Jul 14

The PATH to an Awful Day

Today’s post is by guest blogger Catharine Cody.

Normally I ignore my dad’s posts about NJ Transit delays, failures and false promises, too.  But recently, the PATH service between Hoboken and 33rd street has become so abysmal, that I felt the need to blog about it.

cat

Let’s face it. No one LOVES to commute.  It’s just something we have to do every day if we want to get to work.  As a proud Hoboken resident, I often tell people how amazing my commute to work is.  On a normal day, it’s 30 minutes door-to-door!  While on the PATH train, I can usually find a nice, clean seat and relax in the air-conditioned car for 14 minutes.  14 minutes- no more and no less.  There is an adequate amount of space for the people who make this commute, and everyone is quite pleasant towards each other.

Over the past few months, however, PATH service has slipped.  In fact, the Port Authority reduced service during peak hours by 14%.  Meanwhile, ridership at the Hoboken PATH station has increased by 11% since 2012.  To sum up, we have more commuters and fewer trains.

After a quick search on PATH’s main website, one can’t find any information about the reduced service.   In fact, PATH doesn’t even have a tagline.  Before the service cuts, I would have suggested something along the lines of, “The Luxurious Way to Commute” or even “14 Minutes of Bliss Every Morning.”  Now I’d recommend their tagline be, “The PATH to an Awful Day.”

And, it really is the PATH to an awful day, because Hoboken-ers don’t want to be squeezed into a jam-packed car.  We live in Hoboken for a reason, so we don’t have to deal with the 6 train nightmare every day.  So, PATH officials, take heed.  Give us our DAMN trains back and we’ll be blissfully serene in the mornings.  If you keep this up, we’ll all be angry New Yorkers before long.

Aug 03

An Uncorporate Image

Guest post by Kendyl Wright – Fellow Peppercommer and "Uncorporate" Senior Account Executive

Kickball

When I moved to NYC in 2006, I had big dreams and expectations of PR greatness. I took a job immediately with one of the world’s biggest PR firm and set out to succeed in the corporate world. Since this blog is about reputations, I will say that this firm had one of the best “corporate” reputations in the public relations industry.

The CEO was responsible for giving Coca-Cola the infamous classic tagline. I should have been in PR heaven. But as my resume will quickly tell you, I was not. I left after six months and moved to a midsize, privately owned firm. I was much happier and felt that this firm fit my work style so much better. But as young New Yorkers often do, I was lured back to a big firm almost 3 years later by the client list, the promise of more money and the appeal of running some of PR’s biggest launch events. About 2 weeks in, it clicked. I am UNCORPORATE. 

It would take me 2 more years, another job and a 5 month sabbatical to land at Peppercom. When my friend Rebecca asked to submit my resume, I hesitated. “I don’t want to work at a PR firm. I hate everything about them,” I told her time and time again. After a little convincing on her part, (and a lot on my parents’ part…where I had been “temporarily” crashing during my time off) I decided to take a job at Peppercom. 

We talk about image crises a lot in the PR world, but we rarely talk about the culture image of our own firms. Based on my experiences, and those of various friends and colleagues within the industry, corporate life inside the walls of most PR firms is less than encouraging.

In an industry centered around communication and creativity, there’s little brainstorming, less collaboration and not a whole lot of fun. I have friends that work at agencies big & small all over the country and they have countless horror stories of account management, career support and day-to-day lifestyle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’m just over PR. There’s nothing I like about going to work.” It makes me sad that our industry is so corporate and cold. Why is it that we consistently hear about the creative and inspiring cultures at ad agencies, but PR environments are structured more like banks and law firms?  

Two days after I started at Peppercom, the agency hosted our annual “Uncorporate Challenge,” a fun run followed by a happy hour. The slogan of this challenge is “Peppercom – Keeping it Uncorporate since 1995.” Over the next few weeks, those knots in my stomach about working for another PR firm started to subside – I knew I had found a home. And while the out of work activities we have here are definitely fun, it’s my day to day uncorporate experience that has helped me embrace PR again.

Over the past year, I have learned that just because you have the big client names doesn’t mean you have the best job. I’ve learned that working at a place that values the individual and encourages them to flourish as they are is a wonderful and amazing thing. I’ve learned what it means to have a team, in every sense of the word. What it’s like to collaborate and trust those team members and be proud of the work you accomplished together. There’s very little individual blame at Peppercom, and for an industry that seems to always pass the buck, that’s pretty incredible.

