Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

Service of Say What? Inadvertent Impressions Businesses Make

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Photo: gofindtheothers.com

It’s not hard to find businesses that mean well but do their customers or themselves little good with their marketing efforts.

The Grass is Greener….

I couldn’t stop the car last weekend to snap a shot of a scruffy looking property with a small sign on the remarkably unkempt grass that promoted a lawn care business. Made me sad for the business.

Divorce Auction Style

A postcard advertising a “Divorce Liquidation Auction” would have done well to omit the words “Have Fun.” “Fun” didn’t go with the headline that indicated that two people had to sell their belongings due to an unfortunate situation. On the reverse side of the card we read that the couple had been married 20 years and had travelled a lot. I know: I’m thin-skinned, but when I saw the card I envisioned vultures circling a carcass looking for spoils. Not fun.

Warning: Read But Don’t Look

Our 2018 Malibu flashed a warning on the dashboard screen. I took my eyes off the road to see that it said “Taking your eyes off the road too long or too often could cause a crash resulting in injury or death to you or others. Focus your attention on driving.” Struck me funny.

I have driven the car since May, and find that the over-sensitive screen is a dangerous distraction as well. I barely touch it and something changes—like my favorite radio stations. I end up with links to three of the same instead of the selection I’d originally made.

I’ve given up using the address book transferred to the car from my mobile phone. As I scroll through the names with my finger touching the screen as gently as possible, I must press too hard because I mistakenly call two to three people before tapping the person/number I want to call.

I’m also fearful that General Motors and probably the world now have all the phone numbers of everyone I know or knew.

Head-Scratcher

Actor Sofia Vergara plays Gloria Pritchett on the TV sitcom “Modern Family” on ABC and also stars in Head & Shoulders shampoo commercials with her son Manolo and other family members. I like that she gets Proctor & Gamble to include her relatives but the twist in the current commercial is mean. Vergara exclaims how soft Manolo’s hair is, runs to wash hers and then shoves herself on to his chair and takes over. A mom that steals a scene from her kid: Not funny and gives the wrong impression. And I don’t think Vergara is a nasty person.

What marketing slipups or miscommunications have you noticed lately?

Sofia Vergara and son Manolo

Service of Leasing a Car in a World of Hackers

Monday, May 7th, 2018

2018 Malibu

A friend was refused a credit card offered by a cashier along with a special promotion at a store she frequents. She has a top credit rating. The cashier didn’t explain why her application was declined and she’d forgotten that she’d frozen access to her credit reports.

I, too, was tripped up by a frozen credit report. This post is to remind folks who protected themselves from the Equifax debacle or who froze their reports for any other reason to remember they’ve taken the step and to tuck the PIN numbers from credit services in a handy place.

Photo: nextbigfuture.com

In my last post I wrote about my experience identifying myself to my auto insurance company when we were leasing a new car. I didn’t remember which PIN number they were asking for—I have so many for that company–and ran into a second wall when my answer to “What’s the name of your child?” was “I don’t have one.”

Turned out we weren’t out of the woods once we’d cleared the insurance hurdle.

Starting from the beginning, we were at Ruge’s Chevrolet in Millbrook, N.Y. the last Saturday in April. We’d become, uncharacteristically, the kind of indecisive customers salespeople must detest. We finally leaned in favor of one model, but didn’t care for the color of the car on the lot. Fire engine red isn’t us. So we chose a different model.

I’m not used to being this finicky. Our salesman of many years, Barry Lang, was cheerful and patient as we zigged and zagged and although he didn’t show it, he must have been happy to see us leave [while wondering: “What happened to them?”]. It wasn’t the last of us. We had an appointment to pick up the new car Monday morning—the day the lease on our other car expired.

Barry Lang, Ruge’s Chevrolet

Not long after we left, Barry called to ask me to lift the freeze I’d put on my credit file at TransUnion. He gave me all the information I needed to reach them and I immediately tried online as the office was closed until 8:00 a.m. Monday. But my social security number was not in the system. [I knew that wasn’t accurate!]

When I updated Barry, saying I’d return to the city to retrieve my TransUnion file Sunday and grab the earliest train north Monday morning, he told me to relax, to stay put and to enjoy the weekend in the country.

Monday 8 a.m. I answered all the questions of the TransUnion agent until he asked for my PIN number. When you freeze your account, you get this number in a letter mailed to your official residence. I was sunk. The number was in the city. I was 90 miles away.

In the end, I was lucky: I reached David Reich, an associate whose office is next to mine and who was at work early. He found the paperwork and PIN and I was back in business.

