Archive for December, 2021

Service of Thoughtless Actions and Words

Thursday, December 30th, 2021


Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

I’ve opened my big mouth at times off-putting others, though I try so hard not to. A friend reprimanded me, after we moved to Manhattan from Brooklyn, because I told him that our apartment was on “the wrong side of Park Avenue.” He said I sounded arrogant. And I despise arrogance.

I witnessed a woman who didn’t think when she sailed out of the hair salon last week, wishing all and sundry a Merry Christmas following up in a voice that could have been heard across the street saying “Gotta run: I’m off to get my hair cut.” When I asked the salon owner if she thought the customer noticed people cutting hair all around her she shrugged and said “she gets her manicures here.”

The owner shared an incident that did broil her about a customer with severely dry hair. She showed her three products that would reverse the problem and explained how and when to use them. “Let me photograph them so I can buy them on Amazon,” said the customer who knew that the salon also sold the products. The owner added that Amazon didn’t have all the experience she’d shared with the woman and admitted that she didn’t say this to her.

A friend who owns a New England shop told me that a customer walked in recently, looked around and said, “Is this all there is?” Another day she found a 30-something photographing her greeting cards. “I want to text the images to my friends,” she said. The shop owner asked the woman to stop. Did the potential customer [who bought nothing] think she was in a museum?

mage by kaleido-dp from Pixabay  haircut

We’ve come a long way from the days my mother asked me to take supermarket groceries home before buying the bread my dad liked at the neighborhood deli. [Supermarket bread tasted like cotton.] She explained that it was rude to enter a business with purchases from another.

You be the judge if the point of Melinda Wenner Moyer’s New York Times article is pertinent to the subject. It was Thanksgiving, she wrote, and her seven year old ordered her grandfather, whom she rarely saw, to “stop taking pictures and put down your camera.” 

Wenner Moyers wrote: “Children who feel comfortable challenging their parents or grandparents about rules and expectations, who occasionally say sassy or rude things, are, in essence, kids who know they are loved and accepted for who they are.”

At the end of the article she added “Do I wish my daughter had been more polite in asking her grandpa to put down his camera? Absolutely. But I’m also proud that she’s brave enough to advocate for herself, and that she knows she has a voice within our family.”

It was fun to read the comments linking to this article “Why Your Kid’s Bad Behavior May Be a Good Thing: The safer children feel, the more they can show their true selves — warts and all — experts say. And that’s good for their development.” I didn’t read them all but starting at the top, many expressed concern about the kind of adults these children will turn out to be.

Do you think there’s a connection between unfiltered words and actions and upbringing or is it more of a personality thing? Have you witnessed thoughtless speech or behavior?  Do you agree that a child’s bad behavior is a positive thing and is good for their development?

Service of Expectations III

Monday, December 27th, 2021

Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation

I wrote the first two in this series in 2012 (though I suspect there are many posts in which dashed expectations are at the core).


Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay 

In one I covered highlights of irritants identified in a customer service survey where rudeness, passing the buck, waiting too long for problem resolution and having to follow-up too often topped the list of complaints and disappointments. In the other I described a person who didn’t send a message that he was kept waiting for his doctor’s appointment for three hours. He refused to own a mobile phone and didn’t ask the receptionist to borrow hers. Friends expecting his visit that afternoon were frantic when he didn’t show and didn’t call–which they expected him to do.

In a recent Social Q’s column in The New York Times, Philip Galanes responded to Ally who asked “Why Doesn’t Anyone Put as Much Effort Into Secret Santa as I Do? A reader feels consistently disappointed by her family’s gift exchange.” In part of his response he wrote: “This is like shopping regularly for heirloom tomatoes at the hardware store. You will never find them there! Try to lower your expectations before the unwrapping begins. Consider the other ways your relatives show they care.”

How many viewers of Face the Nation expect to be able to walk in heels as high as the ones Margaret Brennan wears [photo above]? Here she was this Sunday interviewing Vice President Kamala Harris. Do you think she walks far in them? I was on a set before a client’s TV interview where the host slipped off Uggs boots and put on heels just before cameras rolled.

