Archive for the ‘Retail’ Category

Service of Surprises that Cost Little and Make a Day

Monday, October 26th, 2020

Photo: twitter.com

A small gesture or effort, an unexpected tweak, can make a person’s day. I’ve written about these often. It’s fun to be on either side–recipient or donor.

In Vino Veritas

Since March I’ve bought wine at a local store rather than at the discounted Trader Joe’s that’s 25 blocks away. Each time I visit there are different clerks, all nice, mostly men. I buy inexpensive wine–two bottles at a time–as the store is my last stop on my way home. I’m already loaded up with groceries and still have four blocks to go.

On my last visit Sussex Wine [photo above] was empty and the clerk and I chatted. She could tell that this was not my first visit. She asked me if I was in their system: by sharing my phone number and name I’d be registered in their awards plan. After 300 points a customer gets a $10 discount. They’d never call me, she promised. The men hadn’t told me of this benefit before. I “enrolled.” As I left she told me she’d started me off with 200 points. Wow!

Milking It

There wasn’t a quart of fat free or 1 percent milk in Gristedes, the local grocery store. I walked to the front–milk seems to be as far from the door as possible in every store–and found a clerk sitting on a box restocking the lowest shelf. I asked if they expected a delivery later in the day. He jumped up, said he thought the truck had just arrived, dashed outside and came back with a quart of skim. Golden service! As I left I saw that they hadn’t yet brought out a hand truck to unload the order.

When Everything Goes Wrong

There were two clerks at CVS drugstore both of whom were having time-consuming problems checking out their customers. The manager came, spoke with each and just before he opened a third cash register to alleviate the growing checkout line a floor clerk said she also needed him.

He started to enter my order at the third register–we too ran into a hitch–when he left to again help the two cashiers whose customers had already been there for far too long. I didn’t see him again for quite a while. When he came back to me he apologized profusely and often and looked gloomy. He expected to hear me rant about the delay.

I smiled, said I saw that he was stretched beyond reason and not to worry. His relief and gratitude was palpable. It was a joy to see his mood change to cheerful. As he handed me my receipt he was overjoyed to tell me that I had a $6.00 rewards coupon.

Have you received a happy surprise or been able to please someone unexpectedly, at little cost? Does the stress over the pandemic and/or the election have something to do with some people-helping-people in important small ways?

Photo: myanxiousworld.com

Service of Hoarding III

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

Photo: quora.com

I can see everything in my freezer–it’s no longer overstuffed–I have three rolls of paper towel and of TP and love that it all fits under a sink. In the small cabinet in my diminutive kitchen, for the first time in six months, there’s room for a few more condiments, pasta or other non-refrigerated items.

The space in which I stored the overflow in my apartment last March is taken. It’s my home office since I no longer rent elsewhere.

Photo: fickr.com

We broke a record with 200,000 dead from Covid-19 and there’s already a new spike of cases in Europe. “Europe Passes U.S. in New Covid Cases, Returning as Hot Spot,” Thomas Mulier reported in Bloomberg.com 10 days ago. Earlier this week the UK increased restrictions for six months in an attempt to quell an alarming rise in cases.

We anticipate a resurgence in winter that will exacerbate the usual flu season.

“Currently, travelers from 35 “hotspot” states and territories must quarantine for 14 days after arriving in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut,” according to nbcny.com on Tuesday. On September 22 New York Governor Cuomo added Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Wyoming.

So am I taking a chance by not stocking up on the brands I like or do you think the country has overcome its shortage challenges? Have citizens here controlled their tendency to hoard? Is this an issue that only impacts people who live in compact spaces?

Covid-19 memorial for 200,000 who died by mid September, 2020

 

 

Service of Losing Retail Friends: Century 21, Maison Kayser & Lord & Taylor

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Photo: ny.curbed.com

When I heard last week that we were losing to bankruptcy a favorite discount store of mine–Century21–my heart sank. I have been a customer since the 1980’s when the Gindi family owned one small store in Manhattan’s financial district. In the early days along with drastic discounts for top of the line products the personal service by caring sales staff was equal to what customers received from expensive boutiques.

Since then the east coast discounter, a destination of tourists from around the world, expanded to 13 locations and its flagship quadrupled [my estimate] in size. The shoe departments alone seemed almost as big as the original store. It was no longer like its early self but was still a great place to find shoes, luggage, basic undergarments for men and women, handbags, towels and sheets at reduced prices.

