Service of Belonging: New Places to Meet

March 19th, 2018

Categories: Food, Supermarket

Photo: turkishtravelblog.com

Every country, except ours, seemed to have unofficial local gathering spots for some citizens—usually men. In Turkey there were chi shops where men dropped in for tea and gossip; in France, the local bistro was a place to grab a quick glass of wine even in the morning and learn the latest and English and Irish pubs were places in towns and neighborhoods for a cup of Guinness and small talk.

Years ago in NYC, Saturday was the day for singles to meet at Bloomingdale’s, not to buy clothing, furniture or housewares but to meet the next love interest.

New gathering space at Adams in Poughkeepsie

Now supermarkets are filling the bill as a place to meet and greet the neighbors and hang out. In order to distinguish themselves from the burgeoning food delivery businesses–Wal*Mart has joined Amazon.com in home delivery–and meal kits, some have installed tables for special interest groups to meet weekly. Anne Marie Chaker in “Finding Love in the Frozen Food Aisle,” wrote: “grocery stores are making a calculation that customers will stay, shop longer and come back more often.”

An Oregon chain added sofas, fireplaces, seating areas and food services. One in North Carolina created a village concept adding shops around the perimeter and a communal table in the middle where every Friday a group of crafters meets and bingo games take place at other times.

“ ‘There is little money to be made directly from people using a store as a place to hang out,’ says Deborah Weinswig, chief executive of Coresight Research, a retail think tank, who says the benefit may be in a ‘halo effect,’ where shoppers develop a warm perception of a brand.” Chaker reported that one shopper increased his visits from twice a week to daily. Retired, he works two hours on his novel in his supermarket’s seating area, sipping their coffee and munching a muffin. Meanwhile he’s met people from other parts of town.

Photo: groupon.com

A Colorado market owner “says about 25% of his stores are devoted to nonretail space, whether that’s tables in a cafe, performance areas for local musicians, or a designated community room where neighborhood groups meet. Fostering a sense of community, he says, ultimately helps drive traffic. ‘Sure, we could put more aisles in and could pack more product, but then you lose the social hub of community,’ he says.

Tastings with enthusiastic attendees who clog aisles make it tough for hardcore shoppers in a rush to get their chore done and get out. For others, according to Chaker, they’ve found love in those very aisles. Now married, one couple danced in the lunch area when they heard a favorite song.

Do you see a future for supermarkets as America’s answer to chi houses, bistros and pubs? Do you think it’s a concept that might really catch on for those who dislike the bar scene? Will it save supermarkets? What are the best gathering spots in your life?

Photo: alamy.com

Service of Irritating and Charming Commercials: Phony and Legitimate Laughs

March 15th, 2018

Categories: Advertising, Annoying, Commercials, Hospitals, Insurance, Investment

Photo: tripsavvy.com

It was less than a year ago that I wrote about the commercials that drove me nuts. Clearly I’ve been listening to the radio and watching TV too much as there are two more to add to the “I immediately change stations or channels as soon as I hear them” list.

This time I’ll also share some adverts I like.

Photo: davekraft.org

Fake giggles over unfunny circumstances are the worst. The prize goes to 1-800-I-Got-Junk for radio commercials in which business or homeowners laugh hysterically when the junk crew tosses out a piece of rubbish. My hands can be wet or sticky but off goes the station at the first sign of this shrill irritation and sometimes I don’t return. In looking for a link to it, which I didn’t find you’ll be relieved to know, I noticed a similar reaction to it on a website “Commercials I Hate!

 

DJ Nana. Photo: twitter.com

Speaking of laughter, I can envision the room of 30-something creative types cracking up as they developed and produced the E*Trade commercial to scare people into saving money so they have funds for their retirement. Sung to the tune of “Banana Boat Song” that Harry Belafonte made famous, it consists of 85 year olds still working and looking foolish as they drop packages they’re trying to deliver, are dragged around by a heavy fire hose, are compared to model-perfect lifeguards and “DJ Nana” spinning records while hideously dolled up. Subconsciously, it could be this ad that inspired my post earlier in the week, “Service of Aging Gracefully.” The commercial isn’t aimed at me but at 30-somethings whose Nana’s and grandpas are, I hope, spending their time making money under more appropriate, dignified circumstances.

And I love “Banana Boat Song.”

“Triathlete” Photo: NYU Langone

I also enjoy the catchy tune that NYU Langone, a well-regarded NYC hospital, uses in some of its TV commercials which make me smile. There’s a series of which “Winter” and “Athletes on their Feet” are only two. Kudos NYU Langone! [And please take good care of my friend who has not been well.]

I wish there were more State Farm “Hall of Claims” commercials as this series is clever. My first favorite is the Mer-Mutts scene where the family pooch turns on the water in the kitchen and floods the living room transformed into a swimming pool. The woof and his pals perform a water ballet while their human mom and pop look on horrified. Actor J.K. Simmons is terrific. Some other good ones are The Truck-Cicle; Frightning-bolt and Vengeful Vermin.

My bet is that the ads that aggravate sell their products like crazy and the ones I like don’t—but I’m not in advertising so what do I know? Are there ads that motivate you to change channel or station in an instant and others you don’t mind hearing and even enjoy?

Vengeful Vermin Photo: Youtube

Service of Aging Gracefully

March 12th, 2018

Categories: Age, Awards, Beat the Odds, Memory, Physical Therapy

Rita Moreno receiving Oscar in 1962. Photo: amazon.com

My Aunt Dickie had a needlepoint pillow which read: “Old age is not for sissies.” How right was her pillow, though you’d never know it on the surface of things in some cases.

At the Oscars Eva Marie Saint took my breath away as did Rita Moreno and Jane Fonda. They are 93, 86 and 80 years old respectively but you could have fooled me. Ask Google about Fonda and among her list of accomplishments is “fitness guru.” I’ll say! Moreno wore a 56 year old dress—the one she had on when she received the Oscar for her role in “West Side Story” and she looked magnificent. As for Ms. Saint, she was elegant and sounded fabulous and closer to sixty than 100.

Doris Kearns Goodwin. Photo: biography.com

Hearing writer-historians such as David McCollough, 84, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, 75, rattle off dates and events dotted with fascinating facts and anecdotes without peering at a note is a thrill. Few can remember half as much and in such vivid detail at any age.

Here’s another example closer to home. To counter the ravages of Parkinson’s my husband, with a lifelong almost terminal allergy to any and all things exercise, has completed a grueling four weeks of practically daily physical therapy with stretches and sit/standing homework on top of it. Many days he can hardly get out of bed yet no matter how weak and queasy he feels off he goes to Sutton Place Physical Therapy returning exhausted and often cheerful. He’s cancelled only once—on one of the snowstorm days. He says that his head has felt clearer than it has in years making it easier for him to do tax prep, write—already gifted he works on improving—and preparing dinners restaurant chefs would admire.

Some Medicare-eligible citizens are blessed with genes that help keep them feeling and appearing youthful and are relatively disease-free; others have great facelift and fitness support teams and still others have the belly to fight. Will increasing numbers of high profile older folks who hit life out of the park positively impact prejudice against workers 45+ especially in some industries as film–for women in particular–advertising and PR to name a few? Do you know of any remarkable seniors you’d like to call out?

 

Homer Byington

 

Service of Gratitude II

March 8th, 2018

Categories: Attitude, Entitlements, Gratitude, Religion, Thanks

Photo: spineuniverse.com

I’m gratified when an article in a legitimate source such as The Wall Street Journal confirms one of my observations. In this case, it’s about gratitude and how it has been lost among a large swath of people, young and old alike.

For years I’ve been part of a committed group of association members who vet applications for college and grad school scholarships—as much as $10,000 plus generous fringe benefits. I’ve often written here about the scholarships or the winners. They pass three reviews: Every application is read by two members. Those recommended for the second level are interviewed on the phone and if that conversation goes well, the student meets a committee in person where final decisions are made. The competition is stiff. Some of the high school senior through grad school students are remarkable.

Photo: ncci1914.com

This year I interviewed college seniors attending grad school and only one sent me a thank you. Last year none of the students I spoke with thanked. “So what?” say you? “Nobody thanks these days. Where have you been?” you may think. So this: If two students receive equally high recommendations to move to the third and last review and one has written a thank you as short as “tx,” and the other has not, the grateful one gets the opportunity to be interviewed in person; the other loses her chance.

But the ramifications of not expressing gratitude are far greater than missing out on a scholarship.