I’ve learned that there are managers who listen to you and encourage growth in the areas you are passionate about. I’ve learned that it is possible for the most senior people at a company to know your name and actually care about what happens to you as an individual. But most of all, I’ve learned what it’s like to love coming to work each day. I do better work, I’m a better person and most of all, I don’t miss “corporate” life at all. 

Feb 17

MICK MOUNTS MILLION DOG MARCH AGAINST MITT

Also Wails About 'Wimpification' of Canines 

image from www.repmanblog.com

LINCROFT, NJ - February 17, 2012 - Outspoken former U.S. Congressdog Mick Cody today announced he'd be leading a million dog march to undermine Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's chances in the upcoming Michigan primary.

The controversial canine says it's high time canines shine the spotlight on what he called Romney's '…heinous treatment…' of the family dog, Seamus, in 1983.

'We'll begin the march (or trot, walk, run, or canter. Take your pick.) from every corner of this great country of ours,' said the peeved pit bull, who was forced to resign from office last year after being caught texting a topless photograph of himself to a cat.

'Voters need to know that Mitt Romney deliberately strapped his dog, Seamus, to the top of his car during a long drive to Canada. I think it's the Beltway equivalent of Michael Vick's training pit bulls to fight to the death.'

Cody said the one million dogs plan to converge on Detroit in early March. Once there, he promised the dogs will run in packs along the highways, and up and down every street tearing down Romney campaign posters, defecating on them, or both. 'We'll also be lifting our legs outside every Romney campaign office in the state,' he sniffed.

The outspoken pooch says he believes dogs can, and will, cost Romney the Republican candidacy. 'People love dogs, and once more of them know what happened to poor Seamus, they'll shift their votes to a more animal-friendly candidate. Not that Newt, Rick or Ron look very friendly, mind you,' panted Mick, as he returned from a brisk four-mile walk of his own.

WIMPIFICATION OF DOGS

Cody also railed at what he called the liberal Hollywood establishment's 'wimpification of dogs.' Standing on his hind legs and activating the remote control of the Cody Family DVD, the dog showed a gathering of reporters a popular Youtube video he called, 'demeaning and degrading to all canines, no matter their breed.' 

'My master is sick and tired of Hollywood's portrayal of all men as stupid. I'm equally upset at their marginalizing all dogs by showing one weakling who happens to be scared silly of cats. The liberal elite are ruining this country,' he howled.

Readers will recall that Mick Cody first rose to prominence when he organized a march of some 100,000 dogs in protest of Michael Vick's abuse of pit bulls. Buoyed by massive national publicity, Cody then became the first dog ever elected to Congress. He later resigned in disgrace because of the sexting scandal, an incident Mick still insists was nothing more than entrapment.

# # # 

Shout out and thanks to Syd Steinhardt who sparked the idea for this post.

Sep 02

Living Up to Its Name

This guest blog was authored by former Peppercommer, Isaac Farbowitz, who now makes a living selling medical supplies.

******

Friday guest post All too often, brands fail to live up to their names and promises as loyal RepMan readers know.  However, this past weekend I had an amazing experience where a brand lived up to every bit of its name and I wanted to share it as an example of a company “getting it right.” 

When it became clear on Thursday of last week that Irene was going to poke her ugly head into the Tri-State area over the weekend, my wife and I decided to pack up our six kids and head west to the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos.  We weren’t taking any chances with falling trees, flooded streets and heavy rain, not to mention six kids with no TV, computer or Wii! 

The weather wasn’t that bad in the Poconos through Sunday around noon and we assumed we escaped the worst of it.  But around noon, the winds really kicked up and within minutes the power was out in the hotel.  And with no power comes a closed water park, no arcades and not much to do in a hotel for kids- at least not in any hotel not named Great Wolf Lodge! 

Within minutes of the power going out, there were announcements that there was a power outage and that the hotel was working with the power company to restore it and get an estimated time it would be back.  They then announced that there were backup generators for the lobby and hallways and that there would be a movie for kids showing in the lobby ASAP. 

While the movie was playing, they handed out bottled water, chips, cookies and many snacks to all the kids and literally had every staff member handing out beer, wine and soda to all the adults.  Once the movie was over, they put on Wii dancing and had hundreds of people dancing with staff members in the lobby.  (The picture in this blog is a photo I took of the dancing- four of the kids are mine).  The site of adults and kids dancing in a lobby during a hurricane was surreal but no one was complaining about the lack of power or the weather. 

After dancing, the hotel announced that power should be restored in the next two hours and they had a whole dinner buffet set up (free of charge) for all guests including hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, salads and drinks for all to enjoy.  Once dinner ended, another movie was put on for kids and shortly thereafter the power was restored. 

Great Wolf Lodge clearly had a plan in place to deal with a potential power outage and they executed it to perfection!  Not one guest was complaining and many were seen thanking the hotel staff for doing their best to make it the best day possible given the conditions.  Every staff member had a smile on their face as they fielded questions and they did everything they could to make it a GREAT day for guests in spite of the hand they were dealt. 

And the kicker to show just how well Great Wolf Lodge handled the storm- when we were checking out we were talking to a staff member who asked our kids “what was the best part of the trip” and the kids response: “movies and dancing in the lobby when there was no power.”  Great Wolf lived up to its name in a great way!  

May 27

Garbage in, garbage out

9109 I’ve never met Casey Jones (the marketer, not the engineer), but I already like the cut of this man’s jib.

For those of you unfamiliar with Casey (the marketer, not the ill-fated engineer), Jones has a long list of accomplishments including serving as VP of Dell and creating Apple’s memorable ‘1984’ TV spot that launched the Mac computer.

But, I’m not writing about Casey’s past accomplishments as a marketer. Instead, I feel compelled to wax poetic about his fresh way of thinking about client-agency relationships. As a strategy consultant to corporations such as Verizon Wireless, Jones has changed the ways clients think. To wit, Verizon’s VP of marketing communications, John Harrobin, is now holding his internal executives responsible for “…demonstrating excellence in providing the organization’s stable of agencies clearly defined briefs from which to execute marketing communications and campaigns.” That’s HUGE! In other words, clients can no longer pass the buck and blame their agencies for poor execution. Instead, thanks to Casey’s counsel, Verizon’s internal communications team shares success or failure with their agency partners. Talk about a long overdue sea change.

Jones is an absolute evangelist when it comes to the ongoing blame game about failed marketing efforts. His motto is ‘Garbage in, garbage out.’ That’s shorthand for his theory that efficiency-obsessed clients can get want they want by not slashing an agency’s budget but, rather, by briefing the agency better. Jones rates the average client direction as being between a two and a three on a scale of one to 10. “The norm is partial, incomplete and sometimes no brief at all,” he opines. Ouch.

I agree with Jones (with reservations, of course). We have some superb clients with whom we’re fully engaged in the strategic planning process, creative brief and definitions of success. And, then there have been those clients who, after telling us they wanted a strategic partner, left us to put out fires on a daily basis and fired us for ‘not understanding the business of their business.’ I still recall a post mortem with one client who admitted he himself didn’t really get the corporation’s business model but still felt compelled to fire us. “So,” replied Deb Brown, our ice hockey playing, Kangoo-jumping, absolutely fearless account manager of the ill-fated business, “How do you expect your agency to understand your business if you don’t?” You go, girl.

Casey Jones and his ideas are starting to take root. The Association of National Advertisers’ School of Marketing has invited him to give presentations about the importance of quality briefings by the client. That’s great. But, it’s not enough. I suggest the Arthur W. Page Society (www.awpagesociety.com) and the Council of PR Firms (www.prfirms.org) follow suit ASAP and invite Jones to present to PR types.

Success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. It’s high time other clients follow the lead of Verizon Wireless and hold their own internal communications team just as responsible for success (or failure) as they do their external agency partners.

As Ad Age said in its headline for the article, “Marketers, quit blaming your agency – it’s your brief at fault.”

Mar 11

A terminal case of the slows

When asked why he fired George B. McClellan for the SECOND time as commander-in-chief of the   Army of the Potomac, President Abraham Lincoln said, "Because he has a terminal case of the slows." McClellan was a great administrator and organizer, but he lacked the stomach for warfare.

Editorial_20100403After reading about the latest Catholic Church disgrace in the archdiocese of Philadelphia, I reached the exact, same conclusion about Cardinal Justin Rigali.

Here's why. Back in early February, a Philly grand jury found that no fewer than 37 priests, who had been accused or suspected of misbehavior with children, were STILL serving in the ministry. That's enough men to field three football squads, four baseball teams or SEVEN basketball franchises (heck, the latter would constitute an entire division). 

Now, get this: one month after the grand jury report, the archdiocese placed only 21 of the 37 priests on 'administrative leave.' That means:

A) All 37 accused molesters were running amok for a full month and…

B) Even worse, another 16 continue to have free and unfettered access to their unsuspecting flocks.

