Service of Natural Beauty

October 30th, 2014

Categories: Art, Nature, Uncategorized

Natural Beauty

Some things need no enhancement—nature is one of them. In artnet.com Sarah Cascone wrote about a so-called artist who uses national parks as her canvas in “Street Art Comes to National Parks—Is It Vandalism?

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

If you want to know the name of this person or what her “art” looks like you’ll have to link to Cascone’s article because I don’t want to give her name more publicity or “work,” which she signs “creepytings [sic], visibility. According to Cascone, “the National Park Service has launched a vandalism investigation since defacing or damaging national park property is a federal misdemeanor punishable by jail time.”

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Cascone continued: “In her travels this year, ________[the artist] has left her unwanted graffiti art in at least 10 national parks, including Yosemite National Park in California, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  ___[the artist] has taken down her photos from Instagram. On her Tumblr, ___[the artist] admitted ‘i dun fucked uuuuuuup,’ while defending herself against critics she accused of ‘mansplaining.’” Mansplaining refers to a condescending tone and choice of words some men use when explaining something to a woman.

Cascone credits Modern Hiker for breaking the story: Good for them!

When it comes to art, do you think “anything goes?” Does this woman’s act fall under “freedom of expression?” Do you think that she should be made to remove the acrylic paint she used to deface rocks in national parks? Should she serve jail time?

 

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

 

Service of ASAP

October 27th, 2014

Categories: ASAP, Uncategorized, Work

do it now

I’m careful not to rush a person if my deadline isn’t imminent so that when I say I need something urgently, I hope that they take my request seriously. Some people say they need everything “right away.”  So I was drawn to Rob Walker’s “The Workologist” New York Times column, “What ‘ASAP’ Really Means.”

Walker responded to Eugene who complained that he stayed late to finish a project that came with an ASAP request “only to learn later that the project sat on someone else’s desk, ignored for days or weeks afterwards.”

hurryWalker wrote: “You get a request to fill out a report — or whatever — ‘as soon as possible.’ You consider how soon you might actually be able to do it, given everything else you’re dealing with. Then you add some extra time.

“And so you respond: ‘Sure, no problem. I’m finishing some other deadline work at the moment, but I can have that for you by the end of Friday.’ (Obviously, you shouldn’t get greedy. Saying you can do it by the end of the decade is a nonstarter.) In the age of email, it’s a good idea to close with something that concretely pushes responsibility back to the request-maker: ‘I’ll shoot for that unless I hear otherwise from you today.’”

working lateThe first time I said to my boss’s boss that I couldn’t meet an “I need it now” deadline was a shock to me which is why I remember it so clearly. It was 4 pm when he sauntered into my office [I was the lowest person on the totem pole]. He’d no doubt heard that I was at my desk until at least 8 almost every night. He handed me a folder and said he needed this job done by first thing in the morning.

Trouble was I was expected at a dinner that evening to celebrate a big family occasion. There was no way I could work late or finish the project in three hours. Further I had seen the folder on his desk for weeks. So I stuck to my guns, said I’d get right on it and would finish it when I got in the next day—but it wouldn’t be done first thing. Nothing happened: I wasn’t fired.

Have you worked with people for whom everything’s ASAP? How do you handle it?

stop watch

Service of Being a Good Customer

October 23rd, 2014

Categories: Customers, No, Service

Demanding customer 3

I imagine that pushy, over demanding customers think that this is the only way to get the best service. The obnoxious approach might work on the spot at retail or in a restaurant because sales and restaurant staff want to avoid a noisy tantrum that would make other customers uncomfortable and spoil their experience.

Demanding customer 2Be ugly enough and the sales person might remember you and see that you wait next time or disappear in the storage room as you approach. The busy restaurant may have a waiting period of an hour for the loudmouth; ten minutes for everyone else.

