Latest Gifts for the techies - 2011

Don't scale down this holiday season. The Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale not only measures your weight, fat mass, lean mass and body-mass index, but will then transmit that data to your an app on your smartphone and chart it out for you. Just what you need after a big meal. $159.00, Withings.com.

Latest Gifts for the techies - 2011

It's not the size of the speakers that matters. The Jawbone Jambox portable wireless speaker delivers crystal clear sound with an output of up to 85 decibels, enough to fill the largest of New York apartments. 199.99, Jawbone.com

Latest Gifts for the techies - 2011

It's time to stop plugging your camera into your computer. The new Eye-Fi memory card has built in wi-fi capabilities that will tranfer photos and videos wirelessly straight from your digital camera straight to your smartphone, iPad or computer. $47.99 - $79.99, JR.com.

Latest Gifts for the techies - 2011

See without being seen, that's the goal of the Spy Net Video Glasses, which can record up to 20 minutes of video with sound. Perfect for the budding young spy in all of us. $29.99, Target.com.

Latest Gifts for the techies - 2011

Make your Skype/GChat experience a pleasurable one with the comfortable Logitech Wireless Headset H800, which connects to all devices via bluetooth and features a built-in equalizer. $99.99, amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nude scenes on the big screen

<b>Jessica Alba – 'Machete,' 2010</b><br><br>

Spoiler Alert! In the recent film, 'Machete,' it appeared that Jessica Alba had finally stripped down in this shower scene. Unfortunately, as titillating as the image might have been, it was nothing more than a digital alteration. The scene was shot with Alba in tight, white underwear on the set which was then altered to make her appear nude.
Jessica Alba – 'Machete,' 2010

Spoiler Alert! In the recent film, 'Machete,' it appeared that Jessica Alba had finally stripped down in this shower scene. Unfortunately, as titillating as the image might have been, it was nothing more than a digital alteration. The scene was shot with Alba in tight, white underwear on the set which was then altered to make her appear nude.

<b>Angie Harmon – 'Glass House: The Good Mother,' 2006</b><br><br>

Angie Harmon bares it all for her role as Eve Goode in the 2006 straight to video movie, Glass House: The Good Mother. Eve Goode is a tormented mother who deals with the loss of her young son and the adoption of an orphan. When the family relocates to their mansion nearby a lake, Eve proves to be deranged and unstable and eventually traps the children inside the house.
Angie Harmon – 'Glass House: The Good Mother,' 2006

Angie Harmon bares it all for her role as Eve Goode in the 2006 straight to video movie, Glass House: The Good Mother. Eve Goode is a tormented mother who deals with the loss of her young son and the adoption of an orphan. When the family relocates to their mansion nearby a lake, Eve proves to be deranged and unstable and eventually traps the children inside the house.

US tries to contain damage from leaked documents


WASHINGTON – The Obama administration moved forcefully Monday to contain damage from the release of more than a quarter-million classified diplomatic files, branding the action as an attack on the United States and raising the prospect of legal action against online whistle-blower WikiLeaks.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that WikiLeaks acted illegally in posting the material. She said the Obama administration was taking "aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the U.S. would not rule out taking action against WikiLeaks. Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration would prosecute if violations of federal law are found in an ongoing criminal investigation of the incident.

Gibbs said President Barack Obama was briefed on the impending massive leak last week and was "not pleased" about the breach of classified documents. "This is a serious violation of the law," Gibbs said. "This is a serious threat to individuals that both carry out and assist in our foreign policy."

The White House on Monday ordered a government-wide review of how agencies safeguard sensitive information. Clinton said steps were already being taken to tighten oversight of diplomatic files. That action would follow a similar move by the Pentagon after leaks of military files.

The U.S. documents contained raw comments normally muffled by diplomatic politesse: Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah pressing the U.S. to "cut off the head of the snake" by taking action against Iran's nuclear program. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi described as "feckless" and "vain." German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed as "risk averse and rarely creative."

