Top 10 Tips and Tricks for surviving Paris

It was a last minute decision to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Paris and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. Though I still can’t figure out how we got out of the holidays with my in-laws or my family, but I digress. After giving up a planned vacation for a new job it had been 18 months since a proper vacation, and needless to say we were both thrilled to be on a plane to the City of Lights for nearly 2 1/2 weeks.

New Year's Eve at the Eiffel Tower

New Year’s Eve at the Eiffel Tower

Since we’ve been back stateside we’ve been asked numerous time “What was your favorite part?” or “What would you recommend?” and honestly it’s really difficult to answer. Most in part because there were sooooo  many favorites and so many recommendations.  Since I’ve had some time to mull answers over, I’ve decided to do a 2 part blog-series on our faves and the recommendations. In this post, I’ll share our  top 10 tips and tricks to navigate through Paris during the winter.

1.  First and foremost, Kyle and I fell in love with experiencing another culture’s holiday season and would highly recommend it to everyone and anyone.

Christmas in Paris

Christmas in Paris

There’s less tourists, the locals are out, and the people are in high spirits. Paris is definitely one of the cities you must experience and explore during the holidays. From the Christmas markets to the hot-mulled wine to the lights hung around every street corner, it was amazing on so many levels and unfortunately this photo doesn’t do it justice.

2. Speaking of hot, spiced, mulled wine. Make sure you get a cup or two or three of “vin chaud” to keep warm during the cold, windy, wet (and possibly snowy) winter season. It will keep you warm long after you’ve drained the last drop.

Vin Chaud: hot, spiced, mulled wine.

Vin Chaud: hot, spiced, mulled wine.

We fell in love with this beverage, so much so that we made sure to have a cup everyday. It was that good.  Also, avoid asking the proper wine folks about this as this is considered ‘beneath’ them. We were even told on one occasion that it wasn’t ‘popular’ only to find out 25 feet away were two carnival-like kiosks selling them.  Keep an eye out for sandwich, kabab, and sweets (churros, donuts, etc) kiosks….they have the best vin chaud. The cafe versions are twice as much and don’t taste nearly as good.

3. Trust me. Get a Museum Pass.

It’s 42 Euro/Person for the two-day pass and is totally worth it especially if you’re only in town for a few days. But be sure that it gets you into the Musee (museums) you want to go since it doesn’t work for Eiffel Tower. Also, these must be used in consecutive days, so plan your Musee routes in advance to get the most out of it.  Finally, all Musee (museums) have two lines; security and entry. Typically security is the longest and the Museum pass lets you bypass the second line (entry) so don’t get frustrated when you’re standing in the first line with the ‘non-museum pass’ folks.

4. If you’re in need for some tchotchkes (keychains, magnets, old books, old magazines) to give to your friends, co-workers, and family be sure to buy it from the locals instead of the hawkers. The latter stalk tourists in front of the Louvre, Versailles, and all the major tourist sites. The locals are located on the Seine River by the Notre Dame Cathedral.  These sellers only have green boxes to sell from and have to fit all their belongings in 4 crates. We learned that by law there are only 250 sellers allowed per year and the average wait list time is eight years. Which basically means that someone needs to pass-away. It may be the PNW in me but there’s something to be said for supporting the locals.

5. As shared in a previous travel post, eating out can get expensive even if it’s for the simplest things like water, fruit and coffee. MonoPrix is a local grocery store chain (more like Fred Meyers with clothes and toiletries) we visited at least every two days to grab bottled water and snacks that’s significantly cheaper than the museum, cafe, or restaurant food. A smaller, more express store associated to the Monoprix is the Monop…..less selection but still you can grab the essentials.

Monoprix

They  saved us when Delta lost our luggage and we needed beanies and umbrellas. Also, both the main and express stores take credit cards with no spending minimum which is a huge life saver esp if you just want a bottle of water or a coke.  Besides, this is where the locals shop and it’s always exciting to see the variations of products available in different countries.

