Friday, March 14, 2008

The eternal joys in life

As much as I may complain about declining service standards, silly tax hikes and the like there's always joy in life and this is mine!
Posted by Picasa

So, as much as you may hate winter... least we can still afford (barely) to live a life of sin. I recall my shock at prices when I lived in Leeds a few years ago when what cost a dollar in Canada was a pound in the U.K. and that was when the pound was about $2.52.
Say a quiet prayer for your U.K. friends.

Britons Hit by New 'Sin Taxes'
By JANE WARDELL – 20 hours ago
LONDON (AP) — Many Britons were resigning themselves to more puritanical lifestyles Thursday as they faced the prospect of "sin taxes" that will increase the cost of alcohol, cigarettes, gas-guzzling cars and, potentially, plastic bags.
"Don't Drink or Drive" trumpeted the Sun newspaper after Treasury chief Alistair Darling unveiled the measures on Wednesday in the government's annual spending plan.
The Labour Party government is hoping that hiking taxes on booze will help curb Britain's binge-drinking culture.
But breakfast talk radio was abuzz with callers lamenting the potential death of Britain's pub scene, with the tax hike coming less than a year after the government imposed a smoking ban in all public buildings.
"They put more on alcohol because they think there's going to be binge-drinking, but it won't stop. It just stops people going in pubs," said Sarah Thomas, 33, a teacher trainer smoking a rolled tobacco cigarette outside The Goose pub in central London.
From this weekend, alcohol duties will rise by 6 percent above inflation — meaning an extra 8 cents for a pint of beer, which already costs about $6 in an average London pub.
They will go up around 26 cents for a bottle of wine and a whopping $1.10 a bottle for spirits such as whisky.
The duties will then rise by another 2 percent above inflation in each of the next four years, reversing a trend in previous budgets to keep increases low for most alcohol products. Duties on spirits were frozen for the past 10 years to boost British spirit makers' competitiveness, accounting for the large jump this year.
A packet of cigarettes, already a steep $11.20, will rise by 22 cents.
The first budget under Prime Minister Gordon Brown also planned to reward ecologically minded voters by imposing higher taxes on heavier polluting cars from 2010.
The increases — to be charged at the point of sale and in higher road taxes — mean that many family cars, along with gas-guzzling vehicles and sports cars will come with larger price tags and be more expensive to drive.
George Osborne, the opposition Conservative Party spokesman said the plans would unfairly target hardworking families who need large vehicles like SUVs.
"Labour's economic incompetence means a rising cost of living for the very people they said they would help," said Osborne.
The government will also begin imposing a charge on single-use plastic bags next year — a measure already in place in Ireland — if supermarkets and other stores don't make "sufficient progress" to voluntarily reduce their use by the end of this year.
The government said money raised by a plastic bag levy would go to environmental charities, while that from alcohol and cigarette taxes would help fund a $2 billion package to tackle child poverty.
But Steve Thompson, 39, an air conditioning engineer enjoying a lunch break with a cigarette and a half-pint of beer outside the Melton Mowbray pub in central London, wasn't buying the government's social plan.
"They know that people who are addicted can't quit smoking but they still tax it and get their revenue for it," said Thompson. "They're crooks. They waste taxpayers' money terribly."
Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the government was "shooting itself in the foot" because it would lose revenue if pubs are forced to close.
"The government is punishing all beer drinkers rather than tackling the minority of drunken hooligans," Hayward said.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said that as British costs rises faster than in continental Europe, more people will simply go abroad for the cheaper prices, particularly on wine. The new charges will tax wine at nearly $3 a bottle — the highest in the European Union and well above the 4 cents charged in France.
With Britons already facing rising prices for food and other basic amid the gloom caused by the global credit crunch, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said the new taxes were a form of punishment.
"It is bizarre at a time when the economy is slowing, prices are rising and many families are feeling the pinch, that the government should choose to add to their burden by making the simple pleasure of a glass of wine or spirits considerably more expensive," said the association's chief executive Jeremy Beadles.
AP Reporter Regan McTarsney in London contributed to this story.

