Service of Shouting

July 21st, 2014

Categories: Communications, Shouting, Speaking, Yelling

shouting 1

Americans—or maybe people in general–seem to think that if they raise their voices, they’ll get the reaction they hope for.

One of the comedians at an event I attended recently wasn’t getting the laughs she’d hoped for. Seeking to make the phrase witty she raised her voice, expecting that the volume, in addition to the repetition, would resuscitate a tired, overused expression. The audience was neither deaf nor stupid nor did most react to the ear-splitting noise: I looked around and saw straight lips and glazed eyes.

PatientI noticed a similar attempt to inspire a reaction at an in-law’s bedside. The patient couldn’t move or speak so visitors thought yelling at her would help. They’d lean over and shriek, even after her son assured them she could hear perfectly well and asked them to please lower their voices. Soon they were shouting again because she still wasn’t responding.

Ever hear Americans communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English? They slow their words and speak as loudly as their lungs will allow expecting the volume to perform the trick of translation.

Are there other instances in which people feel volume enhances communication? In a brief Google search I wasn’t able to learn the reason. Your guess?

 Shouting 2

Service of Checking the Bill

July 17th, 2014

Categories: Restaurant, Tips

restaurant tips

According to tripadvisor.com, gratuities of as much as 20 percent are added to restaurant and pub bills in the US these days, especially in high-tourist areas. They mentioned the Grand Canyon. The website advises travelers to check the bill before adding a tip.

I noticed an addition to my restaurant check at the Oyster Bar recently. It related to the tip but wasn’t a charge. The check included all the usual information as well as three potential tip amounts, calculated for three percentages of the total [before tax]. What joy! It took me a second to round off the percentage I wanted and I didn’t need to stop the conversation.

oyster barI asked the waiter about the guide. He said it was fairly new, mentioned that they couldn’t print it on bills before because of the law. [In brief research I couldn’t find anything about such a law or regulation.] He and his colleagues were thrilled as previously so many left without adding a cent. The Oyster Bar, located in Grand Central Station and considered a landmark, sees thousands of tourists who come from countries where service is included, so this wasn’t a surprise. [My husband also reminded me of several wealthy and cheap friends who consistently stiffed restaurant staff.]

restaurant tip 2As the handy calculation was news to me, I asked some friends who eat out often whether they’d noticed these calculations. Here’s what they wrote:

Nancie Steinberg: Yes, very common now but not everywhere.

David Reich: I’ve seen friends use it, but to me — and I’m no brainiac in math — it’s easier to just double the tax and add a little more.

Andy Gerber: I don’t know what law the waiter is talking about, but I have seen those guides on checks now and then.  Mostly, I think they’re innocuous.  I confess I do feel a little offended by the arm-twisting, but it doesn’t really bother me because I’m free to ignore it and I can put up with it if it discourages some people who would otherwise stiff without a good reason. I wonder whether they base the percentages on the net check (proper) or the total including the tax (overreaching)?

Do you find such guides helpful or offensive? Have you noticed them? Do you always study your bill or do you hand the waiter a credit card or slap down a few bills without looking?

Study restaurant bill

Service of Scams II

July 14th, 2014

Categories: Uncategorized

begging 1

“Offering wishes of peace and a shiny amulet, they solicit donations from passers-by, often reinforcing their pitch by showing a picture of a temple for which the money seems to be intended. Then they open a notebook filled with the names of previous donors and the amounts given.” –Joseph Goldstein and Jeffrey E. Singer, “Panhandlers Dressed as Monks Confound New Yorkers,” The New York Times.

I saw one of these “monks” in Bryant Park on a perfect summer day last week although the reporters wrote about those in monk’s clothing in Times Square. Women are in on the act as well dressed as Taoist nuns.

Apart from giving monks a bad name, many aggressively insist on $20 if offered a smaller donation according to Goldstein and Singer. “This year, the police have arrested at least nine people who have presented themselves as monks, mostly on charges of aggressive begging or unlicensed vending.” And they ply their trade well beyond Times Square,  in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and China.

5 precepts of BuddhismThe scammers are lazy as they don’t bother to do elementary research, failing to respond to questions such as “what are the five precepts of Buddhism?” or “where is your temple located?” One was seen going into a men’s room dressed as a monk and leaving in street clothes.

