk to us here and there. I would say he checked on us often, except we were there about 2 1/2 hours and based on that period of time we didn’t see him as often as I thought we had. Still, he had to put up with us, who luckily were having a pretty good time so there was never a period of anger, even when I was fussing about them having no pancakes.

When Terry finally brought our check, I said “You know I’m going to have to write a story about all this right? I’ll change your name to protect the innocent, since you personally didn’t run out of pancake mix”. He said “No, you put my name in there. It’s the truth and it might be funny seeing my name in the story”. As if he or anyone at IHOP will ever actually acknowledge this. lol

Sometimes I lead a strange life, but the people at the table where my witnesses to the event and they had a good laugh as I regaled them of my other two stories of food mishaps. However, I have to say my first interaction with IHOP at Destiny was a major fail. As for Terry, either his shift was up or he’d had enough because he wasn’t around when the tab was paid.  

Have Even Politicians Decided They Hate Politics?

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This past Tuesday it was election day across the country. I didn’t even know it was election day until 1:30 in the morning, when I happened to come across a headline mentioning it. When I expressed myself on Twitter, one of my friends wrote back and said that it’s always the first Tuesday in November. However, the previous two years I was out of town on election day and I didn’t use the absentee ballot to make a decision ahead of time.

Oklahoma Primary Ballots - Beckham County Ballot K. Latham via Compfight

So in early afternoon, I hopped in the car and drove over to where I vote. There were very few cars in the parking lot, and when I went inside it turned out that most of those cars belonged to the people who were there verifying the people so they could fill out their ballots.

I got mine, and I walked over to a table where I was behind a partition. I opened it up and was dismayed at what I saw. There were no initiatives on the ballot, so I had only the option of voting for 10 office positions. Out of those 10 office positions, only two people had opponents running against them. In two of the categories, you had to select two or three people for spots, and there were only two or three people in those categories. This meant that if they were on the ballot they were getting elected. I did something I’ve never done before, that being to write in a candidate’s name for one of the offices; at least I wrote in the name of someone who’s already a politician.

An interesting thing on my particular ballot is that every position that was unopposed was a Republican candidate. When I talked to one of my friends later on, who lives within one of the Syracuse districts, she said that there were a lot of unopposed politicians on hers as well but they were all Democrats.

The part I don’t find incredible anymore is that the number of people voting has been declining year after year. The part that’s actually interesting is just how many positions there were where candidates were running unopposed. It doesn’t seem to matter what political party they’re in anymore, they seem to be pretty much disgusted with the process as we are with politics itself.

What’s happened to us? Probably a couple of things.

One, we’re tired of what’s happening in Washington, where it seems like nothing can get done because everybody wants exactly what they want without compromise so we end up getting nothing.

Two, local politics and parties sometimes means very little. For instance, just because someone runs as a Democrat or Republican for something like town supervisor doesn’t mean they really have the authority to do what they think or tell us they can do. It all comes down to how much money that particular area has, and those with the most money or are willing to make a lot of noise matter more than political affiliation. Some people might think that cynical, but I actually had a local politician tell me that as a fact at a networking event in Liverpool a few years ago.

Also, for the work that most of these people have to do, being a local politician is a pretty lousy job. A lot of those positions pay less than $30,000 a year, and having to be on 24/7 around the clock day after day, plus the prospect of going door to door to get your name known in areas of the city of village you’re not familiar with, I could see where that wouldn’t be seen as all that appealing. I’m not sure I would find it worth my trouble.

Is there anything that can be done about this? There are the few people who believe that voting should be mandatory because it’s mandatory in certain countries around the world. The problem with mandatory voting is that it could be abused as much as it is when not enough people decide to show up. Also, this is America after all; we don’t take kindly to mandatory things like this, even as much as we fuss about politicians not representing our interests.

Personally, I find politics distasteful, even though I vote when I can. I hate the lies and the meanness of the major elections, and I hate not even knowing what’s going on locally in trying to vote for town and village candidates. I also hate the feeling that, when all is said and done, it’s not going to matter who I vote into office one way or another. If I’m feeling this way and vote, it’s hard not to see why others don’t vote.

