Category Archive:

Owner's Locker...a little background

February 23, 2008

A Tale of Two Families (with apologies to Charles Dickens)...Prologue

There is a family that lives outside of Chicago named the Millers. Tom and Susan have twin daughters and like to vacation in Orlando.

The other family in this tale is the Talbots. Chris and Janice have a son and a daughter and like to get away to Orlando as well. They live on Long Island, near New York City.

Both wives are innovators--anxious to try new ideas. And, both husbands are not what you’d call “early-adopters” and can be particularly skeptical when money is involved.

Susan is in charge of everything vacation-related at the Millers’ from making the reservations to packing. Tom has learned to agree on a vacation budget and then leave the details to his wife.

Janice Talbot handles the vacation details for her family as well but her husband, Chris is notorious for micromanaging even the smallest details.

As in Dickens’ famous tale, the two families have never met. But Susan and Janice were each excited when they heard about the new service, Owner’s Locker, that would allow them to store vacation items they used in Orlando between visits. No more lugging all of that stuff back and forth. They instantly saw how Owner’s Locker could make their trips to Orlando more convenient and enjoyable.

And even though both Janice and Susan were in charge of vacations in their families, Owner’s Locker came up at the dinner tables of the Millers in Chicago and the Talbots in New York.

Susan’s husband Tom thought Owner’s Locker was a waste of money and pointed out that they had gotten along just fine on prior trips without storing items in Orlando. Susan pushed and Tom gave in when she pointed out that they could store some champagne and liquor in their Locker.

The conversation at the Talbot table didn’t go as well. Chris was adamant that Owner’s Locker was silly. And that was that.

Well, in Chapter One of this tale, we learn about the Talbots’ and Miller’s trips to the airport on their way to Orlando. The Miller’s are using Owner’s Locker and the Talbots…well, you know about Chris at this point.

But let’s take a quick look at the scenes that played out before our two families left their houses in Illinois and New York on their way to Florida

It was the best of times at the Miller household. Susan and the twins were packed…each had only a carry on. And Susan took great delight in watching Tom go through his packing process. Tom could pack like a champ for a business trip. But Susan smiled as reminded him item after item that he didn’t need to pack it because it was already in their Locker in Orlando. The only thing Tom seemed to remember was in their Locker was the bottle of champagne.

Susan also smiled because she knew that there were birthday surprises for their twin daughters that she had bought on their last trip to Orlando. The twins were going to turn 9 while on this trip.

At the Talbots, it sure seemed like the worst of times. There appeared to be two processes going on simultaneously and they were quite at odds with one another. Both were accompanied by quite a bit of shouting.

Chris, Janice and their son and daughter all seemed to be looking for essential items to take on the trip but none of these items were where they should have been. For the kids, it was their swim goggles, flip flops and an old game console. Chris was desperate to find the maps and guide books which he very much didn’t want to have to buy again. And Janice had a box full of kitchen and bathroom items that she was sure was somewhere in the garage.

But while they were looking for additional items to pack, it was quite obvious that they didn’t have room in their luggage for the items they had already laid out to take with them. For not being able to find the things they were looking for, the Talbots sure had managed to amass quite a load of luggage. It made you wonder if they were just packing things they didn’t need because they couldn’t find the things they did need.

And, with this bit of background, it’s on to Chapter One (which was actually posted before this prologue (Dickens was more organized)) where we follow our families to the airport.

As Charles Dickens probably didn’t say, stay tuned.


November 17, 2007

Owner’s Locker may look Simple…..

Brian and I heard it again yesterday in a conversation with Alex, our web developer: “You know, this business looks so simple….but your website is one of the more complicated sites I’ve ever worked with.” And I was talking with my old boss from my corporate stiff days who’s one of our investors a couple of days earlier. “John,” he said, “this is a VERY complicated business. I didn’t realize the complexity at first.”

Owner’s Locker does appear to be deceptively simple. We drop off your Locker; you enjoy having your stuff; we pick up your Locker and store it until you come back.

But let me tell you…when you pull back the curtain, you won’t find someone pulling levers as in the Wizard of Oz. It’s all high tech and we realize every day that it is very, very detailed and complicated. So intricate that we have a patent pending on our business process!

