Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Service of When Man Worsens the Impact of Nature & the Happy Ending

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Snow March 2017 at RR station 1 turned

It’s bad enough when you’re not on the spot to eradicate damage left by a hefty snowfall while the precipitation is fresh and easier to remove. That can’t be helped when you park your car at an outdoor lot by a railroad station and you’re not planning to return for a few days or more. Best you can do is hope for a few warm, sunny days to melt the damage if you’re lucky.

When the people hired to clear the snow make it harder for customers to extricate their cars from igloo-like conditions they cause by their lazy snow removal strategy, it’s enraging. None of the other lots on the two hour trip north looked anything like ours—see photos above and right–and we’re told that the last lot on the line a few miles farther north—Wassaic, N.Y.–wasn’t nearly as much of a mess.

There is plenty of space in this lot to dedicate an out-of-the-way areaSnow March 2017 at RR station 2 turned for a giant mound of snow which is standard practice in the northeast. The plows at the Dover Plains station clear the roadway by piling snow against the cars as they go past which makes it much easier and quicker for them and much worse for us.

We’d asked one company what they would charge to get us out and were told, “We’ll let you know when we’re done.” Translation: “Open your checkbook and we’ll see how much we’ll charge you.”

Snow Angels

Our friends Bob and John exit the train in Wassaic. Last Friday they took the early train upstate, extricated their car and drove down to free ours. This was a huge gift. Even if we had the tools, we don’t have the strength for this chore.

To make things worse, I’d jumped the gun in anticipation of spring and committed the mortal error of parking nose first. Not only did they remove the snow-turned to ice that was as high as the trunk and halfwayup the doors, [photo below, left] they had to clear the front, the sides, and where the wheels were to go and then they turned around the car so it was facing out. When a few hours later we walked out of the train and into the car we left the station in minutes singing their praises.

We have no control over nature but we can manage how we deal with it. Have you seen sloppy or spectacular cleanup jobs after storms? Can you share examples of friends who donate not only their muscle and know-how but their precious little free time to help others in a pinch?

The Before: Our car is in the middle

The Before: Our car is in the middle

After: Our car ready to roll.

After: Our car ready to roll.

Service of Luck IV: Watch Where You’re Going

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Luck

I’ve had a spate of good luck recently. Within a few weeks I found two MetroCards on the ground, each with money on them, one, $9+ and the other, all you could use and good for three more weeks. It was worth at least $115 if you take only two rides a day back and forth from work and to run errands on weekends. 

A few days later, walking by the 99 cent pizza shop on 43rd Street adjacent to St. Agnes Catholic Church, I saw $10 on the ground very near to a young man munching a slice. As I swept down to pick it up I noticed he hadn’t treated himself to a soda, plus it was a freezing day so I determined he wasn’t Mr. Moneybags as he’d be eating his lunch indoors. I asked him if the bill was his. He said “yes,” and it probably was.

A few weeks after that, walking home along Second Avenue, I found a wallet in the street with everything in it: Credit wallet on the streetand insurance cards, cash, receipts. Fortunately, along with an appointment card for a Chicago dentist, there was a business card with a name that matched the plastic. I called, the woman was visiting her daughter in NYC and within a few minutes, she and her daughter were in the lobby of my apartment. She’d just arrived from Chicago and her wallet had fallen out of her tote bag as she exited from a cab. We hugged and her daughter said “See Mom? I told you not to worry. There are many nice people in New York.” The next day she sent the most glorious bouquet of flowers [photo below].

That wasn’t all. My husband couldn’t find a credit card and he refused to call the company. He said nobody had charged anything to it and wasn’t worried. I scoured our apartment and house, even checking inside the washer [he thought it was in the pocket of a shirt I’d washed and ironed]. We’ve had a few snowfalls upstate and a company that clears the snow disrupts the gravel in the driveway. I noticed something unexpected sticking out of a pile and there was his blue/gray Visa card. Whew!

Do you keep an eye on the ground where treasures might be found? Any luck lately?

Flowers for wallet

 

Service of Memorials

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

cemetary2

Many remembered and honored the victims of terrorism on the 9th anniversary of September 11 this weekend. The outpouring of emotion and media coverage in the New York City area was poignant.

