Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Service of the Beauty of Diversity in NYC

Thursday, June 20th, 2024

MetLife Building lobby last Saturday.

I never know what I’ll see from day to day when I venture out and about in New York City–which is thrilling. Here are some photos I took over a few days.

In addition to eavesdropping on conversations in countless languages all over the city there are innumerable fascinating sites and interactions that underscore the diversity and often the toughness of newcomer New Yorkers.

In the elevator this week I asked what language a young fellow tenant was speaking after she stopped chatting on her phone. When she confirmed my guess—Turkish–I remembered “allah is maladek,” a formal goodbye. I liked her smile [probably because of my accent]. She didn’t seem the slightest bit surprised.

What are some of your favorite scenes that celebrate the diversity of where you live?

African food on Second Avenue, a favorite haunt of bicycle delivery people.
Construction workers choose homemade lunch from a popup chef.
Work break at a construction site
Fruit and veggie vendors remind me of mail carriers as they are out selling their produce regardless of weather.

Riches from the Wednesday farmer’s market on east 47th Street

Service of the Thrill of Petty Theft

Monday, March 4th, 2024

Some people can’t help themselves. They must wangle a freebee no matter what. I’m not talking about a starving person who steals an apple off a fruit cart or someone who takes advantage of opportunities to attend free concerts, museum exhibits or movies. I go for the latter with enthusiasm.

It’s the petty cheaters who drive me nuts. Someone said it’s because I’m a Virgo. If you want a comp ticket to one of my client’s events, ask for it. Don’t pretend you’re press so as to slip in free.

I’ve written previously about people who would order from a client far more fabric, decorative accessories or wallpaper than necessary for a photo shoot. It didn’t happen under my watch.

I’ve also written about restaurant patrons who complain about the food or service trying to finagle a freebie. Nervier than the scene from the movie “Victor Victoria” when Julie Andrews places a cockroach on her food to avoid paying for dinner was a woman at a restaurant in Grand Central Terminal a few years ago. Her complaints, as I wrote here at the time, escalated to “and I have cancer,” when none of her other complaints generated the response she aimed for: “We’re so sorry madame, we won’t charge you for your drinks and dinner.” She didn’t even get a discount.

Just yesterday on the Third Avenue bus at noon, three people scooted in the back door of the bus after passengers exited with no intention of walking forward to pay. Many of my New York friends complain loudly about this behavior. According to Google, the MTA loses $315 million/year from dodged tolls and subway and bus fares.

Because of such cheats the city will suffer from $15 congestion pricing fees to make up the deficit. I heard a radiologist on the news on Friday morning call this a cancer tax on her patients some of whom must come for treatment daily for over a month.  They are too sick to take public transportation, she said, and the additional fee will be hard on them.

Do scofflaws who nibble away at a company or restaurant’s profit or rob the transportation service of its fare think of the repercussions of their actions–times thousands like them? Is acing a freebie a game for them or do they think it is their right? Does petty theft escalate to bigger targets?

Service of a Long Line Sweetened by Li-lac Chocolates

Monday, October 23rd, 2023

On Saturday I headed for Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan for what turned out to be an almost two hour wait to participate in chocolatier Li-lac’s 100th anniversary celebration and promotion.

In spite of rain at first, there were no complaints. The steady stream of samples—dark and milk chocolate covered pretzels, caramel, nuts, nonpareils—offered to those in a line that kept growing kept us happy. We were also given balloons. On my way to the bus home, I found the father of a balloon loving little girl who gladly accepted mine for her. Her smile was better than chocolate.

Those who reposted news of the anniversary on Instagram were given a little gold box with two candies. Between my umbrella and balloon, I couldn’t manipulate my phone but the lovely young woman ahead of me did all the work so I got one too.

The staff passing out samples on the street were joyous. This tiny slice of Manhattan was an oasis of pleasure, a respite from global, national and local bad news.

The special deals included a Vintage Recipe gift box valued at $100 for sale at $19.23 for the first 300 customers. The other was 1923 pricing on a bag with almond bark, butter crunch, plain fudge, pecan chews and mousse rolls. In both cases, one per customer. [Photo below.] Everything else in the store had a 20 percent discount.

The best part of waiting in lines in New York is meeting others. I recently wrote about the characters in line at the Met Museum the other evening. Saturday I met an almost retired NYC fireman who plans to move to North Carolina but keep his $1,600/month rent stabilized apartment on West 72nd Street and a young couple who just moved to Manhattan. She was from outside Philadelphia and they both moved from Atlanta, where they graduated from college, to take jobs in NYC. She works for a bank. They asked when I got here and looked surprised when I told them I was born in Manhattan. Another woman shared info about a makeup promotion she was headed to next and we reviewed each of the sample offerings.