We’ve all known—or observed–people who feel that they can treat another person abominably because they are paying for a service or because they think that they are important and deserve subservience. In a conversation about such people a friend, with a topnotch reputation in a technical field, said that she wouldn’t stay a half hour overtime for a nasty client even if her boss agreed to pay her a substantial sum. At the same time, she’d stay even longer for a lovely person, even if the boss said that there couldn’t be an extra cent in it for her because he wasn’t charging the customer for overtime, because she was down on her luck.

Demanding customer 1Have you been in the enviable position of being able to give a nasty client/customer short shrift? Do you think pushy, entitled, aggressive behavior wins in the end?

answer is no

Service of Retail

October 20th, 2014

Categories: Media, Retail, Uncategorized

shop in store

It’s too early to predict what the success of Amazon’s first store will be—if it actually happens–as we don’t yet know precisely what the New York City venue will offer. Amazon has gone in this direction before and changed its mind.

Nevertheless, Greg Bensinger and Keiko Morris’s article, “Amazon to Open First Brick-and-Mortar Site The New York City Location to Handle Same-Day-Delivery Inventory, Product Returns,” in The Wall Street Journal, intrigued me, even though it doesn’t share the full picture because the reporters don’t know either.

amazonThey wrote about the 34th Street off 5th Avenue future venture: “The Manhattan location is meant primarily to be a place for customers to pick up orders they’ve made online, but will also serve as a distribution center for couriers and likely one day will feature Amazon devices like Kindle e-readers, Fire smartphones and Fire TV set-top boxes, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking.” Who these people? Are they are the same throughout? Bensinger/Morris repeated this phrase many times.

The article doesn’t mention whether customers will see more product than what you’d see at a Verizon or T-Mobile outlet. To me, along with great merchandising, seeing great stuff is the essential part of visiting a store. The reporters wrote that the “flagship store, would mark an attempt by Amazon to connect with customers in the physical world.” But picking up a box or getting it to my office or apartment the same day I order it doesn’t count as “connecting with me.”

The reporters note the popularity of retailers such as Wal*Mart and Macy’s [down the street from where this store would be] who take internet orders that customers pick up with the obvious benefit of potentially making additional sales. The customer, already committed to a purchase that is low in labor costs–nobody has to restock a shelf—may just buy more. But if there’s nothing much to see at Amazon’s 34th Street location, there goes that advantage.

34th streetI’ve lived for years in NYC and in upstate New York. Pickups in my car at a Poughkeepsie Mall are no-brainers. NYC is a different matter. There are some with limos and drivers, but if you count on getting a cab to drag home heavy things from midtown, depending on time of day you might be waiting a long time.

On the other hand, there are thousands who couldn’t take advantage of delivery because they live in apartments without either doormen or friendly neighbors who work at home and will accept packages. Some work for companies that forbid employees to ship personal items to the office.

Should reporters wait until they get the skinny from a source they can quote rather than going with information from many “people familiar with the company’s thinking?” What do you think of people who leak proprietary information to the press?

If you go out of your way to visit a retailer to pick up a package do you want to see other merchandise while you’re at it? Isn’t one of the benefits of buying online the delivery factor–why would a company need a half-baked retail space?

  flagging taxi

Service of A Company That Can Do No Wrong

October 16th, 2014

Categories: Uncategorized

Apple 4

Apple is a trendsetter. But even the cutting edge must keep an eye on what other fashion-forward industries are up to or they’ll hit a snag. Take the sleek, slim new iPhone 6. Seems that some carry their phones in their skinny jeans’ front pocket. The phones can bend and break at times. 

Wallis Simpson

Wallis Simpson

I’d posit that a large percentage of Apple customers are age and size-appropriate for skinny jeans, something that the phone designers might have considered, especially as they seem to subscribe to Wallis Simpson’s oft-repeated comment “You can never be too rich or too thin.” You can’t be poor to own an iPhone 6: On Amazon I saw them at three prices: $1,230, $923 and almost $800. [You can save $100 if you buy the phone with a phone service contract.]

