Things I Hate

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Is there anything more awkward than trying to end a conference call?

The never-ending goodbyes always remind me of old-school AIM convos, where you spent roughly a calendar year telling your pals you loved them like a sister and would talk to them later and okbye4now. Or whatever we said back then.

The point is, conference call sign-offs can drag out through the rest of the millenium.

I think it has something to do with the lack of visual clues — no one can tell when Person A is looking to wrap things up because they can’t see them shutting their laptop and making eyes at the door. But I also blame corporate jargon.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows what I mean when I say that. God HELP you if you’ve worked in a tech or media office. Corporate jargon is like the social media of work-speak: It’s slowly depriving us of meaning and, let’s face it, humanity.

Here are a few examples of things you can say at almost ANY point of a meeting if you don’t know the answer to the question — without looking like an idiot. Don’t thank me; thank corporate jargon.

1. Let’s circle back on that offline.
2. I think that’s important to discuss, but I’d like to focus on the big picture.
3. We’ll regroup on that internally and get back to you.
4. Do the engagement metrics support that?
5. What can we do to replicate our past successes?
6. SYNERGY!!!

Just kidding about the last one. Mostly.

The really scary thing is that sometimes I hear these phrases in meetings, and I realize that I’m the one who said them. *shudder*

Do my fellow pencil-pushers hear me on this? Share YOUR favorite jargon-y phrase in a comment below.

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I don’t know about you guys, but there is nothing quite like going to the doctor to make me feel like I’ve committed a crime.

I think it has to do with how they welcome you. You walk innocently in the front door and BAM! Paperwork. And not just any paperwork. Invasive paperwork.

Do you smoke? Drink? How often? What kind? When was the last time you were here? WHERE WERE YOU ON THE AFTERNOON OF OCTOBER 26TH?!?

And the third degree doesn’t end after you hand in the clipboard.

Oh no, now it’s time to sit on a pedestal and be prodded. Oh sure, just lean back in this reclining dentist chair. Comfy? Good.

NOW I WILL POKE YOUR GUMS WITH A METAL HOOK NOT DISSIMILAR TO THE KIND SERIAL KILLERS HAVE INSTEAD OF HANDS.

During consultations of any kind, I always find myself trying to sit “casually.” Do I lean back? Or will that make the good doctor criticize my posture? Do I hold my hands in my lap? OR DOES THAT LOOK GUILTY?

I also find my voice comes out sounding weird. Like I’m hiding something.

ALL RIGHT ALL RIGHT, I’M ALLERGIC TO SULFA AND I TAKE A MULTIVITAMIN, OKAY???

On the upside, there is nothing more satisfying than being able to give the doctor healthy answers. “Actually, I’ve never smoked before. Nope, no recreational drugs, not a problem.” (She preened as she smugly smoothed her hair behind one ear.)

But no matter how much of a healthy specimen I believe myself to be, I always breathe a sigh of relief when it’s finally time to leave the exam room. I’ll give a little wave, hop off the table, and try to ignore their ominous calls of “see you in six months!”

Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I just too tightly wound? ARE YOU FLOSSING REGULARLY?

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Don’t talk to me.

Living in New York has had a variety of effects on who I am as a person.

On the brighter side of things, I think I’m tougher, braver, and more likely to stick up for myself than I was before I lived here.

I’m (slightly) less directionally challenged. (Provided I’m operating on a grid system of streets.) I can navigate any subway system in the world. (Because there’s no way it’s more complicated than the one I tackle on the daily here.) I can speak somewhat intelligently about almost every culture of cuisine. I have been exposed to a wealth of the arts. I’ve gotten much better at operating within a specific budget.

Like I said, pros.

Unfortunately, lately I’ve noticed a host of bad habits this city seems to have instilled in me as well. And they are…unflattering, to say the least.

1. Interrupting.
For most of my life, my mother has struggled to craminspire in me a love of the mannerly. And while I am a stickler for “please,” “thank you,” and not texting whilst at dinner with others, I can’t help but notice that I tend to cut people off mid-sentence a lot more than I used to.

I promise I’m not passing the buck, but the fact is, if you don’t interrupt New Yorkers, you might never get a word in edgewise. I’ve actually noticed that, when I make a firm attempt to not interrupt, there are people I know who have forgotten how to end stories and even sentences. They sort of trail off like an actor whose stage partner has forgotten their cue.

“So that’s…pretty much…what happened…”

It’s even worse when you encounter someone who could literally just keep talking for days, weeks, months. Then you might as well slip out of your heels and grab a snack because you’re going to be there for a while. Hope you didn’t have anything important to mention.

2. Ignoring.
This is especially bad when I’m out and about. Look, it’s no secret that the streets of NYC are a harrowing place sometimes. While I have only a couple of times ever felt actually unsafe, there are near constant opportunities to be accosted as you make your 1-and-a-half-block commute from the subway to the office.

