Service of Court Rulings that Thin Consumers’ Ability to Sue

June 26th, 2017

Categories: Justice, Laws, Medicine

Photo: history.com

The California law suit against Bristol-Myers Squibb and the blood thinner Plavix involved almost 700 plaintiffs because the drug “allegedly created a substantial risk of heart attack, stroke and other injuries,” wrote Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal. But only 86 plaintiffs were from California and according to a new Supreme Court 8-1 ruling, only those cases can be heard in that state. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Photo: drugsdb.com

“The ruling was one of a series this term limiting so-called forum shopping, where plaintiffs’ attorneys file suit in a state or federal court they believe will be sympathetic to their claims,” Bravin reported.

California’s Supreme Court argued that all should be considered because the claims were similar; Bristol-Myers Squibb sales reached $900+million in the state and the drug was sold around the country. Justice Sotomayor wrote: “There is nothing unfair about subjecting a massive corporation to suit in a state for a nationwide course of conduct that injures both forum residents and nonresidents alike.”

The winning argument went that “Companies have long complained that plaintiffs in certain cases seek out venues where they believe they are most likely to receive favorable rulings, even when the cases involved may have only a tenuous connection to the area.”

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Photo: biography.com

According to Bravin, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: “The nonresidents were not prescribed Plavix in California, did not purchase Plavix in California, did not ingest Plavix in California, and were not injured by Plavix in California. The mere fact that other plaintiffs were prescribed, obtained, and ingested Plavix in California—and allegedly sustained the same injuries as did the nonresidents—does not allow the state to assert specific jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims.”

Bravin added: “Consumers groups, however, have warned that cutting back too sharply on plaintiffs’ ability to sue could give big companies more ways to avoid responsibility for harm they cause.”

Had you heard of forum-shopping before? Do you agree with the Supreme Court—that the court in a state can hear only about plaintiffs from that state? Or does that help corporations “avoid responsibility for harm they cause,” that consumer groups fear?

US Supreme Court building. Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Service of Summer Reading

June 22nd, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Photo: fineartamerica.com

When you were a kid, did you leave school for summer vacation with a reading list? I did. Some of the books ended up in my camp trunk nevertheless there usually was a scramble to finish what was due just before school started.

I thought of those days when I saw Ellen Gamerman’s Wall Street Journal article, “If You Could Read Only One.” In it she asked influential “literary professionals” to identify their choice of fiction published this spring or due out this summer. The pundits chose a psychological thriller; two science fiction/fantasy novels, one set in South Africa, the other in the world after civilization has collapsed; a police detective story set in Israel; an essay collection written by a blogger; a fictional 1950s Hollywood starlet’s biography and a literary fantasy taking place in NYC.

Photo: giveitlove.com

Of the seven in the article, the one that struck my fancy was “A Separation” by Katie Kitamura [Riverhead Books, February 2017]. Gamerman wrote that Lynn Lobash, who reads a book a week, thought this would be one of the year’s 10 best. The manager of reader services at the New York Public Library called the book a “character-driven psychological thriller.” Much of it takes place in southern Greece. Lobash, who is also on the American Library Association’s notable books committee, told Gamerman, “It’s relatable in that way that everybody loves to read a good psychological book—because it’s really about them.” [Check out the other titles and mini reviews by clicking on the link.]

Photo: pinterest

Some of my friends rarely read fiction so for this post, I’m expanding the reach to nonfiction and also, so that I can suggest a book. It’s “Prince Charles: the passions and paradoxes of an improbable life,” by Sally Bedell Smith, [Penguin Random House, April 2017]. I’d previously read “Reflected Glory: the life of Pamela Churchill Harriman,” so I knew I’d be in for a treat.

Bedell Smith writes well–you resent putting down her books–and they are filled with chunks of information that paint vivid pictures. Turns out that Princess Di wasn’t the angel the media made her out to be; Prince Charles was a warm and playful father that media chose to ignore and that pop—Prince Phillip—insisted on school choices that were inappropriate for Charles’ temperament. I also learned that Charles can’t tolerate anyone who disagrees with him. Once that happens, the person is cut out of his life.

