Service of Giving a Second Chance

October 20th, 2016

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service, Retail

Second Chance

After a more than trying experience at the china department of Macy’s New York many years ago—trying, the operative word, to buy a wedding gift where the bride had registered–I swore I’d not return to the store. I broke this pledge last weekend, not in the city but in Poughkeepsie, NY, and was rewarded ten fold.

We visited the men’s shoe department and lucked into a sales associate who knew shoes, fit, and his way around customers. Troy Capp outdid himself to help. My husband wanted a slip-on shoe in a wide width but the store doesn’t stock them; we’d need to order a pair. To increase the possibility that the ordered shoe would fit, Capp measured his foot and brought out a few shoes with ties in various sizes by the manufacturer from whom he ended up ordering a slip-on.

macy'sThe style my husband preferred was quite a bit more expensive than another one he’d looked at and Capp found a discount coupon to help in the decision. He also gave us a way to reach him should the shoe that arrives not be just right.

shoe measuring toolHe actually seemed to enjoy solving my husband’s problem and helping us. We were dumbstruck as we were no longer used to such care. As we arrived in his department I noticed a family leaving with smiles and a young man in his late teens reaching out to shake Capp’s hand. He was also in charge of “tailored clothing,” according to his business card. While he was helping us a couple came to pick up a jacket. He didn’t skip a beat and while my husband was trying on a shoe he went in the back for the jacket, accommodating us both seamlessly, calmly and almost simultaneously.

Have you enjoyed the assistance of a salesman like Troy Capp? Are his skills trainable or instinctive? Have you given a company a second chance? Did the second experience work out well?

 vintage men's fashion


Service of Living in Place Even If You Don’t Want To Think About It

October 17th, 2016

Categories: Architects, Interior Design, Safety

young person in wheelchair

I attended a program for interior designers and architects. Subject: living in place. It scotched myths that I and no doubt many others have about accessible design and aging in place and reinforced what I’ve already known for years: Anyone building or remodeling a home or apartment on their own does well to think twice and enroll the help of experts. People use accountants and CPAs for the same reason: to avoid missing beneficial opportunities.

Fisher & Paykel DCS 48" professional range

Fisher & Paykel DCS 48″ professional range

The speaker was Dawn DeLuca of Camille Rossy, a cabinetry and design company. The title of her presentation: “Designing for Independence & Dignity Without Talking About It.” We gathered in the Fisher & Paykel ExperienceCenter, a welcoming space for such informative meetings and a showroom with many of the appliances that address accessibility issues.

Here are some highlights that DeLuca, a certified Living in Place Designer, shared:

  • Accessible design in not ugly. A quick look around the showroom at the handsome, sleek pullout dishwashers—lower than the counter–and stoves with knobs in front that DeLuca had identified as appropriate for people with disabilities promptly put to rest the fable that it is.
  • Did you know that the average American home is built for males aged 35?
  • People live in one home for some 13 years and over a century, the lifecycle of a home, 20 will live in it and in the period, 6,000 guests/visitors will cross its threshold. Of these, 1,000 are at risk of injury.
  • The bill for falls in the US in 2013 was $34 billion and is projected to reach $68 billion by 2018. This does not include indirect costs lost in work productivity and the need to move if the home can no longer accommodate the injured person.
  • Living in place is not exclusively about the elderly
  1. People with disabilities are not just older adults
  2. Designers and architects should consider making homes safe in the initial design rather than focusing on fixing a place to accommodate an injured resident
  • DeLuca asked if any in the audience used a “disability assistance device.” When she gave the example of eyeglasses, many hands shot up.
  • Designers and architects should assemble collaborative teams such as a
  1. medical advisor and physical therapist to detail needs of a disabled person and to address safety issues for that disability
  2. child proofers
  3. contractor familiar with code  
  4. home inspector
  5. Specialists for autistic spectrum childproofing to counsel about elevating light switches and electrical outlets for example and confirming that TVs and furniture are secured to walls. Every two weeks a child dies because a TV falls on him/her.
  6. Structural engineers for people over 250 lbs.
  • Proactive design includes
  1. Installing outlets at the top and bottom of a stairway regardless of the age and physical dexterity of current homeowners. Should anyone in future need a stairway chairlift the installation savings are considerable.
  2. Contrasting colors for stair flooring is essential.
  3. Shower grab bars should be on top of shower controls and installed to withstand 250 lbs in all directions
  4. Kitchen appliances need a landing place either next to or behind them.
  5. Never place a cooking surface under a window that opens. Heat can break a window and with a gas stove, wind can cause fire
  6. Consider raised flowerbeds for gardeners who can’t bend over
  7. While all things shiny are in fashion, reflections cause problems for people with eye issues and the aging
  8. Single leaver faucet controls are cleanerdoor handle with return
  9. Lighting inside cabinets and drawers literally shedding light on what’s inside
  10. All levers should have a return not only to address stability but to avoid catching—and ripping–clothes
  11. Reverse door swings: Doors should open to the hallway in case the homeowner faints so rescuers can get in the house/apartment/room to help.
  12. Motion-censored LED strips under handrails

