Complaining across the pond…

When I was in New York a few weeks ago – we had a slight issue with the taxi transfer from JFK airport. There is a fixed price to Manhattan of $52 plus tolls. You can transfer cheaper (by the skytrain and subway or by a shared bus) but after a long flight it is usually easier and quicker to grab a cab. We have never had an issue…

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This particular taxi driver though had clearly identified tourists and must have had a bad day. He did;t speak. But he did manage when we went through the midtown tunnel to press the ‘toll’ button twice – $11. I questioned him and he apologised for his error…

He then made the journey as quick as he could – driving like a man possessed.

The final straw was that he claimed the street we were staying on was closed due to roadworks and tried to drop us ‘a few yards’ from the hotel. All very plausible – but were were at least tow blocks and ‘go around the block’ was the option. I refused his kind offer. The road wasn’t closed. He didn’t get a tip but I did get his details.

And I complained to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (which is suitably called ‘TLC’). It was an on-line form. Two days later they called me and asked me some questions and asked whether I would be prepared to appear ‘in person’ or by telephone conference. My preference was ‘in person’ but as it tuned out it wasn’t necessary.

Last week i heard that the case had been put to the driver and he had pleaded guilty – and had been fined.

I get nothing from this – but hope that he might just think about such actions in future. Doubtful, but I felt better!

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MIPIM – the tips…

I blogged about MIPIm yesterday and last night I met some of the folks heading out to Cannes next year. We have a number of MIPIM virgins who asked me last night for some tips. I have blogged some tips before and found this top-gear top-tips list from a few years ago. I hope is helps…

1. Shoes. Do not wear new shoes, they may make you look sharply dressed as you ponce around the Croissette – but your feet will bleed by the end of the week from the hours you walk the halls and stand around.

2. Sleep. Sleep before the event – the days are long and arduous. Breakfast meetings and evening dinners blur eventually. Sleep is a treasured thing. Try to get some time out in the day to rest.

3. Beer. Is expensive. As is wine and champagne. But you will be plied with it from every angle. It is not cool to be seen draped across a bar heater in Bar Romma at 4am. Pace is everything. Water is good between beer – despite the fact that fish piss in it.

4. Business Cards. Take some and bring some home. But when you meet someone don’t just put the card in your pocket. Write on the back of it – where you met the person and what you talked about / what opportunity there might be for you. You will not remember at the end of the week.

5. Follow Up. when you get back from Cannes follow up. Make sure you do. The business end of Cannes is generally done back in the UK. Thats why you need to write on the business cards.

6. Canapes. Are quite lovely. But after four days you will be heartily sick of them. They do nothing for appetite. So make sure you get a decent breakfast – plenty of small cafes sell the full english treatment and why shouldn’t you – you’re English right? But there’s also great kebab shops which stays open until the early hours. Essential nutrients can be taken on board – they include ‘salad’.

7. Brochures. It might look cool walking around with handfuls of brochures – but are you going to get them in your bag to come home? Really? Leave them where they are. Take pictures on your phone if you must.

8. Sunshine. It has been known to be sunny. Which has an amazing effect on the pale-faced agents – who rarely see the light of day normally and have endured 5 months of grey England over the winter months. Sun tan lotion is not for girls. You look more silly as a lobster than a hint of coffee. You will need your sunglasses. Aviators are the making of a true agent.

9. Dress Code. This is always a tough one. I rarely wear a tie at the office now, but I do for certain clients. If it is a formal dinner you may need a suit and tie, otherwise it’s suits and open necked shirts. As the evening wears on it can get cool though so thin jumpers may be de rigeur.

10. ENJOY. It’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it. Remember to line up your stories about 18 hour networking sessions and tough negotiations. No one will believe you otherwise…

MIPIM 2015 – the countdown

Nottingham will be out in force at MIPIM in 2015. If you drop by here regularly you will know that the International property show in Cannes – held in March each year – is a massive PR fixture in my diary. 2015 will be my 11th year in attending.