Some friends respond to emails and texts and expect others to as well–but they don’t or it takes them ages to do so. Others generously share their contacts but that favor is never returned. These situations generate feelings of disrespect.

I see signs in windows for “quick turnaround PCR tests” for Covid and understand that there will be laws to punish those who lie as there must be plenty of them. They promise results in a day when the reality is closer to five.

My advice for happiness: Drop expectations. Agree?


Image by Samuel F. Johanns from Pixabay 

Service of Contrasts: In Your Face Excess & Merriment vs. Poverty & Tragedy

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021


2021 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Photo: Bob Gula

Striking contrasts seem even more vivid this Christmas season.

If you watch commercial TV you’ll notice the shattering contrasts of some commercial lineups and you might wonder who determines their order in a typical 4 minute run. One station plays gut wrenching videos of emaciated, starving young Africans to generate donations to Save the Children immediately followed by extreme jollity as a family rips open presents or welcomes a child to the grownup table that is groaning with food. These are sponsored by Walmart. Obviously the company doesn’t control placement.


Image by Kai Pilger from Pixabay

Nothing new: There have always been unfortunate pairings in print of advertising and editorial subjects placed together on a page or across from one another. My friends in advertising had to frequently deal with the fallout: Their clients’ ruffled feathers.

I wonder if some who position ads are paying attention.

The hyperallergic.com headline of Valentina Di Liscia’s article illustrates a similar point:  “While 11% of Staff Was Laid Off, Guggenheim Director Made Record $1.5 Million.” She wrote “The museum says its director, Richard Armstrong, took a 25% pay cut during the pandemic — but the reduction didn’t apply to ‘compensation earned in prior years.'”

As you walk around a city like New York you see homeless huddled in doorways or holding pleas for help spelled out on cardboard. In contrast holiday lights and decorations in office and apartment lobbies, store windows and in front of landmarks dress the city, brighten chilly short days and punctuate early nights. Nevertheless they seem jarring while so many suffer. Big money is spent on some of these seasonal pick-me-ups. Could we dim the lights just a bit and help the hungry and unfortunate at the same time? The 50-foot high tree outside of Fox took 21 hours to install and had 10,000 glass ornaments and 100,000 lights. News reports estimated the damage–a mentally ill homeless person set it on fire–at $500,000.

What strident contrasts have you noticed?


Child promoted to grownup’s table in WalMart commercial. Photo: ispot.tv

Service of Who Reads?

Monday, December 20th, 2021


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay  

If you can’t boil down your thought to 280 characters–the length of a Tweet–or a photo caption you’ll probably lose much of your audience these days. That’s one reason for the demise of many newspapers and bookstores. We’ve been told in countless ways by innumerable people: few read.

In several previous posts I’ve written about outrageous fees and mistakes in choosing products where crucial facts were tucked in the fine print. To ignore them could be problematic.

Not all missed words are negative. Seventy students–freshman to senior–in a music class at a University in Chattanooga learned their lesson when they glossed over a three-page syllabus Professor Kenyon Wilson, associate head of performing arts, handed out at the start of last semester. They all missed a lovely surprise.

Isabella Grullón Paz reported what happened in The New York Times. The University of Tennessee professor wanted to “brighten up the semester during the pandemic.”  She wrote: “… on the second page of the three-page syllabus he included the location and combination to a locker, inside of which was a $50 cash prize.” His words: “Free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five.”

The professor said “The syllabus is a really dry document. I mean, it’s not supposed to be exciting to read, but I thought if my students are going through and reading it, I might as well reward them.” At the close of the semester–a few weeks ago–he posted the upshot on Facebook.

When I text or email I ask only one question to most friends, colleagues or clients because 99 percent of the time they have the patience or attention span to answer only one.

Do you observe any impact on people who are out of the habit of reading? Have you missed something–good or bad–because you whipped through an agreement or contract or syllabus? Do you still read books, recipes, magazines or newspapers?


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Service of Watch What You Say: Deep Six “Diet” and “Old”

Thursday, December 16th, 2021


Image by Skica911 from Pixabay 

I’m surprised that there are only 24 entries in the “words” category on this blog. Two recent articles in media report that marketers are avoiding “diet” and anything to do with “old.”

