Saturday, August 29, 2009

Failure is truly an option for those who don't make the grade in public schools

State Sen. Jane Nelson gets what's wrong with our state education system.
After reading Lindsay Kastner's article this morning in the Express-News, I had to applaud Nelson's effort to reform education.
Her bill makes it easier for educators to not pass students who didn't do the work.
If you can draw an anology, think of going to McDonalds, ordering a burger, fries and a soda and not getting the pomme frites. Would you pay for it? For years, educators have been told to give a student a 50 for work not turned in or if they took a test and got a score like 21. Administrators did this to encourage their students to buckle done and do better work so they wouldn't fail.
For my friends in the education space, if they failed too many students because they didn't turn in the work, their administrators will have a chat about making it easier for their students to pass the course.
That's why a lot of my friends and colleagues have turned to Catholic school or charter schools to help their students get an education. They know that if their kids didn't turn in homework or did poorly on a test that their little darlings will have to work hard to make up a zero or a 21 on their math test.
Standards like this make the transformation from high school to college easier for their children. They understand the value of turning in their homework and doing well on their tests.
I am hoping Nelson's bill gives educators the power to confront those administrators who demand that they raise a grade so they can pass a student to the next level. When this happens, these students are doomed to a life of working in low paying jobs or having to pay their local junior college money so they can reach the basic standards to get an associate or four-year degree.
While Nelson's legislative work makes it against Texas state law to pass students who didn't complete the work, I am hoping that the state will pursue serious legal action against districts, administrators and teachers who pass kids who didn't meet the minimum requirements for passing each course.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Please send my 500,000 pounds to another winner.....

Today's latest scam comes in an email to me.

"Your e-mail has emerged as a winner of £500,000.00 GBP in our on-going Google Promotion. Your Winning details are as follows: Computer Generated
Profile Numbers (CGPN):7-22-71-00-66-12, Ticket number: 00869575733664,
Serial numbers:/BTD/8070447706/06, Lucky numbers: 12-12-23-35-40-41(12).
Contact Mr Graham Benfield, for more details through the contact below:
Mr Graham Benfield,

To Graham, I am not a moron.... Yes, I reported you to the spam patrol at Google, but here's hoping that this blog will help others with elderly parents, new to the web, not believe this bovine scat.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Two things your credit card processing firms don't want you to know....

If you are a business that accepts credit cards for payments, you probably never have gotten a good explanation about how the interchange rate impacts the cost of accepting them.

After losing some money to customers who didn't pay my fees, I turned to credit card payments as a more effective way to get paid for my work. As one of my friends from church had a credit card processing fee firm, I asked him to set me up with an account.

My friend promised me a good rate despite the lack of monthly volume. For each transaction, I would pay slightly more than 2.2 percent for each transaction. Yet, after I got my first month's statement I noticed that the cost was more like 3-percent after deducting my monthly fee.

It wasn't until I met David Jemeyson, the chief information officer for MerchantZdirect that I truly understood how credit cards rate could charge more for their services. Take that credit card with the Vikings that advertises on every televised major sporting events. When a business takes the "What's In Your Wallet" card, Jemeyson said the rate is higher than a regular card without rewards.

I would surmise that most businesses are never told about the interchange rate when a new business adds a credit card or decide to change it to another provider. Yet, that's the first point of truly understanding the costs of accepting them.

Another important point for any business to understand is the basis points paid to a merchant processing service. When a business understands how interchange rates and the basis points impact the cost of doing business, they can probably negotiate a better rate.

For example, let's suppose that Jane Smith runs an automotive repair business. She accepts a credit card payment of $400 for four tires. If the interchange rate for the card presented to her is 2-percent, a major credit card company like Master Card or VISA will get $8 for their transaction fee.

If Smith's merchant service charges 100 basis points, she would pay $4 more for this transaction. However, if the rate is at a lower rate like 20-basis points, she would only pay eighty cents.

When I first started accepting credit cards, I wish I had truly understood the interchange rate and the basis points I paid for each transaction. Had I known this when I signed my initial contract, I would have probably negotiated a better deal than the one I currently have with my friend from my church.

It's my hope that businesses who want to cut their costs take the time to talk to their merchant processing service rep about the basis points and the interchange rate. If you find a credit card rep that can explain this to you and gives you something at 20-basis points, I would take that over someone who doesn't help you understand these key terms.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SA research firm shows the best time to send out a tweet

My friend and colleague, Ryan Johnson released an interesting study today about the use of Twitter. Johnson, the chief executive officer of Pear Analytics, released a white paper on "what people are really using Twitter for."

Johnson and his team built six categories for their study: News, Spam, Self Promotion, Total Pointless Babble, Conversational and Pass-Along Value.

Of the six, Johnson found from a data pool of 2000 daily tweets that Total Pointless Babble had over 40-percent usage.


It seems that most of us think that Twitter is the ultimate place to tell our followers that we are watching Happy Gilmore on Sunday. Yes, I am guilty of that. But, I also got a response from one of my followers that they too thought that it was the ultimate Adam Sandler flick.

However, I have learned through the last 18 months of using this social medium tool that it's also a good place to start conversations with people. I also believe people who use Twitter are smart enough to stop following people who always talk about what they're having for lunch or what they are planning for the weekend.

More importantly, Pear Analytics study has done several things. First, the reaction to his white paper has put San Antonio on the technology landscape. Second, it helps show the best times to send out a tweet, especially if you want someone else to retweet it.

So, if you are someone who wants other to "RT" one of your 140-character missives, make sure it's right before lunch on Monday. According to Johnson and his crew, that's the best time to send out a tweet.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why there's no such thing as a free trip to Las Vegas

If you get an offer to attend a seminar on travel opportunities in the mail from a new company in San Antonio take a pass on it. It’s the typical high pressure sales firm which preys on your hope to travel a lot and save money.
In their advertisement, the company promises a free trip with hotel and airfare to Las Vegas just for attending their seminar. If my wife and I showed up on time for our 8 p.m. seminar located at 1102 E. Sonterra, we would have gotten a $50 Visa gift card.
As a marketing and communications professional, I knew that we would get a high pressure sales pitch, and I was not disappointed. This company, which uses two to three names in each presentation, kept asking for nearly $9000 for us to sign up.
First, a junior sales rep named “Dave” captured some information about and where we would to travel in the future. Then, a senior sales rep named “Jere” took over and gave a sales overview of how their travel program would repay the nearly $9000 we would invest in their 10-year travel program.
After their 90-minute presentation, my wife and I passed on their offer despite several offers to lower their membership costs. We were then taken to another sales rep who gave us our voucher for our “free trip.” However, she first offered us a five-year deal for $1995.
When I got home from our seminar, I noticed that there were some extra costs with our free trip in the voucher given to us. First, the Good Times Travel Company would charge us $50 each to process our trip request. We also would have to fly to either Chicago or Orlando to fly to Las Vegas. A quick review of one of those mainstream travel sites showed that travel to Chicago would cost us more than $500 to then fly to Las Vegas.
During Jere’s presentation, the featured hotel in his presentation for Las Vegas was Circus Circus, a hotel I once visited during a business trip. The hotel maid staff never changed the towels or cleaned the room during a 3-day trip.
This travel firm gives a visitor an initial impression of a professional organization. Their office is located in a new building along the Sonterra Boulevard corridor. However, I wondered why the sales reps never gave me their full name, a business card and took my flyer with their offer of a free trip.
I could complain to the Federal Trade Commission or the Texas Attorney General about this firm, but that would take time. Instead, I hope that those who read this blog will pass on their “free” offer to travel to one of their dream trips.