Archive for the ‘Value Added’ Category

Service of Value Added: Postcards to Support a Political Party

Monday, August 31st, 2020


I found a good way to support my political party: Through a postcard writing initiative. I increase a modest $X donation that probably wouldn’t pay for two words in a radio commercial in Punxsutawney, Pa. by adding elbow grease. And I’m not finished: At the same time I’m supporting the United States Postal Service. How great is that?

There is a tiny snag: My handwriting. The formidable Miss Means in middle school did her best to correct my undecipherable scrawl. It didn’t work. My parents pleaded with me to type letters home when I lived in Turkey for two years. These days when I handwrite thank you notes to one far too generous friend he asks me to translate the missives. Frankly, I’m out of practice as, like everyone else, I’ve increased my speed on the keyboard at the expense of my writing. My grocery lists are a challenge to me.

But I will take my time writing the postcards because it’s important.

I passed the test required by what appears to be a smart, efficient operation For approval they asked me to photograph a sample card with copy,  based on easy-to-follow guidelines, and email it to them.


Volunteers pay for the postcards and stamps and receive addresses–with no names–digitally. Instead of a name we’re asked to select “ONE of these or something similarly neutral/positive/encouraging: Important Voter, VIP Voter, Best Voter Ever, Valued Voter, Essential Voter, Esteemed Voter, Terrific Voter, Awesome Voter, Patriotic Voter, Super Voter, Serious Voter, Winning Voter.”

We sign the cards with first name or initials and do not add a return address.

I am doing this alone during the pandemic while others with backyards may gather a stack of friends socially distanced on TV tables. The initiative boasts “over 76,000 grassroots volunteers in every state (including Alaska and Hawaii) who have written to voters in over 200 key, close elections since March 2017.”

Some friends make phone calls for their candidate or political party and report about one in 25 pick up. That doesn’t surprise me as calls go unanswered if I don’t recognize a number. My cards might never arrive or be tossed, unread, though it’s fun to imagine what the recipient must think about a handwritten card in an otherwise pretty empty mailbox.

Is it significant or coincidental that I’ve not identified the value added category in the posts since July 2015? [I wrote the first of five posts in April 2010.] Have you noticed or experienced examples of value added?

Service of It Matters

Monday, July 13th, 2015

It matters




You can be the most sensitive person in the universe and still be innocently and inadvertently indifferent to something that’s significant to another person.

A friend teaches a reading class to six first graders. Each has a book and there’s one for her. When the class was over one day, the smallest child in the class asked if she could please carry the books back to the homeroom. My friend, who reminded me that children this age love to be helpful, said thanks but that it didn’t matter as another child was doing it. The diminutive child looked her in the eye and said, “It matters to me.” So my friend asked the other child if she’d share the “load.” The child handed three of the books to her classmate, keeping the rest for herself. The little one beamed all the way back to homeroom.

In a vastly different scenario, Jim Brownell said to me: “This is a dump but it doesn’t have to look like one.” I’d just admired the transformation of the Millbrook, N.Y. transfer station [photo below]. As you approach it now there are three flags–American, Army and Marine–posted in a generous bed of mulch they’d installed. Brownell and Joseph Magnarella, who is in the photo, are the transfer attendants responsible for the makeover. Brownell is a Marine [on NCIS I learned once a Marine, always a Marine]; Magnarella is former Army.

When I first noticed the makeover, only the American flag and two poles were in place. Brownell expected the other two flags shortly. I left work early July 3—the dump is only open three days a week—to grab a photo for this post and only two flags flew. I asked Brownell for permission to take a photo and explained the nature of my post. He suggested I wait for the missing Marine flag, especially in light of the title. “It matters,” he said. [He was on vacation the day I returned for the photo.]

Can you share examples of something insignificant that nevertheless mattered a lot to you or to someone else? How about employees who go above and beyond because where they work–and how it looks–matters to them?

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

Service of More Than Expected at Bergdorf’s and Blue Water Grill

Thursday, July 24th, 2014


As a result of a weak and fluctuating economy we increasingly find treasures–people in service positions they might not ordinarily have yet who enhance customers’ experiences exponentially. They perform their jobs magnificently and in good spirit even if what they are doing may be unrelated to their vocations.

