the art of complaining…

Blogger friend Marcia Clarke posted the following on her blog…Marcia Clarke-La Chica Writes at http://www.chicawrites.com 

Having worked at TWA for several years, and in retailing and health insurance before that, I’ve become a stickler for great customer service. I’ve handled more complaints than I can recall AND done my fair share of complaining too. Never have I encountered the use of, or thought to use, reverse psychology, i.e….lavishing compliments that literally drip with sarcasm.

English: Don Mueang Airport domestic terminal,...

I tip my hat to writer Arthur Hicks…complainer par excellence!!! And to Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic fame, for bringing this to our attention. And, of course, to Marcia for having re-blogged it.

Having once received what many regard as the world’s best complaint letter, I was tickled to see another brilliant note to a different airline.I phoned the customer who wrote the above note to apologise and thank him for his letter after he experienced a less than perfect culinary experience on board one of our planes. It is important to take customer feedback on board in order to improve – and also to be able to laugh at yourself.

With that in mind, here is an open letter to Caribbean airline LIAT, written by Arthur Hicks, who also happens to be a great tennis pro.

Dear LIAT, 

May I say how considerate it is of you to enable your passengers such an in-depth and thorough tour of the Caribbean. 

Most other airlines I have travelled on would simply wish to take me from point A to B in rather a hurry. I was intrigued that we were allowed to stop at not a lowly one or two but a magnificent six airports yesterday. And who wants to fly on the same airplane the entire time? We got to change and refuel every step of the way!

I particularly enjoyed sampling the security scanners at each and every airport. I find it preposterous that people imagine them all to be the same. And as for being patted down by a variety of islanders, well, I feel as if I’ve been hugged by most of the Caribbean already.

I also found it unique that this was all done on “island time,” because I do like to have time to absorb the atmosphere of the various departure lounges. As for our arrival, well, who wants to have to take a ferry at the end of all that flying anyway? I’m glad the boat was long gone by the time we arrived into Tortola last night — and that all those noisy bars and restaurants were closed.

So thank you, LIAT. I now truly understand why you are “The Caribbean Airline.”

P.S. Keep the bag. I never liked it anyway.

As a colleague said: “I guess this is why LIAT is reputed to stand for Languishing In Airport Terminals!”

But seriously, making customer service key to your company will keep your employees motivated and your customers happy. This in turn ensures enduring loyalty, business success and a better experience for everyone.

By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group

…some folks get it…so many more don’t…

………hugmamma.

Virgin Millionaire Richard Branson doing a qui...

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a hiccup…albeit a big one

The last 12 hours or so has had me pondering the ups and downs of blogging. Not something I’d set out to do when I awoke yesterday. But being blindsided by another “tsunami,” I had to deal with it. I’m becoming very familiar with those of late, as regular readers of my blog are aware.

I’d been writing about being spammed out of leaving comments on other blogs. “Speaking” with WordPress support staff, I was told to check with Akismet, which I did, but got nowhere. So I hunkered down and continued writing, hoping the situation would even itself out. Meanwhile I’d check to see if I was able to leave comments with blogging buddies. Eventually it seemed I could, with a few of them.

I got a message from Akismet saying they’d tweaked the system, leading me to think I would no longer be spammed from participating in the WordPress community. Proceeding to publish my last post, I pressed “click.” What happened next was reminiscent of the viral attack on my laptop several weeks ago. Across the top of my blog were words to the effect that it was suspended because I’d broken rules and regulations, and needed to go elsewhere with my blog, which was no longer suitable for this site. Well, I have to admit it was like a punch to the stomach.

WordPress.com

Image via Wikipedia

Recovering somewhat I sent off a message via an automated screen, and clicked “report blog.” That seemed to trigger the message to the entire community that “hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul” was suspended. So it looked to me like I “cooked my own goose,” by seeking help. A couple of friends inquired as to what happened, and I told them what I knew. Waxing philosophical, I decided what occurred was probably inevitable, given that I was labeled a spammer.

I held no ill-will towards WordPress, still don’t, because I’m on their site gratis. I understand I must abide by their rules. I just wasn’t sure which rules I’d broken. But I’d need to “cool my high heels,” or flats as the case may be, and wait to hear back from their review. 

The entire situation was disconcerting to say the least. But now I was free to do other things which I’d neglected. So I puttered, and puttered, and puttered. Eventually I returned to my laptop and began looking through tech sites which reported on WordPress’s recent DDoS, Distributed Denial of Service attack. In so doing, I came to understand its vast reach on the internet, and its correlating, gigantic presence.

My hobbit’s eyes were opened. My spam situation was microbial compared to what WordPress has been dealing with this last week or so. And from what I read, there are only 75 staff who handle millions of customers. I now understood why my blog was probably still reeling from the trickle down effects of the attack. It’s not to say I shouldn’t have queried the support staff about my issues, because they would not otherwise have known. It is true that the “squeaky wheel” gets the oil, or whatever the adage is.

Robogallery

Image via Wikipedia

With such a massive operation, it’s obviously imperative that WordPress is on a highly sophisticated automated system of checks and balances. However it wasn’t infallible to hackers determined to wreak havoc. My blog, it seems, got caught up in the warfare. I’d be curious to know if other blogs were similarly affected.

So while the events of recent days have “stirred the pot” until it boiled over, I’m a little wiser to the downside of blogging. There are things beyond my control, and in those instances I can seek solace in my family and God, knowing that there’s always a bigger picture in which I’m just one of his creatures.

It did help that when I awoke this morning, 2 messages awaited me from the WordPress support staff.

 

Hi, 

Your site was flagged by our automated anti-spam controls. I have reviewed your site and have removed the suspension notice.

We are very sorry for that happening and the inconvenience it caused you.

--

Anthony

WordPress.com

and

> Since my blog, "hugmamma's mind, body, and soul" has been suspended, I wondered if I could have access to my files.

Your site doesn't appear to be suspended - what's the URL of the site that you're speaking of above?

--

Ryan M.

WordPress.com | Automattic

Thankfully, WordPress's relatively small administrative staff does respond to questions from a non-paying blogger like me, even in the midst of managing a major crisis. I tip my hat to them for doing the best they can, which is pretty good, considering.

i'm learning...not such a novice anymore...hugmamma.  

helping the disenfranchised, “real change”

Today I was reminded of what I’d seen occur elsewhere in the country. A black man stood outside the front door of Trader Joe’s, approaching customers as they walked into the store. He seemed to gauge a person’s reaction first, before stepping forward. He was in the process of speaking with someone when I walked by, entering the market.

After making my purchases, I exited Trader Joe’s heading for my car where I unloaded the groceries. Returning to the front of the market with the empty cart, I decided to ask the man who’d been there when I entered, what it was he was selling. I had a hunch about his product, but wasn’t absolutely certain.

I waited while he moved wayward carts into position where they were housed. When I asked what he was selling, he confirmed what I’d thought. He was selling “Real Change,” probably more widely known as the “homeless” newspaper, at a dollar apiece. Fumbling though my wallet, I parted with my last $3, and told him I only wanted one paper.

On several visits to the city where my daughter resides, we’d see one or two individuals selling newspapers on the sidewalks outside of church, as we were driving away. Unsure as to who they were, we never slowed down to inquire. Not too long ago, a friend with whom she dances told my daughter that the people we’d seen, and others like them, were homeless men and women trying to earn money. They’d purchase each copy for $.35, and sell them for $1 each. A way to make a living, however meager.

In reading through the few pages that comprise the “Real Change,” I find it to be a “mixed bag” of articles pertaining to those who live on the fringes of society.

