Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Service of White Coat Syndrome: Hooray for the NYU Langone Emergency Room

Monday, March 25th, 2024

Some of the Peanuts gifts I’ve received–and love. The socks made it into this post.

I have a thing about pickles—they must come from a barrel and never a jar. I love the Peanuts gang, and I am petrified of—though grateful for—doctors and all things medical. You know this if you know me.

I flew in the air and crashed down on the sidewalk last week and for the next three days watched my foot increasingly resemble a blue balloon as the swelling from ankle on down began to hide my toes. Friends pleaded with me to get an Xray or to do something. I kept thinking that home remedies like ice, Arnica, Tylenol and leg-in-the-air under pillows would improve things, but they didn’t.

On Sunday morning I was horrified by what I saw. [I couldn’t look at my skinned other knee.] I called my friend DK, who dropped everything—she had plans–to come to my rescue. As luck would have it, we couldn’t get to an Urgent Care office for an Xray because of a mini marathon that had overtaken my neighborhood. So, we walked/hobbled, to the NYU Langone emergency room about six blocks away.

An emergency room visit for me has been my worst nightmare. My heart was beating so hard that the staff taking my vitals gave me an electrocardiogram. They were darling, patient and kind. One lowered his voice when I mentioned white coat syndrome and said, “Relax! We’re not doctors!” And they kept telling me, “Take deep breaths.”

I won’t put you to sleep with too many more details because I will resemble a grandmother boasting for 10 minutes about her three-month-old grandbaby, a future Yale graduate for sure, who smiled at her for the first time.

The emergency room experience was nothing like what I expected. In the waiting room there were no patients dripping with blood or passing out from fever. I hardly sat down before the admitting process started. Waiting for my Xray, after I met the Emergency Room doctor whom I liked, one nurse advised me how long he thought the wait would be. He subsequently brought me a blanket because it was freezing. A volunteer dropped by and asked if I needed anything. Nobody so much as hung my tote bag on the hook behind me on the wheelchair without first asking if it was OK.

The doctor didn’t just ask me to “take off your sock.” He said, “Please take off your Snoopy sock.” That put me at ease in a strange way. The very young hospital transport staffer who took me back from Xray was lovely. To explain what her colleague, who passed us, had told her– “It’s gotten to be like a Monday out there” — she said that the now bustling waiting room had filled up with mini marathon runners.

My badly sprained foot is still a mess—much uglier and more painful than when I broke it 10 years ago.

I don’t think I’ll ever overcome my out of proportion fear of all things medical. On my return home I went up in the elevator with a fellow tenant—a stranger. I raved about the hospital. He smiled and said “I’ve just returned from 22 days at that hospital. The doctors are wonderful.”

Do you have irrational fears about medical or other things that most others appreciate and/or take in their stride? Did you also experience a great emergency room visit?

View from my balcony. NYU Langone is on the left/East side of First Avenue, starting at the blue buildings.

Service of What Are You Good At?

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This subject came up in conversation with a friend the other week. (She does everything well.) I thought of it at Trader Joe’s on a day one of the employees split in two the long line waiting for a cashier, yelling out, “Every other!” meaning the people in both lines should progress at a crucial point, one after the other, as you would braid hair, to again form one line.

If long enough, the line in this store cuts across an aisle artery so an employee is posted to feed customers to the other side so the next marketing cart or shopper won’t cause gridlock. The young woman at that spot that day was terrible at this mindless job. She ignored the second, parallel line, ushering ahead only customers in the first. It required another staffer to straighten things out. The young woman was probably terrific at something else.,

My friend asked me what I’m good at. What came to mind immediately is what I’m not such as anything to do with numbers or drawing, handwriting or games. I’m good at making lists, spending money, meeting deadlines, growing some indoor plants, shopping, hugging, PR strategy, spotting trends and baking pie. I love taking photographs and writing blog posts.

Does even the simplest job require training? What are you good at? When you think about the question does what you don’t do well come to mind?

Two lines waiting to check out at Trader Joe’s, Manhattan

Service of Disappointment

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

The saying “less is more,” may apply to interior design but I’m finding that more and more we get less for our money.

What Happened to “Neither Rain nor Snow….”

There is a postbox about four blocks from my apartment in a commercial neighborhood with pickups three times a day, the last at 5 p.m. When I went there this week the times had changed: Now its once a day at 11:00 a.m. not only there but in all the boxes I checked nearby. That early in the day might be a good time for postal workers perhaps but not so hot for customers.

