“Wooden” It Be Nice?

Why was it necessary to spend an entire afternoon making telephone calls?  Telephone calls that should have ended with the first company representative.  Why had the company not received requested information already sent?

Was it wrong to assume sent information was lost?  Lying on someone’s desk, ignored, gathering dust?  Like the old saying–assume nothing.  In future transactions, duplicate copies will be made, dated, with employee names noted.

It was a health related issue, regarding medication. There was nowhere else to turn. Wouldn’t it be nice if business transactions could be completed on the first contact?  Without checking, re-checking, repeated follow-ups?  “Wooden It Be Nice?”


It Seemed Longer

Don’t know what it was about this past week. On Tuesday, while attempting to mow the front lawn, one of my neighbors chewed me out and claimed I’d damaged her water line.

No proof was offered and I had no knowledge of any such infraction. I was as polite as I could possibly be under the circumstances. She demanded I pay for repairs and excessive water usage. Despite my denial, she continued on.

That same afternoon, my phone service went kaput. It was out until today–Friday around noon. No internet for four days. I wondered for a time, if my crabby neighbor had something to do with it?

It couldn’t have been related, but a visit to a popular Italian-themed, casual dining restaurant yesterday, was a disaster. My piadinas were overcooked. Italian doughnuts for dessert were usually fluffy and light. Yesterday, they were heavy, and still doughy in the middle. Two groups of customers in our waiter’s section walked out in disgust.

Being without internet for four days wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. It was a reminder of how dependent we are on computers and on the web.

Weird Ways With Words

Everyone hates to be put on hold. With horrible hypnotic background music. A place frequently called, had Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” playing in the background. I never made it to summer, fall, and winter–which was a good thing.

I’ve been on both sides of the issue, as a customer service rep, and as a customer.  On hold commercials for the companies’ products and services, were particularly despised.

“Your call is important to us. All of our representatives are currently with other customers. Please continue to hold and we be with you as soon as possible.”

What if a large corporation adopted something different–as follows?

We care because we care

We care because you’re there

We care because we care

We care–are you still there?

We’re there because we care

We’re sad when you’re not here

What About the Warranty?

Arrgh! My watch band broke. Where was the receipt? Found it. Purchase date, April 22nd, of the current year. Warranty disclaimers had more holes than the Titanic.

Went to the place of purchase. They were more helpful, than expected; temporarily fixed the band, till the correct pins arrived by mail.

The worn-out vacuum bit the big one and went to dead appliance Valhalla.

Much to do before escaping for an extended weekend with friends. Did I mention the riding mower battery failed before mowing the lawn? It failed to hold a charge–four-years old. It’s been hard to keep ahead of the broken stuff lately.



“FU-EE-2-UU,” Mr. Charles Sandwyche said to the Lynnwood, NJ DMV, when his request for a specific vanity license plate inscription was denied.  “I was totally shocked–because it wasn’t obscene or anything.  It’s a violation of free speech–if you ask me.  They offered me “KA-BLU–EE,” “NUTZ-2-YW”, “EE-I-I-OU,” and “QAA-POWE” as alternatives.  Those weren’t anywhere near what I wanted.  So, I guess I’ll mope along with random letters and numbers.

“We try to give registrants what they want when we can, said Robyn Batson, Secretary of NJ Department of Vehicle Registrations.  We thought “FU-EE-2-UU” could potentially incite someone to violence.  Especially with the amount of road rage incidents these days.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m not putting any of that on Mr. Sandwyche.  I’m sorry Mr. Sandwyche was disappointed.  There were many viable and creative alternatives available. One of my favorites ones is “DT-DU-DOG-DU”–it’s humorous, and a public service message at the same time.  So far, there’s been no takers.


1-19-15, Lantz Walters, “Minute Newsbit”–Imaginary News Network©


dept store 2

William B. Stanton IV, owner and CEO of the Milford, Connecticut based Stanton-Weaver Department store chain, at a press conference today, announced the discontinuation of their “Subtle Hints” initiative.

“It was an innovative idea, that just didn’t come into fruition,”  Mr. Stanton explained.  “Board Chairman, Don Fletcher, and the rest of the directorship, conceived it, as a valuable asset to our “Wedding Registry.”

“After all, males of the species, sometimes need help remembering important events–like anniversaries, birthdays, meetings, and the like.  Perhaps “Subtle Hints” should go in new direction.  Because the message didn’t get through.  As of today, “Subtle Hints” are a thing of the past”

“Our “Subtle Hints” platform existed in various forms–cards, small figurines with messages.  Some items had embedded, digitally recorded music or messages.  These were to be placed in strategic locations, for the errant to find.  Like in golf bags and fishing tackle boxes,” Mr. Stanton continued.  Quite frankly, they were a flop.

