Category Archives: Rant

My lucky day — or two companies that did it right and one that didn’t (from draft)

Original draft 2015. No changes.

We’ve been in the market for new everyday glassware. We like the glassware we have, but several glasses have broken and they are getting a little scratched up. We’ve owned these Duralex Picardie Glass Tumblers since the kids were small. The batch we have now may or may not be our second set. Anyway, we needed new glasses and I first looked at Williams-Sonoma’s online storefront because we’d bought them at Williams-Sonoma in the past. The price was not bad for a set of 24, but the shipping and handling was a little too high for me. I am used to free shipping from Amazon. Amazon also had the glasses but for much more than William’s-Sonoma.

The other day I saw an email from William’s-Sonoma offering 20% off and free shipping so I ordered the glasses that evening. My William’s-Sonoma box arrived today, but it contained a (very nice) pizza stone instead of tumblers. I checked the invoice which clearly said Picardie Glass Tumblers and then went online to see how to return them. Because it would seem I was returning glasses I didn’t order, I called customer service and before too long spoke to a young man who said he’d send the tumblers out immediately and we’d get them by Monday. I asked if there would be a sticker to return the pizza stone and the young man said to keep it — and asked me if I liked pizza. I said thank you, I like pizza and have two pizza stones already.

A number of years ago we received items from Amazon that we didn’t order (this was the year that sort of overwhelmed Amazon during the holiday rush). When I telephoned Amazon to see how I could return them the person on the phone asked if I got all my orders. I said I had gotten them but how should I return the items I received. She told me to keep them. The items were nothing I wanted — a country and western CD and a game for preschoolers, so I gave the game to our neighbor and the CD to charity.

Both Amazon and William’s-Sonoma did the right thing. They made a mistake and took the blame by telling me to keep the item(s). I had to do nothing as a result of their mistakes except to enjoy the items I didn’t order. Last Christmas this was not the same with another company I do business with.

Last December I ordered several Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas gifts and had them sent to my mother’s house. I also ordered a Nook GlowLight™ for myself. When I opened the packages and envelopes from Barnes and Noble I found an extra gift card for $50 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab® 4 NOOK® 7.0 that I had not ordered. Nor were they charged to me. The gift card was addressed to a Donna somewhere in Missouri or Tennessee (my mother opened all of the gift cards before I got there — we won’t talk about how they were almost recycled) but the Nook was addressed to me yet had another address on the invoice.

I am basically a good person, but I don’t necessarily want to go out of my way to be that good person. I called Barnes and Noble to see what I should do and if they could send someone to pick up the items. I said I was worried that the folks who ordered these were hoping to have them in time for the holidays. They assured me that replacements had already been sent. They also said it was not possible for the packages to be picked up and that I should either send them back via UPS or drop them off at a Barnes and Noble store. So right there Barnes and Noble was not taking the blame in their actions. Granted — the gift card was probably the USPS’s fault) but still, I don’t think I should have gone out of my way to return the items. My sister-in-law (well, ex- but who’s counting?) offered to take them to UPS where she works and drop them off, but the hours she works did not match the hours the store was open so that didn’t work.

I eventually brought the Barnes and Noble items back to Maryland and dropped them off at a Barnes and Noble nearby, but the encounter was less than pleasant. It took a while to explain the situation to two different managers. All I wanted to do was to make sure the folks who ordered the products got them. But everyone seemed confused. It took longer than I planned to simply drop off something I didn’t order.

Barnes and Noble should have told me to keep the items or sent a UPS person out to pick them up. They did neither. I already owned two Nooks, so I didn’t need or want one, but could have given it away to charity or a family member.

The whole Barnes and Noble issue came back to me the other day when I ordered a book on barnesandnoble.com. In order to download it on my Nook GlowLight I had to jump through the hoops of entering my username, password and credit card I used to buy it. Amazon is not like that. I can seamlessly switch from a Kindle Paperwhite to a Kindle Tablet to my computer to my Nexus tablet.

I shunned Amazon for years over Barnes and Noble, but not any more.

A dysfunctional non-profit (draft from 2009 or 2010)

Addendum

Wow. I don’t remember writing this ten years ago, but I imagine that I didn’t post it because I feared the wrath of the outgoing Director of Operations in case she stealthily read my blog. The film group is still going strong, even after the death of our president. I continue to do the website and write and send the emails. We have only two other active board members — the doer-of-all-things and a film reviewer who helps select films and has some contact with some embassies. We met last weekend and decided the show must go on but two out of three of us are tired of it.

We’ll probably keep going. I promised to be more active after retirement. I also suggested that the doer-of-all-things say a few words before each film, mostly about how we really need help.

Original Draft

Before I had kids I don’t think I ever volunteered for anything — but once they were in school and I got a taste of volunteering for school-related events and organizations, I couldn’t get enough. That was also around the time I’d acquired a new skill (web design) and my “talents” were needed.

One non-school organization I volunteered to create a web page for was a local film group. I found out about it because I’d heard about a film on public radio that didn’t get wide release and I saw that this film group was showing it. I was so excited about this group that I bought a season subscription and soon after volunteered to redesign their web site. They invited me to join their board of directors, and I’ve been on it ever since.

The board consists of a president (the original founder of the club), a film discussion leader, a treasurer, a secretary (who writes all the press releases), a web designer and email list keeper (that would be me), and a director of operations (a job that has the most frequent turnover rate).

