Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

Service of Coming Clean II

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

hand washing dishes in sink 

A friend in NJ sent this to me. It identifies legitimate expectations of someone who invests in the best and anticipates equivalent service. She wrote:

I had an experience recently that calls service into question. 

We bought a Miele dishwasher about eight years ago.  It cost more than my husband’s first car, but we had done our research and decided it was worth it.  Up until now, we’ve been very happy with it.  But it developed a leak early this month, so I called Miele (which does all of its own servicing).  The person I spoke with in the service department was not the most congenial.  It took a fairly long time for him to find us in the system, because someone had spelled my name wrong when I made my last service call. (They had talked me through a minor repair some years back.) The appointment he gave me was a week in the future. 

dishwasherThe technician came and was very nice.  He brought a $600 pump on the assumption that was probably the problem.  But it wasn’t.  It was two inexpensive hoses, which he did not have on his service truck.  He pointed out the window to indicate how small the truck is and told me it had to hold everything he needs for a day’s scheduled repairs.  What he didn’t explain was why the assumption was that the pump was shot and the leak had nothing to do with simple hoses or gaskets. He assured me the parts were in the warehouse, said someone would call to schedule another service appointment, and assured me I would only be charged for a single visit. 

The next day I received an estimate for the cost of the repair, which said I had only five days to schedule an appointment before the estimate expired.  No one had called me so I called and waited a long time to talk to someone in the service department.  It turns out that all parts have to be shipped from the warehouse (here in NJ, where Miele is based and where I live) to the service tech (the techs work from home), and when he received them I would get a call to schedule an appointment. I insisted on prompt scheduling. My next appointment is a week from the first one. Assuming the dishwasher gets fixed then, we will have been without one for two weeks.

And I will have rearranged my schedule not once but twice to accommodate service appointments. 

repair vanWhen I asked the customer service person why Miele operated on this convoluted system, which is inconvenient for the customer, he said it’s because the company wants inventory in the warehouse, not on the service trucks.  My response was that if you send a tech out to fix a leaky dishwasher, he should have all the parts that might be needed in that situation, not just the priciest one. How much room do hoses take?  I pointed out that when you sell high-end appliances, you need to offer high-end service!  I also indicated that I’m in the process of replacing all the appliances in another kitchen and had just been in the Miele showroom two weeks ago to look at the latest dishwashers.  I’d also looked at the products of a competitor.

We have other high-end appliances, and I have had service on some of them over the years. I’ve never had to wait this long to get one of them fixed.  Most of the other brands do not have proprietary service, as Miele does.  Instead, they use authorized repair people who service multiple brands.  My neighbor had a problem with her dryer the other day and the service people were out here almost immediately!

dishwasher partsMy husband, who is very handy, even looked online to see if he could buy the parts and do the repair himself.  But unlike many of its competitors, Miele doesn’t sell parts.

I don’t mind washing dishes once in a while, although it’s a pain in the tail after a dinner party. But you don’t spend this much on a dishwasher to hand-wash your dishes for two weeks.  And I will be asking very different questions before I buy my next appliances.

People with both tight budgets and deep pockets buy top of the line appliances from local merchants because they expect to get better service when needed–though not too often–as well as to keep the equipment for a long time. Is this a myth? Are they better off buying cheap copies from big boxes and tossing them when they break?

dishwashers at dump

Service of Apology IV

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Sad Dog

I think that Donald Trump has done a disservice to the business of apologies. He doesn’t offer them, nor does screenwriter/film director Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino made headlines because he won’t apologize to the police whom he called murderers.

On a smaller stage, but in the same vein, a friend had a dustup with a major trump yellingdepartment store where clearly, the message about a customer being right or  treated with kid gloves hasn’t reached or been taught to staff.

She wrote:

“I had a horrific customer service experience both online and in the store. What got me was that not a single employee would apologize. Even the in-store person where I eventually picked up my order refused to do so BECAUSE he said the inconvenience and lack of communication wasn’t HIS Fault so he has nothing to apologize for.

