Who Really Uses Customer Wisdom?

After I woke up one recent morning, I looked out on the foggy backyard just waiting for enough warmth of sun to make it all go away. I had my first cup of coffee, and got out a new box of cereal, then opened the bag and r-r-rip! Right down the side about halfway. Grrr. Has anyone else ever done that? So that got me to thinking…with all of the changes that I see in packaging these days, and the addition of “zip closures” to so many things – chips, rice, frozen foods, pita bread, shredded cheese, the list can go on and on – why haven’t major cereal manufacturers figured this one out yet? I mean seriously? Oh some have, the generic, bagged cereals, but not the boxed ones. Not everyone is a family of 5 and going through a box of cereal a day, and even if they were a family of 5, they probably would have a variety of cereals anyhow! I’m guessing that people probably do what we do, which is to add a bag clip to the package, unless you have a day like today and then you have to empty the contents into a zip lock bag, or, they just transfer everything into a plastic container with a pour top and dispense from that. When my family had a cabin we had to do that, otherwise dry cereal became stale very quickly from the humidity.  So Quaker Oats, General Mills, Kellogg and others, I’m talking to you! Start putting cereal in resealable bags in your boxed cereals. Think of the great marketing you can do with that!! Not everyone is a big family, but I think everyone wants value for their dollar and HATES to waste food. On the other hand, when we have to throw out stale cereal it means we have to buy more than we planned for, so profits go up. Hmmm, no wonder why they don’t use the resealable bags…

Here’s another rant for you. I love coffee, and buy beans to grind for brewing. We usually buy the large bag of Dunkin’ Donuts because it tastes good and is a good price and I don’t mind the free plug I’m giving them. (“Hey Dunkin’, yoo-hoo!”) BUT…they do have one thing I have a problem with, and I actually sent them an email about it maybe a year ago. They sent me a generic “thank you for your concern” and some coupons in response, but to date I’ve never seen a fix. Here’s the deal. Take a look at the pictures below:

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Note that the bag comes with a nice twist tie attached for you to use to reseal the bag after you open it. Handy, right? Except…they attach the twist tie just below the spot on the bag where it’s sealed shut, and it’s not like you can open the seal by separating it with your hands. Nope, you need to cut the bag open with a scissors, so you have to cut off the top part of the bag, below the seal, and you end up cutting off the twist tie. You then have to go back, pull the tie OFF the part you just cut off to be able to use it. My suggestion to them was to glue it lower on the bag so you could cut between the twist tie and the seal, and then the tie would stay attached to the bag, letting you just roll down the top (like a competitor does) and you can’t loose it. Simple! The current way is a pain, especially at 5:30 in the morning, trying to open a new bag while I’m still half asleep.

Quite a few years ago, when we had a home on a wooded lot, we treated ourselves to a birdfeeder called a “Yankee Flipper”. It’s a squirrel-proof feeder, and if you’ve never heard of it, go to YouTube and look it up, there are some hilarious videos out there. When we moved to our new house we didn’t use it for a while, because we didn’t have squirrels. Now we do so I dug it out but the battery no longer holds a charge. It’s a nickel cadmium battery, and as you probably know over time if you don’t use them, they won’t charge. I contacted the company, and yes, you can buy a new “power stick”, which is the battery and motor unit…for $90! (A new feeder is $165 now).  But…and here is the big problem I have. When I asked them if the batteries are nickel cadmium, or if they have upgraded to nickel metal hydride or lithium, they told me they are still NiCad. WHAT? You want me to pay $90 for something that I know will go bad again, so I can pay that much for it one more time? Um, how about no? So my husband and I did what the little power stick said not to. “Do Not Open This…Your Warranty Will Be Void If You Do”. Well it was out of warranty years ago. So we opened it, figured out what kind of NiCad batteries they were, did some internet sleuthing, and ordered them along with some wire glue so they could be connected the same way the originals were. Total costs with shipping? $22.67.

Kudos to a company too, since I can’t complain ALL the time. I absolutely LOVE the new top on the Advil for Arthritis bottles. It’s a bit larger and has a scalloped edge, making it easier to grasp if you have arthritis, which I’m starting to feel in my hands. I keep one in each level of my house and just refill from a larger bottle.