The release of those documents and others containing unflattering assessments of world leaders was a clear embarrassment to the administration. The director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, said in ordering the agency-wide assessment Monday that the disclosures are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

"This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests," Clinton said in her first comments since the weekend leaks. "It is an attack on the international community: the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity."

"It puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries," she told reporters at the State Department.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange alleged that the administration was trying to cover up evidence of serious "human rights abuse and other criminal behavior" by the U.S. government. WikiLeaks posted the documents just hours after it claimed its website had been hit by a cyberattack that made the site inaccessible for much of the day.

Clinton would not discuss the specific contents of the cables but said the administration "deeply regrets" any embarrassment caused by their disclosure. At the same time, she said Americans should be "proud" of the work that U.S. diplomats do for the country and that they would not change the tone or content of their reports back to Washington.

She did acknowledge that newly released cables that reveal concerns among Arab world leaders about Iran's growing nuclear capability have a strong basis in reality.

"It should not be a surprise to anyone that Iran is a great concern," she said, adding that the comments reported in the documents "confirm the fact that Iran poses a very serious threat in the eyes of her neighbors."

Clinton's comments came before she left Washington on a four-nation tour of Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. She alluded to discussions she expects to have about the leaked documents with officials from Europe and elsewhere. Some of those diplomats may be cited in the leaked documents, confronting her with uncomfortable conversations.

Publication of the secret memos amplified widespread global alarm about Iran's nuclear ambitions and unveiled occasional U.S. pressure tactics aimed at hot spots in Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea.

The leaks unearthed such bluntly candid impressions from both diplomats and other world leaders about America's allies and foes that Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini described the disclosures as the "Sept. 11 of world diplomacy."

Most of the disclosures focused on familiar diplomatic issues that have long stymied U.S. officials and their foreign counterparts — the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, China's growth as a superpower, and the frustrations of combating terrorism.

But their publication could become problems for the officials concerned and for any secret initiatives they had preferred to keep quiet. The massive release of material intended for diplomatic eyes was quickly ruffling feathers in foreign capitals despite efforts by U.S. diplomats to shore up relations with key allies in advance of the leaks.

In London, Steve Field, a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron, said, "It's important that governments are able to operate on the basis of confidentiality of information." French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said, "We strongly deplore the deliberate and irresponsible release of American diplomatic correspondence by the site WikiLeaks."

Pakistan's foreign ministry said it was an "irresponsible disclosure of sensitive official documents" while Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, called the document release "unhelpful and untimely." In Australia, home country of WikiLeaks founder Assange, Attorney General Robert McClelland said law enforcement officials were investigating whether WikiLeaks broke any laws.

The documents published by The New York Times, France's Le Monde, Britain's Guardian newspaper, German magazine Der Spiegel and others laid out the behind-the-scenes conduct of Washington's international relations, shrouded in public by platitudes, smiles and handshakes at photo sessions among senior officials.

U.S. officials may also have to mend fences after revelations that they gathered personal information on other diplomats. The leaks cited American memos encouraging U.S. diplomats at the United Nations to collect detailed data about the U.N. secretary general, his team and foreign diplomats — going beyond what is considered the normal run of information-gathering expected in diplomatic circles.

France's Le Monde reported that one memo asked U.S. diplomats to collect basic contact information about U.N. officials that included Internet passwords, credit card numbers and frequent flyer numbers. They were asked to obtain fingerprints, ID photos, DNA and iris scans of people of interest to the United States, Le Monde said.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley played down the diplomatic spying allegations. "Our diplomats are just that, diplomats," he said. "They collect information that shapes our policies and actions. This is what diplomats, from our country and other countries, have done for hundreds of years."

The White House noted that "by its very nature, field reporting to Washington is candid and often incomplete information. It is not an expression of policy, nor does it always shape final policy decisions."

On its website, The New York Times said the documents "serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."

Le Monde said it "considered that it was part of its mission to learn about these documents, to make a journalistic analysis and to make them available to its readers." Der Spiegel said that in publishing the documents its reporters and editors "weighed the public interest against the justified interest of countries in security and confidentiality."

