Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

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 Listening to the Experts

Thursday, April 17th, 2014


I drop off dry cleaning at a satellite where there is no tailor to measure clothes that need adjustments. I asked the cashier if I brought in a pair of my husband’s slacks the right length could the tailor work with them to shorten a new pair of khakis? She explained that this wasn’t a reliable solution because all pants aren’t equal and don’t fit the body in the same way so the lengths could be misleading.

TailorShe told the same thing to a woman who brought in formal slacks and jeans. The woman asked for the slacks to be cut to match the length of the jeans. The cashier warned the customer and was experienced/smart enough to have her sign a receipt to confirm that she’d been so cautioned. Nevertheless the customer returned enraged when the formal pants weren’t the right length.

window panelsThis reminds me of a similar selectively deaf client an interior designer told me about that I mentioned in a post long ago. Her client wanted to save money by ordering fabric panels for her window instead of a standard drapery style involving yards of fabric to fill the window with graceful folds.

The panels would be stationary, the designer warned, making the client a sketch that showed that they left the center of the window uncovered. The panels were fine, insisted the client, happy to save the cost of additional yards of expensive fabric.

Drapes open closedThe designer reiterated that she would not be able to cover the window with drapery fabric nor tie back the panels. The client said she understood and still opted for stationary panels. When the panels arrived, the client, a lawyer, hated them. She said “they don’t cover the window!” and subsequently sued the interior designer.

Do customers like this hope for miracles? Do they not listen? Do they distrust the expert? Can you recount similar examples?


Service of Exemplary Service

Thursday, May 30th, 2013


Here are a few recent instances of people who performed well beyond expectations. What a joyful way to end the month of May!


Kelsi, a teenage checkout person at the A&P in Pleasant Valley, NY shocked me when she opened a box of erase sponges in my pile of things on the conveyor belt. “Missing two, thought so,” she said.

Groceries“How could you possibly tell?” I asked her, astonished as these sponges weigh as much as whipped egg whites. While she sent someone back to retrieve an intact box she said, “In training they sent through a woman with an empty pizza box. You pick it up.” It turns out that the person who stole the two sponges went to town: Many of the remaining boxes were also missing two.

In the Chips

After a strenuous visit to a physical therapist for a bum arm my husband, [who is also inching out of a year with chronic Lyme disease so he must use his energy sparingly] dropped by Fairway on East 86th Street in Manhattan. I’d asked him to pick up a bag of my favorite Fairway restaurant style tortilla chips as he was in the neighborhood.

Tortilla chipsOn entering, he asked a young man where to find them. He responded: “Wait here, I’ll be right back,” and he ran downstairs, soon emerging with just the right chips. Did my husband have written on his face or in his body language, “I hate shopping and I don’t want to be here?” I wager he may go back to that store anyway because he called me on the spot—he also dislikes speaking on his mobile phone—to tell me how pleased and surprised he was at this glorious service.

Seamless Service

MendingIt’s dry cleaning season. I went to Thims in its Salt Point, NY branch to pick up a load of fresh woolens and a skirt came back outside the plastic protective bags with a handwritten note that Heather Killmer read to me. The note inquired whether I wanted the tailor to fix a tiny tear on a seam before the garment was cleaned. There were precise instructions as to where this tear was located—we needed them. I mentioned to Ms. Killmer how astonished I was that someone had even noticed such a microscopic flaw. “We carefully go over every piece before we clean it,” she smiled.

Do you think, “What’s the big deal, these people are doing their jobs” or do you agree we’ve lucked in to some special operations or individuals? Can you share similar service experiences?  

Cherry on top

Service of Do-it-Yourself Service

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013


Here’s one more notch in the belt of “if you want service, this is what you must do yourself.”

Credit on Hold

account-closedMy husband’s credit card account was closed. He found out when he tried to charge some meds and food and the charges didn’t go through in either store. To find out what was going on, he called the credit card provider.

Had he thought to look at his account online before leaving the apartment, he would have seen that there was a notice that the bank had closed it. So we don’t have to learn the news at the cash register, perhaps we should add checking online to the morning routine, after we brush our teeth or before we check that we have our keys.

He learned that a travel agency in the UK tried to charge something to his card which the credit card company determined to be suspicious. American Express telephones–at least it did when I had a similar problem.

Servers that Don’t

Meanwhile I was given the bum’s rush by my email host. I spent three weeks in email hell, unable to send any at times for no reason. People sending emails to me received bouncebacks and we couldn’t figure out why.

emailAfter doing everything possible to solve the problems and several calls to the company I spoke with one honest fellow late one night who told me “We’ve been working on the server for the last week,” and “the problem is beyond our systems.” He admitted they didn’t know how to fix it yet, wanted me to know the real story so I didn’t blame my high speed connection, my computer, anything or anyone else–all of which I had. I asked when he thought it would be repaired and he said “24 to 48 hours.”

