Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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?

Service of Sharing II

Monday, August 9th, 2021

Sharing makes me feel good to both do and observe.

When men’s Olympic high jumpers Gianmarco Tamberi from Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar agreed to share the gold medal they were elated–Tamberi jumped into Barshim’s arms and they hugged. Did you hear me cheering?

If you live alone, the closest thing to sharing at the most basic level is to give surprises.

It’s hard for some to share–the last cookie, piece of cake, slice of pizza–but Americans were generous with their treasure last year.

AP business writer Haleluya Hadero wrote “Galvanized by the racial justice protests and the coronavirus pandemic, charitable giving in the United States reached a record $471 billion in 2020, according to a report released Tuesday that offers a comprehensive look at American philanthropy.” She added that Giving USA reported: “Faced with greater needs, estates and foundations also opened up their pocketbooks at increased levels — resulting in a 5.1% spike in total giving from the $448 billion recorded for 2019, or a 3.8% jump when adjusted for inflation.”

Have you observed some splendid examples of sharing?

Service of When Less is Perfect and When It’s Not at the Olympics

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

There was a turning point for women in the PR business when they didn’t have to appear at every event with a new suit or dress which sure made it easier to pack for days-long business trips as well as on the wallet.

But it’s been different for most women in the public eye, until now, thanks to the First Lady. “Dr. Biden apparently wore only a single new garment during the entirety of her trip to Japan: the Ralph Lauren navy jacket and pants that were part of the official U.S. Olympic Team uniform, and that she wore in her role as official U.S. Olympic Team booster,” Vanessa Friedman wrote in The New York Times. “Other than that, her clothes were all recycled outfits from her closet. And not just at fun family getaways: At public events. Often very big, photo op-filled, recorded-for-history public events,” she wrote in “Jill Biden, Changing the Fashion Game.”

Friedman, the paper’s fashion director and chief fashion critic, acknowledged that a recycled wardrobe is crucial for “image-making, celebrities and their powerful political or entrepreneurial equivalents.”


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

She observed: “She is not rejecting fashion — each look she wore is part of the current New York Fashion Week story, each one from American brands both establishment and up and coming. She’s doing her part to promote local business on the global stage.” Friedman mentioned that Dr. Biden “reflects the climate-focused aspect of the Biden agenda,” while supporting the worth of the clothes, that they merit keeping.

Meanwhile in “The Sexualization Of Women In Sports Extends Even To What They Wear,” Sharon Pruitt-Young reported on npr.org: “The Norwegian women’s beach handball team is in a battle with the sport’s governing bodies to wear less-revealing uniforms. After the team’s repeated complaints about the required bikini bottoms were reportedly ignored, they wore shorts during a recent game in protest and were fined 150 euros (around $175) per player.”

According to Jenny Gross in The New York Times “Men, on the other hand, can wear shorts as long as four inches above their knees as long as they are ‘not too baggy.'”

Do you think a First Lady or celebrity should have new clothes every time she will be photographed? Should female athletes be forced to wear revealing uniforms to compete in the Olympics or in any sports event?

Service of Fast Food Tips for Dinner

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

I admire Facebook postings of images of elaborate dishes and desserts for one or two lovingly assembled and photographed by friends but I am not tempted to imitate any of them. I look for something quick and easy. [While I’m sure all are delicious, some don’t translate well on camera and look alarmingly unappetizing, reminding me of the old saw “only a face a mother could love.”]

As the weather cools off I might make a boeuf bourguignon or a quiche Lorraine with the idea of freezing leftovers for future meals but I’m not in a rush. I use every pot in the apartment for the former, [I cook each vegetable separately], and make the crust for the quiche. Counter space for rolling out the dough is in short supply in my kitchen and I’m off-put by also having to dig out my food processor.

If it’s suddenly 7:30 pm I am grateful if I have an Amy’s Pizza in the freezer. I break it in two, put the other half back in the freezer, toss a simple salad while it heats in a toaster-oven and voila!

