Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Food Brands: Kitchen Basics Stock Sucks Now. New owners. New recipe.

Once upon a time, when it seemed like there were more hours in the day, I used to write blog posts more frequently. We also used to post to our food blog more actively. In some respects, this post might be more appropriate on the food blog, but i decided to post it on the marketing blog because it definitely raises some interesting branding questions.

Now, to set the stage for you non-cooking people in the audience, chicken broth or stock is one of these essential ingredients to making better tasting foods -- it's not just something that you buy around Thanksgiving for poultry-cooking projects. We use stock all of the time, typically when you want to add liquid to a dish during the cooking process. Ideally, you make your own stock, but the process of making stock takes several hours, so its not unusual to use the packaged varieties you find in the store. Now, the downside of most store-bought stocks and broths is that they have a ton of salt in them and that gets even worse as it reduces down and the water cooks off -- a typical cooking process that could turn into a salty mess with the wrong product.

Enter Kitchen Basics Cooking Stock, a product that we found years ago and quickly became a cornerstone of our pantry. Back in 2009, we even published this post about Kitchen Basics Stock. Also, if you search the web for chicken broth comparisons, you'll find a number of older posts that rank the Kitchen Basics Stock higher than most other broths.

So imagine my surprise when I was at the store the other day and the familiar mustard yellow package of Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock had changed color. It was still yellow, but lighter yellow now, closer to a lemon yellow color than the mustard color. Initially, my assumption was that the packaging had just undergone some aging/bleaching, but I made my usual purchase (2 cartons) and headed home.

A day or two later, my wife informed me that there seemed to be something wrong with the Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock. When she started to add it to the soup she making, she noted that the stock was different. The color was lighter and the taste had changed. She then noted, as she compared the new one to an older package that we still had, that the list of ingredients on the back was different on the new, lighter colored package. Later, as we discussed it, we searched online for some explanation.

So it turns out that in 2011, Kitchen Basics was purchased by McCormick for $38 million in an effort to grow through acquisitions. You're probably familiar with McCormick from their line of spices. It appears that, some five years since the acquisition, Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock has been reformulated. Here's the original ingredient list (note, it's still listed this way on the Kitchen Basics web site and we had actually had an older package that with this ingredient list).
Now, here's what I have for the "new" version of the stock:

You'll note the removal of the vegetable stock as the second ingredient in the new version. This appears to be what's driving the flavor change.

Now it may be that this change is fairly subtle for most people, but for us, it was like somebody replaced the ultra-plush toilet paper in your home with one of those industrial toilet papers that always make you dread going to the bathroom in places that use them. It's one of those everyday products that you use and you probably don't think much about until something changes. But for us, and probably other people that use Kitchen Basics regularly, this change marks a complete re-evaluation of the products that we're using. We're now back to looking for an off the shelf chicken stock product that we can be happy with.

What makes this even more mind-boggling from a brand aspect is, this may seem like no big deal. But you also have to understand that Kitchen Basics isn't available in every grocery store and, in many cases, we've made decisions as to which retail store to choose based on whether they stocked Kitchen Basics. In software terms, this is a fundamental change to the core stack, something that affects an entire ecosystem above it. It's now entirely possible that, whatever we find as our new chicken stock of choice, that will dictate at least one of the stores that we shop in.

Thanks McCormick. It looks like we may be done with the Kitchen Basics brand.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

An Open Letter to Marc Benioff RE Dreamfest Logistics

Hi Marc,
First, let me say, thanks for replying to my tweet from the Dreamfest Event and thanks for requesting an email with details. While I know you requested an email, it seemed only fair to share aspects of it as a blog post since the whole thing started as a broadcast conversation.

First of all, let me start by saying that there are many aspects of Dreamforce that I think are great. I've been attending Dreamforce events since 2009, and I probably would have also gone to a couple of earlier ones, but I couldn't make it work. Not only have I always found the conference sessions to be helpful in gaining a much deeper understanding of the Salesforce platform, but it's also been a software/business/world eye-opening experience for the colleagues that I've brought to the event over the years. That being said, I've had my issues with Dreamforce over the years, like 2015, and my terrible Dreamforce 2013 that was so bad, I only came up for keynotes in 2014. As I've said in the past -- and once in a survey with your marketing people -- the biggest problem / challenge with Dreamforce is the crowds.

