Archive for the ‘Excuses’ Category

Service of Silent Guests

Monday, January 12th, 2015

woman at desk

What is it about responding to invitations? Ellen Byron wrote about the chronic avoidance in The Wall Street Journal with two titles: In the paper, “Please. Pretty Please. R.S.V.P,” and online, “Nobody RSVPs anymore.” The “anymore” in the latter title was a head scratcher given that this breach of manners has been happening for eons in both my personal and professional lives.

Byron reported that one company hired a person to follow up with 3,300 travel agents to avoid last year’s holiday party glitch in which 30 guests weren’t served and 60 ate in the hallway because so many showed without responding.

Come to my partyOne event planner reported that an additional 33 people appeared at a wedding to which the caterer expected 456. The staff ripped into bolts of fabric to fashion last minute tablecloths and scrounged for chairs to accommodate the guests.

Committment issues are to blame say some manners pundits. Being invited to too many events was responsible for silence according to others. Take children’s birthday parties. Parents are urged to invite the whole class so none of the children feel left out which means a parent with two young kids might be faced with 88 RSVPs if each child attends a school with 45 in each class. [While a great concept, in practice it has flaws: Can every parent afford to host and feed 45 kids and to buy 44 gifts? There must be a better way, but I digress.]

Hosts are told to follow up with guests many times even after they’ve said they are coming. I am annoyed writing this tip. Doesn’t the guest have a calendar and/or memory?

Stack of invitations 1Some respondents are so dumb they return a printed RSVP card without noting their name. For this reason hosts are told to number the cards lightly, in pencil, to match the number with a guest on the invitation list.

There should be a master list of people who chronically show up unannounced or don’t show up when they say they will so that they are omitted from invitation lists forever.

Why is it up to the host to do all the work? Doesn’t the invitee have any obligations? Short of never entertaining, do you have other suggestions to help reverse this breach of etiquette? Are you a chronic delinquent responder?

stack of invitations 2


Service of Big

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011


America is founded on big is better, though pundits analyzing a downturn at Wal*Mart are noting that bulk purchases are going out of style and people are ferreting out better bargains at smaller drugstore and other chains.

Some people favor doing business with small companies or entities and others feel more secure with big ones. And many times, we have no choice.

In anycase, I’m  finding that suddenly some of the giants are dropping balls big time and all over.


envelopeThe USPS rejected all the cards I sent and re-sent to a friend who lives in Brooklyn. [I got back her Christmas card in late January!] After she got no support from her post office–the clerk told her that the address was incorrect when it wasn’t–I wrote the USPS NY district manager. It’s a matter of pride: She’s a foreigner and my postal service was messing up.

I got a phone call from a charming person in Manhattan’s customer relations who empathized with my frustration and another one sent me an email. One noted that to help substitute postal delivery staff I had to affix an apartment number to a multiple family dwelling, which hers is.

I explained she doesn’t have an apartment number, that there are three tenants in the house, she lives on the second floor, and one of the tenants brings in the mail from where the postman leaves it outside and the others get it from a table.

I agreed to add “2nd Floor” next time. I haven’t had a reason-or the heart-to send something to see if my efforts have unclogged the system when it comes to personal mail. [She gets bank statements, phone bills and books ordered online.] Yesterday a Brooklyn USPS customer relations person left me a voice message and we’ve played phone tag. I must have hit a nerve.

Meanwhile my sister’s Valentine took over one week to get from Westchester to Manhattan and a second card, from the Midwest, came two weeks late and the stamp wasn’t cancelled.


Several times a week we see “data unavailable” where our cable company posts the title of a program. TV isn’t essential, but we pay plenty to get it. If I tune in when a commercial is running, which is most of the time, I’d like to know what’s on.


smartphone1I bought my smartphone from a wonderful man whose business is connected with a major wireless phone provider. He has taught me all sorts of tricks to fix what periodically ails the device. I pulled out all the stops last week to no effect. All emails had stopped but the phone and Internet browser worked.