The Guardian said some cables showed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urging the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program. The newspaper also said officials in Jordan and Bahrain have openly called for Iran's nuclear program to be stopped by any means.

Those documents may prove the trickiest because even though the concerns of the Gulf Arab states are known, their leaders rarely offer such stark appraisals in public.

The Times highlighted documents that indicated the U.S. and South Korea were "gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea" and discussing the prospects for a unified country if the North's economic troubles and political transition lead it to implode.

The Times also cited diplomatic messages describing unsuccessful U.S. efforts to prod Pakistani officials to remove highly enriched uranium from a reactor out of fear that the material could be used to make an illicit atomic device. And the newspaper cited exchanges showing Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, telling Gen. David Petraeus that his country would pretend that American missile strikes against a local al-Qaida group had come from Yemen's forces.

The Times said another batch of documents raised questions about Italy's Berlusconi and his relationship with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. One cable said Berlusconi "appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin" in Europe, the Times reported.

Der Spiegel reported that the documents portrayed Germany's Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in unflattering terms. It said American diplomats saw Merkel as risk-averse and Westerwelle as largely powerless.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, meanwhile, was described as erratic and in the near constant company of a Ukrainian nurse who was described in one cable as "a voluptuous blonde," according to the Times.

___

Associated Press writers Anne Gearan, Julie Pace and Pete Yost in Washington; Juergen Baetz in Berlin; Don Melvin in London; Angela Doland in Paris; Robert H. Reid in Cairo; Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Mark Lavie in Jerusalem and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lady Gaga, Anderson Cooper shared whiskey drinks during an interview.

Anderson Cooper said of his interview with provocative pop star Lady Gaga: 'She's obviously a fascinating person.'
Anderson Cooper said of his interview with provocative pop star Lady Gaga: 'She's obviously a fascinating person.'

Anderson Cooper and Lady Gaga don't seem to have much in common, but CNN's silver fox reveals he and the outrageous pop star recently got up close and personal, and all it took was a little Irish whiskey.
Cooper, who interviewed the singer for an upcoming segment for "60 Minutes," says Gaga got him so liquored up on one of their meetings that he actually struggled to do his job.
"I was really interested to meet Lady Gaga. She's obviously a fascinating person," he told The Insider. "We actually ended up [one] day in a pub in London drinking Jameson, which I don't really drink. So, she got me to drink like two of them, and by the end I was ready to have the interview be over because I really sort of couldn't ask any more questions."
Cooper says he found the experience "really interesting."
"To be able to spend a couple of weekends with her in various places over the course of several months, it's really cool," he said. "I'm learning stuff about her I never saw before."
The CNN anchor also dished on his obsession with Bravo's "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" – more specifically, his fascination with their plastic surgery.
"They have all had such facial work, and I find it weird," he told The Insider. "There's no motion in the face. Occasionally when they're really annoyed a weird wrinkle will appear here [points to his forehead] or like behind the ear...because they've had so much filler and Botox that nothing else will move. But all of a sudden you'll get a weird behind-the-ear-wrinkle and that's how you know, oh my God, Camille Grammer's really mad because there's a wrinkle behind her ear. I find it fascinating."
Cooper stayed diplomatic on the topic of another famous female, Sarah Palin, calling her simply "fascinating" and acknowledging her "major impact" on the Republican Party.
His interview with Lady Gaga is slated to air February 13th, 2011, the night of the Grammy Awards.

Yeshiva U. students launch 'Dreidelpalooza' to break Guinness World Record for most dreidels spun

Yeshiva University student Fiona Guedalia, co-president of the student organization Students Helping Students, is helping to host the first-ever 'Dreidelpalooza' Tuesday.
Yeshiva University student Fiona Guedalia, co-president of the student organization Students Helping Students, is helping to host the first-ever 'Dreidelpalooza' Tuesday.
'Dreidelpalooza' will raise funds for group Students Helping Students while aiming to defeat the Guinness Book of World Records for most simultaneous dreidels spun.

'Dreidelpalooza' will raise funds for group Students Helping Students while aiming to defeat the Guinness Book of World Records for most simultaneous dreidels spun.

