Yesterday I received an email from REI, with the subject line: “REI is Closing Black Friday.” Of course like so many people who received the email, my response was: “What, what, what?” It is a great marketing ploy and strategy. I immediately was curious and opened the email and read it out loud to Chris. My next thought was: “Did someone hack into their email server or is this legit?” Here is an excerpt of the email I received from REI:
“This Black Friday the co-op is doing something different. We’re closing all 143 of our stores. Instead of reporting to work, we’re paying our employees to do what we love most—be outside.
We want you, our members, to be the first to hear—not just what we’re doing, but why.
We’re passionate about bringing you great gear, but we’re even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks for all of us. Perhaps John Muir said it best back in 1901: “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.”
We think Black Friday is the perfect day to remind people of this essential truth.
And don’t worry, as a member you’ll still enjoy great deals on great gear all holiday season long. But on this one day, we’re going to #OptOutside and we want you to join us.”
From what I can tell, it is legitimate and I applaud REI for driving the point home so clearly – potentially at a loss of revenue. Maybe though — just maybe their members and frequent shoppers will find this admirable and not worry a bit that they will not be open. Of course their website will still transact orders. Why not have the deals happen the day after Black Friday? Why does it have to follow consumerism tradition and happen on Black Friday?
In any case, I hope it starts a new trend. I for one do whatever I can possible to stay away from ANY shopping on Black Friday. The only thing I would do is venture out to what Portland calls “Little Boxes” which supports small businesses. That is something I can support. It makes it even better that they want folks to be outside. Maybe other companies will join #OptOutside.
Other improvements to this year are companies that previously were open on Thanksgiving day are choosing to stay closed. Staples and GameStop will be closed this year as the companies want customers and employees to enjoy the holiday they way they want to celebrate it. There is even a group of individuals trying to get a local mall closed for Thanksgiving Day by way of a Change.org campaign.
We are all drowning in email. No one likes it, everyone hates it, and yet it rules our life. It is true. How often do you send an email rather than picking up the phone? How often do you send an email rather than walking down the hall? I am just as much to blame. I like email for a few reasons:
_I have more control over my end of the conversation. I can say what I need to say, and be done. On a phone call, the conversation can go one of many directions. I might not be prepared or comfortable with those many directions.
_An email is an electronic copy of the interaction. Someone might tell you verbally they will meet a deadline, but when it is in writing you have a copy of that agreement. A phone call can be misinterpreted or does not keep that agreement in writing.
_I enjoy walking down the hall to see you and chat further, but it is not always as quick. I might get an immediate answer (and my question is not sitting in your inbox waiting) but five people might also stop me along the way, so it might not be the most efficient part of my day.
_Email allows you to respond on your time. That might be early in the morning, or late at night, but it is on your terms.
“Think of email as facilitating work, not as work in and of itself.”
For someone who is often in meetings all day, I can relate to this idea. Since I am rarely at my desk, email is often the way I can share information, ask questions, get updates, and communicate with my team. It does feel like it is the work, but I really like the idea of it just facilitating the work. That does not mean that we could not all use some of the tips from Rajeev Goel (CEO in the article). We can all be better, get rid of the extraneous and unnecessary emails, and find ways to be more streamlined and save everyone’s time.
I have always been a fan of letter writing. There is something that comes out of your soul when you pen ink to paper. It is not the same when you send a text, or when you write an email. There is something private, raw, and real about a letter that shares from deep within a heart. Maybe that letter was not the first draft. Maybe it had been written over and over after many drafts, and the final version is what takes the journey from mailbox, to post office to truck, to mailbox, to the hands of the recipient — who has a moment to absorb themselves into the words shared with them over many miles. They have a choice to keep and treasure the letter or to throw it in the trash. That letter or card has a life of its own.
A life of its own. This is why I love that, in a few weeks, it will be National Letter Writing and Card Month (April). This article from Huffington Post shares about a contest from Crane called: “The Letters You Keep” — which invites people to share about the letters they have received over the years. I still have quite a few letters from my past. My mother and grandma wrote me telling me what was happening in their lives while I was away at high school. Later I received letters from my grandma while I was away at college, and while a counselor at camp. I have the 10+ page letter my father wrote to my mother telling her how she had ruined our family with the sickness that had plagued her body. You might wonder why I have kept that long letter? It is a moment of history. It tells me a bit about my father. It reminds me where I come from, and how far I have come.
