2007-02-16

xootr customer service for teh win!

I have a xootr mg. It's a love-hate relationship; it's a great ride, but it breaks in one way or another fairly frequently.

On the latest break, two screws wiggled loose and got lost. The scooter still rides but the handlebar clamp is loose and probably won't stay on forever in this state. I sent xootr service the following email:


To: service@xootr.com
Subject: need little screws for handlebar clamp


Hi,

My xootr has lost the screws that live inside the handlebar clamp. I
don't need or want to change the entire clamp, but I need the two
screws that go in the front. I've attached a picture to describe what
I'm talking about. Can I buy just those from you?

Thanks,
XXXX


What sort of response would you expect from your favorite merchant? I was thinking of one of two things: either "please buy an entire new handlebar clamp kit" ($20 plus shipping, IIRC), or "okay, that'll be x dollars". The actual response follows:


Subject: RE: need little screws for handlebar clamp

Hi XXXX.

Let me have your address and I will send some immediately.

Best,

Steve


Radical. I like small companies, and I like companies that respect their customers. Yay Xootr.

2007-02-10

person-to-person lending

Prosper and Zopa have emerged with a fresh new idea: person-to-person lending. The basic idea is as follows: borrowers register with the site, have credit reports taken, then post their request for an unsecured loan, with some interest rate cap and a description of their situation. Lenders, who are also registered with the site, can then bid the lowest rate they're willing to accept to loan to this person. Lenders can loan small amounts to many people, and the system will deliver the proper fraction of the payments to the proper lender.

The idea is certainly commendable: open up the personal loan markets to ordinary people, instead of keeping all the goods in the banks. In theory, this should improve the efficiency of this market significantly and make the world a better place. I'm pretty optimistic.

The biggest drawbacks I can think of:

  • no IRA accounts for lenders -- In the current situation, lenders have to pay taxes on all interest income as if it were ordinary income. This situation may be worsened by the following: for higher-risk loans, lenders diversify by lending small amounts to many places. When some significant fraction of these default, the lender has lost that fraction of their returns. But can they deduct this loss on their taxes? Not sure. I see no reason that IRA and other tax-advantaged accounts for lenders should be impossible.

  • it's not easy -- One of the big advantages of the bank way of doing things is that banks have professionals poring over loan applications deciding which ones to fund. Individuals can't be expected to gain the same level of expertise. This could lead to a bad reputation for person-to-person lending as a dangerous place for your money. On the other hand, this may really open the doors for new small lending firms to pop up all over the place and get started. These firms could then become experts at lending on these sites; at which point the system is similar to before, but different in that a huge pool of loans and lenders compete in the same marketplace, instead of having a bunch of disconnected markets.



It will also be interesting to see what this does to the credit reporting systems. It's not clear that credit scores will be sufficient for judging risk in these marketplaces. Perhaps this will shed light on inefficiency in that area as well, and we will see better credit rating systems emerge soon.

the ocaml summer project

http://osp2007.janestcapital.com/

Like, duh.

2007-02-04

is more egotism really what we need from our leaders?

Governor Richardson of New Mexico says he's running for President in 2008. Good for him. His statements:

Most importantly, I can bring this country together. I'm a negotiator. I've brought countries together, closer, on peace treaties. I've rescued Americans, hostages and servicemen. What we have right now is an opportunity to deal with major issues that really are dividing this country. I have the experience, I've been in Iraq, I've negotiated with Saddam Hussein. I was secretary of energy, I increased energy efficient in our country," he said. "I've been a governor, I created 86,000 jobs in four years, I've cut taxes, I've brought economic growth to our state, I've made our schools better. I've got the strongest record on the environment and dealing with clean energy and fighting global warming," Richardson said.

"A lot of people give speeches on these issues. I've actually done it."


Ah yes, and by the way, I also invented the internet, proved the Reimann hypothesis, ended poverty, and created world peace.

The man clearly has a problem with his ego. Regardless of what his actual record is, anyone who talks themselves up like that is not getting my vote. It demonstrates a pretty severe lack of humility and perspective, both of which we need badly in our leadership.