Archive for September, 2021

Service of Planning Way Ahead

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

Does everyone plan way ahead these days?

As early as August people had rented homes and hotel rooms to gather with family members for out of town Thanksgiving celebrations.

Daily we’re warned to buy Christmas gifts now. Wait and we will be unable to purchase the ones we want.

Michelle Fox at cnbc.com reported that a creditcards.com survey forecasted that 27 percent of holiday shoppers plan to start before the end of September and 13 percent started in August. In addition to bargain shopping and threats of rising prices that inspire early purchases, supply chain clogs and shortages of computer chips and other key components inspire shopping now.

Toys are particularly at risk. Fox wrote: “Some Lego advent calendars are already selling out, Ellsworth noted. Other hot items include Squishmallows and a plush toy of the Morris character from the Marvel movie ‘Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings.’” Kate Ellsworth is the executive editor of commerce content at Reviewed.

Lisa Baertlein, Reuters, reported in mid-September that “A record 60 container vessels are at anchor or adrift in the San Pedro Bay, waiting to be unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach seaports and another 20 are due to arrive in coming days.”

An article on thedeepdive.ca reported; “According to data from the Bank of America cited by CNBC, overseas shipping container costs have significantly ballooned since the beginning of the pandemic.” The article: “Costco Warns of Higher Inflation Ahead of Holiday Season, Dismantling ‘Transitory’ Narrative.” Reporter Hermina Paull continued “A 40-foot container shipped from Shanghai to New York was priced at approximately $2,000 just over one year ago; now, that price tag has soared to around $16,000.” She predicted that with upcoming holidays consumers should expect to cover such increased costs.

Have you noticed that people are making plans unusually early this year whether holiday related or otherwise? Are “buy early” warnings real or an attempt to stimulate or increase sales?  Are you shopping early or resorting to gift cards? Is this a one-off due to the pandemic or may we expect it for years?


Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay

Service of Five Star Surprises at Bloomingdale’s

Monday, September 27th, 2021



Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I’ve not had much luck with service in department stores over decades. In search of an evening gown years ago, I was left to fend for myself in a dressing room at a top Fifth Avenue store with appropriately stratospheric price tags, a memorably unpleasant experience. I had no help closing hard-to-reach zippers and had to get dressed to go to the racks to find a gown in the right size. I could have been at Loehman’s [in the day] or T J Maxx today. I can share a stack of similar disappointments and have heard others from friends as recently as this summer.

Subpar service at full price will take the fun out of something I love to do and is only one of many reasons I favor discount shopping. My husband used to tell me I’d continue to buy at discount stores even if I had $millions. I’m also a sucker for a great craft fair.



Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

As a result I’ve become used to picking and choosing gifts and clothing by myself–which obviously I also do when shopping on the Internet. So when I came across someone who added tremendous value to my experience I was grateful–and surprised.

My objective: to buy a gift–monogrammed bath towels. Once I’d chosen the towel among a generous choice at Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan, I spoke with Joyce who is the star in the story and in the towel department.

She was knowledgeable–gently suggesting which size towel usually gets the monogram, explaining the reason without making me feel stupid when I’d picked a different one–and quietly, through conversation, doubling the size of the order which created a far better, more practical gift. She was so good that I happily paid almost twice what I’d intended to spend. She was the least aggressive yet most effective salesperson I’ve met in recent memory.

Joyce wanted to shepherd the monogram process and recommended that the embroidery company send the towels to her for inspection rather than ship them to the recipient. Meanwhile she had put aside the rest of the towels which she planned to join with the monogrammed ones.

She called me to report she’d refused the towels because they’d been damaged and asked the embroidery company for a rush order to redo them. Soon after she called again to tell me the work was good and she sent me a photo! There was another surprise. I’d ordered two monogrammed hand towels and suddenly there were four. She said the extras were in thanks for my patience. She promised that she was not out of pocket.

I’m so happy to share an exemplary example of customer service. Do you have similar ones?

