How to shock a fast food server


People who work in fast food pretty much see and hear it all. There is very little you or I say that they haven’t heard before.

Recently, I had an exchange with an African American worker at a nearby McDonald’s that left us both nearly speechless. I had just stopped in to use the free wifi and catch up on emails, so when it was my turn to order, I approached with my customary, “May I please have a small black coffee.”

“There’s that word again,” she replied.

I stood there in stunned silence thinking my use of the word “black” offended her. A checkmate of the eyes ensued for several seconds as I grasped for my next words.

Thankfully, she broke the silence with, “Please. I hardly ever hear that word and it’s so pleasing to the ear when I hear it.”

I explained that my niece who works in fast food recently told me that her biggest pet peave is when people come up to the counter and say “I want….”

Having worked in a number of service roles in the past myself, I try to be pleasant with service workers as a rule. However, my niece’s perspective helped me realize that I need to bring my A game in manners whenever I interact with fast food workers. Plus, I’ve been trying to model better manners for my teen daughters; even though they weren’t with me on this occasion.

I challenge you to give it a try. Next time you’re ordering food from a fast food worker, see if you can shock them by using your best manners. Extra credit: address the person by the name on his or her name tag when you thank them.

3 tips for drafting poll questions your readers can’t resist


Polls are a great way to engage your readers. While page view counts are a good indication of how many people made it to your page, polls help you gauge how many people are actually reading your content. And their responses help you to get to know your audience better.

I’ve been writing poll questions for websites for about six years. Some have yielded lots of votes; others were duds. Based on my experiences, I have developed a knack for what poll questions work and which ones will flop. Here’s what works:

1. Keep it short and simple

Try to keep the questions to 50 to 60 characters or fewer, including spaces. If you need to get really wordy, cut yourself off at 100 characters. And only ask one question. No compound questions; that just confuses people.

2. Quiz opinion, not knowledge

If you want the poll to generate enough responses to be useful, the question(s) should require almost no thought on the part of the responder. The less someone has to think, the more likely he or she is to respond. And there should be no wrong answers.

Here is an oversimplified example: Do you prefer green, red or blue?

3. Offer 4 responses or fewer

More than four responses to choose from can cause two negative things to happen: indecision and inaction. You want the user’s response to be a quick, knee-jerk reaction. Keep the length of responses to a minimum: 25 or fewer characters. When possible, leave no neutral option. If too many people select it, the results become virtually useless to you.

Online quick polls are a great way to engage your readers, if done properly. For best results, keep ’em short, ask for opinions, and limit their choices.

3 reasons why MLB Opening Day should NOT be a national holiday


I have seen numerous pleas by Major League Baseball on social media asking fans to sign a petition that would make Opening Day a national holiday. As much as I love baseball, there are three good reasons why I feel opening day should not be a national holiday.

1.  Ballpark attendance will not increase

Ask any fan of their city’s Major League Baseball team what the biggest challenge is with Opening Day and they will tell you it is getting tickets. Most MLB teams require fans to sign up on a waiting list about six months before the regular season begins in hopes that their name will be drawn from the lottery to buy tickets for opening day.

In other words, every team that has a solid fan base is currently selling out their stadium on Opening Day. Sold out is sold out, and declaring a national holiday won’t change that.

2.  Viewership will not increase

In most MLB markets the local media creates more hype and it generates greater anticipation around Opening Day than any other game during the year. Of course, there is at least one local station in each market that is likely to broadcast the game. So many of the people who were unable to buy tickets will be watching on TV. Even if they are working, in this day of cable sports TV and digital recorder’s most real fans can watch the game at their convenience after work.

3.  More people will suffer than benefit
In America, a national holiday usually means that federal offices, banks and in many cases schools will be closed. While it seems that this may be a benefit to Major League Baseball since more people are free from other distractions to focus on the nation’s pastime, my hunch is that more people will be affected negatively than will benefit. Think of the people that you know that work at any of the institutions that normally close on national holidays and how their income is affected when they cannot work. And think of how many business transactions cannot take place when banks are closed. Now you see what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong. I love baseball and I wish I could be off every year on Opening Day to take part in the festivities. However, we should keep in mind as a people that Major League Baseball is a business and they will continue to do just fine without Opening Day being declared a national holiday. Our government should not declare a holiday for the benefit of one industry at the expense of the general population.

Play ball!

3 things every indie author can learn from Walter Swan


There is a lesson all of us would be independent authors can learn from Walter Swan.

I met Swan in December, 2013. Not in person. That would be tough since he passed away in the 1990s. I picked up an autographed copy of Swan’s book “How to be a Better Me” at a Goodwill store in Tempe one evening. When I first saw the book, I couldn’t help thinking, “There is no way somebody could market a book like this” and “If this guy can sell a book, so can I.”

You know the old saying: You can’t judge a book by it’s cover. That was certainly true with this book.

Image of book: How to be a Better Me
How to be a Better Me, self-published book by Walter Swan

I cracked open the book to get a taste of the author’s style. What I discovered intrigued me: Short chapters of two to three pages with lessons on how to be a better person, written in the language of a good ole boy. I plunked down my dollar-fifty for the book, zipped over to the nearest Starbucks and dug in. Walter had me hooked. I felt like my grandpa was telling me these stories.

After reading the book for a few days, I decided to Google the author and find out more about him. (You should too.) Swan was a retired plaster contractor in southeastern Arizona with no higher education and no prior experience as an author. He couldn’t find a publisher to pick up his book, so he decided to publish it himself, with the help of a printer in Tucson, AZ.