The president is sometimes hard to work with. She has strong opinions about what we should do as a film group and sometimes I disagree. For instance she decided we should not serve coffee or bagels this year because she thought the price was restrictive. While she did give in to allowing coffee to be served, she steadfastly refused to provide bagels. Instead she bought a few dozen tiny muffins which were gone long before the last patron went past the coffee area. However, I understand that this film group is ultimately hers. She founded it and, I think, should have the final say, even if the board disagrees.

The job of director of operations (a name that one of the folks who held that job created for himself a few years ago) is probably the hardest one, but as with all of the other positions on the board, has no set list of duties. The first person that held the job when I became involved in the group did the following:

  • ordered the films the president chose
  • sent the films back to the distributor
  • acted as treasurer
  • sent email alerts to our patrons reminding them that a film would be shown the following Sunday
  • instructed me as to how the web site should look

After that person quit we found a new treasurer and I took over the email alerts, so the job was a little easier on this member of the board. I think that this person then took on the responsibility of helping the president order the films as well.

He lasted a year and when the president could not find someone to take over, asked if I’d help out. I did, but I hated the job. I hated contacting the distributors, especially if I had to do it over the phone. I hated the tension of wondering if the movie would get to the theater on time. I hated the fact that the job took up so much of my time.

Luckily midway through my year as the director of operations a patron of our film club decided to take on this job. She was recently retired* and wanted a new challenge. She did a great job and added “outreach” to her list of duties. Because of her we increased our film patrons. She also had many ideas for the group.

I agreed with some of her ideas: sending emails to the local embassies when we were showing a film in their native language, increasing patrons by inviting other groups, and continuing offering free bagels and coffee when the president was ready to give up doing so.

However, I did not agree with her idea of sponsoring a film festival or sponsoring a trip to a film festival. She also had grand plans for our website, based on her cousin’s advice. She thought our site is boring. Her cousin’s site is trashy and reminiscent of something from the late 1990’s. She wanted to use our email list to send out a request to see if the film patrons wanted to join her on her trip to Africa this summer. I guard our email list ferociously and refused her request.

She still wants our patrons to be able to order tickets online and pay with credit card. While I agree that might generate more income, I don’t want to be responsible for credit card numbers of anyone but my own. I foresee big problems if we accept credit cards, especially online.

Three weeks ago this woman sent an email to the board announcing her resignation. The email was hurtful, in my opinion, and if it were directed at me I would have thought, “good riddance”.  However, it seems that some members of the board, including the person it was directed at, have asked her to reconsider.

Yesterday she sent another email saying that she’d reconsider if she were given the rights to making all decisions regarding the operations of the group.

I was shocked. In my opinion, what she is asking is to have the dictatorship (which is what I think we really have) transferred from the president to herself.

If it were not for the group losing the treasurer and most probably the director of operations, I’d resign myself. This is just too much for me to deal with. I hope that the president calls a board meeting to discuss this because it is too much to handle over emails.


*A few years ago I discovered some interesting fun facts about the woman who was briefly the Director of Operations’ position.

Pregnancy Shaming

Not long after my son was conceived in May of 1992 I suspected I was pregnant. Sometimes you just know. I peed on a stick to check and when the pregnancy test confirmed I was probably pregnant I told one or two people at work. I waited until the school year was over before I had it confirmed by my ob-gyn. My husband and I talked about it and we agreed that I would take more time off than I did with our daughter. Raising two young children 18 months apart would probably be difficult. We also began talking about selling our house in Alexandria and moving closer to my husband’s job in Bethesda.

In the fall, when I returned to my teaching job and more people discovered that I was pregnant, I was summoned to the principal’s office where she told me she heard that I was pregnant and asked me what my plan was for after the baby was born. I smiled and told her I thought I would be taking a year or two off, expecting her next words to be congratulatory. Instead, she asked me why I didn’t tell her before the end of the school year in the spring. I explained that I was not 100% sure about the pregnancy until after school was over. She said that she knew that I told at least one person and told me that I was irresponsible for letting her place me with the 6th graders who would need more consistency* than 4th or 5th graders would. Then she asked me if the pregnancy was planned. Shocked, I told her that it was planned — very much so, but after the meeting I wished I told her that it was none of her business.

I taught up until winter break that year, then was placed on bedrest for 3 weeks because of early labor. The rest of my time at the school that year was filled with feelings of guilt. I don’t think she ever acknowledged my son’s birth, even after my extended maternity leave was up and because I was unsuccessful finding a teaching job elsewhere I pretty much begged for forgiveness so I could work there again.

When I did return to the school I discovered that one of the women I told about my suspected pregnancy in the spring had been reprimanded by the principal for not telling her.

Even now, nearly 25 years later, when I think about the principal’s words that autumn my gut clenches and instead of remembering my second pregnancy with pure joy, much of what I think about is what the principal said to me and the guilt she made me feel.

Some of you, maybe teachers or principals out there, may think the principal was right but it never occurred to me that my leaving mid-semester could do any harm. Perhaps, if you agree with her, you think it is good that eight years after that conversation, I decided teaching just wasn’t for me.


*I was a special education teacher. Our teaching practice involved a special education teacher supporting a mainstream teacher in a grade level for the year.