Posts Tagged Geek Squad

Brammo: Hello Scuderia . . . Officially, this time

We reported on the partnership between Brammo and Scuderia West in February, but apparently the official announcement did not happen until today.  Scuderia (official) joins Hollywood Electrics (unofficial) as Brammo dealers for San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively.

I’m an ‘elephant in the room’ kind of guy, so I’ll say it here: The absence of any mention of Best Buy in the press release is noteworthy. Just my humble opinion, but it seems like it is time for the two organizations to go their separate ways.  The idea of selling Brammo electric motorcycles in Best Buy represented a really gutsy move for both, and it certainly caused a lot of hoopla and attention when it happened back in 2009.  Brammo has always focused on the “Enertia is consumer electronics on wheels” angle, and it made sense to sell something so unique at an electronics behemoth like Best Buy.  The struggle Best Buy faced with getting its stores through the maze of red tape required when it tried to add “motorcycle dealer” to its repertoire may have seemed like a bump in the road at the time, but it apparently was the beginning of a rift between the two organizations.

Best Buy may not have predicted the cost and time involved with getting its stores approved by state and local licensing and zoning authorities prior to committing to sell Brammos alongside its offerings of electric bicycles.  What once had been announced as a nationwide rollout of Brammos, soon turned into “just a few markets” and then, just the existing stores – three in California and one in Oregon.

Did the initial stumble with the zoning and licensing boards cause Best Buy to pull back and not fully commit to Brammo, or were there other reasons involved?  We may never know the answer to that question, but the writing is on the wall as Brammo publicly announces the “change in distribution” and “Brammo motorcycles previously sold through stores” in the press release.  Brammo’s shift to a new dealership model with shops that will bring years of experience with motorcycles to the table, is, I think, a change for the better for Brammo.  No more “Geek Squad” baggage to deal with is a good thing.

Press Release:

Brammo Launches Its New Dealer Program with the Appointment of Scuderia West as Their Main Dealer for the San Francisco Bay Area

The appointment of Scuderia West as a new Brammo dealer in San Francisco will ensure that Bay Area customers now have easy access to the Brammo range of electric motorcycles.

The American manufacturer Brammo has partnered with this well-established motorcycle dealer on Duboce Avenue, San Francisco. Scuderia West has built up an enviable reputation over 20 years for its high levels of servicing, repairs and parts sourcing for both new and used motorcycles.

Established in 1991, Scuderia’s current facilities include a comprehensive showroom, sales and aftersales department, and full servicing facilities with workshops featuring the latest electronic diagnostic equipment.

“We are delighted to be the first motorcycle dealership to sign up with Brammo,” said Scuderia’s founder and owner, Don Lemelin. “Typically, our customers appreciate a motorcycle that is both well designed and performs flawlessly. Thanks to Brammo’s superior engineering and quality we know we can stake our reputation on these motorcycles.”

Brammo prices start at $7,995 less federal and state incentives for the entry-level Enertia, and rise to $13,995 for the top-of-the-line Empulse 10.0.

Commenting on this latest appointment, CEO of Brammo Inc., Craig Bramscher, added: “Brammo’s share of the US market is soaring and we have no doubt that the Bay Area appreciates the benefits of Brammo electric motorcycles. Scuderia West is becoming a Brammo Dealer at a very exciting time and we both look forward to providing Bay Area riders with world-class products and service. Brammo’s soon to be announced expanded product line is a great fit with the traditional high end motorcycle dealer and with Scuderia, we are off to a great start.”

Located at 69 Duboce Avenue, San Francisco, Scuderia West is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9am until 6pm.

Brammo’s change in distribution will also benefit existing customers as all servicing and warranty of Brammo motorcycles previously sold through stores will be honored by Brammo’s new dealership network.

“We are always interested to talk with dealers about our exciting motorcycles and explore the opportunity of becoming a Brammo dealer,” said Craig Bramscher.

About Brammo

Brammo Inc. is a leading electric vehicle technology company headquartered in North America. Brammo designs and develops electric vehicles including the award winning Brammo Enertia motorcycle. Brammo is an OEM supplier of its innovative Brammo Digital Drivetrain™ systems including the Brammo Power™ battery pack and Brammo Power™ vehicle management system. Brammo has vehicle distribution and marketing operations in North America, Europe and Asia

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Enertia Spotted on Bestbuy.com

“A lioness hath whelped in the streets;

And graves have yawn’d, and yielded up their dead;

Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds,

And BestBuy.com has an Enertia on their site.”

(Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2 – with apologies to William Shakespeare)

‘Tis true – at long last an Enertia has made its appearance on BestBuy.com.  For the most part, Brammo’s partnering up with Best Buy has been a mutually beneficial relationship.  Brammo gets displayed in some stores, gets a retailer with garage space for warranty work, and gets the marketing power behind Best Buy.  Best Buy gets the media attention of being the first consumer electronics giant to make significant inroads into the green vehicle market, increases its “green cred,” and, we have to assume, gets a little profit from every sale.

But like any relationship, there are frustrations.  I mentioned one of the biggies in this post, in which I showed a print ad that featured the Enertia, but the link given in the ad led to a site on BestBuy.com that didn’t mention anything about the bike.

So when someone told me to go to Bestbuy.com and look for the Enertia last night, I was skeptical.

I shouldn’t have been:

Wonders never cease.

There it is!

I bet the orders are just pouring in from BestBuy.com’s easy-online-ordering system.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about getting MsBrammofan a brand-new Enertia.  Why not order it from BestBuy.com and avoid bothering the folks at Brammo, who are mighty busy getting ready for this weekend’s race at Laguna Seca?

The ordering process

Let’s see… I see the price — $7,995 — emblazoned in bright red.  I see a red box “In Store Only” and an “Add to Wish Lists” and “Printer Friendly” link over on the right side of the page. Hmmm… no big green button like some other products have with the label, “Add to Cart” or even “Special Order Only.”  I guess I’ll click that bright red “In Store Only” — yikes!  It brought up a printer dialog box.  I don’t want to print it.  I want to ride it.

Store Pickup

Do my eyes deceive me? Smack dab in the middle of the page is this little stunner:

Store Pickup: Available at most stores
Find it at a Best Buy store.
Check Stores

Available at most stores? MOST stores?  Do you mean I can find this in a Best Buy store other than the six stores that currently carry it in California and Oregon? Because, if this is true, it’s a biggie.  I’ve been waiting a LONG time for Best Buy to realize it’s time to roll these bikes out across the nation.  I think I’ll just click on that “Check Stores” link. *click* All right, I’m at the “enter your zip code” screen that you’d expect to see. I’m in Kansas City so *entering zip* and clicking “Find Nearest Stores.” *click*

HOLY MOTHER OF …

These are my go-to Best Buy stores!  And, according to the first line of the text, the “Brammo – Enertia Electric Bike is available for pickup at the following stores“!  If you knew how many times I’ve called these stores and asked if they have the Brammo yet, only to hear silence or confused mumbling, you’d understand my excitement.

Hey… wait a sec.  Under “Availability” it says “unavailable” at each one of these stores.  Let me call my local store.  (I wish I was clever enough to be able to record this call). Nope. They have no idea what I’m talking about.  “Bob” suggested I order from the website.  *sigh*

For grins, I check to see availability of the stores I know about. Portland. Oops.  It shows Jantzen Beach is available, but no Cascade Station.  El Segundo, California? Yes. Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles? Yes, but only when you put in the zip code… putting in “Los Angeles” ends up with no available stores. San Carlos, CA, yes. Santa Rosa, CA, yes.

Let’s get back to that main product page again.  The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, so yes, I “Need Help.” They provide a toll-free number to call and even have a “click to call” feature where they call you to provide some easy answers, no doubt.

Calling Best Buy

I used the click-to-call feature and it called me right up.  I went through the usual “Press one if you …” menu and pressed the number for assistance with an order.  I spoke with a human and told her that I wanted to order something from BestBuy.com but that I was having a problem.  She connect me to … THE QUEUE.  Not too bad, only a “5 to 9 minute” wait, during which I listened to the expected BBY propaganda. “Computer too slow? Have the Geek Squad remove the porn that’s slowing it down…” etc.

Finally, a male voice came on the line.  Let’s call him, Bob.

Brammofan: Hi Bob, I’m having a bit of a problem ordering on bestbuy.com.  I have the item here, but there’s no box that says “add to cart” or “special order.”

Bob: No problem, sir.  We’ve had some technical issues with our site over the past day or so.  I can place that order for you.  Can you tell me the SKU number?

BF: Sure.  It is 9481615.  Green, please.  (I threw that in there to be witty because the only color listed on their site is green.  He didn’t get it.)

Bob: Okay sure.  Can I have your zip code.

BF: It’s 64118. (Looking good, soon he’ll ask me the delivery addre–)

Bob: Hmmm.  Can I place you on hold to better assist you?

