Service of Who’s the Boss II? Social Security, A Bank & A Museum

July 1st, 2019

Categories: Bank, Boss, Complicated, Customer Service, Museums, Sloppy


The answer to “who’s the boss?” often muttered as a rhetorical question, isn’t always negative, though in two of the three following examples it is. Sometimes a decision-maker deserves praise and other times, he/she doesn’t seem to be watching the ball. In either case, you really may want to know.

I’ll start with a happy surprise.

Feeling Secure


I’ve recently needed to make countless calls to ask for documents and information. I lucked into Mr. Gopaul who picked up the phone at the West 48th Street NYC Social Security office. He didn’t pass me on to someone else as seems to happen increasingly these days, but quickly answered my questions, some relating to recent correspondence. I asked for his name so I could write a letter to recognize his exemplary service. His voice, at first impatient so as to get on to the next call, softened and he ended our conversation saying, “bless you.”

Who’s the boss? I took to Google.  My letter to the regional Social Security director went out that day.

One + Zero=Five


In the private sector, I had a different experience. A bank handling my husband’s pension—Bank A–needed to take back a direct deposit payment I wasn’t entitled to.  My retail bank—Bank B–said it happens all the time and would handle the request from Bank A.

But Bank A didn’t take that one simple step. Instead, it sent me three documents, each one with different information and dollar amounts about upcoming payments. Two customer service people couldn’t figure it out any more than I could. To pay itself back Bank A has instead given itself five steps–that many more times to mess up—instead of one. I’m neither a banker nor a numbers person but this doesn’t compute. Who’s the boss?

Water, Water Everywhere….

I received a sell piece from a major museum for a five day trip to the Berkshires accompanied by the institution’s curator of American paintings and sculpture. I know this area well and have been to most if not all of its museums—there aren’t many–but was tempted by an excursion not too far from NYC with a knowledgeable curator. The fee got my attention–$5,999 per person double rate or almost $12,000 for two—but the charge is not why I ask “who’s the boss?” The “Rate Includes” section on the sell piece was the reason. You get “bottled water and coffee/tea with all meals.” For $12,000, I wouldn’t call this out any more than I would put on a dress’s price tag “$175 includes thread and zipper.” The program director should have deleted this and created some toothsome or valuable perks for the sell piece. [I also noted that not included are “meals not specified.” Let’s hope participants get all meals.]

Do you sometimes wonder who’s in charge and if the person is focusing on the work? Do you take time to find out who’s the boss to credit people who have done a superlative job as well as to gripe about those who don’t?



6 Responses to “Service of Who’s the Boss II? Social Security, A Bank & A Museum”

  1. ASK Said:

    To me, that is an extraordinary amount for a five-day trip to the Berkshires! Surely, it includes a hefty contribution to the sponsoring organization!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I didn’t see anything about tax deductibility although the tax laws have changed and I don’t give $thousands to charity so I don’t know if that was the reason it wasn’t called out. But you’re right: just as people pay a lot of money for a silent auction item benefiting a charity–it’s money you were going to donate anyway so you might as well “get something” tangible for it.

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    Your Soocial Security Service Post is heartening and it was a positive gesture to acknowledge the agent who helped you.

    Far more common and frustrating is the kind of confusion and fragmented treatment of your banking experience. It goes hand in hand with totally fragmented designation of responsibilities to those who should be able to service you.

    The museum story is almost a satire. The expedition is modest in terms of distance and offerings. It does not hold great intel depth. The pricing is ludicrous! What can they be thinking. Harvard University art Museums used to offer culturally intense day trips to multiple venues with transportation, curatorial staff , curators from the destination sites a lovely restaurant meal, and snacks and WATER too. The price was always always accessible and for members and non-members below $200.00. Even allowing for an increase for the passage of 2 or 3 years, it serves as a much better model.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I should know this by now, but whatever organization you interact with is only as good as the person you luck into. So, for example, if a company hires a mega-PR firm, it may luck out and get a fabulous account team. But they are often approached by a crackerjack new business group that knocked their socks off and they’ll never again see those people. If they have a modest budget, they are paying for junior staff to learn on their dime. By comparison, with a smaller firm what you see is what you get or at least close to it as the boss isn’t far away if something goes wrong and the account person disappoints.

    Mr. Gopaul at Social Security may be one in a thousand or maybe all social security staff has been well trained and conducts themselves the way he did. Dealing with him was as good as it gets.

    So at $200/day, you’d pay $1,000 to $2,000 pp were the Harvard museum to conduct such an event. They are interested in teaching–appropriate–and informing. The focus of the museum with the $12,000 for two in a room was fundraising and looking for people with grand art collections filled with treasures of interest to the museum and/or deep pockets.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Being the laziest of creatures, I have a one size fits all solution to problems described above: That is to alert the governing authority of whoever is attempting to play games. I have yet to see negative results.

    Kudos to FCC and BBB among others for settling problems before they grew out of hand.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I told a friend who works in the back office of a different major bank about a glitch that recurs and he said to leave it alone for a few months and not disturb them again. [I mentioned it once and the next time I called about something else was assured that it had been fixed. It wasn’t.] Eventually it will be changed. We’ll see!

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