Archive for the ‘Courtesy’ Category

Service of Being Ignored

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

It’s no fun being ignored. I’m curious about the insensitivity of the people who enjoy doing it. If you’re young and handsome/beautiful, it might not happen to you. Those who do it I suspect feel a sense of power.

I delivered documents to a NYC court the other week. The halls were empty. There was a couple ahead of me in the room I needed to visit and they soon left. Nobody was behind me. Had it been a retail situation I’d have worried for the life of the place. The amount of real estate in this giant building on Chambers Street in Manhattan was breathtaking and the lack of activity–of humans in hallways–astonishing.

I waited at the window while the woman who would eventually help me stood about 12 feet behind the see-through plastic divider and chatted with a colleague to her left who was seated at a desk. Next, without moving, continuing to ignore me, she spoke with someone I couldn’t see in another room. It was as though I wasn’t there. Spooky. Not even an “I’ll be with you in a minute,” uttered from her lips. And she didn’t look busy.

Since I needed something from her, I kept silent.

I suppose this is the in-person version of the telephone customer service “I bet you can’t reach a human to help you.”

When you’re not in the driver’s seat, how do you handle being ignored? How do some have the temerity to discount the value of another person’s time?


Image by Marta Cuesta from Pixabay 

Service of Dream Jobs that Become Nightmares

Thursday, February 17th, 2022


Image by Orna Wachman from Pixabay

I once had a dream job that went south so I empathize with flight attendants these days. For me the issue was with management. It’s passengers/customers who are causing trouble in the sky and spoiling a good job with great travel benefits.

Maggie Jones underscores why many flight attendants are quitting in her New York Times article “See (the Worst People in) the World! How defiant Covid-era customers turned a dream job — flight attendant — into a total nightmare.”

She wrote about one attendant who was attacked by a German shepherd service dog whose owner didn’t control him; one threatened to be punched in the face for asking a passenger to put on a mask; and another was mimicked, defied–even threatened–by a team of female athletes who kept removing their masks.

She reported that alcohol accounts for some of the behavior and that it also “reflects a time of receding civility.” Angry passengers refusing to wear masks have tossed used ones at flight attendants; pulled down their pants and threatened a pilot with “don’t touch me;” and one chipped an attendant’s teeth. In addition, the employees don’t feel backed up by their employers: when they report incidents nothing happens. However, yesterday on NBC Nightly News,Tom Costello reported that Delta is trying to establish a no fly list that would bar out-of-control passengers from boarding any flights.

Jones wrote that the F.A.A. didn’t count passenger incidents as there were so few until recently. In 2021 and early 2022 it “reported a stunning 6,300 unruly-passenger incidents — more than 4,500 of them mask-related. And 85 percent of flight attendants said they had dealt with such passengers last year, according to a July 2021 survey by the Association of Flight Attendants-C.W.A., which represents attendants at 17 airlines.”

She observed that frustrated and angry passengers don’t feel that a person they consider to be little more than a cocktail waitress has the authority to force them to wear a mask even though the attendants are following a federal mask mandate.

There’s plenty to love about the job, wrote Jones: “joking with passengers, having conversations with them about the honeymoon they are headed to or the funeral they returned from. Sometimes they pray with passengers or in other ways comfort them when they are in distress. They hold and rock babies to give parents a break. They also build lifelong friendships with other crew members and have jump-seat therapy, as they call it, with flight attendants they’ve just met. And they are proud of their lifesaving skills: They are trained to give CPR, fight fires onboard, help with emergency landings and evacuate planes.”

There’s more: Traveling for free—or almost—in addition to hotel and car rental discounts and on layover, added Jones, they have chums with whom to visit Disney World, Capitol Hill or share a picnic in the Jardin des Tuileries.

But that was then.

Whether due to exhaustion, fears of Covid or rules in destinations such as Tokyo or Seoul, when they land instead of exploring the destination with fellow crew members, many remain locked in their hotel rooms.

Have you observed unruly behavior in planes, or anywhere else, over the mask issue? Has what you thought would be a dream job morphed into a nightmare?

Service of Citizen’s Arrest

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said out loud, sometimes to no one in particular “I wish I could make a citizen’s arrest!” When I told my husband the subject of this post he suggested I check out just what this would entail, “because,” he added, “everyone uses that expression and they may not know.”