“Don’t overlook dangerous stereotypes of the mentally ill” written by Judy Lightfoot, a contributing writer, is about Washington’s SEIU Healthcare union’s use of inflammatory imagery on behalf of mental illness, to keep legislators from cutting funding . Suggesting that sufferers of the disease might resort to violent crimes if government aid is withdrawn, has other advocacy groups up in arms. Some 300 of them have raised concerns that such a stigma would prove unfavorable for their clients in the short, and long-term. After much back and forth, both sides agree they should work together on behalf of the mentally ill. Jonathan Rosenblum at SEIU Healthcare 1199NW concluded that ” ‘All of us who advocate for better mental health care have a tough job to do, connecting the dots with the general public without causing more fear of “the Other.” There’s always a fine line between hauling out the crisis and stigmatizing,’ ” but what advocacy ” ‘ does not need is a lot of “he-said-she-said” about stigmatizing. We need to work together.’ “

“Othello public market aims to create multicultural bazaar”  by another contributing writer, Tom Fucoloro, is more upbeat, demonstrating that living on the fringes is not all bad. It can offer variety, and add “color” to drab existences. A non-profit group is retrofitting a large “Citadel” building which formerly served as a bowling alley, a retail center, a church, and recently, as a venue for raves. The Othello Public Market will be a large, year-round, indoor, public market reflective of the area’s cultural diversity. Current census data indicates that Seattle’s 98118 zip code is the most ethnically diverse in the United States. Market founder Mateo Monda “hopes to fill the big blue building with stalls of produce, hot food, live chickens, a creamery, jewelry and cell phone sales…He has mainly been searching for people whose products are affordable and add to the range of cultures represented. Of course, American food and goods are still welcome…….. ”  Of his personal life Monda says ” ‘I’m living in a sit-com situation, basically,’ with his 81-year-old father, 2 Mexican daughters entering their teens, and his dog.”

From the “Director’s Corner” comes this

I’ve recently been advised that I need to be more positive. That all this doom and gloom about how bad things are just doesn’t do it for people. They want to know about solutions, not problems. They would like more stories about how, amid the wide-spread screwing of the poor, someone got off the street through effective case management and into affordable housing.

It happens. But if people want reassurance that our efforts are somehow adequate and that things are remotely OK, they don’t need me. There are plenty of others, from HUD on down, who are happy to give that perspective. According to them, chronic homelessness is down by 5 percent.

The 2010 National Conference of Mayors’s report on hunger and homelessness is a bit more believable. In the 27 cities surveyed, requests for food assistance rose last year by an average of 24 percent. Here in Seattle, we report that 18 percent of demand went unment, and that food banks are struggling to accommodate rising need without increased resources.

One politician promoted in the article as a role model for others is Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota, who calls for an increase in taxes for the wealthy “whose fortunes have only improved amidst widespread economic pain.” Dayton is quoted as saying, “ ‘To those who sincerely believe the state budget can be balanced with no tax increase–including no forced property tax increase–I say, if you can do so without destroying our schools, hospitals and public safety, please send me your bill, so I can sign it immediately.’ “

The article concludes,

Our work, simply put, is to create the environment where leaders such as Dayton can survive and win. If the people, as Gregoire says, ‘have spoken’ and there will be no new taxes, it’s because she has not offered the right message. We need to help her with that.

“real change”…a newspaper with a message…hugmamma.

check out the “real change” website for more information, and while there, view their mission statement on youtube.

“good samaritan #10,” a Thai restaurant

During the holiday season the media tends to focus more attention on acts of kindness. My ears perk up whenever I hear of small town heroes who, in the course of their daily lives, show compassion for others. On local news, Kiro 7, just such a segment ran about a Thai restaurant in Ballard, a suburb of Seattle.

Thai has become my favorite Asian food, since I’ve found several local restaurants which offer delicious fare. It use to be that Japanese food was my very favorite, followed by Chinese. Unfortunately, those local restaurants which I use to visit with regularity, have been disappointing of late. And as I’ve remarked to family and friends, “Don’t eat calories you don’t LOVE!” I know I can’t afford to waste calories on “so-so” food.

