Archive for the ‘Deception’ Category

Service of Just Because the Light is Green…

Monday, December 14th, 2015

We see green lights but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to pass or to take the next step or to expect the usual to happen.

I thought of the title and this post as I crossed 45th Street and Second Avenue with the light and was almost run over by a police car that couldn’t go very far after its turn. The street was clearly jammed and traffic was at a standstill. The policeman driving didn’t honk and no lights indicated who he was or that he was rushed.

I encountered a second example commuting back and forth to Brooklyn from Manhattan on the subway a few times over a weekend recently. Waiting at the Nevins Street station where both East and Westside trains pass by, in the 16-some minutes before my train arrived, three went to the Westside. Did someone at the MTA check the schedule?

Given the delay, my train to Manhattan was jammed on a Saturday night at 6:30 pm. When it reached the city, at every stop, the recorded announcement blared, “This is an express train to Woodlawn,” and yet it stopped at every single local station. Imagine your confusion if you were from out of town?

When it reached 42nd Street, I stayed on figuring it would stop at the next local station, 51st street, but it didn’t. It became the express it was supposed to be all along, without notice. There are motormen and women on each train: Were they, like those who maintained the schedule, asleep or busy cashing their paychecks?

Not everyone has a smartphone that works underground nor is everyone linked to apps with the latest subway information. Does MTA management assume we all are?

It’s not just transportation—by foot or by subway—that gives off mixed signals. I might count on something or someone and whatever’s promised falls through or becomes a shadow of its original self, turning a green light into a watery orange or red one. Do you have an inner gauge that accurately reports to you when “Go!” means that and/or other examples of when you’ve proceeded based on a literal or symbolic green light and shouldn’t have or couldn’t?


Service of Full Measure III: Fleeced by a Vegetable Stand and Museum

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Seems I just wrote one of these. Sign of the times.

Not Fruitful

I’ve commented about a great fruit and vegetable stand on Second Avenue and 49th Street in Manhattan. I never knew who owned the stand but the young men who staffed it were friendly, some more helpful than others, the prices were excellent as was the quality.

Someone else seems to have bought the stand–the same older man I’d never before seen is there morning and evening. The prices stayed the same but the quality and variety have plummeted. Asparagus were old and shriveled; peaches that looked OK on the outside were rotten. I got the feeling that the produce was bought from a seconds stand at Hunts Point, if there is one.

Since I began to write this post, the stand disappeared altogether and it’s back, with the original staff. If the owner rented the stand to someone so the staff could take a vacation he’d best try something else next year.

Watch Out

We made a day trip to a well regarded museum in a college town to see a heavily publicized and advertised exhibit we’d looked forward to. Much of the museum is under construction. The exhibit was tiny–three modest rooms–and was far from a retrospective of the artist. In addition, open to the public in the main facility were another three spaces with select pieces from the extensive permanent collection and one more room with a few pictures from another artist.

Salt to the wound: Because there was so little for the public to see, the rooms were jammed and it was hard to get near the paintings and drawings. This is never the case in the spacious galleries.

We were there for less than one hour. Nevertheless the museum charged its standard $20pp.

What was the replacement fruit/vegetable man thinking? Didn’t he realize he’d lose the regular customers or was he, like so many in business, counting on the trade of hundreds of new customers rather than keeping the loyal ones because he’d soon be gone? As for the museum, it has our money and doesn’t care about our reaction and disappointment. Should it?

Service of How Did That Happen?

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Monkey Business

I’ve covered plagiarism before and am consistently amazed by the reaction of the outed plagiarist. This time it’s a world-famous primatologist according to Christopher Joyce, NPR. Jane Goodall who, according to a statement reported by Joyce, wrote the following about “Seeds of Hope.” “This was a long and well-researched book, and I am distressed to discover that some of the excellent and valuable sources were not properly cited, and I want to express my sincere apologies.” I added the bold to part of the quote to underscore the passivity of the apology. Joyce points out that Goodall had a co-author.

 What’s a $Billion Among Friends?

Bankruptcy is a different kind of oops, especially when a $billion is involved and in so short a time. The Revel Casino in Atlantic City is less than a year old, according to Tom Hals and Jonathan Stempel of Reuters, and management expects to be out of bankruptcy by summer. A little bump in the road to everyone but those who are owed all that money and if the vendors are small enough and unable to weather the loss, they won’t be in business as Revel expects to be. quoted CEO, Kevin DeSanctis, in an earlier article: “‘Today’s announcement is a positive step for Revel,’ DeSanctis said. ‘The agreement we have reached with our lenders will ensure that the hundreds of thousands of guests who visit Revel every year will continue to enjoy a signature Revel experience in our world-class facility.’”

