Archive for the ‘Blame’ Category

Service of Noses Out of Joint: Are Online Reviews by Patients on the Line?

Monday, September 25th, 2017



Plastic surgeon Dr. Bahman Guyoron’s patient wasn’t pleased with the job he did on her nose to “alleviate nasal congestion,” according to Wall Street Journal reporter Joe Palazzolo, and while at it, he was to cosmetically tweak her beak. So she shared her thoughts about the outcome on a range of online review sites from RealSelf, Yelp to, and Dr. Guyoron sued her.

The patient said she now must sleep with a breathing aid because her nostril collapses and that her nose is wider than it was before surgery. A second surgery by the same doctor didn’t fix the problems.


Her lawyer said “her reviews were ‘substantially true or were her opinion,’” and that they didn’t harm the doctor’s reputation.

Palazzolo explained that the doctor would have to prove they were false and that he was damaged. “If the jury deemed him a public figure, he would have to show that [the patient] knew the information was false or showed reckless disregard for the truth.”

In email correspondence with the newspaper the patient wrote that her purpose was to inform others and that she didn’t expect to face financial ruin as a result. According to lawyers who handle such cases, wrote Palazzolo, “a negative comment can diminish a doctor’s business in short order.” And because doctors’ hands are tied due to privacy laws to discuss details of procedures, to get patients to erase such reviews some opt to sue.


“‘Given how few defamation cases go to trial—and cases involving doctors are even more rare—any trial would be an important signpost for future litigation,’ said Sara Kropf, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who provides legal advice to doctors regarding patient reviews.” This trial is scheduled for February.


At first Dr. Guyoron wanted the patient to remove the reviews and pay him $700,000, which she said she didn’t have. He now wants $1.8 million.

Knowing the risk to your wallet, would you think many times before posting online a negative review about any doctor? Doctors aren’t infallible: they make mistakes as we all do. Should review sites investigate/vet patient complaints before posting them? What are other effective ways to warn other patients about a doctor you’ve found faulty?


Service of Carrying Things Too Far

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011


I thought that the cupcakes confiscated by the Transportation Security Administration officer at the Las Vegas airport over the weekend a bit much. He considered that the frosting fell into the forbidden gel catetory.

In the world of sports, Blue Hills Regional Technical “was leading, 16-14, when Cathedral’s quarterback, Matt Owens, slipped through an opening and dashed for a 56-yard touchdown,” Rea Cassidy Reported in the Boston Globe in “Call in Blue Hills-Cathedral game needs to be called back.”

“Here’s where the rules came into play,” continued Cassidy. “While running toward the end zone, Owens raised his hand, for about three seconds, in celebration. Apparently, Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules forbid a player to celebrate before entering the end zone. So, the touchdown was called back, and Blue Hills went on to win.”

shhhhhhhhContinued Cassidy: “We are a society that has so many rules it’s a wonder anyone is allowed to say or do anything anymore.” {The bold emphasis is mine.}

“In the case of this game, the rule was created to prevent taunting and poor sportsmanship. Fine. No one wants to promote or witness poor sportsmanship. So create concise rules that penalize players for malicious or deliberate taunting, rather than for jubilation during the biggest moments of their lives. I don’t want to go to games and watch kids celebrate like timed robots. They are not robots; they’re people,” Cassidy wrote.

president-obamaIn unrelated instances, a few weeks before, there was a spate of school suspensions of small children. One boy was punished for being a racist when he told a friend that a guest speaker reminded him of President Obama; another for sexual harassment because he said to a pal that he thought one of his teachers was cute.

Meanwhile, there are newbie congressmen and women who sit like sticks in Washington, refusing to budge from a strict doctrine when their inaction will hurt the economy, many of their constituents and might even affect the outcome of the Presidential election in a way that isn’t in their best interest. Their closed minds and smug intransigence blind them to the advice of their political leader and many of their party colleagues who are willing to bend for the greater good. Thank goodness someone drilled sense into some of them in the short term but their attitude has infected Washington and the quick fix political antibiotic that just happened won’t cure the patient.

Can you think of other instances of people carrying things too far or am I being too harsh in my examples?


