Service of Déjà Vu

January 13th, 2022

Categories: Auto Repair, Déjà Vu, Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose, Sexist Behavior


Image by Ryan Doka from Pixabay 

This post fits right in the Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose series.

I struck up a conversation with a stranger who told me that her car, in the repair shop since June, was finally promised for December 15. In one followup call during the seven months she was carless she was told they were waiting for a part from Germany.

The date came and the car still wasn’t ready. She broke down and asked her husband to call. He got immediate attention and she picked up the car shortly thereafter.

This reminded me of a current TV commercial for VROOM, an online car shopping service. A woman is in an auto showroom trying to buy an SUV.  The sales team ignores her until she pulls out a puppet husband from her handbag and only then does the sales staff wake up. One salesman, with an ingratiating smile, immediately rushes over. In the last scene she’s smiling outside her home as a flatbed VROOM truck pulls up with her vehicle.

It saddens me because I was part of an interaction reminiscent of the real and fictional ones many decades ago and I’d thought that by now we were over this kind of discrimination. I’d rushed to mid-Brooklyn on the subway early in the morning to pick up our car from the dealer’s service division to drive it back to our garage, again jump in a subway and get to work on time.

I patiently waited in line at the dealership at 7 a.m. when the male receptionist skipped over me to help the man behind me. I said, “I’m next!” and he replied angrily, “Can’t you see I am helping customers here?” I pointed to my car and said “I’m a customer and that’s my car. I need to get to work too.” It was a memorable moment. I never returned.

Have you noticed or heard of dismissive treatment of female customers–as obsolete as it seems today–involving cars or in any other circumstances?


Image by Gerald Oswald from Pixabay 

Service of Persistence Pays if You Luck Into an Adolfo Hererra

January 10th, 2022

Categories: Anger, Automation, Bills, Correction, Customer Care, Customer Service, Customers, Frustrations, Mistakes, Persistence


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I first wrote about my issues with Verizon Wireless November, 2021 in “Service of Automation Hiccups.” I’d been unable to get credit for the paperless option I’d agreed to in spite of countless calls to customer service.  On one call I agreed to change the account from my deceased husband’s name to mine.

With that my FIOS bundle–phone, Wi-Fi and cable–increased by $400+/year and I’d not been warned this would happen.

A strident conversation with a nasty customer service person who told me I’d committed fraud by keeping the account in Homer’s name increased my irritation and disenchantment. She hit the ceiling when I said I felt bamboozled and explained I hadn’t been but that I wasn’t eligible for the discounts he had. When I was explaining the situation she said in a voice filled with sarcasm, “Are you through?”

That’s when I wrote Ronan Dunne, executive VP and group CEO of Verizon Consumer. I wrote that to take away discounts given a man because a woman was now the customer was sexist. My credit is excellent, we had been decades-long customers, have other Verizon accounts and pointed out that it was my checks paying for the bundle from the get-go. Nothing changed but the first name.



Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay  

Soon after I heard from Adolfo Hererra, a member of the Verizon executive relations team. He was thorough and polite and he listened. He warned me of some things that might happen although he did what he could to avert them. For example, auto pay took money to satisfy Homer’s cancelled account and a few days later took money for my new one.

Throughout the process I knew I was in good hands. Hererra always called when he said he would and he returned my calls promptly.

In the end, he gave me a credit of $50 because of the time it took to sort out the tangle. With a company as big as Verizon I suspect he and his team had to knock on many doors, starting with the one to initiate the elusive discount for the paperless option. I’d agreed to it in August 2021 and it will kick in January or February 2022. Only when he was certain that I’d be receiving the discount for going paperless–he’d said he could confirm this in early January–would he close the case. We spoke last week right on schedule. He assured me that I’d get the discount. He also securely closed Homer’s account and sent a debit card to refund the money that shouldn’t have been taken to begin with.

He feels pleased when he brings down an unsatisfied customer from a ledge of anger and frustration. Thank goodness for dedicated customer service employees like Adolfo Hererra.

Can you share a recent example of top of the line customer service in an era of rampant neglected emails and phone messages and often pleasant sounding customer service people who say they will do something and they don’t?


