Service of Why Don’t You Say So?

February 21st, 2017

Categories: Communications, E-Commerce, E-tailing, Medical Administration, Post Office, Retail, Taxes

Communications is often not our strong suit. The cost? Customers pay the price in wasted time and/or mistakes.


I ordered an item online from a high end men’s store and noticed, in checking out, that I was charged tax. For clothing that costs $110 or less, New York residents don’t pay tax. While it wasn’t much, it irritated me that tax appeared on my bill but because it was the last day of a super sale, I approved the order and wrote customer service [which was closed on the weekend].

First thing Monday I got a response telling me that they will charge the correct total {without the tax} “when the order is ready to ship.” I was notified, but the tax was still there. So I whipped out another note–thank goodness for cut and paste and email. The correction was made.

Given that the store has a NY branch and that I assume more than one customer orders from NY, it would have been easier to note on the invoice that NY residents won’t pay tax for items under $110. Staff in billing should be similarly instructed….although I suspect that I may be the only one to care.

Check this out

I was having an annual checkup and on arrival dropped into the ladies room to wash the subway off my hands. There was a note warning patients not to urinate if they were having a sonogram. The office offers sonograms in a few parts of the body so out of curiosity I asked one of the technicians whether this directive applies to all sonograms. She said that it only applies to pelvic ones. So couldn’t that one word have been added to the warning?

Do it yourself and guess

I used the do-it-yourself package mailing system at the Grand Central post office. One of the questions is “Will your package fit in the bin?” which it would. When done, I tried to open the adjacent bin and it was locked shut. So I had to wait in line anyway to find out where to put the stamped package. An exasperated postal worker, who looked at me as though I was dumb, pointed in the direction of a large canvas container on wheels placed well below the counter where nobody would see it with nobody nearby to secure it, either.

Was there a note stating what to do with a package on the bin parked next to the scale/shipping computer? No. Was there a note above the hidden container that collected packages? No. US Postal Service customers take note: Bring along your ESP next time you drop by.

Cross street please

When a business posts its NYC address on its website, if on an avenue, please note the nearest cross street.  I’ve lived in NYC most of my life and I don’t always know this information. [See 666 Fifth Ave and 546 Broadway, in photo below.]

Have you noticed that increasingly few businesses put themselves in their customer’s shoes in planning websites or procedures by anticipating questions or sharing clear instructions in the first place? Do you have other examples?



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5 Responses to “Service of Why Don’t You Say So?”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    Your post notes a phenomenon, inability to communicate clearly and directly, which seems currently to be more often the norm even with the spoken word! If we discount the limited language eruptions from our Executive in Chief and company, I concur that we are suffering in many circumstances from lack of clear, specific details that apply to the customer or the user. The end result is not only wasted time and energy, but frustration over unresolved matters large and small.

    It seems thoughtlessness extends to computer pigeon holes not always taking into account life’s subtleties. My most annoying experience is failure to communicate adequately with Amazon using their predetermined choices. I tried to obtain credit for a book sold and cancelled after shipment. Tracking information recorded delivery to the correct party. All requests for return were ignored. Payment was deducted from my account and never reissued. The pre-ordained categories did not provide for recourse. My cynicism level surged greatly and besides their marketing of Trump brand items I now have another reason to try to avoid Amazon at all costs!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    When you can’t speak with a person at a company–or at least “chat” online with a person–it’s an additional misery. Quelle nightmare. You end up throwing up your hands. When you know a phone number to call and have to wait 50 minutes, that’s another passport to insanity and an indication that the business or organization doesn’t want to hear from you.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Ability to communicate well is not a given asset, and must be learned, with some people/organizations doing a better job than others. To add to general confusion, a diverse society such as ours leads to serious/costly misunderstandings caused by cultural differences.

    I’ve lived long enough to observe that it’s always easier to do things “the right way” according to “self!” There’s no patent remedy to fix what’s wrong with the world, so instead try to find humor from its foibles, and when that’s impossible, remember the “N” word: NEXT…….

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’d be happy with half the salaries paid some in so-called communications positions. It is the job of a corporation or service such as the USPS to hire people trained to think in these terms. We’re here with sleeves rolled up and ready to work–I can recommend myself and many colleagues for starters. Without us, listening to customer questions and comments over a few months and making changes accordingly will also do the trick.

    True about the diverse society adding to confusion. But my plea is to please get it right for at least one. Adding the cross street to an address like 909 Third Avenue once, in a Google listing, will save thousands of people hundreds of hours. Posting even the most rustic, handwritten sign at a post office to indicate where to go with your stamped package when the bin you’re told to put it in is locked doesn’t take much training or intelligence. It’s as low tech as can be.

  5. hb Said:

    Several thoughts crossed my mind, as I read and reread these.

    We no longer teach kids English. We teach them language arts skills and verbal communications skills.

    We no longer write, we text.

    Computers and TVs are everywhere, even in the hands of pedestrians who don’t look where they are going, but there is no longer a bookstore on the Eastside of Manhattan north of 42nd Street and south of 57th Street that I know about.

    In the U.S. we have about 1 lawyer for every 300 people, whereas in France they have about 1 lawyer for every 1,500 people. Naturally, this glut of talent not just governs us, but also only communicates in precise legalese, an idiom notoriously hostile to common sense English.

    No wonder we can’t get stuff straight.

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