Business Financial Government Politics

White Men Over 50: Not So Much

trumpdonald_bill_signing_021417gettyI jokingly tell my friends that I am not a fan of white men over the age of 50. When I say this to a white man over 50, I sometimes add the caveat, “except for you, of course.” But that’s sometimes, not always. I hate this new piece of me that is filled with rage when I observe a sea of white men over the age of 50 standing behind Donald Trump’s desk while he signs something or other that will take away my personal rights or speed up the already-out-of-control issues around global warming, or as he just sits there holding up his megalomaniacal large, scary signature on a document that 9 out of 10 times is in the interest of no one other than his rich, white, male friends over the age of 50.

But it’s not just him.

There’s Mitch McConnell. There’s Lindsey Graham. There’s the huge number of white, male, age 50-plus GOP lawmakers in Washington. What do the women in your life say when you come home at night? I wonder as I watch them make statements they know are lies and vote in the interest of one man who never has our country’s best interest at heart. I wonder what I would say if one of them was my brother, husband, or father. I write letters to them in my head at night, at 2 in the morning, when I’m terrified and hoping that this is all a nightmare from which I will awaken next November.

Let’s look at others outside of government, but interestingly enough, in business — as in the business of billionaires. Dennis Muilenburg was just fired from Boeing after a career of thirty years building an airplane he knew was unsafe and which killed hundreds of humans. He created a toxic culture for the safety of millions of fliers, and that’s to say nothing of the culture of deceit, distain for others, and lies for which he’s also responsible. This man will walk away with $62 million … but “none of his salary or bonus for the last year.” You can’t make this up. The man belongs in jail, as did Roger Ailes, who also walked away with tens of millions of dollars, while some of the women who came forward were fired and haven’t worked since.

Look, I’m not saying my gender is flawless — not by any means. I think Sheryl Sandberg is close to belonging in jail and certainly responsible for the attacks on George Soros and others who threatened the undeserved sanctity of Facebook. I take it back; she definitely belongs in jail. But by sheer numbers, there is an inordinate number of white men over the age of 50 who are ruining so much more than our planet. They are ruining the soul of our country. So while I will try my hardest not to toss them all into one group, and instead, look at them individually … in the dead of night, at 2 in the morning, 99% of them will continue to appear white, male, and over 50.

Business Fashion Women

Taylor Swift’s Legs

Image-1OK, gather round. I was speaking with an intern last week whose friend works in specialty insurance. Being the curious type, I asked for more information. Here’s how that went:

“What is specialty insurance?”

“Oh, it’s when you insure something that makes you a celebrity … like Taylor Swift’s legs.”

“Taylor Swift’s legs?! Surely, you jest. Taylor Swift’s brain for writing songs, and her voice, I get — but her legs? You can’t be serious.”

I couldn’t help but think of that great scene in “Something’s Gotta Give,” in which Jack Nicholson’s character remarks on the attractiveness of Diane Sawyer’s legs, and says he can’t understand why she’s always hiding them under the desk in her job as a newscaster. Diane Keaton’s character replies, “I mean, she’s Diane Sawyer. She goes into caves in Afghanistan with a shmatte on her head. Who cares about her legs?”

The intern was serious: Her friend, who does insurance underwriting for these types of clients, defends the notion that Taylor Swift should insure her legs. Something about her concert performances …

“She can sit on a fucking stool and play the guitar; her legs have nothing to do with it!” I said, growing angrier by the second. “Call your friend, and ask him what things male celebrities insure. Ask him how much Brad Pitt’s biceps are worth!”

“You are overreacting,” the intern told me. “I’m sure Taylor’s voice is insured too.”

A day later, as we were walking together, she remarked, “I thought I should let you know that her voice is not insured.”

I just looked at her and rolled my eyes. But deep inside my soul, I recognized the awareness that there is something so very wrong with so much of what we hold valuable in this country.

Photo by the photographer, Peter Lindbergh, who recently passed away.

Business Social Media

The Moral Dilemma of Social Media Success

Occasionally I publish on Freesia Lane a business article that I wrote for my marketing company. This is one of those times. It’s not just about business. It’s about who we want to be – our persona – on social media. cm

I have a moral dilemma: If you know how to gain stardom, but you also know that it is contributing to the decline of the American Empire (not to be confused with the Roman Empire, whose citizens didn’t have Twitter and Facebook to add to their woes), what is your obligation to your fellow countryman?

At the time of this writing, the tweet in the picture accompanying this piece has been online for 12 hours. It has 151 retweets and 919 likes. The numbers continue to rise; in the last hour, the number of likes has risen by another 100, and the retweets are up another 10. The retweets are now responsible for the new likes; the original post has long since passed through the current feed of those who are following me, but every time it’s retweeted, it refreshes the tweet as if it were just posted. This could go on for another 24 hours, and should make this tweet’s reach somewhere in the hundreds of thousands.

One tweet, from little old me — whose following on Twitter is made up of only 42 kind followers who are mostly friends — was able to get a tweet out with a reach, according to twitter stats report of more than 78,000 readers. How did I do it?

Well, I met Rosie O’Donnell when Blue Shoe Strategy was doing the promotion for “India’s Daughter.” There are a number of showings in New York City, most with a celebrity attending to either lead a panel, interview the director, or just talk about their support for the film becoming an Awards Season contender. Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, and Katie Couric have all made appearances, but the one who showed up the most prepared was Rosie. The one who asked the most compelling questions — and follow-ups — was Rosie. The one who really “felt” the film was Rosie. I was absolutely bowled over by the commitment I saw in her at the screening, and was impressed by how much more “present” she was than any of the other celebrities in attendance. I began following her on Twitter, and she actually started following me as well, but she never engaged with anything I posted.

Yesterday I tagged her in this post of mine, in which I called on the Russians to hack Trump’s SAT scores and publish them for the benefit of the American people. It’s a clever post, if I may say so, mirroring Trump’s call for the Russians to hack and publish Hillary’s emails — but the post itself has zero value. It’s important that I say that loud and clear: The post, which now will have tens of thousands of people engaging with it, has no value.

At the same time, I sent Rosie another tweet reminding her of who I am. I thought it might legitimize my clever post.

Rosie liked my post about Trump and retweeted it. She also commented on “India’s Daughter,” asked for an update, and commented on the update as well. She did not retweet that tweet. But that tweet, by the way, has value. It includes an article about how the men accused of killing Jyoti in India have lost their last appeal and will be put to death. It contains important information, and shows real growth around women’s issues in India.

So, here I am, a day later, pondering the dilemma of our historical moment in time. My Trump tweet fuels the fires of hatred toward a man who has given new and unwelcome meaning to “speaking your truth.” It’s a shiny object that is “clever” (Blue Shoe’s own Frances described it as such), and in my opinion, it is a waste of the time belonging to anyone who reads it. It has zero value. It moves no one in any way toward accomplishing anything.

But, I am expanding my own writing and trying to be heard more. I know how to get your attention. I have just demonstrated how. Do I ignore the marketing value of worthless, possibly damaging rhetoric in order to find a following, and then sprinkle in the content I think is worth your time? Or do I stick to my guns and my loyal following of 42 people, and ignore what will possibly lead me to Twitter fame?

This is a pivotal moment in history. If we continue to move toward shiny-object discourse, leaving less and less room in our day for substantive, thought-provoking discourse, will it eventually destroy us? And, if I believe that to be the case, how do we go about avoiding it within the confines of what we know is working in today’s communication template? I don’t know the answer to this question; I just thought I’d put it out there. If you want to follow me on Twitter to see what I do now, it’s @ChristinMer1. Namaste.

Business Women

My Voice is it Anyway?

Screen Shot 2019-01-14 at 2.47.07 PMI was with a group of women the other night and a conversation woke me up to the plight of some of us who seem to believe our quotes or thoughts would be better received if we attributed their origin to someone else.

So-and-so thinks …
I was talking to … and she suggested …
I can’t remember where I heard this but …
I finally said, “How about we all give our opinions instead of making someone else’s opinion our contribution?”
Then the truth erupted.
One of the women said that she always credits her father as having taught her this, that, and the other thing through a great quote (I’ve heard many of them, and they are great). She went on to say that her husband took her aside a few years ago and told her that he believes she has made up her own quotes over the years, and yet still credits her father. She then admitted to doing so.
And, then there’s me and my methodology: “I’m not sure where I got this, but …” I am such a liar. I am sure where I got this; I made it up. And it was good. But giving the credit for it to someone else seemed to make it “better.” Note to self: Never do that again.
I decided that I don’t want anyone else’s opinion from the mouth of another. That’s heresy anyway, which we all know is not allowed in a court of law, so why should it be allowed in my think tanks? Come with your own thoughts moving forward, say I to all women. Incorporate others in your overall presentation if you want and build off what they say to make it your own, which is very different from attributing your voice to someone else who you believe has more credibility than you.
So here is my opinion: “My opinion has value if it’s brilliant, not because it supposedly came from a source who you think is smarter than I am.”


