Sunday, February 28, 2016

Delegate Digitally

There is an app for just about anything our human brains can think up.  Among the gazillion and one apps, there are now some available for the sole purpose of  complaining for you.  Sure why not allocate your gripes to your smartphone?

While I am a bit intrigued at the idea of an electronic way to send my assorted grievances to a company and thereby have it become my "bitch" representative, I am somewhat conflicted about why I would want to relegate my capacity to complain to someone else. I am after all, a gifted griper.   Given my gift for it, perhaps, I would find a small measure of satisfaction by communicating in print or talking to someone associated with a company that has wronged me.  Or...maybe not.  Perhaps, being on hold for the better part of the day while scratchy Muzak blares in the background might not do anything to pacify my aggravation with their company.

Turns out that if I don't want to deal with a company that has ticked me off, I can sign onto a service app, aptly called Service, so that they can complain on my behalf.

According to an article on Mashable:

"We're a neutral, third party solution," Michael Schneider, Service's founder and CEO, "We don't believe that the customer is always right. If the business acted appropriately, we'll still listen to the customer and express empathy — we're more like therapy at that point. But when the customer is right, we'll fight like hell to get them something fair."

According to Schneider, there are only two options when dealing with a customer service issue: "You can do nothing or you can waste time, spending 45 minutes on hold."
Filing a complaint with Service takes less than a minute, Schneider said, and once the app has all the information about a case, the customer can simply wait for a solution.

So not only do they become your gripe representative but they become your therapist...all for free. Sounds nearly perfect except for the word "neutral". That tends to bother me a bit.  I want them to truly feel my rage and express that to whatever company has wronged me. Again as a gifted griper, I would expect that they attach their fury on the company that wronged me with the same fury as I would. You Katrina on New Orleans...that sort of aggression.  If they are going to represent me at the same level as I would,   they need to pull out the stops.  Truly, I am not hiring  them (ok so it's free but still) to be all mamby-pamby.

While I was researching these types of apps, I see that there is another side to this  genre of bitch-out service that is referred to as "Complaint Management".  I didn't realize that a singular person would have so many instances of "griping about something" that a 3rd party was necessary to manage it all.  It would seem to me if you have so many complaints that you need an organizational system to keep them straight, you might need to recognize the fact that you are probably a major PITA.

An example of such a company that not only complains for you but will offer complaint management is an app named  GripeO .  The thing that I find  interesting about GripeO is that they offer a paid service for businesses to hunt through social media sites and remove negative information such as complaints.  I might be missing something here but isn't that a conflict of interest?  If I complain about ABC Company to GripeO as an individual,  they in turn start bombing social media sites complaining about ABC on my behalf, then aren't I less than pleased if GripeO  turns around and removes it?  Who should I complain to?

I guess if Service or GripeO aren't doing your bidding you could complain to

They work pretty much like Service, I guess.  They submit your complaint to the company in question through the offending company's  social media pages and keeps at it until they get a response and, hopefully, a resolution.

All the companies that offer this service (or at least the ones I researched)
said that they keep sending multiple complaints via Twitter and Facebook until the company caves and makes some restitution.  So really it's like robo-calls at dinner time but on steroids. We are talking multiple hits.   If the companies want some peace they have to throw out a peace offering.

I, also found it interesting that there isn't a clear consensus (online, anyway) at which industry sucks the most.   I noticed on the  websites for these "complain-for-you"  companies they talk a lot about airline complaints. But..if you do a search on general customer dissatisfaction, these types of businesses seem to be the most discussed.

  • Airlines 
  • Cellular phone companies
  • Cable Companies 
  • Automobile Manufacturers
  • Collection Agencies
  • Retailers

Sounds like a good list of businesses that could offer you up a bad day given
the right circumstances.  While I actually haven't had any experience with collection agencies, I can't imagine they EVER make their customers happy. for the rest of those, each of those have, at some point, received a "less than cordial" communique from me.   Those of you that have been reading this blog for awhile, might remember my standoffs with my ex-cellular company/cable company during the period that the neighbor's dog chewed through their cable leaving me without phone, TV and Internet for portions of 6 weeks running.  You might, also remember various blogs containing woes of lost luggage and canceled flights.