It's about service stupid

To paraphrase the statement made several years ago in the Clinton/Bush years, we've had recent experiences which suggest that a temporary revival in service standards in retail has ended.
Recent dealings with Thomasville Furniture in Toronto left us disillusioned, frustrated and profoundly perplexed that a company of this standard has yet to learn the pitfalls of over promising and under delivering. And not just by a little bit. A great whacking gap between promise and fulfillment. Let's just revisit this: we agree to purchase a new bedroom suite at a not inconsiderable expense. The sales person is cheery and accommodating. Promises delivery of the entire suite within one month. You know what comes next. A month passes. But do we hear anything from Thomasville? Nope. We're left to make contact and when we do we're informed that things are just a little delayed but all wll be made right within the week. The week passes. Bupkis. We get back in touch. Oh, the items we ordered are out of stock and because the line, just launched, is so popular, we're now looking a several more weeks and oh by the way one of the items is no longer stocked so would we like another piece which is only moderately more expensive but no can't really say when that will come either.
Now, given that we're about to list our house on the market and have a number of open houses we want the suite to upgrade the appearance of the home.
To make a long story tedious...we finally received a floor model of the bed, two side tables which are not what we ordered (still waiting for those), did get the coffee table but still no chest of drawers. Nothing but a series of disappointments and all so easily managed with that profound retail strategy...TELL THE TRUTH.
Latest episode...Thomasville promised to call on Monday to arrange delivery of tables. No call Monday. Called. Promise to call back ASAP. No call. Called...person has left for the day.
It's now Friday. No delivery. No call.
Ig ergo more dealings ever with Thomasville Furniture and all for the want of someone with the gumption to just fess up and cut the b.s.
It's about the service stupid!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Exciting and interesting packaging developments

While working on an analysis of the relative merits of various packaging substrates for one of my clients, I came upon a myriad of interesting developments globally. Perhaps one of the most interesting was what I found on the site. They have developed a new product named CalymerTM and it is made of chalk.
As ecolean writes on its site "no chemical processes are necessary to extract the raw materials and only limited amounts of energy are required. Calymer consists of at least 40% (by weight) calcium carbonate - nature's own mineral and building materal - and of plastic binding agents (PE and PP). The calcium carbonate provides the strength and stiffness and the binding agent provides toughness and flexibility. After disposal a used package can either be recycled or recovered as energy by incineration."
While not available for asceptic applications, this is an interesting development in a field where people are ever-more concerned about how packaging materials impact our lives.

A little bit buried and don't want to commit to permanent employees?

A little bit buried? I can help you dig out.

“A critical component of a great brand and the most essential element of its composition is that the experience of the brand must create an emotional connection with the consumer. Emotion is the one human ability that cannot be automated and companies need to embrace the notion that their stories are perhaps more important than their products.”*

At a very reasonable rate I am ready, willing and able to assist you and your clients in their storytelling.

What I do
Management and business consulting.
Corporate, marketing and retail strategy
Brand creation and management.
Copywriting and project management.
Client service.

How we can do it together
Contract. Free lance.
Part time. Full time.
Maternity leave coverage.
Hourly. Daily. Project based. Retainer.

A little bit of background

Since my first job as Editor of the St. Thomas Courier weekly newspaper, my career revolved around the essence of communication. A copywriter by craft, I spent the past 30 years in a variety of positions on both the client and agency side of the marketing communications business. During that time I worked extensively in virtually all economic sectors and for clients ranging from AT&T to Canada Bread, from Bank of Montreal to ING, from PepBoys Auto to Wal-Mart. At the same time I gained experience working with organizations throughout North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, South America, and Korea. Whether writing compelling copy, creating retail environments which create an emotional connection with consumers, enabling driveway sealing products to achieve premium status, or helping financial institutions create a lasting, trusting relationship with clients, I have driven the process which brings opportunities to fruition.

As my career evolved, my specialty gravitated toward the world of copywriting, brand creation and management. When I founded Grace Hanna Inc. in 2003 I based its approach upon a well-experienced understanding of the critical components of effective communication: Clarity; Simplicity; Wit.

*Rolf Jensen, Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies