Saturday, July 27, 2019

Scams, Telemarketers, Robo-Calls

First of all, I must admit that this blog is a venting outlet for myself. There are days that I am at my wit's end with the house phone and my cell phone ringing throughout the day, not to mention my husband's also. It is so very frustrating to someone who is trying to concentrate on writing or whether I may be busy taking dogs out for their business, driving in the car for errands, cooking, napping or a kajillion other things going on, as they do in all of our lives.

There are apps, apparently, that one can purchase to stop them. The catch is that the app blocks all calls not associated to my call list of family, friends and businesses that I have on my list. Many times, a contractor or business driver uses their own phone to call me to tell me they are on their way to provide the service. I don't have that number in my call list so they would not get through to me. Not acceptable.

Even though we are on the Registry for Do Not Call with the FTC, it does no good. Let's start with the scams. The famous ones like the IRS calling to tell me that I am going to have my checks garnished if I do not pay back taxes. Really? Good luck on that one. I am retired. Or then there is the Microsoft scam whereby I am told that my computer has a terrible virus and I need to follow their instructions to get rid of it. And, I am just telling it like it is. The person on the other end of the phone tells me in a very heavy Indian accent that his name is Bob and if I will sign on, he will take over my computer to rid it of the problem. I bet he will!

Next are telemarketers. It is a real honest to goodness person on the other end of the line.

The only problem here is that I did not reach out for the call. They are trying to sell me something that I do not want or need. They are invading my privacy, as well as taking up my valuable time. Sometimes, they are not trying to sell me anything. They are some survey company wanting me to answer their questions. Let me stop right here and now to say that this is the very reason that I do not trust surveys. Companies are calling any John or Jane Doe and who is to say that they are answering truthfully or how they really feel? I do not plan on giving some stranger information on how I feel about the media, about politics, or about anything at all! It is none of their business. At least they are a live human being and you can tell them in so many words of your choice to get lost. Many of these poor, pathetic workers are reading from a script and they don't know when to stop. At that point, it is a matter of hanging up on them. At least on my cell phone, I can block their calls without an app once they have called. Of course, more just keep coming in. There is word on the street that they have the technical skills to steal phone numbers, legitimate phone numbers, to place their calls so blocking their calls just means they move on to another number to call from.

Then there are the robo-calls. They are not real people but recordings. Technology has made great advances in that they can detect tones, inflections and certain often used phrases to sound as if they are human. Try telling one to use the words, "I am not a robot." They can't. 

If you want to just stay on the line and go in circles, then that is what will happen. One of their favorite tactics is to say if you are not interested then just press 9 and we will not bother you again. (HA HA HA) If you wish to speak to a live representative just press 1 and you will be connected. I tried that, too. Once the poor guy got on, I admit that gave him a piece of my mind and I had no qualms about not being polite.

I have followed all kinds of directions. It does not seem to matter. They keep calling. Every once in a while I have answered the phone, "Sheriff's Office, How may I help you?" There always has been an immediate hang up. That is my standard go to whenever I do answer the phone. My husband, when he is in the mood, loves to mess with the caller's mind has tried other methods. One of the Microsoft scam calls, he played along. He spewed out all kind of things that was NOT happening on his screen. He gave out all kinds of false information. This went on for about ten minutes. Then he informed the scammer that he did not even have his computer turned on. Instead of hanging up the scammer actually had the audacity to tell him that he just wasted his work time. Wait! For real? That was too funny!

He has an on-going call with some dude from the local Fireman's Association. This is a for real deal because I knew of this group from a friend of mine. I answered the phone and did get some tickets for a concert for an employee who had gone above and beyond her duties at work. They were inexpensive tickets and for a rock group that she liked who were playing at the county fair. The donation went to the Firemen. All good. 

This poor guy called the next year and asked to speak to me when my husband answered the phone. My dear, sweet husband said that I was not at home. When asked when I would be home, Steve went into this long drawn out story about how should he know. He had no idea because I had run off with my boyfriend. This caller did not know what to say, yet stayed on the line to console my husband and tell him that he knew just what he was talking about. It had happened to him once. He hoped that all would work out and to this day, he still calls yearly to check if I ever returned and if Steve was okay?!

My favorite line of all is from Jerry Seinfeld. In one of his episodes of his TV show, he received a telemarketer call. He told them that he was busy but if they would give him their home number that he would call them later. Of course, that was declined and Jerry's response was something to the effect of of well then, now you know how I feel. Do not call me again at home.

The FTC has some advice for how to deal with these calls. One is to answer the call. If you don't answer or let it go to voice mail, then your number goes back on the list to call later as a no answer. Their job is to keep you on the line as long as possible. With a 96% failure rate (source FTC), they do not have an easy job. That being said, this was the job they chose, not me. The best thing is to calmly tell them that you are on the do not call registry and repeat at least three times, even if you must interrupt them, to say do not call me again.

While doing some research, I read one article where it has happened when the person disturbed by the call became angry and yelled at the telemarketer. That did not work well for him, though. The telemarketer obviously had had enough of that and actually called him back to give him a piece of his mind. That would help for reporting purposes to know the company name so that it could be reported. Good luck. If you do have the company name, there is a place to report it to the FTC through their website. I know, because I have reported one. Now that I know about it, I will be reporting more. It takes time and I don't know the outcome, however, it makes me feel better for some strange reason. 

Meanwhile, until the phone companies do something to stop this or the FTC stiffens up the fines, we the general public will continue to have these pesky calls. I like to have my plan in place and my to go to action is to answer the phone with, "Sheriff's Department. How may I direct your call?" It is an immediate hang up. If it is someone who really needs me, we all will get a good laugh out of it. He who laughs, last!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Graceful Aging

As I sat around a table of good friends, all of whom I worked with before retirement, I started thinking as I looked and listened to them over our luncheon. Each one of them had their own unique beauty. The lightbulb went on bright for me at that very moment. Gracefully aging has always been on my mind in some way, shape or form, just not to the extent that happened to me on this particular day.

You see, I have never thought that I would age gracefully. Why? First of all, I take after my grandmother and she never, ever would tell her real age. Aging gracefully, at least to me, does not mean that I must go around and shout it from the mountain tops of how old I am. No way! Just being me is enough. So my first goal was to stop thinking about a number. Embracing my age and owning who I am and who I have become and where I am headed is much more important. If someone has the audacity to ask me what my age is point blank, I can't be held accountable of the number that may pop out of my mouth. (The only exception is at the doctor's office.) I think about the gracefulness of my grandmother often. She was all about herself, her confidence, and her own southern charm. 

I suppose that you could call this idea 'Pro-Age.' Cindy Joseph, an author, model and business woman uses this phrase quite frequently. One of her best quotes is, "I am always and forever in the prime of my life." What a positive attitude! Everyone is unique. Everybody has something beautiful. Beauty is having the confidence, knowing who you are and where you are going, along with accepting yourself. 

With that being said, when did it become okay to fear getting older. It is my belief that it is a tactic to make us scared of our own fierceness. Society seems to program us into thinking that we are not beautiful anymore as we age. Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture today is the assumption that aging means declining and poor health and this is the deadliest. Instead, we must take ownership. It is a waste of time and energy worrying about our skin or weight. We must develop what we do in plans, being long and short term goals.

When I am happy, feeling jazzy and energized - I know that it shows on my face. Others tell me. Now I have my confidence built within myself to recognize this. Science has proven there is a link between feeling good inside and having beautiful skin on the outside. It radiates from the inside out. I believe that with all of my insight, confidence and strength that comes with my age that it makes it easier to start living on my terms. This is why all of a sudden it dawned on me that surrounding myself with beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors at the luncheon that I attended showed me what true inner beauty and confidence are. I suppose that I am just a slow learner of piecing it all together to form the complete puzzle. 

I have learned that setting aside small blocks of time in my day to have no agenda is a great way to slow down and nourish my soul. Mindfulness and gratitudes! It works! It means embracing all of the experiences that I have encountered  -  both the good and the bad  -  this is how I have learned to move forward.

Audrey Hepburn has a beautiful quote, "And the beauty of a woman, with passing years, only grows." 
To add on to that train of thought is something that I read about when Patti LaBelle was speaking about as the years go by she celebrates each birthday fiercely because it is the worrying - not the years themselves that will make you feel less of a woman. Every year of your life is something to be proud of.

Feeling wise and worldly does not mean that I know everything. I believe it is what keeps me ready to explore more. If I could go back and give the younger me advice, it would be to tell myself to take a chill pill. Everything doesn't happen yesterday. Enjoy and live each moment and take it for what it is. My younger self was not as confident as she should have been.

Youth are not the only ones who can create adventures. I read about those in their later years of life who are more daring than many younger people. Instead of trying to fit into an image, be more of an adventurist. Finding my own truth and reinventing myself is how I choose to live. I just read about a man who was born and grew up in Memphis. He  became an icon in the public relations world with a firm he started up and moved to New York City where the action was. He worked on many high profile cases. Even though he has been away from Memphis for 75 years, he has never lost his Southern drawl. He made the decision for himself that he needed to get back to his Southern roots and this would allow him to scale back his work schedule to only three days a week. What an adventure! Up and leave his apartment on Broadway, his Manhattan office and return to his roots. Oh, did I forget to mention that he is 98 years young? 

Just as Jackie Joyner-Kersee believes, " Age is no barrier. It's a limitation you put on your mind." Mr. Burson (the 98 year old adventurer) obviously knows this very well. Aging gracefully is for both genders. With that being noted, I would like to end this blog with a David Bowie quote, "I think aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been."

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Customer Service

This is a quote from Leon Gorman, who was the president and Chairman of the Board for L.L.Bean. His grandfather founded the company in 1912. He took it upon himself to learn every aspect of the business. The one very important thing that Mr. Gorman knew was that customer service had to come first, along with quality products.

Whether the consumer is shopping in a store or online or by phone, the consumer must feel that they are important. This comes about through quality training of any employee that comes in contact with customers. Every way that employees interact with the customers can make or break a deal. 

Briefly, let me say that there are stores that I just do not go inside due to the fact that there is no one there to assist me. There are times when I may need help finding something. If I receive an attitude, as if to say that they do not have time for me, then I know my business is not needed there. It is a simple thing to just leave. 

The days of "the customer is always right" is most definitely not the case many times in retail stores or on the phone. If the employees are trained well in handling an irrate customer then all will work out. If my job is in customer service then I must expect some rude customers. It is my job to try to appease them. Employees must know the store policies and ways to convey this to customers in a quiet and professional manner. 

With all of the social media today, one person's report of being undervalued or not treated fairly can go viral. Smart business owners know that it is much easier to keep customers happy instead of having to go out to bring in more. More customers are eventually not going to be coming if they hear too many negative reviews.

The face to face, in the store, is just one kind of customer service to work on. This past week I found myself having to deal with a few problems that needed the attention of a live human being on the phone. I called the customer service number that I found for them and had to go through 10 - 15 minutes of pushing buttons that a recorded message was giving me. Questions about the reason that I was calling and giving me examples and which button to press. Except none of the examples were the reason that I was calling. I felt helpless each an every time. 

What did I do? I just picked something close to what I needed. This led me to another prompt of questions from an automated recorded message. It seemed as if I were in a spiral of automated recorded messages. Now, mind you, in between these spirals of going through pressing buttons, I always would get the message of, "All of our representatives are busy. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order that it was received." Next, comes some of the most annoying music that is known to mankind.

After the spiraling through the never ending recordings, a real live human being comes on the line. Most of the time, they are courteous and helpful. Unless, you need to be transferred to some other department. Then, all I can say is that I am now hoping that my call is not disconnected and that I have to start the process all over again. This actually did happen to me twice this week.

If I am dealing with a company that I can stop giving my business to and switch to someone else...then I take that option. There are times when it is not a choice. I would say more often then not, this is where the attitudes come in and the longer customers are left in limbo on the phone line.

Providing exceptional service should not be rocket science. It must start from the top down, which means attitudes and employee training. Employees who are specifically trained in the art of quality customer service will keep your company alive and well. Employees will remain loyal because as the leader, you have empowered them on how to deal with difficult customers.

Surveying customers is a fabulous way to get the information that you need to help you adjust any under performance that should be worked on in your company. Rewarding those staffers who go above and beyond in their efforts will always pay dividends.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Is There a RIght or Wrong Way?

 If you had asked this question of me a few months ago, I would have said that there is no absolute right or wrong way to practice gratitudes. Ahh, I was so wrong. It wasn't until I was talking with someone about this very subject: practicing gratitudes. 

It is already a proven fact in thousands of scientific studies that developing a grateful mindset is one of the best ways to live a happier and healthier and longer life. It helps each of us be more creative and productive. 

While talking with others about this topic, I started noticing that what they said they wrote or thought about what they were grateful for was so very general. Examples such as, "I am grateful for my family, I am grateful for having a job, I am grateful for my children." All are great things to be grateful for but we need to hone in on more specifics. 

To begin and end our days with specific things that made us grateful or even expressing your authentic gratitude towards another person is what gets your mindset in place for positivity. We need to focus on the small gratitudes. Some things that I can share that I am grateful for on a smaller level are:

  • I am grateful for our newest puppy who greets me with happiness, even it if is 5:30 in the morning.
  • I am grateful for our older puppy who needs protecting from his younger sister at times. (He is such a gentleman.)
  • I am grateful that my husband makes a cup of coffee and brings it to me while I am fixing my hair and makeup in the morning.
  • I am grateful that we have a daughter who calls daily just to say hi and how are you doing. And a son who calls when he is in town and not flying to meet up for lunch or just to check in on us.
  • I am grateful for a son and daughter-in-law who sends us pics and videos of our twin granddaughters who are 6 hours away.

It becomes too overpowering just to say that I am grateful for all of our children. What specifically that day did they do to make you feel that way?

We really don't realize just how powerful our minds are. What we think can turn our world around in a positive way. It helps us to see the good in the world when we focus on the beautiful things around us such as the green, green grass, the gorgeous blooming flowers, the blue sky, the rain that makes the flowers grow.

On the other hand, think about it. If all you focus on is the ugly and bad that is what you will see. It is a negative cycle that becomes very difficult to get yourself out of. Concentrating on what we have, instead of what we don't have helps the two of us feel good of the directions that we are headed.

Actions from the words in our minds become our characters, our very own individuality.