Service of Time vs. Result: Is it Worth It?

April 27th, 2015

Categories: Details, Photography, Time, Value

clock 2

I wonder if anyone remembers my dinner parties of yore: After a 60 hour week at work I’d spend all Saturday making a complicated main dish from scratch. As I saw my guests swallowing the food which was gone in minutes, I’d wonder whether those hours of prep were the best use of my time. Would anyone know the difference if I’d simply roasted a chicken? Would they have had a better time?

An actor friend immediately related to this. It takes hours and sometimes days to set up what becomes just a few minutes of film. Does the general public get the nuances? Do they add up to an Oscar or a great review?

photog shooting living roomIt’s the same with still editorial photo shoots. You warn homeowners that it could take all day to get three good shots of a single room after a team styles and lights each to perfection. The homeowner is baffled. Do those who see the result in a magazine or online realize the effort that went into what’s on the page? Are the editors trying to impress their readers or other editors?

photog shooting modelA friend who works with models says some will tell her, as they arrive on a job, “I’ll be done in an hour, right? I’m meeting a friend.” She’ll tell them “Cancel your date; you’ll be here for hours.” The results are in catalogs and on Instagram and in fashion magazines. Had the session been shot in a flash would anyone be the wiser?

Too much time spent on a project must be treated like shoes that don’t fit: More than annoying but forget it and move on. Do you always spend the right amount of time for each task? Do you feel that there are some elements of a project you could deep six and nobody would know the difference? Are some projects time sponges and there’s nothing you can do about it?

shoes that hurt

 

Service of Auctions: Charitybuzz Says A Lot

April 23rd, 2015

Categories: Auctions, Charity, Customer Care, Customer Service

Auction

You don’t need to have skin in the game to find the sport of following auction sales thrilling; though to covet something and watch what happens to its price is exhilarating and nail-biting. Look at EBay’s success.

I wanted you to know about another online auction—Charitybuzz–that I became charitybuzz try thisintimately familiar with as part of a New York Women in Communications [NYWICI] Foundation committee to grow the scholarship fund. Charitybuzz is a brilliant business concept providing a seamless way to raise money for nonprofit organizations around the world from the African Rainforest Conservancy to the Zimmer Children’s Museum. The lots generally offer experiences rather than objects.

The partnership with NYWICI works well as the organization knows industry personalities–broadcast celebrities, editors in chief, CEOs of international marketing/advertising/PR agencies and cutting edge corporations for example—who generously give of their time. Wealthy bidders fly thousands of miles–and pay–to meet a star or business guru over lunch, breakfast or coffee for an hour or two or to give their son or daughter the experience of counsel from the C-Suite in their offspring’s dream industry. One of the lot headlines offers to “Jump Start Your Career With a Summer Job at Publicis Worldwide North America.” A gift for the woman who has everything is a ticket to the Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year event. You have until May 5th to bid on the lots in the NYWICI Foundation auction.

NYWICI Foundation logoLast year this committee made $80,000 for the scholarship fund, after Charitybuzz took its percentage. It earns every cent. The staff introduced us to some top lots; kept meticulous records from past and current auctions to save us time; informed the 100,000 high net worth bidders in its database about our auction and continues to promote it—and that’s just for starters. Our contact was Logan Holzman, auction specialist, who is smart, responsive, and incredibly quick. She’s an unmatched multitasker and has a great sense of humor. We tossed hundreds of balls at her with hard deadlines looming and she didn’t drop one.

farm auction 1The first auctions I ever attended were on the prairies of North Dakota where it didn’t take long for me to learn that the fellows in overalls, when overalls weren’t fashionable, were millionaire farmers. I was an apprentice to a secondhand furniture dealer who took me with him to find the pieces he’d refinish and sell. There were no TJ Maxx stores at the time. The cheapest new furniture available was badly made, ugly and overpriced. Newly married with no budget for furniture, the solid oak chairs and tables were a good option. I left behind the last of my North Dakota Farmhouse Collection—the 50 cent chair–on a move two months ago. That name for the chair was a misnomer if you add the cost of the stain, sandpaper, steel wool and sweat applied to spruce it up.