And the neat thing is that none of this shows. The whole point is that it SHOULD be easy for our Members. Drop dead easy, in fact. We are supposed to take some of the hassle out of vacations and make them more convenient. So everything our Members see is easy. Our site has to be simple to use and the Lockers…well they just need to be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.

Owner’s Locker has two secret weapons behind our curtain: our website and our warehouse management system. The warehouse management system is our custom-designed barcode tracking software. Every time your Locker changes location, it’s movement is tracked by our scanners. It also organizes all of the data entered into our site by Members about their visits and tells us which Lockers need to where and on what day. It can even tell us which van to use and which resorts to visit in which order. And here’s my favorite function: when your Locker comes back into our warehouse, the systems measures its “velocity” and, if you have been coming a LOT, it tells us to store your Locker in a location toward the front of the warehouse so it will be easier to get to next time!

We are also very proud of our website which has been designed to make it easy for our members to use. Easy to sign up. Easy to schedule or change a Visit. The website collects all of the data you enter, shares it with our warehouse management system, charges you the appropriate amount and then communicates all of this to us and you. It’s the website that sends you all of the e-mails confirming your visits, letting you know your Locker is about to be delivered and when it has made it safely back to the warehouse.

The most complicated part of the site is something you’ll never see and that is the billing. With most e-commerce sites, you buy something, you get charged and that’s it. The Owner’s Locker site has three different types of charges to deal with (the one time Membership Fee, the recurring Annual Plan fee and the extra Visit fee. Add to that the multiple Locker discounts off the Membership Fee and the Visit fees.

The conversation Brian and I were having with Alex yesterday involved tweaks to the site to address Members who order additional Lockers. We realized that unless we did something, the Lockers would have different Anniversary Dates. Can you imagine asking our Members to try to remember that Locker 1 had a free delivery for the year starting June 15 and locker 2 had a free delivery for the year starting August 3. The obvious answer is to pro-rate the Annual Plan charge for the additional Locker so that they both have an Anniversary date of June 15. That makes it easy for the Member but it means quite a bit of behind the scenes programming on the site to make that happen automatically.

Another challenge for Alex but better that he has a tricky issue to program for than giving our members fits, don’t you think?


August 20, 2007

It Sneaks Up on You

You don’t even notice it. It can start out very slowly at first, but once it starts there’s no stopping it. You can’t turn back!

Sounds sinister, but it’s not at all. It’s what I call “the second home mentality” and it’s what we’re all about at Owner’s Locker.

I often get asked where the idea for Owner’s Locker came from. The short answer is that it many years of being an international corporate road warrior where I was always looking for a way to feel more at home while on the road. Since I’m not particularly prone to short answers, here’s a slightly longer version.

In a prior life, I was lucky enough to be based in Europe for 15 years—quite a long way away from my Kentucky home!
Life in a world capital was exciting but the family often tried to get away from London and out in the country on some weekends. We started with a goal of one weekend a month and tried various country house hotels. We found one we really liked called Wooley Grange, believe it or not. But after a while the novelty of it wore off a bit. Some rooms were not so hot and it did cost a LOT. So we tried renting different cottages for a weekend and enjoyed it but felt like we spent most of the weekend figuring where things were inside the cottage and the local area. Don’t you hate trying to remember where the bathroom is in a strange place in the middle of the night and bumping into a wall that you thought was a door?

Next we tried renting a cottage for six months and that’s when it started sneaking up on us. It doesn’t really cross your mind if you’re just going to be there once. I guess you figure you’ll just take the place as it is and deal with for such a short period.

But once we knew we where coming back to the same place funny things started to happen. There was something really nice about being someplace different yet familiar. We knew our way around. It felt comfy. We relaxed as soon as we opened the door. Building a fire in a fireplace you’re used to is nowhere near the chore of discovering the quirks of a new one—ask my wife and daughters.