Yes then No

A friend was scheduled for surgery which entailed three days in the hospital and a week at a rehab facility. She knew the drill from a previous operation and all was approved. The day before hospital discharge she learned that her insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of rehab. She lives alone. Don’t you love how insurance companies–not doctors–determine how we are treated?

Poor Training

I tried to buy a gift online and the system wouldn’t work so I called the 800 number and placed the order. I opted to pick up the item at the store, a short walk from home because its feather weight and tiny size didn’t warrant the $6.99 shipping fee. The customer service rep said they’d send it home, as it was easier, [not sure for whom], and he’d remove the shipping fee. Long story short, when I was charged the fee I called and customer service told me I had to work it out with my credit card company. This didn’t set well so I contacted headquarters and eventually it was sorted. No more online purchases for me from these folks. Customer care operators should be trained not to turn off customers.

Have you been disappointed by a service lately?

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of If You Can Breathe, You’re Hired, No Training Necessary–Except at Trader Joe’s New NYC Store

Monday, December 6th, 2021

Image by Jessica Latorre from Pixabay 

We read and hear daily about the shortage of workers and with few exceptions almost everyone has experienced repercussions when out and about.

I dropped into a well known high end supermarket looking for an item. Customer Service wasn’t sure of its location, [a laptop was in front of the staffer but I guess this information wasn’t available there.] He suggested I check out the produce department. Once there a well-meaning man stacking vegetables had no clue and I suspect didn’t understand what I wanted–snack size guacamole. I found a second person in the vicinity standing in an aisle focusing on what was happening on his phone, not the store. He barely looked up while directing me; his sneer indicated that he was annoyed to be interrupted. They didn’t have it–or I didn’t see it–and he didn’t care.

A Chelsea branch of a favorite bakery sells sandwiches, salads, sweets, breads and warm drinks and has tables and chairs for those who want to eat there. They hired two very young, well-meaning, inexperienced men to fend for themselves. There were almost no sandwiches on display at the counter and we asked what was on trays full of food stacked behind their work area. Answer: [Lots more] sandwiches. However it looked to customers as though they’d run out of all but a few stragglers. The cappuccino and latte were delicious but took a dog’s age to prepare. The two juggled all jobs–warming and packing sandwiches and bakery items as well as charging customers. In other branches the drinks are made by a dedicated crew.

Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay 

An excellent restaurant that handled a full house with ease before was about a quarter full the other day. It maintained the quality of its food but the kitchen must have been understaffed or working with newbies as it took an unusually long time to produce dinner.

The exception is at Trader Joe’s in its newest Manhattan location in 20,000 square feet of well-lit space on First Avenue and 59th Street. Opened on December 2, the company welcomed New Yorkers long anticipating its addition to the neighborhood. [A man waiting with me at a nearby bus stop, seeing the TJ shopping bag, asked me what I thought of the store which he and his wife were looking forward to visiting.] The line on Saturday was breathtaking and the short wait to pay even more incredible. Over 20 well trained cashiers charged, packed and sent customers on their way.

The store is located in a landmark–Bridgemarket–built underneath the Queensboro Bridge which was completed in 1909. In a section called “The Cathedral,” and originally an open green market until 1946, according to a February 1998 press release on, the architects used Guastavino tile vaults for the ceiling. If you’ve been to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, you’ll recognize them. Once it was closed to commerce, the city used The Cathedral to store vehicles and as a sign shop.

In 1999 David W. Dunlap wrote in The New York Times about its opening as “a market-style Food Emporium, two restaurants operated by Sir Terence Conran, a high-end Conran home-furnishings store reached through a swoop-roofed pavilion on 59th Street and a landscaped plaza with a fountain.” The complex cost $24 million according to Dunlap. Food Emporium closed in 2015 and Trader Joe’s is the first tenant in The Cathedral since then. Where Conran’s shop was is a TJ Maxx.

I wonder where Trader Joe’s found all those trained employees who quietly refilled refrigerators and shelves, expertly directed the line that wandered up and down aisles leaving plenty of room for shoppers, with an efficient team of cashiers to top off the seamless shopping experience.

How long will it take for new, untrained employees to catch on to their jobs? Have you noticed blips in service recently?

