Friday, May 28, 2010

Niche Marketing

Spent Wednesday night at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel in Pomona. Thursday morning I discovered the hotel was hosting an indoor dog-show for Yorkshire Terriers.

I guess the Yorkies are too precious to compete outdoors.

After my breakfast meeting in the San Gabriel Valley I made my way to San Pedro for a mid-day meeting. Following my second presentation of the day I had lunch at the delightful Whale and Ale -- a British-style pub on Seventh Street in downtown San Pedro.

Next I went down the block on Seventh Street for dessert at Mishi's Strudel, a Hungarian Bakery and Cafe. I can't say that I'm a strudel expert, but Mishi's sure was good.
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Clearly the Sheraton was prepared for its four-legged guests.
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Sunday, May 23, 2010


Obviously I didn't hear any of the evidence in the Dolla Murder Trial, but I did listen to mini-Opening Statements from the Prosecution and the Defense before getting booted from the Jury Pool so I'm blown away by how this trial ended.

Here's the article from Saturday's L.A. Times:

Man acquitted in rapper's shooting death

Aubrey Berry said he fired at Dolla at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles in self-defense.

By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times

May 22, 2010

A man who shot and killed an up-and-coming rapper at the Beverly Center last year was acquitted of murder Friday in a case that focused in part on the victim's violence-laced gangsta rap lyrics.

Aubrey Berry, 24, was hugged by his defense attorney as the last of the not guilty verdicts was read in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. Friends and family of rapper Dolla, whose real name was Roderick Anthony Burton II, wailed and sobbed in the audience.

"Obviously, what happened on May 18, 2009, was a horrible tragedy for everyone," Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor told the lawyers in court. "The jurors have spoken."

Berry testified last week that he opened fire in self-defense in the parking garage of the upscale mall. He said Burton, 21, threatened to kill him near the valet desk and reached toward his back as though he were drawing a gun. Police found no weapon on Burton, who was shot once in the left biceps and three times in the back.

Berry testified that Burton had been part of a group of men who kicked and punched him 11 days earlier at an Atlanta nightclub.

Minutes before the shooting, the two men saw each other again while dining separately at P.F. Chang's in the Beverly Center. Berry said he left the restaurant in fear and watched Burton leave a minute later and run at him.

Berry had a concealed handgun on his hip, a weapon he said he routinely carried after being the victim of several violent crimes. He had a permit to carry the firearm in Georgia and other states but said he did not realize the permit did not apply to California.

Jurors deliberated less than two days before rejecting murder or manslaughter charges in Burton's death and assault charges in which Berry was accused of firing at two men who were with Burton at the time of the shooting. Only Burton was struck by gunfire.

Outside court, defense attorney Howard R. Price hailed the jury for carefully weighing the evidence and faulted the district attorney's office for pursuing the shooting as a murder, calling the decision "absurd."

"This is clearly a case of justice being done," he said.

During the trial, Berry told jurors he had learned about Burton through online research after the Atlanta assault. He said he viewed an Internet video in which Burton stood with alleged gang members and boasted about breaking a man's jaw. And he listened to one of Burton's songs in which the rapper glorified gangs and bragged about always carrying a gun.

Price described Burton as a violent gang member and played both the video and the song — "Is You Holdin'?" — during closing arguments this week. He said they showed that Berry was justified in fearing for his life when he shot Burton.

"His music is horrendous, offensive," Price said Friday as he waited for his client to leave court. "I don't think he engendered any sympathy."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace said he was disappointed by the verdict but felt prosecutors presented a compelling case. He said he was unsure whether the rap lyrics swayed the jury.

"You'd hate to think that was the tipping point," he said outside court.

Jurors told the judge they did not want to speak to reporters and were escorted from the courthouse through a secure exit.

Prosecutors argued during the trial that Burton's music was irrelevant. They said his lyrics were simply entertainment: part of a gangsta rap genre that went mainstream years ago. And they accused the defense of victimizing Burton again by characterizing him as a thug.

Prosecutors told jurors that Berry was lying about the shooting and argued that ballistics and blood evidence showed the singer was running away when the fatal shots into his back were fired.

But Price disagreed, saying Burton was stationary and posing a threat when he was shot. The lawyer said the ordeal of the last year had taken a toll on his client, who was housed in isolation in jail to ensure his safety from gang members.

Price said he believed that Berry, who had no criminal record, was the key to his own acquittal.

"He was such a lovable, likable person that I think people understood and accepted his version," Price said. "Aubrey could never have won this case if the jury did not believe him."