Back to the skinny: On Forbes.com, Anthony Wing Kosner advised in “The Bendable iPhone 6 Plus May Be Too Thin For Its Own Good” not to place the new phone in a tight pocket and if you do and it bends, don’t try to bend it back.”

skinny jeansHe continued: “Yes, it seems Apple’s all-aluminum design can’t withstand the truly awesome stresses of being placed in the front pocket of a pair of skinny jeans.”

Potential repercussions about the phone’s being too thin doesn’t bother iPhone 6 fans. I took an online poll on October 4 that asked if the bendable issue bothers me and gave four optional responses [plus "other"]. I was one of 35,462 respondents who, rounded off, came out like this:

            46 percent responded, “No, shut up.”

            23 percent “Yes, but not enough to change buying/keeping decision”

            19 percent “Yes, I’m putting off buying an iPhone 6 until Apple sorts this out”

            11 percent “Yes, I own an iPhone 6 and am concerned about damaging my $700+ device”

online securityAnd then there was Christopher Mims’ Wall Street Journal article, “Why Isn’t Apple a Leader in Security? Tech Giant Makes Two Changes to Its iCloud Security in Response to Recent Hacks.” He wrote: “Almost every security expert I spoke to in the course of researching this column was aghast that Apple has long left users of its iCloud backup service for iPhone so vulnerable.”

He continued: “But as ever more of our life is stored in our smartphones and backed up to the cloud—including, potentially, financial and health data—all of those cloud backups of our smartphones’ contents are going to become exponentially more attractive to hackers. They will become conduits for financial fraud, identity theft, revenge and general mayhem. They must be at least as secure as our bank accounts and primary email addresses, and thus far Apple’s fixes for the iCloud hack don’t measure up to the security measures protecting either.” [I'm not so sure our online bank accounts are so safe given the fun hackers had with JP Morgan Chases' customers lately.]

Are there–or have there been–other companies, like Apple, that have ardent fans with unconditional brand love who rush to own their products at any price and trust that they’re flawless regardless of evidence or simply don’t care?

 fans 2

Service of Credibility II

October 13th, 2014

Categories: Credibility, Infrastructure, Medical, Medical Care, Transportation

Trust me

I keep hearing on newscasts and in quotes by doctors and politicians how we shouldn’t panic about the ebola virus, that you can only catch it if you come in direct contact with an infected person’s fluids; that if you share the air of an elevator or plane with a sick person, you won’t catch it and that this or that city is ready to isolate and harness any case that crops up.

One of the doctors pointed out that only one person has died of ebola in this country in comparison to 20,000 who die each year of flu. [I checked the Center for Disease Control website to confirm this figure. It can't track a statistic as states are not required to report deaths from flu of people older than 18.]

The problem is how often have public figures told us not to worry when it turnedworld trade center pile out we should? Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency told workers at the World Trade Center pile that they were in no danger of getting sick. Since then many have succumbed to cancer. Perhaps she was instructed to say this. Not only did it trash her political career, it was one more nail in the coffin of the public forced to question the people they are supposed to believe.

Congressional committees have let corporate executives get away with product safety claims for years while the facts proved otherwise: Smoking is one glaring example.

Train tunnel ny njWhat about the crumbling infrastructure? Governor Christie cancelled a train tunnel project between New Jersey and New York called “Access to the Region’s Core” which would build a new tunnel. The existing one was built between 1904 and 1908, according to Wikipedia. True, “they knew how to build things in those days.” But is counting on an essential 106 year old structure realistic just because the Governor says it is? Especially if you suspect the real reason is that he doesn’t want to spend the money under his watch?

Do you accept what you hear and go about your business or are you more skeptical?

 Pinnochio

Service of a Disconnect

October 9th, 2014

Categories: Disconnect, Economy, Statistics

disconnect 2

On Friday, on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Scott Horsley ran snippets of President Obama’s speech on the economy that he gave last week at Northwestern University.

