Archive for the ‘Courtesy’ Category

Service of Pretentious Behavior in Restaurants, in Business & at Home

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Photo: hssaz.org

Who is taken in by pretentious behavior? Such conduct has always turned me off.

Foodie Foolishness

Photo: myhumblekitchen.com

Number 10 of “The 19 Types of Food Snobs, Ranked by Obnoxiousness,” by Andy Kryza and Matt Lynch, stuck out to me. They wrote in Thrillist,com: “It’s been two years since The Repatriated Expat moved back to the US after a magical six months residing in Spain. And yet, the backhanded comments about how ‘it’s so weird to be eating dinner before 10 pm,’ the observations that the gin and tonics ‘just aren’t the same,’ and the refusal to consume any red wine that isn’t Rioja have not lessened in the slightest.” This was my favorite–fun post.

Office Folderol
I started working just as executive secretaries no longer placed calls for bosses. They went like this:

  • Secretary No. 1: “Hello, Mr. Jones calling to speak with Mr. Snodgrass.”
  • Secretary No. 2: “Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Jones calling.” Snodgrass would get on the line and wait until Jones’ secretary got hold of him—unless Jones had left the office by then and it all started again.

The practice never made sense to me: Why waste four people’s time to accomplish one task?

A similar dynamic happens today sometimes. If I expect a response, I need either to copy—or email—the person’s assistant–even if he/she knows me. It’s pretentious. Why? Many other women and men juggling as many as three busy lives—demanding jobs, onerous family responsibilities and often time-sucking pro bono obligations—get back to me directly and without the fanfare.

Expensive Fashion Accessory

Photo: pinterest.com

In a book review about Meryl Gordon’s “Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend,” I read about Bunny’s sending a private jet to pick up a scarf that was in another of her homes to coordinate with an outfit she was planning to wear. Was Bunny [photo left] spoiled or pretentious? Maybe someone tattled on Mrs. Mellon: Is a person being pretentious if nobody is supposed to know what they do?

Do food snobs drive you nuts? Can you name superfluous, affected business behavior? Are pretentious people aware of the impact of their behavior? Do some not realize that they are?

Photo: redbubble.com

Service of Because They Can Though Maybe They Shouldn’t

Monday, July 10th, 2017

The world seems to be divided between those who do anything they want because they can and those who factor in others. Since I wrote, last week, about the executives who don’t blink at charging exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs my mind continues in that track.

The driver of a supersized SUV turning into 45th Street from First Avenue didn’t take his foot off the pedal for one second and almost ran me over. Why? Because he could—nobody stopped him and even if he’d hit me, he’d have been off and running for the same reason. The light was fully in my favor [as in the photo above] and I was crossing at just the right place [unusual for some New Yorkers].

The driver felt big, important and on a mission. I was an irritating pedestrian in his way, slowing progress. This scene happens countless times a day to thousands all over the city. Over the weekend we were in a cab that missed being slammed by a zigzagging driver who treated Lexington Avenue as though it was a super highway. Sometimes the threatening vehicles are bicycles driven by thoughtless, entitled individuals.

Photo: pinterest

The SUV incident happened two days after NJ Governor Christie sunned himself on Island Beach State Park in front of the state-owned summer house [photo right]. This beach—and all state parks in the Garden State–were closed to other citizens June 30-July 3 because of the second government shutdown in that state’s history. Christie’s beach time wasn’t illegal—the house has access to the beach—though when he and the family were captured on camera by a news helicopter, it didn’t look good [no pun intended]. As Christie put it at a news conference in which he was criticized: “Run for governor, and you can have a residence there,” according to nj.com.

Island Beach State Park, NJ

He claimed that he’d promised his son that he would celebrate his birthday at the beach. But just because he could didn’t mean he should when his constituents had to cancel their picnic, swimming and sunning plans. “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t set well with most. In fact, his selfishness may have ruined it for future governors. There’s talk about selling the house or renting it to generate income for the state.