Lord & Taylor NYC Photo: ny.curbed.com

Many years ago a friend called me in a panic. It was two days before Christmas and she’d not bought a single gift for her brother and members of his big family and she was going to his house for the celebration. We met at Century 21 and within an hour–that’s all I had as I was preparing for our large family Christmas Eve gathering the next night–she was well on her way to checking off everyone on her list with great presents for each. She was smiling when we waved goodbye.

I’ve had a yen for Maison Kayser baguettes, sandwiches, and pastries for months and I’d make a point to frequently walk by the bakery/takeout nearest my apartment to see if it had reopened. No luck. The US branches have filed for bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, the owner of Pain Quotidien and other food franchises–Aurify Brands–will buy it if nobody else offers a higher price. I hope whomever acquires it employs some of the gifted bakers. According to Claire Boston and Steven Church, “Maison Kayser has around 150 locations in 22 countries, with the U.S. bankruptcy action covering just the restaurants owned by Cosmoledo.”

Friends who mourn the liquidation of Century 21 also mention the loss of Lord & Taylor. We aren’t going to events requiring new clothes right now and many are not traveling so with the exception of buying for growing children most won’t feel the impact of these losses right away.

This is just the beginning. Where will the manufacturers sell their goods if there are no retailers? It’s scary to predict where the unraveling will end up.

Have you lost any of your favorite retail haunts? How have you replaced them? Any fond memories?

Maison Kayser’s goodies Photo: pinterest.com

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot II

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Photo: psychologytoday.com

I wrote the first post with this title three + months ago. It’s time for a reprise. The first post was about friends who reach out. This one is about strangers who warmed my heart.

How Cool is That?

The air conditioning units in my apartment all fizzled on a toasty day. I followed up a few times–the units belong to the landlord–and when the temperature had climbed upwards of 86° with four more hours until sunset–I get afternoon sun–I visited the lobby again explaining that I was beginning to feel woozy. The morning year-round doorman had been passive and useless. The manger was on vacation.

Climbing up to 86 degrees+

Doorman Joshua, a very young man and summer temp jumped into action and within an hour a porter/handyman was on the job. As I waited for him to return with new units the intercom rang. It was Joshua–we’d met only that afternoon–asking if I was OK. The porter told me Joshua had also called him again to confirm that he was on it. Too bad for us this is his summer job. I suspect he’s a student and given his common sense and empathetic streak predict great things for his future.

Beautiful Cashier

I visited CVS drug store on Third Avenue and 42nd Street early on a recent Sunday morning. The cashiers consistently help me make the most of my coupons. As I left that day–I was dressed in pandemic fashion on the cusp of sloppy–the young woman, who was barely out of her teens, called out: “Stay as beautiful as you are.” She could see my wave but not the smile under my mask.

Moving Along

I called the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA] about returning a discount MetroCard sent my husband. When I explained the reason the clerk, hearing he’d died, was compassionate and so heartfelt in her condolences I could hardly catch my breath.

Read On

I treated myself to an iPad so I could download books. I got tangled in the process of ordering a book after I’d downloaded an e-card from the New York Public Library so I sent a query to the help desk. After more fiddling I figured it out. A few days later I heard from Elizabeth at AskNYPL and in another email I explained that I was set and apologized for bothering her unnecessarily.

She wrote: “You are not bothering us. We’re here to answer questions, so if you run into any more e-book trouble, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Chat and phone are best for quick answers.” I responded again as did she: “So glad you were finally able to get a book! I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. Hope you enjoy it….Take care and happy reading!”

You don’t feel alone when dealing with people like these. Kindhearted, lovely strangers who take extra steps beyond their job descriptions are welcome anytime but especially these days. I suspect they enjoy their jobs more as well. Many of them suffer from pandemic fallout yet they still go the extra mile. Do you have similar instances to share?

Photo: nypl.org1

Service of Panic Purchases

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

A friend offered to stay overnight in my apartment just in case so I bought an inflatable mattress before scheduled surgery early this year. Turned out I was fine, she went home that night so the mattress remains in its box and with the pandemic it will remain there for a good long time. I didn’t need to buy it after all.

When sheltering in place was new I bought a few bags of rigatoni, a big jar of tomato and apple sauce, two cans of corn and boxes of crackers just in case. I’ve not yet touched them as I’ve been able to get fresh potatoes, fettuccine alfredo, farmer’s market apples, frozen corn and peas and fresh bread. I also have a giant bottle of cranberry juice in case I can’t get out for fresh OJ and cider.