    Dawn DeLuca

    Dawn DeLuca

  • Denial about potential injuries is rampant in the land. “That won’t happen to me,” most people say when hearing of a friend or relative’s accident. Statistics prove otherwise. DeLuca said that one in five Americans have disabilities and fewer than 15 percent are born with them. 63 million have disabilities and 11 million need daily personal assistance.
  1. Five percent of kids 5-17 have disabilities; 10 percent ages 18-64
  2. 3.6 million people use wheelchairs

Because so many prefer to avoid discussion of the inevitable of potential accidents, future medical diagnosis of a family member or natural aging, DeLuca suggests interior designers and architects slip in many of the proven precautionary options as a matter of course. Much can be done seamlessly without giving a doomsday speech. So while at first I thought poorly of this approach, it has grown on me. Your thoughts?



Service of Sudden Change

October 13th, 2016

Categories: Architecture, Change, Restaurant, Seasons

change 2

Change is part of life. I like to hope it comes out for the good more than not. I find it fascinating to watch either way.

No building there's Grand Central flipWalking east with Madison Avenue at my back on 42nd Street last week I saw the most remarkable thing: the full Vanderbilt side of Grand Central Station I’d never before seen. At first I was disoriented thinking, “What is that?” until I realized that the building that had hidden this view for as long as I can remember was gone. No doubt a new one will quickly take its place so if you want to see this in person, best make haste.

Cosi closed flipContinuing to my office on East 45th Street I noticed that a chain restaurant that had been on 44th and Third Avenue for years had closed. I liked Cosi for its Signature Salad and special flatbread and bought it often at one point, though not lately. I tend to eat yogurt these days and don’t often buy lunch at restaurants unless meeting others. And my office is next door to the Amish Market that sells anything delicious that I might want. I’d thought that lines at this Cosi branch were unusually short as newer chains and two $1 pizza establishments opened within a block or two which may be the reason for the closing.

Pumpkins are favorites of mine. I love the color and shape. I centered one between two pots of summer flowers illustrating summer meeting fall and imminent natural changes as my favorite season tries to hang on.

What’s your favorite season? Have you noticed any sudden or surprising changes in your neighborhood? Fall meets summer flip

Service of Making it Hard to Pay a Compliment

October 10th, 2016

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service, Repair, Responsiveness, Telephone Service


According to an article in Bulldog Reporter, 71 percent of office workers in a survey responded that they “are likely to contact a company with feedback after a good customer experience.” [I realize that the operative word is likely.] Nevertheless, I do this in 98 percent of instances. But sometimes a company makes this hard to do.

If you’re a Verizon customer you may notice the company doesn’t provide a contact phone number [!] on its website and if it does, I couldn’t find it. A Google search didn’t help either. It turned out I had one in my phone’s address book. So here’s my story.

buzzing on phone lineOur house is on a country road that isn’t a profitable place for Verizon’s landline business so maintenance isn’t a priority. [Verizon mobile phones don’t work there at all.] The buzzing on our landline recently became overwhelming so I finally called for service. Someone came a few days later and when he left, we could no longer receive calls which we learned the next day—Saturday–when I looked at my mobile in a place it did work and saw texts and emails from folks who had tried to call.