For the most part, the people I know and work with are thoughtful, caring, empathetic, courteous and cordial—because they choose to be. The men at the transfer station in Millbrook, NY were so gentle and understanding when I showed up on a recent Saturday with a car filled with garbage, paper and bottles. I was wringing my hands because I didn’t have my ticket [the first time ever]. I felt overwhelmed by their kind, understanding response. “Not to worry,” they said, “We’ll get you next time,” and they grabbed for the bags and bottles and moved them to join like refuse in the three separate sections. Wet garbage costs $5/bag.

In your life, are there more SUV drivers and Christie-like characters or more people like the men at the transfer station?

Service of New York Experiences: Surprise Elegance and Not

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Panama hat

I recently bought low-priced items from people working tough jobs in uncomfortable circumstances with very different service experiences.

I paid $10 for something from a street cart and was impressed by the vendor’s elegant approach. There was nothing stylish or surprising about his goods or merchandising. His scarves, hats and paraphernalia looked like those on similar carts around the city. The temperature was flirting with 90 and the typical NYC summer humidity was enough to make anyone feel grumpy and lethargic if they were stuck on the street all day.

Photo: businessinsider.com

Photo: businessinsider.com

I handed the money to his young assistant who’d been helping me which she gave to him. [It was the first time I saw him.] She asked me if I wanted a bag. I said I didn’t want to eat into the profits. He took my item, opened an “I love NY” plastic sack, placed my purchase inside and handed it to me as though it was an important purchase wrapped in the finest paper bag with elegant logo and ribbon handles. His expression: “we do things right here.” I’ve been treated with far less decorum by sales associates at luxury retail establishments. 

A few days before I was on lunch break from jury duty in one of the handsome buildings seen on the “Law & Order” TV series in downtown Manhattan. Given the time I had to eat and return to the jury waiting area I decided takeout was the wise option. Heading toward Chinatown I saw a short line of men wearing suits or business pants and shirts. They were outside a tiny establishment that accommodated two people at the serving counter and sold only dumplings and buns. The shabby shop on a narrow street nevertheless had an A sanitation rating.

Chinese dumplingsThe middle aged woman taking and fulfilling the orders barked at customers if she spoke at all. The customer behind me was familiar with the routine and guided me. I can’t blame her: Given the scorching hot dumplings—I had to wait quite a while before I could eat them without burning my mouth—imagine standing behind a steam apparatus that heated the food on a summer afternoon. I didn’t feel air conditioning inside. The dumplings cost $1 for five. I ate most of 10 on a bench outside a playground in the shade of a giant tree.

I was happy with my purchase from the street vendor because of his positive approach. The shockingly modest price of the toothsome dumplings and unconventional lunch [I usually eat yogurt and popcorn at my desk] balanced the unfriendly communication with the restaurant server. [I say restaurant as there were a few stools for those who wanted to eat in.] Who expects a smile with $2 worth of dumplings?

Do you anticipate reduced treatment when you don’t pay a lot and are you at times surprised?

Photo: morristowngreen.com

Photo: morristowngreen.com

Service of Updating Information

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

 

Checklist 2“Beadwildered” in New Jersey wrote me to share her recent experience at a small store – an incident that gives major clues to why, apart from the major changes in retail and the stress of having to close a business–this one hit the skids.

Central to this tale is the lackadaisical way in which some update business information on websites, which ends up frustrating potential customers and wasting their time. Reminds me of the NYC hotel at which a friend booked a room over the Internet. Only by luck did I call the place before she arrived to learn that it was no longer in midtown, [which was essential to her stay].  I can’t blame it on the web either. The days of print-only weren’t much better. Arriving at movie houses in NYC only to learn that the movie was no longer playing or the showtime hours were incorrect taught me: Call before going.

