Archive for the ‘Retail’ Category

Service of Looking for Trouble

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Photo: open.spotify.com

Some people look for trouble usually, but not always, to benefit themselves.

Photo: patch.com

Folks in retail have many tales to tell. Yesterday there was a kerfuffle at a Manhattan chain drugstore. One of the employees, planted to escort customers to the aisle and product they need and to keep an eye on things had apparently accused a woman of stealing. She responded by screaming at the top of her lungs. I moved to another part of the store pronto.

A friend who works in a boutique has too many stories of customers who try to pull one over on the business. At the slightest hint that they won’t get their way these shady customers also yell and scream. This is a good strategy because they know that no retailer wants to discourage other customers who are uncomfortable with a fight. While infuriated, my friend is forced to give them what they want.

Photo: rewardsnetwork.com

I’ve written before about the woman who sat behind me at a restaurant. The place was  having a bad staff day. I’d been there many times and service was prompt but something had happened–most likely a chunk of waiters had called in sick. The remaining ones were scrambling, apologizing profusely along the way. This customer wanted a free meal and ratcheted up her negative claims escalating from “You are discriminating against me because I’m a woman eating alone!” which was unlikely as the restaurant was in Grand Central Terminal where lots of women travel and eat alone to “I’m a cancer victim. I want to see the manager!”

Maurice Chevalier in Gigi. Photo: Photo: insidehook.com

More recently a friend and I were listing our favorite movies. We agreed on Gigi. She told me about an acquaintance, perhaps inspired by the Me-Too movement, who claimed that the song “Thank Goodness for Little Girls” was disgusting and smacked of something dark.  You be the judge. Think 1958 when the movie premiered.

The words Maurice Chevalier sang:

“Each time I see a little girl
Of five or six or seven
I can’t resist a joyous urge
To smile and say
Thank heaven for little girls
For little girls get
Bigger every day
Thank heaven for little girls
They grow up in
The most delightful way.
Those little eyes
So helpless and appealing
When they were flashing
Send you crashing
Through the ceiling”

This reminded me of the woman who threatened to sue a former wallpaper client because she claimed that the pattern–letters of the alphabet sprinkled in all directions–spelled nasty words inappropriate for a child’s room. Sure, all the letters for millions of words were in that wallcovering but really, talk about a stretch.

Do you have examples of people who look for trouble because that’s just how they are or because they want something for free? Is it valid to rip into vintage films, songs or books and measure them by today’s sensibilities and contemporary word usage thereby placing them in a cultural or entertainment dustbin?

Photo: 12rf.com

 

 

Service of What’s The Back-Story? I’ll Almost Never Know

Monday, January 6th, 2020

I love to make up back-stories. I do it when I overhear conversations, embroider about something I notice or that happens.

I received a package addressed to my apartment that wasn’t for me. The doorman looked up the name and said the man had moved out in 2016. He added, “The return address has the same last name as the one on the package. I wonder what that’s about?” It dawned on me that the sender may be the recipient’s ex wife. Perhaps she came across a bunch of his things and sent them to an apartment they’d once shared. She didn’t know he’d moved. I’ll never know the truth.

There was the remarkably silent couple in their 60s or 70s at a stunning restaurant with toothsome food in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Why didn’t they speak even to discuss the menu or react to what they’d just tasted? Did they have a fight? Did they never speak in public? Were they struggling with some bad news? Did one of them have a sore throat? I’ll never know the truth.

Photo: pinterest.com

The couple in the pub in Georgetown was out of the 1960s. She wore a flip teased to death held in place with a can of hairspray. He barked orders to the wait staff. Because of where we were and what they looked and sounded like I guessed he was a military officer who had retired in the DC area. When the couple left the restaurant I asked our waiter to confirm my speculation. “He owns the pub!” he said, which explained how he got away with the nasty tone he used with the staff.

I see men schlumped in chairs at almost every retail store I visit. They’re either looking into space, sleeping or curved over their phones. Why don’t they tell their significant others that they don’t want to be there? It’s so easy to drop the spouse off and go for a cup of coffee or to a store that would interest them or even to stay home. I’ll never know the truth.

Do you like to imagine what the back-stories are?