“I was on the phone for 25 minutes today to find out if yesterday’s online order, promised for today, had arrived. I never got an email order confirmation, a receipt or a status update.

“The customer service agent kept repeating herself [while providing no information] and finally put me through to the store where I was put on hold at least 3 times. A guy at the store eventually found the order, but wasn’t interested when I said that it took forever for this to happen. He couldn’t explain the delay and wouldn’t attempt to answer why I got no email communication about the order. [The information would certainly have expedited the search and shortened my phone wait--or saved me the call altogether if I'd received an email confirming arrival.]

Not my fault“The same man was there when I picked up the order. I again asked him about the lack of communication and he was very direct in saying he had no idea why there hadn’t been any. He said that the online function has NOTHING to do with the store and that he had no reason to say ‘I am sorry for your inconvenience!’

“I told him it’s a competitive market out there and that the reason there is so much medical malpractice in the country is because it was found that docs won’t say ‘I am sorry.’ (I admit this was a stretch and slightly irrelevant but it happens to be true and I think says a lot!!)”

The recent great experience I had with CVS, that I covered in “Service of Sales Promotions,” is an example of a company that trains its staff to understand that customers don’t want to hear about the differences between online and in store purchases or possible Internet glitches. The store gave me a full return on the online purchase I made in error.

credit card theftI unfortunately had to again deal with my credit card bank–see last week’s post, “Service of Contagious Credit Card Theft,” because when I called to activate my card, it had already been used fraudulently! Seems someone had paid for a $9 massage. No wonder the bank was suspicious: The card wasn’t activated and whoever heard of a massage costing $9?

I hadn’t carried it for one second–it traveled from the company that fulfills credit card orders through the post office to my postbox. When the phone connection was poor, the customer service person–who had nothing to do with the lousy connection–kept apologizing. The one who shared the bad news did so as well.

Do you think that publicity about public figures who never, ever apologize impacts how the public treats one another? Do major department stores have floor walkers anymore who might hear conversations between employees and customers? Why do people find it so hard to say, “I am sorry this has caused you stress?” Do you find that an apology takes the sting out of an otherwise negative situation?

I am never wrong


Service of Contagious Credit Card Theft

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Credit card thief

This tale has some irritating and some hopeful, impressive outcomes.

I have a credit card I barely use and never to buy anything online, in big box stores or restaurants and there’s only one automatic monthly withdrawal. So when I got a call from the bank about suspicious purchases at White Castle in Queens [$50+]; Target in Long Island [$266] and a $9 co-pay to a doctor in North Carolina, I was surprised. The card was still in my wallet.

RFID shellTwo friends who live in New Jersey and Tennessee report very recent similar incidents with their credit cards. One had his new card for less than a week. The other said that this was the only card she didn’t keep in her RFID shell. I’d never before heard of such a shell, that prevents electronic scan theft, so after I checked out the link she sent me on–the shell she recommended cost under $8.00–I looked into the subject a bit more.

If you have a “chipped” credit card, wrote Bill Spencer on, “a card with a radio-frequency identification computer chip inside — that chip can be scanned at stores and restaurants.” He said it costs less than $100 to buy a scanning device online that works from up to 25 feet away. Spencer reported that in addition to a shell, you can also protect your credit card by wrapping it in tin foil.

Someone must have scanned my nephew’s credit card number at the airport on his way to Costa Rico as he received a text asking if he’d bought something in Puerto Rico. He hadn’t but someone else had. As he only had one card with him he asked the company to keep his card open, which they did. But the next day someone spent $1,800 so they closed it down. Moral: Travel with more than one card and wrap it in an RFID shell or in foil.