Speaking of salad, it takes minutes to make a spectacular and filling chef one.  I buy real baked ham from a local vendor–it’s sliced off a majestic bone by hand and doesn’t resemble the slimy packaged or compressed variety. To slices of ham I add what’s in the house such as Swiss cheese, tomato, mozzarella, all sliced, and top it off with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. Cold chicken works too. A few frozen peas or corn kernels heated in a bit of water until just hot is a toothsome and pretty addition.

A beautiful, wonderful country bread for one that costs $5-$8–much that I love it–doesn’t make sense. Trader Joe’s sells ciabatta rolls that I immediately put in small baggies and freeze. I warm a roll in the toaster oven at 350° for seven minutes. The crust is crisp and wonderful and the warm inside welcomes a little olive oil and slices of cheese and tomato.

I also like fettuccine Alfredo or vegetable fried rice from Trader Joe’s, a hot meal in minutes. I add pepper and a few peas to the former and if I have cold chicken, a few small pieces to the latter.

This is apple season. I like Honey Crisp best but try a new variety each week at the farmer’s market. I just bought firecracker apples. I slice the fruit thin–like potato chips.

Do you have quick meal ideas or do you or your mate make elaborate dinners for you and your family? When thinking of food can you erase from your mind all the hungry in this country and the world?

 

Service of Should Transgressions Go Unmentioned After Someone Dies?

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

A Washington Post reporter was immediately suspended–and later reinstated from the punishment of administrative leave–for tweeting, after his death, about Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault charge 17 years ago. Bryant had said he thought the encounter was consensual but according to New York Times** reporters Rachel Abrams and Marc Tracy, “he had come to understand that she did not see it in the same way.” She was a 19 year old Colorado hotel front desk clerk. The case was eventually dropped after an undisclosed settlement.

The reporter, Felicia Sonmez, received death threats and online abuse as tributes by politicians and celebrities praised Bryant. She linked to 2016 Daily Beast coverage of the case in her tweet.

Three hundred + fellow Post reporters protested Sonmez’s suspension. Abrams and Tracy wrote that “The Post’s social media guidelines ask journalists to be informative and factual in their online posts.”

Martin Baron, the paper’s executive editor, sent her an email last Sunday. He wrote that she showed “a real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.”

Two days later the paper stated that Sonmez “was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.” The New York Times reporters wrote “The Post’s statement also referred to her tweets as ‘ill-timed’ and continued: ‘We consistently urge restraint which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths.'”

Sonmez wasn’t the only one who remembered the sexual assault charge. Len Berman, morning host on WOR 710 Radio’s morning show–and a former TV sports reporter–mentioned it observing that Bryant’s record wasn’t unblemished as implied by most media.

**Something curious: I looked on line for the article I read in the print New York Times story “At Post, Another Round of Dissent Over Bryant” [photo below]. The facts and quotes in this post come from it. It wasn’t on the paper’s website nor could I find it via Google. Other articles on the subject by reporters Abrams and Tracy are online but not that one.

Are there different rules for public figures when it comes to mentioning a hiccup in a person’s life after they die? For example you wouldn’t mention your Cousin Nigel’s misbehavior at his funeral or in his obituary, would you? Are rules of behavior different if a celebrity dies in a horrendous accident? Should a reporter be reprimanded for tweeting the truth about a beloved public figure? What if such a person is disliked–would a tweet like Felicia Sonmez’s have gone unnoticed?

I couldn’t find a digital version of the NY Times article at the bottom of the page.

Service of Hints of Swindle: 148 Luxury Cars a Clue?

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

I wonder how Joe and Jane Citizen get by unscathed when Jeff Bezos’s phone is hacked and Warren Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, falls for a Ponzi scheme to the tune of $340 million.

“Jeff and Paulette Carpoff, who began raising money in 2011, admitted to a scam that involved swindling sophisticated corporate investors who earned valuable federal tax credits for helping finance a renewable-energy business. Authorities seized and auctioned off 148 luxury vehicles owned by the Carpoffs, including a 1978 Pontiac Firebird once owned by Burt Reynolds.” Dave Michaels wrote this in “Owners of Solar Company That Swindled Berkshire Hathaway Admit to Running Ponzi Scheme,” in The Wall Street Journal. The Carpoffs company: DC Solar Solutions Inc.

