Archive for October, 2018

Service of Upgrades that Are and Aren’t

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Photo: pixabay

Shiny Apple

Some upgrades are amazing. Apple gave my iPhone 6 a new lease on life with a recent upgrade that allows it to act pretty much like one of its pricey new phones. I read that this was the latest marketing strategy for the company that formerly encouraged customers to upgrade frequently.

iPhone 6. Photo: gadgets.ndtv.com

Even so, hearing the word “upgrade” these days sends shivers my way and, in my experience, for good reason.

No Service Self Service

Have you tried the new USPS self service mailing machines? They don’t work. I don’t mean they are complicated—they literally don’t function and the old ones worked like a charm.

I tried to use several at the Grand Central post office on different days and at a satellite office with no employees. The former wouldn’t respond to light or heavy finger touches by me and countless others who ended up behind me on line for a clerk; the scale didn’t work in the latter which was problematic because I had a package to mail.

Exploding Devices

Last week almost 3,000 new body cam devices were pulled from use by the NYC police department. Why? One exploded.

Out of Order Train App & Info Man

Photo: play.google.com

The Metro-North app. “TrainTime” has issues. I couldn’t link from the TrainTime app to the specifics about substitute busses for trains I usually take so I stopped in at Grand Central Station’s customer service desk. The link was dead last Friday. The attendant explained that Metro-North needs to upgrade the app. He also misinformed me about the bus situation. Fortunately, another staffer set him—and me—straight. His excuse: “I just got to the desk.”

Not My Car

Photo: gm.com

General Motors emailed to tell me that my 2016 Chevrolet has a soft tire and to bring the car in for service. I knew this had to do with the 2016 we turned in for a 2018 earlier this year because that car always had tire issues. So I informed the dealership, from which we’ve bought and leased cars for 20 years, that GM needs to update its records. When we first dealt with the dealership our salesman took care of everything and there was never a hiccup. Since then it has upgraded with specialists in various areas of the business. This is the second such glitch we’ve encountered since we leased the 2018 model so the specialists aren’t clicking our info in all the right places.

Does the word “upgrade” excite you or make you anxious? Was it always thus? Have you encountered either super or dismal results from a recent upgrade?

Photo: siteuptime.com

Service of Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner?

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Photo: Merriam-Webster.com

I asked our hosts who are giving a Halloween party this weekend whether Frank and Mary [not their real names] were coming. They weren’t invited this year because Frank had been such a pain before last year’s celebration.

Photo: pinterest.com

In addition to decorating their house with fantastic collections of goblins, ghosts and grinning jack- o’-lanterns and treating guests to a delicious dinner, they show a frightening flick in their home’s movie theater. Frank told them that he didn’t like chilling movies and asked if they could show something else. And he didn’t say it once, he kept bringing it up. We all enjoyed the movie and company of good friends last year, and expect to again on Saturday, but without Frank and Mary!

And one of the best reasons for striking someone from your dinner list happened to friend and colleague David Reich. One of his guests sat down and put a loaded gun next to his plate. David quietly asked him to remove the gun.

I had a friend who’d ask what I was serving for a party and would remark, “I don’t care for that, can you make something else?” Irritating.

The first time I invite someone for dinner I ask if they are allergic to or despise anything. There’s no reason to serve a strawberry dessert or a mushroom soufflé if you know that one of your guests will break out in hives or faint simply by sharing a room with the offending food.

Have friends or relatives tried to impose their druthers on you, expecting you to change your tradition or menu when they are your guests? Did they win? Can you share examples?

Photo: justataste.com

Service of Running Late Before and After Mobile Phones

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

Photo: cbn.com

It seems increasingly hard to get to places on time.

A friend takes New Jersey Transit to work in Manhattan. Service has been atrocious and promises to get worse. One morning last week it took cars 90 minutes to cross the George Washington Bridge from N.J to Manhattan. Subway service can be iffy–trains zoom past stops unannounced or are delayed.

