Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

Service of Complaining

Monday, September 19th, 2011


I touched on this subject in November 2009 in “Service of a Smile” and wanted to take the pulse of how everyone felt the “smile at all costs, let it go and move on, get over it” attitude was doing in the business world and elsewhere after a few years of being battered by the economy, budget and job cutbacks.

I’m not so sure that walking around 24/7 with a glorious smile, as though everything is fabulous when maybe it isn’t, does much good  for a person. True, it’s great for everyone around. There are times when a serious face is in order and I don’t mean just at funerals or when firing someone. Serious doesn’t mean gloomy, angry or grouchy. While most headshots are of smiling faces, some of my favorites show a thoughtful expression.

smiling-salesmanThe exception: sales. Who wants to buy anything from a too serious person [except maybe a surgeon]? You want to feel welcome to spend your money. Another exception: On job interviews. You must look as though you haven’t a care in the world and that you like facing eviction. [Annoying, yes?]

Overall, I haven’t changed my opinion: When something or someone is worthy of complaint or criticism, noting a better way of doing or writing it is not destructive, grouchy or negative. Just whining without offering or working on a viable solution is a waste.

As I decided to write about this topic, so did Cindy Adams in her column in Friday’s New York Post, “NYC’s right to kvetch.” [If there had been room in her headline, I think a more appropriate title would have been “New Yorker’s right to kvetch.”] Adams wrote: “Google defines this as nag, complain, sound off. New York defines it as a local inherited divine right.”

kvetchAdams noted: “In Utah, kvetching doesn’t happen. The reason being, who can they kvetch to? Like a buffalo really cares to hear what your mother-in-law did Friday? And what’s to kvetch about? Not enough lox to go with the Salt Lake?”

And “A guy whose birthplace was Kansas City told me: ‘Cranky New Yorkers always fuss and fume. We don’t do that in Kansas.’ Me: So where do you live? ‘New York.'” Adams also pointed to countries with kvetching populations such as Egypt and France.

Maybe my take is colored because I am a New Yorker and half French.

Do you complain? To whom? Does it make you feel better? Is it a myth that only grouchy New Yorkers are kvetching sourpusses? Have you been able to train yourself so that negative things roll off and don’t bother you? Can you “Keep calm and carry on,” the words on the cover of a notebook I carry in my purse, a gift from friend and PR pro Nancie Steinberg?baby-complaining

Service of Duh

Thursday, September 8th, 2011


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?


Service of Who is Looking?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011


I met a friend for lunch at Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan and noticed a park attendant working her heart out. We were eating our sandwiches and sipping our drinks under trees on this perfect almost summer day. Every table was taken by office workers and tourists doing the same. In the hour we were there, the attendant repeatedly emptied the trash from a small stationery container which, once empty, she’d spray with disinfectant every third time. She had to lift out the inside basket and turn the contents into a large trash bin on wheels that she rolled back and forth. I was amazed at her diligence–no rats in this part of the park that’s for sure–and I thanked her for it.

fire-fighter-badgeOn the other hand, a few weeks ago I drove through a small upstate town passing a sign asking me to slow up and announcing a collection up ahead for the local fire department. I expected to toss a bill or coins, whatever I could grab from my bag as I drove, into a bucket held by a fireman or volunteer. I didn’t see anyone near the cans or on the side of the road however there were a few buckets piled on one another on the yellow line in the middle of the road. Not a soul in either direction rolled down a car window to toss a coin or a bill in those buckets. If the firemen and friends couldn’t be bothered, why should we?

That day I was on my way to a craft fair in a field in upstate New York. Lucky I’d been there before. One untrained kid was doing a hesitant and dangerous job directing traffic at the exit which spilled onto the road I was on. When I got to the entrance a quarter mile past him–he didn’t tell me whether I’d be parking in the field to the left or the right of the road–I saw eight kids with the same tee shirts as his sitting around near the entrance on the left so that’s where I went. They were shooting the breeze. They should have been directing traffic on the road and in the large parking area. Guess they weren’t in the mood.

outdoor-food-vendorsWhen it was time for a snack I noticed a food vendor I’d not seen before. The stand stood out because it was the only one with a line. One youngster stood over three extremely hot metal plates making crepes. He poured the perfect amount of batter each time, painted it in a circle with a little wooden paddle, turned it and gave the finished crepe to another young man who filled it with chicken, veggies, cheese or whatever you wanted. The youngsters didn’t get ruffled in spite of the time it took to cook the perfect crepes and they never for a minute stopped. The result was delicious and well worth the wait.

