Archive for the ‘Pandemic’ Category

Service of Expectations III

Monday, December 27th, 2021

I wrote the first two in this series in 2012 (though I suspect there are many posts in which dashed expectations are at the core).


Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay 

In one I covered highlights of irritants identified in a customer service survey where rudeness, passing the buck, waiting too long for problem resolution and having to follow-up too often topped the list of complaints and disappointments. In the other I described a person who didn’t send a message that he was kept waiting for his doctor’s appointment for three hours. He refused to own a mobile phone and didn’t ask the receptionist to borrow hers. Friends expecting his visit that afternoon were frantic when he didn’t show and didn’t call–which they expected him to do.

In a recent Social Q’s column in The New York Times, Philip Galanes responded to Ally who asked “Why Doesn’t Anyone Put as Much Effort Into Secret Santa as I Do? A reader feels consistently disappointed by her family’s gift exchange.” In part of his response he wrote: “This is like shopping regularly for heirloom tomatoes at the hardware store. You will never find them there! Try to lower your expectations before the unwrapping begins. Consider the other ways your relatives show they care.”

How many viewers of Face the Nation expect to be able to walk in heels as high as the ones Margaret Brennan wears [photo above]? Here she was this Sunday interviewing Vice President Kamala Harris. Do you think she walks far in them? I was on a set before a client’s TV interview where the host slipped off Uggs boots and put on heels just before cameras rolled.

Some friends respond to emails and texts and expect others to as well–but they don’t or it takes them ages to do so. Others generously share their contacts but that favor is never returned. These situations generate feelings of disrespect.

I see signs in windows for “quick turnaround PCR tests” for Covid and understand that there will be laws to punish those who lie as there must be plenty of them. They promise results in a day when the reality is closer to five.

My advice for happiness: Drop expectations. Agree?


Image by Samuel F. Johanns from Pixabay 

Service of Faster and Faster and Faster and For What?

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

I ran out of eggs while making a quiche the other evening. I was too lazy to go out–it was 7 pm–and I don’t know my neighbors so I improvised.

Winnie Hu and Chelsia Rose Marcius covered a potential solution to my missing eggs in their article in The New York Times. They wrote: “Now the nation’s largest city has become the biggest laboratory for the latest evolution in rapid e-commerce — a surge of online companies promising groceries at your door in 15 minutes or less, so no one has to worry about running out of milk or missing powdered cinnamon for a poundcake recipe.” This near instant grocery delivery service model is old news in London, Paris and Moscow.

An aside: The reporters prefaced news of the concept with the following: “The explosion of internet commerce has transformed New York City, with same-day delivery of a couch, a television or the latest laptop just a few clicks away as more companies compete for faster delivery.” This was posted on November 9. With the container backup I wonder how these promises are working out. A friend’s Christmas ornaments meant for sale in her store are sitting somewhere–but not on her shelves.

There is some downside to balance the convenience: Pedestrians are already at risk with the multitude of delivery people on bicycles–many motorized, driving at top speed in the wrong direction or on sidewalks. And what about the bottom line pressure on grocery stores whose owners pay dearly for substantial real estate and staff? And I cringe for the countless bodegas that city folk depend on for a quart of milk or can of soda.

Columbia Business School professor Mark A. Cohen conjectured that “grocery companies cannot realistically deliver in 15 minutes every time as their order volumes increase, or hold on to customers who may give them a try but grow disappointed with the limited selection of products.” Competitors working in some Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx neighborhoods include Buyk, JOKR, Gopuff, Gorillas, 1520 and Fridge No More. A supermarket carries some 35,000 products, report Hu and Marcius, where the micro hubs, maintained for fast delivery, stock from 1,500 to 5,000. One delivery worker told the reporters he dropped off 18 orders over 10 hours.

How does the model work that offers low or free delivery charges and products at standard prices? It does for those businesses, “with investors funding their operations for now,” the reporters wrote, that don’t pay for checkout or customer service employees and buy in bulk from manufacturers. Their locations needn’t be prime nor space big and they maintain tight inventories with little waste they reported.

