Service of Misinformation

October 25th, 2021

Categories: Conspiracy Theory, Environment, Misinformation, Museums


Rubin Museum: Mahachakra Vajrapani, China 15th century early Ming dynasty silk and gold embroidery , coral and seed pearls

The child’s party game “Telephone” is a simple way to show kids how easily misinformation spreads. You remember: the first child whispers to the second and the last child makes everyone laugh because what she/he hears is far from the original.

Following are grownup examples.

I visited the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan. It was my first time so I asked if we should start on the sixth floor and walk down. The only employee on the ground floor [not counting a guard] said “No. Visit from the first floor up.” 

We saw “Gateway to Himalayan Art” on floor two; “The Mandala Lab” on three; “Masterworks: A Journey Through Himalayan Art” on five [four was closed] and “Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightnment” at the top.

Having finished our tour a woman overheard us asking one another “Why was it important to follow the exhibitions up the stairs?” She asked if she could help us. We posed our question and she said, “We have reconfirgured the collection; the floors used to be interrelated. Not anymore.” Clearly this news wasn’t given to all staff. Not life and death, but incorrect and an example of how easily and innocently adults pass along the wrong information.

I thought of the “ahhas!” by some Covid-19 vaccine doubters when Colin Powell died of Covid complications. He’d been fully vaccinated. A cousin texted: “To use Powell’s death as proof that the vaccines don’t work is so much garbage!” Her husband, she wrote, “died of multiple myeloma and so did Colin Powell. They have zero immune system because the purpose of the chemo is to suppress the cancer from activating. It was explained on the news but people don’t want to listen. My husband fell in the bathroom and got some nicks and bruises and a strep infection and that was the start of his decline—nothing to fight a bacterial infection.”


Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay 

Reid J Epstein covered a spectacular misinformation campaign in Montana in his New York Times article “Where Facts Were No Match for Fear–Civic boosters in central Montana hoped for some federal money to promote tourism. A disinformation campaign got in the way.”

The perpetrator, Rae Grulkowski, made up every fact: that “the [heritage area] designation [in Montana] would forbid landowners to build sheds, drill wells or use fertilizers and pesticides. It would alter water rights, give tourists access to private property, create a new taxation district and prohibit new septic systems and burials on private land.” Not a single allegation is true.

Epstein wrote: “‘Misinformation is the new playbook,’ Bob Kelly, the mayor of Great Falls, said. ‘You don’t like something? Create alternative facts and figures as a way to undermine reality.'”

It worked for Grulkowski: Montana governor Greg Gianforte “signed the bill barring any national heritage area in Montana after it passed on a near-party-line vote. A heritage area, the bill’s text asserted, would ‘interfere with state and private property rights.'”

Epstein also reported that Grulkowski “ticked through the falsehoods she had read online and accepted as truths in the past year: The Covid vaccine is more dangerous than the coronavirus. Global child-trafficking rings control the political system. Black Lives Matter was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The United Nations is plotting to control world population and seize private land. Mr. Trump was the rightful winner of last year’s election. Even in Cascade County, where Mr. Trump won 59 percent of the vote, Ms. Grulkowski argued that 3,000 illegal votes were cast.”

The harm done by deliberate distortions about serious matters isn’t like the child’s game. Repercussions can harm. Have you believed misinformation, later learning the truth, and changed your opinion?  Are we more gullible these days, more sensitive to false facts or are there more of them now?


Image by John Iglar from Pixabay 

Service of Arsenic in Baby Food

October 21st, 2021

Categories: Baby food, Food, Food Safety, History, Poison, Pollution, Safety


Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

In upper school I read that some Victorian women took a tiny bit of arsenic to make their skin whiter. The poison accumulated in body tissue with adverse results. I remembered this because I couldn’t get why anyone would want to be whiter. At the time there was almost nothing I wanted more than to be tan. But I digress.