Photo: boredpanda.com

Service of Second Hand Clothes: Thrift in Unexpected Places

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Photo: picclick.com

One of my office mates years ago owned an extensive collection of fur coats and jackets from ermine and fox to mink and beaver. She’d bought every one of them at a thrift shop.

In my early 20s I knew a woman whose very wealthy husband paid for anything she wanted. He kept a tight grip on her by giving her cash only if she’d tell him where she was going and what she wanted the money for. He’d know what she bought at stores by checking his credit card bills. Desperate for cash which represented a modicum of independence, she’d sell, for a few dollars, amazing barely worn clothes I couldn’t otherwise afford–a win and for me super win.

Photo: medium.com

Hand-me-downs are nothing new to kids with older siblings.

Even so, I was surprised to read Suzanne Kapner’s article–written with Micah Maidenberg–in The Wall Street Journal: “J.C. Penney Tries On Used Apparel.” That’s right: The store, which is suffering from plummeting sales and stunning losses is partnering with threadUP for the clothes.

So is Macy’s which, Kapner and Maidenberg wrote “reported a disappointing second quarter that sent its stock plunging.”

ThredUp bills itself as the “largest online consignment and thrift store” and boasts, on its website, that you can “shop your favorite outfits from over 35,000 brands, all up to 90% off.” It touts that it’s causing a resale revolution.

Photo: treehugger.com

As I write this I’m humming “Second Hand Rose,” a song that Barbra Streisand and before her Fanny Brice made famous. Written in 1921 by Grant Clarke and James F. Hanley the second verse about the “girl from Second Avenue” goes:

I’m wearing second hand hats Second hand clothes That’s why they call me Second hand Rose Even our piano in the parlor Daddy bought for ten cents on the dollar Second hand pearls I’m wearing second hand curls….

Auto dealerships sell second hand cars and customers don’t blink so why can’t department stores sell used apparel? Isn’t it ironic that the stores think they can sell used clothing when they are having trouble enticing customers with the new? I wonder what the Penny’s and Macy’s vendors think? Will shoppers leave the thredUp department and spend money in the cosmetics and accessories counters? Will they pay full freight for the new clothing in the stores? Can you predict the outcome of this trend?

Photo: thredup.com

Service of Unashamed Theft: Are Perpetrators Bolder Than Before?

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Photo: teachercreated.com

Thievery is as old as time but are robbers bolder these days?

Busing It

I was on a NYC bus last night. The driver had left open a back door to let passengers out while adjusting a ramp allowing access to the front door for an incoming passenger in a wheelchair. There was a patient line waiting behind the wheelchair.

Photo: nbcnewyork.com

A young woman hopped in the rear door and headed to the back, clearly not walking to the front to pay her fare. The driver saw her, motioned to her to get off, which she did. Two women sitting behind me remarked on the nerve of the sneak who rejoined the line and a friend who was still standing in it. She didn’t seem phased though when another bus pulled up behind ours, she ran to get on.

Spraying It

Photo: pointofsale.com

Last Sunday I saw a well dressed woman in sundress at a chain drugstore on East 34th Street spraying her arms and legs liberally with sunscreen as though she was at the beach. When she was done, she put the used canister back on the shelf and left.

Turnstile Larceny

If you take the subway often enough you’ll see people slip through the turnstiles without paying. I saw a youngster do that a week ago. Whether cheating bus or subway, the public pays the fare.

How come people aren’t embarrassed to steal in public or has it always been so and I didn’t notice? Have you witnessed petty theft lately?

Photo: gothamist.com

 

Service of Mi Casa es Tu Casa–Come on In!

Monday, June 17th, 2019

Photo: tierrafina.com

Daily we hear of hacking that’s happened either to a friend, big corporation or organization. It’s a form of break-in. I think it may have inured the public to the normalcy of loss of privacy that gorges on volunteer personal intrusions. Think such smart speakers like Alexa and Amazon Echo.

Photo: wired.com

Maybe that’s why Walmart and Amazon have or are about to introduce a new wrinkle to their delivery services. In select markets, both will or do arrange for access to a customer’s home to put food in the fridges of the former and leave packages in a home, garage or car trunk in the latter.

