Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Customer Service Skills Wasted on the Young

I have a teenage daughter who works at Burger King. Practically every day she tells me some story about a rude customer. I keep reminding her that no matter how bad the customer is, she must always keep a smile on her face and be courteous.

Am I the only parent doing this? I ask because I see way too many young people in customer service jobs who have no business being there. Case in point: I was preparing to fly out of Kansas City after the end of the Hallmark Bloggers Conference when I came up to the ExpressJet Airlines check-in line. Behind me was a very bubbly young blond who displayed a lot more than her personality, if you know what I mean.

A young man motioned for me to come up to the counter to check my bag. He didn’t ask me for my ID so I asked him if he wanted it. Very timidly, he said yes. I watched as he looked puzzled at the computer screen in front of him. I made a joke about making sure my name was on the roster because I was ready to leave Kansas City. He responded by telling me it was his first day on the job and continued to stare at the computer screen. It was obvious he needed help from a co-worker so I took it upon myself to ask the young man standing next to him if he could help him out. Now this young man, who I will only identify as Mark, didn’t seem to like the fact that I interrupted him since he was having such a good time with Ms. Personality Plus, who was just giggling up a storm at WHATEVER! they were talking about while he was checking her luggage. Mark told me his colleague would have to wait until he finished with his customer. To make a long story short, Mark never did help out his co-worker and I wrote up a customer service complaint.

How sad it is to see young people put into positions when they are poorly trained and to see the arrogance of those who think they’re way more important than they really are. But the overall shame is having young people in positions where they don’t know how to effectively deal with EVERYBODY.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Flying the Not So Friendly Skies

For those of you who have been following the weather, you know that North Carolina has been in a serious drought. I don’t think we’ve received a decent amount of rain in over a year. That was until Wednesday, October 24---the same day I was scheduled to fly out of Raleigh-Durham International and into Kansas City for the Hallmark Bloggers Conference.

It had rained on and off all day. Now don’t get me wrong….having the rain was truly a blessing because I think we were down to about a month’s supply. BUT I was just hoping it could’ve held off just a little longer until after my trip was over. No such luck. It rained so hard that our flight was delayed by nearly an hour. That meant I wouldn’t get into Kansas City until around 9:30EST, which was 8:30 their time.

To make matters worse, I flew out on a little 50-seater plane on an airline known as ExpressJet. OK---maybe I don’t fly much but I have never, ever heard of ExpressJet. JetBlue—yes---ExpressJet---NO! My legs and back were so cramped during the two-and-a-half hour trip, I don’t even know how I was able to make it off the plane without falling over in complete agony.

On the company's website it says, "ExpressJet Airlines seeks to provide the most efficient and reliable regional jet service in all of its markets." I saw no mention of comfort so maybe that means they just haven't figured out yet that baby boomers like to travel in comfort.

OK---I know someone reading this is wondering why I’m complaining when this was an all-expenses paid trip compliments of Hallmark. I just want you to know that sometimes FREE isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think if I have to fly on one of those little ExpressJet planes again, I’ll pass and just try to hitch hike my way. After all, walking is good exercise when you’re a middle-aged menopausal woman.

Oh and wait until you hear about the return trip home!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Baby Boomers are NOT all Alike: Part II

You would think that marketing to baby boomers would be an easy task, but if you look at the media and its advertisers, you could easily see a different picture.

To be young, gifted, beautiful, blond and white has long been the image that sells. Remember Barbie, Ken and Chatty Cathy? I actually remember throwing my life-like black baby doll (who could walk) down the stairs of our basement because she didn't look like Barbie. In some advertising circles that philosophy still holds true. However, the “hype” that advertisers have long used on the younger “gullible” generation no longer works on us baby boomers. These days you have to SHOW US YOU KNOW US!

Slowly but surely companies are starting to take note of this economic power baby boomers are supposed to have. It’s just been in the past couple of years that someone discovered that women go through something called menopause. And to help all of those horny baby boomer men cope with their issues, there’s Viagra and Cialis to the rescue!

But what is disturbing is the lack of diversity in marketing to baby boomers. I went to the site recently. I saw Meret, Caitlin, Pam and Denise front and center, but none of them looked like me. Why is that? Menopause doesn’t discriminate. It’s an equal opportunity annoyer so why not portray that diversity?

Ironically, I did see an ad for Viagra with an African-American male recently and I thought, “Why would he need that?” Throughout history we’ve been told the black male is a beast in bed and his anatomy is larger than life.

The media, unfortunately, continues to lump baby boomers into one big group. Their theory is that we are all grew up in the suburbs, watched the Mickey Mouse Club and then went on to change the world through our opposition to the War and our fight for civil rights. In addition, we received top notch educations and went on to achieve tremendous success in Corporate America while maintaining the all-American family lifestyle. If you look at who's running the newsrooms, you can see how that conclusion is drawn.


You need to read my book, Whatever! A Baby Boomer’s Journey Into Middle Age to get the “other” side.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Baby Boomers are NOT all Alike: Part I

I was born in 1957 so that means I’m a baby boomer. But what does being a baby boomer really mean? By all accounts, we are the children of the Post World War II era, which began in 1946.

In May, 1951, Sylvia F. Porter, a columnist for the New York Post, used the term "Boom" to refer to the phenomenon of increased births in post war America. She said "Take the 3,548,000 babies born in 1950. Bundle them into a batch, bounce them all over the bountiful land that is America. What do you get? Boom. The biggest, boomiest boom ever known in history." That boom she referred to continued until 1964.

Much attention is being paid to baby boomers these days as the first wave of us moves towards retirement and social security. Yes, we were the first generation to grow up with television; many of us lived through the civil rights era and the Vietnam War. But the “real” image of a baby boomer is now in question. We are not all white kids who grew up in the suburbs watching the Mickey Mouse Club. We have been referred to as the most diverse generation but the fact of the matter is some of us actually grew up in a separate and unequal society. According to a study conducted by two Duke University sociologists, diversity has not led to equality: Baby boomers are the first generation to come of age after the Civil Rights era, however, the study revealed differences of income according to race, ethnicity and country of birth so entrenched that, in effect, there are ethnic classes. Blacks in the boomer generation, for example, are no better off relative to whites than their parents and grandparents. Many older southern baby boomers can still tell you stories about the Jim Crow laws and the impact it had on their lives. And educational levels also are unequal across the baby boom generation, which is often described as the best-educated generation in history.

We have also been called the wealthiest generation but despite what some would have you believe, we are not all living in the land of milk and honey. Some of us may have plenty of disposable income but, according to the Duke Study, quite a few of us are struggling financially. Late boomers have the highest levels of poverty since the generation born before World War I. One in 10 late boomers lives in poverty at middle age. "What surprised us the most was how racial inequality persists among the boomers compared to other generations," co-author Angela M. O’Rand said. "The figures are quite dramatic regarding the continuing relative disadvantage of African Americans."

There's a saying: The more things change---the more they remain the same. So it should come as no surprise that many African-Americans don’t identify themselves as baby boomers. It's time to take the blinders off.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Can I get some "Personality" with that, Please?

I just finished reading an article: Baby Boomer Generation wants Good Service and it became the inspiration for today’s blog.

First of all, I’m a stickler about good, quality customer service. As a baby boomer who grew up during a time when customer service was so important to the success of a business, I refuse to accept anything less. My attitude is if you work in that industry then it is YOUR JOB to see that I get the kind of service I deserve. No, this doesn’t mean following me around a department store to see if I’m going to steal anything; but it does mean making sure that I can find what I’m looking for and do it with some enthusiasm.

The other day I was in the check-out line of Food Lion and the young cashier obviously had an attitude for some reason. No greeting---no smile….she didn’t even acknowledge that I was standing there---other than when it was time to tell me my total. Upon leaving the store, I told her if she felt the same the next day, she needed to call out sick. She gave me the evil eye---as if to say, “Who do you think you’re talking to?” It was apparent that she was never taught how to deal with the public.

But you know what? The negative attitude isn’t limited to young people. Members of my fellow baby boomer generation and post boomers could also learn a thing or two about quality customer service. I was in the hospital waiting room area just yesterday when a so-called “older” patient advocate ignored me as I stood at the reception desk waiting for some assistance. He was piddling around doing nothing while another (younger) advocate was trying to multi-task by answering the phones and waiting on the people at the desk. Suddenly, he decided to ask me if he could help me. My response was, “Now, I know you saw me standing here all this time. So if you’re just now asking me if you can help me, FORGET IT! I’ll just wait for this woman to get off the phone.” Then I took his name and reported him to his supervisor. But I also gave a wonderful compliment about the woman who bent over backwards to assist me and others in the waiting room area.

Any business that wants to win this baby boomer’s business has to not only create new and different ways to help me realize its value; but these companies must be more prudent in hiring people who want to make them look good.

I’d love to hear about your customer service experiences. (Maybe it’s just because of where I live).

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Take me out to the ball game

When I was a little girl, my dad would take me to see the Cleveland Indians play in Municipal Stadium. The Tribe wasn’t very good back then but my dad didn’t care because he was a loyal fan. I didn’t care either because I got to spend some quality father-daughter time with him. There was nothing better than being away from my “eat your vegetables” mother while being allowed to stuff myself with hot dogs, popcorn, candy and pop. (Yes, that’s what soda is called in the Midwest).

I remember watching Dennis Eckersley, Buddy Bell and Chris Chambliss who, once they left Cleveland, went on to do spectacular things with other teams. I remember the sense of pride I felt when Cleveland named Frank Robinson as their Manager---making him the first African-American manager in the major leagues.

Sadly, my dad never got to see his favorite team have a winning season since he died in the early 80s. But his favorite baby boomer daughter is carrying on the tradition of being a loyal fan. Even though I’ve lived in or near better baseball towns like Boston and Atlanta, my heart remains with Cleveland.

In 1997, I still celebrated even though the Tribe became the first team to lose the World Series after carrying the lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game.

Today, I’m celebrating again as the American League Central Division Champions make their run towards the World Series again with a 2-0 lead on the NY Yankees.

It's so nice to see Kenny Lofton back with the team. He's been around the major league awhile now. Even though he's not quite old enough, I'm making him an "Honorary Baby Boomer."

Boy, how I wish my dad were alive to take me out to the ball game.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Where will you retire, baby boomer?

AARP, The Magazine recently announced its top five retirement communities. Since I’m a baby boomer who will eventually retire some day, I was eager to see the cities named. After reviewing the list, I wondered how they came up with those particular cities. Editor Steve Sloan says they looked at a variety of things including: "mass-transit systems so residents can drive less, expanded sidewalks to encourage walking, better health care, and a wide range of mixed use housing."

See for yourself:

Top Five Cities to Live in for 2007:

Atlanta, GA: A sophisticated metropolis with southern charm, Atlanta offers abundant volunteer and cultural opportunities. Retirees also appreciate the wide range of housing options.

My thoughts: Atlanta is, indeed, a metropolis---way too busy for me with traffic that would make you want to commit road rage or have a heart attack.

Beacon Hill in Boston, MA: This historically genteel part of Boston is full of culture and great restaurants. The Beacon Hill Village provides concierge style access to a network of support services for aging residents including transportation, healthcare and entertainment.

My thoughts: I’ve lived in Boston and know exactly where Beacon Hill is. It was EXPENSIVE to live there back then and I can’t imagine that its changed much. I certainly don’t want to use up all of my retirement money just trying to keep a roof over my head.

Chandler, AZ: Gracious desert living combined with an activist twist that encourages residents to get involved with the spirit of the town. A city climate and plenty of parks and open space provide ample recreation opportunities.

My thoughts: Never been there but the word “desert” doesn’t sit well for me with “hot flashes.”

Milwaukee, WI: An example of urban renewal at its best, Milwaukee features picturesque river walks and affordable water-front living.

My thoughts: Beer is brewed there, isn’t it?

Portland, OR: European charm meets environmental nirvana in this environmentally progressive city. 50-plus residents love the miles of safe bike lanes and the revitalized Pearl District.

My thoughts: I can’t see myself riding for miles on a bicycle; besides, I haven’t been on one in years.

OK…so here are my Top Five Places to Retire---in no particular order:

Asheville, NC
New Bern, NC
Merrimack, NH
St. Lucia (in the Caribbean)
Sedona, Arizona

What are YOUR Top 5?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Find Your Baby Boomer Soul Mate Behind Bars

When you’re a woman over 40 years of age, finding companionship with the opposite sex can be a challenge. Gone are the days of Looking for Mr. Good Bar, finding him in church or being fixed up with the friend of a friend. These days, we have people telling us we can find true love on the internet. I’m not knocking it because I did it and ended up getting re-married. But I have to tell you, I had to weed through some garbage to find him. You see, for every decent individual out there in cyberspace, there are at least a dozen weirdoes, freaks, and others who give the concept a black eye. There are men whose motives are simply to prey on the poor old widow, divorcee, or “I’m desperate” never-been-married woman.

Then you have many men in our age group are already married, gay or dead. So what’s a middle-aged woman to do when she wants to meet a guy? Well, why not try prison? I actually heard a woman on the radio recently talking about her upcoming nuptial plans with someone sentenced to 30 years behind bars. She fit the profile perfectly. She was over 40, had never been married, no children and no real social life. Before hanging up, she joked about knowing where her man was going to be at all times.

According to statistics from the Justice Department, the nation’s prison population is becoming more middle-aged. From 1995 through 2003, inmates between the ages of 40 and 54 accounted for more than 46 percent of the total growth in the U.S. prison population. The number of inmates in federal and state prisons age 55 and older increased more than 30 percent from 2000 to 2005. They say that’s a faster rare the overall prison growth rate of nine percent. And according to the Southern Legislative Conference, in 16 Southern states, the growth rate has escalated by an average of 145 percent since 1997.

Where’s the best place to find a prisoner to marry? Probably in California where prison weddings are said to be a regular occurrence. Officials say about 20 inmates get married in ceremonies held on the first Friday of even-numbered months at San Quentin, and usually at least one death row inmate is among them.

Based on this information, I guess there’s no reason for anyone to be alone ever again, right?