Service of Installment Plans: Another 2008 or Am I Being Elitist?

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021


Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

I wonder if we are facing another potential financial debacle brought on by the kind of spending without ability to pay that caused the 2008 mortgage catastrophe. The red flag I’ve identified is small potatoes compared to mortgage debt, but in the aggregate could be significant if the bottom falls out. The buck stops somewhere.

According to AnnaMaria Andriotis installment shopping is back and going strong. The Wall Street Journal reporter wrote the article: “Amazon Is Doing It. So Is Walmart. Why Retail Loves ‘Buy Now, Pay Later.’ Retailers big and small are using installment plans to wring more sales out of shoppers who can’t get credit cards.”

Andriotis reported: “Buy-now-pay-later companies say they rely less on—and in some cases bypass altogether—traditional credit scores and reports. Doing so allows them to approve more consumers. Shoppers gain the ability to buy things even without cash on hand—translating to higher sales for retailers.”

Bypassing traditional credit scores and reports so as to approve more consumers are danger signals if history shares a clue. We’re talking about sales increases due to installment shopping of $8.2 billion this year.

“Shoppers spend more at Macy’s when they use installment plans offered through Klarna Bank AB, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said on a recent earnings call,” wrote Andriotis. “Klarna also is helping the retailer attract younger customers, he said.”

She reported: “Interest rates and other terms vary by payment-plan provider. Affirm interest rates range from 0% to 30%, with some 43% of its transactions during its last fiscal year not charging interest at all. The company doesn’t charge late fees. Afterpay doesn’t charge interest but does collect late fees.”



Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Andriotis wrote: “Merchants take no credit risk with these plans, but the fees they incur can be higher than on credit-card purchases—often between 3% and 5% of the purchase price, according to people familiar with the matter.”

I’ve always questioned the “buy now and pay for your sofa in two years,” concept. After all that time who wants to pay for something that may already be marked by coffee stains?

I’ve increasingly noticed websites that offer the option of paying for an item in four parcels even if it costs $20 or less. Only if you are desperate for diapers, detergent or TP and have maxed out your credit card can I understand welcoming the opportunity for small amounts. Naturally these customers have a credit card to buy online but the enticing installment model is similar.

When will we learn? Haven’t we seen before what happens when customers can’t pay for the purchases they incur while benefiting, in this case retailers, who pass the debt on to another company–with low standards–that takes the financial risk? What will the tipping point be?

Am I being elitist by suggesting that if ineligible for a credit card you shouldn’t put nonessential goods on an installment plan but should wait to buy them when you have the cash? Do you also predict potential trouble ahead brought on by a buying frenzy based on another opportunity to push payments ahead or am I seeing canaries that are only snoozing in a coalmine and are not yet dead?



Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Service of Common Ground: Can Politics Make Strange Bedfellows Again?

Monday, September 20th, 2021



Image by Jackelberry from Pixabay

If we’re lucky, politicians will go to the dogs if we ever again hope to see senators, congressmen and women and Supreme Court justices make strange bedfellows. Some well known examples of friendships across decades of aisles include President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr.; President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner; President Clinton and the two Bush Presidents and President Biden and Senator John Kerry with Senator John McCain.

Today we are hard-pressed to name such camaraderie. But there must be points of mutual interest or passion as opera was for Supreme Court Justices RBG and Antonin Scalia to create a synapse for polar opposites that helped make civil communication, respect–and even fondness–possible.

Because of its headline, I clicked on The Wall Street Journal opinion piece “Why God Created Dogs…Pets are a reminder to balance joy and grief. A fond farewell to the world’s greatest dog.” I’d not noticed who had written the obituary–I read the digital version on an iPad and I’d jumped to the copy–so when done, I scrolled up to learn that it was former senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to George W. Bush, Karl Rove.

Some of this Republican consultant’s political adversaries might share a similar affection for pets and the devastation of losing one. Would empathy over such a mutual love and loss possibly open, if only a crack, a calm, sensible conversation about big issues?

