Archive for the ‘Publishing’ Category

Service of Marketing that Hits a Sour Note: Details and the Devil

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

New Yorker circ photo

I bought some items online during an after Christmas sale and almost three weeks later got a notice from the store that one of the items wasn’t available. OK. That happens. “LET US MAKE IT UP TO YOU,” came a proposal for a “gift”–$10 off a $100 purchase. This hit a sour note: It sounded like “heads they win; tails I lose.” Otherwise I like the store.

The next two examples are courtesy of the circulation departments of a magazine and newspaper considered top of the line in their categories. I subscribe to and admire both. However, they appear to be trying to save money by selecting under par fulfillment and promotion partners at just the time they need to excel.

  • The magazine has been nagging me to renew my subscription months early and if I do, I’ll get a free subscription as a gift. [Always suspicious, I envision losing the months I’ve already paid for, between now and the end of the original subscription, and I don’t want to waste time untangling this potential glitch.] Fine writing and elegance are just two of the magazine’s selling points and the subscription is costly. That’s why I didn’t expect to see a typo in the first word of the third line [“your”] printed on a piece of cheap scrap paper enclosed in their correspondence seeking my business. [See photo above.]
  • The newspaper didn’t deliver its weekend and Monday issues last week. I called customer service on Tuesday making clear that we didn’t want the credit, we wanted the newspapers. The operator [from a far-off land] said he understood. On Wednesday we received a second copy of the Tuesday issue. I called back and was told they would have to mail us the weekend and Monday copies and that this would take from seven to 10 days. I had already spent far too much time on this mistake and snapped “fine, do that,” and hung up. Still waiting.
  • All this reminds me of a restaurant we went to in the Berkshires years ago that served remarkable food in an enchanting setting with a terrible hostess who ran the room like a general during a military operation readiness inspection {ORI}. The tension her approach achieved added a false note to an otherwise pleasant experience. We learned later that her husband was the chef. Nevertheless, she ruined the evening.

Do you have other examples of an irritating detail that conflicted with the otherwise high quality of a product or service?

$10 off $100 turned

Service of What’s That Again?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Say what 2

I shake my head when I hear or read what some people say or do.

Oh Really?

I listened to an interview on Bloomberg radio where the head of a corporation reported buying 37,000 foreclosed homes which the company remodeled and is now renting. The CEO’s voice oozed pride and he concluded that he especially likes it when his company can do well by communities by providing labor and attractive, affordable housing to people who couldn’t normally live so well–all made possible by the company.

Foreclosed homeThat’s what he said. Then why did I hear: “You took advantage of poor people and got their homes for a song; needed someone to fix them up so you hired workers and you’re waiting until housing prices rise before selling them at a huge profit–might as well make some money by renting them meanwhile.”

He is in business to make money and his stockholders win. I object to his putting a halo spin on the process.



Pack up an officeAfter 35 years a major magazine fired its editorial staff in NYC where it has been published since its founding by a New Yorker. It is heading south. About the move the publisher said “This is a chance for our editors to live the lifestyle they promote on the page.”

Why did I hear, “We’ll be able to pay lower wages and cut our overhead?” A sound business decision in this economy no doubt, but say so. Who is he fooling?

Say What

Food driveAn international discounter known for paying minimum wages launched a holiday food drive in an Ohio store asking its more fortunate workers to support others less fortunate.

Huh? Wouldn’t the store have better served its employees–and image–to give a turkey and fixings to all staffers? Then it could suggest that if some employees opted to gift the feast to a poorer family, few would object.

I wonder if some people really believe what they utter and think that they are so clever pulling the wool over our eyes? Or do they fall for what their advisors persuade them to say? Or think the public is stupid? Can you share similar examples?

 pull wool over eyes



Service of Inconsistent Morality

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

ups and downs

A society that on the one hand reflects straight-laced puritan roots regarding marriage and at the same time barely shrugs at the likes of a hedge funder’s shenanigans—I’m thinking of Steve Cohen–baffles. Cohen agreed to pay a multi-million dollar fine for insider trading while at the same time refusing to admit guilt, an approach that the Security and Exchange Commission approved. Did someone knock out this watchdog? Does the public play possum again?

hand in cookie jarGood for federal Judge Victor Marrero who, as Kaja Whitehouse wrote in The New York Post, “balked at the agreement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Cohen’s SAC Capital that allows the firm to pay a $602 million fine without admitting or denying guilt.” Meanwhile, Mr. Cohen has recently bought $215 million worth of goodies: a Picasso painting and East Hampton ocean-front home. Any ideas of what investors without the inside scoop bought—maybe a sandwich at Subway?

Of a different nature, a major publisher paid half a $million for what The New York Post reported as the memoir of a “drug-addicted beauty writer.” In addition, the author told reporters “she’d rather ‘smoke angel dust with her friends’ than hold down a full-time job.” The Post continues, “Aside from four abortions, she recalls getting ‘choked out by a Park Avenue millionaire kid in a pine grove by the reservoir at 4 a.m.’ and ‘sex in vacant lots in Bushwick with white rappers.’” Who can believe what someone consistently under the influence remembers about her 29 years and frankly, who cares? The publisher thinks many will. I hope they don’t.