My phone maven wasn’t in the store that day-a first. The young man who “helped” me told me I hadn’t received any emails. Good luck. Then he tried something ineffective, handed back the phone, said it was broken, that I should take it to the [dreaded] repair office, turned his back on me and walked away.

Back at my office I found a toll free number captured from a previous breakdown [given to me by an upstate branch of this company]. Two hours after the tech person worked me through various remedies, emails appeared. [It should have revived in 20 minutes, but I was grateful anyway.]

Playing Hard to Get

I use a pharmacy connected to a chain that is gobbling up the competition. The revised Rx renewal system is sick. When the automatic refill computer voice didn’t recognize my prescription number, I called back with one option: To leave a voice message. [I used to speak with someone in the pharmacy department.] I  asked that someone confirm that my order is back on track and waiting for me. Nobody did. I went in, learned that they have a new computer system, that in transferring information much was lost and had to return the next day to pick up the order. The branch is a block from my apartment and on my way home from the office which is fortunate time-waste-wise.

druglinesI felt sorry for the counter person the first night I came in: Everything seemed to go wrong due to the new computer system. On top of my case, she was searching for a young woman’s insurance information. The computer had kept seven year old stats. I must hand it to her: She handled this–and a line that had grown to eight people–cooly and calmly.

Judgement Call

For 20 years a friend has told the Manhattan jury system about her married name yet they consistently send jury duty notifications to both names which then takes hours to untangle. Even this expert communicator is flummoxed.

Are these glitches exclusive to New York City? What big company malfunctions have stymied you lately? Is big really better?


Service of Who Are We Fooling?

Monday, October 18th, 2010


NY Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio told Joe Bartlett on the WOR Radio 710 “Saturday Morning Show,” October 16, that there are 100,000 children who had  failed the New York State Regents math and English exams though orignally, they were told they’d passed.  Inflated grades were the culprits. What is worse than this news: These children who failed won’t be brought up to speed which is standard.

Instead, according to what I took away from the conversation, the system will start fresh and do better in future, more accurately grading the tests and having those who fail them immediately tutored.

A situation involving people shouldn’t be treated as I handle my checkbook, where I add or subtract to adjust a discrepancy that won’t go away when I [try to] balance the numbers. My fiddling concerns only me. The school debacle affects an enormous number of the city’s children who need help. To brush them off as though they are no more than an accounting adjustment broils and is wrong.

children-at-desks5And what inspired the inflated grades to begin with? The answer lies in previous posts on inflation. What’s the point of grades if they don’t identify who needs help? Why cheat the children, citizens and state by making things appear better than they are? Who are we fooling?

The City has what I consider another head-scratcher going on in the form of an experimental system for express busses. Known as “limited” busses, because they stop on avenues only at crosstown stops, they are wonderful especially if you travel on 1st or 2nd Avenues, quite a distance from the Lexington Avenue subway. The limiteds leap through traffic, as much as any vehicle can, and get you to your destination quickly.

The purpose of the 1st and 2nd Avenue experiment [and before that, in the Bronx]–is to help move people in and out of a bus quickly by allowing them to enter all doors, instead of only the front door where the MetroCard swiping machine is. The concept is good; the execution pathetic.

limited-bus1The City has placed machines on the street by the bus stops. They dispense paper receipts after you’ve slipped in your MetroCard where the machine subtracts the cost of the fare. Police are making spot-checks of the busses to confirm that everyone has a receipt. Trouble is: You never know when the limited bus is coming. If you pay for a receipt, it won’t work on a standard bus so you’ve lost the cost of the fare if a local comes and you don’t want to wait for the next limited bus.  Who knows when it will come? And if there is a crowd, you can miss the express bus if you’re in a line for a turn at a machine that, you can bet, won’t work in freezing weather or if it’s been vandalized. [One of the machines takes coins.]