Wrote the reporters: “‘Aggressive begging is utterly unheard-of in the Buddhist tradition,’ said Robert Buswell, director of the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. The monks typically do not even acknowledge the offering.

“‘No thanks given, no or very little eye contact with the donor and certainly no active solicitation of donations, no requests for money and no selling of amulets or rosaries,’ Professor Buswell added.”

How do you fend off aggressive beggars?  Do you think that a scammer who hides behind a religion is worse than a con man or woman in other kinds of sheep’s clothing?

wolf in sheep's clothing

 

Service of What Were They Thinking II: Tour de France Spectators, Cross Training Flight Crews & Retail Missing its Target

July 10th, 2014

Categories: Retail, Self-Involvement, Training, Travel

tour de france 2014

This batch was far too easy to collect—a bad sign.

Selfish

“‘The worst thing is when people have got their backs to the peloton taking selfies,’ he said.” The he is professional racing cyclist Geraint Thomas; they are British spectators at the Tour de France in the stretch between York and Sheffield. According to guardian.com, Thomas continued, “‘I had a few of those and they don’t see us coming and are stood in the road and it is very dodgy.”

He “described the thousands of people attempting to take pictures of themselves as the peloton rode past as ‘the new pain in the arse’ for riders.”

Imagine being a cyclist who is derailed after all those years of training by bumping into a self-centered klutz taking photos of him/herself.

Train Crew to Move Air Passengers

airport checkinColleague David Reich boarded a flight from Austin to Dallas when passengers were asked to disembark while ground crew fixed a leak. He and many of those on board had a connection to catch. By the time he got out and saw one harried airline ticket agent and a daunting line of passengers looking to get out of Dodge…I mean Austin… he walked through the airport until he found an agent with no line.

He asked her why someone hadn’t assigned help for that agent in the boarding area outside the beached plane. Answer: Cutbacks. As airline management, wouldn’t you cross train flight crews so that while one helps passengers exit the plane the others might immediately pitch in to reroute them?

Lost in Transition

Paper napkins platesI scanned the aisles of my favorite discount store in search of the paper section that housed cards, wrapping, and party accessories until I found it. It had moved and the festive paper plates and napkins hadn’t journeyed with it. After an unsuccessful look in the sections housing food, cookware and tableware, I asked an associate hanging out in the paper area for help and she seemed so proud to say that she’d put them all in the checkout area. This bit of unrealistic creativity almost lost the place a large sale while gaining a frustrated customer.

Not on Target

Target foodTarget was such a fun place to shop—and then it wasn’t and its profits plummeted along with traffic and morale. Paul Xiobro and Serena Ng analyzed what happened in “Retailer Target Lost its Way Under Ousted CEO Gregg Steinhafel.” In digest form Steinhafel eliminated what made the company successful: He replaced creative leeway with “rigid performance metrics” and “mired [management] in a new thicket of bureaucracy.” He turned a company with hip image and cool products into a Wal*Mart wannabe.

They wrote that “‘the chain ‘lost a lot of what used to make it unique,’ says Barclays analyst Matthew McClintock. ‘There haven’t been exciting reasons to shop at Target in recent years.’”

In addition, according to the reporters, the store no longer took risks with new products—instead it increased food options–and rather than practicing its former visionary merchandising skills it sold the best shelf space to those who would pay most. It cut back worldwide trips by trendspotters and took years to implement essential initiatives such as store pickup of items ordered online. A test to add mannequins to the merchandising mix took months, wrote Xiobro and Ng.

Self-involved behavior and shortsighted, uncreative management decisions are formulas for a crash if not failure. What were they thinking?

Mr. Magoo 2

Service of Passivity II

July 7th, 2014

Categories: Passivity, Safety, Technology, Uncategorized

nyc traffic

There are umpteen examples of lackadaisical behavior by people of all ages, even in instances that might affect others adversely. I won’t stop speaking out in spite of the looks I usually get, [if I notice any reaction at all], for warning pedestrians who are distracted by their texts or too absorbed by their phone conversations to watch out for a speeding car or van heading right for them.

Locked Up

keyless lockThe ladies’ room is outside our office, accessible to tenants on this floor via a keyless lock that opens when you punch a code into a pad. I noticed that I could open the door simply by turning the handle, reported it to the building and we now have a new lock.

I was amazed to learn from someone who worked in another office on the 11th floor that she knew that the lock had been broken for quite a while. So why didn’t anyone notify building staff? We pass by a very receptive person at least twice a day to get in and out of the building. It took me less than a minute to report it on the phone. A friend observed that he thought the lethargy regarding even a potentially dangerous situation, was due to tremendous passivity that overwhelms people, propelling them into inaction. 

Phishing for Dollars

phishing for dollarsI received a phishing email from a hacker dressed as USAA, a company I use for a whole range of financial services. It took 9 minutes on hold—while I continued to work—to confirm that my suspicions were correct and to get an email address to forward the nasty missive. If everyone is too busy—or passive–to inform a company about thieves who might compromise their clients’ password, social security, credit card and/or bank account numbers, then how can a company stop and penalize hackers?

When you receive an email with all the telltale signs that a friend or colleague’s been hacked, do you let them know or do you figure someone else will?

Why is it so hard for people to take even simple, safe steps to fix or right a wrong? Are we harried and too busy? Do we think it’s up to someone else to handle? Have you noticed other examples of passivity?

 snoozing on the job

 

 

 

 

Service of Visiting NYC in Summer

July 3rd, 2014

Categories: Museums, New York City, Pedicabs, Retail, Tourism, Uncategorized

NYC in summer

There are great things to do that don’t cost a fortune when you visit New York City at this time of year. Here are a few and some tips of what to watch out for.

UniqloCheck out free days/evenings at major museums like MoMA which has Uniqlo Friday nights or Brooklyn Museum’s Target free Saturdays once a month. [And visit Uniqlo on 5th Avenue and 53rd Street for fun clothes for women, men and children in a range of styles at moderate prices—downright inexpensive style if you catch a sale.]

Stroll Grand Central Station to see the remarkable architecture and on the ground floor a tourist information window with maps and useful free guides. There are plenty of shops—visit Cursive for gifts and cards—and kiosks with NYC-made merchandise as well as pricey food stalls upstairs and prepared takeout downstairs with plenty of seats. Mendy’s hotdogs are worth a detour.

Bryant Park ChairsThe price is right for a brownbag lunch in Bryant Park behind the 42nd Street Library. Find a chair and table under a tree, catch a breeze and watch the scene, a game of ping pong or bocce. A short stay is restorative.

Fruit stands all over the city sell cherries, raspberries, grapes, figs and more at amazing prices. If you’re near Union Square, drop in on Trader Joe’s wine shop on east 14th Street and the food store a few doors down for treats, serious food and polite service. If you want to stock up on a few cases of wine note that you can’t park for even a minute in front but ask a staffer to load your purchases on a hand truck. They’ll walk the cases to your vehicle.

As in all my favorite cities, walking is the best way to get around. New Yorkers can be testy when they can’t negotiate a cluster of people stopped in the middle of the sidewalk so best keep walking or go to the side to get your bearings or regroup. Read a map on the sidewalk and I bet someone will stop to guide you.

Staten Island ferry 2A ride on the Staten Island ferry is free; the view of lower Manhattan priceless.

Avoid taking rip off pedicabs. I’ve written about them and several times about the bicycle sharing program. I can’t recommend that tourists rent a bike unless they know the traffic rules and are used to riding in vehicular and foot traffic in a city packed with impatient residents.

NYC taxiTake care that your taxi is charging you the city rate. You’ll know if the meter is set at the higher suburban rate, wrote Rebecca Harshbarger in the New York Post, if you see a flashing “rate code 4” message on the TV screen in front of you. [I don’t recall ever seeing it.] She referenced a scandal four years ago when cabbies were caught stealing $millions by up charging the meter. Last year the Taxi and Limousine Commission [TLC] caught drivers overcharging 659 times vs. 2,000 the year before. “The agency uses a GPS-data algorithm that analyzes trip information to catch rogue drivers, who are then automatically hit with a summons,” wrote Harshbarger—a trend going in the right direction.

What are your must-visit places in NYC or best warnings for visitors and residents?

 nycfireworks

Service of Surveillance

June 30th, 2014

Categories: Digital Monitoring, Office Design, Restaurant, Surveillance, Suspicion

survelillance

I’ve always marveled at a company with more than one branch that is able to maintain quality service. Top management can’t be everywhere and to function, some people need to be supervised.

Today there’s a solution to this challenge.