Long story short, the dispatcher sent someone else immediately, and he was wonderful. After tracking down and fixing the reason we no longer could receive calls he said that the buzzing on our line was still unacceptable and he wanted to fix it. [If he thought the improvement was bad, he should have heard the deafening noise before.] He drove down the road and worked his magic on a pole high in the sky and our line is clearer now than it has been in many years.

telephone repair on poleI wanted to send an enthusiastic note to his supervisor or department head and while he shared his first name and employee number, he didn’t know who that would be. [He probably isn’t allowed to give it out.] When I called the dispatcher she had to ask her supervisor and eventually she gave me a general phone number where I left my message that I fear won’t be heard or reach his file to do him any good.

Have you ever run into such a situation? I wonder why a company doesn’t want to hear about exemplary employees in a way that can do their staffers some good by easily adding a kudos to their files.

 Dont want to hear

Service of There’s a New Scam Every Day: IRS’s Latest

October 6th, 2016

Categories: Scams, Taxes


Most working people pay Federal taxes, [even if a prominent presidential candidate apparently doesn’t], which must be why there’s yet another IRS scam in the land. The number of potential targets is huge and boy is it profitable. According to Laura Saunders in “The New IRS Email Scam,” in The Wall Street Journal, since 2013 almost 9,000 people have forked over $47 million +.

We’ve previously written about the phone swindle that threatens jail and worse if the prospective victim doesn’t respond immediately to a voice message and pay up. Saunders wrote: “Just recently, a new scam has started involving fake tax bills tied to the Affordable Care Act.” If you get an email CP-2000 notice you’ll know it’s fake because the IRS doesn’t communicate with you that way.”

However, the clever scammers are also mailing printed notices via standard mail which is how the IRS communicates. “Genuine versions of such notices are computer-generated letters asking for payment based on a mismatch between a taxpayer’s return and what’s reported by a third party, such as interest on a bank account. The fake notices typically ask victims to pay a balance due in connection with Affordable Care Act health coverage for 2014. Taxpayers without proper coverage owe a penalty.”

Saunders reported that CP-2000 notices are usually six to sevenFederal Taxes pages while the fake, in one instance, included a payment voucher and was three. Language and typeface mimic the real ones. Another crucial difference: The fake asks victims to make out checks to I.R.S.; the legitimate to the U.S. Treasury. Some IRS scammers ask to be paid by prepaid debit card or iTunes gift card!

According to Saunders the IRS warns anyone who receives such an email not to reply or open any attachments or links but should forward the email to

The threatening robocalls followed us from upstate New York to Manhattan where we received another one as recently as a week ago but we don’t know anyone who got a fake CP-2000 tax notice email or letter so far—and you?


Service of Facing the Music: It Doesn’t Get Better if You Wait, Yahoo and Target

October 3rd, 2016

Categories: DNA, Doctors, Procrastination, Retail, Technology

face the music

When something goes wrong you’re better off taking action quickly—that goes for people and companies: Most have to fight putting off facing the music.

Dr. Alan JasloveUrged by my husband to move quickly I averted a disaster last week by immediately acting on a dental emergency that seemed overwhelming when it happened. My instinct was to hide and hope. My great dentist, Alan Jaslove [Photo, right]—I’ve written about him before—saved my tooth and a whole lot of stuff that depended on it, squeezing me in and staying late to do so. Had I waited, as he was scheduled to be out of the office for four days which I didn’t know, I might have damaged the tooth beyond repair causing a domino effect of horrendous proportions.

I know this yet avoidance is in my DNA.

yahooIt must also be in Yahoo’s. It took two years for the company to report and/or discover a humongous customer hack. It doesn’t reflect well in either case: That it knew and didn’t tell or that it didn’t know.

“The Yahoo theft represents the most accounts ever stolen from a single email provider,” I read on from a syndicated AP story, “The Yahoo Email Hack is Bad,” by tech writer Michael Liedtke.

  • According to Liedtke, “Yahoo didn’t explain what took so long to uncover a heist that it blamed on a ‘state-sponsored actor’ — parlance for a hacker working on behalf of a foreign government. The Sunnyvale, California, company declined to explain how it reached its conclusions about the attack for security reasons, but said it is working with the FBI and other law enforcement. Yahoo began investigating a possible breach in July, around the time the tech site Motherboard reported that a hacker who uses the name ‘Peace’ was trying to sell account information belonging to 200 million Yahoo users.
  •  Jeff John Roberts on, in a fact sheet format, answered the question “Why did Yahoo take so long to warn everyone?” as follows: “Good question. It’s currently unclear when Yahoo learned about the attack…….All Yahoo has said so far is that a ‘recent investigation… has confirmed the breach.’”

The breach happened in 2014 well before the public knew that Verizon was planning to buy Yahoo. Did executives at the digital services company really think a hack involving so many customers could be forever hidden from the purchaser and that a sophisticated company like Verizon wouldn’t protect itself from such a bad surprise had the sale gone through before this news leaked? And what about 500 million hacked customers who turn to Yahoo for email, finance or fantasy sports—according to Roberts–who must take steps to change passwords and, in some cases, answers to security questions.

TargetTwo years seems to be the magic number for Target too. From August 2014 to July of this year it sold—for as much as $75–what it thought was 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets and pillow cases according to Bloomberg news, the company bought the products from Welspun India that turned out to be lesser quality cotton.  Target has offered refunds to its customers. But I wonder why it took so long for buyers to discover this. Eons ago, at a party, a friend in the retail business remarked on the quality and thread count of the shirt my husband was wearing without touching it. He was right: It was a pricey shirt in soft, fine Egyptian cotton.

  • Do you drag your feet when you really shouldn’t?
  • It can’t help people sleep well at night to realize that it takes years to discover a giant email hack. Should it take two years to learn something’s amiss?
  • As for Target, did no buyer open a single package over 23 months to check the contents and did he/she even know what Egyptian cotton was supposed to feel like?
  • Do you pay for premium products and sometimes wonder if you are getting your money’s worth?



Service of Time and Place: Is Something Still Funny with Kids in the Picture?

September 29th, 2016

Categories: Children, Food, Humor, Travel, Treats

Kids in a frame

Todd Schnitt, co-host with Len Berman of the morning drive show on WOR 710 radio in NYC, deplored the slogan on a tee shirt that a young woman wore on the plane he, his wife and two kids were boarding recently. It promoted the F-word within a snarky comment. He was irritated that his kids had to see it.

He’d wished the crew had asked the woman to either wear her shirt inside out or buy another one at an airport shop as he’d read that other flight attendants had done the same. He also mentioned women boarding commercial flights in ridiculous décolleté who have been told either to cover up or leave.

boarding a planeSchnitt is no prude: He isn’t afraid of the racy story. He seems obsessed with Anthony Weiner and others caught in twisted situations of a perverted sexual nature. He reminds those who object—usually women–that his audience is young to middling-aged men.

chocolate cupcakesA day later an out of town friend told me that he was choosing some chocolate cupcakes for a five year old from a bakery often filled with kids buying treats. [He’d forgotten to recognize the child’s birthday and was seeing his dad and wanted a surprise at the ready.] “We call those Prozac cupcakes,” said the counterman. 

This friend doesn’t shock easily either, and even though he knew the baker picked what she thought was a clever name in an attempt at humor—as in desserts named “death by chocolate”–he wondered whether his choice was right for a chocolate-loving child and about the appropriateness of the name in the first place.

Do you think Todd and my friend are being prissy? Have we lost our compasses as to what’s funny–when–and in what context?


Service of Reading the Fine Print and Your Emails: Amazon’s Subscribe and Save Program

September 26th, 2016

Categories: Fine Print, Prices, Promotions

terms and conditions

I’m not a fan of automatic anything. When I buy OTC items from a drugstore website, I’m asked if I’d like a monthly order of shampoo, toothpaste, vitamins or makeup. No thanks.