How benevolent, how wonderful for the CEO to be concerned about future guests: Is my scorn coming through loud and clear?


The press had fun writing and speaking about Luluemon’s $98 yoga pants that turned out to be see-through by mistake. It affected the stock and reporter Sapna Maheshwari covered analysts’ interview of Lululemon’s CEO, Christine Day. Day told them:

“The truth of the matter is the only way you can actually test for the issue is to put the pants on and bend over,” Day said on today’s conference call. “Just putting the pants on themselves doesn’t solve the problem. It passed all of the basic metric tests and the hand-feel is relatively the same, so it was very difficult for the factories to isolate the issue, and it wasn’t until we got in the store and started putting it on people that we could actually see the issue.” [Highlight is mine.]

People in a store are different from people at headquarters or at the plant? I’m not the only PR person to test a client’s toll free number or website link before sending out a press release that includes such references. Chefs are known to have bad teeth because they are test-tasting food all day long. At that price point, couldn’t somebody at headquarters or at the plant try on a pair of these pants and use them as “people in the store” would?

Anybody interested in taking responsibility these days?

Service of Gambling

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Antics of MIT’s black jack counting students in “Bringing Down the House” became famous in Ben Mezrich’s great book-turned-movie. Some of those pesky kids are at it again-MIT undergrads along with a biomedical researcher helped a gambling group game Massachusetts’ Cash WinFall.

Bonnie Kavoussi of The Huffington Post described the game as: “… players had to match six numbers on their ticket with randomly drawn numbers. But if no one matched all six and the unclaimed jackpot was around $2 million, the prize money was redistributed among ticket holders with fewer matching numbers. Statisticians calculated that players buying $100,000 of tickets were virtually guaranteed to win during those brief periods.”

The Boston Globe reported that the gambling group won about $48 million on an investment of $40 million, wrote Kavoussi. That paper has been bird-dogging the story since last summer.

What riles: The Massachusetts lottery officials knew about the MIT kids’ wagering strategy for the gambling group in 2010 and did nothing about it because it generated some $16 million for the lottery. Nice for innocent players who thought they were gambling in a good faith situation overseen by authorities.

I guess the lottery officials in Massachusetts don’t read the gambling trade media. According to Kavoussi, Gerald Selbee’s gambling group–the one involved in Massachusetts–had previously trounced a similar game in Michigan where his “winnings” were almost $8 million. When that state discontinued its WinFall game in 2005, he set his sites on Massachusetts. It was in that year that Selbee and his mathematics geniuses set their sites on New England.

This year the state closed its Cash WinFall game. Kavoussi quotes the Masachusetts state treasurer, Steven Grossman, of telling the Boston Globe. “I feel it is important to essentially apologize to the public. We’re sorry some gained unfair advantage.”

And here I thought, when buying an official lottery ticket, that while my chances of winning were less than slight, at least I had a chance. Who knew the playing field was canted toward professional gamblers. Sounds a bit like the stock market to me.

Should the lottery authorities have closed down the game as soon as they learned that the formula was uncovered or is it caveat emptor in the lottery/gambling game regardless of who oversees it? We hear of people winning big time by buying one ticket, but it sounds as though you must “invest” $100,000 to win–only if you’ve figured out the strategy. Has this changed your policy about buying scratch off and lottery tickets? Think this formula-cracking consortium might come up with a winning prescription to save our economy?

Service of Knowing What Your Money Covers

Monday, March 12th, 2012

It’s well known that some state lotteries were started to supplement public school budgets. Once they brought in a ton of money, the education budget began to tip-toe away leaving the lottery as a major income source.

I thought of that when I read or heard about a rash of lawsuit settlements lately. Wal*Mart’s and Kraft’s employees sued because they were paying excessive 401 K fees.

Then there is the $5.25 million settlement–with wait staff–by restaurateur Mario Batali and his business partner, Joe Bastiniach. In The New York Times “Diners Journal” blog, Benjamin Weiser wrote: “The lawsuit against Mr. Batali, filed in 2010, said that he and a partner, Joseph Bastianich, and their restaurants had a policy of deducting an amount equivalent to 4 to 5 percent of total wine sales at the end of each night from the tip pool and keeping the money.”

Weiser went on, “Employees were told the money was to cover expenses related to wine research and to cover broken glassware….”

James Campbell in The Wall Street Journal wrote that staffers claimed “that 4% to 5% of their tips were used to pay sommeliers at Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono, Esca, Del Posto, Lupa, Otto and Tarry Lodge.”