Business Relationships

Focus & My Ex Husband

downloadMuch is written about being in the moment, whatever that means. I had an epiphany today. It’s not just about being in the moment; it’s about turning moments into habits. Let me explain.

Someone for whom we were writing something mentioned that she has her Saturday “Mommy–Daughter Day.” She doesn’t plug in on Saturdays; she and her daughter plan a full day together. and it’s written in stone, or blood, or whatever ink is used these days to say it’s nonnegotiable.

Then I remembered that H2 (Husband #2) spoke to me about his closeness with his father. They didn’t speak numerous times on the phone per day. There was no email; his father has been gone for decades. But every day that he was in town, he walked around the Central Park Reservoir with his dad at 4 p.m., and they talked about all things. My memory tells me they did it every day, but I know that can’t be right. Maybe it was every Sunday? Either way, it was written in stone. It was part of the pattern of their lives. It was a habit.

Then I remembered how H2, when he was in New York City, would sit down with our fabulous daughter, about whom I am not allowed to write, but if I were, I would say she has that same single focus as her dad, and went to an Ivy League undergrad and law school. Anyway, every single night, he sat with her and read through one book. Her hair wet from her bath, she would sit on his lap in her PJs and suck on her nighttime bottle, staring intently at what he read to her. Every single night that he was in the house. Same time. Same chair. It was a habit.

Did I mention he was an investment banker doing some of the largest global deals in the history of mergers and acquisitions? But even when he was merging Texas Oil & Gas and U.S. Steel, he still walked out of his study in the apartment and read that book to our child. It took maybe fifteen minutes.

Then I remembered how he had a call with a European client every Sunday from 11 to 12. Every week. From the phone in the bedroom while he was propped up on the bed, with papers in front of him that clearly had been prepared for him by someone earlier in the week.

And there was the time on a flight from Europe to the U.S. when I was sitting, shaking next to him and he was working on all his papers in the seat next to me. I’m not a good flier.

He put all his papers away, turned to me, and asked, “What is it you are afraid of?”

I answered without a moment’s pause, “We are all going to die. I’m sure of it.”

He looked at me and said, “I’m sorry; I can’t help you.”

He took out his papers and the focus wasn’t on me any longer. I don’t think he gave it a moment’s thought. He couldn’t fix it, so he focused on something else that could make good use of his time and expertise.

I hope you give me credit for sharing this part of me that doesn’t put me in my finest light. I thought it was worth the exposure because it so shines on the fact that he was also able to assess and not worry about that which he couldn’t fix. I saw him behave that way with deals too. He never considered them done, and there was no celebration until the ink was dry. And, if I’m being fair to him, I think he never wanted to make a deal more than making it a good deal. He could walk away.

He had the exact same routine every morning: Rise. Shower. Paper. Breakfast. Driven to the office. Habit.

If we went to the movies at 74th and Broadway, we always walked home. Always.

Every Saturday morning, he played tennis. In the city or at our country house. Same time every week. Usually with the same people.

He chose the wines every night to accompany whatever was being served for dinner, about a half hour before we sat down to eat. If it was a wine that needed to breathe, there was time.

Here is the thing: The man was busier than me, to be sure, but I never once saw him rush. Not once. The space between his habits (or rituals or whatever you want to call them) was the time for spontaneity. Trust me, he could come up with a spur-of-the-moment thing to do, but overall, his very, very busy life was planned, though not in that “there is no time for fun or important things” way that I see around me.

When we were in Europe doing his deals, he would schedule appointments and calls, but he would also schedule trips to museums and fabulous restaurants, and they might just be in the middle of the afternoon. Everything that mattered to him — his child, his work, his tennis, his art exploration, food, and wine — had a place and a time, and it was not generally sacrificed.

I would tell you that it was his nature to be that way. But now, as I read book after book that speaks to the need to segment time — and not just business time — in the same way he has been doing for … well, for a lot of years, I realize that some of us are built to be that way, and then there’s me, who should have spent more time segmenting my time. And, maybe it was less his nature and more something he honed over the years to be the success that he was and is.

The man was ahead of his time. Move over, Brendon Burchard, whose book “High Performance Habits” just blew me away. I just have to learn from the master, H2.

Business Shopping Technology

My iPhone X

images-2I recently purchased the new iPhone X. I mainly got it because my other iPhone wasn’t holding its charge, but in addition, the photography capabilities of the new iPhone X were something of a turn-on to me. So I ordered it and will pay an additional $15 per month for the rest of my life to pay for it. Whatever.

