Service of What Happens When You Don’t Double Check: A Package Lost in Zip Code Hell

December 12th, 2019

Categories: Incompetence, Mistakes

Photo: fanpop.com

It’s not just Santa who should check things twice–so should I.

I didn’t immediately read the zip code the postal clerk put in the computer. She did not post the information in the digital portion of the credit card reader [photo right, below] and I didn’t think to ask her to do so nor did I look at my receipt.

The birthday gift was destined for New Hampshire in plenty of time. I don’t know if it will ever arrive. It has been lost in zip code hell since November 29.

Photo: stateofthenet.net

I first looked at the receipt to track the package a few days after my post office visit. My heart sank: The clerk had inverted numbers so it headed not to New England but to Maryland Heights, Mo.

A clerk at the Grand Central post office confirmed the correct address on the label–it apparently is in the system but nobody refers to anything but the zip code. She admitted that the wrong code would keep sending the gift back to Missouri.

This clerk was correct. I received 25 USPS tracking email notices confirming this–as late as this morning. The package arrived twice in Southern Conn. and once in New Hampshire–though not to the right post office–but it went back to Missouri after that.

I asked her if postmen and women read the full label on a package and she said, “sometimes.” She didn’t have faith in an option to stop the delivery which she said would cost me money and “didn’t always work.”

Back at my computer I found a lost package form to fill out online even though the package is misdirected. I got a standard reply from the appropriate postmaster in the correct New Hampshire town that stated he would look into it. But the automatic tracking emails kept on coming telling me where in Missouri the package was out for delivery.

Light bulb: I found the phone number, called the New Hampshire post office in the right town, left a message for Kirkland S. and he subsequently left a message for me on my phone later that day. He seemed to be optimistic that the package would arrive at its destination because he’d spoken with customer service.

Alas, I got another auto message announcing the package was again out for delivery in Missouri.

I again called Kirkland who admitted to having called 12 numbers before reaching someone in Missouri who would send a person to rescue the package and delete the incorrect barcode so that the machine could not read it.

He explained that up until now a human had not been near the package. Computers read the zip code.  My heart, once lifted, was once again dashed this morning when the auto-tracking email announced the package is out for delivery in Missouri. Kirkland S could not be more sympathetic and he seems almost as frustrated as I am.

I fear that if and when it arrives it will be in shreds. It wasn’t packed to be tossed from truck to truck to truck to truck.

I just sent a slew of Christmas packages and confirmed, on the credit card reader, that each zip code and address were correct.

I consider the mistake to be equally my fault because I didn’t check. Even Santa, as busy as he is, takes time to confirm who’s been naughty or nice.

It’s so easy to type wrong numbers on a keyboard. Mine couldn’t be the only misdirected package. Shouldn’t there be a simple way to fish out mail headed in the wrong direction because of a mistyped digit? Have you run across a similar glitch?

Service of Food: Valuable to Some, Essential to Others

December 9th, 2019

Categories: Art, Food, Hunger, Value

By Maurizio Cattelan Photo: news.artnet.com

According to United States Department of Agriculture, 40 million Americans face hunger, including 12.5 million children. In this regard two headlines hit me last week.

The first: “Maurizio Cattelan Is Taping Bananas to a Wall at Art Basel Miami Beach and Selling Them for $120,000 Each.”

The second: “Trump administration moves to remove 700,000 people from food stamps.”

Photo: bally.com

Sarah Cascone wrote the first article on artnet.com. She added that the gallery repping Cattelan was upping the price to $150,000 because the banana, affixed with contact tape to the wall, already had two buyers at the original asking price. She also reported that her husband and his college dorm mates had done the same thing with a banana and that he still had what was left of the shriveled fruit somewhere in their home.

I couldn’t tell from the article whether the artist would affix the banana to the buyers’ walls.

Obviously these art buyers have no trouble feeding themselves or their families which isn’t the case for people who need food stamps.

Photo: cnn.com

Tom Polansek wrote on reuters.com: “President Donald Trump has argued that many Americans receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, do not need it given the strong economy and low unemployment. The program provides free food to 36 million Americans.”

Savings to the government over five years is estimated to be $5.5 billion.

