Sunday, January 21, 2018

Using Cialdini's Weapons of Influence to Sell Girl Scout Cookies

Dieters and New Year's Resolutioners and impulse buyers beware!  The season of Girl Scout Cookie sales is upon us once again!  And if those sweet little girls (or their pushy helicopter parents) knew anything about Robert Cialdini's Influence, the authoritative book on influencing people to get your way, we wouldn’t stand a chance at resisting those Thin Mints and Savannah Smiles.  Luckily, most of them don't know the secrets I'm about to reveal below.  But if you are one of those little girls looking to earn your Entrepreneurship Badge, or just get a leg up on the competition, you'll
want to read on.  Below, I outline some of the applicable weapons of influence that you may want to utilize in your selling activities, with some examples of how they would apply to the sales of seasonal, well-loved Girl Scout Cookies.  

If you accidentally found this page while looking to buy Girl Scout cookies rather than sell, check out my niece's page

Reciprocity - Give a Little, Get a Little (but more)
The principle of reciprocity says that when you give something to someone or do something for them, they are inherently put in a place of being indebted to you, and are then more willing to do something nice for you i
n return.  The funny thing about this is that the magnitude of one favor doesn't have to balance with the magnitude of the next.  Monks employ this by presenting a small flower, or bracelet or coin, and in return ask for a sizable donation, which is much greater than the value of whatever trinket they "gave" to you for free. 

The application is pretty straight forward here:  One approach would be to buy a box of cookies yourself, slice them apart if you can, and then offer passers-by "free samples" in hopes that they will buy a full box (or three).  This may be especially useful when you have a new flavor to push, or a flavor that is not selling as well that you may need to get rid of faster. 

If they don't buy, don't worry, there is still a secondary use of your apparent generosity:  You can do them another "favor" by making a concession, and instead asking them to spread the word or share a link to your online store, etc. 

The second approach, if buying cookies for the purpose of free samples is off the table, consider instead making small crafts like bracelets or paper origami you could hand out as free gifts.  The goal of course is to ultimately spend far less on the freebie then you get in return on your sales.  But getting more sales will be addressed in some later tactics. 

Scarcity, or in today's terms, #FOMO
The good news, my Girl Scout friends, is that the wares you're peddling are truly limited-time, at least for the year.  Use this to your advantage!  Long before the notion of the Fear of Missing Out was put to a meme-ified acronym, people have always had a notion of not wanting to miss their chance.  It's what drives our very biology - we prefer rest because we don't know when we'll get more of it, and we like to eat more than we need because the caveman versions of ourselves didn't know when their next meal would come along. 

Anyways, there are two very easily implemented strategies in this category.  A medium-size white board may be the best tool for these strategies.  As you run out of a popular flavor, such as Tagalogs, write on your board, "Only 5 boxes of Tagalogs left!"  The Tagalog lovers will have an increased sense of urgency to buy, buy, BUY!  Then, as you get close to the end of your selling season, make a sign or write on your whiteboard, "Last chance to get your Girl Scout cookies!"

 Make them like you
There are a lot of elements that make a person like another.  To maximize your sales, start with your physical appearance.  Younger Girl Scouts can play up the "cute" factor with pigtails, sweet outfits and lots of energy.  However, the feminist in me cringes a little bit at this, so I will at least offer a more woman-forward alternative: think about dressing up as your future career aspiration.  If you want to be a business woman, wear a sport coat and a classy necklace, and pull your hair back.  If you want to be a scientist, see if you can get your hands on a research lab coat and safety goggles.  Dress as a doctor, or religious leader, or zoologist or whatever it is you may want to be.  This not only addresses the immediate benefit of looking attractive, but it also has a secondary benefit of reminding your customers that they aren't just buying cookies, they're helping you become that amazing woman you aspire to be. 

Next, use compliments on potential customers.  Compliment the shirts or shoes they're wearing, tell them their kids are cute.  If you can figure out what they're making for dinner based on a cursory glance at their purchases outside the grocery store, tell them, "I bet you're a great cook!  Wouldn't you love some Girl Scout cookies for dessert to go with that meal?"  Compliments have a little bit of the reciprocity principle at work as well, but are best utilized to increase your likability. 

