I’m pretty thrilled to announce that I have completed the Spring Simplification List (with a couple caveats, I suppose).

BEDROOM
Move bed back

Hooks for hats and bags
Move trunk into bedroom
Hang curtains
Fix pictures over drawers

LIVING ROOM
New coffee table or TV dinner trays

Clean up corners
Map for over couch
Organize desk area
Create more organized entryway

CLOSETS
Straighten linen closet
Clean out front closet
Reorganize crawl space

KITCHEN
Get Norden IKEA table
Sell dinner table (added to Craigslist)
Clean out pantry

(The newly checked off items are in purple.)

First, the desk. Some of you will remember my post last week talking about how I wanted to spruce up our computer desk. Well, for once I actually accomplished a goal within a couple of days. (It may have helped that I had a little party Saturday, so I had extra motivation.) After a quick trip to Target, I had this:

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Of course, with a close up of the GREATEST TAPE DISPENSER EVER.

Next, the new coffee table. I have been coveting this one from West Elm for literally two years, but I just couldn’t in good conscience shell out $600 for a coffee table. Plus, you know my thing about buying new-new furniture. (And people very rarely sell these on Craigslist, probably because they’re perfect.) So, in typical me fashion, I scoured online for something similar, preferably pre-owned.

I searched for months, as evidenced by the fact that I wrote this simplification list at the beginning of spring. Finally, a week ago I found my new table.

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It even has a lift-top like the West Elm version! The biggest difference? I paid $75 to a guy in Brooklyn for mine. Win.

Now for the list caveats. Obviously, there are three things that have not happened yet: art over the dresser, selling the kitchen table, and finding an IKEA Norden table.

For now, I’m sticking with the table we have. It’s fine. It doesn’t provide extra storage, and I will still sell it if anyone contacts me, but I’m holding off on buying anything new for a while. So for now, this one will do.

I still have every intention of finding something for over the dresser, but I think it’s time to retire this list. Obviously I’ll let you know when I find the right thing.

Even with those little asterisks, I still feel pretty accomplished about checking off a lot of those things. Cleaning out the crawl space and finding the new coffee table have been plaguing me for the better part of a year, so it’s pretty dang satisfying knowing they’re done.

Guess it’s time to think of some more goals, huh?

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?

Our computer desk has been a bit of a trial for me.

In our first apartment, I never really loved how it looked (apologies for that atrocious photo), and in our new apartment, it’s the first space to start looking cluttered after I’ve given the apartment a deep clean. And because organizing the desk area is on the simplification list anyway, I figured now would also be a good time to figure out an organization system that actually works.

And it wouldn’t hurt if it was also pretty, right?

Here’s what I’m thinking of adding:

Desk Details in Gold

Cute, right? Y’all know I love anything white and gold.

I also need to spend a little time styling our bulletin board. I really like these inspirational ideas from Pinterest (click images for sources):

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Just because our bulletin board is functional doesn’t mean it can’t also be pretty, right? And now that I’m working from home a couple of times a month, it helps to have an organized, aesthetically pleasing place to work.

Do you have a home office? Is it more utilitarian or more stylish?

Living in New York City, it can cost a lot to look the way you want. Stylists are more expensive, manicures are more mandatory, and there’s almost always something going on that you want to dress up for. And while I’m all for maintaining my style, I hate feeling like I’m spending money on something that is ultimately going to grow out or wash away. Recently, though, I’ve started relying on three products that not only contribute to my beauty routine, but also save me money. Win-win, right?

For those of you also interested in saving money and saving face (and hair), I figured I’d share my round-up. Enjoy!

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Dollar Shave Club*
Hopefully my (very few) male readers haven’t already glazed over and abandoned this post, but the first thing on the list is something for ladies and gentlemen. My brother was the first person to introduce me to The Dollar Shave Club, and I have to admit, he has good ideas sometimes. Not only is this club MUCH cheaper than shelling out for a new Venus razor every few weeks, it’s also more convenient (razor heads come to you!). And because it’s cheaper and mailed direct, you will actually change your razor every week like you are supposed to. HYGIENE!

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Clairol Shimmer Lights Purple Shampoo
My brunette readers can skip ahead to the next product rec — this one is all about my blondies. You know how a few weeks after you get highlights, that magical, bright ashy blonde starts to fade into something more…orange? (The technical term is “brassy,” but we ALL know what that really means.) If you’re already spending hundreds a year to keep your hair the color of the sun, the last thing you want is to simply wash it all down the drain. LITERALLY.

This shampoo helps stop that. I think I’m actually the last person on the planet to “discover” it, but just in case, here you go. Get a bottle tout de suite. It’s less than $10, and it really, truly works, so you really have no excuse not to.

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Urban Decay De-Slick Makeup Setting Spray
All right, fellas, you can officially move on. (Probably.) This product is only beneficial for those of us who wear makeup — make the choice for yourself. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started actually investing in the beauty products I buy (instead of just grabbing the cheapest thing at Walgreens). The result: Better makeup and better skin. Also? A more sizeable bite out of my budget. So if I’m going to spend more money, I want to make sure the look is going to last. And last. And last. That’s why I was so thrilled to discover this little miracle worker in the Sephora checkout line. Not only does it set your makeup, it actually helps keep your face from getting shiny by the end of the day. And it REALLY works — just ask my (formerly) slick T-zone.

So there you have it. What are your favorite products to prolong your look?

*Affiliate link…if that bothers anyone.

Let’s work on those summer reading lists, shall we? Regular readers of my little blog know the drill: Every few months, I crack open my Kindle and share the books I’ve been reading, along with my thoughts on each, and then you all immediately procure said books because I told you to. (Kidding…but you should.)

Here we go!

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
What it’s about: This book is about the World’s Fair in Chicago in the 1890s. It jumps back and forth between describing the creation of the fair and following the horrifying work of H. H. Holmes, America’s first famous serial killer.
What I thought: This book is one of the more fascinating things I’ve ever read. If you have any interest in history or psychology, I highly recommend picking it up. In the beginning, I found the parts describing the creation of the fair to be a little dry (it’s is VERY detailed), but when you realize how many incredible things came out of the fair (everything from the ferris wheel to shredded wheat), you can’t believe what a huge impact it had on the course of history. And the portions about Holmes…that monster of a man was so grippingly awful, you won’t have any problem keeping the pages turning.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
What it’s about: Journalist Susannah Cahalan is living in New York city working for a major newspaper when suddenly a random brain infection makes her go insane — literally. Even crazier: This book is true — and told mostly from the first person — as Susannah struggles to recover from a little-known illness.
What I thought: Again, this book was really interesting. A classic journalist, Susannah constructs her memoir through a combination of actual memories (though she admits her condition kept her from being a reliable source), video recording during her stay in the hospital, first-person accounts from her friends and family, and scraps of a “diary” she kept during her madness. The result is a fascinating story — I’d never heard of anyone contracting anything like this before, but the scary part is that it could theoretically happen to anyone. The only thing I didn’t love is that Susannah’s writing style can be a tad heavy-handed, which is something I often notice with journalists-turned-novelists (for another example, see “Gone Girl). But still, a very interesting story.

Third Shift and Dust by Hugh Howey
What it’s about: The final two books in the Hugh Howey silo series where members of the various silos finally become aware of each other and attempt to bring down the system that confined them underground in the first place.
What I thought: So much happens in these books, it’s honestly a little hard to summarize in a few sentences. Suffice to say, if you read the other books in the series when I recommended them, you pretty much have to read these. The thing I really loved about these books is that you’re never quite sure who is lying or who can be trusted until the very end, and it makes you question a lot about the definition of right and who should have power over deciding what that is/ One thing I didn’t like was that the storyline felt a bit rushed at times. I kind of get the feeling that even Howey just wanted to wrap up this storyline.