There wasn’t a manager or boss in view so who of importance to the livelihood of the Bryant Park attendant or the crepe/sandwich makers would have known they were  meticulous in fulfilling their tasks? What inspired them to do their [unpleasant], no doubt minimum wage jobs so well? What were the firemen or the volunteers who planned the fundraiser and parking lot staff thinking? What signs do you look for when hiring such employees?


Service of Nonchalance

Monday, March 7th, 2011


Cool and calm under pressure is great. But indifference is off-putting. In addition to being unhelpful, the attitude is disrespectful verging on insulting. Nobody expects a sycophant with unctuous manner and nauseating phony smile to direct them, but indifference and lack of concern is equally inappropriate in business as it is in a hospital, library, restaurant, post office, retail establishment, school, airport–anywhere.

A client, I’ll call him Jake, a reasonable, patient, no-nonsense person, described a recent incident that perfectly illustrates nonchalance. I’m thrilled to say that he was not in New York City when this happened.

On signing in to a major show where he was an exhibitor, Jake asked the clerk where the press room was so he could drop off his press kits. The fellow looked totally blank and Jake asked if he’d please find out. He placed a call on his walky-talky. Nobody responded.

noproblemJake got the impression that the sign-in clerk was hoping he’d shrug, say, “No problem, I really don’t need the information,” and go away. Instead, Jake said, “So where can I go to find someone who will know where the press room is?”

Jake followed the complicated instructions to find a show office in this huge conference center–down vast tracts of show floor to a staircase, which he mounted–and eventually he saw signs for the office. He entered. There was a man sitting at a desk, behind a computer, with a walky-talky on a desk. Their eyes met for a second and the clerk’s eyes returned to the computer. Still no greeting or sign of recognition: Total silence. So my client said: “May I ask you a question?” and did.

duhThe fellow still didn’t say a word. He looked at his computer and fiddled with the walky-talky and eventually told Jake that the press room was “down one level to the right.” But these fuzzy instructions in this huge edifice were useless. Jake asked for clarification. In a condescending voice, the clerk repeated what he’d first said adding a tad more directive.

When he entered what seemed to be the right place Jake called out, “Is this where I leave off my press kits for the show?” and immediately, someone came out from behind a curtain and replied, “Oh, I’ll take them! I help with the press.”

Jake observed, “Clearly, this was a PR type,” [Yay!] “She knew how to speak to people.”

I blame the show manager for not telling the sign-in staff where the press room is. How is the press going to find it? It’s tough on staff when they aren’t given the information they need to succeed. I bet that the incommunicative creature in the upstairs show office was the one who didn’t answer the sign-in clerk’s query. Think of the time and energy he’d have saved. I wonder who his model is and how he keeps his job.

Where and when have you encountered such service-killing nonchalance?


Service of Extremes in Customer Care

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011





I’ve experienced and been told of great and horrible service over just a few weeks. I had to share so I wouldn’t burst.


Counter Blindness

There’s a deli half a block from my office. I hit the sandwich counter late for lunch, close to 3. After standing there totally ignored by two countermen, I left and bought my toasted bagel elsewhere. This happened a day after I noticed that the deli had increased what they charge for a cup of coffee. Mentioned my grumble to someone in the office who reminded me about another deli where I now go. However, only a few days after my experience, he walked out of the second deli for being ignored by three countermen.


Meanwhile, in our midtown neighborhood, every month a trendy, charming, well lit place crops up within steps of these establishments. Wonder if the counter staff notices—and computes?


butcherAnd one more counter contretemps, surprising in this or any economy, happened at one of the pricey food stalls in Grand Central Station—the butcher. I stood as two women dolled out, weighed, wrapped and priced prepared foods. Neither of them looked at me. I called out, “Can someone please help me?” One yelled down the counter where two men stood. The overhead and operating costs must be astronomical between the prime meats, rent and [over]staffing. Nevertheless the place survives.