The attractive tax credit promised in the deal–30 percent–almost covered the initial investment. “The investors generally assumed an obligation to contribute millions more to the business through promissory notes, the SEC’s lawsuit says,” according to Michaels. Berkshire Hathaway “reversed income tax benefits it had earlier recognized.”

“’By all outer appearances this was a legitimate and successful company,’ said Kareem Carter, special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation in Northern California. “But in reality it was all just smoke and mirrors—a Ponzi scheme touting tax benefits to the tune of over $900 million.’”

The Carpoff’s attorney said that they turned to the dark side–doing illegal things–to save the company. It started out legit.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission also sued the Carpoffs in a civil complaint filed in Sacramento. The SEC said the couple, whose business is in bankruptcy, siphoned off at least $140 million of investor funds to pay for their personal expenses, which included the sports cars, dozens of properties, and a share in a private jet service.”

Have you fallen for something that’s too good to be true? [My medicine chest is filled with face creams that promise to remove wrinkles.] Do you think that investors should look into the private lives of management which, in this case, would have revealed a spendthrift lifestyle which is the opposite of Warren Buffett’s.  Buffett still lives in the home he bought in the 1960s.

Service of Second Hand Clothes: Thrift in Unexpected Places

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

One of my office mates years ago owned an extensive collection of fur coats and jackets from ermine and fox to mink and beaver. She’d bought every one of them at a thrift shop.

In my early 20s I knew a woman whose very wealthy husband paid for anything she wanted. He kept a tight grip on her by giving her cash only if she’d tell him where she was going and what she wanted the money for. He’d know what she bought at stores by checking his credit card bills. Desperate for cash which represented a modicum of independence, she’d sell, for a few dollars, amazing barely worn clothes I couldn’t otherwise afford–a win and for me super win.

Hand-me-downs are nothing new to kids with older siblings.

Even so, I was surprised to read Suzanne Kapner’s article–written with Micah Maidenberg–in The Wall Street Journal: “J.C. Penney Tries On Used Apparel.” That’s right: The store, which is suffering from plummeting sales and stunning losses is partnering with threadUP for the clothes.

So is Macy’s which, Kapner and Maidenberg wrote “reported a disappointing second quarter that sent its stock plunging.”

ThredUp bills itself as the “largest online consignment and thrift store” and boasts, on its website, that you can “shop your favorite outfits from over 35,000 brands, all up to 90% off.” It touts that it’s causing a resale revolution.

As I write this I’m humming “Second Hand Rose,” a song that Barbra Streisand and before her Fanny Brice made famous. Written in 1921 by Grant Clarke and James F. Hanley the second verse about the “girl from Second Avenue” goes:

I’m wearing second hand hats Second hand clothes That’s why they call me Second hand Rose Even our piano in the parlor Daddy bought for ten cents on the dollar Second hand pearls I’m wearing second hand curls….

Auto dealerships sell second hand cars and customers don’t blink so why can’t department stores sell used apparel? Isn’t it ironic that the stores think they can sell used clothing when they are having trouble enticing customers with the new? I wonder what the Penny’s and Macy’s vendors think? Will shoppers leave the thredUp department and spend money in the cosmetics and accessories counters? Will they pay full freight for the new clothing in the stores? Can you predict the outcome of this trend?

Service of Congestion Pricing that is Giving Yellow Taxis the Flu

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

I tucked this horrible decision on the part of New York Governor Cuomo into an early December post, “Service of I Love New York… But Don’t Push It.”

It’s too important a move–a giant $2.50 surcharge on every ride in yellow taxis in Midtown Manhattan–big enough to fell an essential NYC industry.

A judge postponed the measure from January 1, which was the deadline when I originally wrote about the debilitating tax. It started last weekend. I’m appalled. As a result, I forecast the end of an industry that served me, my parents and grandparents so well. According to Google, it was the first Yellow Cabs that in mid-1880 knocked “less predictable” competitors out of the ring in the big apple.

