Coats Off, Belts Off, Pants Pockets Empty

By Larry Teren

“Coats Off, Belts Off, Pants Pockets Empty” is a familiar enough refrain when you stand in a security check line at the airport. It also happens to be the same greeting you hear when going to court- in this case, traffic court. But first, let’s roll the tape back to the scene of the crime. (Yes, that’s the way the law enforcement officials treat you now-a-days- as a criminal unless you kill someone- then you’re given all the rights.) Read more »

Say What You Mean But Mean What You Say

By Larry Teren

Voice over phone: “Welcome to the American Association for Better Communications. Press one for English, o para Espanol oprima dos…” Huh?

Okay, so I like to buy used books through Amazon. A lot of people do. In most cases, the books come from trading partners and are at ridiculously low prices- often a penny each. The shipping costs, though, add up- $3.95 a pop. Sounds like I’m gonna make a beef? Right? Yeah. Because that’s what I do.

About ten days prior to going out of town for a week or so I order a couple of books from one book store. I choose a reseller in a distant place that doesn’t have sales tax reciprocity for purchases out of state. Besides, how do you charge sales tax on a penny purchase?

I order the books in the early evening. The next day I receive the usual email indicating that I may no longer cancel the order as the books are SHIPPED. Fine, I make note of the day of the week and the calendar date and eagerly anticipate the two books.

Eight days later, with nothing in hand and not wanting to seem like a crybaby and contact the book seller, I check the original email acknowledgment and find the USPS shipment tracking number. The USPS website indicates that the books are received at the shipment facility on the 24th of the month in the locality of the book shipper. This is a full three days after I am informed that it shipped. I file the “hmmm” for later use and calculate to receive the books a couple of days before I go off on the vacation. Which is exactly what happens.

As Shakespeare would say- “ay, wheres the rub?” And I would answer- a few days after I return from vacation, I receive an email from the bookseller/shipper asking me to rate the experience in the handling of the shipment. I’ve done this countless times for all the other books and it is usually a slam dunk “very satisfied”. Not this time- I write of disappointment that the truth has been stretched. The notification that it is shipped is untrue as it does not get into the post office hands until a few days later. I rate my satisfaction with the service a 2 or 3 out of 5. No big deal to me- I still intend to purchase from them but just want them to know I am unhappy this one time.

The next day I receive an email from the customer service manager crying to me that things happen and apologizes. That’s nice but he takes it a step further that rankles my artificial feathers. He asks me to take back the negative feedback and gives me instructions on how to do that on the Amazon site.

I reply to him that feedback is what it is. One doesn’t take it back. Amazon encourages customers to provide feedback. That’s how resellers learn how to give service, American style. It doesn’t mean that I won’t buy again but that I have a right to let someone know not to send meaningless emails about something being shipped just because. One can argue that it is ridiculous to make a stink over a one cent purchase- eight bucks (two books) if you include the postage. I say look at it as a dress rehearsal for a more meaningful purchase. You want to disagree? Fine! So, try this one out:

My brother receives perks for the many airline tickets he purchases during the course of the year. One is to get a free subscription to a magazine of choice. Out of the goodness of his heart (yeah, sure), he decides to assign the free subscription for a nameless business magazine to me.

I eventually receive the first copy and find it to be not to my liking which is disappointing. I used to subscribe to that magazine in the 1980s and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now it has a totally different look, more upscale, yuppie-like and hardly anything in it to which I can relate. (Okay, so it makes me an old fogy. But I don’t relate to AARP Magazine either.)

I notice on the mailing label the subscription end date and see that it will be sometime in February. This gives me several months to try to get used to and enjoy the periodical. Uh-uh, no-go. I can’t wait for the subscription to end. In November, I receive a letter reminding me to resubscribe as it is expiring soon. Three and a half months is soon?

At the beginning of February, a page is attached to the cover of the magazine reminding me that the subscription is almost over and I need to re-up or lose the valuable information I receive each week. Two weeks later I receive an attachment with the magazine indicating that this is the next to last issue. The following week, the attachment reads that this is my final issue.

The following week I receive another copy with no reference to the delivery expiring the prior week. Ditto this week. I suspect that the guy whose job it is to write “final” and send it is working in a cubbyhole somewhere in the south of India. In the meantime, it’s business magazine as usual. And that’s final… or is it?