Two days later I called again and spoke with the first obnoxious person I’d confronted at this company in the many years it had been my vendor. I kept asking him if they’d repaired the server and he’d respond with “I need to see a copy of the original bouncedbacked email.” I would say, “I sent you the bounceback notification. How can I send you the original that I never got? Please answer my question: ‘Are your servers up and running’?”

I gave up and now have a new email host.

In addition to lost time, frustration and goodness knows how many emails I never received because they were bounced back and the senders didn’t let me know [it’s not their job], I also spent a tidy sum on the wonderful IT person who was trying to figure out what was what on my end.

So why didn’t this vendor inform its millions of customers? I fished around online for clues and there were none. This is a company that communicates like crazy when it wants to. I get emails almost daily about what other services I should buy from them yet not a peep about email server issues. They have the money: They ran a [extremely distasteful] commercial during the Super Bowl.

I anticipate problems when a company spends more money on marketing than on its product. For years these people were terrific–they had the balance right.

Do you have examples of do-it-yourself service or businesses that spend more on marketing than on their product or service?


Service of Deadlines

Thursday, April 28th, 2011


Joseph S. Nye Jr. was on Book TV on C-Span 2 the other weekend discussing “The Future of Power,” at a February 15 presentation taped at the Center for a New American Security. When I tuned in he was discussing the difference in cultures between academic and government work.

His example was a hypothetical research paper due at the White House at 3 pm. As the deadline approached, the writer, from academia, thought the project could be better, that currently it was a B + and with a bit more work could be an A. So he polished and tweaked it until it was perfect. It arrived at the White House at 5 pm.f-grade1

Government Grade: F. Why? It got there too late to be used.

We’ve discussed writing blog posts, press releases, proposals, late breaking news or anything deadline-related. There comes a moment you must give up the work because in most cases, nobody can pay for Pulitzer Prize-winning copy.

more-time1It’s not only in academia that you can plead for an extension, though in Nye’s example, the person didn’t ask for one. I’ve never worked in government. In business, you can usually ask for one, though it isn’t a smart idea especially if you’re responding to an emergency or a scandal or announcing a product launch you’ve known about for eons, press kit material for trade show introductions or the guts of a press kit to distribute at a press event.

I don’t believe in missing other people’s deadlines nor do I ask for extensions.  Why? The Golden Rule. It’s awful when you are left in the lurch by someone else who misses their deadline whether a vendor, free lancer, partner or staff. Contractors and repair people have a reputation of not showing up when expected and giving no warning. You may have the hard deadline of a January wedding reception at your house but be prepared to cut the cake in an unpainted dining room on an unfinished floor.

In Nye’s illustration had the writer contacted the White House to ask for more time, he/she might have heard: “Don’t worry that it’s not perfect. We need the information in it to help us make a decision.” It seems to me that the imaginary person was thinking more about him/herself than the recipient of the research.

Are deadlines a part of your life? What do you do if you see you can’t meet one?


Service of Silent Retribution

Thursday, March 17th, 2011


Injustices happen. We’re taught to turn the other cheek, are reminded endlessly that life isn’t fair and when confronted by a glitch are urged to move on quickly and get over it. Only antacid manufacturers benefit when we dwell on a wrong for too long and let it gnaw on our innards.

Revenge is of short term satisfaction and can be dangerous. Yet I think it’s a beautiful thing to learn that someone who was out of line with me also offended countless others and, in some cases, to find out that in some way they got theirs or, at least, their behavior was publicly noted.

injustice1I can hear Rex Harrison singing “How delightful” as he rubbed his hands together in “My Fair Lady” [maybe the song was “I’m An Ordinary Man”].

That musical phrase played for me the other week as I read Josh Barbanel’s article, “Eatery Closes After Decades-Long Family Spat” in The Wall Street Journal as one paragraph about this 100+ year old place rang a distant bell. Barbanel described some of the reasons for its demise: “At the same time the small restaurant in the back developed a reputation for surly New York service, and is rarely busy. One of the ____’s daughters has been known to chase tourists and other pesky customers out of the store.” [The blank is mine; her name unimportant.]

“Wow!” I thought as I read about this woman who had been outrageous to me when I owned a business called Delivered Delicacies [although I was neither a tourist nor pesky]. The details are immaterial, but to put her performance in perspective, she was one of three people in all the years I’ve worked in a range of industries who dramatically crossed the line. Reading those few words in the Journal all these years later also made me wonder why her Papa hadn’t moved her to the back office-and transferred that office offshore.