So I didn’t know about Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program where people sign up to get repeat orders of staples like coffee or trash bags. It should be called Subscribe and Sometimes Save. It’s a great example of people signing up for something they haven’t looked into carefully and being duped into thinking they are always getting a good deal.

toothpasteAccording to Brian X. Chen in his New York Times article, “Subscribe and Save on Amazon? Don’t Count on It,” the company’s pricing model doesn’t always work out in the customer’s favor. “Any sticker shock, analysts said, may be the result of Amazon’s complex pricing system coming into conflict with consumer expectations of a traditional subscription.”

He wrote that Amazon “frequently adjusts item prices based on a sophisticated set of variables like supply and demand, time of day and prices offered by competitors.” He shared the insight of Jared Wiesel, a partner at consulting firm Revenue Analytics. It “is the company’s way of making it look as if you are always getting the best deal.”

chewing gumChen identified one customer who paid $10 for gum when signing up and was charged $100 on the repeat. “Prices of most items, including dishwasher soap and toilet bowl cleaner, changed frequently. As often as weekly, prices rose, dipped and rose again like a roller coaster. In extreme cases, prices for items like instant coffee and napkins jumped between 90 and 170 percent.”

  • A 30.5 oz tub of Folgers ranged from $6.64 in June to $12.50 in August.
  • Vanity Fair napkins moved from $7.94 in May to $21.46 in June/July and $15.36 in August.
  • More high/lows include an air purifier filter and humidifier filter, $18.06 to $33.24 and $$4.67 to $11.27 respectively.

Participants are given a chance to opt out. Amazon sends them an email 10 days before a delivery with the price they’ll be paying and they can cancel. I suppose not everyone reads them.

The trouble with the concept, according to Wiesel is: “I think they’ve violated the psychological concept of a subscription with their customers in changing prices like this. When people think of a subscription, they think of locking in a set cadence of receiving a good.”

Chen offers a solution: “If you truly want to save money on Amazon, one approach is to sign up for price alerts on Camel Camel Camel to get an email when a price drops to a desired amount. When that happens, manually reorder — yes, that’s an extra step — your instant coffee, toilet cleaner or lint rollers.” [Camel Camel Camel is an Amazon price tracker Chen explained.]

Why should Amazon change an eyelash on this or any other of its programs? In the last 17 months its stock price closed at a high of $800, more than doubling in 17 months.

Do you automatically receive anything from Amazon or any other company? Have you fallen for a deal that seemed great only to learn it’s more complicated—and not as great–as you first thought?


Service of Make it Clear and Keep Your Fingers Crossed

September 22nd, 2016

Categories: Art, Communications, Interior Designers, Miscommunication




Misunderstandings happen all the time between vendors who try to please and clients who hear what they hope or want to hear. Who knows who is right but clearly everyone can lose by winning.

In the first instance there’s Alec Baldwin and a well known New York art gallery owner Mary Boone. Baldwin “is suing Mary Boone in New York Supreme Court claiming the art dealer duped him into buying a $190,000 painting which was a copy,” wrote Hili Perlson on

Alec Baldwin. Photo:

Alec Baldwin. Photo:

In 2010 Baldwin thought he bought Ross Bleckner’s 1996 painting “Sea and Mirror” owned by an “unnamed collector” and said he got “a different version” of a picture with the same title and that Boone had put the gallery inventory number of the original on the work he bought.

Through her lawyer the gallery owner said that “Baldwin was made aware from the start he was not getting the original 1996 version of the painting.” Nevertheless, Boone has offered a full refund.

But Baldwin wants more. Perlson wrote he wants: “the difference between the purchase price of the painting in his possession and the current value of the original Sea and Mirror, which was painted, as Baldwin claims, while Bleckner was at the height of his artistic career.”

I’ve written before about the second instance that is so fitting to the topic and worth a repeat. An interior decorator carefully explained to her client—in front of a third person—that fabricating stationary window panels instead of curtains would save on the cost of the very expensive drapery textile she’d chosen, with a drawback: The panels, she told this friend-of-a-friend, would not move and would not fully cover the window. The client was fine with the sketch and the savings and said she could live with the downside and the panels were ordered and installed.

stationary-drapery-panelArriving home and seeing the panels the client called the decorator in fury: “They don’t cover the window!” she fumed and said she wouldn’t pay for them. The third person, who had introduced the two, would not take sides.

