Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: July 2008 (page 2 of 3)

Is Male Personal Blogging Still a Radical Act? (BlogHim 08′ Recap)

BlogHim 08′ in New York City was a phenomenal success.  Although we had no sponsors like Blogher, no swag (Dockers had promised to supply us with some free giveaways, but never came through), and received no attention from the media or kindly General Motors, we all had a great time meeting up with old blogging friends.  And isn’t that what blogging is all about?


Two male bloggers discussing ways to increase their readership.

BlogHim had no money to pay for a hotel conference room, so most of the sessions took place at Neil’s Coffee Shop on Lexington.  Participants really enjoyed the free coffee refills and the way the waiteress said “Be right with you, Hon.”

One of the most popular BlogHim sessions was about new ways for Daddybloggers to monetize their children.  There was a good deal of heated discussion.  Many men were angry that the Mommybloggers received all the free Wiis. 

“We just get the viagra ads” said one Daddyblogger.  “Why do marketers think that because we have children we can’t get it up anymore?”

Barry, a male “Alpha” blogger from Tennessee asked the one question that was on every Daddyblogger’s mind.  “What was the point of having children if you can’t make money off of them on your blog?”

But it was Andrew “TexasDad” who came up with the answer, inspiring the crowd with his keynote speech, “Why Daddyblogging is a Still a Radical. Act”

“We are men.  We must use our logical male minds and think out of the box!  Why go the same route as the the women?  Are we men or a bunch of pussies?  If we are unable to monetize our children with our daddyblogs, let’s follow another path.  Let’s force our children to run a marathon in Central Park when it is a 100 degrees outside and BET ON THEM like a horse race!”

It was just then that the Guy Kawasaki Challenge was born!

The daughters did us especially proud!  Some of us made a ton of money from the betting pool.

The highlight of the day was when the sons raced.   These young men are the underappreciated male personal bloggers of the future, so we pushed them extra hard.  Some of the more clever Daddybloggers even told their sons that they were going to abandon them and leave them in New York if they didn’t win!


It was hilarious to see how much pressure was put on the wimpier boys and to watch them fall in frustration!

The weekend consisted of one fabulous session after another, all catered to the male blogger.  On this weekend, we were ALL Alpha Male Bloggers:


Session One:  “Why You Should Never Share Anything with a Woman”


Session 2:  “Dog Pee is bad for the Environment, But Even Al Gore Pees in the Shower.”


Session 3:  “Question Authority”


Session 4:  “Why a Really Nice Piece of Ass is Better than a Good Humor Bar”

Thanks all!  See you Next Year at BlogHim 09!  Remember — Keep your chins up and your c*cks hard.   We are MEN!

Sex in the Male City (in honor of BlogHim ’08)

New York City may have nine million residents, but it is a small town when it comes to meeting available women.  Or at least so it seems when we go out on the town. 

At a half past ten, I was dressed to the nines and entering Maxwell’s, located on the corner of Right Now And Everyone Was There.  On a normal night, I would never make it within ten feet of the velvet rope, but ropes seem to jump by themselves with a friend like Robb.  He is what Glenn would call “a trifecta” — a high-profile attorney, one of the Manhattan’s most eligible bachelors according to New York Magazine, and currently representing the daughter of the biggest real estate developer on the Upper East side, in a nasty divorce case that makes it to Page Six as frequently as she has gotten DUIs in the Hamptons.

So, there we were, in Maxwell’s, four attractive single men, Robb -the lawyer, Jake – the ultra-successful financial analyst, who never said no to a nice pair of legs, but always dropped her as fast as a T-bill in his money market account, Glenn – the former ballplayer, now a sought-after commercial artist, the only man I ever met who had slept with seven different women in one week, but who secretly would throw everything away just to become a stay at home dad, and me – the under-employed writer, currently living with his nice Jewish mother.

I spent much of the night thinking about Atlas, and how he struggled to hold the world up, despite his powerful arms.  What does friendship really mean to me and my friends?  Are we like four Atlases?    Would we always be there to help each other hold up our own little worlds? 

Of course, our conversation in Maxwell’s revolved less about Greek Mythology then our favorite topic — male shoes and fashion.

“Hey, Neil, my main man, are those Dockers you’re wearing?”  asked Glenn, admiring the fit.

“F**k no,” I answered.  “I wouldn’t wear those piece of sh*t pants again after the Docker/Levi Strauss Company screwed me with that “free flight” that ruined my going to BlogHer.”

A gorgeous model sashayed by, catching our attention.  This was not just any model.  This was Ashley Maran, the latest cover model in Vogue.  Our conversation quickly turned to our second favorite conversation — the fairer sex.

“I’m breaking up with Annie,” said Robb, batting first, hitting us with a foul ball.

None of us were surprised, but we were a bit sad — we actually liked Annie.  She was a Mets fan.  So, we pressed him for more info.

“One of the reasons I was initially attracted to her was because she is a dentist.  I figured — a dentist, oral sex, a perfect match.   But she gave the worst blowjobs I ever had.  How can you explain that?  She even used her teeth!”

We all cringed in pain.

“Didn’t they teach her about this in dental school?”

We all agreed that this was a legitimate reason for dumping her like a third-rate draft pick, even if she did like the Mets.

Jake had oral problems of his own.  Jake had been dating a busty stock broker from Goldman Sachs, and apparently she was bullish on him going down on her.

“That’s all she wants.  Apparentlly, she can only have an orgasm through oral sex.   I mean she’s been going to therapy for years because of this.”

We all agree that Jake was practically a Mother Theresa for sticking around with this woman for longer than he ever has with anyone else — nearly three weeks.

“You know me, I’m eager to help out.” said Jake.  “I drive you guys to the airport whenever you need me.  But not driving my c*ck between her thighs is torture. ”

Jake looked like he was near tears.  Robb gave him a sympathetic hug.

“I can’t sit there for two hours with my tongue doing all the work,” Jake continued.  “I’ve lost ten pounds this month because my jaw hurts so much, I’m too tired to chew any food.”

After we all consoled Jake, It was now Glenn’s turn on the witness stand.

“I sometimes wish I could just settle down, have a child, and become a stay at home daddy.”

For years, I never understood Glenn’s fantasy of being a SAHD.  Here he was, a big success with a fancy Soho condo, women up the wazoo – and he wants to throw it all away?  For what?  For dirty diapers and daddy blogging?   But New York can do that to you.  It gets at you.  It wears you down.

“I just want to meet the right woman.”  said Glenn, sighing.  “But it feels as if the only women over thirty in New York are either taken, unable to commit, lesbian, or trans-gendered men.”

“What about Lisa?” asked Jake. 

For the last month, Glenn had been seeing Lisa, the cute V.P of this hip new internet marketing firm in Chelsea.

She’s very passionate, but a little too short.” said Glenn.

“Short?  What are you talking about?” asked Jake.

“Well, I mean she’s compact.  She’s 5’2″, and when we are in bed… and I’m a big guy, so… uh…”

“Are you saying your d*ck is too big for her p*ssy?” asked Robb.

Glenn nodded.

“Has this ever happened to any of you?” he asked.

“Of course” we all said, nodding, as if this was a frequent problem in our lives.

Finally, it was my time to be grilled, like salmon filet at Tavern on the Green.  I could feel the guys looking at me as closely as they would a brunette’s tight ass as she climbed on the Stairmaster at the Crunch Gym in Tribeca.

“What about you, Neil?” asked Robb.  “You’ve been awfully quiet tonight.  You getting any action in Queens?”

I think it was Isaac Bashevis Singer who said, “The best stories come out of the daily experiences of your own life.”  So, I took the writer’s advice.

“Well, I went to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee and as I was drinking it, I got a major hard-on.”

“Was the girl at the counter really hot?” asked Jake.