Yellow cab owners have invested so much in their businesses, and NYC’s citizens whose cabs touch a toe below 96th Street and are slapped with the surcharge, don’t deserve this. Tossing a tax on the vulnerable to solve your financial difficulties in an allied but otherwise unrelated sector isn’t the way to go.

I’d written on December 6, 2018:

The January 1, 2019 $2.50 congestion pricing fee will help destroy the already limping yellow cab industry and hurt citizens of modest or microscopic means who rely on traditional cabs. Many can’t manage busses or subways, can’t afford limos or don’t have smartphones to hire car services like Uber or Lyft. The fee impacts “any yellow cab, e-hail or other for-hire vehicle trips that start, pass through or end in a designated ‘congestion zone’ below 96th Street in Manhattan,” Vincent Barone wrote in amny.com.

What’s the destination of the some $400 million the tax man anticipates collecting? According to Barone, it will help the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA]  which is “financially strapped.”

Services like Lyft and Uber are charged a $2.75 fee but because they can fiddle with their basic price which yellow taxis can’t, they could make rides cheaper than traditional cabs—another stab to the financial heart of their competitor.

Barone reported: “‘The fact that it will cost $5.80 to step into a taxi cab now is going to be devastating for the taxi industry,’ TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said after a City Council oversight hearing on the surcharges, referencing the existing fees on taxi trips. ‘The other sectors … have more flexibility. They have to add $2.75 on but they’re not bound to a metered fare, so they can reduce the price of the trip so that the passenger doesn’t feel the effect of the $2.75.’”

I took [too] many yellow cabs last weekend between my current and future apartment filled with TJ Maxx bags holding my plants, food and other items movers don’t carry. My suitcase was embarrassingly heavy. Each driver was helpful, grateful and cheerful. Only one pointed out that drivers don’t benefit from a penny of the surcharge yet their volume will be impacted. “People don’t take us for short trips like they did before–look at the meter: $9 for a few blocks.”

Do you think that there is a chance for a rollback to a more reasonable surcharge such as 50 cents instead of $2.50? What impactful action might we take to put the brakes on this poorly conceived method of paying for the city’s subway system? Why does this city care more about bicyclists than about pedestrians or taxi drivers?

Service of What To Do About Identity Theft

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

The more I read about data breaches especially of companies, like Equifax, that are supposed to guard our personal information and countless subsequent almost daily articles about what to do about it, the more anxious I get. After a scampered through Tara Siegel Bernard’s excellent piece in The New York Times, I wasn’t one bit relieved. In “Is It Time to Consider an Identity Protection Service?” in addition to “not necessarily,” I kept thinking “fox in the henhouse!” In 2014, the most recent year for which there are statistics, she said that 17.6 million were victims of identity theft where perpetrators tried to enter bank or credit card accounts.

And just as I thought I was up to date and that it was time to write about this I read Michael Rapoport and AnnaMaria Andriotis’ article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, “States Quiz Equifax on Disclosure,” which reports that “Attorneys general in at least five states are looking into why credit-reporting firm Equifax Inc. didn’t tell the public for nearly six weeks about the massive data breach that potentially compromised the personal information of 148.5 million Americans.”

Back to Bernard. She wrote about services such as LifeLock and MyIDCare, so-called protection services, and the news wasn’t reassuring. A security analyst who works for a tech research firm Avivah Litan, told Bernard that she felt these services were a waste of money.

Bernard continued: “But these services vary greatly, both in reputation and in offerings, according to fraud and privacy experts. Signing up also requires consumers to entrust yet another corporate entity with their most sensitive data — many of the same details stolen in the Equifax breach — while entering into legal agreements filled with fine print that leads consumers to give up many rights.”