Walking a Mile in His Shoes

Bergdorf's. Photo: Wikipedia

Bergdorf’s. Photo: Wikipedia

A colleague and Bergdorf Goodman shopper shared this anecdote. Her salesman asked her for what occasion she was looking for shoes and she told him the Matrix Awards. He knew all about the awards, he said, as he’d seen the full page New York Times adverts about the New York Women in Communications-sponsored annual event.

I’m acquainted with a former magazine editor-turned shoe salesman at Bergdorf’s-turned top marketer for another major luxury retailer so I jumped to the conclusion that this savvy salesman was on hiatus from a post as communications director somewhere or maybe he was a fashion designer or artist in his other life.

Courting his Customers

Blue Water Grill. Photo: venuebook

Blue Water Grill. Photo: venuebook

Seven of us met for lunch at Blue Water Grill. Our waiter, Christos, was the best I can remember having in NYC for so many reasons.

As you arrived he asked if you’d like a drink. He made you feel as though you were at a friend’s home. If you said, “Not now, thanks,” your friend would move on to another subject and ask you again later. Christos’ reaction was similar, yet he wasn’t familiar. [Everyone ordered something to drink eventually.] As he described the restaurant’s raw fish bar, he mentioned that if anyone wanted just a taste, they could order one of any item. He tempted but never pressured us. We were comfortable. I was cheering inside.

My guess was that Christos had been to umpteen restaurants where he disliked the rolling eyes and impatient attitude of wait staff that tries to cajole and flatter customers to order food and drink that they don’t want. He was always ready to describe, suggest and serve.

Before we arrived, Elaine Siegel, who organized the lunch, had asked Christos for a separate bar bill. He raised the bar. At the end of lunch he handed each of us our bill and each was accurate as to food, drinks, coffee, and appetizers. Remember: We were seven. I can’t count the times I’ve been discouraged to request checks for three credit cards. And he hadn’t written a single order. Not only that, he took the orders at random, when he sensed the guest was ready, not in the order in which they were seated. What a memory!

Christos’ other life: he’s a writer and film director which he admitted only after we pressed him.

Have you basked in such intelligent service?

Cat basking in the sun

Service of Paper that Calls to You

Monday, April 25th, 2011


A friend, writer/editor Jim Roper and I share a passion for fine quality stationery-all sorts of paper goods.  His notes and gift bags of handmade paper feel as exquisite as they look. He gave me a box of Florentine cards a few years ago. I have sent most to special people but still have a few as I have a hard time parting with them.

Jim suggested I read Lesley M. Blume’s Wall Street Journal article, “Leaving the Right Impression.” It was about the trend for people to design and use calling cards-that’s what Blume says they are, well, called these days. My husband has always referred to business cards this way but these personal cards are different in that along with a name, they provide only one bit of contact information such as a phone number.

distinguish-yourselfBlume noted that the reasons for these cards on thick, wonderful paper ranged from distinguishing oneself in a job search to “the ongoing ‘heritage’ movement-a nostalgia-tinged societal turn toward objects that last, smolder with individuality and are well-made-which has made its zeitgeisty way into the world of stationery.” She continued, “And a personalized card acts as a quiet rebuttal to the white noise jabber-jawing of Twitter and Facebook.”

I get her first reason. Distinguishing yourself in positive ways is always smart. But I wonder why people [apart from mothers and loved ones] are going to keep these beautiful cards and if they do, where. I input contact information to my smartphone as soon as I can and have no room or place to store such things whether beautiful or merely practical.

More important: toomuchworkWill the cards require the recipient to work to find you? What if a prospective employer doesn’t want to speak with you and all that’s on the calling card is your phone number? In frustration, he/she may toss the card and move to the person whose email address is easier to find.

We increasingly need to know and share everything NOW. We Google, we link, we dash off a line at midnight on a handheld phone’s keyboard. I don’t think calling cards will buck this trend. The recipient may carry the card around for ages as a bookmark [if he/she hasn’t moved to a Kindle]. My bet is that in the end, they will have no clue who gave it to them.

I’m all for encouraging face-to-face contact in favor of hiding behind a keyboard. I can’t get over being asked to jot condolence messages on websites, for example. But calling cards aren’t the answer to social networking and texting run amok.

How do you distinguish yourself? Do you think calling cards are an effective way?


Service of Handy Tips

Thursday, March 31st, 2011


I’m drawn to handy tips. There are always new ones; some so obvious I wonder why I didn’t think of them myself. These are the ones I appreciate most, especially if they concern a subject I know about.

