My son Vermel just got an after-school job waiting tables at the local diner. If you want my opinion, every kid should work in a restaurant--teaches them about service, and what it's like to clean up after others. When I worked as a busboy in high school, all the rich kids would drive up in their fancy cars, spill their milkshakes, and laugh while I wiped up their mess. Maybe Bill Gates and Steve Case should bus tables for a while and learn a thing or two about serving their customers.
When Microsoft officials announced good financial results Friday, they also boasted of two million subscribers to their revamped Microsoft Network. Welcome, MSN Subscriber Number 2 Million--you've got "system-wide server glitches"! That's the excuse an MSNployee gave my informer Friday afternoon when only one lonely soul wandered in to chat in the Computing area's main discussion forum. Users apparently had trouble accessing the system all day, making the service quieter than Wall Street on Saturday night. When the moderator announced that the Computing chat was canceled, the forlorn user typed, "No! Please stay!"
Glitches weren't the only problem, judging from the posted comments in MSN's forum for new users. The complaints outweighed the kudos about ten to one. The most common criticisms (besides the general "MSN sucks!") focused on slow downloads of graphics and the difficulty of installing the MSN software from the CD-ROM. "Listening to your hard disk grind every time you click on an icon is not progress," wrote one irate newbie. It isn't available on floppy disk, by the way. Nor can you access it with Netscape Navigator. If you don't have a CD drive and Windows 95, forget it. No MSN for you, bubba.
If the number of Web sites dedicated to ruining an online service's reputation is a good yardstick, MSN is still second banana to AOL. Anti-MSN forces have made their first forays at spreading enmity, but they got nothin' on those who want to watch Steve Case's tasseled loafers melt in Hell. Of course, if Steve ever descends to the nether regions, AOL stock will no doubt hit heavenly heights. Despite class-action law suits, bungled infrastructure planning, and a desperate plea to members to stop using the service so much--an attempt to downsize the definition of "unlimited"--AOL stock actually went up. Huh?
It must have been the "new improved" version of Love@AOL, the service's singles area, now hosted by a couple of glossy bimbos, one of whom has actually appeared in Home Depot commercials and is the spokesperson for Clothestime. Not impressed with the stunning depth of AOL's talent pool, my secretary Trixie Pixel tossed the pink press kit into the trash. "Hmph," she sneered. "How can people get off if they can't even get on?"
No love lost down in Cupertino, either. When Apple revealed January 3, the Friday before the Macworld Expo, that the company was due to lose $100-150 million in the upcoming quarter (the loss was posted last week at $120 million), some employees were stuck with crummy stock options. The options were tagged to the Friday closing price of 21-3/4. When the market opened Monday and reacted to the late Friday news, the stock dipped to 17-7/8, leaving our Apple friends with a lot of crust but not much filling, if you know what I mean. Next time, folks, just settle for the paycheck.
A well-earned wage for a full day's work, I say. Vermel should heed the lesson well. And bring home an extra cheeseburger from work. I've earned it. I've also earned an inbox full of rumors--get cracking and email them to me.