I thought my tips go to the wait staff, including the sommelier, not to supplement anybody’s pay, buy wine for “research” or to cover breakage. These are costs of doing business.

Some companies load up their client’s out of pocket expense invoices with inappropriate charges and we pay for pilfered items when we buy at retail. My health insurance refuses to pay for some drugs [an innocuous antibiotic for example] and I always wonder what my co-pay will be for others. As for doctor fees, apart from facelifts and other frivolous procedures that aren’t covered, I have terminal questions around what tests my insurance allows and how often they will pay for me to have them, regardless of doctor recommendation.

Are you surprised–and sometimes mystified–when you hear what your money does–and doesn’t–cover?

Service of What You Don’t Know May Hurt You

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

We’ve had a stream of similar posts lately-a sign of the times.

My EZ Pass bill triggered today’s topic. I love the concept. When I don’t have to wait in much of a line to clear a bridge, road or tunnel toll I celebrate my EZ Pass gizmo. To sign up I had to give my credit card number and I guess I checked “autoreplinish.” Used to be they kept $25 in my account and as I used the service, they’d suck out more money to bring it up to that amount–which now is $30. Why not $50 or $100? What a great way to collect a bunch of interest. I wonder who decides how much they can set aside from each account. sent me this tidbit about a petition created by Eric Schlosser, who wrote “Fast Food Nation,” and Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm. It urges the FDA to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. What triggered this petition on The FDA is about to approve for human consumption the first genetically engineered animal–salmon–for sale in supermarkets.

According to Schlosser and Hirshberg, “The salmon is engineered to produce growth hormones year-round that cause the fish to grow at twice the normal rate.” Holy smokes! Salmon is considered a healthy brain food. Who wants to eat something that might cause something that shouldn’t grow, to grow at twice the normal rate in us? The men want the FDA to label this fish “genetically engineered.” They note that Russia and China do along with 38 other countries. Wonder why the FDA doesn’t do this automatically.

On the subject of food, I read Julie Gunlock’s article, “Lunch Nazis on the attack,” in The New York Post. She wrote about a state lunch inspector who tossed out the contents of a lunch bag a mom packed for her four year old because she judged that the meal violated the Agriculture Department’s nutrition guidelines. In the preschooler’s bag was a turkey sandwich, banana, chips and apple juice. What she was given instead, wrote Gunlock: chicken nuggets. They are fried and processed, no? Doesn’t a mom get to determine what her child eats? How come the state–this was in North Carolina–has the right to toss out perfectly good food? Shouldn’t the child have been given back the banana, chips and apple juice which belonged to her? And wouldn’t there be negative impact on a young child from the image of someone throwing out the food her mother made and gave her?

Snake oil salesmen have been around forever, but it seems that the government is not only turning a blind eye, but joining in. Can you share other instances that we should be aware of so we’re not hurt by what we don’t know?

Service of Hidden Agendas

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Pundits were discussing why NJ Governor Christie wants a referendum on gay marriage rather than a senate/house vote [that’s happening now]. The Governor says a referendum is the best way to learn what the citizens want. One political analyst noted that the Governor really has a different reason: To bring out the conservative vote in the 2012 election as it’s likely these voters would choose Republican candidates.

Another example of a potentially hidden agenda involves adding the option for voters in the New York metro area to place their votes well ahead of an election as Florida does. Why doesn’t this happen here?

I thought setting up voting systems ahead of the one day might be costly but according to the political fat-chewers, the real reason might be that both political party leaders are concerned that if too many people vote, it will affect the outcome in a way none can predict. That makes them nervous. Isn’t democracy about everyone voting so as to be heard? Don’t politicians pay lip service to the concept and urge us to vote?

Can you name some hidden agendas of a political, business or personal nature? How do you tease out the motivation, line of thought and accurate rationale of the canny dissimulator so as to make the right decision yourself?

Service of Brief is Best

Friday, November 4th, 2011

In a New York Times “Common Sense” column in Business Day, James B. Stewart observed that Paul Volcker wrote the President a three page letter with an approach to curbing banks’ risk taking and “reckless speculation.”

The Volcker Rule took up 10 pages in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Stewart reported in “Volcker Rule, Once Simple, Now Boggles.”

The regulations for public comment were published in mid October. The text: 298 pages with 1,300 questions on 400 topics. Stewart noted: “Wall Street firms have spent countless millions of dollars trying to water down the original Volcker proposal and have succeeded in inserting numerous exemptions. Now they’re claiming it’s too complex to understand and too costly to adopt.”