You can also be likable by doing something unique in a fun way.  You could advertise "Free Hugs" in big letters, and "Girl Scout Cookies $4 per box" in smaller letters below it.  Use current events in memes or puns in your advertising, or parody a popular song. 

Another idea that utilizes both reciprocity and likability is to throw a "Girl Scout Cookie Kick-off Party".  You can partner with a restaurant as a fundraising event and a cookie pre-sale, which is both charitable and helps to kick-start your selling season. 

Social Proof - "Everyone is doing it"
This principle is another predecessor of #FOMO.  They say that if you stand on the corner of a street and look up at the top of the building nearest you, not much happens.  But if you get a group of 4 or 5 people to stand on the corner looking up at the top of building, then everyone who walks by is going to look up.  Likewise, if possible and if sales are slow, arrange for some of your loyal customers to come physically to your booth to show that people are buying cookies. 
Remember those signs under McDonald's logos that listed the number of millions of burgers sold?  You could also use your handy whiteboard with a "Number of boxes sold" to give social proof that people are buying.  Once you've sold at least 40% of your goal, you could also list what your goal is so that potential customers can see that they can help you reach your goal. 

One final strategy I will leave you with will help you "upsell" your customers, potentially turning a sale of one or two boxes into several.  This will take a little bit more work on your part, but it is also a great way to develop your statistics skills.  What you want to do is collect data on not just how many boxes you sell, but how many each customer buys.  Then calculate (and re-calculate as you get more data) what the average number of boxes is.  For the following examples, I'm going to assume the average is 4 boxes because I don't have data to work with.  When a customer says she wants 3, you could point out that the "typical purchase is 4 boxes."  If a customer just wants 2 boxes, you might say, "The
average customer buys 4 boxes, are you sure you don't want at least 3?"  If a customer asks for 4 boxes and gushes about how she loves those Thin Mints, you could say, "The average customer buys 4 boxes, but I don't think you're an average buyer.  Are you sure you don't want one more for the road?"  You should also calculate the median and the mode and you can use those interchangeably depending on what those numbers are. 

Selling is an art and a skill, and like so many things, you get better with practice.  Hopefully you'll be able to employ some of the above tactics and share with your troop what worked well for you (or not, if you want to secure your spot as the top seller).  You're not just pawning sweet snacks off on unsuspecting passerbys, you're developing valuable skills in selling and influencing that will help you in your life and career. 

Also, this author accepts gifts of gratitude in the form of Thin Mints.

Happy selling! 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sydney - Aussie Adventure Part 5

Having ridden on camels through the Outback, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, cuddled a koala, walked on the beach with sea lions and toured a brewery in Melbourne, we already had had a fantastic stay in Australia before arriving at our final Australian destination for this trip: Sydney.  But there was still one thing on my Life List that we had yet to cross off, and this was the city in which to do it! 

Unfortunately, our stay got off to an awkward start - as I was unlocking the door to our hotel room, I first saw that the lights were already on, and then I saw her.  A middle-aged, less-than-attractive European woman standing in her britches in the middle of my hotel room!  I quickly apologized and shut the door, not knowing exactly what had happened.
But this woman opened the door and proceeded to have an extended conversation with us, still wearing nothing but her underwear, about how her key didn't work very well but my key seemed to work quite well for her room.  We finally escaped by saying we'd let the front desk know that we needed a different room, and went back downstairs to the lobby.  Sure enough, there had been a mix up (duh) and they had given her the wrong room.  They gave me her room instead, which was right next door - oh goody, we'd get to run in to her again! 

For our first full day in Sydney, we walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens on our way to the
Sydney Opera House area to see what we could see.  It was quite a walk, but made for some excellent pictures!  After walking around a bit, we grabbed a bit at a brewhouse with excellent food and a great selection of beer.

On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at a giant department store in
search of the Sydney Opera House Nanoblock set.  We found this fun "Wonderland" store that was set up as a Christmas toy store - reminiscent of the store in the movie Elf.  It was spectacular!
Our second day, we did some more walking around, but kept it more local and a little easier going.  That night, we got to check off #132 from my Life List - seeing a show at the Sydney Opera House!  I had bought tickets back in April to see Postmodern Jukebox, and we had great seats!  It was an awesome show, but the whole experience was just magical, knowing we were in such an iconic venue. 
The next morning we took it easy again, grabbing some donuts for breakfast and  Danish ice cream a bit later.  Sometimes in travel, I am tempted to just go, go, go, but it was nice to catch up on my reading and emails, etc.  For dinner, Jaiman found a Riclette burger place, and we just had to try it out!