Congrats to current owners Anthony Cirone, Chris Taylor, and Anwar Khoder and kudos to their team. New Yorkers are a tough bunch and there wasn’t a wrinkled brow or grouchy conversation in the line.

Have you participated in a line or oversubscribed promotion pulled off as well as this? Do you prefer milk or dark chocolate? Do you have a favorite sweet?

Service of Get Real

Monday, August 21st, 2023

These peaches were $5.00/lb at the Union Square Farmers Market in Manhattan

I wonder about the decisions editors and reporters make in choosing to cover a topic or to follow a story. I am thrilled when they select to run my clients’ news–natch. This post isn’t a criticism. It’s more of a reflection of how out of it I must be for zeroing in on the following instances.

I love reading advice columns but one of the questions New York Times Ethicist columnist Kwame Anthony Appiah chose made me roll my eyes. I couldn’t help saying “really???” out loud. How many of us would like to have this issue and I suspect so few do so why cover it?

The question came from a person who had been married a decade and was 44. He never told his spouse that he had a trust fund that spun off $25,000 a month and keeping the secret was weighing heavily on him. Should he tell his spouse?

I could see Appiah responding to readers seeking advice because they secretly owed $millions or had done something dastardly that would soon be exposed. I can’t help but feel that the reader was showing off his enviable financial situation.

And then there was the scrumptious looking dessert that Yotam Ottolenghi wrote about in “Every Peach Shines in This Tart,” in the same paper. Had Ottolenghi noticed the price of peaches this summer? I made a nectarine pie for a party I attended earlier this summer as they were not selling for almost $1 each or $4.00+/lb. [They ran $5.00/lb at the farmers markets.]

Because it is a favorite fruit I looked into why they cost so much this summer. Will Jordan explained in “The 2023 peach harvest will look different than usual with an estimated 90% crop loss this spring due two adverse weather factors. The lack of adequate winter chill and the spring freeze growers experienced in mid-March combined to decimate this year’s fruit production.”

In writing the subhead Ottolenghi must have felt a pang about singing peaches’ praises: “Peaches are at the height of summer perfection right now. But even the most mundane stone fruit manages to thrill when wrapped in flaky pastry.”

Have you ever thought: “why did this publication cover this topic?”

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot III

Monday, July 25th, 2022

Farmer’s market summer flowers

The nicest thing about this post is how quickly I whipped together this preliminary list. So many little things bring smiles. The first two columns of this title took place early in the pandemic and covered how friends helped others.

A gift from a friend

Here’s today’s list in no special order as all are equally meaningful:

How are you? Image by ijmaki from Pixabay 

Red velvet cake. Image by MartinL21 from Pixabay
  • I ordered a slice of velvet cake with meringue icing at Amy’s Bread, didn’t finish it at lunch and enjoyed a few bites of the leftover the next two days. The cake was the best of a memorable taste sensation, one I’ve not enjoyed in 10 dogs ages. Sweet!
  • I had a food delivery the other day, something I’d only done once before in three years because I pick up takeout. The doorman, in announcing the delivery on the intercom, asked if it was legit. He said “You don’t often order food deliveries.” You’re thinking: “Big deal.” It is: There are 510 apartments here! I thanked him later telling him I felt his attention to my habits made me feel as though I lived in a building on Fifth Avenue. His smile made me as happy as his oversight.
  • I walk on a cloud if a bus driver sees me running and waits.
  • When out of town friends let me know they’re coming to town its a treat to see them.
  • “How are you?” texts or emails from former Baruch mentees and great nieces are heart-warming.
  • When Friday evening comes and I watch “A Place to Call Home,” an Australian soap, on WLIW at 8 PM, it’s fun. Same with Grantchester on PBS on Sunday at 9 PM.
  • A text from friends from a hospital recovery room to let me know they are OK or an email that a medical checkup went well causes joy.
  • Something that makes me laugh so hard I cry reminds me of times my mother, my husband and I could hardly breath. It still happens with a few friends, when reading a great line in a book, seeing a ridiculous comment on Facebook or when my funny bone reacts to a segment in a movie or TV series.
  • I love receiving a stunning greeting card out of the blue. I enjoy the images for weeks. I display them on a chest in my living room. Photo below.
  • “Whooo hooo” I holler, even after these many years, when I get an editorial placement for a client.
  • When yet another person pays a compliment to me for my Kusama tote bag–last year’s birthday gift from a friend– it’s a hoot. I’ve written previously about this conversation starter. It happened again just last week.
  • A friend from school reached out after decades and decades–a nice surprise.
  • Summer flowers from the farmer’s market are fabulous. Photo top center.
  • A friend found an out-of-print book, unavailable in my public e-book library, with exorbitant price tags on the secondhand market. She gave it to me when we had lunch at Amy’s Bread where I devoured that divine velvet cake. Photo top right.