This is what Beadwildered wrote:

Beads on black dressI needed to buy some small jet beads to replace beading that has fallen off a cocktail dress.  Once upon a time, they were easy to find at a fabric or craft store.  But try finding a fabric store in the suburbs anymore. And the craft stores are all big-box stores out on the highways.  As it happens, I do have a local fabric store, but the owner said he can no longer get small packets of beads. He recommended a bead store three towns away. 

I looked at the website and the photos showed packets of beads.  While I drove the 20 minutes to the store it began to pour. When I got to the store, it was partially dismantled. 

A woman inside came to the door to find out what I wanted.  “I hope you’re not closed after I drove all this way,” I said. 

“We’re closed for good,” was her reply.  But she reluctantly let me in out of the rain. 

“Hadn’t you seen the sign? It was up for 19 weeks,” she said in a very disdainful manner.

“I live three towns away and rarely get over this way,” was my defense.  I drive out this way once in a while, but this is not the kind of store that stands out and catches your eye. 

Bead storeI told her what I was looking for, mentioning that I’d seen packets of beads on the website and didn’t think to call as a result.  “We haven’t had those in years,” she snorted.

She reluctantly let me poke around but kept saying I wouldn’t find what I needed.  As I looked, I commented that it must be hard to run a bead store in today’s world.  She indignantly said she’d been in business for 19 years but it was done now. 

Finally, she asked if I had a sample and I showed her one of the beads I was trying to match.  She snorted more loudly that they had nothing of the kind.  

As I went back out into the downpour, I reflected that if she’d always been this nasty and arrogant, she did everyone a service in going out of business. Granted, since she was no longer selling I no longer qualified as a potential customer.  But how hard would it have been to be nice?

Store closing signThe bead store owner had 19 weeks to note on her website that she was closing the store. Depending on one vehicle of communication–a sign–is never enough. And she obviously didn’t update the information on the web if she hadn’t carried the featured bags of beads for years.  In addition, the advantage of a small business is service. Granted closing a business that’s been in your blood for almost two decades is tragic. Beadwildered might not have thought twice about the inconvenience of her fruitless trek had the owner broken down to lament the loss or apologized that she’d gone out of her way for nothing. 

Retail is grueling, even when a business thrives. Retailers have nerves of steel to survive the whining and bilking that some customers depend on to chisel and defraud businesses big and small.

Are you acquainted with small retail businesses that flourish or any that have closed in large part for reasons they cause? What are some businesses that do a remarkable job of updating their communications with customers? 

Communication skills

Service of Watch Out: Take Special Care When Driving or Walking in the City

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Car Accident Second AvenueAs a longtime driver in both city and country apart from the whammy of nasty weather–especially ice, fog or blinding rain–there wasn’t too much to concern me. I figured in the city the worst that could happen was a fender-bender given speed limits.

All that’s changed.

Deer surprise-leaping onto roads and smashing into cars are an ever-present danger upstate making vigilance imperative even in sunshine on a crisp fall day.

There are no deer to surprise city drivers but the other distractions and impediments aggravated by traditional NYC impatience also affect driving and especially walking in the Big Apple. There have always been accidents involving vehicles running over New Yorkers and tourists, even leaping onto sidewalks. They were attributed to road rage, physical impairment and faulty brakes.

Car Accident 90th StreetWhat’s different is that these incidents–almost misses–have happened over the past two months and I’ve photographed the aftermath. It’s disquieting. One vehicle [Photo at top] landed on a midtown Second Avenue sidewalk at a time people walk to work. Another [Photo at right] backed up on Third Avenue at such a speed that it crossed a side street, jumped the sidewalk [where pedestrians might have been waiting] and stopped by slamming into an apartment building.

Photo: Lookupcampaign.com

Photo: Lookupcampaign.com

In the city I worry about distracted pedestrians intent on communicating as they walk down a sidewalk or wait for a light. They are a danger to themselves. I’m concerned about older people who can’t jump out of the way or children who are intently chatting or are oblivious to their surroundings, lost in the reverie of the music coming from ear pods.

