Tell me again who has the poor communication skills…

Things were ticking right along for your Ms. Cleanslate. I have been doing some subcontract work and had five clients through one particular company. Was doing the same type of work for each. None of the clients are at all tech-savvy, so there was a bunch of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth every time that we added a new task to the mix.

Finally, though, everything was humming along smoothly. Or… so I thought.  In the span of 2 days, four of the five clients asked to be assigned to someone else.  Not one of them had indicated any unhappiness to me, but apparently they unloaded a litany of complaints (I am not privvy to what, exactly, the complaints were, just that they were all related to my “subpar communication skills.”)

Yet, not ONE of these people ever communicated anything to me. They never said “hey, could we…” or even “hey, why aren’t we…”  And it turns out something I thought was a completely optional service…was something that is an integral part of things and something that, apparently, the clients had asked about months ago (which was never communicated to me by either the company owner OR any of the clients).

I went to log into the work queue website to do the next task for the one who had NOT asked to be reassigned. Hmmm, my login doesn’t work.  I contact the owner of the company. No response.

Twenty-four hours pass and I finally get an email.  The upshot of which was that everything is going to shit for this person and having all my clients bail at once has been overwhelming and just added to the stress.  I ask about the login again and get told ‘oops’ but it’s 2 days later now and the login hasn’t been fixed. So, I asked if I even still have the one client. No response.

I’ve reached out via email, instant message and via social media. No response.  Yet, I see him posting away happily on Social Media.

So, at this point I am going on the assumption that I’m “done” with this particular company.   Which is fine. Because my goal for 2016 was to dump all of my subcontract work.  It’s too much like working corporate jobs.

Understand that I don’t think/feel/suffer the delusion that I am perfect. But, when I contact clients and get two-and-three word responses and then get told that I have lousy communication skills, I’m not sure that the onus is all on me.  When I contact the company owner and simply want to know if the contract is terminated and I still don’t have an answer several days later? I’m done.

Yes, there are poor communication skills happening here. No, the skills in question aren’t (or shouldn’t be) mine alone.



Q is for Quest

QBecause of our house fire, we had to find a new home. This quest involved six motels, one executive suite and a hell of a lot of travel looking at houses. Unfortunately, it also involved some very questionable business practices along the way.

On my recent voyage, I broke a tooth. It happened because I trusted a dentist to do her job years ago and every single thing she did to my mouth, every filling, veneer and crown, went bad within a few years. I spent over 8K in 4 months in her office. Seriously, I would have sued her if I could. But, the long and short of it is that my tooth swelled up, causing me so much pain that my eardrum perforated and my jaw was infected, because of a missing filling in a back molar. And the one next to it rotted underneath the crown, which apparently wasn’t sealed correctly. When the crown came off, it knocked out the filling next to it. There went $1,500.00.

So, at 4:30 am, I called one of those 1-800-(find a dentist) numbers because I could not sleep. We were staying in Pueblo, CO and they set an emergency appointment 50 miles away in Colorado Springs for 7:30 am. I left at 6:30 and arrived in plenty of time, only to find out at 10 minutes to 8 that the doctor would not be in that day due to a seminar. (There was a note taped to the window). So I get set to drive back, very upset and still in pain. I called to inform “the service” that the dentist was out of town. They were very apologetic, asked me three times if I was in the right building and at the right suite number. “Yep, I’m looking right at it, they are NOT here. No one is, not even the receptionist.”

Then they set another appointment in Pueblo for 9 am. Good. I get back in the car, clutching my face, barely able to breathe over my teeth and drive 50 more miles. I call from the parking lot, to be sure I’m in the right place. That dentist’s office told me the doctor was on vacation this whole week and they had blocked that time off with the 1-800 service. HMMM. I was not even on the schedule, no one was, except those in need of routine cleanings. They too, were very sorry, but could not help me.

So, I call AGAIN. “Well, we’re very sorry, but we do have another dentist back up in the Springs, if you want to turn around and head up there now.”

Another 50 miles? NO. My face was in agony, I needed some relief NOW. So I sought out the nearest Urgent Care. They, in turn, had a 3-hour waiting list and no chairs to sit on. Not one. They were all occupied. And sick children were running everywhere. I almost started to cry. So we went back to the hotel and I put ice on my cheek, figured out how much OTC pain medication would kill me, then backed the dosage off a little bit. It was a rough day.

When I awoke at 7:40 this morning after an extremely fitful night, I had some new e-mails.

1-800-GO-EFF-YOURSELF wanted to know if I had enjoyed my dental experience and would I please rate their service. OH-HO. YEEEESSSSS, my pretty, I will rate your service. But first, I have a few questions for you: When did it become common practice to waste people’s time, blame THEM for your mistakes and generally not give a sh*t when you send them on a 100-mile, 3-hour wild goose chase? How is this good business? Do you expect these dentists to keep using your “referral” service when this is the way you run their patients around?

But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The dentist in CO Springs just called as I was writing this. They have an opening at 11:45. At least I can get some pain meds and antibiotics for the trip home.

K is for Kleptomania

KHave you ever watched someone steal right in front of you? It’s disturbing, isn’t it? During my lifetime, I have had several people shoplift directly in my view, and worst of all, I couldn’t say anything to the store because they were my ride home. So I just stood there, saying things like, “What are you doing?” whilst they gave lame excuses along the lines of, “Hey, that bag that I just half-emptied into my pocket? Well, the store has to sell that cheaper now. I just SAVED someone else money.”


They didn’t understand. All my life, being raised by business owners, I recalled all the lectures about how stealing raised the price of retail items because the less the store makes, the less they can pay their employees and the more they have to charge customers. But my “ride” never saw the logic in that, and I was forced to make new friends on several occasions.

Which is why I was equally unimpressed when a friend told me about the new shoplifting policy of a major national chain. She worked at a large department store in Iowa at a store that has been the anchor of nearly every mall in America. It starts with a J and ends with a Y. She personally witnessed 4 young men come into the store and shoplift hundreds of dollars’ worth of clothes. But when she tried to stop them, the boss told her “no”. This happened over and over again.

You see, their policy had changed, due to several lawsuits involving shoplifters getting hurt or innocent people being accused, so now Barb just had to stand idly by, call the Loss Prevention officer on the phone and gape in awe when that woman said,

“Well, we can’t do anything because they haven’t stolen $10,000 worth of merchandise yet.”

“Seriously? They can walk out of You-Know-Where with $9,999 worth of stuff and NOTHING will happen to them?” I was incredulous…but not stupid. “Too bad I don’t live there anymore, I’d be right down to clean you out!” She knew I was kidding, but come on!

I thought about my parents, who must be whirling like dervishes in their graves and about my oldest brother, who must be livid over these kinds of panty-waisted laws. I don’t know why or by whom these kinds of laws were passed. Perhaps someone had been tackled on that unforgiving mall floor, dragged inside and accused of shoplifting when, in fact, they were perfectly innocent. Perhaps they sued. But still, this kind of lackadaisical policy is just one of the many reasons why said store is now in real danger of going out of business.

I know I don’t make policy for states or national chains, but I have decided to take a small stand against any form of shoplifting. From now on, I will tell a store manager what’s happening whenever I see a person

H is for Hopeless

HLast Fall I was doing some subcontract work and was assigned to work with a client who was (at least in her own mind) “high-profile”.  Her actual claims to fame were mediocre at best and dubious as a baseline.  A few days into our working relationship it was very apparent that “high profile” really meant “a royal pain in the posterior”.

Our first weekly check-in call was spent with her reciting a litany of all the shortcomings, sins and transgressions of her previous assistant.  Ok, I figured, let her get that out of her system and we can move forward.  Oh how naive I was!

I put together the first newsletter for her, sent her the link to take a look and let me know if changes needed to be made. She emailed back that everything was “a-ok” and to go ahead and send the newsletter.  20 minutes after sending the newsletter I get an email.  In a nutshell it was  “OH MY GOD! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? YOU’VE MADE ME LOOK HORRIBLE!!” and then my phone rings and before I can pick up I am getting a second call.  She had called the agency I was working through and she was calling me herself and she was LIVID.

So, I quickly log in to look at the newsletter and, sure enough, it’s a MESS.  Formatting is horrible – 2 sections completely squashed together, about 8 different fonts, none of the links work correctly and… not at all as it had looked when I scheduled it.  Puzzled, I looked at the revision history and found that there were 2 logins, after my having scheduled the newsletter. Apparently the client had been in and “made some minor edits”.

