The decline of customer service

The service industry was meant to be the “engine” of our economy.  Whatever happened?  Where did “service” disappear to? Supermarkets now want to charge you for service but get you to do the work yourself.   You pick from the shelves and often bag the goods yourself. One member of staff supervises six or eight …

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Foreign languages “protect” the brain

The theory that learning a foreign language has a protective effect on the brain has been boosted by a new study showing that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience less cognitive decline if they are bilingual. When a team at the University of Reading compared the mental abilities of bilingual and monolingual MS patients, they …

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Offer a compliment, or give the bad news first?

Question to agony aunt:  “When giving negative feedback, is it better to start with the admonition and end with a compliment, or vice versa?”.  (Gillian Peall, Macclesfield, Cheshire, UK) First answer: “Definitely give the compliment first. Knowing you have done something right may make the negative feedback more acceptable. Giving the bad news first can …

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The Shame of Child Poverty

The plight of impoverished children anywhere should evoke sympathy, exemplifying as it does the suffering of the innocent and defenseless. Poverty among children in a wealthy country like the United States, however, should provoke. shame and outrage as well. Unlike poor countries (sometimes run by leaders more interested in lining their pockets than anything else), …

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Why Americans are dying young

IAmericans’ lives are getting shorter. A new study has shown that life expectancy in the US, which rose steadily over the past half-century, has now fallen for three years running. The downward trend is the result of an alarming hike in mortality rates among those between the ages of 25 and 64. Americans in the …

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Half of UK 10-year-olds own a smartphone

Fifty per cent of the UK’s 10-year-olds owned a smartphone in 2019, according to a report by media regulator Ofcom.   The number of young phone owners doubled between the ages of nine and 10, which Ofcom dubbed “the age of digital independence”.  In addition, 24% of 3 and 4-year-olds had their own tablet, and 15% …

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Gender bias

 Almost 90% of people are biased against women, according to a new index that highlights the “shocking” global backlash to gender equality.  The UN Development Programme (UNDP), which produced the findings, is calling on governments to introduce legislation and policies that address engrained prejudice. Despite progress in closing the equality gap, 91% of men and …

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The young people timebomb

A large proportion of global population of 7.7 billion people is aged 24 or under. In Africa 41% are 15 or under, The Asian and Latin American figures it is 25%. Most of these young people will reach adulthood scarred by recession, civil war, falling living standards and austerity programs.  Many current protests center around …

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Another day, another billionaire Twitter storm

Billionaire Lloyd Blankfein joked as he announced his 2018 retirement as Goldman Sachs CEO that he looked forward to “unrestrained tweeting” in the years ahead. But the Twitter life apparently bored the billionaire, and his twitter account went silent for three months — until last week when Senator Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary. …

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688,000 people will no longer receive food stamps

Over the summer the U.S government announced a new plan to end the food stamp program for thousands of low-income people, mostly immigrants.The new rule will tighten work requirements for able-bodied adults with no dependents, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a call with reporters. Under current law, able-bodied adults without dependents can receive …

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Recycling waste

Newsletter note from a neighbor who moved to the US from China: “Hi neighbors, I know lots of you have heard of the recycling crisis in the US since China’s ban on importing foreign garbage in 2017. There are many articles about this issue, such as this one from the guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/21/us-plastic-recycling-landfills. It says: “As …

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Young adults need a home of their own

“Home ownership is in steep decline, but don’t let it bother you, declared The Economist recently: the British need to get over their property “fetish”. I beg to disagree, says Liam Halligan. The fact that well over half of 25- to 34-year-olds today are locked out of the property market should concern us deeply. Only …

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Complaining about service (part 1)

Although most of us gripe about service headaches to family and friends we seldom—studies show it’s as few as one out of four—complain to the company that dropped the ball. And many consumers who do complain to businesses do so ineffectively. A lot of consumers remain silent because it seems like too much trouble to …

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Monopolies again, and why they are un-Epicurean

Contrary to impressions outside the US America is a very expensive country. Mobile phones, for instance cost on average $100 a month, twice the cost of a similar service in France and Germany.  Healthcare costs are huge. I recently spent ten minutes with a foot doctor for correcting an in-growing toenail, billed at $473.00   Pharmaceuticals …

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Boeing again: crashes and lousy management

Boeing timeline: 29 October 2018: A 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air crashes after leaving Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board 31 January 2019: Boeing reports an order of 5,011 Max planes from 79 customers 10 March 2019: A 737 Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashes, killing all 157 people on board …

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Fired Boeing head gets $62 million

Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing boss fired last month, will receive equity and pension benefits worth $62m.  This was the head of a company whose staff have quietly told the Press that management are incompetent and interested mainly in maintaining profits and share price.  346 Passengers are dead because the company sold planes whose electronics were faulty, …

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Monitoring tweets

”If you thought “the thought police” existed only in Orwellian fiction, then you haven’t been following a case in the U.K High Court.  Douglas Murray Miller, a former constable, had posted a few ribald tweets on the subject of transgender self-identification. (Sample: “I was assigned mammal at birth, but my orientation is fish. Don’t mis-species me”.) …

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The Robert Harris prediction

  We may think we’ll be here forever – but Robert Harris reckons our civilisation is probably doomed. “The Roman Republic, Cicero, those people were just as clever,” says the novelist, 62. “The things that their society produced – its oratory, its philosophy, its painting – were as sophisticated as anything we do. But still …

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