Double Take

Taking a second look at life experiences

Is that amount okay?

yes-no

I always hit the bright green button robotically and agree to the purchase. I’m sure we all do. Why would we subject ourselves to the conflicted series of thoughts we would have if we actually considered the question?

“Hmmm, I don’t know, now that you mention it, I’m not sure about the amount. Maybe it should it be less? Do I really need to buy these things? Am I happy with my purchase…? Do you think you should have charged me less…is that why you’re asking? Am I missing out on a sale tomorrow…maybe I should wait before buying all these things?”

Here’s my chance to bag the whole thing, refuse to consume yet more goods, and run for the hills. But no, I’m a compliant consumer,  so I click the inviting green button that seems to wink at me, and go on my way.

Still, wouldn’t it be more honest to ask me “Do you confirm this purchase?” Then I could click either yes or no and be saved from the option of entering into a meaningless analytic dialogue with myself that in the end, wouldn’t matter anyway.

5 of the Most Useless “Helpful” Things

Any guesses for what this is?

Any guesses for what this is? (answer below)

by Ruth Schapira

Here is a short list of things that either don’t do what they say they’re supposed to do, or are so useless, that I’m left wondering why?

  1. A metal (non-rust?) and canvas wagon made especially for the beach, to shlep all your stuff in, in order to make the beach feel more like you’re in your own backyard (I’ve actually seen this on the beach, filled with hammocks, beach pillows, comfy chairs, drink holders, and assorted coolers). The funny thing is that it’s called “Beachcomber”(definition of beachcomber:  a vagrant who makes a living by searching beaches for articles of value and selling them). Really? If you were really ‘beach-combing’ you’d get by on a lot less. I have to concede that this $100 item (approximate) would be most handy for parents who are taking their little children the beach. They really do need to bring the whole house along in order to have a more pleasant experience.
  2. A CD Audio book I’m listening to now is called “The Power of Less”. The trouble is, there are FOUR CD’s to go through, many of which contain content that’s being repeated…over and over again. Not really “Less” is it?
  3. An “instant” spout that you have to somehow shove into a huge watermelon (that you’ve already taken the time to hollow out) and pour a beverage into for dispensing. So, the watermelon lasts exactly how long before it gets all yucky? I don’t know about you, but when I take the time to open and slice a watermelon, enough juice comes out of it that I can just pour that liquid into a container for dispensing. NO?
  4. An ‘inflatable buffet’ that ostensibly you blow up in order to fill it with food, then float said thing in your pool. I guess those clever people who invented this item assume that people using it would be floating in a pool, barely making a move. Otherwise, any movement (like swimming?) would cause too much splashing, thereby getting your food wet. I guess if you’re that immobile, using the additional effort to get out of the pool to eat is just too, well, annoying.
  5. The item above is a vintage cherry pitter. At some point, someone thought it much too tedious to pit cherries and decided to invent a humanoid-looking tool. Not to be outdone, a chef’s catalog I browsed through featured a cherry pitter that pits 6 cherries at a time. This one had no interesting features, but seemed to require some bit of skill to get all the cherries positioned just perfectly in order for you to push down on the spindles to extract the pit. Of course, if you do that enough, I imagine you’d create quite a mess inside that thing. However, you might just get enough juice from those cherries to put into your handy watermelon jug, which you will probably be lugging to the beach in your brand new wagon,of course.

I Said Social Media Marketing Bugs Me, But This Just Makes Me Laugh

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The Simple Reason Social Media Marketing Bugs Me

The Social Media Trap

The Social Media Trap

I subscribe to many social media marketing newsletters. These are crafted with the help of Headline Analyzers, SEO-proven keywords and the like.

So, you’d think at least their headlines would grab me.

Yet, I delete, with such pleasure, as if I’m doing a mailbox cleanse or something, about 9 out of the 10 I regularly receive.

Why not just unsubscribe you ask?

Because every so often, they offer useful and timely solid content.

