Friday, December 28, 2012


I don't do a ton of copying and printing, but the last several times I have gone to Fed Ex/Kinkos to have some items printed, they have referred me to their do it yourself section and I was told I could use one of their machines and do the printing myself. I am not very familiar with $50,000 copy machines so I usually ask for help and am told they can do the job for me but I'd have to come back at a later time to pick it up.

I'm sure some of these big copy service chains fit a niche and I'll bet there are plenty of people who would rather do things themselves and pay a machine with their credit card, but I have missed the customer service aspect of it when I have work done there. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I prefer to speak face to face with a person when I have questions about a project.

In contrast, last month I went to Alphagraphics a couple times to have some color copies and enlargements made of some images and I was very happy with their work. They are a smaller operation but the customer service was very good and the prices were much less than what I have previously paid at other stores. I will gladly go out of my way to do business with them in the future.

You can see their website at

Monday, October 15, 2012

Customer Service Part 3

Since I don't have a new business to feature, I am recycling an old post I wrote on Chaka's World a couple years ago about customer service.

When I was in college, one of my professors told me a story about when McDonalds was finally able to expand their chain to Russia. One of the trainers who was interviewing applicants asked a woman what she would do if there was a long line of people waiting to be served. She basically said she could always just ignore them until they went away. I guess years of communism had conditioned her to not care about customer service when it came to her job.

We had a dishwasher that we bought an extended warranty for since our large family goes through so many dishes. When the washer broke, I called the manufacturer and they said that they would send out a local repairman who works for them. I scheduled the appointment for Monday morning but he never showed up until Monday evening. He didn't have record of the purchase or warranty which I was previously told he had. When we finally got things taken care of we still had to pay more than the prior quote for the service call. It was not a horrible experience, but I wasn't impressed either.

The next day I noticed that our Moen shower faucet was stripped and wouldn't change between the different water settings. I looked up their 800 # and called them. I spoke with a real person quickly and she looked up my name and address and asked what the problem was. She said they stand behind their products and she would Fed Ex out a new shower head to replace the old one. That was it, not even any shipping fees. I was impressed, especially since they had already replaced the shower head years ago for free and it was not a workmanship issue, but rather a result of our hard water.

I once took my wife to Panda Express for dinner and the selections she ordered were pretty sparse and didn't look too fresh. The manager started dishing them up but then decided to throw it in the garbage and had his cook make up a fresh batch of her selections. He also offered us free drinks since we had to wait a few minutes longer while the fresh food was being prepared. I appreciated the fact that he valued the quality of the food more than just getting us through the line fast.

What are your experiences with customer service? I'd especially be interested to hear any good experiences you've had. What are some of the businesses you have been impressed with over the years?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fast Food Insights

I've noticed a couple trends when it comes to service at fast food places. I'd like to compare 4 popular fast food businesses and the impressions I've recently come away with after visiting their Orem locations. I'm not addressing food quality with this post, but instead I'm focusing on the employees and the atmosphere of each establishment.

Burger King- Recently when I've gone to BK, their business has been nearly empty. For some reason on each of my last three visits, there have been people in line in front of me who work there but have come in to eat on their day off. It kind of bothers me when they are socializing and chatting up a storm with all the other employees while they are giving their order while I am waiting several minutes before anyone even recognizes me. It also didn't make for a very happy environment as the lady taking orders from the drive through was murmuring and complaining about the multiple customers she was helping in the drive through. FYI-The customers inside the store can hear you bashing the ones on the outside.

Taco Bell- Has some of the cheapest food choices so I will occasionally go there when I only have a couple bucks, but I wonder if they have a policy that requires that at least one worker always be on break by the dumpster smoking at all times. It's almost like they are taking turns with the Olympic torch. They are so vigilant at keeping the dumpster guarded that it makes me wonder what's in there. They used to have the most friendly and enthusiastic cashier at their drive through. You would have thought she was making $100,000 per year with her amazing attitude, but I haven't seen her there for a while. I'm guessing she got promoted to a different job.

McDonalds- Since McDonalds is the king of the mountain when it comes to fast food, they typically take a lot of flack from the public and critics. I'm not a huge fan of their food, but the system they use to deliver food is very efficient. There are always lots of people in McDonalds, but the service is also fast so it's not such a problem. They tend to be busier and don't have as much down time, so I don't see as many teenagers screwing around or gabbing like I do at some other fast food places.