A Snap that Takes Forever



I had the worst time ordering photos on line from a source I’d used countless times before. I tore out my hair, called a toll-free number, finally got the order to the number I needed, not the 120 copies the computer insisted I wanted, when I was asked for my ExtraCare number, which I punched in.


I was told it wasn’t in the system, which is strange, as I get countless emails from the place weekly. I raced to the nearby store, was told to get a new number—but that it wouldn’t work for four or five days. Nice, but 1) I needed my photos now and 2) the drastically reduced promotion was over that day. I was told to call them [again]. I was about to toss out my computer and scream like a two year old when I backtracked and told the system that I didn’t have an ExtraCare number. Bingo: The order went through. But was it worth the time and frustration?


Bank on It

I took out money from Chase Bank at night and was shorted $20. I reported it to the customer service desk at the branch at which this happened and I’ve been credited for that amount.


Toying with Me

queenssubway1Before walking over in nasty weather, I called to confirm that a Manhattan toy store that carries one manufacturer’s offerings had the items a child had requested. I was told that they didn’t, but I could go to their Queens branch. Not possible, I said. I asked if they’d please get the item from Queens. “No, we can’t do that, but you can buy it on line.” I looked on line and discovered that the shipping would add $10+ to the cost, which annoyed me, plus I would be late with the gift. Word to the wise: I went to the store anyway and discovered that if they are out of one of their exclusive toys, they will order it on line and there is no shipping charge. But gosh.


Let it Snow-Again

I just wrote about the good and bad affects of this winter’s record-breaking snow.


As 19 inches fell last week, the doorman in our building—which has a large outdoor garden entrance—was shoveling two sets of stairs and the brick path at midnight. He’d shoveled the first time at 8 pm. He’s no spring chicken, was well into an unexpected second shift without a clue about an impending third one. And postmen get all the credit.


The morning after, Joan Marbit, who lives in Manhattan and works in New Jersey wrote me: “I thought of you early this morning.  My clock woke me up 5:30 am. I learned that schools are closed and buses are not running.  So, I made the decision not to drive to NJ as the Manhattan streets are far worse than the roads in NJ. At 5:35 am I got out of bed and opened my front door to find my beloved New York Times waiting for me.  My thought:  ‘The Service of What Service.’”newspaperdelivery1


Meanwhile in midtown, we did not get our Wall Street Journal at the office and we were at work. [It came the next day: News/schmooze.]


Service Wasn’t Included, Then It Was

After an earlier snowstorm a few weeks ago, Delta sent David Reich, a colleague, from Newark to JFK Airport so he could get flights to working airports [away from iced-in Atlanta] to his business meeting in Hawaii. The attendant gave him a voucher for the $90 taxi/tolls but he discovered that the tip wasn’t included. He followed up with customer service on his return and they agreed to send him the $20 he gave the driver.


What’s been your recent pulse on the service meter for routine transactions lately?



Service of Dependability

Monday, January 3rd, 2011


I have mentored amazing college and grad students for years and have been impressed by hundreds of accomplished scholarship applicants since I’ve served on the New York Women in Communications Foundation scholarship committee. This is why I was distressed by the observation of a person I met over the holidays who described his experience hiring assistants.

onthephoneWhen an applicant calls him, he’ll say, “Please call me next Wednesday between noon and 2 and I’ll be able to speak with you then,” [or whatever day and timeframe they agree is convenient for both]. He said that he never again hears from 75 percent of job seekers. He explained why he always does this. “I can teach almost anyone what they need to know to help me, but I require a dependable person.”

I mentioned this to a friend who wasn’t surprised. He said that an assistant he’d recently hired arrived late his first day at the ad agency. He immediately called the young man into his office and said: “This isn’t going to work. Goodbye,” and noted, “Can you imagine arriving late on your first day at a new job?”

clockI was almost late for my first day at a new magazine. I couldn’t find the building! [Interviews took place at a borrowed office elsewhere.] The address would have put it in the middle of Madison Avenue. This happened long before cell phones. Turns out the publisher had given everyone the wrong street number–and because I’d left home in plenty of time, I was on time after dashing into every building on either side of Madison Avenue until I found the right one.

