Archive for April, 2022

Service of a Fresh Crop of Spam & Cyber Threats

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

It’s spring and with it comes a fresh crop of SPAM texts and emails–some annuals, others perennials–most of which contain links to potential cyber threats, bank and credit card invasions. We’ve come a long way from the days of “your friend has been robbed during a trip to Europe and has no money so please send some ASAP.”

So to begin: Did you know that my account was closed? What account, you ask? Good question. The email doesn’t say.

Citi wannabes text me frequently telling me that they’d limited my account due to “unusual activity.” That would be troubling except I don’t maintain an account at that bank, the action as described makes little sense and the sender is clearly a hoax [photo above].

I’m regularly asked to review my resume which I’d not sent anyone to edit.

A subject line in a recurring email is in response to my job application. Since I opened my agency 26 years ago I’ve not applied for a job. But so many have so what a nasty trick to get some to open an email.

Friends report getting the same announcement from the Geek Squad thanking for renewing a contract with them and saying they’ve charged my bank account $347. I get this periodically. Even though I count on a miracle-working IT man to sort out my computer woes, the first time I saw it I checked to confirm that my bank account was intact.

A relatively new unsolicited email sends me my payroll review. I’ve never subscribed to such a service so that’s another easy one to skip, [photo below].

Have you noticed an uptick in attempts to trip you up, pry into your private information or seen any new and clever scams?

Service of a Fickle Retail and Restaurant Landscape: What Should Go, Stay & Return?

Monday, April 25th, 2022

There are some businesses that deserve to close and it’s no surprise when they do. I thought about this on a walk in my old neighborhood when I saw that a once terrific restaurant that had gone severely downhill had finally closed. Supposedly serving French bistro fare, the last time I went the bread was stale. Impossible! When it first opened in a hole in the wall the food was scrumptious. It moved, gussied up and was never the same. It deserved to close long before the pandemic took it down.

I’ve previously written about the demise of Loehman’s the discount women’s fashion store, for decades one of my favorite haunts in its heyday. Long before it died it had lost one of its most ardent fans: Me. [Observing my devotion and purchase successes my father almost bought stock in the place.] Buyers for the chain suddenly acquired cheap and lousy clothing and where once it offered a magnificent choice of handsome coats and glorious evening wear, the options in its final years were paltry and the quality unacceptable.

On the other hand, the pandemic felled one of my favorite stores, Copenhagen-based Flying Tiger, erased from the US market. A quick visit would cheer the grumpiest person because of the variety store’s quirky, fun gifts and party favors at incredibly reasonable prices–stocking stuffer paradise all year ’round.

Jasmine, a pet Chinese restaurant on east 49th Street, NYC, didn’t make it through the pandemic either.

Can you identify businesses that lasted long after their sell dates and others that you mourn because they had to close while they were still so very much appreciated?

Service of Disappointment

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

The saying “less is more,” may apply to interior design but I’m finding that more and more we get less for our money.

What Happened to “Neither Rain nor Snow….”

There is a postbox about four blocks from my apartment in a commercial neighborhood with pickups three times a day, the last at 5 p.m. When I went there this week the times had changed: Now its once a day at 11:00 a.m. not only there but in all the boxes I checked nearby. That early in the day might be a good time for postal workers perhaps but not so hot for customers.

Yes then No

A friend was scheduled for surgery which entailed three days in the hospital and a week at a rehab facility. She knew the drill from a previous operation and all was approved. The day before hospital discharge she learned that her insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of rehab. She lives alone. Don’t you love how insurance companies–not doctors–determine how we are treated?

Poor Training

I tried to buy a gift online and the system wouldn’t work so I called the 800 number and placed the order. I opted to pick up the item at the store, a short walk from home because its feather weight and tiny size didn’t warrant the $6.99 shipping fee. The customer service rep said they’d send it home, as it was easier, [not sure for whom], and he’d remove the shipping fee. Long story short, when I was charged the fee I called and customer service told me I had to work it out with my credit card company. This didn’t set well so I contacted headquarters and eventually it was sorted. No more online purchases for me from these folks. Customer care operators should be trained not to turn off customers.

Have you been disappointed by a service lately?

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of Making Friends When You’re of a Certain Age

Monday, April 18th, 2022

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

You get to a certain age and you don’t expect to make new friends. When you do it’s a blessing. I have been so blessed.

One of my late-in-life friends died last week. She was extraordinarily generous of her time and treasure, ready to advise or cheer and support, often with creative surprises or thoughtful counsel. She was a courageous woman who suffered for years without telling anyone until she admitted the excruciating pain of an unrelenting many years-long headache. She nevertheless attended events, fund-raised and encouraged her friends, always asking about their families and work; wanting to know what books they were reading, movies or TV series she shouldn’t miss. Four of us spoke weekly for years which, especially during the pandemic, was healing for all.

