Archive for May, 2023

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 Reruns

Thursday, May 25th, 2023

Blue Bloods, November 16, 2018

Watching reruns is soothing. Top of my list is the original Law and Order with Jerry Orbach and I’ve had a decades long crush on Sam Waterston. I once saw him on the train I took upstate every Friday after work. He could take a limo home but prefers public transportation. Nobody bothers him. I am the worst celebrity identifier, but I also saw other favorites on that train—Christine Baranski and Robert Clohessy who plays Lt. Sid Gormley on Blue Bloods.

I look for old Blue Bloods episodes because I was late to the game and missed the early ones. I find comfort in watching Seinfeld, Law and Order SVU and if I’m in the mood, Friends.

If I could find these series–The Odd CoupleAs Time Goes By with Judy Dench and Geoffrey Palmer and the original All Creatures Great and Small–I’d like to see episodes again. I do love the current version of All Creatures. Kudos to that production company.

Which reruns do–and would–you watch?

Law and Order SVU

Service of the Superfluous in Tech that Causes Confusion: YouTube to the Rescue

Monday, May 22nd, 2023

I have no confidence when I’m confronted by technology and I blame myself if I don’t catch on to something or if something goes wrong. When there’s a glitch with my new printer or laptop first I panic and next I rush to YouTube which usually provides a visual step-by-step rescue.

I bought an Apple World Travel Adapter Kit for my iPhone and iPad charger and was confused which was which because three of the elements looked the same. As much as I stared at the sketches on the box and the actual widgets, I couldn’t tell the difference between the electric plugs for Korea, Brazil or Europe.

I went to the Apple store in Grand Central with the box and a man on the welcome team handed me one of the connectors, but I wasn’t convinced.

Next, I found a wonderful video on YouTube—there are a bunch on the subject–in which the tech guru opened his box and went through the various elements. Towards the end he remarked that he couldn’t tell the difference between the three adaptors and I cheered!

I admit my eyes aren’t what they once were but even with a magnifying glass I had a difficult time reading the gray-on-gray EUR on one of the identical looking adapters. YouTube man pointed out where to look. Obviously the 20-something at Apple didn’t know where to look either. He had handed me the device for Korea.

I went to the Apple store for something else this weekend and while I was waiting for the product to arrive I mentioned this to the bright [very] young associate helping me. He said that the devices would be different even though they might look the same because they also address voltage in each country. He suggested I ID each country’s device with magic marker. I don’t expect to go to Brazil or Korea so…..

The voltage info also didn’t get out to the associate who handed me the adaptor for Korea. Lucky for me I know where to look to ID the correct device thanks to the fellow on YouTube. Maybe “Let me find out,” wasn’t part of the training language taught the first assistant either.

Have you been tripped up by a tech company when it turned out that it is they—not you—at fault?   

      

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 Custom-Made Fast Food at Pain Quotidien

Monday, May 15th, 2023

On my way to pick up a friend who had a few pulled teeth and surgery on her jaw requiring anesthesia, I remembered how she liked the yogurt at Le Pain Quotidien. She didn’t realize what she was in for. The day before she suggested that after the procedure we have tea at this, her favorite place. Knowing we’d not be going for tea after such an ordeal I didn’t want to alarm her, so I said “sure.”

Dashing in to buy some—a last minute thought because there’s very little that she will eat under any circumstance, soft or not–I stopped when I saw the granola on top. I knew that granola would be an insurmountable hurdle for her that day and probably that week. As luck would have it, a young man—Martin–was adding sandwiches and straightening the offerings at the branch on Third Avenue and 44th Street.

This isn’t a deli where the counterman or woman can leave out the onions in a salad or add mustard and mayo to a roll or slice of rye. Salads and sandwiches are made to grab and go. I hesitated to bother Martin and am glad I did. Turns out he is a chef. I asked if it would be possible to remove the granola and explained why. He agreed about the circumstances and didn’t hesitate. He said he’d have to ask the manager about the price and disappeared in the back.

Minutes later he returned with just what I’d requested.

I’m not a fussy eater and have never asked for an adjustment in an establishment like this. I was happily surprised at how accommodating Martin was. Do you have similar examples of custom treatment at a fast-food restaurant?