What’s your thought on this?

Networking At The Maplewood Hotel

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Of all things, I didn’t think I would be writing about networking again so soon, but that was the topic of the last article here. Yet, I find myself talking about the Liverpool Chamber networking event at the Maplewood Inn this past Tuesday. I have both some amazing pictures to show you of some of the renovations at the hotel, as well as a discussion of the networking event itself some lessons that need to be learned.

Maplewood lobby

Maplewood lobby

I hadn’t been to the Maplewood in a number of years, so my eyes were stunned when I walked through the door and saw how they had changed the lobby area. It’s absolutely beautiful and comforting and made me wish I had a larger house so I could ask that designers to come over and work magic for me. I don’t have the words to describe it, so I hope you enjoy the picture that I’m sharing here. As I looked beyond the lobby, I saw their new lunch and breakfast nook area, which is still under some renovation that is going to be a marvelous space.

Once I got over being shocked, I walked down the hall to where I could pick up my badge for the networking event. I have to tell you, the Liverpool Chamber really is a quality group. On this day, they were honoring new members, although I didn’t know that at the time; I tend to forget to fully read the notices when they come out. This would explain why there were so few people I recognize when I first walked in. This also helped to lead to what became a very uncomfortable situation.

IMG_20151020_114413_resizedWhile I was walking around, not really paying much attention, I did run into someone I know. I said hello, he turned around and then immediately said out loud “Well, here’s the biggest left wing liberal I know.” That began a conversation about politics I really wasn’t ready to have. In general, I don’t like discussing either politics or religion either when I’m working or when I’m networking because if people don’t know you, the last thing you want is to get into a conversation about either of these things.

Needless to say, because I wasn’t prepared for this possibility, I ended up getting into this conversation. It wasn’t long before I started getting irritated and I found myself trying to escape the conversation, which I finally did. Still, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth for a little while, but I didn’t have a lot of time to ruminate on it.

We ended up sitting at the same table, but once other people were there we pretty much didn’t have to interact with each other all that much. We went up as a table to get our food, which was supplied by Uno’s, and although there were a lot of choices, since I tend to be particular I grabbed two sandwich wedges of turkey and bacon only. Those were tasty enough for me.

20151020_130217_resizedThe table got to talk around 15 minutes before it was time to get to Chamber business. This eventually included having one of the chamber board members introduce all the new members, which turned out to be a much better process than in the past because it moved along a lot faster. Then they had a raffle, from which I didn’t win anything, and finally it was all over.

Or so it could have been. Instead, the hotel had some representatives conduct tours if we wanted them, and since I had never seen any of the rooms previously at the hotel I decided to take them up on it.

There are three levels to the hotel. We were shown a couple of on the first floor at the beginning, and these are newly renovated rooms because they’re trying to promote themselves as an extended stay facility. These rooms were great, because not only did they all have refrigerators and microwaves, but they each had convection stoves so one could prepare their own meals if they so chose. As someone who has traveled a lot for business, I thought this was a wonderful feature. In rooms with one bed, there’s also a couch and a lounge chair, but in rooms with two beds those items are missing. Still, the rooms are nice size and the rooms we saw had shower stalls instead of bathtubs. That works well for someone like me.

IMG_20151020_130807_resizedWe were then taken up to the second floor, where they have the newly renovated workout room. Each of the treadmills has its own mini TV screen, and they also have a weight area and an open area of where one could put a mat down and do other types of exercises. On the wall above the door one goes into there was a motivational message painted up there, and on the wall above the window was a very interesting piece of art with all kinds of bicycle wheel frames. That was very cool.

The final room we got to see was on the third floor, and it was one of their two Jacuzzi rooms. This room reminded me a little bit of the Homewood Suites because it has a larger kitchen, and the living room is separate from the bedroom, where the Jacuzzi resides. All in all it’s a pretty cool layout, and if I had a gripe it would be that the bedroom seems small having a Jacuzzi in there.