A pair of Yeshiva University students are hoping their school is tops - for at least one night.
The duo devised "Dreidelpalooza," their bid to break the world record for most people simultaneously spinning the four-sided Chanukah tops - while raising much-needed scholarship money for fellow students.
"People are really excited. They think it's cool," said Jason Katz, whose group Students Helping Students will benefit from the dizzying display.
"It's something everybody who's involved can tell their kids, tell their grandkids - I was part of a world record."
Katz and fellow junior Fiona Guedalia need 540 dreidel devotees to join them tomorrow night at the school's Max Stern Athletic Center at 184th St. and Amsterdam Ave. to topple the current mark of 541, set five years ago at Temple Emanuel in Cherry HillN.J.
Once set in motion, the whole topsy-turvy thing is expected to last just 10 seconds - and then hopefully endure in the Guinness Book of World Records.
"It's open to the public," said Katz. "And we'll be offering tutorials for dreidel amateurs."

Alcohol-infused whipped cream catches regulators eye in Mass. as its popularity continues to grow

Alcohol-infused whipped cream packs in up to 18 percent alcohol by volume for $12.99 a can.
Alcohol-infused whipped cream packs in up to 18 percent alcohol by volume for $12.99 a can.

With Four Loko making its way off shelves, regulators have a new favorite college binge drinking tool to look out for: alcoholic whipped cream.
A source told the Boston Herald that the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverages Commission will be closely monitoring the alcoholic treat, which has been on shelves since April and is becoming increasingly popular, the paper reported on Sunday.
There are two brands of the whipped cream - Canisters of Cream and Whipped Lightning – and it comes in a variety of flavors including Caramel Pecan, Chocolate, Hazelnut Espresso and more, depending on the brand.
They also come heavily infused with alcohol - Canisters of Cream is 30 proof while Whipped Lightning is 36 proof - and is cheaper than most liquor.
"Whipped cream's not just for kids anymore," Whipped Lightning bragged on its website. "It's all about style & sophistication."
But sophistication might not be the right word for the product, which is becoming a favorite of college kids who find it the perfect topping for Jell-O shots (liquor infused Jell-O served in small dixie cups) or just an easy way to get hammered.
"You definitely know that there's alcohol in it," Max Pendolari, who manages a liquor store in Boston told local television station WCVB.
And at $12.99 a pop, liquor store owners expect for it to continue to fly off the shelves as it continues to spread across the country.
"Come to CA already!!!" one Facebook user wrote on Whipped Lightning's fan page.
Chris Guiher, the CEO of Kingfish Spirits of Cleveland, which makes Canisters of Cream, told the paper his product was well within the law - and was marketed responsibly.
Pendolari agreed, telling WCVB it was most popular among adults between 25 and 35.
"You could use it to top off your cocktail," he told WCVB. "You could use it to top off your hot chocolate."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Betty's Thanksgiving Dinner Suggestions

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Return of the Sitcom: Laughs are back on track and on networks' schedules

Sofia Vergara Ed O'Neill  and Rico Rodriguez shine on ABC's 'Modern Family.'
Sofia Vergara Ed O'Neill and Rico Rodriguez shine on ABC's 'Modern Family.'