So apparently one company did listen to their customers, but will others? Is sure seems that if it helps customers but hurts their bottom line, we’ll never see that change, so we can probably kiss the sealable cereal bag goodbye. I still have hope for Dunkin’ Donuts though.  Any of you have suggestions for manufacturers, changes you’d like to see?

Giving Thanks

This is such a strange time of year. Many of us sit at a table, surrounded by family members we’re obligated to spend time with but don’t really want to see, we try to make nice for a few hours and pray to God no one brings up politics while we stuff our faces with way too much food, alcohol and goodies. And pie. Pumpkin, pecan, mincemeat, pumpkin, lemon meringue. Oh, and did I mention pumpkin pie?

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This year is different for me, for a number of reasons. I’ve been out of work for 5 months now, looking faithfully every week for something that suits my skills and career path. It hasn’t been easy, not being able to find something, and I’m sure as difficult as it’s been for me, it’s likely been even harder for my husband. So as I think about what I am thankful for, he really is first on my list: he’s my rock, a source of quiet strength and support at all times. He pushes me to be my best in everything, but knows when to let me be. I’m thankful that we were wise enough to have money tucked away so that I can not worry (ok I worry, but at an appropriate level) about our finances during this time. Yes, we’ve cut way back on spending, and the list of things we need or want to get when I get a job is growing ever longer, but that’s ok. I’m thankful we have a home that isn’t in need of major repair, that we replaced the furnace a couple of years ago now that the temperature is dropping into the teens here. I’m thankful that we’re both healthy, that we have enough to keep us busy in and around the house when I’m not job hunting. I’m thankful for the fact that I can not only make Christmas gifts for friends and family, but that I have enough craft things in my home already to do it, and don’t need to buy much of anything so we’ll be able to have a very affordable Christmas this year.

I’m also thankful for so many other things around me. As the news of David Cassidy’s death broke on the news services, and I was immediately saddened and thought  for the first time, “we’re old!” But I’m so thankful for the joy he gave all of us young girls as teens, and that we got to have him in our life for a time, however remotely. Come on, admit it. You know you had his poster on your bedroom wall back then. I’ll admit it, but we were so young and silly and and young pre-teens and teens just thought he was so dreamy. I found an article yesterday on CNN that is worth a quick read that is a hoot, with a few facts about him we never knew. Take the time to read it, if you were a fan it will make you smile.

I’m thankful for my friends, who listen when I need them to, and who are just there to make me laugh, or hang out, or allow me to reciprocate for them in kind.

Speaking of my friends, I am especially thankful for some new ones this year I didn’t even know that I had. When I was laid off 5 months ago along with the rest of the team I worked with, I was just getting to know the team I’d worked with for only 4 months. We were all telecommuters, and worked from coast to coast, and were on different projects, so we didn’t all interact with each other every day. That meant after 4 months I was still just barely getting to know some of the team. After we were all let go, a group of 5 of us started group texting. It’s become a sometime support group, a virtual happy hour, and a wonderful sisterhood. So I am so grateful for Salpy, Jamie, Kathy and Blair, I don’t know what I would have done without you wonderful women.  Along with them, my friend Morissa, who has also been an uexpected source of support and assistance that I never saw coming. Along with all my other fantastic friends who listen, guide and help me look for jobs, I wish you joy and blessings this Thanksgiving.

What are you especially thankful for this year?

 

Joy of Summer

It hadn’t been easy, growing up without a mother, but somehow Joy had managed. Her father did the best he could, but as the only veterinarian for their village, he’d been gone more than he was home. But after his death she has hard choices to make. Can she find a way to stay in Summer, the little village she’s grown to love? 