Some would define these as panic purchases because I wouldn’t normally buy them.

Have you bought things just in case that you may never use or might take a long time to? Are you continuing to do so or have you calmed down in this regard?

Service of Irritations that Irk Now and Maybe Not Before

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Photo: houseplansandmore.com

Photo: nakedapartments.com

The pandemic has created a new set of frustrations that didn’t occur or rile as much or at all before.

Living as I do in Manhattan I listen carefully to advice to protect myself from the virus and gripe when many suggestions depend on a person’s living in a house or fully equipped apartment without alternates. “Leave an Amazon package in your garage or in the trunk of your car for a few days,” is one or “when you return home immediately wash your fabric face mask in your washing machine.” I can count on one hand the number of NYC apartments I’ve visited or lived in that have their own washer-dryer. It’s not always a question of money or space: Some co-ops don’t allow them.

Photo: homedepot.com

The reason I love Bounty paper towel is how strong it is. Drives me nuts that after the many times I wash my hands I must toss the paper towel that dries them instead of subsequently wiping a counter or not wasting one at all as before. I formerly wiped my hands with a linen kitchen towel.  Insult to injury: finding replacement towels is still a challenge in NYC.

A Manhattan friend’s recent late night Tweet: “The streets are eerily quiet these days. So when a car with a CAR ALARM is parked nearby and blares for hours on end, it’s more infuriating than usual. Dude, how old is your car, and could you park it in NJ please?”

Another friend placed an online supermarket order for her suburban mom so her mom had only to swoop by in her car for pick up and run. Friend was disappointed to hear that there was only one box of tissues–they’d run out of the less expensive brand she’d chosen–and that the market didn’t automatically provide a substitute even if costlier. The whole idea was to cut down the number of trips for supplies. There should be an opt in box to check that clears the store to make substitutes.

Photo: twitter.com

In “Service of My Space: Am I Invisible?” I’ve written about the disrespect many pedestrians show others on NYC streets. Some shove in front of the elderly or disabled and cut them off not always because they are studying their phones–but because they can or don’t care. The streets in midtown are empty now yet there are those who walk in the middle of a sidewalk forcing anyone coming towards them to walk in the street or hide in a building entrance to keep six feet away. Have they not heard about the advice to social distance?

Because I must don a mask and gloves to leave my apartment–my building asks tenants to protect others and themselves in public spaces–I try to plan trips to the garbage room to coincide with a visit to the lobby for mail or a grocery store for supplies. Did I ever imagine I’d have to strategize tossing garbage?

What little irritations have you noticed that never came up before the pandemic and/or didn’t irk you? Am I even more thin-skinned than usual? Are you?

Photo: fluentin3months.com

Service of When What Calms You is Out of Reach

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

Open for contemplation.

Congregants at synagogues, mosques, temples and churches, passionate sports fans and shoppers, movie and concert goers, bar hoppers, exercisers, museum and restaurant enthusiasts and travelers are up a creek these days. There are no religious services or sports competitions, and favorite roosts  that calm, uplift, cheer and/or distract are closed: movie houses, gyms, museums, concert halls, stores, bars and restaurants.

Photo: redskinswire.com

Even hugs are out.

I was looking at a favorite cooking show on TV yesterday but can’t find the ingredients so is there any point?

What do you substitute and how do you maintain your equilibrium when your favorite distractions and sources of solace are on hiatus? What do you look forward to? What’s an anxious person to do?

 

AKC Museum of the Dog NYC

 

Service of Heroes II

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Photo: mnn.com

There are many heroes these days who face the dangers of coronavirus while many of us have the luxury of being able to work remotely. Cashiers at grocery and other stores, apartment and office building staff, construction workers, firemen, policemen, doctors and nurses, radio and TV production staff and reporters to name just some.

Regardless of pay they are on the front lines in contact with potential germs.

Photo: chicagodoorman.com

From the start we’ve been told most at risk for this virus are older people and yet, as Julia Marsh reported in the New York Post, “In just a single day, one thousand retired and private practice doctors and nurses answered City Hall’s cry for help, volunteering to join the Big Apple’s medical reserve and help treat their fellow New Yorkers stricken with coronavirus.” The underline is mine.

The owner/founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer, has laid off 80 percent of the staff in his 19 restaurants–2.000 people. He’s not the only one. What else can he do?

