Service of a Dreaded Duty that Surprises & Turns Out Well

September 24th, 2018

Categories: Domain Name, Dread, Hackers

Photo: everydayhealth.com

There are so many things we must do that we dread based on a past lousy experience, from a health test to follow up with a corporation about a billing glitch to simple administrative procedures. I recently felt indescribable relief when I discovered a company that changed a process that had once memorably fought and frustrated me.

For years I’ve maintained my domain name, jmbyington.com. through GoDaddy.com. I renew every five years. The last time I approached the website I had a heck of a time to determine the right spot to click to get what I wanted done–and it took ages.

Photo: pcmag.com

So when I received a renewal notice my heart sank. I anticipated another nightmare of false starts, wasted time with no result, and anxiety.

On top of it, the brilliant IT man, Andrew Morgan, who nurtures our computers and keeps them healthy advised me not to click to the site through the link in the GoDaddy reminder email but to go to the website. [More about this sage advice I suggest you follow in a second.] My earlier experience found a website so complicated I could never find the right place to go.

Photo: entrepreneur.com

My password didn’t respond when I tried to sign in so I called a phone number that was easy to find [unlike some websites where they are hidden or nonexistent]. I waited a bunch of time for my turn but once I reached Ronnie Parker in customer service all my troubles were over and soon I relaxed. Parker was helpful, knowledgeable, he put me at ease, did all the work and voila! I’m set until 2023.

He agreed with Andrew. He said that hackers have duplicated their emails expertly so that even Godaddy staff has trouble determining the fake from the real. He reiterated that it is always wise to bypass the email link and instead go to a company’s website.

Have you been happily surprised when a dreaded chore or test is made seamless or painless by a smart company that has successfully improved the way it does business or through technological advances? Have you lucked into a superb customer service staffer like Ronnie Parker? Don’t you feel you’ve won a lottery when you do?

Photo: dailypost.ng

Service of the Honor System

September 20th, 2018

Categories: Drinks, Honesty, Restaurant, Retail

Photo: uvamagazine.com

These days you’ll walk out of Drug Store in Tribeca in Manhattan with a pricey health drink without paying–though the drink isn’t free. You’re expected to send a text message to the drink manufacturer, Dirty Lemon, that owns Drug Store, after which you’ll receive a link in which to post your credit card number. That’s the same way customers order cases of the lemon-flavored drink-with-supplements for shipment home.

Dirty Lemon bottles Photo: tribecacitizen

But this isn’t just any old lemon drink. Whatever your inclination, it is purported to have beauty, sleep, anti-aging, detox or other benefits depending on additives of collagen, magnesium, rose water or charcoal for example. On the website, Daily Detox, one of the drinks, costs $45 for six bottles, shipping included, and $65 on Amazon.

Erin Griffith wrote about the store in The New York Times. Dirty Lemon founder Zak Normandin doesn’t anticipate much theft from his largely young female customers, and said he’d allocate losses to his sampling budget.

Dim sum. Photo: cnn.com

And while much of the competition is closing retail outlets and increasing a digital presence, he plans to do the opposite by opening four more stores. In addition, according to Griffith, Normandin “shifted almost all of its $4 million annual digital advertising budget into its retail stores.”

[An exception is Amazon which by 2021 expects to have 3,000 stores without registers. People will pay via their smartphones.]

Photo: retailwire.com

Buying on the honor system is nothing new. Order dim sum in some Chinese restaurants and the waiter will tally the empty little plates on the table when you’re done. Checking yourself out at grocery and other stores similarly counts on customer honesty. Scofflaws could easily hide a few dishes at plate-counting time at the restaurant and pay for every other item in the do-it-yourself checkout line–but most don’t cheat or the system would have already died.

In Vienna, years ago, we were guests of local friends and eight of us sat at a big table. When lunch was over, the host told the waiter what we’d ordered and only then did he write anything down. I wonder if that’s still a custom. In a Scotland Inn if you made yourself a drink or took a soda from an unlocked cabinet in the living room you jotted down your choices. And all over the U.S., especially in rural areas, customers fill cash boxes with money owed for fruits, veggies and flowers at farm stands where nobody is around.

Do you believe that the honor system works equally well in cities as in the country? Can you think of other examples? Will it increasingly be in our purchasing future?