George Washington Bridge Photo: en.wikipedia.org

I got an email from another friend this week—I’ll call him Phil. He wrote: “We are interviewing computer color tech people to fill the job of someone who just left. So far, all candidates have been late, one by 45 minutes. Not one called to warn about their travel circumstances nor did they apologize.” Phil remembered that he’d previously fired someone when the man arrived late on his first day.

Long before mobile phones I was almost late my first day on a job at a startup because I’d been sent an address that didn’t exist. The street number would have landed a building in the middle of Madison Avenue. I can still feel that twinge of “Uh-Oh–something’s very wrong!” I found the right building by entering each one on either side of Madison. Lucky the employer got the street right. [The business lasted one year.]

Phil recalled the one time he was [very] late for an interview. He’d left earlier than usual for his commute to NYC and “wouldn’t you know Grand Central Terminal was closed because of a smoky fire. No cell phones. Trains backed up. The prospective employer understood of course.”

His story took a curious turn. He said: “I didn’t take the job. Something didn’t seem right. Two weeks later the entire group was fired. I would have been out of a job.” Kismet.

I hate being late and admit that having a phone takes the pressure off when transportation or other glitches happen so I can alert clients, colleagues and friends. Do most people use theirs for this purpose? Do you have memorable experiences of being late to an appointment before or after cell phones? Can you imagine sailing in late to an interview without a word about the time as the candidates for a job in Phil’s office did?

Photo: rebelcircus.com

Service of Sights, Some Better than Others

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Alistair Steinberg at Museum of Illusions

I’ve always enjoyed historic house tours. How good they are depends partly on the docent but the experience is rewarding regardless for the peek at how people lived in the day, the art they collected or the décor, gardens and architecture they chose.

The other morning, on WOR 710 AM, Len Berman and co-host Michael Riedel mentioned a tour of Madison Square Garden that they thought was a waste of time and money. What’s the point, they said, of visiting an empty arena and seeing a virtual Billy Joel concert for $30+ a ticket? The Expedia description notes, in part: “This exciting 75 minute guided tour celebrates over 130 years of Garden history and gives exclusive access inside this legendary venue.”

Austen and Alistair Steinberg @ Museum of Illusions

Nancie Steinberg recently posted great photos on Facebook taken at the Museum of Illusions in NYC. They made me want to visit. Be sure to bring someone with you to take best advantage of the photo ops–her sons are in photos above and at right and her husband also enjoyed the illusions.

Laura Feasey recently covered some curious museums in “Mood Upswing,” in The Wall Street Journal. Like the Museum of Illusions, they also offer countless opportunities to take fun photos and post them on social media. In fact, that was the approach of her article–they were super Instagram-able. She reported that the cost of each is around $35.

If you’re in LA, you might want to wait in line at the Broad Museum to see Yayoi Kusama’s installation that “features LED lights reflected endlessly in a mirror-lined room.”

In NYC at the Color Factory you’ll see “a dive-in pit filled with 500,000 pastel blue balls. Other top draws: the conveyor belt of pick-your-own macarons and, less delectably, a collection of fake vomit.” Feasley chose to add The Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco for its photogenic pool of sprinkles and giant gummy bear.

Color Factory. Photo: designboom.com

You have only a month to visit The Museum of Pizza at the William Vale hotel in Brooklyn, NY. with its “ ‘cheese cave,’ made of silicone, a ‘pizza beach,’ and a space for ‘pizza meditation.’” The exhibit closes November 18. Opening in LA in December is 29Rooms, a frequent pop-up sight that in the past included “a human snow globe and walk-in womb meant to simulate the in-utero experience.” It arrives in L.A. in December.

Launching museums designed to inspire selfie opportunities where visitors promote it on social media is 2018 marketing-smart. But don’t all the signature sights around the world from the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building serve the same purpose? Except for the inspiration what’s the difference? Have you visited some memorable sights—terrific or disappointing? Can any collection of things become a legitimate museum? Have you noticed that traditional museums increasingly offer unorthodox exhibitions that resemble those in Feasey’s aticle?

Museum of Ice Cream

Service of Admiration for a Modest & Successful Fashion Icon: Eileen Fisher

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Eileen Fisher. Photo: famousfashiondesigners.org

I have always admired fashion designer Eileen Fisher for her simple silhouettes and comfortable clothes and over many years have mentioned to countless other designers the genius of her marketing strategy: In her ads she was the first that I can recall to feature models of all ages, often in one photo.

I didn’t know anything about Ms. Fisher until I read David Gelles’ article in The New York Times, “It Would Be Better Not to Call Eileen Fisher a Boss.” Her business approach is as smart and unusual as her using young, middle aged and old mannequins to show off her clothes and accessories. She sports the same hair color—white—as some of the women dressed in her fashions.

Photo: inhabitat.com

There’s no CEO at her company because of “Ms. Fisher’s belief that consensus is more important than urgency and that collaboration is more effective than hierarchy,” Gelles wrote. And her 30-something year old business is successful. Owned by Ms. Fisher and her employees, annual sales are around $500 million. “And at a moment when many consumers are willing to pay a premium for quality, sustainability and durability, the company’s longstanding values are deeply relevant.”

She lived in a chaotic household as a child with nobody telling the kids what to do so having a boss in her first job at Burger King at 15 was “kind of strange for me” she told Gelles. She said she had an authority problem.

Photo: fashionoverfifty.com

“I wanted to create a place where people weren’t powering over people. Where people were kind and people were together and shared.”

In New York she started in interior design and when she went to Japan with her then Japanese partner and first saw the kimono she was “very intrigued by the way it moved…..I was fascinated by the idea that one design, one shape, could transcend time, and be made new just by different patterns and colors.” Her fashions revolve around eight basic pieces to which she adds or subtracts a few pieces every season. Her customers read The New York Times and The New Yorker, not Vogue.

She started her fashion company with $350 in the bank, going by subway, carrying the pieces she cut on the floor of her loft in garbage bags to a factory in Queens. She sold those clothes–$40,000 worth– at a boutique show.

Photo: wallawallaclothing.com

“I think of myself as leading through the idea, trying to help people understand what I’m trying to do, or what the project is about, and engaging them. I always think about leading through listening. I was a designer, so I didn’t have preconceived ideas of how this business works.”

The company has a leadership group, a board and she’s founder and chairwoman of the board, “but that’s not really what I do.” She thinks “co-creation and collaboration absolutely can work in a big company.”

The company offers generous benefits, Gelles reported, and employees own much of it. Ms. Fisher says she knows that the sense of ownership works when she hears in a meeting, “don’t spend my money on that.” Ms Fisher thinks “corporations should have to share a minimum 10 percent of their profits with the people working. It’s not socialism, it’s good for business.”

Have you worked for an employer like this? Would you have fit in? Are you surprised at how successful this business is especially in the fashion world with a reputation for rough gruff souls and primadonnas galore?

 

Eileen Fisher Photo: shopdropapp.com

 

Service of Leaving Well Enough Alone: Why Change a Good Name?

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Photo:boldmatic.com

I’ve written about name changes before. There have been a bunch of bridges in New York: the 59th Street Bridge aka Queensboro Bridge to Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge; the Triborough Bridge to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and this summer the Tappan Zee Bridge became the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. I wonder if map makers use both old and new names and if there have been so many changes lately because maps are rarely printed these days and digital changes are easy to do.

Ed Koch Bridge. Photo: nyc.gov

I have frequently griped about NY Now because it in no way describes the trade show that was formerly the New York International Gift Fair.

Some years ago Rupert Murdoch considered changing the name of The Wall Street Journal, the paper he’d bought from the Bancrofts, and he wasn’t the first. In the 1940s some names being looked at were World’s Work, The North American Journal, Business Day or Financial America. They all left well enough alone.

This wasn’t the case at the Tribune Publishing Co. that changed its name in 2016 to Tronc. The company owns the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News and sold the LA Times this summer.

This week it’s back to Tribune Publishing Co.

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Lukas I. Alpert wrote about it in The Wall Street Journal: “When the new name was announced, the company’s then-nonexecutive chairman and largest shareholder, Michael Ferro, said the phrase was a British term for the box in which tips are collected at a restaurant and are later doled out to staff.” Nice to know—but who but anglophiles here knew the word?

Alpert continued: “The Tronc name soon became the subject of jokes on late-night TV and online. Comedian John Oliver said it sounded like ‘a stack of print newspapers being thrown into a dumpster.’”

Photo: logos.wikia.com

In addition to selling the LA Times, since 2016 Ferro stepped down as chairman just before sexual misconduct charges were made public. In addition, Alpert reported that the Tribune Publishing Co. has put the remaining papers up for sale.

Should well-known companies change their names? What do you think of cutesy names for corporations? What about selecting what amounts to a foreign word for a company that does business largely in the US? What other name changes—or company names, for that matter–make little sense?

Photo: thesellerslawfirm.com

Service of Where’s the Milk? Confusion When Grocery Stores Move Things Around

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Photo: aldridgeonline.com

If you routinely visit a grocery store that’s being remodeled, you know your shopping expedition will take longer than usual while you search for the milk, favorite cookies or pasta. One of my favorite stores also keeps switching things in the meat department even though its renovations are over. There must be a good reason, other than to hope I become tempted by other items while looking for what’s on my list.

Expecting to pick up a bag of M&Ms at the checkout counter at a grocery chain? Soon some will have freezer cases placed in front instead. Heather Haddon wrote about the motivation behind major product location shuffles as stores prepare for increased orders placed online for in-store customer pickup. They hope these customers, as they wait for their order in the front of the store, will add a few major items–an ice cream cake, a few frozen dinners or bags of fries and veggies–rather than a pack of gum or a candy bar. She wrote about the displacement of impulse items and other anticipated changes in her Wall Street Journal article “E-Commerce Reshapes Grocery Stores.”

Photo: supermarketnews.com

Americans spend $800 billion a year on food and drink, she reported, and supermarket chains don’t want too big a chunk going to Amazon and other giants. Haddon wrote: “E-commerce represents less than 5% of U.S. grocery sales currently, but food and beverage sales are growing far faster online than in traditional supermarkets. Forrester Analytics predicts that by 2022, the U.S. online grocery market will total $36.5 billion, up from an estimated $26.7 billion this year.”

According to Haddon, Walmart and Kroger are “spending tens of millions of dollars to acquire digital-ordering technologies, implement home-delivery systems and build thousands of store pickup points for online orders. Kroger, the U.S.’s largest supermarket chain, has hired or assigned nearly 19,000 workers to run an estimated 1,400 pickup sites for online orders, covering roughly half of the company’s stores.”

Photo: edgylabs.com

Haddon identified risks for the chains from the enormous upfront investment to irritating traditional customers who compete for goods whisked off shelves to fulfill online orders. Currently, supermarkets don’t have warehouses as Amazon does, though they may in future.

Meanwhile, “Clerks fulfilling online orders can clog aisles and checkout lanes or pick over the best produce, customers and grocery consultants say.” Haddon concluded “Through it all, grocers are struggling to find a balance between encouraging customers to place orders online and drawing customers into their stores.”

Do you shop for your groceries online? Are you tempted? It must be a time-saver to simply show up at a store and drive away minutes later with packages of groceries. Does the concept work for cities where people don’t usually own cars? Would you miss seeing what’s new in categories such as ice cream, frozen food, bakery and yogurt? Do you ever pass an aisle, see something like mustard or strawberry jam which reminds you you’re about to run out? How will internet ordering gain such purchases without irritating customers with popup suggestions?

Photo: petco.com

Service of the Revival of Decorum–It’s Got My Vote

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Photo: youtube

The country has been through previous periods in which decorum went by the wayside for both irrational and worthy reasons—and it always recovered. Among obvious examples are Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist hunts combined with his vicious interviews seven decades ago and during the 1960s, citizens found a range of ways to protest, some unruly and alarming. [I didn’t mention wars and murders as the word decorum doesn’t apply.]

Photo: izquotes.com

Today many accept—even endorse–disruptive behavior by people at the highest levels, such as the president and the applicant for a spot on the highest court in the land. Plenty of citizens and Senators dismissed, excused and supported the frenzied conduct of the prospective judge last week in a performance that lacked judgment and dignity. Did they notice or is this standard behavior.

There was no excuse for it–life isn’t fair. Deal with it especially if you want to be a judge.

Benjamin Wittes, Editor in chief of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution wrote in The Atlantic : “If I were a senator, I would not vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.

“These are words I write with no pleasure, but with deep sadness.

“I would do it both because of Ford’s testimony and because of Kavanaugh’s. For reasons I will describe, I find her account more believable than his.

“I would also do it because whatever the truth of what happened in the summer of 1982, Thursday’s hearing left Kavanaugh nonviable as a justice.

“….. he delivered on Thursday, by way of defense, a howl of rage. He went on the attack not against Ford—for that we can be grateful—but against Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and beyond. His opening statement was an unprecedentedly partisan outburst of emotion from a would-be justice……. His performance was wholly inconsistent with the conduct we should expect from a member of the judiciary.”

Photo: career-intelligence.com

“Kavanaugh blew across lines that I believe a justice still needs to hold.”

There seem to be as many voices accepting disorderly, inappropriate behavior as those who disapprove. Does this mean it’s OK to act similarly at all levels of our society? Is there a green light for job applicants to be snarky during interviews or is this a benefit of being in office and becoming a Supreme Court Judge? Will ordinary candidates for jobs big and small be selected if:

 

 

  • they smash back responses that mimic the interviewer’s question?
  • they fly off the handle if asked about a sensitive subject?
  • they make up information that is easily disproved for fear of what the truth might imply?

 

I’m a control freak. Rowdy, disorderly conduct by our leaders frightens me. I squirm watching the yelling and screaming that routinely takes place in the British Parliament.

I have every hope that sane and respectful conduct and moderate solutions will once again prevail here. I suspect that a majority of citizens agree. We’ve seen what chaos and disrespect is like. In future we will pick a president, Congressmen and women and Supreme Court judges who conduct themselves with decorum–in public at least. Do you agree?

Photo: summitkids.com

Service of Watchdogs Asleep on the Job When Their Partisanship Gets the Better of Them

Monday, October 1st, 2018

Photo: watchdogri.org

Partisanship has caused our representatives to lose their focus. It masks common sense forcing our elected officials and their appointees to make decisions for the wrong reasons. Senator Flake admitted on “60 Minutes” last night that he would not have taken the step he did to insist on an FBI investigation in the Kavanaugh hearing had he been running for office.

Bloomberg View senior executive editor David Shipley shed light on an example that impacts us all yet hasn’t grabbed many headlines. He argued on Bloomberg radio “that the Federal Election Commission [FEC] is overly partisan, and if Democrats take control of one or both sides of Congress in November, they should commence hearings into its operations.”

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

I checked out some info about the FEC. Its six members** are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. A term is six years, two appointments are made every two years and no more than three commissioners can represent a party. Four members must agree for the commission to take action. **In an “On the Media” interview on NPR on Saturday, Washington Post national reporter Michele Ye He Lee said currently there are four commissioners on the FEC–two from each party.

Shipley said that the Trump 2016 campaign solicited funds from members of Parliament in the UK, which is illegal, but even though watchdog organizations filed complaints, the FEC didn’t pursue the campaign or enforce the law. “The FEC preferred not to know,” he said. He added that “Republicans on the FEC were sure that campaign laws were not broken.”

He also mentioned that when Paul Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman he sought campaign money for a super PAC that backed Trump, which is also illegal. Nothing happened.

Shipley recommended that if “Democrats take control of Congress in November, and if a bipartisan resolution is impossible, Congress should wind down the FEC and transfer its function to the justice department.” He concluded: “Status quo is a mockery of the law.”

Do you agree? How can members of a watchdog commission accept the position and then forfeit their responsibility without blinking? Can you identify other examples of people we depend on to watch out for us who, for reasons of partisanship, turn a blind eye to illegal activities?

Photo: personaliberty.com

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