Friday, February 29, 2008

trade show


after 1/2 day a the tradeshow a couple of observations:

1. should have brought business cards from past shows.... lots of familiar faces
2. it's overrun by turks and chinese
3. there are NO high-end sewing machines... and no butt-seam machines on display (there should be....)

The collection of equipment and vendors is impressive enough to warrant the trip -- the customers here are good customers. But the real value of Egypt for Merrow are Factory visits. Tomorrow and the day after we'll see another 5 or so.

And no upstream data to speak of-- so no pictures for the time being.
---
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

to the Desert!


I just don’t have enough information. To write anything about Egypt or Cairo that would be reasonable should take longer than a days' observation. It has intimidating depth, this city.

So-- gross generalizations out the window -- a little travelogue with some color:

On the first full day in Cairo we began a trip out to the Desert rd. on our way to Sadat City. Cairo is a city of 17 million (unofficially) with 7 Million commuting into the city (unofficially). Lot’s of traffic. The process of getting to the Desert rd. was slow, and 1/5 of the distance we were intending to travel took 1/2 the trip. On the way out there are things that remind you that Cairo isn't kansas....



















The Desert Rd. was aptly named. I had never seen the desert, and this Rd. to Alexandria (which is 200km north) took us into into it. The abruptness of ‘City’ turns into of all things ‘Green Farm Land’ with labor and oxen, turning again in the span of 50 feet into endless gigantic golden desert... where there is nothing.

















Or apparently nothing. As we drove past an inconspicuous if not wide sand dune I was told it housed the Egyptian airforce (and it is the inconspicuous sand dune in the actual picture to the left...) Yep. After Israel annihilated their airforce in one day in 1968, the Egyptians moved the planes under the sand and I was told they come squirting out of gates (which I saw) with wings folded and in one motion unfold the wings and fly... reminded me of larva turning into mosquitos.











I met some Turks...


















and we ate well. No lunch -- but kebobs and pigeon for dinner.


















One thing that I think I can generalize about; Cairenes enjoy relaxing. There was a pace in that coffee bar, laughter and backgammon and water pipes, that seemed essential to Cairo. There isn’t alcohol to speak of, and the apartments are too hot in the evening. These open breezy coffee bars (where they serve juice and water pipes largely), seem designed to slow the pace down and give people a chance to wait out the heat until it’s cool enough to return home comfortably.

I enjoy Cairo even though I don't understand it... but this is probably ok.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

5,000 years later i arrive



CAIRO

this city that revels in the joys of noise
-----
in the hotel after a day traveling and dinner with our Egyptian agent. I am here

that is the Nile. In the morning the pyramids should be visible....

I am in Cairo.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Next Trip



On February 26th I leave for Cairo.

On March 3rd I'll be in Berlin.

On March 4th I'll be in Poznan

__________










_____

I grabbed tickets yesterday using Kayak, and ultimately paying cheaptickets.com. To prepare for this leg, which should be 11 days or so I went back to my journal and found a packing entry I drafted in Shanghai. Here it is...

things I should have packed....

1. a good GSM phone with address book synced to macbook
3. extra video camera/cell phone batteries
4. luggage locks
5. toilet paper
7. one camera/video bag 8. a satchel for the gobs of power cords and adapters
9. more gifts for my hosts
10. two pairs (not one) of jeans
11. lens cloth or cotton swabs
12. a good black long sleeve heavy shirt
13. more socks
14. one pair dress pants (not two)
15. one dress shirt (not three)
16. gloves/hat/scarf
19. extra pair of glasses
20. pocket calculator
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Thursday, February 21, 2008

you've noticed the layout changed...





With an odd hundred or so visits a day it's time for a new layout.

After visiting several sites to determine the most efficient and ruthlessly effective information distribution layout.... we're going to test this one out a bit and see how she feels...

Obviously if the posts aren't interesting the layout is moot-- so i'm done with this one. On to new adventures!
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Eating


I like to eat strange things in strange places.

So does Anthony Bourdain. I don't care whether you like him or not. He eats singapore and it's worth reading.

Jump to the new york times article HERE

charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

British Air -- the saga continues


British Air sent me a letter.