Image by Magic Creative from Pixabay

Service of Isn’t it Obvious? Architecture & Design Mistakes that Trip Up

January 6th, 2022

Categories: Architecture, Design, Travel


Image by joffi from Pixabay

How do experts–some renowned–make terrible choices that novices probably wouldn’t?

Take the instance Emma Bubola described in her New York Times article, “Venice Gets a Grip on a Star Architect’s Slippery Bridge–The city will replace the glass on Santiago Calatrava’s footbridge across the Grand Canal with stone after too many pedestrians fell.” Bubola reported: “‘That is not a bridge,’ said Angelo Xalle, 71, a retired port worker, who recalled helping people with broken chins or foreheads get up from its sleek floor. ‘It’s a trap.'”

The first version of the Rialto Bridge, Venice’s oldest, was designed by Nicolò Barattieri. The wooden pontoon bridge, called Ponte della Moneta, was built in 1178.


Rialto Bridge, Venice. Image by Ruth Archer from Pixabay 

Calatrava’s inappropriate flooring choice for one of the some 400 foot bridges in the City of Bridges, by someone who might have covered the subject in the first semester of architecture school, reminded me of other design and architecture blips that surprised.

  • Significant cracks appeared in the cement floor only months after the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center at Bard College opened.
  • All over Manhattan architects chose sidewalk materials for their color but forgot that some become skating rinks when water hits them in winter. One memorably death-defying walkway was in front of a building at 57th and Lexington Avenue. I need to check if they changed it.
  • Manhattan is an island so as I’ve asked countless times, why does the FDR Drive continue to flood during heavy rain? The Drive is not far from the East River and an engineer should be able to create an effective drainage system.
  • Have you walked down the stairs in a grand hotel with a patterned rug that didn’t have a plain border to indicate the edge of each tread? Without the visual warning to help mitigate trips, management is asking for many a lawsuit.
  • I once worked on the 34th floor of a newly built Manhattan skyscraper and wondered how well the rest of it was made because within months the tiles in the ladies room were popping out.

Is form follows function out of style? Are the mistakes so obvious that nobody questions them or are subordinates too afraid to speak up? Have you noticed comparable errors in design and architecture where you live?

Manhattan Sidewalks

Service of Being Born Under a Lucky Star and How to Nudge or Discourage One

January 3rd, 2022

Categories: Cooking, Horse Racing, Lottery, Luck, Lucky Star, Shortcuts


Image by Angeles Balaguer from Pixabay  

A friend mentioned a family she knows that is born under a lucky star. Everything works out for them. When there were thousands of cancelled flights over the holidays because record numbers of employees called in sick combined with bad weather, this group arrived seamlessly on the last flight to land safely at their vacation destination in a storm.

Some of my friends do very well with lotto tickets or horse track betting. If I pick up $1.00 in the former I’m happily shocked though in so many other ways my star has shined brilliantly and I’ve drawn the long straw.

Folks may talk only about their casino winnings and successful fishing expeditions. They aren’t boasting even though you never hear, when they return empty handed, about dollars and/or time lost. I think it’s because they don’t want to complain.

Sometimes you can nudge a star in your direction or kick it away. Working hard at work and at home helps with the former and avoiding shortcuts can protect from the latter.

I’d forgotten why I had stopped using cake mixes decades ago–I make cakes, cookies and piecrusts from scratch–but it all came back to me on New Years Day. I was tempted by the packaging of a cornbread mix and I’d bought some wonderful baked ham to go with the results. The sickly sweet muffins are inedible. Cornbread isn’t supposed to be sweet. They only lack the stick-to-your-teeth texture of the worst of their cousins sold by 10th rate delis. I had planned to share them with friends. No way and never again.

Do you know people who are born under a lucky star?  Can you share examples of some who through hard work have helped along their stars and still others who in spite of life’s downturns nevertheless glow as though they’re blinded under the reflection of the brightest? Have you discovered any decent cake or other mixes?

Service of Thoughtless Actions and Words

December 30th, 2021

Categories: Bad behavior, Big Mouth, Children, Kindness, Manners, Thoughtless Behavior, Upbringing


Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

I’ve opened my big mouth at times off-putting others, though I try so hard not to. A friend reprimanded me, after we moved to Manhattan from Brooklyn, because I told him that our apartment was on “the wrong side of Park Avenue.” He said I sounded arrogant. And I despise arrogance.

