Archive for the ‘Retail’ Category

Service Of When Things Don’t Work—There Are Those Days

Thursday, November 30th, 2023

In spite of it being one of those days, I nevertheless came home happy.

I made the trek to a favorite discount store to buy puffy large envelopes great for mailing gifts and they didn’t have any. They also didn’t have foil pie plates. [I have another source.] It happens.

It was cold outside so after walking through Bryant Park’s Christmas Market where I found no Christmas gifts, I dropped into the Stavros Niarchos branch of the New York Public Library to warm up. I discovered that it now boasts an Amy’s Bread watering hole. But over each poster—and in the elevator–was a sign noting that Amy’s closed at 3 PM. It was 3:30.

A security guard assured me that they were open on the 7th floor. They were, but they’d run out of chai, so I left after a conversation with the cashier who explained that they aren’t allowed to touch the incorrect early closing signs. Only someone from the library can do that. “Bureaucracy,” he shrugged.

My day was nothing like that of a man I noticed across Third Avenue on his hands and knees in front of a drain. My bet is that he was trying to retrieve something—maybe a phone or housekeys. By the time I got near he had already gotten up and walked away holding a long stick. I wondered if he’d put chewing gum at the tip of his stick.

He really had one of those days. I’d had a nice walk on a chilly, crisp almost winter’s day returning home to an intact to do list.

Have you been out and about recently where you didn’t reduce your to do list but felt cheerful nevertheless?

Service of Don’t Tell Me What To Do

Thursday, October 19th, 2023

Bloomingdale’s 2023 Christmas shop is open already.

A crackerjack retailer friend said the other day, “People don’t like to be told what to do. They resent it.”

She remembered the talking-to a customer gave her when she asked the woman to please not remove the reeds from a diffuser because the splashed liquid stained the floor and walls of the shop as well as nearby merchandise.

I’m sure you’ve noticed how difficult to impossible it is to perfectly put things back in their packaging. For this reason she keeps samples at hand so customers don’t need to open anything. Nevertheless, she’s been snapped at when requesting that they check out the ones already unboxed.

It takes a special hand and eye and an expert merchandiser to make attractive product vignettes. She’s known for this. As customers reach for an item on display—even in the window—she knows the ones that are precarious or the items that are most difficult to present and she offers to get a fresh item from inventory the better to inspect. Dirty looks and grumbles are often the result. [She does not work at Bloomingdale’s where I photographed complicated displays above and below.]

Anger ensued when she asked one of two parents to leave a stroller on the porch of a tiny shop already crowded with people.

Do you ask before removing items from a retail display? Do you become angry if someone asks you to stop what you’re doing in a store? Should the customer always be right?

Another complicated display in the 2023 Bloomingdale’s Christmas shop.

Service of Traditional Retailers Shooing People Online

Monday, September 11th, 2023

I wonder what the future will be—and the strategy is–for the traditional retailers that force customers to buy from them online.

For example, I tried to buy orchid and violet fertilizer from several stores that sell these plants, and none carried the products. I found them online.

I wanted to buy a gift card for a friend from a restaurant she likes. My only option was to buy an e-gift card that was only good for online orders. She doesn’t make online orders. And I didn’t want to complicate her life. She’d have to figure out how to retrieve something she wasn’t interested in using in the first place. I bought nothing from them.

Walking through the Long Island Railroad station on Madison Avenue below Grand Central Terminal–called Grand Central Madison–that opened in January I wondered about the attractive hallways ready to welcome 25,000 square feet of retail business. The station is still bereft of takeout places, restaurants and clothing shops. I only saw a few kiosks selling coffee, soft drinks and snacks.

Losing in person business isn’t always the fault of a vendor. Changing trends continue to have their impact.

I see no takers at a shoeshine operation with four chairs in Grand Central when I pass by. I don’t think it is solely the fault of the impact of people working remotely. In NYC fewer people are wearing leather shoes—sneakers being the footwear of choice. Increasingly wedding parties wear them too and department stores devote a large percentage of their shoe real estate to them. A smart brand like Hoka recommends styles for running, walking, hiking, gym/fitness and all-day comfort.

Have you found yourself buying more things online not only for convenience but because you are forced to? Do you empathize, as I do, with businesses that may still be essential for some but that have become increasingly difficult to sustain due to changing trends?

Vivid images waiting for stores to replace them at Grand Central Madison–the Long Island Railroad station on Madison Ave below Grand Central Terminal

Service of “Sorry About That” or Blah Blah Blah

Monday, August 14th, 2023

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As I write this, I’m humming the song “Show Me” from My Fair Lady, where Eliza sings to the love besotted Freddy:

“Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars Burning above; If you’re in love,
Show me! Tell me no dreams
Filled with desire. If you’re on fire,
Show me! Here we are together in the middle of the night!
Don’t talk of spring! Just hold me tight!”