Our final full day in Australia was unplanned, but we decided on a Blue Mountains tour, not really knowing a whole lot about it.  The Blue Mountains, as it turns out, is a lot like the Grand Canyon, except covered in blue-looking trees because of the eucalyptus in the air, and we had quite an adventure on our tour - including breath-taking views, a skyway, the steepest railway in the world, and another Aboriginee show. 

I think the highlight for me,though, was the wildlife park at the end, where we not only got to see our favorite Australian animals one more time, but they had joeys!!  The babies had me cooing and shooting pictures non-stop.  The wildlife park also had a little stamp passport to complete, and Jaiman and I were determined to complete it in the limited time we had, so we rushed around trying to find the remaining stamps while stopping to take pictures as I saw the joeys being cute again. 

The tour would wrap up with a ferry boat ride back to Sydney Harbor, but our bus driver took a quick detour to show us around the Olympic Park.  The boat ride was nice, and afforded us great evening views of the Sydney Opera House one more time. 
As our airplane departed for LA, I was able to snap a few photos of Sydney Opera House from the air, and reflected on what a magical trip this had been - just the right combination of adventure, food and beer, nature, experiences, and relaxation.  We would definitely be back, but we felt we had sufficiently experienced an amazing Aussie Adventure!  

Cairns & Great Barrier Reef - Aussie Adventure Part 4

Life List Achievement #53 was snorkeling or diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and I was so excited for this focal point of our trip to Australia.  We had attempted scuba certification back in Arizona in the spring, but due to illness, neither of us were able to complete the certification before moving.  I was anxious that we wouldn't be able to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef just by snorkeling, but it turned out, I needn't worry! 

This being such an important part of the trip, I had done a bit of research, and had selected Silverswift for our tour, because it seemed to be one of the faster boats, thus allowing us to see more of the Great Barrier Reef in a single day.  They had scuba and snorkeling options at three different stops along the Outer Reef, plus food for the day. 
The weather was beautiful the day we went out, and we hung out on the front of the boat enjoying the wind and the views.  We were provided wet suits, snorkels and masks, and they even had prescription masks, which Jaiman and I took advantage of and were really glad we did so.  On our first trip out, we saw a giant sea turtle, large clams and anemone fish.  The next two stops we also saw large clams and anemone fish as well.  The coral and the fish were so close to us, I couldn't even imagine diving much, since we could see it all from the surface.  Sure there were deeper parts, but I definitely didn't feel like I was missing out by snorkeling.  Lunch was a buffet that was nothing spectacular, but sufficiently good and fulfilling.  On the last stop, there was a guided snorkeling tour during which our guide dove down and covered up the part of the clam that made it sense a predator, and it would close up in reaction.  He also told us about some of the other creatures and critters.  Jaiman and I pretty much maxed out our time at each of the three stops, taking in as much of the beauty as we could - it was really beyond description.  I think the only thing I would have done differently would be to bring my own dry snorkel, because from time to time the snorkel would accidentally go under water and I'd suck seawater, not the end of the world but a dry snorkel is just a little bit better. 

After our two concluded and we were shuttled back to our hotel, we walked around a bit, looking for dinner and Pokemon, and actually found a Corsola which we hadn't anticipated catching in Australia.  We ended up catching two during our time in Cairns, and would have loved to catch more, but were happy with our catches.
Just outside the McDonald's was a group of young boys apparently from an Aboriginal tribe performing some of their dances and songs for tips.  We watched them for a bit and tipped them before moving on.  Later, we'd see an Aborginal show that was very much the same dances, so it appeared they were legit.  There was also a fire dancer performance going on, but it was actually kind of silly, so we moved on quickly from that. 

