Service of Name Changes, Deliberate & Not

November 16th, 2017

Categories: Brand Loyalty, Branding, Name

Photo: yelp.com

A recent weekly conference call began with many admitting that they were often called by other names, Roberta for Ramona; Maxine for Francine and for me, a mispronunciation: Gee-Anne for gene. I’ve previously written that some call my husband Homer, Horace.

But some change their names on purpose–my aunt, for example. She had been known as Lili until she was in her 70s when out of the blue she insisted on Elisabeth, also a nice name, but hard for friends and family to get used to. I never learned why the change.

Photo: poshmark.com

Maybe the itch has grown up as 70 seems to be the magic number. Coach, at 76, is Tapestry now. Execs at the company that began as a high end handbag manufacturer [vintage bag at right] said it wanted to change its corporate image to reflect the luxury brands it had acquired–Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade.

According to a Reuters feature I read in the New York Post, Coach chief exec Victor Luis responded to criticism of the change and choice of name on social media by saying: “At the end of the day some of the social media reaction is misplaced because people think we are changing the name of the Coach brand, which we are not doing. It’s really about creating a new corporate identity for Coach as a house of brands.”

The Reuters article continued: “Coach, however, lost some shine in recent years in part due to the financial recession and increased online shopping. The company is trying to regain its former glory by buying new brands, keeping a tight lid on discounting and pulling back from department stores.”

As for that tight lid on discounters, I just bought a classic pair of Coach-brand loafers at T.J. Maxx at a very comfortable price.

I kept thinking of the $millions spent over decades to make the Coach brand familiar and admired by many. It, Spade and Weitzman will still appear on shoes and fashion as Tapestry is the corporate umbrella. Wise minds in the C-suite had clearly lost faith in the power of the Coach name. Some reporters covering the Coach story reminded their audiences that Google’s new corporate name is Alphabet. Have you heard anyone call it that?

Photo: youtube

Reminds me of some of the bridges around NYC—I think “59th Street” and “Triborough” not “Koch” or “Kennedy.” I adapted well to the Met Life Building taking over for what once was the Pan Am building, no doubt because of the Met Life’s Snoopy dog connection. [That they deep sixed the spokesdog is another matter.] Met Life no longer owns the building but is a major tenant so its name remains.

What do you do when people call you by the wrong name? Do you know adults who have changed their names [and I don’t mean through marriage]. Do you think a venerable name in fashion should change its corporate name—does it show lack of faith in the brand—or that it doesn’t matter as the public’s memory is short? How long will it take for New Yorkers to remember the changed names of buildings and bridges?

Photo: stuartweitzman.com

Service of Antidotes to Decorating and Fashion Insecurities

November 13th, 2017

Categories: Craft Show, Fashion, Insecurity, Interior Design

Alexandra & Michael Miller, Everyman Works, Brooklyn

Americans’ insecurities about decorating their homes is well documented. Google the subject: you’ll see. I know this first hand from interviewing retailers and interior designers over years, starting with a stint eons ago at Art & Antiques Magazine. Fine antique shop owners had a heck of a time fighting a fear of being different. For starters, people dread unsolicited feedback from friends and mothers-in-law, as in “Why did you choose THAT style, color or pattern?” on walls and upholstery to china. Frame shops thrive when called in to fill a new house with art because a homeowner doesn’t know where to start [and perhaps would like someone else to blame?]

Renee Weiss Chase, Cloth2Clay, Collingswood, N.J.

The good news: According to Newton’s third law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I maintain that there are those who bend over backwards to achieve a special look in their homes filled with visual surprises that they love—that are the decorative equivalent of a squeeze of lemon or lime to perfect a dish or drink. And these people are in luck: American-made decorative accents, photography, sculpture and furniture will be exhibited this weekend at the Brooklyn Museum at my client’s American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn. [The Eastern Parkway subway stop is literally steps from the museum door and there’s a large parking lot.]