As a result, I find myself tuning out more often than I like to admit. And not just tuning out — it’s like I have literally placed blinders on my eyes. I will sort of shuffle into people because I didn’t even notice they were standing there. And I’m not the only one. Pretty much every New Yorker will tell you the ignoring happens out of a sense of self-preservation, but the fact is, it’s pretty rude to pretend like you are the only person on the sidewalk trying to get from point A to point B.

Basically, New York is making me really inconsiderate.

3. Impatience.
Okay, okay, I was never the most patient person even when I lived in the Midwest. But, you guys? My fuse feels infinitely shorter these days.

Remember Commuter Justine? Well, now she doesn’t only come out when there are issues on the train or when there’s an angry letter that needs writing. Maybe it’s a result of the aforementioned increased likeliness to stick up for myself, but I find myself having a harder and harder time tolerating people who make my life harder the longer I live here.

I mean, I’m obviously not hauling off and socking someone in the face. But I feel my brain reaching a rolling boil more often than it used to. And New Yorkers en general aren’t exactly known for their patience with humanity.

So there you have it: the not-so-subtle ways New York is turning me into a jerk. But you guys still like me…right?

Has your locale inspired a few bad habits in you? Dish in the comments.

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This is what my brain feels like right now.

It has been kind of a weird week.

I think every lifestyle blogger will tell you that one of the hardest things about publishing portions of your life is knowing where to draw the line. I tend to veer toward the over-cautious when it comes to personal issues with my family, job, or really most negative things I encounter, and that’s not a decision I’ve ever regretted.

The problem is, when something negative is plaguing my mind, it’s really hard to think of anything else to blog about. Posting my typical frivolous shopping round-ups, hair tutorials, or decor ideas feels disingenuous. And, if I’m totally honest, the darker perspective makes me scoff at my own frivolity.

Sad, right?

This week, I’ve felt slightly barraged by things outside of my control. It’s probably why whenever I sit and think about something I could write about, the only things that come to mind are lists of things to accomplish. Lists of things that are within my control. I can’t fix my personal issues, but I can organize my closet, gosh darn it.

It could be worse. I could be emotionally and physically crippled by adversity. Instead of, you know, propelled to meal plan and purge unwanted clothing and dust everything. At the very least, I end up with a cleaner apartment, and that genuinely gives me more mental stability.

It could be worse…right?

I apologize for how cryptic this post is. Like I said, I don’t really want to get into it. (OBVIOUSLY, RIGHT?) But I feel like I owe some kind of explanation for being so silent.

Commiserate with me — when you’re feeling out of control, how do you temper the crazy?

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Do you ever catch yourself being the worst version of yourself?

Maybe you’re perpetually slacking off on responsibilities. Maybe you’re lacking motivation and putting things off. Maybe you’re tired and snapping at those around you. Maybe you’re gossiping or dwelling on negative feelings about others.

While I haven’t done all of those, I feel like this last month has not seen me at my best. I could make excuses, but the fact is that I wasn’t feeling great about myself and I let it leech into the rest of my life.

The older I get, the more I realize my confidence (and, more often than not, my happiness) is cyclical. I can go 3-6 months feeling like I’m on top of everything, only to suddenly wake up and “realize” that everything is wrong with me. Everything.

I’m not kind enough. I’m too selfish. I’m too fat. My hair is all wrong. I hate all my clothes. I’m stupid. I’m lazy. The apartment is a disaster. So-and-so is so much kinder/prettier/smarter/better than me.

Sooner or later, these doubts pile up to a crippling degree. And often times, in what I can only assume is an attempt to fight my way out of them, I end up fighting everything around me.

The trick is breaking the cycle, not simply realizing that I’m acting like a shrew. (Oh, did I mention turning into a bitter, angry harpy is another insecurity of mine? I hate the idea of being so cliche.) While it’s great to notice that I’m not being my best self, digging myself out of the whole is the hard part.

Snapping out of it isn’t always so easy, but I’m trying to get better at it. Sometimes it takes something as simple as a really tough workout or just checking out for a while and getting my hair done or something. Other times, I have to consciously refocus my mind and remind myself what I’m striving for and why.

Over the weekend, Joey and I were able to attend a special convention in Long Island for a series of Bible-based talks, plays, and presentations. One of the biggest themes of the convention was the idea of simplifying our lives so we can focus on what is more important, and that really resonated with me. Simplification has been a goal of mine for a while now (and it seems to be a big trend among a lot of the bloggers I follow as well), but this weekend gave me a lot of practical ideas for application that I’m looking forward to putting into action. You know I’m never happier than when I have a goal, right?

Over the next six months, I want to focus on clearing negativity and unnecessary burdens from my life — and in a weird way, this sense of purpose and focus is already making me feel better about a lot of insecurities that I have been feeling. It’s crazy how a little bit of perspective can help shake you out of a funk.

What do you do when you feel insecurities building up or changing the way you act? Any good simplification tips to pass along?

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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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Um…what?

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:

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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 humanitytheir company.

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?