Archive for October, 2023

Service of Rip Van Winkle: Where Have I Been?

Monday, October 30th, 2023

A child in bubble wrap.

Every once in a while I wonder, “where have you been, jb?” I’ve not budged from the most populous city in the country that many consider a trendsetter yet I’ve fallen behind and it’s time to catch up.

I’ll start with talking styles that irk

When I first heard Valley girl talk years ago I cringed and still do, though thank goodness its popularity has greatly faded. You know what I mean: at the end of sentences the pitch of the speaker’s voice jumps higher, forming a question mark. It’s also referred to as “uptalk.”

Only recently did I learn the name of a speaking style that I find even worse– “vocal fry.” I notice it most among women in their 20s and 30s. They lower their voices to achieve a gravely, creaky sound. It’s unattractive to me and achieves the reaction of nails on a blackboard but I suspect they think it sounds sexy. To quote a friend “it gives me the willies.”

This is whack

Do you know what that means? I won’t make you guess though it means what it sounds like it might—something or someone is crazy, unappealing or abnormal.

What about looking fly? If I said that to you would you smile?

Definition: Looking stylish or good.

Helicopter, Snowplow and Bubble-Wrap Parents

Even if you don’t know a helicopter parent, you may well have heard the term as it’s been around for quite a while. Under the same umbrella are snowplow and bubble-wrap parents I’ve not heard those descriptions in conversation.

According to Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D. in an article in psychologytoday.com, snowplow parents are “the overprotective ones who ‘plow’ onwards before their child, removing everything in life that might be a potential obstacle before their child encounters them.”

His article was about parenting styles that fuel anxiety. “Well, maybe parents who swathe their children in protective bubble-wrap do have a lot to answer for when it comes to their offspring’s anxieties. We’ve known for decades that anxiety seems to run in families, with over 80 percent of parents of children with anxiety problems exhibiting significant levels of anxiety themselves.”

Coffee Badging

Here’s another term new to me. Google it and you’ll read from tech.co/news that it “refers to the practice of showing up at your physical workplace to interact with coworkers just long enough to establish that you showed up, before leaving to get your real work done from home.”

Any terms or concepts you’ve discovered lately? Were you familiar with these?

Service of a Fragile Sibling Relationship & How to Make Things Worse

Thursday, October 26th, 2023

They could be siblings.

I disagreed with the approach that philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Ethicist columnist at The New York Times magazine, took in his response to a reader. The headline: “My Sister Hid $5,000 From Me, Then Her Husband Died. Do I Ask for the Money?

The reader and her only sibling don’t and never did get along and see each other only at funerals. Last year her sister admitted to hiding money from their mother’s estate and said she’d send it. On that promise, the writer/reader bought an expensive laptop.

The writer told her sister—who is “not wealthy” according to her–that she could send the money in the way that works best for her—monthly or in one check. But she hasn’t seen a penny nor has she heard from her.

She wrote to Appiah: “…..in light of” [the husband’s death] “and our estrangement, I’m not comfortable with cornering her. Should I just forget about it? Or should I pursue it some other way, legally or through her grown kids?”

Appiah responded: “Stealing from a sibling is, from the perspective of both secular and religious morality, obviously wrong. So is promising to return money that you’ve stolen and not doing so.”

Skipping to the end of his reasoning, he concluded “I agree that you shouldn’t insist on what you’re due while your sister is in mourning. But after a reasonable period has elapsed, you can remind her of her promise, letting her know that you actually spent money because you trusted her to make good on it. And yes, if you think it would be helpful to talk to her adult children, you should feel free to do this as well. Being shamed before their kin is one reason that people sometimes do the right thing.”

I totally disagree with bringing in other members of the family—especially the sister’s children. And buying so much as a toothpick before having the money in hand was foolhardy. The premature purchase isn’t the in-debt sibling’s fault.

We do not know the financial situation of the writer. Nevertheless, I would suggest that instead of an aggressive approach, she ask her sister if she is in over her head. Maybe there are other ways the sister can repay the debt in kind.

Under similar circumstances and with the limited information we have, would you treat a sibling so harshly regardless of the history between you?

Service of a Long Line Sweetened by Li-lac Chocolates

Monday, October 23rd, 2023

On Saturday I headed for Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan for what turned out to be an almost two hour wait to participate in chocolatier Li-lac’s 100th anniversary celebration and promotion.

In spite of rain at first, there were no complaints. The steady stream of samples—dark and milk chocolate covered pretzels, caramel, nuts, nonpareils—offered to those in a line that kept growing kept us happy. We were also given balloons. On my way to the bus home, I found the father of a balloon loving little girl who gladly accepted mine for her. Her smile was better than chocolate.

