Category Archives: DASM

University Dermatology: We May Be Rude, But We’re Also Slow

On August 28 I posted here the story of horrible service in a medical practice when I was trying to change an appointment. That changed appointment finally occurred yesterday, or almost did. These people deserve the Dumb-Ass Stupid Management Award of the Month, with a tin Caduceus.

I showed up at Miriam Hospital in Providence to visit University Dermatology for my annual checkup. That medical practice is owned by a group of physicians. My appointment was for 10:15 and I pulled up to the valet at 10:00, and saw my dermatologist walk past me. I said, “Good morning,” but she seemed distracted and uninterested, and we took the same elevator to the second floor.

It took me ten minutes to check in while several of us just waited for the lone woman on the job to compete a raft of paperwork. During that time, patient files with names on them—including mine—were clearly visible on her desk for anyone to see. I was finally checked in and took a seat at 10:15, expecting to be called quickly. At 10:30, there was nothing happening, so I asked someone what the delay was. I was told to go to another window as a man said, “Let me know what you find, I have a 10 o’clock appointment.”

But how could that be, if the doctor walked in at 10?

I returned to the same paper-bound woman and she agreed to make a call, during which she found I’d have to wait at least another 30-40 minutes. I told her that wasn’t going to happen. Apparently, either the doctor was very late arriving or the practice simply books far too many people to meet any kind of promised schedule. She had at least six patients backed up in various rooms at 10:30 before my college with the 10 am appointment.

This is a practice where the women in Rhode Island Hospital, their other site, often eat while they are talking to you, or chat among themselves while people wait to check in or out. There is only one woman in Miriam handling the chaos, and she’s clearly overwhelmed. But this is medicine from the “old school”: We’re the ones whose time is important, and you can just wait until we’re good and ready.

I asked a dermatologist once what attracted her to that specialty. She said, “There are no emergency calls in the middle of the night.” That seems a strange criterion to choose your role in medicine. It also seems that there isn’t exactly great urgency during the day, either.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Small Minds in Small Business: Dumb Ass Stupid Management

I walk into the local liquor store and ask a woman who’s obviously a manager or part owner to order a very expensive vodka and single malt scotch. I tasted Konik’s Tail Vodka at Scott’s in London and my local cigar club carries Dalmorie King Alexander, which I’ve inexplicably developed a taste for. I want them on hand for when the spirit moves me (pun intended).

Well! I just about ruined her day. She couldn’t find the vodka on her lists easily, and I pointed out that I found it on the internet with no trouble. Then she told me that it may not be available or it may be rationed or it may be stolen by pirates (I began to lose interest). She told me she’d check and call me. I somehow doubt both.

A boutique hotel nearby reached out to me over a year ago, but the sales director dropped the ball, told me NOT to come for dinner unless she was there, and never offered me the deal she had promised. Recently, the new general manager reached out because he used to sell me clothes in a boutique store in another life time. I arranged for some rooms for a group in January to make a gesture. His director of lackluster service wrote me asking for credit card details, copies of both sides of the card, photo ID, blood tests, etc.

I told him the hotel I usually use simply sends me a bill for the rooms and I send a check. He said they’d only accept a check five days in advance. In other words, they have to protect themselves because my credit may not be good or I could give them a worthless check.

On the other hand: A speciality wine shop nearby immediately agreed to pursue a high-end wind they’d never carry to ship as a gift for someone, and they secured it and sent it and then asked for my payment later. Four restaurants on Main Street carry Jean Marc Vodka for me (and one stocks Far Niente) which they can’t really sell daily due to the cost, because they know I like it and they like me to be happy.

It’s like the TSA with too many small businesses—you’re guilty until proved innocent, and you’re not innocent until we invade your privacy. I drink very expensive liquor, and I placed 80 local hotel rooms last year, but I’m not about to move my business to people who are too  lazy or too suspicious to want my money.

How are you reacting to customer inquiries? With enthusiasm, or suspicion, or sloth? Only one will make you rich.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Porsche: Dumb Ass Stupid Management

We leased a Cayenne Turbo S, which we love. It’s well built, high performance, and much more intuitive and practical than our insane BMW X7 and its loopy computer.

However, Porsche Financial is run by people so dumb it’s hard to believe the same company can also build fine cars. First, they failed—failed—to bill property taxes they paid back to the owners/lessors of the cars, and then instead of sending a correct bill, they turned the amounts over to a collection agency! So we all received threatening letters out of the blue from one of these dirt-bag attorneys for a couple of hundred dollars.

Second, they informed me I was in violation of our lease, since they weren’t named as payee on my auto insurance for the vehicle. Yet it’s impossible for the dealer to register or release the car in Rhode Island without this information reflecting the financing entity, and the policy was done correctly. The dealer had to straighten them out.

I’ve had similar problems with Bentley Financial (often run under the auspices of Audi or Volkswagen Credit), which forgets to bill property taxes or assigns a late fee because they send you the bill barely a week before its due date!

Letters to these people go unanswered, and phone calls, after interminable waits, wind up with mindless, robot-like employees who only keep repeating what the script tells them and have no judgment whatsoever, like a crew of the lobotomized.

Great cars, fine engineers, terrific sales and service people. But the dumbest, stupidest back office operation in automotive history. VW: Very Woeful.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Westin Copley Plaza Boston: Dumb-Ass, Stupid Management

My  most recent award goes to this Boston hotel which plays an endless loop when you call their “express service” personnel, then a rude guy answers, and he puts you back in the queue instead of finding the person you ask for. Happened twice in a row, no third chance, I have better things to do, like find better service elsewhere.

Stay away from facilities where management doesn’t shop the system, the procedures are stupid, and employees are simply putting in time. Imagine an emergency, where you had to reach a guest?

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Dumb Ass Stupid Management: Social Security

I had to file some papers with the social security people, and they are in a very nice area, between one of my cigar clubs and the spa where I get my massages. So I planned to hit all three the other afternoon.

I was told that the SSA office is only open until 3, and only noon on Wednesdays. (Good hours, right? Imagine McDonald’s or Apple or Ford keeping those hours.) I arrived with a book and my iPhone, dutifully registered on a touch screen, and received my number in line.

Two of four windows were closed, unstaffed.

One woman staffer was moving people quickly, and my number was called within 20 minutes. After asking me the same questions I already answered on the computer screen, she told me that my transaction couldn’t be processed that day. I’d have to come back, and no later than 1:30 in the afternoon.

“Why is that?”

“We’re understaffed and this transaction needs a specialist.”

“I was told on the phone that I didn’t need an appointment and that I could come at any time prior to closing.”

“Whoever you spoke to didn’t understand that we’re understaffed and only take care of this transaction earlier in the day.”

“So, I’ve been told the wrong thing, wasted my time here waiting, and you’re simply telling me to come back again?”

“That’s correct.”

Small wonder she was moving people so quickly!

In the waiting room were elderly people, one severely hearing impaired, one in a wheelchair, and several who were dropped off by drivers. They were all taking time out of their day to be there. There were also younger people, no doubt missing work.

And people believe the government should take over more services and activities? The best and brightest do not go into government management. We all have to live with the consequences.

I visited my cigar club early, where they know how to treat their customers.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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DASM: The Doctor’s Office (Dumb-Ass Stupid Management)

I had to change an appointment with a very good dermatologist I’ve been seeing once a year for over a decade. Here’s the discussion with the woman at the office:

Her: Dr. M’s office.

Me: I need to change an appointment, please.

Her: Can you hold on a second?

Me: Okay, if it’s not too long.

TWO Minutes later:

Her: Last name?

Me: Weiss

Her: First name?

Me: Alan

Her: Date of birth?

Me: In this an interrogation? Do you ever say “please” or “thank you”?

Her: Is this your date of birth?

Me: Yes.

Her: I see your appointment. If I change it, you will have to wait until next year, at least January.

Me: That’s how you treat your patients? Wait four months?

Her: That all we have.

Me: Give me another doctor in the practice then.

Her: In that case, we will treat you as a new patient and you won’t be seen for at least four months.

Me: Can you give me Dr. M’s email?

Her: I don’t have it.

Me: Can you give me her voice mail?

Her: No, but I can take a message.

Me: Tell her that as a patient for over a decade, this treatment is unacceptable, and she is to call me at home and either get me an appointment at one of your two offices or refer me to a physician outside of your practice.

Her: You can see her at our other office?

Me: Of course I can, they are only ten minutes apart.

Her: In that case she can see you in October on any Tuesday or Thursday.

Me: Why didn’t you give me that option in the first place?

Her: You didn’t ask.


That is a verbatim conversation with a woman who doesn’t care, isn’t monitored, and doesn’t deserve employment. It’s also an example of how even superb physicians’ offices are run extremely poorly, as if we’re all pests instead of patients.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Save Salmon, Kill Birds? DASM

Salmon are being husbanded back to a presence in the Columbia River in the northwest, where resident birds find the new food source highly appealing. The people who have worked to bring back the salmon apparently feel that the birds should be shot (New York Times, today).

This is what happens in life and in organizations when parochial interests feel theirs is the ultimate cause. Let’s trample (or kill) anything in our path, because we alone are the righteous.

What’s needed of course, in business and in life, is a holistic, strategic view which takes into account a variety of legitimate interests. That requires leadership and compromise, priority setting and big thinking.

Of course, you can always shoot the birds. But whom do you shoot next?

© Alan Weiss 2014.

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Derailed: DASM

I’m in the first class car of the Acela returning from New York, and I notice a strange sign on the wall I’ve never seen before. It extols first class benefits, but they’re strangely different: lumbar support seats, for example, which don’t now exist, and no free alcohol, which very much does now exist. It seems to me that the benefits are less overall than currently is the case. (FYI: A first class seat from Providence to New York is about $300, which includes all meals and drinks. There is also a frequently rider program to earn free trips.)


One of the car attendants was nearby doing his paperwork. So I asked if it were an old or a new sign. He looked like a 30-year railroad guy, so his first sentence nearly knocked me down: “It’s a subliminal message.”


After a gulp of my currently free alcohol he told me that this was a subtle warning by management that things would change to save money. The Acela I was on was full, as are most of them, and Amtrak has a larger portion of Boston/Washington corridor business than the airlines. This route—where the Acela solely runs—is hugely profitable.


But get this:

• Many of the train components—for example, the cash machines in the cafeteria cars—were purchased from companies no longer in existence and can’t be repaired. So they all have to be replaced.

• The cars themselves, fiendishly expensive, were built by a firm overseas that is now out of business, and Amtrak mechanics can’t fix them easily or well. Why they can’t be trained to do this, or they can’t hire people who can do it, is beyond me. Hence, the trains often run with problems (water leaking in the galley) or the cars have to be pulled out of service altogether for longer than warranted repairs.

• The engines, one at each end to avoid having to turn the train around at the end of the line but adding hugely to the weight, had to meet crash standards far beyond European or Asian counterparts, are heavier than those engines, and more expensive. The train was designed to run at about 185 MPH, can actually manage about 155 MPH but seldom does  because the track can only support that speed in a few places between Boston and Washington, which are roughly 400 miles apart. (The Acela usually takes slightly less than three hours to go from Providence to New York City, which I can drive in the exact same time or less, though with much more inconvenience.)

• As I recall, the train cars were originally designed to tilt on curves to enable increased speeds, but no one had the bright idea of testing what would happen if two trains passed each other doing that, until too late, and the feature couldn’t be used.


So, as airlines increase their first class amenities and membership lounges, Amtrak maintains dingy lounges in major cities on the route and is going to reduce first class amenities on its most profitable trains.


There is an article in the New York Times today about Amtrak “inching along” on improved rail service.


Anyone want to invest in Uber on tracks?


© Alan Weiss 2014

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Dumb Ass Stupid Management: Capital Zero

At 8:30 on Sunday morning, our home phone rings. It’s someone from Capital One asking for “Mary Weese.”

“If you want Marie Weiss, that’s my wife and she’s sleeping. Why are you calling on Sunday morning?” (And how is it you can’t read or pronounce her name?)s

Of course, it’s the fraud (fear) unit, and they can only speak to Maria, can’t talk to me. The woman reads me a script. I stop her and stay, “Just give me a phone number.”

Maria calls back later, and it turns out they were questioning a $4.50 (you read that correctly, four dollars and fifty cent) charge that she made on the internet. They thought it was a convenience store (so what?). That took care of it.

What did that cost the oafs at Capital One? Maybe a thousand dollars to take care of? Over $4.50. That’s what happens when you have looney, zero-tolerance policies and you’re scared stiff of someone stealing a card number.

What do you think the paycheck is of the guy heading Capital One? It’s more than he deserves, you can bet on that.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Not So Sirius Radio: DASM

The satellite radio stopped abruptly in our new SUV. I took the time to call Sirius and, after the moronic automated voices trying to get rid of me, I reached a “listener care representative.” She told me, astoundingly, that my 90-day free trial was over and, no, they didn’t automatically warn me or bill me or otherwise try to keep me as a customer.

I may be spoiled since my Bentleys come with free, lifetime subscriptions, but I told her that was bizarre. However, I wanted to sign on! She told me that I’d have to call another number. I mentioned that my three other vehicles all have Sirius, and she told me that in that case she could help me herself.

Ten minutes later, we finally had a deal, though I had to wait another five minutes for the signal to hit my particular truck from somewhere deep in outer space.

If magazines ask you to renew subscriptions about six months in advance and pester you like a copperhead snake, why can’t Sirius say, “We trust you liked it, how about renewing well before the trial runs out?” Or, better yet, offer a full subscription when the vehicle is purchased.

This is failure work at the moment, wasting my time and theirs and probably netting a zero margin by the time the subscription is set up compared to the labor that goes into doing so.

It’s a beautiful day here. Consulting anyone?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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