Last, I tried to buy pretty commemorative stamps for a mailing at a country post office where I’ve bought hundreds of seasonal stamps for 15+ years. The branch had only 45 decorative stamps in the safe and in any of two workstations–none matching. This is scary: Feels very third world. It’s costly to design a stamp and once the art is in place, printing a good number at first printing is de minimus. Why bother designing them? Where is the lobbyist for the greeting card industry? NOTE: I dropped into the Grand Central Station post office and they had plenty of stamps. So are we closing small town post offices and giving them little to sell? Is it so nobody will miss them when they are gone?

What are your thoughts about these examples? Do you have other “Who are we fooling” stories to share?




Service of Apology

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

apologizeAs we noted in “Service of Excuses,” [which addressed plagiarism] and in so many of the posts on this blog, everybody makes mistakes. It’s how you own up–or not–and how you apologize that then matters.

I thought that Zoe Hayes, editor-in-chief of The Exponent, Purdue University’s student newspaper, apologized without waffling for having run an inappropriate cartoon that she didn’t realize made light of rape. It was so unusual to read copy clearly untouched by lawyers and spin that I include many excerpts of her letter here:

mistake“We made a mistake in printing Friday’s sex position of the week, and I, the editorial board, and The Exponent are extremely sorry.

“Our apologies extend to the entire campus, both men and women; to alumni, parents, and current and former faculty and staff; and to anyone who saw the graphic and was offended or triggered by what was depicted. We’ve heard from many of you and understand your concerns.

“I deeply regret that I didn’t see what was depicted, and I apologize to the campus, to any survivors of sexual assault and, well, to any decent person who saw the graphic Friday and was offended. You’re right. We are absolutely in the wrong on this one and we’re doing our best to correct it.

“We erred and we’re sorry – not because of your response, but because we were wrong and would’ve been wrong even if nobody had said so.”

I first read about this letter in Media Bistro, a great resource.

What do you think of this apology? Was Hays wrong to apologize so often? [I ask this because I have been told I apologize too often.]

Have you seen similar examples either in academia, the media or in business or are most apologies muffled in fuzzy language and smothered by excuses?


Service of Compassion in Medical Care

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010


Just how much empathy and compassion should a doctor feel and exhibit? I’m of two minds.

Dr. Sally Satel, who wrote “Physician, Humanize Thyself” in The Wall Street Journal, spoke of the White Coat Ceremony for medical students that she claimed Dr. Arnold P. Gold of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons popularized. The symbolism of the ceremony, according to the Columbia University chaplain, is for doctors to consider their coats “cloaks of compassion.” Medical schools all over the country now conduct these ceremonies.

And I’m all for it. Having witnessed a top-rated specialist [according to a yearly listing in New York Magazine] treat my husband, who was suffering and weak, with less compassion than a plumber would feel for a pipe, I question the man’s reason for becoming a doctor. We see misfits in all sorts of professions, which is no excuse, but this fellow was all sorts of things he didn’t have to be: Rude, offhanded and wrong to the extreme in his approach to a diagnosis. Turned out my husband did have something in this person’s specialty, generated by a nasty tick bite, causing two+ months high fever and eventually the inability to get out of bed. [Husband is fine now.] A person like this doctor wouldn’t understand the significance of this or any other kind of compassion-related ceremony.

wheelchair1On the other hand, when confronted with horrendous disfigurement and frailty or facing a tricky operation with scalpel in hand, a doctor whose empathy makes him fall apart isn’t of much help, either. Referring to “respectful attentiveness and a genuine commitment to a patient’s welfare” Dr. Satel wrote: “It happens not in the classroom, of course, but ideally on the wards and in clinics under the watchful mentorship of seasoned physicians.” Maybe the nasty doctor spent all his time in the classroom.

