Friday, February 24, 2017

Are You Prejudiced? The Answer is Yes.

I attended a writers group meeting this week where I was asked to critique a writer’s work. On the second page the writer, a retired white man, had described his protagonist getting into a cab driven by “a black driver.” I asked why he had described the driver as “black”. Was the protagonist a white character in Harlem or some setting where there was a reason to describe the cab driver’s ethnicity or color? He told me there wasn’t. On the next page, the protagonist passed “a brown-skinned woman”. I asked how her skin color was important to the story. He replied it wasn’t, as we never saw this character again. Two paragraphs later, his protagonist encountered “a woman”.

Since she had no adjective preceding her, I had to ask him, “Would I be correct to infer she’s a white woman?” The writer said yes, she was. “But you didn’t put “white woman,” I said. “You simply wrote ‘woman’ because she was a normal person?” He nodded. “And the other characters weren’t normal,” I continued. I could hear the penny drop, the tiny light bulb turning on behind his eyes, as he realized where I was going with this.

“As a white writer, you don’t feel the need to tell your readers your characters are white because you’re assuming your readers are white, and white is the normal skin tone for all characters unless you want to add some ‘color’ to your story. But what you’re saying is white is the default, normal skin tone and race, and anyone else differs from the norm. Imagine how you would feel if you were not a white reader reading the story. You wouldn’t be able to put yourself in the mind of the protagonist because he views you, the reader, and every nonwhite person he encounters throughout the story as ‘other’, ‘not normal’, or ‘different’. Instead of writing something that’s inclusive for your reader, you’ve made it exclusive.”

He asked if I thought anyone would be offended. “I was,” I replied. “And I’m white. This isn’t the 1950s. We live in a multicultural society, and thanks to the Internet as authors our work is read worldwide. The more successful we are, the more our work will be read by people of all races, colors, and cultures.” I explained it’s not just the current population of potential readers, but those who will be reading our books in the decades to follow. About 50 percent of American children under age 10 are nonwhite. Think about that. Half of the potential readership for the young adult book you’re working on today is not white. By the time it’s eventually published, you’ll have excluded half your audience.

Our readership has become more ethnically diverse. In America alone, our society encompasses Hispanics, Asians, and African-Americans of varying skin color. Not only should a Caucasian writer not assume the reader is white, he should not want to give that inference. Unless there’s a good reason to do otherwise, the protagonist should be a chameleon who can take on the characteristics of the reader.

That’s not to say race or color should never play a role in character description. For example, in my Halos & Horns fantasy series I have a character named Asabi whom I have made clear is black. Asabi is an emere: a mythological being who is able to travel between Heaven and Earth. Emeres come from the legends of the Yoruba People in Africa. It’s important that Asabi be black because his origins stem from ancient African legends. It would be insulting in my opinion (or to use the god-awful politically correct term ‘cultural appropriation’) to cast Asabi as anything other than black.

When Asabi had his first romantic relationship, with Cassiopeia, it was important to the plot that I describe her as a white woman. But most of my other characters, unless required by the plot, were never described by the color of their skin. Readers may have assumed the two main characters, Gabriel and Lucifer, were white, but they could just as easily have been black. I left that to the imagination of the reader, and perhaps white and black readers imagined them differently.

The truth is, we’re all prejudiced to some degree simply because of the insular environments in which we were raised. We’ve been brought up to think of the world as pockets of “us” (defined as those who share similarities with us) and “them” (defined by those who differ from us). I know the writer I met this week is not racist; yet he let the vestigial prejudices we all have slip into his writing. For those of us who are writers we must take extra care to make sure our words are not unintentionally exclusive. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

She's Too Important!

“The business of America is business.” So declared the 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge. American business is the great engine of commerce that has made the United States into a global economic powerhouse. It’s what enabled us to switch rapidly from manufacturing for a consumer economy to manufacturing for a wartime economy during World War II. And it’s what helped define the prosperity of the Eisenhower years in the 1950s, the golden era of American consumerism.

We’re no longer in the golden era for American business; to the contrary, American business now languishes in a tarnished era. This is not good for our country or our society. We must restore the business standards that enabled American business to thrive generations ago. To do this, we must first identify the problem. That’s what I’ve tried to do in my recent series of posts on the sad state of American business.