So now I am using the phone, and let’s just say, I am not a happy person.

I will lead into why with a quote from my grandmother upon acquiring her first push-button phone:

“I don’t like this. I don’t like that if I make a mistake, I can’t figure it out, and keep calling the wrong number. What was wrong with the rotary phone?”

I rolled my then-ten-year old eyes and patiently walked her through the process of just using the tip of her finger when pushing the numbers. And I thought to myself, ”Geez, she’s old.”

Well, now, I guess, it’s my turn.

The iPhone X’s lack of a home button is not only disconcerting, it’s stupid. I get that it took up screen space, but it was the mother ship of the phone. I’m now floundering in the high seas of maneuverability issues around apps, turning off my phone at the end of a call, and scrolling up to enter stuff, which is not as easy as it sounds; trust me. There is a whole host of other new things to learn that require reading instructions that didn’t even come with the phone—which really doesn’t matter because I never read them anyway. It’s actually an act of protest because I’m certain instructions are written by men who have no idea how to get from point A to point B with any sensibility. Don’t get me started down that road. Suffice it to say, instructions aren’t an option for me.

There is a fine young woman who works at my company, Blue Shoe, and she has crossed from her desk to mine in our open-air office numerous times to help me.

She gently told me to just ask for Siri, and she will answer me. I use the word “gently” here because, let’s face it: It’s really condescension with a hint of kindness because I control her paycheck. Or, at least, I used to do so when I could access my bank accounts from my phone, which ain’t so easy anymore.

Well, her Siri direction isn’t right. It’s a lie—a lie like a Sarah Huckabee lie. I have asked nicely, yelled not so nicely, and used words that don’t belong in my blog . . . and nothing. Nada. Siri has left me—most likely, for good. Well, screw her; I’ll figure things out for myself.

I use my phone’s ear buds because I don’t want to get brain cancer when I’m already struggling with Aspartame dementia from diet coke, which Trump has helped me give it up cold turkey because I have no desire to be like him in any way. He drinks as much DC as I used to drink, so I have him to thank for saving what was left of my brain. Anyway, because I’m on the phone a good chunk of the day, I keep my phone plugged in to the juicer. Well, guess what? You can do one or the other, but not both. Apple got rid of the plug for the ear phone and now it uses the same plug as the charger. Seriously? Don’t they pay their engineers billions of dollars? Maybe the engineer doesn’t ever talk on the phone because he’s too smart to speak dummy down english like the rest of us. I don’t know.

OK, now let me talk about this face-recognition feature. I set it up. I turned my face every which way from Sunday while the phone registered it. I’m telling you that if someone has an iPhone X and gets arrested, they can simply send law enforcement the images from face recognition, and not have to stand in front of those cameras that have to be the height of humiliation. Save the government money. That’s on my 2018 agenda.

But that’s not my main problem with “Face ID,” as Apple calls it. Here is the problem: If someone robs you, they have to take you with them when they take your phone or they won’t be able to do anything at all with it. Yep, you heard it here first. You can plead all you want, but your face is central to the success of their theft over the long haul, so you not only lose your phone, your family loses you, which in the case of my family these days, might be a welcome relief.

So, the bottom line is that I’m an old lady who is beginning to yearn for the days of the flip-top phone. I miss those good old times when my life wasn’t spent on apps and staring into my phone for recognition—recognition I used to receive from others when they felt grateful for something I’d done for them.

Business Technology

Facebook Content: Who is Responsible?

Occasionally, I bring my work hat to Freesia Lane. I am in marketing, where social media plays a large role in our day. This posted on Blue Shoe Strategy’s blog this morning. I know most of you are on Facebook. Thought you might find it relevant. Christine

17bits-fbdiary-tmagArticleAn excellent piece by Jenna Wortham ran in the The New York Times today, Facebook’s Existential Crisis. She challenges the worth of the content of Facebook, its relevance to our lives, and marvels that the numbers are rising in usage while offering less worthy information. She mentions that others she talks to agree with her; Facebook has become boring. Unfortunately, she places the blame and responsibility for changing her sad state on Facebook. Typical.