For all of the Dreamforce events that I've been to in the past, my gala concert count is far lower. Each year is different, but the biggest reason is logistics -- if you have to commute to the South Bay each night, staying late for a band after an exhausting day of running around for sessions is asking a lot. When I've stayed in the city, I've hung around for the band. At the same time, I remember seeing Stevie Wonder in the south hall of Moscone and thinking, firstly that the concrete walls and floors were the worst place that I've ever seen a band and, secondly, that it was only a matter of time before the size of the crowd overwhelmed the venue. Over the years, I've watched as the people and the venue grew, challenging the San Francisco landscape with a place large enough for the show. In that way, I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers was peak Dreamforce Gala. Closing off the Civic Center plaza was mind-blowingly awesome and, while it probably sucked for San Francisco that week, definitely ranked as one of the most amazing shows. Perhaps that contributed to making 2013 so disappointing. Last year, with the Foo Fighters, I actually considered going -- even though I was commuting -- until I saw where the event was located. While it was in San Francisco, it wasn't going to be an easy commute from the Moscone area nor back to the Caltrain for the ride home.

While I understand that this is a long opening, I want to provide a clear sense of history and, correspondingly, where my expectations and motivations were. This year, I registered on the first day of registration and secured a hotel room in the city. Despite having colleagues attending the conference, for various reasons, I found myself attending the Dreamfest event on my own. Prior to going, I was invited by our AE to use a special shuttle provided to SMB customers. After initially agreeing to that, when I discovered that the departure point for those shuttles was down in the Mission, I abandoned that plan. Instead, I walked down to Moscone West, figuring that there would be a number of shuttles there and that, traffic wise, it would be faster out of downtown than one of the hotel shuttles. I arrived at 7:00, thinking that I had left plenty of buffer before the 8:15 concert start. While the trip out of the city in traffic wasn't fast, overall we made good time, maybe 20 minutes or so, but by the time we got off 101 to make our way down to the Cow Palace, traffic was crawling. It felt like 15-20 minutes to travel a handful of blocks. I arrived at the event around 8:30, with U2 already having started their set.

While I've never seen U2 live before, I've seen a couple of their concerts on video in the past. When I saw the crowd and the way the event was set up, it was quickly clear that I would get no closer to the stage than the far back concession stands, and so I began, once again, watching a U2 concert on video using the large screen monitors near the back of the event. However, it quickly became clear that the actual audio was a second or two ahead of the video, and the irony of having had a better experience when I'd previously watched the video concerts struck me.

Leaving the Event
Around 9:30, I began wondering if I should just go ahead and leave, wondering whether there were early buses running back yet. By 9:40, I decided to head for the buses and was about out to the bus pick-up by 10:00. What I came across was a bit of a mess, to say the least. There were long, crowd control gates directing traffic through to the buses, but few people doing crowd control. You were supposed to follow these long crowd control gates (I was headed back to Moscone), but as you worked your way through them, you'd often see people climbing over them and jumping in front of you in line -- particularly since they weren't full and the "bus destination" on the street seemed so far away and, not even visible from the gates. As I started to get close to the street, more crowds, more people climbing over gates. In general, chaos.

I was standing behind the gates, on the sidewalk near the road, when the "first wave" of buses arrived (about the time the concert ended -- probably about 10:00). Rather than going through an orderly loading like was done back at Moscone West, suddenly people just started swarming toward the bus doors. It was forget about the crowd control gates, suddenly, people were three and four deep in the road trying to shove their way toward a bus door. Once the first buses were full and started to drive off, a handful of crowd-control people came through telling people that more buses would be coming and to wait where we were. Meanwhile more and more people kept streaming down the street. The crowd, from sidewalk towards the middle of the street, grew from 2-3 people deep to 6-8 to 8-10. Half the side of the roadway was filled with people standing around waiting to rush the buses doors when they opened.