I witnessed a woman who didn’t think when she sailed out of the hair salon last week, wishing all and sundry a Merry Christmas following up in a voice that could have been heard across the street saying “Gotta run: I’m off to get my hair cut.” When I asked the salon owner if she thought the customer noticed people cutting hair all around her she shrugged and said “she gets her manicures here.”

The owner shared an incident that did broil her about a customer with severely dry hair. She showed her three products that would reverse the problem and explained how and when to use them. “Let me photograph them so I can buy them on Amazon,” said the customer who knew that the salon also sold the products. The owner added that Amazon didn’t have all the experience she’d shared with the woman and admitted that she didn’t say this to her.

A friend who owns a New England shop told me that a customer walked in recently, looked around and said, “Is this all there is?” Another day she found a 30-something photographing her greeting cards. “I want to text the images to my friends,” she said. The shop owner asked the woman to stop. Did the potential customer [who bought nothing] think she was in a museum?

mage by kaleido-dp from Pixabay  haircut

We’ve come a long way from the days my mother asked me to take supermarket groceries home before buying the bread my dad liked at the neighborhood deli. [Supermarket bread tasted like cotton.] She explained that it was rude to enter a business with purchases from another.

You be the judge if the point of Melinda Wenner Moyer’s New York Times article is pertinent to the subject. It was Thanksgiving, she wrote, and her seven year old ordered her grandfather, whom she rarely saw, to “stop taking pictures and put down your camera.” 

Wenner Moyers wrote: “Children who feel comfortable challenging their parents or grandparents about rules and expectations, who occasionally say sassy or rude things, are, in essence, kids who know they are loved and accepted for who they are.”

At the end of the article she added “Do I wish my daughter had been more polite in asking her grandpa to put down his camera? Absolutely. But I’m also proud that she’s brave enough to advocate for herself, and that she knows she has a voice within our family.”

It was fun to read the comments linking to this article “Why Your Kid’s Bad Behavior May Be a Good Thing: The safer children feel, the more they can show their true selves — warts and all — experts say. And that’s good for their development.” I didn’t read them all but starting at the top, many expressed concern about the kind of adults these children will turn out to be.

Do you think there’s a connection between unfiltered words and actions and upbringing or is it more of a personality thing? Have you witnessed thoughtless speech or behavior?  Do you agree that a child’s bad behavior is a positive thing and is good for their development?

Service of Expectations III

December 27th, 2021

Categories: Communications, Customer Service, Expectations, Fashion, Fashion Accessories, Gifts, Mobile Phones, Pandemic, Sharing, Shoes

Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation

I wrote the first two in this series in 2012 (though I suspect there are many posts in which dashed expectations are at the core).


Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay 

In one I covered highlights of irritants identified in a customer service survey where rudeness, passing the buck, waiting too long for problem resolution and having to follow-up too often topped the list of complaints and disappointments. In the other I described a person who didn’t send a message that he was kept waiting for his doctor’s appointment for three hours. He refused to own a mobile phone and didn’t ask the receptionist to borrow hers. Friends expecting his visit that afternoon were frantic when he didn’t show and didn’t call–which they expected him to do.

In a recent Social Q’s column in The New York Times, Philip Galanes responded to Ally who asked “Why Doesn’t Anyone Put as Much Effort Into Secret Santa as I Do? A reader feels consistently disappointed by her family’s gift exchange.” In part of his response he wrote: “This is like shopping regularly for heirloom tomatoes at the hardware store. You will never find them there! Try to lower your expectations before the unwrapping begins. Consider the other ways your relatives show they care.”

How many viewers of Face the Nation expect to be able to walk in heels as high as the ones Margaret Brennan wears [photo above]? Here she was this Sunday interviewing Vice President Kamala Harris. Do you think she walks far in them? I was on a set before a client’s TV interview where the host slipped off Uggs boots and put on heels just before cameras rolled.

Some friends respond to emails and texts and expect others to as well–but they don’t or it takes them ages to do so. Others generously share their contacts but that favor is never returned. These situations generate feelings of disrespect.

I see signs in windows for “quick turnaround PCR tests” for Covid and understand that there will be laws to punish those who lie as there must be plenty of them. They promise results in a day when the reality is closer to five.