Service of Legislating Art

Thursday, May 11th, 2023

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

I was once forced to follow another PR agency’s format both in presenting to the client the year’s placement results and my proposal. I froze. My mind didn’t accept their system. I had to fight to overcome what was to me cockamamie, convoluted organization. Normally, I plow into such a task with no trouble, especially enjoying the proposal part once I’ve determined my approach.

You can’t equate my dilemma with the creativity required to write a play or movie, but if the talent is given parameters and restrictions, inspiration must be tested. Nevertheless, I thought of my nightmare after hearing what a playwright’s agent told me and what Richard Dreyfus recently brought to light about the Oscar’s guidelines.

The agent said that in her stable of playwrights there is one of Hispanic background who has more work than he can handle. The others can’t get anything produced either because the subject matter or their characters don’t meet new strictures which specify required percentages of diversity and/or because the writer isn’t part of a minority.

And film? According to Lisa Respers France, CNN, “beginning in 2024, movies must meet certain criteria for representation to be eligible for the Academy Award for best picture.

“Films have to meet at least two of four benchmarks, which cover – among other things – whether the lead actors are from underrepresented groups or if at least 30% of the cast and crew come from these groups. Dreyfus criticized the new rules because, France quoted, “it’s an art. And no one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give into the latest, most current idea of what morality is.”

I am sad about this because while most recognize and hope to repair past wrongs, the powers that be show, once again, that they aren’t able to do so in a way that doesn’t negatively impact some. This solution is much like the one I described in a recent post, “Service of a Well-Meaning Initiative That Creates More Problems than it Solves.” To level the playing field so more would be able to buy a house the Feds ignite divisiveness by raising the monthly mortgage payments of buyers with good credit scores and large downpayments giving more favorable terms to riskier borrowers, reducing their fees.

I proposed a solution for the mortgage situation—focus first on putting a chicken in every pot rather than on home ownership and take away the halo around the latter–but have come up blank regarding how to achieve equity for creative endeavors. There must be a better way than putting virtual handcuffs on writers. Any ideas?


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Service of Elevators, Busses and Trains that Seem to Know When You’re Late

Monday, May 8th, 2023

This ensemble is made of rabbit fur. It’s at the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” exhibition at the Met Museum

Have you noticed that if you’re running late elevators, buses and trains don’t cooperate? Waits for the first two are interminable and the trains stop and sit between stations. This usually happens when someone is picking you up to dash to an event.

Even if you leave early, such glitches can create stress. One of my “things” is I hate to be late.

Thursday I had a hard-to-get timed ticket for a member preview of the Karl Lagerfeld exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I got in a bus in plenty of time until traffic and a driver-in-training felled my schedule. The driver didn’t know how to reenter traffic after letting passengers on and off and he would then stop at almost every green light.

I began to squirm in my seat and to warn my friend by text as tick, tick, tick happened and I felt helpless. I still had a few long blocks to trot to the museum once the bus arrived at my stop.

I spoke with a passenger opposite me in the almost empty bus. He said, “Lucky we’re not stuck in an elevator.” I mentioned a memorable instance when a Business Week employee spent the weekend–Friday night through Sunday–in one. He said he remembered. He also said that many of the elevator starters are elderly and can’t hear the high-pitched ring indicating that someone is stuck in an elevator.

He told me of a recent job—turns out he was an elevator repair man—where a guy was stuck in an elevator overnight. He was suspicious when he opened the elevator door and asked the trapped victim how come he didn’t have to go to the bathroom in all that time. The fellow admitted that the elevator starter let him out to use the facilities. My bus companion then asked the person why he was playing this game. Answer: For 12 hours overtime. “Ah,” said the repairman, “I wouldn’t try for more than two. There’s video in every elevator and your boss will see in the tape that you stepped in and out. You’ll lose your job.”

Then he said to me, “Don’t you feel better? Didn’t I distract you?”

I imagine that he needs to entertain many a person until he lets them free from one of the malfunctioning contraptions he fixes. You’d need someone to calm you if you were floating many feet in the air locked inside a box.

I agreed and thanked him and dashed off the bus a few stops short of my destination. I was in fact late, but we were allowed in to the exhibit anyway, and the whole time my friend was calm and unperturbed.