What little things have made you happy lately?

Surprise card featuring a favorite flower

Service of Broken Promises: Companies Should Stop Saying They’ll Call or Deliver When They Won’t/Don’t

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Wireless Home Phone gadget

Does it make me feel better that I’m not alone when deceived by a vendor? No. Am I angry because I predict still more hours lost between glitch and repair of a gadget I was required to buy as part of a phone upgrade and/or because I believed my problem was solved and it wasn’t? I fell for a “we’ll call you in an hour to activate your device.” Gullible. More about this in a moment.

When I complained to a friend she told me that Con Edison was to call her two days ago in from 16 to 36 minutes. They didn’t call then and haven’t yet.

Another friend’s neighbor lugged her wet laundry to her house because the dryer she was assured would arrive the day before–it was in the store–never came.

A third friend had to call Instacart about her missing $35 food delivery. The personal shopper for her second order for the same items rang up $246. She cancelled it. Three tries to get a food order?

Back to me. I needed an upgraded gizmo for one of my phones. It took two visits to Verizon to place the order. Don’t ask. And as I’ve so often noted, the word “upgrade” gives me the shivers. It never augurs well and it didn’t this time either.

When the box arrived I assembled it and it didn’t work. I couldn’t reach Verizon at the number on the gizmo’s screen that said: “We’re having trouble activating your device. Please call ____.” The number didn’t respond. I called another Verizon number and got a recording in which a voice spoke at top speed referring to sim cards and 5 G and 4 G devices. I looked at this white box and figured “I’m doomed.”

So I dragged the phone, the equipment, shipping box and various electrical plugs to the store, was helped by a terrific tech person and spent well over an hour while he spoke with a counterpart on the phone. I noticed that he started to– and then didn’t–use the phone number I was directed to call.

The woman couldn’t activate the device after he repeated a long series of numbers several times. He ended up switching the sim card because the one that came with the device wasn’t responding. She said she’d call in an hour to activate the new sim card. I rushed home full of hope. She never called. The device still needed to be activated.

Yesterday, after trying unsuccessfully to reach someone on the phone–it’s a phone company after all–I walked back again with phone, large plugs and gizmo in tow. That visit took from 11:30 am to 12:45 pm because a very nice employee suggested I wait to see the same specialist who’d worked with me the day before and he wouldn’t be on the floor for half an hour. He went through the drill and the gizmo is yet to be activated. This time the voice on the phone said there was a ticket on my problem and that I’d hear from them in from 24 to 48 hours.

Reading from a script and unconscious about my case, at the end of the conversation the woman tried to review the services I use in order to sell me others. I stopped her short, and reviewed what she was to do on her end and said to the tech support associate standing next to me, “Not a good time,” and he shrugged in agreement.

Small businesses can’t get away with such behavior. What, if anything, can you suggest we do to get the big ones to cut it out and stick to their word? Has a company or organization fallen short with their promise to you?

Image by 1195798 from Pixabay

Service of the Latest Fashion Accessory: A Book

Thursday, May 5th, 2022

Rachel Kramer Bussel’s New York Times article caught my eye: “Looking for a Wedding Favor? Try the Best-Seller List–At a time when they have become a popular accessory for celebrities to carry, books are also gaining appeal as a takeaway for wedding guests.”

The part about celebrities carrying books as accessories reminds me of a woman I knew as a child who invited me to see her redecorated home. There were exquisite antique leather-bound books in the living room and when I picked up one she said, “Yes, they go so well with the decor.”

So why my interest in an article about books? I’ve been knocking on media doors to announce this year’s Christopher Award winners–a dozen authors, 10 creators of TV/Cable and feature films and special award winner, the PBS series Masterpiece: All Creatures Great and Small, honored with the Christopher Spirit Award. They all exemplify the Christopher motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Are all the winners Catholic? Nope. But they have a few things in common: They remind audiences/readers from tots to seniors, of all faiths and of no particular faith, of their worth, individuality and power to make a difference and positively impact and shape our world. They also affirm the highest values of the human spirit. Tony Rossi, Christophers’ director of communications said “After the hardships we’ve endured in the last two years, we need stories of hope, light, and unity to lift our spirits and guide us toward a brighter path.”

