Starting a “Yes” Revolution

It all began innocently enough. I went to a gas station with the needle on  my fuel gage a tiny bit below empty. Not to worry, I had a VISA gift card that one of my clients gave me as a “thank you” for doing great work on a project. I have been given these types of gift cards before and have used them at gas stations previously without any issues. Not this time.

At the pump I swiped the brand new VISA card. And, a strange thing happened. It was declined. I walked up to the attendant and asked if he knew what happened. He tried to manually charge the card and told me the same thing the computer in the pump did. Declined.

I then called the number on the back of the card. This was not an easy feat. The type was tiny, and I had to wait 20 minutes to speak to a real person. Once I got connected to someone, the representative advised me that gas stations place a hold on credit cards once the card is swiped. It was some sort of crazy “policy” to ensure that the card actually had enough money on it. Perhaps there were a lot of instances of people trying to drive off after filling their minivans and trucks with $75 worth of gas. Oh yeah, that’s right. The hold placed on the card was SEVENTY FIVE dollars.

After going around and around with the “representative” – surely if VISA had placed a hold on my card, they could put it back – I asked to speak to a manager. The manager told me the same thing. There was nothing he could do. He asked me if I read the 20 page pamphlet that came with the card. I was honest and replied no. He then replied that this “gas station policy” was outlined in pamphlet. I then returned to the issue at hand. I was out of gas, had no cash on me, and only had the VISA gift card on me as payment. Was there any way to return the money taken from the card back to the card?

davidspadeno

I pretty much told the manager that I was tired of being told what can’t be done, and asked what COULD be done. Nothing, apparently, as the manager went back to the script and rattled off policy.

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear the word “yes” when dealing with businesses? Wouldn’t it
be nice, when talking to a service-facing employee that they they treated you like an actual person and had some compassion instead of rattling off “policy” like a robot?

I am suggesting a new way of customer service. Saying yes. Sure, it may take a bit more time and thinking out of the box. But just imagine what the word yes would do for your company. It can make a customers day. And bring them back for more.

Are Conferences A Con?

There is one event management company that seriously sends me an email a day followed up with a phone call. It is getting very annoying. Do you know what that says to me? They are desperate for attendees, and likely overpaid for speakers and event space. Basically, they are afraid of this:

emptycon

The fall conference season is pretty much over as of the first week of November. So, as you take a look at the slate of spring conference events, be sure to ask yourself the following:

  • Am I going to learn something/meet anyone beneficial to my career?
  • Will I have opportunities to network with people in my industry?
  • Does the conference offer a variety of break-outs or workshops to pick from?

If you answered “yes” to two or all of the above questions, then you should attend that conference. Remember, you can always try and defray the cost by offering to blog or report on said conference. If it applies to your job and you can show your manager why this conference will be beneficial to your company, certainly ask if your ticket/attendee fee can be paid for.

Remember, have fun, and don’t be a con-hole. Do some research on the keynoters, and follow them on social media beforehand. Ask questions. Participate. Don’t just hang out at the bar or in the cafeteria, or even worse your room.  Learn something and post about your experiences below.

Can You Tweet A Twitpic? Sadly, Not Anymore

 Twitpic-logo-twitpicdotcom_opt

Twitpic blinked in the wake of an impending lawsuit with Twitter. No, Twitpic did not even get dragged into court by Twitter. Twitpic will be closing their doors (and service) on September 25th. They took their ball away and left.

Apparently, Twitter served Twitpic legal documents few weeks ago. Twitter was insisting that Twitpic drop their application for a trademark or else. The “or else” meant that Twitpic would not have access to Twitter’s Application Programming Interface. Basically, if Twitpic went forward with obtaining a trademark, and gain all of the benefits of having one, they would not  have access to post pictures seemlessly to Twitter (like you can do with Instagram to Facebook. But Facebook owns Instagram. I digress).

Twitter’s brand policy is pretty far reaching.  The policy  states third-party applications, websites and other products should not “apply for a trademark with a name including ‘Twitter’, ‘Tweet’, the Twitter bird…” It will be interesting to see what happens with companies like TweetDeck, Twibs and TwitStamp. 

So, what do we do without Twitpic? Luckily, Twitter already rolled out it own service in 2011. How nice of them.

 mrburns

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – A Bunch of Cold Water?

All of a sudden I started seeing friends and relatives posting videos of themselves dumping buckets of water (with ice) on themselves for no apparent reason. Then, the celebrity videos started showing up on Twitter and Facebook. What the heck was going on?

icebucketchallenge

 

Apparently this was all part of something called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a neurodegenerative disease which causes people to not be able to control their muscles. Their muscles grow weak due to atrophy, they also have difficulty in speaking as well as problems swallowing and breathing.

Well, what actually is the challenge? Within 24 hours of being challenged, participants are to video record themselves in continuous footage. First, they are to announce their acceptance of the challenge followed by pouring ice into a bucket of water. The bucket is then to be lifted overhead and poured over the participant’s head. Then the participant can call out a challenge to other people.

Is it actually raising money? The answer is a resounding yes. The  ALS Foundation stated it has raised $15.6 million as a result of the challenge.; That is NINE times what it normally raises in the same time frame.

Just take a look at some really awesome videos:

Justin Timberlake

Bill Gates

Hugh Jackman

Charlie Sheen

So what can we learn from this? Create a fundraising campaign that is:

  • Easily sharable
  • Fun to participate in
  • Both raises awareness and money for the cause.

Beware of Your Credit Report

Since 2006, we have been the proud (?) owners of a used 1996 Honda Accord wagon. For a while, it served our needs. It allowed me to get the kids in and out of the car without hitting my arm or head (like my old-new Beetle) and once we found a good mechanic who would actually service it, it ran well.

However, there was no way to fit all of the kids in the backseat, even with this advice. So, it was in search of new/new-to-me cars I went. I did a bunch of research and discovered that three cars fit the bill of my wants/needs (good crash test rating; could fit 3 kids in the back *in* carseats, not a gass-guzzler).

 

  • Kia Soul
  • Nissan Cube
  • Scion XB

I pretty much hate purchasing a vehicle, and one particular dealership really tested my patience with being ultra-slimy and treating me like a typical female car buyer. While I was at that dealership I did find a used vehicle listed above. I did not have enough cash on hand to buy it outright, so I filled out the paperwork for a car loan. The salesperson said she/he had to pull my credit report.

 

creditreportfail

I thought nothing of it, mostly because I went with another dealership to purchase my vehicle. That is, until today. I was reviewing my credit card statement and found a charge from Experian and another “company” called ScoreSence for $29.95. I called ScoreSence to tell them I never authorized the charge and the representative (who was completely rude and dismissive) advised me that “I must have.” When I explained that, again, no I did not, the representative countered with the information that “my account(?) would be reviewed and a manager would see if the payment would be reversed back to my credit card.”

So, obviously, the next step was to call my bank/credit card company to dispute the charges. The 2 companies above did not follow these business rules.

  • Customer service agents being receptive/compassionate to customer’s needs.
  • Providing an actual number for customers to reach them. (Try contacting a live person at Experian).
  • Allowing their customer service representatives to resolve issues off script.

Next time you have your credit report pulled, just keep the above in mind. And also, remember, your customer service reps are the front lines of your image and brand.

 

A Whole Fail Customer Service Experience

We took a family trip to Wisconsin. We do it every year around July 4th, but this year was a special visit since Geoff’s dad is in very poor health. We drove so it took two days to get there. On Thursday, July 3rd I was the Whole Foods in downtown Milwaukee store. I frequent the Fairfax, Springfield and Clarendon stores. On this day, my husband had just dropped me off at the Whole Foods store after a long visit with his father who is in hospice care down the street. I was hungry and had time to kill since we were traveling and only had one car in town.

While I was walking around the store, I was talking to various clients. You see, I own a marketing consulting firm. So, I was taking and making various calls and shopping at the same time. I did not pick up a cart at the entrance of the store due to the fact that I did not think I would be buying much. As I selected more and more items, the items were falling out of my hands. I took a plastic produce bag and placed the items in it so they would not fall out of my large bucket purse (that had no closure). I also, as I previously mentioned, was hungry and got some nuts from the bulk food aisle. I weighed and labeled the bag of the nuts, as I typically do at the stores back home.

I stopped in the coffee area and made another phone call to a client. At that time, I ate the nuts, which again I typically do at the Virginia Whole stores I frequent. When I check out, I simply give the cashier the bag with the sticker so I can show him or her how much product was in the bag the point the bag was filled.

The music and noise got loud in the coffee area, so I left to go into the vestibule to talk to a friend. I had planned on returning into the store to buy the items in my bag, but was not given the time nor opportunity to do so. At that time a female loss prevention employee (I can only guess at her function since she had no name tag and refused to tell me her name) grabbed me by the arm and took me back into the store. I was led upstairs by the unnamed female employee and a male employee named Ted. Ted was extremely sarcastic and rude to me. I was detained for almost an hour until the police arrived. I called my lawyer for some assistance and Ted told me that I was making him uncomfortable.

Courtesy of Failbog.

Courtesy of Failbog.

The police finally did arrive and gave me a ticket for shoplifting. The ticket is $375. Thus far I have talked to a shift leader at the store in question named Mike who informed me that he was unwilling to discuss the matter with me, and also unwilling to review the store tape. I received a call from Whole Foods Headquarters informing me that “they were siding with the store, and if I had an issue with the ticket, that I would need to deal with the police directly.