“Don, would you explain for us?”  “First of all, I’d like to say how excited we were when this first started,” Don said.  “We had high hopes.  To our surprise, things looked promising initially–till, the bottom fell out.”

“Guys, there will be NO MORE “SUBTLE HINTS!  Our customer survey answers were quite revealing.  Please pick up a copy of  meeting highlights and customer survey results near the main entrances.”

Mrs. S., “My husband, the lazy bum, never gets off the couch.  How’s he going to take a hint?  And by the way–he hasn’t worked in three years.”

Ellen T., “This whole idea is too subtle.  Why would my husband read a ‘Subtle Hints’ reminder card, to remind him of something he’s supposed to remember?  He can’t remember to put down the toilet seat and lift the lid.  He can’t remember to take out the trash.  That’s just crazy.”

Ashley M., “The only thing that would get my lunkhead boyfriend’s attention, is a cartoon jack-in-the-box with a big boxing glove on a spring–or maybe, a cold beer.”

Mr. Lonnie T., “I didn’t appreciate the, “Remem-mem, mem-member, Remem-mem-ber song, Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, or Michael Jackson style.  Whatever it was supposed to be–a singing chicken, popped out of my briefcase during a board meeting.  It was the most asinine, cockamamie, thing I’ve ever seen.  I was totally humiliated.”

“So there you have it–the battle of the sexes goes on,” Mr. Stanton concluded.  “And, as much as I hate to admit it–perhaps we were too subtle.  Stanton-Weaver will continue to respond to the changing needs of our valued customers.  Thank you for being here–that’s all for today.”


“You have till the end of this week to finish and receive final payment.  Otherwise I’m calling in someone else.  I want the roof, siding, windows, and doors installed.  Whatever’s left, above and beyond that, I’ll finish, myself.  I’m tired of messing around–another year’s started.  I thought, at the very least, this would be completed before Christmas.”

In retrospect, I knew better, than to be taken in by empty promises. Emotions and friendships had no place when it came to doing business.  Business, was business–period.

I wanted a backyard barn/storage building with a loft–a place to putter around after my retirement.  It wasn’t a secret at the hardware/building supply store where I was employed.

Then, along came Ken, (not his real name ), an affable contractor with all the answers.   A frequent store customer, we often engaged in enjoyable conversations about anything and everything.  My building project was one such topic.

Sure, he could build to my satisfaction.  I would furnish all the materials, he’d provide labor and know-how.  The first sunny weekend in September, we broke ground.  Ken and I staked out the foundation.  Geometry came into play–to my chagrin.

This turned into a “don’t let this happen to you” nightmare.  For weeks on end the contractor was a no-show.  When the contractor and crew were there, they rarely worked.  My wife called everyday with updates.

“They were here for an hour, didn’t do any work–then left.   They took two-hour lunches, worked for a half-hour, then left.  I called Ken and he didn’t call me back.”

The contractor stopped answering our telephone calls.  My wife, one day tricked him, by calling from our cell phone, instead of the land line.  Ironically, he answered.

It was a miracle that the foundation and framework ever got built.  By, that time, it was late autumn.  The fall rains came and continuously drenched the new framing lumber.  It was an unending source of arguments.

“Honey, he’s your friend.  You need to get tougher with him,” My wife pleaded.  “If, I get somebody else it’s going to take longer and cost more,” I answered.  “It’s already taking too long, costing too much,” She answered.  I hated to admit defeat.

That’s the way it turned out.  The building cost way more, than I’d planned.  It was way behind schedule.  I finished the trim work myself–with the help of a reliable handyman.  Additional expense that paid off in peace-of-mind.

In March, the building was finally completed.  The inspector’s seal of approval closed that chapter of my life.  But, it’s still a point of contention between my wife and I.  I’m certain to hear about this for years to come.



My first work day was spent watching videos, filling out forms.  It had been almost thirty years since I’d been a new employee.  There had been a lot of changes over those three decades.  The most glaring change was the “pee test”–submitting a urine sample for drug testing while an armed guard stood nearby.  Apparently, drug-free “pee” was in high demand.  If I’d known this in advance, I might have chosen a different, more lucrative, career path.

There were lots of hoops to jump through for a job that didn’t pay much over minimum wage.  Didn’t anybody trust anybody anymore?  “Welcome to X-Mart, we’re glad you’re here,” really meant–we trust you, but not that much.  X-Mart provided opportunity for advancement, stock purchasing, group healthcare–all deducted from the wage base.  The word “union” was an obscenity never to be uttered on the premises.  My previous union membership would remain a secret.

One of the most bizarre experiences of my working life was about to begin.  It was early afternoon, the time of day this retired person would rather take a nap.  Instead, work vests were passed around.  I found an extra-large with an adequate fit.  Then, I learned how to clock in and out and was assigned an employee number.

The human resources person brought out a plastic tub filled with plastic name tags and peel-and-stick letters.  Some tags were blank, others had names of former employees.  The small conference room was all abuzz as new employees peeled off old names, spelled out their own unique names.  Nobody else noticed, but there was a problem.  I was aghast–there were no “L’s.”  Especially, since my first name is William–nickname Bill.  Only my mother called me William, when I was in trouble.

I couldn’t remain incognito–although “incognito” had a certain Latin flair.  My junk mail came addressed to “Occupant.”  Could I use that? Not a chance–don’t rock the boat on the first day.  Who was I going to be?  What name was close to “Bill”–same amount of letters sans “L’s?”  There was “Buzz,” like Buzz Aldrin the astronaut.  And then, there was “Biff.”  The name reeked toughness–like Batman and Robin throwing punches at a villain.  So, that’s how I became known around X-Mart as “Biff.”

Biff needed extra toughness on late shifts.  Most late evenings were spent staring out the front windows at the empty parking lot.  Two weeks passed, and before shift end one night, an attractive, thirtyish young woman approached, and introduced herself.  “Hi, I’m ‘Julie,’ your immediate supervisor.  You’re mine–you work for me.  I want you to be my door greeter from now on.”  That was news to me.  Why hadn’t she been there on orientation day?  Had she disappeared along with the missing “L’s?”  Was this simply a coincidence?

My supervisor quickly made up for lost time.  “Biff get this, Biff get that.  Biff go to ladies wear and pick up all the loose hangars before you clock out.  Biff, go out in the parking lot and round-up the stray carts–pick up any trash you find along the way.”  The job wasn’t difficult–the hardest part, finding someone to relieve me to go to the restroom.  That required a strong constitution.  I gained new respect for those working entry-level jobs.

My alter-ego, Biff, existed for only a few short weeks.  Biff made some friends–including the night security guard.  We discussed sports, talked about shoplifters, and store security.  But sadly, Biff had to go–he needed new challenges.  Shortly after, I found employment at a big-box home improvement store.  The missing “L’s” remained a mystery for the ages.  Best of all, I could be myself–no more Biff!


are you being served

What’s the most dreadful (or wonderful) experience you’ve ever had as a customer?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us SERVICE.


Our rooms were booked through a web-based travel site.  No, it wasn’t the one that featured “Capt. Kirk” (William Shatner).  In hindsight, I wish it had been.  Reservations made for the first and last nights for friends and relatives of the wedding party.  Our first trip to the Hawaiian islands, we hoped to rest comfortably before flying to Maui the next day.

We paid for a room accommodating three guests.  Our room was considerably smaller than expected.  There was one full bed pushed against what appeared to be base kitchen cabinets.  Had this room been used to store odds-and-ends of surplus furniture?  Complaints to the front desk were answered with an additional roll away bed.  Our friend slept on the roll away bed with one end in the closet.  Unwisely, I remarked, “At least the bathroom is normal sized.”  To which my spouse responded, with daggers in her eyes, “You like it so much, you can sleep there.”  I knew it was time to shut up.

As if the miserable first night weren’t bad enough, next day at checkout, we were charged for a roll away bed.  We disputed the charge with the desk clerk.  Was it unreasonable to expect beds for three people if fees were paid for said number of people?  I didn’t think so.  The discussion went tit-for-tat until the desk clerk reluctantly took off the charge.  My wife was livid at this point, “I will never stay in your lousy hotel again!”  “I’m cancelling the second night’s reservation.”  “Good! Answered the clerk, Because your expectations were too high!”

Reservations cancelled–a scathing negative review given to the booking agency.  Apparently four-star ratings were meaningless–like suggested retail prices.  Our last night was spent in a well-known chain hotel near the airport .  The rest of the trip went without any major incidents.  The wedding ceremony was beautiful–in a beautiful setting.



Daylight faded early
With the onset of winter
Self-doubts from deepest
Recesses of the mind, crept
In, under cover of darkness

The only light, came from
A nightstand alarm clock
Self-absorption imploded
Like slow-motion destruction
Of a high-rise building

Meanwhile, miscreants
With cast-iron souls
Shamelessly, self-promoted
With, nothing to promote
Headed over the falls
In leaky boats

Blindsided by fear
He died a little everyday
The smile façade
Concealed a grimace
Talk was cheap
Caring was expensive