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Service of Women Construction Workers: Positive Political Impact?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

A few weeks ago I was walking in midtown Manhattan and was taken by the sign above. That’s why Anne Kadet’s Wall Street Journal article also caught my eye: “Yes They Can! Program Boosts Number of Women Construction Workers–New York City’s construction unions say the portion of apprentice slots reserved for women has risen from 10% to 15%, and most are filled with graduates of the Nontraditional Employment for Women [NEW].”

Kadet wrote that the seven week tuition-free training program is done in a former Manhattan firehouse. The Blue Collar Prep program includes carpentry, electrical work, trades math, health and safety.

According to its website, the program was founded in 1978: NEW “prepares women for careers in construction, transportation, energy and facilities maintenance industries.”

Kadet reported: “NEW recruits and trains about 225 women a year to enter apprentice programs offered by the city’s construction unions…… Nationally and citywide, women fill just 3% of construction jobs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. NEW and union officials say that as a result of their unusual efforts, women represent more than 6% of the New York area’s roughly 100,000 union construction workers.”

Jennifer Wilkerson with the National Center for Construction Education and Research [NCCER] pointed to an anticipated shortage of trades workers, the strikingly low number of women currently in the industry and the fact that many women aren’t aware of the opportunities for them. Hopefully the word will spread about this way for women to make a lucrative living and more will.

“NEW’s incoming students usually earn low wages in traditionally female occupations, said Erik Antokal, the group’s assistant vice president for programming. Union construction jobs, meanwhile, typically pay $40 to $60 an hour, plus full benefits. ‘These are family-sustaining, middle-class jobs,’ he said.”

According to Kadet, “Some still have a hard time accepting women in hard hats. But NEW grad Erika Glenn-Byam said the culture has improved since she started working as a laborer in 2006. On one of her first jobs, a co-worker confessed that the men on her crew shared a secret motto: ‘Get rid of the women!’

“‘You guys need to grow up,” she told him.” After 13 years as a laborer she is buying a two-family house for herself, her mother and brother who has Down syndrome.

I admire people with construction skills and almost daily wish I had some. I’d not heard of NEW or programs like it for women–have you?– yet it’s been around for 41 years.

What do you think of women in construction? As their numbers increase do you think it will inflame resentment by men feeling women are increasingly infringing on their world or because it seems to be working, might it assuage tensions between men and women in certain industries with positive political ramifications for women?

Service of a Simple Transaction Done Well: Kudos LAZ Parking

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

One smart, quick, knowledgeable, engaged person can make a huge difference when there are potential stumbling blocks in a transaction designed to be seamless.

We received a letter from LAZ Parking, the company that runs parking lots and grants permits at Metro-North railroad stations. We had parked in the LAZ lot in Dover Plains for 15+ years and sent a check to renew our yearly permit before the other one expired. In return, LAZ provided proof of payment to display in the car window. The system worked well.

But they changed it. [I could write many posts about so-called upgrades that turn out to be downgrades for me.]

LAZ asked us to sign up online, to download proof of car registration and supply other information. In addition to online registration systems that in my experience are often fraught with peril and traps leading to potential error, our situation had a few complications:

  • My husband had held on to the letter for at least 10 days which was 9½ days too many. Each station has a limited number of monthly parking slots and they are promptly scooped up.
  • We needed to change the account from my husband’s name to mine to match our new car registration.
  • We wanted to pay by check, not by credit card, the way the system is set up.

We were saved by Kathleen Dawson, LAZ Administration Assistant Supervisor, who shepherded our order through all the twists and turns. She was in one office and our online application was used by another. She cleared up the system’s initial confusion over the name change which caused us at first to be refused a permit, responded to all my concerns, expertly advising me and warned those at the other LAZ office about our quirky situation. What might have been a nightmare that ended up with the loss of our parking permit turned out just fine. We are grateful to Ms. Dawson and to those at the second office who expedited and approved our request the day they received our check.

Have you been as lucky as we were to have someone like Ms. Dawson guide you and lubricate a transaction that had many opportunities to become grounded? Do most companies nurture, respect and reward five star customer service support staff such as Ms. Dawson?

Service of Disregarding the Obvious: Laziness, Stupidity or What about Disengaged Travel and Real Estate Agents?

Monday, November 20th, 2017

News of two incidents fell into my lap at once involving agents, one travel, and the other real estate. Both could have caused costly inconveniences.

