Nov 25, 2022

Presenting My Annual Innovations Column

Taking notes was never more fruitless an exercise

By Ed Goldman
AIRLINES. First, they need to do something to make the first and last legs of a flight as smooth as it can be when a plane reaches its desired sweet spot of altitude and the beverage and lousy-snack bag service kicks in. I realize neither physics nor aeronautics are in my wheelhouse—and that I haven’t the slightest idea what a wheelhouse (technically, the shelter for a ship captain) has to do with one’s skill set—but can’t something be done to make ascents and descents less frightening?

Second, they need to hire stand-up comics to deliver the obligatory preflight safety spiel.

Edgy Cartoon

Dimly Lit

Third, they need to provide elocution lessons to the captain or navigator so their infrequent announcements aren’t harder to decipher than the kid repeating your order at a fast-food drive-through.

HOTELS. The bathrooms in nice hotels should be required to have noisy fans if more than one guest is staying overnight. Details to not follow. But I will have one more item about hotels.

SELF CHECKOUT and SELF SERVICE. What, pray tell, will you do with all the money you’ve been saving by doing self-checkout at supermarkets and Home Depot, and filling your own tank at gas stations? And have you noticed how much less you pay for your lunches and coffee breaks at places where you order at the counter instead of having a waiter take care of your needs? Is that a rousing ca-ching I hear in the background as you tot up your unexpected lucre at the end of your transactions? 

Oh, possibly not. And let’s not forget that baristas still expect to be tipped. The Goldman State salutes the innovative minds who determined that there was a fortune to be realized in the service industry by providing less service and relying more on customers’ industry.

MUFFIN TOPs. Muffin tops, as sold at Dutch Bros. Coffee shops, are based on very solid data suggesting that most people who buy gazed or iced muffins eat the tops first and don’t care a whit about their spongy, taste-free bases. This is a marketing concept as brilliant as that used by shampoo makers: the direction to “rinse and repeat.” 

Yet if you washed your hair pretty well in the first place, then thoroughly rinsed off the shampoo, why would you need to redo it, much less in the same 10-minute span? I’m certainly not the first marketing guy to make this observation but, like the makers of Prell and Breck, I thought it bore repeating.

ADD-ON CHARGES. You didn’t have to do anything as dramatic as buy a new car during the pandemic/supply chain combo crisis to endure a slew of add-on charges to what should always be, but never is, a straightforward purchase (“Here’s my money, give me the car”). Post-crisis, you could just as easily have rented a car or stayed at a hotel.

During stays at Seascape Resort in Aptos, California, among the mysterious charges on my bill was something called a “resort charge.” Since the place is already a resort and I was already paying to stay there, I asked a genial desk clerk (whose depth of knowledge might have been challenged by the question, “What is a doorstop designed to do?”) why was I also paying this fee?

He hesitated a moment and said (again, genially), “Oh, that’s just the resort charge.”

I acknowledged that a resort charge was irrefutably a resort charge but said, “What exactly is it for?”

This time he didn’t hesitate since I’d clearly asked a question within his overall purview. “That’s the charge the resort charges,” he proudly informed me.

Feeling a tad like someone stranded in Abbott & Costello’s immortal “Who’s on First” routine, I said this was a little like buying a sandwich, paying for it, then being asked to pay a sandwich charge.

It delighted the young man to know we were now in total communicative sync. “Exactly!” he said. “Call if you have other questions!” And he hung up.

I had the distinct impression the top of my muffin had been consumed.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).