 

It is a hell of a town.

It is a hell of a town.

Here are the issues that still need to be addressed:

- I have a bruise on my arm due to one of the Milwaukee store employees (the female who refused to give me her name) using unnecessary force.

– I was told by Ted at the Milwaukee store that I was “banned” from all Whole Foods stores nationwide. Be assured that I will not patronize that store in the future. However, I would like to know if I would be welcome in the Whole Foods stores I typically frequent. If not, there are plenty of your competitors who I am sure would value my business.

– At no time have I received an apology due to my treatment by the employees who handled this event the Milwaukee store.

– At no time was I allowed the opportunity to relay my version of the course of events on July 3rd in the Milwaukee store.

It is truly unfortunate that I have received such a poor response from headquarters and the Milwaukee store. Up until this incident, I shopped at Whole Foods at least once a week and had nothing but positive experiences with the employees.

A few suggestions for the future for the Milwaukee store, if you care to pass them on: I was an assistant manager for a large retailer and we never treated any loss prevention issue in the manner I experienced. We would either call the county/town police or have mall security deal with the customer directly. We also would videotape the conversation with the customer in question and a store manager or manager on duty.

P.S. Seems like bad customer service is not the only issue here.

 

 

The Hand That Rocked The Cradle

In the beginning of June, I had brought my kids with me to one of my client’s. The client is a national retail chain and the kids really like the product. A nice, young woman must have seen how frazzled I was and came up to me and introduced herself. She asked if I needed a nanny. Up until that point, the thought of hiring a nanny never crossed my mind. However, I was so overwhelmed and exhausted that I quickly invited her over for dinner.

At first it seemed like a great idea....

At first it seemed like a great idea….

Once back at our house she spun a tale about how the “crazy” lady who she was renting a room from was renting out all of the other rooms in the house to family members. I had dealt with odd landlord and roommate situations in the past, so after talking it over as a family we decided to invite her to stay with us for a few weeks until she got a new living situation sorted out. That was a Sunday night. On Sunday, I ran around doing personal errands and she tagged along. I bought her all sorts of personal items (shampoo, clothes, a new duffle bag) and took her out to lunch. That night my husband and I went to a concert and since we had gotten the tickets months before, we had already previously hired a babysitter. She seemed OK with this arrangement and went to bed early.

A witness sketch. Kidding.

A witness sketch. Kidding.

Monday was her real first work day. When I ran a background check on her, all her references said great things about her and the only thing that came up legally is some traffic and parking tickets. I talked to her about what I had planned that day when she told me that she did not have a current driver’s license. That was a problem since a large part of her job was to pick and drop of the kids from school and activities. She asked me if I could bring her to the county treasurer to pay the tickets. Of course, she had no money…so I would have to pay her in advance for work she had not yet completed. We decided that once I picked up the kids, we would all go to the courthouse. Since it was 1pm by the time we got to all of the kids, it took us forever to get into a few towns over where she had to deal with the treasurer. The courthouse closed at 3:00pm and it was already 2:30 by the time we finally figured out where she needed to make the payment. Finally, we got to the treasurer. Now, when she explained about the tickets and about the fact that she had accrued fines and fees for not paying them on time, she gave me an estimate of about a hundred dollars. By the time I met up with her to pay, the cashier told me the amount due was $500. I was pissed because I was lied to, but paid her bill and told her I was not going to pay her again until at least July. She seemed fine with that. On Tuesday, I was focused on doing stuff for my clients since I basically wasted about 4 hours with the nanny the day before. She asked me when I was planning on bringing her back to the treasurer since she was unable to get her license reinstated and I tried to explain the whole “If I don’t work, U can’t pay you” thing. Anyway, it was around then I started noticing things missing. A few checkbooks. MY driver’s license. A credit card. Wednesday rolled around and we had at least twenty “your time” versus “my time” talks. This girl was either in the mirror or on her phone texting/checking voice mail. We got in the car and I told her that we were going to the DMV closest to the house to get my license replaced (at that time I just thought I lost it somehow). She started yelling at me about how she needed a valid license to drive the kids around, and I slowed the car down and told her that when I worked for an employer I was the one who was responsible for paying any traffic tickets and I was the one who kept my license current. Not my employer. She kept on yelling at me. I stopped the car. I calmly said “This clearly is not working out. Your employment has been terminated. Get out of the car.” And she did. Lessons learned? 1). In the span of three days, this woman caused major havoc. Thankfully, I am very aware of my belongings and noticed immediately when things went missing. 2). Always perform background checks. Document everything when it comes to domestic employees. 3) Keep the lines between employee and manager open.