  • The first customer immediately discovered the omission made by the travel agent yet the agent fought tooth and nail not to fix it.
  • Luckily, in the second instance, the customer found the alarming basic oversights of the real estate agent before damage was done.

 Up, Up and Away–Almost

A well travelled friend, Mary Joyce Smith–not her real name–has used the same travel agent for decades but the semi-retired expert was out of town when she needed to book a flight to Japan via LA. So instead Smith used a nationally known agency and was dismayed by the lackadaisical, inadequate service.

The tickets and itinerary came back with the name “Mary Smith.” Her middle name was missing. She asked for the addition of Joyce. She wanted her documents to match the name on her passport and official documents, especially important when travelling internationally in an age of hacking and stringent Homeland Security measures.

The agent told her, “I called Japan Airlines and they say it doesn’t matter.” [In the time this took, if she really called the airlines, she could have done what had to be done to add “Joyce.”]

More important: it mattered to Mary Joyce Smith, the kind of customer you want to have because she flies thousands of miles a year. She didn’t want the omission to delay her at airport security but really, she was the customer and the reason should not have mattered to the agent..

After numerous calls through “press one, press two” hell—she reached a supervisor who asked, “Why would they have left off Joyce? Of course it should be on the documents.” Nevertheless she received yet another email from the original agent who clearly has a hearing problem when it comes to customer requests. “The missing middle name doesn’t matter,” she repeated.

I was with Smith when she got this message and knew something was up as her lips tightened, her cheeks became slightly red and she rolled her eyes in irritation.

Open and Shut Case

Another friend is selling his weekend house. On his return after a Sunday showing by a substitute real estate agent, he discovered one of the doors was left wide open to the elements, uninvited wild creatures great and small as well as humans. She also left lights on all over the house. What if he hadn’t returned until Friday?

The usual agent said she’d given strict instructions to the substitute—such as that the owners aren’t there during the week. But did she have to also tell the woman to close doors and turn out the lights? You wouldn’t need to go to real estate school to know this.

Why would someone in a service business fight a customer so hard when a fix is simple? How could an agency put a flake in charge of the security of a person’s home? As for both agents, is their approach due to laziness, stupidity or are they disengaged and in the wrong jobs? Can you share examples of fabulous agents?

Service of Hardware that Computes In or Out of the Closet

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Midtown Outside turned

I visited a big box hardware store on Third Avenue near Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan looking for shelf brackets and flat shelves to fit two styles of tracks already installed in a closet. The perfectly pleasant associates I flagged down did their best to help but not one, on three visits, knew anything about the options. I bit the bullet, bought heavy shelves and brackets, dragged them home and was 50 percent correct in my bracket choices. Now I have brackets to return.

Hardware Brackets turnedI next visited a small hardware store a block from my office—Midtown Hardware, part of the True Value cooperative. I showed the cashier my photo, he sent me to the last aisle where there was only one bracket left that matched the snapshot. An associate jumped on a ladder and pulled down a box and found more. The cashier said, “Don’t be disappointed if these don’t work—there’s a chance you know. But at $1.30 each, you’re not risking much.” They were a perfect fit. My time in the store? Less than five minutes.

The brackets cost a fraction of those at the big box.

I didn’t mention that on one of my forays to the giant emporium an associate, poised to direct customers, sent me to the very back of the store for wall clips that hold mop handles. I couldn’t find them and an associate in the department said they weren’t there, but she knew where they were so I followed her the equivalent of a city block, back where I’d come from in the first place. We roamed a few aisles, never finding the clips and as I had to leave, I thanked her and told her I really didn’t need them.

Back at Midtown Hardware, I asked Pedro the manager how he seemed to have everything a person would need in space smaller than a single department at the big box. I’d been to this neighborhood store over the years but couldn’t imagine that they’d have something as space-hogging as shelves or I’d have gone there in the first place. They had shelves too. [They were priced quite a bit more than the big box’s but the time and anxiety saved would have been more than worth it.]

Hardware inside turnedPedro’s secret? “If enough customers ask for something, we try to get it—especially if they are repeat customers,” he said. “We hire people who know how to do the work. They fix things around their own homes.” At almost any time of day, you’ll see an associate explaining a procedure to a shopper. In addition to retail customers, superintendants from miles around buy there.

And wall mounted clasps to hold mop handles? “They’re over there,” pointed Pedro.