Add bicycles and skateboards that don’t always follow traffic rules. A recent New York Post headline was: “Nicole Kidman bowled over by paparazzo on bike” and showed photos of the actor picking herself off the sidewalk.

The East 40s were awash with police during the annual September meeting of the UN General Assembly. I saw a pair crossing a street with the light on Friday morning. One of them barely missed being mowed down by a bicycle. The rider hadn’t stopped at his red light and dashed into Second Avenue traffic treating the city like a racetrack. The policeman put on a brave front chuckling when his partner and traffic colleagues teased him. He might have been severely injured.

Have you also been aware of increased road craziness in your town or city? Is it caused by a general malaise leading to distracted drivers and pedestrians or has the well recognized lack of courtesy or awareness of others moved from human interactions to bigger and more physically dangerous arenas?

 

Photo: jalopnik.com

Service of Signoffs

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Fountain Pen

I don’t always sign every email with a “Regards,” “Best,” “XOX,” “Hugs” or anything else, especially after the first response followed by a rash of back and forth or if I’m dashing off a note on a subway platform using a handheld to update a friend or relative about a tidbit—but only someone from whom I hear almost daily. I’ll have to check; I think I add an xx before the jb or jm every first time.

So I disagree with Matthew J.X Madady who wrote on Slate.com: “You say ‘Best.’ I say No. It’s time to kill the email signoff.”

XOXIn the middle of his post he wrote: “After 10 or 15 more ‘Regards’ of varying magnitudes, I could take no more. I finally realized the ridiculousness of spending even one second thinking about the totally unnecessary words that we tack on to the end of emails. And I came to the following conclusion: It’s time to eliminate email signoffs completely. Henceforth, I do not want—nay, I will not accept—any manner of regards. Nor will I offer any. And I urge you to do the same.” [The bold is mine.]

Writing on smartphoneI empathize with the discomfort involved with writing on a smartphone or tablet but there’s no excuse about typing another word or two on a computer using a standard keyboard. In any case, his point is not about comfort on a tiny or slippery keyboard but about the time it takes to think of the appropriate signoff. [This from a writer?]

If Madady wrote this post to up the readership of Slate.com he succeeded. I heard about his nixing “Fondly,” “Love,” “Sincerely” or “See you soon” on a radio program where the host, John Gambling, thought his assertion was atrocious.

shining spotlightAnother hint that Madady was looking at shining the spotlight on himself and Slate rather than to eradicate signoffs is that it’s so easy to add a generic one to a signature template–he’d never have to write another one again. Time? Not much. If that signoff is too cute and cheery when acknowledging news of illness or death–delete it. Time? Not much.

In any case, I hope he’s not serious. Courtesy is worth the time and distinguishes considerate humans from boors. How much more of a hatchet to civility will we tolerate and accept?

 child shaking hands with adult

Service of Dammed If You Do & If You Don’t

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

scam-alert

A friend, I will call her Lisa, works in a small but prominent boutique with beautiful things. She’s been in high-end retail most of her life, has owned stores and traveled abroad on buying missions for years.

boutiqueLast week a woman returned an item saying it had broken. Lisa offered immediately to exchange it for another one and was pleased to see she had one in exactly the same colors, when she noticed that the item was badly stained.  She immediately figured that the woman had broken the piece so as to wangle a new one. Lisa also knew that she couldn’t get a replacement from the manufacturer under these circumstances.

Meanwhile, the store continued to fill up with other customers.

Lisa pointed out the stain and offered to have the piece fixed explaining why she could no longer give her a new one, at which the customer began to argue loudly that the thing broke the first time she used it and that she wanted a new one because she was a good customer. [Lisa had never before seen her though clearly someone had been to the store to buy the article.]

angry-womanKnowing she was being taken, Lisa chose not to inflict a scene on the others. She also wanted to free herself to answer their questions, ring up and wrap their selections. So she gave the woman a new item to get rid of her. 