In “An Attitude of Gratitude,” in the Journal Jennifer Breheny Wallace wrote: “As Dr. [Richard] Weissbourd sees it, parents were fed a myth that if children feel better about themselves—if parents praise them, cater to their every need and make them feel happy—it will help them to develop character. ‘But what we’re seeing in many cases is the opposite: When parents organize their lives around their kids, those kids expect everyone else to as well, and that leads to entitlement,’ he says. And when children are raised to feel entitled to everything, they are left feeling grateful for nothing.” Weissbourd, a psychologist, is faculty director of the Making Caring Common initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

Photo: thebalance.com

“Researchers find that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as their friends, their health, nature, their jobs or a higher power—and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely. For them, gratitude isn’t a one-off ‘thank you.’ It’s a mind-set, a way of seeing the world.”

John Wyeth

This approach reminds me of the award for niceness instituted at the Harlem Link Charter School named to honor the memory of John Wyeth who had worked there for a decade and who was the epitome of the award. I wrote about it a year ago.

Wallace also included observations of David Rosmarin, director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He mentioned how gratitude takes a place in most world religions.

I attended a memorable Bar Mitzvah service many years ago in which our friend’s son Julian told the congregation about his good deed that was part of his Bar Mitzvah preparation. He described making sandwiches to offer homeless men and women in Newark, N.J. and how hard it was to get out of his father’s car when they arrived in the city and what it was like to approach and speak with the destitute people he met.

Helping less fortunate people became a turning point for one family in the article. The floors in a house that one of the children helped to restore as a volunteer were in such bad shape you could stand in the home and see through to the ground. When this child returned home “she got down and hugged the floor and said, ‘I’ve never been grateful for a floor, but now I am.’”

Wrote Wallace: “The researchers found, in keeping with past studies, that general gratitude was associated with less anxiety, less depression and greater well-being. They also found that religious gratitude—toward God—was associated with additional reductions in anxiety and depression and increases in well-being.”

Photo: theodysseyonline.com

It’s never too late to teach gratitude to a child and Wallace noted the obvious: The most effective way is for parents to practice what they want a child to do such as thanking when junior takes out the garbage or holds open a door.

Wallace wrote that parents can “spur their children to appreciate and reflect on the time and thought behind the gifts and kindness they receive, as in: ‘Jack really knows how much you love football. How thoughtful that he gave you a jersey of your favorite team’ or ‘Wow, Grandma just took a five-hour train ride to come and see you perform in that play.’”

Do you think expressing gratitude eventually leads to feeling it and that it really has positive effects? Does a person—parent, boss or client–appear to be weak if they thank which is why they don’t do it? Do you know anyone who never thanked and then suddenly began to? Do you have examples of someone who expressed gratitude to you that bowled you over?

Photo: hubpages.com

Service of Everyone Has a Price

March 5th, 2018

Categories: Arm Twisting, Desperation, Money, Morality

Photo: pinterest

I recently heard someone say “Everyone has a price.” He was speaking about an acquaintance of his who was making a chunk of change as one of the masterminds behind the campaign of the current president.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures” could be one reason for some to ride roughshod over common sense and decency [though I doubt this was the excuse for the person just mentioned]. I took a job in an industry that appealed to me even though it had warning signs flashing all over it. The business owner was not my cup of tea but I needed to pay the rent and didn’t have the luxury to wait for the right job in the perfect place. There was nothing dishonest about what I was doing: The culture didn’t jive. I stayed the obligatory year. 

Photo: saic.edu

Mind you, I don’t begrudge wealthy people whose bank accounts burst with cash as a result of sweat and smarts, choosing a lucrative industry, willing to take risks, folks who may also have benefitted from good timing and a dollop of luck.

Yet countless books and movies describe what happens to those who arrive by selling out. Once they get over the thrill of being rich no matter what I wonder if some regret what it took, especially if  their life falls apart as a result.

I posit that with crucial basics taken care of—enough to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and their families—no amount of money would twist the arms of the people I admire to take a job involving dodgy business. Do you have a price? Do you know folks who turned their backs on their principles, made a bundle and have no regrets?