We have a furnace contract with the company that sells us fuel for the house yet we are insecure every time we call the company in an emergency because while the repair people might seem to fix the immediate problem, they inevitably create other ones. Meanwhile, we’ve found a young man who knows his boilers and furnaces and we sleep well after he’s installed the correct valves and reversed some of the incomplete “fixes” that the oil company staffers have made.

furnaceYou may wonder why we know that something’s wrong. Last week, after an emergency visit by the oil company repairman, the wall next to the furnace room shook violently when the furnace kicked in, something it had never before done, and we heard a new noise–that turned out to be air–that sounded like spitting water. We called in the specialist. He identified and fixed the problem in minutes and told us we can safely hold off on a major repair that the oil company person told us we must tend to ASAP.

Why doesn’t this articulate, knowledgeable and reliable young man have an assistant? None have worked out, he said. He hires his brothers or Dad when he needs a hand.

And it’s not just young people and assistants these days. When criticized for not returning to NJ after the late December blizzard snarled roads and highways, Governor Christie [whose Lt. Governor was out of state at the same time] said he’d promised to take his children to Disneyland and his children come first. He was in a rush to leave before the storm so he moved up his departure time. He could easily have sent his kids along with his wife and gone to be with them when the emergency was over. He obviously thinks it was an emergency–he requested Federal aid as a result of the storm. Think he’d fire an assistant or subordinate with an approach like his?

Has the Valley Girl-inspired “whateverrrrrr” word misled some people to think that any old how or any which way and/or time is acceptable? Is dependability perception or reality? Is dependability overrated? Please share some examples of reliable and dependable people and/or those who act less so.


Service of “You Do It”

Thursday, December 9th, 2010


Walking down a Manhattan street early the morning after a bad storm recently I saw a remarkable number of broken umbrellas on the ground and I thought, “Why didn’t these people carry their umbrella to the nearest trash can? Why should anyone else lean over and pick up their busted bumbershoot to dispose of it?” I ask myself the same question when I see tossed items on an otherwise spotless RR platform.

dishesinsink1You do it” is an attitude in offices where a bunch of people use a communal fridge and coffee pot but most never clean up or police the equipment. There’s no guilt associated with adding to a pile of soiled dishes and coffee cups in the office sink or walking away from a conference table filled with debris from a meeting as though an imaginary maid will surely materialize to clean up.

Then there are the people who submit sloppy work to their bosses expecting them to catch typos, misspellings and inaccurate information as well as spruce up lackluster copy.

Isn’t that what other people are for, to do what you don’t want or can’t be bothered to do?

Where does this attitude come from? In what instances do you see evidence of such an approach? By asking you to comment, am I also suggesting you do it [my work]?


Service of How Much Are Your Customers Worth?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010


Customer service was the topic of a segment on CBS Sunday Morning recently. We heard how much more it costs for a live operator to handle a query to customer service–$7+ if the person works in the U.S. vs. $3+ if they’re responding from overseas. The really cheap route, recorded voice accompanied by the dreaded “press one, press two” costs some 35 cents.

To make the right decisions, a business owner has to ask him/herself:

**How much does it cost to acquire a customer? Less than a penny? $10 or $20?

**How complicated is the product to use?

**Is repeat business important?

**Does wasting someone else’s time matter to you?

**Are you impregnable to negative buzz because you are protected–such as investment and commercial banks and mortgage lenders–or because people have no choice about using you if they want/need your service–such as cable or satellite TV in places there are no other options?

prideI’ve left off the list “personal pride in providing the best.” What company doesn’t claim to manufacture or import or sell or represent innovative, unequaled, top-quality products made by inspired, loyal employees? But do all/most?

Here’s one that does-Loft, part of the Ann Taylor family of women’s fashion stores. I thought I’d slipped into another era or maybe I wasn’t in Times Square but in the south or Midwest. On entering, a young woman smiled and sounded as though she meant “hello.” Two associates, in different parts of the store, subsequently asked me if they might help me. They, too, sounded as though they wanted to. They were like well-trained maitre d’s at the finest restaurants who quietly patrol the floor and unobtrusively add value to the experience. One of them approached a woman who was trying on jackets. He quietly pointed out where the nearest mirror was. Preventative retail service, like healthcare, what a concept! [Readers have repeatedly written about similar experiences at Gracious Home in NYC.]

What additional questions should a business ask itself when determining the type/cost of customer service assistance to invest in? How much more would you pay a retail establishment, importer or manufacturer to provide great customer service? Should a business give you the choice and charge more or less depending?