Yelling at phoneI never got my replacement card after a few weeks. When I called to report this, I entered “press one, press two” hell and kept hearing a recording about a delay in Federal payments unrelated to me or credit cards. Finally I got through to a person. Seems they had only just sent out the card—didn’t give a reason for the delay, nor could they give me the number of this card. Moral: Next time I won’t be such a good person and I’ll ask to have the replacement card sent to me overnight.

Saashost.netI needed the number for, the company that hosts my email server, is on a monthly automatic payment plan and wasn’t paid this month. This company is buttoned up. The person I spoke with took another credit card number and once the amount cleared, deleted it from my file on my promise to call in with the new number. All this was confirmed minutes later in an email. Wow.

There’s hope that one scofflaw has been caught. While I didn’t get my new card from the bank, I did get a document regarding the Target purchase. I signed and returned it, affirming that I hadn’t authorized anyone to use my credit card.

Have you noticed or heard that such theft is happening with increasing frequency? Do you take steps to protect your cards or is the problem unstoppable so you don’t bother? Do you have tips to cut down on the time lost to mop up after such incidents?

protect credit card


Service of Sales Promotions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Sales Promotion

Take Care: The Good

I got a generous 30 percent discount offer for online purchases from CVS, a pharmacy chain. Among other things I ordered a $45 OTC product my husband eats like popcorn. I’ve taken advantage of this offer many times.

CVS logoWhether in the store or online, I am very careful to choose the right version as there’s one for kids that looks pretty much the same as the one he uses. So I was surprised when I opened the box and there was the kid’s version. I clearly clicked the wrong package–I hadn’t reviewed the order when the email confirmation arrived. [I'd never made a mistake like this before.] I called customer service, admitted my mistake and was given a bunch of options. I chose to return the box of kid’s stuff to a retail store and the cashier gave me a gift card equivalent to the amount I’d paid: A seamless collaboration between online and retail operations. I’m a fan.

Fishy: The Bad

fresh fishI get email notices of special promotions from a fish store that assumes that everyone has a big family: You get a free pound of the fish of the day if you pay for a pound. If you like fresh fish–which is why people shop here–freezing the extra won’t do. So while it may seem like a great deal, it’s of little use to some–such as me. Why not just offer a smaller percentage off per pound?

Hot Dog! The Ugly

As I left to run errands I noticed a crowd of students who attend a college down the street from my office, gathered around a table on the sidewalk in front of a small food establishment. You often see a person handing out food samples in little cups from a tray. Tables on a city sidewalk are unusual.

hot dogOn my return only three people were in an orderly line so I could see what was on the table and I joined the line.  Along with a sign declaring “free hotdogs” were two bottles of condiments and a tray with the snacks. The line moved quickly, I was next and there was one dog left. Just then a man arrived at the table from the other side and he stopped. The server looked at me, looked at him, and handed him the last hotdog.

I calmly said to the server “You made a mistake. You saw I was next. My office is two doors up. I was about to tell the 10 young men in my office about this business–they order out daily. I won’t now.” She stuttered that there were more inside but I was off.

What a shame: The owner meant well and now someone on staff has turned off a potential customer who will never go inside only to expect to be faced with similar discrimination. Also lost is positive word-of-mouth, the best marketing tool there is for a food place.

Can you share any good or bad promotions of late?

Buy 3 for the price of 3

Service of No News is Not Good News

Thursday, June 25th, 2015



In the time it took us to get home on the 7:06 from upstate NY Sunday night [normally 2 hours], we could have been in London. I don’t blame Metro-North for the downed tree on the tracks. It is culpable of having no emergency plan, exhibiting inertia in extremis, and providing neither communications/information nor safety for its passengers. Goodness knows what they would do if they had to deal with injuries.



We were whisked off two trains with no explanation other than that only one track was in service. The first train we were on was jammed. Most passengers had suitcases, dogs, cats, bicycles, and packages or some combination.