Service of Need to Know

Monday, May 2nd, 2011


Recent incidents reminded me of when George H.W. Bush was pilloried for not knowing what barcodes on grocery store items were. The man never went food shopping because he was busy and furthermore could afford to have others do it for him. So what? Would knowing what it’s like to wait in line at a grocery store make anyone a better President? I don’t think so.

If that’s what you think, you’d probably also believe that to be any good, PR people, marketers and doctors who represent or prescribe cancer, heart and diabetes or depression drugs must have had these diseases.

This year, early on Easter week, some complained because President Obama hadn’t sent out Easter greetings when he religiously recognized the holidays of others, such as Passover and Ramadan. Does anybody really think that any President personally sends out such greetings? This President is dealing with war, unemployment, escalating gas prices and inflation all ’round. But even if things were going swimmingly, who thinks that a President should draft and distribute such messages?

Press secretary Jay Carney responded that the President went to church on Easter implying that this was enough recognition. Carney should have put the matter to rest and admitted that the press office messed up and forgot to send out a message. But it is I who forgot: Few take blame for anything anymore.

gmAlso last week, a well-meaning radio talk show host started his interview with Dan Akerson with a reference to an OnStar promotion, asking Akerson for the inside scoop so he might win the prize, a General Motors car. It was clear that the General Motors chairman didn’t have a clue about this promotion and he mumbled some response making it obvious. Does a chairman who is driving an American icon through treacherous economic waters need to know about every subsidiary’s sales ploy? I don’t think so, however in this case, my bet is that he will in future.

Do you think that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s wife, Samantha, forgot to read the dress guidelines that came with the Royal wedding invitation to William and Kate’s nuptials? Should her husband’s staff have let her know that she was expected to wear a hat or doesn’t it matter that she appears to be the only hatless woman in the church?

In these instances, we’re dealing with perception and the potential of creating a crack for a competitor to jump in or jump on. How much detail do you think big business bosses, politicians or Presidents need to know or be concerned about?


Service of Anger

Monday, February 14th, 2011


In the Greater New York Section of The Wall Street Journal, in “Mayor Hits Back at Parents,” Michael Howard Saul and Barbara Martinez describe Mayor Bloomberg’s reaction to the “raucous display of discontent” and disrespect of Cathie Black, the new schools chancellor.

Saul and Martinez quoted a Brooklyn City Council member, Jumaane Williams, who defended the angry reaction by civic leaders and parents, suggesting that Mayor Bloomberg “retake civics class.” Williams continued: “That is exactly, actually, what America is founded on-the ability to express your opinion to people who are making decisions. It happened loudly and, I think, rightfully so because parents are angry that they’re losing opportunities to be involved in the education of their child.”

anger2Williams is right about the ability to express opinions to decision-makers. But is yelling and taunting and not allowing the “opposition” to speak effective?

I wonder how many of the yellers participate in PTAs and support class projects and try to affect change at each school? A friend, whose high-pressure job keeps her at her desk until all hours when she’s not traveling around the country and abroad, is consistently involved with her son’s NYC public school, its fundraisers, teacher’s meetings and addressing policies she objects to. It’s possible.

frustration1I have a red-hot temper. One of the triggers: Frustration at not being heard so I empathize with the primal screams of parents seeing albeit failing schools close left and right. And they have much to shout about the schools that remain open. WOR Radio NYC morning talk show host John Gambling reported horrific statistics. The state spends $33 billion on public education yet only some 23 percent of high school graduates are sufficiently prepared to either go on to college or to get a job. He noted that in Rochester, the figure was 15 percent.

Anger can give people the energy to take action and do something about what’s infuriating or worrying them.  But is yelling and bullying the schools chancellor the American way and the way out?


Service of Dissatisfaction

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

dissatisfactionDiane Baranello of Coaching for Distinction just sent me, “Are You Being Served?” by James Surowiecki. The information in The New Yorker piece won’t surprise my readers. The author noted that these days almost nobody is happy–neither the served nor the servers. He also pointed out why employers don’t like to pay for service: It’s an expense with zero income-producing value in their opinion, and an easy cut in tough times.