As I started to write the title of the blog, all I could think of was that it sounded like a title for a cheesy bodice ripper novel!  In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. A few weeks ago in a prior post, I bemoaned the loss of something quintessentially summer…watermelon with seeds. I was surprised at how many people I have since spoken to, that agreed with me: Seedless watermelon sucks. Well, I am thrilled beyond words to be able to share with you that my local grocery store had REAL watermelon a few weeks ago. It was lucious, rich, textured…just like I remembered. And yep, …there was some honest to goodness seed spittin’  going on too. That’s what summer should be about. Snow cones, and water balloon fights in the backyard (or ‘thumbs over the ends of hoses’ fights, those work too!),  sparklers and black snakes, mouthfulls of Bubs Daddy bubble gum. And fireflies, or lightning bugs as they are known in some parts of the country. I love being out for a walk at night and seeing their ethereal lights dance in front of me, just out of reach. I know you can catch them and put them in a jar, I just have no desire to. I’d rather watch them appear, then disappear, and magically reappear feet from where they were a moment ago, and pretend to not know how that happened, just enjoying the sense of wonderment again. 

I miss having summers off. As an adult, the only time I really regret my career choice is during summer, when I wish I had become a teacher just so I could have had summers off…either that or found a way to become a professional paid student! But I’m so envious of the sounds of kids playing, having fun in the summer. Our house backs up to a number of others, and I can hear laughter of the kids playing from about six houses down some days. As a telecommuter, trust me, it can be challenging to concentrate. On the other hand, our house is also located rather close to some marsh lands, or as the DNR prefers to refer to them, nature preserves. Because that sounds SO much better than marsh, doesn’t it?  There are benefits of course to living near them, first and foremost being it’s packed full of wildlife. The frog chorus at night is something to behold, and we hear it from the ‘balcony’ seats, on the side of the road opposite the marsh. I’m sure if our house backed up to it, and we couldn’t even open our windows at night because the volume was so deafening, I wouldn’t feel quite so charmed by it. Another periodic gift the marsh gives it’s nearby residents, is the coyote choir. I’m not sure what will set up the howling, but when the pack gets going it’s both thrilling and chilling at the same time. I don’t know what makes people think it’s safe to let their pets run loose around here, I really don’t. Seems to me cats and small dogs might be fair game for coyote food, and I’d be terrified my pet might not come home, but that’s just me.

The worst part however, about living by the marsh, are the mosquitos, and in Minnesota, we know how to breed ’em BIG. Mosquitos lay eggs in standing, stagnant water, and this year it seems we’ve gotten into this never ending cycle of a couple of days of big rain, followed by a day or two of sun, then more rain. So in addition to being full of rich, green grasses and cattails that are taller than I’ve ever seen, our marshes are chock full of standing water and yep, you guessed it, lovely mosquito eggs. And you’ve never even seen a real mosquito until you’ve come here. There’s an old saying, about how a nearsighted one got confused last week and drained a 747…OK, maybe not really, but sometimes it almost feels like they’re that horrible. So the DNR does what they can, and “mosquito bombs” us. What’s that, you ask? Well, in summer, helicopters fly overhead, and drop pellets into the marsh (and onto decks, patios, porches and our public boardwalk) to help control the mosquito population. The first time they came around, the “chopper” as I now fondly refer to it, flew so low over my house  that I felt the cavitation in my chest and through my toenails. I was pretty sure I could put a spitball in a straw and hit a rotor without even trying very hard as they went over the neighbors house, then to the marsh, dropped the pellets and made the turn right past their house and then came back over mine, all within about 20 seconds. I wanted to drop to the floor and scream “incoming”, as I covered my head. I know it helps, it would be so much worse if they didn’t do it, but even so, it’s just a mite freaky. I mean, what happens if an engine fails? Or if the tail rotor goes wonky? I mean, I just know it’s MY house they’re gonna ‘find’ first, and suddenly I’ve got a lovely new piece of art in the shape of a helicopter blade decorating my mantle. Next thing you know, you’re a drive-by side show for half the city.

“Look Howard, there’s that house I heard about. You know the one where the mosquito bomb helicopter was hit with a spitball in the tail rotor, apparently throwing the yaw all wonky, and down she went. You can see one of the main blades sticking out of the side of the house, right above where the mantle sits. Rumor has it the owner was the one who shot the spitball. If that’s just not the perfect example of a karmic kickback, I don’t know what is.”

Maybe I’ll stick to marshmallow guns at family reunions.