After the first passenger dumping, when a second train arrived, a trainload of disconcerted people piled in the closest doors. We ran on the platform with our suitcases toward the back where the cars were emptier and we could sit. With many still on the platform—us included–the nasal beeping noise warning that the doors are about to close rang out at its standard time. But the numbers of passengers to embark was many times the usual. The warning was the only sound. Where was a conductor to say: “Please move along quickly but don’t worry, we’ll wait for you all to get in.” Nowhere.

Settled in the second train we were soon shocked when a conductor announced that we must all exit the train at Pleasantville and take a bus to North White Plains. Still nobody said why.

yellow school busThere must have been 1,000 people pouring out of the station on to the street. Eventually we saw three traditional yellow school busses. The scene reminded me of exiting the train station in Venice to access water transportation. In Italy it was also crowded and unnerving but we didn’t wait long and soon we, and our suitcases, were on board a vaporetto.

We confronted a very different situation in Pleasantville. Like Cinderella’s sisters—remember they tried to squeeze their huge feet into the diminutive slipper–hundreds surrounded each bus with hopes that they’d be one of the 45 adults to make it inside. It was survival of the fittest, strongest, pushiest and youngest. Friends who exited the station from a different place reported a woman pulled a man off a bus by yanking at his leg. One said, “I can still see a woman pushing her bicycle onto the bus. She was the first on and there was no room for the bike.”

Between our luggage and the ridiculous, frantic crowds we weren’t going near the mobs to try to get on. A vest like this--not this person. Photo:

I approached a man with a florescent orange vest with RR logo [like the vest in the photo from, at right--not this person] who was texting in the shadows behind the crowd. I asked what the backup plan was as clearly we weren’t fitting on a bus. He said there were four busses [we’d seen only three] and that it takes 25 minutes to drive to North White Plains. Half an hour later a fourth school bus arrived causing another riot scene. That one left with every inch of space filled with people—even in the aisles–which looked dangerous. The other drivers took the maximum permitted and didn’t leave the station until the aisles were empty. The crowd had become more frustrated by this time and this driver didn’t fight it. 

We spoke with the only police officer we saw. He knew—and did—nothing but said: “I’m here to make sure you don’t kill one another,” and then he walked away. He wasn’t near the mobs.

 vintage train setIn all this time not a chirp from Metro-North. We wanted to know if a crew was working to remove the tree, if someone was scouting up grownup busses with room in the belly for suitcases—anything official. Passengers continued to spill out of trains from up north to face scant transportation with us.

After an hour+ our friend John stormed into the station and down the stairs to the platform followed by Bob and us. He said it was clear that the only way we’d get back to the city was by train. Guess what we found: A train with people pouring out of it because it was changing direction and was now heading to Grand Central. There had been no announcement to alert the passengers upstairs.

I’ve enjoyed and depended on the railroad in many countries as well as here. I am fond of many of the conductors who take our tickets on the Harlem Line. Yet I feel ashamed that a major source of transportation in the NY metro area is as backward and unprepared as this line was on Sunday.


  • Would the RR accept more passengers from other stations when it couldn’t deal with those already waiting for busses in Pleasantville?
  • No megaphone or intercom updates from headquarters or the employee on location?
  • No local authorities to organize the passengers so we’d have a safe, fair way to get on a bus in a civilized manner?

And, how well could this crew handle a derailment with injuries or other emergency?



Service of Strangers Knowing More About You Than Your Family Does

Monday, June 15th, 2015



Len Berman and Todd Schnitt

I wake up to Len Berman and Todd Schnitt in the Morning on WOR 710 Radio, a welcome addition to the NYC media scene since January. Last Thursday Schnitt, [on the right in the photo with Berman, at right], said he’d deleted the Uber app from his Android phone because he didn’t want to give the company access to his address book nor did he want the company to know his location even if he hadn’t opened the app. He said the latter intrusion will happen in July. Schnitt said he takes yellow cabs to work every morning at 4a.m.–the show runs from 6 am to 10–and plans to look for a different car booking company, like Lyft.

