Customer Service

Saying Yes to the Dress! (For Other People)

Shopping for and with other people is the absolute best. If I had my way, I’d be sitting on one of those funny little poufs in the dressing room saying encouraging things to a friend, while she looks appraisingly at herself in a three-way mirror, once a week.

A mother-of-the-groom asked if I would take her out earlier this summer, and in one short afternoon we perpetrated an entire outfit: a striking, classy, yet “appropriate” dress ($250), a beautiful bolero to go over it in case New Hampshire is cold on Labor Day (~$100), and a pair of sturdy but cute shoes to wear while walking down the aisle and then jumping with joy on the dance floor ($40). That made me happy. What made me happier still was when two different brides invited me to accompany them on the Holy Grail of retail excursions: Wedding Dress Shopping.

Twice I have been able to be all, “Yes, she said, yes, I will, yes” to the Dress.

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How the Other Half Lives

While I was in the middle of writing a long meditation on the moral obligations of the rich, I received the following email…

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Think Of The Money I Could Make By Simply Ruining My Life With Airbnb

My sister is in town, staying at an Airbnb in the neighborhood. Or the neighborhood-ish. The intolerable and overpriced part of the neighborhood, that is. PEAK WILLIAMSBURG.

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The Art of The “Next Time”

I come to you today happy to report that I just got next time’d! Which is when you forget your wallet or don’t have enough money and a store or cafe employee tells you to pay them “next time.” I consider this a truly great honor and/or a sign that they do a shoddy job of keeping track of inventory. Do I have a very honest face — I was trying to buy a bottle of HONEST Tea, after all — or do they just not care about losing $2.00? The world may never know.

There are gradations of triumph in the “next time” and this one was particularly triumphant. Factors include how loyally you patronize the establishment in question, whether it’s the total amount or just a partial I.O.U., the degree of rapport you have with the cashier, their seniority at said establishment, how badly you want the item in question and how far away from your apartment / an ATM / your next paycheck you happen to be.

Today’s Next Time Eval:

How Loyal of a Customer Am I: Not very! I go in there maybe once every week to two weeks. So in this case, “next time” could be quite awhile from now. Bold move, bodega clerk.

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When Waitressing Pays More Than Publishing

In the restaurant industry, “I’m so broke,” was a constant server/bartender lament. Frequently, I good-naturedly nodded my head in agreement. “I know,” I said, pretending to be worried about making rent or having enough money to fly home for the holidays. “Me too.”

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“I’ll Have a Venti Skim Half-Cap Frappucino and a BA, Please. No Foam.”

Amazon wants you to win you back. In addition to a new Prime Music Streaming service and a deafening whisper campaign about the super secret mystery Kindle smartphone it might have up its sleeve, it is also launching Smile, a program that allows you to choose a charity the store will support. Thanks, guys! But wouldn’t it be easier to treat authors, publishers, and maybe even employees a little better?

Starbucks, another massive corporation that has gotten flak for taking over the world and putting the little guy out of business, is trying to drum up some goodwill of its own in a very unusual, but more direct, way: subsidizing undergraduate education.

Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university will announce on Monday. The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 United States employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition; for those with fewer credits it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid. …

Many employers offer tuition reimbursement. But those programs usually come with limitations like the full cost not being paid, new employees being excluded, requiring that workers stay for years afterward, or limiting reimbursement to work-related courses. Starbucks is, in effect, inviting its workers, from the day they join the company, to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like — knowing that many of them, degrees in hand, will leave for better-paying jobs.

Investing in your employees as a business strategy happens to be good PR. Win-win-win. Is Bezos taking notes?

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The Cost of Accidentally Dropping Your Phone

My iPhone once survived a 10-foot drop off of a subway train platform. I was holding the phone in my right and trying to push it into my coat pocket before exiting the subway car. When it slipped out of my hand, I grasped for it, but only managed to grab onto my headphones and phone case.

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There’s Probably No Hope for Consumers Who Aren’t Filthy Rich

My recent interactions with my former bank have prompted me to think about the feedback loop between consumers and the companies that squeeze profit from serve them. We like to think that when companies do something stupid or abusive, market competition will allow us to express our ire by taking our hard-earned dollars somewhere else. But what happens when that just doesn’t work? (Spoiler: it mostly never works. We just get screwed and keep coming back for more.)

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Flight Delayed? Get That Money (Or 75% of It)

Henrik Zillmer has started a company to get you some money back from all those damn delayed flights. Or wait. Henrik Zillmer has started a company to get itself 25% of the money it gets you back. Capitalizing on our airline rage! Possibly brilliant. How it works: if your flight has been delayed for reasons other than weather or security, Airhelp will file a claim on your behalf and then take the airline to court if they reject the complaint. And they usually win. With 20,000 customers already, they’ve won millions of dollars in airline compensation.

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Dear Bank: I’m Breaking Up With You

Dear Marie:

It was with mixed emotions that I read your letter, in which you wrote that Liberty Bank values its relationship with me. I must confess to some serious misgivings concerning that relationship and the bank’s true feelings.

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