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The Sacramento Bee, Calif., Bob Shallit column
[December 19, 2005]

The Sacramento Bee, Calif., Bob Shallit column

(Sacramento Bee, The (CA) (KRT)) Dec. 19--HP GIVES ITS BACK-OFFICE WORKERS TIME OFF IF THEY TAKE A RETAIL GIG: Hewlett-Packard employee Ed Stimac usually spends his workdays in Roseville fine-tuning the company's supply chain. But last Sunday he found himself at the CompUSA store in Sacramento doing much different tasks.

A participant in the company's "Demo Days" program, he was working the retail end of the business. Greeting customers. Showing off HP printers and PCs. Answering questions.

The program used to be a volunteer gig; employees could spend a day or two at retail outlets on their own time and learn a little about sales. But new HP chief Mark Hurd likes it so much he's offering comp days for participants. Hurd himself was scheduled to do some demo work at a Palo Alto store this past weekend.

On Stimac's shift, he wore a black HP polo shirt, to distinguish himself from the red-clad CompUSA staffers. He arrived early and printed out some pictures of his two "very cute" kids -- 2 years old and 4 months -- to show the capabilities of the different machines. Then he went to work.

He approached one man who ended up buying a desktop PC, monitor and laser-jet printer. The HP brands, of course.

Stimac had a fun time. Would he consider transferring to HP's sales division? It's tempting, he says, "if I didn't have two small children and wasn't averse to being on the road."

CAPTIVE AUDIENCE: First there were newspapers tacked up on eateries' restroom walls. Then framed advertisements.

Ruth's Chris Steak House has taken the next step. Its new location, at the former Mace's site in the Pavilions shopping center, has TVs built into the walls above the urinals. There's one in the women's room, too, across from the vanities. (Or so we're told.)

Restroom TV viewing isn't a new thing for Ruth's Chris, says Kevin Armantrout, the firm's regional VP for Northern California and Arizona. But it's the first time they've been installed over urinals.

And why not? "There's nothing else to do when you're just standing there," Armantrout says. They also provide a little "white noise."

Armantrout would probably prefer to have people talking about his restaurants' juicy steaks and friendly servers. But if the restrooms generate some buzz, he's not complaining.

"Whatever brings people in," he says.

CLEAN LIVING: Speaking of bathrooms -- and it seems we always are -- Sacramento Kings nemesis Mark Cuban is investing big in a Bay Area startup that makes heated toilet seats that also wash a user's nether parts.

The product, called Swash, works like those bathroom fixtures called bidets. But these -- being produced by Brondell Inc. of San Francisco -- mount on regular toilets. A retractable wand is used to clean and a warm-air dryer is included.

Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, is the lead investor in the firm and tells VentureWire newsletter he thinks the product will be popular with homebuilders hoping to differentiate their products.

He also jokes that they should appeal to all folks looking for the latest thing.

"People tend to approach technology the same way," VentureWire quotes him saying, "whether it's in front of them, or behind them."

ROLLIN' ON THE RIVER: Folsom restaurateur Chris Corda is resurrecting the Spindrift, a once-popular eatery and bar in Isleton.

The place was closed five or six years ago, after serving locals and boaters for four decades. Corda, who owns the Hacienda Del Rio, heard it was available on a barter site.

He ended up paying cash for the "dilapidated" three-story building on the Delta Loop and has been busy fixing it up for months.

The new restaurant -- serving steaks, seafood and Mexican fare -- will open soon on the third floor. A general store is set for the second floor. Plans for the first floor space are not final. Storage units for boaters is a possibility. So is a laundromat.

The new place will be a hit if it captures some of the ambience of the original -- a laid-back retreat for river rats.

About the writer: Reach Bob Shallit at (916) 321-1049 or [email protected] Back columns:

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