Service of Gratitude: We are Blessed

February 14th, 2019

Categories: Apartment Living, Moving, Stress

We are overwhelmed by the support and kindness friends have extended to us in the last week. Phone, text messages, and cards–even a surprise cake and incredible wine– have warmed our hearts and stomachs. Thank you.

We have landed at an apartment house owned by Pan Am Equities that is unlike any other. I have owned co-ops, lived in a condo and in a range of rentals. None compare. This gives you an idea: Management put a rose outside every door for Valentine’s Day. There are over 500 apartments.

Angelo oversees the team. Yesterday is too late for him to grant a request. He’d ordered a new sink the moment he heard ours was cracked and the next business day, after I told him tiles needed caulking, Leroy was busy at the task. Leroy did a superlative job and offered to switch out knobs on kitchen cabinets.

We are surrounded by hundreds of packing boxes and a sinful amount of packing paper. Cheerfully porters Phillip, Leroy and Giovanni have lugged the empty ones to the basement. I did this bit in the condo we lived in before.

Doorman Fred knew our names the second time we walked through the door and greets us. Jerzy, the handyman, repaired a broken light fixture minutes after I reported it. A friend said goodbye to me in front of the doorman’s desk on Saturday saying “Please sit down once in a while and take it easy.” The young doorman on duty piped up, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of her.”

Not only the building has been kind. I changed our pharmacies to one in the new neighborhood and seeing my frazzled state Claudette at CVS [neither of us had our Rx accounts there] pulled together our profiles and within a short while had all prescriptions in the branch’s computer.

My hairstylist, now also a friend, volunteered to work on a day she never does to fit my schedule, so I can look in the mirror. Andrew, our brilliant IT expert, also a friend, stopped by Home Depot to pick up some items to save me a trip. He knew he couldn’t work on our computer when he dropped off the crucial items. It is buried under hundreds of boxes and is slated for a room that is not ready to set up a thing.

We are blessed. Thank you all. I hope that when you’ve needed support you received it–even from unexpected places.

 

 

Service of When Loyalty Goes Out the Window

February 11th, 2019

Categories: Brand Loyalty, Prices

Photo: worthpoint.com

I used Tide detergent for eons as my mother also did until all of a sudden the price skyrocketed–it’s still in the stratosphere even on sale–and I realized that the world wouldn’t end and my clothes wouldn’t rot if I changed brands. I thought of this as I read Aisha Al-Muslim’s front page Wall Street Journal story, “Prices to Rise for Household Staples.” She reported that this is the second year in a row.

An aside: I knew Al-Muslim when she was a New York Women in Communications scholarship winner and look at her now!

The companies are Church & Dwight–Arm & Hammer cat litter and baking soda for example–Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Clorox Co. They are responding to increased costs of transportation, raw materials and “unfavorable currency swings.”

I wasn’t pleased to learn that Bounty paper towels and Charmin–the only brands I insist on–are on the list. Oh and Clorox 2, another favorite, is no doubt also.

Are you married to certain brands or have you seen sense and found alternatives that suit you just the same? Can you recommend a terrific substitute for Bounty, Charmin or Clorox 2?

Photo: chewy.com

Service of Congestion Pricing that is Giving Yellow Taxis the Flu

February 7th, 2019

Categories: Decisions, Subway, Taxes, Taxi, Transportation, Uncategorized

Photo: amny.com

I tucked this horrible decision on the part of New York Governor Cuomo into an early December post, “Service of I Love New York… But Don’t Push It.”

It’s too important a move–a giant $2.50 surcharge on every ride in yellow taxis in Midtown Manhattan–big enough to fell an essential NYC industry.

A judge postponed the measure from January 1, which was the deadline when I originally wrote about the debilitating tax. It started last weekend. I’m appalled. As a result, I forecast the end of an industry that served me, my parents and grandparents so well. According to Google, it was the first Yellow Cabs that in mid-1880 knocked “less predictable” competitors out of the ring in the big apple.

Yellow cab owners have invested so much in their businesses, and NYC’s citizens whose cabs touch a toe below 96th Street and are slapped with the surcharge, don’t deserve this. Tossing a tax on the vulnerable to solve your financial difficulties in an allied but otherwise unrelated sector isn’t the way to go.