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

Period manufacturers added arsenic to paint and wallpaper–not healthy–and it was many a murderer’s favorite ingredient. Think Amy Archer-Gilligan the serial killer celebrated in the 1944 movie “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Archer-Gilligan, who was said to have killed between 20 and 100 people, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1919 and lived until 1962.

So I sat up straight when I saw Allison Prang’s Wall Street Journal article “House Subcommittee Hits Baby-Food Makers Over High Metal Content,” with subhead “Report by Democratic members calls out companies over arsenic levels, recalls and product-testing requirements.”

Prang reported: “Some top baby-food makers didn’t appropriately recall products that contained higher arsenic levels than allowed by the government, according to a recent congressional report.”

She noted: “Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury naturally occur in soil and water. Baby-food makers have said their products contain these metals at safe levels.”


Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay  

Consumer Reports added some information:

  • Can manufacturers exacerbate the situation adding to the damage of naturally occurring metals? CR: “parts of the manufacturing process, including the addition of vitamins and mineral mixes, may be contributing to the problem.”
  • According to CR, the process to remove toxic heavy metals “isn’t effective enough.”
  • More info about where heavy metals come from. CR:  “most of the heavy metals in food come from soil or water that has been contaminated through either farming and manufacturing practices (such as pesticide application, mining, and smelting) or pollution (such as the use of leaded gasoline).”
  • CR maintained it’s possible to manufacture food with low/acceptable levels.
  • Babies’ brains, minds, immune and cardiovascular systems can be harmed possibly lowering IQ and creating behavior problems and ADHD. There’s also risk for skin and bladder cancer.
  • Are some foods more prone than others? CR: Yes: rice, sweet potatoes, apple juice, and grape juice.
  • And if you make your own baby food? CR says it will “eliminate the risk of any heavy metals from additives used in the food” but may not lower them in the child’s diet and depending on the food may increase them.

I’m equally amazed and appalled that major companies didn’t recall foods identified for having unacceptable levels of arsenic and other heavy metals. What marketer can live with these decisions? How dare these people jeopardize the health of babies and the reputations of the well-know brands they represent?


Image by 5686750 from Pixabay 

Service of an Honor System in the Face of Record Shoplifting

October 18th, 2021

Categories: Honor Code, Shoplifting, Stealing, Transportation

Honor systems must be on my mind–I just wrote about some in May–“Service of Unmasking the Honor System: Do I Trust My Fellow Citizens?” There are countless schools, colleges and universities that follow honor codes impacting social and scholastic behavior. During an NPR fundraiser listeners were told they are on the honor system to contribute if they tune in to the programs.

Statistics such as the record number of shoplifting incidents since 1995 in NYC this year fly in the face of an honor code. As of mid September there were 26,386 complaints, a 38 percent increase since 2014. Instoremag.com referenced the New York Post for this information.

It also reported on a shoplifter the Post called “Man of Steal,” who only now is in jail after 45 previous shoplifting arrests just this year. He’s 22 and has been caught in 74 offences in the past six. The manager of a Walgreens drugstore that he’s targeted countless times said corporate policy is to call 911 and otherwise do nothing to stop shoplifters.


Image by moakets from Pixabay

Before you smirk, as some friends would, saying: “What do you expect, it’s NYC?” take a look at what Lukas I. Alpert reported on marketwatch.com: “A father-daughter duo from Atlanta has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for deploying an army of professional shoplifters to steal millions of dollars of merchandise from retailers such as CVS and Target and then selling the goods online.” This group headed by Robert Whitley, 70, and his daughter, Noni Whitley, 47, are said to have stolen $6.1 million before they were arrested two years ago.

And Neil Vigdor reported in The New York Times that Walgreens closed five stores in San Francisco because of “organized shoplifting.”

Yet the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA] counts on passengers paying for rides on the honor system on certain bus routes. We purchase a ticket from a kiosk [photo below]. The driver collects nothing. When first instituted passengers were checked for receipts by people at bus stops. I haven’t seen one of these checkers in years.

