There is simply no non-cliche way to say, “golly, can you believe the year is almost over?!” So I’m just going to avoid it all together. But you get the sentiment.
2014 was a really good year for me. As my Facebook feed starts to fill with the social network’s latest look-back campaign, I paused to actually think about all I had accomplished this year.
Besides the race itself, Joey and I also took our second trip to Paris, which, like the race, was full of terrible and wonderful moments. I like the think the wonderful (mostly) outweighed the bad, though.
2014 was also the year of weddings. And weddings. And more weddings. After watching five of our dear friends tie the knot, I was reminded of two things: 1) It’s a good thing I really love weddings. 2) I am so glad Joey and I got that out of the way years ago. Turns out there’s less stress about scheduling when you get hitched young.
One of the best things that happened to me this year? This fuzzy face.
Yes, after years of dreaming, hoping, wishing, and all the other verbs you can pack into a ’50s doo-wop song, we finally got a dog of our own. Anyone who spends even a few minutes with me knows how much I love that little dog — Joey and I say all the time we can’t imagine not having him. He has certainly been a highlight of the year.
I didn’t make it back to the Midwest this year (le siiiiigh), but I did get to see my family for my parents’ 30th anniversary. The planning was a bit stressful, but the part itself turned out exactly how I had hoped it would. (And, honestly, how often can you say that?)
The most exciting thing that happened this fall was our trip to California, when I finally did the drive down the West Coast I’ve always wanted to do.
After months spent planning that trip, it also went off without a hitch. Which, if you know me, NEVER happens to me. But it was so lovely getting to see my brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and a bunch of friends as we made our way south. And, you guys? That weather? I honestly don’t understand why people live anywhere else.
Other than the California trip, our fall/winter has been pretty quiet so far as we’ve gotten more serious about paying off debts and saving money. #adulthood, dude. Besides a long weekend in Vermont in January, we don’t really have any other trips planned for a while. (Besides Iowa next summer…it has been way too long.) Fortunately, my parents are visiting in February to temper some of my Midwest homesickness.
Like I said, a pretty good year all around. For old time’s sake, here is my sixth annual Year-End Sum-Uppance. (Here’s last year’s, for reference.)
Age: 27, but I still need to wear makeup to get taken seriously in meetings. And I finally grew out the little-girl bangs, which helped.
Location: New York City
Occupation: Social Media Strategy Manager.
New favorite food: Some of you may remember that last year I adjust this to be a shout-out to a food I realized I loved in the last year. The winner for 2014? Grilled octopus. Those Astoria Greeks know what they’re doing.
TV shows I’m watching: This year I got SUPER into Parks & Rec (I’m not emotionally ready for the series finale in 2015), and I’ve started rewatching Gilmore Girls. Up next, I think I want to get into The West Wing. (Obviously these sentences brought to you by Netflix.)
Book I’m reading: Life of Pi
What’s my hair doing right now: Sort of a joke, but also sort of serious since I talk about it often enough on this blog. Still blonde and super long at the moment. Getting a haircut the first week of January. But I think I’m done with bangs. (FOR NOW.)
How I did on my goals from last year: Just to remind you, these were last year’s goals, along with how I did:
1. Travel more.
Check! One international trip and one cross-country vacation definitely qualify.
2. Run a marathon.
3. Finally get a dog.
You guys. I killed it this year.
4. Pick up at least 20 freelance assignments.
I think it was actually closer to 15, but I still feel good about that. I have a pretty regular gig at a local magazine, which has been a nice creative outlet.
5. Get closer to figuring out where we want to settle.
We’ll be in New York for at least another year, but I think our California trip narrowed things down for me. Guess we’ll see!
Goals for next year: Completely pay off our debts, build up a savings account, pioneer at least five times, and find a new apartment in April (still in Queens).
In general, I feel like 2014 was a semi-pivotal year for me. I feel so much more secure with who I am and my relationship with so many people in my life than I ever have before. I feel like maybe I’m getting better at this whole life thing.