Still, I am not sure that any of my consumer gripes rose to the level that I needed to hand it over to a professional that would drop Tweet and Facebook bombs on them. 

So, readers, is crabbing to a company about bad service so objectionable that you would want to delegate it out to a "neutral" third party company that will evaluate your complaint, determine if it is worthy and if not will offer you empathy free of charge?

OR...are you wanting, willing and waiting to get someone on the phone to give them the 411 why their company sucks? Do you love to write well thought out letters that would self-combust if your thoughts were fuel?
Does friending their FaceBook page so you can prove how unfriendly you feel about them, give you a measure of satisfaction.  

If you are super creative you can create a video as this guy did and attach it to their FB page...this got some recognition when it went viral.

If you are unable to see the video, click here

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sitting at the Cool Kids Table

The other morning over breakfast, a friend and I got onto the subject of "celebrities".  How do people rise to the level of being a celebrity?

Isn't being a modern day celebrity an amped up version of sitting at the "cool kids table"?  While I might not of been one of the people at the table, I used to be able to recognize how the cool kids became the cool kids.  (Well..maybe... most of the time, anyway.)

There seems to be a lot of ways to become famous or infamous today. One week they seem to be on a reality show, a talent show or a "leaked" sex tape and suddenly they are a "somebody".  Perhaps, the talented athlete or beautiful models have the "it" that the talent show judges keep referring to, but still I am confused at the onslaught of the "who's who's" that appear on TV and the glossy pages of magazines. I seem incapable of recognizing what is this "it factor" that  allows people to acquire legions of adoring fans that seem to follow their every move?

Maybe I have some type of deficit that makes me incapable of recognizing the people that deserve my adoration. As I leaf through  People magazine, I no longer recognize the majority of the names.  This, in itself, confirms my level of uncoolness. Yes, all of the assorted Bachelors and Bachelorettes names are lost on me.  Same goes for the assorted "Housewives" of random cities.  Yet these people rose to celebrity status and brought others with them by association. For example, would we have known (or cared) who Teresa Giudice is before she became a Housewife of New Jersey? Seems the magazines can't get enough of how she fared in prison and the pre-show dealing with her husband's (Joe) impending prison sentence. Yet, the fact that they continue to grace the pages of magazines and even find their way into the national nightly news, implies they are of some notoriety.

That brings up another point.  Crazy sells.  Whether a celebrity starts out cute and entertaining such as Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes once were, they seem to gain more fame when they totally lose their sh**.  Other careers, although usually short lived but not always, were launched solely on the fact that they were  people that run  a few bubbles left of level. While most people probably don't even remember Tiny Tim and the love of his life, Miss Vicki, they did manage to find their way to the Johnny Carson show and had 40 million people watch as they got married.

More recently...what was it about the Honey Boo Boo clan, for example,  that still has the family earning realty show money? Even though their two previous stints with Toddlers and Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo have ended,  Mama June and Sugar Bear just finished a season on Marriage Bootcamp? They still managed to make national news, when they they decided to call it quits in favor of new love interests. Perhaps, these will be two new pseudo celebrities that  can have names that will be unfamiliar to me.

Another family that has moved up the fame ladder has me questioning the whole idea of who  and why do certain people become visible in the public eye?  What is the appeal of the Duck Dynasty family Robinson, as they start their ninth season of reality show TV next week? Patriarch, Phil Robinson has been in the headlines this week for his endorsement of Ted Cruz. One news source even suggested that he be made an UN ambassador.

Part of this proliferation of celebrities and pseudo-celebrities surely has to have something to do with how easy it is for them to get publicity thanks to digitally fueled exposure in our media driven society.  In fact, it would  seem that  the more outrageous a person's behavior is, the more publicity it generates. Still that doesn't explain why when any of these celebs do something or say something that is questionably offensive or at the very least inappropriate, it results in more fans...not less.

Not to get into politics...
that just isn't my blog's thing....but on the subject of celebrity influence,  Donald Trump recently said he could stand on New York's 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and it wouldn't cost him any votes.  Is this just his highly evolved ego or does he recognize that with celebrity status there are people that will ignore or excuse bad behavior.