Sotheby's auctionWhen I was an editor at Art & Antiques Magazine I went to countless auction previews and for years haunted auction house exhibits to see remarkable art and furniture destined for private hands. Along the way I’ve also bought art and antiques at my share of auctions—both silent and standard.

The first auction item I bid on and wanted so badly to own–but that got away–was a pew from an old church that looked a little like the one in the photo below. I also remember buying some amazing bargains and incredible furniture and accessories. How about you?  Have you followed, participated in or attended a thrilling auction?

The "fish" that got away.

The “fish” that got away.

 

Service of Small Town or Spooky

April 20th, 2015

Categories: E-Commerce, Internet, Privacy

Small town

I was born and brought up in NYC where life is as anonymous as you want it to be so I’ll never forget my first adult small town experience. I’d just moved into temporary quarters in a North Dakota town—population 300– north of Minot Air Force base and went to do laundry in one of the few businesses. A woman approached me and said, “Are you the wife of the Air Force lieutenant who just moved in to Sheriff Avery’s apartment?” I was. We’d been there one day. Shudder.

bike with boxA year later on an Air Force base in Turkey, a neighbor asked me: “How was your party?” “What party?” I asked. She explained that she’d seen me riding my bicycle with liquor boxes in the basket so she’d assumed we were having a party. Wrong: I needed the boxes, which were empty, to ship home Christmas gifts. Tremble.

apt mailboxThat old familiar uncomfortable feeling is back. We moved three months ago. I was diligent in letting friends and family know our new address as well as the post office, motor vehicles bureau and businesses that send bills. So when I get advertisements and catalogs from businesses from whom I’ve bought nothing, addressed to me or my husband at this address, I wonder: Who sold this information? I can run but I can’t hide.

I also feel stalked when I see something I researched on the Internet haunt me every time I open Facebook or in emails from a website like Amazon that sells the category of item I was looking for or maybe just researching for a work project.

Is what I interpret as intrusive really someone being friendly? Are businesses simply making me feel at home, trying to be nothing more than a helpful pal? Do you think it makes sense for some regulatory body to limit invasion of privacy whether virtual or actual?

Stalking on the Internet

Service of Little If Any Assistance: Physician Admin Staffs Fall Down on the Job

April 16th, 2015

Categories: Medical Administration, Medical Care, Sloppy

Health admin staff 1

A friend, asked: “Have you done any posts about the outrageously discourteous way patients are sometimes treated by admin staff at doctors’ offices?”

I probably have, but neither recently nor covering any of these instances so I kept on reading as I trust you also will. I wish that her experiences were the exception. I fear that too many of us have similar ones to share.

She continued:  

health admin staff 2“I often wonder if these people are lazy, stupid, incompetent, or all three. Earlier today I brought Mom to a long-ago-scheduled appointment with an ophthalmologist. I called 30 minutes before the appointment to ask if the doctor was running on time with his appointments. I was told that he was. Mom and I arrived 10 minutes early, told the receptionist that we were there, then signed in on the clipboard. We spent the next 30 minutes watching patients who arrived after us get called in to see the doctor before us. When I checked the list we’d signed I found that four patients had signed in after Mom. When Mom asked the admin for an explanation, she was told there had been an emergency with a patient. That explanation may fly in a cardiologist’s office but I’m not buying it from an ophthalmologist.

“Although I wanted to walk out, we stayed so Mom could have her procedure. After it was complete and there was no longer a chance of alienating the doctor, I told him in so many words that his staff stinks. It’s unlikely we’ll go back. This won’t be the first time Mom or I have left a doctor’s practice, not because of an inadequacy on the physician’s part but because of incompetent staff.

Prescription“In another annoying medical-related incident, we learned that the results of Mom’s blood test, which had been performed March 25, still had not arrived at her cardiologist’s office as of March 30. We called the lab and learned that lab personnel had faxed the results to the wrong number. The transmission failed, of course, but apparently it didn’t occur to anyone at the lab to check the number on the test prescription or to call the doctor’s office and confirm it. Instead they did nothing whatsoever.