I asked a friend (in her 20s) what she thought about all this surveillance, shadowing and privacy invasion. She said, “I always just think/sort of joke around that my iPhone knows more about me than I do. The other day my phone told me how long it would be for me to get to Columbia [University] from midtown — I never put that in as a home address or anything. The phone just sort of figured out on its own that I was there a lot. Creepy. 

“As for Uber,” the recent Columbia Journalism grad student continued, “there was that ‘God view’ feature which gave away a users’ location. Not sure if that is still in use. It makes sense to a certain extent so the driver can find you but access beyond that they shouldn’t have—such as your contacts’ info!”

Dog tracking scent Photo:

Dog tracking scent Photo:

According to Insurance Journal, “The car booking company now more clearly tells its customers it can pretty much track everything they do while using the Uber app, after facing criticism over privacy, especially its use of a tool called God View enabling the company to know where its riders were at any given moment.” Eric Newcomer, who wrote “Uber Discloses Expanded Customer Data Tracking,” continued: “the firm said Uber needed to make sure it was clearer and more transparent, rather than significantly altering its existing policies.” The [law] firm referred to is Hogan Lovells.

“The new privacy policy is clear,” wrote Newcomer. “…The company can read text messages you send to drivers, follow your location as you ride in an Uber and store your address book on its servers. Customers can find the policy on the app and the company’s website.”

Newcomer reinforced what talk show host Schnitt said. He wrote: “With the new update, which takes effect July 15, Uber can ask permission to track a rider’s location even when the application isn’t open.” And “Uber retains permission to hand over data to third parties. If a rider is using Uber for business, the startup can turn over data to the rider’s employer.”

Remember the prehistoric slogan about customers always being right?Customer is always right right At Uber the drivers rate customers. If you keep a driver waiting, if you aren’t as polite or friendly as a driver expects a passenger to be, you’ll get a bad grade. Why does this matter? If you are looking for transportation at rush hour or after an event, you very well might be left waiting on the curb.

Sidebar: Why did Uber hire the law firm in the first place? According to Newcomer: “Uber hired Hogan Lovells after the company faced criticism for prying into journalists’ private lives.”

Uber, available around the world, has caught on like wildfire [though it’s encountering legal glitches in France, Germany and South Korea according to]. In February alone, according to, the company attracted $2.8 billion in venture capital.

Is the public so in love with clever technology that it accepts every–and anything–from a company that’s expert at it? Have you used the service? Will you continue to after July 15?


Service of Medical Care Going the Extra Mile

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Extra mile

J. McCarthy, who posted a comment on my recent post, “Service of Little If Any Assistance: Physician Admin Staffs Fall Down on the Job,” followed up a few days ago with another relevant comment describing medical care that he had just received from several doctors and their staffs.  It warranted a post of its own, not just to present a fresh perspective on medical care, but also because the woman who wrote the previous post made the most distressing point about how horribly she had been treated by several of her doctors and their administrative staffs.

He wrote:

I’m referring to my previous advice, “Do what a specialist with a national reputation told me to do. ‘If you want to get a good doctor, get an old doctor.’ Old doctors tend to have competent staffs.” The following story about what led up to the unsolicited, unexpected phone call my ophthalmologist’s most solicitous, crack, long-time nurse just made to me, might be of interest to your readers.

happy patient 3On a visit for my routine annual eye checkup, I told the ophthalmologist about something strange that had happened recently with one of my eyes. He took it seriously and gave me an even more extensive examination than usual. After it, he told me that there was nothing wrong with my eyes, but that he suspected I might have a circulation problem. He asked me if I still was seeing my longtime cardiologist who coincidentally is his patient as well. I said yes, and he picked up the telephone and called him.

