on senior citizens, respect, and the price of butter

So I was in the grocery store to get some fresh spinach and lentils (fine, I had a craving for powdered donuts and Baked Ruffles), and I overheard an older white woman complaining to one of the stock persons about the price of butter and cream cheese. No surprise there.

This stock person happened to be Hispanic.

After she was through talking DIRECTLY IN HIS EAR about how everything has changed, and you can't afford nothin' no more, and "they" are ripping everybody off, she took it a step further. She started throwing in lovely words and phrases like 'comprendee?' and "entiendo mexicano?' The stock person just stood there, restocking the Land 'O' Lakes Spreadable Product, half-smiling, saying nothing. (To be fair I had no idea if he spoke much English, but I'm positive he got the gist of what he had landed in.)

This went on for about 45 seconds, and by that point my blood was boiling. And me being an Outraged White American Citizen, I decided that Enough Was Enough, and something had to be said. I took a deep breath.

"Maybe cool it with the Spanglish, huh?" I uttered loudly (in case she was hard of hearing). She responded, "What was that?" 

"Never mind," I said, thinking that she actually didn't hear me and that speaking further would prove pointless. But she spoke.

"I was just telling the señor there that..."   

"Yeah, I heard you. Those things you're saying are offensive."


I paused. Have you ever actually been flabbergasted? I was. I was flabbergasted. 

"Because it's racist." 

At that point I knew she heard me, because she started fumbling all over her words. 

"Oh, that's not what, uh... I didn't say any... I was just telling..." 

I was starting to walk away, so I didn't punch an old woman in the face. 

"Hey!" she said. "Who do you think you are? How dare you talk to me that way! Don't you walk away! I'm talking to you! Hey! You're crazy. He's crazy, he's a crazy person. You come back here and treat me with some respect!"

Ah, yes. There it is. 

Treat me with some respect.  

Because you're old? The mere fact that you're much closer to the grave than I am somehow entitles you to my instant, unquestioned reverence? I never liked that idea.

Yes, she's seen and done and experienced a lot in her life. More so than me by sheer virtue of how much more life she has lived.  She could be a war hero, or a decorated law enforcement veteran, or an amazing grandmother. And if so, those deeds certainly merit respect.

But that person in the grocery store dairy aisle, that rude, offensive, possibly slightly daft woman complaining about the price of butter while casually throwing out mildly racist remarks, did not deserve anyone's respect.  

I didn't turn around as she unleashed her tirade of How Dare You's at my backside. I kept on walking. Which is more than she deserved. 

She deserved a smack in the mouth. 

Not giving her one was all the respect I could muster.  

When you learn to respect people, grocery store employees, and those of other cultures, maybe you'll earn some yourself. Asshole. 





Posted on August 9, 2013 .
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my hilarious attempt to keep the new york times in business


We all know that the newspaper industry has fallen on hard times as of late: Ad revenues are down, subscription rates are plummeting to record lows, publishers are closing up shop left and right; even the ones that are still in business are severely trimming their personnel and overhead. We're told that all of this is happening due to the consequences of living in the New Digital Age: back when the Internet really started to take off as a platform for content consumption, publishers initially allowed all of their content to be viewed online for free, as a way to drum up readership and popularity. Eventually, though, that online readership would overtake physical subscriptions as the chief means of getting one's news fix, which disrupted a number of paradigms. Online ad revenue wasn't worth as much, users were posting and sharing articles without permission, and worst of all, no one was on board with the idea of paying to read anything anymore. 

Some might say that's actually a good thing, that everyone should have access to information as freely as possible. That's a commendable idea in theory, however it creates a huge problem for newspapers as a business model-- where's the money going to come from?

Knowing this, and being a person who likes to "vote with their money," as they say, I was determined to do my part to make sure quality journalism still had a (paid) place in this world. I decided to get a subscription to the Saturday and Sunday New York Times. Not a huge investment, I know, but I figured every little bit helps. Besides, I mused, if I tell enough of my hipster friends in Brooklyn about my newfound antiquated hobby, maybe reading newspapers will become "cool" again. I would spark a crusade to save publishing as we know it.

Brimming with self-satisfied pride at my wonderful idea, I (ironically, in hindsight) went online and ordered the Weekend Times, or "The Weekender" as the ads like to promote it. It was early March, 2013, and the confirmation email I received informed me that my first paper would arrive the next weekend (how prompt!)-- specifically, the 16th of March. Here is a journal of what transpired.

Saturday, March 16: No paper delivered. Figured it was a fluke, assumed Sunday's edition would be there.  Excitement still palpable.

Sunday, March 17: No paper delivered. Wondered if they had the wrong address or something. Called customer service, received a refund on that week's deliveries. Was asked if my building was locked/allowed access, assured them that the front door to the building was unlocked. Confirmed delivery would take place next weekend.

Saturday, March 23: No paper delivered. Called customer service again, they looked in the notes, told me they would speak with "Dispatch" to make sure deliveries came.  Started to wonder if paper was coming, but being stolen by another resident. I am, after all, a late riser. 

Sunday, March 24: Got up early. No paper delivered. Called, received a refund on this week's deliveries. Again asked if the delivery person had access to the building. Like 89% of New Yorkers, I live in an apartment complex with an unlocked outer door, and a locked interior security door. The area in-between (the "airlock") is where papers get left, I explain. Was told that sounded fine, no reason for papers not being delivered, was assured delivery next weekend. Excitement no longer palpable.

Saturday/Sunday, March 30/31: Out of town for a wedding, but a friend is coming into town and staying at my place. Asked her if she could grab the papers if she sees them. Return home, no papers. Maybe she read and recycled them. Checked. Nope. Called friend. Did you see any newspaper deliveries while you were here? No, she replies. Called customer service, received a refund, asked more than once by a few different agents whether I lived in a locked building. No. I don't. I promise. Was told that they were sending an email to the "Dispatch Manager" to make sure this gets resolved, and they're going to put an address label on the paper. 

Tuesday, April 2: Convinced myself they're being taken by another resident. Asked building manager if I could check security footage to see if papers are being abducted. He obliged. They're not. Faith in my fellow tenants restored. Faith in the New York Times diminishing.

Saturday/Sunday, April 6/7: No papers delivered. Called. Refunded. Asked if I live in a locked building. Laughed and nearly hung up. Did not hang up. Placated with assurances.  

Saturday, April 13: Success! A paper was waiting for me as I went off to work Saturday afternoon. Had an address label on it. For the right apartment. I figure the arduous process is over-- some giant hiccup has been cleared away, whatever it could have been, and the Times will flow like milk and honey.

Sunday, April 14: Another paper! A full weekend delivered. Very impressed. Wondered why I was impressed. Excitement has returned in some measure.

Saturday, April 20: No paper delivered. Figured it's got to be a joke at this point. It's not. Called. Refunded. Assured. 

Sunday, April 21: Paper delivered. Hmm.  Maybe they were out of yesterday's edition. Laughed at my attempt to reason.

Saturday, April 27: No paper delivered. No call. No attempt. No assurance. Possibly the penultimate straw. 

Sunday, April 28: Paper delivered. No longer matters. Call customer service. Refunded for Saturday. Asked to speak to the "Resolution Department." On hold for five minutes. Got in touch with a "supervisor." Had them look in the notes. Was told that they would send an urgent message to "Dispatch." Explained that that had already happened at least three times. "Well, we can try putting an address label on it. Do you live in a locked building?" 

Cancelled subscription to the Times Weekender. 

It is absolutely feasible that my particular experience described above was unique. Well, it's possible, anyway. But it certainly makes me wonder: maybe the Internet isn't the reason for the downfall of the newspaper industry after all? 


Posted on June 23, 2013 .
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why marketing is my Kryptonite, and what should be done to fix it


I was on the subway this morning when, between sips of life-giving coffee, I glanced up to see a poster for Enterprise's new car-sharing service. Whether or not it's a good idea for them to try to compete with Zipcar in New York City is an interesting conversation, but that's not what I was focused on. Something on the poster was nagging at me: "The New Standard In Car Sharing." It made me twitch, and I couldn't figure out why. And then it hit me, after all these years, why so many ads out there make me boil with anger:

If a person is inclined to look at the world through the lens of critical thinking, then pretty much all marketing is Kryptonite. 

By critical thinking I mean reason, logic, objective proof, and the simple idea that if you make a statement, you have to back it up with evidence if you want to be taken seriously. Now obviously the advertising game has always been the land of Let's See What We Can Get Away With, and I knew that. But I finally understood for the first time why it bothered me, and others like me, to the point of visible irritation. How exactly is Enterprise "The New Standard" in car sharing? Is there a study to back that up? I mean, they're certainly new. And they do offer car-sharing. But that's really all that can be objectively said about the service. It could be crap. It could also be amazing-- but until they give me an actual reason to believe that they are the "Standard-Bearer," I'm going to laugh at their subway ad and probably not take them very seriously.

To be fair, some brands do back up their statements with numbers-- myriad luxury car commercials come to mind--although the numbers likely only tell part of the story. But even that is okay because my searching mind at least has something to grasp on to, to point to and say, Oh. Well at least Car & Driver really did name it the Best Luxury Sedan In Its Class. 

I'm sure not everyone is like me. Some nice old lady from Greenpoint will probably look at that ad and think, "Oh! Enterprise offers car-sharing now, and according to this they must be the best." Even if it's subconscious, if the claim is never questioned, brands just get to proclaim whatever they want (as long as the wording is carefully crafted). And that should change. Because I know there are other people like me out there (I'm a Millennial and can use the Internet), and I'm fairly sure the reaction Enterprise was going for wasn't nausea. 

*Asterisk added for accuracy/effect


Posted on May 16, 2013 .
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