Meanwhile, the agency I was working through is screaming at me that I’ve damaged their relationship with the client and the client is screaming that I’ve made her look like a fool to all of her subscribers and then I pointed out to both the agency and the client that the newsletter was edited after I’d scheduled it and I had no idea it had been edited. Client denies my assertion.  I take and send screenshots of the revision log. Ooops, guess who didn’t know the revision log even existed? At that point the agency simply said to me “don’t let it happen again” and the client fell silent. This should have been my first clue that rational interaction was hopeless.

In hindsight, I should have walked away then.

Over the next few months I was accused of not sending emails (screenshots proved otherwise), not scheduling broadcasts to go out (screenshots proved otherwise), not doing things I had been told to do (screenshots of “draft” emails, still sitting in her outgoing mail proved that she had never really told me to do those things… sure she’d written the email, but she’d never sent it, so I had no way of knowing things needed doing). Eventually, someone in the agency got in touch with the previous assistant who said that yes, she had been through all of those things with that client and so had a string of assistants before her. She was a serial complainer – and pleasing her was a hopeless endeavor.

About 4 months in, as I was writing the email to the agency to ask to be reassigned, I was told that she’d given her notice that she was unhappy with the services provided and would be moving to another agency.  The agency I worked with then threw me under the bus in attempt to retain her as a client.  Completely disregarding that I had been able to prove that everything she’d accused me of doing or not doing was a complete fabrication, they apologized for my “woefully unprofessional performance” but…she had her mind made up. And I had MY mind made up and resigned.

Bottom line? Go with your gut. Even if you need the money, sometimes you have to cut your losses and walk away.


G is for Gullible

GI’ve worked quite a bit for nonprofit organizations.  For a few months, many years ago now, I worked at a homeless shelter. Most of the people who worked there had worked there for years and I did not “fit in” with the folks who were well ensconced (there were several members of one family who all worked there).

I was stationed at the front desk on the second shift (4PM-Midnight). I answered phones, controlled entry to the door, helped with cleanup and generally was not too busy.  On the desk was a computer. The computer had internet access and though I did not use it to do anything like social media or personal email, I often wiled away time playing solitaire or finding interesting articles on the internet.

Shortly after I started, the bosslady noted that SOMEONE had been accessing the internet on the computer and that inappropriate sites were being viewed and if it wasn’t stopped immediately, there would be trouble. She then went on to say that they had JUST paid “well over $1000” to have all of the pornography removed from the computer.  REALLY? Over $1000? For something I could do in just a few minutes? Wow.

A couple of days later, I attempted to log onto the internet and it was blocked. Being tech savvy, I was able to easily circumvent the block and didn’t think twice about it.  Apparently, though, I was not the ONLY one who was tech savvy. A day later I got a call at way-too-early-in-the-morning saying that there was an IMMEDIATE mandatory staff meeting.

MORE PORN ON THE COMPUTER. And whomever had put it there was going to have to pay the $1000+ to have it removed. AGAIN. And “we know it was someone on second shift” and all eyes were upon me.

Again, I am tech savvy, so, on my shift, I pulled up the computer history and could easily see the days and times these sites had been visited. Guess what? Not ONE of them was during my shift.  In fact, it was the (oh big surprise) new young man who had just been hired. (Most of the staff was female).  After I carefully saved the evidence, I cleaned all of the offending material from the computer and left the bosslady a stack of screenprints, matched to the schedule and let her know that the computer had been cleaned of the offending material. Came in the next afternoon to their high-paid tech telling bosslady “there’s absolutely no trace of any pornographic material on this computer”.

Wonder how much that cost her….

F is for Federal Law Enforcement?

FI believe certain things when it comes to business. One, as you know, is the customer is always right. Secondly, one should pay well, and be well paid, for work well done. Thirdly, I (naively?) believed that if you work hard and live honestly, life would always work out.

During my life, however, I have come across those who believe in earning an income any way they can. Professionals, mind you, in respectable careers, not just those who live on the fringes of society.

For example, in August 1997, my husband and I purchased a house with some help from my parents. They gave us the down-payment so we could get out of that 1 bedroom apartment and raise our newborn little girl. It should have been one of the happiest moments of my life, and for a few weeks, it was.

We went through all of the usual steps, credit checks, applications, paperwork and more paperwork. We stood on our heads for weeks running down all of the documents they needed and then my folks agreed to help out with the down-payment. Hurray! We had everything we needed! We were finally going to get off the hamster-wheel of renting and have something to show for all of those monthly payments.