These employees and millions like them with nowhere else to work will need the help and support of heroes to keep them afloat at a time when millions of others have seen their savings evaporate. In future such small businesses may be forced to set aside money for such crises. The public will pay more but what other choice?

Here’s to all the heroes and bless them. Can you identify some in your life? Will you thank these heroes for going to work in spite of the danger?

Photo: verywellhealth.com

Service of Hoarding II

Monday, March 16th, 2020

Photo: mlive.com

The morning after the August 2003 Northeast blackout I visited D’Agostino, a grocery store. We were going on vacation, the cupboard was bare and a friend on business in NYC was locked out of her hotel room so she was roosting at our apartment. I waited in line on the street and staff let two or three of us at a time in the darkened store. My mission: Bread and cheese. The numbers of other customers with grocery baskets filled with toilet paper eight-packs was remarkable.

A run on toilet paper is happening again these days. I can understand stockpiling food should we follow Italy, France, Israel, Spain and other countries closing everything down. But toilet paper?

Wegman’s in Rochester, NY.

Several places online report that the average person uses 100 rolls of toilet paper per year (over 20,000 sheets). Does this match your experience? Eight rolls a month seems like a lot to me unless the rolls are minuscule, you are extremely ill, you use the stuff for other things–the way we use baking soda for far more than cooking. Or maybe the national toilet paper association, if there is such a thing, spread the word in the hopes that people try to meet the statistic.

Trader Joe’s NYC 3/14/2020, 8:40 a.m.

The behavior–hoarding such paper goods–doesn’t match mayoclinic.com’s definition: “Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.” I had a friend with the disorder and have seen it in action.

The symptom, as reported on the website, is a little closer to what’s happening: “Getting and saving an excessive number of items, gradual buildup of clutter in living spaces and difficulty discarding things are usually the first signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder, which often surfaces during the teenage to early adult years.”

People with houses have plenty of room for all those extra rolls but in a typical NYC apartment an excessive number would likely be incorporated in the decor.

Everybody asks why people hoard toilet paper and I’ve not heard a valid answer. When anxious, people apparently need to have excessive amounts of it–why? Are you hoarding anything at this stressful time?

Trader Joe’s NYC 3/14/2020, 8:41 a.m. NYers don’t eat artichokes.

 

Service of Keeping the Best we Have: Why the Drive to Erase the Past?

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Eddies Sweet Shop

Driving through France one summer years ago we were starving as we entered a tiny town. Not a soul was on the street–it was lunchtime so schools and businesses were closed–but we found someone inside the otherwise empty local cafe. She said she was désolé, but she had no bread and couldn’t make us a sandwich. Our faces fell. Knowing we’d find the same situation in town after town she said to wait–she had some fresh bread at home. We sipped a drink and sat at a table outside the cafe which was on the main drag–as no cars drove by–and were entertained by Muscat, the dog. She returned with magnificent ham sandwiches which also pleased Muscat, the recipient of welcome snacks.

Schmidts Candy Shop

I haven’t been to France in years and was sad to read the headline of Noemie Bisserbe’s Wall Street Journal article, “France Says Au Revoir to the Cafe,” which I hope is an exaggeration. [The photos in the online story are wonderful–take a look.]

We’re not so good at keeping the best/most charming elements of our neighborhoods either. I’ve been to American cities that have decimated any architecture of interest. Here’s an exception. A friend took me on a tour of favorite haunts from her childhood in Queens where I saw many wonderful landmarks–architectural, restaurant and retail. Our adventure began with a visit to Rudy’s Pastry Shop where we had blueberry coffee cake and I a cafe latte–scrumptious.

The Lemon Ice King of Corona

The photos here feature:

  • Schmidts Candy where the proprietor apologized many times because the shop was recovering from Valentine’s Day. I sampled a divine homemade dark chocolate treat with orange filling.

    Eddies Sweet Shop

  • Eddie’s Sweet Shop. My choice was a scoop of banana ice cream with caramel sauce. Can’t wait to return on an empty stomach.
  • Lemon Ice King of Corona is featured in the intro to the TV program “The King of Queens,” in re-runs. We had no more room for sweets but I’m planning a reprise in summer.

Something striking about Queens: 98 percent of retail space appeared to be full unlike Manhattan which has an alarming number of empty storefronts.

What neighborhood favorites do you remember from your childhood and how many of them remain? Which do you miss?

 

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