Surowiecki referred to one survey taken a few years ago in which 80 percent of 300 large companies thought that they delivered “superior service” as compared to eight percent of consumers and he wrote “….one study suggests that only six percent of dissatisfied customers file a complaint.”

disgruntledSo what do disgruntled people do? I posit that they vote with their feet, though not all. Do most suffer in silence?

We walked out of a trendy bakery/restaurant the other week where we were ignored for several minutes by three people behind the counter. There was no “Hi,” “Be with you in a second,” or “May I help you?” When I asked my husband “What do you want?” as I was deciding whether a cranberry scone or a blueberry muffin was coming home with me, he replied: “To get out of here,” which we did. The place was almost empty, there were four customers at two tables. We passed by in the car the other day and crowds appeared to be leaving or entering.

Money goes to attract new customers, Surowiecki pointed out, instead of keeping existing ones. True to form, the bakery/restaurant has dotted the countryside with posters directing drivers to it and the place was given great coverage in a New York Times article about a month ago.

pileofmagazinesThis place isn’t alone to spend money to attract new customers and favor them. [We were new at the bakery, but as we were in the door, and there’s nowhere else nearby, I guess we no longer mattered.] Magazines use a model of spend-to-get-new readers and charge more to current subscribers. I refuse to pay the higher price for a magazine renewal for an expensive publication I’ve subscribed to for eons. New subscriptions cost $10 less. With my check, I send a copy of the blow-in card, circle the lower price and enclose a letter. It’s in my computer so doesn’t take but a second to change the date every year. The letter explains that I expect to be treated better than a new reader and to please honor me with the better price. It works. [I refuse to pay for any publication with a credit card. The thought of trying to break off the relationship with their ability to suck out any amount of money from me that they want–forever–gives me nightmares.]

I agreed with the author when he disclaimed the theory that poor service is caused by consumers who insist on cheap prices, thereby eliminating a business’s ability to provide good service. He mentioned, which in this context is the example de rigueur. We had a glitch this morning using I heard from Will Reed in customer service in minutes. Turns out we caused the malfunction. And back to the bakery/restaurant, how costly is it to say “hello, good to see you, be with you in a minute?”

I am sure that you can list many other moderately priced establishments both big and small that serve you well.  Won’t you please share? And we’d always like to hear of examples where you were a dissatisfied customer or employee.


Service of Failure

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010


In an anonymous comment on my last post, “Service of Independence Day,” [July 1], an articulate writer noted: “As my pediatrician is fond of quoting, ‘Without failure there can be no success.'” I’ve been planning to write about failure for a while. With social network ESP at work, now’s the time.

As I approached the topic, the first thing I thought of was that we can’t have weaknesses. Note a typical job interview where the interviewer asks, “What are your weaknesses?” The applicant replies:  “I’m a workaholic; I am too organized; I love working 13 hours a day when I know I shouldn’t and I hate vacations.”

successThe next thing that came to mind was the culture in some workplaces where no matter what you do, never, ever admit to failure. Sell one widget in a year when projections were for 1,000 and somehow you twist your report to show that have met your goal. Politicians always meet theirs, don’t they?

ifatfirst-you-dont-succeedI’m from the school of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again and again and again,” and then, if it isn’t working, I realize that I’ve done everything possible and the project or relationship or concept isn’t working or didn’t work. Giving it my all allows me to sleep at night once I’m over the disappointment/devastation/dust-off period.

[One exception is failure associated with anything electronic. I don’t know about you but when something goes wrong with my computer, smartphone or other device, I sound like my mother asking myself, “What did you do?” More than half the time I did nothing and it’s not my malfunction.]

More about failure: I set up and staffed a client’s booth at an industry trade show. The client was a trade association and the marketing committee wanted me to entice attendees to participate in an industry-wide initiative. Trouble is the attendees were at the show to find and buy product, meet with vendors and maybe look for a job. They weren’t the slightest bit interested in any program this or any other association was peddling. I became emboldened after day one which generated little traffic and less interest so the second day, I stood out in the middle of the floor in front of the booth with a big smile and spoke with anyone who came down the aisle. Very not me, but I was desperate. The results were appalling.  