Dr. Satel points to government intrusion, at junctures in recent history, as the cause for lack of compassion. As doctors are increasingly robbed of options by insurance companies and/or time–because of paperwork required by government regulation in combination with the numbers of patients they must treat in order to meet budgets and satisfy what Medicare will pay for-they can’t squeeze in anything else, much less compassion. [Medicaid seems to have an unlimited bank account and my advice is if you get really sick, sell everything and go on Medicaid, but I digress].

jugglingSatel concludes: “Juggling the timeless injunction to all doctors-be a mensch-with concepts like ‘Medicare metrics’ and ‘standardization’ (the new watchwords in health reform) will make it even harder for the newly coated students to become the kind of doctors that they themselves would like to have. An induction ritual acknowledging as much wouldn’t hurt.”

Wouldn’t a compassionate person still be compassionate under any circumstances? Is it the patient’s fault that a doctor must see 30 patients in the time she/he used to see eight to 10 or that the doctor has a pound of paperwork to fill out after every visit?

What can the public do about changing this increasingly unreasonable turn of events?


Service of Dissatisfaction

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

dissatisfactionDiane Baranello of Coaching for Distinction just sent me, “Are You Being Served?” by James Surowiecki. The information in The New Yorker piece won’t surprise my readers. The author noted that these days almost nobody is happy–neither the served nor the servers. He also pointed out why employers don’t like to pay for service: It’s an expense with zero income-producing value in their opinion, and an easy cut in tough times.

Surowiecki referred to one survey taken a few years ago in which 80 percent of 300 large companies thought that they delivered “superior service” as compared to eight percent of consumers and he wrote “….one study suggests that only six percent of dissatisfied customers file a complaint.”

disgruntledSo what do disgruntled people do? I posit that they vote with their feet, though not all. Do most suffer in silence?

We walked out of a trendy bakery/restaurant the other week where we were ignored for several minutes by three people behind the counter. There was no “Hi,” “Be with you in a second,” or “May I help you?” When I asked my husband “What do you want?” as I was deciding whether a cranberry scone or a blueberry muffin was coming home with me, he replied: “To get out of here,” which we did. The place was almost empty, there were four customers at two tables. We passed by in the car the other day and crowds appeared to be leaving or entering.

Money goes to attract new customers, Surowiecki pointed out, instead of keeping existing ones. True to form, the bakery/restaurant has dotted the countryside with posters directing drivers to it and the place was given great coverage in a New York Times article about a month ago.

pileofmagazinesThis place isn’t alone to spend money to attract new customers and favor them. [We were new at the bakery, but as we were in the door, and there’s nowhere else nearby, I guess we no longer mattered.] Magazines use a model of spend-to-get-new readers and charge more to current subscribers. I refuse to pay the higher price for a magazine renewal for an expensive publication I’ve subscribed to for eons. New subscriptions cost $10 less. With my check, I send a copy of the blow-in card, circle the lower price and enclose a letter. It’s in my computer so doesn’t take but a second to change the date every year. The letter explains that I expect to be treated better than a new reader and to please honor me with the better price. It works. [I refuse to pay for any publication with a credit card. The thought of trying to break off the relationship with their ability to suck out any amount of money from me that they want–forever–gives me nightmares.]

I agreed with the author when he disclaimed the theory that poor service is caused by consumers who insist on cheap prices, thereby eliminating a business’s ability to provide good service. He mentioned, which in this context is the example de rigueur. We had a glitch this morning using I heard from Will Reed in customer service in minutes. Turns out we caused the malfunction. And back to the bakery/restaurant, how costly is it to say “hello, good to see you, be with you in a minute?”

I am sure that you can list many other moderately priced establishments both big and small that serve you well.  Won’t you please share? And we’d always like to hear of examples where you were a dissatisfied customer or employee.


Service of Listening to Your Inner Voice

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

innervoiceHail to the Times Square street vendor, Duane Jackson, who noticed smoke coming out of Faisal Shahzad’s bomb-filled car last week and spoke up.