At the time I was booking our trip, I wasn't sure if we'd end up scuba diving or snorkeling, so I had left an extra day after the Great Barrier Reef tour before flying in case we did scuba.  However, that was months prior, and I could barely remember what the next thing on the itinerary was without looking.  Jaiman and I were using TripIt, as we normally do, to track our progress through our vacation.  The one downside to this app was that if you don't book something for a particular day, it just shows the next thing without showing that there was nothing booked on a particular day.  We'd been traveling so long I suppose that we weren't really aware of what day it was.  So, the next thing on our itinerary was a flight to Sydney, so the next morning we packed all our things and tried to check out.  The front desk attendant informed us that we still had another night, and then it dawned on me that I had booked the extra day.  Feeling foolish, we headed back upstairs to figure out what to do with the extra time in Cairns.  On the suggestion of a couple we had brunched with in Melbourne, we used the extra day to visit the rain forest, specifically the Kuranda Village. 

By the time we were up and ready to go, we had apparently missed the train into Kuranda, so I decided we should take an Uber.  Our Uber driver was an absolute delight, and I honestly would have been more than happy to have him just drive us around all day.  He took us up into the rain forest and dropped us off in the Kuranda Village.  We weren't quite sure what it was we wanted to do, but we got our bearings and figured we'd catch the train back to Cairns later
that day, and with that, we were on our way to wander the wildlife park of Kuranda.While cuddling a koala had not been on my list of things I had to do, the opportunity presented itself at Kuranda, and I decided it was a great touristy thing to do.  However, it wasn't quite time to hold the koalas when we arrived, so we went to a little wallaby enclosure and fed the wallabies by hand, which was adorable.  Then we went back up to get in line for the koala cuddles, and got our picture taken holding a koala named Yoshi.  We walked around some more, visiting Bird World where all sorts of exotic birds flew around us in close proximity, even landing on Jaiman a couple times (but I was too slow with the camera to capture it). 
When we were happy with our time with the animals, we headed over to the other side of the village for the Aborigine experience at Rainforestation, where we saw a spear throwing demonstration, and a brief introduction to the didgeridoo to start.  Next, we learned how to throw a boomerang and each got at least one chance to try it out with supervision.  Finally, we were ushered into an outdoor theater where they put on a show for us, demonstrating their dances.  With that complete, we caught the shuttle to the train station and boarded the scenic railway that brought us over the mountain and back to Cairns, with one stop for a photo opp overlooking a huge valley and waterfall.  Cairns, you delivered a dream come true, and so much more!  I will never forget my time spent there.  And then we were off to our final destination in Australia, Sydney, where one of the most awkward travel moments of my life awaited us…

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Melbourne - Aussie Adventure Part 3

We arrived in Melbourne on September 21st, with minimal plans for this leg of the trip.  I had several restaurant recommendations from my new co-worker who had just moved to New York from Melbourne, so we thought we'd try one of those.  Many of them looked a bit pretentious and I was in the travel-tired mode and didn't really want to gussy up so much.  We identified one that was more on the casual side and relatively close to the hotel, so we wandered over there.  Unfortunately, it had over an hour wait to get in, and I was hungry and not really keen on waiting.  So we continued wandering around the downtown area and stumbled upon a place that was probably more our speed anyways: a video-game themed burger joint called 8bit.  We munched on delicious burgers and smothered fries, washing it all down with Nutella shakes.  Our first taste of Melbourne made a great first impression, to say the least! 

We wandered around a bit more, finding lots of graffiti which the locals seemed to appreciate, calling it "art" and taking pictures of it.  One particularly disturbing work featured America's new Idiot-in-Chief Donald Trump in an awkward position with
a dumbfounded look on his face. 

We went to a mall in search of a KitKat Chocolatory - we had learned on our trip to Japan that Asia has some amazing KitKat flavors, and we had been finding Japanese KitKats in conveniences stores in Australia, and also some really good Australia KitKats.  Much like the KitKat Chocolatory we had found in Tokyo, the one in Melbourne featured really fancy KitKats and didn't really have the "normal" packs we were looking for.  I bought a couple small packs of fun flavors, and we got to sample a normal Australian KitKat (which is notably much thicker than an American KitKat).  We also played with the KitKat computer that allowed you to customize your KitKats, but didn't actually purchase anything
through it. 
Back at the hotel, we decided on booking the brewery tour I had had in mind for our Melbourne excursion - it was a tour of the Carlton & United Brewery which makes Fosters, several local favorites (similar to America's Budweiser).  Then we called it a night, and got some much-needed rest. 

The next morning, we satisfied Jaiman's quest for great donuts at Shortstop Coffee & Donuts.  They had a number of unique flavors, many mimicking tea flavors like Early Grey and Green Tea. 

We were to meet for the brewery tour at 12:30 at Federation Square, a neat little area with museums and foodie places.  So until then, we did a lot more walking around town, first finding a street fair selling all sorts of Australian souvenirs and various other goods.  We found some neat Australian jerserys for cheap, and bought those. 
As we walked around, I was struck by a lot of juxtapositions: the flashy, modern new buildings next to old world English-looking pubs and hotels; business-types in suits walking through graffiti-covered streets; and fancy English names for things alongside sillier-sounding Australia slang.  I even took this great picture of a business-type getting his shoes shined in one of the most decorated graffiti alley we saw - it was an alley in which, based on the behavior of the dozens of people walking through it, you'd think we were in the Guggenheim.  People were stopping and pausing in front of every four-foot expanse of graffiti as if pondering and appreciating the artist work, and taking pictures of just about every angle possible.  I honestly wasn't sure what to make of it.  For lunch, we found a seriously legit Japanese ramen place - greeted with the traditional Japanese greeting as we entered.  The bowls were ginormous and delicious, and we were full and happy by the end of our stay at Shujinko Russel.

We made our way to the Federation Square area with plenty of time still before the tour pickup.  Seeing an interesting-looking exhibition, we wandered into the little museum.  It was all about swimming pools, talking about the symbolism of bringing the community together and learning how to share.  My favorite quote in the exhibition was from Paul Kelly: "As you move through life, it seems to be like a series of steps into deeper and deeper water.  What comes along in life are the things that we don't know.  The things that everyone goes through but are not known until you do it yourself.  The loss of a parent, the birth of a child, the beginning of love, or the end of love.  All those things.  You don't know them until they happen to you.  It's all deep water when you get there."  After going through the exhibit, we perused the book store and I found a lot of interesting-looking books. 

Finally, it was time to load onto the Carlton Brewhouse bus and head over to the brewery.  It was incredibly interesting to see how a massive brewery like this one operates; before this trip I had only toured small craft breweries.  I think it's neat when tours include a chance to taste the raw ingredients, and I've tasted the grains and burnt grains before.  A first-time for me was being
encouraged to try the hops - not the raw hops of course, I knew that wasn't a good thing to do.  Instead, they passed around the raw hops to smell, and then passed around the pelletized hops and encouraged us to take the tiniest of bites of a pellet.  Skeptical, I wanted to give it a try, and sure enough, the bitter hop flavor enveloped my mouth instantly.  It was definitely too much, but hey, they had water to wash out the awful flavor, and beer would soon follow.  And follow it did - after we checked out the mesmerizing bottling operations, we were guided back to the main tasting room where we were treated to several samples of the freshly-made local beer.  We learned that this brewery also was responsible for making the local version of import beers such as Stella Artois, so naturally, I had to try it to see if it tasted the same.  We got some wings to go with our beer samples, and the wings were pretty darn good too.  My favorite beer was the Wild Yak, and I would later try other Yak beers because of my experience at the brewery, but Wild Yak remained my favorite.  All in all, a great tour experience I would highly recommend to beer lovers!  We had a few minutes in the gift shop before the shuttle left, and Jaiman found an awesome Yak shirt there. 

It was admittedly a bit early for dinner, but we did want to try Taxi Kitchen on my colleague's recommendation, so we dilly-dallied around Federation Square for a bit, finding a strange little room tucked away in a corner of an otherwise open public area - it was meant to be like a little family room, and was decorated with slightly retro furniture and homely d├ęcor, with a small book case and various places to sit and read or recharge.  We took a break here, charging up our phones and enjoying the little piece of serenity in the middle of a bustling city.  Then we made our way over to Taxi Kitchen.  I guess it was still far too fancy for us - we immediately felt judged by the host, who asked if we had seen the menu online, implying that this wasn't our kind of place.  Whatever dude, just seat us.  We got high-top seats overlooking a busy part of the city and just ordered one plate to share between us.  While watching the city, we saw a few people with Free Hugs shirts hugging willing passersby, and other similarly entertaining people watching.  The food was, as predicted, weird,
and also not very filling, so we moved on quickly. 