Are there other benign interests that might help bring together political adversaries or is this a Pollyanna idea with no future?



Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Service of Surveillance Galore: Where/How to Remove the Worm from the Fruit

Thursday, September 16th, 2021


Image by Pit Saaler from Pixabay

I wrote two summers ago about people who welcome surveillance devices into their homes and hotel rooms with Alexa and similar gadgets. It’s easy to avoid such intrusion: Don’t buy into the trend.

Sometimes, however, we are dupes.

Early in August we learned about Apple’s “ability to scan iPhone photos and alert the authorities if any of them contain child sexual abuse material (CSAM),” Sara Morrison reported on vox.com. “While fighting against child sexual abuse is objectively a good thing, privacy experts aren’t thrilled about how Apple is choosing to do it,”.

The 20-something who first told me about this development replied “precisely” when I commented that this isn’t good news for couples who don’t want strangers reviewing their photo albums.

Morrison wrote: “Apple’s new ‘expanded protections for children’ might not be as bad as it seems if the company keeps its promises. But it’s also yet another reminder that we don’t own our data or devices, even the ones we physically possess. You can buy an iPhone for a considerable sum, take a photo with it, and put it in your pocket. And then Apple can figuratively reach into that pocket and into that iPhone to make sure your photo is legal.”

But that’s not all.

Nicole Perlroth covered the latest intrusion in her New York Times article “Apple Issues Emergency Security Updates to Close a Spyware Flaw.”

She reported that “Apple issued emergency software updates for a critical vulnerability in its products on Monday after security researchers uncovered a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware from Israel’s NSO Group to infect anyone’s iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac computer without so much as a click.”

Called Pegasus, nobody knows that a criminal or government is inspecting their devices.

The spyware “can turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record messages, texts, emails, calls — even those sent via encrypted messaging and phone apps like Signal — and send them back to NSO’s clients at governments around the world.”

In her article Perlroth provides the easy step-by-step to protect your devices by security update that you must initiate: It doesn’t happen automatically.

Even if you don’t own an Apple device–oops, I mean use–are you concerned about the potential accessibility to strangers of part if not much of your life? Has it always been like this only before citizens didn’t hand it to others on silver platters?


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of Internet Shopping 2021 Style

Monday, September 13th, 2021


Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Because most of my favorite haunts are out of business or their Manhattan branches don’t measure up to the quality I was used to in their upstate stores, much of my shopping has moved online.

Here are a few things that e-commerce vendors might easily change and should consider doing.

Don’t ask stupid questions

I didn’t want to lug home a large package of paper towels so I bought one online. Next I was asked to review my recent purchase. Paper towels? Really?

Know when to stop knocking on my door

A woman’s clothing store sends daily emails about intros or discounts, sometimes multiple times a day. At end-of-season sales time they up their emails. Eventually, the prices were so favorable and thinking ahead to next summer I bit, ordering a few gifts too. The next day they sent an email saying that one of the items is no longer available as there were too many orders for it. Note: They clearly show you which sizes are in stock when you make your selections.

OK, those are the breaks. However, two weeks later I get one of the remaining three items ordered with an invoice that indicates that two were oversold so you won’t get them. I was irritated as I might have found similar on sale elsewhere and wonder why the inventory department can’t communicate more efficiently with the website but worse, I’m still getting notices about that sale.

Get rid of the crooks

And what did I see again on Facebook? The sponsored rip-off promo that I fell for early in summer and I wrote about in “Service of Always Buy from a Website Not a Social Media Advert Link.” The first comment was written by someone who declared it a scam. I may have gotten off easy from the looks of it. But Facebook should remove creeps like this from its site so as not to entrap other suckers.

When a mistake causes customers too much work

I ordered one item from a topnotch vendor but never got a confirmation email for the online purchase. Thinking I had again ordered from a fake site I called. There was no record of my purchase so I bought one from the customer service rep. Next I checked my credit card and there were two entries for the item so I called again and got the same customer service rep who promised to cancel one order. But I received two of the same item in separate packages. I called and was promised not to be charged for returning the duplicate as it was their mistake. I’m sure I’ll eventually be credited for the full amount but I wasted a lot of time turning things right.