Only a few stores would put his book on their shelves, so he rented retail space in downtown Bisbee, AZ and opened a store to sell his book. He called the store “The One Book Store.” Any guess as to what he sold in that store? It wasn’t the book I picked up. His first book was titled, “Me n’ Henry .” Turns out “How to be a Better Me” was one of many he went on to publish, although it’s hard to pin down all his titles. One person blogged about meeting Swan in 1994 and mentioned he had sold over 35,000 copies. I’m not sure if that’s in reference to his first book or all books combined. Nevertheless, it’s an inspiring number.

Walter has inspired me not only to be a better person, but also to become an author. I have several book ideas and one book that’s about 90% written. I have been sitting on it for about three years since I didn’t feel like I have enough clout. Neither did Swan.

What independent authors can learn from Walter Swan:

  1. If you have good stories (and who doesn’t?), people will read them
  2. Previous experience is not required; nor is advanced education
  3. We don’t need the approval of a publisher to publish a book

These days it’s easier than ever to self-publish books in electronic format with the help of sites like lulu.com and etsy.com. All we have to do is have a vision, a story to tell and the determination to follow it through. It’s that last item that Walter Swan has inspired me with.

How to get the best deals of the year on Ebay


If you are a bargain shopper, your ship is about to come in. Four of the best bargain hunting days of the year on Ebay are just around the corner: December 24, 25, 31 and January 1.

Here’s why: Ebay is an auction site. There is only one thing that makes prices go up with an auction. People. If you are shopping on Ebay when hardly anyone else in the country is, you can pretty much have your way with prices. What are people doing on the aforementioned dates? Answer: Not shopping on Ebay.

My top tips to save big on Ebay this holiday season:

  • Set up an Ebay and Paypal account in advance. Many sellers only take payments by PayPal these days. Trust me, it’s super safe and convenient.
  • Know what you want to buy and what you are willing to pay. Don’t let your ego cost you money. If somebody happens to outbid you, don’t sweat it. Just move on to another seller or the next item on your list.
  • Narrow your sights on things that are easy and inexpensive to ship or mail. If you pay $1 dollar for an item you could buy locally for $10 and it costs you $20 for shipping, you haven’t really saved anything.
  • Place your max bid on the items you desire just minutes before the auction closes. If there are no other bidders, you won’t have to pay your max price, but it helps you automatically outbid other bargain hunters.

This concept only works if you are trying to win auctions that are closing on the dates I highlighted above. Don’t bid on items that will be closing on days after the dates listed above. Set your top price low and be okay with spending not a penny more, even if it means losing the item to someone else who read this post.

I discovered this tactic as a seller over 12 years ago when I inadvertently listed an item for auction that closed on a holiday. I didn’t get near the money that I was asking for the item but I learned a lesson that has paid me back greatly over the years. Few sellers put much thought into when the auction will close. Usually, they are just happen to get the item listed.

If you follow these tips and score big, please come back and leave a comment.

How to boost your home’s click appeal


I’m no realtor but having been on both the sell and buy side of real estate transactions recently I learned a thing or two about getting the deal you want in a timely manner. Realtors like to talk about curb appeal and how important it is that your home have it if you’re trying to sell.

I think it’s time they start talking about click appeal. That’s because far more home shopping is done online than in cars these days. Thanks to websites like realtor.com and zillow.com house hunters can search for homes matching their specific criteria (neighborhood, price, floor plan, etc.) without even talking to a realtor.

See what I mean? Take a look at these images of the house my wife and I bought nine months ago in Phoenix. Notice how just a few enhancements can make a dramatic impact.

16040S17_072612
Before: Summer 2012

After: Spring 2013
After: Spring 2013

Which picture do you think people would click for more information? I’m pretty sure most of you would go with the ‘after’ pic.

This is what we did to boost our home’s curb appeal on a limited budget:

  • Painted the exterior: $1,700
  • Installed shade screens: $600
  • Installed new exterior lights: $300
  • Greened up the lawn: $25
  • Trimmed the tree (borrowed trimmer): $0

If the first image potential buyers see isn’t appealing, they likely won’t click to find out more. That’s why, if you’re thinking about selling, your home must have outstanding click appeal before listing it.

Why wait till you try and sell it? Even if you have no plans to sell in the near future, get more out of the investment by enjoying the improved look while you live there. A small investment in click appeal will likely pay off for you in the end.

A lesson on how to stand behind your work


Does a guarantee really mean anything in this day and age? Think about it: When something goes wrong with an item you buy at a retail store, who bears the burden of proof? The consumer.

What do you hear when something goes wrong with something you purchase? Prove to me you bought it here when you say you did. Prove to me you didn’t break it through misuse.

With services, it can be even more tricky, unless you have it all in writing. And then you have the burden of keeping the paperwork filed someplace where you can retrieve it.

Recently I found someone who has put an end to all that nonsense. We’re in the market to have our exterior block wall covered with a stucco. I’m a bit of a bargain shopper so I called Dwight after seeing his handwritten sign on a neighborhood street corner.

As I worked my way through a litany questions in the backyard, I got around to asking if his work comes with a warranty.

“Yes!” was his response. “As long as I’m alive my work is warrantied. So for about another 25 to 30 years or so. After that, you’re on your own.”

I can’t ask for much more than that now can I?