Such an echo is particularly juicy because it’s rare. I was lucky to eye the article and paragraph. I’d love to hear of similar instances of silent retribution you can share. Or do you think my vengeful attitude is appalling?


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 Extremes in Customer Care

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011





I’ve experienced and been told of great and horrible service over just a few weeks. I had to share so I wouldn’t burst.


Counter Blindness

There’s a deli half a block from my office. I hit the sandwich counter late for lunch, close to 3. After standing there totally ignored by two countermen, I left and bought my toasted bagel elsewhere. This happened a day after I noticed that the deli had increased what they charge for a cup of coffee. Mentioned my grumble to someone in the office who reminded me about another deli where I now go. However, only a few days after my experience, he walked out of the second deli for being ignored by three countermen.


Meanwhile, in our midtown neighborhood, every month a trendy, charming, well lit place crops up within steps of these establishments. Wonder if the counter staff notices—and computes?


butcherAnd one more counter contretemps, surprising in this or any economy, happened at one of the pricey food stalls in Grand Central Station—the butcher. I stood as two women dolled out, weighed, wrapped and priced prepared foods. Neither of them looked at me. I called out, “Can someone please help me?” One yelled down the counter where two men stood. The overhead and operating costs must be astronomical between the prime meats, rent and [over]staffing. Nevertheless the place survives.


A Snap that Takes Forever



I had the worst time ordering photos on line from a source I’d used countless times before. I tore out my hair, called a toll-free number, finally got the order to the number I needed, not the 120 copies the computer insisted I wanted, when I was asked for my ExtraCare number, which I punched in.


I was told it wasn’t in the system, which is strange, as I get countless emails from the place weekly. I raced to the nearby store, was told to get a new number—but that it wouldn’t work for four or five days. Nice, but 1) I needed my photos now and 2) the drastically reduced promotion was over that day. I was told to call them [again]. I was about to toss out my computer and scream like a two year old when I backtracked and told the system that I didn’t have an ExtraCare number. Bingo: The order went through. But was it worth the time and frustration?


Bank on It

I took out money from Chase Bank at night and was shorted $20. I reported it to the customer service desk at the branch at which this happened and I’ve been credited for that amount.


Toying with Me

queenssubway1Before walking over in nasty weather, I called to confirm that a Manhattan toy store that carries one manufacturer’s offerings had the items a child had requested. I was told that they didn’t, but I could go to their Queens branch. Not possible, I said. I asked if they’d please get the item from Queens. “No, we can’t do that, but you can buy it on line.” I looked on line and discovered that the shipping would add $10+ to the cost, which annoyed me, plus I would be late with the gift. Word to the wise: I went to the store anyway and discovered that if they are out of one of their exclusive toys, they will order it on line and there is no shipping charge. But gosh.


Let it Snow-Again

I just wrote about the good and bad affects of this winter’s record-breaking snow.


As 19 inches fell last week, the doorman in our building—which has a large outdoor garden entrance—was shoveling two sets of stairs and the brick path at midnight. He’d shoveled the first time at 8 pm. He’s no spring chicken, was well into an unexpected second shift without a clue about an impending third one. And postmen get all the credit.


The morning after, Joan Marbit, who lives in Manhattan and works in New Jersey wrote me: “I thought of you early this morning.  My clock woke me up 5:30 am. I learned that schools are closed and buses are not running.  So, I made the decision not to drive to NJ as the Manhattan streets are far worse than the roads in NJ. At 5:35 am I got out of bed and opened my front door to find my beloved New York Times waiting for me.  My thought:  ‘The Service of What Service.’”newspaperdelivery1


Meanwhile in midtown, we did not get our Wall Street Journal at the office and we were at work. [It came the next day: News/schmooze.]


Service Wasn’t Included, Then It Was

After an earlier snowstorm a few weeks ago, Delta sent David Reich, a colleague, from Newark to JFK Airport so he could get flights to working airports [away from iced-in Atlanta] to his business meeting in Hawaii. The attendant gave him a voucher for the $90 taxi/tolls but he discovered that the tip wasn’t included. He followed up with customer service on his return and they agreed to send him the $20 he gave the driver.


What’s been your recent pulse on the service meter for routine transactions lately?



Service of Words

Thursday, August 26th, 2010


A segment of “Language Matters” inspired me to again focus on words, last covered in “Service of a Typo Squad,” [June 30, 2009]. The radio program addressed how foreign languages influence English. I heard it on WHDD, National Public Radio on August 15. It wasn’t a comedy, yet I giggled at the intro. The host referred to an American CEO, whose name he couldn’t remember, who allegedly complained, “The trouble with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.”

digitalcameraThis program came at about the same time that a blogger, with whom I’d been working on behalf of a client, asked me to add some “app previews” to the information he’d asked for.  I thought, “I wonder if he wants to read reviews about the client’s smartphone application?” We have a ton of great reviews. But that’s not what he meant. All he wanted were digital images. Previews=photos?

