Scott Hanselman

Small Town Internet

December 14, '07 Comments [20] Posted in Musings
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iStock_000002858133XSmall Story #1

My wife LOVES Lido Cookies from Pepperidge farm. However, I've clearly stepped into a cookie conspiracy. If you Google for Lido Cookies you get this link, which is dead. How dead? Like the Yellow Screen of Death + Call Stack = Tacky level of dead.

Anyway, she loves them so much she sometimes buys the big mixed box of cookies just to get the three Lido cookies. That's like $2 a cookie as I see it. It's a rare thing, but a pregnant or nursing woman wants her things just so, right?

Thus began the nationwide search for the last few bags of Lido Cookies. No problem, right? I figured I'd just Google for them and I'd be on my way. Couldn't find them for weeks. Searched everywhere, called stores, etc. Apparently they are discontinued. I should start a petition.

Then I found this fun little company, Hometown Treats. Basically it's a whole business based around getting folks their favorite local snacks if they've moved away from their hometown. Amazing and only on the Internet.

The young lady who runs the place, Shona, found three bags of Lido Cookies and FedEx'd them to us here in Oregon. The wife was thrilled and the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was high. This happened yesterday.

Story #2

Today, we set out to buy a tandem stroller (pram) for the boys, and we did our research and decided on a Joovy brand double stroller. So, we were sitting in the parking lot of a sandwich place and I figured I should call ahead to make sure the store we were heading towards had them in stock.

I bust out the WM SmartPhone, open up Google Maps, get the number for Babies R Us and call. They didn't carry the one I wanted. Crap. I hit the browser, open Joovy's website and see their number. The whole thing could have been an advertisement for the mobile web.

I call the toll free number listed on their website (on every page, no less, and no "contact us" button. How revolutionary! ;) ) and the phone rings. I get an actual HUMAN on the first ring. Magical. I ask her where I can find her products in Oregon. She says, you know, you should just call StrollerDepot because they have free shipping. (Here comes the best part.) "Ask for Mary, and tell her Brenda says Hi."

I thank her and point the browser at StrollerDepot. The actually have their phone number and hours of operations on top of the home page. Thrilling! I call and get a person on the first ring. "Um, may I speak to Mary?" "This is Mary?" What? Is this Internet a Small Town? "Hi! Brenda at Joovy said I should call..." "Oh, Brenda, we LOVE Brenda." ....blah blah blah...we bought the stroller, free shipping, and it comes on Tuesday.

So?

Why mention this on my blog? Because just when I'm convinced the Internet is a giant conglomeration of nameless faceless corporate automatons (of which I'm clearly one), I get to interact with a real person running a Small Town Boutique Company that does one thing and does it brilliantly. And I talk not just a regular real person, but one who is an expert in their field, be that cookies or strollers.

At this point I feel connected and contented and happy to be on the web. Long live Small Town Internet.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Friday, December 14, 2007 7:02:48 AM UTC
I don't believe a single word of it :). Nice post Scott - was giggling so loud my wife came over and I said "see! Internet NOT EVIL!".

I had a similar experience with the iPhone when the wife and kids came with me to Redmond a month ago. We were trying to figure out if we had time to visit the various places we wanted to go and I kicked up Google maps on my iPhone and within 10 minutes we figured out our exact route, time of driving, and decided NOT to go. Instead we hung out on Bainbridge Island and let the kids run around in the Sound.

She actually said she liked the iPhone after that. And I cried a little.
Friday, December 14, 2007 11:00:08 AM UTC
Not hardcore enough.

Learn to make your own Lido cookies -- real world open source.
Friday, December 14, 2007 1:31:49 PM UTC
Why the image in my head now is of a bunch of avatars singing "It's a small world" ?
Sergio Pereira
Friday, December 14, 2007 2:19:37 PM UTC
Great experience. It's interesting when you tell stories like this to people who don't find the Internet as their small town. They say that it's too much work. What!? You did all of that sitting in you home/car.
Friday, December 14, 2007 2:37:35 PM UTC
Having grown up in a prototypical, technology-averse, small town... this is soooo not where I thought the story was going. My parents only got broadband a year or so ago, and they are fairly tech-savvy folks.