“‘Zero sugar’ has replaced ‘diet’ for many no-calorie soft drinks,” wrote Danielle Wiener-Bronner on cnn.com. “Canada Dry and Schweppes ginger ales, 7Up, A&W and Sunkist, made by Keurig Dr Pepper, now label their diet drinks ‘zero sugar.’ (One exception is the namesake Dr Pepper brand, which will still come in ‘diet’ packaging in addition to a different zero sugar version.) The reason for the overhaul: The word ‘diet’ has fallen out of fashion — especially for Millennials and Gen Z-ers.” Millennials are 25-40 years old and Gen Z-ers 9-24.


Image by Vesa Minkkinen from Pixabay

Wiener-Bronner reported that Greg Lyons, chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Beverages North America, said that the offended are bothered by both the word and the concept–Gen Zers don’t want to follow diets–“But distaste for the word diet doesn’t signal an aversion to no-calorie beverages.” These sodas “hit the mainstream in the 1960s.” The market reached $11.2 billion in 2020 and is growing faster than the standard sodas with sales of $28.2 billion that year, up 19.5% and 8.4% respectively.

The Key to Marketing to Older People? Don’t Say ‘Old.,'” was The New York Times headline for Corinne Purtill’s article. “According to company lore, the idea for Nike’s CruzrOne sneaker — a well-cushioned, thick-soled running shoe that debuted in 2019 — originated with a conversation between a Nike designer, Tinker Hatfield, and the company’s co-founder Phil Knight”. Knight, in his 80s, slow runs 8 miles a day.

“By positioning the CruzrOne as a shoe with excellent support for runners who — for whatever reason — go at an extremely slow pace, Nike can offer a product designed for the older athlete to the general market. It’s a perfect example of what Rob Chess, a Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer, calls ‘stealth design’: a product that addresses specific needs of older consumers in a form that doesn’t scream, well, ‘old.'”

“You basically put all these elements in that make it much more usable by an older customer, but you don’t necessarily advertise and play up those elements,” Mr. Chess said. “Or if you do, you certainly don’t position them as, you know, ‘Gee, we’re doing this for older people.’ (A Nike spokesperson declined requests for interviews.)”

Have you noticed other words marketers avoid?


Photo: amazon

Service of Due Diligence

Monday, December 13th, 2021


Image by aerngaoey from Pixabay 

It pays to ask questions or do a modicum of research which some marketers have learned the hard way. According to businessinsider.com, in the 1990s Yardley hadn’t asked actor Helena Bonham Carter about her makeup routine before they announced their relationship with her. After she publicly admitted she didn’t wear makeup and couldn’t fathom why they chose her, they cut their association that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.


Image by Hannah Wesolowski from Pixabay 

In 1989 PepsiCo staff needed only look at Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” music video to determine that it didn’t reflect the image they sought. Yet they paid her $5million to appear in benign commercials which included the then new song. “While the ad itself was PG,” reported Laura Stampler, “Madonna’s music video for the song in which she witnesses a rape and gyrates around a burning cross incited an explosion of controversy.” Would checking that have been so hard to do?

And what about recently? In the “Sex and the City” reboot, “And Just Like That…” on HBO Max that premiered last week, a main character, Mr. Big, dies after a 45 minute Peloton class on a Peloton stationary bike–a super product placement gone south. The company didn’t pay for the placement but knew their equipment was being used, reported Joseph Pisani and Megan Graham in The Wall Street Journal. It also approved a Peloton instructor, Jess King, appear in the segment.

Did anyone at Peloton ask enough questions or demand answers before playing ball? “While Peloton coordinated with HBO on the placement of one of its bikes, HBO didn’t disclose the plot in advance because of ‘confidentiality reasons,’ Peloton said.” Lesson learned to leave nothing to trust in future?

Peloton spokespeople put a good face on it. “’Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle—including cocktails, cigars, and big steaks—and was at serious risk,’ said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist on Peloton’s health and wellness advisory council, in a statement from the company.” The reporters ended the article: “Peloton said there is some good news: ‘Riding his Peloton bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event,’ Dr. Steinbaum said.”