In “Obama’s Approval Rating Dragged Down by Economic Disconnect” Horsley also listed a bunch of the President’s claims of improvement since he took office: Corporate profits are up, unemployment is down; companies have created 10 million new jobs; there’s rising energy production here and, according to the President, lowering health care costs. [A savings, perhaps but at what cost. A friend’s dad was dismissed from the hospital long before he should have been, no doubt to keep their stats whistle clean, and was returned by ambulance a few days later. But I digress.]

empty walletWhat caught my attention was Horsley’s brief interview with Bard College economist Pavlina R. Tcherneva. She determined that while the economy may be growing, paychecks are not.

Most enlightening was her review of income gains in this country from the 1950s, when 90 percent of workers collected 80 percent of gains to the 1980s, only 20 percent to 2009-2012, where all income gains went to the top 10 percent. Worker’s real income actually shrank.

I had fun fiddling with a cost of living calculator that I found online. I chose to compare 2000 with 2014 to calculate the value of $100 this year with 14 years ago. As of August, 2014 it’s $137.21. That’s a chunk of a difference if your income has stayed the same or is less.

The results of Tcherneva’s historical review helps explain why the President’s approval rating for his impact on the economy was 35 percent on August 21, according to a Gallup poll and why I keep hearing disastrous news of layoffs and fruitless job searches that don’t match the President’s cheery [pre-election] outlook.

Do you agree that there’s a disconnect between “everything’s rosy and getting better,” and reality? Can you share other disconnects?

everything's rosy

Service of Details II

October 6th, 2014

Categories: Details, Retail, Security, Training

locking front door

Lots of my posts involve details—some that are missing and others I admire.

With all the news about Secret Service staff that forgets to lock the White House front door, lets any old person—in fact anyone–in the same elevator with the President and doesn’t immediately notice gunshot holes on the President’s home/office, and hospital emergency room staff that dismisses a sick patient who’d just returned from western Africa, it was time to again write about the subject.

I heard security pundits talk on WABC radio and NPR, to name two places, and in answer to “how could such mistakes happen?” both mentioned how underfunded the Secret Service is. It doesn’t cost a cent to lock a door, ask extraneous people to wait for the next elevator when the President heads towards one or to use one’s God-given eyes to check out a landmark building for gunshots. One bullet was in a window. It wasn’t seen for four days.

pick up the phoneAs for the Dallas hospital, seems nurses and doctors use a different electronic charting system where the patient with ebola was sent home. Would you leave to chance that a client or boss saw something on a chart—electronic or traditional–as important as a sick patient who had returned from a country where the ebola virus is flourishing? Communication people! Get out of your chairs or pick up the phone and speak to each other.

While some overlooked these crucial details, others gloried in attending to every one.

  • On my walk to work in Manhattan last week I passed a man by the window in a dry cleaning store leaning over a white shirt, tending to stains with meticulous care.
  • In a spotless apartment building a new employee did something to the hall floors that brought up a shine unlike any we’d seen in 10 years.
  • Merchandising in some stores is a joy to revisit, such as Cursive in Grand Central Station, Lyme Regis, Ltd. in Kent, Conn. and Lilli and Loo in Hudson, N.Y. Wizards select and place enticing treasures in eye-catching displays and are never caught off guard.

    Cursive at Grand Central Station

    Cursive at Grand Central Station

It’s ironic that these three examples are in non-essential, life-saving situations.

How does an employer best get the message to employees that how they do their jobs may be crucial to the survival of others and/or the business that pays their salary? Is attention to detail and common sense something a person is taught at home, in school, at work or are folks born with the gene?

Get the message

 

Service of Location as Inspiration

October 2nd, 2014

Categories: Uncategorized

Cadillac

Cadillac

I have no idea how many American BMW and Mercedes owners know that company headquarters are in Munich and Stuttgart respectively, much less whether they base their decision to buy one of these cars because of this geographical fact. I’m also ignorant as to whether either of these cities are incubators of design and innovation for luxury goods. I bet that auto fans for these brands, in this country at least, are as in the dark about the fashion and trend temperature of these German cities as I am.