Jaiman had been eyeing some sushi places that had the sushi already made and sitting in the window, visible from the street - and the rolls were HUGE!  He opted to get some of those for dinner, and I opted to try some wings from the place near our hotel.  I had noticed that the "footy" championship was this weekend, so we got our eats to go and unwound in the hotel room watching "footy" and eating our respective dinners.  As a foodie's haven, Melbourne did not disappoint! 

The following day, we went to another mall and toured around the city a bit more before catching a taxi to the airport and heading on to our next destination - Cairns

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ayer's Rock aka Uluru - Aussie Adventure Part 2

We saw the giant rock from the airplane.  In a vast, otherwise flat desert of the Outback, Uluru, and it's cousin Kata Tjuta  ("many heads"), are the only distinguishing features of the land.  This was one of the tiniest airports we've ever traveled through - a single runway, gate and baggage claim.  A shuttle picked up most of the airplane passengers, bringing us to the Ayer's Rock Resort where it seems the only hotels in the area are.  It was almost like a little community; different hotels at the resort obviously offered different amenities, but there was a town center where activities took place and there were shops and restaurants to mingle at.  Most of the hotels also had their own restaurants, and you could take a shuttle around the place to get from one hotel to the next, but the town center was an easy walk and had a lot to offer. 

We checked into the Desert Gardens hotel and got to our room on the second floor of a two-floor building with a view of Uluru.  Our room had a wide balcony, but we never really took advantage of it - the room was so spacious and comfortable, it was an oasis from our outdoor adventures.  I knew the Aboriginee dance demonstration was happening at the town center, but knew it was going to be tight to get there.  We did end up wandering down and caught just the last minute of it. 

Nerd Alert:  It was here, at Ayer's Rock Resort, where we

caught our first Kangaskhan in Pokemon Go.  I had noticed him on the radar as we were taking the resort shuttle to dinner, so we decided to do a big loop and get out at the stop nearest him to catch him.  And we did!  If you care but aren't aware, Kangaskhan is a Pokemon that is unique to Australia, so there's no way to get him in America.  The first one we caught was weak, but we ended up catching dozens others throughout our time in Australia, and got a few good ones to flaunt back home. 

Anyways, we had dinner at one of the other hotels that night; it was mediocre, but satisfied our hunger.  We called it an early night since the next morning would be another adventure! 

The next morning, after a hurried shopping trip in the town center for hats and water (how did we not think of that before?) we were picked up in the lobby for our camel train excursion.  The shuttle brought us to the camel farm, where our camels were all lined up and ready to be mounted.  First, we had to store all of our bags, and bring only water bottles and cameras in
bags they provided to us that would go around our shoulders.  Then, we each got a sheep skin to sit on.  Finally, they lined us up in front of our respective camels, and helped as each guest mounted the camel and "hung on for dear life" as they put it, as the camel stood up so they could adjust the straps for our feet.  My camel's name was Spinifex, or Spinney for short, and Jaiman rode Khan.  As our camels carried us over small ridges through the desert, we were told anecdotes about our camels.  For example, all of these camels were wild before being tamed.  There are estimates as high as a million for the number of wild camels in Australia, but they're hard to track because they move so much.  Also, Khan wouldn't follow any other camel except Spinney.  The cameleers learned this when, on a tour one day, Khan had laid down and refused to get up, and they ended up needing to get another camel to bring the guest back to the farm.  Since Khan's face was roughly at my rear the whole way, it was easy to get to know his personality.  He was chill, and lazy.  He didn't want to do anything, and everything he did was begrudgingly.  But he did like pets, so I patted his head and told him he was doing good, even if he was veering off course and trying to stop the train.  Silly Khan.  We toured through the desert, with great views of Kata Tjuta and Uluru in the background.  I was a little disappointed we didn't get closer, so for that reason alone I might not recommend this tour to others planning a trip to Ayer's Rock.  But if you think the idea of riding a camel for the sake of riding it, then I would definitely recommend this excursion.  The ride itself was slow going and easy, and not nearly as rough as I expected it to be.  I was also worried about the wind whipping sand into my face, and bugs, but neither of these were a problem for us.  It was a very pleasant ride, with no reason to stress. 