Lori Kaplan, NY jeweler

Does the same self-doubt apply to fashion? I’ve not studied the industry so I can rely only on my own experience and observations: A remarkable accent—scarf, jewelry, hat or jacket–on a classic ensemble brightens the wearer whose posture and expression beam with joy and confidence. Imagine giving such a bonus with your holiday presents this season. One Brooklyn Museum member, a loyal craft show visitor and successful business owner told me: “My whole wardrobe this year was from [last year’s] show. ”

Why do you think so many fear decorating their homes? Do you? What is one of your favorite fashion accessories? Where did you find it or was it a gift? Do you explore fine craft shows as a resource for unusual, handsome gifts and additions to your home and wardrobe?

 

Milliner Karen Morris, Minneapolis, Minn.

Catherine Joseph, C Joseph NY, Huntington

Furniture maker Bok Read, Media, Pa.

Service of When Simple Things Confuse

November 9th, 2017

Categories: Acronyms, Communications, Signage

I wonder if I live on a different planet sometimes. To illustrate what I mean, I’ve photographed a few signs and a sales pitch that I’ve recently noticed or received. I cover communications—mostly poor–in many of my posts.

On a bus at night this week I looked up from what I was reading to see where I was. I admired the new lit street sign [photo above], but from where I sat, I could only see the Avenue—the street number, which is what I needed to know, was hidden. Did the designer think of that?

I know why real estate people do it, because the avenue may have more cachet as an address to the building owner, but it has always confounded me when a door that opens many paces up a NYC street has an address referencing an Avenue. I’m surprised that it’s allowed. The photo, right, shows 350 Lexington Ave. quite a bit up on 40th Street facing west.

I got a letter from Stig Abell, whom I don’t know, asking me to subscribe to the TLS with not a hint of what it was anywhere. I bet every reader of this blog knows what TLS is but on arrival home late one night, I didn’t. Because I was planning to write this column, instead of tossing the letter immediately, I looked it up: The Times Literary Supplement. I guess it was one of those “If you have to ask, you’re not worthy of it,” sales pitches.

I didn’t snap a shot of a poster that was at bus stops all over town a few months ago—and I couldn’t find an image of it on the Internet either so you’ll have to believe me. It told the reader to fly out of EWR because of convenience etc. I’ve lived in NYC most of my life and had no idea where EWR was so the poster was wasted on me—I’ve never been good at acronyms anyway. I later learned in a Facebook conversation that it refers to Newark Airport as well as why the airport uses the letters EWR. Because the letter N is reserved for all things Navy, it cannot be used to identify airports.  EWR refers to some of the other letters in the word nEWaRk.

Have you been left in the dark due to confusing signs or mysterious sales pitches?

Photo: airportparkingguides.com

Service of Every Little Bit Helps: Bard College Serious about Education for All

November 6th, 2017

Categories: Education, Innovation

Photo: bard.edu

I increasingly admire Bard College. We have enjoyed concerts at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, and outdoors in summer before that, for some 20+ years and most recently, during parent’s weekend. We attended a concert at which the students played. [We have most often heard the American Symphony Orchestra replaced by The Orchestra Now, but the student performances are always a treat.] Leon Botstein, conductor, music director and president, reminded the audience made up, I suspect,  of many music lovers like us who had no undergrads in the game, that while each of the students major in music, they all have a second major. So smart for a college known for its outstanding creative offerings. So practical. So necessary today.

Bard president Leon Botstein confers associate degree to member of prison college initiative. Photo: dailyfreeman.com

The college is innovative in more than the arts. Its college program for prisoners made headlines in 2015 when the prison debating team beat Harvard’s. And now Bard has launched a “microcollege,” at the Prospect Heights public library. Leslie Brody wrote about it in The Wall Street Journal in “Bard Launches Free ‘Microcollege,’ in Brooklyn.” The free two year college is for “low-income applicants who haven’t sought degrees due to the price tag or personal hardships.”

The director of both programs–prison and library–is Max Kenner, VP for institutional initiatives at Bard. He calls access to college in this country “a catastrophic failure.” The “intellectual power of prison inmates,” that surprises many and frustrates Kenner, inspired the idea for the microcollege. Kenner mentioned never-ending jokes about his beloved prison initiative with “a punch line something about a captive audience.”