Sleep Donation: A Novella by Karen Russell
What it’s about: Sleep deprivation and insomnia have become worldwide epidemics — and people are actually dying from being unable to fall asleep. The only cure is an infusion of sleep from donors (the system is managed almost exactly like blood donation with banks, donation trucks, and a recruitment team whose primary goal is encouraging donation). The system seems positive, but the narrators finds her ethics questioned both when she is forced to continually draw from an infant who turns out to be a “universal donor” and when a system break exposes thousands to tainted sleep.
What I thought: Y’all know I love a good sci-fi story, and this one was no exception. I really liked the twist on something familiar (blood donation and the fact that people are sleeping less and less in America and other countries), and the storyline is told in such a realistic way that you can actually see this happening some day. I also liked how the story wasn’t really about the science of how the donations worked (because, really, how would that work?), it was about right and wrong — do you help the greater good at the risk and cost of a few?

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
What it’s about: Ughhhh this book. Basically, it’s about an old man who is confined to a wheelchair who is writing a book about his grandparents’ lives in the old west.
What I thought: I read this book after no less than two people told me it was their favorite book. Well, no offense to those people, but I really hated this book. I’M SORRY. It is so long-winded (the narrator tells his own story in a stream-of-consciousness style, and the story of his grandparents with so many unnecessary details it’s hard to keep focused). And the fact is: Not that much really happens to the narrator. And he’s incredibly self-righteous. The story of the grandparents is interesting at times but starts to get very depressing as the characters continually suffer the consequences of their own actions. By the end of the book, I didn’t really like any of the characters or their choices. AND IT TOOK FOREVER TO GET TO THE END OF THE BOOK.

There you have it! What have you been reading?

About a year ago, there was a trend in the blogging community around honesty in posts.

The problem stemmed from the perception that lifestyle bloggers were miraculously leading perfect lives, despite juggling children, careers, Etsy shops, etc. Suddenly a few bloggers decided to dispel the myth, revealing the piles of laundry they had shoved just outside the frame of their immaculately decorated living room photo. The screaming toddler on the floor below their food styling table (where an expertly crafted souffle in a mason jar lay waiting to be photographed, of course).

I didn’t jump on the bandwagon then (because even a bandwagon about being genuine starts to feel a little forced after a while), but I can completely relate to the sentiment.

The fact is, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. And this was never more true to me than this weekend when Joey and I finally crossed a few major items off of my SpringSummer Simplification List.

BEDROOM
Move bed back

Hooks for hats and bags
Move trunk into bedroom
Hang curtains
Fix pictures over drawers

LIVING ROOM
New coffee table or TV dinner trays

Clean up corners
Map for over couch
Organize desk area
Create more organized entryway

CLOSETS
Straighten linen closet

Clean out front closet
Reorganize crawl space

KITCHEN
Get Norden IKEA table
Sell dinner table (added to Craigslist)
Clean out pantry

The new crossed-out items are in purple, but they are that I finally cleaned out the pantry, and Joey cleaned out the front closet and crawl space. (I helped where I could, but it was mostly his hockey stuff that needed organizing, so he was pretty much on his own there.)

The process was…not tidy.

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It was kind of mind-boggling how much stuff was in those two spaces. And it took all of my will power not to freak out as it continued to expand throughout the apartment.

But I stayed calm and trusted that Joey knew what he was doing. And you know what? He really did. Not only is all of his stuff straightened away, he also managed to find a space for a large plastic crate full of sports stuff that has been living in our bedroom for about a year.

Total disclosure: I hated that crate the entire time, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much better my life is now that I don’t have to stare at it every day.

I tried to take an “after” photo of the crawl space, but the fact is that it’s still not that pretty. The rest of our apartment just looks loads better, and you can actually walk to the back of the front closet now. That’s progress, people.

Speaking of progress, we’re still trying to sell our kitchen table (buy it here, if you’re in the market), and we’re also selling Bogey’s crate since he has only used it about five times (listing here). Come on, help me cross more off my list!

My goal is to have everything done by the end of the month. But don’t worry — I’ll be real with you guys if it doesn’t happen.

What projects has everyone else been working on?