Archive for April, 2023

Service of a Well-Meaning Initiative That Creates More Problems than it Solves

Thursday, April 27th, 2023

Image by Stanly8853 from Pixabay

As a person blessed with many advantages, I’m all for leveling the playing field. I have for years supported college scholarship initiatives for example and charities best I can.

Yet so many negative thoughts or images came to mind when I heard about the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s changes that kick in May 1 that will impact mortgages. I think that while the agency attempts to help some, it will result in creating resentment and more divisiveness between people of different income levels than already exists. I struggled with economics in college. If the finest financial minds came up with this initiative, it’s clear I’d have similar problems were I to take the course today. It’s counterintuitive.

What am I rambling on about? “A new federal rule could raise the monthly mortgage payments of buyers with good credit scores by over $60 a month, while riskier borrowers will get more favorable terms because their fees will be reduced,” Katherine Fung wrote in Newsweek.

The parable of the prodigal son came to mind and while I know I should root for him, I have always empathized with the hard-working older brother who wasn’t celebrated. Next, I envisioned the child who gobbles his ice cream cone while a parent demands the other kids give him a few licks from their treats that remain only because they have taken their time to make theirs last.

Fung reported: “Only about 25 percent of homebuyers with Federal Housing Administration loans are people of color, according to the White House. Black and Hispanic people, on average, have fewer savings to use as a down payment on a home and tend to have lower credit scores, according to David Stevens, former CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and a former FHA commissioner during the Obama administration. The current policy is being rolled out by the FHFA.”

She wrote: “The effort to get more low-income Americans and Americans of color into homeownership is essentially being subsidized by borrowers who have better credit scores and can contribute more to their down payment, Michael Borodinsky, a vice president at Caliber Home Loans, told Newsweek.”

I want to know: Why is home ownership the Holy Grail? To maintain a home costs a lot of money. The down payment and mortgage are only the beginning. If the furnace, roof, washing machine and dryer hold together one year, the plumbing, lawnmower, chimney, or deck can give out the next. Like a fur coat or printer, the initial cost is just the start: One needs to pay for cold storage for the former while the latter devours costly cartridges.

I am an anomaly. I’ve been equally happy in the home and apartments I’ve owned or rented. I’ve maintained and respected each one. After a wonderful superintendent left my first Brooklyn apartment—a rental—he was replaced by a slob. Before my dinner company came I’d shine the brass elevator doorknob in the lobby and on my floor.

The only answer I can come up with to level the mortgage playing field is to endorse an initiative that removes the stigma about renting an apartment or home and stop glorifying home/apartment ownership. Owning a home is not necessary as is a chicken in every pot. And we have hardly solved the hunger problems here.

The government is putting out mixed signals by punishing those who have worked hard to maintain their credit ratings and have saved to accumulate a substantial down payment.

Is it mean to wonder whether a family that’s unable to save a substantial downpayment and pay bills on time will be able to maintain their home and pay their mortgage?

What ideas do you have that might give a leg up to some while not penalizing those who did things according to Hoyle?

Image by Hans Benn from Pixabay 

Service of Money & Its Impact On Relationships with a Relative, Friend and Neighbor

Monday, April 24th, 2023

Image by Louise Dav from Pixabay 

Money was at the root of three of four questions that Philip Galanes answered in “Social Q’s” in The New York Times last week. Each involved people who were unrealistic about other people’s circumstances. One paid the price and two were tone deaf about others’ financial challenges.

  • A mother wanted advice about what to do. Her daughter had $100,000 in college loans that ma had co-signed. Meanwhile the mother was divorced and wanted to buy a house so she expected the kid to take over the loan. The daughter, a fine arts major making $18/hour at a restaurant, refused to take responsibility.
  • Another was a woman who paid a $400/year theater subscription because her friend was experiencing hard times. As the woman’s husband had found a job the writer wanted to know if she should now ask for half the cost of the subscription.
  • The last was from a person whose neighbor’s home badly needed painting. Painters refreshed three sides of the peeling house. They then stopped, packed up and left. The wall facing the writer remained an eyesore.

I suggest that all three writers reaped what they had planted. Of the mother Galanes asked, did she really think that a fine arts major was going to be able to pay off $100,000? He also wondered why the father hadn’t shared the financial burden. I agree with the Times columnist.

He told the second woman that just because her friend’s husband was now employed didn’t mean that she didn’t continue to have financial challenges and if the money didn’t mean that much to her and she enjoyed her friend’s company at the shows, to pay and not mention the imbalance. I suspect that when she can, the friend will pay her half.

Seems that the people who own a second home that they fully remodeled in a beach community with modest houses none of which had such a do over didn’t look around them. Clearly their neighbors didn’t have similar deep pockets. She wrote Galanes: “When my husband asked our neighbor when she planned to finish the job, she said she ran out of money. Am I wrong to be annoyed? It can’t cost that much to paint one side of a house.” I say kudos to the neighbors who didn’t spend more money than they have. And I bet the whiner thought she was getting a bargain where she bought her house. So much for that.

