Monday, November 24, 2008

I can be bribed

I have been commuter challenged. The Light Rail is awesome most of the time but sometimes it drives me absolutely nuts.

So, when you work downtown (at least where I work) you get a choice of signing up for a parking pass or a commuter pass. The parking pass is much more expensive and they are in limited supply so you might not even get a choice. Driving downtown sucks because of the traffic and one-way streets. It seemed like the obvious choice to get a commuter pass and be able to use my commute to listen to my ipod, knit or read. It has mostly been a good choice, stress free and relatively short. BUT when the light rail is not working, you have to scramble to find a way to get to work. Every other way takes twice as long and most involve extra money. Last week the light rail was not working. It was a horrible week for commuting to work. There seems to be some issue with leaves on the tracks, leaves and brakes and who knows what.

I took the bus to work one day, oh how I love the bus. It takes about 3 times as long because of the route and stops. It goes through some rough areas of town. Its REALLY bumpy. I got to listen to a great sermon shouted out during the ride. It was really hilarious to hear this preacher talk about sin and hear the other riders tell him to shut up. "That's the devil in you telling me to shut up" OK. Fair enough.

I drove to work one day to pay a fortune in one day garage fees and got to fight the traffic on 83. I don't know the fastest way to work because I DON'T DRIVE TO WORK. At least for 2 days I got rides with co-workers so those were my favorite days.

There seemed to be no end in sight until Saturday night when I read the Baltimore Sun and they said the rail was back in service as of Monday, AND to thank us for our patience we get free coffee and donuts Monday morning. YIPEE! Free Coffee!

Like I say, I can be bribed. The MTA staff were so friendly today and I did get free coffee, Dunkin Donuts coffee no less. I turned down the donuts because of the diet but there were free donuts too! I was actually in a good mood when I boarded the train. Then the fare inspector boarded and asked for our passes. Lady, don't you think even if we didn't have a pass we deserve a free ride for all this crap? Once? Geez.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Good Advice in Tough Times

Here's some free advice to all those desperate retailers: good customer service goes a long way towards retaining business.

I have been working in customer oriented jobs since I was 16 and I have been in charge of training people in customer service for many years. It seems to me that customer service is getting worse just at the time it should be getting better. In my line of work we rely on teachers and group leaders to bring their groups back every year, we count on retaining those sales while making new sales to reach our ever increasing goals each fiscal year. The person taking the reservation needs to make them feel comfortable and happy about their decision. Policies need to be in place to share communication from reservation to tour guide. The tour experience needs to meet the goals of the teacher as explained at the time of reservations and the teacher needs to leave feeling good about the decision to take the kids out of the classroom and into this museum. If not, we lost the customer and the word of mouth can cause a loss of many more customers. I take it seriously and expect other customer service organizations to take it as seriously when I am the customer.

I was lucky enough to get my xmas present from #1 super hubby early this year. We went to pick it out last Saturday. My old laptop was cheap to begin with and fine for when I only used it occasionally but with more use it has become annoyingly slow and I am constantly complaining about it. So we went to Best Buy to get a new laptop. I was so excited and had done some research on what to get and what the prices were like. I knew what I wanted. Mark knows quite a lot about computers so he also was very aware of what I needed and what it would cost. He was also excited to inherit my old laptop and try out some new operating systems that would make it faster and allow him to go online while hanging out with me. We had to go to Best Buy because Circuit City and Comp USA had both gone out of business recently. Best Buy is not known for its customer service and it really showed. One saleslady was very nice, answered some questions but then disappeared. when we were ready there was no one around. I finally found someone and asked about the first lady, since I wanted to make sure she got the commission. When I was told she was on a break and they didn't work on commission I asked this new guy to get us the computer we wanted. Instead of having a pleasant attitude and making us feel good about our rather large purchase he proceeded to act like we were stupid and tried to make us feel small. Is this a new sales pitch I am unaware of? He asked if we knew that this computer doesn't come with any software? I didn't even know what to say because of course it comes with software, what he means is that it doesn't come with Microsoft office which we did know but why say it like that? When we said yes, that's fine he said "So you aren't going to go online at all?" What he meant was that there was no security software so we shouldn't go online without installing something. He wanted to try and bully us into spending several hundreds more on security software. Well, trying to make me feel stupid is not the way to do it. We should not have bought anything from him but like I said, not really any other choice. When we got home we realized that HP does come with security software so not only was he trying to bully us he was actually lying.