The Shootist or The Awful Truth

Sol, fifty-seven years old, looks forward to doing his tour of duty for border patrol. Not a military person by experience nor trained for security but he relishes the opportunity to serve his community.

He goes to the target practice area in the morning and feels good about his score. It should qualify him for patrol. But, there is one other hurdle to acceptance and that requires taking a physical exam where one is not graded on a curve. He is middle-aged and has acquired the requisite waist spread although it doesn’t look too out of place on his six foot frame. Read more »

Keeping Up With the Joneses

By Larry Teren

Mention two words- “Maritime” and “Jones” and most of us immediately think of John Paul Jones. You know, the sailor who helped us win the Revolutionary War. Yeah, that guy. The one who said, “I have not begun to fight.” There was another Jones associated with protecting America’s seas. But first—-
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Opting Out

By Larry Teren

It seems like “opting out” has become the preferred method for those who want to confuse and take advantage. Recently, I receive a letter in the mail from a company claiming to be the authorized entitlement to supplying electricity for my condominium apartment. The letter states that the Village of So-and-So has an Electric Aggregation Program and I should be grateful to have the opportunity to participate in it. It also states that I am automatically enrolled in it and that I have to opt out if I still want good old COMED to sell me electricity. Aye, there’s the rub.
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Self-Checkout Hits a Snag

By Larry Teren

News item: Chicago area supermarket chain eliminates self-checkout lanes at nine stores.
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The Price is Wrong

The Price is Wrong

By Larry Teren

I’m a martyr to my own sense of justice- but aren’t we all? Take for instance what happened today at the supermarket:
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Somebody Up There Doesn’t Like Me

By Larry Teren

This just isn’t my century. It started out fine but then at some point- not saying when- I hit the fifty spot and it seems to be going downhill ever since. More like a steam roll. Take my overseas vacation this past July, for example.
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A Customer or a Guest?

By Larry Teren

Waiting in a line of one person at the Red Bullseye Pharmacy to pick up some medicine for Ma. The pharmacy assistant calls out, “will the next guest step forward?”.

Now you all know that when you pick up medicine at a pharmacy (when did they stop calling it a drug store anyway?), they ask a series of questions to see if you are who you say you are. The lady clerk asks me Ma’s street address, phone number, maiden name, color of eyes and the nickname of her high school basketball team. There is no margin for error. The clerk looks at me and tsk tsk’s when I say that Ma’s eyes are blue. She whips out a photo taken of Ma at my niece’s wedding a year earlier and says that her eyes look more hazel. I’m told to step to the back of the line and start over. Since no one has joined behind me during this interrogation, my number gets called again. This time the clerk is willing to forgive my one slip up and places the package containing the prescription bottle on the counter. I pick it up, turn and start to walk away.

She yells, “hey, come back.”

I turn to her and ask why. Looking at me in an odd fashion, she says, “you didn’t pay. You gotta pay., buster.”

I reply, “but you said I’m a guest. Guests don’t pay.”

She now says, “don’t be a wise guy or I’m gonna call “Security”.

I smile, take out my wallet and suggest she start thinking of visitors such as yours truly as customers rather than guests. She says something in Spanish and we left it at that because my response would have sounded more like Portuguese.
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If I Were a Rich Man

By Larry Teren

Tell me- do I look rich to you? Is it my debonair countenance? Or as an older friend said to me a week ago, “Cmon! You got deep pockets.” If my hands go the distance into my pants pockets, it’s only because there are holes in ‘em and I’m too cheap to buy replacements. (Ed. Note- pants, not hands) Besides, you know what it’s like going to Walmart and waiting to use the one dressing room set aside for the male of the species. You wait impatiently while listening to the dressing room “receptionist” speak to another lady in Croatian. (If it was in Spanish, at least you can fake understanding their chat and smile when they laugh while also throwing in a couple words you remember from high school. Words like “muchachas, por favor- esperando diez minutos.” You’re holding onto the two limit pair of slacks that you know read the right size on the label but somehow are too tight when you attempt to squeeze into them. Finally, you get the nod, go into the little room with the misaligned door and try to figure out how to take your pants off without removing your shoes and then putting on the replacements. Read more »