I’d written on December 6, 2018:

Photo: fineartamerica.com

The January 1, 2019 $2.50 congestion pricing fee will help destroy the already limping yellow cab industry and hurt citizens of modest or microscopic means who rely on traditional cabs. Many can’t manage busses or subways, can’t afford limos or don’t have smartphones to hire car services like Uber or Lyft. The fee impacts “any yellow cab, e-hail or other for-hire vehicle trips that start, pass through or end in a designated ‘congestion zone’ below 96th Street in Manhattan,” Vincent Barone wrote in amny.com.

What’s the destination of the some $400 million the tax man anticipates collecting? According to Barone, it will help the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA]  which is “financially strapped.”

Services like Lyft and Uber are charged a $2.75 fee but because they can fiddle with their basic price which yellow taxis can’t, they could make rides cheaper than traditional cabs—another stab to the financial heart of their competitor.

Barone reported: “‘The fact that it will cost $5.80 to step into a taxi cab now is going to be devastating for the taxi industry,’ TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said after a City Council oversight hearing on the surcharges, referencing the existing fees on taxi trips. ‘The other sectors … have more flexibility. They have to add $2.75 on but they’re not bound to a metered fare, so they can reduce the price of the trip so that the passenger doesn’t feel the effect of the $2.75.’”

I took [too] many yellow cabs last weekend between my current and future apartment filled with TJ Maxx bags holding my plants, food and other items movers don’t carry. My suitcase was embarrassingly heavy. Each driver was helpful, grateful and cheerful. Only one pointed out that drivers don’t benefit from a penny of the surcharge yet their volume will be impacted. “People don’t take us for short trips like they did before–look at the meter: $9 for a few blocks.”

Do you think that there is a chance for a rollback to a more reasonable surcharge such as 50 cents instead of $2.50? What impactful action might we take to put the brakes on this poorly conceived method of paying for the city’s subway system? Why does this city care more about bicyclists than about pedestrians or taxi drivers?

Photo: amny.com

Service of Closets: Why Do They Fill Up So Fast No Matter What?

February 4th, 2019

Categories: Closets, Moving

Photo: freepublic.com

I’ve lived in big and small homes and apartments with many or few closets. The main closet in one apartment was so narrow that if we closed the door, one shoulder of each jacket wrinkled.

Somehow, if blessed with lots of space, it doesn’t take me much to fill it.

In the last few years I’ve moved a lot and tossed out bags and bags—the 30 lb size—of belongings. Yet my closets, desk and bureau drawers and file cabinets still look–and are–full.

Photo: lockandloadstorage.net

We’re moving again this week and I’m down to the essence in most categories. Every night, I throw out giant bags of stuff as I have in my previous recent moves. I dragged to Goodwill seven heavy bags and last night started another one. Even so, all the closets and drawers look the same as before. The mover’s rep, peering into one decimated closet asked, “You going to clean out some of that before we come?”

SO WHAT’S GOING ON?

Photo: securitypublicstorage.com

With the exception of using the storage service of a local dry cleaner, a necessity at the end of each season for some given small city apartments, I don’t believe in renting a storage unit for belongings with one exception: If you or a family member is moving to a larger place in a short period of time.

Whether you clean out the files at the office or scour your closets and bureau drawers to toss beloved items—don’t think just do–it’s never enough and makes little visual difference. Have you also found this to be true?

Service by an Entertainment Company that was the Opposite of Entertaining

January 31st, 2019

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service

Photo: supportbee.com

It’s a shame when a company produces a good product and fails so miserably in the customer service department. Our experience with DirectTV is a perfect example. We had fine TV reception for years in the boonies in upstate NY when little else electronically-related worked. When we sold our house and discontinued the service, all hell broke loose. In a nutshell, the staff was poorly trained and had access to zero customer information.

A customer service rep who took the stop-order told my husband to toss the receiver as it was too old to keep. However, he said, “hold on to the plastic card in the receiver.” He’d send a package to our city address, he said, with an envelope in which to mail back the card.

Photo: newsroom.edison.com

Having not received the package, I called and spent 20++ minutes to learn that 1) the package was sent to the wrong address 2) they couldn’t correct the address in the system and 3) they couldn’t send me a new package.

After too many minutes of nothing and being put on hold, customer service person No. 1 told me that in order to make an address change I’d have to speak with three people. As the first two conversations were useless, and after the second one promised to email a document to me to confirm our account was closed, I hung up. Further, he told me to toss the plastic card: Nobody wanted it. [I still have it.]

I never got an email.