Here’s a society strung out on the politically correct with dollops of conservative values that concurrently lies motionless when someone picks their pockets and regulators wink. In this environment a publisher thinks people are hungry for the sad story of a lost soul with less than three decades and little perspective to write a worthy memoir. Sure it’s democracy at its best but can you explain such extremes and contradictions?

hot and cold

Service of Transitions

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Paris Poster

I’ve mentioned previously the advice a colleague gives her hotel clients: Welcome and encourage all travelers, not just the business guest who, while exiting the airport, checks in through a smartphone application [app] to learn his/her room number and doesn’t need a porter or any reception services. Remember the traditional traveler who wants to check in with a person: You need them both.

GrandHotelRomeI thought of her warning–no doubt she knew of hotels that forgot their tech-deprived clients when eliminating jobs and/or services–when a friend described his frustrating experience reading a printed travel magazine from a major publisher. It was designed to be read on a tablet or smartphone and was almost useless as a printed document.

Information in the cover story about Rome, such as the address or phone number of a featured shop, hotel, restaurant or tourist attraction, was nowhere on the printed pages or in the back where editors sometimes tuck such information.

By comparison, last week’s New York Magazine listed an address and phone number for every one of hundreds of entries in its “Best of New York 2013” issue covering countless categories. Now that’s a keeper.

Trevi FountainBack to the travel magazine: Its print edition has lost its way. It’s no longer of service to its readers and in so doing may soon divert most of them to the competition.

To find an address or phone number you have to be at a computer to type in each email address–such as Try getting that one right the first time from the italicized 8-point type. I got it wrong—left out one of the z’s–which is easy to do as most of the addresses are long and, for many of the readers, in a foreign language. Then what? Where do you write the address? There’s no room on the printed pages.

My friend wrote, “What a waste of money—I can’t be the only reader who feels cheated.”

Saving the article as-is for a trip file is out of the question. Who would subscribe or pay $5 for another newsstand copy?

Why, when companies jump on the latest bandwagon in search of new customers, do they so often forget about at least half of everyone else? Even the slickest and once smartest can be embarrassingly clumsy in making a transition or adding technology. Have you noticed similar examples in these or in different industries?



Service of Spilling the Beans

Monday, February 27th, 2012


Who hasn’t fanaticized about writing a tell-all book, article or post about an industry, company or character? A retired PR man wrote “Bad PR Stories” on a friend’s blog, “My 2 Cents,” but he didn’t name names and he doesn’t work in the industry anymore.

When someone spills the beans, names and all, I think of Truman Capote’s book, “Answered Prayers,” where he exposed intimate secrets of his celebrity friends. Employees, feeling their oats, have blabbed inside info about their employers through social media and have suffered the consequences.

bookshelfKat Stoeffel exposed one of the latest blabbers in a New York Observer article, “Bogie’s Burn Book: There’s a Tumblin’, Tweetin’ Bull in the Knopf China Shop” about a publicist at a major book publishing house who posted inflammatory insider industry impressions on his Tumblr blog:  “…the 51-year-old executive director of publicity and marketing for Knopf posted ‘The Hierarchy of Book Publishing,’ a top-100 ranking of his colleagues and competitors, on his personal Tumblr. Far from a fawning Forbes-style list, Mr. Bogaards’s blog post was a gallows-humor-inflected schematic of an industry in collapse. Books are so screwed, it suggested, that a self-published genre geek (J.A. Konrath, #2), the father of a 4-year-old child who has purportedly been to heaven (Todd Burpo, #4) and the intern running the company Twitter feed (#6) all faced sunnier futures than a feared industry veteran like Andrew Wylie (#11).”

Stoeffel quoted a bookstore clerk and assistant at a publishing house who loved what they read and confirmed the info and continued: “But to senior members of the industry, Mr. Bogaards- ‘Bogie’ to friends and colleagues-didn’t quite stick the landing. To them, the power list, rife as it was with personal snipes, more closely resembled a burn book, the wide-ruled repository for a middle schooler’s toxic thoughts.

“He called Bill Clegg, the book agent who penned a memoir about his crack addiction, ‘Stovepipe.’ He said New York Times critic Dwight Garner wrote his reviews ‘juiced, listening to Earl Scruggs.’ He imagined superpowered agent Binky Urban (#11) saying, ‘I wouldn’t take that offer to my maid.’ He said nothing of hot-streak publisher Amy Einhorn, per se, but ranked her hair at #3.”

typingWriting is cathartic. How many letters or emails have I written–and not sent–and yet felt better for the exercise? I let potentially poison missives sit overnight and if I still feel compelled to let loose, I may ask my husband or a colleague for their opinions. My husband will often ask “What good will sending this do for you?” Most times the answer is “nothing other than letting off steam.” And such a missive is intended for one or a few people at most with the potential of going viral, very different from a blog or book.

What causes a successful, middle aged person one assumes wants to continue working, to let loose? Is it a final straw which flips a switch, arrogance that makes them feel that they can get away with anything because they have up until now, a crazed moment [though it took Capote more than that to write a book] or something else?


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