If the price of goods remains moderate and delivery charges modest I see a use for the 15 minute delivery in market niches such as parents caring for infants and young children as well as the infirm. The frantic who juggle too much would also be likely targets.

Back to my quiche. I wouldn’t have ordered half a dozen eggs through a high speed grocery delivery service. I’d need to retrieve the package from the lobby because deliveries have not been permitted upstairs throughout the pandemic. Once downstairs I’d rather walk up the block to the deli than order online.

I’m statistically insignificant. I’m surely among the few in my giant apartment building who enjoys picking up my Chinese and Mexican takeout meals. What’s seven blocks? [Many other options are a block away but are not my favorites.] At certain times of day and on weekends the numbers of food deliveries to athletic looking 30-somethings made to this building are jaw dropping.

Do you think this almost instant food delivery service will be a flash in the pan? Does the concept appeal to you? Will you give it a whirl?


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of Crowds II

Monday, November 8th, 2021

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I am crowd averse as I’ve written previously, most recently about the impact of the pandemic on Manhattan that eliminated swarms of citizens who normally congregate at certain times and places. I was caught in a mass of people all trying to exit a courtyard at once through a narrow opening in a gate when I was 10. I had no control over the direction I wanted to go or whether I could stick near my mother and I didn’t like that feeling.

That’s why I’m amazed that people scramble to fill stadiums that hold over a hundred thousand fans. Madison Square Garden has almost 20,000 seats which seems like a lot. Friends flock there to hear their favorite singers, pay exorbitant prices and consider themselves lucky to snag tickets.

It’s remarkable that the dreadful event, that happened in Houston last Friday at the sold-out Astroworld music festival–50,000 people attended–hasn’t happened more often.


Image by Vishnu R from Pixabay

This venue holds 200,000+ reported J. David Goodman and Maria Jimenez Moya in The New York Times

They wrote: “The most common cause of injury and death in crowds is compressive asphyxia, when people are pushed against one another so tightly that their airways become constricted, said Steve Adelman, a lawyer and the vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, an advocacy group. This happens most often during a ‘crowd crush,’ when the audience is packed together so tightly that people cannot move, but it can also occur during a stampede.”

They added that “Houston police chief, Troy Finner, said that officials worried that cutting off the concert could make the situation worse. ‘You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals,’ he said. ‘We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young.’”

Eight died in the third year of this event, from ages 14 to 17.

According to the Associated Press, as reported in usatoday.com, “‘The crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,’ the [Houston] fire chief [Samuel Peña] said. ‘People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.'”

“The deadly surge was the most deaths at a U.S. concert since the 2003 Station nightclub fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island.

“Eleven people died and about two dozen were injured in 1979 at a concert for The Who as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum.”

I’ve happily attended concerts and performances in Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera and Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera and concerts at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College as well as at sold-out performances in theaters here and abroad. Security checked handbags for bombs and firearms after 9/11 but I didn’t stress about the possibility of an explosion. Issues of Covid-19 aside, am I naive to be unconcerned in these places?

Does attending a crowded venue–even a place of worship with a modest capacity–give you pause? Are some seats– stadiums and concert halls–safer than others? Have you been in a crowd that worried you?


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of First Impressions Redux

Monday, November 1st, 2021

Over the years–this month marks the 13th anniversary of my blog–I’ve written a few times about first impressions. The other week I was fooled by a restaurant a few blocks from my apartment, Wagamama, that I’ve passed hundreds of times. It never appealed to me because it looked sterile–like a chain. With the exception of Maison Kayser, the bakery restaurant that was killed by the pandemic, Le Pain Quotidien, headquartered in Belgium, and Danish-based Ole & Steen, with three NYC branches, I’m usually not a fan of restaurant chains or of fast food.

You’d think a huge sparkling clean space would attract me during the Covid catastrophe. It gave me the impression that the dishes had previously been frozen and heated in a microwave.

Photo: painquotidien.com

My intuition was wrong.