This concept of acting superior as a sales strategy is happening more and more. In these tough economic times businesses should be looking for ways to stand out from the crowd and price is not the only way. a policy of good customer service can make a big difference in creating a loyal and repeat customer base. I will try to avoid Best Buy in the future.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Holiday Heap!!!

Awesome craft show tomorrow in Charles Village, We did some holiday shopping there last year and plan to go tomorrow. My favorites from the Charm City Craft Mafia and the Baltimore Esty Street Team will be there. Friends and family have received gifts from:

Cotton Monster

Biggs and Featherbelle


Little Flower Designs

AND I have a beautiful necklace from The Broken Plate

I am currently lusting after items from:


Littlest Bean

Bake Sale Designs

Tasha McKelvey


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Post Election Plans

The election season is over so now I can concentrate on my real life. Of course I am overjoyed that we have President-elect Obama! It's such a good feeling to see my choice win for once! I remember in 2004 I was going to school in NYC and the first school weekend after the election my friend Justin met me in a bar at the Port Authority and we drank and talked about moving to Canada. This is so much better. We are also watching several other issues and have had a mixed bag of success so there is definitely enough to keep me occupied yet. Speaking of politics, check out Mark's new blog for rants on all sorts of topics. Its so much better than having to listen to it in the car on the way to Wegmans every week.

Mark was out of town for Halloween weekend so my "patterns" were out of whack for several days. I was looking forward to being alone for all of the reasons one would be; not having to consult anyone about what you do, what you watch and what you eat. That seemed like it would be really fun. The reality was much worse. I learned that I am much more dependent on having "that one" around than I thought and can't decide if it's a good or bad thing. I talked to the cat more than I should have and lost interest in cooking anything just for me; I had popcorn for dinner on Saturday night. Miss Gimp whined a lot and kept checking the office door to see if Mark was in there but he wasn't so she got sad. We were quite a pair. I did teach myself embroidery with a book I got at the library so I felt like I was accomplishing something. Last Monday night I came home from work, went grocery shopping and finished just in time to pick Mark up at the train station. All is well now.

This weekend I finally sat down and made a list of all of the holiday necessities. Because I still believe in the Handmade pledge I have to plan ahead since it takes time to make things. I have been bookmarking ideas from various craft blogs for months now so it was a matter of narrowing down options and assigning gifts to people on my list. Some gifts will not be handmade for various reasons. Our nephews are old enough to have Amazon wish lists now and I know I always hated getting gifts I didn't pick out when I was a kid so I guess I will break down and buy off the list.

I bought my holiday cards this weekend from Etsy so they are handmade. Cards for me are very deliberate. I like good quality cards and those are pricey so I usually go to places like Papyrus the day after xmas to get them 50% off. I read an article several months ago from Museum Audience Insight and it resonated with me, I too enjoy being the "curator" of my life and making deliberate choices that reflect my style in everything. I usually buy several different style cards and send each style to the person I think will appreciate it the most. That's kinda crazy, true. This year I didn't buy cards at 50% off because we had decided to either go completely paperless or make our own cards but neither happened. So, I was scanning Etsy all this weekend choosing my cards out of the 100's of possibilities. Another reason I am so picky is that we are not religious, not Christian so we try to avoid cards that say Merry Christmas or any religious theme. I choose to celebrate the new year and reserve the time to reflect on my wish for life: peace and happiness. I do believe in sending cards as a way to keep in touch and a nice mini-present to help decorate a friend's home. I love collecting all of the cards I get and stringing them up to decorate.

This blog began as our annual holiday letter last year and now look at it! So, I guess I am coming up on an anniversary of sorts.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day!!!

Yes! Finally Election Day!
I voted after work, no problems and no lines. I did hear of lines throughout Baltimore this morning but I didn't have any problems.

I read some touching voting stories today, the kinds of things that bring home how truly historic this election is. I loved the American Elf strip for today. I also read some great stories on Huffington Post and Andrew Sullivan among others.

Mark and I are watching the TV and the internet for returns. We are enjoying some election night pizza and special OBAMA '08 treats! These treats are peanut butter rice krispie treat pops covered in milk chocolate. The idea came from Kattitudes

If you are interested in obsessing over the maps and the coverage of the returns you can visit or

If you want to laugh while you obsess, Wonkette is the way to go. We love that site; all night I have been saying "In the Tank!"