I’m nuts about protecting my credit and wanted proof that the chapter was closed. I also wanted to cauterize future bills. As I couldn’t find a place on the website to send an email, nor could I quickly ID appropriate names in a hasty Google search, I wrote Michael White CEO. I wanted a document that said we were officially cancelled.

This week we received a bill for TV service and I called DirectTV to learn what period the bill covered. [The bill said January 15 to January 16 which was silly as we no longer owned the house and $120-something was a bit much for a day.] I spoke with two people, neither of whom could tell me. We paid the bill anyway marking the check FINAL PAYMENT. I think we owed this money and that original bill was lost in the move shuffle.

So yesterday I got an email—and my husband said several phone calls at home—from a “Sr. Manager, AT&T Office of the President.” [AT&T owns DirectTV.] Long story short, there is nothing he can do about the tossed receiver that he said we leased and should have returned. So why wasn’t this noted on our record so that the first person we spoke to about cancelling the service could advise us properly?

The Sr. Manger gave me chapter and verse about the recent bill’s breakdown. How come nobody else could?

He hoped I wouldn’t get a bill for the receiver in future and was sorry that he couldn’t do anything about that.

I replied: “We were prepared to bring the box back to the city to ship it to you and did not because of the faulty information given us. I trust that you will figure out what to do so that we never again are billed for anything from DirectTV. The TV service we had was excellent but your customer service is unacceptable.”

Today I sent him an image of both sides of our DirectTV card [Photo of one side, above left]. I think it’s amazing after a major move that we still have it!

In this digital age, how can so many disconnects happen and so many untrained customer service people be let loose on the public by a major corporation? Everything crucial about an account should be on each screen for all to access. Have you had trouble discontinuing a service and/or been consistently ill advised by customer service?

Photo: vanwiefinancial.com

Service of Refills: Do Consumers Have the Time & Money?

January 28th, 2019

Categories: Environment, Packaging, Plastic, Pollution, Recycling, Retail

Photo: pinterest.com

I found fault with the hullabaloo over the so called huge benefits to the environment when businesses announced they were banning  plastic straws in the post “Service of the Last Straw,”—literally too little in the plastic litter wars.

I perked up reading Saabira Chaudhuri’s article “The World’s Biggest Brands Want You to Refill Your Orange Juice and Deodorant–P&G, Nestlé and others try to curb plastic waste; Tropicana in glass bottles, Tide in metal cans.”

Chaudhuri reported: “Refillables once dominated industries such as beer and soft drinks but lost out to convenient, affordable single-use containers. In 1947, refillables made up 100% of soft-drink containers by volume and 86% of beer containers, according to the Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit. By 1998 those figures dropped to 0.4% and 3.3%, respectively.”

She added that the refill business exists but is niche, done by some grocery stores and entrepreneurs largely

Statewide Refillable Bottles Photo: kcts9.org

in shampoo and detergent businesses.

The trial will include PepsiCo’s Tropicana OJ in a glass bottle and Quaker Chocolate Cruesli cereal in stainless steel. Some of P&G’s 10 participating brands include Pantene shampoo in aluminum and Tide in stainless-steel.

In addition, Chaudhuri wrote: “Shoppers who the companies select for the trial will be able to order hundreds of products—including Nestlé’s Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Clorox Co.’s wet wipes—from a website for home delivery. Products arrive in a reusable tote with no extra packaging. Once finished, users schedule a pickup for empty containers to be cleaned and refilled. They can sign up for a subscription-based service that replenishes products once empty containers are returned. TerraCycle will handle delivery, returns and cleaning.

Photo: pinterest.com

“The products will cost roughly the same as the versions in single-use containers, but users will also have to pay a deposit of $1-$10 per container. Shipping charges start at roughly $20, decreasing with every item added.

“Susan Collins, head of the Container Recycling Institute, said high deposit fees could be a barrier to entry for many consumers. ‘It sounds like it’s only meant to attract the most green, virtuous shoppers,’ she said.

I’d add that customers who look for sales are also out of the loop.

“TerraCycle hopes to bring big retailers on board so that customers eventually buy and return most of the products in store or online via retailers, lowering the project’s costs and expanding its reach,” Chaudhuri concluded.

If shoppers don’t have a doorman or house staff or if they aren’t retired, who will accept the packages and what about ice cream sales shipped in summer? Will the shipping and container costs impact the success of these initiatives? Can we go home again, to the middle of last century, when refills in certain product categories were standard? Will a sufficient number of customers, spoiled by taking three seconds to toss out a bottle or container, make the time to wash out each container and prepare the package to ship it back?

