Monday, September 1, 2014

Awe Shuckers, I am a sucker...

I have not been blogging much lately, so I hate for my infrequent writing to be of the negative kind. That being said, I feel that I must warn my South Florida readers about my terrible experience at the newly reopened Shuckers Waterfront Grill in North Bay Village.

Even if you have never been there, you may recall the terrifying deck collapse that this eatery experienced last summer.  This dive-bar with the million dollar view was a favorite among locals until June 2013. The outdoor deck was packed  people watching the Miami Heat play in the NBA  finals and it collapsed into the intracoastal. Luckily no one died (There were injuries)

Flash forward to a year later; Shuckers re-builds and reopens. I was excited to go back because they really do have a great view of a wide, gorgeous part of Biscayne Bay.

Unfortunately, my experience was horrible and I won't ever go back.  

My husband and I had been doing some home improvement for most of the day and we wanted a casual date night. Shuckers sounded like the perfect choice. We could sit outside, enjoy the last moments of daylight and enjoy a much deserved cold beer and some bar food. We were not in a rush or overly hungry. Just tired and looking to relax

We should have turned away as soon as we walked in and saw two separate groups of people throw their beeper things back at the hostess and walk out.  To make a long story short, despite having plenty of empty tables, we had to wait 15 minutes just to put our name on the waiting list. The hostess was yelling at another patron the whole time. Literally fighting with her.   

This "the customer is never right" attitude was also spotted during our wait when another patron was trying to get the manager to put her ice cream cake in the freezer (or even the refrigerator) while she was waiting for a table. Despite her bringing a large party in for a birthday celebration where they were sure to spend lots of money, the manager was yelling at her about not wanting to be responsible for her cake. He was not being nice about. He was being rude.

We finally gave our name and went over to the bar where we sort of muscled in and ordered two baby-sized, overpriced beers. I then saw patrons get up to leave a few seats down. I moved down there and the people around me said that the seats were free, as did one of the five bartenders behind the large bar.  We figured we could just order food and eat there as we saw other customers doing. 

Well, a female bartender was having none of that. She first told us, in a very sassy fashion that because we had a beeper thing from the hostess, that we could not order food at the bar. We explained that we would return the beeper and just eat at the bar. 

She then changed her story and said that she had customers in our seats and that they were coming back. We told her that we saw them leave and her  co-bartender verified this but she was just plain nasty. She said that we could sit there and order drinks but no food and that when her phantom customers returned, we would have to move.  And she said it in a fashion like she would beat us up if we did not listen to her.

I don't know about you, but I really don't like to get yelled at when I am spending money at a restaurant. We decided to leave. On the way out, I spotted the manager (the same one that was yelling about the ice cream cake). I calmly explained that I was leaving because the female bartender was rude to us and he just shrugged his shoulders.

Miami is filled with amazing restaurants, with chefs and owners that want you to patronize their establishments. Obviously Shucker's does not. It is too bad as they do have that view but I'd feel like a sucker if I ever go back to Shuckers ever again.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The end of summer...

    My calendar says that it is August 12th but summer is just about over around here. School starts here on August 18th. That is not a typo. August 18th. August is the armpit of the calendar here in the Sunshine state. From November to April, our weather is the envy of most of the rest of the nation. August, not so much. Yesterday the weather girl said that the "feels like" high would be 105 degrees. It is a sticky, muggy, buggy 105 degrees. I seriously don't know how people used to live down here without central air condition. It still feels like summer but summer is officially over tomorrow when we have to attend 9th grade orientation at the high school… Boo Hoo.

   In the meantime, I've been chilling in my AC and listing lots of interesting stuff in my two ebay stores.  Here are some of the more interesting things that my clients have given me lately.

I call this guy Winnie The Jew… He is a Hannukkah Bear…

Click here for details 

One of my clients has been clearing out her gorgeous MacKenzie Childs Collection. I'm not sure why, as each piece that she gives me is prettier than the next. This decanter is fabulous..
Click here for details

This little bowl is so pretty too….

click here for details

    These Gucci rain boots are so fabulous that if they were my size, I'd have to bid on them myself. Nothing makes a rainy day sunnier than Gucci!