There were some of us, sitting back, trying to behave with order, asking for guidance, but there were so few people. And the crowd was just getting more aggressive in trying to get buses whenever another row of buses would come through. At one point, the cops were there, attempting to help manage people getting into the bus door. Perhaps you've seen it all when you see a cop in SWAT gear trying to do people traffic control at a charter bus door. Meanwhile, with all of the crowd chaos, my thoughts kept going back to The Who concert in Cincinnati, hoping that somehow people would get this under control. Seriously. At times it felt like the crowd just might be that crazy.

The thing that really cracks you up though, that makes you think twice -- this crowd isn't soccer hooligans, it isn't "kids that don't know any better". The crowd is, theoretically, business people, professionals, grown-ups who've spent the day listening to stories of philanthropy and charity. And now, to watch them push and shove for buses. It's a reminder that crowds change people and that herds behave differently. Sadly, the whole thing also reminded me of the last Grateful Dead tour in 1995.

By 11:00, they started to try and control the people standing in the road, trying to push them back toward the sidewalk with yellow hazard ribbon, but it wasn't until about 11:10 when the cops started actually forcing people back that things started to move. Finally, I made it on the bus around 11:30 and back to the hotel. The finally funny part was that the bus driver dropped us off -- first stop -- at "The Hilton", but he was about a block away, across from Glide Memorial behind Parc55. Frankly, by that time, I was just glad to escape, but I was glad I wasn't one of the people from out of town trying to geo-locate using the map on the back of my Dreamforce badge.

Since the event, I've reflected on what was wrong and what should have been done differently. While I'm not someone who plans events on this scale, observation wise, I do have a couple of thoughts about what went wrong.
  • Too much unmanaged space between open areas and traffic controlled areas. By that I mean, there was a lot distance in crowd control gates with nobody there to manage the traffic and provide authoritative guidance. Like having one of those ribbon guides with nobody in line, people often believe that they can just jump ahead. 
  • Not clearly managed bus loading areas. At one point someone said they'll be loading at the cone. Then a bus pulled up 30 feet from the cone and a mass of people rushed the door from both directions.
  • The remote location. The Cow Palace is just too far away from San Francisco and from BART. When I checked with Google maps about walking to Balboa Park BART, it said 45 minutes walk. While finding an event location to handle the huge Dreamforce crowd is San Francisco is probably impossible, for myself, I wouldn't go to another event that isn't within walking distance.
While I waited for a bus to extract me from Daily City, I wondered if there was a band that I would be so interested in seeing that I would do another Dreamforce Gala again. At this point, I can't think of one.

Marc, I want to thank you for the conference and all of the effort that you and your team go through to make Dreamforce happen. And again, thanks for reply and the email request.

Monday, September 19, 2016

iPhone 7: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade, That is the Question

Apple has officially announced the iPhone 7 and now we're left with the next round to grand decisions -- to upgrade or not to upgrade. Last year, I enrolled in Apple's Annual Upgrade program, so from a finance / carrier perspective, upgrading to the newest model is an easy consideration for me. And yet, as with so many Apple updates these days (hardware and software), the upgrade decision is not so straightforward.

The main reasons why I have to upgrade:

The Phone is Too Damned Big! After holding out on upgrading my iPhone 5 for an extra-long time, wooed by the idea of a much better camera, extra battery life, and a display I could actually read, last year I opted for the iPhone 6s Plus. My year with the iPhone 6s Plus has been a mixed bag. The battery life on the big phone has been great -- I've never once managed to run the battery down to empty, even on very busy days of talking, browsing, and using location services. The display size hasn't really delivered as much of a benefit though, as Apple's iOS user interface doesn't really scale in any proportional way (You can increase the font size and make some adjustments, but it doesn't scale like the display interface on your computer). As for the camera, it's probably nicer, but frankly, even if it was crappier, it's still the integrated camera, so you'd use it just the same as you did with the camera on the phone for how many generations back. But the worst thing about the iPhone 6s Plus is that it's just too damned big. I can't count the number of times that I've dropped the phone -- or watched others drop the phone -- simply because it's so big, it's awkward. I could give lots of examples, but the long and short is that the iPhone Plus model is just too damned big. When I upgrade, I'm going to get a long-overdue smaller phone.