When we got back to the farm, the cameleers worked with each camel to get them to lie down, and then help the guests off their rides.  My camel, Spinney, was not having it, and started nipping at the cameleers.  Another came to
assist, and he was still being a big jerk.  Once they finally got him down, they said I couldn't take anymore pictures with him since he was being such an ass.  But that was fine, once Jaiman was down, we posed behind Khan, who was my buddy anyways.  We collected our belongings, and were invited to visit the other animals on the farm - an emu, a kangaroo, a baby camel and a water buffalo.  The baby camel was fun to see, but I was most excited about the water buffalo, mostly because of that darn Veggie Tales song that, if you know it, will now get stuck in your head.  You're welcome. 

I bought some postcards and a shirt that said, "HUMP DAAAY!" with a camel on it, because it was, in fact, Hump Day, and we rode camels.  Let's face it, that shirt was made for me on this exact day. 

Since the camel train didn't exactly take us to Uluru, we decided that we should take another excursion to actually go to the rock.  So after grabbing a bite to eat (I had an Outback Pizza with kangaroo and emu on it!) we headed to the tour area and booked ourselves on a hop on hop off shuttle.  Since we didn't really plan this, we had no idea what we were doing, and I think we ended up confusing the tour.  But really, if you call yourselves a hop on hop off, then we should be able to do whatever we want, right?  Well, what I found was that at Ayer's Rock, they really tried to take care of their guests by making sure they had everyone, which is nice in a way, but challenging when you aren't aware. 

So we were somehow scheduled for a pickup at our hotel.  It would give us enough time to see the Bush Yarn I wanted to attend at the Town Center, except that I had misread the schedule and realized that it wasn't happening that day.  So we decided to hop on the shuttle earlier and at the closest hotel rather than walk all the way back to ours and have to wait.  The driver then asked us what drop off points we wanted and when we wanted to be picked up at, and we had no idea, so he gave us a suggestion, but it was, like, 5 hours of hiking.  We were done well before that, and waited at the pick up point, hoping they'd still pick us up even though they made it sound like they weren't going to.  Just after I had given up on being picked up, the shuttle came.  Apparently, he was
late because he had been looking for us back at our hotel, not realizing we had caught an earlier shuttle.  I was so grateful to be picked up, I didn't even argue my point about it being a hop on hop off tour. 

The actual hike around Uluru produced some really interesting views; the rock changes as you go around it.  We didn't do the whole circumference - that was over 10 km - but we walked from the drop off point our driver had suggested to the pick up point.  There were parts of the rock that were considered sacred by the natives, and therefore were not supposed to be photographed.  The signs clearly marked where you could start taking pictures again and where you had to stop.  There were also plaques that talked about the different features of the rock, why it was sacred, etc.  It was a very hot and sunny day, and there was very little shade.  I had completely failed to bring
sunscreen somehow, and since I'd already spent a few hours in the morning in the sun riding a camel, I was getting worried about sunburn.  I tried covering my shoulders with the shirt I had bought at the camel farm, and kept my hat pulled tightly over my face and neck.  The bugs were awful here - flies and little gnats kept getting in our faces.  I had bought a cheap fly net the night before, and relented pretty quickly, putting that on.  It didn't stop the flies from getting on my net and irritating me that way, but much better than having them on my face.  There wasn't much shade at the pickup point (read: practically none), so when we realized we still had close to an hour before the pick up time I was hoping to catch, we decided to venture on to the gorge which was supposed to be scenic.  The gorge was, as promised, pretty neat to see, but we were watching our time and so had to head back shortly after arriving.  At this point, we were nearly out of water (again, bad planning on our part), and I wanted to get out of the sun as much as possible, feeling my skin bake. 

My learning and suggestion from all this is, hike Uluru early in the day, bring lots of water and sunscreen and hats and a fly net, and be more prepared than us.  All in all, we survived and even enjoyed ourselves, but we felt the pain of being so ill-prepared. 
Back at the resort, we picked up some food to go, and put our feet up in our hotel room with dinner and drinks, watching the sunset over Uluru.  As much as Ayer's Rock Resort was overpriced and felt gimicky, I couldn't get over the feeling that this was a lot like glamping - like, luxury in the middle of the desert.  I think people honeymoon here, or at least take fabulous vacations here.  As far as hotel stays, this was my favorite of the whole trip. 

The next morning, we did some final shopping in the town center, and then boarded the shuttle back to the airport to fly to our next destination - Melbourne