As in the prison program, Bard instructors will teach small seminars. Graduates will receive a liberal arts associate degree. The students will all be from Brooklyn, the program starts in January, 2018 and the goals: To grow to 64 students and that the graduates continue their studies to earn a four year degree elsewhere.

Do you also admire pioneering programs like this? Should it work, do you think it will become a template for other colleges to begin to chip away at one of the many closed doors to education?

Photo: dance.bard.edu

Service of What To Do About Identity Theft

November 2nd, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Photo: Teachprivacy.com

The more I read about data breaches especially of companies, like Equifax, that are supposed to guard our personal information and countless subsequent almost daily articles about what to do about it, the more anxious I get. After a scampered through Tara Siegel Bernard’s excellent piece in The New York Times, I wasn’t one bit relieved. In “Is It Time to Consider an Identity Protection Service?” in addition to “not necessarily,” I kept thinking “fox in the henhouse!” In 2014, the most recent year for which there are statistics, she said that 17.6 million were victims of identity theft where perpetrators tried to enter bank or credit card accounts.

And just as I thought I was up to date and that it was time to write about this I read Michael Rapoport and AnnaMaria Andriotis’ article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, “States Quiz Equifax on Disclosure,” which reports that “Attorneys general in at least five states are looking into why credit-reporting firm Equifax Inc. didn’t tell the public for nearly six weeks about the massive data breach that potentially compromised the personal information of 148.5 million Americans.”

Photo: itsecuritygury.org

Back to Bernard. She wrote about services such as LifeLock and MyIDCare, so-called protection services, and the news wasn’t reassuring. A security analyst who works for a tech research firm Avivah Litan, told Bernard that she felt these services were a waste of money.

Bernard continued: “But these services vary greatly, both in reputation and in offerings, according to fraud and privacy experts. Signing up also requires consumers to entrust yet another corporate entity with their most sensitive data — many of the same details stolen in the Equifax breach — while entering into legal agreements filled with fine print that leads consumers to give up many rights.”

More distressing: “Some of the more prominent services also have questionable histories. The Government Accountability Office counts at least 16 federal enforcement actions taken against providers of identity theft protection—financial services among them.” Bernard reported that Lifelock didn’t secure client’s “most sensitive data,” and promoted false advertising, resulting in a $100 million fine paid the FTC. That was in 2015. This year Equifax and Transunion settled “a regulator’s allegations that they tricked consumers into paying for credit scores of questionable value.” Together they paid $23 million.

Bernard explained what the protection services do. They hire the big services, [such as Equifax, TransUnion and Experian], to look for any changes in activity such as new credit cards, a big increase in what you owe or a late payment so you hear about it after the damage is done. They also claim to scan and monitor a whole list of things such as misuse of medical ID and Social Security numbers, but “they aren’t necessarily going to prevent a crime.”

Photo: feex.com

Bernard added: “But consumers need to be able to trust that the companies will protect the information they are scanning for. Identity Guard asks consumers to provide 26 pieces of personal data, though Mr. [Johan] Roets says that data remains on its operational servers and never touches the internet.”

Photo: pixelmaids.com

The companies that specialize in helping once the dastardly deed is done, some with private investigators with limited power of attorney, don’t come cheap. IDShield charges $899 at first and a monthly rate of either $9.95 or $19.95 reported Bernard.

A credit freeze costs nothing and Bernard said will foil some fraud as it prevents anyone opening credit cards or loans in your name but does nothing to avoid “takeover of financial accounts and cellphones,” where plenty of activity occurs, nor does it thwart fraud relating to tax refunds and social security payments. I know three people who were told they’d already submitted their taxes. Scofflaws submitted early requesting substantial refunds. Someone had stolen their identity and submitted tax information early.

I just read on artforum.com “Hauser & Wirth, London-based dealers Simon Lee, Thomas Dane, Rosenfeld Porcini, and Laura Bartlett, and Tony Karman, the president of Expo Chicago, have all been targeted by hackers or had money stolen from them in the midst of transactions over artworks, according to a report in the Art Newspaper. The most common form of fraud so far consists of criminals hacking into an art dealer’s e-mail account and monitoring incoming and outgoing correspondence.” Eventually the hackers slip in to the email conversation pretending to be the art dealer and instruct the recipient to trash the first invoice and wire payment to their account. They disappear once the money arrives.

