Have your say

My wife had a harrowing experience at the local branch of a large national chain of home improvement stores this afternoon.  The details are unimportant for the purposes of this post, but it left the incredibly strong woman I’ve known for nearly two decades shaken, & in her words, publicly humiliated.

Her afternoon plans, and worse, her self-esteem, were in shreds. The lack of an apology for the mistake made by the woman at the check-out counter left her seething. The eventual success she had in recovering her own money from the store was barely any comfort.

The series of rather rudimentary mistakes – and the staff’s inability to figure out how to solve them – needed two corrections, drawn out over nearly an hour. She got home with three invoices, with the staff’s handwritten notes on a couple of them.

All three invoices all had an online survey link, one that I’ve rarely taken any notice of, despite how often we shop there. It felt like the only lifeline my wife had left to make her case to this behemoth organisation. She could have her say. I filled out the survey on her behalf, while the incident was still fresh & vivid, with as much detail as I could gather. I hit send, expecting a days-long silence before a polite “sorry you had  a shitty experience” auto-response email.

So it was a surprise when she received an email within the hour, asking if she was willing to talk to a human, about her experience, to the name listed on the mail, on the local store number she could call on.  Despite how shaken she still was, she did. The gentleman at the other end was patient, listened to my wife, empathised with her, apologised on the store’s behalf, & offered a token gift card for the trouble she’d gone through.

Lessons:

It’s unlikely my wife will stop going to this particular store. She knows that this incident was an aberration – not once in the last decade has she had to deal with someone as vitriolic & prejudiced as the woman at the customer service counter this afternoon.

It’s also very unlikely she’ll feel as comfortable in the store as she did prior to this experience.  She knows now that the person at the counter may not know arithmetic (which I would previously always say is okay – technology that solves arithmetic problems has existed for a long time now), may be unwilling to accept they’ve made a mistake, may be unwilling to listen, may be prejudiced against someone that doesn’t look or sound like them, may feel superior for any number of other reasons, may never apologise for something that may have genuinely been a common, honest, forgivable mistake, ad infinitum.

I’m also glad to have discovered a survey response system that seems to have worked as intended. The speed with which it elicited a response was, well, surprising for someone who’d never had to use this service. My wife & I are both glad that it was a human voice. That the person at the other end truly listened. An apology that wasn’t forthcoming from woman at the customer service came from someone likely paid to do so.

I hope that the store chooses to help their staff learn how to step in & solve the problem when they notice their colleague raise their voice or behave as if the customer was a thief as a response to their quietly expressed question.

I also don’t expect that prejudices will ever disappear – but one can entertain some hope, no?

The Office

I needed to clear my head so walked down to the beach mid-morning.  Something I can agree with the local vandal, for sure.



The thoughts in my head were reflected in the choppy waves – and both, I think, needed a change of environment to calm down.

 

The FAQ Section

If all those questions are so frequently asked, why aren’t they addressed in the primary communication itself? Why do you need a separate section that is longer than the copy? Does anyone responsible for this “communication” or “website” ever ask the question what’s the FAQ section for?

/rant

Back to…?

It was the “first day back” for everyone in the household today.  Kids started back at school. I started back in the office. We’re all starting the routines we had in days BC (Before Covid).

Almost instantly for me, the amount of wasted time was rattling.

Yes, meeting a scarce few colleagues in person was lovely. Time to read on the train was good. A little break in the afternoon to have lunch, in a nice shady spot overlooking the harbour, in great weather, was definitely welcome.

BUT:

My three hour 2-way commute was exhausting. The preparation for the commute was stressful. The change in energy levels throughout the day was palpable.  Going into the office to get onto video calls seemed pointless.  Productivity was down 50% or more today.

Doing this multiple days a week seems an awful waste of time. I have to ask : Who’s actually gaining anything by this return to BC rituals?  What are we all going back to? Why?

 

 

The seeds have sprouted!

Earlier this week, in Sunday Markets Inspiration, I wrote about the “$100 in earnings by the end of January” challenge to my young friends, who’d never sold a thing in their short lives.

Yesterday, they had achieved 12% of their goal. Today, with just their second customer, they blew past their goal. They were astounded that it was done with 3 days to spare. Even more so that the demand for their remaining wares is far exceeding their wildest expectations. “Can we double that in the next 3 days?” was the refrain today!