The rest of the procedure at Ruge’s was seamless. Barry showed me what was new about the car. In fact, he shot me an email a few days afterwards urging me to contact him if I needed a refresher about the new technology or features. The new car has no key, for example. I start and stop the car by pressing a button.

The glitches were my fault. Remembering how smoothly everything had gone in previous transactions either buying or leasing a car from this company I came unprepared. The hiccups were caused because I’m not yet used to how I’m forced to protect myself from hackers. I didn’t come armed with the appropriate PIN numbers.

I’m grateful to TransUnion for protecting me from potential scofflaws as, no doubt, is my friend, even though she couldn’t glean the goodies offered by the retail store’s promotion.

Have you been blocked from making a purchase because of a credit report freeze or didn’t you freeze yours? Have you found it more complicated than previously to make large purchases involving credit these days?

Photo: 123rf.com

 

 

Service of Family: No Marriage, No Children=No Family & Unfit to Serve?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Photo: motivationpt.com

I was at an auto dealership in upstate New York last weekend speaking with an insurance company customer service rep. Our salesman was arranging for the transfer of our insurance to a new car and when done, he passed me the phone.

After “Hello”—I’d expected a quick “confirming that you’re Jeanne Byington leasing a car,”–but instead the rep bombarded me with questions starting with “What’s your PIN number?” I panicked, looked at my husband and we spat out a few options. The rep interrupted me and then asked, “What is the name of your child?” I answered: “I don’t have one.” He said, “You have to call back. I’ve been logged out.” Click.

Photo: datagenetics.com

So we called back, this time logging in with a PIN number, which worked thank goodness, and we reached a pleasant woman who took the information she needed from the salesman and she then asked me: “What’s your child’s birthday and year of birth?” I told her I don’t have children, but decided to share the birth info of my stepdaughter to move things along. That was the right answer. The company, its staff or computer had assumed that everyone has a kid and that my husband’s daughter–he uses the same company for a range of services—was also mine.

I immediately thought of a comment I read on Twitter by author Father James Martin, @JamesMartinSJ,  regarding the replacement of the fired House of Representatives Chaplain Father Patrick J. Conroy: “The idea that a priest can’t be House chaplain because he’s not a ‘family man’ is absurd and borderline anti-Catholic. Priests have families: mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews. Also, by that yardstick, Jesus Christ wouldn’t qualify.”

Father James Martin. Photo: ncregister.com

He was responding to a remark by Mark Walker, a Republican representative from North Carolina who is on a committee to find a new chaplain. According to The Hill, Walker said: “I’m looking for somebody who has a little age, that has adult children, that kind of can connect with the bulk of the body here, Republicans and Democrats who are going through, back home the wife, the family—that has some counseling experience…”

I take Walker’s comment a step beyond religion: Is Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor unable to do her job appropriately because she never married nor had children yet her judgments impact citizens?

Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Nobody knows for sure why the Chaplain was fired. According to America Magazine’s Michael J. O’Loughlin who wrote “House Republicans rebuff investigation into firing of Jesuit chaplain,” New York Representative Joe Crowley noted that “Mr. Ryan and other Republican members of Congress were unhappy with the chaplain for delivering a prayer in November they viewed as partisan.” Father Conroy reported to The New York Times that after he offered the prayer on taxes, Mr. Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”  While the Republican tax bill was on the table Father Conroy had urged the planners not to create “winners and losers.”

O’Loughlin wrote that “Mr. Ryan told Republican colleagues on Friday that some lawmakers felt Father Conroy was not providing appropriate pastoral care to House members.” I heard Representative Peter King from Long Island, NY disagree on TV news with this allegation.

So why did it take the House seven years to react if this was so? In his work as pastor at numerous churches as well as chaplain at Georgetown and Seattle Universities, for how many people had he provided pastoral care without complaint?

In a subsequent interview with Walker, Scott Wong reported in The Hill in “Conservative leader: Next House chaplain should have a family” that the congressman said “When you walk the journey of having a kid back home that’s struggling or made some bad decisions, or when you have a separation situation or your wife’s not understanding the [congressional] schedule, having somebody who’s walked in those shoes allows you to immediately related a little bit more than others.”

To be effective, must a grade school teacher have children; a female psychiatrist counsel women exclusively, or an obstetrician be female? Is an unmarried man or woman or a couple with no children, regardless of religion, without family? Is a doctor who doesn’t suffer from his/her specialty unqualified to treat that disease? Are there certain jobs unmarried or childless people are ill-equipped to have?