 

Photo: myjournalcourier.com

Service of Whatever Happened To….

September 17th, 2018

Categories: Advertising, Commercials, Environment, Leaks, Music

Photo: makeuseof.com

 

I just heard from musician Tyler Schuster’s dad, Bill, who updated me on what this enterprising young saxophone player has been up to since he appeared in a post here. It inspired me to also revisit a few other past posts.

Tyler’s music instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Michael Shults, PhD, drafted the original, “Service of Perseverance Set to Music: A Story That Makes My Heart Sing,” in March 2017.

Winning Musician

Tyler Schuster

Shults wrote about Tyler who “pushed harder and smarter when things got tough.” At the end he wrote: “Please join me in congratulating Tyler on his incredible progress and for embodying so many of the ideals we preach in music and any other discipline: toughness, hard work, self awareness, ambition and goal-setting. He’s worked very hard to get where he is and hopefully will have an influence on some future musicians.”

He’s already started. Bill Schuster wrote: “Tyler is student teaching music students grades 6-12 in Bloomer, Wis.  He will be graduating on December 22 with his Music, Instrumental and Music Teaching, Comprehensive Major – Bachelor of Music Education.

“He’s worked very hard and hopefully will have an influence on some future musicians.  He is playing in numerous bands and orchestras, including the Jazz Ensemble, which was named Best Undergraduate College Jazz Band by Downbeat Magazine in 2017 and in 2018, it won best Live Performance.

Schuster added that his son also won the Concerto Competition; the University’s Conducting Competition and was a member of the winning Quartet Competition. “As far as anyone can tell, Tyler is the only person to win all the competitions. He hopes to teach a few years and start his master’s degree in a couple of years.  He has his sights set on teaching at the collegiate level which will be a lot of work, but I’m sure not betting against him.  He loves to be challenged.” We’re rooting for Tyler too!

Commercials That Sound Like Nails on a Blackboard

Photo: Davekraft.org

The annoying giggling female customer in the 1-800-I-Got-Junk radio commercial is gone. I mentioned it in “Service of Irritating and Charming Commercials: Phony and Legitimate Laughs.” I wonder if stations got complaints and lost listeners because of it. Just this morning I heard a new rendition–this time a man giggled. I hear many other repeated commercials but none are as irksome.

The Last Straw

When I wrote “Service of the Last Straw, Bar None,” I couldn’t believe the big deal made over bars and restaurants that banned plastic straws to save the environment.

 I checked Google to see where Styrofoam is banned. I’m not impressed. Listed are: “New York City (and several other cities in New York); Takoma Park, MD.; Seattle, Washington; Washington DC.; Miami Beach, FL; Freeport, Maine; Portland, Maine and Nantucket (City & County), Mass.” And then there are clear plastic containers that hold fruits and veggies and plastic water bottles–have you checked your garbage? I grabbed just a few things in our home on Saturday [photo right]. Get rid of these plastic containers and now you’re talking.

Drip, Drip, Drip

Since I wrote “Service of Leaks” in May, there have been floods, from Omarosa’s book “Unhinged” and those filling the pages of Bob Woodward’s “Fear,” to the experience of the anonymous New York Times Op-Ed writer. What’s normal behavior these days?

I also ask:

  • Do you know other students who have won all the competitions in their track when at first just being good enough to compete in one seemed a stretch?
  • To grab attention, commercials often grate, but don’t you agree some go overboard?
  • Is it unprofitable for packaging companies to research workable alternatives to plastic and to retrofit their machinery accordingly with the goal of saving the environment? Must we be happy with banning straws?
  • Will the world look more kindly on whistleblowers as we become increasingly used to high profile leakers or are we in a phase brought on by the administration?

Photo: tohowater.com

 

 

Service of Live and Learn: Did You Know Unsold Luxury Fashions & Accessories are Destroyed at Season’s End?

September 13th, 2018

Categories: Luxury, Retail

Burberry Scarf. Photo: uk.burberry.com

I knew that mutilated US currency is destroyed but I didn’t know that at the end of a season unsold luxury goods are as well. Matthew Dalton explained the practice in a recent Wall Street Journal article and reported that one internationally known brand—Burberry–is bucking the custom.