Can you share a title or two that we should consider reading? It doesn’t matter if the book—fiction or nonfiction–is new. Do you read different kinds of books in summer or while on vacation than at other times of year?

 

Service of It Can Happen to You if Goldman Sachs, Citi, Barclay’s & Bank Of England Execs Were Duped

June 19th, 2017

Categories: Emails, Technology

Photo: okclipart.com

The takeaway for me was we’re all potentially doomed after seeing Liz Hoffman’s Wall Street Journal article, “Goldman’s Blankfein, Citi’s Corbat Duped by Email Prankster– The trickster appears intent on embarrassing top bankers but incidents suggest some basic cybersecurity gaps may exist.”

Hoffman and colleague Telis Demos wrote: “Goldman’s Lloyd Blankfein and Citigroup’s Michael Corbat, as well as Citigroup consumer-banking chief Stephen Bird, responded over the weekend to emails sent by the anonymous prankster masquerading as top executives at the two banks.” Last month Barclays and Bank of England’s top execs fell for a similar hoax.

The executives didn’t spill sensitive information but the

Photo: diy.com

prankster posted screenshots of the emails on Twitter. The goal, according to Hoffman, was to embarrass, not to seek information or to plant viruses.

“The emails mimic a well-known scam known as “phishing.” In this,” wrote Hoffman, “scammers try to get victims to click on malicious links or try to capture sensitive information, such as passwords, via seemingly innocuous emails. These emails can take the form of invoices from customers, shared Google documents, or phony password reset requests.” [I wonder if the reporters meant invoices from vendors…]

“Last year, the FBI said that it had observed a 270% increase in business-email scams over a 15-month period. In these, criminals had impersonated executives to request a fraudulent money transfer or other fraudulent transaction. Between October 2013 and February 2016, law-enforcement officials received reports from 17,642 victims of this kind of scheme that amounted to more than $2.3 billion in losses.”

A private banker I worked with recently told me to feel free to send him my questions by email but said he can’t respond by email. He’ll call me or I can come in and speak with him, whatever’s easier. I wonder if this precaution is new.

Not all email intruders are as benign as the one described in Hoffman’s article. Might this interloper be working for a cyber security firm looking for juicy contracts? How careful are you before responding to a client, boss, colleague or friend? Do you refuse to respond to online surveys that come your way?

Photo: flickriver.com

Service of It Must Work Because I Keep Hearing It

June 15th, 2017

Categories: Advertising, Charity, Commercials, Real Estate, Retail, Scams

Some commercials have always irritated me and they don’t get better with time. The adverts must do well or they would either be pulled or changed. For me they cause one action: I change stations.

I never again want to hear about My Pillow. While clearly a great success—bloomberg.com reported that Michael Lindell has sold 26 million of them at $45 or more each and has a workforce of 1,500–I’m not tempted and I’m clearly alone. According to Josh Dean in “The Preposterous Success Story of America’s Pillow King” “…a huge number of them [are sold] directly to consumers who call and order by phone after seeing or hearing one of his inescapable TV and radio ads.”

FortuneBuilder seminar Photo: pinterest

In the Flip This House commercial you learn that the company is looking for “a few good people,” to join them. By now, in the NY Metro area alone, they must have found thousands or, based on years of hearing the same ad, they are really selling something else, like classes, which they are. FortuneBuilders is the name of the company that produces free 90 minute seminars offering the opportunity for more that you pay for. The Central Texas Better Business Bureau president Bill McGuire, with 22 years as a banker under his belt, told Brooke West, a reporter at theeagle.com “‘if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Most of the folks [who will attend the seminars] are regular people interested in making money, and that’s what their focus is,’ McGuire said. ‘But these [FortuneBuilder representatives] are going to get into their back pockets.’” ‘Nuff said.

I haven’t heard lately the incessant jingle for “Kars4Kids.” This might be related to recent publicity. I read on nonprofitorquartely.org Ruth McCambridge’s article “Kars4Kids: What the Jingle Leaves Out,” that first appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She wrote “…. how many among the general public know that Kars4Kids is directly affiliated with—and sends 90 percent of those proceeds that go to charity to—Oorah, a single youth charity in New Jersey which, according to tax forms, is “a Jewish outreach organization for the purpose of imparting Jewish education, values, and traditions, as well as guidance and support, to Jewish children who lack access to these fundamentals?” Key words in this quote are “that go to charity.”