Less than a week ago, $100 was an impossible target because they’d never done it before. Today, Michelangelo’s words were, quintessentially, their reflection: The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

Their accomplishment deserved celebration, of course. I had a glass of wine on their behalf because they’re not old enough to drink 🙂

The beautiful thing to me is  that in <5 weeks, they’ve discovered what value creation and exchange means, & how to harness it in their quest for financial freedom. They’ve learnt so many things about business models, cash flows, collaboration, marketing, human psychology, creativity, passion, how to prioritise, the value of reflection, stock markets, investing, trading, etc etc … AND applied every thing they learnt in their fledgling business.

Yes, there’s a long way to go but the seed has sprouted. I couldn’t be prouder of them!

 

 

Friendships at work

I’m grateful that I have colleagues who care enough to notice that I’m not my usual self. A short text this evening from one helped put my mind back at ease. I’m really blessed with the friendships I have at work.

Thanks Rod 🙂

I didn’t know.

Three little words.

A valid excuse.

Or a possibility to grow into.

I didn’t know…

I cared enough to set that right.

And now I know!

PS: this started off because I didn’t know both Joe Biden & Amanda Gorman have a speech impediment. To get up on stage in front of people is hard for most, but to do it when you have a speech impediment, & still nail it, is inspiring.

Sunday Markets Inspiration

I took my young friends & my kids to a Sunday market yesterday.

I had been talking the night before about unit costs & contribution margins in our daily finance basics lessons, & thought rather than merely explain the arithmetic behind it, I could find someone – perhaps someone selling coffee – to show them a practical view of what it all meant. Oh, by the way, they’d also taken up my challenge to earn $100 by selling something, & before the end of January – that is, in less than a week. It’s an unimaginable number when you don’t know how to do it.

It was a ridiculously hot summer’s day. The mercury had already hit 38C by 930 am when we got there. We walked around a fair bit, observing the enterprising folks at the markets selling their wares. People have time to talk at these markets, not merely nod at each other. Conversations can go in wonderful directions but that’s a story for another day.

We stopped at a pop-up cane juice shop. There were three young people

busy working, one at the counter, the other churning out cane juice,  while the third was doing everything else necessary. We placed our order, & while we waited, we got talking. It turned out to be an illuminating conversation: this was their side hustle, a way to keep their creative juices – pun intended – flowing.  They were both professionals, having “good day jobs” and investing their time building their business over the weekend. When they found out the reason we were asking them all those questions, they were genuinely interested: they gave my young friends some great ideas, urging them to try their hand out at doing something entrepreneurial well before they found their “day jobs”. When we got to their home, by the time the parents had done cooking lunch, the kids had estimated the “unit costs” & “contribution margins” of the juice venture pretty quickly.

Before the day’s end, my young friends had listed a few of their wares on Facebook Marketplace – “we have almost fixed costs, & very low variable costs, so we can definitely earn our target, maybe even more!!” Their excitement is palpable.  Whether they reach their $100 goal before the end of January doesn’t matter. That they can see how this might work, that they can use their wits to create & offer value matters an incredible lot.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, even at a Sunday market.

Oh, & the lime infused cane juice was heavenly!

Thoughts from RStudio::Global(2021)

I attended RStudio’s annual conference: RStudio::Global(2021) yesterday. Driven online by the pandemic, it was a fabulous day – even if a very long one – to listen to some fantastic keynotes, long & short long talks, & virtual conversations in between.

I have heaps of thoughts about this conference I will write about in due course but there’s  one thing that continues to stand out most for me: the warmth & inclusive nature of the R community. Whether it’s on the Twitterverse, the R User Groups around the world, or in meetups that are hosted by people passionate about sharing their knowledge and improving their own, the R community very certainly has a strong leadership in RStudio & its team. Particularly, there were more women in this code/tech community, whether presenting or attending, than in any other I have seen (admittedly, I’m not a technologist so I could be wrong),  more people from diverse backgrounds that presented their talks in a language they were comfortable even in this global setting. The subtitling feature in Spanish, Mandarin & English made those talks also accessible to everyone.

The team at RStudio did a fantastic job of curating this: pre-recorded talks that didn’t go over time, technology that almost never went awry, and scheduling the talks to run in 2 cycles so literally anyone around the globe could dial in.  There were opportunities to connect using a virtual chat room between the scheduled talks, just like you would in a F2F conference (is that a thing?) I heard someone mention that last year’s conference drew 2000 people, and this year, doing it entirely online drew over 10000+. Great job indeed.