A friend told me a story of a plane ride in which she noticed flames pouring out of the wing but was too embarrassed to say anything to the stewardess. She was a tween when everything was embarrassing. Fortunately, another passenger called over the flight attendant to point out the problem.

seesomethingsaysomethingI didn’t listen to my heart the other night while hearing Gabe Pressman interview author, holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel in a NYC auditorium. A young man sitting two seats from me excused himself, in the middle of the conversation, leaving behind his backpack on the floor. Some 15 minutes later, I asked the friend I was with what she thought the deal was, but I did nothing else. Everyone in the city knows the slogan, “If you see something, say something,” and after 9/11 I swore I’d never be passive if I sensed danger. The young man returned after 20 minutes and plopped down on his seat.

But still–I should have asked someone in charge about the backpack when my suspicions tweaked my imagination. I was lucky because most of the time it’s a big mistake when I don’t listen to my inner voice.

A former broker kept prodding me to invest more money in a certain stock. I said, “No.” For two weeks. My inner voice said, “You have 100 shares, more than enough.” He wore me down. I bought more of that stock and lost the entire investment because what he’d predicted didn’t happen. I didn’t listen to my practical, intuitive, spot-on inner voice which warned me from the start. That’s all I brought to that table–not great knowledge of the stock market nor of the particular industry in question. I have only myself to blame.

I tend to remember all the times I haven’t listened, when things went south, and I quickly forget the more frequent times that I put my finger on the black and blue of a client’s challenge and came up with a solution, figured the best way out of a tricky tangle, or clearly saw the right thing to do in a crisis based largely on my inner voice and a dollop of experience.

Do you trust your inner voice and always follow it? Have there been times in which you haven’t and have regretted it?


Service of Welcome

Monday, March 8th, 2010


We enjoyed an enchanting evening to celebrate a family birthday at a NYC restaurant located in a quiet enclave, Tudor City, near the UN. Food, ambiance and service were appropriately delicious, festive and charming, but our welcome wasn’t. 

In fact, the welcome was so out of sync with the rest of the otherwise perfect evening that the first thing I did on arriving at the office the next morning was to write the chef and his partner to tell them what happened. How would they know otherwise? And had the weather not been so bad, had we not been in an isolated part of the city and had this not been a happily anticipated birthday party a deux, we might very well have walked out and missed the rest of the evening.

After much Googling and web site scouring I could find no email address of either man, so I mailed a letter to the partners.

As Snoopy would start this chapter of the story, “It was a dark and stormy night.” And boy was it. Once inside, our eyes adjusted to light in the even dimmer entrance and dead silence ensued. We stood feeling awkward with our dripping umbrellas, coats and hat and had no idea what to do with it all or with ourselves. You get the picture. There was plenty of staff. Three people stood  like statues looking at us from down a hall, hanging out around the reception stand. I included both the great and the bad in my letter

I received an immediate response from the restaurant’s service director, Carolyn DeFir. Her letter was gracious and apologetic. She understood the importance of this detail which, for whatever reasons, the trilogy of greeters didn’t.

Maybe they or their parents never entertain at home. Why do I think this? Would anyone leave guests at the front door and not greet them, take their coats, relieve them of their soaked umbrellas, make them comfortable so that they wouldn’t ruin furniture or carpeting by having to toss these things somewhere?

Ms. DeFir wrote, in part: “I agree with you whole-heartedly that the first impression is a strong one and I am sincerely embarrassed and saddened that you had such a negative start to your evening with us. I do not want to make excuses but I will apologize and I think that perhaps you caught us at an off moment in ‘our game.'”  She also enclosed an extremely generous gift certificate to encourage us to return–or to give to a colleague–and asked that we let her know when we planned to come so that she could “take excellent care of you myself.”

Oh, the name of the restaurant? Convivio.