“Last week I received a bill for $240 for a simple procedure I’d had done in a dermatologist’s office. It was my first appointment with this doctor. I have a very pricey insurance policy that, in the past, always has covered this type of procedure 100 percent, so you can imagine my surprise at receiving this bill. Upon closer inspection I found a line that said: “No insurance information is on file at this doctor’s office.” Really? Was it my imagination that I spent 15 minutes filling out paperwork before the doctor saw me? Was I hallucinating when I handed the admin my insurance photocopiercard and saw her copy it on the photocopier?

“I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a lot of things but this lack of courtesy and common sense by admins in medical facilities makes me absolutely crazy. I’m sure I’m not alone.”

My friend asks for strategies on how you navigate through the oceans of incompetency in this industry. I’d like to know if you’ve experienced similar inexplicable glitches, if there seem to be more nowadays or, on the other hand, if the doctors you see are backed by teams of efficient, smart administrators?

 health admin staff 4

 

Service of I Should Have Walked Out

April 13th, 2015

Categories: Insecurity, Restaurant, Retail

Kick mysek

I admired this story that I’ve mentioned before and could kick myself every time I don’t do the same—which is often. Someone recommended a NYC steakhouse to my aunt and uncle so one evening during a trip to the city they started to give it a try. When my aunt opened the menu she was horrified by the prices, which she could have easily paid, and said to my uncle that she’d like to leave and they did.

Mass cardI did not do the same when I went to a church near my office to buy a dedicated mass card. I wanted the pastor to say a mass for a friend who had just died at the first opportunity. The attendant said that there were no free masses until September and she recommended that I opt for the general mass card which means that prayers are said but for a group of people–none are called out. Six months away to dedicate a mass to someone? Ridiculous.

But I’d already given her cash, the name of the deceased and selected the card and felt uncomfortable saying, “Please give me back my money.” So I ended up sending his widow what I didn’t want.

Walking by another church on my way to work to gauge the mass card situation the sign on the office says it’s open from 10 to 4. The neighborhood is largely residential so I guess they don’t expect “business” from anyone who works.

If I walk out of a commercial operation, say a boutique, having bought nothing I’m OK, if a little uncomfortable, unless I know the shop owner. Then it’s harder not to buy a little something. What about you?

brouse in a store

Service of False Advertising

April 9th, 2015

Categories: Advertising, Fine Print, Lies, Marketing, Restaurant, Small Print

Free Pizza Blackboard

Driving down the street in the small upstate NY town of Millbrook I saw the sign above. Because I was watching out for pedestrians and hoping the traffic light wouldn’t change, my eye only caught the words FREE PIZZA, which was what the restaurant wanted me to see. I had to stop because the light was now red and I then saw what else was written on the chalkboard: That what is “free” is Wifi and that their pizza is “awesome.” The sign may have been an attempt at humor but it annoyed me enough for me to change my luncheon plans that day.

DirecTVKatie Lobosco wrote about a swindle in “The FTC has charged DirecTV with fraud, claiming that it misled customers with its popular 12-month discount package,” on money.cnn.com. According to Lobosco, “The satellite company advertises a 12-month plan for as little as $19.95, but fails to make it clear that a two-year contract is required, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That means customers are getting stuck with a longer contract than they wanted. What’s worse: The package’s price jumps in the second year by between $25 and $45 per month. Customers that try to cancel early are hit with a fee of up to $480, according to the complaint.”

I recently fell for a promotion. The monthly charge is $40+ more than I thought it would be once the rental of this or that piece of essential equipment and the taxes and other fees are added in. We have a two year contract and I fully expect the price to reach the stratosphere as soon as the contract is up.

Used car salesmanI’ve written before about my grandfather who was the first to draw such chicanery to my attention when I was about eight. I saw banners touting unbelievably cheap car prices and Grandpa mumbled that those were for cars without steering wheels and brakes and that the charge would be far higher if you wanted those essentials in your car.