I think I have other reasons, but I they aren't coming to mind -- other than the phone is too damned big.

Why I would refuse to upgrade if I could:

Following Apple down their upgrade path is a validation of a host of design decisions that I don't agree with. Increasingly, it seems like the company is hell bent on designing to "change for change sake" because "we're Apple, and we have the 'courage' to do things". Even if they're wrong. After all, if they had the courage to make a real improvement, why not make the phone a bit thicker and slightly heavier for longer battery life? Why not "smooth" out the back side so that the stupid camera lens doesn't stick out as a prominent bump? Why not move the power button back to the top instead of keeping in opposed to the volume controls? If Apple had the courage to do these things instead of chasing Samsung and trying to out-Android the various Android phones, that would be a phone that I would want to buy. Imagine a phone that was 50% thicker, but with something like double the battery life.

But back to the upgrade. Let's talk about the stupidest of stupid, the reason why, if it weren't for my current phone being too damned big, I would probably not upgrade.

Removing the analog audio port
During the keynote, Apple describes this as a courageous decision. Instead of the "look how old this analog audio port is" spin, let's distill this down to what it really is -- any wired headphone that plugs into the phone now must use Apple's proprietary Lightning Connector. Or you can use a dongle -- because we all love carrying those! But as you'll note in the dongle post that I've linked to, now you can't listen and charge unless you use a special dongle or you get one of their new docks.

In his review of the iPhone 7, on charging and listening Walt Mossberg says Apple's explanation for the removal is, "Apple says very few people do charge and listen at the same time. I respectfully disagree." I don't just disagree, I think that that explanation is complete horseshit. I think the removal of the analog port is one of those moments when the arrogance of the modern Apple company shines through. It's the rationalization that says "very few people charge and listen at the same time" and "you can still use your existing products, your noise canceling headphones, all your old Beats Audio stuff that we've sold you, everything... you just have to use this dongle," and tries to pass that off as a bold design.

Here's what Apple's not saying. Where once you only needed to carry one set of headphones to use on your iPhone, your iPad and your Macbook (or your PC), now you have to carry two because there isn't a Macbook with a Lightning port. But hey, Airpods (coming soon). Wireless audio is cool and a nice idea for the future, but you know who doesn't like Bluetooth Audio? Airlines. Not to mention that, if you happen to be lucky enough to be on one of those airplanes with power, you're probably going to be one of those few people listening and charging.

In short, I hate the removal of the analog audio port. As the rumors of removing it were flying around, I hoped that launch day would prove them wrong. I hoped that maybe there would be an innovative solution that made the removal not so terrible. Instead, we get dongle. And an incomplete dongle at that.

My Upgrade Path
With my auto-upgrade program, I was able to reserve an iPhone 7 for pick-up on Friday, the first day of availability. And yet, the more I thought about the things that I wanted in a phone -- and the things that I didn't want -- I realized that I just didn't want the iPhone 7. For me, the greatest frustration was that the iPhone 5se was released after I had already upgraded from my iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6s Plus. Had I waited just a bit longer, I would have opted for the SE.

At the same time, my wife needs a new phone. While she has the iPhone 6, she uses her phone much more frequently than I do, and she plays a lot of games on her phone. While she continues to push the performance limits of what her phone is capable of, I've found that the phone has become increasingly less useful for me. And that's where I crafted this a different solution path. Since I already had my iPhone 7 upgrade reservation and since she was interested in the iPhone 7, I gave my reservation to her. And me, I'm switching to an iPhone 5se. Would it be nice to have the newest processor and the newest camera? Sure, but the more that I weighed the impact of the loss of the audio port, the more I felt like the impact on me would be far worse.