I think the first things to go were the plates. Of course the place came with dinnerware—but it wasn’t ours. I like ceramics so we slowly bought plates one by one as well as bowls from potters in the area. Each of the kids picked out their own and we kept them there. It was fun to use those plates only when were away for the weekend. We even packed away some of the cooking utensils that were supplied and brought our own. Of course we had our own toiletries but it was a month or two before I broke down and bought a really nice corkscrew. We soon needed some picture frames for the photos we took of the kids riding
horses and we even start a small collection of brass items that we ran into at antique shops.

We knew the place wasn’t ours and that we would have to pack all of the stuff up and take it home at some point but that didn’t matter. And we knew better than to put nail holes in the wall so we focused on personalizing the place with things we’d use of set out on tables. These things made us feel more at home and that was what mattered.

All of this was going on subconsciously. Consciously, we were too busy enjoying the fact that we didn’t need a map to get their from home; that we had met some people in the village; that we had found a couple of inexpensive pubs nearby with really good food—and they even recognized us when we came in. These were the things that we talked about and smile about. But having the personal items around was just as important. They were just as key an element in the second home mentality.


September 20, 2006

How This Service Came To Be

Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson: Boring stuff ahead

With apologies to the Robot in "Lost in Space," here is a short-ish version of how this service came to be. A couple of people have asked (I promise), so here goes.

The idea for Owner's Locker has been around for a long time and I'm glad it is finally seeing the light of day. It really is a combination of three experiences I've had spending time away from my home base and the lengths I would go to to feel comfortable away from home. I'm from Kentucky and in 1990, the company I worked for transferred me to London (the real one, not the little one in south eastern Kentucky). While living in London, I used to like to get away on weekends. I loved the big city, but it was nice to get out in the country (England has some beautiful countryside) and chill out. I liked it so much that I bought a small cottage in the area known as the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, down the road from Oxford. The kids, dogs and I would pile into the Land Rover Defender (still my favorite car) on Friday afternoons after school and come back Sunday evenings. What fun.

At first, things were sparse in the cottage as I didn't particularly want to duplicate every earthly belonging I had. It was a bit comical to see the things that I would haul back and forth--like a TV, believe it or not. I eventually broke down and bought a TV for the cottage, but I continued to use what became know as the "country box" for a couple of years. About the size of an Owner's Locker (surprise, surprise) I would toss things into it during the week in London that I thought I might need in the country that weekend. I'd take it to the country, use the items and then put them back in the box along with anything else that I thought I might need in London. Since no one else used the cottage, after a couple of years, I did wind up duplicating everything in the country box and it fell out of use. I think one of those expensive lever corkscrews was the final thing I was taking back and forth.

In May, 1992, I bought a lot of points at a vacation club in the Orlando area. And at about the time that I discovered the joys of the country box, I decided that something like that for our time in Florida would be great. What we needed was a Florida box. Like the country box, it would hold the things we needed while we were away from home. Unlike the country box, however, it was impractical to take it back and forth to England, so I arranged to have a friend keep it in his garage when we were not in Florida. He worked at the resort we visited so he would bring it to work the day we checked in and take it home with him the day we checked out. Sounds like Owner's Locker, doesn't it?

Anyway, we came to Florida several times per year and really loved the Florida box and really learned how to use it over the next few years. The more we used it the more we liked it and the more we learned. I discovered that it was not a good idea to put smelly sneakers in it and I realized that I needed to keep a list of what was in the box for reference. It was neat to open the box when we got to Florida and the kids all liked seeing the pool toys and art supplies that they remembered. Oh yes, and I bought my third lever corkscrew.

The idea really gelled for me in 1999-2000 when I was based in Copenhagen for six months and commuted home to London on most weekends. I worked out a deal with a hotel to leave a few suits, shoes, toiletries, laptop, etc. (and four dirty shirts) when I checked out on Friday mornings. This was really handy because I could leave from the office after work on Friday; go straight to the airport and straight on the plane without checking any luggage! And on Monday, I got on the plane with only a briefcase, went straight to the office and checked into the hotel Monday evening after work to find all of my stuff (and four clean shirts) there waiting for me. This whole, "gee, I don't have to pack" experience did it for me and Owner's Locker moved from being an idea to a company.