So as the media outlets and the marketing execs keep introducing us to a steady line of new names that will be "in the spotlight" for some indeterminate length of time, will we  become interested enough to follow their antics...or if you are anything like me, you may be saying "Who in the hell is that?"

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Making Sense of Shapes

I used to be one of a group of bloggers that posted "Two Thoughts for Tuesday each week as part of a meme for Blogdumps.  The meme was discontinued and I miss all my Blogdump friends.  A shout out to you guys and a solo version of TTFT.

Thought #1...Barbie Bodies

Recently, while I was watching the news, (and I use that term loosely) there was a segment about the new and improved line of Mattel Barbie dolls.

As for this new line of Barbies... Mattel has decided that the old Barbie was an unrealistic, unattainable body type and they are now going to offer Barbie with a choice of four body types, seven skin tones, 22 choices of eye color, and 24 hair styles.  This all comes on the heels of (no pun intended)  last year's modification for movable ankles that allows Barbie to wear flats.  (perhaps Babs developed Plantar Fasciitis..guess we will never know as she's not talking)
Petite, curvy, tall and original

 According to the report I was listening to, the announcer said, that (specifically) young girls would want a doll that represented how they look.

According to USA Today:

The new body types have the potential to impact both girls and boys' expectations of body image, says Florence Williams, a visiting scholar at George Washington University's public health school and author of Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History.

"Kids are just bombarded with images that are really just not true to nature," she says. "It can potentially damage your self-esteem or limit your world view." She adds that it's important for young boys to understand women's bodies come in all shapes and sizes because "they grow up expecting girls' bodies to look a certain way."

Barbie's waif-like appearance in many ways spurred the quest to find a doll that doesn’t perpetuate unattainable beauty standards for young girls.

In 2014, Nickolay Lamm of Pittsburgh raised over $95,000 to produce a first run of the Lammily doll. Lammily has the body proportions of an average 19-year-old woman based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The doll was nicknamed the “normal Barbie" and could be purchased with "Lammily marks," or stickers that included cellulite, stretch marks, freckles and acne.

stretch marks and cellulite..something to aspire to.
Turns out there have been  actual studies on how Barbie has been a responsible for diminishing the self-esteem of little girls.  Who knew, right?  Oddly, I couldn't track down any studies of what  Barbie does to little boys.

 Anyway, the whole idea that little girls self-esteem being damaged by Barbies body had me reminiscing.  I had Barbie dolls when I was a little girl and I don't recall aspiring to grow up and have her body. In fact,  I was pretty sure when I got boobs, my body probably still wouldn't look quite like a $3.00 molded plastic form. In my cynical, conspiracy-theory prone mind...I would be more inclined to think it wasn't her body that was the appeal but the desire for her wardrobe.  All her cute clothes spurred a generation of women that needed closets bigger than a 1950's kitchen.

As for wanting (or needing) a doll to mirror my image, there would be no explanation for me buying Ken.   I probably would have thought the Lammily doll was cute as, well, but would I have wanted to slap cellulite and acne on my doll?  Probably not.

I guess, I am not adverse to the new Barbies. (You do understand the "conflicted part of this blog, right?)  Diversity isn't a bad thing in plastic dolls but is it really changing how children feel about body types?  In the real world aren't children still being surrounded by marketing that is full of stereotypes.

Now that Barbie has  4 body types with differing shapes, it would stand to reason that Barbie is going to have trouble finding clothes that fit.   Mattel has  unwittingly brought about a "learning" experience while children try to figure out an appropriate wardrobe for their dolls.

No more of the "one size fits all". little girls will be crying that
curvy (chubby) Barbie can't wiggle into Petite Barbies jeans.  Tall Barbie will be wearing wearing her skirts way to short to be decent... and poor Petite Barbie needs a tailor that can alter her clothes.  Guess those little girls that still play with Barbie dolls are in for a valuable lesson.  Finding petite, tall and "curvy" (it would be rude to say fat) clothes is going to bring them into the real world of shopping.

BUT wait...isn't this all a bit one sided.  That's what one company thought.

Yes, according to Today Style, a UK company came up with a digital version for Ken to evolve as well.

