Wednesday, June 30, 2010

30 JUN 10: Discounted Yes, Free No

Columbus AT&T stores had long lines Tuesday, as people bought the new Apple "iPhone 4." The next upgrade of that ought to be really confusing - as people will think an "iPhone 5" should be a discount plan at T-Mobile.

Some people probably drove a good distance to shop for the iPhone 4 - but how far would you drive for something free? I sacrificed a half-day the other day, and drove from Columbus to Auburn. Before some of you get wrong ideas - no, I was NOT rummaging around Tommy Tuberville's former house.

The drive to Auburn offered me a free lunch, a free MP3 player and a chance to win a free Dell laptop computer. All I had to do was sit through a 90-minute presentation called an "Internet Marketing Conference" -- and for all I knew, I might learn why eBay has a few more daily visitors than my blog.

Perhaps you were mailed an invitation to this Internet Marketing Conference. Enough people received it that an evening presentation at a Columbus hotel quickly became full -- so that's why I drove to Auburn for it. And if the lunch wasn't filling enough, grazing in the aisles at Kroger afterward could compensate.

To be honest, I'd sat through this 90-minute presentation before -- and even blogged about it before [30 Jul 03]. But the Internet has changed to some extent over the last seven years, so there might be something new. Why, in 2003 many people would have guessed "Linked In" referred to an Alabama chain gang.

The goal of the conference is to get people to reserve their own website through an all-purpose Internet company. The company hosts the site, provides consultation with business development - but the big issue now is getting sites to the top of list on search engines. To borrow from an old song, it don't mean a thing if you're not first on Bing.

The conference presenter named Matt admitted up-front to the audience: "It takes time to make money." In Auburn, he could get away with saying this. In Columbus, he would have been directed to any convenience store selling lottery tickets.

But I almost felt like crawling under the table when Matt talked about people attending the conference merely for free food and music players. He said those people were there "for the wrong reasons." I guess that means I should want a steady online income, instead of settling for consolation prizes.

The conference gave me a couple of helpful web-related pointers, which are.... well, I'd say they're too wonky to mention or joke about here. But I might also give away some secrets, which will make Dick McMichael's blog pass me once and for all.

After the 90-minute presentation was over and while the conference team tried to encourage enrolling with a $30 discount rate, the Auburn hotel's staff served lunch. I received a chicken salad sandwich, a little potato salad and a cookie on a plastic plate. Somehow I think children getting free lunches during summer break had more nourishment.

(At least the hotel staff offered real silverware and glasses for sweet tea, to go with lunch. But aren't stainless steel forks on plastic plates the modern equivalent of wearing a red shirt with green slacks? Unless it's December, or you're touring Mexico?)

As for the free MP3 player - I don't have it yet. Matt the presenter explained his company doesn't ship a box full of prizes to conference sites anymore, because they arrive days in advance and could be stolen. I'm not sure why criminals do that. These aren't iPods, after all - more like you-Cheapskates.

I have to send a mail-order form to obtain my MP3 player. But at least the conference organizers are picking up the shipping and handling charges -- and I hope they'll mail the player in a discreet box, so would-be thieves mistake it for a box of checks.

It's almost the "blog days" of summer here, because not much news thrilled me Tuesday....

+ Qualifying continued for nonpartisan races in Georgia. Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan currently has no opposition -- and the official state filing list shows he also has no address. It's a shame when public officials are so busy that they practically live at the Government Center.

+ A conference on updating Georgia's high school astronomy curriculum concluded at the Space Science Center. The new material had better not mention UFO's - because the way Roy Barnes sounds in his commercials, he'll ban any mention of that if he's elected Governor.

+ The Carmike 15 theatres at Columbus Park Crossing had a midnight screening of the new "Twilight" movie, called "Eclipse." Does this premiere have anything to do with the "Black Stars" of Ghana eliminating the U.S. soccer team from the World Cup last weekend?

+ Thursday's free Jimmy Buffett concert along the Alabama Gulf coast was postponed ten days. Hurricane Alex is hundreds of miles away, yet there's concern waves could ruin a stage set up on the beach. You'd think some sticky tar balls could hold the wood in place....

+ Instant Message to Wok N Roll on U.S. 280 in south Opelika: I'm glad you finally replaced the sign that had "restaurant" misspelled. Now you need someone to fix it again - because I really don't think Monday's high temperature was 111 degrees F.

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