FedEx Office Regains My Trust

I recently needed to do a large-volume color printing job for a leadership development program I was conducting that would have taken too long to do on my HP CP1525NW color laser printer. and in any case also had to be spiral/coil bound.  I checked prices online, and determined that I could get the price down to about 35 cents a copy if I used FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinkos).   Office Max was close in price before any discounts, but FedEx was offering a 50% discount for high-volume jobs.  I called the local Durham FedEx which is conveniently two doors down from our favorite watering hole, Starbucks, and confirmed that the number of pages I was going to get copied qualified as a high-volume order.

I dropped off the document to be copied, showed the FedEx Office employee the 50% coupon I’d printed out from home, and again confirmed the discount.  You know where this is going.  When I returned the next day to pick up my order, the bill was several hundred dollars higher than I’d estimated.  I looked at the receipt, and found I’d only be given a 10 cents per copy discount, not the 50% discount I’d been promised.  The employee, a different one than the one who’d taken my order, said it was too late to change the price in the system.  As I had to use the handouts the next day for presentation, and didn’t have time to go somewhere else to get another set of copies, I took the copies with me and said I’d follow up later.

Over the next three weeks, I then called FedEx Office’s corporate number and the local office several times to get the bill rectified.  Finally, Rob the local manager, was able to get the discount applied, which resulted in a refund of more than $600 almost a month to the day after I placed the order.  That’s real money in anybody’s wallet!

Thanks, FedEx Office, for restoring my trust in you!


Great Customer Service Tip: Delicious and Delightful

Update 3-19-12: Starbucks in the UK is launching a new effort to ask customers for their names!  Imagine that!  The big question there is:  Will you share your name?  It seems that such sharing is an American thing, not a global thing, and that a multi-cultural place like the UK will find it difficult to pronounce so many different names.  But, if our multi-cultural family is any indication, that should not be a problem.  Aneil is not a common name, but our local Starbucks got the hang of it pretty quickly.  In fact, I wish I had saved Aneil’s cup today so you could see the personalized message he found on his venti up: Feel better soon!  Our local Starbucks is a pretty multi-cultural place, so if we are a barometer for the rest of the world, I think the personalized approach will go over just fine.  Tanya has a loyal following and so far, no one has left in a huff because she tried to learn their name and their drink!


We love our local Starbucks in Durham, NC.  Tanya, the manager, is world class.  She prepares my mocha perfectly every time.  She is bubbly and vivacious.  She keeps the store well-organized.  She appears to be a great manager–you can tell she has a good rapport with her employees (or partners) as she does with all of her customers.  She welcomes her customers by name and always knows their drink.

This morning, I asked her if she has a secret to knowing and remembering everyone’s drinks.  She said that every day, her goal is to remember one more customer’s drink.  Wow!  That is a great goal and you can tell how it pays off when you see that line melt quickly.

Thanks, Tanya, for making my Starbucks mocha delicious and delightful!

Does your Starbucks know your name and drink when you walk in the door?!


Lent is a time to be thankful–What are you thankful for?

With the interest in thank-you notes, I thought I’d share how I got started on making them an important part of my life.

One year for Lent, I decided that rather than giving up something, I would find a way to improve my life (and the lives of others) during those 40 days and 40 nights.  It started with my grandparents.  All of my grandparents lived in Ohio, so they lived about four hours away from our family.  They were all very important to me (Lola, John (who my son is named after), Edna (or Nanny as she preferred to be called) and Trav) and I realized that even with the distance, I could build a stronger relationship to them during Lent by starting a letter writing campaign.  I decided to write to all of them every week during Lent and it felt good to connect with them in a note beyond the typical thank-you note:  I was writing something deeper about how they impacted my life and why they were important to me.

Once Lent was over, I thought I was done with my “Lenten sacrifice.”  But, I found out that my grandparents came to look forward to my notes and that I had just started a life-long journey, not just a Lenten one.

As I mentioned in the previous post, my grandmother, Lola, lived to be 102 years old.  We were so lucky that she lived in a nursing home close to us for the last 12 years of her life, so that we could see her often–even when she began to forget our names.  When she came to live in the nursing home and when she died, my parents found my letters to her–she had saved them.  That meant so much to me that she enjoyed our conversation from a distance.