It’s not only in business we need to ask questions and insist on answers. The husband of a friend swallowed pills that killed him. He didn’t check the product insert and counted on his doctor to remember his health history that contraindicated the drug.

Are you good at asking questions? Do you know of other examples in which a well known company missed the boat due to lack of research? Are there any elements in our lives that we can leave to trust?


Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

Service of I’m Not Weeping: Feeble Crises Due To Tech Blip

Thursday, December 9th, 2021


Image by Ashish Bogawat from Pixabay 

I couldn’t tell if Sarah E. Needleman was being sarcastic when she chose the examples for her article “Amazon Outage Disrupts Lives, Surprising People About Their Cloud Dependency,” in the Wall Street Journal.

Disrupts lives? She reported that as a result there was one couple who had to manually feed their cats “like in ancient times,” the husband said, because their automatic cat feeder didn’t work.  A man complained that he had to use a broom and dustpan to clean up crumbs from the muffin he dropped on the kitchen floor because his Roomaba robot vacuum was disabled. Another felt lonely because he couldn’t ask Alexa for news updates or the weather. Alexa’s disconnect disrupted a woman’s day because she couldn’t ask it to turn on and off her lights. In addition, as the outage impacted Zappos, she couldn’t track a package.

Note: None of these people were disabled and dependent on technology to literally work for them. So I am not weeping.

About the December 7 cloud interruption Needleman wrote that “Amazon Web Services is the largest cloud-computing service provider in the U.S. The outage of much of its network lasted most of the day and disrupted several of the tech giant’s services, as well as many of its corporate customers’ websites and apps.

“It affected the company’s videoconferencing tool Chime and its home-security system Ring, plus many third-party applications that sit on top of Amazon’s cloud, including Ticketmaster and streaming services from Walt Disney Co. and Netflix Inc.

Echo smart home box
Image by hamburgfinn from Pixabay  

“For many consumers, it was an awakening to how many internet-enabled devices they now have in their homes and how much even some of their most basic daily needs depend on a connection to the cloud.”

Basic daily needs? What happened to food and shelter?

My health insurance company tried to get me to download an invoice when in the past they’ve mailed one with months worth of coupons. I was burned by linking to a fake document so instead I called to confirm what I thought was in the document.

This insurance is solely for the old and the ancient. I wonder if I’m alone in requesting paper for what doesn’t fit in an email. I’m not a total luddite: I’m happy to access my bank accounts online but I’m the one seeking the information and inserting my user names and passwords.

As technology surges on, I’ve noticed a vigorous trend for old fashioned marketing at the same time. This is the first year in ages I’ve been inundated by catalogs. I photographed the ones that came in just the last few weeks–photo below. I haven’t ordered from a catalog in a dog’s age. Can’t figure out the timing of this approach.

Are you addicted to your cloud and app-connected devices? If the reporter is serious and the lives of the owners of these devices are “disrupted” when they don’t work, impacting their “basic daily needs,” what does this say about the direction of our society? Should one company have so much “power” over people’s lives?

Service of If You Can Breathe, You’re Hired, No Training Necessary–Except at Trader Joe’s New NYC Store

Monday, December 6th, 2021


Image by Jessica Latorre from Pixabay 

We read and hear daily about the shortage of workers and with few exceptions almost everyone has experienced repercussions when out and about.

I dropped into a well known high end supermarket looking for an item. Customer Service wasn’t sure of its location, [a laptop was in front of the staffer but I guess this information wasn’t available there.] He suggested I check out the produce department. Once there a well-meaning man stacking vegetables had no clue and I suspect didn’t understand what I wanted–snack size guacamole. I found a second person in the vicinity standing in an aisle focusing on what was happening on his phone, not the store. He barely looked up while directing me; his sneer indicated that he was annoyed to be interrupted. They didn’t have it–or I didn’t see it–and he didn’t care.