“Destroying unsold inventory is a widely used but rarely discussed technique that luxury companies perform to maintain the scarcity of their goods and the exclusivity of their brands. In Italy and many other countries, they can also claim a tax credit for destroying the inventory.”

Stefano Ricci suit. Photo: Stefanoricci.com

Dalton also wrote that one Italian menswear brand, Stefano Ricci, fills dozens of boxes–it sells its fashions in Italy, China and the U.S.–with cashmere suits, silk ties and cotton shirts and ships them off to be burned. “The companies hired to incinerate the clothing film the destruction so that brands can prove to the Italian tax authorities that their inventory has truly gone up in smoke.” The owner would like to give some of the clothing to charity “but the tax credit ties the company’s hands.”

He also reported that the Swiss conglomerate that owns Cartier bought back unsold watches worth “hundreds of millions of euros in recent years…. which were piling up at retailers because of a drop in demand from Chinese consumers. The company pried off the jewels and melted them down, but is reusing the materials.”

As I noted above, Burberry Group won’t be following suit, bowing to pressure by environmental groups “who say it is wasteful.” [Now that we know I doubt these groups are the only ones to share this point of view!] “The amount of stock Burberry destroys had risen sharply in recent years, from £5.5 million in fiscal year 2013 to £28.6 million in the last fiscal year.” And Dalton added that the brand’s younger target market is particularly concerned about the environment. It will no longer sell fur. Elizabeth Paton who covered the story for the New York Times wrote that the company is researching sustainable materials with a group at the Royal College of Art in London.

Gucci Fall 2017 menswear collection. Photo: gq.com

High end holdouts don’t want to see their goods deeply discounted as “luxury goods command higher prices because they are inherently more valuable.” Gucci reuses cloth and leather and claims that it destroys a “relatively small” part. In addition, “it unloads unsold clothes through discounts for friends and family and through outlet stores.”

Decades ago I bought a traditional Burberry raincoat that I still wear every fall and spring. The quality of the material is unequalled—the cuff and coat edges have never frayed; the lining is solid. It cost a king’s ransom but given its longevity was fairly priced. I can’t attest to the quality of luxury goods today nor do I know how many people who buy them would dream of wearing them this long even if they lasted. I’ve always been too practical. When I’ve bought eccentric bits of clothing I’ve paid as little as possible. Even if I could afford them, the unconventional looks customers expect from some luxury fashion designers will date themselves too quickly for my taste.

Did you know that high end manufacturers destroyed their goods? I understand the reasoning behind the convention to preserve the value of fashions and accessories, but the practice doesn’t seem fitting today, do you think? Dalton doesn’t say what Burberry will do with its leftovers. How might companies protect their exclusivity and extravagant prices yet skip the step of annihilating their products–or should they continue the process?

Ballon Bleu de Cartier Photo: cartier.com

 

Service of a Crack in the Surface of E-Commerce

September 10th, 2018

Categories: Discounts, E-Commerce, Luxury, Retail

Photo: physics.aps.org

A Wall Street Journal article about traditional retailing and E-commerce made clear that those who see the latter annihilating traditional retail shouldn’t order the funeral flowers just yet. Some retailers of both luxury and discount goods are spending big bucks on their brick and mortar stores. In a second article the same day the Journal reported that WalMart has started to refuse to ship heavy items–because of the cost– by claiming they are out of stock. This approach may be temporary and therefore, potentially less significant in the long run.

What’s In Store?

Photo: pinterest.com

Target was also a focus of John D. Stoll’s Wall Street Journal article, “Tiffany’s $250 Million Bet on a 78-Year-Old Store.” He wrote “It turns out that all over the ravaged retailing sector, companies are rethinking the mantra that the future is digital, and pouring money into actual brick-and-mortar stores.” Target plans to spend $7 billion. It doesn’t break down the superstore’s expenditures though “a spokeswoman said stores are an ‘incredibly important linchpin.’”

Why this confidence in physical stores? Stoll wrote: “Because the bulk of America’s retail is still done the old-fashioned way. Target has consistently increased online sales, but ecommerce represents less than 6% of its revenues. Online sales are closer to 7% at Home Depot but under 4% at Walmart.” Tiffany’s stores produce 90 percent of its revenue.