I began working on it in my spare time. Became obsessed with it actually and talked about it constantly. When the company I worked for decided to shut their London operation down, I began to focus even more on the design of this company and, with the encouragement of my wife, determined to pursue this dream full time. So here we are.


July 22, 2006

Second Home Mentality--"It's all in the mind, you know."

Wasn't it in the movie "Help" that Ringo used that line? He probably wasn't the first person to say it, and it likely came from the Beatles' fascination with Eastern religions at the time. Anyway, we can be pretty sure that he wasn't referring to second homes when he said it!

But the line is relevant to the discussion here. Because what is and isn't a second home is pretty much in your mind. In another post, we described a second home as someplace different that is familiar as well. A known quantity. Instant relaxation. You know, you don't have to actually own a second home to have a second home mentality. As long as you like coming back to familiar territory, it doesn't matter whether you own it outright, own part of it or rent it. A hotel room you come back to time and time again, a timeshare or vacation club interest you own, a condo you own and rent out when you're not there. All of these can be a just like a second home if you want them to be.

Second homes aren't for everyone but there are a lot of people out there who like to take a break by returning to a familiar place again and again. And, it's this concept of familiarity that is at the heart of what we at Owner's Locker like to call the "second home mentality."

This second home mentality is not something that can be particularly defined and is extremely personal. It's the feeling of comfort you have when you are surrounded by things familiar to you. Here are some examples:

-Being able to find your way from the airport to your resort without a map.
-Being recognized by the waiter at your favorite restaurant.
-Reaching for the shampoo and it's the brand you always use.
-Pouring champagne into your own special glasses.
-Being able to come straight to your resort without having to stop and stock up.
-Sitting in the same spot by the pool.
-Knowing the best shops to buy vacation clothes.
-Making fried chicken in your cast iron skillet.
-Needing a band-aid and not having to run to the store.
-Finding the swim goggles you used the last time you were here.

Not all of these will hit your radar screen. What makes one person feel at home might seem odd to someone else. What examples can you add to the list above?

This second home mentality is what Owner's Locker is all about. It's our business to help make your timeshare or vacation club interest seem more like your true second home. We know that everyone has different ideas about what will make them feel like they are at home. This is why resort companies really can't provide you with all of the comforts of home--because your idea of what this means is different from anyone else's.

And this is why we hope that you will think Owner's Locker is a good idea--because it will allow you to store whatever it is that makes you feel at home while in your vacation home. We're sure that there are lots of ways that you've tried to accomplish this already. Please share with us some of the things you've already done to personalize your time at your favorite vacation resort. And, tell us some things you have wished you could do or things from home you have wished you had with you. We love to hear what will make your stay special and it will help us continue to improve our service that will make you feel at home the instant you unlock the door.


July 16, 2006

The Second Home: A Place That's Different, Yet Familiar

So, just what is a second home? That used to be a simple question with an easy answer. Second homes have been around for...well for as long as people have had homes, really. And, we tend to think of second homes as the expensive retreats of the very wealthy. The Pope has Castel Gandolfo. The President has Camp David (which used to be more aptly named Shangri-La), England's Queen has Windsor Castle (along with Balmoral and Sandringham) and Manhattan's elite have huge weekend getaways in The Hamptons.

Today, however, second homes come in quite a variety of flavors, shapes and forms. Some even have wheels---or keels. But, more on that at another time.

But what's the deal with second homes? Why bother? Isn't one home enough?
Do some of us really need a place of refuge? A place to escape to? Apparently so and in increasing numbers.

The idea of a second home is wrapped up in two concepts that seem diametrically opposed: it is someplace different....yet it is someplace familiar.

Just about all of us want to take a break from day to day affairs. That's easy. We like to get away. Sometimes it's no more than a trip to the movies, a picnic in the country or a boat ride on a nearby lake. Then there's the vacation, whether it's a two week, cram everyone in the car deal, or a romantic weekend retreat. Many people like to go someplace different each time they take a break. While for others the best break is to get away--but to a place that they've been to many times before.