BF: Yes. (What would YOU say? ‘No. I’d prefer your quick shoddy service.’)  (Two minutes pass).

Bob: Sir, I have to apologize.  I checked the five stores in your area and none of them have this item in stock. However, they are supposed to be getting them in stock real soon.

BF: Real soon? How soon?

Bob: I can’t say, but … well, it’s kind of odd.  I actually checked availability on this item in 25 stores, including one of the biggest ones, which happens to be in Illinois.  No one has this item.

BF:  Well, what should I do now?

Bob: Please call back in 8-14 business days and I’m sure we’ll have that item in stock at your local Best Buy store.

Come on… “getting them in stock real soon”?  You know that Bob told me that because somewhere in his script it says: “If you can’t find the item in stock at the customer’s local store, tell them it will be back in stock ‘real soon.'”  Or, he was ad-libbing it, a practice that will surely get him far in the customer service industry.

Summary

The good news is that Best Buy has deemed the Brammo Enertia “site-worthy.” It’s there, up on the site.

The bad news is that Best Buy still needs to carry through so that buyers from remote areas such as the vast Great Plains can complete an order — or at least talk to someone who’s been told ACCURATE information about ordering the bike.

While they’re at it, they might want to put up a “More information at Brammo.com” link.  I’m guessing that a link to http://www.brammofan.com is not likely.

My mother always told me to “count your blessings” and to “not look a gift horse in the mouth.”  I suppose I should be content that Best Buy finally acknowledged its red-headed stepchild.  Of course my mother also told me I had to wait half an hour after eating anything before I could go swimming — which is totally bogus, so … come on Best Buy! Let me order an Enertia online.

UPDATE:

Reviews have begun showing up on the website

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Brammo’s Wismann on Start-ups and Customer Service

Brammo Lead Designer, Brian Wismann, recently responded to a multi-part question posed by a member of the elmoto.net community: What did it take to start out? What consideration was made around the product, design process and initiating manufacture? What funds were put into it?

Wismann: I’ve been pondering how to answer this without typing out the novel that is my back-up plan if this all goes pear-shaped.  I’ll try to keep this simple, yet also provide you with some of the information you’re looking for.

Good Idea – Most successful ventures start with a strong understanding of a customer need or problem and then make a convincing effort to solve that need. With the Enertia, we believed that consumers needed a more efficient, cost effective means of commuting and getting around town. We started out with a simple idea and then refined it as time went on.

Money – We started with very little capital and needed to find funding. After over a year of concerted effort and many, many presentations to investors in many, many places, we found a good fit. Brammo’s Series A round of venture financing was around $10M USD. We kept going during this period by any and all means necessary. It was quite a roller coaster.

Perserverance (and a great team) – We had many, many setbacks, but if this team is good at one thing, it’s rolling with the punches and learning to do better next time. Not having a group that was burdened with the “established” way of doing things helped here I think. Also… our CEO, Craig, is the most stubborn, never say die person I’ve ever met. He’s full of manic energy from sun-up to sun-down and he has single handedly infused much needed energy into the group to keep pushing on multiple occasions.

Some other factors: Great design (people have to WANT to buy your bike), Great engineering (it’s gotta WORK when they get it), Good supplier relationships (need all the parts), Good timing (hard to judge sometimes), Distribution (where are people going to buy it?), Marketing (how do people find out about it?), Service (what happens if it breaks?), and good ol’ fashioned luck doesn’t hurt either.

Ok… that was a very quick overview, but I hope it helps answer some of your questions.

Wismann followed up with this, after a user asked about whether service is performed on Brammos by the Geek Squad at Best Buy, or by Brammo technicians in the field.

Immediately, we have Brammo employed mobile “service technicians” in the major markets (Portland, SanFran, and LA) to provide support to Best Buy and to customers during the launch phase of the product. We realized early on that Best Buy and Geek Squad would require some more time and training to become fully up-to-speed on servicing the Enertia (and other electric vehicles). That said, they are still instrumental in scaling the store roll-out nationwide, as we will not be able to place a service tech in every single market. So… it’s a combined effort now that tapers off as Geek Squad take on more and more. We’ll always keep a staff of mobile techs though for additional support.  Another benefit is that our service techs also conduct “ride events” or provide similar marketing support when they’re not busy supporting customers or training Best Buy staff. (E.g., Seattle and Yakima).

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Expert agrees: Best Buy and Brammo are just the beginning

When Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher decided that his Enertia electric motorcycle was like “consumer electronics on wheels,” his crazy idea of selling them through Best Buy got a lot of flack. Time has shown that, not only was his idea not crazy, it was the start of a trend.

