Archive for the ‘Retail’ Category

Service of Discounts III

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

Photo: hisugarplum.com

It’s just been two months since I wrote about discounts from legitimate businesses that edged towards scam. I recently came across two instances involving price cuts that I thought illustrated clumsy marketing or poor communications more than attempts at fleecing.

Don’t misread the customer’s willingness to overpay for postage

Photo: shop.nypl.org

The NY Public Library gift store promoted a discounted price if you bought two tote bags. The sayings printed on a few were perfect for friends. In the last window of the ordering process they charged me $8.95 for postage/handling. There was no curbside pickup option. The feather-light textiles could be stuffed into poly mailers in seconds, no other packing necessary.

In addition, during the ordering process, I gave them my email address and mobile number to enrich their database so they could send me store updates. For this I was to get a 10% discount [which would have covered the tax]. The 10 percent code was refused. The bounce back message said I had already received a discount and was ineligible for a second.

That did it. I cancelled the order. With the extra $12 the new total came to more than I wanted to pay for tote bags.

The retail department at the library may need to rethink its strategy. Overcharging on postage is not a good way to make more money if it causes you to lose sales. Offering a discount without a warning that it might not apply does not inspire customer confidence. The operation is sophisticated enough that twice I was reminded I hadn’t completed my order. [Missing was my credit card information.]

Greetings from dotted i’s and crossed t’s

Photo: heb.com

In a second instance a text from a favorite greeting card company announced a sale: $3 instead of $4.50/card. When I linked from the text in my phone all the prices were $4.50. I thought maybe there were only a few of the cards on sale and tried to find them. No-go.

I sent an email to customer service. I learned 1) the discount would appear during checkout and 2) all cards were subject to the discount. There was no mention of either in the text or on the individual online sale sheets. After I heard from customer service I placed an order from my laptop. There, on the home page, was a notice that the sale price would appear at checkout.

Just a few more words of clarification in the text would have solved misunderstandings and confusion and saved time. I wonder if the company lost sales from others who didn’t take time to clarify the sales information.

Have you been misled or confused by online or traditional purchases involving sales? Have you cancelled an order because of exorbitant postage/handling charges?

Photo: id.pinterest.com

Service of Memories II

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

I passed Pete’s Tavern [photo above] on Tuesday and was relieved to see that it was still in business, looking buff. Landmark restaurants and favorite retail hangouts of my long life in NYC had already gone well before the pandemic but since it began, too many others, some that evoked recent memories, have suddenly bitten the dust.

My father loved Pete’s. In addition to their killer garlic bread there’s another memory that makes me smile. In one week Dad had invited for lunch my mother, a client and me, then a young adult. I was his last date. He looked so pleased with himself when the host, who knew him, teased him about his popularity with women given the assortment of his female guests.

Flying Tiger Photo: timeout.com

In the mile+ walk at noon on a weekday I was shaken at how empty the Manhattan streets were as I headed south on Lexington Avenue to Irving Place to Third Avenue and 14th Street. You’d think it was a sunny Saturday in August in a normal year. I again refer to the photo of Pete’s above center: Not even a dog walker in view. This does not augur well for the remaining businesses in the short term.

From way back I still miss the Goody Shop in Mount Kisco with its killer chocolate ice cream; the fruit tarts and croissants at French bakery Dumas, about 88th Street on Lexington Avenue; the chocolate sauce from a NJ store Grunings; stationery at Kate’s Paperie and Loehman’s that in its heyday pretty much filled my clothes closet. I liked the one on Fordham Road in the Bronx.

Then there are the pandemic-shuttered businesses such as retail store Century 21, especially the one on Dey Street in Manhattan; Flying Tiger a fun place for kitschy gifts and Jasmine, a super Chinese restaurant on East 49th Street, just three that made my heart sink when they closed.

Memories are great but what can we do to for the employees of some of these businesses? I checked out on Charity Navigator organizations that help restaurant workers that are listed in a range of articles and none were rated no doubt because they are new. If you supported any please share.

Have your favorite haunts survived?  Do you remember any that are long gone or more recently erased from the scene?