There's a great feeling of instant relaxation when you unlock the door to your cottage in the countryside, build a fire in your fireplace, open a bottle of your wine and prop your feet up and chill out. It's also an exciting feeling to check into a hotel in a city you've never visited and have room service send up a bottle of champagne. Both of these activities are fun. Some folks like adventure while others like familiarity. The people who like familiarity will say the new hotel experience can be stressful. The people who like adventure may say that going back to the cottage in the country is a bit boring.

But we're talking second homes here so let's leave the adventurous couple to enjoy their champagne. With second homes, it's all about the known quantity. Familiar surroundings. Knowing instinctively what to do and where to go. Returning to a favorite restaurant where they recognize you. Going on a bicycle ride and not needing a map. And, not needing to rent a bicycle, by the way. To many folks these feelings are what a second home is all about.

Today there are many ways to enjoy the benefits of a second home without actually owning it. The marketplace has expanded to provide people with the second home experience through a variety of different products. People may not use the phrase "second home," but going to the same hotel time and time again is really a manifestation of the second home mentality. Buying a timeshare or vacation club interest is another way some people get that same enjoyment of getting away to a familiar place and Owner's Locker is a company that helps these owners get the second home feeling each time they visit. Does this sound like you? What are the things you like about coming back to the same place to get away? What are some things that would make your enjoyment of your vacation home even better? That's what we're all about at Owner's Locker. We would love to have your comments and suggestions.


July 1, 2006

Why Should Fractionals Have All Of The Fun???

Did you know that fractional timeshare owners have a storage facility at their resort where they can keep their personal items? That way, their time share seems more like a second home….and they don’t have to haul as much stuff back and forth every time they visit their resort. Great idea, but why is it just for owners of fractional timeshare units?

In the first place, what’s a fractional, anyway? In the old days, timeshares came in one flavor: the fixed week. You bought the second week in October in a specific unit in Gatlinburg to watch the leaves change color. That unit was yours for that fixed week in October and that was that. In the late 1980’s, vacation clubs came on the scene providing much more flexibility. You could come at different times, and in some cases, not come at all and save your time for another year altogether. But here’s the important part. With both fixed week timeshares and vacation clubs, each unit has approximately fifty owners.

The new kid on the block is the fractional timeshare which has a vastly fewer number of owners per unit. Instead of fifty, it’s twelve or ten or, in some cases, only four owners per unit. So an owner of a fractional timeshare that only has four owners can spend roughly three months per year in the unit. Perhaps not all at once but spread out over the year. Now that’s a timeshare. Or more accurately, that’s a second home!

As you might imagine a fractional timeshare costs substantially more that a typical timeshare or vacation club. And the owners not only pay a lot more, they get a lot more. The units are bigger and more glamorous. The locations are very nice, too. But the fractional timeshare owner also gets special parking spaces, concierge services and storage space. A place to put all of the things that make a place seem like it’s really yours. A place to keep all of the things you like to have to make you feel at home

The companies who build fractional timeshares knew that they were creating a premium product that they could sell for a premium price. And, they knew that the buyers would demand an exceptional degree of service and amenities. No small bottles of shampoo/conditioner in these bathrooms. While they knew that storage was a desire of many of their purchasers, they didn’t quite realize just how important it was. In fairness, the purchasers of the fractional timeshares probably didn’t realize how important the ability to store personal items was until they began utilizing the storage space provided…and then asking for more.

A major developer of fractional timeshare resorts has said that the main difference between their first project and their second was the doubling of the storage place provided for each owner; and the difference between the second and the third project was the doubling of storage space for each owner yet again. It seems like the more storage space you have, the more you need.

So why should fractional timeshare owners have all the fun? Why can’t timeshare and vacation club owners have a place to store personal items between visits?

Well, can you imagine a resort building fifty storage areas for each unit? The storage areas would be bigger than the unit! It doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck unless you own a fractional, though. Now there’s a company called Owner’s Locker that will allow you to have the same convenience that owners of high end fractionals have. Even better, actually because we pick up your stuff from your resort when you leave, store it while you're away and have it waiting for you at your resort when you return. And it’s available now in the Orlando area. Let us know what you think of our service that helps make you feel like you own the place!


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