Photo: etsy.com

Service of Running Late: It’s Good for Your Health

January 24th, 2019

Categories: Late

Photo: feelgood network

I was running late this morning  when I heard Len Berman and Michael Riedel on their WOR 710 morning show discuss an item news reporter Joe Bartlett covered–that people who are late will live longer. Fearing I misheard, I looked up the topic and found Michelle Ganley’s article on clickorlando.com.

Here are highlights. She “found some studies and articles (you know, ‘science,’) suggesting that people who are chronically late tend to see the glass half-full, and they actually have better health — and they might even live longer, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Photo: debt.com

She wrote: “’Optimism helps people cope with disease and (even) recover from surgery,’ the Harvard article said. ‘Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.’”

She continued: “Optimism, in turn, also can lead to lower blood pressure, better cardiovascular health, fewer chances of a stroke and lower chances of depression. And all of those factors lead to a longer, healthier life.”

And late arrivers tend to be multitaskers which is a good thing wrote  Ganley .

Photo: bigworldsmallpockets.com

She added information from Inc.com: “’Why Chronically Late People Are Actually More Successful,’ [which] reaffirms that this is an optimistic bunch of people who are intrigued by everything, and quick to find solutions. Again, all good things!”

Ganley wrote this tongue-in-cheek, it seemed to me, and Berman, who clearly has been on the receiving end of hanging around waiting for chronic latecomers, didn’t let the story fly by without sharing his view. He said chronic latecomers disregarded the value of other people’s time.

Do you subscribe to the findings that report it is healthy and maybe even life-extending to be a person who is chronically late? What about the impact on friends and loved ones? As a person who finds being on time a priority–a stressful goal–maybe there is a load of truth here.

Photo: smartwomentravelers.com

Service of No Room at the Bar for Women: A New Kind of Discrimination

January 21st, 2019

Categories: Arrogance, Restaurant, Rules

Photo: grubstreet.com

I know men and women who, especially when eating alone, prefer sitting at the bar in a restaurant. Look at the images of comfortable seating that illustrate this post. Clementine Crawford, a well-travelled executive does and during many visits to the Big Apple she sat at the bar at her favorite watering hole: Restaurant Nello on Madison Avenue.

On her last stopover she was told to get up from the bar and to sit at a table. The bar was suddenly off limits to women alone at this Italian eatery–which  is no neighborhood pizzeria. Google touts it as a place “only for Jay Z or Russian billionaires,” which given its reputation for charging $275 for a plate of white truffle pasta is no surprise.

Photo: tastingtable.com

I read Stephanie Maida’s coverage of how this new rule was discovered. She highlighted Crawford’s experience from her essay, “The Night I was Mistaken for a Call Girl.” Quoting Crawford Maida wrote on guestofaguest.com: “‘I perched at my favorite seat at the bar and started to respond to all the emails that had arrived on the flight over,’ she explains. ‘A waiter approached – a familiar face, but oddly hesitant on this occasion. He advised – with evident embarrassment – that I was no longer permitted to eat at my usual spot and that I must now sit down at a table.'”

Men could eat alone at the bar Crawford observed on a second visit.

“Crawford learned ‘that the owner had ordered a crackdown on hookers’ and assumed management believed ‘upscale escorts working the bar lowered the tone of the place and would be less obvious if escorted behind a table.’”

Photo: Verbinet.com

Maida reported “She spoke to an owner, explained that she had been misidentified, and he responded ‘that he could run his business as he pleased, and that [she] was no longer welcome to eat at the bar, only at a table.’”

Having been evicted from my favorite perch I wouldn’t return to this place. This is New York City: We have 24,000 restaurants here, according to one estimate, and I’m sure a few would charge  hundreds of dollars for a plate of pasta to satisfy the insecure.

Restaurant Nello, with its bar rule, has propelled us back to the Victorian era. Was this a clumsy attempt by management to generate publicity? Do you like to eat at the bar? Why do people agree to subject themselves to such arrogance at any price? Have you heard of rules like this in other restaurants in this country?

Photo: lessings.com

Service of Drastic Measures that Saved a Newspaper Section: How Long Can It Last?

January 17th, 2019

Categories: News, Newspapers, Subscriptions

Sarah Mervosh’s New York Times article about the creative marketing measure The Portland Press Herald took to preserve its regional book reviews intrigued me as much as I worried that the rescue will last only a year. The dwindling number of these sections around the country is appalling and indicative of the poor health of the newspaper industry.