Father Patrick Conroy. Photo: youtube.com

 

Service of Unexpected Consequences

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Decisions

Many of my posts have to do with the impact of decisions. A colleague mentioned some New Jersey citizens’ regret about voting for Chris Christie for Governor. They’d done so not because they thought he was the best candidate but because an opponent had made fun of his weight and they felt sorry for him. They then had to live with their choice based on irrelevant considerations.

RealityI wonder about people who voted for the president elect and are counting on him to bring them jobs, protect them from foreign invaders and lower the cost of their health insurance. Are they braced for reality? And what about those in the UK who voted for Brexit—did they think through the potential impact of their actions on themselves?

Does anyone suffer consequences after trashing a political opponent? Not here and not these days. Neither do past candidates and other political figures flinch before dashing to shake the hand of a person they once censured and deplored.

electric carPoliticians aren’t the only ones going in one direction who must change course. Auto manufacturers have worked hard to make engines speak in whispers to quell noise pollution. But their success led to another challenge which Andrew J. Hawkins covered in “Electric Cars are now required to make noise at low speeds so they don’t sneak up and kill us.” This new US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rule applies also to hybrid-fuel cars, to “prevent these vehicles from injuring pedestrians, especially people who are blind or are visually impaired,” he wrote in The Verge.

Have you ever voted for someone for extraneous reasons—such as you both share the same religion or background—or because you fell for what the candidate promised and were misled? Do you think that auto manufacturers, who were trying to do good by reducing potential noise, are surprised that now they must ramp up engine racket? Have you made decisions only to be surprised by the subsequent repercussions?

Change direction 2

Service of Good Fortune

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Good fortune

Exemplary service is around if you’re lucky. It’s no surprise that most of it happens repeatedly in all the same places.

Milking it

Cumberland gas stationStopping for milk at the Dover Plains, NY Cumberland gas station on a Friday night there was only regular milk in the fridge in quarts. I brought one to the cashier and asked if she’d noticed any cartons of skim in the back and she asked me to wait a minute and dashed to look. She returned full of apologies saying that there was no skim or 1%. I was taken with her energy and sense of service. She could have so easily said, “No. Next!”

Note: Cumberland began its life as a dairy and it has morphed into a chain of convenience stores and gas stations.

Auto-matic

Barry LangIn “Service of an Expert Salesman,” I wrote about Barry Lang [photo at left] of Audia Motors in Millbrook, NY, in April, 2013. He hasn’t lost his touch. We’re leasing another Malibu and he makes it so easy: He takes care of all the paperwork with  the insurance company and the Department of Motor Vehicles and even more. I wanted to give the car a whirl before signing up for a new one. As we left the showroom–it was a week before we were to pick up the car–Barry told us he’d enrolled us to receive a $50 Visa Gift Card from General Motors, a promotion the corporation was offering to anyone who takes a test drive. Barry says he reads this blog on occasion. The fact he even remembered that I wrote one is over and beyond.

Snow-no, Joe yes

Trader Joe's 14th StreetA few days after New York’s January blizzard I went downtown to stock up at Trader Joe’s on 14th street. Shelves were empty because trucks were snowed in at New Jersey and Pennsylvania warehouses. My cashier suggested I call before coming next time and two days later I did. The man who picked up listened to me and immediately transferred me to another person who asked me what I was looking for. I reeled off my list from olive oil, chips and jam to popcorn–and he asked me to wait a moment. When he returned—he wasn’t long–he said, “I raced around the store and we’ve got what you want.” Wow. 

Love the glow

I recently placed an online order that I was to pick up at the Uniqlo 5th Avenue store in NYC [photo below]. I was charmed by the automatic response at the end of the procedure: “We hope you are as excited as we are about your order XYZ. You should receive an email receipt soon, with love from UNIQLO.” When I arrived on the day after the January blizzard, I’d forgotten my order number. No problem, “what’s your name?” asked the attendant who checked a printed list and out came the package in a snap.

Have you had the good fortune to land on a positive, helpful, enthusiastic employee or company lately?

Uniqlo 5th Avenue

Uniqlo 5th Avenue

Service of Businesses That Forget Who Pays the Bills

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Paying the bills

Here are three businesses or employees who forgot that it’s through customers that they earn their salaries.

Face the Music

I read this on a friend’s Facebook posting: “I liked TOYOTA MANHATTAN until today. I had a 9 AM appointment for my car which I bought there at A VERY inflated price 1 ½  years ago and waited in line an hour and was told by an employee to go to the front since I had an appointment, only to be told to go back in line and by then, I’d lost 5 spaces. ANGRY. And the fact that 3 people were on their personal phones when I was waiting for an hour makes it worse!”