My advice for happiness: Drop expectations. Agree?


Image by Samuel F. Johanns from Pixabay 

Service of Contrasts: In Your Face Excess & Merriment vs. Poverty & Tragedy

December 23rd, 2021

Categories: Advertising, Christmas, Commercials, Contrasts, Museums


2021 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Photo: Bob Gula

Striking contrasts seem even more vivid this Christmas season.

If you watch commercial TV you’ll notice the shattering contrasts of some commercial lineups and you might wonder who determines their order in a typical 4 minute run. One station plays gut wrenching videos of emaciated, starving young Africans to generate donations to Save the Children immediately followed by extreme jollity as a family rips open presents or welcomes a child to the grownup table that is groaning with food. These are sponsored by Walmart. Obviously the company doesn’t control placement.


Image by Kai Pilger from Pixabay

Nothing new: There have always been unfortunate pairings in print of advertising and editorial subjects placed together on a page or across from one another. My friends in advertising had to frequently deal with the fallout: Their clients’ ruffled feathers.

I wonder if some who position ads are paying attention.

The hyperallergic.com headline of Valentina Di Liscia’s article illustrates a similar point:  “While 11% of Staff Was Laid Off, Guggenheim Director Made Record $1.5 Million.” She wrote “The museum says its director, Richard Armstrong, took a 25% pay cut during the pandemic — but the reduction didn’t apply to ‘compensation earned in prior years.'”

As you walk around a city like New York you see homeless huddled in doorways or holding pleas for help spelled out on cardboard. In contrast holiday lights and decorations in office and apartment lobbies, store windows and in front of landmarks dress the city, brighten chilly short days and punctuate early nights. Nevertheless they seem jarring while so many suffer. Big money is spent on some of these seasonal pick-me-ups. Could we dim the lights just a bit and help the hungry and unfortunate at the same time? The 50-foot high tree outside of Fox took 21 hours to install and had 10,000 glass ornaments and 100,000 lights. News reports estimated the damage–a mentally ill homeless person set it on fire–at $500,000.

What strident contrasts have you noticed?


Child promoted to grownup’s table in WalMart commercial. Photo: ispot.tv

Service of Who Reads?

December 20th, 2021

Categories: Read with Care, Reading


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay  

If you can’t boil down your thought to 280 characters–the length of a Tweet–or a photo caption you’ll probably lose much of your audience these days. That’s one reason for the demise of many newspapers and bookstores. We’ve been told in countless ways by innumerable people: few read.

In several previous posts I’ve written about outrageous fees and mistakes in choosing products where crucial facts were tucked in the fine print. To ignore them could be problematic.

Not all missed words are negative. Seventy students–freshman to senior–in a music class at a University in Chattanooga learned their lesson when they glossed over a three-page syllabus Professor Kenyon Wilson, associate head of performing arts, handed out at the start of last semester. They all missed a lovely surprise.

Isabella Grullón Paz reported what happened in The New York Times. The University of Tennessee professor wanted to “brighten up the semester during the pandemic.”  She wrote: “… on the second page of the three-page syllabus he included the location and combination to a locker, inside of which was a $50 cash prize.” His words: “Free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five.”

The professor said “The syllabus is a really dry document. I mean, it’s not supposed to be exciting to read, but I thought if my students are going through and reading it, I might as well reward them.” At the close of the semester–a few weeks ago–he posted the upshot on Facebook.

When I text or email I ask only one question to most friends, colleagues or clients because 99 percent of the time they have the patience or attention span to answer only one.

Do you observe any impact on people who are out of the habit of reading? Have you missed something–good or bad–because you whipped through an agreement or contract or syllabus? Do you still read books, recipes, magazines or newspapers?


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Service of Watch What You Say: Deep Six “Diet” and “Old”

December 16th, 2021

Categories: Diet, Old, Words


Image by Skica911 from Pixabay 

I’m surprised that there are only 24 entries in the “words” category on this blog. Two recent articles in media report that marketers are avoiding “diet” and anything to do with “old.”