On their website it costs 120,000 'miles' to get a ticket to Shanghai. They offered me 10,000. No other perks.

If they screw up 4 more times in the next year I'll be able to fly to England on BA. (England costs 50,000 'miles'.)

They suck.FIRST OFF.... the 'inconvenience b/c of snow' wasn't the major problem. Read my posts to get up to speed. They really crapped up the crowd management thing and made the delay awful rather than a pain in the tuchas.

SECOND OFF....they should have been more generous regardless of whether they wanted to admit their mistakes. (OR is corporate even aware of the mistakes...)

THIRD OFF... there are other blogs out there that are doing the same thing-- I think we'll start making a list

I'll keep posting all written correspondence from BA.

This could be so easy for them. Here is what the Merrow Sewing Machine Co. would do if we were in the position they are.

1st. Ask the customer what they want.... Mea Culpa, it's our fault, we want you and your family and your grandkids to fly MSMC (BA...) so what do we need to do?
-----now the customer might MIGHT offer something outrageous... but chances are they'll say something like 'a ticket or two somewhere to replace the one you fouled up and upgrade my 'status' with BA for the next year so I can check in first class and be upgraded if seats are available.' ------

2nd. Give them a little more than they asked for. This is rule number 2. If you're in the business of damage control offering more makes you pretty impervious to criticism.

3rd. Ask that they schedule future trips on MSMC to allow MSMC to make it all back up to them.

Think of the future money BA can make.


For instance. I am flying to Shanghai on March 4th, then again on April 4th, and then Again of May 15th or so.

If I were the CEO of BA i'd want my business. I'd work hard to get it. I'd offer me all sorts of incentives to get back on those BA airplanes.... and stop blogging about how horrible the customer service at BA is.....

GIVE A LITTLE, GET A LOT.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Monday, February 18, 2008

Travel Scheduling



Over the past several weeks we've been traveling and consequently researching travel a bunch. Along the way I've found some terrific resources for planning these trips

Sub1. Luggage (not planning but EXECUTING on the plan....)
At the recommendation of onebag.com I bought a redoxx bag. I can almost fit the weimaraner in it.... awesome bag for carry on.

1. flying
1a. don't fly british air....
BUT do use Kayak.com. Kayak is a new-age meta site that looks at orbitz etc... to find the best deal among the websites providing the best deals...

Other than this the wiki travel sections on flying are ok -- and the frequent flyer pages are ok

But the seatguru is exceptional. Want to find the choice seats on the '7 triple 7' before you fly -- chk. out the green seats on seatguru

2. hotels
I've used expedia and hotels.com .... but the place I end up finding the hotels is yahoo travel. Yeah. I don't use yahoo! for much-- but i've found that the reviews section is a great way to get pointed to a good hotel

3. getting around
I use wiki travel. If anyone has a better suggestion let me know. I live online-- and jwire is valuable to stay online anywhere as a hotspot finder

4.eating
In the US and Europe I use Eating around the world and Zagats. Everywhere else I depend on a local recommendation.

There are more... I'll filter through the bookmarks and see what else has been useful.

NOTE: the emblem on the redoxx bag is a Merrow edged emblem.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Friday, February 15, 2008

Economy....


While we're sorting out our next move -- and looking at the global economy to determine where to compete -- I ran across this

charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One week -- Two things


1st. British Air has not returned my email
2nd. the 'flu' alluded to below was infact a week on the disabled list

I'm back.

With the lions share of the responsibilities of the trip behind me, our focus now is to follow up with people met and projects begun.

I'll keep this current as we map out the next trip, and this time include the blog in the plotting process.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


this morning something caught up to me.

last night, actually. I took our distributor from the UK to dinner. It was great fun. But I felt this thing creeping up ---

and this morning I woke in a sepulcher.