Team Nottingham

Our presence (as a City) has changed over the years – form the early days of Yachts to the austere ‘budget’ years and back to a common sense ‘value for money’ approach now adopted. The Private sector remain out in force and there are now more sponsors than ever – 15 next year.

Nottingham has a lot to shout about – whereas previously it was all about things being planned we can go with the majority of the infrastructure either substantially underway or, hopefully, complete – Nottingham Station, the ring road improvements, A453 widening and the, dare I say it, Tram lines 2 and 3.

But there should also be a story about the positive noises around the High Street – we were on the back foot for the last few years – but this seems to have changed significantly. Our shopping streets have seen something of a revival.

From a personal note – my firm are doing deals. We are getting offers on property that has been resolutely such for some time. There is a bit of life in the market. We should go to the South of France with our heads held high and with a spring in our step.

As with all of these things there is still work to do. The Marsh Centre remains the elephant in the room – and there should be no more talk of ‘deals’ or ‘plans’ but rather action. Diggers, scaffold and workmen is the only acceptable bit of PR now. I still have my doubts about what will happen – but that is for another day.

As I sit looking out on a cold frosty Nottingham – I hope that MIPIM will have a bit of warmth to look forward to…

My top ten – update…

I mentioned in a blog this week that it was over five years ago that I started this blog. It was during my trip to the USA that I ‘discovered’ blogging through my good mate John Lyle.

I was flicking through some of those early posts yesterday – and found one which amused me. It was about the apparent death of the CD and growth of iTunes. It was also an opportunity to share my (impeccable) music taste by lodging my ‘top 10′ tunes.

My top 10 was here.

A couple of things occur to me.

Firstly – I still buy CD’s but I also buy vinyl now (which I didn’t back then). I rarely buy from iTunes – but I do have a spotify account – which I use a lot. Spotify was a start up in those days – it has over 40million users today…

Secondly my top ten is pretty much intact and if I did I would only swap one song out. I think my old No.7 (Razorlight) has fallen out of favour! I think it is replaced by Morrissey and The First Of The Gang To Die.

But the old list is:

1. Young Americans – David Bowie

2. Brian Wilson – Barenaked Ladies

3. Wonderful World – Joey Ramone

4. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd

5. I Don’t like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats

6. Don’t Speak – No Doubt

7. Somewhere Else – Razorlight

8. Cool for Cats – Squeeze

9. 11:59 – Blondie

10. Because the Night – Pattti Smith

Alcatraz – five years on

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I was last in San Francisco in 2009 as part of the Sheriff’s Commission looking at world class attractions. One of those attractions was Alcatraz. It gets 5,000 visitors per day – around 1.5 million each year. The general rule of thumb test as to whether you were world class suggested one million people was the threshold.

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It is a fascinating place – taking around 2.5 hours to complete the short ferry crossing, audio tour and trip back. The audio tour is excellent and keeps you interested. The cost was $30 each – £19 approximately. So it’s not cheap but I wouldn’t complain about value for money.

But the real issue here is when you stand back and think about it – I can’t help but wonder why Nottingham Castle can’t replicate this. I never have. Not back in 2009 and not since.

I’m invited this week to a grand launch at the Castle – so it will be interesting to see how far we have come…

Alcatraz:

* It’s basic. there’s no cafe – there is a shop.

* It has a short history – accepting that it was infamous in that time

* It is full of legends – The Birman, Al Capone et al.

* It’s run by volunteers – all enthusiasts.

So why haven’t we been able to transfer this to Nottingham Castle:

* It’s not basic – there’s a cafe and a shop (both are terrible)

* It has a long history

* Er … Robin Hood, The Sheriff of Nottingham?

* No it’s not.

We must be bale to make something of this? I live in hope. But don’t hold my breath.

The less desirable side of San Francisco

All major cities have their problems and San Francisco is no exception.

I witnessed a fairly ugly altercation in a Walgreen’s store yesterday. A ‘homeless’ guy was accusing a cashier of stealing his ‘stuff’ and demanding she return it. I suspect he was a tad under the influence. His clothes suggested his protestation about his status may have been misplaced! His black carrier bag of ‘stuff’ only adding to his real status.

