Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

Service of Simplicity

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Tis a gift to be simplechicken sandwich

Technology can be time and life-saving but not always.

Next Time Add Mayo

During halftime on Saturday, a dry chicken sandwich caught in Chris Fowler’s throat. He was one of two ESPN commentators at this weekend’s Rutgers-Notre Dame Pinstripe Bowl game at Yankee Stadium. A simple Heimlich maneuver by Jesse Palmer, the other commentator, saved the choking announcer. I saw how a Heimlich rescued a man at my table at a business awards dinner and will never forget how effective it was–and how scary were the moments before.

En Voiture!

Cars in ParisFrench car manufacturer Peugeot introduced a vehicle with zero gewgaws. At eye height is a gauge indicating gas and speed, period. Does a car that gets you from A to Z place without built-in GPS, movie screens and gauges galore represent a trend? Note: The car is not available in the U.S.

Knee-Jerk ReactionKnee Physical Therapy

On the news last week results of a study on knee surgery suggested that physical therapy alone was as effective as an operation plus therapy in some cases. Physical therapy solved a severe shoulder injury for me–it seemed like a miracle.

Neither Rain nor Snow nor Heat nor Gloom of Night….

mailman in bad weatherI continue to recommend that job candidates follow up with both an email and standard mail thank you immediately after an interview. The stamped missive will distinguish you and amplify your interest in a non-intrusive, positive way. It will also stand out which yet another email won’t. Note: First class stamps increase three cents to 49 cents on January 26.

Will we increasingly see more examples that highlight the value of simplicity? Media appears to enjoy them or I wouldn’t know about most in this post. Are some seeking a balance from everything tech-hip?

homemade loaf

 

Service of Scams

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Scam2

When I hear about or observe outrageous scams or ones that are easy to fall for I share so word gets out, which is an effective way to defang such swindles.

The worst of the latest crop preyed on students by offering them internships at the United Nations Centre for International Development (UNCID) in Geneva, Switzerland. The student who told me about it originally heard of the opportunity via her university’s career services department. “It was just like any other email/job posting that we receive,” she said. Others in her class also applied and a longtime professor remarked at what a superlative opportunity this was.

She was accepted by the fraudulent program and received medical record, internship allegiance and employment offer forms and documents that she was to sign and return via a special email address.

FishyWhat alerted her to the fact that this otherwise legitimate sounding internship was fishy? Her sister mentioned to her that there is no organization called U.N.C.I.D, her first clue.  She then checked out the names of various people who signed or were mentioned in emails. None came up in a Google search, nor did any have LinkedIn profiles nor did they appear on the U.N. website.

In addition, the employment offer, signed by a Dr. (Mrs.) Jennifer Hudson, Intern Coordinator, noted a $4,125/month stipend. She told me, “The UN doesn’t pay its interns.” [Do real people sign their name Dr. (Mrs.)?]

When I saw the stationery used for the employment offer—she sent me all the documents–it looked clumsily handmade. The letterhead was crammed up against the UN logo, another tip of the dubious nature of this offer.

I couldn’t figure out what the scammers had to gain by receiving a batch of signed documents from students. My young friend said she read in an online forum that they would next ask her for money to cover her airline and living expenses. I shudder to think of other nefarious outcomes of young people arriving abroad, alone, in the hands of people with shady intentions.

These timely cons seamlessly intrude in ways that make perfect sense. Here are two more.

SurveyAfter we leased a new car I received three requests to take a survey. The first one, from General Motors, I responded to. Another came by email a month or so later and the third, supposedly from J.D. Power and Associates, through the USPS at the same time. Before doing anything I contacted Barry Lang, our General Motors salesman. [I wrote about his spectacular service a few months ago.]. He suggested I ignore both which, with the corroboration of my nephew who is in another part of the car business, I did. Neither man liked the sound of these requests. Tip: The one from J.D. Power came with a sweepstakes offer for a $100,000 prize.

Have you noticed scams like these that we should know about? Has the prevalence of such behavior changed the way you respond to opportunities and requests for information? Think that there are more cons than ever before?

scam alert 2

Service of an Expert Salesman

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Dancing with Fred A

When an improved product and expert salesman mesh, it’s a pleasure to spend money. For a service fanatic, it’s poetry to behold–like dancing with a star.