Laws and regulations aside, this technique is ancient, tiring and off-putting. It focuses on tricking people into immediate sales with no view to the long term. What’s nutty is that the restaurant makes good pizza and DirecTV [which we have upstate] and the company that provides a phone/TV/Internet package we now have provide quality products as well. Why do they need to stoop to such measures? Have you felt fleeced by or noticed similar shady sales practices that irritate you? Have you changed your mind about buying a product or service as a result?

Bait and switch

Service of Scams on Steroids

April 6th, 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Scam 3

I’ve written about scams at least two times before. Have you noticed, or heard about, an increasing number of them lately? Many Oldie but goodyare of the oldie but goodie variety:

  • I just received two about friends robbed abroad in desperate need of funds. Guess the perpetrators thought we had poor memories so they dug out the old saw.
  • An increasing number of my contacts have clicked on a contaminated link that infiltrates their address book and spews out fake emails. The “From” sports the name of a person you know. The copy looks like this:

            Hi! How are you?

            News from Oprah: nasty link

            She says it works!

Name of Sender

            Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

In addition to this format that’s always the same, the crazy email address of friends and family that in no way resembles the actual one is a dead giveaway. And with all the faux emails telling you to pick up your valuable points from the drug store you use or the  department store you don’t, it’s too easy to become entrapped.

IRS ScamsAnother scam I heard of recently [but isn’t that new] comes by telephone. A voice claims to be an IRS agent and threatens the listener who is told to send money owed and in arrears, or else. According to money.cnn.com, “it tops the IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams this year.” You may think that nobody would fall for a robocall but 3,000 people have and they’ve lost $14 million to date. If your phone identifies callers, these scammers have tricked the system to read/say “IRS!”

Have you come across any new scams lately or been barraged by familiar ones? Have you been tricked into any?

Phone scam

 

Service of a Bad Sign

April 2nd, 2015

Categories: Communications, First Impressions, Real Estate, Restaurant, Retail

Luxury for blog

A business can so easily give the wrong impression. Here are photos I took on my walk to and from work that illustrate the point.

The sign featured above inspired the post. It touts luxury apartments for rent. The fact that this dirty sign has drooped in this manner for weeks tells me that as a potential tenant, my leaky faucet, broken toilet or elevator, lack of hot water or heat will suffer similar neglect.

Nail sign for blogNot sure I’d want to have my nails done at a place with insufficient soap and water to keep its unprofessionally hung sign clean–photo right.

New Yorkers are chomping at the bit to enjoy a spring sidewalk drink or meal but would anyone consider this place featured below? Chairs and tables have been laced with boxes and filled garbage bags for days.

Have you noticed similar easy-fix neglect in neighborhoods in which you hang around?

 Restaurant sign blog

Service of More Ying than Yang in New York

March 30th, 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

NYC

One of the great things about New York is that the people who work, live or visit it are singular and contradictory. Based on recent observations–the preponderance of which were positive–I wonder if I’ve detected a trend.

Crunch

fender benderWalking to work last week I heard the unhappy sound of crunching steel. Nobody was going fast in morning traffic on Second Avenue, so it wasn’t a loud crash–just an “oh, no!” kind of noise. The van and the SUV were each making a right onto 45th Street. The drivers pulled over to get out of the way and each jumped out of his vehicle. The van driver said “Are you alright?” to which the SUV driver said, “This was my fault.” I didn’t see if they were local. It sure didn’t sound like a New York kind of conversation and I was impressed.

Office Support

Security desk east 45 streetThe same day, on my way into my office building, I saw the security man, Eric, run for the front doors. That’s unusual. He sits behind a large desk in a spacious entrance, [photo at left] making people sign in, overseeing the elevators, the fire alarm equipment, and so forth. Unless he’s leaving the building, he’s never by the doors. But that day, he noticed a blind woman entering. She was clutching a support cane and a tenant, who was leaving the building, held open the door for her. Eric cheerfully escorted her to an elevator and up to the floor she was visiting.