Sunday, May 09, 2010

An Unexpected Remembrance

My sister, Andrea, and I had brunch today in Santa Monica at Chez Mimi, an excellent French country restaurant.

The owner/chef, Micheline (Mimi) Herbert, was a long-time friend of our late Mother so Andrea thought it would be an appropriate place for us to have brunch.

Neither of us had seen Mimi in years so it was delightful visiting with her in her little office off the kitchen. It doesn't seem like Mimi has changed one bit.

Mimi's cooking is just outstanding, especially the desserts. And I'm really glad Andrea suggested going there because we learned that Mimi has sold the restaurant and the new owners are taking over in June. Mimi plans on opening a new restaurant somewhere on the Westside.

Instead of delivering a check to our table, the waitress brought us a note from Mimi that read, "In Loving Memory of your Mother, you are my guests today."

What a delightful and touching surprise!
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Made my way to Fresno this afternoon and had dinner at Bobby Salazar's just north of downtown.

I didn't know anything about the restaurant, just thought it looked good from the outside. My food-dar rarely lets me down and tonight was no exception. The food at this Mexican restaurant was excellent.

I guess dinner at 8:15 is pretty late on a Sunday night in these parts. But I wanted to see 60 Minutes before heading out. Sure glad I didn't miss Andy Rooney's take on Lady Gaga.
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Customer Retention

Well, I got a new car today at Galpin Ford -- a Ford Fusion.

It's the fourth car I've leased in the last decade and three of those times I've ended up doing business with Galpin -- the No. 1 volume Ford Dealership in the World.

I wouldn't say I'm a repeat customer at Galpin because I'm particularly loyal to Galpin -- rather, I'm loyal to my wallet. And three times out of four Galpin has offered the best deal (as far as I could tell).

Regular readers may recall that Galpin angered me a couple of months ago when they sent me a letter offering to end my current lease early and put me in a new Mustang for less than my expiring lease. But when I got to the dealership they couldn't live up to their own offer.

I blogged about my experience and Galpin's General Manager, Terry Miller (photo above), quickly called me to apologize. And he promised that when I was ready for a new car he'd personally handle the deal if I'd give Galpin another chance. So that was nice.

I approached car shopping a little differently this time. In the past I've put a lot of energy into negotiating the "price" of the car -- I'd get the Consumer Reports information that details exactly how much a car cost the dealer (after the dealer holdback). I'd start by offering the dealer $100 above what the car really cost them and we'd negotiate from there. But then when it came time to finance the lease I'd lose control of the deal. Between setting the residual value and the money factor (equivalent to the interest rate) it always seemed to me the leverage shifted back to the dealership.

This time I identified three cars I was interested in (Mustang convertible, Mustang coupe and a Fusion). I figured out exactly how I wanted each type of car equipped. I created a grid listing the three cars vertically and then three different lease durations (2 years, 3 years and 5 years) horizontally.

I emailed my worksheet to about 8 Ford dealerships in Los Angeles County and asked them to complete the sheet by entering the lowest monthly lease payment they would offer for each of the nine options. Ultimately, it's the monthly payment that represents how much a leased car costs me, not the sales price.

A couple of the dealers didn't respond at all (including Sunrise Ford where I'm a past customer). Three of the dealers offered prices completely not competitive. And three of the dealers were pretty close at the low end of the range.

Worthington Ford ("Go see Cal") had the lowest price and I was ready to get a Fusion from them but then it turns out they "inadvertently" calculated their offer incorrectly and wanted to raise it. At that point the offer from Galpin became the best one.

In the last 48 hours a couple of dealers tried desperately to convince me their deal was better (it wasn't). I simply told them I was done "shopping and negotiating" but I'd be back on the market in three years and they should make a note of my name and next time simply make me their best offer from the get go.

In the meantime, I'm pretty excited about the Ford Fusion (Motor Trend's Car of the Year). Seems to have lots of cool electronic bells and whistles I'm looking forward to figuring out.

It looks like I'm driving to Fresno tomorrow, so we'll see how it does going over the Pinnacle.
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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Desert Nosh

Thursday I was down in the desert for a meeting and I stopped off at one of my favorite downtown Palm Springs haunts: Sherman's Deli and Bakery. Just me and my peeps enjoying the Early Bird dinner specials.
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On Wednesday I was in Westchester by LAX and the googie architecture of Pann's Restaurant did what it is supposed to do: catch the driver's eye and draw them into an inviting atmosphere visible through large windows.
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Knock It Off!

Yeah, this is cute but all I can think while watching it is, "I sure feel sorry for the people who live downstairs." That would drive me nucking futs!