Had the interior decorator asked her client to sign or initial the sketch she made on which she’d noted her warning that might have helped IF the client was willing to put her John Hancock to the sheet. [The client was a lawyer.] Had the gallery owner asked Baldwin to sign something that detailed what his $190,000 was getting him, his nose might have been out of joint, only earlier, perhaps avoiding the current muddle.

Proving a client/customer is wrong is messy and the worst business prescription. In the end it doesn’t matter how much paperwork a vendor has to prove a point unless the business retains pounds and pounds of legal support and has deep pockets budgeted for lawsuits. Apart from an airtight insurance policy to cover such misunderstandings, must most businesses expect to swallow such losses? Have you heard of similar examples?

Win by losing

Service of a Country Garage Sale Produced by a City Slicker

September 19th, 2016

Categories: Garage Sale, Promotions, Sales

Garage sale signs in trunk

I’ve always thought I’d have enjoyed–and if lucky, might have succeeded at–being in the retail industry. [Promoting new products for clients, which I’ve done for years, is on the cusp of the world of retail and doesn’t count.] So I didn’t reject as nuts my nephew Edward’s suggestion to conduct a garage sale. I didn’t have much time to pull it together—who does? Still I had fun. 

Garage sale kitchenWhat was most surprising?

  •  People came. We live on a quiet country road with microscopic through-traffic–few passers-by ever. The Craigslist posting and Garage Sale signs on the two roads that cap ours were most effective in alerting visitors as far as we could tell. I also wrote copy for a county garage sale site.
  • Edward predicted that people would take free stuff that had been left behind under a deck by a series of tenants, various construction projects and previous owners. He was right. He said folks would drive on the property with their pickups and so they did. Saved us from having to lug away stuff.
  • Garage Sale 2016 DumpsterThere was a dumpster outside the garage with plenty of things I’d rejected for the sale. [At one yard sale I attended I was alarmed by well-used bedroom slippers for sale. Yech. I wanted none of that at my sale.] Nevertheless, visitors jumped in and sorted through the dumpster as well. Some asked before doing so. Others just dove in. “Might I have your slides?” said one woman straddling four boxes from the period I was an Air Force wife living in Turkey. She said “people like travel slides.”
  • One woman buying two $2 wine glasses asked if I could wrap them. [Like everyone else, she arrived in a car with front and back seats to keep them apart and safe; did she think this was a boutique?] I wrapped–but wondered.
  • Hardcovers and paperbacks sold well. I charged $1 and 50 cents respectively. 

Some tips

  •  I was prepared for people to arrive early—David Reich gave me a copy of a New York Times article he’d written, “First Time for a Garage Sale,” where he reported early bargain hunters knocked on his door at 7:15 a.m. for a 10 a.m. sale. My earliest visitors came just before 9 and I let them in. [I posted my street signs at 6 a.m. and was raring to go.]
  • One of my customers told me that I should have saved the towels tossed in the dumpster to give to the local SPCA for the animals. He would have salvaged them, he said, but they were wet. Next time.
  • I was concerned about inviting strangers. What if one had nefarious plans to revisit us after the sale? Edward suggested I buy a “Beware of Dog” sign along with the “Garage Sale” signs. I did.
  • Speaking of signs, I didn’t notice until I wrote the address and time on them that the Garage Sale signs were not printed on both sides so I had to return to the store to get another set. Back-to-back they both fit in the metal braces that stick in the ground.
  • garage sale books turnedI priced cheaply. The idea was to find a home for things, not to make a killing. Several people told me I had priced well for a garage sale so I guess I got that right, though some left empty-handed. I grossed just under $600.
  • I wasn’t selling power tools but there were requests for these; for books about engineering that I didn’t have either and for anything—art or books—about the surrounding area. These I had and sold. Remember where you squirrel things.

Can you share your garage sale experiences as visitor or producer? Any great finds from yard or garage sales you’ve attended?

Garage sale art turned


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