SoHo

SoHo

So when General Motors’ Cadillac luxury brand announced that it was moving its headquarters to NYC’s trendy SoHo district from Detroit, I wondered what management really hoped to accomplish. Employees at headquarters will focus on sales and marketing; the other operations will remain where they are according to “GM separates Cadillac, moves headquarters to NYC” by James R. Healey in USA Today.

Healey quotes Karl Brauer, Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com. This auto analyst told him: “A move to New York may add status to its mailing address, but what’s really needed is clearer direction in Cadillac’s sales and marketing efforts. The new management team needs to find its footing and execute in these areas as quickly as possible. Hopefully the move doesn’t delay this process.”

Johan de Nysschen, Cadillac president, shared this rationale for the move: “There is no city in the world where the inhabitants are more immersed in a premium lifestyle than in New York. Establishing our new global headquarters in SoHo places Cadillac at the epicenter of sophisticated living. It allows our team to share experiences with premium-brand consumers and develop attitudes in common with our audience.”

California traffic

California traffic

I think potholes, no place to park–not cars–when I think “Manhattan,” luxury or otherwise. However I’ve been told that citizens of California are luxury car-obsessed. So I wonder about the move to New York, though I’m happy for the some 70 people who will be added to the employment rolls given that Cadillac is bringing 30 staffers from Michigan and expects to employ some 100 here.

Do you think any move helps shake a division sufficiently to make a difference to the bottom line and to impact earnings in a positive or negative way? Further, what’s wrong with importing to Detroit consultants who specialize in the luxury business whether they live in NYC or anywhere in the world?

light bulb 2

Service of a Cheery “Hello”

September 29th, 2014

Categories: Attitude, Customer Service, Mood, Negativity, Positive Thinking, Voice

smiling cashier 4

Wall Street Journal columnist Joe Queenan doesn’t like friendly employees. If he returns to his local drugstore in a day, he resents it when cashiers wish him “a good one” for the fifth time. He expects them to remember that he’d been there recently.

And he wants greetings to be genuine. In “Save That ‘Hello’ for the Next Customer,” he wrote: “Not everyone at the drugstore is equally adept at being ‘spontaneously’ hospitable. A couple of staffers had not said hello to me or anyone else since the Clinton administration, but then one day some manager obviously cracked the whip. Suddenly, they started saying ‘Good morning’ in an android-like fashion, as if they had a gun cocked to their heads.”

smiling cashier 3Some of the cashiers admitted, when he asked, that they’d been instructed to be “extra nice to customers.” He observed that their tone especially grated when he went to the store after a funeral.

He complained that supermarkets give similar instructions to their cashiers who must tell a customer to have “‘a good one’ even if they look like they might smack you.” In addition to insincere employees who are cheery because they are told to be, he dislikes strangers who say “hello.”

He continued, “There are several issues here. Misanthropes—and there are a lot of us out here—think of hyper-effusive greetings as an invasion of privacy, almost as a casus belli. That’s why we like to vacation in France, where you hardly ever run the risk of encountering belligerent conviviality at the retail level.”

Smiling cashiers 1So he could be left alone he wishes that a store’s rewards card could be programmed to indicate to staff that this customer doesn’t like to be greeted with a smile.

I wasn’t able to tell how much of Queenan’s tongue was in his cheek. I complained to management at an upstate gas station convenience store about its belligerent staff because they ignored not only my greeting but me. One of the things I resented was the total silence in reaction to my “hello,” or “good morning,” as well as “might I pay for this please?

Do you like it when retail staff greets you with a smile and happy word or does it rub you the wrong way? How can you tell if a greeting is genuine? Does it matter? Should a cashier be expected to remember that a customer has been to the store several times in a day?

smiling cashier 2

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