The lyrics—the first lines especially–apply to many, but thank goodness not all, businesses.

It wasn’t so long ago that the manager of a restaurant raced to give me his card when a waiter spilled cream on my wool jacket. He wanted me to give him the dry cleaning bill. Just the other day a waiter gifted my friend her dessert because of a misunderstanding.

By the way, I dislike the words “Sorry about that**.” But in the next examples there were no apologies–not even this obnoxious one. [**The expression falls in the same irritating category as “No problem,” in response to “thank you” which drives me nuts when employees have completed their jobs.]

I told Deb Wright about the tweets I received from Tina at Best Buy for the TV purchase debacle I wrote about August 3rd. I’d posted highlights of the mess on the social media platform.

At first Tina offered assistance—but there was nothing more to do. She asked for basic information—my name, phone number, email and order number and for more details but she couldn’t link to my blog as it was against company policy, so I had to send screen shots. [More of my time spent.]

She then wrote: “I’ve had an opportunity to read your message along with your blog. I appreciate you sending this information our way. With the details of your experience and the feedback you have provided, I can see that there are some hits and misses that needed to be brought to our attention. Please note that I have documented this into our corporate system to be reviewed by the appropriate teams.”

I’ve read this and previous tweets a few times and didn’t see the word SORRY anywhere.

The wording reminded Deb of a response she received from her complaint for a far more dire circumstance than the wasted time and countless communications and appointment ball droppings by Best Buy. The night before she was to go to the rehab place—the hospital was, in her words, kicking her out after a knee replacement –the insurance company announced that it refused to pay. She lives alone, her bedroom is upstairs, recovery requires strong pain meds and she’d been to the rehab place after her first knee replacement and knew how crucial this step was. Deb texted: “After many communications, I got the same response you did: ‘we are documenting your complaint and it will get our full attention.’ Bah! Humbug!”

The insurance company is lucky Deb didn’t hurt herself or sue for the anxiety its decision caused.

Can you share examples of nonentity responses with no sorry attached from corporations or organizations when they have dropped the ball? Why do you think this is?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Service of Inflation—I’ll Say!

Thursday, August 10th, 2023

The pack on the right cost $20 for 48. The pack on the left, $24 for 28.

It was 10 years ago this month that in my blog I hit the subject of inflation head-on even though we’ve been hearing about it more recently for a few years now. Some price increases of late have taken my breath away.

According to US Inflation Calculator, “The annual inflation rate for the United States was 3.0% for the 12 months ended June, according to U.S. Labor Department data published on July 12, 2023. This follows a rise of 4.0% in the previous period.”

OK, I’ll be a sport and give a company or service the green light to increase their prices by 5 percent. But that’s not what’s happening.

Energy

I go through AA batteries like a hotdog stand does mustard. When I run out–in about a year and a half–some Connecticut friends buy me a giant pack from Costco. The previous purchase cost $20 for 48. The new pack costs $24 for 28. The manufacturer claims that these last longer. They had better!

I was away for 10 days in early June, and nobody stayed in my apartment which most would describe as small. Con Edison reported that I’d used 27 percent less electricity than the previous period. Huh?

Here’s to Your Health

I just got a notice from my supplemental health insurance to expect my premium to increase 12.4% next year.

Don’t Go There

Cars taking the nine MTA bridges and tunnels that don’t have E-Z Pass will pay 10% more.  As of last Sunday, those with the pass, +5.5%.

By the end of the month, bus and subway riders will pay an additional 5%.

Anticipated congestion pricing of $23 in Manhattan gives many of us the shivers.

Hop into a yellow taxi at rush hour and before you move one inch, you’re facing $9.00 on the meter.

Do you have examples of services and manufacturers that might be taking advantage of all the talk about inflation by stepping on the gas with their prices?

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Service of It’s Simple: Do What You Say You’ll Do When You Said You Would

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023

New TV sits on an antique table [so it’s slightly askew].

I learned a lesson from my first encounter with a remodeling contractor who kept disappointing us by missing deadline after deadline without warning. If you’re going to be late let customers know so that they aren’t shocked and angry on discovering that the toilet or countertops aren’t installed as promised adding acid to the frustration.

That was decades ago but nothing’s changed. Communicate, confirm, adjust and update or a dissatisfied customer you’ll make. That’s me today.

All I wanted was to buy a TV to replace a broken one. Before I enumerate the remarkably long list of missteps by Best Buy, I want to note that I grade some of the employees I encountered very good to excellent.