The good cardinal was quoted as saying, “I know that for many people their trust in the Church has been shaken.” Ha! Is he kidding? “Been' shaken?” My trust was shaken, stirred and completely shattered years ago.

Responding to Cardinal Rigali's decision to allow 16 of the accused clergy to continue their 'alleged' wanton ways, the grand jury said, “We understand the accusations are not proof, but we cannot understand the Archdiocese's apparent absence of any sense of urgency.”

I can understand it. Just as police departments boast of a thin blue line that closes ranks when one of its members is accused of wrongdoing, the Catholic Church has a thin line of either black or red hue (depending upon whether the cover-up is led by a priest or cardinal).

I'd like to believe if Abraham Lincoln were still alive and had the authority, he'd sack Rigali for his terminal case of the slows. And, he'd also boot the 37 offenders out of the priesthood faster than you can say “Gettysburg Address.”

When it comes to worst practices for image and reputation management, the Catholic Church is in a league of its own. The Philadelphia scandal is neither shocking nor unexpected. It's just more of the same old, same old.

And, sad to say, there will be many more scandals until, and unless, the Church addresses the issue of celibacy. But, that's another issue for another blog.

Until the Church is able to find a U.S. Grant-type to fill the papal role, they'll be stuck with George McClellan types such as Benedict XVI and Cardinal Rigali who delay, deny and obfuscate without ever acknowledging the system itself is broken.

A tip o' RepMan's hat to LunchBoy for suggesting this post.

Jan 07

Who’s The Boss!?

Today's post is by Peppercomer Ray Carroll.

First, I was brought on for resembling Brendan, and then hired fulltime as receptionist for projecting courtesy and hospitality.  Never would I’ve thought I’d receive an offer to be managing partner in my first year with the agency!  Although short-lived, my coup of the corner office was just as enlightening as it was rewarding.

B&I The front desk can be merciless, offering myriad tasks.  At other times it is placid.  There, I assist on many levels and have become facilitator in certain respects.  While I meet and greet clients, I rarely see our executives orchestrating their business. 

The idea of job swaps isn’t original, but a CEO trading places with a receptionist is new to me.  And, better yet, I was happy to be involved.  Following the trail blazed by erstwhile (couldn’t resist it) Peppercomers, I was anxious for my chance to overtake the reins as CEO.  The opportunity would provide insight into business beyond the lobby threshold.

Steve and I began this experience coincidently meeting outside our office building.  We rode the elevator together on route to conquer new domains.  Arriving on our floor, I bypassed my usual tasks and, was already convinced I had the better half of the arrangement.

Sprinting past the reception desk, I made a beeline for the boss’s office.  I relished my own space that boasted a huge desk, comfy couch, and Park Avenue view.  More impressive, I had an elite personal assistant at my beck-and-call.  

My morning agenda, at this point, seemed light and things were quiet.  I’d conclude an agency can’t evolve or prosper with a CEO sitting complacently at their desk.  My expectations became self-imposed, and I’d devise a few plans.  I questioned just how much I’d get away with in my new role.

I balked at tyranny, and I mulled over pranks and abuses of power that could’ve potentially jeopardized my returning the next day.  Choosing wisely, I gave Dandy an abridged version of my executive requests.  She politely rejected each one of my highfalutin ideas, and casually redirected my enthusiasm towards conference calls and caucuses. 

Confident in my new role, I summoned Peppercom’s president, Ted Birkhahn, into my office.  We discussed service trends and economic forces hindering top quality production from low-level positions.  Surprisingly, Ted dismissed my notion to double our receptionist’s salary.  We considered the relevance of job rotation, as well as potential benefits from swapping jobs with clients.  Staying true to impersonation, I tried convincing Ted to take part in a job swap of his own. 

Being part of Peppercom for nearly a year, it’s clear to me that leadership is a value shared both founders.  So, I next brought individuals into my office to speak about their professional development. We’d address account work, stressors, as well as experiences from the past year and future aspirations.  I also managed to finagle my way into a possible RepMan podcast with Paul Merchan.

Time was flying by and my afternoon was booked solid, so with a break coming up, I hit the gym.  I had my choice of equipment, so I jumped on a treadmill with a street view following it up with circuit training. I took note: physical wellness and mental prosperity go hand-in-hand.  It’d been too long since I’d last been to a gym, so, Steve, my heart and lungs thank you. 