So how bad is the removal of the audio port? Answer, for me, no audio port equals no phone upgrade. But after over 25 years of using Apple products, I find that they are increasingly not being designed for my needs.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Sling TV: Cord Cutting has it's Issues

After many years of sharing an apartment with roommates and a requirement to have enough cable TV to be able to watch all of the local sports teams, a little over two and a half years ago I moved into my own apartment for a planned limited stay. Since it was just me, I decided to forgo television service, something I'd done in my own room of the apartment years before. What I had found was that, if there was a TV that could be turned on, it often was -- and only the tiniest fraction of content on it was actually worth watching.

While I've missed lots of things on broadcast TV over the past two and a half years, live sporting events, the last Jon Stewart Daily Show, Letterman's retirement, I've never really felt like it was a great loss, particularly given what I've seen when I have tuned in. Meanwhile, I've had Netflix, Amazon Prime video and HBO Now, all of which provide service that makes up for crappy TV and way too many commercials. But I've always wished for just a little bit more.

Which brings me to Dish's SlingTV. Last week I came across an article about how they were expanding the promotion on this service -- essentially a way that you can get a limited number of channels delivered OTT (Over The Top, i.e. through your Internet Connection). Paying for a limited number of HD channels seemed like an interesting prospect. Not giving Comcast stupid money for crappy TV also seemed like a win. Best of all, the site offered a free 7-day trial of the service.

Sling TV offers one bundle of channels for about $20 per month, one for $25, and then a whole block of what they have available for $45 per month. Their options include ESPN if you're so inclined, plus a bunch of Food channels and others. You can also add Cinemax for $10 per month, something I wish they would do like the HBO Now app, but anyway -- that being said, I decided to sign up.

The Results
I really wanted to like SlingTV. I really did. But my experience with the service has been colossally frustrating. Of course, sign up was a breeze. A quick plug in of my information and a credit card and I was on my way. But that's where the joy of the experience ended.

First, the bad: SlingTV offers apps for the iPhone, iPad, and AppleTV. Oh, but not the old AppleTV, only the new one. Want to watch on your older AppleTV, you need to use the iPad app and mirror it through Airplay. That took a bit to work out. They also offer an App for the Xbox One -- which we tried, but the performance was worse than the iPad through Mirrored Airplay. Specifically, the movie that we started to watch appeared to only run in stereo, not surround, and it had more frame drops than an oversubscribed online game. Even the iPad App has suffered through frequent lock-ups and buffering issues. Contrast this with Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO Now, and you'll quickly realize that you don't want to pay for this service.

But it get's worse. The app is so poorly designed that, every time we've tried to use it, we've been frustrated. Take the Cinemax channel as an example. We were trying to binge-watch our way through an on-demand series and every time you launch the app, it jumps to the live broadcast. You then have to work your way through the interface to get to the show you were watching and relaunch it. Pop out of the app for just a second, like to check your email, and when you return, you're dumped back into the live TV feed.

But wait, there's more. The entire interface is set up on a layered set of scroll wheels. At the top is the channel selector, below that, the programs that appear, first live, then on demand below that. When you want to choose a channel, you need to move the slider from left-to-right or right-to-left, and whatever it lands on in the center, it will pause a few seconds for in order to attempt to buffer in the info on what's live. If you're trying to scroll through the channel list, this can take a while. And with all of these delays and buffering, you can probably imagine that the app hangs. A lot.

Perhaps the worst was, on one of the iPads we were watching SlingTV on, the app just crashed at one point and would no longer function. We tried rebooting the app, rebooting the iPad, nothing. We restarted it on a different iPad and everything worked again, but if it you didn't have a second iPad, I suspect you would have had to delete the app and reload it... maybe.

Over the seven day trial, we barely managed to get through binge-watching one series. And it goes without saying, not once were we wowed by the app -- unless it was being wowed by how bad the software was.

Also funny was, in the process of canceling the service, they offered to give me a Roku2 if I signed up to a 3-month commitment. Unfortunately, my blood pressure couldn't handle 3 months of the service, so I had to opt out -- but your mileage may vary.