I met two friends there for lunch the other day and enjoyed one of the best dishes of pad Thai that I can remember. The British chain has three branches in NYC and two in Boston. Here’s how they describe themselves, cut and pasted from their website–the punctuation and lack of uppercase letters is theirs: “we’ve been practising kaizen since 1992, when we opened our first doors in london’s bloomsbury. inspired by fast-paced, japanese ramen bars and a celebration of asian food, wagamama burst into life. we set out to create a unique way of eating. bringing the fresh, nourishing, flavors of asia to all.”

Are there chains you like? Is there something about the quality and standards of foreign food chains that makes their food tastier? What first impressions –good or bad–have fooled you lately?

Photo: oleandsteen.us

Service of Best Intentions: Makeup and Exercise

Thursday, October 7th, 2021



Image by fotostrobi from Pixabay

I know about best intentions. I buy makeup and with the exception of the most mundane face cream, base or lipstick, I soon lose interest and abandon it.

With the exception of walking, the only time I’ve exercised on my own has been to support the regimes physical therapists recommended after I broke my foot and to fix a shoulder issue. I’m ashamed. My father exercised daily. During the worst of the pandemic I walked for miles in my space-challenged apartment while speaking on the phone but most wouldn’t consider that exercise.

I admire those who buy exercise equipment. For me it would  become a place to hang a shirt worn for an hour or a sweater I was too lazy to fold and put away or maybe even an expensive device on which to air dry laundry.


Image by Sendoku from Pixabay   

Jen Murphy wrote “Pandemic’s Peloton Obsession Turns to Peloton Fatigue At-home workouts grew into a cultural phenomenon during lockdowns, but the easing of restrictions has even die-hards idling exercise bikes for fun outside.” She reported in The Wall Street Journal article “The web-connected exercise bikes from Peloton Interactive Inc. start at $1,495 with the option to pay $39 a month for live-stream and recorded workouts.” At the height of the pandemic the recorded workouts made participants feel connected with others; some compared participating to attending a party.

“The pandemic has since shifted to a new stage,” Murphy wrote. “For some people, the easing of Covid-19 restrictions has prompted a break from their Peloton obsession and the pursuit of different physical activities. Others say they are too drained from the pandemic’s grind to muster any energy to hop on a bike.”

Peloton spokesperson Amelise Lane “attributed the decline in average monthly workouts per user to summer weather, which drew more people outdoors. Many Peloton users are spending more free time at the gym, dining out or taking vacations, she said.”

Murphy continued: “Other people say that getting back to social activities has left them too tired to maintain their peak levels of Peloton workouts.”

I’m considering a tryout with a yoga for beginners video I saw on YouTube [the operative word: considering]. Are there categories of things about which you have the best intentions but you discover or recognize your limits? Have you overridden any? Do you follow an exercise regimen with or without equipment?


Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay   

Service of Ask for an Inch and Take a Mile

Monday, October 4th, 2021

The idea for this post came to me as I waited for a delivery person with a dolly negotiate, and clear, a standard sidewalk transformed into narrow alley, before I could enter. I had to squeeze by other pedestrians–too close for my comfort pandemic or no–numerous times and noticed similar infringements in most neighborhoods.

Each instance in the photos here is an example of a business that has taken advantage of the pandemic to enlarge its footprint by encroaching on walkways big-time. New Yorkers walk. The negative impact of such obstructions will amplify as the city refills with workers, tourists and residents.

Taking such advantage reminded me of some charities. I donate modest amounts to a few throughout the year. In less than a month after receiving my check some bombard me with additional requests. My appeal to them: Wait six months at least, please! What are computers for if not to make possible spaced-out reminders by the fulfillment company that distributes the mailings?

If the strategy didn’t work, the charities wouldn’t do it. I’ve written before about a person close to me who had been generous when well. One year he responded to each of many mailed requests. The accountant caught what happened. Shame on those organizations. Soon after the accountant’s discovery the munificent donor was diagnosed with dementia.

Businesses and charities aren’t alone in milking hands that feed them and don’t know when to stop. Have you noticed similar instances?

Service of Planning Way Ahead

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

Does everyone plan way ahead these days?

As early as August people had rented homes and hotel rooms to gather with family members for out of town Thanksgiving celebrations.

