Archive for February, 2020

Service of a Drop in the Bucket: Another Move to Heal the Environment Just to Make Us Feel Better

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

At the end of the month New Yorkers won’t be getting “single use” plastic bags from grocery and other stores.

I put quotes around “single use” because I use these bags for many other things. If I have leftovers I first wrap them in aluminum foil and cover the package in one of these bags, instead of a new one, so the food doesn’t leak in freezer or fridge. I also use them to hold wet garbage that I toss down a shoot in the garbage room.

I wrote the topnotch, smart apartment building manager to ask if he was going to alert the tenants about garbage protocol so they don’t use paper bags [which New Yorkers will now get from stores at 5 cents each unless they have their own bags] to send wet garbage down the shoot. These would drip on hallway carpets and mess up the shoot as contents break out of the weakened wet paper on the trip down as many as 38 flights.  I could tell he thought I was nuts and told me to buy plastic bags. I’ve lived here a year and haven’t bought a single one for garbage.

Articles about this environment-saving move report that there won’t be any more plastic bags but don’t mention that some put them to use and what to use instead. I heard a promo on NPR about a crisis for dog walkers who use the bags to pick up after their pooches. When I had a dog, that’s what I used.

Here are my objections:

  • I bought garbage bags when I lived in a house. They are of a far heavier plastic than the single use variety so where’s the savings to the environment?
  • Many NYC apartments have microscopic kitchens. They don’t have room for standard size trashcans. The small bags that fit the small cans are hard to come by—I haven’t found a box.
  • I ordered a cartridge for my printer from Staples because they didn’t have my brand in the store. It arrived in a large box with inflated plastic bags to keep it from rattling around. Speaking of waste! See the photos above and below. There are far more impactful changes to be made in my opinion.
  • A stack of single use plastic bags are easy for a deli or bodega to store. Paper takes up far more space.
  • Car owners keep a pile of bags in the trunk. Few Manhattan dwellers shop for groceries with a car. Returning home from work someone with a briefcase doesn’t usually have a bag in which to store a quart of milk so they’ll buy a paper bag which will translate into more voluminous garbage and ensuing energy to dispose of it.
  • We take home rotisserie chicken in large plastic containers with plastic domes. Like the big deal restaurants made of substituting paper for plastic straws, this move is another drop in the bucket with more PR than actual impact on the environment.

What do you think? Do you toss single-use plastic bags or put them to use?

Service of Debates: Is This The Way to Pick the Best Candidate?

Monday, February 24th, 2020

Photo: politico.com

The flaws of the debate system to chose a presidential candidate reminds me of one of my business experiences where a person with the gift of gab may not have been a client’s best choice. Here’s the story. A longtime client wanted to initiate a special project. I submitted my idea but another agency won. [I kept the retainer business for years after that.]

Photo: youtube.com

The woman who presented the winning idea–a nationwide consumer contest–was one of the best speakers I’ve heard. Turned out implementation was not her–or her marketing agency’s–strong suit. And the idea itself, without a marketing or advertising budget to support it, from a little known organization, was flawed. In addition, there was money to run the contest only one time and it can take years for such a project to gain momentum.

The prizes for the winner involved generous donations of product. Turned out the agency didn’t know a soul in the industry so my client asked me to make introductions. Gritting my teeth while smiling, I did.

Once the expensive failure was over it was time to send the contest winner–one of only 30 entrants [!]–the goods worth $100,000 at retail.

Photo: youtube.com

The cherry on the stale cake came over the phone again, this time from the project agency. They needed my help. When they reached out to the primary manufacturer-doner with the winner’s name and address for shipping the prize they learned that the person they’d previously worked with was no longer with the company. Nobody else at the company knew what they were talking about.

“No problem,” said I, “this is a reputable company–just send them your correspondence and agreement.” The reply, “There isn’t any. We never confirmed the donation in writing; only on the phone.” Huh?

So what does this business kerfuffle have to do with debates of presidential contenders? Just because someone has a quick tongue or makes a slip-of-one, should they earn or lose anyone’s vote? [For the purpose of this post I have simplified my example. There was politics–if you’ll excuse the expression– involved in the choice of project. The committee wanted to back one of their associates’ contacts, the glossy if defective, marketing company.]

Further, debates don’t always identify the best public speakers. Remember the one in which Barack Obama fell on his face? He subsequently became the best presidential orator of modern time. Do you think debates are the best way to evaluate the candidate that will get your vote?

Photo: washingtonmonthly.

 

Service of Keeping the Best we Have: Why the Drive to Erase the Past?

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Eddies Sweet Shop

Driving through France one summer years ago we were starving as we entered a tiny town. Not a soul was on the street–it was lunchtime so schools and businesses were closed–but we found someone inside the otherwise empty local cafe. She said she was désolé, but she had no bread and couldn’t make us a sandwich. Our faces fell. Knowing we’d find the same situation in town after town she said to wait–she had some fresh bread at home. We sipped a drink and sat at a table outside the cafe which was on the main drag–as no cars drove by–and were entertained by Muscat, the dog. She returned with magnificent ham sandwiches which also pleased Muscat, the recipient of welcome snacks.

Schmidts Candy Shop

I haven’t been to France in years and was sad to read the headline of Noemie Bisserbe’s Wall Street Journal article, “France Says Au Revoir to the Cafe,” which I hope is an exaggeration. [The photos in the online story are wonderful–take a look.]

We’re not so good at keeping the best/most charming elements of our neighborhoods either. I’ve been to American cities that have decimated any architecture of interest. Here’s an exception. A friend took me on a tour of favorite haunts from her childhood in Queens where I saw many wonderful landmarks–architectural, restaurant and retail. Our adventure began with a visit to Rudy’s Pastry Shop where we had blueberry coffee cake and I a cafe latte–scrumptious.

The Lemon Ice King of Corona

The photos here feature:

  • Schmidts Candy where the proprietor apologized many times because the shop was recovering from Valentine’s Day. I sampled a divine homemade dark chocolate treat with orange filling.

    Eddies Sweet Shop

  • Eddie’s Sweet Shop. My choice was a scoop of banana ice cream with caramel sauce. Can’t wait to return on an empty stomach.
  • Lemon Ice King of Corona is featured in the intro to the TV program “The King of Queens,” in re-runs. We had no more room for sweets but I’m planning a reprise in summer.

Something striking about Queens: 98 percent of retail space appeared to be full unlike Manhattan which has an alarming number of empty storefronts.

What neighborhood favorites do you remember from your childhood and how many of them remain? Which do you miss?

 

Service of Who Gives Someone the Right to Criticize Your Design Choices?

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Photo: functionalley.com

The headline “Are Taxidermy Animals Distasteful?” in a recent Wall Street Journal sparked another question from me: “Who gives someone the right to tell another person yea or nay about their interior decorating?

The threat of being criticized or laughed at is why beige on beige has consistently been America’s color of choice for homes and apartments. It’s safe. What mother-in-law or know-it-all acquaintance would comment “This room is boring?” but they might assess with a crack and a wrinkled nose a space dressed in peacock blue or tangerine.

Photo: ibelieve.com

The subhead of Allison Duncan’s Taxidermy Journal article reveals that the subject is more than one of taste: “Interior designers lock horns over using mounted beasts in décor. Some see them as celebrating the natural world, others see them as violating it.”

Even so, is it up to family and friends to lecture about the suitability of a person’s mounted moose head any more than share comments about food choices?

Editors, reporters and bloggers writing about color and home fashion trends as well as the plethora of TV design shows with the same purpose leave design decisions up to the home decorator. A good interior decorator works with clients but doesn’t dictate.

Has anyone made negative comments about your décor? Is there any instance in which it’s appropriate to critique someone else’s design choices?

Photo: thebalancecareers.com

 

Service of a Marketing Idea with Legs

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Flamboyant expressions of love associated with Valentine’s Day today were initially ignited by Hallmark which early in the 20th Century was the first to mass-produce Valentine’s cards. Up until then lovers made cards by hand according to Sam Becker in usatoday.com. Other symbols of affection in the day were generally low-key.

Sellers of candy, flowers, perfume and jewelry jumped on the bandwagon and amplified the holiday which ratcheted the expectations of some in relationships. No doubt the pressure to show amour in the appropriate way–$100+ rose bouquets and even engagement rings–when feelings of affection by one of the parties are tepid at best, is the cause of the breakups that happen the week before February 14, more than at any other time of year. [The runners up: the weeks before Christmas according to bustle.com.]

I’ve loved Valentine’s day for as long as I can remember. When I was very young my parents would hide their initials on cards–they were my secret admirers. It was fun to find the RKR and GBR hidden in the illustrations. In the early grades–I went to an all-girls school–we deposited cards in a big box and they’d be distributed by a few of the kids. I still exchange cards with some friends. As fewer people send cards today Hallmark is keeping up its brand’s flame through romantic films on the Hallmark Channel.

Don’t you love the giant red hearts that decorate store and restaurant windows and cheer February’s gloomy gray days? I’m also very fond of the iconic heart shape.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Does a favorite one stand out? What’s the most outrageous example of devotion on February 14 that you’ve ever heard of?

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Service of Looking for Trouble

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Photo: open.spotify.com

Some people look for trouble usually, but not always, to benefit themselves.

Photo: patch.com

Folks in retail have many tales to tell. Yesterday there was a kerfuffle at a Manhattan chain drugstore. One of the employees, planted to escort customers to the aisle and product they need and to keep an eye on things had apparently accused a woman of stealing. She responded by screaming at the top of her lungs. I moved to another part of the store pronto.

A friend who works in a boutique has too many stories of customers who try to pull one over on the business. At the slightest hint that they won’t get their way these shady customers also yell and scream. This is a good strategy because they know that no retailer wants to discourage other customers who are uncomfortable with a fight. While infuriated, my friend is forced to give them what they want.

Photo: rewardsnetwork.com

I’ve written before about the woman who sat behind me at a restaurant. The place was  having a bad staff day. I’d been there many times and service was prompt but something had happened–most likely a chunk of waiters had called in sick. The remaining ones were scrambling, apologizing profusely along the way. This customer wanted a free meal and ratcheted up her negative claims escalating from “You are discriminating against me because I’m a woman eating alone!” which was unlikely as the restaurant was in Grand Central Terminal where lots of women travel and eat alone to “I’m a cancer victim. I want to see the manager!”

Maurice Chevalier in Gigi. Photo: Photo: insidehook.com

More recently a friend and I were listing our favorite movies. We agreed on Gigi. She told me about an acquaintance, perhaps inspired by the Me-Too movement, who claimed that the song “Thank Goodness for Little Girls” was disgusting and smacked of something dark.  You be the judge. Think 1958 when the movie premiered.

The words Maurice Chevalier sang:

“Each time I see a little girl
Of five or six or seven
I can’t resist a joyous urge
To smile and say
Thank heaven for little girls
For little girls get
Bigger every day
Thank heaven for little girls
They grow up in
The most delightful way.
Those little eyes
So helpless and appealing
When they were flashing
Send you crashing
Through the ceiling”

This reminded me of the woman who threatened to sue a former wallpaper client because she claimed that the pattern–letters of the alphabet sprinkled in all directions–spelled nasty words inappropriate for a child’s room. Sure, all the letters for millions of words were in that wallcovering but really, talk about a stretch.

Do you have examples of people who look for trouble because that’s just how they are or because they want something for free? Is it valid to rip into vintage films, songs or books and measure them by today’s sensibilities and contemporary word usage thereby placing them in a cultural or entertainment dustbin?

Photo: 12rf.com

 

 

Service of Protecting Your Personal Data

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Fitness trackers Photo: sundried.com

I’m suspicious of any and all data sharing about my health, my DNA–you name it. Today’s protections can be gone in a flick of a pen with a law change or the information exposed to all as a result of a data breach. Lemmings happily line up to learn about their ancestry and I’m dead-set against that, as I’ve written in this blog, as I’m sure that information won’t be used solely to determine that great grandma came from Minsk.

Thorin Klosowski’s New York Times article, “What to Consider Before Trading Your Health Data for Cash–Don’t trade away your health data without considering the potential issues first” cemented my feelings on the subject.

Photo: healthdata.gov

Some are tempted by discounts, gift cards or financial rewards by an employer, HMO, health care plan or insurance company–or they are pressured by an employer or their team–to enroll in a wellness program involving a phone or fitness tracker. The idea: a healthy lifestyle will lessen the cost of health care.

The tracking device must be covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] or you are unprotected.

Klosowski wrote: “If a program or wearable tracking device is covered by HIPAA, your employer will never have access to the data collected, but if HIPAA doesn’t apply, you’re trusting those entities to not share the data with your employer, third-party ad agencies, or anyone else. Without HIPAA, a wellness program (or, more accurately, the operator or administrator behind it) may sell the health information it collects, which could put you at risk of having your data used against you or unlawfully in some way.”

You are not protected if the device is only HIPPA compliant.

compliancy-group.com

In addition “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also adds this distinction,” Klosowski wrote: “If a wellness program is offered as part of a group health plan, your information is protected by HIPAA rules; if the wellness program is offered directly by an employer, the information is not protected.”

In addition, warned Klosowski, you may be asked to answer survey questions you don’t want to, such as whether you plan on becoming pregnant in the next few years. You might now want your employer to know this. Also avoid programs that ask for genetic test results, he suggested.

You may be fine today and diagnosed with something dicey tomorrow that you’d prefer be kept under wraps. When Nora Ephron died her closest friends were shocked, some angry that she hadn’t shared that she had acute myeloid leukemia. She knew if the news was well known she wouldn’t be insured to work on big film productions. She was right.

With an administration that flirts with removing insurance protection for preexisting conditions or a promotion at work in the balance, it would seem that people should take extra care before enrolling in anything they might later regret. Would you be tempted to take money to wear a tracking device?

Photo: npr.org

 

Service of Should Transgressions Go Unmentioned After Someone Dies?

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

Photo: gatewayfh.com

A Washington Post reporter was immediately suspended–and later reinstated from the punishment of administrative leave–for tweeting, after his death, about Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault charge 17 years ago. Bryant had said he thought the encounter was consensual but according to New York Times** reporters Rachel Abrams and Marc Tracy, “he had come to understand that she did not see it in the same way.” She was a 19 year old Colorado hotel front desk clerk. The case was eventually dropped after an undisclosed settlement.

The reporter, Felicia Sonmez, received death threats and online abuse as tributes by politicians and celebrities praised Bryant. She linked to 2016 Daily Beast coverage of the case in her tweet.

Three hundred + fellow Post reporters protested Sonmez’s suspension. Abrams and Tracy wrote that “The Post’s social media guidelines ask journalists to be informative and factual in their online posts.”

the spruce.com

Martin Baron, the paper’s executive editor, sent her an email last Sunday. He wrote that she showed “a real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.”

Two days later the paper stated that Sonmez “was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.” The New York Times reporters wrote “The Post’s statement also referred to her tweets as ‘ill-timed’ and continued: ‘We consistently urge restraint which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths.'”

Sonmez wasn’t the only one who remembered the sexual assault charge. Len Berman, morning host on WOR 710 Radio’s morning show–and a former TV sports reporter–mentioned it observing that Bryant’s record wasn’t unblemished as implied by most media.

Photo: aarp.org

**Something curious: I looked on line for the article I read in the print New York Times story “At Post, Another Round of Dissent Over Bryant” [photo below]. The facts and quotes in this post come from it. It wasn’t on the paper’s website nor could I find it via Google. Other articles on the subject by reporters Abrams and Tracy are online but not that one.

Are there different rules for public figures when it comes to mentioning a hiccup in a person’s life after they die? For example you wouldn’t mention your Cousin Nigel’s misbehavior at his funeral or in his obituary, would you? Are rules of behavior different if a celebrity dies in a horrendous accident? Should a reporter be reprimanded for tweeting the truth about a beloved public figure? What if such a person is disliked–would a tweet like Felicia Sonmez’s have gone unnoticed?

I couldn’t find a digital version of the NY Times article at the bottom of the page.

 

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