You may have noticed it was all crickets and tumbleweeds on the blog last week. I never apologize for not posting anymore (hey, how am I supposed to have anything to write about if I never have a life, right?), but last week actually has a good explanation: I was horribly sick.
After what I thought was allergies evolved into what I thought was a cold into what I think was a flu into what was diagnosed as a throat and ear infection, I’m now on antibiotics for the next six days and feeling much better. But I literally didn’t go into my office once last week and spent most of the day drifting in and out of naps with Boges and the rest of the time feeling miserable.
Never one to ignore the opportunity to find a silver lining, I realized there are a few things that being really sick teaches you:
1. I have really good friends. My friends texted, called, brought soup, and came over to sit on my couch and watch TV with me. Good friends make being sick feel not so bad.
2. I have a really good job. Not only is my job flexible enough that I can get pretty much everything done from home, I also work for people who not only don’t make me feel bad for missing work but who also encourage me to stay home if I feel terrible. I mean, sure, they’re also total germophobes looking to avoid infection, but they also genuinely know how much it sucks to have to go to work when you don’t feel well and didn’t want that to happen to me. That’s pretty dang nice.
3. I have a really good husband. Joey knows that I rarely get sick, and I almost never get really sick. It’s also impossible for me to be home for an extended period of time without doing dishes, straightening the living room, reorganizing my closet, etc. So when I start lying around the house instead of dusting the book shelves, he knows things are serious. He would come home every night with cans of soup, vitamin C packets, and virtually anything else I said I wanted. He even came home a little earlier each night because he knew I was bored after a long day in quarantine. A kind, considerate husband makes just about anything easier to deal with.
So I felt miserable last week. But I’m feeling really good this week. (Minus a little mental fog from the antibiotics.)
I’ll take that trade-off.
Gosh there has been a lot of my face on the blog lately. That’s awkward. And annoying. If you hate my face. (Though, if that’s the case, masochist much? You should really stop coming to this site. For your health.)
Instead of my face, let’s talk about my money, shallllll we?
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’m taking the idea of simplification to all aspects of my life. For Joey and me, that includes our budget and finances. While we wiped out our credit card debt about a year ago, some of it has managed to creep back in the last few months. Never ones to say die, this is at the top of our to-do list when it comes to simplifying our lives.
For me personally, that journey started with taking an honest look at my own spending and saving patterns. Then I could determine what needed to change. Two things were a huge help in beginning this process:
I’m going to talk about my experience with a specific money tracking website, but really, there are a bunch of these out there that can help.
While a quick once-over of my debit card statement could probably give you a good idea of where my money was going, I decided to join Mint.com to get a more accurate breakdown. Using Mint, I was able to get an immediately clear picture of what percentage of my income was going to various categories, like rent, shopping, food, etc.
That’s a peek at my July so far. Besides getting an up-to-date analysis, I can also compare previous months to see how I’m doing at cutting down on spending. For reference, here was June:
The two things Mint immediately showed me I was spending way too much money on were clothes and food. I mean, come on, Justine. Get a grip.
Instantly, I had two specific goals:
– Stop shopping for a month. I mean, seriously. I have all the clothes I need and then some. (I also had a few ideas for making this more fun — more on that later.)
– Bring my lunch every single day. Joey is a really great cook, and we’ve gotten much better about cooking most of our dinners at home. Plus, I love leftovers. There is really no reason why I can’t make this work — and still be enjoyable.
The other thing I love about Mint is that it gives you a schedule of credit card payments once you tell it how much you want to contribute to your debt each month. Mint determines how much you should allot to each account based on how much interest they’re charging you. For example, I created a budget (aptly titled “Pay Off the Dang Debt”) that will end in October, and Mint tells me the percentage I should pay to each card based on its APR. I literally just have to check the budget and schedule the payment each month, easy-peasy.
2. Automatic Savings Account Contributions
I used to be really good about regularly contributing to my savings account. But then life got in the way, blah blah blah excuses.
