It's Fourth of July weekend! Where are we going? Two friends have planned or have already gone on days-long summer vacations by car involving motel or hotel stays. Another will visit a friend later in summer traveling by train and a fourth would fly in ...
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  1. Service of Vacation Travel During a Pandemic
  2. Service of How to Speak Up–or Should We?
  3. Service of “I Couldn’t Live Without It” Until I Did Post Pandemic
  4. Service of One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Is Etsy Too Big?
  5. Service of Uneven Performances During a Pandemic
  6. More Recent Articles

Service of Vacation Travel During a Pandemic

Photo: flickr

It’s Fourth of July weekend! Where are we going?

Two friends have planned or have already gone on days-long summer vacations by car involving motel or hotel stays. Another will visit a friend later in summer traveling by train and a fourth would fly in a second were he welcomed in Europe.

They are in the minority according to a June 2020 survey of almost 1,000 adults commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association [AHLA]. It “found that only 44 percent of Americans are planning overnight vacation or leisure travel in 2020, with high interest in road trips, family events, and long weekends over the summer months.” Of those who planned to travel, 68 percent “are likely to stay in a hotel.”

The survey found that “55% plan to travel for a family event, such as a wedding, birthday, anniversary, or family reunion; 50% plan to travel for Christmas, 43% for Thanksgiving, 33% for 4th of July, and 30% for Labor Day.”

According to spectrumlocalnews.com “The American Automobile Association estimates that 150 million people had to cancel travel plans this summer…..In fact, this year, 97 percent of summer trips are road trips. According to the AAA, air travel is down 74 percent. Trains, cruises, and other forms of travel are down 86 percent. The only number that’s close to normal is car travel, which is down just 3 percent compared to last year.”

What interested me about the AHLA website was information about a “safe stay” initiative “focused on enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19.”

Photo: smartertravel.com

An excerpt of the “Cleaning & Disinfecting Products and Protocols” section about guest rooms: “Cleaning and disinfecting protocols will require that particular attention is paid to high-touch, hard nonporous items including television remote controls, toilet seats and handles, door and furniture handles, water faucet handles, nightstands, telephones, in-room control panels, light switches, temperature control panels, alarm clocks, luggage racks and flooring. The frequency of room cleaning during a guest’s stay may be altered based on guest requirements. In accordance with CDC guidelines, Housekeeping staff should wait at least 15 minutes before entering a guest’s room for cleaning to allow for adequate time for air exchange following the guest’s departure, and will discard all single use items provided by the hotel that were used by the guest during their stay, or left by the guest. If bulk personal care items are used, the cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all high touch surfaces in the room including any bulk toiletry items that may have been used or touched by guests prior to the next occupant.”

The point that raised my eyebrow in light of the controversy about indoor eating at restaurants and sharing air space in trains, planes and buses was “Housekeeping staff should wait at least 15 minutes before entering a guest’s room for cleaning to allow for adequate time for air exchange.”

Are you planning to travel? Will you disinfect your hotel room or assume that it’s clean? Are you driving or taking public transportation to get to your destination? Do you welcome overnight guests to your home these days?

Photo: pinterest.com

    

Service of How to Speak Up–or Should We?

Photo: cbs8.com

I didn’t say a word when years ago a man lit a cigarette in the subway as the train headed into the tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. I thought about asking him politely not to smoke and wondered “What if the train stopped for an extended period and the little air we share in the car is poisoned by his smoke?” I was afraid he’d attack me and I’d have nowhere to run and escape.

Today it’s about masks. I wrote about them on May 14th in “Service of Symbols III.” Since then NY Governor Cuomo had a contest for the best video to promote their use and immunologist Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and other authorities repeatedly tout their impact on slowing down the spread of Covid-19.

Nothing seems to drive home their purpose with some. A New York Times article by Margot Sanger-Katz “On Coronavirus, Americans Still Trust the Experts” explains what’s going on. She reported: “In the Times survey, 84 percent of voters said they trusted medical scientists to provide reliable information about the virus, with 90 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans trusting the experts. Overall trust in the C.D.C. was 77 percent — 71 percent among Republicans and 83 percent among Democrats.”

Photo: abcnews.go.com

Gregory A. Poland, MD told the audience on a WOR 710 NY radio program last week that a man yelled at him for wearing a mask when he was out walking with his wife. Poland knows more than most about why he wears one. He is director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group and editor-in-chief of the medical journal Vaccine. He didn’t engage the aggressor who didn’t know who he was harassing.

Most stores post signs asking visitors to wear masks but there are no laws about it. It’s up to the retail staff–even youngsters with summer jobs–to reprimand and confront potential customers and ask the mask-less to return with a mask on.

A friend who owns a business in the suburbs said a man came inside last week, stopped, said, “Oh my–I forgot my mask in the car,” raced out and returned. That can happen.

Often the omission is aggressive and deliberate. A NYC radio talk show host boasted that he’s deep-sixed his mask and nevertheless enters the small shops in his Manhattan neighborhood and nobody stops him. He’s tired of wearing one. He’s not alone. It’s not enough that these people imperil the health of others, I’ve read that some punch mask-wearers.

Photo: youtuebe.com

Anecdotal information from friends who live in or are visiting New England tourist destinations report streets crowded with vacationers gleeful to be freed from sheltering at home. Many left behind their facial protection and social distancing awareness. Shops with seasonal business that are starved for sales employ staff who, like most sane people, are fearful of getting sick. They are especially stressed when potential customers pass right by mask signs and enter with exposed nose and mouth.

Does a business that wants to protect its staff need to hire a six foot 200 pound guard? If you worked in a restaurant, shop, hair styling salon, barbershop or any business that welcomes outsiders how would you ask patrons to put on a mask or would you grin and bear it?

Would a request to put on a mask on a recording in well recognized, respected voices that employees could easily and invisibly engage when someone enters without a mask help avoid confrontation?

If you are a customer trapped in an establishment and someone enters without a mask, do you speak up? What do you say?

Photo: twitter.com

 

    

Service of “I Couldn’t Live Without It” Until I Did Post Pandemic

There were plenty of things I thought were essential to my happiness and survival that have changed since the pandemic.

Meat

I am not a vegetarian. I usually eat a traditional dinner consisting of a little meat or fish, potato or rice and a vegetable. But I hesitate to pay $6.50-$15/lb for garden variety hamburger. So I will be eating a lot of other things until prices readjust if ever they do.

Photo: seriouseats.com

Unfortunately my diet isn’t healthy if you consider the fettuccine Alfredo and ice cream that lace my dinner menus instead. I sometimes divide a pound of Alaskan salmon into four meals while ignoring the price because I know it’s healthy.

Work Colleagues

Since March I’ve not seen the people who share office space with me. I love going to an office. I enjoy the camaraderie and I’ll miss the banter. Like many who aren’t comfortable sharing closed space these days with others for long periods I’ve just moved my office home.

Large Handbag, Lucky Star

Because I no longer go to an office, a friend’s house, out for a meal or to meetings I don’t need to leave home with the paraphernalia I’ve deemed essential my adult life that required a pounds-heavy handbag to hold makeup, fat wallet, pens and so forth and often a tote bag as well.

I don’t miss a handbag though I’ve run into trouble without it.

  • Early on in the pandemic I pulled out my phone from my jeans pocket with clumsy plastic gloves on and my credit card came out too. The black card fell on the dark brown carpet by the elevator in my apartment. I didn’t notice until I went to pay for groceries. A neighbor returned it. Two weeks ago I was on an empty street and found a $20 bill in the gutter. I am sure that bill came out of the owner’s pocket just as my credit card did.
  • To avoid a reprise I graduated to a small purse [photo above, center] just big enough to hold essentials: credit card, keys and a little cash. You may have read my Facebook posting this week about the wonderful New York Department of Transportation construction workers who returned it to me. I thought I’d slipped it into one of the giant TJ Maxx bags loaded with groceries and planted on my shoulders but instead, it landed on the street. I attribute this mistake to a mask that acts like a horse’s blinders, a sweaty hand in gloves that remove feeling from my fingers and my attention focused on social distancing and what’s going on around me.

 Have you realized that you can live without anything you once thought was imperative?

Photo: Pinterest.com

    

Service of One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Is Etsy Too Big?

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

I was in awe of the Etsy platform when it launched 15 years ago as “a virtual storefront for hipsters’ arts and crafts” as Taylor Majewski wrote in builtinnyc.com. It went public in 2015 and describes itself as “an American e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. These items fall under a wide range of categories, including jewelry, bags, clothing, home décor and furniture, toys, art, as well as craft supplies and tools.”

According to statista.com, last year it reported 2.5 million sellers and 39.4 million buyers around the world.

I’ve loved and bought crafts for decades, promoted one of the big east coast shows for years and was thrilled that talented artisans had another vital way to expand their customer bases and generate sales.