What I regret is all the letters that are missing. The letters I received from Santa (penned by my father). What wisdom might they have told me about life or given me wisdom today about my father? Were there letters between my sister and me? I do not have any. Maybe we were always together? Maybe we communicated more via phone. I also regret that I no longer have the emails between Chris and I from the early stages of our dating life. No they were not handwritten, yet those were the earlier days of emails and instant messaging. We probably were excited and passionate about how quickly you could go back and forth to share our thoughts and feelings without having to wait for the mailman. We actually saved a lot of them, but they were lost on a hard drive that died when a laptop crashed to the floor. I still have that hard drive in hopes that someday we will be able to magically resurrect our early days of falling in love.
Whether or not you join Crane’s contest, I hope you will at the very least take a few moments to send a card to someone you love, someone you appreciate, or someone who has not heard from you in eons. As the Huffington Post article states:
“A handwritten envelope found amidst catalogs and credit card bills is the equivalent of a still-cold canteen in the middle of the desert. It’s refreshing and gives you reason to keep going.”
Think about who in your life needs that still-cold canteen. Reach out to them. You might just find someone to be there to quench your thirst.
I sometimes get teased at work for my excessive use of Post-Its. I have even been told that based on my actual job I should be more savvy using apps and other electronic means of managing my day. I cannot. I am a failure. I am deep down an old school soul. Post-its remind me of the quick, need-to-do-right now tasks. The notebook I take with me to all my meetings serves as a tracking of history. I can go back in time and remember items from meetings, I can track to-dos from those meetings. Usually ones that are not urgent go in my notebook, and Post-Its track URGENT tasks.
We all have our own ways to keep our life in order. I am a mixture of old and new. Chris and I track our grocery list, restaurant interests, and movies via an app on our iPhones, yet I still have paper notes for long-term, ongoing to-dos and future planning. Which way works? If there was an app out there that did exactly what I wanted, without crashing, and had no syncing issues I would probably divert all efforts digitally. However, that never happens for me.
Just this past Sunday I was on my way to the grocery, and just before I leave we realize my phone will not sync with our Any.do app, so I was not be able to view all the groceries on the list. Instead, Chris sent me an email with our list. If I cannot trust an app 100% I might as well resort to old school methods — pen and paper. Post-Its are my colorful, insistent reminders that something has to be done. If that Post-It is kept in an app on my iPhone I can easily ignore it. I have to remember to open that app to be reminded.
What is the method to your madness? Do you have a process that keeps your organized? Are you all electronic? All paper? Or a little of both?
We have become a culture of easy, quick, right at your fingertips. The iPhone has changed the way we look at the world, what we expect, and how we expect to consume information, apps, and really anything that is easily accessible.
On my flight back from Shanghai I finished reading a book called: “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Klug. I love the title of his book as it is spot on. I would rather frequent a website that does not make me hunt and peck for the information I need. Obviously there are plenty of websites that you do not have a choice and have to use. Your banking, credit card, local water company or trash service website all mean you either call them or get what you get on their website.
I am still always in awe of how quickly smartphones, the web, and apps have made it that we do a zillion things all within a tiny little device. I remember maybe 5 years ago, I was still using an old school flip phone that did not even have a camera, while Chris had a Razr phone. At the time the Razr was so slim and such a big deal. Eventually I upgraded from my old school phone to an iPhone 3 and well, my life was just never the same. Klug explains this well in this comment:
“Just consider how many things the smartphone allowed you to carry in your pocket or purse at all times: a camera (still and video, and for many people, the best one they’d ever owned), a GPS with maps of the whole world, a watch, an alarm clock, all of your photos and music, etc., etc.” page 144
Think about how much you do on a daily basis on your phone. How many people do you communicate with daily, hourly, each minute? How many pictures and videos do you take and share? How often do you check your stocks? The news? How many games do you play? How often do you interact with social media? How much do you manage your finances right from your phone? Do you check the weather daily? Get directions to that new restaurant? Listen to music? Track your flight? Surf the Internet? Do you manage your life, grocery, and errand lists on your phone? Oh, and the old school part of it all, how often do you even use your phone to talk to someone?
Later Klug says:
“And think about the fact that for most people in emerging countries, in the same way they bypassed landlines and went straight to cellphones, the smartphone is their first—and only—computer.” page 144
It would blow my mind if my cellphone was my first computer. That would be like driving from zero to 100 in seconds. We have become so picky about user interface. We want easy, clean, and simple. The great part is that most of the time we have access to so many options. The even better news is that our options are only going to get better and better. Allowing us to do so many things on autopilot without having to think. With great design our lives become that much easier. My only concern is that we do not lose our capacity to think critically.