Daily we’re warned to buy Christmas gifts now. Wait and we will be unable to purchase the ones we want.

Michelle Fox at cnbc.com reported that a creditcards.com survey forecasted that 27 percent of holiday shoppers plan to start before the end of September and 13 percent started in August. In addition to bargain shopping and threats of rising prices that inspire early purchases, supply chain clogs and shortages of computer chips and other key components inspire shopping now.

Toys are particularly at risk. Fox wrote: “Some Lego advent calendars are already selling out, Ellsworth noted. Other hot items include Squishmallows and a plush toy of the Morris character from the Marvel movie ‘Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings.’” Kate Ellsworth is the executive editor of commerce content at Reviewed.

Lisa Baertlein, Reuters, reported in mid-September that “A record 60 container vessels are at anchor or adrift in the San Pedro Bay, waiting to be unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach seaports and another 20 are due to arrive in coming days.”

An article on thedeepdive.ca reported; “According to data from the Bank of America cited by CNBC, overseas shipping container costs have significantly ballooned since the beginning of the pandemic.” The article: “Costco Warns of Higher Inflation Ahead of Holiday Season, Dismantling ‘Transitory’ Narrative.” Reporter Hermina Paull continued “A 40-foot container shipped from Shanghai to New York was priced at approximately $2,000 just over one year ago; now, that price tag has soared to around $16,000.” She predicted that with upcoming holidays consumers should expect to cover such increased costs.

Have you noticed that people are making plans unusually early this year whether holiday related or otherwise? Are “buy early” warnings real or an attempt to stimulate or increase sales?  Are you shopping early or resorting to gift cards? Is this a one-off due to the pandemic or may we expect it for years?


Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay

Service of Change

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

I passed a deli with signs on the door: “To Dine-in Proof of Covid-19 Vaccination Required.” It surprised me because the place didn’t look like a restaurant but there must be a few tables and chairs inside. This requirement is a change for New Yorkers who won’t fully feel the brunt until the winds of fall make outdoor dining less appealing. I signed up for an Excelsior Pass so that proof of my vaccines are accessible by clicking on an icon, with me when my phone is. In addition to my driver’s license, I’m set to enter any place proof is required.



Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I get attached to people. A few months ago my hair stylist of years retired. I’m still adjusting though we’re in touch as friends. I envy women who are comfortable going to a range of hair salons. Not me.

My investment advisor also just retired. Wow! Will the roof fall in? No spring chicken, she was entitled years ago. But still: Couldn’t she hang on a little longer for me? A person’s doctor, accountant or lawyer can have the same impact when they leave the scene. Two years ago my eye doctor moved his practice out of NYC. Calamity! I miss him.

A friend suggested that Virgos don’t handle change well which is why, she explained, I find these changes disturbing. I’d be curious to know if others–born under other astrological signs–feel as I do over a change of doctor, hair stylist, stock broker, lawyer, accountant or other key person. Do you?

Service of What’s Going On? We Were Nice to One Another for a While

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Image by Methawee Krasaeden from Pixabay

Certain friends would reprimand me when I complained about service. They’d say, “The person is paid so little. What can you expect?” That was never a viable excuse for me. I don’t think that clients or customers should be penalized for that reason.

Today there’s a new excuse for bad behavior or flaunting the rules. Some say “Oh, but the poor things have been cooped up so long because of the pandemic.” So? I should be put in danger or yelled at because somebody is sick of social distancing or wearing a mask and is asked to do so? I feel no pity. And there’s another difference: The perpetrators of grouch and grump are customers.

We are so spoiled. If this was a traditional war would these people go for a stroll during bombing while whining that they’d had enough of being stuck in a basement or subway platform? This is a kind of war–against a silent enemy we can’t see.

We’ve recently seen fisticuffs over mask-wearing on national news between passengers on planes.