With the prime-time television battle becoming ever more challenging, broadcast executives may be quietly rethinking one of their oldest weapons: the sitcom.
Over the past two decades broadcast networks slowly relegated sitcoms to one night a week, a somber comedown for a genre that once dominated prime time.
As late as 1970, CBS had at least one prime-time sitcom every night. A dozen years later, every network still had three nights of sitcoms.
In recent years, though, ABC, CBS, Fox andNBC have built prime time around cheaper reality shows and "procedural dramas," mostly involving doctors, lawyers and cops.
Those shows have been deemed the most reliable tactic for slowing viewer defections to cable, TiVoNetflixFacebook and the exploding world of alternatives to broadcast TV.
But in a year when broadcast networks have scored exactly zero new breakout hits, the sitcom seems to be getting another look.
NBC just announced a midseason shakeup that turns all of Thursday night over to sitcoms: "Community" at 8, the new "Perfect Couples" at 8:30, "Parks and Recreation" at 9, "The Office" at 9:30, "30 Rock" at 10 and "Outsourced" at 10:30.
As an act of TV programming boldness, that's like running naked around the block.
The last time a broadcast network programmed sitcoms until 11 o'clock was 1991 — two years before NBC found its Thursday night "must-see TV" model: sitcoms 8-10, then "ER."
These days, in the wake of the  10 o'clock Jay Leno wreckage, NBC is looking to more sitcoms.
In addition to "Perfect Couples," NBC has two more ready to step in: "Friends With Benefits" and a new Paul Reiser show.
"We almost felt we had enough to open another hour" at the start of this season, said NBC president of prime-time entertainment Angela Bromstad. "We would love to be able to open another night of comedy."
While NBC was considering that second night, CBS launched one. It moved "The Big Bang Theory" to Thursdays as a lead-in for William Shatner's "$#*! My Dad Says" and dropped the new "Mike and Molly" into a Monday sitcom bloc anchored by "Two and a Half Men."
Both nights, so far, are doing reasonably well, though the Shatner show is losing several million "Big Bang" viewers.
Fox, which has a sitcom gold mine of sorts with its Sunday animation bloc, launched two real-people sitcoms this fall with "Raising Hope," which has been modestly successful, and "Running Wilde," which tanked. It tries two more early next year: "Mixed Signals," which replaces "Wilde," and "Breaking In," which will follow "American Idol" starting in April. 

Willie Nelson busted for six ounces of marijuana in Texas-Mexico border town, posts $2500 bail

Willie Nelson is singing the blues after being busted with six ounces of marijuana.

Willie Nelson may have gotten beer for his horses, but he allegedly got weed for his men, Border patrol agents said Friday.
The country music legend was arrested Friday morning in a Texas border town with six ounces of marijuana, ABC local station KVIA reported.
He was put in the slammer before posting the $2,500 bond shortly afterwards and then heading to Austin, Texas, where he'll be performing at the Austin City Limits Live concert in February.
It's not the first time Nelson has been charged for drug possession.
In 2006, he was busted with a pound-and-a-half of weed and mushrooms and charged with a misdemeanor. He was slapped with a fine and six months' probation from that arrest.
It never seemed like that did much to reform him - he later posed for High Times magazine.
Nelson's new album "Country Music" was released in April.
He's expected to put out another album in May of 2011. The 77-year-old didn't address the arrest on his tour blog or Twitter.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Donkey Kong Country Returns Walkthrough Episode 22: Airships

North Korea's consistent message to the U.S.

No one can completely understand the motivations of the North Koreans, but it is entirely possible that their recent revelation of their uranium enrichment centrifuges and Pyongyang's shelling of a South Korean island Tuesday are designed to remind the world that they deserve respect in negotiations that will shape their future. Ultimately, the choice for the United States may be between diplomatic niceties and avoiding a catastrophic confrontation.

This Story

Dealing effectively with North Korea has long challenged the United States. We know that the state religion of this secretive society is "juche," which means self-reliance and avoidance of domination by others. The North's technological capabilities under conditions of severe sanctions and national poverty are surprising. Efforts to display its military capability through the shelling of Yeongpyeong and weapons tests provoke anger and a desire for retaliation. Meanwhile, our close diplomatic and military ties with South Korea make us compliant with its leaders' policies.

The North has threatened armed conflict before. Nearly eight years ago, I wrote on this page about how in June 1994 President Kim Il Sung expelled International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors and proclaimed that spent fuel rods could be reprocessed into plutonium. Kim threatened to destroy Seoul if increasingly severe sanctions were imposed on his nation.

Desiring to resolve the crisis through direct talks with the United States, Kim invited me to Pyongyang to discuss the outstanding issues. With approval from President Bill Clinton, I went, and reported the positive results of these one-on-one discussions to the White House. Direct negotiations ensued in Geneva between a U.S. special envoy and a North Korean delegation, resulting in an "agreed framework" that stopped North Korea's fuel-cell reprocessing and restored IAEA inspection for eight years.