The point is, my savings account has been pretty pathetic as of late, and that’s not good. Now, every pay day, I pay myself first with an automatic transfer through my bank from my checking (where my direct deposit goes) to my savings. This “forced” savings takes out any opportunity for me to back out or change my mind. Plus, it’s kind of fun watching that little number grow every couple of weeks.
I’m also planning to put any freelance checks I collect straight into savings once the debt is paid off. It’s extra money for us anyway since our budget is designed off of our 9-to-5 income, so there’s no reason not to squirrel it away.
It’s amazing how much of a difference these two little changes are making to the health of my finances (not to mention my peace of mind).
What are your best budgeting tips?
If you’ve partaken in any experience involving the service industry with me, it has probably come up how much I hate poor customer service.
To me, there are few things less excusable than a CS rep telling me there is “nothing they can do,” especially because I don’t really consider myself all that difficult to please. Did I come into your eating establishment looking to exchange funds for food and services? Ok, then let’s do that. Did you lose my luggage on an international flight? Ok, then I’ll wait here while you find and return my bag. Have a purchased a plane ticket through your airline? Then I look forward to you getting me where I want to go on the agreed upon date. Did we have an online agreement that you were going to accept my PayPal transaction in exchange for a new skirt? Fantastic, see you in 5-8 business days.
You see? Not asking for the sun and stars. In fact, it has been quite a while since I had to tangle with a corporate office via angry email.
The system breaks down, though, when other parties don’t hold up their end of the service industry deal. For example, that not-so-hypothetical skirt I mentioned.
On June 4th, I placed an order for a skirt and a top. The order was shipped within 12 hours. On Jun 6th, I tracked the package and saw that there was a “Delivery Exception” alert, and the FedEx trail went cold in Groverton, OH. Immediately, I went to ASOS.com to find a way to contact customer service to find out what happened.
What I was met with was a Machiavellian version of an FAQ page where I had to confine my concerns to about five different options in order to proceed to actually submitting a question. Since “My package is stuck in Groverton, OH” was not one of the pre-written problems, I could not do this and therefore could never get to a point where I would submit my issue. (I’m being snarky, but truth be told, NONE of the options were even close to my issue. The only potential problems related to shipping I could find were “how do I track my package.”)
My last resort, it seemed, was contacting the company via their Twitter customer service account, @ASOS_HeretoHelp. I tweeted my issue (briefly, obviously) and received a quick reply to send them a direct message with my email address and order number. I immediately complied. A full day went by. No response. So I tweeted again and got the following response:
As you can see, a day after that they replied to tell me. Here’s the issue: They had not replied to my DM.
If I hate bad customer service, then I despise being lied to. Now we officially had issues.
Still trying to be reasonable, I gave it 24 more hours. Then this:
Ok. They’re busy. I can understand that. (Lying I can NEVER understand.) This wasn’t a life or death thing, so I was still trying to be reasonable.
On June 16th (FIVE DAYS LATER), I start to lose my cool.
I have issues with this. First, this is not the first time we had discussed me DM-ing them, but it IS the first time they’re making an excuse why they couldn’t answer me. Why wouldn’t they ask me to follow them from the start so they could reply? Why would that have ALREADY TOLD ME THAT THEY REPLIED if they never really did? Why are we having this conversation on TWITTER when they have my email AND phone number? WHY HAS IT BEEN TEN DAYS OF BACK AND FORTH?
Fully irritated now but still trying to be nice so they would help me, the following exchange took place:
If you’ll note the time stamps, even after following them, I still had to follow up twice to get a reply (not a DM reply, just another tweet) asking me to again send them my info. I mean, was I being punked?
Finally, I received a DM confirming the issue and confirming my address so they could send me a replacement order. Yay! Progress! Right?
Things seemed to be going well; I was told a new order was being shipped. Since this wasn’t my first rodeo, I thanked them and asked for a reference number. ALWAYS GET A REFERENCE NUMBER. They told me I would get an email with all the information in the next 24 hours. (Seeing a pattern here?)
On June 23rd (four days later), I DM’d them again that I had never received said email. Then, 24 hours later, this happened:
So now you are telling me that you lost my order, but I have to not only call to straighten it out, I also have to find said contact information on my own? Last straw.