Just a few of the books:

  • On her website Amanda Ripley wrote this about High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out (Simon & Schuster): “When we are baffled by the insanity of the ‘other side’—in our politics, at work, or at home—it’s because we aren’t seeing how the conflict itself has taken over. That’s what ‘high conflict’ does. It’s the invisible hand of our time. It’s what happens when discord distills into a good-versus-evil kind of feud, the kind with an us and a them. In this state, the brain behaves differently. We feel increasingly certain of our own superiority and, at the same time, more and more mystified by the other side.”
  • If you don’t know about Ernie Barnes, you might want to take a gander at  Don Tate’s second Christopher Award for Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Barnes, (Abrams Books for Young Readers), for children aged 8 and up. You’ll enjoy it even if you’re not a kid. As Ernie had two talents so does Tate: He’s both illustrator and author.
  • It didn’t happen often–and my school didn’t have a father/daughter dance–but when I danced with my dad, more than standing on his feet as he’d walk around the room, it was so special that I was drawn to Anitra Rowe Schulte and illustrator  Ziyue Chen’s Dancing with Daddy, (Two Lions), for children aged 6 and up.
  • Four time Christopher Award winner Father James Martin shares his wisdom in Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone (HarperOne/Harper Collins). His books have been translated into 22 languages and sold in 25+ countries. In his practical handbook, the Jesuit priest explains what prayer is, what to expect from praying, how to do it, and how it can transform us when we make it a regular practice. He wrote that there is not one secret formula, but like any relationship, each person can discover the best style for building an intimate relationship with God, regardless of religion or denomination.
  • The family of Australian author Eddie Jaku, who died recently at 101, was thrilled that his book was selected by the Christophers to win an Award in the young adults category for The Happiest Man on Earth: The Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor, (Harper Collins), because of the importance that his message of love and positivity reach young people. In his memoir Jaku recalled his teenage years in a concentration camp and his subsequent commitment to living with gratitude and kindness to honor all those who died in the Holocaust. Born Abraham Jakubowicz in Leipzig, Germany, in WWII he was imprisoned in Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps, sent on a ‘death march’ in 1945 but escaped and finally was rescued by Allied soldiers.

The other books include Dorothy Wickenden’s The Agitators (Scribner/Simon & Schuster); Daniel James Brown’s Facing the Mountain (Viking/Penguin Random House); Retired New York City Fire Department Chief Joseph Pfeifer’s Ordinary Heroes (Portfolio/Penguin Random House); The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter, illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring (Preschool and up, Candlewick Press); 10 Hidden Heroes by Mark K. Shriver, illustrated by Laura Watson, (Kindergarten and up, Loyola Press) and The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan (ages 10 and up, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House).

Would you carry a book as a fashion statement or buy one because the cover coordinated with your decor?  What good books have you read lately?

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 Crowds II

Monday, November 8th, 2021

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I am crowd averse as I’ve written previously, most recently about the impact of the pandemic on Manhattan that eliminated swarms of citizens who normally congregate at certain times and places. I was caught in a mass of people all trying to exit a courtyard at once through a narrow opening in a gate when I was 10. I had no control over the direction I wanted to go or whether I could stick near my mother and I didn’t like that feeling.

That’s why I’m amazed that people scramble to fill stadiums that hold over a hundred thousand fans. Madison Square Garden has almost 20,000 seats which seems like a lot. Friends flock there to hear their favorite singers, pay exorbitant prices and consider themselves lucky to snag tickets.

It’s remarkable that the dreadful event, that happened in Houston last Friday at the sold-out Astroworld music festival–50,000 people attended–hasn’t happened more often.

Image by Vishnu R from Pixabay

This venue holds 200,000+ reported J. David Goodman and Maria Jimenez Moya in The New York Times

They wrote: “The most common cause of injury and death in crowds is compressive asphyxia, when people are pushed against one another so tightly that their airways become constricted, said Steve Adelman, a lawyer and the vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, an advocacy group. This happens most often during a ‘crowd crush,’ when the audience is packed together so tightly that people cannot move, but it can also occur during a stampede.”

They added that “Houston police chief, Troy Finner, said that officials worried that cutting off the concert could make the situation worse. ‘You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals,’ he said. ‘We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young.’”

Eight died in the third year of this event, from ages 14 to 17.

According to the Associated Press, as reported in, “‘The crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,’ the [Houston] fire chief [Samuel Peña] said. ‘People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.'”

“The deadly surge was the most deaths at a U.S. concert since the 2003 Station nightclub fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island.

“Eleven people died and about two dozen were injured in 1979 at a concert for The Who as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum.”

I’ve happily attended concerts and performances in Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera and Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera and concerts at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College as well as at sold-out performances in theaters here and abroad. Security checked handbags for bombs and firearms after 9/11 but I didn’t stress about the possibility of an explosion. Issues of Covid-19 aside, am I naive to be unconcerned in these places?

Does attending a crowded venue–even a place of worship with a modest capacity–give you pause? Are some seats– stadiums and concert halls–safer than others? Have you been in a crowd that worried you?

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of Five Star Surprises at Bloomingdale’s

Monday, September 27th, 2021

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?

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