Monday, August 1, 2016 Functionality Erosion and Find Nearby Accounts

If you've used for any length of time, then I guarantee that this has happened to you. You find some nice little piece of code that mashes together some integrated functionality, like the Find Nearby Accounts app, you deploy it and your sales team gets excited about it. And then, the next thing you know, that free functionality is gone. And now, replacing that cool little functionality that made you feel happy that you were using the Salesforce platform, you learn that the climate has changed, the winds are blowing a different way, and the only way for you to get that functionality back is to buy some third party AppExchange add-on solution for the low low price of $$ per user per month. Or maybe the pricing is easier -- just one big flat annual payment.

Yup. It's the Salesforce functionality erosion game, and over the years I've seen it played out numerous times across different core functionality pieces. First there was Salesforce for Adwords. Wanna know where that Web-to-Lead inquiry came from? Now it will cost you $1000-$5000 a year. Or more. But hey, these new tools do way more than than the free thing you used to use. And besides, we can't support that anymore because Google won't let us.

And then there's Salesforce's Outlook integration. Yeah, that was free. But then they moved to Salesforce for Outlook; still free, but not as good (for a couple of years). And then, after supporting IMAP syncing, it suddenly didn't. But it works if you have an Office365 account and give Microsoft $15 per user per month.

And so they offer everyone else "SalesforceIQ" as the replacement email integration -- email sync with a brain. Except that the brain is rather unintelligent, possibly more annoying than helpful, but even better than that, they changed that to "Let's charge for that". If I only had a nickel for everytime another SalesforceIQ sales guy contacted me trying to get me to pay $10-15 per user per month, I might be the one with my name on a hospital.

And then there's Find Nearby Accounts. It was a great tool years ago. Initially, it was a free tool from Salesforce Labs, just something that they cooked up. Essentially, it was an example for how to do things in the Developer Cookbook. And then, they went through and improved it, made it more graphical, and turned it into a managed package. And for a while, it was even better. Then Google announced that they were changing the terms of their Google Maps API. Now, you could only use Find Nearby Accounts if you had a Google For Business license (the Google Maps API was used to locate the addresses and in plotting the map). And suddenly support for the App was gone. What about people with the Google business license? Bummer for you. Of course, you could always use a third party mapping app for $10-25 per user per month.

Invariably, it always plays out the same way. I'm not saying that it's a conspiracy, but clearly for any of the partnerships that they want to offer or the cross-functionality that they want to negotiate for, there is one inevitable truth. If the functionality is important to you, you'll pay somebody for it. Besides, software-wise, where else are you going to go?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Comcast XFinity Provides Internet at Hotel California

So I'm getting ready to move and one of the things that I need to do is schedule to disconnect my Comcast Internet service. I've been putting this off because I already know from stories that I've read online that it's going to be a pain. But I figure, maybe if I don't have to talk to anyone, it will be less of a hassle.

So I go online and start looking through the web site. There are a lot of options on the Comcast web site, but canceling your service isn't a very easy one to find. Eventually, I switch to search. I found a page that says that there are three ways that you can disconnect your service:
  1. Send them an email
  2. Visit a Comcast store
  3. Send them a letter in the mail
So I follow the "Send Comcast an Email" link and it takes me to a form. You need to enter your account information and there's a required checkbox for when you prefer to receive a call. The reason for this is listed at the top of the form. "Comcast will call you in within two business days to confirm that you want to confirm your request." The other two areas of the form that need to be filled out are this pull down list with the reason for "why do you want to cancel your service". The available answers are:
  • No XFINITY where I'm moving
  • Current service doesn't meet my needs
  • I no longer want my XFINITY service
  • I am an active duty service member
Those are your choices. Oh, and if you're moving, the form doesn't actually have a date field that you can use to specify a scheduled shut-off date. Instead, there's just a comment field below your "why" list.