The latest shipment of Enertias, headed to Best Buy

The trend was covered by the Gerson Lehrman Group in a recent article that extends Bramscher’s philosophy to at least one logical conclusion: The Tesla.

“Could We Buy a $50,000 Electric Car Where We Buy our TV?”

It is well documented that companies like Best Buy have entered into the small electric transportation market with companies like Segway, Brammo, Currie and others in the relentless pursuit (sorry Lexus) of becoming a leader in “Green”.

* * *

The OEM business has caught up in this area and repurposing the space for services and products on a new, exciting and profitable category could be the answer to capture more ROI.

* * *

First, these Silicon Valley-esque companies like Brammo and Segway certainly see CE retailers as a more traffic (target) rich channel to pedal their goods than the traditional recreational or automobile industries.  If it proves out that there is a “there” there in the small EV space, then the non Big 3 auto makers like a Tesla could see it too.

* * *

Lastly, the convergence of technology, personalization and service/sales support is already unlocking new revenue streams in the consumer’s home (and garage) with the advance of home automation and control.  Why wouldn’t it be feasible to assume what is inside the consumer’s garage is the next great frontier?
While this may be too “Buck Rogers” for some, it could be the future of the EV industry as we know it.

If you’re interested in the EV industry, the article is a “must read.”

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Time to Roll ’em out?

Not news: Brammo and Best Buy are Buddies.  We’ve known that since September 2008, when Brammo raised a $10 million round from Best Buy Venture Capital.

Not news: Brammo and Best Buy are serious about being Buddies: We’ve known this since February 2009, when Brammo announced that its electric motorcycle, the Brammo Enertia, would be sold at select Best Buy stores on the West Coast.  And the pair sealed the deal when the bikes finally went on sale in Portland, Oregon (August 2009) and Los Angeles (October 2009) and San Francisco (November 2009).

Now, where is the news?  Where is the news about the roll out of the Brammo Enertia to other Best Buy stores across the country?  Now that Christmas is over and Best Buy can once again move its displays around to accommodate the Enertia and other electric vehicles/bikes, when will we see this vignette played in Chicago?  New York? Texas? Florida? Kansas City?

Enertia on floor for 30 seconds for a photo op, and it captures the attention of genuine Biker dude

Brammo fans have been asking for this to be rolled out to their cities for months now.

What are you guys waiting for?

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Geek Squad – Now Less Skeevy, More EV

What do you do if your brand new Brammo Enertia Powercycle needs servicing?

Easy answer: Drive it to the nearest Best Buy that has Brammo-certified technicians.  So far, that’s only in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, but soon enough, even the Best Buy in Coralville, Iowa will have someone to take care of you.  (Sorry, Hawkeye… I don’t know the definition of “soon enough” but be patient. )

Cooler answer: Call your local Best Buy (as long as you live in one of the cities soon to be announced) and the Geek Squad will come to you in one of these:

Mitsubishi all-electric i-MiEV

According to AutoBlogGreen:

The electronics giant will start using them in January (after they’re shown off at CES) at some Geek Squad locations in California. Details have not yet been totally worked out, but the Geek EVs will start with a fleet of four vehicles and will then expand and rotate to other stores over the course of three years. Most likely, the i-MiEVs will be doled out in pairs and the probable early cities where these vehicles will make house calls include Chicago, New York, Portland, and San Francisco.

Best Buy plans to use the i-MiEVs just like any other fleet car, with the exception that they will be right-hand drive. Best Buy’s Senior Vice President of emerging business, Rick Rommel, told AutoblogGreen that the idea is to learn, “How these will fit into a Geek’s daily life.” The plug-in vehicle tests with Geek Squad is unrelated to how select West Coast Best Buy stores are selling electric bikes. That said, Rommel admits that the key thing is that Best Buy likes to conduct new experiments, and these EVs fit into that general concept.

You might not want the guy poking around your PC, but the techs that are Brammo-Certified are like Geeks on steroids.  They’ve been to the Ashland, Oregon headquarters of Brammo and, besides learning all about the bikes, have actually participated in the assembly of one from the ground up.  And no, they can’t download the Enertia’s GPS tracker data to find which “Gentlemen’s Club” you’ve been frequenting… for two reasons: 1)the bike does not have a GPS tracker, and 2) Dude… you’re riding an Enertia.  No need to pay for female attention — it comes standard.

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Brammo and CP+B Logo Contest Kerfuffle

Logo Contest? Say what?