I don't think there's anything mysterious about this, the pace and lack of sleep finally did me in. I got the flu. Time to go home.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

London




This is intended to be a much longer review of the highlights over the past 24 hrs. -- be patient, i'll repost this in a couple of days with links and text

in the mean time here's the bolts

hotel London Elizabeth: Good spot on Hyde park, reasonable rates (75 pound a night). Terrible beds, really small rooms.

importance of being earnest: pleasant, mediocre cast. great theatre (vaudeville).

national gallery: the mobile walking tour headset things are out-of-site. Obviously there are some great paintings -- the headset describing the paintings, artists and themes made the 2hr.s there outstanding.

dali exhibit: good. not great. but good.

picasso exhibit: bad. stuff they found in his garage maybe?

italin restaurant Assiago: was terrific until the Milanese veal arrived. a fried slab of veal about 15 inches by 12 inches (bigger than the plate). I'd thought that only the Germans considered this food....


-------------
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Monday, February 4, 2008

A walk with luggage


Instead of taking a taxi I walked a couple of miles to get some exersise and a enjoy terrific weather.




Arrived at the hotel London Elizabeth (of which i'll have more to say later) and scheduled a meeting with our UK distributor for tomorrow 3PM, London.

So I have 16 hr. to see what I can make of things before working again (of course most of these come in the middle of the night....)

We'll see.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

updated pics


I hadn't had a chance to upload the snow pics or the airport shots until london

here they be (this jumps to the blog entries below-- if you feel lazy just scroll down)

airport

snow
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

English Breakfast


I just enjoy an english breakfast... sausage, fried tomatoes, fruits, baked beans, fried bread, croissant, tea & grapefruit juice.

A downside is inevitably the English Breakfast stomach ache -- but who cares, toss caution to the wind around such things. The only good question is: am I ready to eat breakfast?

As I have no time. None. My watch has 8:27AM and 10:27PM on it. I can't say that I feel one way or the other about it. I turned in at 3:30AM (or 5:30PM?) and got up at 6:AM (8PM?). No matter what timezone that's only 3 hr. sleep. HOWEVER it is buttressed with an ambiguous middle of the day/night nap taken on the airplane here 12 hrs ago or so.

I bounced up this morning raring to go.

now the jumping up out of bed happened after
1. thinking 'it's 6:14AM here.... 1:14AM in Boston...11:30PM Arizona ARGHH....
2. English Breakfast!!

So I ate and read the Daily Telegraph. Now I need to find another hotel, a rental car and i'm ready to drive to Leicester to hopefully meet up with Merrow UK.

Though they don't know i'm here yet. Will sort out the details on the way.... :)
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Supercup. Manning wins the Brits are confused.


In London there are no adverts for the superbowl.

Each timeout or whatever they cut to some young brit (YB) interviewing Ron Woodson about....well i'm not really sure about anything actually --- the YB kept grimacing when it was called it football, and especially when someone or other argued it 'was the most technical game on earth'...

So it's 3:30AM in the UK and I'll turn the tube off having watched one of the most disastrous contests in all of recorded history.

If we were a more sophisticated culture there might have been sacrifices after this game. Real ones. Heads rolling. King Kraft raising or lowering his thumb to the frenzied roar of the crowd as his team lines up in disgrace...

We're not, so i'm going to bed. I think i'll block ESPN.com from the company's computers for the next 10 months....
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

British Air


In light of the crushing travel issues in China, and the absolute poverty and suffering I saw in India there should be little margin for a post about the 48 hrs. it took get from Shanghai to London on BA.

and for full disclosure I'm staying in a hotel that is being paid for by BA (second night in a hotel paid for by BA)

But this isn't going to address the inconvenience of travel. Travel is often a pain in the ass.

British Air doesn't respect their passengers and mismanaged 200 people to the point that it could have been dangerous. This is the issue. It should be addressed by their customer service people, by the passengers and by their competitors.

Long queues with no communication. Long delays without any explanation. Little Children and babies waiting in the back of these lines with no attention or priority. People rescheduled on a first come basis without anybody even asking if there were urgent needs.

And no one was apparently in charge. Let me repeat this, no one was apparently in charge.

Whether one presumes the flight grounded by weather or BAs ineptitude (see below) is irrelevant. And for anyone from BA reading this please be clear -- the travel time doesn't matter.
They could have paid ONE person to just make sure that everyone knew exactly what was going on and to move people that needed more help to front of lines.