6.  You’ll inevitably use the metro lines while you’re in Paris. Make sure you purchase the carne in packs (10 tickets for 13.30) at any metro station, as it’s significantly cheaper than buying individual tickets.

 

Paris Metro Stations

Paris Metro Stations

Be sure to download these two apps and you can thank me later.  “Paris Metro” app and  “Google Maps” for Paris. Download the latter to access without wifi connection in advance. You can zoom in and identify where you’re at (using your phone’s GPS) along with the nearest metro stations. Once you have this, figure out where you want to go and open up the Paris Metro app. Click on the “route” tab and enter were you are and where you want to go. It will automatically offer you the metro links you need to take. This app  saved our lives.  Note: The #1 line (Yellow) is the main line to all the main tourist attractions. 

And for goodness-sake don’t even consider renting a car unless you want to die.

7. The RER lines are separate than the Metros and depending on the line, and where you want to go, can only be accessed through certain Metros stations.  Use the “Paris Metro” app that I noted above to help you. For example, if you want to catch a train to CDG airport, you need to head to the Chatalet metro stop to get to RER B.

Paris Metro App

Paris Metro App

Also, the RER runs every 15-30mins and they are more confusing to figure out what platforms you need to be on, so plan more time for these, especially if you go to Versailles or to the airport. If you’re staying in the city, your carnet ticket can get you on the RER and the metro (for example if you’re going to see the Moulin Rouge in the Monmarte arrondissement (neighborhood) you don’t need a separate carne. But if you’re going to and from outside the city like Versaille, you’ll need to buy different tickets at the metro counters that cost a bit more.  IE) Versaille RT is 13.30.

8. Parisians get a bad rap for their stiff-arm, cold shoulder attitude. But, honestly that’s instigated from the tourists. Going up to a Parisian and speaking English isn’t going to win you points just like a Chinese person coming up to you in Seattle speaking Madarin won’t get them very far either. For the most part, Parisians are polite and you don’t need to be purchasing a new Louis Vuitton purse to be on the receiving end of this. From cafes to boutiques to bakeries Parisians will always say “Bonjur” and you respond accordingly. After 7pm “Bonjur” is now “Bonsoir.”

Get into the habit of saying “Parlez-vouz anlais?” (Do you speak English) or “Je ne parle pas francais” (I don’t speak French). It will be a headache saver. The “Speak Easy French” app is awesome to learn how to pronounce the phrases correctly. The only bummer is that you can’t access the app without wifi.

9.  Create a routine . Get into a habit of popping into your local, corner cafe for a cafe au lait (cafe latte) or cafe (espresso) on a daily basis for your morning java fix and then head around the block to your boulangerie (bakery) for a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant).

Morning cafe au lait

Morning cafe au lait

If you can, grab a sandwich to for an afternoon picnic while you’re grabbing your croissant.  Regardless of how long you’re in Paris, these establishments and their staff will recognize you and give you better service. You’ll become a local in no-time!

Impromptu picnic with a veiw

Impromptu picnic with a veiw

This also means you should try to spend as much time in Paris if you can. We recommend a week or more. With so many museums, cafes, gardens, etc to experience, anything less is crazy!

10. The Eiffel Tower is a must and you can’t experience it from the ground. Reserve your tickets at least one to two months in advance through their website.  If for some reason you forget about this, you can can either stand in line for three to four hours (I’m not kidding) or you can pay double the price and go through a reputable third party vendor (what we did) to get in as a group. We recommend Fat Tire Bike Tours. They were great, prompt, and easy to use. The only downside was the price and there was a massive windstorm on the day we were scheduled to go up the Tower that the Summit was closed.  So be sure to book in advance and save your euros for a lovely, authentic dinner.

Have you visited the City of Lights? Post your tips, tricks, and advice below and be sure to check back for Part 2: Our Favorites.

 

Five Year Anniversary: Does wood cutlery count?

When celebrating one’s five-year anniversary, tradition says that gifts should be paper or wood. “Wood represents strength solidity and warmth- are the traditional material on the fifth anniversary.” A modern gift is cutlery. Does wooden cutlery count? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. 

This past August 16th, we celebrated our five-year anniversary. I still can’t believe it’s been five years. It feels like yesterday when we were toasting the bubbly, smashing cupcakes in each other’s faces (I believe I started it), I was in the most expensive dress I ever owned (still own, and still the most expensive), and it was the one of the happiest (and most expensive) days of our lives.

My favorite photo from our wedding day.

My favorite photo from our wedding.

Due to some major life changes…ahem….me starting a new job at an awesome company, I had to start earlier than planned and gave up my month of vacation that we originally looking forward to. I say that like it’s a bad thing but really it’s not.  I actually started with three weeks paid vacation and there’s no accrual. I can’t believe I just typed that. I’m not gloating, bragging; okay maybe I am, in the tinniest sense. But, after working for my old company for nearly eight years just to get three weeks of vacation, this feels like a gift from God.

I digress. Gone is a month filled with backpacking, road-tripping, camping on the beach, and possibly being eaten by a bear.  I’m now working (and loving it) at a fab company and Kyle’s on summer break. We decided to head out of town on a four day holiday to a four star campsite  (that’s like a five start hotel) for some down time to celebrate.

But this isn’t a post about ratings, stars and screaming children– I’ll save that for another day. It’s a post to celebrate the 5 glorious years we’ve called our own. While hiking up to Rachel Lake (my new favorite hike and lake), I decided to start a “Top Five” list of sorts. This was partially self motivated because Kyle had shoved a can of bear spray in his day pack and knowing I had no idea where we were going, it was safe to assume we were taking a jaunt into  ‘bear country’ and thus I decided we needed to talk the entire time to keep away The Bears.

The Top Five Lists

 

Though we did have a lot of similarities, we had more fun re-living the last five years with ‘remember that one time…’ than we did actually putting them into these lists.  Regardless of these lists, I know what you’re really thinking about….

No,I did not get Kyle wooden cutlery but I did think about it.  Instead, I got him a rad, new, minimalistic wallet for his ‘green paper.’ He’s been eyeing out these wallets from Bellroy which I do have to say, make some amazing, quality leather goods. I fully endorse this small company especially since their wallets arrive beautifully wrapped so you don’t have to do it!

Kyle in typically fashion out did me. He spoke to the wood-sey girl in me with gaiters and the girly-girl in me with a gorgeous Kate Spade necklace. I see these gaiters lending me to my passion for the outdoors… in the woods. And my necklace is green, which is the same color as the trees! DUH. See, we totally have it together.

Photo Credit: www.rei.com

Photo Credit: http://www.rei.com

 

The 5-year bling

The 5-year bling via @jackieostlie instagram

 

But, honestly I’m really not that high maintenance as these gifts makes me out to be.  Proof? Rainier and Freezer-Dried Beef Stroganoff for our 5-year anniversary dinner. Does it help that I picked it out?

The celebratory grub

The celebratory grub

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Companies should be treating their customers with the best care and experience, regardless of if you’ve got the budget the size of Nordstrom or REI. It will pay off in the short and long term for all parties involved. We’ll be your biggest advocate or your worst enemy. Need proof? Check out the lesson learned from FTD Flowers, Time Warner Cable, Blog Hosting Company, and Ryanir. Over the course of the month, you’ll read posts from fellow guest bloggers from around the world sharing their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences…all of them very real. 
Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

The trendiest multi-tasker I know.

Today’s post comes from China (and the U.S.). Sandra is a dear friend, amazing editor/word-smith, and quite possibly more of my twin than my own sister.  Interests, fears, passions, pet-peeves, need for order and planning, you-name-it we’re pretty much identical. Even our husbands are alike in so many ways! But that’s a completely different blog post.  Read on about Sandra and her husband’s adventures while living abroad. How would you respond if you were in their shoes?  

As Americans it’s easy to forget that not every country has the same standards of customer service that we’ve come to expect as a constitutional right.

As a traveler, it’s good to remind yourself of that fact before you start banging your head on a brick wall … or the Great Wall, as the case may be.

Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

“The Great Wall of China.” Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

My husband has spent quite a bit of time in China for work over the past few years and I’ve been able to join him for some of it, thanks to a stellar boss and work team, the wonders of Skype and Dropbox, and the not-insignificant-advantage of working ahead several time zones. And while it goes without saying that success in navigating everyday life in China is dramatically affected by the quality of your Mandarin skills, we’ve had two experiences that offer lessons about customer service that hold true anywhere in the world—regardless of what language you speak.

Case study #1: China Southern Airlines

A couple of years ago we were flying from Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) to London via Beijing for a highly anticipated vacation. My unease began when we pushed away from the gate … and sat there for two hours.

I should explain that in China the plane will always push back even if the pilot knows with 100 percent certainty that he won’t be taking off anytime soon. After all, someone else needs the gate—there’s a billion other people waiting, right?

My worst fears were realized when we arrived in Beijing well after our connecting flight was scheduled to leave. As it transpired, that flight had been cancelled along with 400 others that day; we could immediately see that the “bad weather” being blamed for our delay was nothing more than stupendously bad pollution—as in, hazardous-to-your-health, looks-like-a-nuclear-winter, keep-the-elderly-and-babies-inside. We were going to have to stay the night.

Were there organized, efficient airline employees to meet us, take us to transportation that would whisk us to comfortable accommodations, and greet us the next morning to guide us to our rescheduled flight? Like how it worked for Todd when a Northwest Airlines flight arrived late in Japan due to a mechanical?

Um … no. No, there were not.

There were plenty of airline employees around. It was just that none of them seemed capable or desirous of offering any type of assistance. With every staff person we asked, we were repeatedly directed (vaguely) elsewhere, eventually joining ourselves to a frenzied, milling crowd at a ticketing counter and finally rushing to join a group of people who were getting on a bus to a hotel (feeling fairly certain that had we not, we would have been sleeping on the floor of the airport).

You could just see in the employees’ faces that they didn’t give a rat’s left butt cheek.

Fortunately things changed the next day when we returned to the airport and found the right person. After the requisite “strategic positioning” in line (fail to assert yourself and you will get NOWHERE in China), my unfailingly polite husband differentiated himself from the crowds of shouting Chinese by speaking calmly to the ticketing agent, expressing his appreciation for her efforts, and commiserating with her situation. Voila—a coveted spot on the standby list.

Of course, we almost missed our chance at that day’s flight because we weren’t warned more than two minutes in advance that we needed to run for the tram or the plane was going to leave without us. But that’s China for you.

 Moral: Be nice, and you might move ahead of the hordes.

Case study #2: Specialized Bicycles

Being something of a mountain biking fanatic, Todd decided to buy a bike in China to keep at least some of his sanity and physical conditioning.

 

Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

A ‘clean’ Todd. Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

 

While he is far from the local Specialized shop’s biggest-spending customer, their service is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The easygoing proprietor, Shark (note: Chinese people choose their own English names, sometimes with humorous results) will gladly:

  • Completely clean and detail a mud-splattered bike for next to nothing—even when it’s a different bike that Todd later brought from home (fanatics must have options …).

    Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

    A ‘muddy’ Todd. Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

  • Store the bike securely while Todd is out of the country and have it prepped, tuned, and ready to roll upon his return.
  • Add air to the tires, check brakes, and make small adjustments for free any time a customer stops by the shop.
  • Take a van to pick up a rider with a mechanical problem if they call from anywhere in the nearby region, at no cost.
  • Reassure a foreigner whose folding bike was just stolen from outside a local mall, and who calls him for advice, that she should not bother with the police, who will simply waste her time by collecting information that they will do nothing with. (That was me. Yes, it happened. Yes, I’m still sad.)
  • Give said foreigner a discount on a new bike to replace the stolen one. (Well, I guess I was a repeat customer … but still, a sympathy discount? Pretty nice.)
Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

The replacement. Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

Moral: Find good people to do business with, and stick with them.