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In fact, one of the things I have noticed about San Francisco is the number of people on the streets at night. Sleeping in doorways or anywhere they can find shelter. We have been approached numerous times for spare cash. One district alone has 6,000 people sleeping on the streets each night.

A few days ago I noticed a bus driving by – and looked it up. It’s called the Lava Mae Bus and has been partly funded by Google. It is the brainchild of a public relations executive – Doniece Sandoval. She had passed a woman in her neighbourhood who was crying because she had not been able to clean herself for days.

Sandoval managed to garner support to retrofit a decommissioned bus with two showers and two toilets. Since the city is planning to transition to bio-diesel hybrid vehicles, the SFMTA donated a decommissioned bus for the project. In the 2014 Google Impact Challenge, Lava Mae received $100,000 to begin funding the project.

Everyone gets 10 minutes – to get clean.

They have raised enough money to buy the second bus – and hope to have four in a years time.

Sometimes we take for granted the basics of our lives – washing being one. A project to be applauded?

(Very) Green Technology

Following on from my last post I think I have finally realised what being ‘green’ really means. It has taken a while but, like a bolt from the blue, it has hit me.

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I need to start thinking about getting rid of my dirty diesel chelsea tractor in a couple of years time – and yesterday I happened upon a car dealer who may well have the answer. Read that as ‘does definitely have the answer’.

This is a car with ‘zero’ emissions – from the exhaust.

Tesla Motors now have a four door salon which is being pitched at the BMW / Mercedes / Audi mainstream market.

The Tesla S can be bought in the UK now…

It looks superb and I managed to get to sit in one at their San Jose dealership. Inside is like sitting at a computer screen – this car redefines high-tech! It is a true boys toy…

But the real story is the performance – the top of the range car hits 62mph in just 3 seconds. This is supercar territory.

They have also managed to eek 285 miles from the battery. Some time ago I was told that it costs around £3.00 to recharge the car (as opposed to c.£80 for a similar fill up of my current wheels!)

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Of course there are some naysayers who are going to complain about the ‘green’ credentials of the car. Notably that it uses aluminium as it’s main component for the body – and aluminium is horrid to the planet. You can read the ‘downside’ here.

I have been offered a test drive when I get back in the UK – and I think that it will be rude not to?

What has been interesting in the USA on this visit is that the electric car market hasn’t really taken off – I have seen a few Teslas – particularly around the Google/ Apple part of the word! Of course a real issue here is the cost of petrol – I paid 46p per litre in Sausalito last night – around one third of the UK price…

The home of technology?

I’m probably in one of the most influential areas of the world when it comes to ‘technology’. Apple’s global HQ is a few miles South of me at Cupertino (I may go there yet!) and Microsoft was founded to the North in Seattle. Tesla are based at Fremont just to the East. Larry Page and Sergy Brin started Google at Stanford Univeristy – on the edge of San Francisco.

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This is clustering at it’s most visible.

It was ‘Black Friday’ yesterday when the locals go mad to buy stuff – including technology goods. We were in Best Buy after the queues had died down – but it was still manic. The news was that there had been scuffles as people tried to bag the best deals. 140m people set out on this mad spree apparently!

But also in the USA is some news which might indicate where the technology has got to.

There is much talk that Google’s Glass is failing and will be dropped soon. They have a great name here for the users – Glassholes

Wearable technology is big business and there is much hype around the Apple Watch – which is set to arrive in the New Year. I have no doubt that it will be a huge success – and yes, I will probably buy one for sport use. (Probably?)

It is interesting though that there is a fine line between success and failure. In spite of the apparent clever technology in the Google Glass it simply hasn’t taken off. It may, of course, be too early and this is another salutary lesson – early pioneers may not be true benefactors.

Perhaps we are moving to a position where we have realised that technology is a tool and doesn’t need to be invasive – as I suspect the Glass is?