Obviously they didn't. But the simple solution has an asymmetrical relationship to the size of the problem. There was a crowd of 200 odd people who were tossed around for 2 days without anyone managing the situation. This is awful. People were wildly upset for things that hours later turned out were rumor.

200 odd people is a mob if they get upset. 200 people is a mess if it's not organized. And BA allowed this very preventable situation from devolving into relative chaos. And even then I think the crowd was really really well behaved.

And in great contrast to the relative restraint shown by the passengers -- 40hrs. into this process the CAPTAIN (in his one and only appearance) had the balls to announce to that if anyone was rude to the staff they could walk to london.

He seriously said this. Come on.

Managing people in airplanes and airports is the business of British Air. Blaming weather for the issues is misdirection. The management of their customers when things went wrong is their responsibility.

Let me put it a different way. How could that same flight crew manage a real crisis if they couldn't even manage to keep people in a line in Shanghai?

Makes you wonder if the certainty with which they cross-check and handle tray tables is all just an elaborate ruse.


For my money I'll wait to hear from BA -- to see if they give a toss about whether I ever fly on their airline again. The cost to me was significant and I haven't focused on this b/c it really isn't the pt. (but would it have killed you BA to not have been complete assholes when asked if I could get an upgrade for the flight to Boston... apparently everyone was told no as well...)

I bet that if BA had simply respected the passengers and shown a little backbone in Shanghai most of us would just shrug it off...

But they didn't, and I Blog and people talk. Thousands of people now read this Blog (i'm just as surprised as you) -- To point out the obvious it's 2008 and you can't get away being horrible at your business without people taking note and talking about it

You want to know how bad it is at Heathrow -- even the CUSTOMS agent was upset about BA... the customs agent!

So what are you going to do BA? What are your customers worth to you?

I'll be more than happy to post your response.

Regards,
Charlie Merrow
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dirty airplane underbelly




Three dozen 747s -- they all look the same from the ground as they take off.

My unique perspective has been sponsored by British Air. A day at the PuDong airport! Next we'll spend time in the Parking Lot!

What frustrates me is not that i'm here. Here is ok as described below. BUT it appears that the 17:30 Flight has been delayed or canceled.

I would have rather spent a day enjoying Shanghai (hell i'd rather have spent a day in the hotel if push comes to shove) and come in tomorrow or tuesday when they were reasonably sure we'd fly.

BA hauled us out of bed at 5AM, made us wait in a queue for 3hrs. to get EXACTLY the same ticket we had yesterday (it's even dated feb.2!). And then sit in an airport that isn't a treat to sit in for 9hrs. AND -- AND they haven't bothered to offer any information today, so that our treat of treats was seeing our evening flight float up on the leaderboard with delayed// then canceled// then delayed flash next to it.

as i heard a Brit on the flight mutter 'bollocks'

I'm not saying i'll never fly BA again. But i'll make an earnest effort to find any means of transportation besides BA the next time I come to shanghai.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

is BA cut out for China


This morning I can SEE this plane, but it will not be cleared for departure until 17:35 (11 hrs. from when we arrived today).

While I thank them for the hotel, British Air was really quite awful managing the delay. Almost no communication from BA-- the staff look beleaguered and I feel for them some, but the passengers look worse.

The conjecture is that the very thin BA staff (8 people? ).... has zippo yank in Shanghai. The Brits seem to be put last in line for just about everything. Including De-Icing which was the final nail in the coffin yesterday.

200 some people have put up with a lot of waiting and almost no communication. There wasn't a BA person to be found when questions came up. Think of the 50 odd pissed off first and business class travelers who pay huge money to ride up front. By the looks of it many won’t fly BA again, or at least not without trying to book someone else.

Im fine with handling delays and all that-- travel is often bumpy and inconvenient-- but in the semi-final anaysis (we're still not leaving) this crowd is getting angrier and angrier and no one from BA seems aware... BA should learn how to do business in Shanghai, or they should close down the meager operation they offer.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Live from Shanghai



Weather has quickly stopped being the story. the story is people.

stranded people.
I'm with tens of thousands now trying to find aircraft to leave china.