How do I know?

Newspaper delivery truck vintageI notified The Wall Street Journal, online, that we didn’t get our issue and received two automatic notices: 1) that they’d told the distributor and would credit us for a copy and 2) was a request to evaluate the service.  The wanted to know if I was  __ Delighted; __Fairly Satisfied or __Not Satisfied.

I clicked “Not satisfied” and because they asked respondants to explain, I wrote “How can I be satisfied when I don’t know when I will receive the missing copy?” We never got it as that is not an option when you report a missing copy online which was strike two. Further we have no idea if we were credited to receive an additional copy. My advice: Call, don’t report a missing issue online.

A Loyal Customer Left High and Dry

Employees [and policies] cause problems not only at world-renown brands. A follower of this blog, frequent commenter and friend called about a recent incident with a service her family has used extensively and loyally since the 1950s. Last summer she estimates that she spent $500 on dry cleaning at this suburban Boston company. Given their history, the company, that has four branches, has always billed her.

Dry cleaner in 1941

Dry cleaner in 1941

She was dealing with an employee, not an owner, when picking up clothes this week. She’d received a notice that they had some of her belongings that she might have forgotten. The young staffer insisted that the clothes might not be hers and said that in any case, she couldn’t take them unless she paid $103 on the spot. He presented no bill.

She explained that for decades the owners have billed her and that’s when sparks began to fly. He became increasingly rude to both her and her husband using an elevated, obnoxious tone. [Note: They are an elegant, distinguished couple.] He’s not a nubie: He told them he’d worked for the compay for six years. He didn’t flinch when she told him “We will never come back here. You have no idea how to behave or treat people.” She’s contacting the owners about him.

My questions:

  • Re: the Toyota incident, it’s amazing how employees aren’t embarrassed to take personal calls in front of a line of customers waiting for service, isn’t it? And why bother to make service appointments if you ignore them?
  • Saving itself money was the goal of The Wall Street Journal’s subscription customer service department. The idea was to get rid of a complaint ASAP, not accommodate subscribers. Can you share other examples?
  • As for the dry cleaner, does brand loyalty have no importance anymore? Does the in-your-face political atmosphere in some quarters feed such aggressive behavior?

 Yelling 3

Service of Loyalty

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Orchids for blog Jan 2016 002

Loyalty to my belongings has been a lifelong fault: You’d think I grew up during the 1929 Depression. What’s strange is that I’m fascinated by what’s new, love attending trade shows to be among the first to see the latest, adore to shop to enhance my wardrobe and buy gifts and I’m in awe of/admire innovation.

I realize that by taking loyalty to the next level, [jargon I despise], I’m being un-American because I’m not helping the economy. Here are examples:

I kept my first car 16 years even though at the end it broke down more than it ran. I remember a conversation with my father, the king of frugality. I’d called him to explain why I’d be late because the Dodge Dart had stopped running [again], this time on Park Avenue in the 30s. He said, “Maybe it’s time to give it up.” For him to say that was a shock!

The window of a basement laundry room of a co-op we once lived in was filled with orchids discarded by tenants once their flowers had finished blooming. [The plants were rescued from the trash by staff.] In our apartment our orchids bloomed on and off throughout the year. When we moved during a bitter winter in which they were exposed several times to frigid air and wind, the orchids suffered. Landing in a different place, with unfamiliar light and ridiculous amounts of heat, I didn’t hold out much hope for them. We never gave up and over the holidays, [see the photo above] they all burst into bloom!

Outdoor thermometerLast weekend I taped a thermometer’s suction cup to our bedroom window. Its ability to adhere had given out and yet it seemed a waste to toss it. When we wake up at the house, about the first thing we do in any season is to check the outside temperature. This stalwart gadget lived through quite a few winters, even last year’s blizzards and ice. It deserves another chance.

My brilliant IT man resuscitated my ancient Blackberry when it decided to stop showing emails. It does everything I need so why spend money and time to learn a new system when I already own a terrific device?

I worry every time I use our washer/dryer because Mr. Hobson, the crack repair man, is no longer in business. He also sold appliances and couldn’t compete with the big boxes. If the smallest glitch happens, we’ll be forced to toss and replace.

Do you know others like me? Are there antidotes?