Oh, you haven’t heard about the Brammo logo contest that ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B) announced and facilitated on crowdsourcing site Crowdspring.com for a shot at $1,000.00?  The winning “designer” (I’ll explain why it’s in quotes, later) will be chosen by Alex Bogusky with input from Craig Bramscher, CEO of Brammo.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.  Basically, if you’re not familiar with the names, the companies or “crowdsourcing,” then you’ve probably found my site by searching for pictures of Debbie Harry (the best one is here) and should just download it and keep moving.

I’m hip to the contest. What’s a “kerfuffle”?

Do I have to do everything? Look it up. Or, if you’re wondering how it’s supposed to sound, you can click here, repeatedly, and the nice lady will say it over and over again.  If you want, you can imagine that it’s being enunciated by Ms. Harry.

In relation to the Brammo logo, the kerfuffle is about the issue of “crowdsourcing” and how the design community is up in arms about CP+B using a cheap trick like this contest to destroy the integrity of creative people all over the world.  You see, many of these people have jobs with agencies whose bottom line depends on having clients come to them to design their logos.  These people equate crowdsourcing, especially when it is underwritten by a competing advertising agency, to the type of despicable behavior one might expect from a traitorous person of questionable parentage.  They claim that an ethical lapse has occurred which cheapens their professional standing, minimizes the effort involved with proper logo creation (a term they actually call “branding,” not to be confused with the act of a red hot iron with a design on it being applied to the hind end of a bovine . . . actually, it bears a striking resemblance to that), and threatens the very foundation of their industry (which they prefer to be called a “profession,” kind of like “sex workers” prefer to be called members of the “world’s oldest profession.”)

Just in case you think I have a prejudice against “creatives” or “designers,” I want to clarify that I do not.  Some readers of this blog are aware of my close and dare I say it, loving (in a platonic way, of course) relationship with the CP+B interns whose services were won by Brammo in an Ebay auction last Spring.  They were a hard-working group and their talent was easy to see while working on the Enertia campaign.  They, however, would be the first to tell you that Brammofan can be one critical person of questionable parentage. The take-away is that I call them as I see them.  Which brings me to the issue of designers vs. “designers.”

The difference between designers and “designers” is that the first one works with an agency and the second one doesn’t.  The first one doesn’t enter crowdsourcing logo contests and the second one does.  The first one researches branding issues and the second one has a PC and a copy of PhotoShop (probably pirated).  The first one attends client consultations and will tweak the minute details of their design over the course of weeks, and the second one slaps something together in a couple hours.

Okay, so the designers think that “designers” should stop contributing to the downfall of the industry.
Here’s the original article.  (See also, FastCompany‘s take on this and BNet’s.) They even went so far as to design a logo memorializing this event:

brammo_logo_02-555x118(It’s small because I’m trying to be G-rated)

But here’s the deal: you get what you pay for.  Someone who’s going to pay a couple hundred bucks for a logo on crowdspring.com is not going to shell out the thousands or millions to CP+B for a new logo for their product.

There are a couple reasons why Brammo and CP+B are in the midst of this kerfuffle.  One is that the designers feel betrayed by Bogusky encouraging “spec” work, which is another term for uncompensated work performed by “designers” for the admittedly slim chance of being chosen as the winner.  Sounds a bit like gambling, right?

The other big reason for this conflict is that the designers have tunnel vision.

The designers see the Brammo CP+B logo contest as being only about design and crowdsourcing and the cheapening of their profession.  What so many of them fail to see, even as they contribute to it by the gnashing of their own teeth, is the public relations value of the contest.  And what created even more PR value than the contest?  The kerfuffle.  This.  Right now.  Even as I type these very words and you read them and immediately forget them and feel compelled to comment, or tweet, or email your friends to come and read the ravings of this Brammofan idiot, the folks at CP+B, and Brammo, and probably Weber-Shandwick and Best Buy (to the extent they bother reading my rants), are counting the number of times I’ve mentioned the words Brammo, Enertia, CP+B, Best Buy, and wondering what the next outrageous idea from Bogusky might be. (May I suggest, on spec of course, a Subservient Brammo – Geek Squad site, complete with a guy in a Geek Squad uniform, wearing a Bull head, in a messy garage, with a Brammo Enertia, responding to typed-in requests?)

With that, I sign off this post with the news that, according to the Crowdspring.com site, the logo contest winner should be announced any moment now.  And, for what it’s worth, this is my favorite logo submission of the more than 700 submitted:

image_logo_1_submissionfull

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