More distressing: “Some of the more prominent services also have questionable histories. The Government Accountability Office counts at least 16 federal enforcement actions taken against providers of identity theft protection—financial services among them.” Bernard reported that Lifelock didn’t secure client’s “most sensitive data,” and promoted false advertising, resulting in a $100 million fine paid the FTC. That was in 2015. This year Equifax and Transunion settled “a regulator’s allegations that they tricked consumers into paying for credit scores of questionable value.” Together they paid $23 million.

Bernard explained what the protection services do. They hire the big services, [such as Equifax, TransUnion and Experian], to look for any changes in activity such as new credit cards, a big increase in what you owe or a late payment so you hear about it after the damage is done. They also claim to scan and monitor a whole list of things such as misuse of medical ID and Social Security numbers, but “they aren’t necessarily going to prevent a crime.”

Bernard added: “But consumers need to be able to trust that the companies will protect the information they are scanning for. Identity Guard asks consumers to provide 26 pieces of personal data, though Mr. [Johan] Roets says that data remains on its operational servers and never touches the internet.”

The companies that specialize in helping once the dastardly deed is done, some with private investigators with limited power of attorney, don’t come cheap. IDShield charges $899 at first and a monthly rate of either $9.95 or $19.95 reported Bernard.

A credit freeze costs nothing and Bernard said will foil some fraud as it prevents anyone opening credit cards or loans in your name but does nothing to avoid “takeover of financial accounts and cellphones,” where plenty of activity occurs, nor does it thwart fraud relating to tax refunds and social security payments. I know three people who were told they’d already submitted their taxes. Scofflaws submitted early requesting substantial refunds. Someone had stolen their identity and submitted tax information early.

I just read on artforum.com “Hauser & Wirth, London-based dealers Simon Lee, Thomas Dane, Rosenfeld Porcini, and Laura Bartlett, and Tony Karman, the president of Expo Chicago, have all been targeted by hackers or had money stolen from them in the midst of transactions over artworks, according to a report in the Art Newspaper. The most common form of fraud so far consists of criminals hacking into an art dealer’s e-mail account and monitoring incoming and outgoing correspondence.” Eventually the hackers slip in to the email conversation pretending to be the art dealer and instruct the recipient to trash the first invoice and wire payment to their account. They disappear once the money arrives.

Bernard lists 10 steps to safeguard yourself from fraud. They range from opening a “My Social Security Account” with the Social Security Administration to prevent a thief from redirecting your benefits to dedicating one computer for all financial activity.

What have you done to protect your identity? Are you concerned or do you think it’s much ado about nothing? Do you know anyone who has had their identity breached? Do you feel that the guardians of your credit information that have potentially let it loose in the land are culpable and should be held responsible to protect you for free?

Service of Generosity: Americans are Unstinting in Giving Help

Monday, October 30th, 2017

 

Americans are so generous—I’m bowled over after every disaster to read totals they donate to help strangers in need. Only recently they contributed $31+ million to help hurricane victims when five living Presidents asked them for assistance and $14+ million when Hollywood stars such as Justin Bieber, Barbara Streisand, Al Pacino and others entertained for the cause.

I’m concerned about some requests for help I’ve seen on an online crowdfunding platform. Someone recently promoted one on Facebook with good intentions: It was placed by family members of a Las Vegas shooting victim he knew, asking for $100,000. Read the whole request and you see they wanted money for more than funeral and related expenses. [I thought $100,000 would pay for an awfully fancy funeral.] Some of the funds were for a college fund for the dead woman’s nieces and nephews. Cynical me figured her sibling[s] were making the request. I bet most people didn’t even notice this detour because they were so upset at this horrendous ending to a life. Early in the game $60,000 had already been pledged. I felt that the additional cause, amounting to a bequest, was a stretch and should have had its own post.

There are tax advantages to giving yet I can’t help but conjecture that citizens donating to the hurricane funds dug into shallow pockets, in many cases, without a thought of tax deductions. Similarly, people rushing to help families of murder victims have altruistic thoughts first. Do you agree? Are you careful when sending money to requests via Kickstarter and similar online vehicles for attracting money where you underwrite projects and other causes? Have you been moved to give an impulse donation?

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