I returned to the office and had lunch waiting; excellent timing before a few meetings.  By now I was ready to delve into what really makes Peppercom tick.  For the afternoon, Dandy had included me in every pertinent meeting, so now I’d witnessed the lifeblood of our company. 

Various teams of executives shuffled into my office with their expertise in tow.  We’d review client updates, plan outlines, and media strategy.  I saw our progress-tracking Harte chart, and joined in discussing technique to maximize capability within a scope of work.  I also joined a publicity team meeting, discussed leverage and positioning initiatives, and joined client conference calls. 

I found the job-swap to be an extremely eye opening experience.  I feel inspired and rejuvenated both mentally and physically.  While my current gig pays a few bills, I’ll strive for the caliber of job I held that day.  It’s tough passing up the rewards that wait as a direct result of your own dedicated efforts and success.  Mr. Cody: Thank You for the opportunity!

** My one regret: At my helm, our company’s image may have taken a direct hit.  Mismanagement of an entry-level position, by yours truly, will now prevent Andrea from ever referring us.

 

Nov 16

Killing for a Living

How do you like global tobacco companies such as Philip Morris and British American Tobacco suing Third World governments and spending oodles of cash to lobby for smaller warning signs on their packaging? That's right, Big Tobacco is once again on the offensive to make sure it continues to maim and kill as many people as possible in the name of free enterprise. 

Cigarette I'm not surprised tobacco is targeting the Third World. That's where the growth and profits are (that said, though, an amazing 21 percent of Americans still smoke). But, to think that Philip Morris, for example, is actually suing the government of Uruguay for excessive tobacco regulations is beyond the pale. 

Could you imagine being head of marketing for one of these death merchants? Talk about making a pact with the devil. 

Peter Nixon of Philip Morris is one such merchant of death. He's quoted in the Times as saying his company '…agreed that smoking was harmful and supported reasonable regulations where none exist.' Gee, what a swell guy. 

Yes. Nixon agrees cigarette packaging should have some sort of warning (the smaller the better, I'm sure). But, he takes exception with the new, larger warnings being placed on cigarette boxes around the world. 'We thought 50 percent was reasonable,' he told the Times. 'Once you take it up to 80 percent, there's no space for trademarks to be shown. We thought that was going too far.' So, covering 80 percent of a cigarette box is going too far, but killing half a million people each and every year isn't? Methinks Mr. Nixon is smoking something other than cigarettes. 

More to the image and reputation point of this blog, though, how can someone, anyone, work for an organization that knowingly manufactures and sells a product that kills? How can PR and advertising agencies represent them? And, how can all of the above look at themselves in the mirror each and every morning?

Maybe the answer lies in another, smaller NY Times article from the November 2nd Health section. It reported that 'middle-aged smokers are far more likely than non-smokers to develop dementia later in life, and heavy smokers — those who go through more than two packs a day — are at more than double the risk.' I'll bet Mr. Nixon and his heavy smoking, middle- aged peers at Philip Morris, BAT and the other Big Tobacco players are just suffering from early onset dementia. They'd have to be certifiable to do killing for a living.

 

Aug 20

Misspelling the word ‘Manhattan’ isn’t helpful to one’s job search

Having just finished a hilarious novel entitled, “The Pursuit of Other Interests”, my sensitivities Death-of-a-salesman-logo towards middle-aged, out-of-work job seekers is at an all-time high. The book, which profiles a 50-year-old advertising executive named Charlie, paints a bleak, if heartwarming, picture of the current landscape for middle-aged, unemployed white collar workers.

So, knowing how few employment opportunities exist as well as how thin the margin for error is, I was totally flabbergasted to receive the following note from a guy I’ll call Buck.

Dear Seekers of New Revenue:
I am currently seeking a full time, salary plus commission New Business Position in Manhatan. I would address these personally, but with over 2,300 names, I need to solve the challenge  quickly. I am the most dedicated, energetic, and knowledgable person in the Tri-State Area with respect to opening doors for corporate pitches.
I have been in the business for over 15 years and I work from 7 to 5 and can make at least 100 calls per day. I can very quickly develop a custom database for cold calls for your firm and set 2 pitch meetings per week.
Should my skill sets meet your requirements, I would love to speak furthur. Also, should you have a person or people in place to handle cold calling, I also work as a consultant on a per diem basis to upgrade their best practices.
Best Regards,
Buck McDesperate
(800) 555-1212 DesperateBuck@ISPProvider.com

To begin with, it was e-mail addressed to Sally Kennedy of Cossette Communications in Canada. Sally: sorry to be reading your spam. Second, Buck lets it be known that he’s an accomplished business development dude looking for a full-time salary plus commission gig in Manhatan. Yes, that’s Manhattan minus one ‘t’. Ouch. Misspelling Manhattan in the opening sentence of one’s pitch letter doesn’t augur well.

But, it gets worse. Buck lets me (or, Sally to be precise) know that he has a Rolodex with 2,300 names on it and is the most dedicated, energetic and knowledgeable person in the Tri-state Area (I wonder if that includes Toronto where, I assume, Sally is headquartered?). Buck’s been in the business world for 15 years, works from 7am to 5pm daily (he later amends it to 6am to 5pm daily), makes at least 100 calls each and every day (and that has to start hurting the fingers after awhile) and can produce “…a minimum of 2 valid pitch meetings over week.” Talk about Always Be Closing. Wow.

But, here’s the rub. If Buck is really that good and can produce a minimum of two valid pitch meetings per week, why is he blasting unsolicited e-mails to me (via Sally, of course. Sorry Sally). The sad truth about Buck, and the hundreds of thousands of other Bucks out there, is that he’s desperate. He’s probably been out of work for at least a year and has no solid prospects whatsoever. So, driven to desperation, he creates a rambling, semi-lucid, almost laughable pitch that is chock full of typos, poor grammar and inconsistencies.

Buck is not unlike the fictional character Charlie in the aforementioned Jim Kokoris book. Whiling away his time in an outplacement firm’s offices, Charlie puts together a database of former co-workers, clients, prospects and friends and blasts out a periodic e-newsletter entitled, “The Charlie Update!” Its subtitle is “Charlie B. Out on the Street.” One by one, the people on his hit list asked to be removed from the unintentionally hilarious mailings as Charlie becomes increasingly desperate and despondent.

Buck and Charlie are part of what a recent New York Times article called the 99ers. If memory serves, there are some 1.4 million unemployed, middle-aged, white collar workers who have passed the 99-week mark and no longer qualify for unemployment benefits. That’s when, driven to the brink of despair, they hit the send button and distribute embarrassingly bad missives like the one from Buck. I feel for these people and I wish I could help. But, sadly, I don’t have an answer except to suggest a dictionary and Thesaurus.


Jul 30

My card. My pain in the ass.

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Dandy Stevenson.

I hate cilantro and American Express. I’m rather good at avoiding cilantro but as an authorized
American-express-logo agent for Peppercom’s accounts, I am doomed to suffer the slings and arrows of this once premier and user friendly company.  Once upon a time, AmEx did have clout and lived up to its reputation of having responsive,  intelligent and capable customer service representatives who understood how to deliver and assure that cardholder issues were handled properly.

That was then, this is now. No matter if I call to transfer points to an airline account, respond to a suspicious charge inquiry or attempt to find out if a local office has Rubles, as soon as I hear “Thank you for calling American Express, with whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?” my stomach locks up and my eyes bleed.

My latest romp thru the AmEx Circle of Hell involved reporting a lost card and requesting a placement. I clickety-clicked thru their maelstrom of options, answering mindless questions (Recording: “I see you are requesting to report a lost card. If you are not sure press your nose, if you have blue eyes enter your phone number…”) and finally connected with a 'Customer Service Specialist' half-way around the globe. We were then on to the perfunctory introductions to hear “And how are you today Ms. Stevenson?”  (Don’t waste my time pretending to care while you finish filing your nails. I am tired of waiting. I want help. I want it now.)

But of course assistance still eluded me as I was passed from one subterranean being to the next, which, of course required my recounting the situation each time. I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that after teeth grinding delays and mindless prattle I was finally told the new card would be shipped immediately, for delivery the very next day.

Not.

After downing a fifth of bourbon to prepare for yet another AmEx frustration-fest I called on the third day to report that we had not received the card.  Guess what? Someone with the brains of a toaster announced to me that he had located my request but didn’t have verification of completion. Huh? Oh… Just like the Seinfeld car rental episode: “You know how to take a reservation, you just don’t know how to keep it.”  I wanted to jump through the phone, look this idiot in the eye and ask if he REALLY expected me to find that acceptable.

On day four we finally received replacement card.

I canceled my personal AmEx, which I’d had since 1980. For now, at least, that will have to be retribution enough.