Jenna Wortham appears quite young when I Google her in Google Images. And, like others in her generation, she places the blame for her Facebook life of quiet desperation on someone other than herself. Facebook isn’t the culprit in her lackluster Facebook life; she and her friends are. Facebook doesn’t provide content.  Facebook presents the content you provide. The responsibility for the poor quality of what we have to read when we spend an average of 34 minutes a day on the page lies with those who are on on Facebook. Yep, it’s not the ‘parent’ at fault, but the Facebook participants not recognizing the power they have individually in the make up of their Facebook content. Facebook is not like watching a T.V. show where the fabulous Shonda Rimes has decided what we see and the messages it sends to our subliminal minds about who we are. Facebook is one of the few places we get to go to receive information where we decide what we see (who you follow, what pages you ‘like’), when we see it, and how much time we spend commenting or digging deeper into it. It’s the ultimate in free speech. It’s the ultimate newspaper self designed to provide information on that which you decide is important to you. And the way in which you yourself participate will determine the worth of what you – and those that follow you – get out of it.

Just as in life outside the computer screen, we are who we surround ourselves with. Facebook is the disseminator of our messages. So, Jenna, you and your friends need to take responsibility for your own boredom. Get rid of those and that which bore you on your Facebook feed. I have unfriended those that I know provide me with the downer of the day that might not lift me to my greatest heights. I work very hard to provide content on my feed that is relevant to my friends and family. And, I read a variety of pages that inform me, including those that annoy me. (Can I mention Fox News here?) I want to be informed and I take responsibility for that which goes through my brain in the precious time I spend on Facebook.

So, ask not what content Facebook is providing you, but rather, what content you are providing Facebook?


How Do Successful People Deal with Difficult Tasks?

images-1Note From Christine: As many of you know, I’m a marketer (rhymes with racketeer, just sayin’) by day. I rarely post the same blog on my business website as on Freesia Lane, but this post on how successful people do the tasks they find unpleasant had such a strong response from people from a personal habitual standpoint, I thought you might find it of interest. 

I recently read that successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common. They do the hardest, most unpleasant, most stressful things immediately, at the beginning of their day. They waste not a moment getting them out of the way, which apparently provides “room” in the brain for creativity and positive action. It seems that when you leave something undone that is stressful, it will percolate in the brain even if you are not aware that it’s in there, doing damage by interfering with clear thinking and positive energy. Makes sense. It really does. I get that.

It got me to thinking, which was probably me choosing to focus on this idea instead of some stressful things I need to do that have been moved to a new to-do list every day for quite a while. (I’m human. Sue me.) I took a look at the clients I’ve had over the past few years to see the different ways they handle stress in their business strategies. Because I’m a strategist, and our marketing consulting service includes being the sounding board for the issues every small business owner faces, I see firsthand how different personalities deal with different stressful situations. See if you can recognize yourself in any of my clients (whose names have been changed), and consider how you might work toward changing.

Hot Potato Sam

Sam hates anything that is outside the box of protocols that has enabled his business to double within a year. He is a diligent leader. He loves a to-do list, and he loves crossing things off it. If something stays on the to-do list because the answer is not immediately obvious, he panics. He would prefer to lose a piece of business, or to say no to a special custom order that might secure customer loyalty and a profitable sale, than to work outside the parameters that have served him so well. This single-minded approach to business is one of his biggest strengths, but as with all strengths, it is also his biggest weakness. He will get rid of it rather than go through the angst of trying to figure out an untested, outside-the-box solution. He gets a lot done, and he has never had a real crisis, but he also could have grown more quickly if he were willing to take the risk of exploring unchartered territory and suffer the irritation of allowing an item to stay on the undone list longer than is comfortable for him.

Grey’s Anatomy Gale

Gale runs into a problem that doesn’t have an easy or immediate solution and she panics. She works from home, and she gets up from her desk when she should be working and watches Grey’s Anatomy — over and over again. I have watched Grey’s Anatomy myself and think it’s a fabulous show, but I think she does this because there is an answer for every life-threatening issue on Grey’s. She escapes into that world and just looks away from the problem. Don’t get me wrong; Gale is highly successful, but she is under tremendous stress from things that are not done — and really need to be done. That angst has to be eating away at her creativity and efficiency.

John Pass-it-On

John runs a successful company, and he hires really good people. When he hits the wall of stressful tasks undone, he passes them to someone else to do, without providing that person with enough information or consideration to ensure that the task is handled in the best possible way. But it’s off his desk, and it hasn’t trashed the business. But has it hindered the business? I’m sure it has. And, the people he works with find it extremely frustrating. It passes the stress on to them, along with all that goes along with it. They are not working at capacity due to stress caused by items that should never have been on their plates.