Photo: logos.wikia.com

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual Consumer Insights survey showed weekly purchases from stores has risen from 36 percent four years ago to 40 percent in 2015 and 44 percent this year. Stoll wrote: “Retailers are smart to better integrate the physical shopping experience with people’s online habits, but now is not the time to give up on making stores better.” On a recent Wednesday, he reported, Tiffany’s new café in its NYC flagship had 1,000 on a waiting list for 40 seats.

Cupboard is Bare

So what about Walmart’s shipping policy? People need the products involved such as household cleaners, nonperishable groceries, pet food and cosmetics so they will buy them somewhere.

I marvel at how CVS often covers the cost of shipping heavy items with no minimum purchase required, in conjunction with a sale many times, and wonder how long the windfall will last.

Photo: walmartcareers.com

Sarah Nassauer in her Wall Street Journal article wrote that the Walmart “has begun telling online shoppers that some products in its warehouses are ‘out of stock’ after the retailer changed its e-commerce systems to avoid orders deemed too expensive to ship.” Some suppliers were surprised. To address the policy they’ll “stock their products at more Walmart warehouses around the country to keep sales steady, according to an executive at a large food company.

“The shift is part of a test, Walmart said, to see if it can deliver more products via ground shipping, a cheaper option than air shipping, in two days or less.” Spokesman Ravi Jariwala “said shoppers shouldn’t notice a big increase in out-of-stock items because walmart.com will suggest similar products from nearby warehouses.”

Do you think retailers like Tiffany’s and Target are throwing away their money in this retail climate by upgrading their traditional stores? Is there an aura about some stores—like Tiffany’s—that compels shoppers to visit? Will retailers figure out cheaper ways of shipping heavy goods or will customers increasingly pick up in stores their online orders deemed too heavy/expensive to ship? Walmart says it’s a test but if profitable, don’t you think the “shortages will be permanent, potentially impacting online sales? When you buy online, do you stick to your shopping list more than you do when you’re in a store?

Photo: flickr.com

Service of Changing Your Mind III

September 6th, 2018

Categories: Changing Your Mind, Decisions, Invitation, Magazines, Politics

Photo: limpingintotruth.com

I respect people who change their minds for good reasons. It takes guts especially if they are in the public eye. However in some cases when intelligent people know they are slamming a stick on a beehive, why do they chicken out when they must have anticipated they’d be stung?

This is what happened when David Remnick, whom I admire, The New Yorker Magazine’s editor in chief, invited and then disinvited Steve Bannon to speak at the magazine’s October festival which for 19 years has included political, art and literary figures.

Photo: newyorker.com

Doha Madani with the Huffington Post, covered the reactions. He wrote that a New York Times article disclosed that the former White House chief strategist was to be a headliner. “The New Yorker’s readers and staffers accused Remnick of giving a platform to Bannon’s racism and white nationalist agenda after the Times article.” One columnist tweeted that she was “beyond appalled,” Madani wrote. Some of the speakers also protested.

Madani shared Bannon’s response to the withdrawn invitation, which he’d made in a statement to CNBC: “The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation. In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob.”

Madani continued “‘I don’t want well-meaning readers and staff members to think I’ve ignored their concerns,’ Remnick said in a statement Monday evening. ‘I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues — and I’ve re-considered. I’ve changed my mind.’ 

David Remnick. Photo: newyorker.com

“Remnick said he ultimately decided that, while he would still interview Bannon for a journalistic piece, a festival was not the best forum for speaking to him. An additional reason for canceling Bannon’s appearance, Remnick said, was that the magazine would have paid him an honorarium, as well as for lodging and travel if Bannon spoke at the event, rather than for an article, which would be done without payment.”

I’ve produced countless industry events but the speakers were noncontroversial–and most approved by others–so I’ve not run into a situation like this. However I think that Remnick, who is used to looking controversy in the eye, should have kept Bannon on the lineup–though moved him to a lower position rather than that of headliner, if there was such a spot.

Do you think that Remnick should have stuck to his guns and not withdraw the  invitation to Bannon; thought twice before inviting Bannon to participate in his festival in any capacity or tested the water before doing so? Have you had to similarly backtrack due to pressure by others?

Photo: kompastiana.com

 

Service of Can You Go Home Again? Do Revivals Work for Businesses Like FAO Schwarz or the Playboy Club or Comedies?