A friend asked me, “Why are we making such a big deal over 9/11, when,” he noted, “nobody did or does about World War II where so many more people suffered and died–or over other wars for that matter?”  So I decided to share my point of view.

This memorial recognition, while related to the topic of patriotism that I wrote about  in “Service of Independence Day,” is different. It has to do with respect and gratitude.

Back to my friend’s words: I think his impression depends on how you define “big deal” and “nobody” and how people honored their war dead in the past and are comfortable expressing emotion today.

stvincentdepaul2As a child, I attended a yearly memorial mass with my father at the French church, St. Vincent de Paul in New York City. Dad, a World War II veteran and prisoner of war who escaped, was French. In the back of the church, dressed in military uniform, musicians blew trumpets and horns mid-service, so loud that most jumped in their seats, startled even if they anticipated the alarm. The church was always full.

That was largely the extent to which Dad shared his war experience with me, although it scarred his life and his family’s.

normandy-beach2I visited Normandy a few years ago and couldn’t face the cemeteries with thousands of crosses and stars of David and I didn’t know one of those fallen soldiers. Instead, I marveled at Normandy Beach-so barren with not a bush or tree to hide behind. I was awestruck when I saw, in three dimensions, how exposed those soldiers were. You’ve seen the soldiers jump off the boats into enemy gunfire in movies and vintage newsreels. My husband’s uncle landed at that beach and survived. Just imagine.

There are over 58 thousand names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Other memorials, such as Holocaust Museums or Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam, attract millions yearly from around the world.

So why does one horrific event that exterminated a few thousand continue to pull on our heartstrings and how come we recognize these dead, almost a decade later, from what was equivalent to a battle more than a war, with the same fervor as the year after? The raw wound might be because the act broke all rules of war; attackers victimized innocent citizens and involved no military forces. We are more vocal and emotional than our forebears where stiff upper lip was the fashion. And, I think, we are still shocked by the sheer below-the-belt, horrific ramifications of it all.

What do you think?

worldtradecenter

Service of Tips

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

tips

I’ve wanted to touch on the topic of tips since April when Susannah Cahalan wrote about them in The New York Post. In “Tip-jar madness takes city,” she pointed out that tip cups are cropping up all over the place where we’d not before seen them-at hot dog stands at baseball games, in movie theatres by the popcorn, soda and candy counter, even at stores with grocery baggers. Nobody takes bags to a car for customers because most city people don’t have or use cars for grocery shopping. And in the suburbs, people bring their heavy bags to their car in carts.

I began to look for tip cups and notice them now on deli counters all year long. We’d see them only at holiday time before.

Cahalan wrote “New Yorkers are typically more generous than the rest of the nation-paying an average gratuity of 18 percent, versus the nationwide 15 percent.” At the end of the article, she provided an estimate of tips that New Yorkers give a year–$3,333.79. I haven’t totaled mine, but I disagree with some of the figures on which her total is based-which is a demographic issue. I don’t hire a nanny so the $777 allocated doesn’t apply but there is no money listed for a cleaning person.

doormanWe give far more than $30 to our building superintendent and each doorman at holiday time, but we don’t eat out three times a week anymore so I doubt that we give $1,170 to restaurant wait staff. I prefer walking and taking the subway–the fastest way to get around town–so I doubt I tip cab drivers $308.88 in 12 months. And I never go to the hairdresser for a haircut only, so it’s hard to tell what part of the tip I give relates to the $34.23 Cahalan allocated, but this seems on the low side. In fact, the proportion of tips for waiters vs. say, a doorman you see daily appears out of whack and points to another reason the population is becoming increasingly fat.

winecasesThere are times when I enjoy giving a tip. One is when I buy a case or two of wine at Trader Joe on East 14th Street [which is easy to do as you can pay $36 for a dozen pretty amazing bottles]. There are volunteer staffers with hand trucks to walk the cases–cheerfully–to your car even if it’s parked a few blocks away. They won’t even let you load the boxes into the trunk.

Another is when the store has kitty litter only in 50 lb bags, not the usual 20 lb ones I prefer. I’m grateful for help lugging the bag to my car and pleased to thank with more than a smile.