After learning about the enormous generosity of the Thai Siam Restaurant, our family will be dining there very, very soon. For 23 years, it has been the site of a free Christmas turkey meal to those in need. This year they served 400 meals in-house, and sent out another 400 meals as take-outs. The website tells their sweet story, beginning with a video of owner Vhanthip (Nancy) Phokayasupatt, who had been an ovarian cancer patient many years ago. Perhaps that motivated her to reach out to the suffering, or perhaps it just coincided with her already compassionate spirit. Following is the open invitation for their annual Christmas dinner.

FREE CHRISTMAS DINNER FOR THOSE IN NEED  

If you know someone who would not be able to have a festive dinner on Christmas Day, Thai Siam Restaurant would like to extend our invitation to a free turkey dinner.

 Also written on their website is their mission statement, as a member of their community. More businesses should follow suit in giving back to those who not only support them, but to the less fortunate in our society. The world would be a better place, for sure.

Thai Siam is not only a place for wonderful dining, but is also a place for community building.

Our mission is not only to give all customers, their families and friends the best in quality and healthy food, but also to be involved in the community as much as we can. We believe that community is the heart of all things. That is why for 19 years, we have used our restaurant to help raise funds for local charities that serve our neighborhood, such as Seattle’s Children’s Hospital, Union Gospel Mission, Boys and Girls Club, The Masha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research, Cancer Lifeline and many, many more. Also, we have hosted a yearly dinner to provide warm food for the less fortunate every Christmas.

Food is a source of life, and we are thankful to have been blessed with this gift that we can share with the community. Thank you for the continuous support you have provided us. We are encouraged to know that you are standing with us.

  

for Nancy and her elves at Thai Siam Restaurant, huge hugs…hugmamma.

  

  

 

gray skies above, warm hearts below

Our “signature” weather here in the Pacific Northwest never goes out of style. So it’s with little fanfare that we welcome the return of menacing gray skies, upon whose heels arrive the downpour of “angels’ tears.” Our family has learned to take it all in stride.

The dismal weather gives us a chance to burrow under blankets, read a mountain of books, piled high magazines and Wall Street Journals, sup on homemade soups, play endless rounds of Bananagrams, and just recently, cribbage.

Once-in-awhile, my daughter and I settle in to watch old films on DVD, like “Anna and the King of Siam,” starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunn. Totally different from “The King and I,” the colorized version with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, my daughter was enthralled with the more serious story told in the older version. Unlike its successor, it was a drama, not a musical. In it the king does not dance with the teacher, nor does Tuptim stage the story of  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

After Mass yesterday we decided to drive out to Snohomish, where antique stores abound. Enroute we stopped at a favorite haunt, Maltby Cafe. It’s not a restaurant we frequent because of its distance, and because the meals taste like mom’s cooking, which means lo-cal is not a high priority. The few times we’ve driven to partake of this gastronomical feast, there has always been a lineup of hungry customers. But everyone minds their manners. We put our names on a list, and wait patiently, the cafe’s “monster” cinnamon roll making me salivate at the thought of biting into it, melted icing escaping out the corners of my grinning lips.

The Cafe is cozily ensconced in the basement of a building. After 20 minutes or so of eager anticipation,  we were comfortably seated at a table. We took our time looking through the menu, deciding what to eat. My husband is always the first to make a selection. His pick was some gigantic omelet, whose name  escapes me. Meanwhile, my daughter and I read the menu as though it were a novel, poring over each page from top to bottom.

I started with “desserts” on the back of the menu. The “melted caramel sundae” sounded divine, and loaded with calories! Coming to my senses, I chose French toast with marionberries and creme fraiche on the side. With it I ordered a dish of red, fried potatoes, onions, mushrooms and diced ham. Of course, half of it came home in a “doggie bag.” The same was true of my daughter’s meal, homemade Italian sausages with  scrambled eggs, and biscuits with gravy.

