Archive for March, 2019

Service of Untrained Staff and Insufficient Inventory Messing Up Food Orders

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Photo: medium.com

When you order food and don’t get what you want it can be hard to tell if it’s due to a lack of staff training or insufficient inventory. This is nothing new even though the millions who order all sorts of food online these days may think it is.

I ran into untrained staff causing stress when buying a bunch of sandwiches for office colleagues at a then novel Au Bon Pain years ago. It was so bad I eventually no longer asked “Can I get someone anything at Au Bon Pain?” when leaving the office to pick up lunch for myself. The takeout offered a choice of bread, meat and cheese for freshly made sandwiches. Inevitably I’d return with ham and brie on a roll when my colleague wanted ham and Swiss on a baguette as one example. Of some five orders three would be wrong. Drove me nuts. It happened because the staff didn’t know the difference between cheeses and breads and clearly the choices weren’t well marked and/or the staff wasn’t trained to ID the options.

Heather Haddon’s Wall Street Journal article rang bells. “Amazon to Whole Foods Online Delivery Customers: We’re Out of Celery, How’s Kale? Companies offering online grocery ordering and delivery struggle with services’ logistics” described customer experience with the online grocery and delivery system for select Amazon Prime members.

Photo: LLamasoft.com

She wrote about what happened to Kelly Hills. The Massachusetts-based bioethicist  “ordered a sourdough loaf from Whole Foods recently but was offered a jalapeño cheese bread instead. Her so-called ‘shopper’—either a contract worker employed by Amazon or a Whole Foods staff member tasked with compiling delivery orders—had opted to put decaf coffee in her bag instead of whole roasted coffee beans, celery instead of celery root and a single seltzer flavor rather than a variety. ‘The substitutions are downright bizarre. It’s frustrating,'” Think of all the time wasted to return this stuff or the money lost to accept what you won’t use.

Haddon added that problems “are often amplified because daily operations at the two companies are still largely separate. Whole Foods employees said Amazon workers routinely ask for help finding items on shelves or elsewhere, distracting them from their own duties. Technology that tracks Whole Foods’s inventory is old, and officials have discussed updating it for years.”

Have you been impacted by poorly trained staff, insufficient inventory or other issues when buying food–or anything else–either in person or online? Why do you think the glitches happen? Do you usually accept the mistakes or do you take time to return or report them?

Photo en.wikipedia.com

Service of Celebrating the Worst of the Past: What’s with Lloyd’s of London?

Monday, March 25th, 2019

 

Lloyd’s of London Photo: en.wikipedia.com

I was surprised that this behavior survives in a civilized country.

I first heard this story on Bloomberg Radio over the weekend during a review of Bloomberg Businessweek stories. For more I linked to Gavin Finch’s story, “The Old Daytime-Drinking, Sexual-Harassing Ways Are Thriving at Lloyd’s.”

During the radio interview he emphasized the rampant drinking during business hours even more than in the article. It seems that after each insurance deal those involved retire to the local pub to celebrate, often many times a day. Sounded like “Mad Men” and the advertising industry in the 1960s though drinking in the latter took place at lunch while in London the practice seems to happen 9 to 5.

Appalling behavior outweighs the old world traditions that Finch described. He covered the unchecked “deep-seated culture of sexual harassment” for the majority of the article. The drinking makes it a dangerous place for women to work, he wrote.

For almost five years Inga Beale, as CEO, did her best to address “modernization of technology, attitudes, and behaviors—and met resistance at every step.” Currently, women in the industry “fear that Lloyd’s, already a deeply backward-looking institution, might actually be on the verge of regressing.” Finch added: “When she took over, everything was being done on paper, much as it had been for the past three centuries. By the time she stepped down, about 16.5 percent of the market’s business was being placed online.”

Lloyd’s coffee house Photo: en.wikipedia.com

The drinking isn’t the only thing that harkens to the past and some is charming if anachronistic. Finch wrote: “Beyond the quaint nature of the trading, other rites date to the first exchange Edward Lloyd opened in a 1680s London coffee shop. When a ship is lost at sea, the event is recorded with a quill pen in a leather-bound ledger kept near the center of the main trading floor, which Lloyd’s calls the underwriting room. To mark major disasters that yield billions of dollars in claims, such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, a man in a red tunic and white gloves rings a golden bell.”

