Service of Cancellation Fees

March 18th, 2024

Categories: Cancellation Fees, Fees, Restaurant

The New York Times ran a recent article by T.M. Brown, “When Canceling Your Reservation Costs as Much as Dinner.”

I’d addressed one restaurant reservation reminder run amok in “Service of Follow Ups and Reminders.” I’d received daily notices a few days prior—as though I was scheduled for brain surgery–and then “You have half an hour to arrive at XYZ.” I was so turned off. I didn’t appreciate the pressure and arrived in a grumpy mood.

I guess these irritating reminders aren’t enough. The subhead of Brown’s article was: “Fed up with no-shows and last-minute cancellations, restaurants are increasingly charging fees as high as $100 a head. And some diners are pushing back.”

According to the reporter, one man cancelled his reservation 23½ hours before his wife’s birthday dinner because their son was in the emergency room. He protested the $200 fee they charged his credit card.

Brown wrote that according to one reservation service, cancellations jumped from at least one in 4 percent of participating restaurants in January 2019 to 13 percent in 2023 and this year, 17 percent. Another reported “that 28 percent of Americans surveyed admitted to not showing up for a reservation in the last year.”

Fees range from $10 to $50+ per person wrote Brown. Some managers charge “on a case-by-case basis.”

Does it make you want to avoid restaurants like this? Have you forgotten to cancel a restaurant reservation, or, for that matter, a doctor or hairstylist appointment? Were you charged a fee?

Service of the Simple Things Friends Do That Warm Your Heart

March 14th, 2024

Categories: Caring, Friends, Simple Things

Cousin Deb Wright painted this Valentine card for me.

I was about to leave my apartment to face a daunting medical procedure when one of my dear friends texted, “Deep breaths.” I responded that my husband used to say that to me, and she replied that she knew, and that I’ve said it to her at times.

“Big deal,” you’re thinking.

It was big to me. I left home feeling supported and at the same time deeply touched.

Another instance involved the first text I received one morning this week. It was from a friend who had never known my husband. I met her after he’d died. She said she was thinking of me on the anniversary of his death. It blew me away. A longtime friend who did know him and who remembered such dates had died in December.

I’d written recently about two friends who’d recognized my husband’s February birthday with a mass card. Golly. Who does that?

There are simple ways you can comfort, strengthen and let a person know that you care without a lot of fanfare. I suspect friends do these things and forget about them–but I don’t. Such gestures are important, don’t you think?

One of several gifts my sister, Elizabeth, gave me for Valentine’s Day

Service of a Perfect Evening Enhanced by Stellar Customer Service

March 11th, 2024

Categories: Concert, Credit Card, Customer Care, Customer Service, Music, Restaurant

Great service turned a wonderful evening into a spectacular one.

It began with an excellent dinner at Fiorella’s, an enormous, popular restaurant across from Lincoln Center that’s hopping with happy patrons especially before performances. It nevertheless serves excellent food and provides professional, top-notch service.

Next we went to hear the Quartetto di Cremona at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Alice Tully Hall. The two violinists, a cellist and violist chose to play pieces by Dmitri Shostakovich, Osvaldo Golijov and Franz Schubert.

The Italian town of Cremora, known for producing fine violins, is in Lombardy, on the Po River’s left bank, 85 miles from Milan. One of the violins played by the musicians, a Cremona, was made in 1640. The other instruments were made in different Italian cities and dated from 1680 to 1758. But I digress.

As Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 8 began, I asked myself, “what tip did I leave the waiter?” followed by the realization that I’d not signed the check, that my credit card remained in the folder and my heart sank.

I dashed out of Alice Tully Hall during intermission and asked the guard to remember me and let me in again. He laughed and reassured me that there would be no problem.

I sprinted back to Fiorella’s, the host opened a drawer with a bunch of credit cards, and there was mine between an American Express Gold Card and a silver card of some sort. The host found the waiter who had the check, I added a tip—I was upset about this omission as well–and hurried back to Lincoln Center. The restaurant was clearly used to lamebrain customers like me and were not concerned that they had been stiffed.

At the end of the concert, after a standing ovation, we started to descend the stairs towards an exit when an usher rushed over to say that there would be one—maybe two—encores. If we left the auditorium, he said, we couldn’t get back in. The quartet’s choice of Puccini was divine. We were grateful to the proactive usher.

We learned something on the 68th Street crosstown bus where a bunch of us, who had exited Lincoln Center, started to speak. One woman kept referring to her “group.” We asked her “what group were you with?” She explained that she was an usher and that each usher is responsible for a portion of the concert hall. That explained why “our” usher raced down the stairs to inform us of the encore. She also told us why we enjoyed only one. “You didn’t clap vigorously enough!” She debunked what a coat check staffer told us—that there was only five minutes left according to union rules so it didn’t leave enough time for more music. She said, “They don’t know anything.”

Do you rejoice when perfect service enhances a flawless evening? Does it happen often?

Service of Dogs Who Make a City Smile

March 7th, 2024

Categories: City Living, Dogs, Happiness, Pets, Walking

My neighbors.

Sunday is the best day for dog-watching in Manhattan, especially on a springlike sunny one because there are pets on almost every street.

A block from my apartment a Saint Bernard was ambling sadly towards his apartment when his human turned away from the front door after punching in his building code. The pooch’s tail wagged and his gait quickened—he practically skipped with joy. I mentioned this to the young man walking him who beamed. Something tells me the pup got a bonus extra few blocks that morning.

The darling couple in the top photo live in my apartment building. Their puppy is a sweetheart and they are just as lovely. They enjoyed my appreciation of their furry bundle of cuteness.

When I admire a dog sometimes the walker doesn’t respond. I don’t stick around to see if it’s because they didn’t hear me over whatever might be blaring in their ears through earbuds, but I become discouraged about saying something to others for a while.

Do you speak to strangers about their dogs? Don’t dogs make a city a happy place?

Service of the Thrill of Petty Theft

March 4th, 2024

Categories: Uncategorized

Some people can’t help themselves. They must wangle a freebee no matter what. I’m not talking about a starving person who steals an apple off a fruit cart or someone who takes advantage of opportunities to attend free concerts, museum exhibits or movies. I go for the latter with enthusiasm.

It’s the petty cheaters who drive me nuts. Someone said it’s because I’m a Virgo. If you want a comp ticket to one of my client’s events, ask for it. Don’t pretend you’re press so as to slip in free.

I’ve written previously about people who would order from a client far more fabric, decorative accessories or wallpaper than necessary for a photo shoot. It didn’t happen under my watch.

I’ve also written about restaurant patrons who complain about the food or service trying to finagle a freebie. Nervier than the scene from the movie “Victor Victoria” when Julie Andrews places a cockroach on her food to avoid paying for dinner was a woman at a restaurant in Grand Central Terminal a few years ago. Her complaints, as I wrote here at the time, escalated to “and I have cancer,” when none of her other complaints generated the response she aimed for: “We’re so sorry madame, we won’t charge you for your drinks and dinner.” She didn’t even get a discount.

Just yesterday on the Third Avenue bus at noon, three people scooted in the back door of the bus after passengers exited with no intention of walking forward to pay. Many of my New York friends complain loudly about this behavior. According to Google, the MTA loses $315 million/year from dodged tolls and subway and bus fares.

Because of such cheats the city will suffer from $15 congestion pricing fees to make up the deficit. I heard a radiologist on the news on Friday morning call this a cancer tax on her patients some of whom must come for treatment daily for over a month.  They are too sick to take public transportation, she said, and the additional fee will be hard on them.

Do scofflaws who nibble away at a company or restaurant’s profit or rob the transportation service of its fare think of the repercussions of their actions–times thousands like them? Is acing a freebie a game for them or do they think it is their right? Does petty theft escalate to bigger targets?

Service of Why Should Someone Clean Up Your Mess?

February 29th, 2024

Categories: Garbage, Thoughtless Behavior

The sign begins “This is not a garbage can,” yet some people still can’t walk a few steps to put their trash in a bin or bring it home.

A friend asked the other day “why do people leave their dirty dishes/trays/coffee cups behind when they exit a table at either a deli or shared office space? It’s really rude.”

She added that the remote workplace she shares is handsomely decorated and doesn’t deserve such treatment. She mentioned to someone in charge that the communal area needed policing and was thanked for the suggestion. She said that they are considering posting tent cards on the table requesting that people clean up after themselves—another of her ideas.

The used items shouldn’t have been left behind in the first place.

By the kitchen sink at one office at which I once hung my hat was a sign: “Your mother doesn’t work here. Please wash your dishes.” It was largely ignored. Who reads? Who cares?

The topic brings up so many questions:

  • Do glasses, dishes and coffee mugs dot the tables and counters of the homes of these thoughtless people?
  • Does a butler clean up after them?
  • Are these the same folks who litter sidewalks and roads with soda and beer cans?
  • Where do they acquire the entitlement to prance off leaving detritus behind without consideration of the next person?
  • Are they bothered when they enter a space that is full of litter?

Service of Honorifics

February 26th, 2024

Categories: Greeting, Honorific, Name

Dog Aging Project Chief Veterinary Officer Kate Creevy, DVM, is looking for people to contribute to valuable research into prolonging dogs’ lives by signing them up. Super Pet Expo visitors at the New Jersey Convention Center, Edison, March 1-3, can see presentations by Dr. Creevy who will share highlights of preliminary findings based on 47,000 four legged participants. Her goal: 100,000.

I’m a huge “All Creatures Great and Small” fan as I’ve mentioned here before. I read all the books when they came out and devoured the first TV series in the late 1970s. When this season’s last episode of the current production ended, I thought about what good friends the housekeeper Mrs. Hall and vet Mr. Farnon are and how, after all they have been through together, they maintain the formalities of addressing one another as Mrs. and Mr.–true to the period. The series takes place in the mid-1930s.

After decades living across the hall my parents’ next-door neighbor remained Mr. Schechter and my father Mr. Reiss. At the time, I wondered about it. Everyone called Mr. Schechter’s wife Missy, the name I’d given her when small in my attempt to pronounce Mrs. Schechter.

I called my parents’ friends Ellie and Ed, Alice and Larry, Alice and Charles, etc. My youngest aunt eventually succeeded in prying me away from calling her Aunt.

At my first job out of college at Dun & Bradstreet there was a clerk who was much older than any of us or our bosses. We called our bosses by their first names but I could not bring myself to call him by his although I was told it was OK. He had gray hair.

In North Dakota where I lived as an Air Force wife, I became close to a local family. I was in my early 20s. I never called Mr. McNabb anything else although others did. He owned a secondhand furniture shop. He was my parents’ age.

My mother was called Mrs. Reiss by most and she corrected nurses who’d call her Ruth.  

I suspect most doctors like to be called “Dr. XYZ,” and not Sally or Sam.

I’m still in touch with students I mentored years ago. One, now a father of two with a prestigious job, still calls me Ms. Byington.

Door staff at my apartment call me Jeanne or Jeanne-Marie [!]; porters and maintenance men greet me with ma’am or just say “hello” or “how are you?” and smile.

I scheduled interviews with students recently and signed the email Jeanne Byington. “Hello Jeanne Byington,” and “Hi Ms. Byington” was how two of the students responded. A high school senior dodged the issue and wrote “Good evening!”

The countless fundraising letters I get dive right in with my full name minus honorific.

Do you care if someone calls you by your first name? Do you prefer Ms., Mrs., Mr. or Mx?

Service of It’s Dinner Time

February 22nd, 2024

Categories: Dinner Time, Restaurant, Rush Hour

We ate dinner at 7 or 8 PM when I grew up and because of work schedules, I segued into similar timing in my own home, inching up to 9 PM on many a night. A bonus: Once he retired, my husband became a spectacular cook.

The pandemic has changed countless habits one of which is the time many white-collar city workers–who are not on a strict nine to five track–eat dinner. Restaurants acknowledge the change: Six PM is the new 7:00 or 8:00 PM crush for reservations in NYC as the city–famous for being insomniac–discovers sleep.

Thanks to the saved commuter time I suspect remote workers who didn’t get home from work until 7 or 8 PM, eat earlier these days too.

I wonder if the time change has altered the dinner table menu. Is less pizza and Chinese ordered in? Are there more home cooked meals? Has your dinner hour changed too?

Service of Excuses

February 19th, 2024

Categories: Excuses, RSVP

An acquaintance went to a great deal of trouble to find the perfect place for a networking group to gather. Traditionally, not everyone RSVPs which is typical and has been this way for far too long whether to a wedding invitation or meeting of colleagues like this—but I digress.

As it happened, some dropped out at the last minute, far too close to showtime to cancel the whole thing and be sure to reach others who had planned to come.  The excuses? One said he’d partied hearty the night before and another wrote that a better opportunity had come along—though not in those words.

If you need or decide to reverse an acceptance you made to an invitation, do you:

  • tell the truth even if it’s a putdown to the others in the group
  • give no excuse or
  • make up something kind?

Service of When “No” Doesn’t Need to be “No”

February 15th, 2024

Categories: Appointments, Medical, Medical Administration, No, Restaurant, Surgery

Image of bar stool by Daria Nepriakhina from Pixabay

A rule stickler

An out-of-town acquaintance in her 50s went to a favorite restaurant in NYC near her hotel.  It was late and the moderately expensive restaurant wasn’t full. She asked the hostess if she could sit at a table and the 20-something told her that because she was alone, she could either sit at the bar or in the lounge. She chose the bar even though she doesn’t drink.

She returned for dinner the next night asking a different hostess, an older woman, if she could sit at the bar and the woman asked, “would you prefer to sit at a table?” Hmmm.

Administrator will determine when your appointment will be–not you

At almost the same time another friend got a call that his imminent cataract surgery was rescheduled for a month away. He wanted it over with. He tried to persuade the receptionist to do better. “Not possible,” she said.

During his lunch break he walked over to the doctor’s office and one of the technicians measured his eye and did the pre-op procedure and rescheduled him for two weeks away. He learned that something had come up for the doctor the day he was originally to be operated on.

Is a declaration of “no” and inflexibility a sign of power for some? Do you push back when you hear “no?” Has “no” turned to “yes” more times than not?

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