These things happen and are largely out of our control. Do you get into a swivet when you’re late due to an equipment breakdown or system failure or do you shrug and relax and thank goodness for phones?

From the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” exhibition at the Met Museum

Service of Kismet or It’s a Small World

Thursday, May 4th, 2023

A friend who, like me, doesn’t answer a phone call from an unknown name or number, did one day. Long story short, the person on the other end of the line became his girlfriend.

Last weekend I went to a smashing performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” produced by The Blue Hill Troupe. It was magnificent. Founded in 1924, the troupe’s mission is to create enjoyable theater performances for New Yorkers and make money for NYC charities. Members range in age from 21 to 100 and they put on two shows a year. So many actors want to participate that they had two for every major part—the chorus stayed the same– and divided up the performances.

As I arrived early, I spoke with the woman next to me who was there to see her son perform. After a few minutes it was clear she wasn’t from these parts so I asked her where she lived and she said New Hampshire. I mumbled that my stepdaughter lives in New Hampshire. Turns out this woman is the postmaster of that town, population 1,600.

But that’s not all.

There was a two-page spread in the playbill featuring troupe member pets—dogs, cats and a bird [photo below]. I mentioned that I was charmed by it and we began to speak about pets. She said that her son, who lives on the Upper West Side, had taken her to The Black Lab Café for breakfast. Here dogs bring their human partners for coffee and light refreshment. It’s also a great place for those without dogs who long for one to pat or scratch behind the ears. Most four-legged guests play along. Guess what? My New Hampshire-based stepdaughter had sent me a gift card to this café where I recently enjoyed afternoon tea with a friend! According to thecookingworld.com NYC has some 27 thousand restaurants. Some coincidence–right?

Do you have any memorable examples of kismet or evidence of how small our world can be?

Service of “No” IV

Monday, May 1st, 2023


Image by SplitShire from Pixabay 

I haven’t picked up on the “No” series since April 2014. It was time. It’s a word often said or implied but one that should be challenged.

Afterall, we were brought up with the proverb “when at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” weren’t we?

Boost Your Communications Please

My doctor recommended I get the most recent Covid booster available for people 65+, those with diabetes, immunocompromised etc., so I tried to make an appointment on the Walgreens site from my phone and after punching in my zip code learned that I’d have to go to Elmira, N.Y. to get it. That’s 240 miles from me.

I dropped by my local Duane Reade. It’s part of the Walgreens family. The pharmacist told me it would be a few weeks and said none of the Manhattan stores would offer it.

On arrival home, I went online from my laptop. I immediately snagged an appointment for the next day, a Saturday—any number of times were free at a Duane Reade also a few blocks from me. I was prepared to be on a false errand, but I got the booster at 11:30 a.m. as requested.

Deli Delight

On Saturday I ordered sandwiches online from Sarge’s for an ungodly price and chose a pickup time of 11:20 a.m. and arrived precisely then. I was told “15 to 20 minute wait.”

That didn’t suit me. Apart from it being a tiny, overcrowded place with nowhere to wait—it was pouring outside, and I was drenched already–I had somewhere to be and a hard deadline was involved. The restaurant was full and there was only one sandwich man. I ignored the dismissive woman and approached another employee with a worried expression on my face and explained I had to be somewhere and voila! He looked for my order, spoke with the sandwich man who turned to my request.

They’d run out of dark meat turkey, and I wasn’t warned when I placed the order. But that’s another story.

Tour Trouble

After researching the tour options and reading reviews I picked one. But it wouldn’t let me sign on for a single reservation. Surely, that was a mistake. Whether I used my laptop, iPhone or iPad I could only add to the 2 reservations frozen on the form. Discouraged, because I didn’t want to go with 50 others, I finally found one for a small group and the order for one went through! But it took persistence and time.

Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose

This is nothing new. I encountered “No” frequently in the day when I was an Air Force wife at an overseas post. That’s where I cut my teeth rebutting the many rejections I’d get to my queries. Eight out of 10 times if I returned to the office or service that was turning me down, or tried another tack, I’d get my wish.

What hasn’t changed

It surprised me then as it does now why people or systems make a person go through a rigamarole to get what they want. Just say “yes” or do what you should or what people want in the first place.

When faced with “NO,” what’s your response?


Image by Frauke Riether from Pixabay 
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