And According to Finch “the underwriters and brokers of Lloyd’s mostly do business the old-fashioned way: face-to-face, using rubber stamps, pens, and sheaves of paper. Well-tailored dark blue and gray suits are the norm, often with bold chalk stripes. One does not wear brown shoes. A code mandating suits was lifted last year, but it was clear on several recent tours of the trading floors that almost everyone still adheres to it. Some of the older underwriters wear brightly colored suspenders, or braces. Even by the standards of London’s financial district, the vibe is sartorially conservative.”

Was this news to you as it was for me? How come such behavior is accepted in the global marketplace? Isn’t the contemporary look of the Lloyd’s building in striking contrast to the culture of this company and what goes on inside? Do you think working under the influence impacts the insurance industry?

Lloyd’s lost ship ledger. Photo: reddit.com

Service of Paying for the Company You Keep: Are Your Clients Worth It?

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Perry Mason, left. Photo: perrymasontvseries.com

Life is expensive and most student debt sinfully high so it’s important to select a career that if not lucrative, will pay the bills. That said, setting yourself up for a miserable existence because of the client company you keep seems an awfully high price to pay.

“If I was mentoring a young lawyer, I’d direct him to the trust and estate litigation practice.” Reporter Paul Sullivan was quoting Jeffrey P. Geida in his New York Times article “The Wealthy Family Squabble.” Geida heads the tax and estate planning department at LA law firm Weinstock Mansion.

Sullivan’s article describes law suits between multi millionaire relatives slamming one another over money. In one example, Belinda Neumann-Donnelly blamed her father for causing a picture to sell at auction for only $30.7 million when she thought it should have brought much more. She sued dad.

Can you imagine spending your life around these people and having to feign sympathy for their complaints?

I knew a family in which a son sued his once well-to-do father–who had lost all his money and could barely pay the rent–because he felt his father owed him the tuition for graduate school. What happened to the son trying to help his father?

Do you think who your customers and clients are will impact the quality of your work life? Are there industries you would avoid for that reason? Is any amount of compensation worth dealing with people you consider, in general, unsavory?

Photo: careermatch.com

 

Service of Condolences

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Photo: chartcons.com

A friend told me that when he was in college another student’s mother died and he didn’t say a word. When his father died and anyone said “I am sorry,” nothing more, it soothed him and he never again ducked from reaching out to a bereaved acquaintance.

Some are afraid or feel awkward about approaching a person who is grieving. This is natural. Try to remember it’s not about you but about them. If they don’t have time to speak with you when you call or if they don’t immediately respond to your email or text or if they don’t acknowledge the card you sent within a reasonable amount of time, you’ve done nothing wrong. Remember: they are adjusting to a life without a loved one. There may be all sorts of pressures on their time in addition to routine obligations at work and at home. And all along the loss and sadness fight for attention.

I don’t know if they still do it but in France mourners wore a black band around their sleeve or a black button in a lapel. I always thought that this was a good idea so that a grouchy salesperson or bus driver might be kind to a customer who holds them up by taking too much time to find a credit card or carfare.

Do you dodge expressing condolences? I hope you don’t have experience relating to death but if so, did you appreciate the slightest acknowledgement of your loss?

 

 

Service of Questions and Loss

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

I just lost my dearest friend and companion. Many times daily one of us would ask the other: “what do you think about _______?” In 34 + years we never tired of discussing the news, information we read in books and events and concerns involving the people we knew. Weren’t we lucky? It broke my heart of late when I’d ask and he’d reply “I don’t know.”

Until very recently, since November 2008, he added beautifully crafted often surprising and erudite comments to my twice a week posts. You might have read some of them and enjoyed a glimpse of his remarkable mind, grasp of history and memories of his quirky, colorful life. He signed in as Protius, Lucan, hb, mbj, Horace Peabody, Seneca, Dave Cummings, Charlie S., CKP, Hester Craddock–to name just a few pseudonyms. He rarely if ever signed in as Homer Byington.