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio described the cutback as “an unacceptable escalation of the administration’s war on working families, and it comes during a time when too many are forced to stretch already-thin budgets.”

Polansek reported “The administration has sought to tighten requirements for food stamps without congressional approval after Congress blocked a Trump-backed effort to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill last year.”

“For those impacted it will mean less nutritious meals, or meals that are skipped altogether,” said Cassie Ramos, policy associate for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.

Good work if you can get it is my reaction to the $120,000-$150,000 banana with a dash of there’s a sucker born every day. I’m not one bit magnanimous about the food stamp cuts.  If we’re looking for ways to cut the budget why pick on the poorer members of our country who, without food, in addition to suffering, will become sick and cost more? Will taking away food stamps inspire people who need them to get a job when my bet is that many already have a few?

Photo: wgem.com

Service of How to Ask for Money or Support When You Shouldn’t

December 5th, 2019

Categories: Etiquette, Favors, Friendship, Fundraising

Photo: inc.com

This is the time of year in which we’re bombarded by requests for money which inspired the topic of this post.

Say you’ve neglected a once close friend for whatever reason–do you ask them to support your cause or for the names of business contacts for a project at work?.

Photo: personalitytutor.com

Your silence is worse if they’ve been sick, lost a job or a loved one. It happens.

Do you nevertheless call or write as though you just saw the person last week? Do you make small talk and then ask for what you want or forget it and think of others to contact this time?

If you’re sending an e-blast to all your contacts asking them to attend a fundraiser, do you include the recently forgotten person or delete their name from the list so as not to potentially irritate them?

Have you been on either side of this situation? If you were the one neglected would you play ball–attend the fundraiser, contribute to it or provide the business information you’re asked for?

2 Photo: arroyofundraising.com

Tip Gyp at Doordash

December 2nd, 2019

Categories: Cheating, Delivery, Food, Gyps, Restaurant, Stealing

Photo: cnbc.com

Seven years ago partners chef Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich paid a price–$5.25 million–for stiffing a percentage of the tips of their employees at Batali’s pricey Italian restaurants such as Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono and Esca to pay sommeliers’ salaries.

A chunk of the penalty money went to captains, servers, busboys and others.

Photo: blog.doordash.com

Small potatoes by comparison but “The attorney general of Washington, D.C., is suing food-delivery company DoorDash Inc. for pocketing tips on deliveries,” wrote Allison Prang in The Wall Street Journal. To meet the minimum pay promised deliverymen and women the company applied the tip money customers added electronically. Workers were not given the tip in addition to the minimum.

Karl Racine, DC attorney general, said Doordash also deluded customers who thought they were giving a tip.  Prang wrote: “The attorney general is seeking a court order to force DoorDash to surrender the tips and pay civil penalties.”

Doordash claimed that “the assertions made in the complaint are without merit and we look forward to responding to them through the legal process.”

Why do profitable companies pick on the smallest fries–all of whom are essential to their success–to squeeze them out of their rightful compensation? Is it OK because the owners take the risk and make the investment in their companies or is it wrong under any circumstances?

Photo: newsismybusiness.com

Service of Friendships–Better than Drugs or Anti-Aging Remedies

November 25th, 2019

Categories: Friends, Friendship, Health, Stress

Photo: redbookmag.com

I’ve written about office friends and those whose names you don’t even know; buddies as good company, splitting the check, hugging and protecting them. Tara Parker-Pope wrote about friendship from a different perspective in her New York Times article “How to be a Better Friend.”

She reported results of research that showed that students in pairs estimated the slope of a hill they were expected to climb to be far less onerous than those who were alone. Another study supported “the notion that social support helps us cope with stress.” Friends in a room made the heart rate of women faced with solving a math problem go much slower than those approaching the task alone.

Photo: barewalls.com

Parker-Pope claimed that friendships, more than romantic partners, positively impact health. Here’s one of three studies she chose to illustrate the point: “In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, being attached to a life partner didn’t affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease, but having friendships did. Among risk factors for cardiovascular health, lacking social support was as bad as smoking.”