An aside: the home improvement chain hasn’t suffered a whit. Its second quarter sales jumped 4.7 percent and profits are up 9.3 percent, so what impact did my experience have? Clearly none.

Do you buy the things you need from small gems like Midtown Hardware even though some of their prices may be higher than the big boxes or are these stores all gone where you live and work? Do you think the big boxes are better suited to customers who know what they are doing, not weekend do-it-yourselfers–people like me–who don’t have much of a clue?

Hardware another turned

Service of Coming Clean: Verizon and Laundry Card Supplier Make it Impossible

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Lots of apartment houses have laundry rooms and before the washing machines were retrofit to accept cards–a blessing–we had to collect countless quarters to wash and dry. It was nerve-racking.

It’s easy to fill the cards. You slip a credit card in a terminal on the laundry room wall, type in the amount of money you want to add to the laundry card and you’ve fed it.

This works if there’s telephone service.

Verizon has been unable to fix the building’s telephone since October 17. On that date building management was told it would be up and running by November 8. Now the fix date is November 20-something. Today is November 24–the building still has no phone service.

As my laundry card had run out of funds I explained this no-phone situation to someone at the laundry card company and asked them to take my credit card number and whisk me another card with $25 on it. A very polite person told me she couldn’t take this info over the phone. She said to mail my card to them with a check for the amount of money I wanted on the card, with a letter telling them what to do. Tick, tick, tick [will they wait for the check to clear or until they have 20 cards to make before cutting mine?] and the pile of laundry is mounting.

I know what you’re thinking: “So go to a Laundromat!” There isn’t one in our neighborhood anymore. There’s a restaurant where one used to be.

You might wonder what happened: Did we get back the card? Yes.

Does it work? No. Calling it a smartcard is a misnomer.

We discovered this with three week’s laundry distributed in three washing machines. More phone calls. More time wasted. When I called for the second time on Friday, the voice on the phone told me that they don’t take checks and asked why I didn’t give my credit card.

And now we’re out the money that was left on the card that we sent for refill plus the $25 on the check.

In this day of high speed everything, I find this snail’s pace Verizon performance to repair a commercial line and the confusion, lack of training and inefficiency of the laundry card company incredible. [Do they realize that they are losing money if people can’t store money on their cards and use their washing machines?]

Have you been inconvenienced or flummoxed lately by technology you can’t access?





Service of a Timely Partnership: Tourneau Just in Time

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Sohpia Hollander’s story, “Time Tinkerers: Finding a Future Repairing the Workings of Watches,” she wrote about students who are saved by a time-honored profession: Clock repair.

A partnership program between a school for kids who’ve not made it in traditional high schools and the Tourneau Repair Center in Long Island City trains the students. Of 25 from the Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School who finished this program–twice a week for two months–Tourneau employed six. Hollander quotes one student who “couldn’t focus and felt embarrassed asking questions or speaking in groups, he said. ‘I felt I was a kid with a hoodie on his head,’ he said. ‘I thought I didn’t have much to say.’

“But seeing the inside of watches sparked questions, he said. He was astonished by the sheer number of parts. He found a new ability to concentrate as he tinkered with the tiny pieces. Understanding watch innards has become as addictive as a new videogame, he said. ‘Now I can take something that’s broken and fix it,’ he said…. ‘It’s a good feeling to solve other people’s problems.’”

Hollander reports that watch sales and production are brisk but that there are only six repair schools today as compared to 50 in 1955. She quotes Terry Irby, technical service director at Tourneau who told her that “If they didn’t make another watch, I think there’s enough work for another 50 years.” He admits there aren’t enough watchmakers. Where Irby works, some of the watches are in the $36,000 range. You’d want to take good care of such a piece.

Hollander continued: “Pablo Gonzalez, 19, enrolled in the program’s first class last spring. He was flunking his courses, clashed with his parents and hung out ‘with a bad group of kids,’ he said.

“‘I was really going downhill,’ he said. ‘Everything was going wrong.’ But he found peace in the three-dimensional puzzle of hundreds of miniature watch pieces. He began experimenting with other activities, learning how to play handball and rediscovering his love of skateboarding. ‘It makes you confident about what other things you could do,’ said Mr. Gonzalez, who was one of the first program graduates hired by Tourneau.”

Do you know of other such programs? Do you agree that while small, this apprenticeship approach, multiplied by businesses around the country, could have the kind of impact we need to get back on our economic feet?

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