Bernard lists 10 steps to safeguard yourself from fraud. They range from opening a “My Social Security Account” with the Social Security Administration to prevent a thief from redirecting your benefits to dedicating one computer for all financial activity.

What have you done to protect your identity? Are you concerned or do you think it’s much ado about nothing? Do you know anyone who has had their identity breached? Do you feel that the guardians of your credit information that have potentially let it loose in the land are culpable and should be held responsible to protect you for free?

Photo: grahamsl.com

Service of Generosity: Americans are Unstinting in Giving Help

October 30th, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

 

Photo: bbc.com

Americans are so generous—I’m bowled over after every disaster to read totals they donate to help strangers in need. Only recently they contributed $31+ million to help hurricane victims when five living Presidents asked them for assistance and $14+ million when Hollywood stars such as Justin Bieber, Barbara Streisand, Al Pacino and others entertained for the cause.

Photo: process.st

I’m concerned about some requests for help I’ve seen on an online crowdfunding platform. Someone recently promoted one on Facebook with good intentions: It was placed by family members of a Las Vegas shooting victim he knew, asking for $100,000. Read the whole request and you see they wanted money for more than funeral and related expenses. [I thought $100,000 would pay for an awfully fancy funeral.] Some of the funds were for a college fund for the dead woman’s nieces and nephews. Cynical me figured her sibling[s] were making the request. I bet most people didn’t even notice this detour because they were so upset at this horrendous ending to a life. Early in the game $60,000 had already been pledged. I felt that the additional cause, amounting to a bequest, was a stretch and should have had its own post.

There are tax advantages to giving yet I can’t help but conjecture that citizens donating to the hurricane funds dug into shallow pockets, in many cases, without a thought of tax deductions. Similarly, people rushing to help families of murder victims have altruistic thoughts first. Do you agree? Are you careful when sending money to requests via Kickstarter and similar online vehicles for attracting money where you underwrite projects and other causes? Have you been moved to give an impulse donation?

Photo: cokesburycommons.com

Service of Book Reviews: Is it Fair to Select a Reviewer with an Ax to Grind?

October 26th, 2017

Categories: Book Reviews, Books, Fair and Square

Photo: myeducomer.com

Could Bernie Sanders write a fair review of a book about Donald Trump or President George H. W. Bush, known to dislike broccoli, a balanced opinion of a cookbook about that vegetable? I read Joseph Epstein’s review of Richard Aldous’s new book “Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian,” in The Wall Street Journal and learned more about Epstein’s dislikes—Harvard, the Kennedys and Schlesinger’s career choices—than about the book.

He started by sharing his resentment of the importance of Harvard in its heyday as a stepping stone to a successful career no matter how ineffectual a person turned out to be. He gave as an example a friend with a Harvard sheepskin who went higher and higher in job after job, and who “improved none of these institutions in any way I could determine, which did not stop his relentless progress in the world.” Next he criticized the University today for “having committed intellectual hara-kiri through multiculturalism, political correctness and the general surrender to victimology.”

Why Harvard? The university impacted the first half of Schlesinger’s life. Epstein wrote: “Richard Aldous frequently notes the services that a Harvard connection afforded Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.” His father, Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., “was on the Harvard history faculty and, along with being an historian of originality, was a clever academic politician.” He then shared a long list of how Jr. benefited in Cambridge, subsequently landing an interesting job during WWII thanks to connections. Epstein acknowledged Junior’s many talents during this period. Schlesinger, Jr. returned to Harvard after the war but subsequently made a frightful career choice, according to Epstein, who was clear in his disdain for the Kennedy family.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr Photo: anb.org

According to Epstein, “Few young men could have seemed more promising than the younger Schlesinger, until he met a Waterloo named the Kennedys. Once that fatal encounter occurred, Schlesinger went from boundlessly promising brilliant historian—with three volumes of an anticipated five of his never-finished Franklin Delano Roosevelt biography already completed—to a man variously called ‘a servant,’ ‘a stooge,’ a ‘poodle’ and ‘a hagiographer.’”