Something happened. Carlene Gleman founder, artist and owner of Greymount Paper & Press, described her predicament in a series of Facebook postings. If her name and company are familiar it’s because I featured her in “Service of Ordering Online During a Pandemic,” last month.

Gleman claims that Etsy’s new off-site advertising program has “directly led to our artwork being repeatedly stolen.”  She found over 20 instances of theft in three months. Before Etsy introduced this new program, it had only happened once in five years.

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

While the platform appears to be helping promote some of its successful vendors’ products without repercussions, for a business like Greymount based on an artist’s creations, it is at huge cost. She said while the company’s new marketing approach should work for furniture makers, for example, “it creates trouble for shops whose artwork can be stolen with the click of a mouse.”

With a simple fix her work wouldn’t be in jeopardy, but in the last year, the brand has begun to insist on 2,000px high-resolution images for all listings. “A thief can download, copy, and easily remove watermarks from photos with this resolution,” said Gleman. “Lower resolution images, which Etsy allowed in the past, discourage theft by largely preventing enlargement and printing.”

Sellers who generate $10,000 gross profit according to Etsy’s calculations, [they include postage in the sales total!], must participate in Etsy’s new offsite marketing program, and, Gleman reports, are excluded from the platform’s internal search engine. [You know–the toolbar that helps you find “greeting cards” or “art featuring otters.”]

Upon learning about the new program, Gleman immediately turned off all advertising for her shop, to prevent her listing images from appearing on websites thought to be resources for copyright theft.

She checked her seller dashboard after she realized that her images were being stolen from her Etsy listings. She was incurring advertising fees. “Etsy was blasting my artwork across the web without my knowledge.”

She has hired a lawyer to fight the art thieves and has turned off her Etsy shop, permanently. She now sells her greeting cards, art prints, and gifts exclusively through her own website.

“See if an artist has a website and if it’s possible purchase through them directly,” Gleman recommends. She has decided to never again sell on a 3rd party platform that forces her to participate in advertising programs where she can’t control where her artwork appears.

The world of craft is diverse. The marketers at Etsy aren’t taking this into account. Do you know of other businesses that have tripped up when they haven’t recognized the differences in their clients?  Can you share other examples of copyright infringement?

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

 

 

    

Service of Uneven Performances During a Pandemic

Photo: facebook.com

When a company or organization works well these days it does so splendidly and when it doesn’t……I’ve encountered both.

Kudos to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. In spite of the pandemic, its staff sent me a receipt in record time acknowledging they’d destroyed the license plates we’d shipped to them. Shortly thereafter I received a refund check for what they owed me because there was still time on my registration.

It took a shockingly few minutes to cancel my auto insurance. When I called USAA the customer service person trusted the date on my motor vehicles receipt and voila! Done.

Photo: thecity.nyc

On the other hand, the New York State Board of Elections so far gets an F. I requested a write-in ballot well over a month ago and since have read and heard countless suggestions from the NYC Mayor and others urging folks to do the same. The deadline to vote in the June 23 primary is approaching and no ballot as of yesterday. I reported this to my councilman’s office. The staffer who took the message said that someone in the office was looking into this as plenty of others are in the same boat.

Photo: Techcrunch.com

Have you tried to call Verizon? Ha! What a rigamarole to report a change of address! I was refused access to my online account; live chat doesn’t handle this task and sent me back to the site I couldn’t enter. There is no place on the bill to  make the address adjustment. I pleaded with Mr. or Ms. Live Chat for a phone number which I got. I called,  clicking on “technical difficulties” to get a person who heard my distress and transferred me to a woman in the finance department. Jackpot. Let’s hope I get the next bill at the right address. Time wasted: 3/4 of a frustrating anxiety-provoking  hour.

I filled out the online United States Postal Service change of address form and when done was asked for my credit card number. I thought “I must be in a scam lookalike website,” and clicked off. I then asked for the old fashioned paper form at the post office and mentioned the credit card request that had alarmed me. The postal clerk told me that I was on the right site and that online address changes cost $1. I’d be happy to donate $1 but the reason for the charge and credit card request should have been made clear. I’ve been burned before: I thought I was on a site that I had accessed. It was an almost-the-same address. The mistake scrambled my computer requiring an expert to salvage it.

One friend still waits for her stimulus check when everyone else seems to have received theirs; another in an adjacent state hasn’t seen a cent of unemployment money in six weeks. She called the office 70 times one day and couldn’t get through.

Please share experiences that you have faced trying to get things done during the pandemic– more remarkable than exasperating I trust.

Photo: faq.usps.com

 

    

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