obligatory obscure reference

self-deprecating yet still self-promotional witty comment


What Pittsburgh can learn from Japan

Filed under: , The Future Of,Pittsburgh — jet @ 15:56

I’m just now back from spending two weeks in Japan, almost exclusively in Tokyo. While the two cities are obviously very different culturally, I noticed some similarities between the two and was intrigued by how Tokyo’s residents benefit from things that Pittsburghers see as problems.

First question: How big do you think Tokyo is? Huge, right? 12 million people?

Wrong. Tokyo is (was) actually pretty small. It was a single town in the middle of the Tokyo Prefecture, which covers what we would call the greater Tokyo metropolitan area. There are actually 23 wards (think boroughs) in Tokyo, each that collects its own taxes and has its own local government. If you live in Shibuya you pay different taxes than if you live in Roppongi, but for those of us who don’t live there, we’d never know (or care) about such details. We see a huge city with consistent signage, the Tokyo Metro Police helping tourists, Tokyo Fire Department trucks being washed/polished, and the wonderful collection of decorated sewer and storm drain covers of the public services.

So how big is Pittsburgh? Is it a little town or is it a region? I live two towns away from Pittsburgh, yet my mailing address is still “Pittsburgh, PA”. A friend of mine in California told me he was from Pittsburgh, it turns out he’s from Murraysville.   

Now, how many police departments do we have in “Pittsburgh”? How many fire departments? How many road maintenance organizations?

Could the Borough of Forest Hills, Swissvale, and WIlkinsburg continue to retain what identity they have while sharing a police force with Pittsburgh and one another? Would “Pittsburgh” benefit from having unified police and fire departments that shared frequencies, training, and equipment?

I’m not talking about consolidating cities, I’m talking about sharing resources that are common across adjoining towns and communities. Pittsburgh already has several “zones” for its police department, would adding another zone (or few) be cheaper than operating multiple, tiny police departments with duplicated services?

[tags]pittsburgh, tokyo[/tags]


“Broken Windows” theory of crime has merit

Filed under: , The Future Of,Pittsburgh,Politics — jet @ 17:18

Perhaps folks in local government can learn something from the success in Boston?


Researchers, working with police, identified 34 crime hot spots. In half of them, authorities set to work – clearing trash from the sidewalks, fixing street lights, and sending loiterers scurrying. Abandoned buildings were secured, businesses forced to meet code, and more arrests made for misdemeanors. Mental health services and homeless aid referrals expanded.

In the remaining hot spots, normal policing and services continued.

Then researchers from Harvard and Suffolk University sat back and watched, meticulously recording criminal incidents in each of the hot spots.

The results, just now circulating in law enforcement circles, are striking: A 20 percent plunge in calls to police from the parts of town that received extra attention. It is seen as strong scientific evidence that the long-debated “bro ken windows” theory really works – that disorderly conditions breed bad behavior, and that fixing them can help prevent crime.


[tags]crime, pittsburgh[/tags]


Pittsburgh’s “Culture of Complacency”

Filed under: , The Future Of,Food and Restaurants,Pittsburgh — jet @ 19:35

On the way home tonight I stopped at a PCLB store (state owned liquor and wine but no beer store) to pick up a bottle of cheap sake. Good sake is hard to find here, but at least PLCB stocks Sho Chiku Bai Nigori, a fine table/drinking nigori. The PLCB I stopped at has a history of having “something other than gekkikan”, so I was checking out the good stuff and considering maybe trying a new ginjo or two.

Then I noticed bottles of Sho Chiku Bai Organic Nama Nigori on the shelf.

Yeah, you read that right. “…Nama Nigori on the shelf”. I don’t know that non-refrigerated sake is bad for you, but it’s probably going to taste pretty foul.

What happened next is a wonderful example of what I think of as a culture of complacency.

Me: Excuse me, but there’s a problem with some of your stock.

Manager: What?

