Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

Service of What Happened to the Word FROM and Other Omissions

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Something's missing

There’s a commercial for 1800gotjunk.com that ends, “you never have to take off work.” And for years people have said—and written—“I graduated high school.” So what happened to the missing word FROM? I am far from a perfectionist when it comes to conversation but I miss hearing that word.

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

In a morning show radio discussion of other March blizzards in NYC in anticipation of tomorrow’s storm, the host brought up the “great blizzard of 1888” [that Wikipedia reported dumped some 40 inches of snow in parts of N.Y. and N.J. and up to 58 inches in Mass. and Conn.]. In predicting this week’s expected snowfall the host repeatedly left out the word IN when he said “anticipated precipitation Central Park.” That was the first I heard a missing “IN” and I hope it doesn’t become a habit.

This led to irritating abbreviations. I’ve recently heard on newscasts the word “presser,” short for press conference. Is it too difficult to say “press conference?”

Information technology expert Josh Cintrón shared a contraction he dislikes: “phoner” for phone interview. He admits to being a stickler for word choice and referenced the ridiculous image of someone who had just “caught the train.” He added, “not for nothing,” a phrase that may make some people cringe. But we agreed that we’ve become fond of this typical NYC double negative. [Who said we had to be consistently picky?]

When someone tells actor Daniel McHenry that they are “fixing dinner” he wonders “who broke it?”

Are there any missing or erroneous words or abbreviations that irk you? Do we drop words or parts of them simply out of laziness?

 

Photo: elitereaders.com

Photo: elitereaders.com

 

 

 

 

Service of Why Don’t You Say So?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Say so

Communications is often not our strong suit. The cost? Customers pay the price in wasted time and/or mistakes.

Taxing

I ordered an item online from a high end men’s store and noticed, in checking out, that I was charged tax. For clothing that costs $110 or less, New York residents don’t pay tax. While it wasn’t much, it irritated me that tax appeared on my bill but because it was the last day of a super sale, I approved the order and wrote customer service [which was closed on the weekend].

TaxFirst thing Monday I got a response telling me that they will charge the correct total {without the tax} “when the order is ready to ship.” I was notified, but the tax was still there. So I whipped out another note–thank goodness for cut and paste and email. The correction was made.

Given that the store has a NY branch and that I assume more than one customer orders from NY, it would have been easier to note on the invoice that NY residents won’t pay tax for items under $110. Staff in billing should be similarly instructed….although I suspect that I may be the only one to care.

Check this out

I was having an annual checkup and on arrival dropped into the ladies room to wash the subway off my hands. There was a note warning patients not to urinate if they were having a sonogram. The office offers sonograms in a few parts of the body so out of curiosity I asked one of the technicians whether this directive applies to all sonograms. She said that it only applies to pelvic ones. So couldn’t that one word have been added to the warning?

Do it yourself and guess

USPS self service and binI used the do-it-yourself package mailing system at the Grand Central post office. One of the questions is “Will your package fit in the bin?” which it would. When done, I tried to open the adjacent bin and it was locked shut. So I had to wait in line anyway to find out where to put the stamped package. An exasperated postal worker, who looked at me as though I was dumb, pointed in the direction of a large canvas container on wheels placed well below the counter where nobody would see it with nobody nearby to secure it, either.

Was there a note stating what to do with a package on the bin parked next to the scale/shipping computer? No. Was there a note above the hidden container that collected packages? No. US Postal Service customers take note: Bring along your ESP next time you drop by.

Cross street please

When a business posts its NYC address on its website, if on an avenue, please note the nearest cross street.  I’ve lived in NYC most of my life and I don’t always know this information. [See 666 Fifth Ave and 546 Broadway, in photo below.]

Have you noticed that increasingly few businesses put themselves in their customer’s shoes in planning websites or procedures by anticipating questions or sharing clear instructions in the first place? Do you have other examples?

 Cross street please turned

 

Service of the Language of the Lazy: Name-Calling Beats Learning the Facts

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Lazy 2

As a child I often heard the adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” but I never believed it because if someone slung a nasty name at me, I always felt insulted. And once when I was very young a bus driver was abusive to my mother. I don’t recall his exact words, but I have a vivid memory of the feeling in the pit of my stomach left by his name-calling. That’s probably one reason some adults continue to resort to this technique.