Those who reposted news of the anniversary on Instagram were given a little gold box with two candies. Between my umbrella and balloon, I couldn’t manipulate my phone but the lovely young woman ahead of me did all the work so I got one too.

The staff passing out samples on the street were joyous. This tiny slice of Manhattan was an oasis of pleasure, a respite from global, national and local bad news.

The special deals included a Vintage Recipe gift box valued at $100 for sale at $19.23 for the first 300 customers. The other was 1923 pricing on a bag with almond bark, butter crunch, plain fudge, pecan chews and mousse rolls. In both cases, one per customer. [Photo below.] Everything else in the store had a 20 percent discount.

The best part of waiting in lines in New York is meeting others. I recently wrote about the characters in line at the Met Museum the other evening. Saturday I met an almost retired NYC fireman who plans to move to North Carolina but keep his $1,600/month rent stabilized apartment on West 72nd Street and a young couple who just moved to Manhattan. She was from outside Philadelphia and they both moved from Atlanta, where they graduated from college, to take jobs in NYC. She works for a bank. They asked when I got here and looked surprised when I told them I was born in Manhattan. Another woman shared info about a makeup promotion she was headed to next and we reviewed each of the sample offerings.

Congrats to current owners Anthony Cirone, Chris Taylor, and Anwar Khoder and kudos to their team. New Yorkers are a tough bunch and there wasn’t a wrinkled brow or grouchy conversation in the line.

Have you participated in a line or oversubscribed promotion pulled off as well as this? Do you prefer milk or dark chocolate? Do you have a favorite sweet?

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 Giving as it Should Be

Monday, October 16th, 2023

Philanthropist Charles F. Feeney preferred to take taxis or busses over limos or a private car the last decades of his life.

NPR’s “Weekend Edition” Saturday host Scott Simon brought the death of Charles F. Feeney to his listeners’ attention. I suspect that many, if not most, didn’t know who he was, which is just as he wanted it to be.

Simon shared highlights of the obit that Robert D. McFadden wrote in The New York Times: “Charles Feeney, Who Made a Fortune and Then Gave It Away, Dies at 92.

“After piling up billions in business, he pledged to donate almost all of his money to causes before he died. He succeeded, and then lived a more modest life.” According to McFadden, he’d succeeded by 2016, “a rarity in the philanthropic world.”

And there was another twist to his beneficence: Only one percent of Americans give money away anonymously as Feeney did.

McFadden wrote: “Unlike philanthropists whose names are publicized, celebrated at banquets and emblazoned on building facades and museum wings, Mr. Feeney gave anonymously to universities, medical institutions, scientific endeavors, human rights groups, peace initiatives and scores of causes intended to improve lives in the United States, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Jordan and other lands.”

He funded 1,000 buildings anonymously, paying by cashier’s checks.

He grew up in NJ during the depression, joined the Air Force, went to Cornell’s school of hotel administration and founded a “duty-free shopping business by selling liquor, cigarettes and perfume to homeward-bound American servicemen in Europe in the 1950s.”

He gave up the 7 estates he owned in the U.S., UK and in France and began to fly economy, took subways, busses and taxis, gave up visiting pricey restaurants and bought off-the-rack clothes. He lived in a two-bedroom rental in San Francisco, wore a $10 watch and owned no car.

According to McFadden, his philanthropy over 15 years first came to light 26 years ago due to legal filings when he sold his interest in Duty Free Shoppers.

When, wrote McFadden, he signed a Giving Pledge 23 years ago with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in which the three promised to give away most of their fortunes, [though not necessarily while still alive], he said: “I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living, to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.”

Do you know of others who share Feeney’s approach to giving? Do you think he should have identified himself?

Inside NYC bus.

Service of Dress Codes II

Thursday, October 12th, 2023

We wore uniforms at the school I attended for a dozen years. The concept was to even the playing field to address wide ranging family incomes. Fridays we could wear civilian clothes. As I’ve written here previously, I once complimented a classmate on the suit she wore and her reply was “It’s a hand-me-down Givenchy from my sister.” [My classmate friends and I loved clothes, but we didn’t own couture.] Uniforms sure saved time in the rush to leave for school requiring no decisions about what to wear.

How to dress just right for an occasion has always been important to me. That’s why Ryan King’s article in late September in The New York Post caught my eye: “Senate unanimously moves to reverse ‘Fetterman Rule,’ restoring formal dress code after massive blowback.”

According to King, Senator Mitt Romney said: “As senators, we should demonstrate a high level of reverence for the institution in which we serve — and our attire is one of the most basic expressions of that respect,” And “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to call for a return to a level of dress becoming of the Senate.”

