Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Service of Cutting Corners for Efficiency and to Slash Costs

Monday, February 26th, 2018


In a recent episode of “Call the Midwife” on PBS, Sister Ursula, new to running things at Nonnatus House, insisted that the home visits to newborns and patients who had recently given birth could be no longer than 10 minutes in the interest of efficiency. Each midwife should be able to add to her daily load as a result.

Sister Ursula, right. Photo:

The staff tried to tell her that their work [in the east end of London in the 1950s], bore no relationship to postnatal care in a hospital setting but she was adamant.  As a result, one of the midwives, who had been reprimanded severely for staying longer with a patient than ordered a day before, left a mother and newborn promptly, not realizing that they were exposed to carbon monoxide in their overheated bedroom and the infant almost died. At the end the baby lived and Sister Ursula, recognizing that super-efficiency wasn’t always the answer, quit her job.

I thought of this fictitious episode when I read Benjamin Parkin and Patrick McGroarty’s Wall Street Journal article, “A Rush to Slaughter Provokes Opposition.” It’s another example of removing government oversight on a source of food, letting an industry oversee itself. “Proposed rules allowing meatpackers to slaughter hogs faster and play a bigger role in policing food safety are intended to free up government inspectors while making plants more efficient. But the rules, which could take effect this year, have drawn criticism.

“Consumer advocates question whether companies can guarantee the cleanliness of their pork while workers take on some tasks previously reserved for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors. Meanwhile, worker-rights groups say speeding up slaughter lines would strain workers whose jobs are already difficult and dangerous.”

“Paul Kiecker, acting administrator of the USDA’s food-safety branch [said the] moves would let inspectors perform other duties such as checking on plant sanitation, which the agency deems a better way to promote food safety than having an inspector posted only to monitor specific points in the slaughtering process.”

According to the USDA “Diseases such as tuberculosis that an inspector can identify by sight are less common in livestock today, they say, while more pressing threats such as bacterial contamination are detected through laboratory tests. They say plant workers can be trained to perform tasks, such as preliminary health checks on glands and organs in slaughtered animals, that were previously performed by inspectors.”

Sure, the workers can be trained, but will they be? Doesn’t that cost money which clearly is not the objective. I am suspicious of the negative impact on citizens of cutbacks in government oversight on food production [beef is next] so I don’t know whom to believe. I fear the excessive profit motive pervasive today may affect us all adversely. Do you?


Service of Not Letting Go Easily

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Don't let go

I wasn’t going to post anything today. I had visions of everyone packing up for a long weekend. But something came up.

We’ve been using DIRECTTV to receive a television signal at our weekend place since the early 1990’s when a technician came to install a dish on the roof of our house upstate. The company has upgraded (made the service more expensive) over the years.

Recently it merged with AT&T and since then, we have been bombarded with ads touting their special “If you move take our service with you.”

Tuesday, when my husband Googled DIRECTTV to find out where to call to cancel Order cancelledour service, the only telephone number he could find on their website was the one to order the “If you move …” special. He called it and told the customer service man that we were selling our house and wanted to cancel, but were not moving to a new home and asked about next steps.

The man kept hammering away, “You must need service where you live or have a friend or relative who needs it. It would make the switch much easier for you.”

My husband explained that we live in New York City. You can’t stick dishes outside windows. Further, we don’t know anyone who needs service [nor do we have time to find someone—not our job]. All we want to do is cancel the service and move to our next chore. 

My husband asked if someone could come to the house and uninstall us and take the boxes. Someone came when we added a TV. He said he was sure that we were physically capable of doing the uninstalling and added “It would be much easier if you ordered a new service.” 

Eventually, after much haggling back and forth, he said “You’ll get a prepaid Fedex box with instructions as to what do.”

My husband asked: “What if we get electrocuted, getting your signal boxes detached?” 

He replied: “Turn the power off.”

My husband asked:  “What if we abandoned the equipment?”

He replied: “You can’t do that” and he read off a whole list of pricey penalties.

Husband: “Where can we drop off the signal boxes?”