Citizens of Kansas City, Mo., Pittsburgh and Vero Beach will be the first to officially invite Walmart delivery staff to put perishables in their refrigerators through a program slated for a fall launch called Walmart InHome. [The system was tested in New Jersey.]

Photo: commons.wikipedia.org

In “Walmart Wants to Put Groceries Into Your Fridge,” Sarah Nassauer wrote “The workers will wear a body cameras [sic] clipped to their chests, allowing customers to watch live streams of deliveries being made while they aren’t home.” She reported in her Wall Street Journal article that they’ll have access to homes via a smart lock that connects to the Internet allowing a door to unlock remotely. Wallmart sells the device.

Delivery staff for the service must have worked for the company for at minimum a year. “Not everyone embraces the concept at first, but just as people have gradually accepted renting out rooms in their homes through services like Airbnb Inc, ‘people are very quickly comfortable with it,’ said Marc Lore, head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce business.”

Photo: gate labs

The Amazon service, Key by Amazon, wrote Nassauer, is for Prime members in 50 cities. Fresh groceries aren’t involved. In another program Via Prime Now customers get orders from Amazon’s Whole Foods division on doorsteps.

Not every delivery business received the mega company’s stamp of approval. Sebastian Herrera reported last week in the Journal that Amazon is deep sixing its restaurant delivery service.

Would you be comfortable inviting strangers into your kitchen or your home, garage or car trunk when you’re not home? Do you think comfort level for this kind of trust may be higher in some parts of the country than others? Have privacy-breaking services like Alexa and Amazon Echo paved the way? What if you’re in a meeting or otherwise inaccessible when you need to unlock your front door remotely with no time to watch while the delivery person with body camera drops off your perishables? Do you think that this person—or the staffer who packs the order–will be trained to leave foods like tomatoes and bananas out of the refrigerator and on the counter?

Photo: orchardestates.com

 

Service of Digital Receipts Going Astray: Can Square Fix the Glitch?

Monday, June 10th, 2019

Photo: samsclub.com

It’s bad enough when you’re not paying attention and you email James Doe instead of James Doener because you let auto suggest have its way with you. Most people have done this or received correspondence for someone because of it. I cringe at a few of my bloopers.

Now it turns out that a record of your purchases could possibly be shared with others. Peter Rudegeair wrote about it in “Square Sends Millions of Digital Receipts, Sometimes to the Wrong Person From surprise gifts to pending divorces, misdirected notifications result in spilled secrets.” Square is a service that allows companies to accept mobile credit card payments via a gizmo inserted into the port of a phone.

In one example Rudegeair wrote about a friend who learned that the credit card owner was getting a divorce because she received a copy of a detailed lawyer’s receipt for the retainer.

Photo: westminsterpc.ca

In another a spouse received a detailed digital receipt, before Christmas, of gifts that were supposed to be a surprise. Because she was getting the blame–and had never before had so many complaints for her service–the local retailer asked Square to disable the automated digital receipt function two years ago.

Rudegeair reported that if a spouse signs up for a digital receipt program for a card they share, they both get them. The partner may not realize this. A florist “has gotten calls from spouses who had surprise gifts spoiled by an errant receipt,” he wrote. The florist added “God forbid anyone was having an affair. You’d see everything.”

Photo: posapps.io

Rudegear wrote: “Square has forwarded receipts documenting transactions as mundane as a cup of coffee and as sensitive as an obstetrician’s visit to people who were uninvolved in the purchases, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In some cases, neither the purchaser nor the recipient could say why Square sent receipts to the people it did.”

According to a Square spokesperson “digital receipts could be received by the wrong person for a variety of reasons, including consumers sharing a credit-card number, accidentally sending the receipt to a recycled phone number or seller or buyer error.”

Customers signing up for digital receipts is a profitable sideline for Square, Rudegear reported: “Square has a window into spending patterns that few other tech companies can match. By supplementing that data with contact details that shoppers provide to Square for the purpose of getting digital receipts, the company is able to assemble expansive profiles of consumer behavior that it can use to run marketing and loyalty programs for its small-business customers.”

Have any of your digital receipts gone rogue? Are you concerned that they might? Now that you know a glitch like this is possible, would you cancel the digital receipt option on your credit card?