Photo: chronologicalbibleblog.com

 

Service of Empty Promises: Staples, J. Press & Stylewe.com

March 1st, 2018

Categories: Fair and Square, Retail, Sales

Photo: pinterest

Staples advertises that if you place an online order by 5 pm you’ll get the product[s] next day. That didn’t happen this week when we ordered a printer. Irritating: If you can’t do it, don’t say you can. I feel that they stole the order from the competition.

Photo: surfdome.com

But that works only once: Expectations dashed and we’re off to Amazon or Best Buy next time. You’re not refunded the wasted time in tracing the package and coordinating/jiggering an IT service appointment if required.

Another business that bloats its online promotions is J. Press. It keeps sending emails about its amazing sales boasting, for example, “Sale up to 40% off select styles.” Don’t even bother looking at these. The actual discount on anything you want that is on sale may not even cover the shipping charge.

Photo: londonmultiples.com

And then there’s an online website, Stylewe.com, from which I once bought a dress. It offers good looking things at fair prices. I saw a sweater I liked, missed buying it when my yen for it was strong at the beginning of winter and it was offered at a good sale. Next time I looked, the price was back to the original. Because the site remarkets, the sweater or other Stylewe fashions follow me all over the Internet from Facebook to weather forecast pages. Out of curiosity, I’ve opened the links when headlined by a “hot sale,” “flash sale” or similar language. Often, they shave off a few dollars but never as much as that first time, even though the sale language explodes. Just today I saw it on sale at the first, deepest discount price but I’ve lost interest. I’m thinking spring.

Do you fall for promises of prompt delivery or sales offers that are consistently misleading to the point that you don’t look at those from the deceiving source anymore? What are some companies that consistently keep their delivery promises or don’t fiddle with customers when it comes to sales?

Photo: colourbox.com

Service of Cutting Corners for Efficiency and to Slash Costs

February 26th, 2018

Categories: Cutbacks, Cutting Corners, Food Safety, Quality Control, TV

Photo: ablueribbonresume.com

In a recent episode of “Call the Midwife” on PBS, Sister Ursula, new to running things at Nonnatus House, insisted that the home visits to newborns and patients who had recently given birth could be no longer than 10 minutes in the interest of efficiency. Each midwife should be able to add to her daily load as a result.

Sister Ursula, right. Photo: pbs.org

The staff tried to tell her that their work [in the east end of London in the 1950s], bore no relationship to postnatal care in a hospital setting but she was adamant.  As a result, one of the midwives, who had been reprimanded severely for staying longer with a patient than ordered a day before, left a mother and newborn promptly, not realizing that they were exposed to carbon monoxide in their overheated bedroom and the infant almost died. At the end the baby lived and Sister Ursula, recognizing that super-efficiency wasn’t always the answer, quit her job.

I thought of this fictitious episode when I read Benjamin Parkin and Patrick McGroarty’s Wall Street Journal article, “A Rush to Slaughter Provokes Opposition.” It’s another example of removing government oversight on a source of food, letting an industry oversee itself. “Proposed rules allowing meatpackers to slaughter hogs faster and play a bigger role in policing food safety are intended to free up government inspectors while making plants more efficient. But the rules, which could take effect this year, have drawn criticism.

“Consumer advocates question whether companies can guarantee the cleanliness of their pork while workers take on some tasks previously reserved for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors. Meanwhile, worker-rights groups say speeding up slaughter lines would strain workers whose jobs are already difficult and dangerous.”

“Paul Kiecker, acting administrator of the USDA’s food-safety branch [said the] moves would let inspectors perform other duties such as checking on plant sanitation, which the agency deems a better way to promote food safety than having an inspector posted only to monitor specific points in the slaughtering process.”

According to the USDA “Diseases such as tuberculosis that an inspector can identify by sight are less common in livestock today, they say, while more pressing threats such as bacterial contamination are detected through laboratory tests. They say plant workers can be trained to perform tasks, such as preliminary health checks on glands and organs in slaughtered animals, that were previously performed by inspectors.”

Sure, the workers can be trained, but will they be? Doesn’t that cost money which clearly is not the objective. I am suspicious of the negative impact on citizens of cutbacks in government oversight on food production [beef is next] so I don’t know whom to believe. I fear the excessive profit motive pervasive today may affect us all adversely. Do you?