Experiences with customer service in China have alternately made us smile in amazement and shake our heads (if not our fists) in disbelief. And they’ve given us some great stories—and lessons—about how to get what you need, whether you’re a local or a laowai.*

*mzungu, gringo, foreigner

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 15: I have renamed my WiFi network “TimeWarnerisHorrible” by Chris Miller

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Nike earns an A+

Over the course of  July, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series is also a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started.  
Photo Credit: Lindsey Minerva at http://www.lindseygolightly.com/

Photo Credit: Lindsey Minerva http://www.lindseygolightly.com/

Today, I’m sharing my experience with Nike and how one company has renewed my faith in integrated marketing and customer service.

I can be pretty obsessive especially with things that are beneficial to my health, family, and general well-being.  When we purchased our home, one of my biggest fears wasn’t the paint color, or the dinged up walls that our friend-turned-movers-for-the-day accidentally created, or our racists neighbors (I’ll have to save that for another post). No, it was having to give up our gym membership and not being able to continue my recovery and progression into ‘normal’ life post car accident.

A good friend, Kristin, who is equally as obsessed with health and fitness told  me about Nike+ Fuelband. At first the skeptic in me was like, “$149 bucks for a bracelet?! No way.” But the more she shared the self motivation, competition with friends, and overall approach to your health, I was sold. Especially, if it would help me maintain a healthy lifestyle sans gym membership. Bonus points?  Their user experience, user interface, mobile app, and overall digital integration was phenomenal. In fact, it’s the best I’ve ever encountered.

[Sending *high-fives* to their digital team.]

In February, we headed to the Nike store in Seattle where I finally took the plunge. The gal who helped us answered all our questions, reassured me that if my clear band turned brown from use and couldn’t be cleaned we could exchange it with the receipt, and walked me through how to resize my bracelet if I needed to. Sold.

Nike+ Fuelband

Nike+ Fuelband in White Ice

For the next three glorious months, I was in fitness heaven. Not only was I able to re-evaluate the way I looked at health and working out, but it also challenged me to stop counting calories and to be active, even if it meant walking our stairs at 9pm or getting back into a 5:30am workout regiment. And then the unthinkable happened, my Nike+Fuelband stopped working. Devastated, gutted, depressed, horrified are all things that come to mind. Also, my dependence on this cute plastic band is also pretty evident….just ask my husband.

So like any normal, social media savvy, digital marketer would do, I took to Twitter.

First tweets out

First tweet out to Nike

And like any normal, impatient, obsessed health junkie, I went to the Nike Store (with my box and receipt) the next day to see if they could so something.  Besides, I needed as much time to earn fuel points to try to beat Kristin for that week. I was already behind by a day and half!

Their in-store staff was extremely helpful and empathetic. They did a series of tests to confirm my Nike+Fuelband wasn’t working and swapped me out for a brand new one. We were in and out within 15 minutes. Even though their in-store customer service was awesome, I wanted to thank and update Nike’s social media team that I was taken care of. They could officially cross me off the list of folks they needed to follow up on.

Let’s just say for the first time ever, I was speechless. Their social media team responded in a way that companies only wish and hope (and train) their staff to respond and engage their customers. Their social media team completes the full circle of Nike’s awesome  user experience, digital marketing and design teams.

[Sending *fist bumps* to their social media team.]