Now, if only I could get Fiber-to-my-door here in the big city... :(
Friday, December 14, 2007 3:03:04 PM UTC
nice stories. Thanks for sharing. However, I agree with Jeff. Learn to make your own Lido cookies.
Friday, December 14, 2007 3:14:15 PM UTC
Not that I'm in the market but did you look at Bugaboo strollers?
Friday, December 14, 2007 3:28:29 PM UTC
Scott,
Time to go back to work, blogging about one Stroller?
Friday, December 14, 2007 3:59:54 PM UTC
Hey Now Scott,
The WAF always strikes me a funny since it's so real.
Hanselminutes Fan,
Catto
Friday, December 14, 2007 4:02:17 PM UTC
That type of service is exactly what the internet is for! It's for connecting people not for supplanting them.

There are managers out there who would love to replace all of the man-power with "just a website", just like there are managers out there who build a website that doesn't have any useful information. (People will just call us, they say, only to come back two months later with a request for an FAQ page and a support e-mail so that they can get people off the phones).

It's all just tools, but it's nice to see that some people are actually using those tools correctly.
Friday, December 14, 2007 6:32:54 PM UTC
great post...I love those type of stories!

But one thing...did you say you used Google Maps on your WM phone?

Need I say more....

P.S. I use Google maps on my BB EVERY day...best mobile application ever :)
Friday, December 14, 2007 8:15:06 PM UTC
I hope you got the Joovy Caboose 'Ultralight' -- while not exactly "ultra light", the 5 pound difference between it and the other model make a big difference.
Brian D
Friday, December 14, 2007 8:17:39 PM UTC
@BrianD - I did get the Ultralight!

@DavidS - I didn't see that Bugaboo had tandem strollers?
Friday, December 14, 2007 8:58:59 PM UTC
This post is second on google if you search for Lido Cookies. That is some fast crawling.
Sunil
Friday, December 14, 2007 9:48:37 PM UTC
Did you count how many mistakes developers of http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/ProductDetail.aspx?catID=730 made?
I found 4:
1) No custom error page.
2) They compiled and deployed ASP.NET project in Debug mode (had to deploy in Release mode).
3) They didn't set error notification by email and don't look into production error log. That's why this errors is hanging there for so long.
4) ProductDetail.aspx page cannot handle missing item.

Do they have any excuse for that?
Saturday, December 15, 2007 1:28:39 AM UTC
Are you sure you want tandem? I found them pretty hard to maneuver when loaded with babies, due to heavier weight and larger moment of inertia. I liked the McLaren side-by-sides myself, although my wife vetoed it due to the small handles (she wanted a stroller she could steer just by pushing with her forearm... not joking).
Monday, December 17, 2007 9:14:10 PM UTC
Crap. I bought the last 3 bags of Lido cookies available at the local market here, and from the looks of it (they no longer feature them on their web site) they will be the last boxes I get to enjoy. Why would they stop making these?! I think Tahitis are probably the next best thing. Man, this is worse than the time they closed Long Jonh Silvers in my hometown.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 6:46:02 AM UTC
Joe Cheng: my wife vetoed it due to the small handles (she wanted a stroller she could steer just by pushing with her forearm... not joking)

you clearly consider a stroller something you use while walking about, silly fellow ;)

a stroller is a kid-containment device, most important while you are busy doing (or carrying) something else. Particularly, the grocery shopping while carrying a list (watch the multiple-kid moms with carts). It is possible to turn a single-stroller with the power of one (female) wrist. Not so much, with a heavier model.

alternately, she is so exhausted she has figured out that the stroller can be a physical source of support while she walks the kids to give them "something to do" besides demand things of her--or she has heard this from other moms and is preparing ;).

'might be a good dea to ask her why (and really listen). Believe it or not, we often have a reason for suddenly putting our foot down on something that seems weird. And women LOVE to be heard. And HATE to feel like their real concerns are dismissed as quirks or illogical.

(just a note from the other side of a computer-guy marriage)
occasional multi-kid-mom lurker
Friday, December 28, 2007 5:40:24 AM UTC
Hmmm..... I distinctly remember singing the praises of the joovy stroller to you guys a few months ago. Hope you like it. So maybe it won't be long til there is a Mazda 5 parked in your driveway. ;-)
-Tamara
Tamara Lischka
Friday, January 04, 2008 10:24:48 PM UTC
C'mon Scott - isn't it time you switched to Live Search instead of Google on your WM phone?
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.