Archive for the ‘Generational Differences’ Category

Service of Manners 2012

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

We’ve addressed manners before. I’d like your opinions about the following:

Arriving at a [morning] meeting with your own coffee

People do this all the time. Usually coffee is served, but especially if it isn’t, I would feel uncomfortable being the only one slurping. While it seems acceptable, do you do it?

“Let me find out if Mr./Ms. X is in”

This is what you say if you want to make the caller feel second class. Everyone knows the person is in and is evaluating whether to speak with you. There are smoother ways to say this.

Please keep your shoes off the examination table

According to both a radiology technician and doctor in an office with brand new examination tables, there are patients who pick a fight over the request to “please remove your shoes.” In addition, the doctor has seen folks with their shoes on the upholstered furniture in her waiting room.

People also do this on a train, thoughtless of others who will sit where their muddy shoes have been. Is this acceptable behavior these days?

How many times should you follow up on a business outreach?

I try calling, emailing and writing and emailing again–with more info–and as deadlines dictate, I take silence as “no.”  It sure would be nice if recipients took a sec to write “no thanks” but I know that’s too much to ask. How many times do you follow up?

Peeking at emails on smartphone or iPad during a meeting

Mea culpa and I know it is rude. If the meeting drags, it’s so tempting to sneak a quick look.

Thank you notes

A friend in her mid-80s who sends gifts galore shrugged and noted that “nobody writes thank you notes anymore” so “get over it,” she said when I mentioned how many long distance gift recipients send zero smoke signals–no tweet, email, postcard or phone call. I was reevaluating whether or not to send anything to the silent ones in future.

Note: I get thank yous from children, young adults and adults and I write them too. Are we the rude ones?

Grooming in public

I feel queasy when someone clips their nails or flosses in a bus, subway or train. Monday on the train a woman across the aisle used some kind of atomizer to spray the air around her. The scent and whatever else was in the can wafted over to me. Is public transportation the new washroom?

Service of Packaging III

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

I’ve always used Tide laundry detergent and my mother did also. That is until recently. A large bottle of the stuff just doesn’t seem worth $26 to me especially when I can get something else the same size that cleans our clothes and smells just fine for $7 or $9.

It doesn’t matter how you dress up the bottle. Sarah Nassauer wrote in The Wall Street Journal about how marketers of products from Doritos to Downy–and Tide–are trying to pry open wallets by harking back to the 1970s for packaging design precisely because the brands are feeling competition from the less expensive private label offerings. I think that nostalgia and product loyalty go only so far when stringent budgets are concerned.

In New! Improved! (and Very Old) Nassauer wrote: “As a direct appeal to get moms to buy more Hostess snacks for their kids, the company earlier this year brought back some logos and animated characters from the ’70s and ’80s, such as Twinkie the Kid and King Ding Dong for a limited time. ‘Today’s moms are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and ’70s packaging is what they remember,’ says Amy Clark, director of snack marketing for Hostess. Hostess hoped parents would ‘want to pass it down, share it with their own kids,’ she says.” [While nobody asked me, I say teach the children to make cupcakes.]

I adore vintage patterns from textiles designed in the 19th century such as those by William Morris. I wonder if designs over 50 years old translate to food and cleaning products when price is concerned. According to Nassauer, “The emotional play for shoppers doesn’t always work. Kraft Foods Inc. produced a retro look for the 2009 redesign of its Miracle Whip brand, incorporating elements of the brand’s original label from 1933. At the time, with a recession in full swing, there was a longing to ‘celebrate the past and push toward our future,’ says Carol-Jacqueline Nardi, director of design and innovations for Kraft.” I wonder if Kraft marketers were thinking clearly. While 85 year olds may have warm and fuzzy memories of a 78 year old package design, how many of them will eat a ton of Miracle Whip?

I fell for a $1 tin of Nivea cream [I didn’t need] at the checkout counter of my favorite discount cosmetics store. But what closed the sale: The price or the cute mini blue and white tin with the familiar Nivea name?

Packaging is an art. But I wonder about its impact on consumer choice as disposable income is increasingly diverted to cover necessities and as more and more money is owed to Messers C. [as in Con] Edison, C. [as in Central] Hudson [Gas and Electric], Mobile-Exxon and others? Do sufficient numbers of wallets have enough flexibility to fall for the charming, familiar or stunning package?

Service of Maturity

Thursday, February 25th, 2010


I was listening to the radio a few weekends ago and after some patter between the host and the 20-something producer following an interview with an oldie but goodie entertainer, the producer groaned, “If I’m still around at 60, shoot me.” The on-air personality is nearing 60 and chuckled.  His audience, reputed to be even more ancient, no doubt rolled eyes.

I wonder if the producer read The New York Times “Metropolitan” section last Sunday (February 21) and what he thought of two of the articles in it. The first, “Senior Counsel, Very Senior Counsel,” might have also been, “Life for Lawyers Begins at 90.” Successful lawyers have reputations for being canny so law firms must have good reason to keep seasoned colleagues on board or to add some. In fact, John Eligon’s article starts with immediate past Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau who retired from that job at 90 and has since joined a law firm.