Not seeing another option, I called FedEx, who told me there was nothing they could do but I should call the USPS. I tried that, but again was met with an automated voice system that did not recognize “delivery exception,” “lost order,” or “LET ME SPEAK WITH A HUMAN BEING” as voice commands. So I looked up the Groverton post office and called them. A human answered, I explained my situation and that the tracking code said the package was there. She said it was NOT there, it had been returned to the customer. I told her I was the customer, and no, no it hadn’t. She said she meant it had been returned to ASOS.
Hand to God, I had one of those Zack Morris-style break from reality moments right here. ASOS had the package? The same ASOS who had just sent me on this wild goose chase to Ohio? THEY HAD IT THE WHOLE TIME? I thanked her and hung up, and then immediately planned my destruction of the company.
Of course, I’m kidding. Kind of.
But I went back to ASOS.com to see if there was a corporate contact email (I go big), and now saw that because my order was past its delivery date, there was an option to email the company directly if I had’t received my order. HOW CONVENIENT.
I sent the following message:
Within literally an hour, I received two emails: one from PayPal telling me I had received a refund from ASOS, and the other from ASOS telling me they had canceled my order and sent me a refund.
Let’s get one thing straight: I am happy they at least sent my money back quickly, but I really resent them just making the decision for me. I didn’t want my money back. I wanted my order.
After receiving my forced refund with zero explanation except an email saying I was getting refunded (and raging about my apartment for a good 45 seconds while Bogey looked on in concern), I settled in to write an email of my own. A specific kind of email. An angry grandmother email. (Total disclosure: First, I fired off a round of bitter tweets and may have spent a few minutes making sure the CEO of ASOS didn’t have a Twitter account of his own. I was taking them down, guys.)
In my email to corporate customer relations, I laid out the entire scenario. I explained to them the number of times I had been deceived with false information, how long I had been a regular customer (two years with five orders in the books), and how duped I felt now that I knew how little they cared about their customers.
And wouldn’t you know, within the hour I had some responses. An actual human being emailed me back apologizing an offered me my original 10% discount if I wanted to reorder. (I had already reordered the skirt because I was worried it would sell out, but they refunded me the discount.) Even their formerly useless Twitter account sent me a 15% off code (it’s good for a month if anyone wants it).
I’ve often said that if a company makes even the slightest effort to make something up to me, I will be placated. And this case was no different — I was still mildly irritated that it took all this fuss to accomplish what generally just takes a few clicks online, but at the end of the day, they apologized and got me what I wanted. I hung up my angry grandmother hat and went on with my life.
But here is where ASOS actually restored my faith in
This morning, I woke up to a long email (again, actually written by a human being) from their corporate customer relations department. She apologized again for what I had dealt with and assured me that this was not their standard of service. Apparently there was a “training issue” that led to my shoddy service on Twitter, which I can generally kind of believe. Then, to make it up to me, she said they wanted to pay me back for the skirt I had reordered. They’re giving me the skirt to retain me as a customer.
You guys? That is gold star-worthy.
I really do like ASOS for their good prices and wide variety, so it was truly a relief for me not to have to shun them forever. (Because I NEVER forget, you guys.) It’s also just nice to find a company who cares about their customers, especially when “making it up to me” means a minuscule sacrifice to their bottom line. They’re a multi-million dollar company — they can give away a skirt here and there.
In short, thank you to Jean and Lola in the consumer relations department for treating me like a human being, actually saying the words “I’m so sorry,” and actually doing whatever was in your power to make the situation right. You are awesome and exactly the type of people who should be in the service industry. If your bosses are reading this, you should give those women raises.
Phew. That was a long story. But to sum up, here are my tips for getting customer service to take you seriously:
1. Don’t be shy about making a fuss. You have to be intelligent about it — it’s easy to ignore those obnoxious people who scream about every little thing, but a detailed, thoughtful email is much easier to take seriously. And don’t underestimate the power of a negative social media campaign.