She wrote that “proximity was not a factor in the benefits of friendship” though its obvious that local friends can run errands and help in other ways if necessary. People with friends get fewer colds which might be related to experiencing less stress.

The effect of peer pressure can be good or bad. Some participate in exercise routines and other healthy activities with their buddies while others may gain weight together. If a person did the latter, a 2007 study showed that there was an almost 60 percent risk that their friends would too.

Photo: runnersworld.com

In Japan, Parker-Pope wrote, “people form a kind of social network called a moai — a group of five friends who offer social, logistic, emotional and even financial support for a lifetime.” Women in Okinawa, Parker-Pope reported, have an average life expectancy of 90–the longest in the world.

Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow and author who studies health habits of people who live longest told Parker-Pope “Your group of friends are better than any drug or anti-aging supplement, and will do more for you than just about anything.”

The title of Parker-Pope’s article–“How to be a Better Friend”–didn’t match the information in it. Just being a friend is what counts. As I am blessed with life-saving friends I can vouch for how their support is an effective passport to joy and an antidote to stress and anxiety. Who knew there might also be health benefits?

Photo: welovecycling.com

 

Service of Protecting a Whistleblower

November 21st, 2019

Categories: Politicians, Politics, Whistleblowers

Photo: federalnewsnetwork.com

I’ve written three previous posts about whistleblowers. The first, in October, 2010, was about a Minneapolis resident who gave up his job as a trader at a brokerage firm to become an FBI informant. His target was a suspicious Ponzi schemer. The second was about the Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQuery who was placed in protective custody and on administrative leave because of his role in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case. In the third I covered the countless leakers in the early Trump administration. We learn the names of some and not of others.

The unnamed whistleblower at the center of the Ukraine telephone call/impeachment initiative is courageous as they all are. I also think that they are the rarest of birds and as such should be shielded from harm and at all costs left forever unidentified except to the appropriate authorities.

Photo: fedsmith.com

The USA TODAY editorial board wrote: “The fundamental promise of whistleblower protection is to create a safe space for a witness of wrongdoing to come forward and report it — and, for the sake of his or her professional reputation or even physical safety, to remain anonymous in doing so.

“Nothing chills truth-telling in the halls of power like the risk of retribution, and no risk is more harrowing than unmasking potentially impeachable offenses by a president.

“So it may come as little surprise that Donald Trump — with his legacy and potentially even his job hanging in the balance — would turn the promise of whistleblower protection on its head. He has launched a vitriolic campaign to publicly identify the person who exposed his problematic July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine.”

In addition they wrote: “Making the whistleblower’s identity known would expose the person to the kind of character assassination from the extreme elements of the president’s supporters that other impeachment inquiry witnesses have endured.”

The word assassination is apt. One of the whistleblower’s lawyers said he feared the man or woman would be killed if identified.

Those who call for identifying this whistleblower say it’s important to know his/her motivation and political preference. Do you agree?

Have you ever worked for someone whose dicey business behavior should have been made known? Did you report him/her? Do most of us stay mum because we are taught from childhood not to be tattletales? Do you praise or condemn whistleblowers? Do you think that there should be exceptions to the rule that protects their identity and that some should be exposed?

Photo: amazon.com

Service of Puzzling Popularity in Fashion, Architecture and Digital Aids

November 18th, 2019

Categories: Architecture, City Living, Fashion, Fashion Accessories, Garden, Transportation

Photo: jcrew.com

The usefulness or wisdom of some popular products or devices baffles me. Here are a few examples:

Vested Interest

I like the look of vests and own some but not the quilted ones for use outdoors. Sure they look great but don’t people’s arms get cold when they wear them without an overcoat or jacket?

On a Tear

Photo: levi.com

While I admire jeans that are worn from use over years–I have some myself that I wore for years to garden [when I had one] and to clean house. I’ve not seen one person who looks good in jeans with faux rips, tears and holes. They are obvious and sad.

Romantic Garden Elements

When I bought my house eons ago I thought a gazebo would be a wonderful addition to the pond surround and envisioned picnics and early evening meals there. An interior designer friend warned me that I’d never use it, would have to maintain the wood and that because of its design the weather would soon destroy it. I never bought one but still think some are stunning and romantic. They remind me of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies–didn’t they dance in and out of one?

Photo: backyardbuildings.com

Last summer I attended a luncheon party in a gazebo that was equipped with screens–an essential addition: We didn’t share our meal with one fly or mosquito. I still question the practicality of these elegant wood structures.

Where’s the Bus?

Passenger information display systems indicate the number of stops away a bus is [or the expected wait time]. They are terrific when they work: You can determine whether to wait at the express or local bus stop–they often are a block apart in NYC and you can miss a bus if you’re not waiting at the right spot. The information is handy in decision-making: Do I give up waiting and walk or take a taxi to get to an appointment on time?

The problem is they are unreliable and often don’t work: You don’t know when to rely on them. I took the photo below early one weekday morning. In fact, a limited/express Select bus showed up first–none appear on the screen. And while the nearest bus stop was in sight of where I stood, there were no other buses in view even though the digital sign indicated two locals were one stop away.

Are there popular clothing styles, architectural elements or transportation improvements that puzzle you and make you question why people buy them?

Service of Who Vets the Details for a Prince?

November 14th, 2019

Categories: Art, Artist, Fake, Fundraising

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

The characters in this post are Charles, Prince of Wales, a British businessman, James Stunt, and a convicted painting forger Tony Tetro.

Javier Pes covered the incident on artnet.com in “Prince Charles’s Charity Displayed Paintings by Picasso, Dalí, and Monet—Until a Convicted Forger Claimed Them as His Own.” He wrote that Stunt lent “works supposedly by Monet, Picasso, and Salvador Dalí to Dumfries House, the historic property in Scotland that is a cause close to the heart of the heir to the British throne.”

Dumfries House Photo: dumfries-house.org.UK

Stunt got them back after Tetro announced he’d painted them. He also said that Stunt knew they were fake because he’d ordered them for his home. The faux artist added that “there is no way that these paintings could pass even the lightest scrutiny. The canvases are new, paint is modern, stretcher bars are not correct or period.”

The coverage implied that the Prince should have known better and we don’t know if he’d ever seen the canvases. Pes wrote: “The British royal, who is a former trustee of London’s National Gallery and grew up surrounded by Old Masters, must have been delighted when the flamboyant British businessman James Stunt agreed to lend 17 works.”

“LE FERMIER ET SON ÉPOUSE” by Joan Miro Photo: joan-miro.net

Stunt was also on the griddle. Quoting the Daily Mail‘s account and what Stunt said, Pes reported: “ ‘What is the crime of lending them to a stately home, [to] the Prince of Wales and putting them on display for the public to enjoy?’ He stopped short of accepting that he knew they weren’t originals,” added Pes.

Pes wrote: “Tetro, who was found guilty of art forgery involving works by Dalí, Miro, Chagall, and Norman Rockwell in the past, now makes what he calls ’emulations’ of Modern masterworks. Stunt ‘knew with 100 percent certainty that these works were by me,’ Tetro said, a claim that Stunt denies. ‘We discussed the subject of the paintings and many of the particulars. These were decorative paintings that were purposely made by me as decorations for his home.'”

It’s hard to tell who was pulling the wool over whose eyes in this $136 million art scam. Was Stunt trying to gain provenance for fakes he knew were such? Did he really know what he bought from Tetro? Was the Prince of Wales, who was trying to generate funds for a historic Scottish property, taken to the cleaners by Stunt, whom, Pes notes at the end of the article, went bankrupt this summer? Should the Prince’s front people/handlers–or the folks in charge of fundraising for Dumfries House–have done a better job at vetting the background of the theoretically munificent businessman before accepting his offer? Or should the Prince have known better?

Photo: vootelecom.co.uk

Service of Two Sides of the Story

November 11th, 2019

Categories: College, Journalism, News, Newspapers, University

Photo: hvinnovationgroup.com

A news story should represent both sides of a story and a reporter owes it to readers to attempt to shoot for this balance. Let the readers decide. As a public relations practitioner there are times where the most I can hope for in a negative story is the chance for my client to share his/her point of view and I am grateful when the reporter gives my client the chance.

That’s why this debate at Harvard caught my eye and surprised me.