Great examples of how companies should be using Twitter

Great examples of how companies should be using Twitter

As one who lives, breathes, and gets paid to be on social media, I really appreciate Nike’s approach on Twitter.  Not just for their prompt response, but also for their overall personality, voice, tone, and consistency. This is something that is difficult to achieve especially for large companies. Anyone remember FTD Twitter snafu? There’s a lesson or two on how NOT to use Twitter, regardless if you’re a large company. It’s nice to know the person tweeting me back from @NikeSupport has all the personality, wit, and charm I expect and want. Gone are the robotic, formal, corporate responses. Companies, larger and small can learn a lesson or two from Nike and how their integration of social media comes full circle for their products.

Have you had a great or horrible experience with a company over social media? What was the problem and how did the company respond? I want to know.

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer.  Be sure to check back for the next blog post.

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Are you kidding me?

I’m a staunch advocate for treating people, especially your customers with the best care and experience, regardless of if you’re Nordstrom or REI. It will pay off in the short and long term for all parties involved. I’ll either be your biggest advocate or your worst enemy. Need proof? Check out the lesson learned from FTD Flowers here and here. So, I’m excited to kick off July with a blog series on customer service.  Over the course of the month, you’ll read posts from fellow guest bloggers from around the world sharing their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences…all of them real. So sit back and enjoy.
The ever lovely Evelyn

Evelyn: The Digital and Inbound Marketing Queen

Today’s post comes all the way from Ireland. I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with Evelyn over the last few years in the digital marketing and social media marketing space. Her bubbly personality, high energy, and infectious laugh is quite contagious. She’s passionate about service, inbound marketing, loves to travel, and adores good food and music! And be sure to check out her travel website and travel advice blog.

Recently I had an appalling customer service experience with an online business. I had purchased a domain name for $25; had given my Irish address but completed the purchased while on a business trip in Boston, and subsequently my transaction was marked as fraudulent.

Jumping through hoops

“Great, an online business that cares about security” I hear you say and I would agree if….

I was then asked by standardised email to jump through hoops including sending a copy of my credit card or credit card statement.  During all my replies I had mentioned that I was away and out o the country, with no ability to send them what they needed, but that I would be happy to provide whatever they wanted in the hoop department when I was back home.  I received standard emails back with requests for more documentation and no reference to my comments. I even phoned their customer service department who hadn’t had a clue why I was calling, couldn’t give me the name or contact details of the verification department that had such issues with me travelling. My domain was made inactive.

Are you kidding me?!

Are you kidding me?! It’s a $25 purchase on the Internet for a domain name. The Internet – you know what’s out there already? Do you really think my little www.wolftrekking.com domain for $25 will lower the tone?

What really added to my stress was that I needed that domain to be up and running for training for my new job – the reason for my travelling overseas.

Too much hassle to move

Eventually, after much complaining, my domain was activated again. I received yet another standard email “How was our service?”  Well…I replied asking: ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? and received a call from the CEOs office.

The gist of the call:

  • We have yet to integrate our CRM and our email addresses
  • Our system doesn’t send emails that are not standardised
  • We are so sorry, please stay with us
  • They were not aware at management level, how these things were handled and will take my comments to improve the service.

I stayed (too much hassle to change really) and in fairness the “save” call was great. But I was so surprised at the lack of integration between internal departments and the bad use of marketing automation.

Why I care so much

I’m a marketer. I strive to delight my customers after they purchase. I know who they are. I add value and give them the personalised experience they deserve. Is that hard to do? No, not really. If your organisation is committed to service and each level of the organisation is empowered to provide it. It’s a lot of work but there are great CRMs out there that you can integrate with tools like HubSpot (ha, guess where I started my new job 🙂 ).

These tools give you the chance to concentrate on creating experiences your customers treasure. And the best thing – full integration. Someone replies to an email – you know it. Someone then replies to a form online – that’s added to your system. Someone leave a comment on Social Media after that – oh yeah, you’ll know that too!

Moral of the story

I strive to provide the experience that I would want as a consumer. Bottom line.

And if I don’t get it, I voice it. Not just because I want to release my frustration but because I genuinely feel that organisations that provide bad service need to hear about it to work at it.