Lying Lizzie

Lizzie lies her way through it. Says it’s on its way when it’s not. Sometimes it goes away and sometimes it doesn’t. But either way, this strategy doesn’t really work because she is in a constant state of covering her ass. She is very smart and gets things done really well … until she encounters a stressful situation that calls for additional work that is hard or embarrassing. Lizzie is the one who knows she needs to fire someone and doesn’t. She lies to the person and says they did not get a bonus because bonuses were not in play that year, hoping the employee doesn’t talk to anyone else and discover the truth.

Knowledge is power. Are you the successful entrepreneur who deals with difficult things right away, first thing of the day? If so, kudos to you for sure. If not, find out which profile above is you (or another one I haven’t mentioned), and own it. Embrace it. Then change it. Somehow these coping mechanisms have worked in the past. You came by them honestly, long, long ago, as a way to get through difficult things. But in business, to deal with it right away, and deal with it well, not half-assedly, is the ticket to a higher level of success and satisfaction.

And please, no beating yourself up. It’s likely that your way of addressing these situations is also a strength in some way. Sam gets a lot done and is the most efficient person I’ve ever seen in production. Gale can take a lot of pressure. She handles a lot of difficult issues. No one is afraid to bring her the difficult jobs. Lizzie has lots of people who love working for her and would walk through fire for her. So know when it is time to just say no and stay inside the box of your product limitations and protocols. Or know when it’s time to take a break and clear your head with Grey’s Anatomy. Or wait until after the holidays to fire that person because that’s the way you want to be remembered. But knowing whether you are doing it by choice or because it’s your coping and problem-avoidance mechanism will determine whether it’s an asset or a deficit.

By the way, I also know a few people who deal with the hard stuff right away each day, and they do it thoroughly. They have other irritating qualities that the rest of us do not, I promise.


Business Financial

Banking Locally

imgresI’m funny. Sometimes really funny. I sent this letter back in October after feeling at the end of the rope regarding my local bank here on Cape Cod, where I now reside. I will tell you about the response in another blog, but I just want you to ask yourself at the end of reading it if you think I’m a mean girl … or so clever you can’t believe it and want to call on me to write your letters of complaints for a fee. When you hear the response later this month, well… let’s see what you think. I have changed the names to make sure they don’t close my account and throw my money on the front lawn.

Mr. Pres Banks
Bank Who Shall Remain Nameless
25 Bank Ray Hollow
Bank Haven, MA 02601

Dear Mr. Banks,

I write to tell a tale of a woman returning to the Cape – to her roots – and her desire, her true desire, to be a part of a smaller community than New York City and Los Angeles where she has spent the last forty years as a business personage. It might have a happy ending; one never knows. I’m a Hinckley. My grandfather, John Hinckley owned John Hinckley & Sons Lumber, and I spent many a happy summer wandering the beaches, playing mini golf, and staring at the Kennedy kids from boats on the water. Fun.

I stopped coming during my high school years and only returned two years ago to assist my mother as she succumbed to cancer. As soon as I drove over the bridge, I felt like I’d like to run my business from the Cape – travel when necessary, but move the mother ship of Blue Shoe Strategy to Cape Cod.

Blue Shoe does strategic marketing – specializing in social media – for clients including Bank of America, Albania, and small start-ups, to name a few. We are really fun. We are really good at what we do, and as I approach my later years (I’m sixty), I like the start-ups better than the larger companies. I thought it was a great move to begin the transition to less stress, and I am so happy I did.

I arrived, settled into a house on a meandering old road, and said to myself, “Self, if you are going to live a smaller life, then you need local purveyors.” I’m nothing if not thorough. I pulled into the XX branch of the The Bank Who Shall Remain Nameless and opened up personal and business accounts. I also kept my accounts at Chase open, where I have banked for the last zillion years. Aside from being thorough, I also hedge my bets. “Let’s see what this local banking is like,” I thought. “I can’t wait to have people say hello to me from the window drive through. Just think, I might be able to call in and have a personal banker to speak to. This is going to be awesome!”

Not so much. I would like to move my major banking to you, but here are some of the reasons why I can’t.

Let’s start with Bank Transfers.

Imagine my surprise when I sent my Blue Shoe wire transfer to your fax number at my branch and was called and told I had to come in to make the transfer. “Come in? Why, that’s not possible. I’m in Chicago. It’s three days before the election. I need you to transfer these funds to one of my vendors. Today.” Alas. It was never going to happen.

So, I sent the same fax to the Chase account and did the wire transfers from there.

I went to the bank yesterday to do a transfer in person, which is what led me to write you this desperate letter. We are doing something for the East Hampton Film Festival this weekend and I needed to wire money for a house that we rented over the Internet. The owner emailed me where to transfer the money. This is the same email he sends to everyone renting his house – as in tens of people a year.