“During World War II, with its rationing and shortages of gasoline, a popular poster asked, ‘Is This Trip Necessary?’ The same question might be asked of this biography. Is its subject worthy of the full-dress biographical effort Mr. Aldous, a professor of history at Bard College, gives him? No one would claim great-man status for Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.”

Epstein described how ineffectual Schlesinger, Jr. was in influencing President Kennedy: “In taking his White House job, Schlesinger saw it as his duty to steer Kennedy onto a liberal track and keep him there. His success at the task, we learn from Mr. Aldous, was slightly less than minimal.”

Photo: Amazon.com

Epstein disliked the award winning book about President Kennedy, “A Thousand Days,” for his pandering. As for “Robert Kennedy and His Times,” wrote Epstein: “the jig, you might say, was up. Reviewers called it ‘a 916 page promotional pamphlet of exculpation and eulogy.’ …Even Mr. Aldous, who strains to be fair to Schlesinger, reviews his various coverups of Bobby Kennedy’s more egregious behavior and concludes that ‘it is difficult for the reader not to wince.’”

Epstein gave the author credit for keeping his political views out of the book, [which is more than I can say for the reviewer]. And he complimented Aldous for describing the “inner conflicts of presidential politics.”

There is one political commentator on Cable who asks questions of his panelists and doesn’t give them a chance to answer because he then bellows his opinions and talks over them. I felt this review was like that. It reminds me of a restaurant review I read eons ago in which a perfectly good restaurant was trashed by a sainted reviewer because a couple next to her table argued loudly throughout dinner. She interspersed their uncivil conversation in her copy and blamed the owner for not kicking them out and gave the place a bad mark because her neighbors spoiled the meal.

Do you think that a person with an ax to grind should be chosen to write a review even if, like Epstein, he’s a crackerjack writer with sharp wit? Might Epstein be irritated that Schlesinger became the darling of café society and the publishing world as a result of his political connections made after he sold out and dropped the life of academia and a promising career writing serious history?

Photo: youtube.com

Service of Retail Etiquette: How Does the Message Get So Garbled?

October 23rd, 2017

Categories: Anger, Attitude, Retail, Service, Service Personality

 

Photo: epicurious.com

Retail stores are having a heck of a time so when I hear of one that sells a good product but whose owner or employees miss the mark in service, I wonder what’s going on.

There’s a bakery in a charming Litchfield, Conn. town that sells scrumptious delicacies that look as delectable as they taste. Friends surprised me when they served a delicious cake from there at my last birthday, [I didn’t think they knew what day it was], so I know about the quality of the goodies.

Photo: archiesonline.com

The friends who made my birthday dinner—I’ll call them Fred and Paul–had been asked to buy brownies for another birthday person who preferred them over cake. Paul described what happened: “As we walked into the bake shop a man with an unpleasant look on his face stared at us. The brownies were under a glass bell, priced $3.00 each.

“Fred asked for 12. The owner was horrified—actually angry. He gritted his teeth and snapped ‘Why didn’t you call ahead!?’ He feared that there wouldn’t be enough for other customers.”

Paul continued, “Didn’t the owner register that we were giving him business too? He opened a bag—instead of a box–and threw them in, one by one, while continuing to seethe. I was close to telling him to keep them. Fred also controlled his anger. But we were stuck–we’d been asked to contribute these favorites.”

Photo: marthastewart.com

There’s a bakery on First Avenue and 57th Street in NYC—Andres–that sells amazing palmiers, aka elephant ears, which I adore. If for whatever reason they don’t have any when I drop in, I’ll go another time or I’ll remember to call first!

What does it matter who buys what you’ve made as long as you have no leftovers at closing? If a bakery’s logistics are faulty it’s not the customer’s responsibility. If you’d been Fred and Paul, would you also have held your tongue? Good bakeries are few and far between in rural areas. If you had walked out of this bakery without the brownies, what would you have told the hostess and what would you have brought instead?

Photo: pinterest

Service of Why Now? Does Today’s Indignation & Punishment of Sexual Harassment & Assault Have Legs?