How was your year?
In general, I think transitional periods of our life are only truly recognized retroactively. In my life, it is rare that I’ve had the perspective or wisdom to realize, in the moment, that my life is changing. That I’m changing.
But it’s pretty easy for me to look back over the last 27 years and say, “Ah yes, May of 2009. That was a doozy.”
I bring this up because, for the first time ever, I think I’m finally learning to recognize the signs.
I haven’t been updating the ol’ blog very much in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been making the usual excuses:
1. I’m tired.
2. I’m busy.
3. I have a life, you guys.
4. Despite being busy, nothing really note-worthy has been happening.
But if I’m totally honest, I’ve been feeling a little off. That crippling “holding pattern” feeling has permeated my day-to-day, and every mentally drafted blog post usually starts out with, “So today I….boringboringboringboring.” It’s how I end up with posts like this.
So I’ve waited instead of posting more drivel. I’ve waited for something interesting or funny or awkward to happen to me. Something that makes for a good story. But you know what? Life has been relatively par for the course.
Good for stress levels. Bad for the blogging biz.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that whenever I start to feel that trying-to-run-through-wet-cement feeling, it usually means something in my life is about to change. It usually means I am changing.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this concept of who I am. A coworker recently attended a conference about how to raise confident girls, and the main point of the speaker was that girls are put under a lot of pressure to be a lot of things: smart, charming, funny, pretty, athletic, sweet, perfect. And by the time they reach middle school, they are so busy acting out these roles, they don’t even know who they really are.
No offense to the speaker, but that’s not a middle girl school thing. That’s a life girl thing.
In my pondering, I’ve realized that a lot of the insecurities I’ve thought I let go of haven’t really packed up and moved on — they’ve just been quieter tenants. It’s not that I’m not insecure, I just have a healthy sense of perspective. I realize that it doesn’t matter if I’m not good enough because there are just much bigger and more important issues out there than little ol’ me.
That sounds self-deprecating, but the one thing that actually doesn’t bother me about me is the not mattering bit. I’m just one person — and what kind of psycho actually thinks the world revolves around them?
The point is, I’m trying not to run from these insecurities anymore. I’d rather face them, accept them, welcome them to the club that is me, and then move on. Maybe that’s me getting closer to who I am.
So is this definitely one of those transitional periods I’ll look back on one day as a “before/after” date? I guess I can’t say for sure until I reach the other side of the hill. But I think it is.
Does this even make any sense? Anyone else feel like they’re just waiting for things to start? Any other lady readers totally relate to the idea of not being sure who you are?
I turned 27 last week.
I don’t celebrate birthdays, so there was predictably little fanfare around this one (plus, I had an ear infection, so I was a bit more preoccupied with taking antibiotics and drinking fluids than anything else that day).
Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw a list of 27 things you have to do by 27 (I could never top this one anyway). I’m also not going to bore you with my list of goals. (BECAUSE I DO THAT ALL THE TIME ALREADY.) The only reason why I even bring it up is because, to be totally honest, I have been super jazzed about 27 for a while now.
Is it just me, or is 27 really the first time people start to treat you like you’re legitimate? For most of my life, the majority of my friends have been older than me. I’ve always been pretty driven in my career, so I often find myself working with people older than I am as well. And the moment that I always dread (because it always comes up) is when someone asks me how old I am.
If you’re 26 or under, answering that question is usually met with the equivalent of this:
SUPER FUN. Not.
But whether it’s 27’s proximity to 30 or just that it takes four full syllables to say, I can’t help but notice that the response is much more similar to this:
Ok, maybe not QUITE like that…but there is definitely more respect there.
And when you’re like me and started acting (mostly) like a grown-up right around the age of 13, 27 is finally (FINALLY) the year when you start acting your age, amiright?
The point is, I feel like this is going to be my best year yet. Yes, I say that every year, but I feel especially good about 2014/2015.
What was the year you really started to feel like a grown-up?
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?