So in this brief post I will ask you what I would have asked him:

  • What do you think about the people involved in the college entrance scandal? There were many players from the mastermind Rick Singer and participating parents and children [though some allegedly didn’t know], to the bribed, whether college officials and coaches or SAT administrators. Were the parents really helping their kids in the end even if they’d not been caught? Should the students involved be refused a diploma? Are colleges culpable because they don’t seem to vet students recommended by sports coaches?
  • And what’s with the FAA/Boeing 737 MAX story? Why were we so slow to the table to stop flights? Wall Street Journal reporters wrote: “Since the crash on Sunday, regulators in dozens of countries suspended flights by the single-aisle airliners, including longtime safety partners such as the U.K., Australia and Canada, whose airspace U.S. airlines regularly enter, even during domestic flights.” We didn’t ground the planes until yesterday. And how could Boeing sell a product that had problems and required essential training before it could be flown?

All these years you’ve also been my sounding board. Thank you.

Service of Receiving a Flawed Shipped Gift: Whom to Tell?

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Frozen flowers

Retailers—traditional and e—make it increasingly easier to send wonderful gifts. But what if the gift arrives damaged? Does the recipient tell the gift giver, the vendor, both or none?

Photo: pinterest

According to family legend my great Aunt Frieda called a fancy food purveyor—one of the best in NYC in the day–to ask them to remove a brace of over-ripe, too-long dead pheasants gifted her by well-meaning friends. I remember hearing that they smelled horrific but I don’t recall if she ever told the friends about the rancid poultry or merely thanked them.

More recently, Erica sent her newly widowed aunt armloads of spring flowers. Her aunt lives in Minnesota. The delivery man left the blossoms in the [very] cold outside her front door where they froze therefore hurrying them to their demise. Erica’s mom urged her aunt to tell her. Aunt hesitated as she didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She wrote: “I think they would be very lovely if they were not frozen. Your Mom asked me to send you a photo. Love.” Erica immediately called ProFlowers—that never before had disappointed her—and sent them this photo [above] as evidence.

A florist doing business in Minnesota should know to call–especially in winter–before delivering to a house to ensure that someone is home to accept the fragile package.

Photo lakesiepottery.com

Sometimes it’s not the fault of the vendor. My father told a story of a stingy millionaire who visited a well known Paris boutique and chose, for a wedding gift, an important porcelain piece by a manufacturer of luxury brands. He found it on a clearance shelf, broken. Its condition was reflected in the price. Not wanting its reputation tarnished or to be left holding the bag by having to replace an object that might appear to have been broken in transit, boutique staff carefully wrapped each of the broken pieces separately and placed each shard, with Monsieur Stingy’s card, in the boutique’s distinctive gift box. I love this story. I don’t know if it really happened or if he was sharing a lesson about what can happen to the tightfisted.

Have you received a shipped gift that was somehow flawed? Did you notify the vendor, the giver or both? Under what, if any, circumstances would you NOT tell the giver? How did you feel when someone reported a problem with a gift you sent? Would you have preferred that they notify the vendor and keep you out of it?

Photo: farmboxdirect.com

Service of 5 Plus 2 Equals 10: A Hard Pill to Swallow

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Photo: mathspig.wordpress.com

Of course the math in the headline is wrong. I’m writing about drug prices in this country and nothing about what they cost and why computes either.

Did you see the alarming New York Times editorial, “Getting Answers on Drug Prices,” published the day before last week’s hearing at which seven heads of pharmaceutical companies were to meet the Senate Finance Committee? They represented Pfizer, Sanofi, Janssen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, Merck and AbbVie.

Photo: Microsoft.com

Between DJT’s trip to Vietnam and the Michael Cohen hearing, the results of the big pharma exec hearings were largely buried, at least on the news shows I hear/see. What I found didn’t really answer one eye-opening fact—why drugs cost so much more here than elsewhere. According to the editorial, a month’s worth of Actimmune to treat malignant osteoporosis costs under $350 in Britain versus $26,000 here. The editorial contends that drug prices have skyrocketed to the point that many who take them for such ailments as high blood pressure, cancers, allergies and more ration them “at great peril.”

NBC News politial reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell reported that the top exexs “could not commit to lower the price of commonly used prescription drugs even as they admitted that they control those prices. And one executive acknowledged that the high cost of medicines hits poorest patients the hardest.” That executive was Kenneth Frazier, Merck Chairman and CEO. Note: According to Caldwell the pharma industry spent a record $28 million on lobbying last year.