When I was growing up there was a saying that “the customer is always right.” Now obviously, no one is always right but the point of the aphorism was the recognition that the customer is the most important element of any business. If no one buys your product or service, you don’t have a business. This is the foundation of the concept of customer service. It was perhaps best embodied in an advertising campaign by the Avis car rental company; noting its competitor Hertz had been ranked Number One in the industry, Avis cleverly launched a series of ads with the tagline “We’re Number Two: We have to try harder.”

That was then; this is now. I received an incentivization letter from my car dealership inviting me to speak to them about my expiring lease so as to lease a new car. I realize they send these form letters to every customer but as it was signed by a specific individual, I called and asked to speak with her. The young salesman who took my call insisted he could help me. When I insisted on speaking to the person for whom I had asked, he told me the woman was "too important to speak to me."

Now, I’ve spoken to congressman and senators, governors, and even the president of the United States (not the current one). I've spoken to famous actors and entertainment celebrities, and to many well-known public figures. I've spoken to many individuals considered to be the most preeminent in their fields of endeavor. Yet I have never been told by them or their assistants that they were "too important" to speak with me. This is an all-time low for customer service experiences, particularly in sales. I've worked in sales and you never tell a customer that someone in your operation is too important to speak to them, or conversely, that the customer is not important enough to speak to one of your employees. Mind blown.

Well, that was an amazing phone call. This is a major automobile dealership. Where is the employee training? These employees will one day move into management positions without having learned the basics that any student would learn his or her first year in business school. This portends a major problem for American business, which will spiral into a further decline.

Ten minutes later, I received a call from the same young man telling me he had walked over to her office and "she's out sick today." How convenient. But, he added,  if I tell him what I wanted to talk to her about, he could handle it for me. (I told him she could call me when she feels better). This was an obvious lie from which I could infer two possibilities: Either the salesman never left his seat and simply called back 10 minutes later in an attempt to make a commission, or he did go to her office and was told to tell the caller she was out sick. So either he was lying on his behalf or on her behalf. Neither is an acceptable business practice.

It’s also a dumb sales move. Sales is about establishing trust between the buyer and seller. Starting off any relationship with lies, let alone offensive comments, is pure stupidity.

Yes, the customer is not always right. But establishing and accepting a business culture in which employees believe they are more important than the customers they are there to serve, and that it is acceptable to lie to customers or demean them, is further evidence of the decline of American business to the detriment of our society as a whole. Corporate executives and middle managers must become cognizant of what is happening within their own businesses further down the food chain and take corrective actions to reverse this decline.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Looking for love in All the Wrong Places

Now that everyone is connected to the Internet and it’s become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, people are shopping for everything online. Take me, for example. This week alone, I've bought shoes, toothpaste, a calendar, and a set of dining room chairs, all purchased online. But many people are taking it one step further and shopping for their significant other in cyberspace.

Dating – or at least the quest for Mr./Miss Right – (or Mr./ Miss Right Now) has moved online for the same reasons everything else has: it’s quicker, easier, and you can do it at 2 a.m. in your pajamas. Typically, dating sites feature a prospective match’s profile (Unless you’re on the prowl for Mr./ Miss Right Now, in which case, you can use the one-paragraph short form, known as Craigslist, and list the acronyms – NSA, SWF, D&DF, etc. – you’re looking for. Don’t put too much thought into this process, because it doesn't matter what you list; Craigslist readers will ignore your criteria and contact you anyway).

In addition to the profile, date seekers usually post a photo of themselves. Usually, but not always. Sometimes, they post pictures of their dogs. Depending on the breed, it may be hard to tell the date seeker from the dog. About a third of the time, the dog turns out to be the better choice. Beware of photos in which the date seeker is hiding his/her face: either not facing the camera, wearing dark glasses, or in costume, or where the thumbnail photo cuts off the head (Alfred E. Neuman lookalike) or body (Sea World reports a whale escaped) … Or where there is no photo at all. There’s a reason why he/she didn't want you to see the hidden feature.

Then there are the misleading photos. The Technically Honest One: it is a photo of the date seeker, however it was taken 10 years ago; The Best Friend: the date seeker with his/her much better looking friend, whom you’ll be disappointed to learn is already taken; The Guess Who: see if you can pick out the date seeker from a group photo shot. Finally, there’s The Glamour Shot: a stunningly beautiful photo that makes you think the date seeker should be a model – it turns out, she is a model and some scammer has used her photo on a fake profile. A word of caution: if it looks too good to be true, Google Image Search the photo.

