Amazon Global to the Rescue

When we moved to the USA in January 2006 we had most of the contents of our 840 squ.ft. condo shipped in a 40 ft. overseas container. Books, clothes, computers, dishes, kitchen wares, small electric appliances, and furniture had to come with us – because we figured shipping the household was still cheaper than buying all new stuff.

Our bed is a typical, standard German double bed: two seperate orthopedic cold foam mattresses on slatted bases, mounted next to each other in a 200cm x 200cm bed frame. Of course we brought all the bedding for it too, so we were in good shape.

Now, even expensive bedding that you take good care of will come apart after over ten years of continuous use. Some of those sheets and duvet covers started to look like the ones my mom would relegate to the weekend cottage in Austria. Just go buy new ones, you might say. It’s not that easy, though. Fitted sheets in Twin XL size work for our mattresses, but there is absolutely nothing that would fit our down covers.german bedding

That’s what Amazon Global was invented for! Here’s how it works: go to, search for “Bettwäsche” and then filter your results by “Amazon Global bestellbar” – bingo! My latest order arrived today, fits perfectly, and looks awesome.

ExxoPok #67 is special

leather cell phone pouch, belt clip phone holster, ExxoPok phone case, hand made in USA cell phone pouch
ExxoPok #67

My heart skipped a beat today when I received my first order for an ExxoPok cell phone pouch coming in from my own little handmade e-commerce website

I designed this unique belt clip phone case out of personal necessity in October 2015, when I joined Google Fi and had to somehow attach a big Nexus 5X smartphone to my belt. After making several of those handy pouches with the “angle of dangle” for myself and family, and selling three of them in person, I set up a shop on Etsy and actually sold 37 of my ingenious gadgets there by now.

Good business practice is to diversify, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and have multiple sales channels – even if you’re just treating this like a hobby without any aspirations to turn into a “full-time job/income”. Plus it would be a good learning experience for me to get into newer techniques of web-development.

So, in December of 2016, I added the ExxoPok subdomain to my domain, found and customized a free html5 template that I like, installed the Ecwid e-commerce plugin on it – which is also free if you list no more than 10 items, and worked hard to get the whole thing optimized for Google’s search engine. Being found on the internet is the hardest thing to do. It takes time, and you have to keep “talking” about your stuff, posting on social media, blogging about it, creating link authority for your site.

Today was the big day: one customer ordered an ExxoPok to be made as a gift for Father’s Day! Needless to say that I got to work right away, making sure this pouch is going to be everything I promised it to be.

Microsoft – neither “micro”, nor “soft”?

I’ve used Microsoft’s products professionally and personally since 1995, you could say I am a loyal customer. In the early days I would have claimed to even be a fan.

Over the years, though, the company has changed so much, that I feel the compelling urge to shake my head at their “business practices”. The sense of pioneer spirit and world community of software developers is completely gone. It has been replaced by corporate greed.

Sometimes, however, little old me feels the sweet smile of victory creeping up onto my face when I accomplish something that big, bad Microsoft didn’t want me to.

I recently purchased an Asus Transformer Mini, which looks like a Surface Pro clone, but costs about a third – that alone is a small victory. It comes with Windows 10, which I am still not a fan of for various reasons. I was sort of OK with my purchase, until I realized that I can’t have MS Movie Maker on it?? installed Movie Maker on Windows 10 machine in July 2017They discontinued, and tried to eradicate, that entire package of Life Essentials software tools some time in January 2017.

That’s when my hunter’s instinct kicked in! With a little help from Google, my best friend professionally and personally since 1998, I found an old offline installer for MS Life Essential 2012, in German – because you need the version that matches your operating system’s language – and got my Movie Maker installed on this new notebook.

Helping, without helping too much

Helping people is a good thing, right? We are being taught early in life that you answer “yes, of course” when somebody, anybody, asks for your help nicely. As we get older, wiser, more experienced, it seems only natural that we will be asked for help more often. It can be flattering to find your advice highly sought after. Research shows, however, that both parties in this situation – the helper, and the one being helped – may suffer negative consequences of too much help. I recently experienced this, again, and had to remind myself to say “no”, at least sometimes.

It started as an innocent message from a stranger in a public forum – just a quick question about a little detail of my life that I had shared. I replied, being the well-behaved, educated person I have been taught to be. Big mistake! Could I please answer some more in-depth questions, preferrably via email? Sure – why not, one email doesn’t cost me that much time. It didn’t stop at one email, though. The messages became longer, repeating questions that I had already answered. Would I please attach sample documents to explain what I meant? Oh, and I sent you a “friend request” on Facebook, because I really like you – we have never met in person, mind you.

So, after several months, I find myself researching information on the internet, collecting documentation about my findings, answering highly technical questions with longer and longer emails and messages. It’s starting to feel like a job – except I’m not being paid, or otherwise rewarded. I realized, that I had inadvertently created a dependency. This random stranger stopped doing their own research, learning for themselves. Instead they relied on the newly found “two-legged dictionary” that I had become for them.

No – this stops here! I realize that my experience and detailed knowledge could help others in a similar situation, and I am willing to share – but not to the point where it becomes a job. Sometimes you have to be selfish and put yourself before anyone else. Ignore what society is urging you to do.


Counterclockwise ALDI

counter-clockwise Aldi, new Aldi store Fort Wayne, germanize your shopping trip

On my way home from work today I stopped by the new ALDI that recently opened. For most people this is just a low-priced grocery store, but for me it’s a cure for the homesick blues that I still get now and then. This particular new shop features the counterclockwise set-up, which is a rare find. I don’t know what the statistics say, but from my personal experience most ALDIs are to be travelled in the clockwise direction.

The reason behind this can be found in shoppers’ psychology, and marketers’ attempts to manipulate the crowds. Most things in nature tend to rotate counterclockwise, if you let them – water down the drain, weather systems, even the entire planet Earth – they all rotate counterclockwise. People, and animals, feel more at ease and comfortable walking around a circle in a counterclockwise direction.

So, if you want your customers to feel good, spend more time in your store, and subsequently buy more stuff, you should let them flow naturally, counterclockwise. Be prepared to have more people crowding your aisles, spending more time in the store on average, and requiring more attention from your personnel too. On the other hand, if you have a small store with mainly simple, cheap goods, and not enough employees, your main focus would be to get people in and out quickly. That’s why most discounters, Dollar stores, or Walmarts, are set up in the “unnatural” clockwise direction.

If you have some time on your hands, try navigate any store against the planned layout – and pay attention to how that feels different.