Last week a woman dressed in a cotton NYU Langone hospital uniform, [the hospital is nearby], rushed to the kiosk for a receipt as the bus was already at the stop. I thought, “What makes some people responsible and others constantly looking to scam the system?” I’ve never found the answer. Have you?

NYC bus ticket kiosk

Service of Weeding Belongings: Is There a Painless Way?

October 14th, 2021

Categories: Give Away, Seasons

Mule chest

As I prepare to face the dreaded seasonal clothing changeover, moving winter things out of the mule chest and into the closets and summer stuff into the chest, I wonder how much I will have the stomach to give away this time. [The mule chest, pictured above, has only four drawers, the bottom ones. The top four are faux. The chest opens leaving room to store a lot.]


Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

I should be an expert, having recently moved so many times, leaving behind wonderful belongings to fit into smaller spaces. Deaccessioning parts of my wardrobe should be a cinch, but it isn’t, even though since the pandemic, especially as I no longer rent an office, I tend to repeat-wear my favorites.

I’m pragmatic. Rationally I know I no longer dress as I once did–few people do–and the sizes will be wrong, yet I nevertheless find it hard to part with the memories evoked either by seeing a gift or thinking about where I wore something or who I was with when I did. Further, the things I can afford today aren’t made as well as many of the oldies but goodies making parting that more difficult. And in the back of my mind I think, “What if I need thus and such again?”

In 2013 I wrote “Service of Things We Never Use.” It’s easy to give away those gadgets or sale items that were bargains but otherwise are pretty worthless so they aren’t candidates for gifts either.

Most of my friends and acquaintances have long ago cut their wardrobes to the essentials. Have you? Any tips to share that make it easier?


Image by Steve Adcock from Pixabay 

Service of Biting Your Tongue and Keeping Your Cool

October 11th, 2021

Categories: Consideration, Constraint, Customers, Empathy, Hair Salon, Late, Manners, Rude Behavior



Image by kaleido-dp from Pixabay

Some feel that because they pay for a service or a purchase they can treat the vendor or salesperson with disrespect. I wonder how retail business owners remain sane and silent when they inevitably deal with at least one entitled, nasty, thoughtless customer/client every so often.

Here’s one: A customer flounced into a hair salon last week, marched over to the chair I was in and said to the stylist, who was in the middle of touching up my color: “I’m in a rush. I can’t be away from my office for long. My boss doesn’t want me to leave. I’ll have to reschedule unless you can you take me NOW.” [Note: She didn’t greet the stylist who also owns the salon.] Did she expect her to kick me out of the chair with half a job done, a procedure that involves timing? The stylist responded, as she continued to work on my hair, and had to repeat, because of the bombardment of the same question, “in five minutes,” as the woman paced nearby. The stylist remained cool.


Image by petitcarre from Pixabay

When suddenly the customer dashed outside to place a call I said “she is a bit much.” The beleaguered salon owner told me about a longtime client who consistently blows off three hour appointments or arrives an hour late without a peep of update. Clearing the decks for that long for a no-show represents a significant financial loss. The customer, who always confirms the appointment the night before, didn’t show twice in a row and never apologized. The last time the woman arrived at 7 pm for a 6 pm appointment at 8 pm she declared she was hungry. The stylist asked her to please call and order in to save time and she refused and left the shop, oblivious of the late hour and the staff waiting for her return to complete the work.

In another example, the owner of an antique shop in New England that specializes in small collectibles shared some recent confrontations. A woman recently looked around and announced, “Nobody wants these things anymore.” Rude? [Shortly thereafter the dealer made a several hundred dollar sale.] Another visitor started taking photos of some high-end greeting cards with clever sayings to text them to friends rather than buy [and mail] them. The dealer asked that clueless person to stop.

In the same vein, seven years ago I wrote “Service of Being a Good Customer.” I asked then and reiterate: “Have you been in the enviable position of being able to give a nasty client/customer short shrift? Do you think pushy, entitled, aggressive behavior wins in the end?”

Were you faced with thoughtless, rude or hostile conduct, how would you control your irritation so as to keep your cool and not snap back? What responsibilities do customers have to the good businesses they support?