When my Nanny got re-married to Bill, I kept up the tradition with him, even after Nanny died.  He had been important to her and so he was important to me.

I think that is the gist of thank-you notes, or notes of any kind.  While they may be old-fashioned and time-consuming to write, these notes are a very personal way to show and tell someone how important they are to us.  As Lent has just started, I’ve decided that our family will do the same thing:  we will remember each day what or who we are thankful for, and then we will choose one person to write to each week.  This tradition that I started during Lent will become a family tradition, as well.

What or who are you thankful for?  Have you told them lately?  Lent is the perfect time to share your appreciation.


-p.s.  I found this great image for Lent from

A Mama’s Boy Will Grow Up to Be a Mature Man

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an essay by Kate Stone Lombardi about the benefits of strong mother-son relationships.  I couldn’t agree more with her.

In fact, research shows that boys suffer when they separate prematurely from their mothers and benefit from closeness in myriad ways throughout their lives

A study published in Child Development involving almost 6,000 children, age 12 and younger, found that boys who were insecurely attached to their mothers acted more aggressive and hostile later in childhood—kicking and hitting others, yelling, disobeying adults and being generally destructive.

A study of more than 400 middle school boys revealed that sons who were close to their mothers were less likely to define masculinity as being physically tough, stoic and self-reliant. They not only remained more emotionally open, forming stronger friendships, but they also were less depressed and anxious than their more macho classmates. And they were getting better grades.

There is evidence that a strong mother-son bond prevents delinquency in adolescence. And though it has been long established that teenagers who have good communication with their parents are more likely to resist negative peer pressure, new research shows that it is a boy’s mother who is the most influential when it comes to risky behavior, not only with alcohol and drugs but also in preventing both early and unprotected sex.

Finally, there are no reputable scientific studies suggesting that a boy’s sexual orientation can be altered by his mother, no matter how much she loves him.

My mom and I were extremely close, and in many ways she was my best friend growing up, until she died far too early when I was 12 years old. From her I learned how to clean (not cooking, which I learned on my own after she died), how to take care of my two younger brothers including changing the youngest brother’s diapers, how to be kind and compassionate, and how to think for myself. My dad taught me many wonderful skills, but without my mother there is no way my wife (of 27 years) would have married me. I had to do a lot of growing up before she would even date me, and my mother as a role model of a mature, self-controlled, intellectual, and loving person showed me the way.

I am very glad that my 14 year-old son is very close to my wife, as is my 17 year-old daughter. We are all affectionate with one another, as our parents taught us to be, and my wife’s qualities are helping to take the edge off our kids’ tempers and everything associated with puberty.  Kids need their moms, and boys are no different than girls in needing to be close to their moms throughout their lives.


The role of B-Schools in preparing women for leadership roles (and others)

An article in Forbes is critical of business schools, claiming that they don’t do a good job preparing women for the multiple roles that they will play when they graduate. The author claims that b-schools focus exclusively on the roles at work and fail to help women (and men) plan ahead for how their work will eventually affect their lives, as well.

As a 1988 MBA graduate of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, I am happy to be able to disagree.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but a panel discussion I attended one weekend during b-school completely changed my perspective on life and how I made decisions regarding work and family.

Many of my female colleagues (who at the time made up approximately 30% of the MBA class; I think that number is similar today even though my school is missing from this list!) were not married (like me) and did not have children, but were still interested in hearing about life after b-school.  These women spoke honestly and candidly about the fact that women, more so than men, would have multiple lives and roles after b-school.  They presented us with the stark facts that by virtue of getting married and having children, we would make career decisions that would take us off the path we had in mind today which would ultimately lead us to have several different career paths.  “What?!  I was going to be a CEO by 30!”

As I veered off this path for the first time as we moved to State College, Pennsylvania.   I was filled with dread after I left my job, but I was not surprised.  I had been prepared for this by the panel of alums who alerted us to the fact that we might have to choose between our marriage and a promotion one day, which I had done.  As a result, I discovered a new passion and career path, college teaching.  As a result of that new road taken, I am now a b-school professor myself.  Now, it is my turn to prepare a new generation of women for the speed bumps ahead in life and work.