There are 170 million trying to find a train/car/bus etc. to get home. The systems that usually manage this have been swamped.

Moreover it seems like this is acceptable. No public accountability i've seen. TV news doesn't even show the mess, I read about it from the new york times.

But I can see it in living color now. This morning the commute to the airport was 2 -1/2 hrs. We were stuck in monster traffic jams as people inched towards home or the airport or the train station.

The airport is jammed with people. (and PuDong is a pretty crap airport in the grand scheme....)

This said, and despite the length of the trip ahead, i've got it easy compared to most everyone else trying to get from pt. A to B today.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Snow in Shanghai




Millions are put out. Millions saved for months to afford a train ticket home for new year, and have been left at the station.

I took some pleasant pictures before I heard of the horror show that is the transportation system (though I can't upload pictures -- for some reason. )

My flight was canceled.
Now i'm one of the Millions.

But at least i'm in an airport and reasonably sure that if I wait long enough i'll be able to get home.

China's been undone by a bit of snow, go figure.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Friday, February 1, 2008

Leaving


I’ve actually had time to think about leaving, it hasn’t just whacked me in the forehead as I scrambled off to another airport.

my thoughts: I really enjoy Shanghai, and this China leg feels unresolved.

The list of things i haven’t done eclipses those i have -- and the short list of accomplishments isn’t satisfying considering what needs to be done.

Yet the trip itself is a watershed. I feel comfortable coming to Shanghai, to China -- the mistakes i’ve made we can remedy on the next trip.

and -- and this is a big And -- this week is among my favorites in the past 30 years.

Not the least of which is the result of Merrow’s past, present and future all crashing together -- or Personally the food, people and newness of China being thrilling.

Why was it unresolved? Because I didn’t do enough. I didn’t find closure with some big issues for the company, I didn’t meet enough people, I didn’t eat enough, I didn’t learn enough Chinese. I didn’t do anything touristy. Despite not resolving business issues I worked the whole time I was here.

Nonetheless as I prepare to leave Shanghai, I feel settled, not exhausted-- a big difference from India and certainly from Massachusetts.

I’m much more confident in what Merrow can do, what I can do-- even if the big challenges lie ahead. And more importantly, I’ve had a lot of fun working on the process.

We’ll be back in Shanghai. I miss it already.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

Lessons from Shanghai


1. pack less.
2. chinese feels like talking with my tongue anesthetized
3. eat more.
4. it’s ok to be served a fork and spoon. but better to be complimented on your ambidextrous chopstick skills
5. beverages can be as interesting as the meals
6. many chinese women are strikingly beautiful
7. learning to negotiate on inexpensive things first is important
7a. once comfortable get used to ‘best price, best price’ and divide by 5
7b. shopping takes a long time 50% looking, 50% negotiating
7c. leave. leave if the price is wrong. leave if you think you got hosed. leave if you didn’t reduce the price dramatically. leave if they’re happy. leave to see if the price will drop as you walk. leave. it’s not Macy’s.
7d. don’t ever --EVER-- buy anything common without pricing it in several stores. Context is the only guide, as prices start all over .
8. at a party don’t drink unless your being toasted or you’re toasting
8a. cheers is western for wussy sips and kam pai is Japanese for man chug (at least in china...)
9. karaoke isn’t karaoke even though there’s a lot of singing
10. don’t tip. bribe.
11. if you’re with a young chinese girl people will think you’re paying her
12. and that’s ok
13. traffic is a problem
14. spitting small bones onto the plate without aid of hands is appropriate
15. there is no heat in offices or restaurants and people will wear heavy jackets and hats indoors
16. it’s more expensive than new york. it’s more expansive than LA
17. eating/writing with the left hand makes you ‘clever’. the devil is also considered ‘clever’.
18. fitting in is easy to a point, but seems impossible to do completely
19. offer business cards with two hands and bow, accept card with two hands and stare at it for a minute before pocketing
20. shanghai modern architecture is generally boring
23. a car company named Chery is the #1 car co. by volume.
24. the outlets will often accept western plugs without a converter
25. shanghai is a truly a terrific city
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space