Archive for the ‘Full Measure’ Category

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 Full Measure II: Pay more and get less for health insurance, education and toilet tissue

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

I first wrote a Full Measure post in 2010, a topic very much related to the Service of Inflation series launched the year before and I risk little in predicting there will be more to come. An eye doctor appointment, results of New York city and state student tests and a newspaper article inspired today’s post.

Insurance strikes another black eye hitting doctors and patients where it hurts

Before seeing my doctor and his staff for my annual eye exam the receptionist gave me an agreement–a first. I would check one box if I was willing to pay $75 to be tested for refraction; another if not.

In a nutshell the form explained that most insurance companies will no longer pay for a doctor to test for eyeglasses.

This was the wording: “Refraction is the testing done with lenses to determine and correct the errors in the eye causing problems with both distance and near vision. This information is required to prescribe glasses. Insurance carriers do not consider refraction a medical procedure. Medicare and most commercial carriers will pay for covered benefits only. When you receive a service that is not a covered benefit, patients are responsible to pay for it.”

But guess what? Staff told me that if you go to some optometrists–they mentioned a rip-off eyeglass store chain I’ve been warned by friends and colleagues to avoid–the insurance might pay for the test.

It’s easy to forget the precise differences between the training and expertise of an ophthalmologist and optometrist but it’s pertinent so I checked out webmd.com: “Ophthalmologists are physicians. They went to medical school. After school, they had a one-year internship and a residency of three or more years. Ophthalmologists offer …..Vision services, including eye exams; Medical eye care — for conditions such as glaucoma, iritis, and chemical burns; Surgical eye care — for trauma, crossed eyes, cataracts, glaucoma, and other problems; Diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions related to other diseases, such as diabetes or arthritis; Plastic surgery — for drooping eyelids and smoothing wrinkles.” [I didn’t know about wrinkles….hmmmm].

Webmd.com continues: “Optometrists are medical professionals but not physicians. After college, they spent four years in a program and got a degree in optometry. Some optometrists undergo additional clinical training after optometry school. They focus on regular vision care and prescribe eyeglasses and contacts.”

This course doesn’t lead down a healthy road. It means that the physician who chooses to become an ophthalmologist will soon be left only with treating eye disease, severely cutting into his/her income and customer traffic. I also wager that the nations’ eyes will suffer. On the rush to the $500 eyeglass frame counter in the chain, diseases that should be diagnosed and treated/controlled early may be missed. How shortsighted.

Taxing information

New York City spent $25 billion on education, the state $74 billion according to research by WOR 710 NYC radio producer Michael Figliola for the John Gambling Show, yet the results are not equally stratospheric. The state spends more on education than anything else.

Lisa Fleisher wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “Less than 30% of the city’s third- through eighth-graders scored proficient in math and English Language Arts on the new exams, which are an attempt to measure whether students are on track to do higher-level work when they graduate and start their careers.”

Yoav Gonen of The New York Post reported: “The eye-opening passing rates for third- through eighth-graders of just 29.6 percent in math and 26.4 percent in reading reflected the first real measure of how many students are considered to be on the path to success after high school.”

Gonen continued: “Last year, before the exam standards were significantly boosted, 47 percent of city kids passed the reading exams and 60 percent passed math.” In a bulleted list he noted “New York City outperformed the state’s other ‘Big 4’ cities by leaps and bounds. Second-place Yonkers only had 16.4 percent of students pass in reading and 14.5 percent in math.”

What else is there to add?

Nothing to Sneeze At

Desheeting doesn’t relate to making beds, operating sailboats, rain [in sheets] or drinking too much [three sheets to the breeze]. It’s how the tissue and toilet paper industry describes fewer sheets of tissue in a box or roll.

Serena Ng reported in “Toilet-Tissue ‘Desheeting’ Shrinks Rolls, Plumps Margins” that Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex packages contain 13 percent fewer sheets simultaneously claiming that each one is “bulkier” by 15 percent. Guess they know folks who want bulky tissue instead of lots of it when cold or allergies strike.

While on the subject, here’s some toilet paper trivia brought to us by Kimberly-Clark research via Ng: In five bathroom trips/day, Americans use some 46 sheets of toilet paper and according to Euromonitor International, companies sold $10.6 billion of tissue and toilet paper in the US in 2012.

Mayor Bloomberg, who watches NYC’s waistlines, would approve of some of the additional information in Ng’s article though as a consumer even he might expect the price to reflect less product which I’m certain it doesn’t. “Cereal boxes and bags of chips have in many cases become lighter over the years in what the food industry refers to as taking ‘weight out.’ A regular Snickers bar now weighs 1.86 ounces, down from 2.07 ounces in the past, which Mars says was done to cut calories to 250 per bar. Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice is now sold in 59 ounce bottles, versus 64 ounce cartons prior to 2010.”

I didn’t notice a decrease in my insurance premium to compensate for one less essential covered procedure. Does this new wrinkle smack of lobbyists at work along with insurance greed leaving men and women with limited incomes, their children and another specialty of doctor yet again in a reject pile? Have you examples of paying for and receiving full measure lately or the opposite–which seems to be increasingly in fashion?

Service of Inflation III

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

I’ve covered this topic twice before and unfortunately, I anticipate covering it again in future before it no longer applies. Here are my latest targets:

For 20+ years, I’ve used a lightweight, thin monthly planning calendar with a plastic cover. The price rises yearly, but I need it so I buy it. This year, the quality of the paper is remarkably poor, thin and flimsy. By the end of the first week, the January page was wrinkled and worn and the cover bent. The New York Times reported that the founder of this company, in his 90s, got married about a month ago. Maybe he’s been distracted by the wedding plans.

My husband gave me a [replacement] yellow cashmere sweater for Christmas. I wore out my original one and I love to add a bright color to the layers I pile on to cheer me on dreary days. The new one, from the same well known catalog/retailer as the first, is so thin that it feels more like cotton tee shirt than sweater. The styling is rudimentary. The first day I wore it, it wrinkled. Who ever heard of a wrinkled cashmere sweater after a day sitting on an office chair? If dramatically chintzing on quality is how this company controls prices, it doesn’t work for me.

Gasoline prices increase weekly. I heard on a car radio program that the corn mixed in with oil reduces the efficiency of the fuel, making a gallon even more expensive than the $3+ price for low-test that I’m currently paying in upstate New York.

And then there are the adhesive bandages I bought in a standard box that appears to be the same size that all this well known brand’s boxes have been for years.  It’s practically empty. Cost: $4.50 + tax.

My favorite ground coffee, a house brand, cost $9 for two pounds last year. It’s now $13. I buy a ton of it and freeze enough for a year as all the stores that sell it are inconvenient. A friend told me to check the coffee vendor in Grand Central Station where he noted that some coffee costs $12 for one pound. But still.

To end on a cheery note, I again sing the praises of T-Mobile which I first wrote about in “Good Service is in the Air, Isn’t It?” In January 2009, I bought a cell phone from T-Mobile that came with a charger and earphones and 1,000 hours of service for $130. I gave them $10 to renew the contract in 2010 and just gave them another $10 for 2011. There are some 300 minutes remaining. Is this the best bargain in town? We’ll have paid $4.17/month over these three years if my husband–who hardly uses the thing–doesn’t need extra minutes this year. I won’t admit what I’m paying monthly for my Blackberry [though I use the phone a ton and can’t live without the email component which doesn’t exist on my husband’s barebones T-Mobile phone].

Do you have any examples of paying more and/or getting less for what you pay? Even better, how about some exhilarating examples of where you got more for your money than you expected?

Service of Full Measure

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I love to feel as though I’ve received my money’s worth and like to surprise people by giving them more than they expect.  So that may be why when I feel short-changed, I’m really irritated.

There’s a boutique takeout place in a nearby village that charges a premium for a small container of soup and when you get it home, the container is only three-quarters full. It happened twice–I figured it must have been a mistake the first time.  I don’t care for this approach so in spite of its stellar reputation, I’ve never been back. [Soup is one of the most profitable things on any menu so on discovering the skimpy portion I thought, “You’re testing my patience” when I should have been thinking, “um um good!”]

When I order wine-by-the-glass, I’m amazed by the difference in the amount of wine I get from place to place and in my experieince, the less I pay the more wine I’m served. And it has nothing to do with leaving plenty of room for a fancy red varietal to breath or because the goblet in an expensive place is bigger than in a reasonably priced one.

Dinner portions have a way of being amusingly tiny in some of the more expensive restaurants as well. Nobody needs enough roast beef to provide leftovers for a family of four [though dinner the next night is a treat!]. Yet to leave hungry after someone’s spent $100+ makes a customer feel duped as well as the brunt of a proprietor’s joke.

If I’m paying top price, I also like a nice big dollop of ice cream in a cone, even if I can’t finish it all.

If you speak with a lawyer or psychiatrist in an office or over the phone you are charged to the minute. Shouldn’t it be the same for everyone else who charges for their time–no more, no less? Here are examples of both instances:

**A friend recently signed up with a trainer at a well-known sports club. She pays $45 for half an hour and she has a $700+ contract. She works hard for her money and her clients get the best of what she does and she expects the same from the people she hires. She lets the trainer know every time he tries to shortchange her by five minutes at the end. She also makes him give her the time when he starts late because he’s finishing up with someone else. And she’s right! She’s paying $1.50 a minute so why toss away $7.50?

** Some PR staffers work at agencies where clients are charged for their time, billing in the $hundreds per hour. Accurate time cards are essential. Some write fiction–you know who you are. I’m always amazed when clients don’t speak up or weigh a hefty bill against a skimpy activity report.

When you feel you don’t get full measure, do you care or shrug it off? Are there instances that particularly irk you?

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