While awaiting our main courses, we began with an appetizer. We sliced the long-awaited cinnamon roll 4 ways. We still brought home half of it. As we “oohed and aahed” and hungrily devoured morsels of the heavenly pastry, our eyes wandered around the spacious dining room. Devotees of HGTV, we agreed that the Cafe could easily be transformed into a basement apartment. The long breakfast bar along one side of the room could serve as informal family dining, while the main room could easily house a living space, office space, dining space, and perhaps spare sleeping area. Through a door towards the back would probably be a bedroom. At the very back of the restaurant were a men’s and women’s restroom. And, of course, there was a kitchen through a door behind the breakfast bar. Beams running the length of the ceiling added to the warmth and charm of the room. I think our family qualifies for its own designer show on HGTV. My husband and daughter would probably say “Yeah, right.” They’re not as full of ideas as I am. Or am I… just full of it? Hmmm. Whatever…

Tummies full, we drove on to our final destination. Hunting for bargains in antique shops is a “high” for me. Most dealers, if not all, thrive on finding treasures for unbelievably fabulous prices, in other words, cheap. Once upon a time it was possible, and it may be again, given the current economy. But the difficulty now is that while something may be a bargain, how much of a markup can the market bear? Where nearly 2 decades ago I could double the price of what I paid for an item, I’m no longer able to do so in most cases. So the profit margin has shrunk considerably. Why remain in the business?

All antique dealers are passionate about “old” stuff, their history, their  craftsmanship, and the idea that these items are very much relics of the past. Walking through aisles of artifacts usually stirs up memories of bygone days, before all the modern conveniences like dishwashers, clothes dryers, refrigerators, computers. Instead, my eyes linger over dishracks and colorful dish towels, vintage clothes drying racks or clothes lines that unwind from a green or blue tin box, pie safes that use to store perishable foods from pesky flies, and typewriters, Royals and Underwoods.

With the holidays approaching, I opted to purchase several silver plated serving platters of various shapes and sizes. The prices were reasonable, most $12, a couple $16. They’re not in mint condition, but for the right price, customers will purchase them as beautiful accents for festive celebrations. Shabby chic is in these days, especially at stores like Crate and Barrel. Why pay their exorbitant prices for “knock-offs,” when the real thing can be bought for half the price or less? “Used” means it’s been loved in its former life.

Meandering the back roads under a threatening, gray sky in verdant Washington State, is as special as lazing under the tropical sun, on a white sand beach in Maui. 

found anywhere, blessings…hugmamma.

decorating tip, “change it up”

Growing up, our family never bought a stick of furniture. Everything was a hand-me-down, or a thrift shop leftover. Needless to say nothing matched. Since one of my Saturday chores was housecleaning, I taught myself to meld what most might consider junk. I didn’t know it then, but my passion for antiques and vintage collectibles probably grew out of necessity. Overstuffed armchairs, a long sofa with missing springs, a vintage, stand-alone radio whose flat top displayed religious articles, along with an assortment of odd pieces was my introduction to decorating. Each time I swept and dusted, I also rearranged the furnishings, even if it was just a nudge here and there. I continued this practice during my stint in retailing, during and after college. As a sales clerk and then a department manager, I was advised to “change things up” regularly. Customers would perceive that the store was constantly bringing in new merchandise, when in fact it wasn’t. To this day I redo my rented space in an antique mall, which always derives compliments from management and customers alike. Reworking the space freshens the look, and casts each item in a new light. It also helps with the “bottom line,” sales.