2. Memorize this phrase: “I have to believe this is not your standard of service given the success of your company.” I’m not kidding — companies take their reputations very seriously. Odds are, what you dealt with was not their standard, and they will do what it takes to uphold consumer opinion.
3. Be as reasonable as possible. If I had just started screaming and swearing or something at the beginning, Jean and Lola would probably not have been so lovely to me. Being mean to customer service people gets you no where, in my experience.
4. Keep a record. It helped that all of my communication with the company was online because I had a written record of dates and actual phrasing to back me up. It’s hard to argue with facts or go back on your word when I have it in a screenshot.
5. Practice good business karma. Okay, I don’t actually believe in karma. But I do believe in rewarding people for good behavior. Now that Jean and Lola made things right, I will continue to praise the company and remain a customer.
Anyone else have any bad/good customer service stories they want to get off their chests?
If we’re friends on Facebook, yes the idea for this post did come from my status yesterday. Apologies for what could arguably be called leftovers.
Yesterday, I was thinking about strengths and weaknesses in a joke-y sort of way. (I’m such a card.) Like, what if the next time a job interviewer asked you what your weaknesses were, you were really honest?
Not like, “I check Facebook a lot during work and get hammered every weekend” honest. Like, what are you actually kind of terrible at?
I’ll start. Here are my three biggest real life weaknesses.
1. Making spontaneous dinner plans.
You guys. I am so annoying to make plans with. Turns out the biggest downside to being SUPER organized and having a very up-to-date calendar is that I get very stressed out if I don’t have things planned out in advance. Sometimes this means my calendar is booked up for up to two months at a time.
THIS IS NOT ME HUMBLEBRAGGING THAT I’M POPULAR. I’m not. Not even close. I just get plans with my little circle of friends down in the books tout de suite rather than wait to see what the weekend holds.
I’m pretty sure this has something to do with a particular scarring Saturday in middle school when literally EVERYONE had plans except me and I spent the afternoon holding back tears and eating string cheese while watching a marathon of Even Stevens. It was a dark time.
The point is, I am a master plan-maker. Which is helpful if you want the next two months booked solid at a time. Not so much if you just wanted to see if anyone was free to try the new sushi place in the east village? Hmm? Anyone?
Spoiler alert: Rarely me. I am rarely free. If I have a free night, it’s because I did it on purpose so I could hang curtains and clean my kitchen. Sorry for asking if you have August 23rd open instead.
2. Parallel parking.
YES, I know I can’t really be an adult if I can’t do this. And, yes, it is hard living in Queens if you can’t do this. And, actually, I’m only really bad at this 95 percent of the time. (The other 5? I nail it, you guys. It’s like a driver’s ed video example of how to correctly parallel park.)
The problem is that other 95 percent, also known as most of the time.
You guys. I have literally attempted to parallel park, then messed it up SO badly I just drove away because I was so embarrassed. I’ve abandoned spots, the cardinal sin of city living. But if people start honking and staring and piling up behind me, I can’t deal with it and bail out.
I am being totally sincere when I tell you that if I take the car out, I will double-park in front of the building and wait for Joey to come out and park the car.
To answer the question on your mind, yes, it is embarrassing and pathetic. AND YET HERE WE ARE.
3. Judging character.
I sometimes fool myself into thinking that I am a great judge of character. I definitely pick up on people’s vibes right away.
But you know what? There have been at least five times in my life when I was convinced that someone was just the coolest for months at a time, when suddenly something happened that their true colors reared their ugly heads and I was dealt a very rude awakening that I had been totally wrong.
And I’m just sitting there like, how did I not see that? At all? Not even an inkling!
So, I’m throwing in the “good judge of character” card. Because the times I was off I was that far off. Apparently I can’t trust anyone, least of all my own judgment.
Ok, now YOU go. What are your three biggest real life weaknesses?
Obviously I couldn’t blog about this right when it happened, but I thought it would be fun to share an anecdote from my job hunting experience.
All in all, I probably went in about 9-10 interviews this time around. Many of those were at the same places — I actually made it to the third round of interviews at two different companies. (Though I didn’t get either of those jobs.)
