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Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Never Trust Google Maps

July 4, 2011 5 comments

It wasn’t the best time to discover Google is shy on its travel time estimates. One would think such a great company would be bang on, in everything it does, estimates included.

Believing that was my first mistake.

A few months ago, I’d taken a cursory glance at a map of Europe.  The distance between Tuscany and Provence did not look daunting. In fact, it was only a couple of inches.

Further scrutiny of possible routes looked even better. The roads that Google suggested hugged first the Italian coastline, and then the French. It held the promise of a beautiful, awe inspiring drive. I imagined us waving to the Europeans lounging on their yachts, bidding them either bon giorno or bonjour, whichever.

Google estimated it to be a six hour journey. A bit of a haul for the kids, but certainly doable, we would stop for a nice lunch en route, and would be eating foie gras and drinking a Luberon rose for dinner.

Emboldened by my research, we started off. We had water and bananas with us. The kids each had their iPods fully charged. We were ready.

The Italian countryside gave way to the Italian Alps, and the children started asking, how much longer it would be.

Not long now, only two hours to go, we replied.

We passed the Cinque Terra, and toyed with the idea of going for a hike. We’d hoped to have lunch in Portofino, so we pressed on.

The thing about driving on the auto route, we realized, was they never gave you distances. We finally started seeing signs for Genoa, and congratulated ourselves for being so speedy.

But the signs for Genoa continued for the next two hours.

It was around this time that the tunnels started.

Instead of gazing at the impossibly blue Mediterranean Sea, we looked into the mouths of one tunnel after another, many of which stretched for two kilometres at a time.

These tunnels were both a blessing and a curse. We couldn’t enjoy much of the landscape, but they kept our children busy for hours as they tried to hold their breath the entire length of the tunnel.

With iPod batteries long dead and no radio stations worth listening to, this was something.

How much longer, they asked. About two hours, we replied. You said that two hours ago, they pointed out.

The other thing we noticed was that Italy didn’t mention any other countries that you might be stumbling into momentarily. We saw no signs indicating France was imminent, until we were in France. We happened to glance a European Union blue sign saying France between tunnels. We had arrived.

Almost.

Surely, we were really only two hours from here. It was dinnertime, and in lieu of our foie gras we had sandwiches au poulet at a reststop.

Monaco gave way to Nice, and then countless other french towns we hadn’t heard of. The sun was setting in front of us, glaring into our tired eyes. We made the turn up north towards Aix en Provence.

How much longer, the kids asked. Surely less than two hours, we replied.

If you happen to be making the journey anytime soon, the drive between Tuscany and Provence is actually eleven hours, not the six that Google promises. I say this with the utmost confidence, and a whole lot of exasperation.

There are, however, two bright sides to this tale.

The first is that our children, incredulously, saw the humor in this situation, and remained good-natured throughout this marathon car ride.

The second is that when we finally reached our destination, we opened the fridge to find one glorious item: a bottle of a Luberon rose.

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The Groupon Buzz

December 23, 2010 3 comments
Groupon logo.

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever noticed little pockets of conversation, or keywords themselves, that follow you everywhere you go?  Little words that, if the world was one big comic strip, would be the bubble thought above almost all heads, right up there with ‘sex’ and ‘chocolate’?  Buzz words that our collective pop culture speaks of, almost uncannily in unison?

Right now, that buzz word is Groupon.  As though I was freshly dipped in honey, this word is following me everywhere I go.  Move over Twitter, there is a new phenomenon in town.

For those who live in a vacuum, Groupon is an online discounter that provides you with mega deals on local stuff – anything under the sun that I know exists although I haven’t personally seen it for weeks.  Today’s Groupon deals offer a 3D golf lesson using a simulator, or a revitalizing facial, both at 60% off the normal cost.  Restaurant deals, weekend getaways, and merchandise at greatly reduced cost also figure prominently.  Once you sign up, you get an email each day announcing its main deal, with a couple of other promotions in the side bar.  So if golf lessons aren’t your thing, perhaps you could be enticed to open your wallet for some bling, or a river rafting adventure.

I frequently hear about Groupon during my favorite pastime, grocery shopping.  “I bought it today on Groupon for 75% off!”  The other night on our way to dinner, our chauffeur/designated driver somehow parlayed into “… Groupon, the fastest growing company in history!”  Last night, getting a pedicure at Edgemont Village’s newest nail bar, aptly named Get Nailed, I casually asked the store owner how business was.  “I did a Groupon promotion and now, it’s great!  3000 people bought the deal in a day!”  She now has enough business to ride out 2011.

Groupon has got to be the greatest invention since the hula hoop for small business owners.  It cleverly puts those with something to sell in front of thousands with money to burn, so long as they are getting the deal of the century.  Many who wouldn’t normally consider river rafting will find themselves donning life jackets and facing the rapids this coming May to cash in on their skookum deal they got today on Groupon.  Even better for the companies offering the deal, are those who buy today on Groupon only to completely forget about their prepaid adventure.  This cash infusion can be used to propel these small businesses into the new year and beyond.

It is a brilliant business model, as Groupon’s stupendous revenue attests.  By helping businesses grow, and arguably helping consumers save money, they are in turn helping themselves to become a dynasty that thumbs its nose at the likes of Google and its six billion dollar offers.

I have yet to buy something on Groupon, although I have mentioned its deals to people who may be interested in its offerings – and by that old method of word of mouth, not via email in order to reap the $10 reward for referring a client.  A friend mentioned he was looking for a picture on canvas for a bare wall; next day low and behold Groupon was offering a deal on such pictures, with free shipping.  One strange coincidence, or were magical powers involved?  No wonder Groupon turned down Google.

This could be my day for buying a Groupon deal.  I am not one for lying naked on a bed while a stranger examines my pores with a magnifying glass, and then proceeds to torture me with a variety of instruments under the futile guise of returning my skin to its former glow.  But for half the price, maybe I’ll buy two and bring a friend.

Such is the power of Groupon.