Avoid profiles that are too short. If the date seeker is continually answering essay questions with “ask me anything you want to know” or “we can talk about that later” it shows he/she has put less thought and effort into meeting you than into writing the weekly grocery list. At the other extreme, if the date seeker has indeed written a long grocery list of specific qualities, characteristics, or other requirements a prospective match must meet, then this person is too picky and shallow to become involved with.

Peruse other date seekers’ profiles to learn what they do right, and more importantly, what they do wrong. I found three examples on one site in the first five minutes, this morning. In response to the question “What are you doing with your life?” she wrote: “Studying hard to become a charter accountant.” Obviously, she wasn't studying hard enough, because if she had been, she would've known her chosen occupation was a chartered accountant. If you’re too stupid to know what you are studying to become (or worse, so careless that you don’t check what you've written before you post it … not a good idea, by the way, for detail-oriented professions like accounting), then you’re not dating material (and I certainly don’t want you doing my taxes, either).

The second profile I saw today featured a chubby girl in a string bikini. Now, health concerns aside, there’s nothing wrong with a potential match being a bit overweight. We can’t all look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But when marketing yourself, you should always lead with your strongest features, not highlight your weakest attributes.

The third profile began – and ended –  by stating the woman was “Not interested in casual sex”. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being upfront about what you are, or are not, looking for in a relationship. But don’t send mixed messages by labeling the same profile with the username “Cutie2PlayWith”.

Remember, online dating is all about marketing yourself. You are the promoter, as well as the product. Prospective daters will assume whatever image your profile conveys is the image of yourself that you've carefully chosen to present. While the zombie costume may have won raves at a Halloween party, it’s not a good choice for your dating profile photo. Your rant about your ex might be justified, but is your dating profile the right place for it… is that the first thing you want a potential date to read?

Successful marketing begins with truth in advertising. Don’t lie or mislead. Be upfront about your weaknesses, but lead with your strengths. Put the time and effort into writing a profile that shows that you think finding the right relationship is important. And if all else fails, at least you can still buy shoes and toothpaste on the Internet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

 A paranormal coming of age story. Brendan has a hard time fitting in as the new kid in town, especially on Valentine's Day. Although he hasn't made any friends at his new school, there is one girl he hopes will be his Valentine. But will their holiday end in newfound romance or heartbreak? A short story for young adults by Keith B. Darrell. 2,564 words.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Love Potion No. 9

Love spells on eBay? Going once, going twice, sold. Apparently there is nothing that can’t be purchased on the Internet. Although the auction site banned the sale of spells and hexes in September 2012 –  at which time, CNN reported eBay’s Spells and Potions category had “more than 6,000 active listings and happy feedback from quite a few satisfied buyers”  – a quick check of auction listings reveals there are still plenty of spells to bid on.

There’s the “Full E-mail Love Spell” for only $9.99 (free shipping!). You may want to hurry though; with Valentine’s Day approaching, there are only three spells left from this seller.

If you haven’t found your true love yet, you can always purchase a Soulmate Spell for a mere $10. The Soulmate Spell comes with the following warranties: “Will not interfere with any existing spells or work done by other spellcasters. My spells are completely safe and will not backfire or cause any harm. This spell is permanent and will not fade over time.”

Of course, if your intended is proving resistant to your natural charms, you may have to resort to “The Most Powerful Black Magick Love Spell”  At $36.99, it might seem a bit pricey, but it does come with this guarantee: “If you do not see results in 60 days from when your spell was cast and are not completely satisfied please email me and I will perform a new spell service free of charge.” Even more reassuring, in the fine print of the eBay auction details, the seller assures us that the love spell does not involve the sacrifice of animals.

If things go really well for you on this Valentine’s Day, you may wish to purchase the “Fertility Conception Pregnancy Spell” for only $1.75. Presumably, this spell would require some physical effort on your part, which you may enjoy repeating as necessary.

Of course, the flip side of love is hate. Need a voodoo doll? Where else, but eBay? (Pins not included; batteries extra). The seller states: “This order is for the voodoo ritual service only. We do NOT send out any physical item. We have hired a traditional Haitian Voodoo priest named Houngan Louidor, who is in charge of magic rituals and is a link between humans and the Voodoo spirits, also known as Loas.” The scary thing is, that of the three available, two have already been sold.

