Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Next MINI, Who Will NOT Get My Money


This is a tale of two MINI dealers and differences in attitude that can make or break an organization. In the new world created by Web 2.0 technologies, a world where the customers are in control it would be wise to remember the importance of customer service. Those that do not will be left wondering where all the people have gone...

A recent experience triggered this post and brought back memories of a prior experience that did not go well. Back in 2005 my wife and I ordered a MINI Cooper from Global Imports in Atlanta for our daughter. It was our desire that this arrive in time for her birthday. For that to happen, we ordered the car nine months prior to her birthday. It was confirmed by the sales manager that this would be no problem, no problem at all.

Spin forward to a week before her birthday in April of 2006. The sales person contacted us to let us know that the car would arrive about six weeks after her birthday. Okay, nine months.... nine months ago it was ordered with a promise that this car would arrive in time. Now, one week before delivery.... it's not coming for another six weeks? This sales manager acted as though this were no big deal even though he knew from the start that arriving in time for her birthday was important to us. Unsatisfied with the way this was handled we asked for a deposit refund and looked elsewhere. Luckily, we found a one year old, better equipped MINI the next day. A deal was struck and we were able to give it to our daughter on her birthday.

Move forward 3 1/2 years to last week. Our daughter's MINI failed an emissions test and it was determined by our trusted shop, Way Motor Works, that the O2 sensor had failed. It also turns out that we had received a letter from MINI about a O2 sensor recall and that MINI would replace it free of charge. So, daughter scheduled a visit to the dealer to have it repaired.... uh, oh. Guess what dealer she picked? Yep, the dealer that fumbled the car order 3 1/2 years ago. Guess how this worked out?

With great confidence, they determined the sensor was not faulty and when confronted by the report from Way at Way Motor Works, they indicated he didn't know what he was talking about. But.... they did have a expensive list of repairs needed to resolve the issue. My daughter called me and I asked that she take leave of Global Imports MINI and get to MINI of South Atlanta (MOSA).

Why MOSA? Because of my experiences with MOSA and my MINI. They have been top notch in all respects I always felt they were looking out for me, the customer. I have no doubt they want to create happy and loyal customers - loyal as in long term customers. So, today she visited MOSA. Well, what the heck, the O2 sensor is faulty!!! Imagine that? There was no argument, no push for additional repairs, no resistance at all. MOSA stepped in and did what was right for the customer. They didn't try to take advantage of my daughter and suggest other more expensive repairs. They got right to correcting the problem reported by the customer and did it quickly. Don't forget that they did this for a customer that has not purchased a MINI from them --- yet. Guess who just got my loyalty?

This is what having a customer focus means for MOSA. We are over the top MINI fans. We have two MINIS in the family and will eventually have three since my wife wants one. As much as it pains me to say this, MINIHERO (my MINI) will one day be replaced. That makes two MINI sales in the future. Oh, our daughter will do the same one day so let's take that to three MINI sales.

Where will I take my business? To a dealer that ignores the needs of their customers? A dealer that puts profits above customer loyalty? A dealer that tries to take advantage of customers?

I will choose to go to the dealer that is customer focused, that undertands that a customer relationship is at play, and that represents the spirit that is MINI. Yep, MINI of South Atlanta, you got my back and you'll get my business.

Companies must remember that the power of the crowds has and continues to create a new world order. Ignore it at your peril.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Photography Site


After much prodding from Cher, I've finally made a commitment to my photography hobby and now have a photography website. Check out my site which is

Though I've been posting lots of photos through the years on my Flickr site, this feels different and is begging to make me be a bit more serious about this hobby. On top of that, for the first time ever, I'm showing some of my photography at an internal company sponsored art event. That's really got me a bit nervous but I'm learning a lot and in addition to slicing my finger open, I've learned how to matte and frame photographs! Of course, being married to a wonderful and successful artist has made that journey a bit easier.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tilting and Shifting


I've been intrigued by the look of a tilt shift lens and though I don't have one, it is possible to recreate it effect using Photoshop. Or at least approximate the effect. There are a number of sites that provide instructions on how to do this and I'll provide links below. In my case, as a rabid member of the AtlantaMINIS club I've been wanting to take a photo of our gatherings from afar. Last Sunday we had an event that ended up at Brasstown Bald which is the highest peak in Georgia. I decided to get a shot from the observation tower to try this effect. Unfortunately, I could have used another 100 mm reach on my lens but had to make do with the 200 mm I had at my disposal.

The steps I took are:

  1. After doing my "normal thing" in Lightroom I brought the image into Photoshop - note I cropped a bit in Lightroom as required by my lack of reach with my 200 mm lens.
  2. At this point I duplicated the layer - always protecting myself from frequent disaster.
  3. On the duplicated layer I created a mask by clicking the create mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette:

  4.  Next click the Quick Mask icon at the bottom of the Tools palette so you can see your masking:

  5. Now you will paint in a mask which will be used to limit the areas that a lens blur will be used. I created a gradient that has white where the blur will occur and black where the blur will be blocked. The gradient I created looks like this in the gradient editor dialog:

  6. With the quick mask turned on and the gradient selected you will drag across the image making sure the "red" mask is in alignment with the portion of your image you want to be in focus. I tried this numerous times until I got the right look. Important: Make sure the mask is selected and not the image. You'll know because there will be a little white outline around the mask in your layer. See below.

    Mask is selected

  7. Click the Quick Mask button again to turn off quick mask mode. You'll now see the "marching ants" around the selected areas.
  8. Use the Lens Blur filter and play around with the settings until you get a look you like. For the MINI image I used Radius: 39, Brightness: 6, Threshold: 237. Mix to taste.
  9. If I didn't like the "blur" when I had the lens blur filter dialog up, I would escape and then redo steps 6 and 7 until I got a look I like. If you redrag a gradient in quick mask mode then the one you had created is just replaced.

  10. To complete the look put in a curves adjustment layer and increase the contrast. You can go the, um, cheap route and just use a contrast adjustment layer and bump up the contrast to around 30. You lose fine tuning if you do that rather than a curves adjustment.
  11. Top it all off with a saturation adjustment and bump up the saturation. I went up to about 40 on this image. These last two steps start to give the image that "plastic" look.
  12. The final result for this test image:

For more examples go to these sites:

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Jason's Glass Blowing


Our son, Jason, is following in mom's footsteps and has started down a path of creating art. After just a few glass blowing lessons he is creating some wonderful work. Just a couple of examples below. I expect this to be just the tip of the iceberg!