Do you have examples of people who have issues or misunderstandings with others over money?

Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

Service of Reserving a Hard-to-Get Ticket

Thursday, April 20th, 2023

I think I now know a little about what it’s like to try to get a ticket to a Springsteen or Rhianna concert even though all I wanted was two timed tickets to the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” member preview at the Met Museum.

Usually, museum members get to choose from four consecutive days to visit an exhibition at their leisure before it opens to the public. We just show up.  For Lagerfeld, there were only two possible member-only days, a Tuesday and a Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

We learned about the drill a month ago in an email that notified members that timed tickets were required and couldn’t be ordered before noon on April 18.

I marked my calendar, was happy I remembered and then, even though my laptop and iPad were open to the notice, it took me 10 frantic minutes to find a hotlink to reserve a time. By then, I was number 783 in the virtual line and the estimated time to get to the front of it was over an hour. I was advised to look for the next email to confirm my spot and then to keep an eye out for another email that would return me to the line.

And, we were warned to take care, because the place in line would only be kept for a certain amount of time once the museum tagged the hopeful member. I forget how long I had to respond because I didn’t pay attention: I was keeping my eye on my email box.

All went well, I got the day and time I wanted or so I thought until the confirmation showed up with two times: One 10:00 a.m., at the top and the other, which was noon, the time I’d requested. [Photo below].

Once I read the fine print, I saw that the first time—10:00 a.m.–was when the exhibition opened. It was meaningless information on a ticket for noon entry. I wonder how many people won’t read the mouse type instructions and will be confused by the two times on their e-tickets. I predict that either there will be a crowd at 10:00 or the membership office will be inundated with calls.

I got it into my head that I would see this exhibition in preview just as music fans focus on acquiring concert tickets no matter what. I’m curious: Do most people have time to do this more than once or do they hire someone to do the ticket-acquiring for them or do they take days off from work?

Service of Where are Mentors for Students When You Need Them?

Monday, April 17th, 2023

Image by Nikolay Georgiev from Pixabay

Where do young people learn business etiquette these days?

I just finished reading scholarship applications of college and graduate school students and interviewing some of the semifinalists. Those I spoke with were in different classes—the youngest heading into their junior years and a few moving to grad school–and they represented a range of ages.

To keep a level playing field, volunteer interviewers are given prescribed questions. One was “do you have any questions for me?” With one exception their responses were about housekeeping such as “when will I hear if I will be invited for the final interview?” One asked me “What is your favorite part about being involved in the organization?” She got points for that.

The interviews last around half an hour. Although two of the applicants asked how they should prepare for the interview—an excellent question–and I answered, “As you would for any business interview,” not one jotted an email after we spoke to thank me for my time. How long does it take to write: “Tx for speaking with me.” Five words are worth points that might propel the applicant to finalist level. Is thanks out of fashion?

When I joined the scholarship committee over a decade ago half of the students did thank after an interview. As for this year’s applicants, each had my email address as I’d written three times: The first to congratulate them and advise them I’d be calling to find a mutually convenient time to speak; the second to confirm the appointment and the last to reconfirm the appointment the day before.

One knew nothing about the organization. Is this how she would expect to get a job—knowing nothing about the company or the industry?

To give them credit on responding to the first email, with one exception, they thanked for being selected for a call. Maybe they felt they’d used up their gratitude quota.

These students need mentors to suggest how best to prepare for interviews. I’d recommend: Always have a good question in mind, not the equivalent of “when may I take my first vacation?” –to show that you’ve thought about the position or in our case, the scholarship or organization.

A mentor can help a student well beyond a resume review. When I was a mentor, I was asked about what to wear to an interview–even what style thank you notecard to buy. The shame is that the school where I volunteered and directed a program has deep-sixed the mentor initiative.

Are my expectations about business etiquette for college age students unrealistic and off-trend? Aren’t hiring decisionmakers generally much older than the students with varying expectations? Have HR managers lowered their expectations regarding those they hire?

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Service of Robots

Thursday, April 13th, 2023

Image by Erik Stein from Pixabay 

I’m a fan of robots. A crack surgeon used one to operate on my husband years ago in the technology’s infancy. At the time there was such a line of doctors wanting to use the device that for the doctor to schedule a spot we showed up so early on a Sunday morning the surgery was spookily deserted.

Robots are increasingly accepted in the medical world. The jury is out with some skeptics as a surveillance device for a city because of privacy issues. More about that later.

In “Meet NYC’s New Robot Cops,” New York Magazine’s John Herrman wrote: “Mayor Adams, joined by NYPD leadership, announced the acquisition of twoDigidogs — Boston Dynamics Spot robots, to be specific — at a cost of $750,000.”

According to Herrman, “They’ve been adopted elsewhere by bomb squads; the NYPD suggests they could be useful for surveillance or in hostage situations. It is still, in practice, an unarmed remote-controlled robot dog with limited range, a profoundly weird vibe, and a top speed of about three miles per hour.”