She had access to the best medical care in the world and after agonizing tests and procedures always said that what was wrong with her “isn’t fatal, thank goodness, don’t worry” and when asked said that she was feeling a little better. I am convinced that her determination to stay alive was driven by her wish to see her beloved grandchildren and adored sons as long as possible. Her voice smiled when she mentioned them. Her willpower kept her on earth as long as it did. We are grateful.

Even though I hadn’t known this friend as long as some, I intensely mourn the loss, miss her and am thankful that I knew her. I trust you have been as lucky as I am to have found precious new friends throughout your life.

Image by Isa KARAKUS from Pixabay

Service of Crime and Quick Thinking

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Image by Azmi Talib from Pixabay

New York Police Department statistics showed an almost 59 percent increase in crime overall between this and last February with upticks in categories such as robbery–56 percent–grand larceny 79 percent and grand larceny auto, 104 percent. The good news: shootings decreased by 1.3 percent, although I suspect April, 2022 stats will sadly accelerate upwards.

New Yorkers speak about it among ourselves. I dropped by a family-owned butcher shop this week on 9th Avenue a few blocks from the Port Authority Bus terminal. It’s been in business for 90 years. The butcher told me how he has advised his daughter, an NYU student, to walk around the city. He came out from behind the counter to demonstrate–heads up, standing tall, not hunched over looking at the ground. And as all New Yorkers have always known: Be aware of your surroundings. [Me to everyone who walks and texts: Don’t. And lower the volume on your earbuds.]

Image by LillyCantabile from Pixabay

If a victim we can’t predict how we’ll react. A friend who is a longtime veteran of retail sales just recounted once being held up at gunpoint on the upper west side of Manhattan. This was years ago in the age of “knuckle busters,” early credit card imprinting devices. In those days a business needed to submit the receipts for payment. As she scrambled to hand over what was in the cash register she pleaded with the thief to leave behind the credit card receipts and checks. Imagine: Bargaining with a gun in your face.

My mother was that kind of unflappable person under stress. She was held up and asked the young man how much a fix was and asked him if she gave him that amount would he leave her alone. She said he looked scared and new at this–he was perspiring on a cold winter day and wore a nice coat. He could have easily knocked her over and grabbed her handbag–she used a cane–yet he accepted the money and ran.

Drugs have altered the outlook for victims of holdups. As a child brought up in NYC I was taught to give up whatever a person asked for and I wouldn’t be hurt. It was true then.  I wasn’t harmed the time I handed over to three kids my change from an errand at DiMaggio’s deli–all the money I had on me. They weren’t much older than I was. There was nobody else on the street. They took the money and ran. It was so long ago and I still remember the confrontation.

Have you been held up? Do you take precautions when walking in a city such as noticing if someone is following you for a suspicious number of blocks and if so, changing streets or ducking into a store to let them pass by?

Image by Eric Perlin from Pixabay

Service of Why Must I Pay for This?

Monday, April 11th, 2022

What am I grousing about today? The $660,000 that New York State tax payers are forking over for a new Buffalo Bills stadium.

I’m not a sports fan. And friends shrug when I grumble about this saying “This is the way it has always been,” or “If New York doesn’t pay they’ll go somewhere else” and “the Governor, Kathy Hochul, who hails from upstate NY, is watching the back of her core constituents.”

I get it but I still say “Bon Voyage–let the Bills owner pick up the full cost of construction or go elsewhere.”

Does someone who decides to add a greenhouse to their home to grow plants for sale get such support from the state? Will they even have an easy time getting a loan unless they have deep pockets and don’t really need one?

The team owner, Terry Pegula, is said to be worth $5.1 billion. The $660 big ones is a drop in three buckets to him but could help out countless homeless/starving individuals in New York. In radio interviews last week, deli and souvenir shop owners around Yankee Stadium in the Bronx that have barely survived the pandemic said they’d not received stimulus/paycheck protection program money. That money was from the Federal purse. But is anyone lobbying the State to help them?

The money isn’t to support a home for refugees or to house the helpless. Tickets, boxes and NFL brand paraphernalia will generate plenty of money. Why doesn’t Pegula launch a GoFundMe page so fans can help him pay the bill?

I’m letting off steam–what’s done is done. Do you think $600,000 too little to worry about in a $220 billion New York State budget? That it’s fruitless to mention when this happens all the time?

Service of Where’s the Boss?

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I once shared here my wonder as to why resort hotel gift shops carried some of the things they do in addition to basic makeup, candy, snacks and local souvenirs. I soon figured it out when I learned of an employee who bought a set of luggage from one, charged it to his room and submitted it as a business expense. He was caught and fired.