High-speed cable

There was no communication between sales, consulting, appointment staff and installation for which I fault Best Buy.

I chose the TV on my visit to the store. I didn’t order it outright because it didn’t come with a pedestal base and I needed to confirm that the table that two feet would rest on was long enough. Further, TV’s no longer come in the size of the one I was replacing, and I needed to check that a larger one fit in the tight space.

The salesman wrote up the order and chose a time for a virtual visit from a consultant to confirm the space and table issues. When I got home, I measured the table. All OK. Nevertheless, to satisfy the store I waited for the phone call/virtual visit scheduled for 10:30-11:00. When nobody called—I had an email confirmation–I contacted customer service that told me my call was scheduled from 2:20-3:00 p.m. and when that also didn’t happen, I called again.

Before I did, I’d tried the associate’s number—it was on the email confirmation–but his voice mailbox was full and he didn’t respond to my email.

Customer service called the associate who immediately called me. He’d never heard of me nor what he was supposed to do. Further, he was unable to accept emails or texts [!] –no Internet connectivity [!!]–so I couldn’t send him a still photo of the space.

So much for a virtual review with a consultant.

It concerned me that the store associate and phone consultant’s measurements between the feet that had to fit my antique TV table didn’t match. In fact, the associate argued with me over terminology. When I said that my table was 33-1/2 inches long, he said they call that the width.

I’d spent enough time on this so we went ahead with the order.

I was alarmed by the confirmation. Missing was my apartment number—there are 500+ apartments here–but more important, I specified delivery could only be made between 9:15 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The invoice stated deliveries happen between 7 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. As the associate said he would be able to read emails once he left the store I asked for these adjustments both by text and email. No response. Was this supposed to be a pleasant experience?

In addition, I emailed to him a Certificate of Liability Insurance form that apartment management requires of any company sending a worker with equipment. He waited until the next afternoon to fill out and return the form. He never assured me the installers knew of my building’s time constraints and apartment number.

There was an online checklist for customers to fill out before a TV installation. One of the items is: “I have secured a place for the service provider to park.” I think that for NYC residents this item should be deleted. I wouldn’t check it.

I learned that the charge for the installer to remove the old TV was $40. I brought it to the garbage room myself for $0.00. But it gives you an idea of the pretty penny I was charged for installation.

By 5:00 p.m. the day before delivery I hadn’t learned the two-hour delivery time range, as I had been assured I would. I called the customer service number. Nobody works on Sunday. I called and wrote the associate who took the order.

Around 6 p.m. I learned the TV would arrive between noon and 4 p.m. [Two-hour window?] 

Nevertheless I could breathe again. My TV wasn’t going to be abandoned in the package room uninstalled if it was allowed inside.

The next morning I received a second email confirming the time frame. I had errands to run and as I stepped out my front door at 10:30 a.m. the installer called. He was arriving in 15 minutes. Is 10:45 a.m. the new noon?

The Geek Squad installers looked surprised that I didn’t expect them. They did a spectacular job except the cable connection didn’t work. The expert installer diagnosed this as one of two potential problems. I rushed off to buy a high-speed cable and he left for his next appointment. He returned, as promised, to see if that did the trick. It seemed to. The other choice was to contact FIOS for a new cable box. Dealing with another giant corporation would have been overwhelming.

The first night it took a few tries to reach my Netflix account and even though he connected the volume function to the remote, it didn’t always work. My fingers are crossed that everything else goes right. I plan to live with glitches as I don’t have the strength to deal with this operation anytime soon.

Did I mention that Best Buy sent me a survey immediately after I purchased the TV but before the installation? I didn’t fill it out until the TV was working.

How can people who need to be at an office or job work with such slapdash business practices, faulty updates and lack of confirmation? Have you encountered so many problems surrounding one purchase?

I was not planning to secure parking for the installation crew and did not check the box.

Service of Thinking Twice: When NOT to be Generous

Monday, July 3rd, 2023


Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay

My nearest and dearest are breathtakingly generous, consistently giving to causes that sorely need support.

However, I think there are instances in which the faucet of human kindness should be turned off and sharing information for small immediate gain reconsidered.

Here are some examples.

You should think twice before giving…..

  • Your mobile phone number to a company so it can send you texts in exchange for a one-time minor discount–unless you don’t mind incessant text pings announcing a new product or sale.
  • Money to beggars. Charities recommend you should instead give money to them. [I know—this sounds self-serving, but it is the prudent thing to do.]
  • More money to someone who didn’t repay you for the last loan–unless you consider both a gift in which case say so.
  • Up your aisle or window seat in exchange for the middle one in a long flight because another passenger made a last-minute booking and nevertheless wants to sit where you are–next to a family member.