So, what annoys me to the point of happily clicking that e-mail into oblivion?

Here’s the crux of it: I don’t want to “Learn How to Get More Twitter Followers” or  discover the “7 Easy Ways to Get More Instagram Followers” or “How to run a Facebook ad and build my list for $10 day” .

Concerning these types of pitches, the ones on I see on Twitter are perhaps the worst.  It’s the platform I’m on most often, and I shake my head in disbelief as I read endless tweets about how I can maximize my marketing muscle.

Buy my book. Get my new product. Learn how to increase your reach. Get more clicks. More. Better. Best.

Some of the people represent firms where you can buy thousands of followers.

Really? The sales approach there is that once you’ve hit a magic number of followers, you can market yourself more easily as an expert, gaining more street cred, which in turn, converts into dollars.

Me, I just want to be on the platform, not monetize my experience from it.

(I’m not a “facebook person”, or an “Instagrammer”, though I’ll let anyone know who asks, the reasons why I’m on Twitter over other social media platforms).

So, I’ll continue to purge my Inbox of these kinds of offers and feel like I’m escaping the marketing machine’s social media trap.

Click. Delete. Boy, does that feel good.

 

Photo courtesy of flickr.com 

The Special Sweetness of the Once-A-Year Holiday Party

holidaycandle

Do you dread or anticipate the obligatory company holiday party?

I’m surprised by how much I look forward to attending my husband’s holiday party every year. Here’s my list of some of the reasons for why I enjoy this experience so much:

  • It’s not really a holiday party, but a festive meal served for about 4o people, family style, which encourages interaction and discussions about the food. The food is absolutely delicious! (envision sautéed garlicky spinach on top of crostini; a light caesar salad with shaved parmesan, light sacchetti  pasta, filled with ricotta cheese and white truffles in a white sauce garnished with slivered almonds; lemon-infused salmon with a lightly crumbed topping; and then tiramisu on large platters, adorned with lightly filled miniature cannolis. Are you with me yet? Do you need to read the rest??)
  • There’s something special for me in checking in with everyone to see how they’ve fared over a year’s time, since we don’t see each other socially. That might be perceived as a negative, but for me, it’s having defined boundaries for a different type of relationship.
  • Hearing about their children’s accomplishments, and sharing their pride in the details about their stage of life, gives my own memories a boost as I think about my own children and where they are in life.
  • Conversations started a year ago, seem to build upon themselves a year later. It’s not like starting all over…but instead a way to delve deeper into subjects every time you meet. Over the years, the connections get just a little more solidified, and that process is fun to experience.

So, have you attended a holiday party yet? Do you love the experience or dread it? Please share  here!

 

photo courtesy of Creative Commons. http://www.torange.us 

How to tell if you’re asking good questions

spoonfeeding

by Ruth Schapira

Why can’t most media types ask thought-provoking questions?

I imagine that there must be some sort of training in reporter/host school that teaches its students to ask proper questions that engage both the viewer and participant. So why do I hear all types of reporters asking the most mundane questions, spoon-feeding their subject?

Where are the questions that instill a sense of wonder; an opportunity to gain something new from the interaction? Why is it that almost every time I hear a reporter or host ask someone a question I feel the questions are elementary and useless. I gain nothing. Seriously, is it any wonder that there is a problem today with students’ capacity to think? 

Invariably the questions are a version of these options:

  • So, how happy are you now that you’ve won……..(on a scale of 1 – 10?)
  • Please tell us how confident you feel after ……..(quite confident actually) 
  • So, how disappointed are you now that …………..(I wasn’t that disappointed until you mentioned it…..)
  • How proud are you of your son? (really, what would someone possibly say in response?)
  • How much do you love your new neighborhood? (well, actually our neighbors are really quite nasty….) 

These questions spoon-feed the subject. Asking questions that provide the answers wastes my time and insults my intelligence. We’ve gotten used to canned questions and answers, compromising everyone’s ability to think critically.  If I was a lawyer, I’d say that these questions ‘lead the witness’. So, let’s not pretend that we’re gaining new insight when we listen to these interviews.

What if different questions were asked? What if people were actually asked to think? See how these similar but altered questions might have a different response:

  • So, how are you feeling right about now? 
  • Please tell us about this experience…..
  • Share how this moment is affecting you…..
  • What is your reaction to this? 

Which interview would engage you? Which answers would grip you right away? Which ones would make the subject and the viewer think just a little bit more? Which ones would tell a better story?

 

Confession: I’m a Halloween Humbug

Happy?

Happy?

I don’t get it.

If Halloween is really Happy what’s with all the images of scary pumpkins, witches, goblins, ghosts, and ghouls?

This does not make for a Happy Holiday for me. Maybe because Halloween comes on the heels of starting the new school year in September, but that’s only part of it. The other part is that Halloween’s celebration of death-like imagery (skeletons, graveyards, blood-thirsty things, devils and more) just doesn’t appeal to my Jewish sensibility of revering life.

After years of reaping the candy rewards as a child, without so much as a second thought about any spooky connections that made that experience enjoyable, Halloween and I became only polite acquaintances once I became a parent.

It was a holiday I tolerated, because my kids were part of American culture. I gave out candy at my door, but hated the consistent door-bell ringing that peppered the few hours we had to ourselves after a day at work.

But every time I saw skeletons hanging from trees, ghosts posted by doorways, and front lawns turned into graveyards, I decided to back off from the holiday’s ghoulish behavior. Once my kids were old enough to get their candy fix in the proper way, by buying it—not by opening a bag at someone’s door, I’ve separated from it entirely.

Not even my fond memories of my mother’s creative home-made costumes can save my opinion of the Hallowed holiday now. Mind you, I am not judging your participation. I’m Happy if you’re Happy.…even if my version of Happy doesn’t involve gory costumed characters or spooky-looking carved pumpkins.

 

Why I Don’t Like Customer Satisfaction Surveys

hmm...

Do you have some spare time to fill out a survey? How about to post your opinion online?

Customer Satisfaction. That’s what most consumer companies would like you to believe they’re interested in.

The idea of garnering customer’s opinions permeates every area of our functional society. Everyone wants to know what you think of them and how they did. Whether you’ve accessed an app, completed a course or cruise, or even serviced your car, you’ve been asked to rate your experience. But as a customer, I’m totally dissatisfied with the way this goes.

Our impressions count. There are people who write the surveys you take. Then there are more people whose job it is to read and analyze what you write. Then still more people who write reports based on the analysis those other people provided.  Then, there are those who craft marketing campaigns and advertisements based on what the reports said. And still more people who discuss what you think of the conclusions reached by the reports.

And of course, everyone weighs in on the ways in which the bottom line and your future purchases will be impacted by all of this.

It’s a splendid circle of customer gratification and fulfillment.  So, are you satisfied? How did they do? Do you feel important?

Tracking Your Satisfaction  

Companies hope you’ve been satisfied, and diligently chase you down until you finally relent and rate their service.  They hope you think they will be hanging on your every word.

You might be asked to complete a primate survey (every time I’ve taken one of those monkey surveys I actually feel like a primate in need of constant reinforcement. This has to do with that annoying bar on top showing me how much I’ve completed and how much more is left to go before I get my banana).

Or you might be asked to post a review online. If you feel particularly flushed with excess time you might decide to do that, especially if you want your opinion to come up in a Google search for your name.

Or you might even be asked to use your personal social media account to “Like” the company that, believe it or not, was actually paid to deliver the service they gave you, getting additional unpaid advertising revenue from your ability to give a thumbs-up vote of affirmation.

This whole process just makes me feel like I’m being used.

Especially when I’m told how to rate said business or service.  For example, on a cruise we took several years ago, staffers told all travelers, in very obvious and frontal ways, to rate them a 10.  More recently, I read a request posted at the car dealership to rate the service all 10’s. A sign at the cashier’s desk said that a rating less than that would do irreparable harm to the dealer’s standing.

(Note to dealer, the place where customers have to shell out considerable cash is probably not the best place to make such a request.  Maybe posting the request at the free coffee machine would garner better results.) 

So, what is a consumer to do?

You might find new ways to make the feedback you’re giving more personal. If so, I’d love to hear about them.

One way I’ve circumvented the impersonal system is by writing e-mails directly to the manager in charge, containing specific feedback and mentioning staffers by name.  Instead of the time it takes to read through endless questions, checking boxes and circles, these personal notes actually take me less time to complete. In almost all cases, I’ve received a welcomed response in return.

Will doing this make a huge difference anywhere to anyone except me?

No, but it does make me feel a lot less like a cog in the circular consumer machine.

 

This Day I’m Embracing Being Vulnerable and Human

image

I wanted to write something about the end of summer, and how my beach memories of scouring for seashells and building sand castles seem so simple, while the board-hyphenated activities I saw this year took such skill: boogie-boarding, paddle-boarding, skim-boarding, and of course surf-boarding (which sounds so old school right about now).

But instead, I woke up today to the realization of 9/11 and remember how in an instant, I went into the depths of fear and vulnerability. I feel like pushing those feelings away, because it’s so scary and uncomfortable to be in that space. How is it that I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, what I was thinking? How can fleeting minutes engrave themselves permanently in my mind?

I need to hold on to my discomfort, because it makes me realize my place.

Everything around us entices us into thinking that we’re in total control of our lives, even though there are now more tools than ever that actually help us do this. And on a daily basis, we make thousands of minute, free will choices that confirms this feeling.

But we know we’re really not. Not in the big sense. Not when we start thinking about life and death.

This time of year for me tends to trigger this line of thinking, but today, on 9/11 I want to honor all the feelings I tend to push away. Instead, I want to sit in the stew of the jumbled emotions I feel….being vulnerable, not knowing all the answers, the fear of loss, and in the end, just being human. Smaller than we think.

 

What will you actually be doing if you get this job?

Does anyone read classified ads anymore?

Help Wanted? The need is pretty clear. The job description? Not so much.

by Ruth Schapira

Some people read obituaries. Me, I like to read job announcements; always have.

Years ago, reading the (generation alert) “Help Wanted” classified ad section in newspapers was an enjoyable pastime for me. The larger the paper the better, and perusing those tiny boxes in The Sunday New York Times gave me some sort of satisfaction. There were just so many ads crammed on the page. I would feel content and optimistic about the many opportunities displayed within those pages. So many people could be changing their lives. 

There were ads upon ads worth of reading, positions ranging from Accounting Clerks to Elevator Operators. And no wonder. Classified sections usually have 40% more print packed into the page than other pages do. How do I know this?  I googled it, and found it on a specs page for the New York Times. The New York Times offers employers, recruiters, human resource professionals, headhunters and executive search firms (really, aren’t there just so many people doing the hiring?) 10 columns of newsprint while most pages contain 6 columns.

So, now I read job announcements online, and the experience is confining. Scrolling can’t be compared to the expansive world of occupational choice arrayed before you, within four fully opened newspaper pages, containing 20 columns of text.  But I still gain something from the online experience. I keep current with keywords, jargon and buzzwords (not all the same thing?), I know what opportunities there are for fields that interest me, and I keep up to date with industry changes.

Some of the job postings make me laugh. Some make me cringe. One job description for a Testing Administrator required “cleaning out trash containers and turning off all lights before exiting the building in the evening”.

And then today, there was this, which I had to share with you. Ready? This is an excerpt of what I read, for real:

Actively seeking a Project Manager or Sr Project Manager with experience in a Medical Communications/ Publication Planning environment. As Project Manager you will be responsible for managing publication planning projects in a medical communications/publication planning environment. 

Huh? So, my question is, what will you be doing if you get this job?

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