With evidence that Pyongyang was acquiring enriched uranium in violation of the agreed framework, President George W. Bush - who had already declared North Korea part of an "axis of evil" and a potential target - made discussions with North Korea contingent on its complete rejection of a nuclear explosives program and terminated monthly shipments of fuel oil. Subsequently, North Korea expelled nuclear inspectors and resumed reprocessing its fuel rods. It has acquired enough plutonium for perhaps seven nuclear weapons.

ad_icon
clear pixel

Sporadic negotiations over the next few years among North Korea, the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia (the six parties) produced, in September 2005, an agreement that reaffirmed the basic premises of the 1994 accord. Its text included denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a pledge of non-aggression by the United States and steps to evolve a permanent peace agreement to replace the U.S.-North Korean-Chinese cease-fire that has been in effect since July 1953. Unfortunately, no substantive progress has been made since 2005, and the overall situation has been clouded by North Korea's development and testing of nuclear devices and medium- and long-range missiles, and military encounters with South Korea.

North Korea insists on direct talks with the United States. Leaders in Pyongyang consider South Korea's armed forces to be controlled from Washington and maintain that South Korea was not party to the 1953 cease-fire. Since the Clinton administration, our country has negotiated through the six-party approach, largely avoiding substantive bilateral discussions, which would have excluded South Korea.

This past July I was invited to return to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American, Aijalon Gomes, with the proviso that my visit would last long enough for substantive talks with top North Korean officials. They spelled out in detail their desire to develop a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a permanent cease-fire, based on the 1994 agreements and the terms adopted by the six powers in September 2005. With no authority to mediate any disputes, I relayed this message to the State Department and White House. Chinese leaders indicated support of this bilateral discussion.

North Korean officials have given the same message to other recent American visitors and have permitted access by nuclear experts to an advanced facility for purifying uranium. The same officials had made it clear to me that this array of centrifuges would be "on the table" for discussions with the United States, although uranium purification - a very slow process - was not covered in the 1994 agreements.

Pyongyang has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the "temporary" cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the United States, along with efforts to change the political regime.

The writer was the 39th president of the United States.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Doing the Math on a Groupon Deal