Arbys- I don't know if Arbys has an only adult hiring policy, but it is one of the few fast food places where you seldom see teenagers. I can also say I've never noticed neck tattoos, facial piercing, or extreme hair there either. They definitely have a more professional image than most other fast food places and their menu is a little more unique than your average burger place. I enjoy ringing the bell to let them know when their service is good. My one hang up with Arbys is when I go through the drive through and order a small value shake and they ask if I want Ketchup or Arby Sauce with it. I guess some habits are hard to break.

I'm not trying to rip on these places or bash the fast food industry. I worked at Subway for several years when I was a teenager and understand how stressful long lines of hungry and rude customers can be so I am familiar with what employees deal with, but some fast food companies could really clean up their image and have a much more professional atmosphere if they asked some of their employees to actually smile or take a couple piercings out of their face when they come to work.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Art City Music Academy

I married into a musical family and as a newlywed, I learned that music lessons for our kids would be a necessity rather than a luxury. Since my wife is a professional violinist, she was able to teach our kids how to play the violin and piano, but she understood the value of having them study under other music teachers. As a result, we have had our kids enrolled at Art City Music Academy since 1999.

Art City Music Academy was founded in 1987 and is run by Chris and Yvonne Blonquist. They are both talented musicians who have a passion for what they do. They originally offered only piano lessons but there business has expanded over the years and today their experienced staff teaches piano, violin, cello, guitar, voice, and even dance classes.

They also offer several preparatory music courses for small kids as young as toddlers to ten years of age. Most of their clients are kids, but they also offer classes for adults. Their comprehensive curriculum includes music theory, sight reading, ear training, composition, as well as many performance classes and recital opportunities.

The success of their studio has allowed them to expand beyond Springville which is where their first location is located. They also have music studios in Orem, American Fork, and Draper.

My kids frequently get compliments for their musical talents and as much as I'd like to take credit for their success, I know it is mostly due to the successful program they have been involved in. I have always been impressed with the quality teachers that instruct and mentor my kids when it comes to their music education. If you are considering music lessons for your children or for yourself, I suggest you check Art City out for yourself. You can visit their website at

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Craig's Cuts

As a little kid, I remember getting my hair cut about once a month. Actually, I grew up in the 70's so it was probably not quite that frequent. My dad used to take me to places that had the traditional red, white, and blue, rotating barber pole. Those establishments were manly places where guys could hang out on a Saturday morning and shoot the breeze while they were getting their haircut. Over time, it became less common to see these "guy's barbershop" so I started getting more haircuts at some of the more popular chains or salons.

Several years ago I noticed signs around town for a $7 haircut at Craig's Cuts. I decided to give them a shot and I was surprised at how quick and affordable it was. The first couple locations I went to seemed kind of bare bones and were not very fancy, but the haircuts were affordable, and the girls who cut my hair did a great job.

I've watched this company grow over the years where they now have at least 6 locations in Utah County that I am aware of and the most recent one I went to was next to the Cinemark Theaters near Costco in Orem and is a really nice facility. Several of the stylists who have cut my hair have indicated that they like working there because they make more than they did at bigger chains where they had previously worked. I'm a little baffled how a business that charges so little for their service can pay their employees better, yet be growing like they are. It's either a ponzi scheme or a good business model.

Craig's Cuts also offers a water bottle, warm towel, and a short neck and shoulder massage with each haircut. I kind of think the massages that some hair cutting places give after they cut your hair are almost amount to teasing since they are so short, but I figure I'm paying for a haircut not a massage, so I can't really complain.

I understand that some people are very particular when it comes to their hair so I am a little hesitant to recommend any hair cutting establishment since every experience will vary depending on your stylist. A good haircut eventually boils down to the attitude and skill of your stylist. That being said, if you are looking for an affordable haircut, then I suggest you give Craig's Cuts a shot. You can visit their site at Craig'

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I am not a fan of going to the store, but Macey's makes grocery shopping easier and it's definitely on my list of preferred grocery stores. They are an Associated Foods store and have 11 locations along the Wasatch Front. They have deli, pharmacy, produce, meat, and bakery departments. I shop at their store because their prices are competitive and their staff is always friendly and helpful.

I feel I know their store layout pretty well, but the few times I have asked an employee where I could find a particular item, rather than simply tell me an isle number, they have stopped what they are doing and walk me over to where that item is sold. In contrast, it is often hard to find anyone to even ask a question to at some big box stores and when you do find someone, they are frequently annoyed that you are interrupting their work. I like the service attitude that Macey's employees consistently exhibit. 

Macey's also regularly gives back to the community. They are a big supporter of BYU athletics, Primary Childrens, and are consistently contribute to Community Action Food Services. They have a great selection of canning, food storage, and emergency preparedness products. I also like their case lot sales since I have a big family and we go through food fast, so buying it in bulk at a discount is always nice.

This might show my maturity level, but my favorite things about Macey's is their famous Kong Cone. It is a huge soft serve ice cream cone that is filled to capacity, they then they serve it in a large cup that is also full of ice cream. It's the best deal in town.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Superior Customer Service

I've noticed that many business owners are willing to stay late, bend over backwards, and go the extra mile when it comes to customer service. One of the challenges a business owner has is trying to instill the same level of service and commitment they have for their customers onto their hourly employees.

I have been to many stores where employees have locked doors or put up closed signs a few minutes early in an effort to get out of work and close up shop quickly. Part of me can see where they are coming from, but it sends a bad message to their customers.

I once ate a resort in Vegas with some friends and when we asked the server if we could have separate checks, he said "sure, but it's a real pain in the ass." I found it ironic that they had little tent cards on the table boasting of their friendly service.

I was recently at a food establishment with my wife and we got there about 15 minutes before closing. While we were eating, I noticed several employees cleaning up and packing food away quickly so they could close the store for the evening. They were not rude about it or anything, but I'm sure if the owner was cleaning up the store, they would have been more subtle about it and would not want to send the unspoken message of "get out of here, we want to go home."

I work with insurance companies regularly and some companies consistently have helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly service. Progressive is one of these companies. Other companies have developed reputations of poor service and I dread it when I have to call them. I believe customer service is a "trickle down" concept and you can tell which business owners put a high priority on helping their employees provide better service for their customers.

One of my favorite things to do is to tell management when they have great customer service or if their employees are doing a good job. I frequently ask to speak with managers at a businesses. Many times the employees get nervous since when most people make this request they just want to gripe and complain, but I enjoy seeing the relief when I give them a sincere compliment.

I challenge you to do the same and the next time you get great service, ask to speak to the manager and let them know when an employee is doing a good job.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Put It Up Crossfit

Put It Up Crossfit is one of Orem's newest and most exciting gyms. The owner and head trainer is Seth Berbert. I first met Seth several years ago when we were both working as personal trainers at a local gym. He told me he wanted to start his own gym and with hard work, he has made that a reality. He started his facility with humble beginnings, but over time it has grown and he now has many loyal clients who are excited about the results they are getting.

Seth is an intimidating specimen at 6'4" and 230 pounds with single digit body fat, but he is also one of the nicest guys I have ever met. He is a giver and really cares about his clients. He is passionate about fitness and helping people get in shape and improve their conditioning.

CrossFit is a popular trend in fitness these days. It focuses on functional full body exercises as opposed to isolating single muscles on machines or spending hours on a treadmill. It utilizes Olympic style lifts, kettle bells, sleds, ropes, and a variety of other equipment. The workouts are very intense and effective. CrossFit has gained a loyal following of men and women who have made great progress when it comes to improving their fitness levels.

Some might think this type of workout is just for big muscle heads, but women love CrossFit too and get great results from it. It can benefit everyone from elite athletes to beginners who haven't worked out in years who are looking to get in shape. One of the things that impresses me most about Seth's facility is the camaraderie and support that the members have for each other. It's almost like a big family and that is very unique compared to your average gym experience.

It might sound strange that I'd promote the services of another personal trainer who might be considered my competition, but I am really impressed with this gym and when I need help with my own conditioning, I look to Seth. Put It Up CrossFit is located at 1061 N State Street in Orem. They just recently expanded their facility to make room for all their members. Swing by some time and check them out. You can also learn more about the gym at their website here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Community Action

Community Action Services and Food Bank does not fit into my usual category of businesses I normally review since they are a non profit organization, but I'd like to highlight some of the work they do for the community.

The most noticeable service Community Action provides is operating the food pantry. They act as the food bank for Utah, Summit, and Wasatch Counties. They also assist with heat and utility programs for low income families. I was recently surprised to learn that nearly 10% of Utahns live within poverty levels.

It's admirable to provide food for those in need, but I am even more impressed with their efforts to address the root of the problem of poverty. Some of the other services offered include community gardening, and counseling services for home buying and mortgage counseling as well as many other educational programs to assist people to get out of poverty and achieve self reliance.

Because Community Action is a non profit organization, they rely on donations from the community. You can donate food, do volunteer work at the center, or make financial contributions, but I think the funnest way to promote and help their cause is by participating in their annual 5K race. This year, the race will be held on May 26th. Proceeds go to the center and there will be lots of great prices given away again this year which have been donated by local businesses.

You can register for the race at this website. If you procrastinate, you can still register the morning of the race as long as you do so before the 9:00 start time. Community Action is located at 815 S Freedom Blvd. in Provo and you can visit their company website at

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Briar Rose String Quartet

Today I'd like to feature a business that can improve the ambiance of any activity. Having a string quartet play background music can add character and and class to any event.

String quartets are typically associated with weddings, corporate events, receptions, dinners, and concerts, but they could probably even class up events like Wrestling, Nascar, and Superbowl parties. Okay, maybe it's not for every event.

The Briar Rose String Quartet was started by Emily Ricks and it's members are all professional musicians with advanced degrees in music performance. Although they are most frequently asked to play classical music and dress in concert black, they are very versatile and can adjust their dress and music style to create the atmosphere you are looking to achieve. These styles might include classical, pop, swing, religious, or even ragtime.

Although classical music is their forte, they have a huge repertoire and styles of classical music that they perform. Since they are all accomplished musicians, you won't be stuck listening to the Pachabel Cannon repeated over and over throughout the evening. Their experience allows them to help their clients plan what music would be most appropriate for their event if they are unsure.

Live music performance can make a huge difference in how one feels. It can add class, refinement, and sophistication to an event, which is something we are typically deficient in as a society. If you'd like to make a social event you are hosting more memorable and classy, then you should contact the Briar Rose String Quartet

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

J. Kirk Richards Art

J. Kirk Richards is a man of many talents. He is best known for his paintings, but he is also a musician, sculptor, writer and illustrator of children's books, and he has even made music videos. As a youth, Kirk was a talented musician, but during his teenage years he decided to change his emphasis and pursue a career in art.

Cherubim and a flaming sword
Kirk's work has a distinctive look to it. His paintings frequently portray religious themes, but he also works in landscapes and portraits. His versatility allows him to paint both traditional classical forms and more abstract images. There is also quite a range of sizes to his art work. His smallest portraits have been just inches and his largest painting is 6 feet tall and 18 feet wide. His paintings are also know for their beautiful custom frames, which are works of art by themselves.

Last Supper
Painting is not jut a hobby for Kirk. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 2000 with an art degree and has been supporting his family as a full time artist since then. Kirk lives in Utah County, but also has a studio in Redmond, Utah. His success in not limited to Utah. His work is featured in art shows and personal collections across the country.

Christ and the palsied man
Here is a time lapse video clip of Kirk in action painting one of his famous mother and child portraits.

Kirk's website can be found at If you haven't seen it, you should check it out. Viewing great art is a good way to improve the quality of your day.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ridley's Market

I'm the kind of person who can't stand shopping at a grocery store that I'm not familiar with. I like knowing where to find everything I need without wasting my time backtracking and going in circles all over the store. I guess I just have a guy's mentality when it comes to shopping and I like to get the job done fast. If speed grocery shopping were an Olympic event, I'm pretty sure I'd have some medals. 

A couple years ago, the Albertson's supermarkets in the area were bought out. Most of them were converted to Fresh Market stores, but a few were purchased by Ridley's. I was not excited when this change took place, since I don't like changes and I thought the new store had a strange name, but I have to admit that since that time, Ridley's has impressed me and earned my business over the years.

After the buyout, I was surprised to see most of the original employees still working there. I was told they offered continued employment to the existing staff, which I thought was impressive for a buyout. What impresses me the most about Ridley's is that their prices are very competitive. With food prices having increased everywhere over the last year, I still feel I can get more food for the money at Ridley's.

I occasionally shop at Coscto and Maceys for certain items, but Ridley's is still my store of choice. They have a good selection, but I don't ever feel like I'm shopping in a crowded warehouse store environment. I've gotten to the point that I'd rather donate a kidney than drive through a busy Walmart parking lot again.

Ridley's offers a clean store, bakery, pharmacy, deli, friendly employees, and low prices. They also have a customer loyalty rewards program where you can cash in the points you earn by shopping for gift cards to local restaurants and businesses.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Carriage House Mill

Carriage House Mill is known for high quality custom cabinets. They design, manufacture, and install custom wood work and cabinetry for residential homes, commercial properties, and municipal buildings.

Their cabinets are found in many higher end homes. They have consistently won awards for their craftsmanship and last year their cabinets were featured in three of the most prestigious estates at the Utah Valley Parade of Homes. They also won the award for the best kitchen.

Michael Richards is the principal owner at Carriage House. He is a gifted craftsman who has been making custom wood furniture since the 80's. He is passionate about his work and is  the lead designer at Carriage House. He has many satisfied clients including Steve Young and Mike Weir.

Carriage House Mill is located at 560 S. 100 W. in Provo. The first time I went there I was surprised at how beautiful the showroom was since it was located in an older, industrial part of town. I was also shocked to see how elaborate their 20,000 square foot shop is. For more details about this company go to Carriage House Cabinets.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Today I'd like to feature an exciting new business that provides support for people interested in blogging. PopCred is an all-in-one resource for bloggers. It provides Word Press blogs, hosting, domain names, tutorials, seminars, and other resources for people who want to learn how to start a blog and for those who want to make money blogging.

The PopCred site was developed by Alison Moore Smith who is a professional blogger. She noticed that there were many people who wanted to start a blog but didn't know how to create a successful one. Many others already enjoy blogging, but few know how to make money with their blogs, so she started offering seminars on how to make money blogging. The concepts and principles Alison teaches are not theoretical. They are things she has been doing successfully since the mid 90's.

I recently attended one of her seminars on how to monetize your blog and gained quite a bit of valuable information. For someone with 5 blogs and over 800 posts under my belt, I found it to be very helpful as well as affordable. I am currently in the process of changing blog providers and utilizing the PopCred services in order to be a more effective blogger.

I appreciate the fact that Alison does not promote her business as a get-rich-quick idea. She makes it clear that with any venture, success requires hard work and patience, but it is much easier to be successful when you follow the advice of someone who has already done what you are trying to accomplish. You can see and compare the many different services that are available at

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cynthia Richards Violinist

Cynthia Richards is an accomplished violinist who has been teaching violin in Utah County since 1964. She studied in the United States and Europe before earning a degree in violin performance from Brigham Young University. She has since taught string pedagogy at BYU and UVU in addition to having her private studio. She also does professional recording sessions, performs in concerts, and is the concertmaster for the Utah Valley Symphony.

Cynthia works with students of all ages and abilities. On of the things that makes her teaching style unique and sets her apart from other violin teachers is the emphasis she places on Kodaly method.

She is the mother of  8 children and taught each of them how to become successful musicians. Her experience led her to write a book nearly 20 years ago entitled "How to Get Your Child to Practice... without resorting to violence". You can order her book at Advance Arts and Music.

Another impressive thing about Cynthia is that she was just named as Utah's mother of the year for 2012. Congratulations!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Heritage Prints

Provo Tabernacle
Heritage Prints is a new company that features artwork based on architecture. The company's initial works highlight L.D.S. temples and buildings from the early pioneer era.

Clayton Vance is the founder of Heritage Prints. He is a man of many talents. He studied architecture at Notre Dame and has combined his love of architecture with art. He uses a technique called "architectural wash rendering" which consists of hand drafting a building, then applying water colors, and finally antiquing the work to create a unique look. This process produces an aged appearance and gives character to each piece.

I think an art business that focuses on architecture is a great idea. Since Heritage Prints is a fairly new venture, there are many pieces of art in the works that will be released soon. You can see which temples, tabernacles, and other buildings are already available and which ones will be released soon at his site at

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Neal Dastrup Insurance

Insurance is an interesting concept. Many people complain about it, especially when they pay for it but don't end up using it, but at the same time, it is comforting knowing that in the case of accidents, illness, or death, that one will have greater security and peace of mind if they are properly insured.

For the last 15 years I have had all of my insurance with Neal Dastrup Insurance in Provo. The agency provide auto, home, health, life, and commercial insurance. The thing that impresses me most about this agency is the customer service. Neal is still willing to take the time to meet with his clients at their homes to review their coverage and assist them with their insurance needs.

Neal started his insurance business back in 1974 with one small location and has grown Dastrup Insurance over the years to the point where today they have Provo, Orem, and Pleasant Grove branches. Some of the insurance carriers they offer include: Bear River Mutual, The Hartford, Travelers, Auto Owners, Cincinnati Insurance, Germantown, Colorado Casualty, Progressive, and United Underwriters.

Neal Dastrup Insurance offers a variety of insurances and have programs and carriers for preferred customers as well as for those with less than stellar insurance histories.You can see their website here.