“No,” I said.  “I think they just added too much sugar.”

After a long, uncomfortable pause, Glenn changed the subject.

“Have you heard from Ms. Big?” asked Glenn.

The others looked at each other, concerned.  Was it too soon to bring up the name of Ms. Big?

“I IM-ed with Sophia last night.  She’s in LA.”

They all were eager to know what she said.

“Well, she sent me this message: 

 “You should start seeing someone there.” 

I said, “A woman?” 

She wrote back, “A man or a woman.” 

I answered, “A man or a woman?!  I don’t get it.  Are you saying I should start seeing someone — like going on a date?” 

She said, “No.  I meant you should start seeing a therapist in New York.””

My three friends laughed.  But it was OK.  I know that if I were Atlas, and had to hold up the world with my skinny arms, they would be at my side, helping me carry the weight.

Update:  BlogHim 08′ recap

A Little Disappointed

I am a little disappointed that I didn’t go to BlogHer.  I wish the real reason is that I felt too cool for it, like Woody Allen not going to the Oscars.   Or that the conference is really for women.  Or that all the marketing and networking is not my cup of tea.  When I sit down and think about it honestly, this is my theory:

I don’t feel emotional stable enough to deal with meeting a hundred people for the first time right now — all in one swoop.  I’d rather not meet some of you in person, then quickly chat with you for five minutes at a cocktail party before I move on to someone else.  It would just make me feel sad.

I met Caitlin and her husband, Billy, for pizza in Manhattan on Monday.  We talked for several hours, then took the subway together on our ways back home.  I really enjoyed that.

I chatted with SarcasticMom and Jane Devin last night.  I really enjoyed that. 

I dreamt about someone last night.  I really enjoyed that.

This weekend on Citizen of the Month:  Time again for the third annual BlogHim.  (BlogHim 2006, BlogHim 2007)

Flushing Poem

Flushing Poem for Dana Guthrie Martin

“Last stop!  Last stop!”
Flushing, what a name!
Tiny women talking
Mandarin in the rain
Alone, I walk by
A mural, Chinese art
A cafe, a hooker
A rusty shopping cart
The downpour, the rushing
The garbage in the street
The yearning, the craving
The summer New York heat.

Bagels Unite Us!

Time travel is becoming a theme on this blog.  Last week, I wrote about how Dockers was going to call me on July 22 to discuss my “free” flight on July 16.  Today, I’m going to talk about my Queens apartment building’s “July 4th BBQ,” which took place Sunday, July 13th (and also wasn’t much of a BBQ).

In the last chapter of this Flushing, NY drama, various ethnic groups and vegetarians were fighting over the proposed July 4th BBQ.   Should it be kosher?   Should it be the most stricter glatt kosher?   If it is kosher, should it also be halal?   If it is halal, shouldn’t it also be vegetarian?  Finally, the apartment building’s “Board of Directors” cancelled the whole shindig.

But then something happened.   Everyone had to take the same elevator.   People had to look each other in the eye.   Jew and Muslim.   Hindu and Christian.   Vegetarian and Carnivore.   Surely, as New Yorkers they could agree on something.   And they did — BAGELS.  

The July 4th BBQ was back on!   People do love each other after all!   There was dancing in the lobby around the mailbox slots and into the laundry room.  The Hora!   Sensual Arab bellydancing!  The tarantella!   Salsa!  Hip-hop!  The latest moves from Bollywood!

But then, as in every soap opera, there was a new twist.  The Board of Directors had changed their mind so many times, that by the time they announced this July 4th meatless “BBQ” Bagelfest, half of the tenants in the apartment building had already made plans for July 4th.  Tenants complained.

“What kind of wishy-washy Board of Directors are you?”

“Maybe we need a change in leadership!”

“Let’s have early elections for new Board of Directors!  We need people who can be decisive!”

The Board of Directors freaked out. How could they live in the neighborhood with everyone knowing them as the “apartment building board members that were booted out?” They came up with an intriguing plan —

Soon, there were fliers posted everywhere for the July 4th “Former BBQ” — now Bagel Brunch — celebrating our country’s diversity on… July 13th!

By the time I came down to the community room at 11AM, 3/4 of the tenants had grabbed the good bagels and left.

Give In

Do you remember two weeks ago I wrote about this “YouTube for Pornography?” My conclusion: I wasn’t very impressed with this site. Who wants to see those robotic men pounding away at the woman on the kitchen table? It’s also like watching some other guy’s slideshow of his trip to the Bahamas. It’s more interesting to HIM than me.

OK, I’ll admit it. I felt a little lonely tonight. Sunday nights are like that. What is a separated husband supposed to do?

I know this is probably sharing too much, even for a blog, but would you like to see something that REALLY turned me on? I mean A LOT. I mean I WANT this woman. NOW. I must have watched this 25 times in a row —

(Don’t worry, it is safe for work — but not for me)

(the song is from “Damn Yankees” a musical revival I saw today at City Center, but this rendition is NOTHING like the one in the show)

More Grouchy Rants About Corporations

I thought I could come up with a funny post if I found out that Dockers/Levi Strauss — the company that was screwing me over with their fake free-flight promotion and making it difficult for me to go to BlogHer — was actually a sponsor of BlogHer.  Unfortunately, I struck out.   They’re not.

But — jeez, BlogHer has a lot of corporate sponsors on their website.  How much do each of them have to pay to get in on this?  It is nice that corporations are so willing to help their female customers.  I don’t want to be cynical and suggest it is all markeing.  But will these same companies be there when the products break down?  Or will you then be talking to Menuel from India on the phone?  Maybe companies should spend less money on social media experts and marketing to us on Twitter and conferences, and more on hiring customer service representatives.

Anyway, like I said, this would have been a funnier post if Dockers/JCPenney was a sponsor of BlogHer.  The only interesting tidbit I found out about BlogHer is that the major platinum sponsor of the San Franciso, California conference is General Motors, the company directly responsible for 30% of all carbon emissions in California

This years sponsor line-up is a testament to top-tier brands realizing the necessity of reaching influential women who have shifted their attention to online sources of information and entertainment, and taking a proactive approach to reach them through our conference, said Jory Des Jardins, BlogHer co-founder and president of strategic alliances. BlogHers annual conference provides the perfect platform for marketers and advertisers to connect directly with consumers and create relationships with key influencers. The conference presents an opportunity to learn firsthand what these women are all about.

Enjoy the fresh California air.

Luckily, there are some some corporations that do try hard to please their customers.  Over the past three years, I’ve received some very nasty comments from Olive Garden servers on my blog, all because of one 2005 post where Sophia and I discuss sharing the “unlimited soup and salad.”   I have been called “cheap,” “miserly,” “an asshole” and several names unfit to print.  After complaining to Olive Garden executive offices, I received a phone call from the CEO himself.  He was “shaking in his boot,” to use the old term, knowing the far reach of “Citizen of the Month.”

Olive Garden CEO:  “What can I do for you to make this up to you?  Your sarcastic comments about our fake Italian atmosphere and cheapo wine is killing our business!  I can give you a special VIP card that will give unlimited free soup and salad bars for the rest of your life!  How about that?”

Neil:  “I do enjoy your minestrone soup, but how many times in a week can any one person go to Olive Garden?  That VIP card would get as much use as my 24-Hour Fitness Card.”

Olive Garden CEO:  “Name your price.  I know you are big in the mommyblogger community.  Our franchises are half-empty because of your power.”

Neil:  “I don’t want your money.  If anything, the rudeness didn’t come from the corporate offices, but from the Olive Garden servers themselves.  I know some of them need this job to work their way through their community colleges, but they were the ones who called me those horrible names on my blog.

Olive Garden CEO:  “I’m sure we could figure out a way for the Olive Garden servers to make it up to you in a reasonable manner.”

Neil:  “Actually, I do have an idea.”

Several months later, Playboy published this pictorial.

While I respect Olive Garden for their responsive customer service, and admit that some of their servers are cute (but probably too young for me), your restaurant still sucks.

Update:  Just wanted to add that this Playboy pictorial, “Girls of Olive Garden” is true.  Kendra Wilkinson, one of Hugh Hefner’s “girlfriends,” loves Olive Garden so much, she suggested this idea to “Hef.”

Here is a video of Kendra talking about her favorite restaurant. The only reason I include it here is to fight against the fallacious stereotype that Playboy bunnies are really stupid.   In fact, if Olive Garden sponsored BlogHer next year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her as one of the speakers on the “Monetizing Your Video Blog” panel.

Dockers Hates Women (A New Approach to Getting My Ticket)

I’ve thought about this long and hard, and there is only one conclusion to this Docker/JCPenney free-flght mess:  Dockers hates women.

Hear me out.  I’m not a woman.  There is no need for me to go to BlogHer.  I was merely going to San Francisco to help the BlogHer organizers give the conference-goers their money’s worth in eye candy and sex appeal.  It is expensive to attend BlogHer.  It costs more than Disneyland, Legoland, and a meal at Souplantation — combined.  The participants expect a good time.  Sure, the organizers provide you with “speakers (mostly bloggers you can read for free online),” and some lucky bloggers will read from their best posts in a “Community Read,” but let’s be honest — can we really consider that “fun?” 

No male convention is complete with female strippers.  I believe in equality.  Blogher is dullsville without hot-looking men wandering around in their best nehru jackets, telling the female participants how “pretty they look.”  I know 3/4 of those women going to BlogHer have scheduled a salon appointment this week so they don’t look like shit.  They want to resemble that photoshopped photo they have on their profile page — at least in some way.

So, clearly, my role at BlogHer was to be “the professional flatterer,” a modern twist on the guy who is hired to make animal balloons at birthday parties.  I had already completed writing out some individual compliments for some of you, all compiled from information I took off of your own blogs.

To Female Blogger A — “You look like you’ve lost 10 pounds?  Have you been on the Oprah cleanse?”

To Female Blogger B — “The divorce has been good for you.  You look more rested and five years younger.”

To Female Blogger C — “I think a forty year old woman is at her most beautiful.  Here is the key to my hotel room.  Since your always too busy husband isn’t here, we can **** all night.  What happens at BlogHer, stays at BlogHer.”

But now Dockers has ruined it all.  The entire plan.  By refusing to give me the flight that was due to me, I am stuck in New York, spending the weekend with my mother rather than drinking high quality vodka from bloggers’ bra cups. 

But this hurts YOU — the wonderful female bloggers of the world — more than it hurts me.   Dockers is trying to sabatoge BlogHer.  Dockers hate women.  Is there any other conclusion?  Mr. Dockers CEO — weren’t you born to a woman… your own mother?  Don’t you have a wife?  A daughter?  A sister?  Don’t you like Katie Couric?  You are disappointing all of them with your total disregard to the needs of women at BlogHer. 

Dockers, it is up to you to prove this theory wrong and send Neilochka to San Francisco with the free flight he so deserves!

Update:

I just received a phone call from Sophia, which isn’t that unusual, but it about my blog, and it HAS been a while since she has taken a real keen interest in my posts.

Why did she call? She took me to task for caving in so easily to Robb’s comment on the TLC Marketing Post.

Robb is a blogger who has lived in India for the last year and a half. Because of this, he has a unique take on Meneul, the TLC Marketing customer service representative from India who was driving me crazy two days ago.

This is what Robb wrote in his comment:

Actually, in rereading this, I think someone should come to Menuel’s defense. In India, call center employees are given scripts they are to stick to, and when the conversation sways from the script, no matter how logical or necessary it may be, they MUST stick to the script or risk being fired. In a country with over a billion people, 1/4 under the poverty level, he has a good job. A job that thousands of others wished they had. What in the west is seen as a crap job, in India gives him a good salary (approx 200-300 dollars a month), maybe insurance, etc.. One posting for a job like this means thousands and thousands of applicants hoping for the chance. I am sure Menuel knew exactly what you were saying, in fact he probably has a university degree, but to give you the service you desired and deserved would have meant swaying from the mandatory script and probably have cost him his job. Here, I have seen managers slap their staff, and I have seen people yelled at and humiliated in front of their co-workers. All things which would be CNN headline news if it happened in the US. Menuel is most likely the sole or primary provider in his family and also probably supports his parents and possibly grandparents as well. He probably works 6 days a week and maybe 10 -12 hour days- all for 200 – 300 dollars a month). I know a lot of guys like him. So yes it can be frustrating, but what you experienced is just a tiny bit of a much larger issue and many young and intelligent Indians are feeling trapped in the world of offshoring and “cheap labour”. Please, the next time soemone is on the phone with someone from India or other developing country and not getting the service they want, please remember, it is not due to the staff on the other end of the phone, it is due to corporate processes and behaviors. Please take it out on the company, not the man or woman doing their job.

I responded by writing:

Robb — thank you. I absolutely agree. I think most people know this. This is exactly what the corporation wants — for us to blame them!

Sophia seemed to think that I was trying to hard to look like the nice liberal rather than being honest. She said it is a bad policy for customers to start worrying about the customer service’s feelings — in the context of customer service. Soon, companies will be hiring children and old woman just so we never complain.

I have to say, Sophia has a point.  I have nothing against Menuel, but do I really want to sit around worrying about his economic conditions?  I wasn’t mean or insulting to him.  But he was hired to be a robot, so it is my job as a customer to combat that.   I wish him well, but I wish I could have kept him on the phone for another hour bugging him, wasting the company’s time.  If enough of us bug the hell out of unresponsive customer service people, the companies themselves will be forced into making some changes.

So, what is the consensus?   Be understanding of the customer service person’s crappy job, or push them until you get what you want?

My Conversation with TLC Marketing Customer Service

After a day of phone calls, I finally was able to get TLC Marketing (or at least some guy in India) on the telephone to discuss the Dockers JCPenneys Free Round-Trip fiasco  (see last post).

Neil:  I’m calling about the Dockers Free Round Trip Ticket… I still haven’t heard back from you.

TLC Marketing:  Yes, did you fill out the form?

Neil:  I filled out the form a long time ago.  I received a phone call saying everything was OK.

TLC Marketing:  Then, you will be receiving a call from the booking agent.

Neil:  When will I get this call?

TLC Marketing:  You will get be receiving a call from the booking agent.

Neil:  When?  I’m supposed to have a flight on July 16th.

TLC Marketing:  The booking agent will…

Neil:  Can I give you my name and you can look it up in the computer?  Maybe you can tell me when I will get this call.

TLC Marketing:  I do not have access to individual records.  You will be receiving a call from the booking agent…

Neil:  When?   In the brochure, it clearly states that I will receive a call two week after you receive the form.

TLC Marketing:  You will be receiving…

Neil:  When?!  My flight is next week already…

TLC Marketing:  Those with completed forms will be receiving a call from the booking agent starting on July 22nd.

Neil:  On July 22nd?

TLC Marketing:  Starting on July 22nd, you can negotiate your booking.

Neil:  What?!  My flight is supposed to be on July 16th. 

TLC Marketing:  You can negotiate it with the booking agent.

Neil:  How am I going to negotiate my July 16th flight with the booking agent on July 22nd?

TLC Marketing:  That’s something you can negotiate with the booking agent.

Neil:  Is there a supervisor around?

TLC Marketing:  All the supervisors are busy.

Neil:  I’ll wait.

TLC Marketing:  The supervisors are unable to take any calls today.  You will need to wait to speak with the booking agent.

Neil:  And what am I supposed to do now?  I asked for a flight on July 16th.

TLC Marketing:  You can negotiate it with the booking agent.

Neil:  No.  It doesn’t work that way.  I can talk to the booking agent on July 22nd, but I cannot negotiate my July 16th flight with the booking agent on July 22nd?  Do you understand what I’m talking about.  The flight is on July 16th.  The call is on July 22nd.

TLC Marketing:  I only know that the booking agent will negotiate…

Neil:  So, I WON’T be getting my flight for July 16th?

TLC Marketing:  I cannot say that.  You can negotiate…

Neil:  Why can’t you say that?

TLC Marketing:  That is something to negotiate…

Neil:  Negotiate what?  There is no POSSIBILITY that I will get a flight for July 16th on July 22th.  Do you have a calendar in front of you?

TLC Marketing:  Yes, I do.

Neil:  So, you understand that I will NOT get my flight on July 16th.

TLC Marketing:  I am not saying that.  This is something you can negotiate…

Neil:  Is this being recorded?

TLC Marketing:  Yes.

Neil:  What is your name?

TLC Marketing:  Menuel.

Neil:  Manuel?

TLC Marketing:  Menuel.

Neil:  Manual?

TLC Marketing:  Menuel.

Neil:  Can you spell that?

TLC Marketing:  M-e-n-u-e-l.

Neil:  And this is TLC Marketing?

TLC Marketing:  Corrrect.

Neil:  So, Menuel of TLC Marketing — you are telling me that there is a possibility that I still might receive a flight for July 16th when I receive my phone call on July 22nd?

TLC Marketing:  You can negotiate it with the booking agent at the time.

Neil:  Can we talk — just between me and you.  I won’t get my flight on July 16th, will I?

TLC Marketing:  This is something to negotiate with the booking agent

Neil:  C’mon, Menuel.  I understand that I will negotiate with the booking agent on July 22nd.  But it will not be about my flight on July 16.  That is literally IMPOSSIBLE except in Hollywood movies.  Do you understand?

TLC Marketing:  The booking agent…

Neil:  Forget the booking agent.  Just me and you.  Do YOU see it as possibility that I might still get my flight for July 16 on July 22?

TLC Marketing:  I am not a booking agent  That is who you will negotiate…

Neil:  Can I speak to a booking agent then?

TLC Marketing:  The booking agent will call you on July 22nd.

Neil:  So, let me say this one more time, so the recording can hear this.  You, Menuel, a hired and paid employee of TLC Marketing, and a representative of the company, is telling me that no one can tell me whether or not I will be getting my July 16th flight to San Francisco until July 22nd, when I will receive a phone call from a booking agent where I can then negotiate, and still possibly get my flight to San Francisco on July 16, even though it happened to leave six days earlier?

CLICK

“Free” Round-Trip Flight From Dockers

… or why I probably won’t make BlogHer this year.

I wrote a long, creative piece to tell this story, but sometimes I think it is best to just write things in a boring, just-the-facts manner.  So, here it goes:

A year ago, Sophia read about this Father’s Day promotion online:

“Buy $125 dollars worth of Dockers pants from JCPenney and receive a “free round-trip ticket within the U.S.”

So, off we went to JCPenney, where I spent two hour trying on different Dockers pants, each time parading in front of Sophia like a male runway model, waiting for her sign of approval.  Did it fit in the back?  Was it the right color?  Finally, we made our choices, mailed in our reciepts, and received the official brochure in the mail.

 From the brochure sent to me by

TLC Marketing
c/o Dockers/JCPenney
1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02109

“This complimentary round-trip airfare allows you to visit one of these ten exciting cities:  Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando, or Dallas.  Name your destination; we just named your price:  FREE.”

The promotion had some odd stipulations.  You had to choose —

“Different first, second, and third choice destinations.”

“Different first, second, and third choice date preferences for both outbound and return travel.”

“That’s weird,” I thought.  “This free ticket is not very useful if you really need to get somewhere important, like for business.  It’s a bit of a crap shoot.”

I decided to try to use it to go to BlogHer in San Francisco this year.  I joked with some of you that I might end up in Chicago or Dallas during BlogHer, but I was fairly confident that I would get tickets to San Francisco.  After all, there are dozens of flights from the New York area to San Francisco/Oakland.  Surely, there was room in one of them during the days I gave them, even if I had to do a stop-over.

The brochure gave further instructions:

“A Representative from TLC Marketing will contact you within 14 days of receipt to book and confirm travel itinerary.”

A few weeks ago, I received two automated voice messages.  One said that my completed form was in order and to expect a call.  The next offered me other options besides the free ticket.  I could receive a $125 rebate or $150 in “restaurant coupons.”  It was a bad deal.  Coupons to what — Olive Garden?  I took the flight.   Still, a red light went on in my head.  It was sneaky of them, because in the brochure they clearly write:

“TLC Marketing may substitute another reward of equal or greater value if promotional availability runs out.”

Free ticket to SF does not equal Olive Garden coupons.

Time passed.  It was now two weeks before BlogHer.  I called the TLC Marketing “Dockers Concierge” number to find out what was going on.  A few months ago, I had spoken to a woman in India at this number who helped me correctly fill out my form.  Now, there was no one to talk to.  All that was left was a message that participants would get a call by “July 3rd.”  It is now July 9th.  I already missed BlogHer registraion. 

I was as if the promotion has been taken off of TLC Marketing’s agenda. 

I googled this promotion online and quickly found out why.  This promotion was an ongoing PR mess for TLC Marketing.  There were already 500 complaints issued with the Better Business Bureau of Massachusetts against TLC Marketing and their company president, Walter Osterman.

There were problems from the get-go, even from those customers who received their flights.    Their free flights ended up costing them $90 in taxes and and processing fees, which might be considered legitimate if the airlines themselves didn’t charge $50 in taxes and fees.  Why were customers being charged this extra money?

Now, customers couldn’t  get flights.  Was the promotion defunct?  Why would Dockers offer a promotion that they can’t fulfill?   To get customers to buy $125 dollars of Dockers pants at a time? 

And who needs so many Dockers anyway?

I sent emails to Dockers (owned by the Levi Strauss co. of San Francisco) and JCPenney, but received useless automated responses.  I phoned them and received more run-arounds.  The customer service woman at Dockers said she would ‘present my information to upper management.”  The woman at JCPenney gave me some phone number in Florida to call.

“Who is this that I am calling?

“It is the number that can help you with this promotion?”

“And who is it?

“Just call them?

“Do they have a name? Is this someone at JC Penney.’

“I can JUST give you this number.”

I called the number and no one answered.

Both JC Penney and Docker seemed to point the finger at  TLC Marketing  I’ve seen this before – a corporation not taking responsibility because they chose to deal with a incompetent company.

The moral of this story is the same as the one about my cheap, useless, not-Vista compatible web-cam from a few days ago.

You get what you pay for. 

So, unless someone at Dockers or JCPenney reads this and is embarrassed by this post, I won’t be at BlogHer, even if I was mostly going just to flirt with girls at the parties.

I take responsibility for my dumb mistakes — of being cheap and trying to use a free ticket.  I wish some companies would take responsibility for their own stupid mistakes, like offering promotions with tons of restrictions, and then not keeping their part of the bargain. 

If I don’t make it to BlogHer, I blame myself AND —

DOCKERS  (R. John Anderson, CEO Levi Strauss)

JCPENNEY  (Myron E. (Mike) Ullman III CEO)

TLC MARKETING (Walter Osterman, President)

Hey, Consumerist — here are some links of others who are pissed at TLC Marketing, Dockers, and JCPenney.

Fat Wallet

Flyer Talk

Disboards

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