The New York Post covered this topic with a compelling example. The flight originated in Japan. The woman who wanted to switch her middle seat for a window seat so she could be next to her toddler was part of a tour wrote Brooke Kato. The passenger who wouldn’t budge said the mother should have asked another tour member or the tour operator or a flight attendant for a switch and yet she only approached her. I don’t blame her digging in her heels and wonder if I’d have the guts to ignore her request. But enduring a middle seat on a very long flight…..I think I’d find the strength.

What are more examples that suggest that people should zip shut wallets and keep mobile phone numbers to themselves or refuse to do what might seem to be the right thing? Is this line of thought counterintuitive if you are trying to address some of the world’s inequities?

Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

Service of Shortages Redux

Monday, May 29th, 2023

I covered the topic of shortages and dramatic backorders thoroughly during the pandemic and thought that much of this, along with the worst of Covid, was behind us, but no.

My Canon printer is less than a year old. I went to Staples to buy a single black ink cartridge because I have two for color that came with the double packs. There were no singles in the store and the associate showed me on her computer screen that there were none in the warehouse either so I couldn’t order one for delivery.

I hear you asking, “why didn’t she order one online from home?”

The reason is that I’m allergic to paying for shipping which the cost of one cartridge would entail. You don’t pay for shipping if the store doesn’t have what you want, and the store is at a bus stop I often use—easy peasy. I now have three color cartridges because I bought yet another double pack for fear of running out of the black at 11 pm.

A friend in the autobody business continues to be hamstrung searching for parts to complete jobs. It can take weeks to locate what he needs, and he knows all the rocks under which such parts would be buried. Talk about a spanner in the works.

And high car prices reflect involuntary low inventory at dealer showrooms.

Worse, we continue to read about shortages of lifesaving medicines such as for cancer. Sometimes the scarcity happens because a drug to control one condition is discovered to be useful for another so there’s an unanticipated run on it.

We continue to experience a shortage of waitstaff in these parts. I enjoyed two magnificent lunches recently where it was clear that either the waitstaff was overwhelmed and shorthanded or untrained.

Who knows whether this situation is a Covid hangover or an excuse to keep inventories and labor costs low. Have you had trouble finding what you need? Do you think we’ll be living with this situation for the near future?

Service of Equipment Failure: Staples & Coupons to the Rescue

Thursday, May 18th, 2023

I am a luddite and depend on a mouse. Touchpads don’t work for me. They make me want to scream.

I was on deadline with a project and my wireless mouse died. I panicked, dashed into street clothes and off to Staples on Third Avenue and 43rd Street to buy another mouse, my lifeless one in hand. Money was no object because I had coupons worth $16. But which one should I buy?

Danny, the tech associate, opened my mouse—I hadn’t been able to. He said, “I bet you need a new battery.” He first went in the back and then rummaged through a few containers near the cashier stations and came up with a AAA. “There, you see? Batteries,” he said, as the blue light on the underside of the device came to life.

Off I flew to CVS where just that morning I received a 40% off coupon good for 24 hours. I have AA batteries at home but no AAA.

Success! Relief. Joy. And an example of memorable, engaged customer service.

There must be something in the air: Warm weather? The promise of summer vacation? My lucky day–one where the stars aligned in my favor, and everything went right. Plus: I’d been scrambling for a blog topic for today: another bonus!

Do you have an example of a sales associate saving a device rather than selling you one you don’t need? Or of a day that starts with a hiccup followed by a string of fantastic developments?

Service of Product Marketing that Sends Customers Out of the Store and Onto the Web

Thursday, April 6th, 2023

I visited a favorite discount haunt, TJ Maxx, on West 57th Street in Manhattan, where I saw the most extraordinary number of suitcases in all sizes and shapes, colors and materials. They took up a substantial amount of real estate on all the three floors.

Some offered the weight: usually in the 7-pound range.

What was missing?  

The size of the suitcases, which, to avoid additional airline fees, should be 62 inches or less. I studied umpteen tags and asked a sales associate who looked at a few and shrugged saying he thought he’d seen one that indicated the height somewhere, waving vaguely towards other suitcases.

I was perplexed that all range of brands were there, some I’d heard of, yet none indicated height.

So where’s a girl to get the right size suitcase given a store with plenty of merchandise but without knowledgeable sales help? Short of carrying a measuring tape as though you’re buying furniture or kitchen appliances to fit in small spaces it looks like the best is to buy online where the specs are.

At TJ Maxx’s checkout my cashier asked if I’d found everything I needed. Hearing my complaint he said I could borrow a measuring tape but it was too late. I was done shopping.

Have you noticed such a deficit of crucial information in other product lines?

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