I appreciate the convenience of ordering things at any time of day or night but miss walking into a store, choosing just what I want and walking out with it. I suspect under-staffing is the cause of most of the problems I’ve encountered.

Have your internet purchases been seamless? Are there some irritations that could easily be remedied?



Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Service of Not as Good as It Used to Be or Is it Me?

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

My taste buds have changed. I’ve noticed that some standbys are not as good as they were.

Take Häagen-Dazs, the example that inspired this post. I buy it from different stores thinking maybe it’s the way it’s stored that renders it bland–melted and re-frozen perhaps? In any case, it isn’t creamy and flavorful anymore and while Talenti is thick and smooth and its gelato has zip it doesn’t come in the flavors I like.

I don’t order hamburgers much these days. Unless I’m in a steakhouse they are bland and disappointing. If I cook one at home it is a combo of short rib and steak and/or a zillion dollars a pound. Otherwise it’s best used in meatloaf with lots of condiment support or as meatballs.

I had a yen for an Oreo cookie but didn’t want a large quantity. When I finally found a boxed single row, I grabbed it. I haven’t had this cookie in years so my memory might be faulty. It was good–I ate it with milk, an essential combination. I loved breaking it apart, as before, and I ate some whole. I’m not sure if the treat had as much chocolate punch as in days of yore.

We’ve had crazy weather and I think it has impacted the fruits and vegetables I’ve bought at the farmer’s market. Corn was good this year but not great. Maybe I got to the market too late so the ears had already cooked in the heat. Too many peaches were mushy. Tomatoes were so-so. Sweeter and toothsome year ’round are the tomatoes in between cherry and standard size [photo right]. If bought at Trader Joe’s, they are startlingly less expensive.

I haven’t bought a corned beef or pastrami sandwich for over two years because I’ve not craved one. Between NYC rents and diet-conscious New Yorkers there are very few iconic delis to tempt as there were once. The last super fat sandwich I bought at one of the oft touted holdouts cost $20 and it was only OK and astonishingly anemic in size.

Have you noticed changes in some of your much-loved foods–or have you changed as have new favorites?



Image by afridayinapril from Pixabay

Service of Ambiance to Enhance a Mood, a Meal–Even Health

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021



Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Two recent articles reminded me how important ambiance is.

Visit a Museum and Call Me in the Morning

Artnet.com‘s Caroline Goldstein wrote “In Brussels, Doctors Are Literally Prescribing People Trips to Museums to Help Them Cope With Pandemic-Related Stress.” She reported “The scheme is part of a three-month trial carried out by doctors at Brugmann hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Brussels, to treat in-patient residents as well as other individuals suffering from stress. Those who are deemed eligible for the program will have the opportunity to visit five public art institutions across the city free of charge. The institutions include some quirkier offerings, like the Sewer Museum and Mennekin-Pis’s Wardrobe—which holds more than 1,000 costumes—as well as the Contemporary Art Center.” Results of the study will be shared next year.

The Brussels program is modeled after one at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts conducted three years ago. Wrote Goldstein: “The Quebec-based program offered patients and caregivers or family members free admission to the MMFA as an extension of the museum’s Art and Health Committee, which it founded in 2017 to study the effects of art on patients suffering from a range of conditions including eating disorders, mental illness, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Homer at the Metropolitan Museum NYC

Anecdotally, a visit to a museum always cheered my husband when he was quite ill.

Ambiance and Food in Equal Parts

Pete Wells in his New York Times review of Vallata, “Searching for Italy at Tom Colicchio’s New Restaurant,” loved the food but he had a lot of trouble with the ambiance and design. He described the restaurant’s decor as “an awkward pastiche of bland, vaguely corporate design and odd decorative hand-me-downs that have served time in other Colicchio restaurants.”

