Saturday, September 22, 2012

Other Merchants...Billy Reid

Billy Reid is a southern clothing designer who opened his first shop in Manhattan a couple years ago. The clothes are good and worth a visit, but it's the shop's hospitality that I'd like to draw attention to.

Here's a picture I took of a table near the door this summer. It's stocked with fresh lemonade, cucumber water and mismatched glasses. Help yourself, it's free, it's hot out. (In the winter there's a decanter of bourbon on the sideboard.)

It's so easy and so memorable. Why don't more companies do things like this?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Randomness Helps

I never stop being amazed by small, counter-intuitive operations innovations. From a New Yorker article on Yoox, the online fashion site:

When clothes arrive at the warehouse...folded items are placed in black plastic storage bins that look like large milk crates. The crates are packed randomly—pants, shirts, and sweaters are mixed together willy-nilly. When an order comes is placed on a conveyor belt that...delivers it to the correct wrapping station, which are manned by humans. Were items sorted with their like, the humans would have to search all of them to find the one matching the order, but since items are sorted randomly, it's easy to spot the right one. "Chaos is our friend," Guillot said.
I don't know how to use randomness like this at ZMO but maybe there's a way?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How does this stuff get made?

On a recent trip I stayed at a house where I got to experience Google TV. It's the "smart" television Google turned out a couple years ago—and customers promptly turned back, in droves. Apparently more people returned it than bought it, which is mathematically impossible but not unbelievable, especially if you've tried to use the remote control. It was the most baffling device I'd ever seen.

Until tried to use the house's clothes dryer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The real reason people live in Brooklyn

If you read about life in Brooklyn these days it often seems like a carnival of excitement because of all the small craft businesses, restaurants, music and art. That’s pretty much true and it’s great. But to me, a boy who grew up in the suburbs, another reason Brooklyn is magical is how different it makes everyday life. I grew up thinking urban density made life hell. But it can make life easy, too. Take today.

I left the house at 3pm. I got passport photos made, dropped off a UPS box, had my luggage zipper fixed (no charge, thanks Michael—you’re the best!), got a chip from the paint shop, found and bought a pair of jeans and got an iced tea. I never used a car or anything besides my feet. I was home a little after 4.

This brief escapade would have been mundane in American towns just fifty years ago. It’s a shame that today it’s considered exotic.

Note that all this happens in spite of a thriving trade in online shopping. UPS and FedEx drivers are crawling all over Brooklyn. They usually deliver things that are hard to find in the neighborhood— books, electronics, shoes, furniture. It makes me wonder if those businesses didn’t die because of mail order but are thriving in part because of it.