So go out there, complain. Help companies provide better service by telling them what went wrong, what they could do better. They’ll thank you for it in the long-run and if not…take it to Twitter and rant, rant, rant!

How do you best deal with situations like Evelyn’s?  What would you do if you were her? Stuck thousands of miles from home without any customer service or support for a work related issue?

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer.  Be sure to check back for the next blog post by Katrina Taylor, blogger of ‘Sota is Sexy. 

Top 16 Highlights of June

Honestly, I can’t believe it’s practically July. I feel like we just started June and I’m sure I’m not the only one. But it’s been an eventful, fun-filled month. So eventful in fact, that I had to increase my  highlights from 10 to 16! What can I say, June was a great one. Without further adieu, Here’s the top 16 highlights of the past month.

1.  Life is only better with Minnie in it.  Besides nothing says, “June is going to rock” than a birthday part on June 1st with a piñata and La Palomas.

Lindsey's Birthday Party

The infamous pinata

2.  Father’s Day.  It warmed my heart that dad opened the door with a “Kailua Boys” shirt on.  Thought it was quite fitting since we were looking at his completed ’67 bug for inspiration for Kyle’s bug.

Father's Day 2013

Father’s Day 2013

3. Rachel is getting married. I’ve been blessed to have been ‘adopted’ by her and her family in college.  Holidays and life wouldn’t quite be the same without wheat-thins and cheese ball. I’m thrilled to see her start a new adventure with her soulmate in a few weeks!

Rachel's Bridal Shower

Rachel’s Bridal Shower

4. Survived my first bike ride in the city.  I got into cycling while we were living on the east-side and fell in love with the Sammamish River Trail. Unfortunately, the closest trail is the Burke and I’m trying to build up the courage to get further along in the city on two wheels. I just need to figure out how to avoid getting freaked out by cars and stop signs.

Survived my first bike ride in the city.

Survivor!

5.  The blender that will change your life. And your pocketbook. But seriously, we love our  Vitamix. It’s made us adventurous in our recipes and healthy too! So far, we’ve been on three weeks of green-smoothies!   I can’t wait to share more about how we’re using it in a later post! Be sure to check back!

The Vitamix

The Vitamix

6. Care packages from Hawaii. This box of goodies arrived from back home as a thank you. Nothing says “homesick’ that the good stuff.

Love the Naito's!

Love the Naito’s!

7. Patty’s Eggnest. This breakfast joint is a must-stop experience in Seattle. We only stumbled upon this “classic” when we moved in. I’d say more people commented on Patty’s then our home. But who’s counting? I’m not, especially when you get this grub for $8!

Patty's Eggnest

Patty’s Eggnest

8. New Mattress. It’s a long story. But after not being able to get our boxspring up the stairs, our mattress was  on the hard-floors for nearly 4 months. We finally bit the bullet and invested in a new mattress from Macy’s. Let’s just say this bed has changed my life and my back.

New Mattress!

New Mattress!

9. My new twin. This four year old is amazing. Brilliantly sharp, sweetest heart, obedient, hysterical, and OMG all around awesome. I could go on. We were meant to be soul-mates. I mean, seriously, who plans outfits like this in advance? Need I say more?

My new best friend.

My new best friend.

10.  The Pet we never asked for. Herbert. There’s quite  a funny background to this highlight. Be sure to catch it and his friend, “The Gnome” here.

Speechless.

Speechless.

11. SUP Yoga. This is the second event I survived this month. I’m sure that says something. In all seriousness, Katie and I signed up through Groupon for three sessions. Today was our first session and we made it!  We have SUP boards and love it but let me be honest, adding the yoga element brings a whole new definition to the word, “balance.” We can’t wait for our next classes!

Surf Ballard

Surf Ballard

12. Greenwood Fair and Car Show. This was the first time we’ve ever attended, even after living here for 13 years!  There were so many great cars and people. We even got to hang out some with some locals from Hawaii who have their own VW bug club. I’m secretly wishing that we can get in regardless of the fact that I am Hawaiian but don’t look like it and Kyle is a haloe. Who knows? Maybe I need to bust out by family tree.

