Is it time to check out of the hotel?

Let’s say you’re at a hotel and the breakfast cook refuses to make anything except scrambled eggs. Try though you might, he won’t make any other dish. Now, he’s very good at making scrambled eggs. His eggs are considered to be the best in the region. But you want waffles? He’ll make you scrambled eggs in the shape of a waffle. You want bacon? He’ll add paprika to your scrambled eggs and color them like bacon, but it’s still scrambled eggs.

If you happen to like scrambled eggs, then you probably think this hotel is the bee’s knees. You’ll stay here every time. You’ll probably even tell your friends about it, support it, and encourage the hotel to promote the chef.

But what if you don’t want scrambled eggs? What if you don’t like scrambled eggs, or you’re allergic to them? Your choices are either to eat the eggs, or go to a different hotel breakfast, because the breakfast system at your hotel is rigged a certain way, to produce a certain, preordained outcome. You can leave all the 1-star reviews on Yelp that you want. You can complain to the management. You can refuse to eat the eggs and go on a hunger strike, but the chef is making scrambled eggs whether you like it or not.

It isn’t until hotel guests become tired of eggs and stop staying at the hotel that the folks running the hotel will ever make a decision to change. Until then, your choices are scrambled eggs or check out.

This is a metaphor for what any minority – non-heterosexual, non-Christian, non-Caucasian, non-patriotic, non-politically affiliated, non-mainstream point of view – person faces in a much bigger, more consequential way today in the United States and many other countries. The operating system that runs day to day life is designed by the people in power to create outcomes that benefit the people in power. That’s not unique to the United States in the 21st century. That’s human nature and the story of our civilizations for the last 50,000 years. In centuries past, that was divine right, or flat out might makes right. In primitive times, that was whoever was biggest, strongest, etc.

Most important, the system is designed to protect itself. Asking the system to contradict itself, for example by indicting police officers who break the law, is like asking the chef who only makes scrambled eggs to stop making scrambled eggs. Until the people who run the system are dramatically affected by a malfunction in it, the system will not change. There’s no reason for it to change.

So what do you do? If you’re staying at the hotel, you eat the scrambled eggs, or you check out and stay at a different hotel. If you’re in the United States of America and the system is actively working against you, then leaving and going somewhere else is probably not a bad choice. Having been to many other countries around the world, there are lots of other countries that offer the same basic quality of life, and even a very similar spoken language. The Internet is available over large swaths of the planet, and work has changed so much that you can do many jobs from anywhere on the planet.

Live with it, or check out. Only once enough people check out of the hotel and check back in will the hotel management make changes.

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Unfair Advertising Advantage: How Marketers Lose

Net Neutrality is a terrible name for the problem at hand. If you’re unclear what it’s about, read this comic by The Oatmeal. Comics explain everything.

As a marketer, Net Neutrality could be a double-edged sword. If I worked for a company that had control over the pipe, like a CoxCastWarnerCN Inc., I could make a MINT. I could rewrite Amazon affiliate codes on the fly, putting all that cash into my pocket – and the end user would have no idea unless they inspected the URL. I could not only slow down traffic to competitors (or competitors of my advertisers), but I could intercept traffic and alter it. Imagine going to, say, Kate Spade’s website and having a permanent banner ad over the bottom of the page for Michael Kors, because the latter was a brand that was a paid advertiser. I could tamper with encrypted email. I could track every move my users made and resell that data. (note how many of these examples are not theoretical)

But… I don’t work for an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Slackershot: Money

I’m one of thousands of marketers who work as an end user of an ISP. That means that if I’m trying to market my company, SHIFT Communications, or representing any of its clients, and we’re not in the good graces of an ISP, I’m at a disadvantage. My clients are at a disadvantage. More important, we’re at a disadvantage that we can’t fix without deep pockets to become an advertiser of one of the in-favor ISPs – and in doing so, we risk becoming out of favor with that ISP’s competitors.

Let’s come up with a better name than Net Neutrality, which sounds like a problem you’d only have in Switzerland. Call it what it really is: the Unfair Advertising Advantage. That explains with much more clarity what the problem really is and why we need Net Neutrality as a permanent level playing field on the Internet. Support Net Neutrality before you can’t any more, because an ISP is redirecting you to their advertising landing page.


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Ripe for Disruption

Some food for thought for you, if you’re into politics. If you’re not, feel free to skip this post and come back another day, or go read my “Everything is measurable in PR” article over at SHIFT Communications.

When the major airlines failed to offer anything compelling, companies like AirTran, Southwest, and JetBlue stepped into the mix and disrupted the space.

When Blackberry and Nokia were the dominant choices in phones, Apple stepped in and changed everything.

When telecom companies failed to innovate, Skype started to eat their lunches, until the mobile era started.

In every case where stagnation has become the norm, a startup disrupted the space or a new entrant hit the market and the game changed, usually to the benefit of the consumer.

There’s one space that hasn’t experienced a disruption in quite some time, and is filled with two major failed brands in America: politics. We cynically joke that voting is like choosing which mugger gets to mug you and take your wallet, but underneath that cynicism is a latent wish for another choice.

Given the acerbic, uncivil conditions in politics right now, the space is ripe for disruption. What that disruption is, no one can tell, in the same way that no taxi company foresaw Uber/Lyft. It won’t be more of the same – it won’t be another party inside the same failing system. It’ll be something else that we would have difficulty even imagining…

Panem_-_The_Hunger_Games_Wiki

… you never know. (the above is a reference to Panem, from The Hunger Games)


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