"Real men don't all look like Ken, just as real women don't all look like Barbie — so it's about time the doll was more reflective and a bit more body positive," Katherine Ormerod, editorial director at Lyst, told
Lyst, a U.K.-based e-commerce website, took the Internet's request to heart and created a "Fashionisto" Ken line, including Beach DadBod Ken, Bearded Hipster Ken and Balding Ken. They also designed an African American, Asian and petite Ken 

Welcome to the party, boys.  DadBod, I dare you to wear hipster's jeans.

Thought #2 ..Skinny and Super Skinny Jeans are Evil

I think Mattel and Lyst are both in denial with the difficulties involved in providing appropriate fitting clothes now that these doll bodies aren't fitting a rigid set of what manufacturers deem "normal".  At least that how it works in the human world.

In the non-doll world, you have to hunt far and wide to find clothes that fit bodies that aren't a standard size and form.  That is true for both men and
women.  While I believe men have somewhat of an advantage as they at least can look for clothing based on  their waist size and inseam length. Even then, the cut can still be too lean (skinny) or loose (relaxed) to fit right.

Hubby and I were in the mall yesterday on the hunt for jeans that fit. I am not kidding when I tell you that, clothes shopping is on the lowest rung of things I ever want to do.  I am pretty sure shopping is a pre-test for hell.

 Evidently, American  designers of  women's jeans are under the impression all women, no matter what size they are, want to wear jeans that are constructed with the same elasticity as inner-tube rubber. They sell the idea by telling us that it will make us look slimmer. Calling jeans "skinny jeans" or "super skinny jeans" gives us the impression that by wearing these that it will magically make us over in the same way that the Fairy God Mother transformed Cinderella. But here is the rub... even slim women don't necessarily look thin in "skinny" jeans.  They look contorted, constricted and uncomfortable.

  Then to pile on an additional layer of absurdity, you need to make appropriate tears because nothing is as charming as this:

Yet, I remain resolutely optimistic that out there somewhere in a  lovely department store there remains a pair of jeans that are neither worn out nor require a contortionist to get into,  but I have yet to find them in my size.  They continue to allude me.   I am not lucky with Lucky.  No luck with NYDJ.  Granted they aren't my daughter's jeans but turns out they aren't my daughter's mother's jeans, either.

OK...enough whining.  I realize that this isn't even close to an important problem comparatively speaking.  My point is that while marketers are claiming they are altruistically changing the body type of Barbie to shore up the self-esteem of girls and give little boys a realistic female body image, it's probably more a marketing tactic.   Will any child's attitude about body types be changed because Barbie got tall, small or curvy?  Who knows..... BUT  if our children grow up and have "real" bodies, they are going to be hard pressed to find a decent pair of jeans.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Losing Face on Facebook

I have talked a number of times on this blog about my love/hate relationship with Facebook. It's numerous proponents are constantly reminding me of all it's virtues, so most of the time, I make  continuing promises to myself to become more Facebook involved?

Wouldn't we all admit how impressive it was that Mark Zuckerberg went from being a little Harvard hacker to a multi-billionaire?  Just imagine if any of us would of had the foresight to hack/steal student pictures off of a college server for the purpose of deciding  who's hot and who's not...and act on it in a way that would make us rich, rich, rich....

On the event of FB's 12th birthday, I was reading a little about FB's history and it was talking about Facemash, (Facebook's predecessor) with a couple of Zuckerberg's blog entries.

Facemash, the Facebook’s predecessor, opened on October 28, 2003. Initially, the website was invented by a Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg, and three of his classmates – Andrew McCollum, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz. Zuckerberg wrote the software for the Facemash website when he was in his second year of college. The website was set up as a type of “hot or not” game for Harvard students. The website allowed visitors to compare two student pictures side-by-side and let them choose who was “hot” and who was “not”.....
That night, Mark Zuckerberg wrote the following blog entries:

I'm a little intoxicated, not gonna lie. So what if it's not even 10 pm and it's a Tuesday night? What? The Kirkland dormitory facebook is open on my desktop and some of these people have pretty horrendous Facebook pics. I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of some farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive.
— 2:49 pm
Yea, it's on. I'm not exactly sure how the farm animals are going to fit into this whole thing (you can't really ever be sure with farm animals...)