September 4th, 2018

Categories: Broadway, Movies, Passe, Retail, Revival, Television, Theatre

Photo: Pix11.com

I’m intrigued by the concept of revivals. Two once successful businesses that closed are attempting them now–FAO Schwarz and the Playboy Club—and a prominent theater critic wrote in his Neil Simon obit that they don’t work when it comes to comedy.

Charles Passy covered the Schwarz and Playboy stories in Wall Street Journal articles, “FAO Schwarz Is Set to Return, And It Needs People to Dance on the ‘Big’ Piano– Midtown Manhattan store will be staffed with demonstrators, magicians and men and women playing costumed roles, including toy soldiers” and “Playboy Club Returns to New York, Bunnies and All, but Will It Hop? Industry experts question if the club’s concept will still work, as it comes back to the Big Apple after a three-decade absence.

Hugh Hefner and bunnies. Photo: Oldlarestaurants.com

I have memories of both. On a visit to FAO Schwarz with a first grade classmate and her mother the girl pointed to Santa and reported to my six year old self that he didn’t exist. I attribute happier recollections of the store with gift reconnaissance for my nephews. As for the Playboy Club, it paid bunny wait staff four times what other jobs I’d applied for after college offered. The reaction I’d expected from my father—he’d had a fit when he learned I’d modeled fully clothed for an art class—was only one of several good reasons I didn’t pursue the opportunity.

Terry Teachout’s Neil Simon obituary began “All comedy dates, and every pure comedian sooner or later becomes passé—even one as beloved as Neil Simon.” After “Lost in Yonkers,” wrote Teachout in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Simon would never again write a full-fledged box-office smash, and none of his plays has since been successfully revived on Broadway save as a star vehicle. His last bow there as a playwright, a 2009 revival of ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ directed by David Cromer, closed after nine performances.”

Photo: Playbill

Teachout observed: “And while his plays remain popular with amateur troupes and smaller companies elsewhere in America, most of the major regional theaters tend to steer clear of his work.”

In an op-ed piece in the same paper associate editorial features editor Matthew Hennessey wrote that theater today is “dominated by crowd-pleasing jukebox musicals and adaptations of popular movies. In the last few decades of the 20th century, Simon, who died Sunday at 91, was a household name.” Broadwayworld.com proved Hennessey’s assertion. A headline last week was “Jerry Zaks will bring Mrs. Doubtfire musical to Broadway.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Hennessey continued: Simon’s “domination of the Great White Way from the 1960s through the ’80s has no contemporary comparison. The current toast of Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, has staged two original hit shows in a decade. In 1966 Simon had four plays running in Broadway houses at the same time.”

Do you think that FAO Schwarz and Playboy Clubs will/can fit today’s customers? What about revivals of once popular comedies–do they all become passé? Perhaps “Mash” and “Honeymooners” fans, or those who tune in to the TV version of “The Odd Couple” –derived from Simon’s play–don’t buy tickets to Broadway or major regional company theaters because they are simply too old or too poor? Or maybe laughter is out of fashion on the Great White Way?

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Service of Newspapers—When The Good Guys Win

August 30th, 2018

Categories: Charity, Newspapers, Tariff

Photo: philly.com

On one side of this post is a man who did extremely well, lived simply and used his fortune to help the newspaper industry, and many others. On the other is a private equity firm that pushed for a tariff against Canada to allegedly help some US businesses while threatening the survival of others. Amazingly, our system worked and the good guys won. Read on.

Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest. Photo: mercersburg.edu

“I can’t think of any cause that we support that’s more important than the support of the newspapers,” Mr. Lenfest said in 2014. That’s H.F. Lenfest, known as Gerry, who died early in August. James R. Hagerty wrote Lenfest’s obituary in The Wall Street Journal.

These weren’t just words for Lenfest and his wife Marguerite. They paid $88 million for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com four years ago and in 2016, “donated that company to a nonprofit, now known as the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, charged with preserving quality journalism in Philadelphia and testing ideas that might sustain fact-based news reporting elsewhere,” wrote Hagerty.

In all, the Lenfests have given away $1.2 billion. In spite of Lenfest’s financial success in the cable TV industry, the family lived modestly—keeping the house they moved into in 1966, for example. Their son Brook said his father “rode city buses and flew coach” because people in coach were “more open to conversation.” [The Lenfests gave $14 million to Teach America after Gerry Lenfest chatted with the founder he met on the train to NYC.]

