Be like Uncle Leo

This evening, I returned from a brief trip to a popular discount store to buy a pack of candelabra light bulbs. Since it was Saturday around 19:30, it was packed. All cashiers had 4–10 people in each line. Self-checkout registers were in use, too.

When I was in line, there were two people ahead of me. The first person being rung up ended up requesting two transactions, and the cashier was fine with it. That took about six minutes.

The cashier greeted the person in front of me, and rung them up fairly quickly.

Now it was my turn. Before the cashier rung up item, a colleague started griping to her about something that occurred elsewhere in the store. It wasn’t directly related to work.

My biggest concern: she did not acknowledge me until she handed me the receipt. Sadness.

Takeaways

Greet each customer if they aren’t preoccupied, especially when working at a register. Even if it’s a repeat customer, it could be the first interaction with you.

It’s more difficult to gain a new customer than retain existing customers. We’re creatures of habit, and trying someplace new needs to be as welcoming as possible.1

People watch the way you treat other customers while waiting in line, and can see when they’re snubbed. (If they aren’t on their phone or talking with others, they’re more susceptible.)

If you don’t know an existing customer, treat them as a brand new customer, and strive for a great first impression. You have no idea:

  • If they’ve had rough experiences in the past at your store.
  • How much they’ve spent there.
  • About their influence with other family, friends, and colleagues.
  • If they’ll discuss their experience coherently somewhere on the internet. (For example, anyone can create a free blog or website at WordPress.com!)

Disclaimer: I’m a Happiness Engineer (Community Guardian) at Automattic, the people behind WordPress.com (W) and other fantastic services. :)


  1. I’m not a new customer, but this point is worth mentioning. 

DuckDuckGo and phonetic spelling

Thank you to contributor Robert May for helping add Phoneic to Instant Answers at DuckDuckGo. This handy new query allows you to “spell a string phonetically with the NATO alphabet”.

As an example, consider someone asking you to spell your name over the phone. Assuming I’m in front of a computer, with an Alfred web search, I can type “duck phonetic villarin“, and see the Instant Answer at the top of DuckDuckGo search results:

Phonetic: Victor-India-Lima-Lima-Alfa-Romeo-India-November

Slick. Happy Thursday!

Bravo-Romeo-Yankee-Alfa-November. ;)

Four Years as a Happiness Engineer

Thank you, Automattic, for helping me improve and mature. Four years and counting, and loving it!

I like shifting my work schedule. I started with Tuesday–Saturday, switched to Monday–Friday during my Happiness Hiring rotation, and I’m currently on Sunday–Thursday. Dig it for helping reduce average response times. I’m happy to take advantage of the flexible schedule.

Happiness Hiring invited me for a rotation from mid July to early October 2015. I helped improve their process a bit by adding checklists and updating their internal documentation. Best of all, three of the trials are now my colleagues, and the fourth will start soon. So rad! :star:

For the Grand Meetup, many Automattic musicians organized, rehearsed, and performed a set of several songs during the party on the last night. It was epic. I played bass guitar for the first time in years for a song during the party on the last night.1

Late last year, Matt suggested we get a USB headset with noise-canceling microphone2 if we participate in video or audio chats. It was great timing because I was able to record some solid training screencasts with fantastic audio quality.

Notable

  • 15 “weekly” reviews.
  • Coworked five times with other SoCal Automatticians.
  • Four training sessions for other Happiness Engineers (one trial, three full timers).
  • Published 88 posts in 2015.
  • Comfort processing DMCA notices and trademark complaints have improved.

Travel & Events

  • May 2015: Justitia team meetup in Barcelona, Spain
  • October 2015: Grand Meetup in Park City, Utah (second consecutive year)
  • January 2016: NAMM 2016 in Anaheim, CA — two days in the WordPress booth by WordPress.com

Boo this man

  • I was 56 short of my goal of 144 posts in 2015. Don’t worry, 266 in 2016!
  • I didn’t publish any posts for the WordPress.com Transparency Report.
  • I was short by 37 weekly reviews.

Previously: Two Years as a Happiness Engineer, Three Years as a Happiness Engineer


  1. “The Distance” by Cake. No video at the moment. 
  2. I went with the previous Wirecutter pick (before it was updated), the Microsoft’s LifeChat LX-6000. (Amazon.com affiliate link.) 

Lyft: My first three experiences

A few colleagues used Lyft from their phones while I was in San Francisco for UserConf in November 2014. However, I won’t count that as my first experience because I didn’t use it on my iPhone.

I worked a couple of shifts at the WordPress booth (by WordPress.com)1 at NAMM 2016 in Anaheim on Thursday and Friday, January 21st and 22nd.

A day or two earlier, I installed Lyft.

Along with my pal, Ryan Cowles, we took public transportation from Pasadena to Anaheim early Thursday morning.2 After arriving at ARTIC (Anaheim), we went to the pickup area, and I requested a Lyft driver. 3 minutes — cool!

The time estimate was accurate, and I also received a text messsage right when we saw the car. Nice. Davey was friendly, and the drive was smooth.

I love everything about the ride history shown in the Lyft app. Davey drove us from ARTIC to Anaheim Marriott Suites in eleven minutes. :)

Next, I decided to test Lyft’s Lost & Found procedure.

Not.

As we tried to find the place to get our exhibitor badges, it took me about five minutes to realize that I forgot my DSLR camera in his car.3

Doing my best to stay calm, I opened the Lyft app, went to Ride History, and spotted “Find lost item” at the bottom. I described my lost item, entered my Google Voice number, and waited.

Eight minutes after Hideto dropped us off, he returned my call, and said he could meet me where we were earlier. Happy ending! He was super cool about it, too.

With my camera in hands, I was like:

On Saturday morning, the third driver (Joshua) picked me up at Marriott Anaheim Suites for part of my journey back to Pasadena. Really nice person, incredibly gregarious (despite being sleep deprived), and the drive was smooth.

I thoroughly enjoyed my three Lyft experiences. Highly recommended!


  1. I’ll save that for a separate post. 
  2. Ryan took a couple of cool photos: Metrolink, and Track 1 to Los Angeles
  3. Canon EOS 40D + Sigma 30mm f/1.4. 

Transparency Report Update and a Closer Look at Turkey

I’m really proud of my team and legal colleagues for all the work that resulted with the latest transparency report at Automattic. Between 2014 and 2015, Turkey had an increase of 2725% in takedown demands!

Our latest transparency report is hot off the press, complete with data and details about the intellectual property infringement notices, government takedown demands, and government requests for information we received between July 1 and December 31, 2015.

[…] Turkey came out of the woodwork for the first time with 4 demands in 2014, jumping up dramatically with 113 in 2015.