Haven’t you been given a wad of receipt forms from a parking lot attendant when you needed only one to declare the parking fee on your trip expense report? These are petty workplace thefts that take place routinely.

Yet we hear of people who get away with $millions for long periods of time and think “who is watching the store?

Image by Firmbee from Pixabay

Here’s a vivid example that Neil Vigdor described in his New York Times article “Former Yale Official Admits to $40 Million Fraud Scheme.” The subhead: “For a decade, a Yale School of Medicine administrator used university funds to buy computer equipment, which she resold to pay for luxury cars, real estate and vacations, the authorities said.” She bought three homes in Connecticut, and a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, Range Rover and Cadillac Escalade, the latter three of which she returned once caught.

A friend to whom I sent the article wrote: “Does not say much for her superiors to have missed the fact that the equipment was not there.” Didn’t someone notice the thousands of purchase orders she submitted for “computer devices and tablets that included Microsoft Surface Pros and iPads under the pretense that they were for medical studies.” She bought 8,000 iPads and Surface Pro tablets in 2021 and kept the purchase orders under $10 thousand to avoid scrutiny.

Yale spokesperson Karen N. Peart told Vigdor: “Since the incident, Yale has worked to identify and correct gaps in its internal financial controls.”  I’ll say! I once had a micro-managing client who argued with me over the rationale for a single FedEx charge.

According to her plea agreement the administrator is to return $40 million to Yale and owes $6 million in Federal taxes. Vigdor reported that “she faces a maximum sentence of 23 years in prison. Based on federal sentencing guidelines, her sentence is more likely to be in the range of eight to 10 years, with a fine of $30,000 to $300,000, according to the plea agreement.”

I wonder if anyone is held culpable at the University? Are there no budgets to adhere to? Do you know of similar rip-offs perpetuated because nobody is watching?

Service of Sense of Direction

Monday, April 4th, 2022

Looking south on First Avenue, Manhattan

I’ve always wondered what was wrong with me because of my lack of navigational skills. I figured it had something to do with the fact that I grew up in Manhattan where I went up or downtown on the east or west side. Turns out I might be right!

Here’s an example of my clueless direction sense. I was visiting a relative who lived in a typical Florida development that reminded me of the Air Force bases I’d lived on before. All the houses, landscaping–and streets–looked alike. I got lost trying to run an errand one day and finally gave up. My husband had no difficulty finding the correct exit to a choice of main roads. It didn’t help me out of my directional slump that he was an excellent navigator so I let him do it. I panicked when alone in a rented car on business trips.

Nobody gives directions in NYC the way they do in the country. If I’m lost out of town and a well-meaning soul tells me to “drive five miles north then two east, followed by three miles south,” I’m a goner. I get easily lost when way downtown or in the Village in Manhattan known for tangled streets. Speak with me in terms of city blocks, please. No question: My sense of direction is critically flawed. I know: You use Waze or a GPS tracker. I’m talking about before or now without a smartphone and no doubt would end up in a dead end with this assistance.

If I drop into a department store in a strange city, I take note of the department I first passed on entering so that I’m sure to leave by the same door by men’s shirts or women’s handbags or I’ll never find my way back to the hotel or convention center.

NYC avenue–a straight line

Imagine my relief when I read Benjamin Mueller’s New York Times article “Keep Getting Lost? Maybe You Grew Up on the Grid.” Part of the subhead: “Childhood environments shape people’s navigational skills, researchers reported.”

According to a study published in Nature, wrote Mueller, “Much like language, navigation is a skill that appears to be most malleable when people’s brains are developing, the researchers concluded.”

Researchers are looking at this phenomenon hoping “navigation-based tests” help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease because often getting lost happens to patients before memory loss. They developed games that in some cases millions or in others hundreds of thousands  played. In addition players provided personal information.

Mueller wrote: “’If you grew up in a city like Chicago or Buenos Aires or Montreal — cities that are very grid-like — you don’t train as much your navigation skills as if you grew up in a more complex city, like London or Paris, where the streets are much more convoluted,’ said Antoine Coutrot, a scientist at the French National Center for Scientific Research and another lead author of the paper.”

Mueller continued:”’Does this mean we should design environments that should be more cognitively challenging?’ Dr. Watts said. ‘If I went to an urban planner and said make it as confusing as possible to get around a city, that’s probably not going to sell well.’” Amber Watts is associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas.

I think that there might be another reason for weak navigational development of people brought up in cities like Manhattan. There is so much public transportation that we often don’t drive until we’re in our 20s, [like me], if at all. You learn to pay more attention to where you’re going if you’ve got to drive somewhere. For 20 some years I was on automatic after I entered a bus, subway, or taxi.

How is your sense of direction? Do you navigate well? Were you brought up in a city with tangled streets, or the suburbs or countryside? Did you learn to drive at an early age?

Road in Dutchess County, NY
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