Dinner at Stack Las Vegas

logo_stack_venue_pageTwo of my favorite things in life are good food and smart people… so when Sarah Evans invited me to a VIP social media dinner compliments of Stack Las Vegas during Blog World Expo I was fired up. It isn’t often that you get to enjoy gourmet cuisine in a private room while conversing with people like Brian Solis, Ben Parr, Scott Monty, Rick Calvert, Jason Kintzler, L.P. Neenz, James Andrews, Tamara Knechtel and Manya Susoev .

Jermaine Dupris

Scott Monty, Jermaine Dupri and Me

Kick ass restaurant… kick ass people… sounds like a place you want to be right? It gets even better! In addition to the social media rockstars above we were joined by music mogul Jermaine Dupri and Don Lemon from CNN.

What can a dinner teach you?

The dinner seemed to blaze by, but I do have a few nuggets to share from the experience:

1. Brand backwards.

kris_krossJames Andrews and Jermaine Dupri worked together on Kriss Kross when they were big in the 90s. I mentioned that I was one of those teenage kids that ted_crossthought it was cool to wear my clothes backwards (which my parents just looooved). Jermaine explained that he came up with the idea while he was developing the Kriss Kross brand. They never wore their clothes backwards until it was time to go big and release an album. I would say it worked, their second album Da Bomb went platinum. As a result an untold number of kids spent hours trying to figure out how to pee with with their pants on backwards. Lesson : Sometimes the easiest way to set yourself apart from everyone else is to do the exact opposite.

2. Rock it out.

The food at Stack was incredible. I loved everything that I tried (don’t even get me started on the baked mac and cheese), but my favorite dish by far was the hot rocks appetizer. Thinly sliced raw sirloin was served along with a super heated smooth black rock. I used chopsticks to grab the beef and cook it on the rock to my own liking. I sarahhave been to fondue restaurants and had similar experiences cooking my own food at the table, but did not expect this type of presentation at Stack. The hot rock added an element of excitement and conversation around the table, not because it was unheard of but because it was unexpected in an American bistro. Lesson : The element of surprise is always a good thing.

3. Get real.

I know some people say online life is real life but I honestly believe that nothing can replace face to face human interaction. There is something about sharing a steak, causing smile and snapping a photo together that just doesn’t have an online equivalent. Lesson : If you are truly interested in building relationships for yourself or your company you need to get out there and shake some hands.

4. Be yourself.iphone

I don’t need a body guard. I am nowhere near famous. The only stalkers I have to worry about are the people reading this blog and I have already hired a private investigator to check out all three of you. Jermaine Dupri is another story. He travels with a body guard and I can’t say I blame him. The man is famous… a true celebrity. However, even though he is a celebrity he does not act like one. I was amazed by how personable he was. He barely sat down at dinner because he was zipping around the table talking to people and soaking up information (seen at right with Ben Parr in a heated iPhone debate). He was refreshingly approachable, which is more than I can say for some “social media celebrities” that have let things get to their heads. He even posted the photos we took together to his site before I could post them on my site.  Lesson : You are never too big to be decent, human and approachable.

5. Take more pictures.

I am a dumbass. I should have taken more pictures. Lesson : Don’t get so caught up on the moment that you forget to capture it.

Special thanks to Sarah Evans and The Light Group for making this all happen. You guys rock.

Clear to Cease Operations

This past Friday I renewed my Clear membership for 2 years at a cost of about $200. Clear is (was) a service that allowed you to skip through the security line at airports. Tonight, just a few days later, I received this email. I am sad to see them go, it was a great idea. I hate standing in the airport security line with all the donkeys that don’t understand that a watch can’t go through a metal detector.

Another victim of the economy I guess. I wonder if I will get my $200 back?

Clear to Cease Operations

AirTran Rocks WiFi

I have been traveling non-stop for the past couple months. Last week alone I was in San Francisco, Chicago and Boston. Tomorrow morning I will be up at 3am for a flight to New York. Despite all my travel I would not consider myself loyal to any particular airline. I use Orbitz to book all my flights and generally go with the best price regardless of the airline… but that may soon change.

AirTran Wifi

AirTran has outfitted a good number of their planes with Wifi. You can connect to the Internet in flight for $9.95. Not only is it reasonably priced, it’s fast! So fast that I was able to have a video conference at 30,000 feet. I took three flights on WiFi enabled AirTran planes last week and averaged about 2Mbps for downloads. I love that I can be connected with my team back at IZEA while in the air.

This was a great move for AirTran. Not only is it an additional revenue stream, it has converted me to a loyal customer.

My First Day in Costa Rica

This Easter weekend Tara and I took our first trip to Costa Rica. I am on a plane right now returning to the U.S. tired, soar, sunburned and very happy. I have been fortunate enough to travel to quite a few places in my life, but none of them were like Costa Rica. We experience a lot in a few short days. I am going to break up the trip into a series of posts so you don’t fall asleep.

Day One

We began our journey with a short 3 hour flight from Orlando to San Jose on Jet Blue. The second we hit the ground it was clear we were no longer in the U.S. The first thing we did was rent a car. The rental car employee explained to us that it was common for locals to booby trap the roads by throwing nails and glass in the path of unsuspecting tourists. “Booby traps,” I thought to myself. “I wanted to go to a tropical paradise, not a war zone.”

Costa Rica Car

He instructed us to check the tires on our vehicle before we left the rental facility and make sure that the car jack was in good working order. The employee then rattled off a list of emergency instructions and phone numbers, smiled and said “have fun.”