Photo: ehshumfinancial.com

At the same time as this stalwart attempt at saving an industry takes place the Department of Commerce was supporting a tariff on Canadian newsprint that would raise the price as much as 30 percent ringing the death knell for many papers and causing severe cutbacks in staff and production in others. The tariff was to save jobs here. It appeared to back wealthy cronies at a private equity firm who pushed for the tariff because they own a US newsprint business. Some wondered if there wasn’t another agenda: to cut off yet more arteries of information that feed [legitimate] news to communities across the country.

A few days before the International Trade Commission’s decision–made yesterday–William Mauldin told the story in: “Bad News for U.S. Papers, but Tariffs Are Paying Off for One Rock Capital –Private-equity firm headed by a Washington and Wall Street veteran pushed for the tariffs on behalf of its North Pacific Paper and hope they are affirmed in a coming trade-commission vote.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

He reported that after salaries, newsprint is usually a newspaper’s second biggest cost. The increased cost “threatens the viability of small-town papers across the country, forcing reduced publication days, layoffs and other cut backs. Canadian mills have historically supplied a large portion of U.S. newsprint.”

He continued: “Some industry observers say a Trump administration, led by a president antagonistic to the media, is unlikely to be sympathetic to newspapers.” A White House spokeswoman said such a claim is “absurd.”

So what happened yesterday? Tom Kludt and Jill Disis at CNN.com wrote: “In what amounts to a blow to the Department of Commerce, which upheld the tariffs earlier this month, the International Trade Commission found that the imports of Canadian paper do not hurt American producers. The commission’s vote was unanimous.” Commissioner David S. Johnson, a Texas Republican, serves as chairman.

Do you predict the success of the Lenfest Institute’s research may save the newspaper industry? Are philanthropists like the Lenfests who gain little more than personal pleasure from their generous gifts, few and far between? Were you surprised by the International Trade Commission’s unanimous decision regarding what Thehill.com called the “Trump tariffs?” Did you also see the proposed tariffs as the administration’s attempt to punish and diminish the fourth estate? Dare we extrapolate this decision, with David and Goliath overtones, as a turning point where responsible commissioners based their decisions on facts and not due to pressure from a bully–with more to come?

Photo: thedailystar.net

Service of Fleeting Impressions: Eye-Popping Displays, a Dash of Vintage and Middle Eastern Vibes at NY Now

August 27th, 2018

Categories: Display, Gifts, Merchandising, Vintage

MT masking tape, Japan

In a quick visit to NY Now, the former New York International Gift Fair, I saw striking, contemporary displays by companies with decades under their belts as well as vintage-inspired products and some Middle Eastern accents.

MT, a Japanese masking tape manufacturer, had a most outstanding display [photo above and below right].

MT masking tape, Japan

At first I thought I was looking at long plastic straws in wonderful colors suspended from above and only on closer inspection did I realize that I was looking at unrolled spools of masking tape meticulously installed! MT’s tape is made of Washi paper. Its website claims that the paper is strong and “extremely thin compared with those made in other countries.” The company—its factory launched in 1923–stands by its adhesive which it claims leaves no trace when removed. Its color range may be more extensive than most. For sure its booth designer is visionary and the installers extremely patient.

Meloria by Graziani, Italy

My photo doesn’t do justice to the striking Meloria by Graziani booth. Like MT, its fresh look belies the age of the manufacturer: The candle company was founded in Tuscany in 1805 and Meloria is one of its brands. Ball-shaped candles, some, in saturated colors, joined pastel hues and naturals reminiscent of lush hedges, cherries, cabbages and oranges as well as a shiny black 8-ball. Unlike many booths crowded with choices, this one focused on only two shapes, the ball and tapers with a twist.

Alexander Girard wooden dolls

You couldn’t miss the giant replicas of Alexander Girard’s family of wooden dolls in the Vitra booth. The original human and animal characters designed by Girard in 1953 to decorate his home in Santa Fe are in the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany. According to the website, the dolls are made and painted by hand today and precisely replicate the originals.

Filt string bags

Mahogany

Booths with a vintage spirit included Mahogany’s flannel nightwear in patterns inspired by the 40s and 50s and Filt’s string bags colored brightly to distinguish them from the natural originals that for decades European shoppers brought to the market to fill with comestibles.