Not long after, when another trade association-client, representing a different industry, had the bright idea to do the same, without naming names, I told them of my previous experience and the reasons for failure. The marketing committee ignored me and went ahead. Fortunately, I wasn’t asked to staff this booth. In spite of my warning, the committee members who staffed the booth were shocked when they reported dismal results. [I didn’t say boo.]

hot-stoveYou hope to turn a negative into a positive and label a glitch like this under “experience.”  That’s the success part? I also learned that like some children who must test what a hot stove feels like no matter how effectively an adult warns them that touching it will hurt, some people won’t listen to and/or learn from other people’s failures. 

A friend from third grade’s father used to say, “It’s what you don’t think of that will trip you up,” which has challenged me all my life to try to think of everything possible before a project or event so that I clear all decks leaving time to address unexpected bombshells. Still, sometimes, things fail.

These days, it happens a lot. You try to invest prudently and intelligently and surprise! Someone at the company–a household name with solid credentials and reputation–has cheated, lied or exaggerated. You get burned, lose your money and are told that “Investing is high risk–just like gambling, don’t you know,” in the same patronizing tone of voice you hear when a person who has insulted you tells you that they were “just joking.”

Do you agree with the pediatrician who says that without failure, there can be no success? In a society that doesn’t acknowledge failure, has it ever played into your success?


Service of Gotcha Journalism

Monday, June 21st, 2010


BP’s Tony Hayward spoke about the “little people” and how he looked forward to getting “back his life,” two quotes that will no doubt appear in his obituary if not on his tombstone. And he was recently seen yachting while his oil is polluting the Gulf water affecting millions.

Helen Thomas said that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go where? To Poland and Germany. Then she resigned-or was forced to.

These are facts. Hayward and Thomas said/did these things and before and long after them hundreds of others will be caught saying/doing whatever the press-or competitors-dig up from a college paper, a speech or Facebook entry early in a career, hear at a cocktail party–captured on a smartphone–or over a live mic that the speaker thought was turned off.

off-trackGotcha journalism garners headlines, but often steers us off the track. Reminds me of the final days of my Dad’s battle with cancer when friends and family called to see how things were. We railed against the hospital because housekeeping consistently ran out of clean towels and washcloths. Tossing energy and voice at this extreme inconvenience allowed us not to face what really was wrong: We were losing Dad. Grousing about towels served a psychological purpose, helping us ease into the inevitable.

So Hayward misspeaks and headlines blare which puts in the background the fact that millions of gallons of oil continue to contaminate our shores and thousands of people are put out of work. But aren’t we missing something? Where are the headlines that address the progress toward stopping the leak?

The front page headline in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal while more to the point–“BP Relied on Cheaper Wells“–is significant for regulations regarding future drilling, if there is ever to be offshore drilling in this country again. But isn’t the bigger issue what we will do, and soon, to reduce the demand for oil so we no longer need to jeopardize our shores, livelihood and health?

sweetdrinksSpeaking of health, New York State is considering a tax on sweet drinks, both to generate revenue and to make people aware of the empty calories and negative health ramifications of these drinks [that I love]. A hefty tax on gas and increased government subsidies for public transportation might have the same affect on our use of oil.

As for Helen Thomas, her outburst illustrates how close to the top violent feelings remain even for a journalist whose lifetime goal has been to be objective. She is not alone on either side of the war in the Middle East. Her resignation also brings up the question of what issues break a camel’s back in our country and which a camel can continue to carry without breaking stride. We may never know whether Thomas’s employer had been praying for an excuse to fire her for years. No doubt, if anyone cares by then, the truth will eventually leak out.

What service do you see that gotcha journalism plays in our lives? Do you think it has always been in play or that technology catches more of it today and spreads it farther and faster than ever before?


Service of Listening to Your Inner Voice

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

innervoiceHail to the Times Square street vendor, Duane Jackson, who noticed smoke coming out of Faisal Shahzad’s bomb-filled car last week and spoke up.