A former boss told me that she left a restaurant near Lincoln Center that had the worst service she’d ever encountered and as she walked up Broadway, the offending waiter raced after her to tell her she’d forgotten to add a tip on her credit card receipt. She was outspoken and you can imagine what her response was.

taxiWhat about cab or ambulette drivers who provide harrowing rides?

 

On the other side of the coin, I was appalled by an overstuffed 20-something brat who complained about the tip rule that’s clearly marked on menus at most restaurants in the city. For parties over six or eight, management automatically adds 15 percent to the bill. His gripe: “I paid $100 for my meal” [and given this was some years ago, make that $150 today]. “Why should I pay any more than that?” Guess this miser thought waiters in expensive restaurants work for free. The rule was made due to such stingy, self-indulgent people.

apartmenthouseMy mother’s next door neighbor was constantly annoyed because the super at their apartment building dragged his feet when she called him to fix something. She noticed that the same man came in a trice when my mom asked for help. Mom told her a million times to give the super a tip when he’d worked at her place and she’d say, “I only tip at Christmas.” No wonder she often had to wait until then to get action.

For a haircut, meal or manicure, what percentage do you tip? Have you noticed tip cups in new places where you work and live? Do you feel intimidated into give tips when you see a cup or even when service is poor?

thumbsupanddown

Service of Bonuses

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

bankbonus

There’s lots of talk about Wall Street and bank bonuses as well as the toys in Happy Meals, which got me thinking of the subject of the windfalls I’ve most enjoyed.

milkshakeIn college, Brigham’s milk shakes stood out. Next to a tall glass of thick coffee ambrosia–sometimes chocolate or strawberry–the milkshake-maker set down the icy-cold metal container in which s/he’d assembled–and the machine stirred–the concoction. The bonus contained almost as much as the original portion. Sigh.

lifesaverI’ll never forget the Lifesaver books my mom got as a stockholder [maybe from Kraft Foods?] at Christmastime. The packaging was in the shape of a book which, when you opened it, was filled with a remarkable assortment of Lifesavers. I’ve owned stock in various companies for eons and I’ve never received such a gift.

I’m thrilled when a conductor gives the audience an encore, which happens less and less these days. Union rules?

freeadviceShortly after I’d left Art & Antiques magazine, I helped out a stranger who called for advice about his art gallery opening. Someone suggested to him that I might help even though I’d launched a business in a different stratosphere. During our brief phone call, I recommended media he should invite and made some marketing suggestions. I soon forgot about the conversation that was similar to hundreds that I’ve had over the years. On Thanksgiving morning, the elevator man handed me an envelope from the gallery owner. In the thank you note was a very generous check. It was the first and the last time I saw a cent from someone needing “just a little information.”

When newsletters were printed the old fashioned way, large PR agencies spent a ton of money with local printers. The one we used was tremendously generous. As we left the restaurant after lunch, the waiter handed me an entire cheesecake because I’d swooned over the slice I’d just eaten. A total treat.

I mentor college and graduate students. When they incorporate some of my suggestions into their approach, or continue to ask me questions once the relationship/school year is officially over, these events are at the top of my bonus list.

What have been some of your most memorable or favorite bonuses?

bonus2

Service of Gratitude

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The New York Women in Communications Foundation has launched a Gratitude Wall on its web site. For $10 you can let the world know that you are grateful to someone and why. Along with the message, you can also post a photo.

The initiative–recently posted–helps support student scholarships. It got me thinking about appreciation and of whom and about what I’m grateful.

Even in the best of economic times, every year has its downs for someone–it’s a universal condition my sister reminds me with each crisis. A friend, Anne, says “Nobody gets out free,” especially when you tell her about the So-and-So’s who live picture-perfect lives in a Father Knows Best 1950s-style family. All grandparents are around and in good enough shape to enjoy their brilliant grandchildren–slated for Harvard, Yale and Princeton–and siblings on both sides of the family live near one another in Kumbaya-mode–cousins, too–and, of course, there’s plenty of money all ’round.

I could take this occasion–the cusp of the New Year–to compare this year’s losses, fears and stresses and see which one of us “wins.”  I know that some readers are in the proverbial eye of life-transforming tornadoes.

But to help readjust the balance in our hearts, especially if the bad currently outpaces the good, I’ve opted to list some of the things for which I am grateful and welcome you to do the same. Every time I think I am done, I think of more things. That’s a good sign.