In Steve Lohr’s front page New York Times story, “Unblinking Eyes Track Employees,” surveillance technology determined that social interaction makes workers more productive. As a result one bank introduced a daily coffee break for at team of telemarketers who, in addition to working more efficiently, didn’t quit as frequently as others who weren’t giving this chance to mingle.

Sensors worn by employees who agree to be monitored can measure tone of voice, posture and body language as well as how long two employees speak.

communal office tablesThis science can impact office design. It seems that giving office workers communal tables or lowered dividers around work spaces inspires productivity. “‘We don’t know if those tactics work,’ Mr. Koop said. ‘What we’re starting to see is the ability to quantitatively measure things instead of just going by intuition.’”  Bryan Koop is a commercial office developer whose client is one of the companies that conducts and analyzes office surveillance. [I don't think you need digital monitors to come to this conclusion. Who but the most bold will goof off in sight of office neighbors and who wants the world to hear personal conversations?]

Digital monitoring helps management identify efficient waiters. At one chain they chose one to manage a newly opened restaurant. Wrote Lohr: “The digital sentinel……. tracked every waiter, every ticket, and every dish and drink, looking for patterns that might suggest employee theft. But that torrent of detailed information, parsed another way, cast a computer-generated spotlight on the most productive workers.”

Good waiterIn the restaurants where monitoring existed, weekly sales increased—almost $3,000 on average–as a result of surveillance. What a nice surprise. That happened because waiters and waitresses, knowing they were being watched, urged customers to try a dessert or have another drink. The theft that management thought they’d detect amounted to only $108/week per restaurant. There were 392 restaurants in 39 states in the study.

“The monitoring software is a product from NCR called Restaurant Guard,” Lohr wrote. “The product, introduced in 2009, exploits the rapid progress in so-called big data technology, for collecting, storing and analyzing vast amounts of data.” Several thousand restaurants use the software according to Lohr.

If your employer asked you to wear a monitoring device, would you volunteer? Do you think you would be penalized if you refused? What do you think of monitoring employees? Should the monitoring industry be regulated?

stopwatch 2

Service of Optimism

June 26th, 2014

Categories: Foreign Affairs, Happiness, History, Optimism

Optimism

Americans are encouraged—even expected–to be happy and optimistic. Corporate, popular and sports cultures promote a “you can do it, anything’s possible” approach: it’s the Declaration of Independence’s “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in action.

"Making the Bed," Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“Making the Bed,” Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

New York Times best-selling authors such as Gretchen Rubin study happiness and travel the world sharing tips encouraging small changes to achieve it. Making your bed daily is one antidote to consider if you can’t correct big things such as a miserable job. Rubin recently addressed The American Society of Journalists & Authors as a result of which David Levine interviewed her for a blog post “Gretchen Rubin: serious about happiness: The bestselling author of The Happiness Project talks about the discipline of happiness – and what you should avoid doing.”

I thought of our culture and of Rubin in reading Walter Russell Mead’s opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal: “For the U.S., a Disappointing World: The chaos in Iraq is just the latest evidence that history doesn’t follow America’s optimistic script.”

The foreign affairs and humanities professor at Bard College pointed out the similarities between Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush in their approach to foreign affairs: “While it is true that both presidents got some important things wrong, it is what unites them rather than what divides them that is the root cause of our troubles. Both Messrs. Bush and Obama, like many of their fellow citizens, radically underestimate the dangers and difficulties in the path of historical progress.

Rosy the Riveter“Americans tend to believe that history is easy and that things usually work out for the best. When the French Revolution began, many Americans followed Thomas Jefferson’s lead in thinking that the overthrow of Louis XVI would lead rapidly to democracy in Europe. Before World War I, most Americans believed that another great European war was unthinkable; when that war ended, President Woodrow Wilson was sure that a global democratic peace was on the way.”

He pointed out that the American standard of living has always been higher than others– starting after the Revolution—and that it affects our rosy attitude. He wrote: “This happy history shapes our thinking about the world more than most of us know. Whether conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, Americans tend to think that history doesn’t matter much, that win-win solutions are easily found and that world history is moving inexorably toward a better and more peaceful place.”

Additional excerpts from his thoughtful piece: “The holiday from history came to an end on 9/11, but the Bush administration’s subsequent approach to Iraq and the Middle East dramatically underestimated the difficulty of building stable democracies in a troubled region.”

isolationMead also observed: “Today we see a very different world. We are being forced to remember something we’d rather forget: that history is hard, that the choices it forces on us are sometimes harsh and that not everything ends in win-win.”

Isolation isn’t the answer, he concluded. “What we need instead is realistic goals and historical modesty—perhaps, at last, a foreign policy that is more about preventing catastrophes than constructing utopias.”

Do you think that too much optimism can be problematic and that our eternal search for happiness and peace for all is unrealistic? Does this approach steer our leaders into making inappropriate decisions?

road ahead

Service of Negative Marketing

June 23rd, 2014

Categories: Advertising, Communications, Marketing, Negativity, Politics, Uncategorized

elephant donkey fighting

I missed the class on the effectiveness of negative advertising which serves politicians so well even though these ads are counterintuitive. Given 30 or 60 seconds to state your case–at major cost–you’d think you’d want to tout a candidate’s great ideas, victories and accomplishments. Positive messages these days would  no doubt result in negative polling figures and goodness knows what outcome on election day.

Politicians aren’t alone.

They lived commercialHave you seen the “They Lived” automotive TV commercial? It shows a series of cars so smooshed and flattened in car accidents that they look as though they were made of the cheapest tin can material. Someone yells “They Lived” at the worker, in hardhat, who is motioning the crane holding a metal heap that once was a car into a big pile of the same, referring to the passengers. Brrrrr—gives me the shivers.

I just got off the phone with a stranger who said, “Hiya Jeanne, this is Mike Morrow from Merrill Lynch.” I thanked Mike for calling, told him I was on deadline and someone was waiting for me with which he slammed down the phone or clicked off the connection, racing to the next patsy. Result: Bad taste in my mouth. Too bad he spoke so clearly. I can hardly understand most telemarketers. A “sorry,” would have been nice.

wold cup logo USWhat about the US World Cup team coach Jurgen Klinsmann who announced, before the games, that his team wasn’t ready to win?

And then there’s CheapOair. The name makes me want to avoid everything to do with the online Internet travel agency. I’d anticipate shoddy service from them and goodness knows what from their travel partners. They might be the most responsible travel agency on the Internet and many might consider the name of this company a hoot but travel is serious business. I’m a fan of discounts and great prices, but cheap? Not so much.

Do you respond in a positive way to negative marketing? Why is it so effective? Have you noticed other examples?

 

puzzled look

 

 

Service of Invisible Tells

June 19th, 2014

Categories: Uncategorized

vintage poker players

Poker tells, body language and tone of voice can indicate when a person isn’t telling the truth. How can you detect that a person isn’t looking you in the eye or has developed a mouth twitch when you don’t see their expression because you’re not together? 

Elizabeth Bernstein shared clues in a Wall Street Journal article, “How to Tell If Someone Is Lying to You in an Email.” She wrote that our “truth bias” allows us to override suspicion. Maybe a spouse really is consistently working late and the amazing looking person on a dating website really wants to meet you—or maybe not.

Bernstein quotes Tyler Cohen Wood, author of “Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life,” who uses modified statement analysis to ferret out untruths. Her advice? Watch out when someone repeats something incessantly, uses emphatic language and distances themselves by omitting personal pronouns.

date gone badQuoting Cohen Wood, say someone “receives a text that says, ‘Hey I had a great time last night, did you?’ He might reply, ‘Last night was fun.’” Uh-Oh.

While the correspondent might respond in a certain way so as not to hurt your feelings Cohen Wood warned, nevertheless be mindful that the person might also be “keeping something from you” if they don’t answer your question. If you know someone’s behavior and they act in a different way—say they turned chatty when usually quiet or vice versa, or they take a long time to answer when they usually answer immediately—this might be a “subtle sign” that something’s up.

Fuzzy words such as “‘pretty sure,’ ‘probably,’ ‘must have’ and,” Cohen Wood’s “least favorite, ‘maybe’” might represent other red flags.

maybeA correspondent is “uncomfortable with his or her next statement” when using “to be honest,” “there is nothing to worry about,” or “I hate to tell you this.”

And watch for changes of tense. Cohen Wood said “Someone describing an event that happened in the past usually uses the past tense. But if midway through the story the person starts fabricating, that material plays out in his or her head and leads to a switch to the present tense.”

How do you detect something fishy in a text or email–or don’t you? Can you share clues to deceit that are sight unseen i.e. verbal tells and hogwash?

hogwash

 

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