Needless to say, when I first looked at this list -- and the lack of date -- I didn't see a form that matched my needs. So I got on Comcast Chat. In the past when I've been setting things up, they've always been quite helpful. And so, working with the customer service rep using their online chat, I tried to schedule my end of service date. However, she gave me three options. First, she informed me that she could lower my bill. I informed her that since I was moving, unless she was going to lower it to $0, that wouldn't be very helpful. My other two options were to use a web link or to speak with a Comcast rep over the phone. I chose the web link -- which returned me to the very same form. She also told me to put my date of disconnect in the comments section.

So I filled out the form. I chose "No XFINITY where I'm moving", and I expect a call in the next two business days. I also fully expect that the rep on the phone will want to know where I'm moving and try to validate that there's no service that he can't sell me at my new location because "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

So I s

Friday, July 22, 2016

Semicon Booths and the Diminishing Resource Customer Service Problem

If you've seen my Twitter feed, you probably saw my most recent round of disgruntled ranting about Semicon and the booth rebook process this year. While it's worth briefly talking about my issue with Semi and the way that they organized rebook this year, what I want to focus on is the inherent customer service problem -- what do you do to make your customer happy in an environment where you're dealing with diminishing resources?

First, lets revisit my Semicon rebook problem for some background. The first thing that you have to know is that Semicon West typically takes place annually in July at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Historically, it has been the premier event for semiconductor equipment manufacturers and their suppliers to exhibit. Since about 2008 or 2009, the show has partnered with the Intersolar show to occupy Moscone South, North and West halls during the event. However, because there is a large construction project to upgrade the Moscone Convention Center, the South hall will be closed during next year's Semicon West. This means that, for a show that has often had many companies booking their space in the same basic location year after year, the playing field was being upended.

For 2017, the Semicon West show will be located in the Moscone North hall and in the first floor of West, while Intersolar will occupy the second and third floor of West. Now, here are a couple of caveats that may shape your perception of the problem. First, you must realize some things about the layout of the exhibit halls. There are three entrances into Moscone South; however, there is really one entrance for the North hall and call it 1.5 entrances to the West hall, so if you've been located near an entrance, the available options have declined significantly. What's more, depending on the location you were considering, many of the larger booths near the entrance in the North hall actually faced away from the entrance -- unlike many shows, the minimum size for an island booth at Semicon West is 20'x40'. Anything below that, and you're in a peninsula, so the direction you face is a consideration.

But there are some additional considerations as well. The Semi people informed us that registration would only be located in the West hall, so theoretically everyone who picked up a badge would go through West. Another factor that is often worth considering, traditionally Semi has segmented the show floor into "Wafer Processing" and "Test and Assembly". For 2017, they decided to scrap that -- they still collect the information from your company, but there is no segmentation on the show floor. So, if you're hoping to locate near similar businesses, there is no longer any guidance to direct you where to go. It's like offering customers products with no differentiation or segmentation.

As someone with an early selection, I watched as some of the most ideal North hall spaces were taken. Then when it came to my time to pick, I had a choice between some less than ideal North hall spaces or what could potentially be a much better spot in West. I opted for West, only to watch as more and more of the companies that we wanted to be around selected spots in the North hall. Increasingly, what it looked like was that I had selected a premium spot in a location that with much fewer related businesses. I could consider changing my selection, but that would have resulted in a worse selection that I would have had initially. So after complaining about it on Twitter for a while, I decided to go in and complain to the staff at rebook. And this brings us back to the diminishing resource customer service problem -- while the guy that I spoke to could talk to me for a while and try to sooth me and tell me that he expected that it would all work out, realistically, he had limited options to provide relief.

Like the Stubhub problem, if they cancel your transaction or for some other reason it doesn't go through, there is no guarantee that there is a comparable replacement for that. So what do you do?

In the case of Stubhub, they fixed the account problem and waived their fees on a replacement transaction. While that might not have worked for an event that was in high demand, it worked for mine. Airline overbooking is another example of this customer service issue. The airlines usually resolve it by things like offering vouchers as an incentive to people who want to volunteer to get off the flight. In the case of Semicon West, well, there is still a significant amount of time between now and next year's event, so things may change.

Do you wrestle with customer service and diminishing resources? How do you address this kind of issue?