This happened to us the other week when Barry Lang from Audia Motor Sales in Millbrook, NY called to tell us our lease had expired on our Chevy Malibu. My husband Homer Byington, not a car enthusiast, was impressed by the negotiation. He said, “I knew I had to do something about the lease, and Barry got to me before I reached out to Audia. There was plenty of time to make a decision: Buy the car we’d driven for three years or lease a new one.

Chevy Malibu“He could tell I was technologically illiterate and conducted his sales pitch in language I could understand,” said Homer. “He also priced his offer competitively, not taking advantage of me.” Homer had checked with a family member in a related business who confirmed the lease price was fair.

Meanwhile, while we liked the 2010 Malibu we turned in, it had its faults, every one of which was addressed in the 2013 auto. The designers reduced the size of the side view mirror that previously had been so big that at certain angles I had to practically stand up in my seat while making a left hand turn for fear of running over someone hidden behind the device. The windshield seems bigger and the rear headrests smaller increasing visibility. Chevy also removed a lump that housed a break light at eye level for the cars behind, which took away rear window visibility for the driver. And it added handles above each door as a standard feature and enlarged the glove compartment.

Back to Barry. He was patient with our questions, explaining how the car’s Bluetooth system worked and other features basic for most but unfamiliar to us. We took a week to decide whether to buy or lease again and a car in the color we liked–a blue/gray–was still there on our return. When we noted this Barry said he’d reserved it for us.

snooty car salesmanWe’ve written previously about how friends and family members have been treated dismissively and disrespectfully by showroom staff selling highfalutin brands with hefty price tags. We don’t think Barry could make someone feel diminished; arrogance isn’t his style yet he could sell high end products with equal success.

If you drop in to Audia Motors, my bet is that one of the Audias will be there. One brother, Peter, chatted with us briefly last Saturday before we signed up and this Saturday Bob handed me my permanent NY State registration. During the week someone at Audia had paid for and picked it up at Motor Vehicles.

Can you share a boast about a similar sales experience for any product?

Happy Customer

Service of Did You Get the Message?

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Megaphone

With all the technology at our fingertips, I wonder how well we have learned to effectively communicate, absorb and act on information, especially in giant organizations and companies.

Oh what a tangled web we weave….

TenTripTktI buy a 10-trip web ticket on the Internet—have been doing so for years.  When I handed mine to the conductor, she said, “It’s expired.” I said, “I just got it in the mail!” She pointed to a date on the ticket which must have been the date the ticket was processed. She took it as the date the ticket expires. I explained the situation and convincingly as she didn’t make me pay, but the confrontation was heated and I didn’t like all the fuss.

The next conductor punched my ticket without a word so I asked him what the deal was and he said that scads of tickets were mailed with the distribution rather than the expiration date and not to worry about it—the conductors all received a directive about the glitch.

ConductorPunchingTktThe ticket-collecting conductor for my third ride on the web ticket had not read the directive as I had to again explain the situation, with pairs of rider’s eyes staring at me suspiciously from behind Kindles and newspapers as I argued for my cause.

So it got me to ponder how, when you run something as big as Metro-North and there’s a mistake like this one, a company gets out the word effectively.

Metro-North has the email addresses of all the web ticket buyers. Why not send a copy of the directive to carry in our wallets at minimal cost in time and none in out of pocket.

Sticker shock

CarRegisinWindowI thought of this when a friend told me about the letter she received from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. It explained that the department “has identified a defect in the registration documents supplied by our vendor that has prevented the printing of most registrations and window stickers that were ordered starting January 1.”

The letter went on to say that her registration is processed and everything is in order and if kept in the vehicle, the letter should serve as proof should she need to show it to law enforcement officials. Further, all police agencies and courts were notified.

Since then, she got the sticker. In the interim, this friend, who lives in Westchester, had received no summons for an expired registration.

The police and traffic staff in NYC have an easier time checking registration dates on parked cars in city streets to fulfill their ticket quota and I wonder: Did they all get and retain the message? Recipients of the letter wouldn’t put it in their car windows because both name and address are clearly typed in a bigger font than the body of the letter. My parents, parked on a city street, once got a ticket for being one day overdue.