One of those third-rounders was probably the worst interview I’ve ever been on.
The company was one that organizes sporting events (like dodgeball and softball games) for adults in the city to network and meet new people. I had already survived an initial meeting with their HR recruiter; it went well and we both seemed to get along. A good sign, in my book.
The second round, I was required to write an entire 3-month social media strategy, including a step-by-step list of the first three things I would do if I got the job.
Pause for a second (Zack Morris-style).
Can we just discuss how messed up that is? I mean, my ability to create a social strategy and help a brand define their digital voice is what I do for a living. That is my intellectual property. It’s what, you know, I get paid for.
And now I was forced to basically hand it over with zero promise of a return. (And since you already know I didn’t get this job, I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you this company ended up with my entire strategy, step-by-step tactics, and sample social posts. And I ended up with…well, you’ll see.)
The second interview went okay. The two guys I met with we’re a tiny bit bro-y, but nice enough. They kept up their poker faces the entire time, and, to be perfectly honest, I felt a little but judged for wearing heels and curling my hair. It could have been in my head, but it wasn’t in my head that this was not a girlie-girl setting.
Regardless, I thought I handled myself well. I was prepared for all of their questions, and my strategy even preemptively answered most of them. I felt I came across as capable, organized, and enthusiastic.
About a day later, I had an email setting up my final interview with the CEO and founder of the company. I assumed the second interview must have gone well.
When I arrived for my final interview, I was quickly ushered into a conference room with the CEO. He was an unassuming man from Long Island in his fifties, barely taller than me. He had a teasing sense of humor that I couldn’t quite get a handle on because it was a little, well, condescending.
I turned to face him, and he lifted a piece of paper that I assume had the questions he wanted to ask me on the side facing him. What he didn’t realize was that the side facing me had some writing on it too.
Notes. About me.
I know it was about me because it said Justine LoMonaco at the top.
And under that it said:
Not that into sports
Not funny or creative
There have only been a few moments in my life that I would describe as punches to the gut. This was one of them.
(Obviously, I’m talking about the second sentence. Anyone who knows me knows I make no pretenses about having a passion for sports.)(And this.)(And this.)(AND THIS.)
Let me be clear: I have no delusions that I’m the funniest or smartest person out there. But these are two specific adjectives that people use to describe me all the time. I mean, I’m a classic late-bloomer — sense of humor and personality carried me for years, folks. I work with people who literally will not schedule a brainstorming session unless I can attend. Funniness and creativity are just not things I am insecure about.
And then…suddenly everything changed.
I’m one of those people that if you really want to push my buttons, accuse of something that is just patently untrue. It’s like my brain can’t even process what you’re saying and I become simultaneously dumber and less eloquent. My cerebrum is all, “Wait…you mean…but the-what? SKY IS GREEN AND GRASS IS BLUE AND NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.”
Obviously, this is not a good mental state to be in for, oh, let’s say a job interview.
Suddenly I found myself incapable of coming up with a single intelligent thing to say. I was trying to be funnier, which everyone knows rarely works out. And, honestly, I was on the brink of tears for most of the half hour.
The interview wrapped up quickly (clearly I hadn’t impressed), and I hesitated for just a second, wondering if I should address these two accusations against me. In the end, I said nothing (though I did stand up for myself a bit in my “thank you” email). If I had known I wouldn’t get the job anyway, I would have been bolder. Hindsight, amiright?
Instead I shuffled dejectedly to the subway, still fighting back tears, and called my friend to unload what had happened. When I got home and started telling Joey about it, I broke down.
Remember when I wrote this? That was right around the time I found out I didn’t get that job. (Or the other job that I had made it to the third round of interviews for.) I was so frustrated, and my confidence was at a low. Now I was confronted with the possibility that maybe I was just stuck where I was — and not funny or creative on top of it.
That’s a lot for anyone to take.
But wait! This isn’t a sad story. Because, in the end, I realized that I probably didn’t want to work with people who don’t share my sense of humor anyway. I don’t want to work for people who judge me the moment I walk in. I don’t want to work for hypocritical people who claim their business model supports one thing while their actions prove they don’t.