Click here for details 

Have you bought anything great on eBay lately? I love to hear treasure hunting finds!

Friday, August 8, 2014

An update on my UPS saga...

   As you may recall, I had a bit of drama with UPS.  If you don't feel like going back and reading all that here is the brief recap:
      1. I sold this amazing retired piece of MacKenzie Childs pottery on eBay..

2. I shipped it via UPS and it arrived looking like this...

3. I had insured it using UPS's "insurance"
4. I tried to file an insurance claim and had trouble with this.
5. I called UPS and had horrible customer service.
6. I emailed and faxed UPS's top six executives complaining.
7. Shortly after doing this, someone from UPS's corporate office called me and promised to assist me with the claim.

Well, the buyer and I cooperated with UPS. We sent before and after photos of the item and the packaging. We arranged a time for them to go to the buyer's house to survey the damage.  Guess what happened? 

UPS denied the claim! 


The reason was that they claimed that the item was improperly packaged due to the fact that the 100 feet of bubble wrap that I used was of the tiny bubble variety and not the big bubbles! They just ignored the fact that the box looked like it was kicked down a hill when it arrived.

I emailed all six UPS  executives and my current contact, Scott. Here is the email:

I just received a denial of this claim. Needless to say, I am very upset. I used adequate cushioning and double boxed the package. All of this was done in accordance with UPS shipping guidelines. It is obvious that somewhere in the UPS chain this boxed was mishandled. 

My buyer (the recipient) and I fully co operated with the investigation of this claim. We provided photos, proof of value and allowed an inspection.

I would like to appeal this decision. Please advise as to how I can file an appeal. 

After reading online about how UPS denies just about every claim that is filed, I think that UPS is committing fraud. I paid for insurance. I packaged the box according to your own guidelines. I dropped it off in perfect condition at the UPS drop off point inside office depot. What more could I do?

If I am unable to appeal this decision, I will seek legal action and will contact the media. I wrote about this situation last week on my blog which gets 5000 hits per month. My story was already mentioned last weekend at a sales conference for small businesses in Dallas, Texas where 600 small business owners heard about how UPS gives poor customer service. I've also already posted my story on the ebay "seller central" forum. I was really hoping that I could follow up with a blog post explaining how UPS did the right thing and educate my readers about packaging techniques. I guess that this is not happening at this point. 

I feel that this is absolutely insurance fraud and that I have been the victim of a scam. I'm certain that I am not the only one and if this matter is not re-considered, I will be seeking other victims and will consider class action.

Please advise as to the appeals process. 

Well,  I never got answers to the questions in my email, however, UPS did reverse the decision and have now put my claim in line for payment.  Victory! 

I do have to say that my contact at UPS, Scott, was very professional and stayed on top of my case. I am really happy that UPS did the right thing but I'm still confused as to how UPS insurance works. I have reached out to UPS to ask them if they would like to be interviewed on the topic as I think that it would be useful to other sellers but as of yet, they have not responded.

I wish that I knew what to do in the future. Ship with UPS and hope for the best or look for alternates? Does anyone know? This was a long and exhausting ordeal over one (small for UPS) claim.  (big for me!)

  I just sold these
MacKenzie Childs canister Set

and this 

MacKenzie Childs Sugar pot

and really don't know how I am going to ship them. (Probably Post office)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My voyage on the largest Cruise Ship in the World...

     Life happens. As it turned out, my sweet husband and I had not been away alone for more than one or two nights in three years. Three years! I could not believe it.  We are approaching 20 years of marriage (23 together) and we needed to get away.  Luckily, the stars aligned this summer. He had vacation time and the boys had plans to be out of town (camp, teen tour) so I started to plan something.

