Category Archives: DASM

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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Poverty of Imagination

A woman I don’t know wrote me as part of a mass email this morning asking me to promote her new book to my entire mailing list. I was to include some “offer” so that someone buying the book would receive a zillion dollars in “bonus” value from all of us patsies. The last time I took a look at this, the “bonus” was pure crap, people’s articles that couldn’t be published and audio that couldn’t be sold—a scrap heap delivered to your door.

If you can’t figure out how to promote your work, and it doesn’t have enough value to stand on its own merits, and you have to engage in this kind of amateur behavior, you are not in a position to tell anyone anything in a book, a conversation, or a rune. But this is the latest fad, going into bookstores and turning the books face-out, providing extra (worthless) stuff with it, and so on. Of course, everyone is a “best selling” author today, with an award from some outfit that just gives out awards.

This idiocy makes trodding on hot coals seem useful. I mean, at least you might be able to cook a burger.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Where’s the Delta Here?

McKinsey-speak, courtesy of David Alexander:

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DASM: The Viking Hotel

There are some hotels where they simply do things wonderfully, because management is smart and sets the example. I love the Four Seasons in Palm Beach for meetings, as I do Castle Hill Inn in Newport. I can trust them to be responsive and consistently excellent. On the other side of the ledger, you don’t own a gun large enough to get me to back to The Breakers in Palm Beach, where they seem to think that you’re lucky to be there, so keep quiet. We’ll charge you a lot and ignore you.

I was recently contacted by The Viking Hotel in Newport in a marketing initiative, and the sales director asked if I’d be interested in having one of my meetings there. We used The Viking many years ago as “headquarters” for my family when my daughter was married at The Astors/Beechwood mansion. So I proposed a new program I’ve scheduled in September as a trial run. I was impressed that they would reach out like that.

The sales director told me an associate would be in touch (the infuriating “handoffs” that poorer properties engage in) and the next day I received the call. The associate asked me the same questions I had already answered, and then kept insisting: “What is your budget?” I replied twice that I was booking over 30 room-nights and the conference room and meals at whatever their rates were. But did they have availability? Money wasn’t an issue, availability was.

She kept hammering me about budget, as if I were a wedding planner. I finally demanded to know about availability and she told me: “That person isn’t here today, you’ll have to wait until Monday.” I said, “Are you seriously telling me you can’t check room availability right now?” She told me I’d have to wait, and I told her I didn’t because they had just lost my business.

I called the general manager, received a message that he’d be back Monday, so I detailed what had happened on his voice mail. If I were he, I’d want to know. As of Wednesday morning, he’s not bothered to respond. Maybe I have to wait until next Monday. But maybe that example he set is followed by his staff.

The Viking is in a competitive struggle in Newport—how would you like to be an investor in a property run like that? Thus, I am awarding them the most recent Dumb-Ass Stupid Management award. I’m assuming they have the budget to take care of it.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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