My Fight With #Costco

If you are Costco member, please feel free to share your experience with membership and having to show I.D. Would love to hear another perspective. Here is my story:

I don’t get angry often, but if there is one thing that will get me really charged up is poor customer service. My expectation of how consumers should be treated is based on the simple fact that when we spend our hard-earned money in a store or place of business, we deserve a certain type of treatment. I don’t expect any more for myself than anyone else. No red carpets, bowing or kissing-up is necessary, just plain courtesy, respect and some modicum of gratitude in the form of convenience. Hey, I don’t care if I’m greeted with a smile or I’m thanked on the way out, just let me shop, check out when I’m ready, and when I have an issue or question, respond to my concerns.

I became a Costco member in 1995, when it was still named Price Club. My husband and I do most of our household shopping at Costco, going almost every week. If you are a Costco member you know that it is very easy to walk out with a $200 receipt for groceries. Costco knows exactly how much we spend because when they wanted me to upgrade to business membership, the cashier told me how much we had spent the year before. But, yesterday my shopping experience became very unpleasant when the cashier asked me for I.D. to pay for my groceries. In the sixteen years that I have been shopping at Costco and spending more than $3,000 annually, suddenly I was treated like a shady character trying to get away with a cartful of stuff. At first I thought I had misunderstood the cashier, so when I asked her to repeat it she explained that she need to see an I.D. with a photo on it because my membership card does not have a photo on the back. My card has not had a photo in the past 900 times I have checked out.

There was a moment when I considered just showing her my I.D. and letting the whole thing pass. But, it just felt so wrong. I could not let this go so I asked to speak to a manager. The cashier had nothing to do with this, it was the policy of making a long-time customer show I.D. that was the issue. The manager did not understand because she immediately came to the cashier’s defense. Now, I had to explain to her that the cashier is out of this, I am contesting the policy that requires that I show I.D. after spending money at your store for more than sixteen years.

Besides poor customer service, the other thing that really gets me upset is consumer deception. Things like misleading signage and false or confusing advertising are practices that I will call out and contest. So, yesterday’s blatant lie by the employees at Costco left me speechless. Their response to this policy was that it was to protect me. They went on about if my purse were stolen, someone would use my card. Are you kidding me?! If someone steals my purse, they are going to take my cash and credit cards – not my Costco card! And, it’s a membership card that is not tied to any cash or bank account so what exactly is being protected? The least they could do is tell me the truth: the reason I’m being inconvenienced is to protect their interests, not mine. I don’t believe that card use by non-members is so high that it justifies upsetting a loyal customer.

Anyway, I know that anger is not something to hold on to. I prefer to look at this as a learning experience. I have the power as the consumer. I can have my photo taken and eliminate the doubt as to why I am being carded – is it because I’m Hispanic that I’m being targeted for I.D. checks? Or, I can continue to use my card to see when and how often I am asked to show I.D., or I could cancel my membership. I’ve learned that my expectations of Costco, and other retailers for that matter, have been too high. I expect that my loyalty means that they know me and value me, but it doesn’t. If I’m just another transaction for them, for me they’re just another store of many just like them.

Thank you to my readers for putting up with my ranting today. It has helped me to purge this negative experience. I am grateful for the awareness and I hope it makes positive change for others.

Much Love,

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The Value of Women Mentors

“Will you mentor me?” is a question that women of this generation are very comfortable asking. But, women of my generation, generation X, we learned to put up a tough exterior. We worked as hard as we could, hoping that no one would catch on that we were unsure of what we were doing. I was fortunate to have good mentors, but they did it purely by chance. My mentors have been my male colleagues or bosses

 

Mentoring is not a new concept, but is a new word in the career vernacular and how mentoring happens is more structured than it used to be. In the infancy of my career, mentoring happened for me in the day-to-day of my job. My boss, Carl (not his real name) allowed me to take on as much as I wanted, and his feedback was constant. He would explain the why’s and how’s of corporate culture, and would invite me to meetings so that I could learn how to behave (and how NOT to behave) and interact with other teams.  Carl was a character and how I manage is a result of the lessons I learned from him.

