Double Take

Taking a second look at life experiences

Archive for the tag “commentary”

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.

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

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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.

 

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?

Nonprofits: Please Stop Sending Me Mailing Labels!

Did George like receiving mail?

Did George like receiving mail?

by Ruth Schapira

We can’t throw them out and we do love seeing our name in print—in every font imaginable, as long as it fits comfortably in a 2″ long space. So, that’s why personalized mailing labels are overfilling my desk drawer. It’s a thing you can never give away. Why do I need to have a permanent relationship with sticky pieces of paper? That’s it, first it’s these labels that I’m having to save and now the US postal service stamps that don’t expire. They both want to cozy up and make a home for themselves here forever.

I know there’s no way, even if I sent 10 letters a day, that I would use up even a fraction of the self-adhesives sitting there, reminding me that I haven’t sent a letter in a very, very long time—in what seems like forever. There are more mailing labels than you can imagine, representing all kinds of animate and inanimate objects: flowers, wreaths, candles, menorahs, baseballs, dinosaurs, stricken animals, sad children. It’s as if you did a search on Google for ‘Images that get people to feel awfully guilty and sentimental so they’ll donate to your cause’ and these are the ones that you’d find.

There was an ethical question that I heard on a radio talk show years ago: “Do I have to donate to a cause because I received personalized mailing labels from them? I do use the labels, (any guesses as to the age of the caller?) so shouldn’t I make a donation?”

“No. You didn’t ask for them, so you’re not obligated. You can use them or throw them out.”

Aren’t non-profits strapped for cash? Every time I get a sheet of these shiny things, I feel like calling up the organization and asking them why they’re wasting precious resources sending me things that will (if I was a self-respecting clutter buster) end up in the trash? Why not just save the expense and put those dollars into the operating budget? In fact, you can forget the labels entirely, and I’ll even up my donation in honor of your prudent spending.

What I’m wondering is, who is actually mailing all of these letters with personalized labels? Not the people I know. Otherwise my mailbox would be filled with hand-written envelopes, adorned with personalized cutesy mailing labels, and displaying an actual stamp in the right hand corner. Instead the mail I get is sorely missing any evidence of human contact, which is why we call it junk, while online platforms nicely call it SPAM (reminding us instead of edible things in cans). What I receive in my post box usually ends up in the recycling bag.

When’s the last time a friend of yours said “I’ll send it to you” that made you think that you’d receive a letter? Since we all know the amount of first class mail we’ve been sending has dropped precipitously (this has been documented in wikipedia, which is why we know it’s true), what’s the deal here? Why the mailing labels for mail no one is sending? Is there some secret DIY site where people are coming with kitschy creative ideas for how to use those 2″ labels?

Wait, here’s a novel idea to make the post office feel a lot better: instead of counting and reporting my diminished mail output, why not track those organizations sending mailing labels instead? I’d bet those numbers sure have picked up. And you can even send me the results of your survey, but only if you’ve attached a personalized label. I won’t want to open anything else.

Here It Is! Words Worthy of a Double Take

Read all about it!

Read all about it!

by Ruth Schapira

Words, sentences, more words. We read so much content (what did we say before we used the word content?) that sometimes we don’t think about the meaning or sound of the words we’re reading. Do certain words seem funny to you? Or maybe even gross? Sometimes, I actually need to take a double take (quite clever the way I fit that in, no?) when I think about some of them, so I decided to curate them into lists (you thought content was trendy, what about curate? double take this: curating content!).

Before we go on, I promise, none of my word lists contain the word “moist”.

Why “moist” you ask?

Well, “moist” was quite the headline grabber a few years ago when this was circulated widely on the web: “Moist” And 28 Other Gross Sounding English Words That Everyone Hates . This must have created quite a stir, because BuzzFeed wrote their own contrary version a short time later: 18 Words Far More Disgusting Than “Moist”.

So, without the dreaded and overly used “moist word”, here are my lists of words that seem curious and disgusting:

WORDS THAT MAKE NO SENSE TO ME

  • Dogmatic (what comes to mind here, is an automatic dog — you know, the term for when a dog jumps up and down when seeing the dog-walking leash, or for when he salivates when seeing dinner poured from a bag, or for when he begins sniffing every new person’s private parts.)
  • Shoetree (really, is this like an oak or an elm?)
  • Shoehorn (what’s with these shoe words, anyway? I haven’t seen one of these in the Philharmonic recently, have you?)
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (It’s a mouthful to say, and positively weird to think that this might, in fact, go into your mouth as a food item. I doubt you’d prefer the more common acronym TVP when disclosing to your guests that you’ve prepared food they are about to ingest with the stuff, as in “Here’s my delicious chili recipe, prepared with TVP”. Yes, I do use it!!)
  • Thumb Drive (really? What exactly did your thumb have to do with the data that’s on your drive? And if it did, well, that’s another matter for another time….)

WORDS THAT SOUND WAY TOO DISGUSTING TO USE

  • Corpuscle (most medical terms have this effect on me, so I’ll try hard to limit myself to just a few. Think about it, did you just envision an image of a corpse? With no muscle? Yuck. Come to think of it, muscle doesn’t sound so wonderful either.)
  • Mausoleum (note that I’m not talking about what’s inside this thing, but the word alone conjures up for me a museum of mauses, not a pretty sight. No one would ever say “so, did you get to see that exhibit in the mausoleum?”)
  • Pew (really, that’s not exactly the best way to get me to stay at synagogue/church. “Here, let’s just sit in this pew”.)
  • Poultice (now, this is a thing that is supposed to be put on an injury to heal it, but I just think of chicken…and I’m not imagining a nice thing happening to that poor chicken either.)
  • Posture (and what occurs when you don’t have it, i.e. Pustule. Of course, I’m kidding. Pustule is related to that other word often used to describe nasty eruptions on the skin and equally disgusting-sounding, Pimple.)
  • Spelunking (for those of you who don’t know what this is, you can thank me now. This activity holds absolutely no appeal for me, as it is associated with places that are dark, dank and moist ….and you know I wouldn’t want to be involved with anything like that.

Things That Go Screech In The Night

by Ruth Schapira

Sometime last year, in the eerie middle-of-the night hour when all is still, I awoke to a horrific sound….a wailing unlike any I had ever heard. It was the most pitiful sounding, yet the strongest scream. I couldn’t determine whether it was an animal or a human…which made me feel sick. I had never heard a sound like this before.

The wailing continued as scary images made their way into my brain…maybe a car ran over an animal and it was lying in the street, in terrible pain. What if it was a person? (listen again, no, it didn’t sound like a person). Should I call 911 and maybe they would send someone to put the animal out of its misery? What if there was a hit and run, and it was lying in the street? There are so many deer around, and we’ve had some close run-ins (no casualties thank Gd), maybe it was a little deer crying in pain.

I couldn’t believe my husband was able to sleep through this cacophony of noise and since I was scared enough not to go through this myself, I gently shook him. Shook him again. (Wow, that man can sleep). 

“Sorry honey, but can you hear that?”

Hear what?”

Wait, you’ll hear it in a second…” (I definitely thought he thought I was crazy for waking him up at this hour and I was starting to get nervous myself, hoping that I wasn’t hallucinating a version of a bad dream).

There it is, can you hear that?”

Uh…you mean that barking noise.”

(Okay, so now you probably think that I am a little hyperbolic, and was hysterical over some dog barking really, really annoyingly. For sure this won’t win me any more points with the dog lovers out there since my last blog was about dogs running wild).

Yea, that awful barking sound. (here I was, agreeing rather quickly that it was a barking sound so he wouldn’t go right back to sleep, thinking I was nuts).

Doesn’t it sound like something got run over by a car or something? Do you think it’s a deer? Or a dog? (Stop that, I wouldn’t wish any animal harm).

I think what he said next was a comment, like those men who are disturbingly practical in the face of imminent fear would make, just so he could get back to bed, though I can’t really blame him, after all it was almost 4:00 am).

Well, we can’t do anything about it now.” (see, I told you, practical.

Not to be deterred, I got out of bed, slowly drew open the blinds, and checked everywhere to see if there was something in the street in front of our house. Nothing. The next street up. Nothing. 

I stayed awake for the next hour, watching my husband fall blissfully back asleep (how do they do that?) and then the sound stopped. Ugh. By now it was almost morning. 

Then next day on my way to work, I drove up and down a few streets to see if there was a bloody remnant of the last night’s tortuous sounds. I was compelled. Nothing.

Later that evening, I spoke to my friend and relayed what I had heard. 

Without a second’s pause she offered “That was a fox staking out its territory.”

(Are you kidding me? How could she possibly know that? We’re not living in the great plains of Africa, or wherever those foxes live…maybe England since that’s where they hunt those poor things. But here in suburbia?).

But I calmly said: Oh, really? Why were they making that horrific noise? (I guessed she’d know all manners of animal behavior by this point).

“It’s the mating season and they’re staking out their territory.”

How do you know that?”

“I hear them around here too.”

Well, now I really am thinking that I’ve been clueless all these years and apparently have a lot of guts to put this in a post, since it seems that everyone knows the mating sound of a fox.

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I checked on Google, for ‘sounds foxes make’ (no, not the song silly) and found one on You Tube. So here, you listen to it, (the sounds I heard matches Vixen’s Sound’, the second one recorded) and see if that wouldn’t scare you in the middle of the night.

Please say yes.


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