After reading that the largest circulation newspaper in Maine was going to cancel the section, best-selling author Stephen King, known for his horror books, asked his 5+million Twitter followers to “tell the paper DON’T DO THIS,” according to Mervosh. The paper challenged King—who worried that the lost publicity would rob local writers of the ability to buy bread and milk—to ask “his followers to buy 100 digital subscriptions.” They would reinstate the local reviews if he did and they did.

The Press Herald ran with the ball and this Twitter conversation took place with King:

  • TPH: “We’d be willing to bet a retweet by @StephenKing would get us over the threshold.”
  • SK: “Sales pitch? Blackmail? Either way, 71 people have subscribed so far. Are there 29 more Twitterheads out there who want to ante up? just asking.”

Photo: pinterest

The paper’s staff created a deal—for $15 you get a 12-week subscription. Chief exec of the Press Herald‘s publisher Maine Today Media, Lisa DeSisto “credited her employees for asking the community to pay for the journalism they want.”

They ended up with 200 new subscriptions in two days. The paper “pledged to continue the reviews of books about Maine or by Maine authors.” In addition, Joshua Bodwell with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance raised enough money to pay for ads to cover the book reviews for a year.

This rescue happened as the newspaper reporter hemorrhage in this country continues unchecked. Mervosh wrote “the number of journalists across the country dropped by nearly half from 2008 to 2017, according to the Pew Research Center.” Recently 20 reporters were axed by the Dallas Morning News and almost all reporters are gone at The East Bay Express, she wrote.

A reporter with The Sun Journal in Lewiston, Steve Collins, wrote that it was “encouraging” that people saved local book reviews “But seriously folks, the chief reason to read your local newspaper is you need local news.” He added “Imagine a Maine where you know nothing about anything that goes on. That’s a real horror story.”

Given that most communities don’t count a popular author like Stephen King among their citizens to tout their cause, would such a tactic have legs elsewhere? Would crowdsourcing work for other newspaper sections? Should a community’s residents have to pay to ensure the survival of their favorite newspaper sections? Was the tactic blackmail or business today?

Photo: tulsahistory.org

Service of Questions—Does Google Have All the Answers?

January 14th, 2019

Categories: Lost and Found, Pets, Questions, Traffic

Photo: Machinedesign.com

Questions, without immediate answers, often pop into my head. Every post has them of course and I’ve also focused on the topic several times before.

Here are some recent ones:

  • How do commuters fill the time and not go crazy when a traffic reporter tells them it will be 80 minutes just to get on a bridge or in a tunnel to NYC during morning rush hour–which happened last week?
  • How do pet owners of average means pay the vet bill when they have more than two love-animals?
  • I’ve lived in a moderate sized house and apartments ranging from very large to moderate size and now I live in a small apartment. Why is it that my husband and I lose as many things in the small space as in the large?

Photo: scmp.com

I asked Mike, a millennial and techy and my office next door neighbor, if unanswered questions like these pop into his head and did he think about the answers. He said, “I Google everything. I’d rather know.”  The child of the Internet added, “Google has never steered me wrong.”

I use Google a lot but hadn’t thought to do so regarding this crop of questions and when I did, it satisfied a third of them.

  • Commuters in traffic: I’d already thought of learning a language or listening to an audio book which I also read about as a result of a Google search. To address the stress I hadn’t thought of wearing comfy shoes as that would be automatic for me before a potentially trying drive, or loosening clothes and stretching before heading home after a difficult day. None addressed how to tackle the surprise of an extra one hour plus to a commute.
  • Pet owners paying vet bills for many pets: I didn’t find a satisfactory answer to my second question though I admit I didn’t spend a long time looking. I read about what percentage of pet owners have pet insurance; How much should pet owners spend on a sick pet; How much is the average vet bill and How much does a dog cost monthly? I suppose the answer to my question is “these owners don’t go to a vet for routine care.” [Our bills upstate ran on average $350 for such care for one cat especially if a blood test was involved.]
  • Losing things in big and small spaces: Results for question number three were equally unsatisfactory. Response categories covered how to stop losing things at home and a prayer to find a lost item to how to find something you love.

What kinds of questions pop into your head? Do you resort to Google for responses? If not, how do you satisfy them?

 

Photo: dogster.com

 

 

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