Orchids for blog Jan 2016 004 flip sml

Service of Penalties For Doing Nothing Wrong

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

pillory

I knew of a fellow whose car insurance company considered him accident prone for which he was penalized. It had nothing to do with his driving record. He’d park his car in town and on three occasions over a few years another vehicle ran into it. His mistake was to report each incident. The first insurance company dropped him and the next Parked Car hit insurer charged him more.

I wonder if a similar thing will happen to my credit rating. I understand that one of the ways to decrease your credit rating is by ordering too many cards. A few months ago I got a new credit card because Home Depot was hacked. It happened to thousands if not millions of others. We had no choice: A new card arrived in the mailbox. [A friend told me that now this store asks to see your driver’s licensee if you buy goods worth more than $50. Good.]

Credit ratingThis week, someone tried to buy food from a ShopRite supermarket in New Jersey using my credit card number. The card’s security office called to confirm that the purchase was mine because, said the security man, the store had questioned and refused the charge. I assured him I was speaking with him from my desk in NYC, my card in hand, and that it wasn’t me buying groceries. I asked how the perpetrator got my credit card number and he said that there are so many ways he couldn’t tell me which it was.

I now have a second black mark to jeopardize my rating, and also the inconvenience of seven to 10 days without a card I use almost daily. I also must notify EZ Pass of the new number, and any other service that automatically charges expenses to my card. Didn’t I just do that after the Home Depot card fix? Grump.

smartphone 3This new card business is costly for banks. No wonder credit card companies want to move 100 percent of the charging process to smartphones: Someone steals the phone and replacement is the owner’s problem. Surely the swindlers are currently figuring out how to outsmart the phones. It will also be inconvenient for those without the newest phones–which in this harsh world will just be tough for them while great for phone sales.

I wonder how ShopRite staff knew that I wasn’t using my card. We swipe cards–they never go near the cashier who might feel the quality of the plastic or notice something strange about the card’s layout. In addition to examples in insurance and credit card worlds, are we potentially penalized for other things we have no control over?

Naughty Child in corner

Service of Listening to Your Mother

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

listen to your mother

NPR’s David Greene interviewed a VP of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Roger Morris, who explained how the auto industry has taken a big bite out of car theft through technology. In 1991, at the peak, there were 1.6 million car thefts a year vs. 700,000 in 2013 according to FBI stats, said Morris.

key in auto doorHow did this happen? Morris said: “Well, they put a code in the key that matches up with the ignition that says, you know, unless this key is in this ignition, it won’t start. So it basically stopped the hot wiring and, you know, the joy riding, so to speak.”

Apart from the models on the road made before this technology was built in, what’s the main cause of car thefts these days? Morris says it’s because people leave keys in unlocked cars when they dash into a store.

Clearly these drivers didn’t use common sense or heed their mother or father’s warning never to do this. Have you wanted to kick yourself when something’s happened because you’ve not followed time-tested, sage advice?

Parking at store

Service of You Can Run But You Can’t Hide

Monday, March 24th, 2014

man with blndersCar with blinders on

I am breaking my rule not to mention brand names when addressing negative issues because of the size of the companies involved, the flagrant lack of concern for customer safety and the fact that this approach appears to be increasingly acceptable.

General Motors, Toyota and Target have been in the news not for their product launches and retailing innovations but because they sat on negative information of utmost importance to their customers resulting, in the case of the auto manufacturers, in death.

GM waited years before admitting to problems with ignition switches in potentially 1.6 million Chevy Cobalts. Some 12 people died as a result. I don’t know how many were injured.

Toyota hid information about sticking pedals causing cars to zoom ahead uncontrollably. They also kept mum about floor mats that interfered with acceleration. Both malfunctions caused injuries and deaths.

credit card at retailOn November 27th, two days before Black Friday and almost a month before Christmas, Target learned about the breach of its in-store credit card terminals affecting some 40 million and waited for weeks, until mid December, to own up to the disaster. I wouldn’t again charge a toothpick in this store–which I like–and I don’t carry much cash. A few years ago I was sent a new credit card immediately when TJ Maxx discovered credit card violations. These things happen and will increasingly. The prompt and seamless handling gave me more confidence in that brand.

I can hear the chorus from readers: “GREED made them do it.” But who is advising these businesses? Damage is so much worse when you don’t admit to wrong doing, causing more harm and dragging out the story so increasing numbers of people are adversely affected and more hear about it.

Why do executives, time and again, think that they will be the ones to make these problems go away before anyone notices? If they fear assault on their reputations once a disaster occurs, don’t they realize that by trying to hide they are only growing the circumference of their black eyes? Are immediate profits more important than reputations and conducting business responsibly because people count on the public’s microscopic memory?

dog with black eye

 

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