**My husband, friends and family. Without them, bereft wouldn’t begin to describe my feelings.

carasmall1**My furry, huggable, destructive, mouse-killing, lap-snoozing, moody kitty cat.

**When my Blackberry, computer, printer, telephone and the electricity work.

**Every day I get to enjoy our country house.

**The Millbrook Free Library [where I write many of my posts].

**When I can renew an unfinished book on line.

**The office I go to and the people in it.

**The students I mentor and continue to be in touch with.

**Dinner at home is a treat and often a surprise. My husband has become the most creative and superb cook and we eat far better chez nous than in most restaurants.

**The view of the East River from our apartment.

**When I discover a craftsperson who makes something creative in a fabulous way.

**NCIS, The Closer and Law & Order, even in reruns.

**George Stephanopoulos on Sunday mornings.

**Everyone who takes the time to comment on the posts in this blog and/or to contribute a post.

**When someone gives me spectacular service or is courteous.

**When I discover a great topic to cover on this blog–I’ve already thought of a bunch for the New Year.

**Flowers and plants, especially the ones that survive winters in a chilly house.

**A spectacular concert. We heard a goosebump-raising one recently by the Bard College student orchestra that brought the audience to its feet.

**The hope and promise of a New Year.

So tell me, what are you grateful for?

Service of Anniversaries

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Celebrating milestones is universal. The Happy Birthday song is so well known that doctors and public health officials tell children and adults to sing it twice so as to sufficiently clean away flu-generating germs when they wash their hands with soap and water.

Today we celebrate the first anniversary of The Importance of Earnest Service. Thank you for your responsiveness–583 comments and lots of e-mails noting that you follow and enjoy the posts!

In all there have been 106 posts in 80+ categories starting with “Accommodation” [22 posts] through “Writing” [3] with “Customer Service” garnering the most coverage–40–and no surprise.

I wonder: Is a year of posts equal to a book or to three human years, something like a human year is equal to seven dog years?

 

Bloggers will tell you that the number of comments you get about a post is irrelevant. Evaluating the success of a post is a bit like hugging mercury–hard to do. Yet I’ve tried to figure out why some bloggers with gazillion readers generate few comments. What is it about some posts that trigger an avalanche of responses? Maybe some posts cover all the bases and there’s nothing more to say or the readers who follow certain blogs are not communicative, don’t want to be heard, have no time or hate to write.

In any case, until today I’ve never looked back to count the comments to see which subjects generated the most conversation. The first post got 18–wishing me good luck–followed by “Sales Dressed as Charity & Service,” [November 11, 2008], where 15 let their opinions be known about the practice of grocery and bookstores that try to embarrass customers into buying a book, toy or food–from them of course–to pass on to charities.   

“Service of 1,000+ Supermarkets vs. A Pair of Bread Boutiques,” came next. Fourteen people shared their happy experiences with Publix and/or their favorite supermarkets. Although I love the number 13, we didn’t get that total number of comments though a dozen thoughtful readers commented both on December 15, “Coffee Service with More than a Smile” about Sam and his midtown Manhattan coffee cart and on February 5, about “Rewards for Top Performers.”

“Service of Awards,” [May 1], “Good Service is in the Air, Isn’t It?” [January 29], “Service Cut Short by the Clock,” a guest post, [January 2] and “Click-N-Shipped,” another guest post, [December 9] inspired 11 observations each.

A bunch of people tossed their thoughts into the ring in virtual roundtables and I didn’t count those posts. Along with the spontaneous reactions to them, they might actually have generated the most comments.

I love celebrations–other people’s birthdays or my and our friends’ anniversaries. I take advantage of any opportunity to shoot photos of the festivities and to bake-cupcakes, chocolate cake, cookies, brownies, pies. Wish I could figure out how to bake a sweet blog and share the slices.

What inspires you to comment ? Why do you shy away from thought-sharing? What are some of your favorite blogs?

Service of Pack and Hold

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Web consultant and developer Deirdre Wyeth, president of D. Wyeth & Associates, sent along an example of super service. We agree!