So a quick detour before I share my targets. According to criminal.findlaw.com, in a Breaches of the Peace section: “In general, people can’t use citizen’s arrests for misdemeanors unless the misdemeanor involves a breach of the peace. Even in these circumstances, however, individuals can only make arrests when they have personally witnessed the criminal behavior and the breach has just occurred or there is a strong likelihood that the breach will continue.”

In its conclusion: “Every individual is empowered to arrest wrongdoers in certain circumstances, but individuals looking to make a citizens arrest act at their own risk. Not only is the act of apprehending a criminal inherently dangerous, but failure to meet the legal requirements for a citizens arrest could have devastating consequences for the person making the arrest.”

I trust that you don’t take me literally and that you realize I write out of exasperation. It’s helpful to let off steam once in a while in a benign way and not make life miserable for others as some of my fellow citizens are prone to do.

The most recent affront that awoke the policewoman in me was made by a delivery truck driver for a well known brand who leaned on his horn when there was nothing the vehicles in front of him could do to move out of his way. Nobody was walking in front of him; no car was cutting him off, yet he polluted the air and turned the time we all shared with him on that street into earsplitting misery.

Joining him on my hit list are the

***selfish subway passengers who won’t let me either in or out of a train

***bicyclists who miss me by a hair when they are driving in the wrong direction, zooming past me against the light or whisking past me on the sidewalk

***impatient drivers who ignore oncoming pedestrian traffic and swerve into avenue or street while endangering all those crossing an avenue

***bus drivers who use their airbrakes with abandon even when they know incoming passengers, some frail, aren’t yet holding on or settled in seats. Note: In some busses it’s quite a distance between the MetroCard fare collecting machine and strap or seat.

***drivers who won’t pull over and stop for an ambulance to pass: Don’t they realize their sister, mother, child, spouse or nephew might one day be inside?

An arrest for the following infractions would be too harsh—maybe I’d just give a warning for

***people who bump into me and don’t apologize

***elevator passengers who let the door slam in my face or who don’t offer to hit my floor when my hands are full

Are there infractions or violations to living in crowded places in a civilized way that you would hit with a citizen’s arrest or warning if you could?

Service of Pretentious Behavior in Restaurants, in Business & at Home

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Who is taken in by pretentious behavior? Such conduct has always turned me off.

Foodie Foolishness

Number 10 of “The 19 Types of Food Snobs, Ranked by Obnoxiousness,” by Andy Kryza and Matt Lynch, stuck out to me. They wrote in Thrillist,com: “It’s been two years since The Repatriated Expat moved back to the US after a magical six months residing in Spain. And yet, the backhanded comments about how ‘it’s so weird to be eating dinner before 10 pm,’ the observations that the gin and tonics ‘just aren’t the same,’ and the refusal to consume any red wine that isn’t Rioja have not lessened in the slightest.” This was my favorite–fun post.

Office Folderol
I started working just as executive secretaries no longer placed calls for bosses. They went like this:

  • Secretary No. 1: “Hello, Mr. Jones calling to speak with Mr. Snodgrass.”
  • Secretary No. 2: “Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Jones calling.” Snodgrass would get on the line and wait until Jones’ secretary got hold of him—unless Jones had left the office by then and it all started again.

The practice never made sense to me: Why waste four people’s time to accomplish one task?

A similar dynamic happens today sometimes. If I expect a response, I need either to copy—or email—the person’s assistant–even if he/she knows me. It’s pretentious. Why? Many other women and men juggling as many as three busy lives—demanding jobs, onerous family responsibilities and often time-sucking pro bono obligations—get back to me directly and without the fanfare.

Expensive Fashion Accessory

In a book review about Meryl Gordon’s “Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend,” I read about Bunny’s sending a private jet to pick up a scarf that was in another of her homes to coordinate with an outfit she was planning to wear. Was Bunny [photo left] spoiled or pretentious? Maybe someone tattled on Mrs. Mellon: Is a person being pretentious if nobody is supposed to know what they do?

Do food snobs drive you nuts? Can you name superfluous, affected business behavior? Are pretentious people aware of the impact of their behavior? Do some not realize that they are?

Service of Because They Can Though Maybe They Shouldn’t

Monday, July 10th, 2017

The world seems to be divided between those who do anything they want because they can and those who factor in others. Since I wrote, last week, about the executives who don’t blink at charging exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs my mind continues in that track.

The driver of a supersized SUV turning into 45th Street from First Avenue didn’t take his foot off the pedal for one second and almost ran me over. Why? Because he could—nobody stopped him and even if he’d hit me, he’d have been off and running for the same reason. The light was fully in my favor [as in the photo above] and I was crossing at just the right place [unusual for some New Yorkers].