Please sign and return the attached Rental Agreement.

Please also need a copy of an ID (driver’s license or passport).

Here is the wire transfer information. Since the rental starts in less than a week please send the full amount:

Bank Name: JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Bank Account Number: XXX00XX215XX
Recipient: Thomas ShelXXXX
ABA/ Routing Number: 0210JJJ0XX
Swift Code: CHASUS33

We’ll meet you in person to deliver the keys.

Let me know your travel plans in terms of when you expect to arrive on Thursday. We can be flexible with check-out time on Monday.

Thomas ShelXXX
(917) 514-XXXX

I brought in the information to the fabulous MXXX, who is apparently the only person at my branch who can do a transfer in the bank – the tellers can’t, so there was an additional wait because that MXXX is a busy guy. I finally get into his office, and he starts to type in a form. Seems like a long form, but maybe it was because I’d waited almost an half an hour before he could see me. I will add that everyone else was not busy.

“What is his home address?” MXXX queried, asking for the address of the man who was renting me the house.
“His home address? I have no idea. I never met the man. I don’t know where he lives.”
“I can’t do the transfer without his home address and his branch address.”
“Well, I need this transfer done this morning, and I don’t have either. I have never needed this much information for a transfer for any other bank. Why would the guy want to give me his home address? He’s never met me. I’m a bit unstable and wouldn’t give myself my home address.” (I think I’m very funny. My local banker peeps do not.)

Lucky for us, Mr. ShelXXX answered his phone and was able to give me the information – and was willing to give it to me. We’ve already discussed that it is not something I would have done.

“Did you bring any checks?” MXXX asked next.
“No, why would I bring a check? It’s a transfer?”
Out comes a check form for a check for the transfer. Mindboggling.

“The fee is $22.”
“Don’t you deduct it from the account?”
“No, but I can do another bank check.”
I pulled out $22 and handed it to him. Seriously, he should have waived the fee. Really should have waived the fee.

Last night I did a remote phone consultation for McKinsey in New York. I received an immediate email afterward with a form for me to fill out to get a wire transfer for the consulting fee. They certainly didn’t ask for your local bank address, nor my home address. The routing number and account number were just fine.

This is 2013. Transactions take place at the speed of light. Having to come to the bank to do a transfer puts you in the dark ages of banking. And, the amount of information you require is not in line with today’s usage of transfers. It doesn’t work for individuals like me who would so very, very much like to do business with you.

Let’s move on to the Debit Card.

I use the debit card for my Blue Shoe account for some online software we use at Blue Shoe. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I received a call from your peeps a few weeks ago.

“Ms. Merser, I am calling to say we turned down a charge to your BSS account three days ago, and I wanted to check on it.”
“Why did you turn it down? It’s our Fresh Books Software (our billing service)?”
“Because they are located in Canada, so we thought it might be a fraudulent charge.”

Seriously? Because they are located in Canada? Did I miss something? Is Canada a hostile nation now? Did they attack us and I didn’t know?

I was exasperated. It wasn’t the first time this has happened.

“Look, I get that you guys are this side of conservative, but you should have called me THEN. I can’t have my purveyors thinking Blue Shoe doesn’t have any money. This is not ok. How do we fix this?”

And, so it went with a lot of back and forth and no resolution that you will stop turning away my legitimate charges for no reasonable reason.

And, last but not least. Window Teller Service.

I was on a conference call in August, mostly listening to a bunch of people who love repeating each other. Hmmmm. Perfect time to go cash a check for $5,000 that I need for an event that weekend where we needed to do some cash payouts.

I drove to the window, cell phone on mute, half listening to my group of pontificators (I’m sure you are thinking that this letter is right there in the top hit parade of pontification, and I get that, I really do, but it’s making me feel better.)

I handed her a check for $5,000. My driver’s license. A note that I wanted X number of $100’s… etc. She looked paralyzed. As in frozen.

“You have to come in to do this.”
“I can’t… I am on a call.” I hold up my cell phone and smile at her. “There is no one behind me, but I can pull away and drive up in a few minutes if you need a few more minutes.”
“No, you have to come in!” She’s turning blue and I do not wish to be responsible for her breakdown, so I drive away.

She knows me. I drive up to the window to make deposits a lot. Why did I have to come in? I had no baseball hat on? My license plates were on the car. There was nothing I provided when I came back a few hours later – at great inconvenience – that I didn’t provide when I drove up.