My house undergoes the same rearranging, more so in the past than now. Older age brings contentment with the status quo. Forty years of housekeeping will do that. “Been there, done that!” However friends and family will attest to the fact that the holidays consume my time and energy as I transform my home into a wonderland. For Halloween and Christmas my stored treasures are retrieved from the garage and incorporated into my furnishings. As in bygone days I have fun blending furnishings, with seasonal decor. Rather than relegate normal household items to the bins from whence the ornaments, wreaths, and garlands came, I intermingle all to enhance every room, including the bathrooms. I usually “pull out all the stops” for the holidays, because it always gets a jaw-dropping reaction. There are drawbacks, however.

It usually takes me 2 weeks of cleaning and decorating, to dress 5 or 6 medium-sized trees for display in various rooms, to hang garlands with ornaments atop cupboards, to create elaborate centerpieces for the kitchen island and dining room table, to configure a unique vintage vignette across the fireplace mantel. And that’s only a sampling of the holiday facelift. THEN there’s the dismantling, not done until April the last couple of years. Having taken so long to arrange, I’m in no hurry to destroy my masterpiece. Luckily my husband enjoys my creativity, or else he’s a saint for humoring my eccentricities. Probably a little of both. Friends don’t mind either. They enjoy a prolonged Christmas, especially when it’s in my house, not theirs.

So while visiting with my daughter, it’s fun for me to redo her apartment. Physically and mentally spent at day’s end,  learning and dancing new choreography, she is only too happy to let me “have at it.” She enjoys her mismatched furnishings, bistro table and chairs from Pier 1, ottoman from Bed, Bath and Beyond, long, antique dresser serving as a side table, antique Queen Anne side chair in need of reupholstering, vintage corner cupboard in a pretty, muted yellow. My daughter has grown up with my eclectic taste, and passion for vintage and antique furnishings. And we both love a good bargain, so Target is always one of  the stops when we’re out shopping for something new.

Well I’m off to perform some “magic” on my daughter’s apartment. Will chat again later. Enjoy all the moments of your day…

hugs of energy, as you go about your day…hugmamma.

attitude adjustment

One day I had occasion to visit a beautiful, upscale mall in sunny southern California, The Costa Mesa Mall. Sprawling over several acres, it was a shopper’s paradise. A favorite phrase,”eye candy,” coined while strolling the cobblestone streets of Venice, seemed just as applicable at this retail complex. Anchoring this shopping mecca, were giants Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Sak’s, and Sear’s. Sprinkled in and around them were other name stores, Gap, BCBG, MaxMara, Mango, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and a seemingly endless list of other brands. Rolex caught my eye. I’d not seen it in any other mall I’ve visited. In fact, I’ve never seen its storefront before.

My first stop had to be Bloomingdale’s. Our first “introduction” was at 53rd and Lex in NYC in 1976. Several years ago, my daughter and I visited a branch in Soho, New York. There’s a distinct vibe to the retail icon. It’s upscale with a contemporary, youthful flavor. New York is culturally diverse, with Chinatown and Little Italy as neighbors, deli workers commuting alongside doctors on subways, and homeless setting up house across the street from Trump Tower. As a result, Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s caters to customers from all walks of life. Everyone is treated equally. When you enter the store, whether you browse or buy, you’re a BFF (best friend forever).

As I wandered through Costa Mesa’s Bloomingdale’s, the mood was the exact opposite of its “sister” in the east. I felt invisible as I made my way through different areas of women’s wear. Several of the saleswomen were young and Asian. None approached to assist me, instead greeting and speaking with Caucasian shoppers. I took notice because I’m half-Chinese. Perhaps I didn’t appear to have the money to spend. No matter I thought, I’m just browsing. If something “grabbed” my attention, I would’ve made myself known.