Photo: floranext.com

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Like a paper cut the tiniest thing can irritate big time. The fix is often so simple as to be ridiculous. Yet it can take time to face.

The bathtub in my new apartment needs a stopper. When we first moved in I bought the wrong size and for two months I’ve annoyed myself every day by having to adjust the thing several times to fill one tub. The stopper would slip out of place with the force of the water hitting it so the water leaked out.

For $1.49 at a full-price midtown NYC hardware store two blocks from my office and a proper measurement of the bathtub drain I solved the problem in seconds. Such relief! And it took me weeks to attend to this simple chore.

In another instance I was at CVS Drug Store looking for an item. As I scrunched to the ground and up again several times in front of a brand I heard a voice on the loud speaker: “Customer in the makeup department.” I was the only one there! I wondered if I’d touched a button—I hadn’t.

An employee appeared [spooky] and asked if she could help. I told her what I was looking for. They had split the brand so that half of its products were on one side of the aisle and the other across the aisle! I’d never have figured that out. Amazing! She apologized and admitted that the placement could be confusing.

Are there little things that get on your nerves in your home or office that would take little to fix and would make a big difference? Do you attend to them immediately or drag your feet? Has obscure merchandising in a store tripped you up? Do you think CVS has lost sales by splitting a brand’s beauty products across an aisle?

Photo: cvshealth.com

Service of Tricked Out Chocolate: Strange Concoctions for an Old Favorite

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

The real thing: Some Easter treats I received as gifts.

New things in fashion or interior design have always intrigued me but not tricked out food favorites. I am not a fussy eater but I don’t care for anything I eat or drink that has been fiddled with such as flavored. Take seltzer. If I want a taste of lime I’ll squeeze in juice from fresh citrus. So the likelihood is slim to none that I will want a favorite cookie—Oreos—in any but the time-honored version: two chocolate wafers with a plain cream concoction inside. Add a glass of milk and I’m in heaven.

Photo: pinterest.com

Carol Ryan wrote about the popularity of hot-chicken-wing and wasabi-flavored Oreos in a recent Wall Street Journal article. China and the U.S. are the two biggest markets for this twist.

I also learned in this article, “Chocolate Has a Sweet and Spicy Growth Mix,” that if the FDA approves it, there will be a ruby-pink chocolate in our futures to add to white, milk and dark. Ryan reported that it would be the first new chocolate in eight decades. I’ll give pink a try as long as some poisonous coloring isn’t in the recipe. I remember how Red Dye No. 2 was banned because of a plausible link to cancer.

Hot-chicken-wing and wasabi-flavored Oreos Photo: delish.com

According to Ryan the chocolate industry is bracing for trouble here because impulse purchases at endangered cash registers impact sales. Should “New retail formats like Amazon Go’s cashierless shops” take off, she predicted that a cash cow for chocolate will run dry. In cashierless shops customers walk in and out passing neither registers nor checkout counters, hence no waiting in line by merchandisers filled with tempting treats. [I wrote previously about cashless retail in Service of the Honor System.]

I understand the need for an industry to innovate to keep dollars flowing as traditional shopping patterns change. And clearly there’s a hearty market for unusual versions of old favorites. But I’m not tempted by most, especially where chocolate is concerned. Are you? Are there unusual taste sensations that appeal to you?

Ruby chocolate Photo: craftsense.co

Service of Untrained Staff and Insufficient Inventory Messing Up Food Orders

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Photo: medium.com

When you order food and don’t get what you want it can be hard to tell if it’s due to a lack of staff training or insufficient inventory. This is nothing new even though the millions who order all sorts of food online these days may think it is.

I ran into untrained staff causing stress when buying a bunch of sandwiches for office colleagues at a then novel Au Bon Pain years ago. It was so bad I eventually no longer asked “Can I get someone anything at Au Bon Pain?” when leaving the office to pick up lunch for myself. The takeout offered a choice of bread, meat and cheese for freshly made sandwiches. Inevitably I’d return with ham and brie on a roll when my colleague wanted ham and Swiss on a baguette as one example. Of some five orders three would be wrong. Drove me nuts. It happened because the staff didn’t know the difference between cheeses and breads and clearly the choices weren’t well marked and/or the staff wasn’t trained to ID the options.