October 19th, 2017

Categories: Sexual Harassment, Timing, Workplace Disputes

    Photo: dailybeast.com

 

The namesake furniture for which Jay Wellingdon Couch is known was invented in 1895 but the proverbial casting couch had been around for many years before. So why, after some well publicized, [and millions of sub-rosa], sexual harassment and assault instances that caused momentary ripples of disdain for years, are corporations and organizations jumping on board the “do-the-right-thing” train now?

Anita Hill’s accusations of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, when he was being vetted for his job, had little resonance in workplaces nationwide. Yet suddenly we see mass firings: of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, many at Uber and Amazon’s head of its entertainment studio, Roy Price.

Roy Price, left, & Harvey Weinstein. Photo: Photo: adweek.com

According to Ben Fritz and Joe Flint in “Amazon Suspends Head of Its Studio,” in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Price’s suspension comes soon after a female producer went public about a 2015 sexual-harassment complaint she made against him and after actress Rose McGowan unleashed a storm of criticism at the company for being in business with Mr. Weinstein, the former Weinstein Co. co-chairman who was ousted over the weekend amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment.” So what did Amazon do about the female producer’s complaint between 2015 and now?

The king of sexual harassment appears to be Harvey Weinstein who was allegedly busy casting his movies and for his enjoyment for some 30 years. I can’t put my finger on why it took so long for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Producers Guild of America to recognize something its board members must have known about for eons, waiting until just now to eject Mr. W. from its memberships. Surely word about the reputation of a fellow such as Mr. W gets around.

Photo: sacsconsulting.com

There’s a “Me too” initiative on Facebook where women are posting the following: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” I wonder: While the objective may be honorable, is there a twinge of a boast associated with this initiative? Is the implication that a woman isn’t/wasn’t attractive if she doesn’t join in or admit to having been harassed or assaulted?

The injury, pain, and anxiety for the harassed and assaulted women is no more or less today than before. So it has to be something about today that’s different.

Is the indignation a flash in the pan or does it have legs? Will it blow over just as fury over gun violence does after mass murders of innocent victims? Huffing and puffing galore with “hearts and prayers,” for victims and their families and yet nothing is done to close down machine gun sales. Do you think that the entertainment industry and marketers of products and services finally recognize the economic power of women? Or is something else afoot?

Photo: bigthink.com

Service of Listening to Your Gut

October 16th, 2017

Categories: Instinct, Listen, Listen to your Gut

Photo: masterheartmagazine.com

I believe in listening to my gut. When I don’t I’m sorry almost 9.9 times out of 10. It doesn’t always speak to me however, which might be the subject of a different post.

Elizabeth Bernstein’s Wall Street Journal article dug into the subject. In “Does Your Gut Always Steer You Right? Weighing a big decision? Here’s what experts say about when to go with your gut or your rational brain—or some combination of both,” one expert warned about the pitfalls of asking too many people for advice. After a while “stop and be quiet so you can hear your own gut,” she wrote.

Your instinct is affected by mood extremes: Best not make decisions during periods of great stress and anger, happiness or being totally relaxed–all of which might distort your decision. When on a high, I’ve accepted invitations that I’ve later regretted–though Bernstein had far more earthshaking decisions in mind in her article.

Photo: reference.com

What you eat, wrote Bernstein, can harm “the gut’s connection to the brain.” Avoid refined foods, chemicals, and eating too much too fast. On the other hand vegetables and fermented foods “promote healthy bacteria,” and consequently, mental clarity. I can’t attest to this.

“Using unconscious and conscious thought to make a decision is often best.” Make a list of pros and cons and set it aside. Sometimes, she wrote, the answer will be staring back at you.

Photo: discoverwalking.com

If not, “do something that absorbs your conscious mind.” Hike, run, walk on the beach, play a musical instrument but don’t watch TV. Author of “The Mind-Gut Connection,” Emeran Mayer, said “Go into yourself without distractions from the outside, and your unconscious will keep working on the problem.” Mayer is also a gastroenterologist and neuroscientist.

I’ve found that the right answers/decisions come to me in the middle of the night, when water beats on my head in a shower, on my walk to and from work or while riding the subway.

Has your gut stood by you? Have there been times it’s led you astray and have you figured out why? When you’ve ignored it, have you paid the price?

Photo: waggingtonpost.com

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