Photo: youtube.com

McCambridge continues to share the findings of a 300 page report by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. For example: “out of $3 million raised in that state from 2012 to 2014, less than $12,000 went to children’s services in Minnesota…. She additionally found that though Kars4Kids reports spending 63 percent on mission, in actuality, of the $88 million raised nationally from 2012 to 2014, only 44 percent was given to charity, with $40 million going to Oorah. (When it comes to car donation programs in general, that 44 percent probably puts it on the high side, actually.)”

Do some commercials that you’ve heard for years drive you up walls? Have you bought anything after you heard or saw an ad for the billionth time? Does Genucel’s Chamonix cream really remove those bags under your eyes?

Photo: parenting.com

Service of What’s the Point?

June 12th, 2017

Categories: Common Sense, Communications, Practical, Technology

Photo: jlacitychurch.org

Is there something about mail that makes the people who run such services–whether traditional or online–impractical?

USPS

I was rushed when I grabbed envelopes from my handbag to mail them in a box in front of the Amenia, NY post office, population 4,436. Inadvertently I may have also tossed in the box two checks meant for someone in my office.

Amenia, NY post office. Photo: mapio.net

When I realized this a few days later, I called to ask if they’d found the checks when they emptied the box.  The postal clerk said she wouldn’t know; the mail is picked up and goes to Albany where, if they found such checks, they’d shred them.

We live in an even smaller adjacent town, population 1,434. Were I mailing something to a business or friend there, does it make sense for the letter to travel to Albany first?

Naughty Spammer, Sloppy Spam Filter

Photo: med.stanford.edu

I received a warning that automatic filter systems were reporting as SPAM my twice weekly email notices highlighting posted topics on this blog. If I didn’t stop, my access to mail would be suspended.

There was a solution: I could avoid this by using a dedicated bulk mail delivery service designed to ensure regulatory compliance.I get tons of SPAM and have for years from entities many times larger than my business with far longer lists of recipients. No doubt they use services like Constant Contact, yet the mail keeps on coming even though it, too, is identified by the SPAM police as SPAM. So much for ensuring regulatory compliance, paying for someone else to perform a simple task and nevertheless being grabbed by the fingers of SPAM.

Further, those greedy fingers yank from my email box legitimate emails from clients, friends and relatives, people to whom I write weekly or daily and sometimes, even in the middle of back-and-forth correspondence.

I don’t want to be forced to pay for something I can do myself. Can you think of other instances like this?

Why does the USPS in tiny communities no longer have boxes designated for mail within the same zip code? Why must a small business be forced to buy a service it can very well do itself?

Service of Out to Lunch

June 8th, 2017

Categories: Food, Restaurant

Photo: activepbx.com

Two headlines touting Wall Street Journal reporter Julie Jargon’s recent articles make a point: We’re being more careful with our time and money.

They were:

Going Out for Lunch Is a Dying Tradition: Restaurants suffer as people eat at their desks; no more three-martini sit-down meals” and

Diners Are Finding $13 Burgers Hard to Swallow: Number of outlets peddling gourmet toppings has nearly quadrupled since 2005, but sticker-shocked consumers opt for home grilling instead.”

I’ve always been statistically insignificant but both headlines ring true to me, with some adjustments.

The three-martini lunch may have lasted longer in some industries than in others but it hasn’t been in evidence for eons in my experience for health, budgetary and reasons of time constraints, to name a few in no particular order. And speaking of time, with deadlines that relentlessly hit a person’s handheld so as to spoil digestion as well as conversation, who can afford to make it a habit to leave their desk at midday?

Photo: bbc.com

In any case, a sit-down luncheon meal rarely includes time for three of any kind of drink, soft or hard.

I rarely even order out for lunch when once I did daily. The 11 under-30 tech people whose office is where I too roost do far less frequently. Instead our refrigerator is full of containers from home ready to be warmed in microwave or toaster oven and homemade sandwiches on rustic bread. On occasion they’ll order pizza as a group. Two years ago there was a constant stream of food deliveries from breakfast through afternoon snack.