In addition to the Dididogs, New Yorkers visiting Times Square or a subway station may come across a K5 “autonomous security robot,” wrote Herrman, that will be tested with a police officer in tow. One official described it as resembling a robot vacuum. What alarms some is that the surveillance device, manufactured by Knightscope, “is capable of sucking up a lot of data wherever it goes.” Private clients use them to patrol unattended areas—warehouses, sidewalks, garages, parking lots.

We should be familiar with uber surveillance by now. Most of us receive all sorts of adverts in our social media feeds and email boxes after we’ve Googled a product or disease and sometimes even after a mention during a phone conversation. And as worker shortages continue, robots will increasingly be in our future. Won’t it be fascinating to see how effective they are and how else they will impact our lives?

Image by Eduard Reisenhauer from Pixabay 

Service of Failure

Monday, April 10th, 2023

Clothesline with hooks too narrow to hang over the tub in my bathroom.

When an HR person or potential future boss asks “give me an example of one of your failures” you might describe how you can’t tear yourself away from work so you give a client more than they pay for. Maybe you admit to being so organized you drive colleagues nuts. Who likes to celebrate or highlight failure?

A Swedish psychologist does. He founded a museum dedicated to it. Headquartered in Helsingborg, Sweden, the Museum of Failure has popups around the U.S. One will be open in Brooklyn, N.Y. until mid-May. Dr. Samuel West, who studies innovation, found product failures more interesting than successes.

According to several credible sources, here are some of the featured products:

  • Rejuvenique Electric Facial Mask from 1999, that promised to shock your wrinkles away
  • An office chair claiming to give you a seated ab workout via hula dance movement
  • Bic ballpoint pens for women
  • Gerber Singles, individual baby food portions for single adults
  • Metal tipped darts for kids
  • Coffee flavored soda: Coca-Cola BlāK
  • Colgate [the toothpaste brand] frozen beef lasagna
  • Ford Edsel
  • Donald Trump’s board game
  • Harley Davidson cologne

Visitors are invited to describe their failures on sticky notes to post on a wall.

I remember a toothpaste that supposedly had a Scotch flavor.

In the day, you’d see demos at stores like the Five and Dime of gadgets that diced and sliced as well as practically did your laundry. As a child I was mesmerized by the action which I saw at our local Woolworth’s. Late night TV has its share of similar products most of which cost $19.99.

I bought a clothesline for use in a bathroom [photo above]. Trouble is, the hooks are too small to fit over my shower rod or shower head so there’s no water safe place to use it in my apartment and who knows if it would work to dry hand laundry at a hotel. The hooks are inflexible. I like the colored hooks.

The liberal policy at Trader Joe’s encouraged me to return three cans of beer charmingly packaged to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The taste of the liquid in the fourth can was atrocious. I didn’t see them the next year.

Have you some examples of failed products? Would you visit a museum of failed products?

Image by Richard Taimalie from Pixabay

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?

Service of My Tax Dollars Being Wasted on a Name Change for WCs

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

Image by Marcel Gnauk from Pixabay 

Have you ever heard the term “comfort women?” A hint: it was used during WWII. Still pulling a blank? According to Jake Offenhartz of Gothamist, these women were “conscripted into sexual slavery.”

Reality check: The war was over 78 years ago. But the parks department just realized that the term “Comfort Station” for the city’s bathrooms, was offensive. Offenhartz quoted the department that the reason for a change of name: It was part of a “conscious effort to champion and support human dignity.”

Do you really think that the department got millions of complaints about the Comfort Station wording? This is probably how these WCs got their name: Some poor schnook thought that he/she was being polite by using those words. And the term, according to the reporter, was used for decades before WWII and the existence of comfort women.

How much do you think it will cost the citizens in need of a break to see, effective immediately, “public restroom” or “public restroom building” on the city’s some 600 facilities as we’ve been promised? [And why pay for the extra word building? New Yorkers are sharp. We know a building when we see one.]

Offenhartz reported: “The term ‘comfort station’ has a negative connotation for some in the Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities, due to the term’s use during World War II as a place where women were forced to provide sexual services,” Mark Focht, the chief operating officer for the parks department, wrote in the March 16 directive.

“Beginning in the 1930s and lasting through World War II, an estimated 200,000 ‘comfort women’ were forced into Japanese military brothels, sometimes known as comfort stations. The system – which primarily relied on women trafficked from the Korean Peninsula, as well as other Asian countries – is believed to be among the most widespread examples of state-sponsored sexual slavery.” Admittedly, this was horrible.

Did you notice the word “sometimes” in the paragraph above? Am I being hard-hearted and insensitive to suggest that there are far more important initiatives this city needs to fix to impact the lifestyle of its citizens starting with housing and feeding the homeless, moving on to filling the potholes on almost every street and getting a handle on shoplifting and bigger crimes?

Image by Regan Theiler from Pixabay 

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