It was Senator John Fetterman’s baggy shorts, shirts and hoodie that had inspired the original standard lowering. He’d promised to wear the required long pants, jacket and tie when presiding over the Senate floor or when speaking. If improperly dressed, he said he’d call out his responses from the cloakroom. King wrote: “Before the rollback of the Senate dress code, senators would often yell out ‘Aye’ or ‘Nay’ votes from the cloakroom to avoid breaching the rules.”

Does it matter to you how Senators dress on the Senate floor or how people dress when they are with you or invited to your home? Do you think everyone knows what “business attire” is these days as many are still working remotely and only dipping into the office a few days a week? Are there other circumstances in which business attire is still required or where certain clothing—such as jeans, shorts or flipflops—are forbidden?


Service of Sloppy Fundraising

Monday, October 9th, 2023

“Sloppy fundraising.”

Those were the words of a friend, who once worked for a charity, when I told her about the huge package of swag that arrived in my mailbox containing socks, a stack of Christmas cards, pens, address labels and other stickers as well as a calendar. I’d never given $1 to this charity which has a good reputation and has been in business for ages. She added, “if they are going to be so careless with their marketing dollars, they aren’t an appropriate place to support.”

What were they thinking?

Here’s a guess why this largesse happened. Previously I’ve only attracted a very occasional calendar and more often notecards, a little notepad and/or address labels. Earlier this year I’d given much more than I normally do to a charity. It was a one-time thing for a specific reason. If this charity sold my name to other charities as someone with deep pockets, shame on them.

Here are other examples of careless fundraising marketing. My friend mentioned that her dad had asked a prominent charity to stop sending mail and requests for money to her deceased mom. They didn’t heed his request, so he stopped sending checks.

My mom had a similar thing happen. Dad had donated to a nonprofit religiously, and she promised that she would continue to do so in his name but, she asked several times–both on the phone and in writing–would they please exchange her name for his. They never did.

A friend launched a fund in his deceased wife’s name. He hit the ceiling when the phone would ring at dinnertime with the caller treating him as she would any cold call prospect. He was irritated that names of substantial donors such as he had been for years weren’t scrubbed from all the organization’s other fundraising lists.

I just received a request to attend an annual fund reception to honor the organization’s donors. It was also addressed to my husband who has been gone four years. The place should have a record of this. Lazy marketing.

Have you noticed sloppy fundraising outreach? Can you share fundraising efforts you admire?

Service of Where the Dickens Did I Put That?

Thursday, October 5th, 2023

Waiting far too long for the bus last Sunday I struck up a conversation with another frustrated passenger. Not sure why the subject came up but he mentioned that he had misplaced his kitchen scissors and couldn’t find them for the life of him. He thought a houseguest might have used and misplaced them but wasn’t sure.

Misery loves company. I was gratified to know that a person at least 20 years my junior has the same annoying time-wasting dilemma I often have. My husband seemed allergic to putting things back where they were supposed to be so it became a game to find the tape or stapler that he’d squirreled away in creative places instead of putting them in their spot.

An a.m. drivetime radio host in his 50s was sick at home with Covid for five days and couldn’t find his house keys. He asked readers to give him ideas of where to look for it. Some suggested he pray to Saint Anthony, patron saint of lost articles. It took four days for him to find them. Guess where they were? At the bottom of his wife’s handbag.

I have nobody but me to blame when my phone, reading and sunglasses or a gift card go missing. I keep tape and scissors in a few places so I always have backup, but they always seem to be where I’ve stored them. Do I need two of everything?

Sometimes I riffle through my file cabinet several times before finding the folder I need. It’s been there all the time.

I’m a list maker—for to do’s, groceries, blog ideas and project priorities. Where do I misplace a crucial list? Don’t ask. I can and do.

Do you tend to misplace some things more than others? When you find the item is it usually in the same place? Do you have failsafe tricks to keep search time to a minimum?

Service of Memberships Chiseling Customers or Supporters

Monday, October 2nd, 2023

Many things include a membership these days from clubs and associations to charities and services. What irritates me is when I’m told the membership will expire far too early, followed by an attempt to alarm: “so hurry and renew!”

This recently happened with the company at which I register my domain, jmbyington.com. I’d paid for three years and had marked my calendar for mid-October to remind me to pay to continue the service. Mid-September they sent a frantic reminder.

I support a public television station and a similar thing happened only they were two months ahead of themselves. While I did respond to the domain reminder as I can’t afford a slipup there, I’ll wait for PBS.

Not that I want to let my PBS membership lapse. I’m watching a wonderful series on Passport—a benefit of membership– “La Otra Mirada.” Passport is also invaluable if you follow a series on TV and are out the night it airs. [I have no way to record programs.]

Clipping off a month or two for a membership or service is a little like reducing the weight of the contents while keeping the package size the same. I first noticed this trick decades ago with tins of coffee. It has become a habit with some manufacturers.

What kind of organizations or businesses send you early renewal notices?

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