The driver felt big, important and on a mission. I was an irritating pedestrian in his way, slowing progress. This scene happens countless times a day to thousands all over the city. Over the weekend we were in a cab that missed being slammed by a zigzagging driver who treated Lexington Avenue as though it was a super highway. Sometimes the threatening vehicles are bicycles driven by thoughtless, entitled individuals.

The SUV incident happened two days after NJ Governor Christie sunned himself on Island Beach State Park in front of the state-owned summer house [photo right]. This beach—and all state parks in the Garden State–were closed to other citizens June 30-July 3 because of the second government shutdown in that state’s history. Christie’s beach time wasn’t illegal—the house has access to the beach—though when he and the family were captured on camera by a news helicopter, it didn’t look good [no pun intended]. As Christie put it at a news conference in which he was criticized: “Run for governor, and you can have a residence there,” according to nj.com.

He claimed that he’d promised his son that he would celebrate his birthday at the beach. But just because he could didn’t mean he should when his constituents had to cancel their picnic, swimming and sunning plans. “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t set well with most. In fact, his selfishness may have ruined it for future governors. There’s talk about selling the house or renting it to generate income for the state.

For the most part, the people I know and work with are thoughtful, caring, empathetic, courteous and cordial—because they choose to be. The men at the transfer station in Millbrook, NY were so gentle and understanding when I showed up on a recent Saturday with a car filled with garbage, paper and bottles. I was wringing my hands because I didn’t have my ticket [the first time ever]. I felt overwhelmed by their kind, understanding response. “Not to worry,” they said, “We’ll get you next time,” and they grabbed for the bags and bottles and moved them to join like refuse in the three separate sections. Wet garbage costs $5/bag.

In your life, are there more SUV drivers and Christie-like characters or more people like the men at the transfer station?

Service of New York Experiences: Surprise Elegance and Not

Monday, August 4th, 2014

I recently bought low-priced items from people working tough jobs in uncomfortable circumstances with very different service experiences.

I paid $10 for something from a street cart and was impressed by the vendor’s elegant approach. There was nothing stylish or surprising about his goods or merchandising. His scarves, hats and paraphernalia looked like those on similar carts around the city. The temperature was flirting with 90 and the typical NYC summer humidity was enough to make anyone feel grumpy and lethargic if they were stuck on the street all day.

I handed the money to his young assistant who’d been helping me which she gave to him. [It was the first time I saw him.] She asked me if I wanted a bag. I said I didn’t want to eat into the profits. He took my item, opened an “I love NY” plastic sack, placed my purchase inside and handed it to me as though it was an important purchase wrapped in the finest paper bag with elegant logo and ribbon handles. His expression: “we do things right here.” I’ve been treated with far less decorum by sales associates at luxury retail establishments.

A few days before I was on lunch break from jury duty in one of the handsome buildings seen on the “Law & Order” TV series in downtown Manhattan. Given the time I had to eat and return to the jury waiting area I decided takeout was the wise option. Heading toward Chinatown I saw a short line of men wearing suits or business pants and shirts. They were outside a tiny establishment that accommodated two people at the serving counter and sold only dumplings and buns. The shabby shop on a narrow street nevertheless had an A sanitation rating.

The middle aged woman taking and fulfilling the orders barked at customers if she spoke at all. The customer behind me was familiar with the routine and guided me. I can’t blame her: Given the scorching hot dumplings—I had to wait quite a while before I could eat them without burning my mouth—imagine standing behind a steam apparatus that heated the food on a summer afternoon. I didn’t feel air conditioning inside. The dumplings cost $1 for five. I ate most of 10 on a bench outside a playground in the shade of a giant tree.

I was happy with my purchase from the street vendor because of his positive approach. The shockingly modest price of the toothsome dumplings and unconventional lunch [I usually eat yogurt and popcorn at my desk] balanced the unfriendly communication with the restaurant server. [I say restaurant as there were a few stools for those who wanted to eat in.] Who expects a smile with $2 worth of dumplings?

Do you anticipate reduced treatment when you don’t pay a lot and are you at times surprised?

Service of Updating Information

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

“Beadwildered” in New Jersey wrote me to share her recent experience at a small store – an incident that gives major clues to why, apart from the major changes in retail and the stress of having to close a business–this one hit the skids.

Central to this tale is the lackadaisical way in which some update business information on websites, which ends up frustrating potential customers and wasting their time. Reminds me of the NYC hotel at which a friend booked a room over the Internet. Only by luck did I call the place before she arrived to learn that it was no longer in midtown, [which was essential to her stay].  I can’t blame it on the web either. The days of print-only weren’t much better. Arriving at movie houses in NYC only to learn that the movie was no longer playing or the showtime hours were incorrect taught me: Call before going.

This is what Beadwildered wrote:

I needed to buy some small jet beads to replace beading that has fallen off a cocktail dress.  Once upon a time, they were easy to find at a fabric or craft store.  But try finding a fabric store in the suburbs anymore. And the craft stores are all big-box stores out on the highways.  As it happens, I do have a local fabric store, but the owner said he can no longer get small packets of beads. He recommended a bead store three towns away. 

I looked at the website and the photos showed packets of beads.  While I drove the 20 minutes to the store it began to pour. When I got to the store, it was partially dismantled. 

A woman inside came to the door to find out what I wanted.  “I hope you’re not closed after I drove all this way,” I said. 

“We’re closed for good,” was her reply.  But she reluctantly let me in out of the rain. 

“Hadn’t you seen the sign? It was up for 19 weeks,” she said in a very disdainful manner.

“I live three towns away and rarely get over this way,” was my defense.  I drive out this way once in a while, but this is not the kind of store that stands out and catches your eye. 

I told her what I was looking for, mentioning that I’d seen packets of beads on the website and didn’t think to call as a result.  “We haven’t had those in years,” she snorted.

She reluctantly let me poke around but kept saying I wouldn’t find what I needed.  As I looked, I commented that it must be hard to run a bead store in today’s world.  She indignantly said she’d been in business for 19 years but it was done now. 

Finally, she asked if I had a sample and I showed her one of the beads I was trying to match.  She snorted more loudly that they had nothing of the kind.  

As I went back out into the downpour, I reflected that if she’d always been this nasty and arrogant, she did everyone a service in going out of business. Granted, since she was no longer selling I no longer qualified as a potential customer.  But how hard would it have been to be nice?

The bead store owner had 19 weeks to note on her website that she was closing the store. Depending on one vehicle of communication–a sign–is never enough. And she obviously didn’t update the information on the web if she hadn’t carried the featured bags of beads for years.  In addition, the advantage of a small business is service. Granted closing a business that’s been in your blood for almost two decades is tragic. Beadwildered might not have thought twice about the inconvenience of her fruitless trek had the owner broken down to lament the loss or apologized that she’d gone out of her way for nothing. 

Retail is grueling, even when a business thrives. Retailers have nerves of steel to survive the whining and bilking that some customers depend on to chisel and defraud businesses big and small.

Are you acquainted with small retail businesses that flourish or any that have closed in large part for reasons they cause? What are some businesses that do a remarkable job of updating their communications with customers? 

Service of Watch Out: Take Special Care When Driving or Walking in the City

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Car Accident Second AvenueAs a longtime driver in both city and country apart from the whammy of nasty weather–especially ice, fog or blinding rain–there wasn’t too much to concern me. I figured in the city the worst that could happen was a fender-bender given speed limits.

All that’s changed.

Deer surprise-leaping onto roads and smashing into cars are an ever-present danger upstate making vigilance imperative even in sunshine on a crisp fall day.

There are no deer to surprise city drivers but the other distractions and impediments aggravated by traditional NYC impatience also affect driving and especially walking in the Big Apple. There have always been accidents involving vehicles running over New Yorkers and tourists, even leaping onto sidewalks. They were attributed to road rage, physical impairment and faulty brakes.

Car Accident 90th StreetWhat’s different is that these incidents–almost misses–have happened over the past two months and I’ve photographed the aftermath. It’s disquieting. One vehicle [Photo at top] landed on a midtown Second Avenue sidewalk at a time people walk to work. Another [Photo at right] backed up on Third Avenue at such a speed that it crossed a side street, jumped the sidewalk [where pedestrians might have been waiting] and stopped by slamming into an apartment building.

In the city I worry about distracted pedestrians intent on communicating as they walk down a sidewalk or wait for a light. They are a danger to themselves. I’m concerned about older people who can’t jump out of the way or children who are intently chatting or are oblivious to their surroundings, lost in the reverie of the music coming from ear pods.

Add bicycles and skateboards that don’t always follow traffic rules. A recent New York Post headline was: “Nicole Kidman bowled over by paparazzo on bike” and showed photos of the actor picking herself off the sidewalk.

The East 40s were awash with police during the annual September meeting of the UN General Assembly. I saw a pair crossing a street with the light on Friday morning. One of them barely missed being mowed down by a bicycle. The rider hadn’t stopped at his red light and dashed into Second Avenue traffic treating the city like a racetrack. The policeman put on a brave front chuckling when his partner and traffic colleagues teased him. He might have been severely injured.

Have you also been aware of increased road craziness in your town or city? Is it caused by a general malaise leading to distracted drivers and pedestrians or has the well recognized lack of courtesy or awareness of others moved from human interactions to bigger and more physically dangerous arenas?

 

Service of Signoffs

Monday, March 18th, 2013

I don’t always sign every email with a “Regards,” “Best,” “XOX,” “Hugs” or anything else, especially after the first response followed by a rash of back and forth or if I’m dashing off a note on a subway platform using a handheld to update a friend or relative about a tidbit—but only someone from whom I hear almost daily. I’ll have to check; I think I add an xx before the jb or jm every first time.

So I disagree with Matthew J.X Madady who wrote on Slate.com: “You say ‘Best.’ I say No. It’s time to kill the email signoff.”

In the middle of his post he wrote: “After 10 or 15 more ‘Regards’ of varying magnitudes, I could take no more. I finally realized the ridiculousness of spending even one second thinking about the totally unnecessary words that we tack on to the end of emails. And I came to the following conclusion: It’s time to eliminate email signoffs completely. Henceforth, I do not want—nay, I will not accept—any manner of regards. Nor will I offer any. And I urge you to do the same.” [The bold is mine.]

I empathize with the discomfort involved with writing on a smartphone or tablet but there’s no excuse about typing another word or two on a computer using a standard keyboard. In any case, his point is not about comfort on a tiny or slippery keyboard but about the time it takes to think of the appropriate signoff. [This from a writer?]

If Madady wrote this post to up the readership of Slate.com he succeeded. I heard about his nixing “Fondly,” “Love,” “Sincerely” or “See you soon” on a radio program where the host, John Gambling, thought his assertion was atrocious.

Another hint that Madady was looking at shining the spotlight on himself and Slate rather than to eradicate signoffs is that it’s so easy to add a generic one to a signature template–he’d never have to write another one again. Time? Not much. If that signoff is too cute and cheery when acknowledging news of illness or death–delete it. Time? Not much.

In any case, I hope he’s not serious. Courtesy is worth the time and distinguishes considerate humans from boors. How much more of a hatchet to civility will we tolerate and accept?

 

Service of Dammed If You Do & If You Don’t

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

scam-alert

A friend, I will call her Lisa, works in a small but prominent boutique with beautiful things. She’s been in high-end retail most of her life, has owned stores and traveled abroad on buying missions for years.

boutiqueLast week a woman returned an item saying it had broken. Lisa offered immediately to exchange it for another one and was pleased to see she had one in exactly the same colors, when she noticed that the item was badly stained.  She immediately figured that the woman had broken the piece so as to wangle a new one. Lisa also knew that she couldn’t get a replacement from the manufacturer under these circumstances.

Meanwhile, the store continued to fill up with other customers.

Lisa pointed out the stain and offered to have the piece fixed explaining why she could no longer give her a new one, at which the customer began to argue loudly that the thing broke the first time she used it and that she wanted a new one because she was a good customer. [Lisa had never before seen her though clearly someone had been to the store to buy the article.]

angry-womanKnowing she was being taken, Lisa chose not to inflict a scene on the others. She also wanted to free herself to answer their questions, ring up and wrap their selections. So she gave the woman a new item to get rid of her. 

When I saw Lisa several hours afterwards, she was still annoyed that she’d done that, angry that she’d caused a loss to her employer. She felt this woman deliberately came at a busy time, knowing loud arguments aren’t conducive to business, figuring a crowd to unsettle would work in her favor.

In my opinion, the woman stole the second item from the store. Had she brought in the soiled piece and asked if the manufacturer could clean it or requested the name of a stain remover she might try on the textile, that would have been another thing.

Lisa’s boss backed her decision though several colleagues said she shouldn’t have let the woman get away with it and claimed that they wouldn’t have been so easy on this weasel.

What would you have done? Can you share other examples of no matter what, you’re wrong?

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