Costa Rica CarWhen we arrived at the car rental pick up building it was clear to me that the employee was not kidding. Every vehicle in the facility lacked hub caps and were outfitted with inexpensive, almost disposable tires. All the buildings in the area were fortified with tall fences, razor wire and bars on their windows. It made me a bit nervous but Tara and I piled into our little SUV, punched our hotel into the GPS and set off on a tour of the Costa Rican country side.Costa Rica Cow Road

While the scenery was beautiful I dreaded every second of our drive from San Jose. We encountered traffic, cows, washed out roads, clouds and many one-way bridges. While all of these were genuine hazards the biggest hazard of all was the people. There were people standing and walking on the highway at every turn. I didn’t understand what was going on. Are these people going to throw glass in the road? Are they going to jump out in front of my car? Is this a booby trap? Are they going to try and rob me? I was incredibly tense.

Driving in Costa Rica

Five hours later we arrived at outside our hotel La Mansion in Nuevo Arenal. Tara and I were both exhausted. My hands hurt from gripping the steering wheel so hard, my shirt was soaked with sweat. Yeahhh! We are here. We didn’t die!

La Mansion is a small hotel on Arenal’s north shore that features 17 small cottages. We walked into the lobby/restaurant/bar and were greeted by the owner’s daughter Peggy and their dog April. Peggy explained to me that her father Leo built the hotel 17 years ago. She and her father manage day to day operations and her daughter cooks breakfast and dinner. Tara and I enjoyed a glass of wine and later noshed on homemade beef goulash and broiled sea bass.

We called it a night around 8:30 Costa Rica time and crashed out in our private villa. Day one was filled with travel and stress… but all that changed the next morning… : )

I’m Going to Costa Rica

I am very excited to be spending my Easter vacation in Costa Rica this year. Randy has been raving about Costa Rica ever since I met him. He loves it so much he plans to build his dream home there on day. Tara and I will be leaving on Thursday and returning on Monday. I am bringing all of my gear and will do a full video of my experience when I return. I will be off the grid for a bit, I hope I don’t go into some type of Twitter withdrawal.

Cascade in Costa Rica
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License by thombo2

Top 10 things I want to do while I am in Costa Rica:

  1. Go an entire day without using the Internet
  2. Get a massage
  3. See a volcano erupt
  4. Take a dip in a hot spring
  5. See a monkey in the wild
  6. Go Parasailing
  7. Eat a local dish
  8. Scream my head off on a zip line
  9. Travers a hanging bridge
  10. Go white water rafting

I know that is a lot for 5 days, but I am going to do my best to pack it all in there. is a Waste

The past two days haven’t been so good for me on the customer service front. Yesterday my flight to New York was canceled after waiting in the airport for 3 hours. Today I am really frustrated after trying to reserve a rental car for my vacation this week.

My Rental Car Experience

While I am a member of the Hertz #1 club I rarely rent cars through them. I decided to give Hertz a try because Randy recommended that I book my car through an american rental company for my trip to Costa Rica. While I normally use Orbitz for all my travel I decided it might be easier to book on since this was an international reservation. I went online with my Hertz ID, selected my destination and vehicle, and landed on this page.

Hertz Booking

Apparently “online booking” isn’t really online. I have to call a phone number to complete my reservation. I dialed the number and was greeted by an automated system.

System : Are you a Hertz #1 Club Member?
Me : Yes
System : What is your number?
Me : 527XXXXX
System : What is your last name?
Me : Murphy
System : I’m sorry, I can’t find that. Your member number is “2”. Is that correct?
Me : No
System : I’ll transfer you to an agent.
Me : It wasn’t like this on the Jetsons.

Rosie JetsonsFive minutes goes by, then I get someone on the phone. She asks me for the exact same information I just entered in the site. She then proceeds to tell me that my rental will be over $400. I explain that there must be a mistake. Perhaps she has selected a nicer vehicle for me. She begins to read me a list of American vehicles to choose from and I reply that none of those vehicles were presented to me when I made the online booking. I want to roll in a Hyundai Tuscon (or similiar) for $58.00/day.

vehicle choices

We go back and forth for 10 minutes or so. I ask her if I can send a screen shot and she tells me that she can’t recieve it. She asks me if I have a discount code. I tell her I have an AMEX platinum card. She tell me the AMEX card will save me 12%.

After a little more time she finally tells me the best she can do is around $360. I tell her that isn’t going to work. She informs me that she has to transfer me to the web operations people.

I now go through the process of sharing my destination and dates a 3rd time. The web operations person tells me she need to walk through the website with me. At this point I decide to bring up Orbitz and see what they have to offer. To my surprise the prices are even cheaper than what I was originally offered on with my #1 Club discount.


Finally The Web Ops person tells me the price I have is wrong and it will be around $320.00. I laugh. Hard.

Web Ops : Why are you laughing?
Me : Because I tried to book this online for one price and now I call and you give me a completely different price. It is a joke. It is bait and switch.
Web Ops : This is the price.
Me : I am on Orbitz right now and the prices are cheaper than your original quote with my #1 discount. What is the point?
Web Ops : (hung up on me)!?!?

I should have just stayed with Orbitz to begin with. I spent 30 minutes of my day with Hertz and all I got was this stupid blog post.

Carolina Adventure World

A few weeks ago my brothers and I took a trip to Carolina Adventure World in South Carolina. I took nearly 40GB of photos and videos during our trip, so it took me awhile to distill it all down into a video other people might actually enjoy watching. If you ever get a chance to visit Carolina Adventure World I highly recommend it. It the perfect place for a man weekend (no offence ladies), my brothers and I will be returning in the fall.

Carolina Adventure World from Ted Murphy on Vimeo.