Photo: baconhound.com

As for the deluxe burger’s fall from grace, in addition to people cutting down on lunches out it could be that the concept is past its prime given that it’s been around for a dozen years which is a stretch for any food trend in these parts. Perhaps the cool and hip have moved on leaving the smart to make delicious burgers at home for a fraction of the price.

Have your luncheon habits changed? Are we missing something by giving up business lunches? Do corporate cafeterias take a bite out of the restaurant business? Have you cut down on your burger consumption in general? Do you think you’re getting good value for $13+ burgers?

Photo: bloomberg.com

Service of Being Stuck in Traffic

June 5th, 2017

Categories: Driving, Traffic, Travel

George Washington Bridge midday traffic. Photo archive.northjersey.com

Manhattan doubles its population to 3.1 million people daily according to a 2013 census estimate. No surprise that as long as I can remember I’ve heard morning traffic reports. When my uncle commuted by car to the city from Westchester, and for years after, I thought of him when there was an accident holding up traffic on the Hutchinson River Parkway.

I feel for drivers who almost every day are faced with one hour waits to cross bridges and tunnels from NJ. According to citylab.com, “New Jersey workers…..seem to prefer cars more than most other areas.”

Long Island isn’t an easy place to commute from either and it may soon be getting worse. After 70 minutes waiting my turn in less than a mile outside the Midtown Tunnel one recent Saturday evening, I wondered aloud, “How do commuters do it?” I have to hand it to them.

Waiting so long to return to Manhattan from Long Island wasn’t bad enough: I had to fight off predator drivers who jumped the line which further slowed the process. Imagine a daily diet of such stress. This particular Saturday the bottleneck was caused by elimination of all but one lane in the tunnel giving Long Islanders access to the city due to ongoing repairs. I wondered why there were no traffic police to keep things civil and moving. And by the way: There were traffic slowdowns on various highways to and from our destination and it wasn’t weekday rush hour.

Queens Midtown Tunnel traffic. Photo: nbcnewyork.com

What happens to the citizens of Long Island who take the railroad to the beleaguered Penn Station that will be closing countless gates this summer to repair long-neglected tracks? How will they get to work? The exorbitant cost of parking aside, driving is clearly not an option unless you travel to the city at 4:00 a.m. and return home by 2:00 p.m.

What do people do to calm their nerves when faced with such daily drives that eke the energy they should apply to their jobs? When will politicians stop playing “hot potato” passing disaster on to the next administration and learn to routinely maintain their bridges, roads and tunnels? Citizens will pay the piper in time and money whenever it happens so it might as well be for quick patches rather than years-long major repairs.

Photo: atlantic.com

Service of Miserly Tips

June 1st, 2017

Categories: Etiquette, Restaurant, Tips

Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax reprimanded a couple who complained about their daughter and son-in-law. They meet for a meal once a month at a restaurant halfway between them and their son-in-law embarrassed them when they caught him giving an additional tip to their waiter and apologizing for the table.

The incident resonated when Erica Martell sent me the column because I’ve been there, though I was never caught; I didn’t apologize to the waiter and it didn’t involve my parents. Either my husband or I would slip our waiter extra money to adjust miserly tips left by a generations-old family friend.

Back to the mother who described to Hax her conversation with her daughter the next day: “She told me….[that] our restaurant habits are not very thoughtful. I demanded specifics, and she told me that we split an entree and order water only, so the bill is really low. She also said we are demanding of the wait staff, which is especially bad because we aren’t giving the establishment much money to make up for it.”

The mother said they normally tip 10 percent, 15 if the service is good “maybe 20 percent” [the amount her daughter recommended] “if they washed our car while we were eating or something.” She concluded that she didn’t feel like she was “dining incorrectly,” thought it was rude to “correct our behavior behind our backs” and no longer wanted to meet her kids for dinner.

Hax told the complainants that they were “bad restaurant guests,” noting that a 10 percent tip was decades outdated. “And, hereafter: Always be mindful of the price point and service level of a restaurant before making demands of the staff. You can send back an order that was somehow botched at any level, from Mickey D’s on up, but you don’t fuss over the garnish on a $7.99 entree.”

About the daughter and son-in-law, Hax also suggested that the mother “take a moment to appreciate their sensitivity both to the staff and to your feelings.”

Have you dined with others who leave stingy tips or in other ways embarrass you either by drilling waitstaff or by being far too picky and demanding, making the life of restaurant workers a misery? Do you side with the parents or the adult kids in this instance?

Service of When Technology Lets You Down—Or Is It The People Running It?

May 30th, 2017

Categories: Manners, Technology, Transportation, Travel

Playing Bus Catch

I was depending on a bus to get me inches from our apartment one Saturday morning. The stops for the so-called First Avenue and 42nd Street Limited aka express bus and the local are almost a block apart and neither are on 42nd. An electronic sign reporting the whereabouts of upcoming busses [photo above] stands between them.

I ran away from the local stop to read the sign. Great: The local bus I’d hoped for was two stops away. When I turned around to walk back, the local was just pulling out of the stop. I whirled around and just then the sign changed from “2” to “0” stops. I’d missed the bus. So what was the point of the electronic sign?

Guessing at Travel Schedules

A day later I was upstate heading into the Metro North Dover Plains station’s parking area half an hour early. Two busses were leaving and I waved at one of the drivers who didn’t stop. Without advance notice [the day before there was nothing online about busses replacing trains on Sunday], the RR line substituted a bus for the first lap of the trip to NYC.

So what, you say? This switch makes a big difference to riders: when the 12:37 train changes to a bus, departure is at 12:03. The next bus? Two hours later at 2:03 according to an MTA employee who saw me and my car and the busses and sat like a lump in a white sedan with MTA logo.

I jumped out of my car where I’d stopped it to wave down the bus driver and rushed over to him asking if he could stop the bus. He shrugged. He didn’t even say “I’m sorry.”

[One of the other passengers noted that the online info on Sunday, when the MTA got around to posting the change, reported a 2:06 bus departure. If you’re on the wrong side of the 2:03, three minutes matter.]

Missing Adult & Information

In the course of that weekend, I was driving through Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties, the Bronx and Manhattan as well as around Long Island. I saw the same electronic sign on all the highways asking drivers to look for a “missing adult in a black Honda.” On Saturday the license plate number given was longer than any I’d ever seen: Clearly a mistake. By Sunday this was fixed. What didn’t change was the “adult” reference. Were they looking for a man or woman?

Can you share examples of where technology—or the person operating it–has let you or someone else down?

Service of Stationery That’s Not

May 25th, 2017

Categories: Gift Cards, Graphic Design, Retail, Stationery, Writers

Card by Jesse Levison, Gold Teeth Brooklyn

My visit to the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center is always a treat as I love fine paper, eye-catching graphics, fancy giftwrap and embellishments and there was plenty this week to satisfy from wrapping paper stunning enough to frame, magnificent ribbon displays especially by May Arts Ribbon and Ampelco Ribbon, paper party plates, favors, banners and accessories, books, candles, portfolios, boxes, balloons, and a riches of note cards for birthdays, holidays—you name it.

Jesse Levison of Gold Teeth Brooklyn’s whimsical, well rendered motifs in saturated colors screen printed on superior paper [photo above] appealed to me. She wasn’t alone: Talented artists abound at this show. I worry that there may be too many of them, but then I could say the same for gifted writers and musicians, journalists, filmmakers and so many others with training and talent that may go unrewarded in a financial sense.

Neon flamingo by Sunnylife

I play a game with myself when I cover such a trade show. Would I order this or that for my imaginary stationery store? That’s when I noticed exhibitors who were selling items that didn’t fit my idea of stationery. Examples: Barware; bath and body creams; fragrances; tea pots and tea; neckties; leather luggage; backpacks; baby clothes; jewelry; sunglasses; Sunnylife’s pool toys, neon birds, lobsters and cactus [that I loved] and decorative pillows.

And then I remembered that supermarkets and drugstores sell stationery as well.

In addition to art, music, journalism, filmmaking and writing, what other industries are overcrowded with talent? How and where will these gifted people find a way to be paid? What items have you been surprised to see in any store that you’ve traditionally visited to buy something else?

Ampelco ribbon

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