Winter? Not yet…

For the fourth time in 2014 I find myself in the USA. Three trips to New York have been balanced by a trip a little further west – I’m in San Francisco with my youngest son Jak.

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We are here to primarily  visit to San Francisco Auto Show – which finishes at the weekend. We have done Paris and Geneva – so San Francisco seemed like a good choice for the time of year. Having set off from Blighty in miserable weather (well ‘appropriate’ for the time of year) stepping off the plane into sunshine was a nice surprise.

The forecast is for major change at the weekend so we took advantage yesterday of the weather and hired some bikes – and promptly set off across the Golden Gate Bridge for Sausalito – a nine mile ride. Most people do this one way and get a ferry back. However, it was Thanksgiving and there were no ferries, so we did a round trip.

The three miles out of Sausalito back to the bridge are a little challenging – I am most definitely not ‘King of The Mountain’!

What struck us though – and we were discussing it –  was how, in a city of really bad traffic, they have real respect for cyclists. They give way to you. They freely let you pass – much more so than in the UK. There are bike lanes which are respected (I am yet to see driver in the UK ‘get’ the boxes for cyclists at traffic lights!). There were plenty of cyclists out too.

All was going swimmingly until a drive opened (her) car door on me – I missed it – but narrowly. Perhaps we spoke too soon!

Tomorrow we head to see the guys at The Bay Squash Club and then Saturday is car show day.

It is five years since I was here with the Sheriff’s Commission – I smiled as i recalled some of the places we visited – it was also the start of my blogging!

Robin Hood and Nottingham

A few years ago I was part of the Sheriff’s Commission looking at the ways in which Nottingham could capitalise on Robin Hood. I was rather unceremoniously removed and the commission fell apart soon thereafter. One of the guardians and main advocates of Robin Hood is Bob White – who is involved in the Robin Hood Society. I was delighted to hear from him yesterday and he sent me this:

For the very first time, the business, commercial, community and creative sectors in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire are being asked for their frank and considered views on the often controversial and divisive question of the under-valued and under-exploited marketing and promotional potential of the areas traditional and globally famous Robin Hood connections. In a serious effort to get to the root of this frequently embarrassing problem, the internet-based World Wide Robin Hood Society is currently conducting a survey to canvass commercial opinion that may help shed some light on the sensitive issue.

Society chairman, Bob White says “Even though the legendary Robin Hood connections have the power to endear the City to millions of people, the failure to recognise the full potential of the “brand” can destroy Nottingham’s marketing and promotional reputation at a stroke and also threaten to under-mine all the good achievements the City is renowned for. The responses we receive to our simple, “Sixty Second Survey” will hopefully reveal the true feelings and concerns of the businesses community and local organisations etc. and help establish the basis for a future strategy of suggested solutions that make the most of the associations with our global legend. To ensure that the survey represents a complete picture, we are just as interested in hearing the negative views as we are the positive ones.”

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To emphasise the extensive diversity of the iconic “brand” and how it impacts on a wide range of public perceptions, the Society has also produced a Robin Hood Brand Awareness Guide to accompany the survey and help promote some balanced and informed debate and provide relevant background information.

Bob White points out that “In marketing and promotional terms the Robin Hood brand is a 24/7, 365 days a year phenomenon that has reached the pinnacle of public recognition as an international icon of popular culture. Consequently, this sets the bar high for visitors’ expectations and although both the City and the County are pursuing projects to address significant Robin Hood-related attractions at Nottingham Castle and Sherwood Forest, the precise details of their proposed content have yet to be revealed. So Nottingham’s current, main Robin Hood focus is STILL the statue beneath the Castle walls that was erected in 1952 by a benefactor because there was nothing for visitors to see about the legendary outlaw. What a condemnation – that over sixty years on, nothing has really changed!

The Robin Hood Business Survey is available to be completed on line at www.robinhood.info/survey and the Robin Hood Brand Awareness Guide can be viewed and down-loaded at www.robinhood.info/brand-awareness-guide

Please help by completing the survey!