I mentioned these examples to a friend who reminisced about a prominent speaker who was sharing his advice and counsel about the economy to a business audience. My friend clearly remembered this speaker’s introduction over 20 years ago. Referring to the 1980s, the guru began: “We have to be afraid of the two F’s: Fear and inflation.”

bagelsNext there is the recent New York bagel brouhaha. Based on coverage in The New York Post, the story was different from the one I heard in a typical New York City conversation with a stranger. Her angle is telling in that it both focuses on our topic and illustrates how news can be interpreted and spread. It suggests a child’s game of “telephone,” where a simple statement starts as “John ate an apple,” and after it’s whispered from one child to the next ends up: “Apple pie for dessert.”

The stranger and I were passing a huge boarded-up window of a national chain sandwich shop that was open for business, on Third Avenue and 44th Street, and she said, “I wonder if that was caused by an angry customer–like the one at Starbucks?” I asked her for the Starbucks story and she said that a woman had a tantrum because the barista asked her if she wanted butter or cheese WITH her bagel rather than ON her bagel.

According to The New York Post, in “Grammar Stickler: Starbucks Booted Me,” in a very brief piece reported on by three people–John Doyle, Rebecca Rosenberg and Annie Karni–an English professor in her 60s was ejected from the coffee shop franchise by the police for becoming enraged when she wouldn’t declare that she wanted nothing on her toasted bagel when the counterperson insisted that she respond to whether she wanted butter or cheese on it.

Some excerpts from the article:

“‘I just wanted a multigrain bagel,’ [Lynne] Rosenthal told The Post. ‘I refused to say ‘without butter or cheese.’ When you go to Burger King, you don’t have to list the six things you don’t want.'”

“Linguistically, it’s stupid, and I’m a stickler for correct English.”

“I yelled, ‘I want my multigrain bagel!’ ” Rosenthal said. “The barista said, ‘You’re not going to get anything unless you say butter or cheese!’ ”

While this particular post is about words, not service, this example simultaneously taps a “poor service” nerve.

pressagentAnd last, here’s the lead to a press release I just received trying to sell my business something, but I couldn’t tell you what. I don’t bash brands on this blog, so I’ve used _____ where a brand appears in the text. Oh, and this isn’t from a company I’m familiar with, such as Baldwin or Steinway, where I’d know that the service has something to do with pianos.

The lead: “In an effort to help companies around the globe increase operational efficiencies while enhancing the way they communicate with customers,  ______ and _______a leading provider of business communication solutions for document presentment [sic] and personalized customer communications, have agreed to offer _____ leading docu ment [sic] automation solution as a solution extension from ___. Available today, ___ is reselling _____’s solution under the name ‘the ___ Document Presentment application By ________.'”

Have you any amusing, ironic or interesting word stories to share?


Service of Ensuring Work

Friday, August 13th, 2010


A friend and reader of this blog, DB, wrote me last week and inspired a post about jobs and helping others keep theirs. The subject is spot-on in this economy when it is jobs–or lack of same–that many, including me, think is causing this economy to flounder.

She wrote: “In fast food places, I like to leave my tray on the table and full of my used food plates and wrappers rather than carry the garbage to the trash bin and the tray to the stack in a holder. I’ve noticed that people with disabilities frequently work as table clearers. I feel that my deliberate neglect allows such citizens not only to provide a service-but also to keep a job.”

fastfoodDB continued: “Am I being rude or am I more thoughtful to add to the load of the person who was hired to do this menial task? This question plagues me every time I knowingly do not clean up after myself.”

For the same reason, another friend, PE, refused to use the New York City subway/bus MetroCard when it was introduced for fear of putting token booth attendants out of business. Her prediction was accurate: Today there are few token booth people to sell MetroCards [or to guide and guard customers on subway platforms]. The option of buying tokens is gone.

atmmachinePE also refused to use ATM machines. She wanted to help ensure bank clerk’s jobs.

I believe in progress and using technology to run an efficient business. Using paper cards instead of metal tokens and computer-driven machines [when they work] instead of people fits. Paper and machines cost less.

I never thought I was endangering a person’s job by cleaning up after myself in a place that expects me to do so, but DB makes a good point. Using this train of thought we have all added to the problem because computers have removed the need for millions of office and factory workers. I don’t know what I’d do without my computer. Sure she gets sick like a person and misses days of work until the computer doctor can pay a visit, but when she works, she’s a godsend.

What do you think is the most effective way to help ensure others’ jobs? Or instead of trying to save jobs, should we be focusing on creating real, long lasting ones? Like what?  The pundits don’t seem to know.


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