But, what my mother refused to do, was sign a piece of paper stating that the money was a gift, not a loan.

We were screwed.

We’d spent months looking at houses, meeting with realtors, collecting business cards until we found the perfect one — which happened to be located right next door to the realtor who was selling the home for her former neighbors. She was a real sweetheart and I was looking forward to having her and her family for my neighbors.

Until it all fell through…or so I thought. Without that “gift” notification, the mortgage company would have to consider the money a loan that would, at some time in the future, need to be repaid. In other words, they would reject our mortgage application and all of our months of running around would be for naught. I was heartbroken.

Meanwhile, I was being harassed by my husband’s ex-wife, a cruel alcoholic, who after 3 years of marriage, would still not accept our union. Or our daughter as legitimate, even though we got married in May of 1994 and she was 5 months old. So, on top of all the stress with my parents, I had The Harpy to worry about. Every night, like clockwork, she would call after midnight, ranting and raving about something and finally, I’d had enough. Consequently, I had a machine hooked up to our phone which recorded her calls, their content and duration as proof for the police. We were pressing charges. But this tape recording would turn out to have more than one use.

When the realtor found out about the gift letter, she freaked. I thought I was upset. She then told me to give the money to my husband’s grandmother and have her return the money, with the signed letter, as if the down-payment had come from her. Which is fine, except that it’s money laundering. Possessing a Bachelor’s in Business, I knew this. I called the credit union, to verify my suspicions. A nice young woman answered and proceeded to tell me, in a very chipper voice, “oh don’t worry, there was someone in here doing the same thing just the other day.” Apparently, to the bank, that was not a crime. I hung up before I could blurt out: “Well, you sit right there honey, ‘cause I’m going to run off a stack of twenties with my laser printer. When I’m done, I’m bring them to your window, because you probably don’t know that counterfeiting is illegal either.”

But that’s not all. Being a veteran’s widow, Grandma had gone to the Judge Advocate General’s office up at the Army base nearby. He confirmed my fears – that we could all get in serious trouble, if caught. Fair enough.

So I told the realtor, “Thanks, but no thanks.” But she was relentless. Next thing I knew, she had the mortgage broker call me on a three-way line. You see, they were not willing to forfeit their potential commissions…not yet. They outlined, in detail, how I could still get the house of my dreams…if I was willing to bend the rules a little.

Step 1: Sign the gift letter with my mother’s name.

Step 2: Fill out the mortgage documents and sign them, stating unequivocally that all of this was on the up and up.

Forgery? Falsifying government documents? Really? (Those are not rules, lady. Those are felonies.) But, I had an ace in the hole… Remember the phone tap? Bingo!

Now, for the record, I’m usually pretty laid back. Not a narc. I’ve bent my share of rules. If you want to have a beer and you’re over 18, I’ll turn my head. If you have a joint and it falls out of your pocket in front of me, I’ll give it back, provided you’re an adult. But this was something like 10-15 years in prison, ok, for something that was supposed to be perfectly legal. And these people had licenses to do their jobs, so they knew they were telling me to break the law. They have seminars about this stuff.

I was furious, so I took the advice of a friend and called the largest federal law enforcement agency in this land. They answered, took my statement over a period of about 30 minutes and sounded very surprised that I had this all on cassette tape. But yes, I had them dead to rights. This was fraud, forgery, money laundering… right up their alley, one would think. Finally, I thought, some justice – for these no-account crooks dressed up as legitimate businesspersons. (Both women, I might add. How disappointing.)

And do you know what they said? “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Yep, hold on to that tape honey, and if, at some point, we decide to DO OUR JOBS, we’ll let you know. Click. I sat there in shock, staring at the phone. I had agonized for days over whether to even make this call. These women had families! But I knew what the agency was thinking, a victimless crime, right? It’s houses lady, not heroin. And they were correct, for the moment.

My mother did finally sign the paper. We got our house and the incident was forgotten. That tape got lost somewhere over the next 18 years.

But since then, exactly 11 years later, it was revealed that thousands of mortgages were pushed through the system that were not strictly legitimate. Many would not have been approved, if not for some “creative accounting”. Countless Americans lost their homes. Banks and mortgage companies went under by the dozens and those that survived had to be bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. Death by millions of cuts.

Yet the Law Enforcement Agency claimed to know nothing about it.

I have one question for that agency. How victimless is it now?