Zuckerberg missed the mark by not including farm aninals Mark, didn't get the farm animal component to pay off but perhaps it was due to the fact he was intoxicated when he had his flash of brilliance.  I am sure if he would of pursued the idea once sobriety came into play, he could of turned that into piles of cash as well.

Because today I choose to be a "glass half full" kind of girl, instead of telling you how Facebook is stealing our loved ones and turning them into distracted, preoccupied automatons unable to communicate in anyway that doesn't provide a LIKE button, I  am going to provide valuable information to insure your Facebook friends stick to your page like glue.

I ran across an article this week aptly named The 3 Facebook Posts That Will Get You Unfriended

Christopher Sibona PhD., a researcher at the University of Colorado Denver, has studied the reasons why people unfriend their Facebook friends. According to the doc there are three top that the top reasons and three sub-reasons. (He refers to those three as subcategories.)  I guess the doctor has trouble counting to 6. 

1) Polarizing posts about politics and religion.
2) Inappropriate posts with sexist and/or racist remarks.
3) Banal topics.
a.  Things that are purposefully vague. (It's been one of those days!)
b. The humble brag.  (I got accepted to both Harvard and Yale, making the decision is brutal.)
c. The unfriendly warning.  (Posting a comment on FB why you are going to unfriend someone.)

OK..the first two are kind of self-explanatory, I guess.  Although as with all things randomly typed without any preliminary thinking involved,  what one person deems as non-polarizing or non-offensive isn't necessarily viewed that way by the reader.  I think it's safe to say that a lot of people are offended by a lot of things.  (OH NO! Did I just offend a lot of you people that are easily offended.)

This isn't breaking the
doctor's rules, right?
The third item really caught my attention.  Banal topics.  There are a number of questions that I ask the good doctor.

  • Who uses the word BANAL?  (guess we have to exclude Dr. Sibona)
  • What constitutes being BANAL?
  • Isn't 99 percent of everything on Facebook banal?
  • Who is the judge of what is banal and what is interesting?

As for the 3 subcategories...Dr. Sibona seems to be a tad fussy.  I plan on finding his Facebook page and peppering it with banal comments laced with purposely vague updates. 

Personally,  I am fairly convinced that most Facebook users use Facebook  as a place to become immersed in knowledge, find interesting and enlightened documentary or seeking true wisdom beyond their understanding.  Who is to say that pictures of me standing in the line at Kansas City Joe's BBQ isn't absolutely  fascinating to everyone that reads my Facebook page.

Let's not diminish the importance of where I dine.

Zuckerberg thought it would be of interest to have people vote "who is hot and who is not".   Nothing offensive about that....unless you were the poor slob that was "not hot" then maybe it would of stung a bit.  BUT perhaps,  Dr.
Sibona didn't poll Zuckerberg while researching potential reasons to "unfriend" friends.

So, let's see if I understand the rules. On the outside chance, I improve my frequency on FB, I should be prepared.   I shouldn't be polarizing, talk about religion or politics, anything that could be sexist or racist unless it is directed at farm animals, and I shouldn't be trite or boring. Additionally, I shouldn't be vague, I need to be mindful not to brag or you may be forced to warn me of my potential "unfriending".  

Sounds like a lot of pressure to me.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

I am Switzerland

For all of those that are regular readers of TAOBC, you know I have lived in a lot of communities.  After 21 moves, I can safely say that I have never had to actually verbalize to my neighbors the phrase "I prefer to remain neutral".  I have recently told 3 neighbors (soon to be 4) TO THEIR FACE, that I am the Switzerland of the neighborhood.

The reason I bring this up today, it seems that I missed a new chapter in an ongoing  list of neighborhood skirmishes.  Evidently the cops were called at around 2 AM this morning. This is not their first visit to our street and I am confident in telling you in won't be the last. The last incident that brought the police cars to our street involved a shared fence dispute when one neighbor decided to paint both sides of the fence a color that was questionable...whole other story. 

Last night's problem is a result of ongoing pet insurrection.  As an animal lover, I particularly want to stay out of the fray. I do my best to keep my own cat unaware that anything exists outside of our house.She seems rather content sleeping 16 hours a day.
Who needs to go outside?