Customer service: “You can’t, they must be FedExed to Memphis. We’ll send the shipping boxes to you in seven business days, but allow for two weeks.”

Husband: “But we will probably be out of the house by then.”

After a few more minutes of the same, my husband agreed that we would detach the DIRECTTV boxes, pack them, but not their wiring, and bring them to New York, where the company would send the prepaid FedEx boxes with the instructions as to how to detach them. Eventually, we will FedEx everything to Memphis.

My husband had the distinct impression that had we been ordering a new service somewhere else, someone would have come to uninstall us. Also, all of this hassle seems a bit silly since the equipment is so old that I can’t imagine it being of use to a soul.

The customer service rep was doing his job, trying to keep a customer, but he didn’t know when to stop even after my husband explained about restrictions to hanging dishes in NYC apartments. Further, what good to us are instructions sent after we’ve already disconnected the system?

special offersThe next day we got an email: “Give us a chance to make it right,” with special offers.

I can’t believe that we are the only customers to move to a place that doesn’t accommodate DIRECTTV and frankly, if they wanted us to be left with a good memory of them, should we subsequently move to a place with DIRECTTV as an option, they’ve lost us by complicating our lives now and making us jump through hoops to get rid of them.

This industry reflects extremes. When I returned a Time Warner Cable TV box almost two years ago, [we were changing to FIOS], nobody at the place said a word nor did they ask a question. That, too, surprised me.

Should a company train its customer service department when to stop pushing? Should they make it convenient for customers to discontinue service? Have you experienced similar inconvenience when trying to discontinue a service?

 Stop pushing

Service of Extremes: When A Winner is a Loser

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Biggest loser 2014 2

Much of the coverage of this year’s winner of the TV reality show “The Biggest Loser” focused on the danger to the health of the 24 year old who dropped almost 60 percent of her body weight to take home the $250,000 prize. When the season began she carried 260 pounds on her 5’4″ frame. After daily six hours of training and a 1,600/calorie diet, she ended up at 105 pounds.

Cup of coffeeIn her New York Times article, “A Big Reveal Touches a Nerve,” Jennifer Conlin quoted a finalist in the show’s third season who lost 118 lbs and felt unhealthy in the process. This finalist’s hair began to fall out due to lack of vitamins and in the journal she kept she recorded that the day before weigh-ins, so as to lose water weight, contenders would stuff themselves into layers of clothes so that they’d perspire excessively during workouts, and consume only coffee which is thought to reduce a body’s water.

You couldn’t help but notice the weight extremes in this year’s winner from stout to skinny, a woman who was once on her school’s swimming team. A book, “Almost Anorexic” by Jennifer J. Thomas, addresses the strong relationship between obesity and anorexia. Thomas is also the co-director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program at Mass. General in Boston and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. She told Conlin that she’s concerned by the attention and reward given the winner in this show because of the unhealthy approach to weight loss seen by people with eating disorders. She admitted that if the winner came to her clinic “we would be worried about her.”

Does this TV program address the obesity crisis or is it even supposed to? Can a TV program that deals with weight alone do a disservice to a person such as this year’s winner who for unknown reasons went from average to overweight and then to thin? Might some of the contenders have other health issues that have caused them to gain weight that when ignored by an extreme approach to weight loss might be a danger to them? And who can maintain for long a schedule that includes a job and six hours of training daily?

Biggest loser 2014


Service of Do It Yourself in a Digital Age: Saga of Installing a Cable TV Digital Adapter

Monday, August 19th, 2013

 Digital Adaptor Box

Our cable television service provider sent us a letter headlined: “Name of Company is going All Digital” followed by the subhead “Order any Digital Adapters you may need today.”

The letter noted: “This will affect you only if your cable line is plugged directly from the wall into your TV, VCR or DVD.” Our TV is. The letter warned, “Please order before August 6 to avoid losing your picture on August 13.”

calling customer servieTo get the box, which should have taken two minutes online, I spent over 2 hours in some eight to 10 follow up phone calls for reasons ranging from “your payment is past due,” which it wasn’t to my asking “where is the box you said would arrive on Saturday?”