Photo: mirror.co.uk

Service of Crying

February 22nd, 2018

Categories: Crying, Emotion, Tears

Photo: avmedia.info

Crying was the subject of Maria Hinojosa’s NPR’s Latino USA program the other week. The focus was the role of crying in Latino life and the discussion focused on whether Latinos cry more than others.

Photo: psychologytoday.com

I didn’t hear the whole show, got lost in a description of a microscopic survey to analyze the number of times Latino men and women cried over a period of weeks, and assume the point of the program was to illustrate that tears come fast and furious for Latinos.

More importantly, it got me to thinking about crying.

Photo: askmen.com

One of the guests on Hinojosa’s show mentioned that crying is the pressure cooker for the soul, that it’s comforting and nice. I disagree. I’m the family weeper, doubt there’s an ounce of Latino blood in me and I’ve always hated not being able to control my tears. I envy people who can and those who never feel like crying. Only an actor in a role that requires tears would find that troublesome.

I don’t mind when other people cry and think it’s healthy that American men feel more comfortable crying these days.

Do you think that certain nationalities are more prone to tears? Is yelling a form of crying? Do you have techniques to stop yourself from crying when you don’t want to? Do you cry easily? What turns on your tear faucet?

Photo: shinemagazine.co.uk

Service of Pick Yourself Up & Dust Yourself Off: Olympic Figure Skaters Rule

February 19th, 2018

Categories: Competition, Encouragement, Hope, Perseverance, Sports

Photo: twitter

Facebook and our email boxes are filled with posters, famous sayings and real life examples to encourage us, foment hope and inspire us with a spirit of never giving up. One of my favorite sayings, attributed to Winston Churchill, is “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Photo: kxan.com

There are few more vivid instances of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” than the Olympic figure skaters. With the world watching, if they fall in the middle of a routine, after thousands if not millions of hours of practice, whether alone or with a partner, they pick themselves up and keep going as though nothing happened—or so it seems on the outside. They are marvels.

My father, for years an avid Olympics watcher and supporter, reminded us during each winter and summer game that even the “worst” of the participants are outstanding athletes. It’s easy to forget sometimes when listening to the coverage of the announcers, often past athletes themselves, criticizing a tiny twitch of a knee or microscopic landing quiver.

Photo: Goldenskate.com

Erica Martell described a nail-biting competition for gold during the Olympic Pairs Figure Skating finale that I’d missed. It involved many falls and a juggling for the three spots on the podium. Going into the competition in fourth place were the eventual gold winners, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. It was Savchenko’s fifth Olympics and first gold medal. She’d previously won two bronze. Born in the Ukraine and competing for that country until, with her German partner, in 2003, they competed under his native flag, the 34 year old won for Germany. Her partner is from France.

In the men’s figure skating competition a few days later, Shoma Uno, who received the silver medal for Japan, fell right out of the box in the final round. He picked himself up and proceeded to astonish with the rest of his performance.

Do you watch the Olympics? Do the commentators add or detract from the coverage? What other vivid examples of pick yourself up and keep going, athletic or otherwise, can you share? Are there more athletes than before who compete for one country when they are citizens of another or has this always been the case?

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Service of Going Too Far: L.L. Bean Puts its Boot Down

February 15th, 2018

Categories: Cheating, Retail, Rules

Some customers take advantage of businesses—we’ve all seen the type and I’ve written about this before. I have 32 posts under “cheating,” though admittedly in most cases, the swindler was a company.

Photo: firewireblog.com

An e-letter to consumers signed by L.L. Bean’s executive chairman, Shawn O. Gorman, has put the brakes on some of the nonsense. He wrote: “a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent. Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.”

I don’t know if Brooks Brothers still has its policy but I knew a successful PR man in the day who wore a necktie for a few years and returned it, no questions asked, leaving the store with a new one. There was nothing wrong with the tie. He simply wanted a new one.

According to the new L.L. Bean policy, you’ll have one year to return an item which must be accompanied by proof of purchase. If a product is defective, they’ll work with you “to reach a fair solution.” The letter included a link to the full return policy, at llbean.com.

The letter ended: “Thank you for being a loyal customer and we look forward to continuing to inspire and enable you to Be an Outsider.”

Do you know what Gorman’s reference to “Be an Outsider” means? Do you agree with the step Mr. Gorman took? Can you blame him? Do you wonder why it has taken so long? Don’t most stores have a similar policy?

 

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics