Thursday, August 19, 2010

Philip Greenspun's Weblog - The American worker and geography

Navstar-2F satellite of the Global Positioning...Image via WikipediaThis is almost not funny. Phil phones a store that is on either side of a big road, route 9. He asks a simple question:
"Are you on the north or south side of the highway?"
This is a perfectly reasonable question. If you are driving on a major highway in a metro area and you are trying to pin down one lousy store, the wrong turn can easily eat 15 more minutes of driving trying to turn around and head in the right direction.

Their answer? Not only they didn't know, but they felt offended at being asked the question. And yes, the manager of the store flunked the question too.

Here is where it gets pathetic: he was calling a cell phone store. You can assume that these morons:
  • All have nice cell phones, loaded with features. One of these? GPS-driven maps.
  • All are involved in up-selling customers into picking up optional GPS service for their phones.
  • Are all involved in up-selling customers from their current phones into a flashy smart phone, and GPS is going to be one of the scripted selling points.
How can you survive as a cell phone store manager without being able to recognize an opportunity to show off to a current or potential customer that your products are awesome? I would make Phil's question part of the interview process. If you don't know where you are at, and your reaction isn't to grab for a map, a cell phone with maps and GPS, or a computer connected to the Internet, then you shouldn't be running a cell phone store. 

Another funny: in The Wire Season 3, episode one, two new policemen report to Major "Bunny" Colvin. The first thing he asks them: "Where are you at?"

They didn't know. They couldn't tell the address of the police station, where was it in relation to the street, etc. He handed them each a compass and told them that (at least as far as Baltimore goes), all even numbers and all odd numbers run the same general North/South or East/West direction.