Taking "shut the front door" a bit too literal.

Taking “shut the front door” a bit too literal.

14. Surprise reunion! These peeps are some of our faves and they just got back from China. Needless to say, we were shocked to run into each other at Naked City while checking out the Greenwood Car show. I guess great minds think alike when it’s hot and you just need a beer.

The Boedeckers!

The Boedeckers!

15. My surprise office! Kyle is the best at keeping secrets and my office decor was no match for this tight-lipped hubby of mine.  Read the ‘surprise that ends all surprises’ here!

Completed Mur Decal DIY by Kyle.

Completed Mur Decal DIY by Kyle.

16. Friends. It’s great to be back in Seattle and catch up with dear friends. Living on the eastside made it so difficult to maintain and keep up with those closest to us. I know, it was only 45 mins away but you’d be surprised what that extra time does to your relationships!  Times like these are the confirmation that we made the right decision to move back.

Love this girl!

Love this girl!

Finally, I’m excited to share that for the month of July, there will be a series of guest bloggers who will be sharing their customer service experiences here! Stories will range from the good, the bad, and the ugly. But one thing is true, is that it happened and it happened to these people. Be sure to check back over the course of July and comment, like, and give your thoughts on what customer service should be like!

The gifts that keep on giving

The school year has recently ended and all things summer has officially kicked into high gear. Less rush hour traffic, sun-drenched days, and trying to figure out what to do with gifts from Kyle’s kids. You see each year Kyle’s students and parents send him home with ‘tokens’ of thanks.  I love seeing what Kyle comes home with, especially when it involves sharing them with me– ahem– starbucks gift cards!

This year was no exception. Though there were no Starbucks gift cards we lucked out with two gifts that will keep on giving.  First is, The Gnome. It’s the cutest little plant/person that sits on our kitchen window sill and keeps me company while trying to figure out what new green-smoothie recipe I want to concoct in our Vitamix.  Though this Santa-like person is a ‘low-maintenance’ gift, I still feel pressured to keep it alive. So far, so good.

Meet "The Gnome" aka watcher of all things green.

Meet “The Gnome” — watcher of all things green.

 

The second is what I call the “high-maintenance” gift.  And no, the fish isn’t a part of a ‘class-owned’ pet. We’re officially pet-owners. If I knew his students were going to be gifting us with something so “permanent” I would have put in a request for a puppy. I mean, we did have to come up with a name, buy food, cleaning supplies, and a ‘bowl’ for it. Unfortunately, the large stemless wine glass that came with it was promptly discouraged by another fellow student who declared it inhumane. So I guess we technically have three gifts.

Homeless Herbert

Homeless Herbert

 

Kyle insisted on naming it which meant we were keeping it. However, that week was insane with my freelance gig, Kyle ending school, graduations to attend, and so forth. Neither of us had time to make it to the pet store and get food or a bowl for him. I hate to admit this but Herbert was not only homeless but starving as well. He didn’t eat for three days.  To make matters worse, we found out there is a Petco a mile or so from our home. So technically, we could have made ‘the trek’ to get some food.  Whoops! Dare I mention we want to get a dog? #epicfail

My only requirement for making Herbert homeless to permanent was that his bowl HAD to match my fave Crate and Barrel candle holders, especially since the only place for him to live is next to the TV. So an atrocious fish bowl was out of the question. And Petco pulls through again! Check out Herbert’s new digs!

 

The new digs

The new digs

 

Though we’re having to put a bit more effort into keeping things alive around here, I actually really enjoy having Herbert and The Gnome around. Granted having to remember to feed the fish is a bit more challenging, but it’s forcing us into a habit should we get a dog. I doubt a dog will be as gracious and silent as Herbert is when we forget to feed it.