Friday, June 22, 2007

Inventive excuses

I used to think that no vacation was complete without a visit to the Inventors' Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio. OK, that's an overstatement. I went some years ago. It's a beautiful building, but there wasn't a great deal of material on inventions there. The honorees were listed on a series of walls with pictures and lengthy captions. Then in the basement came a few exhibits, mostly for children. The concept is/was interesting, although obviously needed some time and work.

Some months ago, I discovered that a distant relative (to be specific, my mother's cousin's grandfather, if you are scoring at home) had been inducted into the Inventors' Hall of Fame in 2006. After contacting the Hall, I was told that no living relative of Lloyd Espenschied -- who helped invent coaxial cable -- had attended the ceremony.

So when the opportunity came to visit Akron on my vacation, I figured it would be a quick and easy stop. I even got back in touch with Lloyd's granddaughter, and figured I could send her a picture of the display.

I don't know if you could label the trip a disaster, but it was pretty useless.

I asked the person at the admission desk for the Hall employee who had written me; she never heard of her but was willing to sell me tickets to get in. OK. I walked the length of the Hall, looking for a display on Lloyd but came up empty. My wife spotted a database of those honored, and Lloyd was nowhere to be found on it.

Now bad thoughts went through my head. What went wrong? Was it some other Inventors Hall of Fame? Had I messed up part of the vacation?

I spoke to a couple of staff members. They tried the database just like I did, and got nowhere. "Sorry, we can't help you." So I left, $20 the poorer when parking was thrown into the mix.

When my vacation ended, I tentatively looked for the entry on line. There Lloyd was, in the Hall's list of inductees. In other words, he's been inducted a year-plus, and there's nothing on him anywhere in the Hall.

Think the Beatles had that happen to them when they were inducted up the road at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland? Or to Joe Montana when he went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton? I think not.

I'm not the type to tell you what to do with your money. But I'm not returning until Lloyd gets his proper due. Maybe you'll keep that in mind the next time you are in Ohio.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Traveling man

One quick note about my recently completed vacation:

We recently did a little tour around Lake Erie for several days, catching up on a variety of attractions that had been overlooked in previous trips. Need to know anything about the dead Presidents of Ohio? The Pro Football Hall of Fame? The Inventors Hall of Fame (more on that in a future post)? I'm your man.

We drove to Michigan through Ontario, crossing back to America on the bridge that goes from Sarnia to Port Huron. We had never been to either place, and stopped at Port Huron to take a little walk at the waterfront.

Then it was on to the road for about a mile, followed by a stop at the Michigan Welcome Center. We always stop there; you never know what you might find for attractions. The woman behind the counter asked us where we were headed, and we said we were going to the Detroit area to see the Ford plant and Henry Ford museum. The woman reacted with surprise, saying there wasn't much to do in Detroit.

Now, who is paying this woman's salary? Probably the state of Michigan, although a local group might have had a tie-in as well. You'd think she would be happy to hear about a Detroit visitor, or at least better at hiding her surprise. Not so.

Oh well. At least the Ford plant was incredible -- a truck a minute rolls off the assembly line, which is in a building something like six football fields in size. It definitely was a well-spent day, no matter what the "welcome center" people thought.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Not cleaning up...

Notes from the small business community:

The other day, the doorbell rang at my house. I answered it, and there was a mid-20's-ish man standing there. I'll paraphrase the conversation.

"Good afternoon, sir. I'm Blank Blank, and I'm about the start my own carpet cleaning service in the coming weeks. I'm in your neighborhood today, taking appointments for our introductory offer of a free cleaning of one room in your house. Here's my flyer (hands me flyer). Now, which room in your house gets the most traffic?"

"Um, I'm not sure. I'm not really prepared to commit to anything like this right now. I would want to talk to my wife first, and she won't be home until later."

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir, the free offer only is issued for right now."

"Well, I'm not doing anything without her approval."

"All right, then, thank you for your time."

And with that, he took the flyer back and walked away.

Now that's the way to build up an business. Put pressure on people to make a decision on an offer from a completely untested and unknown organization. And when they can't do anything about it right away, take away the piece of paper with the business name, address and phone number on it so the potential customer has absolutely no chance of hiring the business down the road.

Nicely played. I don't know how high the percentage of small businesses that fail is, but here's one that's headed in that direction.