But there’s another: It’s the language of the lazy. The slothful version of “When you leave your shoes all over the house I find it both unattractive and dangerous–someone could trip and fall,” is to point at the sneakers and loafers and grunt, “You’re a pig.”

Instead of saying, “I wish that more devout Muslims would explain how they feel about ISIS and what they suggest the most effective way might be to arrest the movement,” the lazy version is “Muslims are evil.”

Photo: blog.lawcanvas.com

Photo: blog.lawcanvas.com

This is Trump’s specialty, from the cruel nicknames he gives political opponents to the childish rant he snapped at Secretary Clinton during the last debate, calling her a “nasty woman.”

It’s also a foolproof technique to avoid having to know more than a few words about any subject. The easy answer to “What is your policy about ______” is “what a stupid question.” Conversation over.

Why bother to explain your position when you can resort to one of the names he called columnist Marc Thiessen: “failed.” Failed, failing–or some version of the word–is a Trump favorite. Thiessen is in good company. Trump also tweeted this description of The New York Times, Jeff Zucker president of CNN, The New York Daily News, John R. Allen, retired US Marine General, The National Review, to name a few who haven’t seen eye to eye with him.

George Will. Photo: washingtonpost.com

George Will. Photo: washingtonpost.com

Who is the “really dumb puppet?” The editor of the Fox News Channel, Chris Stirewalt. Chuck Todd of Meet the Press is “pathetic;” members of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board are “dummies;” columnist George Will is “broken down, boring and dopey;” Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore is “a joke” and Donna Brazile, DNC chairwoman is “totally dishonest.” Isn’t name-calling easier than parrying with facts to address what each of these organizations, reporters, columnists or executives may have written or said about him or his proposed policies? I’ll say.

Thank you to Jasmine C. Lee and Kevin Quealy of The New York Times for collating “The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List,” the source of the name-calling noted above.

The technique was effective enough to land Donald Trump as the Republican Presidential candidate. Why do you think so much of society today finds this appropriate behavior to be praised and rewarded? What happened for this to be so? Will this approach impact how we all interact going forward?

Photo: Parade

Photo: Parade

Service of Make it Clear and Keep Your Fingers Crossed

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Photo: theatlantic.com

Photo: theatlantic.com

 

Misunderstandings happen all the time between vendors who try to please and clients who hear what they hope or want to hear. Who knows who is right but clearly everyone can lose by winning.

In the first instance there’s Alec Baldwin and a well known New York art gallery owner Mary Boone. Baldwin “is suing Mary Boone in New York Supreme Court claiming the art dealer duped him into buying a $190,000 painting which was a copy,” wrote Hili Perlson on artnet.com

Alec Baldwin. Photo: ora.tv

Alec Baldwin. Photo: ora.tv

In 2010 Baldwin thought he bought Ross Bleckner’s 1996 painting “Sea and Mirror” owned by an “unnamed collector” and said he got “a different version” of a picture with the same title and that Boone had put the gallery inventory number of the original on the work he bought.

Through her lawyer the gallery owner said that “Baldwin was made aware from the start he was not getting the original 1996 version of the painting.” Nevertheless, Boone has offered a full refund.

But Baldwin wants more. Perlson wrote he wants: “the difference between the purchase price of the painting in his possession and the current value of the original Sea and Mirror, which was painted, as Baldwin claims, while Bleckner was at the height of his artistic career.”

I’ve written before about the second instance that is so fitting to the topic and worth a repeat. An interior decorator carefully explained to her client—in front of a third person—that fabricating stationary window panels instead of curtains would save on the cost of the very expensive drapery textile she’d chosen, with a drawback: The panels, she told this friend-of-a-friend, would not move and would not fully cover the window. The client was fine with the sketch and the savings and said she could live with the downside and the panels were ordered and installed.

stationary-drapery-panelArriving home and seeing the panels the client called the decorator in fury: “They don’t cover the window!” she fumed and said she wouldn’t pay for them. The third person, who had introduced the two, would not take sides.