    My husband has been flying a lot for business this year and he just wanted to hang out and relax. I had a tough year too, so relaxing and doing a lot of nothing seemed to fit the bill right now.  We did not want to break the bank (teenagers + summer = expensive). We looked into to resorts in Florida and the Caribbean which did not seem to be such good deals this summer despite the fact that the summer weather down here is either rainy or crazy humid & hot.  We started to look at cruises. 

     Living in South Florida means that we have been on a lot of cruises. They are easy for us. Just drive up and sail away.   I researched all cruises that were leaving out of South Florida during July.  I ended up sort of waiting until the last minute to book so we got a great deal on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.

    I wondered,  "Could I have a romantic and relaxing vacation with my husband on a ship with over 6300 other passengers? "

     Yes, you read that right. During our sailing, there were 6311 passengers of all ages and from 71 different countries. The Allure of the Seas is the world's largest cruise ship. It is 220 feet high. It looks like a building when docked. We had sailed on Allure's sister ship, Oasis of the Seas with the kids and had a great time so we knew that the ship was nice but we were concerned that perhaps this giant floating resort might not be the most relaxing choice but we booked it anyway.

   Luckily our concerns were unfounded. Royal Caribbean has figured out a way to sail with all of those people and have so many different things going on that the ship never feels crowded. I am serious. They are able to load and unload all of those people, feed them, entertain them and house them and it seriously feels less crowded than on smaller ships with a third of the passengers!

    The Allure of the Seas is an amazing vessel. It is truly a five star resort at sea. It has an ice skating rink, two surfing machines (Flowriders), two rock climbing walls, a mini atlantic city boardwalk complete with a carousel and 25 different places to eat. The food choices range from hot dogs and burgers to full-out gourmet specialty restaurants including one with a menu from famed Miami Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine. There is a mall in the middle of the ship which not only houses shopping venues, but also serves as an activity hub of bars, snacks and parades.  My favorite bar onboard (and I visited most of them) was the rising tide. This little bar is a ride. You get on it, get a drink and it rises two stories to Central Park. Central park is a garden in the middle of the ship which houses a Brito art Gallery and several food venues.

Rising tide bar!
   The entertainment onboard is not like the cruises of years past. Yes, they still have some of those funny passenger contests like Belly Flops and the Newlywed game, but there is a dive show onboard that rivals anything that you will see in Vegas. There is a comedy club, jazz club, latin dance bar and more. Seriously, there was too much to do.
    Yes, we were able to relax. Our balcony cabin had delightful views all week. Even though we live in paradise, there is something magical about looking out at an open sea for a week.  We slept (a lot). We ate and drank (a lot). We relaxed. We hung out.  We were able to have the vacation that we wanted which was perfect.

    We were able to purchase a few hours of wifi onboard to check on the kids but were 99% unplugged all week. No texts, no calls, no internet. This is the bonus of cruising. It's amazing to realize how much time we spend with our phones/ipads/computers. It was really nice to sit through a dinner without a phone buzzing.

   After seven days, we felt relaxed and reconnected. As the summer winds down (school starts in less than two weeks!), I think that we made the right vacation choice.

 Diet cokes in Mexico have Spanish names!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What did I buy at Bed Bath & Beyond?

Bed Bath & Beyond is one of those danger zones for me.  The one that is less than a mile from my home is gigantic, well-staffed and has a million different things that you can buy.

They have:
- amazing bedding
- fluffy towels in every single color that you can imagine
-an outragous selection of kitchen & dining products
-a full sundry store
- travel gear
-organizing stuff
and a ton of tiny little things that I often throw into my basket that seem to pad the bill

I went in for one boring thing today and given that it is summer time, I leisurely strolled through just about every aisle.  Here are some of the interesting things that I came across. Can you guess which one that I actually bought?

1. Diguise Push Pins ($5.99)
These little things allow you to pin a hat, mustache, sunglasses or lips over any photo that is on a cork board. How fun!

Did I buy them? Of course not.
Why not? I think that my six dollars could be better spent on something else.

2. Solemates High Heelers ($9.99)
Someone is a genius. You put these little things grip the bottoms of your heels to prevent them from sinking into the grass as a wedding or other outdoor event. So clever!

Did I Buy them? No.
Why not? I don't have any outdoor events scheduled where heels will be worn. This is probably because it is a 100 degrees here in SoFla and one breaks into a total sweat while walking from target to your car in the parking lot.

3. The Phone Fetcher ($9.99)
I carry large handbags and can never find my phone when it rings. I'm forever digging though like a maniac much to the annoyance of my loved ones.  This little thing is a problem solver for sure. You clip one end on the strap of your bag and plug the other one into the little headphone jack of your phone. When it rings, you will be able to locate your phone quickly by following the little bungee cord.

 Did I buy it?: No
Why Not? : I actually considered it for a minute but I realized that i don't even put my coins in the coin section of my wallet. I just throw them into the bottom of my purse,  so what makes me think that I would be organized enough to remember to put my phone on the leash every time? I also thought that my friends and family would make fun of me if I did actually use it. It seems very old-ladyish. (Yikes!) I was also worried that the clip would damage the handles of my precious leather babies.  

Camisole hangers ($7.99 for pack of three)

These are clever little hangers for hanging tank tops. I have a lot of tank tops and I hang them in the closet (vs. putting them in drawers) so I thought this would free up some room.

 Did I buy them? Yes
Will I return them? Probably not. They are really, really cheap feeling but I hung them up and put my tanks on them and it seems to be working. I will update in a week or so to see if this was a good purchase.

Friday, July 11, 2014

My UPS saga...

I sold this stunning retired piece by Mackenzie Childs on ebay last week

I spent over $20 on bubble wrap and sturdy cardboard boxes to prepare it for shipping. I wrapped it better than a museum curator would wrap a priceless artifact for a trip across the ocean. I taped it like a mad woman and double boxed it.   In fact, there was so much packaging involved it cost over $35 to ship it via UPS ground from Miami to New Jersey. I, of course, insured the package with UPS.

Imagine my horror when the buyer contacted me to say that the package arrived with the side of the box smushed in and this is what was inside….

Had I just thrown it into a box with some newspapers and hoped for the best, I would have just refunded her money and moved on, but there is absolutely no way that this gorgeous piece could have been destroyed like this unless the box was either opened in transit or handled roughly.

I immediately filed an insurance claim with UPS.  Before I could even upload photos or proof of the value of the item, they sent me an email stating that they would go to the buyer's house to inspect the package.  I emailed UPS and asked how to upload the photos and the valuation papers. They sent me back a form email.

I don't use UPS to ship a lot and I don't ever recall filing a claim for damage with them. I wanted to make sure that they had everything that they needed to process this obviously valid insurance claim quickly. I called the UPS customer service line. After going through one of those irritating long menus where you have to talk to a computer who never understands what you are saying, I was put on hold to wait for the "broken package " department or whatever UPS likes to call it. 

While I was on hold (which was  quite a long time) I googled something like "How to file a UPS insurance claim" and realized that A LOT of people have these claims denied. Like a lot, a lot.  This made me concerned. Once I finally spoke to the  customer service rep, he seemed to want to rush me off of the phone and pretty  much said that they would be by the buyer's home sometime on Monday to view the package and that they did not need any more information.

I asked to speak to a supervisor. The lawyer in me wanted to make sure that the photos and proof of value were attached to my claim. The customer service rep started to argue with me a little bit. "Why do you want to speak to a supervisor?" was his lovely response.  He put me on hold for 8 minutes and then I mysteriously got disconnected.

I called the 800 number back. Went though the whole menu thing again and after being on hold for at least five more minutes, (these minutes were spent googling  "class actions against UPS for insurance fraud" and "taking UPS to court over insurance claims") I finally reached another customer service rep. I explained to her that I was on hold for a supervisor over an insurance claim and I wanted to be connected to a supervisor.  She started to ask why I wanted to be connected to a supervisor. 

 I explained that I had already wasted at least 30 minutes of my precious summer day on the phone with UPS and I wanted to speak to a supervisor. She refused to connect me to one unless I told her the whole story again. I was having none of it. I asked for a fax number for the customer service department as I already was drafting a letter. She flat out refused to give me a fax number. She insisted that UPS did not have one.  While I was fighting with her, I started a live chat with UPS and the person/computer chatting with me in a box on the side of my screen also insisted that there was not a fax number for anyone at UPS.

Let me digress here. I was asking for a fax number because in my history as a lawyer and excellent letter-writer, I've found that emails don't always get read. A paper copy or a fax is always a better way to start a paper trail.  

At this point I was not only upset about the loss of the lovely $350 plate, but at this horrible treatment from UPS, which I now refer to as the "House of No". I googled "UPS fax number" and finally found one. I also found the email addressees of six of the top executives in the company.

I wrote and faxed a letter explaining the situation and the horrible customer service that I received to the COO of UPS . I copied it via email to all of the executives at UPS and wouldn't you know it,within three hours,  I received a phone call from a delightful man named Scott from UPS who is now working on my case.

Stay tuned. Will UPS do the right thing and pay the claim so that the buyer can go off and search for another fabulous piece of Mackenzie Childs pottery? OR will UPS make me toss off my summer sandals and put on my uncomfortable lawyer shoes ? 

Let's hope for my feet that UPS does  the right thing. I will be sure to keep you updated. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A creative use for Bike Sharing….

   While other countries have been doing it for a while(there are 20,000 available bikes in Paris!), Bike Sharing is a relatively new concept popping up in cities across the US. It basically is the short term rental of a bike. The idea is to allow people to get from point "A" to point "B" without having to worry about owning or storing a bike.  In many cities, people use these systems to tour around a city or to get from a train or a bus to work. 

   I've been using Bike Sharing in a more creative fashion,  I use it as my workout tool. My bike sharing card is like my gym card.  For $45 a year, I can rent a bike for 30 minutes a day. If I go over the 30 minutes (which I usually do) it is another $1 per 1/2 hour.  Way cheaper than any workout classes or gyms around Miami for sure.   The place that I go is the Hollywood Beach. The bike path that I ride on is 7 miles round trip, next to the Atlantic Ocean, car-free  and most of it has the million dollar view like this shot taken at 7 a.m. this morning....

I love that I don't have to worry about maintaining a bike. I don't have to put a bike rack on my car to start to ride. I don't have to worry about my bike being stolen.  I just drive up and hop on.

When I started this over a year ago, I just rode without a plan. Now I use an iPhone ap called "Seconds Pro". It is a high intensity interval training program. In normal-person terms, it means that it plays different pre-determined songs and tells me when to go slow or fast. It is a suggested way of burning calories quickly and making your heart healthy. It is hard but fun. 

I am not a person who loves working out. It was always a chore for me. I've been riding for over a year now and  I wake up and  jump out of bed, excited to go at least three or four times a week. I ride with a smile on my face as the beach is always stunning and gorgeous. I get some good thinking done during my rides and get great exercise. I am cranky when I can't go. 

Bike sharing is super easy. The one that I use is called B-Cycle. They have an ap and you can see where there are available bikes near you.   I got the last one today...

I have a card so I just walk up and place it over the sensor. The green light goes on and I just pull the bike out and off I go!

The bike that I rent has a generous sized basket that fits my giant tote. No need to fanny-pack it!

Here is a shot of some additional bikes in the area.

This is the start of my 7 mile journey. 

 Here is the machine that you go up to if you don't have a membership.  It is $5 per half hour to rent a bike here. Not bad if you want to try it out or bring a friend. There are three or four stations in the area so you could drop off the bike at another part of the beach if you are just using it for transportation.

It takes about one minute to check out a bike if you're not a member. Just swipe your card and you're good to go.  You can only check out two bikes per credit card so if you are taking the whole crew, bring more than one card!


Also, helmets are not provided so you should really bring your own. Especially if you are traveling in areas where there is traffic.