Me: This sake. It’s nama sake, it’s unpasteurized, and if it’s not refrigerated it will go bad. It’s probably not safe to drink either, I don’t think spoiled sake is something I’d want to drink.

Manager (showing no interest in looking at the bottle): They ship me stuff, I put it where they tell me.

Me: Right, but they apparently didn’t tell you this needs to go in the fridge.   

Manager (still no interest in looking at the bottle): Look, I told you, they ship me stuff, I put it where they tell me.

Me: Ok, but it even says on the bottle to “keep refrigerated”. If it’s gone bad, or if it’s a health risk, you aren’t going to at least take it off the shelf?

Manager: Nobody’s returned any of it yet.

Me: Well, you just started carrying this. I’ve been living here 3 years, this is the first time I’ve seen nama anywhere in a state store.

Manager: I’m telling you, they ship me stuff, I put it where they tell me. You don’t have to buy it if you don’t want it.

And yes, I’m notifying the PLCB and ACHD including store and date/time of visit…

I’d like to think that if I went to a manager/owner of a privately owned store and said, “hey, one of your products is definitely gone off and might be bad for someone to drink” that their response wouldn’t be “so?”

[tags]complacency, pittsburgh, plcb, sake[/tags]


Exactly what I was wondering…

Filed under: , The Future Of,Pittsburgh — jet @ 11:29

Surplus? What Surplus?

And I never thought about it this way, but yeah:

“Brain-drain no brainer: Where do young graduates go when they leave Pittsburgh? To cities with viable public transportation systems, so they can work and play without having to buy a car on entry-level salaries or coffee shop wages”

[tags]future, pittsburgh, PAT[/tags]


What do newcomers to Pittsburgh say when they’re back home?

Filed under: , The Future Of,Pittsburgh,Rants — jet @ 16:12

Since moving to Pittsburgh I’ve been exposed to the constant refrain of, “How do we get businesses/people to come to Pittsburgh?” Since any answer requiring Pittsburgh to change is probably going to be ignored, I think there’s a different question we need to ask. That question is, “How can we make Pittsburgh, PA a place that new residents speak highly of when they’re back visiting their home towns?”

I’m one of those people — I spend a fair amount of time back in California or at least emailing/chatting with friends of mine in San Francisco, Mountain View, Palo Alto, etc.

Lately I feel like I’ve been as frustrated with Pittsburgh (and Pittsburghers) as not. For every sales pitch I make to a friend back in Cali involving low property prices and access to local farm produce I seem to have an equally horrid story about things like the idiocy of stopping on on-ramps instead of merging, the massive taxes with no open records laws or other ways of finding out where my money goes, or the state bureaucracy in general.

Today I got bit by a combination of two things — the Pittsburgher attitude of “what do you mean you didn’t know that, everyone here knows that?” and a state bureaucracy from hell. We’re (you’re) not going to be able to convince people that this is a great place to move to until stories like this stop being what newcomers tell when we’re back visiting our friends in other states. Maybe that requires changing state and local government or maybe it just means not treating newcomers to Pittsburgh like we’re aliens or mentally challenged.

Those of you who’ve never lived in Pennsylvania will probably be surprised by how vehicle registration works. First off, you don’t go to the local Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Public Safety to register your car in the state. Nope, the only thing you can do at a PENNDOT office is deal with driver’s licenses. All vehicle registrations must be done at the state capitol in Harrisburg, PA.

No, I’m not making this up. Vehicles can only be registered at the state capitol.

That’s pretty out of the way for most of us. To make things easier, the state has allowed certain companies, known as “messenger services”, to do the business of taking your paperwork to the capital for you. And no, it’s not free, nor even cheap.

This week I finally got around to registering a vehicle I bought while out of state after moving to PA. It’s a vintage bike, there’s only one dealer in town for this make, and it’s a good 30-45 minute drive away so I call ahead to see what I need to bring. Title, PA driver’s license, and proof of insurance, then pass safety inspection. Since it’s an obscure bike, I’m going to the dealer on the off chance I need some random part to pass inspection.

Today I roll into the dealership, paperwork in hand. First surprise: I have to pay PA sales tax on any purchase made in another state. (So, when I’m on vacation, do I need to pay tax for gifts I buy and bring back to my friends here?) It takes a good 30 minutes to do all the paperwork and then the clerk says, “ok, now I need two checks. One for $x for the state and one for $y for us.”

This caught me off guard, and since I rarely carry my checkbook these days I just kinda sputtered, “Uh, what? Nobody said anything about bringing checks when I called. Can’t I use a charge card or an ATM card or something?”

The clerk was not apologetic, but explained in that slow way you talk to people you think aren’t paying attention, “We can’t give the messenger service a credit card, we can only give them checks.” It wasn’t condescending as much as, “how can you not know that you need to pay for this by check? Everyone knows that you have to have a check.” Hell, I didn’t even know what a “messenger service” was until today, much less that I needed to pay for things with checks.

So, 3 hours driving/waiting and still no title transfer, no inspection, no nada. I go back tomorrow — with a checkbook this time — in hopes of finishing this.

This isn’t the sort of story that my friends back home need to hear. They need to hear how trivial it was go to to PENNDOT and drop off all the paperwork at once. They need to hear that when someone who didn’t grow up here is trapped in some sort of bureaucratic nonsense that the locals will be sympathetic, not just throw up their hands and say, “sorry, that’s just not how it works here”.

[tags]bureaucracy, penndot, pennsylvania, pittsburgh, rants[/tags]


Am I the Only Person Embarrassed by This?

Filed under: , The Future Of,Pittsburgh,Politics,Rants — jet @ 14:56

So, yet another day where the single-party government’s fight over how many people should get free cars and how high the reimbursement cap for private use vehicles is front page news.

This is completely embarrassing.

Imagine, if you will, that a rich pal of mine is visiting from the San Francisco Bay Area this week scouting out potential business locations or startups to fund. They pick up the paper a few times while they’re here and they see the continual “battle” played out on the front page between the Mayor’s office and Council over use of city vehicles and high reimbursement caps and they ask me for some background.

What do I tell my pal? That things are so f-ing great here, that our roads are in such good shape, we have such good public transportation, the schools are so well run, and that the crime rate is so low that the only thing council has on their agenda is finishing off a few minor budget items? Or that years of single-party rule have created a government so inefficient and unconcerned with the City of Pittsburgh that feel the best use of their time is a long, public debate about how many city employees get free cars and how many hundreds of dollars a month they can be reimbursed for private use of vehicles?

No number of boards or committees or projects or events designed to convince business to move here can make up for our elected officials acting like petty children in public. Between this, the no-bids process for putting up signs, and giving the poor, penniless Steelers a few million to build new facilities while they pay Big Ben over a hundred million I’m beginning to see why Pittsburgh might have a problem attracting new businesses.

[tags]pittsburgh, rants[/tags]


So you’re thinking of moving to Pittsburgh — Public Transit

Filed under: , The Future Of,Pittsburgh — jet @ 12:39

[Possibly the first in a series of articles for those thinking about moving to Pittsburgh. This is from the point of view of someone who didn’t grow up here and probably wouldn’t have moved here if it weren’t for family reasons. I’d like to think my view is somewhere between the born-and-raised, love-it-or-leave-it types and than the I’m-stuck-here-in-hell-for-four-years college crowd.]

Over on the Pittsburgh Livejournal there are regular questions from people thinking of moving here wanting to know what live in Pittsburgh is like. I was writing this as a response to one of those but decided to flesh it out a bit and put it here.

It’s true that individual people in Pittsburgh are very nice here. I’ve met some really great people in the year and a half I’ve lived here and the level of kindness they’ve shown reminds me of where I grew up in rural Louisiana.

However, some days about the only thing I can say nice about Pittsburgh is that the people are nice and the houses are cheap. Pittsburgh can be a hostile city in many ways if you’re an outsider, especially if you’re an outsider who wants or needs to rely on public transit.

It’s not an open hostility — you’ll never see a “Welcome to Pittsburgh, please go home!” bumpersticker — it’s simply that Pittsburgh is still suffering from post-steel-collapse diaspora. The folks who stayed don’t seem to be interested in changing things to keep people here, much less attract new people to the region. Simple infrastructure like street signage and public transportation are broken or failing, but people here are so used to the way it’s always been that they don’t realize how bad it’s become. Pittsburgh has great potential as a city but instead of fixing the simple things that make life easier, the city (and county and surrounding towns) spend what little capital they have building sporting stadiums and casinos and ignore the fundamental needs of the city.

If you grew up here, you don’t need the signs and you’re used to the decaying public transit system. If you live outside of a few select neighborhoods, you probably own a car or rarely leave your neighborhood. If you’re new to Pittsburgh, even driving with a map in one hand and a local in the passenger seat won’t keep you from taking the wrong exit or questioning the competence of the people who locate street signs. Sadly, taking public transit isn’t a reliable substitute, as public transit here is “the suck”, as the kids say. I’ve lived in cities with bad public transit (ex: Houston), but in those places it was simply a lack of public transit in the first place or a public transit system designed only to support suburban commuters getting into the city. In Pittsburgh, public transit is a decaying remnant of what once must have been an excellent network of buses and streetcars. Many of the buses are old and in need of repair — some even run without operating toll collection equipment and everybody rides for free on that run.

Public transit here is run at the county level by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which everyone still calls by its previous name, “PAT”. No, I don’t know why the Port Authority runs public transit here, but they do. On the face of it, having it run at the county level is a good idea, as there are a kerjillion little tiny towns surrounding Pittsburgh that need public transit but can’t afford to operate it on their own.

I don’t know the history of PAT and the Port Authority, but within a few weeks of taking the bus I started to believe that transit here was designed and maintained not only by people who do not take public transit, but people who’ve never taken public transit in any other city on Earth. The recently hired CEO of the Port Authority has transportation experience in other cities, but looking at the bios of the nine board members I can only find one person with any transportation experience or that claims to be an active user of public transportation. That the other eight members — mostly lawyers and accountants — profess no experience nor claim to be an active user of public transportation probably explains a lot of the Port Authority’s current problems.

Making matters worse, the Port Authority’s plan for dealing with budget shortfalls is to eliminate routes, not to cut salaries, to raise rates or to figure out how to convince more people to ride buses and thereby increase revenue. Favoritism and financial problems abound — there was an article in the paper recently about how most of the PAT officials have special passes that let them drive on the bus-only express lanes so they can avoid regular traffic on the parkways. The financial scandals surrounding Port Authority pensions are outrageous and our lack of “Sunshine Laws” make it difficult to find out how bad things really are.

So on the one hand, you have an aging, failing bus system with the people in charge mostly being politicians and lawyers, not transit experts nor users of public transit and who seem to have little personal incentive to improve the transit system. On the other hand, you have a bus system that seems to have been invented in isolation from all other bus systems in the world and that is in need of not just repair, but complete redesign to make it more rider-friendly. (And on the third hand, you have a minority public opinion that considers public transit socialism wanting it to be privatized or self-supporting.)

If you do take the bus here, one of the biggest problems you’ll have adjusting to is the bizarro-world payment system: you pay to get on or to get off depending on the time of day and the direction the bus is headed. How do you know when to pay? Sometimes the bus driver will put their hand over the fare box when you get on, meaning you’ll pay when you get off. You can only get off the rear of certain buses at certain times of the day, so figuring out how to not move to the back of the bus even tho the driver is yelling at you is always fun. Another thing to get used to is that buses with similar names and numbers go to similar parts of the city except when they go to completely different places or take an express route that skips stops.

If you’re from Pittsburgh and you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking, “It’s not hard to understand once you’ve learned it.” Here’s the thing — no other bus system I’ve ever used works this way. Visitors and tourists shouldn’t have to learn some bizarro-world method of using the bus. No one should have to “learn” to use a bus system when they move to or visit a new town. I’ve seen bus drivers yell at people for not paying when it’s pretty clear the person doesn’t speak much English and is having a hard time figuring out what it is they’ve just done wrong. I’ve been yelled at myself a couple of times — I showed my pass when I got on, nobody said anything, so I just hopped off the bus thinking things were fine, when in fact, the bus was operating in “pay off” mode, as it is called.

The schedules and bus routes are kind of confusing at first until you realize that you pretty much need to know the names of neighborhoods to know where the buses actually go. The buses I take are named after the town on the far end of the route, a place I’d never heard of until I started taking the bus. The Port Authority’s online scheduling system is good for figuring out what buses you might want to take, but to plan the details of your trip you’re often better off reading the schedules yourself. You’ll do yourself a huge favor if you go by some place like Carnegie Mellon’s UC and grab one each of all the schedules or navigate the Port Authority web site and download the PDF for each route.

And finally, there are the bus drivers. There is much urban lore about the Port Authority bus drivers, their union, and what’s in their contract. I’ve heard that they make better salaries relative to the local economy than any bus driver in America; that they get one “free” vehicular manslaughter; that they have the highest accident rate in the US; etc etc. It is true that Pittsburgh is a very pro-labor town and that the unions here are still pretty strong, so given what little we do know about financial goings on at the Port Authority, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the average bus driver makes more than the average police officer, nurse or firefighter. (I haven’t been able to find a copy of their contract and would love a copy or a pointer to an online copy.)

As far as I can tell, there’s pretty much no incentive for the drivers to operate the buses on schedule or be kind to passengers. Any kindness is because, as I’ve said before, people in Pittsburgh can be amazingly friendly and kind, even to us newcomers. I’ve met some really great bus drivers who really helped me out when I was lost or got on the wrong bus. One morning I was stuck on the wrong side of a divided four lane as my bus approached and the driver stopped and waited for the light to change so I could catch my bus.

But I’ve also had bus drivers look me in the face, close the door and pull away as I was trying to climb on board. One bus I rely on to get to school has a driver who treats their route like a race and is often 5-10 minutes early on a route that only runs once every 30 minutes or so. All the other drivers on the route keep to the schedule, so I end up going to the stop 10 minutes just in case Lead Foot is behind the wheel. (When it’s 10F outside or raining this is no fun at all, as there’s no shelter at my stop.) Drivers often let their friends ride for free or have long chats on their mobiles while driving in heavy traffic. I’ve complained to the Port Authority, but really, why should they care? There’s simply no incentive for their drivers to provide a good service so to paraphrase Ernestine, “We don’t have to care, we’re the Port Authority.”

Sadly, there’s not much of an alternative to the bus system if you can’t, won’t or simply don’t drive a car. Amazingly enough for a city of this size, there’s nothing like a functioning taxi system. If you want to go out somewhere and come home after midnight, or simply go somewhere there isn’t a bus route, be prepared to drive or have a friend drive you or possibly wait hours on a taxi after you’ve called dispatch. This isn’t San Francisco or New York or Chicago where you can just walk to a busy street corner and hope to catch a taxi. No, you’re going to call dispatch, and you’re going to wait. I was surprised to discover that a couple of people I know have mobile numbers of specific cab drivers that they call when they want a taxi.

It’s possible to get by without a car here in Pittsburgh, but it’s not easy. I know people who manage to live using public transit throughout the year, but I’ve also given plenty of people rides to concerts or other outings that simply aren’t served properly by public transit. If you’re part of a working couple or have roommates you can probably get by with one car if you share shopping trips and whatnot. (If you’re living in the dorms at CMU or Pitt, owning a car will be very difficult due to parking costs, but you won’t have time to drive anywhere anyway.)

So my advice: if you’re thinking of moving to Pittsburgh and living anywhere outside of Squirrel Hill, Oakland or Shadyside, plan on owning or having easy access to a car. Even if you live in one of the aforementioned neighborhoods, you’ll probably end up wanting a car for those times when you want to leave your neighborhood. If you’re looking at a suburb like Mt. Leb or Murraysville and are going to work downtown you’ll probably be well served by the T and the luxury commuter buses (individual, high-backed seats with individual reading lights!) that run to and from the suburbs.

[tags]advice, Pittsburgh, public transit[/tags]


Are Pittsburghers Friendly to Business?

Filed under: , The Future Of,Pittsburgh,Random and Pleasing,Rants — jet @ 10:05

When I hear people talk about Pittsburgh, they will often say how friendly the people are. In the year or so I’ve lived here, I’ve generally found that to be true. Save for being yelled at (in yinzer) by a security guard who thought I was trying to park illegally and who continued to yell at me after I pointed out I was a customer of the parking lot’s owner, individual people have been pretty nice. When I moved to San Francisco, I was surprised to discover that people in a city were nice and personable, and it’s much the same here in Pittsburgh. It’s rare that someone is outright rude to your face here and you’re not a freak of nature if you’re chatty with the person next to you in line outside a concert. Granted, it gets taken to extremes in some cases (like the notorious “Pittsburgh Left”) but pretty much everyone I’ve met here has been kind and helpful on a personal level.

When it comes to business and customer relations things change quite a bit. It’s been my experience that Pittsburgh business owners are often not friendly when it comes to business and customer relations and from what I can tell, that doesn’t seem to bother many people here. (The area is also unfriendly to visitors or newcomers at a systems level, but I’ll save that for a different entry.) I don’t mean that the local governments aren’t interested in having businesses locate here or that they are hostile to business in general, I suspect that local governments very much want businesses to move here and stay. I’m talking about the sort of unfriendliness that results from impolite business behavior and not caring about your customers and even taking their business for granted.

A few examples of what I’ve experienced:

“Special order something I don’t normally stock? Why would I want to do that?”
I am unable to get anyone here in Pittsburgh to sell me a set of Medico locks. I don’t know if it’s because I only want three or if it’s because they have to be special ordered, but none of the locksmiths I’ve talked to have ever followed through on call backs. I’ve visited stores in person and left phone messages stating my clear intent and willingness to pay for the order in advance, but I still can’t find someone who wants to take my money. I had a similar experience trying to order office furniture — the local store was the only authorized distributor, I knew exactly what I wanted, was willing to pay in advance, and yet it took almost a month to simply place an order. If there’s a concern about returned items, it’s trivial to charge a restocking or return fee, or to simply say that no returns are allowed on special orders.

“I decided to take a long holiday on short notice, hope that wasn’t a problem.”
The local Mail Boxes Etc closed down for all of the Thanksgiving weekend without giving what I consider a quite reasonable one week notice. Of course they’ll be closed on Thanksgiving, but closed on Friday and Saturday as well? Many businesses are open Friday (including mine) and many of us work on Saturdays. I use MBE so I can have expensive items shipped overnight and “signature required” and not have to worry about missing the delivery because I was in the shower or out on an errand. When I see that the MBE has signed for something, it’s trivial to run over and pick it up a few minutes later. Right now I have several packages waiting for me, at least one of which I needed for work over this weekend. Had I known the MBE was going to be closed over the holidays, I’d have made other delivery arrangements. (And had I known they did this sort of thing before I rented my box, I’d probably have rented a box from someone else, someone willing to keep reasonable business hours.)

This has also happened with sales reps a couple of times — I’m told I’ll get a quote in the next day or two, then three or four days later I call back to discover that the rep has gone on vacation. Either it’s not worth the bother to get me the quote before they leave or they just take it for granted I’m going to buy from them no matter what.

“Yeah, I can do that.” Weeks pass. “You know, I haven’t gotten around to that yet.”
Business cards are easy, especially when the customer has InDesign/EPS files all ready to go. Yet, somehow, it took me 4+ weeks to get a local shop to make my cards. I could have gone to Minuteman/Kinkos, but I really wanted to support a local shop. I got all sorts of great explanations for why my cards were delayed, but they never came with firm dates or offers of a discount. The only reason I didn’t cancel the order and go somewhere else is that I wanted to see how long it could possibly take someone to print a simple set of business cards.

“Customer Service? We don’t carry that.”
I’ve had several really poor customer interactions with locally owned and operated businesses and I think it’s because customers here have lowered their expectations far below the national norm. Having to repeatedly call a business to find out if they can sell me something is apparently not terribly unusual here, nor is waiting for a sales rep to end their personal conversation and find out how it is they can help me. When I complained to a business owner that their employees trashed the job site and that I spent the better part of an hour cleaning up their garbage (cigarette buts, soda cups, etc), I expected someone would call me back and at least apologize. Sure, they already got my money and I signed off on the work, but does it occur to them that they might want me for a future reference?

Here’s the thing that makes me really cranky about this — before I moved out here I only sat foot in a national store as a last resort. I’m used to crappy customer service from chains and national stores, and excellent customer service from locally owned businesses. I’d always go to local hardware, metal and lumber suppliers before going to Home Depot, Airgas, Graybar, or Grainger. I didn’t mind paying a few percent more if it supported a locally owned and operated business and the service was typically better than I’d get from some place where I was just a customer number. But given the negative experiences I’ve been having with locally owned businesses I’m starting to think I might be happier as a faceless customer account number with a national chain.

This isn’t to say that all my experiences with local businesses have been bad. I’ve had many good experiences with local businesses and trades, but all of the significantly negative experiences have been with locally owned outfits who really don’t seem to care much about getting or keeping my business. It’s gotten to the point where I now assume I’ll deal with a national or regional business when I need something, and that’s not an assumption I like making. When I start buying welding consumables in the near future, I want to support a local business, but I’m ready for the reality that I might be driving past many locally owned shops on my way to Airgas.

So what’s the fix?

I don’t know that there is a “fix” for people being inconsiderate or unfriendly. How do you convince someone to be friendly or professional other than by setting a good example? For my specific problems, there are a few things that might make me feel better, but will those things really improve things for their other customers and businesses? Will complaining to MBE’s corporate office do anything other than piss off the people who own the local franchise? If I call up a business’s owner at home and say, “Hey, I wrote a letter to your company about your employees trashing a job site, why didn’t anyone respond?”, is that really going to accomplish anything? I’ll probably contact Medico and ask them to put me in touch with a locksmith who actually wants to sell me a set of locks, but what if they point me at the people who already don’t want my business? Do I rat them out to Medico or just find a locksmith in a nearby town?

One thing I am considering is letting local businesses know why I’m not dealing with them any longer and instead going with a national chain or mail order. On the chance that the owner is interested in keeping me as a customer they’ll have a chance to fix the situation, or maybe once they see how much money they could have made on a sale they’ll be more attentive to future requests.

I keep hearing people say that Pittsburgh has a lot of potential and a lot of opportunities for new business. I used to think that simply meant real estate and labor were cheap, but now I’m thinking it might also be a polite way of saying something more subtle: “There are a lot of opportunities here because your competition probably isn’t very interested in working to get customers and keep them happy. All you have to do is keep the doors open and treat the customers well and you’ll succeed.”

[tags]business, Pittsburgh[/tags]

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