Another call was to cancel a visit by an installer that we learned about through a message left on our home phone. We never requested this. From the start I’d opted for the do-it-yourself setup to save 1) $40+ and 2) the aggravation and stress of waiting for a service person to come on time–if ever.

The box arrived last week and after work one night my husband and I laid out all the elements on the bed in the order described in the brochure and methodically removed the existing cable from the original installation and attached the coaxial cable here and there, where it belonged. We were elated when the new digital box blinked at us with green flashes as it should.

TV blank screenWe had no TV picture so I called the toll free number to activate the system as instructed and a recorded message said to wait an hour and call back if the system wasn’t up by then. I set a timer, ate dinner and called because the green flashes had turned to red ones and I couldn’t turn on the TV.

The nicest, kindest, most patient customer service person told me that I wasn’t going to believe what he was going to say. I thought, “Fiddlesticks: That I need a new TV.” That wasn’t it: “You don’t need a digital adapter, Ma’am. I will help you restore the setup you had.”

The coup de grace: Lucky I confirmed the next step: that I should return the digital adapter, cables, remote and instruction booklets in the box using the Fed Ex label supplied. “No,” he said, “Please return it to the Name Of Company‘s store.” Translation: More time wasted. I’m planning to hand them the open box–photo at the top of the post–so as not to spend another second on this project.

I have a while to return it before I’m charged for the device. The store isn’t convenient to my office or home. I hope there isn’t a line as the customer service man implied that I’m far from the only person in this situation. “Did you find out you needed the adapter via letter?” he’d asked me. We decided that I and all the others in my boat received the letter due to a database error.

I feel so insecure about my TV signal that I’m waiting for a blackout when I try to turn on the TV one night. If this happens, I’ll know how to avoid the phone and online technology and where to go to get another box and thanks to the dry run, just how to install it.

Have you experienced or heard of a similar mix-up? Think it is too much to ask that the database that caused the wrong people to get the misguided letter send out a second one telling those customers to ignore the first? Do corporations so hate admitting a mistake that they’d rather cause their customers to waste countless hours in fruitless pursuits while smugly charging them a tidy sum every month?


Service of What is Good Company?

Thursday, October 11th, 2012


A book Kathleen Fredrick is reading, “TIME TO BE IN EARNEST: A Fragment of Autobiography,” by P.D.James, inspired this topic, a crucial one indeed.

chattingFredrick, a writer and retired editor, was interested by this excerpt: “James says that the Conversatione** was an enjoyable and welcome experience and: ‘I was reminded of the conversation between Mr. Elliott and his cousin Anne Elliott in PERSUASION: “My idea of good company, Mr. Elliott, is the company of clever and informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.’ ‘You are mistaken,’ he said gently. ‘That is not good company, that is the best.'”

[James had attended a ** Conversatione on Culture and Society that gathered 80+ representatives. The three-day event included people from church, finance, the arts, academia and journalism.]

familydinnerHere’s what I think: I am blessed by family and friends who are articulate and opinionated and make for great company because they freely share their thoughts. Sometimes I can’t wait to hear what they think! Conversation is never dull.

I like visiting businesses–restaurants, stores, doctor’s offices–where staff at least appears to be interested in my company.

It takes effort and energy to be good company. My parents had a neighbor who would say “Give a good time,” when, as a kid, I was going out with friends [she didn’t mean what you may think]. Our family had an old friend whom my great aunt criticized because she didn’t add to the conversation-didn’t share-though she might ask an occasional question.

strollingcraftfairI’ve become increasingly good company to myself which wasn’t always the case. There are things I love to do alone such as visiting a craft fair. I go at my pace, don’t have to waste time exploring a booth of no interest to be polite to a companion and don’t have to cringe when my friend or family member expresses negative comments at high decibels about someone’s work or prices while standing next to them.

However I prefer going to a movie, concert or play with someone so that I can discuss it afterwards. If I’m alone at a hotel I put on the TV for company. At home, I add the radio, especially in the morning or if I can’t sleep at night. And I like to work in a place with others around me.

Whom or what do you consider good company?


Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics