Archive for January, 2021

Service of Mourning: Remember

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

President Biden led the mourners honoring the 400,000 who have died of Covid-19. On the eve of the inauguration he stood by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., silhouetted by 400 lights, and said: “To heal we must remember.” The next day the President prayed at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery. Again he led the nation in remembering.

Yesterday in a White House statement, he said: “Today, we join together with people from nations around the world to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day by remembering the 6 million Jews, as well as the Roma and Sinti, Slavs, disabled persons, LGBTQ+ individuals, and many others, who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Shoah. ….”

“Death is natural,” my husband would say as he hugged me through my grief when parents, relatives and friends died. When he died I remembered his healing hugs.

Photo: en.unesco.org

Homer’s approach, while sensible and accurate, doesn’t mitigate the feelings of loss that loved ones experience. It must be worse when death doesn’t seem natural: Those left behind when the lives of Covid-19 patients have been cut short–whether children or the elderly. Without the virus thousands would have celebrated many other birthdays and holidays. Holocaust survivors and loved ones of victims of violence must feel the same.

It’s true that the departed live on in your heart and mind. Keepsakes help. I put my hands on my father’s and husband’s leather gloves that are on a table for easy access. The main character, Assane Diop, played by Omar Sy in the Netflix series “Lupin,” holds dear his dead father’s gloves as well.

When others remember one of my loved ones it’s momentous. It might make me teary but then so much does–it shouldn’t discourage them from sharing their memories. In what ways do you remember?  Or is it too painful?

Service of Respect

Monday, January 25th, 2021

Photo: lean.org

I pluck a vital quote from last week that I hope will be imitated by organizations and companies around the land:

I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No if, ands, or buts.” —President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on Zoom at the swearing-in ceremony for staffers of his new administration on Inauguration Day.

Photo:eskill.com

I’ve worked at companies that set one employee against the other–not a fit for me. I’m plenty competitive but I work best in collaborative environments. I’ve also worked for magazines or agencies at which bullying and nastiness didn’t exist because management didn’t practice or tolerate it.

For every personality there’s a management style that inspires. To do their jobs some need to be prodded which feels like abuse to me because I know what’s expected and when and try to deliver before deadline. Others do best if they respect–not fear–their clients or boss.

Do you think the administration staffers got President Biden’s message and will abide by it? Was he micromanaging? Are there situations in which such an approach wouldn’t work? In what environment do you excel?

Photo: proofhub.com

Service of Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose–Redux II

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

I interrupt my planned post for today to write this morning about a serious state of affairs regarding Corona-19 vaccine distribution: money can put you at the head of the line. I heard about it this morning.

Money impacted Vietnam War deferments. Sons of the wealthy who sought them got them. That was nothing new: deep enough pockets to hire the canniest lawyers have always plucked scoundrels off the hook for crimes committed.

How naive I was to think this wasn’t the case for today’s crisis. Here’s why:

NYC Housing Authority Photo: nyulangone.org

Thousands of New York City Housing Authority development residents have been given the vaccine so for once, while I and my computer-savvy friends are struggling to wangle an appointment online, some with few resources or ability to do this were being served first. I was glad.

I admit that my requirements restrict my chances. I want to walk to my appointment–5 miles my limit–and a trip, alone, to dodgy neighborhoods, as many friends have suggested, is out of the question.

Dr. Arthur Caplan. Photo: twitter

Simultaneously thousands of appointments have been cancelled in NYC this week for lack of vaccine. On his weekly segment on the WOR morning show today Arthur L. Caplan, Professor of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, reported to hosts Len Berman and Michael Riedel that people were paying to jump the line. I hadn’t heard this before.

What’s worse: There are no punishments to thwart them he said. Dr. Caplan warned Len, who has a vaccine appointment for next week, not to count on it. He cautioned that it might take a month to sort out the clog in the system. The three men shared anecdotes of people–even from Canada–flying to Florida or lying about their ages to be vaccinated.

To make matters worse, the outgoing administration left no plan with which the current one might run to help sort things out at local levels nationwide.

Do you feel all’s fair in an emergency and people with money deserve to go first because they’ve earned the right? Can you think of additional instances where money overrides first come first served?

Photo: nih.gov

Service of Discounts II

Monday, January 18th, 2021

I’m a lifelong discount shopper and I love sales.  I wrote about false advertising six years ago and a year before about a restaurant sued by an anti-religion group because it offered a discount to those who said grace before eating. Bait and switch irritates me most.

In the days I bought shirts for my husband at a well known haberdashery I was fooled year after year by signs in the window touting a 50 percent discount. You learned inside that you had to buy three shirts for the discount to kick in. I’d always hoped that they’d stop the shenanigans.

Photo: pinterest

The words “UP TO” hidden in mouse type–in emails and online as well–get me too. It would take crack FBI detectives to find the one reduced item at “up to 70 percent off” usually available only in size extra small. Why not offer a generous 30 or 40 percent to all discounted items?

I ordered stationery online from a small company. The sponsored Facebook posting that caught my eye offered a 15 percent discount [they rarely if ever discount] and once on the site I responded to a request for my mobile phone number so they could send me texts. For this information they offered a 20 percent discount. I hesitated buying anything when I saw the total and I left the site. In an email, they offered me $5.00 to place an order.

But I got no discounts when I finally placed the order so I immediately wrote customer service–it was New Years weekend–and heard back promptly on the first business day. Meanwhile they had shipped my order. Customer service agreed to return 15 percent to my credit card in spite of my reminding the clerk about the 20 percent and the $5. I love the cards–I’ve bought from them before in person and online usually at full price–but will think 20 times before ordering again.

Are there discount practices that irk you? What percentage do you think is enough to move you to consider buying an item on sale–20? 30? 40? 70? Have you avoided retailers or manufacturers because you felt flimflammed by their sales practices?

Service of Vaccine Appointment Idiocy in NYC

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Photo: insurancejournal.com

I was stunned at the process to get a Covid-19 vaccine appointment in Manhattan and am shocked that I got one at all–for April 7 late in the day about two miles from home! I walk.

It took me the better part of two days of filling out countless forms to become eligible to make an appointment at a venue only to learn there were no appointments to be had. I repeated the process countless times. I grabbed one date and when I hit ENTER at the end of the process got an error message. My appointment went up in smoke.

It’s not just New York. Retired TV and radio sports broadcaster Warner Wolf, known for the catchphrase “Let’s go to the videotape!” said in a radio interview on Monday that he hasn’t been able to get an appointment in Florida. He’s in his 80s.

If your choice of venue has no available appointments you are told to “click here” for alternatives to get a Covid test. But you want a vaccine!

What infuriates me is how scattershot the whole vaccine appointment business is in New York City. It’s a mess.

  • Why do they increase eligibility when they haven’t taken care of the earlier categories approved to receive vaccines?
  • Why aren’t the locations offering vaccines listed in the city’s website by borough? Instead there’s one in Brooklyn next to a Staten Island followed by the Bronx with a few Manhattans sprinkled in.
  • Why aren’t the venues listed alphabetically?
  • Why doesn’t the search function work?
  • Why do you have to fill out all sorts of information in some instances only to find out in the end that the clinic or hospital or venue doesn’t have any appointments?
  • If your choice of hospital or clinic in the city system has no available appointments you are told to “click here” for alternatives to get a Covid test. But you want a vaccine. [Photo right]
  • I called 311, the city’s information service, for the link to get a vaccine appointment at the Javits Center when I heard it was added to the venues [it wasn’t on the city’s website and Google was no help] and the lovely voice said, “Oh! I didn’t know you could get a vaccine there.”  She had no information.

Saw this too often. By “event” the venue meant appointment.

Once I finally saw an opening, I grabbed it. I felt like a person with scarf over my eyes being twirled in circles before heading off to pin the tail on the donkey. I couldn’t tell you which site brought me to the venue with a free appointment.

There were questions after selecting the date and time. [I had no choice of time.] One wanted your mother’s maiden name if you’re under 16. I left it blank. In reviewing the information before confirming the appointment I noticed that one of my clients is listed as my mother. I use a lot of online websites to promote my clients’ events. So out of the ether his name appeared! Apparently all of these online forms are connected.

I was asked if I feel OK, do I have a sore throat? These questions would make sense if I was getting my vaccine this week. But I won’t see the needle for three months so the question is irrelevant.

I might have booked a reservation a few weeks from now had I been willing to travel to Staten Island or Coney Island or the Bronx. I have been Covid-cautious avoiding transportation since March. I’m not willing to expose myself to the virus to travel to outer boroughs in order to get the vaccine.

I plan to duck into the system again once more vaccine is available to see if I can get an earlier appointment and perhaps one closer to home. I suspect a shortage of vaccine is the cause of the paucity of appointments.

What about people without access to the Internet? WOR radio interviewed a 90+ year old woman who gave up after a three hour wait on the phone. She’d arrived without an appointment at the Javits Center, the newest venue in the city.

I am disappointed that with all this time to prepare that New York City made such a hash of the crucial step of getting vaccines into its citizens’ arms. Which city/state has a better system? Why aren’t communities sharing their intel?

Got excited to get this far but there was no way to pick a time. Back to scratch.

Service of Assuming: Upgrades that Benefit the Vendor

Monday, January 11th, 2021

Photo: quora.com

I’ve written before about upgrades that aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be and more often than not, are of little if any benefit to the consumer.

The evening before my apartment building was to replace washers and dryers we received a notice. The dedicated plastic credit cards that start the machines were to be replaced by new ones along with a fancier digital gadget to activate them. The old cards would no longer work and after the installation there would be no way to read the old cards to see what money remained. [We are usually given at least a week’s notice if the water will be turned off of elevators repaired. This last minute notice is unusual.]

“Let the company know how much is left on your card,” the instructions stated, and there would be two ways to be reimbursed: mail the old card to the company along with the amount or transfer the money to the new one via a series of steps on the new digital gadget in the laundry room. [A tenant who’d figured out the latter step saved me time by doing it for me. Grateful, I paid for a load of her laundry. For this to happen, however, the tenant had to first notify the washing machine company with the amount on the old card.]

Armed with a new card with money on it I asked “what happens if the Internet connection is down when I need to refill the card?” I might need to take a night course at MIT or drag my laundry back upstairs and wait until it is restored to proceed.

My guess is that many tenants have no idea how much was left on their old cards–nice for the washing machine company as ours is a big building.

More important, the instructions encouraged tenants to download an app on their smart phones to use the machines in future. This presumes that every tenant owns a smartphone and that they want to download another app, creating one more potential leak for hackers to play “suck my money.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Turns out that for now at least you can use the card to work a machine.

I wrote at least based the model of the future of MetroCards used to pay carfare on NYC subways: the cards have a short life. In two years we will only enter the system by digital pay via a smartphone.

Take a look at the locations in Manhattan that are scheduled to dole out Covid-19 vaccines. [I trust the list will grow in time.] All require appointments, some made by telephone; others online. What if a citizen has no access to the Internet?

Do tenants who chose the app option need to leave their phones with a housekeeper or guest who want to do a laundry so they have the indicia to flash at and start the machines?

Should businesses and organizations assume that all potential customers are up to speed technologically?  Is the savings so great that losing a few customers because they’re not doesn’t matter? Have you gone head to head with technology?

Photo: bridgeheadsoftware.com

Service of Euphemisms

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

Photo: “Now, now, it wasn’t a lie–it was a one-eighty.” fineartamerica.com

We’ve come a long way from the days of “sanitation engineer,” one of the first head scratching euphemisms I remember. Outrageous euphemisms are a first cousin of jargon which is top of my list of pet peeves.

The one that gets me these days is “food insecurity” when hunger says it all.

Photo: unitedway.org

The NBA wants team owners to be called “governor.” What’s wrong with owner? Others that get me are collateral damage and ethnic cleansing.

In “25 Terribly Misleading Euphemisms,” Amber Healy on INSH identified some that were unfamiliar to me: Take “compassion zone.” She explained that it refers to “an area within Kansas City designated for homeless people.” What about flashlight therapy? It’s “another way of saying a person is beaten by a flashlight, usually one carried by law enforcement officers.” She wrote that transfer tubes are what the military calls body bags and another way to refer to excrement is biosolids.

Do euphemisms that try to soften the truth irritate you? What are some you embrace?

Photo: kxan.com

Service of Inspiration: It’s All About Attitude

Monday, January 4th, 2021

Photo: thedancebarn.co.uk

Service is the root of my posts and the inspiration of my 12 year old blog. Memory of exceptionally bad service I received since I was a teen remain and fascinate me which is why I chose the topic. [I even remember a bus driver who yelled at my mother when I was young.]

I’ve previously written about the ruthlessly nasty man behind the engagement ring counter at Cartier. My fiancée and I were in our early 20s. His nasty attitude made its mark. Fully aware that this was only one person, I have nevertheless avoided the brand ever since.

I had a flashback to that exchange when I entered the local liquor store I’d frequented since the pandemic started after a lovely New Years Day walk with a friend. I didn’t recognize the two behind the counter in the otherwise empty store. They were chatting in French and didn’t greet me. I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I asked them “Can you please recommend a good red wine in the $10 range?”

One of them answered “No,” and turned back to his conversation. The single word felt like a slap.

Photo: blog.fivestars.com

I’ve never worked in retail sales but given a live customer and the fact there were no other customers waiting I’d have shown her a red costing $15 if necessary saying “You should give this one a try even though it’s a bit more.”

I wished I’d not let my French rot over years of neglect or I’d have mouthed a few choice words. Why were they working in a store with specially priced wines prominently displayed by price from $5.99 to $15?

I never gave Cartier another chance though I plan to return to the wine store to learn if the men are new owners or employees. If the latter, I will share my experience. If the former, I will find another store.

My wine store of choice is Trader Joe’s on 14th Street. Trader Joe’s hasn’t delivered in a few years and is not convenient–I avoid public transportation for frivolous reasons these days. Wine snobs: sneer all you like but I have been happier with wines I’ve bought there starting at $6 than I have some at $16 from the local store.

Have you noticed that insulting service is infrequent these days and therefore more startling? Do you have recent superbly good or bad service experiences to share?

Photo: locations.traderjoes.com

 

 

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