Google’s iPhone Tracking Smacks of Big Brother and 1984

Apple took on IBM in its famous ad comparing the computer company to Big Brother in the book 1984.  Now it appears that Apple has another insidious malefactor to battle.  Now, more than ever, I wish it were possible to remove individual cookies on the Safari browser on my iPhone.


Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers—tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.

The companies used special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users. Safari, the most widely used browser on mobile devices, is designed to block such tracking by default.

Google disabled its code after being contacted by The Wall Street Journal.

The Google code was spotted by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer and independently confirmed by a technical adviser to the Journal, Ashkan Soltani, who found that ads on 22 of the top 100 websites installed the Google tracking code on a test computer, and ads on 23 sites installed it on an iPhone browser.

The technique reaches far beyond those websites, however, because once the coding was activated, it could enable Google tracking across the vast majority of websites. Three other online-ad companies were found using similar techniques: Vibrant Media Inc., WPP PLC’s Media Innovation Group LLC and Gannett Co.’s PointRoll Inc.

In Google’s case, the findings appeared to contradict some of Google’s own instructions to Safari users on how to avoid tracking. Until recently, one Google site told Safari users they could rely on Safari’s privacy settings to prevent tracking by Google. Google removed that language from the site Tuesday night.

In a statement, Google said: “The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.”


Google’s privacy practices are under intense scrutiny. Last year, as part of a far-reaching legal settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission the company pledged not to “misrepresent” its privacy practices to consumers. The fine for violating the agreement is $16,000 per violation, per day. The FTC declined to comment on the findings.  An Apple official said: “We are working to put a stop” to the circumvention of Safari privacy settings.

Of the ad companies found to be using the technique, Google has by far the largest reach. It delivers Internet ads that were viewed at least once by 93% of U.S. Web users in December, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Words With Friends Hooks People Together in More Ways Than One

Karen is a lifelong Scrabble fanatic, and so when our kids introduced her to Words with Friends on her iPhone, she was of course immediately hooked.   So are a lot of other people, 20 million in fact according to today’s Wall Street Journal:

Last summer, Kyla Smith spelled S-E-X-Y in Words With Friends, an online Scrabble-like app on her phone. It won her more than just 13 points—it won her love.


Donna Neveux
Stephen Monahan met Britney Hilbun by clicking ‘random opponent’ last year.

Eventually her opponent, Charles Briggs, became her boyfriend. Up to that point, the two hadn’t met in person. She lived in Texas, he lived in Arkansas. They met through the “random opponent” feature of Words With Friends, which matches up anonymous players.

The game is played by nearly 20 million people a month on Facebook, and countless more on smartphones. Players take turns moving letter tiles on a virtual board, trying to rack up points by spelling out words.

I’ve recently started playing, too.  My favorite Words with Friends partner is of course my wife. of 27 years.  H-A-P-P-Y   V-A-L-E-N-T-I-N-E-S   D-A-Y,   Karen!

Gisele Bündchen Really Loves Tom Brady, and That’s Great

There’s a great essay in today’s Wall Street Journal Jason Gay about Gisele’s defense of her husband Tom Brady after the New England Patriots’ loss in this year’s Super Bowl.

The last thing I thought was this: Wow, Gisele Bündchen really loves Tom Brady. She loves him in the irrational way that people who are in love love each other. She loves him blind.

This is a comforting, uncynical thing. Maybe you’re married, maybe not—maybe you were married once—but one of the things you want in a union is that kind of unconditional, unrestrained, forget-everyone-else support. Everybody should be lucky to have a fierce advocate in their corner, and you should be a fierce advocate in their corner too. Leave the measured consideration and the caveats to the friends and the shrinks. You want your spouse to tell you it’s going to be OK. To defend you when nobody else will.

Even when it’s wrong. Even when it sounds like lashing out. Even when it’s the absolute incorrect thing to say. Because they’ve got your back. Because you’ve got theirs. Because that’s love.

I’m not saying she was right, I’m not saying she shouldn’t regret it. But the supermodel loves the quarterback.

The fairy tale is actually a fairy tale. It’s so unfair, but it’s also pretty sweet.

Right on!  My wife Karen is exactly the same as Gisele:  she’s always got my back, defends me against my critics, and is beyond beautiful.  I. Am. Blessed.