When I saw Lisa several hours afterwards, she was still annoyed that she’d done that, angry that she’d caused a loss to her employer. She felt this woman deliberately came at a busy time, knowing loud arguments aren’t conducive to business, figuring a crowd to unsettle would work in her favor.

In my opinion, the woman stole the second item from the store. Had she brought in the soiled piece and asked if the manufacturer could clean it or requested the name of a stain remover she might try on the textile, that would have been another thing.

Lisa’s boss backed her decision though several colleagues said she shouldn’t have let the woman get away with it and claimed that they wouldn’t have been so easy on this weasel.

What would you have done? Can you share other examples of no matter what, you’re wrong?

arrowsintwodirections

Service of Tourism

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Portland Museum of Art

Portland Museum of Art

We traveled to Portland, Maine on business and stayed an extra day to enjoy this charming city. We knew immediately that smart, service-minded people directed principal tourist attractions, like the Portland Museum of Art. The museum is open on Mondays during tourist season-Memorial Day through October: So smart.

The guard welcomed us when we visited on a Tuesday, suggesting we take off our winter coats “so that the outer layer will keep you warm when you go outside again,” he said as he ushered us to the coatroom. I’ve been in museums in small cities around the world and have never been so warmly welcomed.

The cashier at a landmark Maine retailer asked me if I liked tart, citrus-y lemon drops and I said, “Oh, yes!” He recommended that I not buy the attractive tin of candy I’d chosen, warning that they were tasteless. “I thought they were so awful that I returned mine,” he admitted. Now that’s service! [I don’t want to get him in trouble so I’m not identifying the wonderful store.]

Fore Street Restaurant

Fore Street Restaurant

Food in Portland was superlative. With auctioneers Annette and Rob Elowitch, owners of Baridoff Galleries Fine Art Auctions, we enjoyed a memorable dinner at Fore Street Restaurant in the old part of the city. Portland natives, the Elowitch’s, whom we came to see, didn’t know us, and yet they insisted we share a meal in their city. They selected Fore Street Restaurant for its ambiance and cooking. The bread, beet salad, oysters and fish were toothsome. Their enthusiasm for their city made them platinum spokespeople.

dimillosAt DiMillo’s we took advantage of an off-season special-two steamed lobsters, perfectly cooked, for $24. Breakfast at Bintliff’s American Café, which PR colleague David Reich recommended, included a blueberry pancake, lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar, of a consistency-perhaps with a Scandinavian influence–unlike any I’ve ever tasted. I was so full of lobster from the night before, and yet I ate the entire pancake it was that light and delicious.

Portland is well worth a detour and a stay. Please share the names of similar destinations that happily surprised you.

 

Bintliff's American Cafe

Bintliff's American Cafe

Service of Stress

Monday, November 7th, 2011

stormhalloween2011-010-small3

As a Manhattanite born and bred I couldn’t help hearing the myth about how nasty, brusque and rude we all are and how pleasant, cordial, and kind country people are. So I’ve always bent over backwards to disprove the former, and I’m ready with an “Aha!” when I find instances that invalidate the latter.

Last weekend’s storm gave me fodder for some “Ahas!” [I took most of the photos in today’s post at our house last Sunday morning, after the storm. The poor old tree at the top belongs to a neighbor.]

Huge limbs and entire trees littered roads after an early, heavy, deep Saturday snow did its damage, lending credence to the emergency status declared for Dutchess County. [In Connecticut, there are still 50 thousand homes in the dark over a week later.]

Only one lane of a two-lane main road was open as crews hadn’t yet had time to clear the debris, so there were lines of cars on either side waiting a turn to pass.

I stopped to let the other lane of traffic go by as the lane I was on had gone through for quite some time. A car behind me swept by and dashed through the tight corridor, acting nothing like a country gentleperson, more like a hopped up brat.