 

But, I feel that I missed out by not having a woman’s perspective. There are issues that affect women in the workforce that only another woman can understand and provide feedback on. The time a male team mate pulled on the shoulder straps that held up my skirt, I didn’t know what to do. It did not seem to be sexual harassment, but a line had been crossed that made me uncomfortable. No other woman worked on my team. Should I keep quiet? Should I say something and possibly ruin the team dynamic while bringing more attention to the fact that I was the only female in the group? I wished I had another woman to talk to about the inappropriate jokes at the office, being passed up for a raise while a male colleague was promoted, or the pros and cons of putting off pregnancy to focus on career. 

 

Young women today seem to understand the importance of having women mentors, and they’re not afraid to ask. But, those of us who have another 15 to 20 years in the workforce are struggling to make a connection. Some of us feel isolated and still operate under the old system of tough-it-out and don’t let them see your vulnerability. We may believe that we’re too experienced to have a mentor at this stage, or that there simply aren’t any women in our environs that are wiser than us. Let’s face it, mid to late-career women are just pulled in every direction and have crazy schedules. Adding mentoring or seeking a mentor is not an appealing proposition.

 

How do we get ourselves the support we need, at the stage of our careers? I wish I could tell you that it is simple. I wish I could give you a link, or a phone number that you could call. Seeking a mentor that is appropriate for where you are in your career is going to take time and effort. And then, it’s going to take commitment.

 

First, we need time to reflect on what area of our career we would like help with; to set goals for this area of our lives; and to talk to lots of people about what we’re looking for. For me, my friends were a great source of ideas and connections. We have to make the effort to meet with friends and acquaintances who are potential mentors or who can make an introduction. We will have to make the effort to share our story and our goals with our would-be mentor and ultimately make the ask, if the person fits what we’re looking for. Finally, we have to commit to follow up, and maintain the connection with our mentor. Remember, if a mentor doesn’t call you back right away don’t assume that it is because she is not interested in mentoring you. It is our responsibility to follow up and keep the communication going. Of course, if she continually ignores you, then move on.

 

One final word. As structured as mentoring is supposed to be, you never know what valuable lesson you will receive from, or give to your mentor. The beauty and value of having a woman mentor is that women can relate at a deeper, more emotional level and we are more open to discuss the life experiences that affect our lives and careers. There is no minimum time limit for mentoring to have an effect on you. You may meet with someone only once and receive the most wonderful wisdom you needed to hear. But, if a long-term friendship develops, all the better!

 

Much Love,

 

PS. Sorry no graphics today – I only found photographs of women gossiping, chillaxing with friends, or talking about birth, birth control or tampons. WHAT’s UP WITH THAT?!

The Greatest Love of All

Today I pray that your heart will beat faster when a special someone touches your hand

and that you cheeks will hurt from smiling and that your sides will hurt from laughing;

May you greet a total stranger with a loving heart

And love your nameless brother by helping get something to eat;

May today bring you closer to those you see every day

With open hearts, open minds,  a gesture of love to those in your world;

I pray that you will allow love to freely flow from  your heart

And that you love yourself first and foremost, because you deserve the best.

May you know for sure that the greatest love of all

 is the one that comes from you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

RIP Whitney Houston

photo source: contactmusic.com

I am so sad about Whitney Houston’s death.  Whatever the reason for her passing, I only know that she has left this world too soon.  Every year famous people die, and unfortunately many are taken away at the prime of their lives due to drugs or suicide. But only a few passings have affected me deeply. This is one of them. I know all of Whitney Houston’s songs and I feel a connection to her music. Her songs were part of my life back in the in-love/out-of-love college years.  

Growing up as an aspiring singer, I was constantly searching for songs that matched my vocal range but also challenged me in style and interpretation. Whitney Houston had one of those unforgettable voices that could string together notes and emote emotion in an unforgettable way. Though she didn’t know it, she set the standard that I and other young singers wanted to reach. Auditions, karaoke bars, weddings will have at least one of Whitney’s songs unjustly imitated by a one of her fans. So, even though I don’t exactly mourn Whitney the person, I never met her or knew her, I mourn the incredible sounds she could produce, that amazing voice that was easily recognizable, and the inspiration that her talent provided us all. The last time I was affected this way by the loss of another singer, it was when Phyllis Hyman committed suicide.  

My memories growing up include singing into a microphone and trying to emulate the never-ending breath of Barbra Streisand, the super soprano notes of Sandy Patty, the soulfulness of Phyllis Hyman, and the trill of Whitney Houston.  I remember wishing that I could sing as well as any of these women and fantasized about having that kind of talent, about how happy I would be to sing like that. I imagine that Whitney Houston like me probably grew up trying to sing like the singers she admired. Then, her talent was discovered and she became a huge success. It all seems so simple. But clearly it is not.  Having a unique talent does not bring happiness.  If anything, I imagine that people who make it in the music business must struggle with self-doubt and fear of not being able to repeat their past success.

I will never know what drove the beautiful sweet Whitney I so admired to drug abuse and addiction. Only she knows what demons haunted her.   I wish that she is resting in peace and singing beautifully with the host of angels.

Much Love Whitney.

How Rich Do You Feel?

image credit: nationalconfidential.com

Are you feeling more or less rich these days?

You know that commercial where the woman walks up to a security guard in a museum and asks him to give her a price on the crown jewels? Or the lady, whose husband points out that they indeed drive a station wagon and not the Jaguar she’s trying to unlock? The catch phrase in these ads is something about feeling richer because you switched your phone plan. On SuperCommercials Superbowl Sunday, it seems appropriate to give props to these humorous commercials that have just a teeny tiny bit of truth to them.

How rich do you feel? I recently read an interesting article on this very topic. How we answer this question depends on our perception of net worth. In a study published in Psychological Science, Princeton graduate student Abigail Sussman and Princeton Professor Eldar Shafir, share findings from an experiment with pairs of people that fit specific financial profiles. Each pair had equal or positive net worth. Net worth is total assets – cash, investments, home equity, personal property – minus total debt – mortgage, student loans, vehicle loans, credit card debt. In comparing people with positive net worth, households with less debt were perceived as wealthier. In comparing people with negative net worth, in other words their debt exceeded their assets, households with more assets were perceived as wealthier.

These perceptions of wealth influence people’s decision to take on more debt. The study found that positive net worth people with lower debt, and negative net worth people with higher assets were more likely to take on more debt.  The study goes on to say that people who live in the red, or in higher debt than assets, tend to focus on the assets they have and feel wealthier as a result, and pay less attention to their debt. Conversely, people who live in the black get their feelings of wealth from having lower debt.

In these days of Occupy Wall Street and the 99 percent, it makes me wonder…do our feelings and perceptions of wealth help us make smart decisions? About our finances? About our policy-makers? It seems that it doesn’t take much for us to feel wealthy. AGalluppoll conducted late in 2011 found that most Americans would only need an annual income of $150,000 to feel rich, some less than that. And, if we feel rich because of the number of things we have, theU.S.is the place where even those of us on the lower end of the earning scale can easily feel rich. Even in a bad economy, people can – and are –  filling their homes with stuff like gigantic t.v.’s, gaming equipment, and provide each of their kids a $300 smart phone. We have more than one car to fill our two car garages, and we can feed our entire families at any number of fast-food and quasi-fast food restaurants for little money. Basically, we feel comfortable and happy because we have so much and can get more with a swipe of a credit card. I bet that is exactly how the 1 percent want us to feel. If we feel rich and comfortable than we are much less likely to question wealth disparities in theU.S.

I have wrestled with my own perceptions of wealth over the years. When we were shopping for our first home, I was willing to find the size house and mortgage that fit exactly what our banker was telling us we could afford. My first dose of reality came when my husband and I discussed debt and how much each of us were willing to take. My threshold was much higher and my focal point was the kind of house I wanted, but his focal point was the debt and how much we could afford if one or both of us were laid off at any given time. It was a sobering moment but one that I am grateful for, especially during the past recessions. With time, I have changed my perception of personal wealth to one that favors lower debt rather than higher assets. If anything positive can be said about this financial crisis is that the mechanisms and trappings that were used to give people the illusion of wealth – through higher debt – have been exposed. Hopefully, we have learned a valuable lesson that will stay with us even after the economy recovers.

I pray that this blog will get you to ponder about your own feelings and perceptions of personal wealth and how they might influence your decisions. 

Much Love

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/whos-wealthy-beyond-net-worth-asset-and-debt-levels-change-our-perceptions.html

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2011/12/poll-americans-need-150k-income-to-feel-rich/