Thursday, 23 April 2015

I Thought Rosa Parks Took Care Of This In 1955

Remember Miranda?

She's the one who let her kids go swimming without an adult even though they were underage.

Have no idea what we're talking about?

Click here to download the book so you can follow along.

Anyway Miranda's children are now boys. (Joined the Witness Protection program)

Older boy takes the bus to school.

Comes home one day and says

Strange Lady keeps talking to me on the bus.

Same people on bus every day?

Yes. Oddly enough. Live in mid size city and some buses come infrequently so people riding same route get to know each other.

Strange Lady insisting I give up my seat. There are a million other empty seats on bus. Strange Lady  says kids do not deserve to be seated on the bus.

Miranda doesn't like this at all. Plus after starring in a book about complaining effectively she feels compelled to - uh - complain effectively.

Calls 1-800-generic bus company phone number.

Bus Guy listens to her complaint attentively.

This is very serious Bus Guy says. We will send a patrol car to follow the bus and the bus driver will be notified.

Thank you Miranda says. I will be riding the bus tomorrow to make sure my daughter, oh right Witness Protection son will be okay.

Miranda boards bus with very low expectations and tasteful motivational music on her iPod.

Patrol car pulls bus over.

Patrollers board bus.

Strange Lady not there today.

Does not stop Patrollers.

They speak to Miranda. They speak to her "son". They speak to Bus Driver.

Wait, someone says in big loud voice. This must be about Strange Lady. She's not on bus but look over there - her Husband is here.

Patrollers take Husband off bus.

Tell him to tell wife to smarten up or she will swim with the fishes. (Not literally. The Fishes have closed pool for the season.)

Bus goes on to complete route.

Miranda calls Bus Guy to thank him for job well done and considers the matter closed.

Next day it's raining.

Miranda graciously offers to drive child to bus stop.

Guess who's waiting at bus stop again.

Yes, the Patrollers.

Follow bus. Strange Lady on bus with Husband.

Patrollers pull bus over again. Take Lady and Husband off bus and in the immortal words of Perry from the Wanderers tell them to Leave the Kid Alone.

Told Strange Lady if she bothers Miranda's son one more time this matter will be put into the hands of the police.

Complaint Question:  Why Did the Bus Company and Patrollers Take This Complaint So Seriously? (Choose One)
1. They just finished watching Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 and were feeling inspired.
2. They recognized Miranda from The Art of Complaining Effectively and knew better than to mess with her.
3. Bullying children on the bus is a serious offence and will absolutely not be tolerated.
4. Children in Witness Protection Program always get more protection

It Takes A

Read article about woman who wore the same thing to work every day for three years.

(Not literally.)

She bought 15 white silk shirts and an unspecified number of black trousers (her word - she's European).

Purpose was to simplify her life.

I'm in.

She said nothing however about accessories.

Clearly she was wearing classic and sophisticated pieces very bright and extremely large rhinestone jewelry so naturally I was forced to jump online and order some necklaces with oomph very understated colliers (again - European).

Necklaces delivered the next day.

First one fabulous.

Second one broken. Took it out of package and beads scattered everywhere. Plus oh no is that a cracked rhinestone the size of my wrist tiny seed pearl.

Jumped back on line and filled out comment form.

No response.

Posted on Instagram about how much I like necklace but one arrived broken and this white shirt black pants situation is not going to accessorize itself.

No response.

Four days elapse.

Finally post on Facebook make some inquiries asking if anyone knows the Jewelry People personally, and how lucky am I turns out someone says I Do.

A brief correspondance ensues and Jewelry People could not have been lovelier, agreeing to pick up necklace personally and repair, replace or refund.

Lessons Learned:

1. It's OK to ask for help. Complaining effectively does not necessarily mean complaining alone.
2. If you get no response the first time, it's OK to go back the second and third time until someone heeds your cry. Complaining effectively means not giving up.
3. If you wear black pants and a white shirt to work your life might be simpler, but people might ask you for Perrier with a slice of lime.
4. If you go to Old Navy and ask for trousers they may not know what you are looking for. They are clearly not European.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Rhymes With Oranges

In honour of my son B's 16th birthday tomorrow, I thought I would write a story about him wanting to go to a hockey game when he had an exam the next day.

(Oh wait. Already done and published. Click here to read.)

OK fine. I will write about the time B was terrorized by his French teacher, who told him he was so lazy he needed to see a doctor.

(Oh wait. Already done and published in my book. Click here to download and read.)

Alright, I will take him out for dinner to the same restaurant my mother (may she rest in peace) went to for her 16th birthday where the big treat was that she and her friends were allowed to smoke in public, and spent the entire night puffing on their cigarettes while ignoring their $50 steaks.

(Not good. Turns out smoking causes cancer. Teenage boys like to eat. And steaks there now actually cost fifty dollars.)

Plan B. A new story:

Playground. 2004. Five year old B holds out a gum wrapper. What do I do with this?

You need a garbage can, I say. Maybe there is one over there.

Person next to me rolls her eyes companionably. Give it to Mom. Always Mom. Mom is a garbage can.

No. I say to her. I am not a garbage can. I never accept wrappers from my kids. One of the first things I taught them was how to throw things in the trash.

Um she says scurrying away clutching daughter's wrist and looking at me like I have just told my child to make their own lunch.

Eleven years later B comes in from what was allegedly a walk for fresh air an innocent stroll through the park. Mom you gotta see this. Grossest thing ever.

Whips out his phone.

A garbage bag exploded Mom and there are SYRINGES everywhere. Bloody gauze. OMG Mom look at this - some of the syringes still have NEEDLES in them. This is DANGEROUS. Someone has to come and clean it up Mom. I'm calling Town Security.

Looks up number on his phone. Calls Security. Reports disgusting garbage explosion in park. Looks out window. Sees Security truck. Goes outside to meet the guy and show him exactly where everything was found.

Complaint Tie-In:
1. If you teach your children to throw out their gum wrappers themselves maybe they would know how to safely dispose of their bloody syringes.
2. By showing B where the trash can was as soon as he could crawl, I taught him that he can do things on his own, like complain effectively about hazardous waste in the park.
3. If you leave your son in the playground in 2004, eventually he will come inside.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

E Pluribus Unum

Mom can we have something really special for my 10th birthday? asks T.


Like really special?


Special special.

What do you have in mind? 

Can I have my friends over (dramatic pause) and can we EAT CHIPS in the BASEMENT?

Um, yes. That sounds really special. Guess we can cancel the pony.

Also Mom?

Oh, maybe this is about the pony. Uh-huh?

Can I get a cake from CTBY?


Friends picked up, chips eaten, time for cake.

T cuts open cake and it's all white.  

Vague memory of ordering white cake with chocolate frozen yogurt passes through my mind, while vacuuming ketchup chip crumbs from the basement and wondering if a pony would have been so damn messy. 

Next morning am picking chip flakes out of the carpet notice receipt from CTBY where we have clearly ordered a vanilla cake with chocolate frozen yogurt. Also on receipt is an e-mail address.

Take picture of cake remnants. Take picture of receipt. Send gentle e-mail saying that we are above average consumers of Kit Kat Shivers frozen yogurt and that we clearly ordered blah and we clearly received blah blah. I just thought you would want to know.

CT's writes me back. We are so sorry. Please accept a full credit for the purchase of the cake. Gift card will be waiting for you at the cash with your name on it.

Thoughts at this point:
1. My book says to be specific in what you want, I did not take my own advice, and still got a full credit
2. Book also says complaining is more of an art than a science. This falls into the art category.
3. Free Kit Kat shivers. Husband will be thrilled.

Two hours later am at the office. Have already told 12 people about my victory.

Phone rings.

Owner of CTBY.  I was trying to figure out where we went wrong. I spoke to the guy who took your order. He's the same guy that poured your cake. He said you ordered chocolate frozen yogurt, but as you were leaving, your daughter changed it to vanilla. Our copy of the receipt clearly says vanilla and vanilla. In fact, he's saying he offered to change your copy as well but you said don't worry, I'll remember.


So it looks like there wasn't a mistake after all. 

Oh. So are you saying you want the credit back?


Thoughts at this point:
1. Like the fact that owner tried to investigate complaint so that it wouldn't happen again. Like that he called me directly to explain what happened. Feel Super Guilty that these are all ideas for possible book about complaint investigation that I still haven't written.
2. No more Free Kit Kat shivers.
3. If the guy who took orders remembers our conversation, and I don't really remember either way, I tend to believe him more than myself. 

See my Dad that night. Tell him whole long story. 

Well my Dad says. That's Interesting.  There is actually a legal principle that states festinare nocet, nocet et cunctatio saepe; tempore quaeque suo qui facit, ille sap it meaning that if someone remembers something in the affirmative, then it is more powerful than not remembering something at all. So if this guy remembers that T changed your order, it is in fact more believable in a court of law than you not remembering anything at all.

Thoughts at this point:
1. Thank g-d I was nice and not overly demanding because in the end I was wrong and if couldn't show my face at CTBY would be stuck driving to Albany every night to get Husband his Kit Kat shiver.
2. Do ponies eat chips?
3. Hope none of you speak Latin because then you would know that I couldn't find the exact principle my Dad was referring to, and took the most official sounding phrase from the Wikipedia list of Latin phrases.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Running Shoe Complaint and Book Club Discussion Guide

Husband always buys same brand of running shoes.

Goes to same running store.

But today, Sir, you must try this new brand.  They have extra cushioning.  Resistant to temperature changes. Techtonic supernova technology. Your Feet Will Love Them.

What if they don't fit right?

If they don't fit right you can bring them back.

Sounds fair.

Runs in store aisle.

Seem fine.

Runs outside.

Significantly less fine.

Returns to running store.

Brings back this new brand of running shoes.

Not. So. Fast.

You can't bring back these shoes Sir because you ran in them.

Yes I did. They are running shoes.

You ran outside.

Yes I did. This is where I run.  (Husband too polite to say that running up and down store aisle would make training insurmountably cumbersome).

We can not take them back.

Husband says I don't need these shoes. They don't fit me correctly. I will leave them with you and I will also buy the same brand that I always buy.

Husband watched me on TV  looking quite adorable in my turquoise necklace explaining to all of Canada how and why to complain (click here to view a summary video) yet he still calmly put down the running shoes, bought a SECOND pair of running shoes from the SAME store and walked out satisfied.

Couple of days later his phone rings.

Sir you were in our store a few days ago attempting to return a pair of running shoes.

Yes that's me.

I said We couldn't take them back because you ran in them. Outside.

Yes that is where I run.

Good news. I took the shoes in the back and was able to clean the soles. They are as good as new.  I can resell them no problem.


So we have gone ahead and issued you a complete refund for the shoes.

Book Club Discussion Questions

1. Running is often a metaphor for escaping.  Discuss whether you are someone who runs "in the aisle" or someone who runs "outside".  What are the similarities? Differences? Can someone be both an aisle runner and an outdoor runner? Would they wear the same shoes?

2. The narrator alludes to her television appearance and her turquoise necklace.  Does the necklace hold magical complaint related powers? If the husband in the story was wearing a turquoise necklace would he have complained in the running store?  Discuss the symbolism of turquoise as a necklace, a tool for gender identification and a refutation of magical thinking in heterosexual relationships.

3. The sales person character washes the soles of the shoes and refunds the husband's money in full.  What do you think his or her motivation was? In the Bible, there are several instances of foot washing. Abraham washes his guests' feet in the desert, and Jesus washes his disciples' feet.  Was the author using these allegories to illustrate the best possible customer service? Or do you think the sales person was just trying to be nice? 

4. In this story, not complaining worked as well as complaining.  Does that mean that complaining isn't worth the trouble? Or is this the narrator's way of telling us that complaining is more of an art than a science?