Once the opposite lane emptied out, I started to negotiate the tight open spot when from over the hill came an aggressive jerk who accelerated as he saw the situation, missing me by a hair. I just had time to back up and out of his way.

stormhalloween2011-004smallMonday morning we already knew that we would be in busses for the first lap of the trip to the city. Temperature was 23 degrees and there was ice all over the parking lot. Two busses with drivers were there but they let us stand in the cold. When they finally opened their doors, we asked to put our suitcases in the busses’ belly. “Can’t unlock it,” was the sour response, forcing us to struggle up narrow stairs and the aisle lugging our things in a vehicle designed to hold people and briefcases.

As three giant busses arrived at the station where we normally change trains, a train pulled out of the station. Once the passengers from four stations had hung out on more ice on the open platform for 15 minutes, I meandered over to a stationmaster I’d just noticed.

stormhalloween2011-006smallHe was brave to be out there with us and I soon learned we were finally in good hands. I asked him when our train was coming, figuring it had been delayed. He mentioned a time that was an hour away. I then asked if the train that pulled out just as the “connecting” busses arrived at the station was the train to NYC. Answer: “I apologize.” He did help out best he could by getting a train to the station 20 minutes early so we could be warm and dry while we waited for departure.

There were other similar smart thinking people in the aftermath. On Sunday morning we had a welcome breakfast at the diner in town. The diner had no electricity so there was neither heat nor light but a generator worked a stove. Eggs on paper plates and coffee in paper cups tasted delicious. Adjacent towns had no such luxuries. In one, early Monday, national chains were locked tight: Not a drop of joe to be had.

City people have enormous stresses year ’round simply to get to work on overcrowded subways and busses in rush hour. Country people felt stresses last weekend. Many of us had barely gotten over the costly stretches of no electricity during Hurricane Irene. Does nastiness and recklessness happen as a result of stress,  poor upbringing or what?

stormhalloween2011-005small1

Service of Duh

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

duh2

I was surprised by the glitch in the planning of the President’s speech before the joint session of Congress tonight. When planning an event for a client, I check industry calendars and place a call to a trade editor or two to see if he/she knows of potential conflicts for a date in question. I can’t believe that the White House staff didn’t do such elementary research. Duh number one.

calendarOK, so they didn’t. I am equally surprised and disappointed that there is so little respect for the office of President that the Republican debate organizers didn’t defer and select another date. This isn’t a duh moment as much as a worrisome attitude for a country with huge problems to solve.  And everyone’s watching: Duh!

The cat’s out of the bag given our slip in a World Economic Forum listing. In 2008 we were first, Mathew Saltmarsh reported in “U.S. Slips to Fifth Place On Competitiveness List.” He wrote in The New York Times: “The weaker performance was attributed to economic vulnerabilities as well as ‘some aspects of the United States’ institutional environment,’ notably low public trust in politicians and concerns about government inefficiency.” Would you invest in a corporation with warring factions? Another duh: Why should people want to invest in this country if our leaders can’t even be cordial and cooperative about a date?

electricity1On another subject, some of the electric companies in the NY Metro area after Hurricane/tropical storm Irene–in Long Island and Connecticut especially–got a zero grade in both customer service and PR. Caroline Gatto commented about her friend and relatives’ frustrating experiences in these states in the “Service of Silver Linings” post. Some customers, sitting in houses without electricity for five and six days, couldn’t get through to their supplier on the phone. Others were unable to speak with a person. Routinely people in suburbs and exurbs lose electricity whether from weather or blackout. An effective crisis plan for an electric company to communicate with customers in such instances is elementary. Not having one is a duh.

In fact, all these examples illustrate disrespect: White House staff for anyone else, John Boehnor & Co. for the office of President and the electric companies for their customers.

Do you see a relationship between duh-like work and behavior and disrespect? Any duh situations you’ve noticed lately or that are memorable?

 disrespect

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