Referring to a cliché I’ve often used, “I thought I was in Italy or France,” after eating in certain restaurants, Wells wrote: “You don’t believe for a second that you’ve left New York, but you do start to think the restaurant itself could use a vacation.”

Colicchio’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it by Wells’ observations. The Vallata sign on the door is hard to find he wrote and the cooks “look like contestants on a game show set in the breakfast-buffet area of an upscale chain hotel” because of where they are stationed in the room in sight of customers. He described the music is “as if Mr. Colicchio had brought in a mix tape he found inside an old Walkman in his basement.” The “playlist,”reported Wells, “shambles from Paul Simon to Billy Joel to Echo and the Bunnymen to David Bowie.”

Back in 2015 I wrote about a restaurant ‘s decor that “sported hints of Asian décor mixed with cheap eclectic and leftover bistro. In short, it had no personality.” There were many other reasons than decor for which we couldn’t wait to leave the place, even though the overpriced food tasted good. The post’s title was “Service of Atmosphere: What Your Instincts Tell You When Entering a Restaurant.”

Do you visit museums or other places because they cheer you when you feel down and/or ill? If the food is good do you care about a restaurant’s ambiance?



Image by Divily from Pixabay

Service of Who Are You Fooling?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021



Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Astonishing how some are willing to harm themselves, and others in some cases, believing harum-scarum theories over science or thinking they are clever to cut a crucial corner and cheat at their own and others’ peril.

Don’t Horse Around

A Facebook posting this week made me laugh: “Anti-vaxxers who ingest horse dewormer Ivermectin shall hereby be referred to as neighsayers.”

But it’s not funny especially because politicians have given the dewormer credibility as a potential cure for Covid-19 in spite of FDA warnings. According to Dominick Mastrangelo on thehill.com: “Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested researchers are not pursuing ivermectin as a possible COVID-19 treatment because of their disdain for former President Trump.” Reminder: Sen. Paul is a physician who should know that when it is prescribed for humans, it’s often in a head lice lotion.

Steve Benen wrote on msnbc.com: “Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas also pushed ivermectin at an event late last week.” He quoted a CDC health advisory: “Clinical effects of ivermectin overdose include gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Overdoses are associated with hypotension and neurologic effects such as decreased consciousness, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, coma and death.”

Wrote Mastrangelo: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned Americans last week not to take ivermectin….. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,’ the FDA said in a widely shared tweet.”

Dangerous Fake ID
What about the essential workers who populate hospitals, nursing homes and schools who endangered those they are entrusted to care for as well as themselves? They–some 250 in all–paid $200 to Jasmine Clifford for fake Covid-19 vaccine documents. Molly Crane-Newman wrote about this bunch in The Daily News in “13 charged with paying ‘AntiVaxMomma’ for fake documents to avoid free vaccine, say Manhattan prosecutors.” The “AntiVaxMomma is Clifford’s Instagram pseudonym.  She promoted her scam on this social media platform.

For $250 more, reported Crane-Newman,  a collaborator who worked at a medical clinic entered false proofs-of-vaccine into New York State’s official Excelsior Pass database system, the smartphone passport to enter New York restaurants, sporting events, gyms and the like. They found 10 of these.  

“The DA charged the 13 essential workers with felony criminal possession of a forged instrument and conspiracy, a misdemeanor,” she wrote. “Prosecutors also accused one of the 13 with offering a false instrument for filing, for paying the extra $250 to be entered in the Excelsior Pass database.”

Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Jr said “We need companies like Facebook to take action to prevent the fraud happening on their platforms. Making, selling and purchasing forged vaccination cards are serious crimes with serious public safety consequences. This investigation is ongoing.”

What makes people believe in untested ivermectin and not the Covid-19 vaccine vetted by scientists and taken safely by millions?

What twisted minds think they are getting away with anything by cheating about having taken a life-saving vaccine? More important, have they harmed their charges?




Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay
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