Heather Haddon’s Wall Street Journal article rang bells. “Amazon to Whole Foods Online Delivery Customers: We’re Out of Celery, How’s Kale? Companies offering online grocery ordering and delivery struggle with services’ logistics” described customer experience with the online grocery and delivery system for select Amazon Prime members.

Photo: LLamasoft.com

She wrote about what happened to Kelly Hills. The Massachusetts-based bioethicist  “ordered a sourdough loaf from Whole Foods recently but was offered a jalapeño cheese bread instead. Her so-called ‘shopper’—either a contract worker employed by Amazon or a Whole Foods staff member tasked with compiling delivery orders—had opted to put decaf coffee in her bag instead of whole roasted coffee beans, celery instead of celery root and a single seltzer flavor rather than a variety. ‘The substitutions are downright bizarre. It’s frustrating,'” Think of all the time wasted to return this stuff or the money lost to accept what you won’t use.

Haddon added that problems “are often amplified because daily operations at the two companies are still largely separate. Whole Foods employees said Amazon workers routinely ask for help finding items on shelves or elsewhere, distracting them from their own duties. Technology that tracks Whole Foods’s inventory is old, and officials have discussed updating it for years.”

Have you been impacted by poorly trained staff, insufficient inventory or other issues when buying food–or anything else–either in person or online? Why do you think the glitches happen? Do you usually accept the mistakes or do you take time to return or report them?

Photo en.wikipedia.com

Service of Refills: Do Consumers Have the Time & Money?

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Photo: pinterest.com

I found fault with the hullabaloo over the so called huge benefits to the environment when businesses announced they were banning  plastic straws in the post “Service of the Last Straw,”—literally too little in the plastic litter wars.

I perked up reading Saabira Chaudhuri’s article “The World’s Biggest Brands Want You to Refill Your Orange Juice and Deodorant–P&G, Nestlé and others try to curb plastic waste; Tropicana in glass bottles, Tide in metal cans.”

Chaudhuri reported: “Refillables once dominated industries such as beer and soft drinks but lost out to convenient, affordable single-use containers. In 1947, refillables made up 100% of soft-drink containers by volume and 86% of beer containers, according to the Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit. By 1998 those figures dropped to 0.4% and 3.3%, respectively.”

She added that the refill business exists but is niche, done by some grocery stores and entrepreneurs largely

Statewide Refillable Bottles Photo: kcts9.org

in shampoo and detergent businesses.

The trial will include PepsiCo’s Tropicana OJ in a glass bottle and Quaker Chocolate Cruesli cereal in stainless steel. Some of P&G’s 10 participating brands include Pantene shampoo in aluminum and Tide in stainless-steel.

In addition, Chaudhuri wrote: “Shoppers who the companies select for the trial will be able to order hundreds of products—including Nestlé’s Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Clorox Co.’s wet wipes—from a website for home delivery. Products arrive in a reusable tote with no extra packaging. Once finished, users schedule a pickup for empty containers to be cleaned and refilled. They can sign up for a subscription-based service that replenishes products once empty containers are returned. TerraCycle will handle delivery, returns and cleaning.

Photo: pinterest.com

“The products will cost roughly the same as the versions in single-use containers, but users will also have to pay a deposit of $1-$10 per container. Shipping charges start at roughly $20, decreasing with every item added.

“Susan Collins, head of the Container Recycling Institute, said high deposit fees could be a barrier to entry for many consumers. ‘It sounds like it’s only meant to attract the most green, virtuous shoppers,’ she said.

I’d add that customers who look for sales are also out of the loop.

“TerraCycle hopes to bring big retailers on board so that customers eventually buy and return most of the products in store or online via retailers, lowering the project’s costs and expanding its reach,” Chaudhuri concluded.

If shoppers don’t have a doorman or house staff or if they aren’t retired, who will accept the packages and what about ice cream sales shipped in summer? Will the shipping and container costs impact the success of these initiatives? Can we go home again, to the middle of last century, when refills in certain product categories were standard? Will a sufficient number of customers, spoiled by taking three seconds to toss out a bottle or container, make the time to wash out each container and prepare the package to ship it back?

Photo: etsy.com

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