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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Deep Down Idle Thoughts

7-28-09 Apex, NC

For Toyota to drop NUMMI, an assembly plant in CA that was a partnering with GM, they must have serious money issues.

Of course, with the end of 2009 in sight(yep, Christmas is only five months out), this will indeed be the worst car year since 1900.

Has anybody else used their gardens this year as a deer, rabbit, and dog eating station?

With the Martians' landing near a Nigerian oil field, I knew gas would go up for a legitimate reason for a change.

I am not a giant fan of Sarah Palin. I think she is a little rough around the edges. BUT, how about just leaving her personal life out of it. All of these politicians have a closet.

The President is in town tomorrow. And I have no urge to see him. I see him enough (DAILY) on TV.

Terrorists in Willow Springs? Go find a service person and thank him or her for serving. This is too close to home.

I remember 9-11. That was too close to home as well.

Do the little things well and have fun in what you do... You just never know.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It's Just Around THE CORNER

7-18-09 Apex, NC.

I am on an adventure. I am looking for the best breakfast and the best bar food in the Triangle. Yep. Anything comfort food is in this epicurean category. It does not mean I am eating carbs and fat grams all the time by any stretch, a big plate of house salad and a grilled chicken sandwich or egg whites and whole wheat; they all qualify. But if I am falling off the diet wagon, I am playing hard ball. I'm talking potato skins and hash browns. I'm talking food you remember.

I reviewed Rudy's in Apex (Haddon Hall) not too long ago. Awesome bar food and a nice place to grab a salad or patty melt for lunch. That was my first victim!

Today it's The Corner Tavern & Grill at Maynard/ High House, 1301 NW Maynard in Cary NC. Nestled literally in the corner between Kroger and Pearle Vision, the first thing you notice is the bright, clean atmosphere. Big screen TVs and a wonderful outside eating area give the customer added value. The staff is super friendly. Sarah is a cheerful, high energy server which is a must in this environment. Katherine, the co-owner, came over to make sure all was well. So did Clarence the chef in the kitchen. This kitchen serves everything fresh and hand cuts its steaks. It even fresh grinds the Angus beef for a burger just the way you like it. All of the salad dressings are home-made. And so are the fresh soups.

Appetizers include: Wings, Beer-battered Buffalo Shrimp, and hand battered Fried Oysters. Seven kinds of salads grace the menu, and the sides include items like Red Skin Potato Salad and Sweet Potato Fries. Entrees feature a 14 oz. New York Strip and a 7 oz. portion of Grilled Salmon. Now for the fun part, how about a 10 oz. hand patted Angus Beef Burger served on a Pretzel Roll? I had the BALT; crisp Applewood bacon, fresh sliced Avocado, lettuce and tomato served on whole wheat. It was wonderful.

The kids can get... you guessed it, grilled cheese and Mac and Cheese.

The Corner Tavern and Grill has only been open a few weeks. But you cannot tell. Now, I wish chips and salsa were on the menu. And potato skins would be a nice add. But there is a wonderful and delicious array of food on the menu that is well worth regular visits.

I recommend it with or without reservations :). Next will be a surprise breakfast place. I am hungry already!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Inside Idle Thoughts

Apex, NC 7-15-09

I just realized that I have lived in NC for 10 years. On Tuesday July 13, 1999, we rolled into Apex with our stuff. We soon discovered our new home still had wet hardwood. The builder forgot to tell us. We have been Marriott people since that day.

North Carolina is so fun. Street signs change as you drive as often as the direction does. Have you been on 55 West and noted your compass says south?

Where else can you be where getting lost is an integral part of the commuting experience?

I would like to get lost for 2.5 hours and end up somewhere in Carolina Beach. I like East.

The President took his whole family on a whirlwind; Russia, Italy, Ghana. Wow. I read that the President spent 30 minutes with the Pope, one-on-one. I actually know priests who live near the Vatican. If I want to talk to them I use SKYPE. Do you know how much Skype you can buy if you don't throw in the Secret Service?

I love writing restaurant critiques. I just need to stop doing it for free. I will always do it for food though.

I have not watched the Sotomayor hearings. She is in. What is there to watch?

How come the more the government spends, the more they want to tax. In this economy they have all they can get from us. I wish I could print money, spend it and call it stimulus.

The Administation announced that community colleges will be getting $12 BILLION over 10 years for job placement. I want that plan to succeed. I am in the career services business, but where in the heck is that money coming from?

I am on a diet. It is working. I have too much weight. I can eat anything green and drink anything brown. Brown coffee, what were you thinking?

This country should be on my diet. It has too much debt. And the stimulus is not working. The government eats anything green as well. But the thought makes me want the other brown liquid. People can you say Lager?

I love Ice Road Truckers. How about you?

Geely Holding Group Inc. is a name soon to be remembered. This Chinese automotive group will soon have Detroit office buildings. And there will be others moving to Michigan. HUMMER is undergoing Chinese ownership. I remember when radios and televisions were made in the USA. Zenith comes to mind. Now they are made in China. No doubt the car business is changing with brutal lightening speed. Which is why my company (VTR Consulting LLC) now does non-automotive retail sales training and career services. The car business is just not using vendors for process improvement like they have in the past. Hopefully things will be better in 2010. The business needs stability and strength, not instability and weakness.

We added a new 2009 Ford Edge SEL AWD to the family fleet. 25 mpg on the highway and striking looks; nothing like Detroit sheet metal. Oh yeah. We had a great experience at Pittsboro Ford. Call Rene, the sales manager, and tell him you want the Vogel discount.

The All-Star game last night was pretty exciting. The Tigers played a major role in the win. Granderson and Jackson did well.

How about Nicole Bobek? Involved in a drug ring, she could spend 10 years in jail. She was awesome in the 1998 Winter Olympics. You just have to scratch your head.

When Madoff gets out of Butner in 2159, I am there to see if he will buy me lunch.

He will be ready after 150 years of jail food.

On Tuesday, the first flight of Pet Airways took off in NY. Animals get dinner, playtime and bathroom breaks. Where is my bear suit?

Check me out at

Friday, July 10, 2009

Idle Thoughts From the Porch

7-10-09 Apex, NC

Rudy's, the new local tavern on 55, has the most awesome bar food in Apex. In Cary, the new local tavern is The Corner. I have not eaten there yet, but any bar that has hand cut steaks is on my list.

Did I tell you I am on a diet? I am eating anything veggie and a lot of salad. How come food that tastes good has to have a zillion fat grams. My Dad used to say food does not taste good unless it is surrounded by bones. If you don't believe that, you have not had Dallas Fried Chicken in Apex.

I think I am going off my diet.

Speaking of diets, the State of NC needs to be on one. Let's start with the Governor's salary. I do not want to pay anyone who wants to raise my taxes in a recession.

How about the stimulus that is working; gas is going down. It went down 10 cents yesterday, in one day. Wow... That's what I'm talking about.

Hey Late Show people. Leave Sarah Palin and Michael Jackson alone. Nothing funny with either one of them.

The President is on a global trip with the First Family. I am glad I am not paying for that business vacation. I am? When he comes home, can we fix the economy please?

I heard the term Stimulus 2.0. With trillions in the hole, a stimulus stimulus is what we need.

Today I counted these. The Buicks with the ball cap in the back window 3, and the pickups with a NASCAR driver number in the back window 2. The Buicks win by one.

Why are all those Buicks beige?

The Detroit Tigers will go into the All Star break in first place. Take that RED SOX NATION!!!

With little rain lately, will we have politicians doing those conserve water commercials soon? Ouch.

How about Billy Mays still pushing cheap stuff on commercials? It is sad they are still running. Leave him alone too.

General Motors Company came out of bankruptcy today. No longer General Motors Corporation, their focus is on a $40,000 electric car. I hope they call me with my suggestions FAST!

I still like those Buicks that come standard with the baseball caps.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Service is the New Sales

7-6-09 Apex, NC

If you think about it, a fixed operation (service) has to drive every sale for both the dealership and the customer. The days are long gone when the customer left with a vehicle, never came back and we simply didn’t care. We’d just go get another one. With sales way down in the car business, June was considered a sales “success” because numbers were just plain bad instead of horrific; these still are times for the automotive record books. The last time the car business had nowhere to go but up was way back in 1981. And we also know nothing happens until a vehicle is sold, but that second buy, from an owner- based client, is based solely on that experience in the service lane.
I was in Knoxville TN over the weekend and I drove past the GM “ghost town” dealerships; yep, the ones that are done for good. In Knoxville, like in every town, the dealerships that survived this sales tsunami are combining efforts for marketing and advertising and they are working hard to achieve outstanding customer service, during and after the sale. The good stores get it when it comes to service and customer pay.
Service is the key term here. People are holding on to vehicles longer and they are considering pre-owned vehicles as they assess their transportation needs. It is the service and parts departments across the country that keep the business afloat. The service writer and the parts counter person are integral to this success. I take four vehicles in for service at the GM dealership closest to me. I trust them to do the job I need and to do it right. But sometimes they are jammed full of oil changes and rotations and I get lost in the shuffle. When eight people show up at 8 a.m., someone has to wait.
Waiting around when there is disorganization and overbooking is the death wish of any service department. The dealerships are leaner than turkey burgers now and one solitary advisor might be the only one in the lane as the customers line up on a Monday morning. People often get whizzed, and CSI suffers. In service, CSI is now the only raise the employees will ever see. These employees are commissioned –based and pay themselves. So it is a double-edged sword when service breaks down. The customer and the service department both suffer.
I ran across a product for Fixed Operations that works for the customers and the advisors. I endorse it 100% because it works. It is simple, and easy to understand. That is why I want to mention it here. It is called SHOPTRAK and can be assessed at
If an old sales guy like me endorses a product for simplicity, it is something you just have to assess for yourself. Drop SHOPTRAK an e-mail.
I am into the customer big time. It is the only thing to focus on. I like making a profit and I like saving my customer time and money. And I love SHOPTRAK as a software tool for both ends. It is win-win in today’s market. Let me know what you think.
You can reach me (Jim Vogel) at

Thursday, July 2, 2009

From Here To Eternity

7-2-09 Apex, NC

Small business is one tough cookie. Why do over half of us do it? It is a wonder there are no shrinks specific to businesses under 50 employees. They would make a ton of money and have offices in every town. Just kidding. But there are certain ingredients you have to have to be in business and some put us on the counselor's couch; I think the number one quality necessary is persistence. That never giving up thing that is a major part of our psyche drives us to do what we do. I have always been persistent. In the early 50's, I arrived on this planet at 3 pounds, four ounces. Then I lost weight(something I don't do well now). In those days, babies in my shape DIED. I always wondered why I did not.

I went to school and got three college degrees part-time. I worked by day and schooled by night. I never missed a class or an assignment, ever. I teach now at the University of Phoenix. Sadly, assignments are late and people miss class. I just can't understand why people are not persistent no matter the challenge, especially when it involves education.

When I sold cars, and I sold over 600, I always sold with urgency. Until the customer said NO, I sold until the last one left the building.

Even now, I am building my business, retail training and recruiting, one persistent effort at a time. And it is quite a time. Unemployment, credit, foreclosures, and economic uncertainty have zipped up customer wallets and purses like I have never seen. If potential customers would just say no I would be cool with it. But most of the time they tell me maybe later, maybe next month, maybe next quarter.

But I can tell you this. I am among many who struggle today, but in good times all of our efforts will pay off. Beans and SPAM will only be fond memories.

This is America. The Land of the Persistent. Today everything gets a a little better, and it improves one day at a time. Efforts do pay off. From now to forever and from here to eternity, success is derived from the struggles we all face. Success is just around that next corner.

Today will soon be tomorrow, and the tomorrows are what we strive for every moment.