Lake Leaping

man helps over puddleI was chatting about a project on my mobile phone, focusing on hearing words over sirens and other street noise, racing to catch a train. After crossing a street I was suddenly confronted by a small lake of water that reached around the curb, requiring a 2.5 foot leap from street to sidewalk. [It mystifies that this type of water backup is typical of this island.] What complicated this crossing was that it occurred at a building site. Equipment lining the street and avenue gave me a few choices: Leap over the little lake and possibly miss and twist an ankle, sacrifice one of my shoes and splash my clothes or retreat to the other side of the street which was in the wrong direction. I said, outloud, “Oh my,” as much to the person I was speaking with as to the air. Suddenly a man ahead of me, who had just cleared the moat, turned and held out his hand and said, “I’ve always wanted to help a woman like this and I’m Jewish.”  Note: New Yorkers often speak in such non sequiturs. I have no idea what he meant but was grateful. I called him “Sir Walter Raleigh,” and thanked him.

City Siren

parallel parkingThat same week, walking east on 53rd Street after dark, I heard a cacophony of sirens and honking and then noticed a procession of at least 15 police cars with flashing red lights crossing First Avenue heading west and intending to proceed up the street between First and Second Avenues. Stuck at a standstill, the siren noises ratcheted up a notch to a wild throb.

Meanwhile, a private car was taking its time parking, holding up the passenger cars behind it and the line of police cars. The driver was moving at such a remarkably slow speed that I noticed him. He was oblivious to both the ear-splitting noise and the flashing red lights that punctuated the night like a fireworks show a few feet in the air. All but one police car gave up on 53rd Street. Some backed out on to First Avenue while others swung uptown on the avenue. The parker was a poster child for a self-centered person oblivious to others or their surrounding. Too bad the police were in a rush because the parker should have received a fat summons and had his license revoked. Anyone this blind and deaf and disrespectful of the law should not be allowed to drive.

As a big fan of the city, the first three examples were thrilling. Do you think they’re indicative of a trend? Sadly I wasn’t surprised at the fourth. Are you? Have you noticed instances in New York or other cities that indicate a striking regard for others or the opposite?

Love NYC

Service of Penalties For Doing Nothing Wrong

March 26th, 2015

Categories: Automobiles, Credit Card, Credit History, Insurance, Penalties

pillory

I knew of a fellow whose car insurance company considered him accident prone for which he was penalized. It had nothing to do with his driving record. He’d park his car in town and on three occasions over a few years another vehicle ran into it. His mistake was to report each incident. The first insurance company dropped him and the next Parked Car hit insurer charged him more.

I wonder if a similar thing will happen to my credit rating. I understand that one of the ways to decrease your credit rating is by ordering too many cards. A few months ago I got a new credit card because Home Depot was hacked. It happened to thousands if not millions of others. We had no choice: A new card arrived in the mailbox. [A friend told me that now this store asks to see your driver's licensee if you buy goods worth more than $50. Good.]

Credit ratingThis week, someone tried to buy food from a ShopRite supermarket in New Jersey using my credit card number. The card’s security office called to confirm that the purchase was mine because, said the security man, the store had questioned and refused the charge. I assured him I was speaking with him from my desk in NYC, my card in hand, and that it wasn’t me buying groceries. I asked how the perpetrator got my credit card number and he said that there are so many ways he couldn’t tell me which it was.

I now have a second black mark to jeopardize my rating, and also the inconvenience of seven to 10 days without a card I use almost daily. I also must notify EZ Pass of the new number, and any other service that automatically charges expenses to my card. Didn’t I just do that after the Home Depot card fix? Grump.

smartphone 3This new card business is costly for banks. No wonder credit card companies want to move 100 percent of the charging process to smartphones: Someone steals the phone and replacement is the owner’s problem. Surely the swindlers are currently figuring out how to outsmart the phones. It will also be inconvenient for those without the newest phones–which in this harsh world will just be tough for them while great for phone sales.

I wonder how ShopRite staff knew that I wasn’t using my card. We swipe cards–they never go near the cashier who might feel the quality of the plastic or notice something strange about the card’s layout. In addition to examples in insurance and credit card worlds, are we potentially penalized for other things we have no control over?

Naughty Child in corner

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