And the job I ended up getting? I’m a million times more excited for it than I was for the other one anyway.
So things work out how they’re supposed to. And the experience also showed me what a great support system I have when I can’t pick myself back up right away. Ironically, when I got my new job, they told me the people I had interviewed loved how “funny and creative” I was. As if that coffin needed one more nail, right?
Anyone else have a job interview story to top mine? Leave it in a comment so we can commiserate together (and laugh about how, in the end, it was their loss).
Now that my marathon training is basically over (have I mentioned how much I love taper weeks?), I wanted to do a round-up of things I’ve learned so far in case any of my readers are considering a marathon of their own. Obviously, this is all said without ever having actually run a marathon (yet), but here are a few tidbits I garnered from my training process.
1. Tell everyone you are training for a marathon — or else you will probably quit.
Sure, you put down something north of $100 for this race, but that will start to feel negligible about a month and a half in. (Plus, if you’re smart, you paid for the cancelation insurance in case of injury.) The only thing that is going to keep you running past the halfway training point is pride and the fear of telling everyone you announced your training to that you are wimping out. So tell everyone. Tell your friends. Tell your coworkers. Tell your hair stylist. Tell the guy at the shoe store. You get the idea.
2. You should probably invest in a fanny pack.
Go ahead, laugh. Get it all out. Then get over it. Because unless you are planning to pack all your snacks, cell phone, headphones, etc. in your pockets, you’ll need something to hold it all. I got through most of my training sans le pac de derrière (as I imagine the French would say it), but long runs required a pouch for gummies and metro cards and and cash and things.
I refuse to ever wear a water belt, though.
3. You will be tired. All the time.
No, really. See also: hungry.
4. Your husband/boyfriend/friends will become running widows. Or whatever the running equivalent of a football/hockey widow is.
Training takes time, yo. Time that you normally would have spent grabbing dinner, drinks, and generally having a life. And unless your friends are also training, odds are they can’t just join you for a quick 12-miler after work one night. So let them know that training is going to take priority for a while. (That is, unless they are willing to swap your usual happy hours for a cross training class.)
5. You probably won’t lose weight.
Unless you are starting out with a significant amount of weight to lose, don’t bank on training lowering the number on the scale that much. Yes, you’ll be burning more calories, but you’ll also need to eat more to keep up your strength (plus, see the aforementioned “hungry all the time”). Odds are, if you’re training for a marathon, you’ve been a runner for a while and are probably pretty close to your “happy weight,” and your body is going to hold on to extra calories to support these 1,700 calorie-burning runs you’ll do from time to time. Plus, you know, muscle weighs more than fat blah blah blah, and you’ll probably see higher fluctuations from water weight.
Don’t feel too bad, though — my weight stayed exactly the same, but I definitely got more toned and my clothes fit differently. You’re going to get stronger, dude.
6. You can actually gain weight whilst training.
It seems like a sick joke when you’re working out 5-6 days a week, but it’s true. The hungers are fierce, and it’s easy to tell yourself that you deserve an extra slice of cake when you’re training. But gaining weight can affect your pace, so keep in mind that the better in shape you are, the fewer calories each run will actually burn. You should be eating more carbs while you train, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to more food. The best advice I heard while training was to replace things with carbs. So instead of adding a side of pasta to your usual lunch, replace your salad and chicken with quinoa and chicken. You’ll get the calories and carbs you need without overdoing anything. (Obviously take all my diet advice with a grain of salt…everyone is different, and a doctor or nutritionist can give you much better advice for your body and health. I’m just some chick who runs a lot.)
7. You will not be able to sit cross-legged anymore.
This was a weird one. I’m the type of person that is really bad at just sitting normally; I’m usually pretzel-twisted up in the corner of the couch or something. But about midway through training, I realized that if I sat in any way that wasn’t with both feet flat on the ground with my butt in a chair, my muscles would basically fuse in that position when I tried to stand up. It was weird. And annoying. And painful.
I still can barely believe the race is only a week-and-a-half away. Any last-minute advice from marathon veterans out there?