In a subsequent email correspondence responding to my query asking her if she wanted me to mention the name of the restaurant in my post, Ms. DeFir said she didn’t mind and continued, “I think the bigger lesson I wish people knew and understood is that there are 200 plus people eating in our restaurant a night. While myself and my management team strives to know how each person feels, we clearly cannot get to every single person.  I wish more people would speak up both positively and negatively while at the restaurant.  It gives me a chance to fix things or say thank you to guests while they are still in my care.  I would love to look someone in the eyes and apologize if needed or thank them for their praise.”

I understand her reasoning and her point, and I know plenty of people who wouldn’t mind speaking up about something negative, but unless I could figure out how to do it discretely, off in a corner, I’m not one of them. We always rave about the food, its presentation or compliment the service, if appropriate. But making a fuss, whining or complaining breaks the joyful mood not only for us, but for other guests around us.

When I explained my point of view to Ms. DeFir, she wrote, “I’m so glad you had the opportunity to bring this to my attention! I had sincerely never thought of it that way before.”

I recently wrote about the Service of Excuses where nobody is at fault or takes responsibility for what they have done or what has happened. Not Ms. DeFir. Her attitude and approach will insure our return.

Back to the unwelcoming welcome committee: There are so many critical jobs, such as the first person a guest sees at any restaurant, that some think are below them or are inconsequential when, in fact, the performance of these key people is as important as the chef’s or the cook’s.

Can you think of some other examples? How would you motivate people in unsung jobs or is understanding the importance of what they do instinctive, not taught?

Service of Too Little Too Late

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Nancy Farrell wrote today’s guest post. A fundraiser for a non-profit, her first  post wasService of Remodeling a Business Model,” [December 3, 2009]. She’s also a frequent commenter and generously shares her experiences.

Today she writes about two vendors who missed the boat with her by being unreasonable. As a result, once she fired them, there was nothing they could do to get her back.

She wrote:

Time and again marketers have proved that it’s less expensive to reinstate a lapsed member or customer than it is to acquire a new one. But that doesn’t always hold true, especially if you’ve managed to make the customer so angry that you’ve lost him/her forever. I’ve had two terrible customer service issues lately that caused me to take my business elsewhere.

The first happened with a credit card company. I’d been a customer for 15 years when a clerk insisted that I overnight my $13 full payment. The reason: my checkbook had been stolen and the check I’d sent them bounced-which I warned them would happen because the bank cancelled all the checks–but they cashed it anyway.

The voice of customer service made matters worse by repeating that I’d lost my checkbook when, in fact, it had been stolen-two entirely different circumstances, in my opinion. I told her that the next time I heard the word “lost” I was hanging up and that I wasn’t about to overnight a $13 check because that would be silly.

I mailed them the check via First Class mail and told them I’d be canceling the card. It was only after I cancelled it that they tried to woo me back with a $25 gift card. I declined because by that time there was nothing in the world that would make me go back.

The next incident involved a large pharmacy chain that has great hours but not the antibiotics that I needed and sometimes took up to 3 weeks to refill my husband’s heart medications.

I tried e-mailing their corporate office asking how much lead time they’d need for a refill. They sent a response saying they’d contact the local manager who then proceeded to bombard us with automated calls telling us when the prescriptions were ready.

When we went to pick up our order we were handed everything EXCEPT the pills we’d been told were available and waiting for us. One time, the pharmacist assistant’s excuse was that she wasn’t working when we dropped off the prescriptions.

Eventually they found the medications but I can’t overestimate the stress this caused my husband, a man with a weak heart. Every visit to the pharmacy seemed to generate another hitch.

Sometimes they’d only fill four out of eight prescriptions and they’d drill us: “Are you certain that you’re missing medications?” Other times the meds were in two different bags and they’d bring only one to the counter, leaving the other one in a back room.

We were finally able to determine that part of the problem stemmed from the fact that they were calling the doctor when he requires Faxes. So then they’d call again and he’d tell them to send a FAX. So then they’d call again.