They’re still in the process of completing the renovations, but I liked what I saw. I can’t tell you anything about customer service or the food in the restaurant, but for a standalone hotel I think they’ve done a nice job.

And there you go, a little bit of everything.  

Networking Local; How Good Are We At It?

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A few weeks ago I went to an interesting event. It was titled 10 Do’s & Don’ts: Networking Seminar with Michelle Kingman & Kelvin Ringold. I had met Michelle once before, at a blog networking event, whereas I know Kelvin pretty well (after 17 years I better lol).

Michelle Kingman

Michelle Kingman

I have to admit that I don’t go to a lot of these types of things, and I’m not sure why. After all, I’m in business for myself, so one would think I’d avail myself of every opportunity to meet others that I might possibly be able to do business with some day. Truthfully though, out of all the years I’ve gone to local networking events, I’ve only ever worked with one person; oh well…

However, that’s not really what networking is supposed to be about. The idea of networking is twofold… at least if you ask me.

One, it’s to get people to know who you are because you never know if they’ll know someone who might be able to use what you offer.

Two, it’s to get practice in how to properly communicate with others in a business setting. I’ve seen so many people fail on that last one that I could teach a class on bad networking. But good networking… maybe, but I’m glad there are other people to do it instead.

What was interesting about this presentation is that both people knew their stuff, but came at the presentation in a much different way.

For instance, Michelle has a system she follows that helps her networking in a more business like manner. She calls the system “FORM“, which stands for family, occupation, recreation and message. She doesn’t do it in this order for every single person she meets but will try to use all of them to establish a potential relationship down the line.

Being a personal trainer, the individual touch works perfectly because many of us have thought about using trainers to help us with our health goals. So, if we’re going to trust someone to work with us physically like that it pays to get to know them better and have them know you and be comfortable with you as well.

Kelvin Ringold

Kelvin Ringold

Kelvin is more of a serial greeter. He’s never met a stranger; I think he’d agree with that statement. Being naturally gregarious, he can put people at ease with the first few words that come out of his mouth at a networking event and engage people on almost any topic they want to talk about.

So he doesn’t follow a system, per se, but when he eventually moves on to others they have his card, will remember him and what he does, and in essence he’s fulfilled the reason for networking to begin with, which is spreading positivity via speaking and one on one coaching.

I have to admit that I think I’m a bad networker, though some folks think I’m not. I’m good in small groups because they’re usually geared towards something I’m really interested in, like the blogging meetups I’ve gone to locally. Being a big time blogger and knowing it’s something I’m good at makes it really easy to talk about with anyone, even if those folks are blogging all that much.

When it comes to general networking events though… well, if I don’t know anyone I’m the guy standing alongside the wall or in the corner or possibly by the food (if there are cookies lol), taking my time and canvassing the crowd to see if there’s someone I wouldn’t mind breaking one of the two rules I grew up with, those being “don’t talk to strangers” and “don’t interrupt people when they’re talking”. If my mind doesn’t see my being able to break through either of those… well, I’ve been known to leave a networking event within 10-15 minutes if I’m uncomfortable, whether I’ve paid or not.

That seems like a strange contradiction from someone who’s also a professional speaker, and has stood in front of 200+ people at a time talking about a subject that others might never have thought of, or as someone who used to perform at weddings, almost always solo, and never had any anxiety at all. Yet, that’s how it is with me, and I’m betting that’s how it is with a lot of people who are uncomfortable with networking events.

That’s probably why I felt it was important to go to this event. Well, that and I didn’t have to drive since I rode with Kelvin. :-) However, I could have always said no and just stayed home, but I’m glad I didn’t. Any time you can get good information that you can afford (and this was a free event) and you don’t take up the opportunity to get it, you only hurt yourself. In this case, it was put on by two very qualified people, and it was a pleasure to be there.  

Copyright 2015