Image by Rose McAvoy from Pixabay

Service of Best Intentions: Makeup and Exercise

October 7th, 2021

Categories: Best Intentions, Exercise, Makeup, Pandemic, Yoga



Image by fotostrobi from Pixabay

I know about best intentions. I buy makeup and with the exception of the most mundane face cream, base or lipstick, I soon lose interest and abandon it.

With the exception of walking, the only time I’ve exercised on my own has been to support the regimes physical therapists recommended after I broke my foot and to fix a shoulder issue. I’m ashamed. My father exercised daily. During the worst of the pandemic I walked for miles in my space-challenged apartment while speaking on the phone but most wouldn’t consider that exercise.

I admire those who buy exercise equipment. For me it would  become a place to hang a shirt worn for an hour or a sweater I was too lazy to fold and put away or maybe even an expensive device on which to air dry laundry.


Image by Sendoku from Pixabay   

Jen Murphy wrote “Pandemic’s Peloton Obsession Turns to Peloton Fatigue At-home workouts grew into a cultural phenomenon during lockdowns, but the easing of restrictions has even die-hards idling exercise bikes for fun outside.” She reported in The Wall Street Journal article “The web-connected exercise bikes from Peloton Interactive Inc. start at $1,495 with the option to pay $39 a month for live-stream and recorded workouts.” At the height of the pandemic the recorded workouts made participants feel connected with others; some compared participating to attending a party.

“The pandemic has since shifted to a new stage,” Murphy wrote. “For some people, the easing of Covid-19 restrictions has prompted a break from their Peloton obsession and the pursuit of different physical activities. Others say they are too drained from the pandemic’s grind to muster any energy to hop on a bike.”

Peloton spokesperson Amelise Lane “attributed the decline in average monthly workouts per user to summer weather, which drew more people outdoors. Many Peloton users are spending more free time at the gym, dining out or taking vacations, she said.”

Murphy continued: “Other people say that getting back to social activities has left them too tired to maintain their peak levels of Peloton workouts.”

I’m considering a tryout with a yoga for beginners video I saw on YouTube [the operative word: considering]. Are there categories of things about which you have the best intentions but you discover or recognize your limits? Have you overridden any? Do you follow an exercise regimen with or without equipment?


Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay   

Service of Ask for an Inch and Take a Mile

October 4th, 2021

Categories: Charity, Donations, Pandemic, Pedestrians

The idea for this post came to me as I waited for a delivery person with a dolly negotiate, and clear, a standard sidewalk transformed into narrow alley, before I could enter. I had to squeeze by other pedestrians–too close for my comfort pandemic or no–numerous times and noticed similar infringements in most neighborhoods.

Each instance in the photos here is an example of a business that has taken advantage of the pandemic to enlarge its footprint by encroaching on walkways big-time. New Yorkers walk. The negative impact of such obstructions will amplify as the city refills with workers, tourists and residents.

Taking such advantage reminded me of some charities. I donate modest amounts to a few throughout the year. In less than a month after receiving my check some bombard me with additional requests. My appeal to them: Wait six months at least, please! What are computers for if not to make possible spaced-out reminders by the fulfillment company that distributes the mailings?

If the strategy didn’t work, the charities wouldn’t do it. I’ve written before about a person close to me who had been generous when well. One year he responded to each of many mailed requests. The accountant caught what happened. Shame on those organizations. Soon after the accountant’s discovery the munificent donor was diagnosed with dementia.

Businesses and charities aren’t alone in milking hands that feed them and don’t know when to stop. Have you noticed similar instances?

Service of Planning Way Ahead

September 30th, 2021

Categories: Christmas, Holiday Sales, Holidays, Pandemic, Planning Ahead, Retail, Shortages, Thanksgiving

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

September 27th, 2021

Categories: Uncategorized



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?

September 23rd, 2021

Categories: Credit, Credit Card, Finance, Financial Rating Agencies, Installment Shopping, Red Flag, Retail


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
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