In a different field, one that also requires memory, in “A Bit Slower, but Still Throwing Lethal Punch Lines,” Phillip Lutz wrote about comedians Irwin Corey, Ben Stiller and Dick Gregory. They range in age from 77 to 95 and will soon collaborate in a gig in a NYC suburb. 

And then there’s Paul Volker whom Wikipedia reports was born in 1927. In spite of the 34 years between them, President Obama brought him in to chair his Economic Recovery Advisory Board and supports his recommendations.

 I wonder if the producer had a mentor. I’ve been one for years because I can see how helpful mentors can be and I also have mentors, though missed this opportunity as a student.

It’s clear: Some students and potential mentors don’t get the relationship. It’s far more than about introducing a student to his/her next employer; it shouldn’t end when the student gets a dream job and anyone, even nonagenarians, can benefit from having a mentor.

Do you have examples of older people who have had impact on a business, an initiative—on you? How old were you when you first grasped that this might be a possibility?




Service at the High End

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

A stunning friend of my mother’s was ignored when she visited Christian Dior in Paris. It was the 1970s when the economy was also in a sling. The weather was beastly so she was wearing a raincoat and headscarf to protect her hair. She thought that may have been why nobody paid her any heed. After a few moments of feeling invisible, she turned and walked out of one of the most prestigious couture houses in the world at the time and told us that as the door closed behind her, she took comfort thinking, “How do they know that I’m not a millionaire-when actually, I am.” [What a billionaire is today is what it was to be a millionaire then.]

There are some luxury brands, such as Tiffany, that have traditionally bent over backwards to make everyone feel welcome regardless of their budget or the size of their billfold and to make customers feel like millionaires or billionaires, whether or not they are.

Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Obviously not always, even in today’s economy. My nephew told us about how he was poorly treated at a Mercedes dealer and a friend and follower of this blog, Catherine C., had a similar experience at a BMW dealer. She and her husband went to a different dealer to buy their car.

Catherine C. also generously shared details of another recent experience with a luxury brand that’s worth sharing because it illustrates a crucial disconnect when the level of service isn’t equal to the product. She writes:

“My mink coat came from a prominent NYC furrier. My husband bought it directly from that company 12 years ago because of an introduction from a business associate. The older generation was still around then.  Over the years, the younger generation has gradually taken over.

“In the beginning, I had no problems. But in recent years, there has been a steady stream.

** “One year my coat and headband ended up somewhere on Long Island [I live in New Jersey]. That was the year they insisted that their records showed that I had two coats.  Obviously, the owner of the other coat got hers and mine.

** “Another year I had to fight to get my bag and hanger back.

**  “In yet another year I ordered and paid to have the fur at the coat’s hemline replaced but it didn’t really look as if it had been done–it can be hard to tell for sure.  The next year they called to say it needed to be done!  I questioned why, when they supposedly did it the year before and billed me for it. Lo, there was no bill for anything that year at all – not even storage.

** “This year, I ordered the lining replaced.  I called around November 9 to say I wanted the coat delivered. I was told it would be picked up from the storage facility in NJ on Monday, November 16 and delivered to me a few days later. When it hadn’t been delivered by November 19, I called to find out why. I had been pinned to the house waiting for the delivery for two days and was getting tired of it.  I was told they’d track it and get right back to me.

“After 45 minutes without a call back, I knew there was a problem. So I called again and learned that the relining was not done when the coat went into storage in the spring. The work hadn’t been entered into the system until late so the work had been done about a month ago. They gave me a song and dance about the coat first having to go to the showroom in NY and then be delivered to me in NJ and they didn’t know why that hadn’t happened. I pointed out to the owner, the next gen guy I’m dealing with, that I have had my share of problems with them in recent years.  He told me ‘these glitches do happen.’  Really? So many times to the same customer?

“I can certainly guess what really happened. Maybe the relining had been done and maybe it didn’t get done until I called. Either way, they realized they hadn’t billed for it and they weren’t about to release the coat until they did. So a bill went out after I first called to schedule a delivery and they hadn’t received the check by the day the coat was due to be released.  Rather than tell me that, they conveniently had a ‘glitch.’

“While we are braced to expect this treatment from a phone, cable, or appliance repair service, this company falls into the luxury sector.  That means the customer expects superior quality, service, value, craftsmanship, as well as uniqueness. And the company needs to deliver against a higher set of standards.  When it doesn’t, the brand is tarnished.

“At this point, as much as I love my coat (which is of superior quality, outstanding craftsmanship, excellent value, and unique), I hate the service and would not recommend this furrier to a friend.”

We asked and Catherine C added, “I feel entirely the same way about my BMW and the dealership where I get it serviced.  The sales experience was great.  I love the car, but I hate the service department and would not recommend the dealership.

“If the coat didn’t get repaired and/or sent out on schedule, I should have been notified. They did acknowledge that, but it didn’t happen. They’re quick to call to try to sell me services though. If it was a matter of the bill (which I hadn’t yet received) not being paid, they should have told me that.

“I see two things going on here:  The generational decline in standards and the failure to live up to the promise of a luxury brand.

“One does have to wonder:  Is good service a generational thing?”

And I must add: How is it that with all the help we get from computers and other technological advancements we can’t conduct business as well today as we did before they existed?

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