After nearly two years of this nonsense, we’re now dealing with a locally-owned pharmacy that fills prescriptions for antibiotics in five minutes. The hours aren’t as convenient as the other store’s but at least they have the meds we need when we need them and they deliver. And Joe, the pharmacist, is a guy a person can depend on.

Within one business day of our asking Joe to transfer the prescriptions, the chain got wind of our plans and left us a voice mail message asking us if we were switching pharmacies because of the service and could we please call back. No automated call that time.

We wouldn’t go back to that pharmacy if the meds were free because we need them when we need them, not when the pharmacy gets around to rounding them up.

Joe said something to us I haven’t heard in years: “Thank you for your business.”

Do you have examples of vendors who let you down and once you’ve left them, try to make amends? Have you gone back?  


Service of Excuses

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Who hasn’t made a mistake? But sometimes, oversights and errors are deliberate.

Thanks to computers and people with lots of time on their hands, fists in the cookie jar, especially those belonging to high profile people or those who are blatantly greedy about the cookies they sneak, are outed.

Their transgressions are obvious. Their excuses are pitiable.

Take the spate of plagiarists in the news of late. Zachery Kouwe formerly of The New York Times–he wrote for the DealBook blog–lifted copy from The Wall Street Journal that covered a tangent of the Bernie Madoff story [of all topics…!]. According to John Koblin, writing in the New York Observer on learning of this, Kouwe’s bosses found six additional instances from the Journal and Reuters.

Koblin quoted Kouwe:

“‘I was as surprised as anyone that this was occurring,’ said Mr. Kouwe, referring to the revelation that he had plagiarized. ‘I write essentially 7,000 words every week for the blog and for the paper and all that stuff. As soon as I saw, I guess, like six examples, I said to myself, ‘Man what an idiot. What I was thinking?'”

Koblin quoting Kouwe again:

“In the essence of speed, I’ll look at various wire services and throw it into our back-end publishing system, which is WordPress, and then I’ll go and report it out and make sure all the facts are correct. It’s not like an investigative piece. It’s usually something that comes off a press release, an earnings report, it’s court documents.

“‘I’ll go back and rewrite everything,’  he continued. ‘I was stupid and careless and fucked up and thought it was my own stuff, or it somehow slipped in there. I think that’s what probably happened.'”

Writing for Salon, Laura Miller addressed the 17 year old German author of “Axolotl Roadkill,” Helene Hegemann. Miller wrote: “Hegemann lifted as much as a full page of text from an obscure, independently published novel, “Strobo,” by a blogger known as Airen.”

Miller again: “Count me among those who think that most plagiarism scandals are overblown.” But she didn’t include Hegemann among “most” plagiarists. Miller continued: “The daughter of an avant-garde dramatist, she says she practices ‘intertextuality’ and explains, ‘Very many artists use this technique … by organically including parts in my text, I am entering into a dialogue with the author.'”

Miller goes on… “If Hegemann intended to enter into a dialogue with Airen, she took pains to make it look like a monologue. If she viewed the writing itself as collaborative, she suppressed any urge to share those handsome royalty checks.’ Hegemann is up for a German book award, by the way.

And then there’s Gerald Posner, who borrowed words from the Miami Herald for an article in The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast‘s chief investigative reporter’s excuse was perhaps the nerviest of all. Quoted in Newsweek:  “‘The core of my problem was in shifting from that of a book writer-with two years or more on a project-to what I describe as the ‘warp speed of the net,’ Posner wrote, noting that since June 1, he had published 72 articles with ‘intensive reporting.'”

Plagiarism hits a nerve with me but there are all sorts of people lining up with excuses for wrongdoing from Barry Bonds, who didn’t know there were steroids in the cream he used, to Tiger’s sex addiction which he hopes takes him off the hook for his actions.  What wrongdoings bug you the most or what excuses are most memorable?


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