And Deirdre, who is one of the best in her business, knows about earnest service. There are few people who so graciously serve others and share their expertise with clients and friends as she does. In addition to her many clients, Deirdre was vice president of communications specializing in new media for New York Women in Communications and currently sits on the organization’s Foundation board.

Here’s the experience she shared with her daughter, who is a college freshman:

Bed, Bath and Beyond has a “pack and hold” service for college students (and their parents!). You go to your local store and register. Then they give you an electronic scanner. You canvas the store and scan in everything you want. You return to the desk, and they read the scanner against the remote store’s inventory and tell you what it does and doesn’t have. You can then decide to substitute items, or just knock them off the list. They print out and hand you directions from the college to the remote store, and you’re set.

When you get to the college town, you go to BBB and there’s a box waiting. You can make sure everything’s there, and you can decide what to get or not — you don’t have to pay in advance. We put an under-bed storage unit on our list, but in my daughter’s dorm room, the beds were raised, and furniture was underneath. No problem at BBB – we didn’t have to buy it.

The staff at each end was incredibly nice and helpful about the process. And the service meant we didn’t have to rent a van to get everything to school — we emptied out the load from home, and then picked up the BBB items.

Anything that makes moving a child into college easier is a miracle.

Talk about thinking outside the box! We’d love to hear of your examples of creative earnest service. Send them along!

Pro Bono Service, Silent and Powerful

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Apart from students, what do Publicolor, Midori & Friends, a college scholarship program and The City University of New York [CUNY] graduate school all have in common? They benefit from the counsel of four advisors who act like a silent board of directors. They share their connections, business acumen and counsel just as any marketing agency does, advising startups and charities that couldn’t otherwise pay for this level of service in a million years. The cost of doing business with them? $0.

These are silent partners in many ways. They’ve asked me not to name them or the company they formed. However, they hope that other retired people around the country might similarly share their experience to help others, as they have thrived doing for a dozen years.

 

This foursome has been friends for half a century. Two were partners in an advertising agency for 30 years, one wrote sitcoms and knows his way around television and the last one was a direct marketing guru turned real estate tycoon. They rent an office in midtown Manhattan and enjoy each other’s company so much that they lunch together almost daily. Their wives are also best friends, but they warn that the unusual personal aspect of their relationship, while precious to them, is not necessary for their angel model to work anywhere else in the country.

“We’re masters of stealth marketing,” said one of these compassionate mystery men, referring to their specialty also known as undercover or buzz marketing. “We give advice but we never write or execute a plan. After a two-hour meeting, it might take six months for our clients to implement a solution. Objectives range from building an effective board of directors or raising money to identifying the person with the power and/or connections to clear an unexpected logjam in an organization crucial to a charity.”

They distinguish themselves in another way: All their clients do good works. Through Publicolor, Ruth Shuman, her staff and volunteers add color to the drab, peeling walls of inner city schools. The violinist Midori shares the gift of music with underserved New York public school children and 200 talented children have gone to college thanks to a generous foundation the quartet has counseled. In addition, a city-run graduate system with a board of distinguished scholars initiated a successful and critical endowment program. The simple solution was staring them in the face: offer to name a building after a keystone donor.

In addition, each of the partners continues to support their own special projects related to alma maters, houses of worship and the like.

Do you know of people who generously share their wisdom like this? Might you form such a group or recommend to parents or grandparents that they share the legacy of their experience to benefit and serve others?   

 

Transforming a Bad Break into a Triple Win

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Matt Mecs, who has written a guest post here and most recently participated in the virtual focus group, “Do Good Manners = Good Service?” [February 13], shared a great experience with us. Matt is vice president, director of sales of Local Focus Radio. He’s also an instructor at Metropolitan College of New York.

Matt writes:

“The key broke in my bike lock that had a lifetime warranty, so I called a locksmith to cut it open with an acetylene torch, and bought a new lock the next day.

“I mailed the broken lock to Kryptonite and not only did they send me a new lock, they also paid me back for the cost of the locksmith!  To make things even better, my bike store took the new lock and gave me store credit for it, which ended up to their benefit when I bought a new bike from them.”

 Win-win: Smart business and great service on behalf of Kryptonite and the bike store. Matt also did the right thing. He could have looked for a super discount opportunity but was loyal to the local shop. Does Matt’s experience remind you of a similar one?

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