But when simple incantations are not enough, eBay will still help you find the right hex to put the whammy on someone. What could be more appropriate than the “Total Vengeance Black Magic Spell Book”?  Granted, at a mere 48 pages, it’s hardly an arcane tome, but it features some sure-fire winners, such as the General Turmoil Spell, the Enemy Affliction Spell, and instructions on how to create an “Enemy Doll”. I can tell it’s user-friendly because it comes with an  Easy Hexing Spell, and I’m already composing a list of victims for the 6-Day “Shut Up” Spell.

Of course, returns could be problematic.

     Dear eBay:
     I am writing to request a return authorization for a spell I purchased on eBay last week. The incantation was supposed to turn my ex into a horny toad. Instead, it just made him horny and now he is humping every girl in town except me!
     Sincerely yours,
            Witch Hazel
             666 Devil's Lane
             Salem, MA

Perhaps for this Valentine’s Day, you’d be better off doing your bewitching with flowers and candy.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Here We Go Again!

I just attempted to download a copy of my monthly bill from Walmart’s website. Even though I went to the URL printed top of all of my Walmart bills, after 10 minutes of searching its site I was still unable to find a download link. So I called the phone number on my Walmart bill that was listed right below the website URL. I was greeted by the ubiquitous “Press 1-Press2” automated call system which I bypassed by repeating the phrase “operator” until I wore out the machine and it changed tactics, asking me for my Social Security number. As there was no way in hell I was giving that out I continued repeating “operator” at every prompt until a mechanized voice finally said, “I understand you’d like to speak to an operator, is that right?”

So the fine folks at Walmart transferred my call to an overseas phone center in the Philippines. That’s right, yet another American company – the twelfth I’ve called this week – is outsourcing jobs overseas while unemployed Americans are looking for work. Every American business that does this should be publicly vilified. Immigrants are not stealing American jobs; greedy American corporations are sending the jobs overseas.

A nice Filipino lady informed me I could sign up to receive all my bills electronically. I told her I didn’t want to do that; all I wanted was a copy of this month’s bill. She told me that was not possible unless I signed up for electronic billing to replace receiving my bills by mail. In fact, despite telling her I was not interested in signing up for electronic billing she proceeded to attempt to sign me up three more times.

Once again, here is an example of what’s wrong with American business: An American business that goes out of its way not to have human contact with its customers by employing automated call systems; makes it difficult for customers to obtain the information they need; outsources jobs overseas; and employs foreign workers who are unresponsive to the needs of its customers.

American businesses need to trash their automated call systems and go back to the days of hiring American workers to answer their phones and speak directly to their customers. American businesses need to make it easier, not more difficult, for customers to interact with them. American businesses need to hire Americans and make their products in America to support our country and our citizenry, the way we as consumers support them by buying their products and services. And American corporations need to be responsive to the needs of their customers: this means listening to them; engaging with them; and having employees who are capable of, and empowered to, assist them.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Candyman

I find Donald Trump to be quite likable. There’s a pleasant cadence in his voice that’s reassuring, unlike Hillary Clinton’s shrill harping. And while I agree with almost everything Bernie Sanders has said, the way he says things irks me. “Do you want to know what I think of that?” Sanders will reply to any question. “Let me tell you what I think about that.” Just spit it out, Bernie. That’s what Donald would do. Donald is a master of brevity and succinctness. He speaks in sound bites, not drawn out exposition like Barack Obama. And Donald doesn’t use any of those big words like the political analysts do. Donald speaks to me like a comforting friend using words like “great” and “terrific”. His speeches are always written in an easy-to-understand fifth-grade vocabulary. He doesn’t explain foreign policy in terms of bilateralism or trilateralism; instead, he tells Mexico if it doesn’t clean up its act then he’ll go in after “the bad hombres.”

When Donald Trump says something on TV, I find myself agreeing with what this likable man is saying. Somehow the way he phrases things just makes it seem like common sense. But then I turn off the TV and examine what he’s actually done. Things that sounded good and made so much sense are suddenly troubling. A change that causes mortgage interest to go up; torturing people; starting trade wars; threatening real wars; cozying up with our enemies like Russia while offending our allies like Australia, Canada, and Europe; saying we should pull out of NATO and the UN; walking away from a treaty that will give a huge economic advantage to China while hurting the E.U. and America; approving pipeline projects that will add only 36 permanent jobs but forever damage America’s natural resources; appointing ill-qualified individuals to cabinet positions; naming an anti-Semitic white supremacist as his top advisor; attacking American intelligence agencies and removing their permanent representation at the National Security Council; dismantling healthcare for millions of Americans; firing long-time career State Department employees; placing a gag order on federal government officials; promising to spend $14 billion to build an ineffective wall to keep out Mexicans when that money could be spent on infrastructure to repair roads and bridges throughout the country; and engaging in a systematic attempt to delegitimize the news media.

But then I’m distracted by the charming gaffes. You know the type: President Gerald Ford constantly bumping his head or stumbling; President George W. Bush’s malapropisms; and now President Donald Trump’s gaffes, like banning immigrants on Holocaust Remembrance Day; not mentioning Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day; and citing Frederick Douglass in remarks on Black History Month in a way that made it obvious he didn’t know who Douglass was or that he had died more than a century ago. And then there’s Donald’s ego. Some say it crosses the line into megalomania. I won’t comment on that, but I will note that one of his first official acts was to declare his inauguration day to be a "National Day of Patriotic Devotion."

Yet I still like Donald Trump. When I hear him, I feel like a 10-year-old boy being called to by a much older man in a white van offering me candy. Somewhere deep inside me I know I shouldn’t listen, but I like candy and he seems so nice. My friends say I should give him a chance and go along for the ride. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Putting the Pieces Together

Quite possibly the most important event in the history of the world happened yesterday and no one is talking about it.

It’s important because it involves the United States, the most powerful country in the history of the world.

It’s of particular importance to U.S. citizens because it affects their lives. I don’t mean their day-to-day routine; I mean whether they live or die.

The American president less than two weeks ago swore an inaugural oath to protect America “from all threats foreign and domestic”. Remember those last three words.

The National Security Council (NSC) exists to protect America from threats from abroad and from within the homeland. Normally the latter would conjure images of foreign spies or sleeper agents plotting against us from within.

Until now, the Director of National Intelligence (who oversees the intelligence agencies like the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA) and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (who oversee the four branches of our military: Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) had a permanent seat on the Principals Committee - the last stop before taking a major national security decision to the president. This makes sense, of course.

But the new American president has made two shocking changes to the composition of the NSC: the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will no longer have a permanent place. Instead, the Trump White House says, they’ll be “invited” to meetings when it’s appropriate. This begs the question, When would their presence not be appropriate at a national security meeting?

The answer is when the definition of “national security” is rewritten. What if it no longer was defined as foreign threats against America from without or within the country? What if internal dissent, i.e., any opposition to administration policies, were redefined as a threat to national security within the purview of the NSC?

That might explain the president’s second shocking change to the composition of the NSC: the appointment of his political advisor Steve Bannon – previously a propagandist for the alt-right white nationalist and anti-Semitic publication Breitbart News – as a permanent member of the Principal’s Committee of the NSC at the same time the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have lost their permanent positions, now relegated to be occasional guests by invitation only.

What perceived threats might a hatemonger like Bannon “protect” us from? What recommendations would he give a delusional president who sees massive inaugural crowds that don’t exist; five million illegal voters who don’t exist; thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the fall of the twin towers, who don’t exist; and the nonexistent threat of massive Mexican illegal immigration at a time when such Mexicans have been leaving the U.S., not coming to it?

Make no mistake: this could very well be the beginning of an apparatus to squelch any domestic dissent against a fascist regime. And in the uproar over other Trump administration actions, no one has noticed. That’s how fascism starts. And by the time citizens do notice, it’s too late.

How to Right the Sinking Ship

I’ve spent the past week writing about personal experiences that illustrate the failings of modern American business. Some of you may wonder why I’ve bothered. You’re thinking, What’s the point? We’ve all encountered the same type of situations whenever we have any contact with American businesses. The sad truth is it wasn’t always this way; you’ve just learned to accept shoddy service and products as par for the course. When you hand a cashier your money you no longer even expect to hear a ‘thank you’ in return. More likely, they act as if they’re doing you a favor. Customer service has become a lost art.

When I was younger, problems like the ones I’ve discussed this week would have been resolved with a single phone call. A customer would not have encountered robo-calls, voice mail, and automated phone menus. The customer would’ve called the business and been connected immediately to a human being. If that person couldn’t solve the problem, then the customer would have been directed to someone who could. Business owners were not annoyed by customer complaints; they welcomed them. They were grateful for the opportunity to learn what was going wrong with their company so they could correct it. You may have seen a throwback to this time on the television show Undercover Boss, in which corporate CEOs go to work for their own companies disguised as low-level employees to learn firsthand what really goes on within their companies. Often the CEOs are surprised and angered by what they discover and return vowing to make changes. But all too often today, business owners don’t want to hear complaints from customers, employees, or vendors. They don’t see it as an opportunity to improve their company, but rather take it as personal criticism that is to be avoided.

Employees no longer take pride in their jobs; they’ve become clock watchers whose only interest is the end of the business day. Employee morale is low and management is to blame for that. Management no longer motivates employees; in fact, corporations often expect employees to work longer hours, pay them low wages, and hire them as part-time workers – often for 39 hours a week – so that they will be relieved of the obligation of paying overtime or healthcare benefits. Consumers also suffer because the quest for higher and higher profits has resulted in the establishment of planned obsolescence and the corresponding introduction of low-quality, shoddy products. Publicly-held companies are even more consumed by the shortsighted focus on quarterly earnings to the detriment of long-term growth, which has resulted in a stock market that rewards daytraders and penalizes long-term investors.

Businesses spend a fortune on marketing: a thirty-second Super Bowl ad costs $5 million. Ironically, despite how much they spend to acquire new customers, American companies do little to retain them; in fact, the experiences I’ve related this past week show U.S. business practices evince an utter disregard for their customers’ satisfaction with their products or services. This makes no sense and it wasn’t like this in the past. But it will continue if consumers accept it as the “New Normal.”

Customer service entails responding to customers in a timely manner. In an age of instant communication by phone or email that doesn’t mean two days later. It requires an open portal of communication between the customer and the company, through which the customer can reach a live human being who understands the company’s products and services and can either directly provide assistance or refer the customer to another employee who can. It means not outsourcing American jobs to overseas call centers whose staffs are ill-equipped to resolve problems or often even to speak English in a clear manner. It also means viewing customer complaints not as a problem but as an opportunity to improve the business and retain customer loyalty.

Proper customer service also requires taking a holistic approach: every component of the business is interrelated. When I informed Sears I had received another customer’s appliance part, the employee should have realized that meant there was another customer who was also being inconvenienced as he would not be receiving the part that had been incorrectly shipped to me. The employee should have acted on that information proactively and not waited for the second customer to call in days later after he discovered the error. It’s bad enough for Sears to be using robo-calls but to include a nonworking phone number as the reply phone number is outrageous negligence. If a company asks the customer to call back, it should provide a working phone number. A business should never leave a customer on hold for nearly an hour. And it must make sure all of its employees – regardless of their job function – have a basic knowledge of the company’s products or services.

If businesses want to retain their customers then they need to start treating them with respect. The first step would be to eliminate automated call systems. Customers don’t want to ‘Press 1’ or “Press 2’ and jump through endless hoops as they tumble down a fiber-optic rabbit hole; they prefer to speak to a live human being.

Mistakes happen. Customers understand this. But when a business messes up, it not only needs to rectify the situation but to do so in a manner that shows the customer it acknowledges its mistake and cares about the customer’s ultimate satisfaction. If the wrong item is shipped to the customer, then ship the correct one by overnight delivery. If the service was unsatisfactory, refund a portion of what the customer has paid. I once did business with a successful manufacturer of retail display racks. Whenever I ordered from them, they would always include something extra with the order as a matter of policy because they wanted to show the customers how much they appreciated their business. Twenty  years ago, when my massage chair broke and the company had to reschedule a repair appointment, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a hand-held massager along with an apology for the delay. It made a lasting impression on me and when the time came to replace the chair I was more favorably predisposed to that company than to its competitors. This is how customer loyalty is created and retained.

American businesses in sad shape. The ship is sinking but there is still time to right it. Hopefully business leaders will read these blog posts and re-examine the way they run their companies, and consumers will read them and re-examine the standards they are willing to accept from the businesses to which they give their hard-earned money. Consumers must stop acting like an abused spouse, returning to the business for further abuse or seeking out a new business identically abusive to the one with whom the consumer has just ended its relationship.