In lingerie, I looked at a selection of bras displayed on a table. While fingering one in particular, a lovely, black, young saleslady approached saying “Isn”t that nice!” I replied that it was, but couldn’t find the price. She checked one like it nearby. It too had no price, so she left to make inquiries, indicating she’d be right back. Upon returning with the price, she pointed to another bra that was on sale. Following her to the “sale” rack, I explained that I had been searching for one that I had seen more than a year ago at Free People. The saleslady quickly informed me that the store had a branch in the mall. I was pleasantly surprised that she referred me to a competitor. Her recommendation reminded me of the Santa Claus in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If an item was not in stock, he sent customers from Gimbel’s, where he worked, to Macy’s where he thought they’d find exactly what they were looking for.

Leaving Bloomingdale’s I pondered what had just happened to me. I was ignored by my own ethnic “sisters”, and treated kindly by a black woman, who reached out in true sisterhood. On my way out of the store, I saw BCBG, a retailer of expensive, designer wear. Stepping inside, I strolled about, stopping to more closely inspect items that were of interest. The 3 young, Asian, sales help never acknowledged my presence. Interesting, I thought. As I made my way from the back towards the exit at the front, I stopped to allow one of the sales women to pass. I noticed a half-smile on her lips as she walked by. Continuing towards the door, I saw a Caucasian customer enter and heard one of the sales ladies call out “Hi! How are you?”

In my 20’s I perceived such affronts as there being something wrong with me. Almost 40 years later, I find such experiences curious. On its face it might seem that the Asian women thought I was “beneath” them and their Caucasian clientele. I was dressed well, but not anything like their regular customers. By contrast, the young, Black woman treated me as an equal or better, since I was a potential consumer. But setting aside what might seem like the obvious, it may be that the Asians were behaving according to stereotype, quiet and shy. And the black woman was, perhaps, more outgoing by nature. Murmuring to myself, I continued on my way.

My next encounter, more pleasant than those previously, added another dimension to the racial question. Sylvia, in DKNY, greeted me with a pleasant smile and “Hi! How are you?” As I wandered from table to rack, looking at Donna Karin designer digs, Sylvia’s eyes followed me. Stepping closer, she commented that I should let her know if I needed any help. I thanked her. When I finally spied a long, grey, sleeveless dress that might fit my daughter nicely, I asked for Sylvia’s assistance. We talked a little about the details of the dress, its fit, its color, its multiple use. I shared a picture of my daughter. Sylvia complimented my daughter’s beauty and her pursuit of dancing as a career. I learned that Sylvia was of Korean-Polish ancestry. I expressed my feeling that marriages between easterners and westerners, can produce attractive offspring. My husband and daughter who are Hawaiian-Chinese-Portuguese are proof-positive. I left in a very good mood, promising to return later that day, my daughter in tow.

Before heading off to get a bite to eat, I stopped in at Free People. Immediately inside the doorway, Ashley greeted me with a huge smile and friendly manner that wrapped around me like a warm blanket. We chatted continually while I moved hangers aside to better inspect each piece of clothing. I couldn’t stop staring at her, wondering who she looked like. After a few moments playing charades, we arrived at the conclusion that she bore a close resemblance to the youngest of the 3 protagonists fighting the “good fight” against the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” a Halloween favorite on the small screen. Throughout the boutique, Ashley met up with me to comment on an item that I’d hold up for a better look. A native Californian, she was the friendliest I’d ever met, and I told her so. She laughed, and thanked me for the compliment. To better explain myself I told her of my experience in Bloomingdale’s. “Oh!” she exclaimed, eyes rolling, “They need an attitude adjustment!” Well, I just loved her absolute candidness. She was too precious, I thought.

It was so refreshing to make small talk with a young person, so totally unimpressed with outward trappings. She was Caucasian, but it didn’t matter. She was a resounding reminder that it’s what a person is like on the “inside” that matters, not skin color, or social status, or age. Because of her innate skills for serving customers, Free People made a tidy sum when I returned with my daughter to make a number of purchases. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I wanted to return to Bloomingdale’s and BCBG to say “I was the one you wouldn’t help. Big mistake! Huge mistake! Huge!”

best not judge a book by its cover…hugmamma