I have been reading with great interest (especially here) the stories of retailers sharing their experiences using Groupon. For those of you not familiar with Groupon, the company partners with local businesses to send a daily coupon e-blast to its members. The members who buy the coupon get 50 to 70 percent off on a product or service, and Groupon splits the proceeds with the retailer — usually leaving the retailer with about 20 to 25 cents on the dollar of retail value.
I have never seen anything that is both so celebrated and demonized at the same time. There has been talk that Groupon might be worth as much as $3 billion, and yet here are some blog comments from retailers who’ve tried the service:
  • “It is for desperate businesses.”
  • “The financials just can’t work out.”
  • “Groupon is the worst marketing ever.”
  • “We did Groupon. It was O.K. It brought in new customers — we kept most of them. But the margins are a killer.”
As a retailer who has used Groupon — as well as traditional advertising — to build my business, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Is Groupon the worst marketing ever? Or is it the best marketing ever? Probably both. One thing is for sure: Groupon is a beast.
What else would you call something that can deliver 2,000 customers to your store? It’s a beast that can propel your business or smother it. It depends on your business. It also depends on you. Here are some key factors:
The first is the type of business you have. How many potential customers in your area don’t know about you? Do you have excess capacity? Can you handle a surge?
The second factor is about branding. Do you believe that by giving out a large discount you risk damaging your brand? It is a judgment call. I am sure that it is a bad idea in some cases.
And then there is the math, which may be the most important factor. I have seen it attempted many times — but if it is not done properly, it can result in very misleading conclusions.
Groupon is advertising. If you don’t need or believe in advertising, there is no reason to look at this. It costs money. Instead of writing a check for an ad, you are choosing to lose money on sales. This can wreak havoc on the brain cells of a good retailer who is always watching profit margins. It can feel wrong, especially when the coupon customers don’t spend more than the amount of the coupon.
That is why it is critical to do the math. Math is cold and unemotional — and eye-opening. Unfortunately, it is much easier and much more accurate to do the math after you try the program, because you will not have to guess on as many numbers. There are eight key calculations you need to consider to determine whether this is a better advertising vehicle than something else you may already be doing:
1. Your incremental cost of sales — that is, the actual cost percentage for a new customer. If you are giving boat tours and have empty seats, your incremental costs for an additional customer are next to nothing. If you are selling clothes, your incremental costs might be 50 percent of the sale price. Food might be 40 percent. In any case, don’t include fixed costs that you would be incurring any way.
2. The amount of the average sale. If the coupon is for $75, will the customers spend more that that? I have seen more than one retailer complain that nobody spends more than the value of the coupon. That’s unlikely but I am sure it can feel that way, and that is my point: Keep track.
3. Redemption percentage. You don’t really know until the end, but from my experience and from what I have heard, 85 percent is a good guess.
4. Percentage of your coupon users who are already your customers. I’m sure this number varies tremendously depending on the size of your city, how long you have been around, and the type of business.
5. How many coupons does each customer buy? (The more they buy, the fewer people are exposed to your product or service.)
6. What percentage of coupon customers will turn into regular customers? Again, it can seem as if they are all bargain shoppers who will never return without a discount, but that’s almost impossible. Is it possible 90 percent won’t return? Sure.
7. What is the advertising value of having your business promoted to 900,000 people — that’s the number on Groupon’s Chicago list — even if they don’t buy a coupon?
8. How much does it normally cost you to acquire a customer through advertising? Everything is relative.
Let’s look at an example of how this might work for a restaurant. Suppose you sell 3,000 coupons with a face value of $75 for $35. Then let’s assume the following:
1. 40 percent incremental costs (mostly food).
2. $85 average ticket ($10 more than the coupon).
3. 85 percent redeemed.
4. 40 percent used by existing customers.
5. Two bought per customer.
6. 10 percent come back again — or send friends.
7. $1,000 advertising value.
8. $125 typical cost to get a new customer through other advertising methods.
Now, let’s do the math:
Number redeemed: 3,000 x 85 percent = 2,550.
Revenue:
3,000 x $35 x 50 percent = $52,500 (Groupon sends a check).
2,550 x additional $10 = $25,500 (additional money spent by each customer).
total revenue = $78,000 (plus, you also get the $1,000 advertising value of having all those people introduced to your product or service).
Expense:
2,550 x $85 (average retail value) x 40 percent incremental cost = $86,700.
In this example, the restaurant took in $78,000 at a cost of $86,700, which means it cost $8,700 to run the deal. The key question is how many return customers the restaurant will get for that expense. If you divide the 2,550 total coupons by two (the average number of coupons bought by each customer), you get 1,275 customers. Multiply by 60 percent (to exclude existing customers) and you get 765. Multiply again by 10 percent (the percentage of new customers who return), and you get 76 new repeat customers.
Divide the $8,700 cost by 76 new customers, and the restaurant paid $114 for each new regular, which in this example is roughly what we assumed it would cost with conventional advertising. The question the restaurant has to answer is whether it was worth the trouble to get 76 customers — especially given that it probably annoyed some of its existing regulars. On the other hand, maybe it kept some of  its employees busy when they otherwise would have had short hours.
But keep this in mind: because of the huge volume, if you change any of the variables, you can get very different results. For instance, if the customers had spent an average of $95 instead of $85, the restaurant would have actually made money on the promotion — something it’s almost impossible to do with traditional advertising. Of course, it goes the other way, too. If the customers spend only the $75 coupon amount, the cost to the restaurant will be $24,000 — an expense most owners probably never even consider.
Best marketing ever? Worst marketing ever? It all depends on a few little numbers. Here is the big difference between traditional advertising and Groupon: Traditional advertising requires spending some money and knowing that it can be lost if the ad doesn’t work. With Groupon, you spend no money up front but you mess with your formula for making money. You can win big and you can lose big.
It is a new world. The old math still works in it.

Share

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites