Monday, February 22, 1993

How to Be a Phone Professional

Ok! I’m peeved, miffed, rankled… Why should I have to pay taxes at a higher rate just because I work hard enough to make over $200,000 a year? I earn it and I’m tired of you leeches expecting me to cure all of your problems. I’m doing fine myself. Don’t you people realize that if you tax me more, I’ll spend less, the economy will slow down and we’ll all suffer? Bring back Bush!!! There I’m glad I got that off my chest.

The real topic of this week’s page nine is about being a phone professional, or if you’d rather, being professional on the phone. I "do" the phone thing for a living. On an average "Dave" day, I will answer around 45 calls per hour. I don’t tell you this to impress you, rather I tell you this to elicit sympathy. HEP ME!

Last week for the umpteenth time I was told by one of the headcheeses in the agency that the phones were the "most important" job in the office. Between three full time phone people we answer close to 800 calls a day. To many of those callers, their only exposure to the Secretary of State’s Office is their experience with us on the phone. That’s shy it is important to at least give the perception we are decent, competent, and obedient civil servants.

I’ve been in this current position, picking up blinking line after blinking line, for approximately 17 months now. Despite my usual lack of depth perception, I have picked up a thing or two to do a better job. The most important thing you can do in answering the phones is to be a good listener. Many callers get flustered when they are making a call. They aren’t prepared for a conversation, they don’t know exactly what they are looking for, nor do they know the information you have available to you. To make the call as short and as efficient as possible, you have to try to get the caller to focus on what they are making the call for. This is done by listening to not only their words but by listening to what they are not telling you. There is a major difference between hearing and listening.

Seldom do I make a caller repeat themselves. It is an effective tool to paraphrase what you believe they have just told you. "So what you are saying is…" This relays to the caller that you have heard what they said. This also immediately clears up any mis-communication that might have occurred.

One important thing to keep in mind when relaying the information you have available to you back to the customer, is not to reveal too much. Too much information is going to confuse them. Answer what they are asking. If they have further questions, you can present more information to them at that time.

How do you deal with a hostile caller? Again the best thing to do is to try and get them to focus on the real reason for their call. To satisfy a dissatisfied customer it is best to offer a couple different solutions to their particular problem. This tells them that you are trying to resolve the situation not escalate it or ignore what they are saying.

The last bit of advice is to act as "professionally" as you can on the phone. Yawning, inappropriate language, continuing a conversation with someone else, are rude to do in person and they should not be done over the anonymity of the phone either. While it’s good to try and be personable, remember this is a business call and the tone of the conversation should remain just that.

Monday, February 15, 1993

Notes and More


Tippy Canoe
Hairy S.
Honest (B) Abe
The Gipper
The Gripper
(Tie) Ike/Poopsie
Rough Rider (with or without a Teddie)
Old Hickory
Old Scratch ‘n’ Sniff
Tricky Dick

Who would have thought that during the same week the King of Pop, Michael Jackson and the owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Marge Schott, would champion the same cause?

Like forty two million other Americans (you’re not alone David) I watched the Oprah interview with Michael. The reason he gave for granting the interview was he wanted to set the record straight, to put an end to all the lies and "stupid" stories currently circulating about him. He certainly didn’t have much else to say that deserved the attention of forty two million Americans and Dave.

Michael blamed the press on repeating the rumors (his buying the bones of the Elephant Man, sleeping in an oxygen tent, bleaching his skin, the plastic surgery…) often enough where people actually began to believe all they heard.

The following night Marge Schott gave an equally pointed interview. Among her pearls of wisdom: "Racism is created by the press… It isn’t really there."

Indeed, Jackson and Schott do make strange allies (resisting the cliché about bedfellows) attacking the press for the "myths" they feel surround them. It isn’t exactly a scoop to say that the things we learn about the events around us are filtered through the eyes of the icons of mass culture (I think I saw that on TV somewhere). Media bashing is a rather populated area these days.

Jackson an to a lesser extent Schott, are right in their claims of what passes for news, the issues the media focuses on, often times has little value or importance to the public. But this is a "celebrity" driven culture and the popularity of those "tabloids" ("…stop buying them," Michael pleaded) shows the press is only giving the public what it wants.

The double standard that exists though more often than not lies on the side of the celebrity. Michael Jackson has used the press to his advantage, creating an image of intrigue that only furthers the value of his entertainment worth. By acting in eccentric (mysterious) ways he has created the need for attention (such as a live prime time interview). His behavior is attention grabbing (insert your own joke here) enough that he can use the media as a vehicle for his own needs. Or in the other case, by saying something outrageous and "newsworthy" Marge Schott has created a bigger market for her own celebrity status.

The newsletter gives a thumbs up after the expert tour we were given of the Schlampp building. We were impressed enough to use one of our "ugghh" words: "potential". It will be interesting to see what happens over the next year, how the building will shape up. There were lots of room(s), mirrors, proper sized ceilings for your (sub)average Japanese, a fumeagator(sp?), a safe, secret passages, leftover bits of fur (did they hit the proverbial fan?), a decorative stairway (I was tempted to do the final balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet" or "Cyrano"), and a killer front view of the Uptown area. In fact, the only downside we left with was, what a bummer it’s located in that city rather than our own lovable little Capital City. But all in all, pretty damned impressive. Following the tour, one newsletter staff member was even heard to utter his standard word, "cool" several times.

Couple ‘o’ comments: This is being written with a severe career fork in the road sticking straight in my gullet. I’m faced with taking a job I might actually enjoy, for a company which has been so good to me, opposed to staying in the one I’m at which pays twice as much. But how much is stress worth? I never thought I’d find myself doing something solely (souly?) for the money yet that is what I think my current standing is. Have I sold my soul (sole?) for comfort and luxury? The other choice is running off to complete the last great Japanese American novel. With all due apologies to Melodye, this "confessional" does directly affect this week’s issue.

Speaking of which the newsletter staff and the weekend Landfill crew wish to wish Melodye the happiest of birthdays. Party on Maam, we hope you have a good one. The greeting on page nine comes from your gruff but lovable St. Paul store. I personally plan to take Monday off in honor of the occasion or is that Martin Luther King Day? I forget…

A note to Mark L.: I am glad to see the decision being made on our classical CD’s. My sister was in town from LA (you should have stayed man) and her comment upon shopping at Applause was how high priced our classical CD’s were. I told her about your proposal to drop the MPR discount and lower the everyday prices of the "product" and damn if she wasn’t going to make a special trip out just to drop off her approval in our customer suggestion box…

To Daryl: Having just read your contribution this week, I for one, am a little disappointed in your decision to discontinue your weekly efforts; they have been greatly enjoyed and appreciated. We need more like you. You realize your decision means for one thin, more articles printed in the newsletter by small furry animals… I’ll give you the title of "co-editor" if you change your mind!

To Mike N.: Thanks to you, I am currently typing with great pleasure to Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds. Jammin man. Thanks for the review. I recently heard Dan Baird’s song, "I Love You Period" which had to be the wittiest thing since Phil Collins’ "Sususudio". I recommend you give it a listen next time your Izzy disc concludes.

From Lex the Lemer, newsletter consumer watchdog: A couple of retail health tips- 1) Remember "denial" isn’t just a river in Egypt. 2) If you are shoveling snow, don’t over do it. 3) "January grass I spy; lock the granary, and worry about July."

Monday, February 8, 1993

Macca is Back-a


The first thing that needs to be said about Off the Ground is it sounds good. Damn good. Musically this is probably the best band Paul has ever played in, harking back to the glory days of Wings, the incarnation with Laurence Juber on guitar. The rockers particularly "Get Out of My Way" and "Biker Like An Icon" have that 90’s guitar sound to them. This band would probably be worth listening to if say, Ringo was fronting them.

The song cycle shows Paul doing what Paul does best: popping out. Like all good McCartney albums, the mixture between ballads, rockers and poppers demonstrates a versatile performer. Seven years ago, a good friend declared the song "Through Our Love" off of Pipes of Peace to be the best melody(e) Paul has ever composed. Three years ago, a rival St. Paul merchant said the same thing about "Motor of Love" from Flowers in the Dirt (despite the lyric of "motor of love, motor of love…"). My nomination for such an honor goes to this album’s best ballad, "Winedark Open Sea" which is as infectious as it is melodious and I don’t even know what that means.

The best lyric on Off the Ground comes from the title song which sounds like a great, long lost Wings tune. "It doesn’t take a lot of power to make a big tree grow," Paul sings. "Doesn’t take a pot of knowledge, for a seed knows, what a seed must know." It’s that type of Paulie philosophy that one finds either clever, or cloying.

The single, "Hope of Deliverance" is like a lot of Macca tunes. The first time I heard it, I thought little of it. Upon repeated listening, it grows on you gathering force with each listen. It’s another song consistent with past Paul philosophies; hopeful with a hint of the darkness that surrounds us. It’s so simple, yet that is the way that Paul has always worked best. The worst songs from these sessions are the two that try way too hard to be "relevant": "Big Boys Bickering" a response to George Bush’s environmental policies, and "Looking for Changes" a hopelessly insipid animal rights plea which makes "Ebony and Ivory" look like inspired genius.

Of the two songs co-written with Elvis Costello, "The Lovers that Were" and "Mistress and Maids" only the former is a worthy collaboration/contribution (and it’s no "Veronica" or "My Brave Face"). Costello’s lyrical talents didn’t exactly rub off in a lasting way. Who else could dare sing the line, "I owe it all to you, you make me happy."

"Peace in the Neighborhood" takes another look at Paul’s view of his role in the Beatles, and the 60’s. "I was there, I really was. At the center of a love vibration." One has to wonder if the words John sang long ago, "the dream is over" have finally penetrated Paul’s cerebrum. He finally concludes that he has "awoken from the dream". There is an undercurrent of guarded optimism throughout the album, a hint that it isn’t all sunny, that in essence is the best element of all.

The MTV special (and a February 13th appearance on "Saturday Night Live"), the upcoming tour (a May22nd Dome appearance), a decent new album (due in the stores tomorrow), it’s time to declare that Macca be back-a!!!


Red Rose Speedway – Silly love songs, stealing a kiss in the park, lazy summer days, holding hands, and an effective moving little tribute to a dying lamb. Ok, the hit son’s chorus was sung to the words, "Wo Wo Wo Wo" but this album always puts me in a better mood.

Tug of War – Rolling Stone declared it Paul’s masterpiece. Maybe not. But a nice effort. I like the guitar solos on "Somebody Who Cares: and "Dress Me Up Like a Robber", the touching Lennon tribute, "Here Today", and the sublime "Take it Away". Paul has said the title song sums up his solo career; "But I can’t let go, if I do you’ll take a tumble and the whole thing is going to crumble."

Flowers in the Dirt – Paul tries to return to Beatle Paul and why not? Two "A" efforts, "My Brave Face" and "This One", along with three "B" efforts, "Figure of Eight", "Put it There" and "We Got Married".

Band On the Run – The first successful Wings album, chock full of hits. What’s best though, is the return of Paul’s humor and confidence- he’s down right cocky on this album. He answers the ultimate Paul question "What’s the use of worrying?" with the appropriate "No use."
McCartney – Unpretentious, homey and ahead of its time, John covered the same themes ten years later. "Maybe I’m Amazed" and "Every Night" by Mr. and Mrs. McCartney.

Off the Ground- Rocks, soothes, pondering for potheads: danceable and smoochable. All for around $15.!

Pipes of Peace – The title song is among my favorite McCartney songs, "Say Say Say" is ok, ok, ok. "The Average Person" is so condescending it has to be heard to be believed.

Ram – He tried. He didn’t succeed. Scorned by critics, who thought his first album was a half-baked idea, Paul returned to the studio and tried to create a "meaningful" album. All the charm of the debut went out the window. "Back Seat of My Car" and "Dear Boy" should get live treatments.

Venus and Mars – A concept album with no real clue. I can play a killer version of "You Gave Me the Answer" on the piano.

McCartney II – "Coming Up", "Waterfalls", "Temporary Secretary (Alex), and a whole lot of doodling.

Give My Regards to Broadstreet – Too many retreads, but how come "No More Lonely Nights" isn’t a concert regular? Besides he ain’t such a bad boy anymore.

Press to Play – See Ram comments. The best three songs are available on CD only. "When she helps me make the melodies, I let the words take care of themselves."

Choba B CCCP – Better than John’s Rock n Roll but the motivation seemed to be restoring Paul’s reputation rather than any musical inspiration.

Back to the Egg – Another that tried hard to sound important "Spin It On" gets points for its sheer velocity, "Arrow Through Me" is cool and "Old Siam Sir" rocks. The others?

Wild Life – Recording the way Dylan does, quick and on the first take. Of anyone it wouldn’t work for Paul would have to head up the list. And this album doesn’t work, a mere Wings audition recording. Bad cover, bad cover notes, bad album.

London Town – Recorded on a boat where any inspiration is washed to the sea (did anyone see that boat movie with Nicole Kidman?). Includes the all time worst Wings effort "Morse Moose and the Grey Goose". Surprised it stuck to the tape.

At the Speed of Sound – Tried to showcase the talents of the other members of the band. "Silly Love Songs" is bad Paul, "Time to Hide" is bad Denny, "Wino Junko" is bad Jimmy, "Must Do Something About It" is bad Joe, and "Cook of the House:" is bad Linda (although that was Bill Seeler’s favorite Wings’ song).

Hidden McCartney Gems (songs sort of rare)

"Simple as That" – written for some anti-crack project, it’s a memorable McCartney melody with a song that succeeds because the words aren’t preachy. "Would you rather be alive than dead? I It’s as simple as that."

"Once Upon A Long Ago" – Released on the British version of All the Best and as a single. It’s an effective look at Paul’s childhood, an even better version than "Penny Lane."

"I’ll Give You a Ring" – B-side of the "Take it Away" single. In the cabaret dance hall style of "When I’m 64" and "Honey Pie", I like the clarinets.

"Loveliest Thing" – found on the Japanese release of the Flowers in the Dirt CD, a nice little Paul ballad.

"Girls School" – B-side of "Mull of Kintyre" single, strings together the titles of a bunch of pornographic movies none of which Paul saw (or so he claims). Rocks, and shows a bit of wit.

"All My Trials" – A live recording from the last tour, Paul gives a nice reading to a great song.

PURPOSE STATEMENT OF THE NEWSLETTER: You bring me your canned goods, I promise to blow you all a kiss!

Funky Dave

My name id Dave and I am funky. When it comes to infotainment, I am a junkie…

Hey! There have been a couple of issues raised in these pages that as far as I know, have gotten no replies. In our November 9, 1992 issue, appropriately titled "Tammy’s GH", the following passage appeared amongst a sea of literary pearls: "Of course, as far as the customer is concerned, price is not such a big deal compared to perception. This is what might really hurt us if we discontinue the MPR discount. Right now with the MPR discount, customers pay $14.47 for a frontline PGD CD, after the 70% discount, with tax. If we didn’t offer the discount and charged $14.99, that would be $15.96 total with tax. The difference between the two prices is a virtually insurmountable obstacle as far as customer perception is concerned…" As documented in last week’s issue (and this one too), customer perception of the new policy has been a problem. What was the thought process behind the decision to discontinue the discount? Was the problem of perception discussed and if so what was determined about how we would handle that problem?

In January 11, 1993’s "AKA Graffiti Man", Steve Danuse wrote an eloquent and pointed article on our store’s policy of remaining open until midnight 365 days of the year. The article raised several valid (or at least I thought so) questions about the company’s "Thriving on Chaos" philosophy versus the stepping on of family values, devaluing the employee. What is the reconciliation between the two? Is there one? Why can’t we, as the author of the article suggested, close early on the major holidays?

Whatever happened to our feature featuring quotes from classical CD booklets? Whatever happened to our promised original weekly cartoon?

Also we have been told there is a person within the organization who holds a journalism degree (who is it? Who is it?). What better way to utilize those skills than by contribution (oh say, once in a while) to the newsletter? Isn’t it time to demonstrate the four years (or so) you labored in college weren’t all for naught? Besides believe me, there is a slight sense of satisfaction to be a printed writer again no matter how small the endeavor…

"Is it ok to try and pick up a customer for a date?" Being an expert on human relations, I am if nothing a "people" person, I would say such effort goes beyond the expected customer service we are trying to provide. If you must, you better show the person one hell of a time or else we stand to lose a customer.

"If a customer looks like someone famous do you tell them?" No, no, no. What an annoying thing for any person to hear. Don’t you think if you think they look like a celebrity, someone else and a lot of other someone elses, hasn’t told them the same thing? I’ve been told I look like Bruce Lee, George Takei and Pat Morita. Why do you think that is?

P.S. Jason you look like that guy in the Cruzados.

"The Master said, a man may be able to recite the three hundred songs; but, if when given a post in the government, he cannot turn his merits to account, or when sent on a mission to far parts he cannot answer particular questions, however extensive his knowledge may be, of what use is it to him?"