Service of Annoying Customers

Thursday, November 4th, 2010


I was in line at Sam’s coffee cart on 44th and Third Avenue and the man ordering his Joe ahead of me was the kind of customer who’d drive me nuts. It’s not that he wanted anything exotic. But I could tell that he was someone I’d never want to share a restaurant meal with-or to serve.

He asked for two Splendas in a medium size decaf and a large coffee with skim and three sugars, and then he changed his mind on size or sweetener and….Sam was his usual cool, calm, pleasant self and didn’t skip a beat. [This eavesdropper was ready to scream.]

ordering-foodI’ve eaten with people who have nary an allergy but want to know every ingredient in each of six dishes before they will commit to a main course. Three minutes after they’ve ordered they wave wildly for the waiter because they’ve changed their mind.

And it’s not just the questions that get me, because maybe the person loves to cook and is curious about how the chef prepares short ribs; it’s the selfish demand for attention and time without regard to companions who might have places to go and customers at other tables who need wine, water or song.

Most of the posts on this blog are written from the customer’s viewpoint. What do your friends, colleagues and strangers do to aggravate staffers in retail or food businesses? If you’ve had one of those jobs, how do you handle these annoying types or don’t they bother you?


Service of Appointments

Monday, October 11th, 2010


One of the technicians in my doctor’s office told me what a now retired dentist patient mentioned to her. He said, “I wish that I had been a hair stylist because none of my female customers would have cancelled appointments with me as they did when they had a tiny headache or the inkling of a sore throat. When they didn’t feel perfect, they’d cancel with me but they’d never cancel their hair appointment.”

scardey-catAnd he’s right in my experience although I honor dentist appointments equally as half of the hard thing for me to do is to call up and make the appointment, the other half is to show up and get it over with. Sometimes I wonder if the anxiety over the whole thing is what makes me feel icky on doctor/dentist day. [I’ve noticed that connection with checkup appointments of any stripe. I’m a scaredy cat.]

And I admit to practically crawling to have my hair cut when I’ve felt dog-sick because looking at myself another minute when my hair cries for attention would send me over the edge.

But I’m the type that takes all appointments seriously. Not everyone does.

One person I knew through a professional organization pursued me for months to have a drink after work. I couldn’t duck any longer so we made a date, which she kept changing. This was fine with me as I didn’t want to see her in the first place and don’t like to cut my workday short to meet with someone I don’t particularly want to see. The day came and she pleaded with me to move the appointment from 6 pm to 5 pm which became horrendous for me, but to get it over with, I said, “OK.” I got to the place at 5 and waited. She had the audacity to arrive half an hour late. Throughout our time together, she kept looking at her Smartphone screen and taking calls and to this day, I cannot tell you the reason for this meeting, other than to assure me that my instincts about her were spot-on: She wasn’t worth my time. And I should have left the place when she was 10 minutes late.

churchI’d already written this post when I read the “Left at the Alter” letter to Philip Galanes in yesterday’s New York Times Style section. The letter writer and her husband left the church after an hour when the bride hadn’t yet appeared because they thought the bride was rude to keep a church full of people waiting. She asked Galanes if her action was defensible. I have a feeling that this wasn’t the first time the couple was kept waiting and they were acting out their annoyance at the bride’s incredible self-absorption and probably shouldn’t have accepted to go in the first place. That wasn’t Galanes’ answer.

Some doctors and lawyers consistently make patients wait having nothing to do with emergencies. Friends told me of having to wait at the bar of a well known NYC steakhouse for an hour after their reservation time and there were empty tables which they acknowledged were saved for regulars and celebrities. They eventually stalked out. Going to restaurants with my father was nervous-making because he didn’t care what the place was in the firmament of famous, if he had a reservation and if he was on time, he expected to be seated, period. If he wasn’t, there were words.

How long do you wait when someone is late to meet you? Now that so many people have cell phones, 10 minutes should do it, don’t you think? And unless you are meeting on the street, another option has always been to call the restaurant and ask the staff to give a message to the person you are meeting along with your ETA.

Have you changed doctors or lawyers or other service providers who routinely make you wait? What about friends and business associates who do so? Do you honor all appointments equally?


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