Apt Cape Cod friend’s comment on the restaurant’s Facebook page: “Please let your staff know that there are more nice people in the world than not-so-nice ones! Jocelyn”

Neil Vigdor wrote about “The owners of Apt Cape Cod, a farm-to-table restaurant in Brewster, Mass., [that] drew a line in the sand against customers’ rude behavior since being allowed to fully reopen.” In his New York Times article he reported “The verbal abuse from rude customers got so bad, the owners of one farm-to-table restaurant on Cape Cod said that some of their employees cried.” All one waitress had done was to tell a customer that the restaurant wasn’t yet open so she couldn’t submit his takeout order. He blew his top.

Vigdor wrote: “So Ms. Felt Castellano and her spouse, Regina Felt Castellano, who is also the head chef and co-owner, announced on Facebook that the restaurant would close for part of that same day to treat the restaurant’s employees to a ‘day of kindness.'”

The attitude is spreading like a rash. Here’s an example of what another industry is faced with. An excerpt of a comment by Liese Swann on Apt Cape Cod’s Facebook page follows: “My spouse works in home improvement retail, part of management. The stories he comes home with now are simply unreal. He hung up the phone on one abusive customer, and his staff looked at him wide-eyed and said “We can do that?” They were mightily cheered when he said yes. Some of these customers threaten to call the state AG’s office because the manufacturer can’t supply their order fast enough! As soon as that phrase comes out of their mouths, management has no choice but to cut off the conversation and refuse their calls…..they cannot comprehend that their kitchen cabinets or new washer and dryer set simply can’t be conjured up out of thin air. And they throw temper tantrums at people who have no control over manufacturing and shipping. It’s completely unacceptable.”

Nasty bares its ugly teeth where I live too.  I was sad to learn that tenants in my apartment building are acting badly. We had been so good for so long!

We have received almost daily notices from building management requesting that we please continue to wear masks in public spaces because of the rampant Delta Covid-19 variant that, wrote the manager, is up 23 percent in our neighborhood. Another reason he gave: so many tenants travel internationally. [He didn’t mention our proximity to a major NYC hospital and its many specialty satellites.] In one reminder the manager wrote: “Some residents have cursed at others for asking them to comply. This behavior is unacceptable. We all want to feel safe.”

Are people continuing to keep their cool where your life takes you or have you begun to see fraying at the seams of good behavior? Do you excuse the short-tempered people because Covid 19 has confined them and they are fed up? What else do you think is going on?

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

Service of Dog Owner Etiquette at Outdoor Restaurants

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

Image by ttwan from Pixabay

My friend grew up with beagles and loves dogs. She takes photos of all sorts she meets on her travels and posts them on social media. So when one lunged and barked at her at the outdoor section of a restaurant where she was having lunch with her family she was all at once shaken, scared and later angry. “I thought I was going to be bitten. I’ve never had a big dog jump on me and bark like that. She wasn’t wagging her tail.”

This is what happened: She was returning to her outdoor table when she passed the dog and said “hello.” That’s when the canine reacted. The owner, who was seated at a table, pulled the dog off of her and responded, “I know,” when my friend said “I didn’t touch her.”

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

“The woman never apologized or asked how I was. When we left the restaurant I dropped by her table and told her she should have done and only then did she say she was sorry, although she claimed to have said so earlier.” In addition my friend told the woman that if the dog can’t behave she doesn’t belong in restaurants.

She overheard the dog owner tell another restaurant patron that the dog was a rescue and becomes aggressive if anyone comes near.

In a previous post, “Service of Will Your Pooch–or Parrot–Pass the Scrutiny of a Co-Op Board?, I mentioned that when we bought a co-op apartment decades ago a board member interviewed a tenant of the building we lived in about our dog’s behavior. Today I see docile pooches on the street with muzzles and assume the precaution is required by a landlord, condo or co-op board. Some buildings make dogs use service elevators to avoid potentially nasty confrontations with other tenants in passenger elevators.

Restaurants have spent a great deal to create attractive outdoor spaces. They are not shutting down as NYC increasingly sheds its pandemic restrictions that caused them to crop up in the first place. In fact Governor Cuomo just extended for a year permission for restaurant outdoor dining structures that take up parking, sidewalk and driving spaces in the city. Do you think that there should be protocol for pet owners who bring their canines to outdoor restaurants as clearly some take no precautions to safeguard other patrons even when they know their pet has aggression issues?

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