I noticed a Middle Eastern vibe in some of the booths such as Zenza Home, Selamat Designs and jazzy tablemats in the back wall of Kim Sebert’s booth. I also thought the crystal fireplace in Kathryn McCoy’s booth would fit well in a Middle Eastern style manor house.

Have you noticed retailers with remarkable displays, seen or received any great gifts recently or noted striking trends in your forays online or about town? Are you surprised that some venerable brands–a candle manufacturer over 200 years old and a maker of masking tape almost 100–excel at projecting a hip, trendy image?

Kathryn McCoy

Selamat Designs

Zenza Home

Service of While We Were Distracted by Stormy, Omarosa, a $15K Jacket & Michael Cohen…

August 23rd, 2018

Categories: Climate Change, Greenhouse Gasses, Jobs, News, Politicians, Politics, Pollution, Scams, School

Photo: nationofchange.org

Cable and social media are obsessed with Stormy, Omarosa, the $15K Paul Manafort jacket, the Cohen admissions and other almost daily forehead-slapping bits that distract from and mask crucial changes by the current administration none of which are topics around the water cooler.

Daniel Nelson wrote in sciencetrends.com that the administration cut out the yearly budget for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System which measures greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and “will likely stymie efforts to combat global climate change.” The savings was $10 million/year. [By comparison, the Mexico wall is estimated to cost $70 billion to build and $150 million/year to maintain.]

Photo: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

According to Nelson, “Kelly Sims Gallagher, the director of the International Environment and Resource Policy Center at Tufts University says that the decision was ‘a grave mistake.’”

The program supported research big and small. It:

  • ensured that countries adhered to the Paris climate accord because it measured reductions in emissions
  • provided data for 65 projects to understand how forests keep carbon out of the air
  • prevented deforestation of tropical forest in developing nations
  • tracked dissolving carbon flowing from the mouth of the Mississippi River into the Pacific Ocean
  • helped Providence I. reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Meanwhile Betsy DeVos was busy unraveling consumer protections in another sector—for-profit colleges. [Examples: chains which train automotive mechanics, cosmetologists, cyber security techs and, like the now defunct Trump University, real estate investment specialists.]

Photo: economicdevelopment.org

According to Erica L. Green, DeVos “formally moved to scrap a regulation that would have forced for-profit colleges to prove that the students they enroll are able to attain decent-paying jobs.” In her New York Times article, Green described the sector as “scandal-scarred” noting that the now rescinded gainful employment safeguard was made during the previous administration.

Photo: autotraining.edu

The rule under Obama “revoked federal funding and access to financial aid for poor-performing schools” where graduates were left drowning in debt with poor job prospects. Green reported that since 2010, when the Obama administration began to tighten the rules, almost half the career programs and schools have closed and the student population shrank by more than 1.6 million. The president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the industry’s trade group, admitted “The sector today is so much better.”

Who will be left holding the bag to pay defaulted loans under the DeVos change? Taxpayers.

“‘The Trump administration is once again choosing the interests of executives and shareholders of predatory for-profit higher education institutions over protecting students and taxpayers,’ said John King, the Obama-era education secretary charged with enforcing the rule, who called the move ‘outrageous and irresponsible.’”

Attorney generals of 18 states have sued to delay enforcement of the DeVos reversal.

Here are the reasons her department gives for rescinding the gainful employment rule:

  • Research ignored by the Obama administration “undermined the ‘validity of using the debt and earnings comparisons.’”
  • They found that “‘a troubling degree of inconsistency and potential error exists in job placement rates’ that ‘could mislead students in making an enrollment decision.’”
  • It was “burdensome” for schools to disclose their data.
  • “the Obama regulations ‘reinforce an inaccurate and outdated belief that career and vocational programs are less valuable to students and less valued by society, and that these programs should be held to a higher degree of accountability than traditional two- and four-year degree programs that may have less market value.’”

Maybe someone can explain these arguments to me.

Is there a chance that these reversals—and their negative impact–will be part of voter decisions at the November midterm elections? Do you think that they are widely known? Are the extraneous headline-grabbing distractions deliberate to keep our eyes off the many far bigger birdies? They sure are working, don’t you think?

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