Archive for the ‘Questions’ Category

Service of Inquiring Minds

Monday, January 8th, 2024

No bus in sight.

As I waited too long for the bus and during my ride I came up with this list of questions to distract from the ridiculous crowd once inside and a screaming toddler.

Why…………

  • Must NYC citizens wait over 15 minutes for a bus on a busy crosstown street at rush hour?
  • Are some people always cheerful?
  • Do manners no longer matter?
  • Are some radio hosts told they must laugh all the time?
  • Are some compelled to cut off other pedestrians if they are walking or vehicles if driving?
  • Do drivers think that by honking incessantly in traffic it will make the cars stuck ahead of them move faster?
  • By yelling at a sales associate or waiter who is trying to help do some think they will get better service?
  • By treating someone with disrespect do others think that they will be respected?
  • By speaking louder at someone who doesn’t understand English do the clueless expect that he/she will understand?
  • Does a little thing over which I have no control–like an elevator door slamming in my face–annoy me beyond words? Is it because I’m really angry about something much more important?

If you have answers, or questions to add, feel free!

Service of Due Diligence

Monday, December 13th, 2021


Image by aerngaoey from Pixabay 

It pays to ask questions or do a modicum of research which some marketers have learned the hard way. According to businessinsider.com, in the 1990s Yardley hadn’t asked actor Helena Bonham Carter about her makeup routine before they announced their relationship with her. After she publicly admitted she didn’t wear makeup and couldn’t fathom why they chose her, they cut their association that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.


Image by Hannah Wesolowski from Pixabay 

In 1989 PepsiCo staff needed only look at Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” music video to determine that it didn’t reflect the image they sought. Yet they paid her $5million to appear in benign commercials which included the then new song. “While the ad itself was PG,” reported Laura Stampler, “Madonna’s music video for the song in which she witnesses a rape and gyrates around a burning cross incited an explosion of controversy.” Would checking that have been so hard to do?

And what about recently? In the “Sex and the City” reboot, “And Just Like That…” on HBO Max that premiered last week, a main character, Mr. Big, dies after a 45 minute Peloton class on a Peloton stationary bike–a super product placement gone south. The company didn’t pay for the placement but knew their equipment was being used, reported Joseph Pisani and Megan Graham in The Wall Street Journal. It also approved a Peloton instructor, Jess King, appear in the segment.

Did anyone at Peloton ask enough questions or demand answers before playing ball? “While Peloton coordinated with HBO on the placement of one of its bikes, HBO didn’t disclose the plot in advance because of ‘confidentiality reasons,’ Peloton said.” Lesson learned to leave nothing to trust in future?

Peloton spokespeople put a good face on it. “’Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle—including cocktails, cigars, and big steaks—and was at serious risk,’ said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist on Peloton’s health and wellness advisory council, in a statement from the company.” The reporters ended the article: “Peloton said there is some good news: ‘Riding his Peloton bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event,’ Dr. Steinbaum said.”

It’s not only in business we need to ask questions and insist on answers. The husband of a friend swallowed pills that killed him. He didn’t check the product insert and counted on his doctor to remember his health history that contraindicated the drug.

Are you good at asking questions? Do you know of other examples in which a well known company missed the boat due to lack of research? Are there any elements in our lives that we can leave to trust?


Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

Service of Internet Shopping 2021 Style

Monday, September 13th, 2021


Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Because most of my favorite haunts are out of business or their Manhattan branches don’t measure up to the quality I was used to in their upstate stores, much of my shopping has moved online.

Here are a few things that e-commerce vendors might easily change and should consider doing.

Don’t ask stupid questions

I didn’t want to lug home a large package of paper towels so I bought one online. Next I was asked to review my recent purchase. Paper towels? Really?

Know when to stop knocking on my door

A woman’s clothing store sends daily emails about intros or discounts, sometimes multiple times a day. At end-of-season sales time they up their emails. Eventually, the prices were so favorable and thinking ahead to next summer I bit, ordering a few gifts too. The next day they sent an email saying that one of the items is no longer available as there were too many orders for it. Note: They clearly show you which sizes are in stock when you make your selections.

OK, those are the breaks. However, two weeks later I get one of the remaining three items ordered with an invoice that indicates that two were oversold so you won’t get them. I was irritated as I might have found similar on sale elsewhere and wonder why the inventory department can’t communicate more efficiently with the website but worse, I’m still getting notices about that sale.

Get rid of the crooks

And what did I see again on Facebook? The sponsored rip-off promo that I fell for early in summer and I wrote about in “Service of Always Buy from a Website Not a Social Media Advert Link.” The first comment was written by someone who declared it a scam. I may have gotten off easy from the looks of it. But Facebook should remove creeps like this from its site so as not to entrap other suckers.

When a mistake causes customers too much work

I ordered one item from a topnotch vendor but never got a confirmation email for the online purchase. Thinking I had again ordered from a fake site I called. There was no record of my purchase so I bought one from the customer service rep. Next I checked my credit card and there were two entries for the item so I called again and got the same customer service rep who promised to cancel one order. But I received two of the same item in separate packages. I called and was promised not to be charged for returning the duplicate as it was their mistake. I’m sure I’ll eventually be credited for the full amount but I wasted a lot of time turning things right.

I appreciate the convenience of ordering things at any time of day or night but miss walking into a store, choosing just what I want and walking out with it. I suspect under-staffing is the cause of most of the problems I’ve encountered.

Have your internet purchases been seamless? Are there some irritations that could easily be remedied?



Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Service of Unanswered Questions or None of Your Business

Monday, March 29th, 2021

I hate to admit how old I was before I could parry an unwelcome question. Before you could find out real estate sale prices online a friend asked me what we got for our co-op apartment. My answer: “We got what we asked.”  These days I reply bluntly to intrusive questions. I’ll say: “I don’t want to talk about it,” or I change the subject.

“Going on an interview?” you’d hear in the workplace if a colleague who usually wore casual clothes was dressed to the nines.

And then there’s the nag who starts every conversation with “Did you get that job yet?” It’s especially grating when you’ve told the person you’ll let them know and to please stay off the subject.

There’s a health question on some job applications: “Did you ever have cancer, epilepsy, mental health problems?” to name just a few of the listed diseases. The applicant’s choice of responses are “Yes,” “No,” and “I don’t want to answer.”

When a state adds to its list of vaccine-eligible citizens those at risk of Covid-19 due to underlying health conditions the nosy get to work. “Medical privacy has become the latest casualty of vaccination efforts, as friends, co-workers and even total strangers ask intrusive questions about personal health conditions,” Tara Parker-Pope wrote in a New York Times article, “‘How Did You Qualify?’ For the Young and Vaccinated, Rude Questions and Raised Eyebrows.”

If you check “I don’t want to answer ” to health questions on job applications will the reader assume that the answer is “Yes,” you have had one of the listed diseases? When you’re asked an intrusive question, do you feel obliged to answer? If not, what wording works best for you? What are other examples of questions you’d rather not answer?

Service of Voting for One Issue: What’s the Thinking Behind it?

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

If I insisted on having to agree 100 percent with friends, and if each one needed to act the way I would in every instance, I’d have none.

My parents didn’t always agree about politics, how strict to be with me, what film to see or event to attend, so there was plenty of lively conversation in my childhood home. This, I suspect, is why I am unlike some friends who say “If a person felt this way about __________ [name the subject such as global warming, religion or a political figure] I couldn’t be friends with them.” [There are obvious exceptions of extreme nature: If someone tortured people or animals for example that would be a deal breaker.]

Early voters NYC, October 2020

On the other hand, if most everything about a person is abhorrent to me–their behavior, beliefs, lifestyle, actions and ethics–we wouldn’t be pals even if we share one passion or background.

This is why I don’t understand how people support a politician when they agree with him or her about only one issue when the person otherwise exemplifies everything else they oppose.

For example, on social media, @americamag, The Jesuit Review, asked: “Do we have to ignore the fact that Mr. Trump sometimes behaves in a manner unworthy of a president of the United States, and ignore the damage that he inflicts on the rule of law in our body politic, just because of his good pro-life policies?”  America Media describes itself  asthe leading provider of editorial content for thinking Catholics and those who want to know what Catholics are thinking.”

Pro-life initiatives are left in the dust by traditional “pro-lifers” who vote that issue alone such as health care for all, food for the hungry, clean water, keeping immigrant children with their parents, simple attempts–enforcing masks and social distancing–to control Covid-19 and the like. The irony is that you don’t have to partake in gambling or ingesting marijuana or taking prescription drugs or drinking alcohol if you disagree. What’s the difference?

Have you voted for someone for a single issue?  If people don’t see eye to eye on most everything else about a candidate, how do they justify their decision to vote for her/him? Are you inflexible in your friendships, refusing to see someone based on disagreement over one issue when you like most everything else?

Service of Questions—Does Google Have All the Answers?

Monday, January 14th, 2019

Questions, without immediate answers, often pop into my head. Every post has them of course and I’ve also focused on the topic several times before.

Here are some recent ones:

  • How do commuters fill the time and not go crazy when a traffic reporter tells them it will be 80 minutes just to get on a bridge or in a tunnel to NYC during morning rush hour–which happened last week?
  • How do pet owners of average means pay the vet bill when they have more than two love-animals?
  • I’ve lived in a moderate sized house and apartments ranging from very large to moderate size and now I live in a small apartment. Why is it that my husband and I lose as many things in the small space as in the large?

I asked Mike, a millennial and techy and my office next door neighbor, if unanswered questions like these pop into his head and did he think about the answers. He said, “I Google everything. I’d rather know.”  The child of the Internet added, “Google has never steered me wrong.”

I use Google a lot but hadn’t thought to do so regarding this crop of questions and when I did, it satisfied a third of them.

  • Commuters in traffic: I’d already thought of learning a language or listening to an audio book which I also read about as a result of a Google search. To address the stress I hadn’t thought of wearing comfy shoes as that would be automatic for me before a potentially trying drive, or loosening clothes and stretching before heading home after a difficult day. None addressed how to tackle the surprise of an extra one hour plus to a commute.
  • Pet owners paying vet bills for many pets: I didn’t find a satisfactory answer to my second question though I admit I didn’t spend a long time looking. I read about what percentage of pet owners have pet insurance; How much should pet owners spend on a sick pet; How much is the average vet bill and How much does a dog cost monthly? I suppose the answer to my question is “these owners don’t go to a vet for routine care.” [Our bills upstate ran on average $350 for such care for one cat especially if a blood test was involved.]
  • Losing things in big and small spaces: Results for question number three were equally unsatisfactory. Response categories covered how to stop losing things at home and a prayer to find a lost item to how to find something you love.

What kinds of questions pop into your head? Do you resort to Google for responses? If not, how do you satisfy them?

Service of Why

Monday, June 27th, 2016

I ask questions in every post and the question word also appears in a few titles. Today I share some unrelated observations and ask WHY:

  • Do you think a mother pushing a stroller gave her young child a tablet to stare at when there was plenty to look at on the street between the traffic, other pedestrians, store windows and dogs passing by?  The child was so little—around one–and the screen so large that he could hardly hold the device that was crammed in between his legs and the stroler. We weren’t near each other for very long but while we were, not a word passed between them.
  • Do I go to the right in some elevators and to the left in others to reach the floor control buttons and inevitably, my instinct sends me the wrong way? Why aren’t these buttons installed universally either left or right?
  • Do telemarketers hire people who mumble? I asked one last week—an American—to repeat what he’d said. The phone volume was fine, I clearly heard the end of his intro—“and how are you today?”—yet totally missed who he represented or the reason for his call. He slurred his words while repeating, at 200 mph, what he’d uttered countless times before. When I couldn’t decipher or isolate a single word on the second go-‘round, I hung up.
  • Do companies require their live operators/receptionists to answer the phone with a ridiculously long greeting—and not because the name of the firm is of the “Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith” variety–thus wasting everyone’s time?
  • Do some general call-in numbers never work? Take 511. I access it to confirm train schedules and to learn if the railroad is running from upstate NY to NYC, and not a substitute bus. [If a bus, passengers must arrive at the station 40 minutes before scheduled departure time. Miss the bus and you wait two hours for the next one. And the website isn’t always accurate.] From upstate, the electronic voice on the phone announces I’ve reached information for the Hudson/Catskill region. So far, so good. After that, whether I respond to prompts with my voice or by punching numbers on the phone, I end up with Long Island bus or NYC subway schedules and for the life of me, I can’t reach an operator or information about the Harlem Line I take.

Do you have answers to any of these or questions you’d like to pose?

Service of Authenticity vs. Sincerity: Are You a High or Low Self-Monitor?

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Being authentic is in fashion–what many suggest we’re supposed to be. Wharton School management professor Adam Grant disagrees. He wrote “‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice” in an op-ed piece in The New York Times.

“Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. As Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, defines it, authenticity is ‘the choice to let our true selves be seen.’”

Grant feels that “nobody wants to see your true self.” [I’ll go a step farther and say nobody much cares much about you. Have you been asked “How are you?” or “How was vacation?” and before you respond the person is half way across the room.]

Back to Professor Grant. He shared the experience of an author who regretted saying everything that came to mind over a period of weeks. For example, the man told his in-laws they were boring and his kid’s nanny that he’d like to date her if his wife left him. After suffering the fallout from his truth-talk, this author concluded “Deceit makes our world go round.”

About millennials Grant observed that “like all younger generations [they] tend to be less concerned about social approval.” He warned: “Authentic self-expression works beautifully, until employers start to look at social media profiles.”

The professor, also author of “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,” [Penguin Random House], wrote that people are either high or low self-monitors

  • “If you’re a high self-monitor, you’re constantly scanning your environment for social cues and adjusting accordingly. You hate social awkwardness and desperately want to avoid offending anyone. According to Grant, high self-monitors, concerned about their reputations, advance faster and “are more likely to be promoted into leadership positions,” because they “spend more time finding out what others need and helping them.”
  • “But if you’re a low self-monitor, you’re guided more by your inner states, regardless of your circumstances.” Most women are low self-monitors, encouraged by society to express their feelings he wrote. As a result they can appear unprofessional and weak. Grant shared an example of a woman given a management position at a major corporation. When she admitted to the 5,000+ employees for which she was now responsible that the “job was ‘scary,’” she shook their confidence in her.

Do you remember the no doubt apocryphal story about Henry Ford who did not  hire a man he was considering for an executive position because he sprinkled salt on his dinner before tasting it? Grant would have called the dinner companion a low self-monitor. Citing a study of people given steak and salt cellars he reported that “high self-monitors tasted it before pouring salt, whereas low self-monitors salted it first.”

Being authentic and a low self-monitor makes for a good marriage, Grant wrote, “but in the rest of our lives, we pay a price for being too authentic.”

While calling it an old fashioned concept, Grant thinks Lionel Trilling [who died in 1975], had the answer when the author/literary critic/teacher suggested sincerity. “Instead of searching for our inner selves and then making a concerted effort to express them, Trilling urged us to start with our outer selves. Pay attention to how we present ourselves to others, and then strive to be the people we claim to be.”

Herminia Ibarra “found that high self-monitors were more likely than their authentic peers to experiment with different leadership styles.” Ibarra, an organizational behavior professor at Insead, a graduate business school in France, studied consultants and investment bankers. Grant wrote: “They watched senior leaders in the organization, borrowed their language and action, and practiced them until these became second nature. They were not authentic, but they were sincere. It made them more effective.”

Dr. Grant described himself as an introvert, yet he “acted out of character,” to force himself to speak in public. “No one wants to hear everything that’s in your head. They just want you to live up to what comes out of your mouth.”

Do you salt your food before tasting it? Do you say whatever comes into your mind, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead? Do you fall into the high or low self-monitor category, or in between? Do you force yourself to act out of character to achieve meaningful goals? Do you think sincerity trumps authenticity and is the wisest approach both at home and at work?

Service of Questions

Monday, February 1st, 2016

I have two questions that Google doesn’t answer and a third that you might not find on Google for good reason but it’s something you might like to know.

Henny Penny

I can’t remember ice falling from skyscrapers after a storm when I grew up in NYC but that might be because I didn’t live or go to school in neighborhoods with very high buildings. Or maybe I blocked it out.

My question is: How come architects building structures in NYC today can’t come up with a way to stop this from happening? My office building had staff remove snow from the roof after the recent storm so nobody would get hurt. On the Sunday after 27-inches of snow fell on NYC we took a walk and were surprised by chunks of ice crashing on to sidewalks throughout midtown. This isn’t the first time yet many of the buildings we passed have been built in the last 10 years.

Partnerships

I [and thousands of others] had the looniest time getting on and off NYC busses three days after snowstorm Jonah. On Third Avenue between 43rd and 42nd Streets, ice several feet high lined the curb. Passengers jumped off the bus into deep slush and sloshed from 43rd  to 42nd in the street while oncoming traffic splashed them with icy mire. We couldn’t mount the sidewalk until we reached 42nd and turned the corner. It was as messy as it was dangerous.

Snow January 2016 004I was horrified on my walk home that night to see people with two choices to reach the steps of a bus. They could drench their feet to above their ankles in an icy soup or walk away from the bus, up the sidewalk to the corner and wobble through foot-high ice with a few footprints made by previous pedestrians and then quickly negotiate a tricky walk down the slippery street, in the dark, to the bus’s door. I realized what was happening when I approached the stop and saw an elderly woman, with a cane, who was attempting the latter option. Thankfully she’d made it by the time I got there.

Six days after the storm I came upon a dozen workers with shovels and a giant snowplow on a little used street. Most of the workers were hanging out [see photo below]. Clearly the city isn’t up to the task.

My question is: Why doesn’t the Metropolitan Transit Authority, with the city’s cooperation,** enroll the help of businesses or landlords to get them to clear/maintain three foot slits in snow/ice at bus stops that are in front of their property and keep it free of slush? **The city would compensate cooperating businesses through tax rebates.

Unintended Consequences

Santa gave my husband a Uniglo Heattech tee-shirt for Christmas to keep him warm. According to the Uniglo website, “The moisture-wicking fabric retains heat and also features anti-odor properties to keep you feeling fresh even when you sweat.”

But for him, Heattech, launched in Japan some 13 years ago, does something else that the company cannot promote on Google.

My husband suffers from a rash on his shoulders which itches all the time. A cream called Sarna works for about an hour but then the itching returns. However, when he wears his Heattech shirt, he doesn’t itch all day.

I read that the fabric also contains Camellia oil which according to an article on majoritymagazine.com, stays in the fabric up to 30 washes. This oil is said to help retain moisture. His dermatologist, who had not encountered Uniglo Heattech before, has suggested that if the textile retains moisture, that’s what alleviates the dry skin condition which causes the itch.

According to the magazine, “Due to Japan’s pharmaceutical laws, Unglo can’t officially claim that the presence of Camellia oil helps to retain moisture.” Uniglo probably can’t promote this wonderful health benefit here for the same reason: it would have to put the fabric through excruciating tests to prove and therefore promote such a claim.

Do you have questions that even Google hasn’t answered or surprise benefits of products you like?

Service of Asking the Right Questions II: It’s not about forgiveness for Anthony Wiener and Eliot Spitzer

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The media is asking the public if it can forgive Anthony Wiener and Eliot Spitzer who are running for NYC mayor and comptroller respectively. Both had been caught in kinky activity, the former on social media; the latter in a prostitution scandal.

Forgiveness is neither the point nor the appropriate question—it’s a distraction. To start, pardon for these actions is not the public’s business or domain—it’s for their families to stomach.

What is the voter’s affair? The candidates’ judgment, behavior and approach to their prior work. As state Attorney General, which he was before being elected Governor, Spitzer landed unsympathetically and severely on perpetrators. His mean approach to the law was hardly forgiving—what he now wants from the public–especially against those in the prostitution business of which he was a beneficiary. This made him the poster child for the Bible quote: “Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone.” I’m for strict adherence to the law; hypocrisy not so much.

So the question is not about forgiveness but about trust, transformation and whether overly ferocious politicians can change.

In today’s New York Post, columnist Michael Goodwin writes in “Sex pols’ sorry story”: “The issue is not how you spent your time out of office. The question is, how have you changed? How do we know you are not the same person who betrayed the public?”

Later in the column Goodwin continues: “Their final acts did not occur in a vacuum. For Spitzer and Weiner, their undoing was the culmination of years of reckless arrogance. Spitzer was so out of control that I predicted, after only eight months as governor, he would not finish his term. Six months later, he was gone.”

Moments after I heard a radio interview with Goodwin, a newscast on the same station ran the voice of a potential voter who had forgiven Spitzer for his sexual pursuits. The quote was illustrating the news that Spitzer was having trouble accumulating 3,750 signatures of registered Democrats that he needs to be on the ballot. His deadline is tomorrow night.

I discussed the topic with Martha Takayama who inspired the post in the first place. She said, “You have to pound on the idea that their morals are beside the point and that inconsistent application of crime and punishment rules are the issue.” The Boston-based gallery owner of Tepper Takayama Fine Arts, specializing in contemporary photography, is also passionate about politics. A frequent visitor to Manhattan where she has family, she pays more attention to what’s going on here than most locals. Takayama continued: “Spitzer’s case indicates a flaw–not a tragic one because he is not great. He thinks that he is above the law. That rules are not for him! He was a grown man when he manifested that behavior.” 

The media should help a public, with memory the size of a punctuation mark, by asking the right questions and covering the work-history of the candidates. Goodwin was on the right track. While I don’t always agree with this columnist, we see eye-to-eye on this subject. 

When you watch interviews with candidates, celebrities or others are there questions you’d wish the reporter or on-air host would ask or do they pretty much cover what you want to know? Is forgiveness what it’s about with candidates reemerging after a fall or is it more about belief in the potential for adults to change?

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