Three days later, I was in the cardiologist’s office. We go back 30 years, and even though he practically has my heart memorized by now, he thoroughly examined me. (He took my blood himself as he always does.) Next, he had his nurse, who has been with him since he opened his practice, hook me up to a bunch of machines and do a series of heart tests. I’ve known her as long as him, and trust her absolutely.

Happy patient 4The next day, the doctor called to tell me that the tests had turned up nothing new and that, as far as he could tell, I did not have a circulation problem. Then, he gave me two choices: Either I could see more specialists and take more tests to double check, or I could do nothing and see what happened. I chose to do nothing. My doctor agreed and said that he would follow up with our ophthalmologist. I was satisfied and thought that was the end of it, but it was not.

Nurse on phone 1What did theophthalmologist’s nurse call me about? Her boss wanted me to know that he fully concurred with thecardiologist’s and my decision. That was a call  that did not have to be made. It was going the “extra mile.”

Incidentally, both doctors accept insurance and are all well over 65. Their nurses both have been with them at least 20 years.

Have you heard of doctors who collaborate with each other and their nurses in this way? Or is medicine more like Washington where the executive and legislative branches clash, and our senators and congressmen and women don’t cooperate with each other? Do you have examples of medical admins in today’s “rush-rush” climate who make your day rather than ruin it?

Great communication


Service of Auctions: Charitybuzz Says A Lot

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015


You don’t need to have skin in the game to find the sport of following auction sales thrilling; though to covet something and watch what happens to its price is exhilarating and nail-biting. Look at EBay’s success.

I wanted you to know about another online auction—Charitybuzz–that I became charitybuzz try thisintimately familiar with as part of a New York Women in Communications [NYWICI] Foundation committee to grow the scholarship fund. Charitybuzz is a brilliant business concept providing a seamless way to raise money for nonprofit organizations around the world from the African Rainforest Conservancy to the Zimmer Children’s Museum. The lots generally offer experiences rather than objects.

The partnership with NYWICI works well as the organization knows industry personalities–broadcast celebrities, editors in chief, CEOs of international marketing/advertising/PR agencies and cutting edge corporations for example—who generously give of their time. Wealthy bidders fly thousands of miles–and pay–to meet a star or business guru over lunch, breakfast or coffee for an hour or two or to give their son or daughter the experience of counsel from the C-Suite in their offspring’s dream industry. One of the lot headlines offers to ”Jump Start Your Career With a Summer Job at Publicis Worldwide North America.” A gift for the woman who has everything is a ticket to the Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year event. You have until May 5th to bid on the lots in the NYWICI Foundation auction.

NYWICI Foundation logoLast year this committee made $80,000 for the scholarship fund, after Charitybuzz took its percentage. It earns every cent. The staff introduced us to some top lots; kept meticulous records from past and current auctions to save us time; informed the 100,000 high net worth bidders in its database about our auction and continues to promote it—and that’s just for starters. Our contact was Logan Holzman, auction specialist, who is smart, responsive, and incredibly quick. She’s an unmatched multitasker and has a great sense of humor. We tossed hundreds of balls at her with hard deadlines looming and she didn’t drop one.

farm auction 1The first auctions I ever attended were on the prairies of North Dakota where it didn’t take long for me to learn that the fellows in overalls, when overalls weren’t fashionable, were millionaire farmers. I was an apprentice to a secondhand furniture dealer who took me with him to find the pieces he’d refinish and sell. There were no TJ Maxx stores at the time. The cheapest new furniture available was badly made, ugly and overpriced. Newly married with no budget for furniture, the solid oak chairs and tables were a good option. I left behind the last of my North Dakota Farmhouse Collection—the 50 cent chair–on a move two months ago. That name for the chair was a misnomer if you add the cost of the stain, sandpaper, steel wool and sweat applied to spruce it up.

Sotheby's auctionWhen I was an editor at Art & Antiques Magazine I went to countless auction previews and for years haunted auction house exhibits to see remarkable art and furniture destined for private hands. Along the way I’ve also bought art and antiques at my share of auctions—both silent and standard.

The first auction item I bid on and wanted so badly to own–but that got away–was a pew from an old church that looked a little like the one in the photo below. I also remember buying some amazing bargains and incredible furniture and accessories. How about you?  Have you followed, participated in or attended a thrilling auction?

The "fish" that got away.

The “fish” that got away.


Service of the [Very] Good, the [Extremely] Bad and the Ugly: A Real Estate Tale

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

real estate

We recently worked with two New York City-based real estate agents. Rating their performances from one to 10 they represented the top and bottom of the spectrum. One agent, Linda Gawley, Managing Director, Charles H. Greenthal Management & Residential Sales, spent hours mopping up the mess left by the other who was careless and disrespectful of both our agent’s time and of us.

Her aggressive lack of participation was clearly a cause for kudos by the agency she works for. Make money by doing and spending nothing? Congrats! That’s the crystal message we got from the executive at the major New York real estate company who responded to our complaint letter.

Do nothing and get paidIn our letter we asked that this agency refund the fee. We heard that it’s not a practice for one agency to pay another in such an instance so we offered the option to return the money to us. Their answer: “No.”

The agent lived in her client’s condo apartment and was leaving. We wanted to sublet it and to do so we needed approval of the apartment owner and the building’s board of directors. Following is an abbreviated list of her elementary mistakes that jeopardized our move-in date and caused us inordinate stress.

Our agent remained calm and courteous even when snapped at. We knew something was up when Ms. Gawley questioned the spelling of the apartment owner’s name on the lease. It was an unusual interpretation of a French name. [My father was French so I noticed it.] “It’s correct,” barked Ms. ___ during a conference call we were in on. In fact, it was incorrect, so our certified deposit checks were inaccurate as well. This kind of sloppiness followed and tripped us up throughout the process.

The  apartment’s owner–Ms. ____’s client–wanted to meet us across the street from her office/apartment. She wasn’t free so Ms. Gawley squeezed in the appointment to her schedule. Ms. ___ had not given her client a copy of the lease we signed nor had she warned Ms. Gawley to bring one so when he asked for one, Ms. Gawley appeared unprepared—something she never is.

Because of delays caused by Ms. ___’s carelessness on February 1 we did not know whether we would have access to the apartment or if we had been approved by the building’s board of directors and therefore, whether the movers would be allowed in the building on Monday February 2.

Our board package was not submitted promptly because Ms. ___ hadn’t counseled her client to sign either the standard lead paint or child guard disclosure forms, discovered at the final hour. In the response, the real estate executive did not refer to this glitch.

She brought up another one. She wrote: “Unfortunately, we sleeping at desk 2encountered a big snag at this point which caused us a delay. Upon review, the managing agent discovered that the owner of the apartment was not carrying the proper insurance. This is highly unusual, because it’s imperative for all owners to have valid insurance at all times, so of course it was completely unknown to Ms. ____. This is the purview of the managing agent, not the listing agent, and it would not be in Ms. ___’ typical scope to verify the insurance.” I underlined the words “typical scope” because I thought they were clever. What is her scope? How seasoned an agent was she?  Since she lived in the same place for a period of time, was she there legally?

We wanted to know where we would be living in the city [our weekend home requires a five hour commute round trip] but that was only the half of it. Should we cancel the movers [who had already stored our belongings for a week] and Verizon/Fios, which we ordered for move-in day so we might be connected to the world? What about business appointments  later that week–would we be free to make them or would we be waiting for the movers?

In the agency’s response, the executive wrote: “On the 30th, Ms. ____ received verbal confirmation from the Board President that the waiver had been signed, which she immediately relayed to your agent.  Did your agent not relay that information to you?”

Given Ms. ____’s slipshod track record, and the fact that the building’s managing agent couldn’t verify the information, Ms. Gawley wasn’t about to suggest that our movers park outside the building first thing Monday February 2 until she knew for sure they would be allowed in. She asked that we delay the movers to Monday afternoon. They lost a morning of work and had to leave [house rules] before they were done. When the Fios technician came he didn’t have our computer, phones and TV to connect them causing costly repercussions for us.

411 sink Feb 1“Broom clean,” was not the way Ms. ___ left the apartment. Illustrative of her modus operandi see the photos at right and below left of just some of the things we found. They don’t capture the dirty towel on the bathroom floor and filled coffee cups and water bottles. In her letter the executive wrote, “she apologizes that her movers left a few items behind.” 

Ms. ____ had told us she was moving a few blocks away as well as to Connecticut but obviously didn’t relay the former info to her employer who claimed that from Connecticut she couldn’t have conveniently checked how the movers left the apartment. Funny: We’d just moved out of a city apartment followed by a two hour drive upstate in a blizzard and left not a spec of dust behind much less garbage bags worth of stuff.

411 stuff left behindThat Ms. ___was snarky and never apologized to us for her [in]actions was as grievous to me as the time she stole from Ms. Gawley and the stress she caused us. I also had a bad reaction to the patronizing tone of the executive’s letter, i.e. “Moving is always stressful.”  Between us my husband and I have moved some 50 times, sometimes across oceans, into property we’ve rented or owned, yet neither of us has experienced a move as bad as this.

I am tempted to write “The Haggler” in The New York Times’ Sunday Business Section but I want the episode behind me. If you need a great agent to buy or sell property I’ll put you in touch with Linda Gawley. Bad agents work all over, not just in NYC—I’ve hired and heard about lousy ones. Haven’t you?

Does someone in a service business–like real estate agent, PR or advertising exec–owe counseling to their clients or has it become yet another area where the client is expected to know everything and to get zero guidance and direction from the specialist?

Service of a Surprisingly Good Hotel Stay: Residence Inn Marriott NYC

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Residence Inn Marriott NY

As we live in Manhattan we haven’t had the chance to try out any of its hotels in many years. We needed to spend one night in a hotel the other week in between apartment moves and were happily surprised to find one–Residence Inn Marriott–through in midtown, 148 East 48th Street, at a modest price: $119+ tax.

Residence Inn Marriott NY 2Our stay came with a bunch of bonuses: A generous breakfast, an upgrade to a room with a balcony and view of the top of the Chrysler Building and a kitchen with plates, glasses, a stove and fridge. Between snow on the balcony and frigid temperatures outside we didn’t take advantage of the terrace and we weren’t there long enough to use the kitchen but still. Busy guests could leave at the front desk a list of groceries to stock in their room.

The night we were there we didn’t hear another soul.

Residence Inn Marriott NY 3The room was decorated simply and was spotless. The Wi-Fi worked in an instant. The staff was friendly, welcoming and we were impressed.

In the morning we expected that the free breakfast would consist of coffee and a cheap Danish wrapped in cellophane. Were we wrong. The breakfast room was bustling with contented guests, [perhaps as amazed as we were], some seated on bar stools at bar height tables with a TV on the wall tuned to the morning news; others at tables; still others on sofas around a fireplace. There were free newspapers too. The food choices, served cafeteria style, ranged from bagels, English muffins and bread you could toast; juices; coffee/tea; fresh fruit; cereal; yogurt as well as Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage and potato. And there was an assortment of fresh Danish.

What surprised me most was the breakfast staff. They cleared tables so that the next wave of guests would have a clean place to eat but they did much more. One asked a man who was alone with a baby and encumbered with bags–clearly beached at his table–if he might get him something. Another approached us and volunteered if we knew that we could have gluten and lactose free options.

The staff seemed happy at their jobs.

We didn’t know what to expect or whether to have high expectations given the price and were stunningly surprised. Have you had a similar happy experience at a hotel in a big city—or anywhere for that matter?

Residence Inn Marriott NY 4



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