A friend told me a story of a plane ride in which she noticed flames pouring out of the wing but was too embarrassed to say anything to the stewardess. She was a tween when everything was embarrassing. Fortunately, another passenger called over the flight attendant to point out the problem.

seesomethingsaysomethingI didn’t listen to my heart the other night while hearing Gabe Pressman interview author, holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel in a NYC auditorium. A young man sitting two seats from me excused himself, in the middle of the conversation, leaving behind his backpack on the floor. Some 15 minutes later, I asked the friend I was with what she thought the deal was, but I did nothing else. Everyone in the city knows the slogan, “If you see something, say something,” and after 9/11 I swore I’d never be passive if I sensed danger. The young man returned after 20 minutes and plopped down on his seat.

But still–I should have asked someone in charge about the backpack when my suspicions tweaked my imagination. I was lucky because most of the time it’s a big mistake when I don’t listen to my inner voice.

A former broker kept prodding me to invest more money in a certain stock. I said, “No.” For two weeks. My inner voice said, “You have 100 shares, more than enough.” He wore me down. I bought more of that stock and lost the entire investment because what he’d predicted didn’t happen. I didn’t listen to my practical, intuitive, spot-on inner voice which warned me from the start. That’s all I brought to that table–not great knowledge of the stock market nor of the particular industry in question. I have only myself to blame.

I tend to remember all the times I haven’t listened, when things went south, and I quickly forget the more frequent times that I put my finger on the black and blue of a client’s challenge and came up with a solution, figured the best way out of a tricky tangle, or clearly saw the right thing to do in a crisis based largely on my inner voice and a dollop of experience.

Do you trust your inner voice and always follow it? Have there been times in which you haven’t and have regretted it?


Service of Ad Hominem

Thursday, March 18th, 2010


“Joe is not a communist.”

I first heard about ad hominem as a college freshman and that was the example. At the time, being a communist was as bad as being a terrorist is today. We now speak about identity theft, which we didn’t then, but with the flick of innuendo, a reputation can be stolen even faster and more easily than an identity.

I’ve been told countless times what a softie I am, how I try to squeeze out some good reason or rationale for someone’s bad moves. And so many times I am wrong-the person I try to protect or excuse turns out to be guilty in spades.

So this post isn’t as much about innocence or guilt as it is about perception and approach and inference-and how it can destroy someone.

I’ve been bothered by the way New York Governor Patterson has been treated by the press. I have the impression that people are out to get him and will pick and scratch and search for anything they can to ruin his reputation and credibility.

baseballstubTake his accepting free tickets to a baseball game. I mean really. There is a law or rule that says you can’t do that and I suppose you will find a politician somewhere who doesn’t accept so much as a stick of gum from a soul. But ruin a man’s chance of finishing his term with honor and accomplishing something in a state that sorely needs governance over a couple of tickets? Hmmmm. We’ve had leaders in our state who haven’t paid taxes on $millions and voters shrugged.

As for Patterson’s interference in a case of alleged abuse by an aide of his girlfriend, turns out the Governor spoke with her. He should not have. He broke the law. The New York Daily News reported that the girlfriend testified that their conversation didn’t influence her missing the court date resulting in the charges against her boyfriend, the Governor’s aide, being dismissed. Have you ever tried to diffuse an explosive situation between two people to help out a friend, family member or colleague?

The Governor’s communications director resigned yesterday and the implication in the news was that she was yet another rat leaving a sinking ship. When Patterson was interviewed on WOR-Radio this morning [March 18], he told John Gambling that because they are both under investigation in the same case, they are forbidden to speak with one another, which makes it impossible for her to do her job. He noted that they are personal friends.

Do details like this matter? The press and public have already decided. All these darts have been used to prove that he is unfit to govern without specifically saying so. Are they the hors d’oeuvres to something more, or is this like the preview of the scandalous story about the Governor that we heard would appear in The New York Times days before it did and when it ran, it was more about Patterson’s aide’s behavior than about him.

puttinginperspectiveWhat he’s done shows a lack of judgment inappropriate in a leader. Putting it in perspective, we’ve been involved in wars because of deliberate misinformation and life goes on, the perpetrators of misinformation have finished off their terms.

Comparing Patterson’s “sins” with those of politicians involved with drugs and worse, and who come back like face wrinkles a few months after injections of botox, is a head scratcher.

Is he being indicted for inadvertently leaping to the top of a leadership heap without paying his political dues and then not doing what his party orders him to do?

Am I being naïve or too easy on the Governor? Do you know of instances where colleagues, friends or public figures have been painted with negative ink or gossip that takes years, if ever, to wear off?


Service of Welcome

Monday, March 8th, 2010


We enjoyed an enchanting evening to celebrate a family birthday at a NYC restaurant located in a quiet enclave, Tudor City, near the UN. Food, ambiance and service were appropriately delicious, festive and charming, but our welcome wasn’t. 

In fact, the welcome was so out of sync with the rest of the otherwise perfect evening that the first thing I did on arriving at the office the next morning was to write the chef and his partner to tell them what happened. How would they know otherwise? And had the weather not been so bad, had we not been in an isolated part of the city and had this not been a happily anticipated birthday party a deux, we might very well have walked out and missed the rest of the evening.

After much Googling and web site scouring I could find no email address of either man, so I mailed a letter to the partners.

As Snoopy would start this chapter of the story, “It was a dark and stormy night.” And boy was it. Once inside, our eyes adjusted to light in the even dimmer entrance and dead silence ensued. We stood feeling awkward with our dripping umbrellas, coats and hat and had no idea what to do with it all or with ourselves. You get the picture. There was plenty of staff. Three people stood  like statues looking at us from down a hall, hanging out around the reception stand. I included both the great and the bad in my letter

I received an immediate response from the restaurant’s service director, Carolyn DeFir. Her letter was gracious and apologetic. She understood the importance of this detail which, for whatever reasons, the trilogy of greeters didn’t.

Maybe they or their parents never entertain at home. Why do I think this? Would anyone leave guests at the front door and not greet them, take their coats, relieve them of their soaked umbrellas, make them comfortable so that they wouldn’t ruin furniture or carpeting by having to toss these things somewhere?

Ms. DeFir wrote, in part: “I agree with you whole-heartedly that the first impression is a strong one and I am sincerely embarrassed and saddened that you had such a negative start to your evening with us. I do not want to make excuses but I will apologize and I think that perhaps you caught us at an off moment in ‘our game.'”  She also enclosed an extremely generous gift certificate to encourage us to return–or to give to a colleague–and asked that we let her know when we planned to come so that she could “take excellent care of you myself.”

Oh, the name of the restaurant? Convivio.

In a subsequent email correspondence responding to my query asking her if she wanted me to mention the name of the restaurant in my post, Ms. DeFir said she didn’t mind and continued, “I think the bigger lesson I wish people knew and understood is that there are 200 plus people eating in our restaurant a night. While myself and my management team strives to know how each person feels, we clearly cannot get to every single person.  I wish more people would speak up both positively and negatively while at the restaurant.  It gives me a chance to fix things or say thank you to guests while they are still in my care.  I would love to look someone in the eyes and apologize if needed or thank them for their praise.”

I understand her reasoning and her point, and I know plenty of people who wouldn’t mind speaking up about something negative, but unless I could figure out how to do it discretely, off in a corner, I’m not one of them. We always rave about the food, its presentation or compliment the service, if appropriate. But making a fuss, whining or complaining breaks the joyful mood not only for us, but for other guests around us.

When I explained my point of view to Ms. DeFir, she wrote, “I’m so glad you had the opportunity to bring this to my attention! I had sincerely never thought of it that way before.”

I recently wrote about the Service of Excuses where nobody is at fault or takes responsibility for what they have done or what has happened. Not Ms. DeFir. Her attitude and approach will insure our return.

Back to the unwelcoming welcome committee: There are so many critical jobs, such as the first person a guest sees at any restaurant, that some think are below them or are inconsequential when, in fact, the performance of these key people is as important as the chef’s or the cook’s.

Can you think of some other examples? How would you motivate people in unsung jobs or is understanding the importance of what they do instinctive, not taught?

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