Marc Tracy wrote “Harvard Newspaper Faces Backlash Over ICE Article” for The New York Times. Criticism against the 146 year old daily was made by campus groups Act on a Dream and Harvard College Democrats. They reprimanded The Harvard Crimson for writing that the reporter had contacted for comment Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] for the article “Harvard Affiliates Rally for Abolish ICE Movement.”

Photo: thecrimson.com

The editors wrote: “ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.”

Act on a Dream had organized the rally described in the Crimson. Furious, the group launched a petition “demanding that The Crimson vow to never contact ICE again and to apologize for the ‘harm it has inflicted.’ ” They gathered 650+ online signatures.

One grievance by Act on a Dream was that ICE had a “long history of surveilling and retaliating against those who speak out against them.”  Even though the rally had already taken place when the story ran, they claimed that tipping off ICE could endanger undocumented immigrants on campus. Harvard College Democrats said “It’s very much in line with our values. It lines up with our commitment to protecting these movements, making sure people’s voices can be heard, that intimidation from ICE doesn’t prevent these students from exercising their right to mobilize and organize.”

Photo: wsaz.com

Tracy wrote “It is one of the first tasks a journalist learns on the job, a routine aspect of reporting: asking for comment from people or organizations that are mentioned prominently in an article, especially those cast in a harsh light.”

The Crimson “stood by its reporting.” The paper’s president and managing editor “wrote that ‘every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them.'” They cited approval of the practice by the Student Press Law Center and Society of Professional Journalists.

Tracy quoted University of Michigan law professor Margo Schlanger “who specializes in civil rights and prison reform.” He wrote about Schlanger that “while she understands the protestors’ concerns, the paper had done nothing unethical.” Quoting Schlanger: “They’re trying to make ICE a pariah agency” and that it was “not responsible journalism not to call the agency to ask them to respond to things.”

Where do you stand: Should a newspaper reporter always try for comments from people representing all sides of a story or are there exceptions and have the rules changed?

Photo: tes.com

Service of Research

November 7th, 2019

Categories: Cheating, Failure, Fake, Research, University

Photo: stemcell.com

I admire researchers for so many reasons. It can take decades for them to make a discovery and years more to prove it. Diligence, the ability to fight frustration and dissent are just three characteristics of this valiant group.

I was distressed to read Noam Cohen’s New York Times article, “M.I.T. Shuts Down ‘Food Computer’ Project” about the world-renowned research citadel. The allegedly promising venture–The Open Agricultural Initiative [OpenAg]–involved greenhouses, called food computers, designed for crops that grow in air–without soil or sunlight. In addition to those in food computers at the university there were larger greenhouses in shipping containers in Middletown, Mass.

M.I.T. Media Lab. Photo: news.mit.edu

Cohen wrote: “The once-celebrated M.I.T. Media Lab micro-greenhouses were supposed to grow food under virtually any conditions. In the end, they worked under almost none. And now, M.I.T. has turned off the lights, possibly for good.”

He added “The project has been accused of misleading sponsors and the public by exaggerating results while the Media Lab has been under scrutiny for its financial ties to the convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein.”

The director of the OpenAg program, Caleb Harper, posted images and videos on social media “that looked like experiments” and exaggerated or made false claims. Former researchers said he bought plants and put them in the “food computers” pretending they’d grown there. They said that data would have “little scientific significance” because they could not “control the conditions within the boxes.”

The Middletown containers were closed down recently because they dumped wastewater “with 20 times the legal limit of nitrogen underground.”

M.I.T. Photo: news.mit.edu

According to Cohen, Harper boasted that food computers he’d sent Syrian refugees in camps gave them “the means to grow their own food inside the camp.” Instead, these computers ended up “in a Jordanian research lab where they faltered because of hot, dry conditions and technical failures.”

The project attracted $millions in sponsorship funds and heaps of positive publicity including the likes of “60 Minutes” and a TED Talk.  I wager it received the acclaim and financial support based on its affiliation with M.I.T. Such shenanigans can’t help the university’s reputation and I wonder who minds the store in such institutions to prevent this kind of tempting fabrication from happening more often.

Photo: twitter.com

 

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