Drug test

PharmacyI renewed a prescription on the phone via press one press two, punch in your Rx number, for an ordinary drug from a store that asks you for the date and time you expect to pick up your order. When I got there an hour or two after the time I’d noted, the pharmacy attendant said that the meds were on back order and asked if I could return the next day. The next day I got a call to tell me my prescription was waiting for me.

To save me a fruitless trip, shouldn’t they have also called to tell me when it wasn’t?

Are my expectations too high? Do you have examples where someone didn’t get the message and instances of a company or organization communicating them flawlessly, where everyone involved heard and remembered?

ShorttallBasketballPlayers

Service of Too Complicated

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

complicated

New York morning drive radio personality John Gambling loves cars, is a NASCAR fan and from hearing his conversation over the years has owned his share of, I would suspect, mostly if not exclusively luxury autos. My ears perked up when he admitted, in September, that the new Fisker–an electric car–was too complicated for him to drive.

fiskerkarmaThe Fisker Karma was introduced last December and it has won all sorts of awards. According to a press release about it: “The Fisker Karma is the only American car to win the Top Gear Luxury Car of the Year award; Automobile magazine named the Karma its Design of the Year; TIME magazine listed the Karma as one of its 50 Best Inventions; the Fisker Karma also received an Edison Award for Innovation and is a finalist in Fast Company’s Innovation by Design competition.”

All nice, but what’s the point if it’s too complicated for a car-enthusiast to drive?

bellsandwhistlesSimilarly, my nephew, who owns an auto body shop and has flirted with, owned and loved countless cars over the years, and knows them inside out, just bought a 2010 BMW-in perfect shape. He volunteered, as we sat in the lap of his luxurious leather seats, that he’d have to go to school to figure out all its bells and whistles.

So for who are these vehicles designed?

When it comes to cars, I’ve never opted for luxury [NYC roads and garages make mincemeat of them] and as long as I know how to turn on the AC, the heat and the radio, lock and unlock the door and put the gear in “drive,” I’m set. With cheap cars it’s been easy up until now. Fingers crossed.

It’s not only cars that daunt and are overcomplicated. I admit dreading something I must face: buying a new office computer. It will take a few weeks to find anything in it and I can look forward to learning to do in six steps what now takes me one. I should be excited at the thought of a new computer, not overwhelmed and dismayed, but my experience sends out warning signals.

Would you pay more for simple versions of the many things we rely on? Why don’t manufacturers take note?

 complicatedcomputer

Service of Inventions II

Monday, June 18th, 2012

inventors

The New York Times Magazine column, “Who Made That?”–whether granola, Kraft singles or mini-golf–is such fun. It’s another take on “how is that made?” which intrigues me, whether I watch a glass blower, weaver, furniture maker or ceramist at work or shadow vinyl flooring, tiles, woven textiles or wallpaper through a plant’s manufacturing process.

bumper-damageI’d like to give a prize to the person who made a car seat vibrate to warn that something is coming so the driver has time to put on the brakes. I saw this in a car commercial the other week. This genius knows how scary it is for people who drive sedans to back out of a parking spot while sandwiched between behemoth SUVs. I am petrified I’ll hit someone or hear and or feel a crash as another driver, bent on racing through a crowded parking lot, rear ends me.

ntcautoEdward Baecher owns NTC Auto Body in Fishkill, NY [he’s the man on the right]. Baecher says that the backup camera also helps those who don’t turn around to look before backing out, but the cameras have their limits. “It’s better to turn and look left and right and not depend solely on the camera,” he advises. “With the camera you see directly behind the car but not the corners. The result? Bumper damage–all the time.”

When I continued to rave about the promise I saw for the vibrating car seat, he added: “The seatbelt was the real genius invention because it saves lives. I’ve not seen a car in the shop that’s been in a fatality in five years. When I started in this business–about 20 years ago–our shop alone would see two to three a year.”

Any inventions catch your attention lately or any tried and true devices you depend on and appreciate?

 seatbelt

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