Over the summer the neighbor on our left of our house (whom I will refer to as Neighbor A) mentioned that she was having trouble with a cat peeing on her shrubbery and supposedly killing it.  Who knew that there could be death by urine?  The offending cat, named Jason, is owned by people directly across from neighbor A and I will refer to Jason's family as Neighbor B.

The first blow (figuratively, speaking) was launched by email from Neighbor A to Neighbor B in the form of an email telling them to keep their cat home. Within the email it said "if I wanted a cat, I would buy a cat." ( an effort of full disclosure this neighbor is  usually quite nice but evidently had reached her limits concerning Jason.)

Do I need to tell you that Neighbor B didn't like the tone of the email and shot one back saying that Jason was an "outdoor" kind of cat and that Neighbor A should get a life.

The emails continued  back and forth with the tone turning decidedly more hostile as time went on.  The final blow was when an email from Neighbor B said that "Jason doesn't feel like staying indoors." Turns out the Neighbor A doesn't give a s*** what Jason feels like.

During the following couple of weeks Neighbor A was busily taking pictures of Jason around the neighborhood to collect ammunition before calling Animal Control again.

In our community, neighborhood disputes are initially handled by Police Officers before handing it over to the appropriate agency that handles that particular problem such as, in this case, Animal Control.  Neighbor B had an officer knock on her door asking her if she was Jason's owner and if she was aware that our city has a leash law.

She didn't appreciate the visit, it seems and pretty much told the officer that she thought  "leash laws" were stupid when it applies to cats.  The officer issued her a fine. That was right before Neighbor B slammed the door in the officer's face.  (I know this because of the officer's testimony in the ensuing   court case....yes...there is more to come)

Poor little Jason looking dejected.
A little more time went by, with Neighbor A  continued collecting more pictures of Jason "catting" around, which resulted in additional calls to Animal Control and prompting more and more fines for Neighbor B.

Me...being Switzerland and all, was trying to remain neutral even as Neighbor A texted me a picture of Jason sitting on my front porch.  Again...I didn't want to get drawn into this fight.

In fact, I was finding a bit of humor in the fact that Jason was pretty much flaunting his freedom and driving Neighbor A nuts.

I decided to text a photo back to Neighbor A.

A more confident Jason.

 She didn't think is was nearly as funny as I did.  It could be said with some certainty, that my sense of humor is usually paddling against the stream.

Anyway...the next thing I know I get a call that Neighbor A has been issued a subpoena to appear in court.  Neighbor B is contesting that her cat is the one that is hanging out in the other neighbor's yards. She was also refusing to pay the stack of fines that had accumulated. As it happens, our city doesn't share my stance on "not getting involved".  They roll more with the "getting the money that is due them" philosophy.

 Will I testify?....No, thank you.  I am Switzerland.

As not to make this post into a book...I will tell you that the fines stand,  the judge doesn't care that Jason doesn't want to stay indoors and the fines will increase if he continues to be an "outdoor" cat unless he stays in his own yard.

That didn't exactly end the problem as there have been various Jason sightings and Neighbor A was turned into PETA by Neighbor B, saying that she had mistreated the nomadic, Jason. (She didn't, of course, but it's Jason's word against hers.) turns out that Neighbor C, the homeowners behind my house have a new dog.  A barking... non-stop barking.... kind of dog.  Neighbor A called Animal Control in the middle of the night last night resulting in Police officers making a visit to Neighbor C's residence, waking them up and asking them do something about the dog. 

I slept through all of this as Hubby and I sleep the undisturbed sleep of neutrality,  but  I suppose I might tell the backyard neighbors it wasn't me that prompted the cops to be knocking on their door at 2AM. Guess, I should fill them in on my being Switzerland an all. 

My husband, however, did text Neighbor A telling her that we bought a new St. Bernard and  his barking will get better in time. He sent it along with:

(NOTE:  It appears that the 12 hours of DOGS BARKING Video isn't showing
up on some of the emailed can see it at

It could be with these types of antics,  Switzerland will ask us NOT be the Switzerland of our neighborhood...but then we will start saying:

We are Liechtenstein.