Photo: downtownmagazinenyc.com

Service of Pet Peeves III

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Photo: writingcooperative.com

I wrote the first two Pet Peeve posts in 2010 and 2011, summarized below as my feelings about them are unchanged. And although they’re not earmarked as such, many posts over years focus on irritating situations that fall in the peeve category, such as the recent ones about bait and switch sales tactics and euphemisms like “food insecurity” for hunger.

NOW

Hard to believe I have so many new ones.

Photo: posportal.com

I recently paid by credit card for bread in a bakery and dinner from a takeout-only Chinese place. In both instances an automatic tip request popped up on the tablet’s screen. Why should I give a tip to someone for putting a loaf of bread in a bag? I gave a tip for the Chinese takeout, even though I picked up my order, but friends who tip generously said they wouldn’t.

I don’t answer when surveys ask me what my income is and don’t believe that they should ask.

TV news producers: Stop showing close-ups of injecting vaccines into arms. For the squeamish who aren’t planning to get the vaccine it’s a turnoff and deterrent.

Train your vicious dog or give it away particularly if you live in an apartment house.

Respond to personal texts within 24 hours–especially if the sender infrequently reaches out and/or if they pose an important question.

Photo: dogexpert.com

If I never hear from you for months and we are personal acquaintances send me something more than a link to an article.

If I consistently “like” your Facebook postings, every once a quarter please “like” one of mine.

THEN

I’m surprised at how many of the oldie peeves are pandemic-proof. The exception might be how miffed I feel when my hands are full and someone near a door doesn’t hold it open. These days some might be afraid of getting too close. Another that irritated me 10 years ago was someone borrowing my pen and not returning it. I wouldn’t want it back now.

Otherwise, here are many of the oldie but still valid:

You call at a scheduled time and are told “Call me in 20 minutes.” The person who changes the time should make the second call.

Repetition of misinformation so it becomes true to some.

Photo: zero2turbo.com

Drivers who don’t use their signal lights. It’s as handy a communication tool for pedestrians crossing city streets and avenues as it is for drivers.

Waste by government and corporations.

Buzzwords and jargon.

Tell me privately something that impacts me–don’t first announce it in public and if you want to give away something of mine, don’t ask me if it is OK in front of the potential recipient so I feel forced to say “yes.”

Don’t:

  • roll your eyes if I ask a question
  • offer to do something you know you won’t do
  • pull out on me causing me to slam on my brakes

Lack of traffic lights or signs at dangerous intersections drive me nuts.

 

Have your peeves stayed the same over years? Any new ones? Do people close to you know your peeves or do you keep them close to the vest?

Photo: newslit.org

 

 

Service of Discounts II

Monday, January 18th, 2021

I’m a lifelong discount shopper and I love sales.  I wrote about false advertising six years ago and a year before about a restaurant sued by an anti-religion group because it offered a discount to those who said grace before eating. Bait and switch irritates me most.

In the days I bought shirts for my husband at a well known haberdashery I was fooled year after year by signs in the window touting a 50 percent discount. You learned inside that you had to buy three shirts for the discount to kick in. I’d always hoped that they’d stop the shenanigans.

Photo: pinterest

The words “UP TO” hidden in mouse type–in emails and online as well–get me too. It would take crack FBI detectives to find the one reduced item at “up to 70 percent off” usually available only in size extra small. Why not offer a generous 30 or 40 percent to all discounted items?

I ordered stationery online from a small company. The sponsored Facebook posting that caught my eye offered a 15 percent discount [they rarely if ever discount] and once on the site I responded to a request for my mobile phone number so they could send me texts. For this information they offered a 20 percent discount. I hesitated buying anything when I saw the total and I left the site. In an email, they offered me $5.00 to place an order.

But I got no discounts when I finally placed the order so I immediately wrote customer service–it was New Years weekend–and heard back promptly on the first business day. Meanwhile they had shipped my order. Customer service agreed to return 15 percent to my credit card in spite of my reminding the clerk about the 20 percent and the $5. I love the cards–I’ve bought from them before in person and online usually at full price–but will think 20 times before ordering again.

Are there discount practices that irk you? What percentage do you think is enough to move you to consider buying an item on sale–20? 30? 40? 70? Have you avoided retailers or manufacturers because you felt flimflammed by their sales practices?

Service of Inspiration: It’s All About Attitude

Monday, January 4th, 2021

Photo: thedancebarn.co.uk

Service is the root of my posts and the inspiration of my 12 year old blog. Memory of exceptionally bad service I received since I was a teen remain and fascinate me which is why I chose the topic. [I even remember a bus driver who yelled at my mother when I was young.]

I’ve previously written about the ruthlessly nasty man behind the engagement ring counter at Cartier. My fiancée and I were in our early 20s. His nasty attitude made its mark. Fully aware that this was only one person, I have nevertheless avoided the brand ever since.

I had a flashback to that exchange when I entered the local liquor store I’d frequented since the pandemic started after a lovely New Years Day walk with a friend. I didn’t recognize the two behind the counter in the otherwise empty store. They were chatting in French and didn’t greet me. I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I asked them “Can you please recommend a good red wine in the $10 range?”

One of them answered “No,” and turned back to his conversation. The single word felt like a slap.

Photo: blog.fivestars.com

I’ve never worked in retail sales but given a live customer and the fact there were no other customers waiting I’d have shown her a red costing $15 if necessary saying “You should give this one a try even though it’s a bit more.”

I wished I’d not let my French rot over years of neglect or I’d have mouthed a few choice words. Why were they working in a store with specially priced wines prominently displayed by price from $5.99 to $15?

I never gave Cartier another chance though I plan to return to the wine store to learn if the men are new owners or employees. If the latter, I will share my experience. If the former, I will find another store.

My wine store of choice is Trader Joe’s on 14th Street. Trader Joe’s hasn’t delivered in a few years and is not convenient–I avoid public transportation for frivolous reasons these days. Wine snobs: sneer all you like but I have been happier with wines I’ve bought there starting at $6 than I have some at $16 from the local store.

Have you noticed that insulting service is infrequent these days and therefore more startling? Do you have recent superbly good or bad service experiences to share?

Photo: locations.traderjoes.com

 

 

Service of Looking on the Bright Side II

Monday, December 28th, 2020

Photo: notsalmon.com

It almost feels out of place, with so many friends suffering, to list some bright spots as I look back on this year. I worry that my list might ring a sour note against the backdrop of recent loss–some sorely and freshly missing their loved ones–while others are fighting challenging diseases or conditions, and several are exhaustively looking for jobs. Out of my circle, millions are hungry and/or are about to be evicted from their homes or are recovering from Covid-19–or not. Carcasses of businesses are on every commercial street in Manhattan and in most cities. And this is for starters.

Cheery observations at the end of 2020 might be reminiscent of the Christmas letters of old that often arrived as life imploded. The writers boasted about a kid’s early admission to Harvard, the First Class trip the family of eight took in Tuscany all of August and the sale of the family business for a gazillion dollars. [I don’t get these letters anymore because Facebook boasting took the pressure off.]

Nevertheless, I nod to a few things that brightened my year:

  • I moved my office home in June. By July all the others in the shared space were also permanently working remotely. It wasn’t the lifestyle jolt I’d have expected under normal circumstances because I’d already been home for four months and had adjusted to the lack of companionship.
  • Envisioning the reaction of recipients of the handwritten postcards I sent to support candidates around the country made me smile. Did they think, “Who is Jeanne?” Did they vote?
  • My friends are blessings. I appreciated all their invitations even though I accepted so few.
  • Normally not fond of shots I look forward to receiving the vaccine–the ray of hope.
  • I splurged–and love–my iPad and the New York Public Library e-book collection.
  • YouTube and WMNR [through my laptop] are lifesavers. So is Netflix.
  • I feel safe in my apartment.
  • I enjoy my own company.

If you suffered a loss or are ill, I am so sorry. I rejoice with friends who have battled and won over serious conditions. I trust those looking for work will find promising opportunities early in the new year. And I hope that you, too, can think of a few bright spots as you review this horrific year. Happy New Year.

We hope they will.

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?

 

 

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

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