A Chelsea branch of a favorite bakery sells sandwiches, salads, sweets, breads and warm drinks and has tables and chairs for those who want to eat there. They hired two very young, well-meaning, inexperienced men to fend for themselves. There were almost no sandwiches on display at the counter and we asked what was on trays full of food stacked behind their work area. Answer: [Lots more] sandwiches. However it looked to customers as though they’d run out of all but a few stragglers. The cappuccino and latte were delicious but took a dog’s age to prepare. The two juggled all jobs–warming and packing sandwiches and bakery items as well as charging customers. In other branches the drinks are made by a dedicated crew.


Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay 

An excellent restaurant that handled a full house with ease before was about a quarter full the other day. It maintained the quality of its food but the kitchen must have been understaffed or working with newbies as it took an unusually long time to produce dinner.

The exception is at Trader Joe’s in its newest Manhattan location in 20,000 square feet of well-lit space on First Avenue and 59th Street. Opened on December 2, the company welcomed New Yorkers long anticipating its addition to the neighborhood. [A man waiting with me at a nearby bus stop, seeing the TJ shopping bag, asked me what I thought of the store which he and his wife were looking forward to visiting.] The line on Saturday was breathtaking and the short wait to pay even more incredible. Over 20 well trained cashiers charged, packed and sent customers on their way.

The store is located in a landmark–Bridgemarket–built underneath the Queensboro Bridge which was completed in 1909. In a section called “The Cathedral,” and originally an open green market until 1946, according to a February 1998 press release on nyc.org, the architects used Guastavino tile vaults for the ceiling. If you’ve been to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, you’ll recognize them. Once it was closed to commerce, the city used The Cathedral to store vehicles and as a sign shop.

In 1999 David W. Dunlap wrote in The New York Times about its opening as “a market-style Food Emporium, two restaurants operated by Sir Terence Conran, a high-end Conran home-furnishings store reached through a swoop-roofed pavilion on 59th Street and a landscaped plaza with a fountain.” The complex cost $24 million according to Dunlap. Food Emporium closed in 2015 and Trader Joe’s is the first tenant in The Cathedral since then. Where Conran’s shop was is a TJ Maxx.

I wonder where Trader Joe’s found all those trained employees who quietly refilled refrigerators and shelves, expertly directed the line that wandered up and down aisles leaving plenty of room for shoppers, with an efficient team of cashiers to top off the seamless shopping experience.

How long will it take for new, untrained employees to catch on to their jobs? Have you noticed blips in service recently?


Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Service of Choosing Gifts

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

‘Tis the season: Will you, too, be scratching your head to find perfect gifts?

Some of Evan Polman’s findings may shed light on final decisions. He reported them in “That Product Will Work Well for You. But for Me? Not So Much,” in The Wall Street Journal. Dr. Polman is associate professor of marketing at the Wisconsin School of Business in Madison.

“In 15 studies involving thousands of participants, we found that people believe that scores of products—including moisturizer, granola bars, calendars and online classes—will have a greater positive effect on others than on themselves.” The less familiar the product, wrote Dr. Polman, the stronger this belief. [He observed that some think medicines work better for others hence they opt to overdose, which obviously isn’t healthy…but I digress.]

Dr. Polman wrote: “When buying gifts for others, for example, we might worry less about whether something will be as effective as advertised because we assume it will have a relatively positive effect on the recipient.” That’s why, he posited, gifts are less practical and more creative than what most would buy for themselves. “This would suggest that people have a blind spot when choosing gifts for others, preferring gifts that dazzle in the short run but have less usefulness in the long run.”

I don’t think this happens when buying gifts for children who often have their hopes pinned on specific toys or games. Fanciful substitutes won’t do.

His research also has impact on a company introducing new products or entrepreneurs launching a business: “New products—and businesses—often fail, and this could be because marketers and entrepreneurs overestimate the benefits that their products will have for others.”

Given that the recipient already owns the basics, do you look for something special that is considered a treat, even an extravagance, that a beneficiary wouldn’t buy for him/herself? An example could be as simple as a luxury Swiss or Belgian hot chocolate powder vs. a generic grocery store brand that might already have a place in the pantry. Wouldn’t this also explain how people choose gifts, even if they don’t exactly “dazzle,” in Dr. Polman’s words? How do you decide?

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics