Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

Service of Businesses That Forget Who Pays the Bills

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Here are three businesses or employees who forgot that it’s through customers that they earn their salaries.

Face the Music

I read this on a friend’s Facebook posting: “I liked TOYOTA MANHATTAN until today. I had a 9 AM appointment for my car which I bought there at A VERY inflated price 1 ½  years ago and waited in line an hour and was told by an employee to go to the front since I had an appointment, only to be told to go back in line and by then, I’d lost 5 spaces. ANGRY. And the fact that 3 people were on their personal phones when I was waiting for an hour makes it worse!”

How do I know?

I notified The Wall Street Journal, online, that we didn’t get our issue and received two automatic notices: 1) that they’d told the distributor and would credit us for a copy and 2) was a request to evaluate the service.  The wanted to know if I was  __ Delighted; __Fairly Satisfied or __Not Satisfied.

I clicked “Not satisfied” and because they asked respondants to explain, I wrote “How can I be satisfied when I don’t know when I will receive the missing copy?” We never got it as that is not an option when you report a missing copy online which was strike two. Further we have no idea if we were credited to receive an additional copy. My advice: Call, don’t report a missing issue online.

A Loyal Customer Left High and Dry

Employees [and policies] cause problems not only at world-renown brands. A follower of this blog, frequent commenter and friend called about a recent incident with a service her family has used extensively and loyally since the 1950s. Last summer she estimates that she spent $500 on dry cleaning at this suburban Boston company. Given their history, the company, that has four branches, has always billed her.

She was dealing with an employee, not an owner, when picking up clothes this week. She’d received a notice that they had some of her belongings that she might have forgotten. The young staffer insisted that the clothes might not be hers and said that in any case, she couldn’t take them unless she paid $103 on the spot. He presented no bill.

She explained that for decades the owners have billed her and that’s when sparks began to fly. He became increasingly rude to both her and her husband using an elevated, obnoxious tone. [Note: They are an elegant, distinguished couple.] He’s not a nubie: He told them he’d worked for the compay for six years. He didn’t flinch when she told him “We will never come back here. You have no idea how to behave or treat people.” She’s contacting the owners about him.

My questions:

  • Re: the Toyota incident, it’s amazing how employees aren’t embarrassed to take personal calls in front of a line of customers waiting for service, isn’t it? And why bother to make service appointments if you ignore them?
  • Saving itself money was the goal of The Wall Street Journal’s subscription customer service department. The idea was to get rid of a complaint ASAP, not accommodate subscribers. Can you share other examples?
  • As for the dry cleaner, does brand loyalty have no importance anymore? Does the in-your-face political atmosphere in some quarters feed such aggressive behavior?

 

Service of Loyalty

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Orchids for blog Jan 2016 002

Loyalty to my belongings has been a lifelong fault: You’d think I grew up during the 1929 Depression. What’s strange is that I’m fascinated by what’s new, love attending trade shows to be among the first to see the latest, adore to shop to enhance my wardrobe and buy gifts and I’m in awe of/admire innovation.

I realize that by taking loyalty to the next level, [jargon I despise], I’m being un-American because I’m not helping the economy. Here are examples:

I kept my first car 16 years even though at the end it broke down more than it ran. I remember a conversation with my father, the king of frugality. I’d called him to explain why I’d be late because the Dodge Dart had stopped running [again], this time on Park Avenue in the 30s. He said, “Maybe it’s time to give it up.” For him to say that was a shock!

The window of a basement laundry room of a co-op we once lived in was filled with orchids discarded by tenants once their flowers had finished blooming. [The plants were rescued from the trash by staff.] In our apartment our orchids bloomed on and off throughout the year. When we moved during a bitter winter in which they were exposed several times to frigid air and wind, the orchids suffered. Landing in a different place, with unfamiliar light and ridiculous amounts of heat, I didn’t hold out much hope for them. We never gave up and over the holidays, [see the photo above] they all burst into bloom!

Outdoor thermometerLast weekend I taped a thermometer’s suction cup to our bedroom window. Its ability to adhere had given out and yet it seemed a waste to toss it. When we wake up at the house, about the first thing we do in any season is to check the outside temperature. This stalwart gadget lived through quite a few winters, even last year’s blizzards and ice. It deserves another chance.

My brilliant IT man resuscitated my ancient Blackberry when it decided to stop showing emails. It does everything I need so why spend money and time to learn a new system when I already own a terrific device?

I worry every time I use our washer/dryer because Mr. Hobson, the crack repair man, is no longer in business. He also sold appliances and couldn’t compete with the big boxes. If the smallest glitch happens, we’ll be forced to toss and replace.

Do you know others like me? Are there antidotes?

Orchids for blog Jan 2016 004 flip sml

Service of Penalties For Doing Nothing Wrong

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

I knew of a fellow whose car insurance company considered him accident prone for which he was penalized. It had nothing to do with his driving record. He’d park his car in town and on three occasions over a few years another vehicle ran into it. His mistake was to report each incident. The first insurance company dropped him and the next insurer charged him more.

I wonder if a similar thing will happen to my credit rating. I understand that one of the ways to decrease your credit rating is by ordering too many cards. A few months ago I got a new credit card because Home Depot was hacked. It happened to thousands if not millions of others. We had no choice: A new card arrived in the mailbox. [A friend told me that now this store asks to see your driver’s licensee if you buy goods worth more than $50. Good.]

This week, someone tried to buy food from a ShopRite supermarket in New Jersey using my credit card number. The card’s security office called to confirm that the purchase was mine because, said the security man, the store had questioned and refused the charge. I assured him I was speaking with him from my desk in NYC, my card in hand, and that it wasn’t me buying groceries. I asked how the perpetrator got my credit card number and he said that there are so many ways he couldn’t tell me which it was.

I now have a second black mark to jeopardize my rating, and also the inconvenience of seven to 10 days without a card I use almost daily. I also must notify EZ Pass of the new number, and any other service that automatically charges expenses to my card. Didn’t I just do that after the Home Depot card fix? Grump.

This new card business is costly for banks. No wonder credit card companies want to move 100 percent of the charging process to smartphones: Someone steals the phone and replacement is the owner’s problem. Surely the swindlers are currently figuring out how to outsmart the phones. It will also be inconvenient for those without the newest phones–which in this harsh world will just be tough for them while great for phone sales.

I wonder how ShopRite staff knew that I wasn’t using my card. We swipe cards–they never go near the cashier who might feel the quality of the plastic or notice something strange about the card’s layout. In addition to examples in insurance and credit card worlds, are we potentially penalized for other things we have no control over?

Service of Listening to Your Mother

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

NPR’s David Greene interviewed a VP of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Roger Morris, who explained how the auto industry has taken a big bite out of car theft through technology. In 1991, at the peak, there were 1.6 million car thefts a year vs. 700,000 in 2013 according to FBI stats, said Morris.

How did this happen? Morris said: “Well, they put a code in the key that matches up with the ignition that says, you know, unless this key is in this ignition, it won’t start. So it basically stopped the hot wiring and, you know, the joy riding, so to speak.”

Apart from the models on the road made before this technology was built in, what’s the main cause of car thefts these days? Morris says it’s because people leave keys in unlocked cars when they dash into a store.

Clearly these drivers didn’t use common sense or heed their mother or father’s warning never to do this. Have you wanted to kick yourself when something’s happened because you’ve not followed time-tested, sage advice?

Service of You Can Run But You Can’t Hide

Monday, March 24th, 2014

I am breaking my rule not to mention brand names when addressing negative issues because of the size of the companies involved, the flagrant lack of concern for customer safety and the fact that this approach appears to be increasingly acceptable.

General Motors, Toyota and Target have been in the news not for their product launches and retailing innovations but because they sat on negative information of utmost importance to their customers resulting, in the case of the auto manufacturers, in death.

GM waited years before admitting to problems with ignition switches in potentially 1.6 million Chevy Cobalts. Some 12 people died as a result. I don’t know how many were injured.

Toyota hid information about sticking pedals causing cars to zoom ahead uncontrollably. They also kept mum about floor mats that interfered with acceleration. Both malfunctions caused injuries and deaths.

On November 27th, two days before Black Friday and almost a month before Christmas, Target learned about the breach of its in-store credit card terminals affecting some 40 million and waited for weeks, until mid December, to own up to the disaster. I wouldn’t again charge a toothpick in this store–which I like–and I don’t carry much cash. A few years ago I was sent a new credit card immediately when TJ Maxx discovered credit card violations. These things happen and will increasingly. The prompt and seamless handling gave me more confidence in that brand.

I can hear the chorus from readers: “GREED made them do it.” But who is advising these businesses? Damage is so much worse when you don’t admit to wrong doing, causing more harm and dragging out the story so increasing numbers of people are adversely affected and more hear about it.

Why do executives, time and again, think that they will be the ones to make these problems go away before anyone notices? If they fear assault on their reputations once a disaster occurs, don’t they realize that by trying to hide they are only growing the circumference of their black eyes? Are immediate profits more important than reputations and conducting business responsibly because people count on the public’s microscopic memory?

Service of Simplicity

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Technology can be time and life-saving but not always.

Next Time Add Mayo

During halftime on Saturday, a dry chicken sandwich caught in Chris Fowler’s throat. He was one of two ESPN commentators at this weekend’s Rutgers-Notre Dame Pinstripe Bowl game at Yankee Stadium. A simple Heimlich maneuver by Jesse Palmer, the other commentator, saved the choking announcer. I saw how a Heimlich rescued a man at my table at a business awards dinner and will never forget how effective it was–and how scary were the moments before.

En Voiture!

French car manufacturer Peugeot introduced a vehicle with zero gewgaws. At eye height is a gauge indicating gas and speed, period. Does a car that gets you from A to Z place without built-in GPS, movie screens and gauges galore represent a trend? Note: The car is not available in the U.S.

Knee-Jerk Reaction

On the news last week results of a study on knee surgery suggested that physical therapy alone was as effective as an operation plus therapy in some cases. Physical therapy solved a severe shoulder injury for me–it seemed like a miracle.

Neither Rain nor Snow nor Heat nor Gloom of Night….

I continue to recommend that job candidates follow up with both an email and standard mail thank you immediately after an interview. The stamped missive will distinguish you and amplify your interest in a non-intrusive, positive way. It will also stand out which yet another email won’t. Note: First class stamps increase three cents to 49 cents on January 26.

Will we increasingly see more examples that highlight the value of simplicity? Media appears to enjoy them or I wouldn’t know about most in this post. Are some seeking a balance from everything tech-hip?

Service of Scams

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

When I hear about or observe outrageous scams or ones that are easy to fall for I share so word gets out, which is an effective way to defang such swindles.

The worst of the latest crop preyed on students by offering them internships at the United Nations Centre for International Development (UNCID) in Geneva, Switzerland. The student who told me about it originally heard of the opportunity via her university’s career services department. “It was just like any other email/job posting that we receive,” she said. Others in her class also applied and a longtime professor remarked at what a superlative opportunity this was.

She was accepted by the fraudulent program and received medical record, internship allegiance and employment offer forms and documents that she was to sign and return via a special email address.

What alerted her to the fact that this otherwise legitimate sounding internship was fishy? Her sister mentioned to her that there is no organization called U.N.C.I.D, her first clue.  She then checked out the names of various people who signed or were mentioned in emails. None came up in a Google search, nor did any have LinkedIn profiles nor did they appear on the U.N. website.

In addition, the employment offer, signed by a Dr. (Mrs.) Jennifer Hudson, Intern Coordinator, noted a $4,125/month stipend. She told me, “The UN doesn’t pay its interns.” [Do real people sign their name Dr. (Mrs.)?]

When I saw the stationery used for the employment offer—she sent me all the documents–it looked clumsily handmade. The letterhead was crammed up against the UN logo, another tip of the dubious nature of this offer.

I couldn’t figure out what the scammers had to gain by receiving a batch of signed documents from students. My young friend said she read in an online forum that they would next ask her for money to cover her airline and living expenses. I shudder to think of other nefarious outcomes of young people arriving abroad, alone, in the hands of people with shady intentions.

These timely cons seamlessly intrude in ways that make perfect sense. Here are two more.

After we leased a new car I received three requests to take a survey. The first one, from General Motors, I responded to. Another came by email a month or so later and the third, supposedly from J.D. Power and Associates, through the USPS at the same time. Before doing anything I contacted Barry Lang, our General Motors salesman. [I wrote about his spectacular service a few months ago.]. He suggested I ignore both which, with the corroboration of my nephew who is in another part of the car business, I did. Neither man liked the sound of these requests. Tip: The one from J.D. Power came with a sweepstakes offer for a $100,000 prize.

Have you noticed scams like these that we should know about? Has the prevalence of such behavior changed the way you respond to opportunities and requests for information? Think that there are more cons than ever before?

Service of an Expert Salesman

Monday, April 8th, 2013

When an improved product and expert salesman mesh, it’s a pleasure to spend money. For a service fanatic, it’s poetry to behold–like dancing with a star.

This happened to us the other week when Barry Lang from Audia Motor Sales in Millbrook, NY called to tell us our lease had expired on our Chevy Malibu. My husband Homer Byington, not a car enthusiast, was impressed by the negotiation. He said, “I knew I had to do something about the lease, and Barry got to me before I reached out to Audia. There was plenty of time to make a decision: Buy the car we’d driven for three years or lease a new one.

“He could tell I was technologically illiterate and conducted his sales pitch in language I could understand,” said Homer. “He also priced his offer competitively, not taking advantage of me.” Homer had checked with a family member in a related business who confirmed the lease price was fair.

Meanwhile, while we liked the 2010 Malibu we turned in, it had its faults, every one of which was addressed in the 2013 auto. The designers reduced the size of the side view mirror that previously had been so big that at certain angles I had to practically stand up in my seat while making a left hand turn for fear of running over someone hidden behind the device. The windshield seems bigger and the rear headrests smaller increasing visibility. Chevy also removed a lump that housed a break light at eye level for the cars behind, which took away rear window visibility for the driver. And it added handles above each door as a standard feature and enlarged the glove compartment.

Back to Barry. He was patient with our questions, explaining how the car’s Bluetooth system worked and other features basic for most but unfamiliar to us. We took a week to decide whether to buy or lease again and a car in the color we liked–a blue/gray–was still there on our return. When we noted this Barry said he’d reserved it for us.

We’ve written previously about how friends and family members have been treated dismissively and disrespectfully by showroom staff selling highfalutin brands with hefty price tags. We don’t think Barry could make someone feel diminished; arrogance isn’t his style yet he could sell high end products with equal success.

If you drop in to Audia Motors, my bet is that one of the Audias will be there. One brother, Peter, chatted with us briefly last Saturday before we signed up and this Saturday Bob handed me my permanent NY State registration. During the week someone at Audia had paid for and picked it up at Motor Vehicles.

Can you share a boast about a similar sales experience for any product?

Service of Did You Get the Message?

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

With all the technology at our fingertips, I wonder how well we have learned to effectively communicate, absorb and act on information, especially in giant organizations and companies.

Oh what a tangled web we weave….

I buy a 10-trip web ticket on the Internet—have been doing so for years.  When I handed mine to the conductor, she said, “It’s expired.” I said, “I just got it in the mail!” She pointed to a date on the ticket which must have been the date the ticket was processed. She took it as the date the ticket expires. I explained the situation and convincingly as she didn’t make me pay, but the confrontation was heated and I didn’t like all the fuss.

The next conductor punched my ticket without a word so I asked him what the deal was and he said that scads of tickets were mailed with the distribution rather than the expiration date and not to worry about it—the conductors all received a directive about the glitch.

The ticket-collecting conductor for my third ride on the web ticket had not read the directive as I had to again explain the situation, with pairs of rider’s eyes staring at me suspiciously from behind Kindles and newspapers as I argued for my cause.

So it got me to ponder how, when you run something as big as Metro-North and there’s a mistake like this one, a company gets out the word effectively.

Metro-North has the email addresses of all the web ticket buyers. Why not send a copy of the directive to carry in our wallets at minimal cost in time and none in out of pocket.

Sticker shock

I thought of this when a friend told me about the letter she received from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. It explained that the department “has identified a defect in the registration documents supplied by our vendor that has prevented the printing of most registrations and window stickers that were ordered starting January 1.”

The letter went on to say that her registration is processed and everything is in order and if kept in the vehicle, the letter should serve as proof should she need to show it to law enforcement officials. Further, all police agencies and courts were notified.

Since then, she got the sticker. In the interim, this friend, who lives in Westchester, had received no summons for an expired registration.

The police and traffic staff in NYC have an easier time checking registration dates on parked cars in city streets to fulfill their ticket quota and I wonder: Did they all get and retain the message? Recipients of the letter wouldn’t put it in their car windows because both name and address are clearly typed in a bigger font than the body of the letter. My parents, parked on a city street, once got a ticket for being one day overdue.

Drug test

I renewed a prescription on the phone via press one press two, punch in your Rx number, for an ordinary drug from a store that asks you for the date and time you expect to pick up your order. When I got there an hour or two after the time I’d noted, the pharmacy attendant said that the meds were on back order and asked if I could return the next day. The next day I got a call to tell me my prescription was waiting for me.

To save me a fruitless trip, shouldn’t they have also called to tell me when it wasn’t?

Are my expectations too high? Do you have examples where someone didn’t get the message and instances of a company or organization communicating them flawlessly, where everyone involved heard and remembered?

Service of Too Complicated

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

New York morning drive radio personality John Gambling loves cars, is a NASCAR fan and from hearing his conversation over the years has owned his share of, I would suspect, mostly if not exclusively luxury autos. My ears perked up when he admitted, in September, that the new Fisker–an electric car–was too complicated for him to drive.

The Fisker Karma was introduced last December and it has won all sorts of awards. According to a press release about it: “The Fisker Karma is the only American car to win the Top Gear Luxury Car of the Year award; Automobile magazine named the Karma its Design of the Year; TIME magazine listed the Karma as one of its 50 Best Inventions; the Fisker Karma also received an Edison Award for Innovation and is a finalist in Fast Company’s Innovation by Design competition.”

All nice, but what’s the point if it’s too complicated for a car-enthusiast to drive?

Similarly, my nephew, who owns an auto body shop and has flirted with, owned and loved countless cars over the years, and knows them inside out, just bought a 2010 BMW-in perfect shape. He volunteered, as we sat in the lap of his luxurious leather seats, that he’d have to go to school to figure out all its bells and whistles.

So for who are these vehicles designed?

When it comes to cars, I’ve never opted for luxury [NYC roads and garages make mincemeat of them] and as long as I know how to turn on the AC, the heat and the radio, lock and unlock the door and put the gear in “drive,” I’m set. With cheap cars it’s been easy up until now. Fingers crossed.

It’s not only cars that daunt and are overcomplicated. I admit dreading something I must face: buying a new office computer. It will take a few weeks to find anything in it and I can look forward to learning to do in six steps what now takes me one. I should be excited at the thought of a new computer, not overwhelmed and dismayed, but my experience sends out warning signals.

Would you pay more for simple versions of the many things we rely on? Why don’t manufacturers take note?

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