Smart Chairs

In a Wall Street Journal interview with interior designer Mario Buatta, Deb Schwartz shared one of his decorating tips I’d never before read about or thought of and I’ve interviewed countless creative interior designers, [including Buatta], and for eons, followed their work in magazines, newspapers, blogs, websites and decorator show houses.

mario-buattaQuoting Buatta Schwartz wrote: “The best way to lay out a room is to take a minute after you’ve had a party to look at where your friends moved the chairs. That will give you an idea of the best arrangement. Every room should have at least two groupings.” The irony is that in the article Buatta admits he doesn’t entertain! After I’ve had company, I’m usually in a rush to move things back the way they were…but maybe next time I’ll pay attention.

In Vino Veritas

If you haven’t checked out the wines at Trader Joe’s you are missing treats at great prices. Try Marques de Montanana or Vintjs, both Spanish Garnacha [Grenache] red wines at about $5.00. My husband read somewhere that this variety is good for your heart. According to Wikipedia, Grenache is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world.

Lip-Smacking Creamy Colors

lipstickI discovered a super creamy lipstick in pleasing colors–I like numbers150 and 400–distributed by Maybelline Canada at Cosmetic Market NYC for $3.00. [I had to use a magnifying glass to identify the brand which in no way affected the product’s quality.]

Gas Saver

We live in a lovely bucolic area but with gas prices reaching meteoric heights–$3.70 for regular last weekend-our wallets get hit by inflation from all sides when driving the some 25 miles to shop for groceries at Adams, the place with freshest fruits and veggies and best prices. So we let our neighbor know when we plan to go, get his list and at the same time learn how he’s doing.

Fishy Tip

I tried a container of smoked salmon bits and trim collected and packaged by a fish market whose staff expertly slices paper-thin salmon to order. The price, $7/lb, was a fraction of the standard–$7+++ for four ounces of the packaged kind. I thought the plump salmon pieces were delicious.

Missing Tip

I’ve never found an effective hiccup shortcut cure though I’ve tried quite a few. I’d love to learn yours and any other handy tips you care to share.


Service of How Do They Do It?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010


There’s a Chinese restaurant in midtown Manhattan, around the corner from my office. I just bought a portion of won ton soup in a sturdy container–the expensive kind. It came with five HUGE, tasty dumplings, a bag of fried noodles and a smile. Cost, including tax: $1.85. Most soup in the neighborhood starts at $3.85+ for a smaller portion.

mugsSome of the bargains at TJ Maxx also make you wonder: How can the store pay someone to open a shipping container, unwrap and place an attractive ceramic bowl, dish or mug on a shelf, keep displays neat and clean, and when someone goes to buy the breakable item, wrap it up, take a credit card or cash-all for as little as $2.95?

Meanwhile at Yankee Stadium a hot dog costs upwards of $6 and at a major department store, the online price of a square 3.5-inch ceramic dish costs $20, plus tax and shipping.

Imagine going to a baseball game with a few teens and not offering them more than one hot dog–and we didn’t mention anything about the hefty price of drinks?  The cost of such a snack, while part of the ballpark experience, is a sure indigestion-inducer.

While this is going on, there are drug companies that seem to be playing games resulting in just the opposite. In Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Jonathan D. Rockoff wrote “An Old Gout Drug Gets new Life and a New Price, Riling Patients.” The game was to gain exclusive marketing rights on a drug that has worked for 100 years. The FDA is at fault here as well. They didn’t know the drug was safe and effective after a century? I digress.

pillsThe company ran the drug through clinical trials to [further] prove that it’s safe and effective and then raised the price to $5/a Colcrys tablet from a few cents that the generic colchicine pill cost. In addition, the company is trying to stop the competition from selling the generic version. Is this the time and place?

How do these companies sleep at night? What do the first two do to keep their prices so low and still make a living ? [I don’t think I want to know in the case of the restaurant.]

Department stores formerly wrapped gifts beautifully and today, with a nod to do-it-yourself, customers are most often handed a box and tissue paper in a bag along with the gift. So what’s the point?

How can the drug company keep a straight face knowing the zero value added it provided to sick people by going through some paces not to prove that an innovation works and is safe,  but simply to be able to overcharge for its tablets?


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