My first thought was this quote, often attributed to Mark Twain but written to a friend by 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal: “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter” or “Je n’ai fait cette lettre – ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”

And then I realized that the example of words on steroids reflected obfuscation, had nothing to do with good, concise writing and everything to do with pulling layers of wool and goodness knows what else over the public’s eyes.

As I envision hundreds of foxes in countless henhouses, I think of another saying from an unknown author: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” And then I think of the Occupy Wall Street Protestors about whom many complain because they don’t have a clear message. Maybe they have so many messages and so much to complain about they are undecided as to just where to start.

What do you think of the Protestors? What examples can you share of overlong copy with the primary purpose of tripping up, hiding information or confusing readers?

Service of Conflict of Interest

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Some who practice public relations give it a bad name. Because it’s one of those industries that lots of people don’t “get,” it can have a harder time than others justifying itself. And then there are the high profile sleazes. They exist in every industry from medicine and hedge fund management, banking to politics.

How do I handle the splash from PR people who don’t conduct themselves ethically and land in the spotlight? I avoid any hint of conflict of interest as do my associates and millions of doctors, hedge fund managers, bankers and politicians.

Years ago, an acquaintance asked me to help promote his friend’s business. His friend was a furrier in New York’s garment district. I interviewed the owner, he showed me how the coats were made, and we addressed his challenges. His comment to our mutual contact after our meeting was surprise: “She didn’t ask to try on a coat or for a discount.”

So this is why my nose is out of joint when a reputable news source known for business reporting offers to sell me its top stock picks. It smacks of conflict of interest. I don’t mind when it offers me discounts on wine. It’s not known for wine reviews. Used to be that reporters at a news source such as this returned holiday gifts and would not accept even a cup of coffee from a business or PR person. This place isn’t alone.

The New York Times  reported last month that magazines are selling fashion picks in online stores and one through its website. Eric Wilson notes that GQ sells its selections through Park & Bond; Esquire sends readers to and the Vogue website is the place to buy select items from this season’s runways. Wilson quotes the website: “Vogue may receive a commission on some sales made through this service.”

Wilson notes the potential friction between these venues and stores like Saks, Neiman’s and Barneys. The impact of editorial conflict of interest is worse.

How many times have I told a client adding beige to a lackluster, generic product line or planning an open house where nothing will be different that day from any other: “No reporter, editor or blogger will consider sharing this with their readers. To get out this information you’ll need to buy an ad.” With a change in editorial policy, how this might change, and not for the better for readers.

PR people tout the value of third party endorsement when a reporter or magazine features a product or service. It’s the ultimate sales tool. Do you think that smudging of roles for magazines and newspapers, where they sell some of their picks as well as feature them, will affect their credibility and validity with readers? Might it eventually accelerate their demise, the ultimate irony as one of their arguments is that they are trying to stay afloat through such sales?

Service of Do as I Say….

Monday, August 1st, 2011

….Not as I do.

You’ve heard of the parent who yells at the children on a Sunday morning, ordering them to hurry up and get dressed and off to church on time and then turns over and falls back to sleep. I thought of the do as I say, not as I do man I knew when listening to pro-business New York morning talk radio host John Gambling discuss two events relating to General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt last week.

Note: Gambling is not a President Obama fan and Immelt heads the President’s panel of outside economic advisors–more about this shortly.

I went to Google to make sure I heard correctly and confirmed the instances Gambling mentioned:  That in less than half a month, Immelt coolly contradicted himself.

**At CNNMoney on July 11 Chris Isidore wrote: “The head of General Electric told a jobs summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Monday that businesses needed to take the lead on job creation.”

**On July 26, Vittorio Hernandez wrote on “General Electric announced on Monday that it will move its healthcare x-ray division headquarters from the U.S. to Beijing, China in August.”

Back to Immelt being the head of outside economic advisors. In Service of Pet Peeves II and previously, a reader has corrected me about my criticism of Immelt for his profitable corporation paying no taxes at a time of economic crisis and for moving the light bulb operation to China to save manufacturing costs-and now x-ray headquarters for the same reason.  I understand that his job as the head of a corporation is to make money for his stockholders and for this he gets an A+.

But is this the person to be addressing job creation here? Is this the fellow to lead economic advisors to the President right now? I pray that I am connecting all the wrong dots to come to this conclusion, but as a PR person sensitive to superficial things like consistency, symbolism, and practicing what you preach, Immelt is sending out all the wrong messages in the economic advisory role. Only if the plan is for all of us who want to work to move to China is he our man. Your thoughts?

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