Photo cnn.com

The execs blame Medicare regulations. “‘The system itself is complex and it is interdependent, and no one company could unilaterally lower list prices without running into financial and operating disadvantages,’ Frazier said.” He suggested that by sitting all parties around a table “‘I think we can come up with a system that works for all Americans.’

“They pointed to a statistic that consumers on Medicare pay 13 percent out-of-pocket for prescription medication, compared to just 3 percent for a hospital stay. Some senators connected the large salaries of executives or the profitability of the company to drug costs.” In 2016, Medicare Rx drug spending, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, accounted for 30 percent of all.

In a Wall Street Journal analysis of the hearings, Peter Loftus summarized questions directed at AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez, responsible for “about the biggest-selling medicine in the world, Humira, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and gut disorders. Humira generated $19.9 billion in global sales for AbbVie in 2018, up 8% from the year before.” In 10 years list price for a box of two pre-filled syringes went from $1,524 to $5,174 today. The company has maintained exclusivity on the drug by taking patents out on the nine or 10 diseases the drug addresses.

People—and companies that pay for their health care—are desperate to find reasonable alternatives not always with acceptable success. Sheila Kaplan wrote about the F.D.A. accusation against Canadian drug distributor CanaRx. According to her New York Times article the F.D.A. claimed that the company was selling “unapproved and mislabeled medicines to unsuspecting Americans looking to save money on prescriptions, and warned it to stop.”

Photo: fda.gov

F.D.A. commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb “was especially concerned about CanaRx’s sale of drugs with special safety requirements because they were high-risk and needed to be carefully managed to protect vulnerable patients.” Tracleer, for pulmonary arterial hypertension and CellCept, for transplant patients, were two on the agency’s warning list.

Through its attorney Joseph Morris, CanaRx denies the charge. He told Kaplan “Every prescription that is dispensed through a CanaRx program is dispensed directly to the patient from a licensed, regulated, brick-and-mortar pharmacy in Canada, Britain or Australia, and the patient can be sure that medicine she receives is the medicine that her doctor ordered.” Morris explained that CanaRx “serves as a broker between the companies’ employees and pharmacies and physicians in Canada, Australia or Britain.” The employees are encouraged to buy their meds to save their employer money by sending their Rx to CanaRx “which finds a foreign doctor to reissue it, and have it filed locally.”

The Times editorial began by comparing the promise of these hearings with one in 1994 in which the heads of seven of the country’s biggest tobacco companies admitted the truth about cigarettes. “The hearing ushered in a public health victory for the ages.” I fear nothing like this will result from last week’s hearings with big pharma.

I’d accept a difference of a few hundred dollars between medicine sold in the UK and here to make up for our complex Medicare and Medicaid pricing regulations and rules, but isn’t a difference of $25,650, in the instance of Actimmune, a bit of a stretch? With technology on the side of efficiency and cost-savings, why does a vial of insulin cost $1,500 today vs. $200 a decade ago? Could the paucity of TV news coverage about these hearings be related to the enormity of pharma ads on these shows? Will anything rattle the industry sufficiently so it becomes more responsible and less greedy?

Service of Boundaries—Walls if you Wish

Monday, March 4th, 2019

Photo: nadialarussa.com

I thought of several other headlines for this post–Service of: “Too Much Information;” “I Don’t Want to Know,” or “Too Much to Ask.”

There are many things I don’t want to know and whether my parents had affairs and/or with whom, is one of them. I also would not want to be in any way involved.

How did this come up?

Photo: throughthewoodstherapy.com

My husband asked me last week, after Michael Cohen testified at the congressional hearing: “What would you think if my father had me pay for illicit affairs or for the cover-ups?” I said, “WHAT?” He continued, “He didn’t, but I was shocked that Donald Trump, Jr. signed one of the checks Cohen presented in evidence about the Stormy Daniels cover-up.”

Photo: facebook.com

Authors—Susan Cheever for one—write about their parents’ sexual lives, which I think is not their story to tell. Some children resent that they were kept in the dark if they learn of a parent’s affairs after the death of the father or mother in question.

Should there be no secrets between parents and their children? Am I old fashioned because I welcome them? Do you draw the line as to what you’d ask your child to do for you or what you’d do for a parent?

Photo: hippocraticpost.com

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