“‘Zero sugar’ has replaced ‘diet’ for many no-calorie soft drinks,” wrote Danielle Wiener-Bronner on cnn.com. “Canada Dry and Schweppes ginger ales, 7Up, A&W and Sunkist, made by Keurig Dr Pepper, now label their diet drinks ‘zero sugar.’ (One exception is the namesake Dr Pepper brand, which will still come in ‘diet’ packaging in addition to a different zero sugar version.) The reason for the overhaul: The word ‘diet’ has fallen out of fashion — especially for Millennials and Gen Z-ers.” Millennials are 25-40 years old and Gen Z-ers 9-24.


Image by Vesa Minkkinen from Pixabay

Wiener-Bronner reported that Greg Lyons, chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Beverages North America, said that the offended are bothered by both the word and the concept–Gen Zers don’t want to follow diets–“But distaste for the word diet doesn’t signal an aversion to no-calorie beverages.” These sodas “hit the mainstream in the 1960s.” The market reached $11.2 billion in 2020 and is growing faster than the standard sodas with sales of $28.2 billion that year, up 19.5% and 8.4% respectively.

The Key to Marketing to Older People? Don’t Say ‘Old.,'” was The New York Times headline for Corinne Purtill’s article. “According to company lore, the idea for Nike’s CruzrOne sneaker — a well-cushioned, thick-soled running shoe that debuted in 2019 — originated with a conversation between a Nike designer, Tinker Hatfield, and the company’s co-founder Phil Knight”. Knight, in his 80s, slow runs 8 miles a day.

“By positioning the CruzrOne as a shoe with excellent support for runners who — for whatever reason — go at an extremely slow pace, Nike can offer a product designed for the older athlete to the general market. It’s a perfect example of what Rob Chess, a Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer, calls ‘stealth design’: a product that addresses specific needs of older consumers in a form that doesn’t scream, well, ‘old.'”

“You basically put all these elements in that make it much more usable by an older customer, but you don’t necessarily advertise and play up those elements,” Mr. Chess said. “Or if you do, you certainly don’t position them as, you know, ‘Gee, we’re doing this for older people.’ (A Nike spokesperson declined requests for interviews.)”

Have you noticed other words marketers avoid?


Photo: amazon

Service of Due Diligence

December 13th, 2021

Categories: Due Diligence, Marketing, Questions, Research, Trust


Image by aerngaoey from Pixabay 

It pays to ask questions or do a modicum of research which some marketers have learned the hard way. According to businessinsider.com, in the 1990s Yardley hadn’t asked actor Helena Bonham Carter about her makeup routine before they announced their relationship with her. After she publicly admitted she didn’t wear makeup and couldn’t fathom why they chose her, they cut their association that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.


Image by Hannah Wesolowski from Pixabay 

In 1989 PepsiCo staff needed only look at Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” music video to determine that it didn’t reflect the image they sought. Yet they paid her $5million to appear in benign commercials which included the then new song. “While the ad itself was PG,” reported Laura Stampler, “Madonna’s music video for the song in which she witnesses a rape and gyrates around a burning cross incited an explosion of controversy.” Would checking that have been so hard to do?

And what about recently? In the “Sex and the City” reboot, “And Just Like That…” on HBO Max that premiered last week, a main character, Mr. Big, dies after a 45 minute Peloton class on a Peloton stationary bike–a super product placement gone south. The company didn’t pay for the placement but knew their equipment was being used, reported Joseph Pisani and Megan Graham in The Wall Street Journal. It also approved a Peloton instructor, Jess King, appear in the segment.

Did anyone at Peloton ask enough questions or demand answers before playing ball? “While Peloton coordinated with HBO on the placement of one of its bikes, HBO didn’t disclose the plot in advance because of ‘confidentiality reasons,’ Peloton said.” Lesson learned to leave nothing to trust in future?

Peloton spokespeople put a good face on it. “’Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle—including cocktails, cigars, and big steaks—and was at serious risk,’ said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist on Peloton’s health and wellness advisory council, in a statement from the company.” The reporters ended the article: “Peloton said there is some good news: ‘Riding his Peloton bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event,’ Dr. Steinbaum said.”

It’s not only in business we need to ask questions and insist on answers. The husband of a friend swallowed pills that killed him. He didn’t check the product insert and counted on his doctor to remember his health history that contraindicated the drug.

Are you good at asking questions? Do you know of other examples in which a well known company missed the boat due to lack of research? Are there any elements in our lives that we can leave to trust?


Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 
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