Ok, I’m done. Promise.

And, let’s end on the positive.

I love your pens. Not kidding. You have the best pens in the world. I was told yesterday they are on back order. I asked for one because I thought it would make me feel better after the trauma of the bank transfer lasting longer than Gone with the Wind. It’s ok, but you should know, when you have them, they are way cool. I have brought them to other clients and said they need to find the same one. I’m totally serious.

I love your people. Nice. Calm. Efficient – as long as I follow the outdated protocols to the tee. Protocols that must be updated if you are to be able to lure someone like me to want to use you. They are your greatest asset and isn’t that always the case?

The fabulous busy MXXX said you like input. He did. You now have mine. There is no need to send a nice response back. I am not sending this for a response, and I would probably find it disingenuous. I write you in hopes that maybe; just maybe, you will change some procedures so people like me can bank with fabulous people like you.


Christine Merser
Managing Partner
Blue Shoe Strategy

Ok, tell the truth. It’s real. It’s true, and it’s cleverly presented with no bitterness, right? More to follow Freesia Laners.

Business Parenting Personal Essays Relationships

Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School. Oh my!

imgresI had lunch the other day with a friend of mine. Talk turned to fathers, and how similar our two fathers were. Her father was a worker and a golfer like mine. Work and golf and show up now and then to be a larger than life presence in the lives of their kids. Mine was a tough taskmaster whom I didn’t appreciate until long after he no longer had any influence on me. We both acknowledged the enormous influence of those men in our lives.

I told her that when I arrived back in New York City, fresh from the University of Nebraska hinterlands, my dad summoned me to his New York apartment, where he would hold court once every month or so when he had business in the city. He flew in like the Shah on his lear jet, and I still remember pushing the button to the floor of his apartment on the upper east side with a feeling of anxious hope that we would feel good after the visit was over. Both of us. I was still on the Parent Payroll, which in fairness to him I didn’t treat with much respect or regard. It just was. On this particular day, he informed me that he wanted me to enroll in Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School. I was shocked.

“Why, Dad, would I do that? I have no intention of being a secretary.” To be honest, I didn’t have much of an intention to be anything at all. Ah, to live those years over again. Seriously. It’s one of my largest regrets. Not searching for anything other than a man.

Dad replied, “Because, Christine, no matter what happens in life, you can always get a job as a secretary.”

“Well that may be Dad, but I’m not going.” I was so insulted. Insulted I tell you.

“If you do not go, then I will cut you off.”

“Frankly Dad,” I said with great bravado, having just finished Gone with the Wind, “I don’t give a damn.” I stood up with every ounce of unearned dignity that I could muster, and I walked out.

I was never on his payroll again. I also immediately found a job answering phones at Marymount Manhattan College. “Marymount Manhattan College, how may I direct your call?” That lasted a few days, until I simply took off the headphones and walked away from the switchboard, leaving an “I can’t do this job, but thank you” behind as I shut the door on my way out. I ended up at a financial management company, where my “clients” included Don Imus, who was in forced financial management for not paying taxes and used to yell at me on the air because the management firm wouldn’t give him all his money to spend on photography equipment, women, and drugs. Until the taxes were paid, he was on an allowance.

But I digress. The point is that I can say I have done all right for myself, and while I do not have a Katherine Gibbs certificate, I think I gained my independence, and a dose of reality that probably saved me from never really trying to earn my own way.

“Oh my God,” my friend said, after I had finished telling the story of my dad’s ultimatum. “My dad enrolled me in Katy Gibbs too!” (I guess if you’ve graduated from there you call it “Katy.”) But the difference between us is that she went. And she contends she is the better for it, having learned how to manage paperwork in a way her more artistic peers cannot do. I believe her. Six months at Katherine Gibbs would have changed my life, I’m sure. It would have put me on a different road, to somewhere else. Interesting to say the least.

And what do we have to offer our kids to guarantee them job skills now? There are more college graduates without jobs now than ever before in history. I recently went to look for the Katherine Gibbs School in New York City, and it’s closed. Doors shut. Like so many doors to the middle class, these days, there is no pathway to the doorway; just an infinite number of changing social media and Internet platforms with which to navigate to one dream or another.

I’m not sure what the point is for this blog entry. Roads less travelled? Safety nets for a secure future? Independence? Dependence? I just wanted to say that I understand now why my dad wanted me to have that in my tool box. My daughter’s tool box is ever so full of things that she can call out when she needs them as she travels the road to her future. More than me. It makes me feel good. And, so it goes.