Had the interior decorator asked her client to sign or initial the sketch she made on which she’d noted her warning that might have helped IF the client was willing to put her John Hancock to the sheet. [The client was a lawyer.] Had the gallery owner asked Baldwin to sign something that detailed what his $190,000 was getting him, his nose might have been out of joint, only earlier, perhaps avoiding the current muddle.

Proving a client/customer is wrong is messy and the worst business prescription. In the end it doesn’t matter how much paperwork a vendor has to prove a point unless the business retains pounds and pounds of legal support and has deep pockets budgeted for lawsuits. Apart from an airtight insurance policy to cover such misunderstandings, must most businesses expect to swallow such losses? Have you heard of similar examples?

Win by losing

Service of Dónde? Où? Woher? Dove? Onde? Nerede? Gdzie? Translation: Where?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

 Taxi Tv show

I was born in Manhattan and have lived much of my life in New York City. There are miles of neighborhoods in the five boroughs I would have trouble finding in a car, GPS or no GPS. Tell me where you want to go in Russian, Polish, Arabic, Portuguese and most languages, other than French and English, and I’m lost.

Map of NYCSo apart from the fact that English has been the lingua franca in this country since its inception, does it make practical sense that speaking English is no longer a requirement of New York City cab drivers?

  • Should a Greek, Chinese or Arabic driver familiar with a different alphabet be asked to take a passenger to an address on Amsterdam Avenue, Broadway, Houston Street or Columbus Circle, for example, will he/she be able to read the street sign to know that they arrived?
  • What about the crucial direction in Manhattan“East” and “West?”

Stop sign in several languagesShould I invest in a street sign business in anticipation of a lineup of street names on every pole in the most used alphabets in addition to Roman? [I wonder if the English street name will remain at the top?]

No doubt I sound harsh but my dad came to this country in his 30s and had to learn English from scratch, which he did extremely well. He also wrote beautifully. [His charming accent was to die.] Millions of others have done the same. How many generations of newcomers were forced to learn English before they were eligible for certain jobs?

Years ago I met a laborer who lived and worked in New Jersey for 50 years and if he knew 50 English words, that was a lot. He spoke his native language with neighbors and colleagues at work and local shop owners too. But I wouldn’t recommend him for the job of taxi driver.

In order to work as a cab driver or in most jobs wouldn’t you want to learn Italian, French, German, Portuguese or Japanese if you moved to Italy, France, Germany, Brazil, Portugal or Japan?  Or even if you went there to live? What do you think of this new ruling?

 Bi lingual signs in Quimper

 

 

Service of Why

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Why

I ask questions in every post and the question word also appears in a few titles. Today I share some unrelated observations and ask WHY:

  • Do you think a mother pushing a stroller gave her young child a tablet to stare at when there was plenty to look at on the street between the traffic, other pedestrians, store windows and dogs passing by?  The child was so little—around one–and the screen so large that he could hardly hold the device that was crammed in between his legs and the stroler. We weren’t near each other for very long but while we were, not a word passed between them.
  • Inside an elevatorDo I go to the right in some elevators and to the left in others to reach the floor control buttons and inevitably, my instinct sends me the wrong way? Why aren’t these buttons installed universally either left or right?
  • TelemarketerDo telemarketers hire people who mumble? I asked one last week—an American—to repeat what he’d said. The phone volume was fine, I clearly heard the end of his intro—“and how are you today?”—yet totally missed who he represented or the reason for his call. He slurred his words while repeating, at 200 mph, what he’d uttered countless times before. When I couldn’t decipher or isolate a single word on the second go-‘round, I hung up.
  • Do companies require their live operators/receptionists to answer the phone with a ridiculously long greeting—and not because the name of the firm is of the “Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith” variety–thus wasting everyone’s time?
  • 511 travel infoDo some general call-in numbers never work? Take 511. I access it to confirm train schedules and to learn if the railroad is running from upstate NY to NYC, and not a substitute bus. [If a bus, passengers must arrive at the station 40 minutes before scheduled departure time. Miss the bus and you wait two hours for the next one. And the website isn’t always accurate.] From upstate, the electronic voice on the phone announces I’ve reached information for the Hudson/Catskill region. So far, so good. After that, whether I respond to prompts with my voice or by punching numbers on the phone, I end up with Long Island bus or NYC subway schedules and for the life of me, I can’t reach an operator or information about the Harlem Line I take.

Do you have answers to any of these or questions you’d like to pose?

Why 2

Service of People Who Make You Happy

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Happy face

There are some people who are not your dearest friends or relatives but what they do and/or how they treat you and others make you happy.

Drilling Down

Dr. Jaslove

Dr. Jaslove

I got a message from my dentist, Alan Jaslove, DDS, this week. Normally this wouldn’t make me happy as I’ve spent far too many hours since childhood in a dentist chair or quaking at the thought of the next visit. But this call was to thank me for having written a review of his dentistry on Yelp. So what’s the big deal? He runs a busy practice, has a wonderful receptionist who has known me longer than I’ve known him [I went for years to his partner, now retired], and he could have asked Rose to make the call. But he took the time to call himself—and he didn’t have to thank in the first place. By the way: That’s the kind of care Dr. Jaslove grants his patients.

Happy Talk

Bob Marrone

Bob Marrone

Then there is Bob Marrone, the host of The Morning Show with Bob Marrone at Cumulus WFAS 1230 AM in White Plains NY. I was hoping he’d interview a client. As I didn’t hear back after I sent a few emails and left a few voice messages, I wrote him a letter. I was late to work one morning—actually I was at Dr. Jaslove’s office. [He was rescuing a tooth.] On my return there was a phone message from Bob and as I was about to return his call, the phone rang and there was Bob calling again—to apologize. He said his phone and email were down for days and was sorry I had trouble reaching him and for his not responding in a timely manner. In my line of work following up with the press is normal. Media apologizing for being unavailable is unusual. Bob is a charming, gracious man and his interviews are spot on. He is the voice of Westchester–a crack communicator both on and off the air.

Tech Savvy Plus

Brandt ZieglerBrandt Ziegler, [Photo right], is the service coordinator for one of the businesses in the office in which my office also is. He is interesting, interested, fun and tech-savvy. This week he turned around an after-hours computer crisis for me in minutes—[though he’s usually here until 7 pm so technically it wasn’t after hours for him]. But he was on the list for this post long before this happened because he makes people he speaks with happy. His cheerful attitude, enthusiasm, exemplary manners with everyone at the office, quick smile and sense of humor set him apart. He’s a hip throwback—refreshing to be around. His clients, colleagues and boss are also fortunate.

Does an above and beyond approach reap benefits as much for the donor as it does the recipients? Can you add to this list?

above and beyond

Service of Apology IV

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Sad Dog

I think that Donald Trump has done a disservice to the business of apologies. He doesn’t offer them, nor does screenwriter/film director Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino made headlines because he won’t apologize to the police whom he called murderers.

On a smaller stage, but in the same vein, a friend had a dustup with a major trump yellingdepartment store where clearly, the message about a customer being right or  treated with kid gloves hasn’t reached or been taught to staff.

She wrote:

“I had a horrific customer service experience both online and in the store. What got me was that not a single employee would apologize. Even the in-store person where I eventually picked up my order refused to do so BECAUSE he said the inconvenience and lack of communication wasn’t HIS Fault so he has nothing to apologize for.

“I was on the phone for 25 minutes today to find out if yesterday’s online order, promised for today, had arrived. I never got an email order confirmation, a receipt or a status update.

“The customer service agent kept repeating herself [while providing no information] and finally put me through to the store where I was put on hold at least 3 times. A guy at the store eventually found the order, but wasn’t interested when I said that it took forever for this to happen. He couldn’t explain the delay and wouldn’t attempt to answer why I got no email communication about the order. [The information would certainly have expedited the search and shortened my phone wait--or saved me the call altogether if I'd received an email confirming arrival.]

Not my fault“The same man was there when I picked up the order. I again asked him about the lack of communication and he was very direct in saying he had no idea why there hadn’t been any. He said that the online function has NOTHING to do with the store and that he had no reason to say ‘I am sorry for your inconvenience!’

“I told him it’s a competitive market out there and that the reason there is so much medical malpractice in the country is because it was found that docs won’t say ‘I am sorry.’ (I admit this was a stretch and slightly irrelevant but it happens to be true and I think says a lot!!)”

The recent great experience I had with CVS, that I covered in “Service of Sales Promotions,” is an example of a company that trains its staff to understand that customers don’t want to hear about the differences between online and in store purchases or possible Internet glitches. The store gave me a full return on the online purchase I made in error.

credit card theftI unfortunately had to again deal with my credit card bank–see last week’s post, “Service of Contagious Credit Card Theft,” because when I called to activate my card, it had already been used fraudulently! Seems someone had paid for a $9 massage. No wonder the bank was suspicious: The card wasn’t activated and whoever heard of a massage costing $9?

I hadn’t carried it for one second–it traveled from the company that fulfills credit card orders through the post office to my postbox. When the phone connection was poor, the customer service person–who had nothing to do with the lousy connection–kept apologizing. The one who shared the bad news did so as well.

Do you think that publicity about public figures who never, ever apologize impacts how the public treats one another? Do major department stores have floor walkers anymore who might hear conversations between employees and customers? Why do people find it so hard to say, “I am sorry this has caused you stress?” Do you find that an apology takes the sting out of an otherwise negative situation?

I am never wrong

 

Service of Clumsy Communication

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Strong people

The three people who made these errors in judgment didn’t mean to offend—I’m pretty sure. All these examples involve volunteers.

Fifth Choice

Please helpA friend whose career is skyrocketing is counseling a fledgling group in her field pro bono. Several times one of the principals of this company has called and asked her if she can do something for them on such and such a date and when she says, “Yes,” the person replies, “Good. I’ve asked five other people before you so I’ll get back if none of them accept.” She is secure in her talent but found the communication insulting and irritating enough to mention. We now laugh because the situation has happened a few times since we first spoke about it and after the last, she told her contact that she’s done helping them.

Last Choice

panel of womenThen I heard about an organization’s committee co-chair who was looking for panelists among winners of a grant. She approached my friend, a winner, the day before the event, to see if she could participate. My friend knew she was clearly a last choice and said “no.” From the start the co-chair should have asked all the winners to attend—there weren’t that many–see who could come and then select her panel and moderator. The more the merrier: Their mingling before and after the formal discussion would have benefited the other guests who were attending to learn more about the grant.

Choice Words

I often identify the elephant in the room which is unusual these days–has always been in fact–and many don’t know what to make of it. If I’m on a board or a committee, I feel it is my responsibility to suggest a solution when most don’t dare recognize the problem. I know when and how to be deferential and polite and to carefully word what I write or say whether I’m suggesting a different approach or pointing out an error.

mistake 2I was taken aback when a person, in front of a third person, asked me recently to first show her correspondence I was going to send about a mistake someone had made. She said she feared I’d be too harsh. [Common sense taught me eons ago to be gentle when I want something/or a correction. It works.] This was not a client—I don’t make a move without client approval on copy and for decades my clients have trusted me to write appropriately worded missives. I was distressed that this person didn’t trust my ability to distinguish between offline private chatter and communicating with others. I sent the note, copying only those affected by the error—not this person [who was only peripherally involved]. The recipient was extremely apologetic as she realized she’d made a mistake—which happens. She immediately fixed what she could. As for my relationship with the distrusting person, my mother used to advise, “Bury the bone but remember where you buried it.” I’ll give it a try once again.

What causes some to take down others unnecessarily? Is it thoughtlessness? A feeling of power? A case of foot in mouth disease? A misunderstanding of the dynamic in a volunteer relationship? Have you been the target of such insensitivity? Then do you forgive–how many times–or walk away?

Volunteers

Service of a Bad Sign

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Luxury for blog

A business can so easily give the wrong impression. Here are photos I took on my walk to and from work that illustrate the point.

The sign featured above inspired the post. It touts luxury apartments for rent. The fact that this dirty sign has drooped in this manner for weeks tells me that as a potential tenant, my leaky faucet, broken toilet or elevator, lack of hot water or heat will suffer similar neglect.

Nail sign for blogNot sure I’d want to have my nails done at a place with insufficient soap and water to keep its unprofessionally hung sign clean–photo right.

New Yorkers are chomping at the bit to enjoy a spring sidewalk drink or meal but would anyone consider this place featured below? Chairs and tables have been laced with boxes and filled garbage bags for days.

Have you noticed similar easy-fix neglect in neighborhoods in which you hang around?

 Restaurant sign blog

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