Sunday, April 18, 2010

Giving Back . . . The YWCA of Bergen County

In my latest newsletter, I talk about the importance of "giving back" and I mention that one of my charities of choice is the YWCA of Bergen County, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. I'd like to share some more about who they are and what they do and why I have been so involved with them.

Those of you who know me well know that I am Jewish. So six years ago, when I came home and excitedly told my husband "I've been elected to the board of the YWCA of Bergen County!", his response was, "You do know what the 'C' stands for, don't you?" (He at least got that it was a separate organization from the YMCA, it's all because we don't have a silly song!)

As I explained to him, the YWCA is so much more than that. The mission statement is: "the YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all." A lot more than a gym and a swimming pool, isn't it?In Bergen County, the YWCA runs the Rape Crisis Center, which has a 24/7 hotline and provides counseling and other services for victims of sexual violence (female and male) and their families. The YWCA is the largest provider of childcare in Bergen County with early childhood programs that provide care for infants and toddlers, nursery school, and full-day kindergarten and school age programs that provide before and after school care and summer camps. There are two main locations -- the facility they share with the YMCA of Ridgewood (which is where the gym, pools, etc., are located) and offices in Hackensack (which is where the Rape Crisis Center is located).

I have helped to start two different committees that support YWCA activities, both of which include staff, board members, and community members. The first is the Public Relations and Marketing Committee. This group works with the YW's Director of PR and Marketing to develop marketing materials, programs, and provide other support. Ranging from brainstorming ideas for the "Y the W Makes a Difference" campaign to reviewing department and program business plans, committee members offer their expertise to help the YW.

The second is the Advocacy Committee. The YW of Bergen County is part of NERC (Northeast Regional Council), which has a very strong advocacy program. At both the state and regional level, advocacy issues are selected each year. This year's issues include: Child Care and Youth Development -- after school and preschool availability and funding; Economic Advancement -- pay equity; Racial Justice -- equity in education; Violence Against Women -- a.) domestic and sexual violence and b.) sexting; Reproductive Health; and Supportive Housing. We are working with the other NJ YWCA's, other NJ organizations, and our federal, state, and local legislators on these important issues. We will be working with our community throughout Bergen County to raise awareness of these issues.

How did I first get involved with the YWCA? In 1981, when I was working in the corporate world, my company selected me to be honored at the YW's TWIN dinner. TWIN (Tribute to Women & INdustry) is an annual program, started at the YWCA of Bergen County in 1974, that honors women for significant contributions to their companies and recognizes companies for providing women opportunities for advancement. Many companies in northern NJ participate in this program -- since its start more than 1,800 women and 200 companies have participated. And the program has spread to YW's around the country. Over the years I was involved with the TWIN alumni group. I edited their newsletter and served on their board. And that led to my joining the board of the YWCA.

So visit the web site, check out the Facebook fan page, and see how the YWCA of Bergen County has evolved over the past 90 years.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why Is It So Hard to Change My E-mail Address?

Recently we changed our Internet provider (see April 4 blog post). As part of the change, I opened multiple gMail accounts to replace old ATT accounts. Which meant going through the various e-mails I receive and letting the senders know that my e-mail address was changing.

Dealing with friends and family was easy -- I sent out e-mails with the new information. Done. But then there were the various e-mails from businesses, charitable organizations, and others. Some were easy -- they use Constant Contact, which makes it easy to change your e-mail address. That is if the sender has included that option. (Why would you not include that option?) Even some of the non-Constant Contact e-mails had a link to click to change my e-mail profile.

But some, actually many, were hard. As required under the Federal anti-SPAM law, all of the e-mails had a place to click to opt-out or unsubscribe, but very few had a place to click to change the e-mail address. Sometimes when you clicked on the opt-out link, it gave you the option of changing your profile. But sometimes it simply unsubscribed you, and I never knew which would happen until I clicked the link. Sometimes, in order to change my e-mail profile, I had to remember my user name and password. Okay, that makes sense for my bank and for my credit card, but for PetSmart? And sometimes the message I got was, thank you for the update, it may take four to five days (or even longer) for it to take effect. Excuse me, it takes your computer how long to make a change?

So I changed the ones that were easy to change. As far as the others -- if it was an e-mail I really wanted to continue to get, I made the effort to figure out how to change it. But for the others -- if I couldn't figure out how to easily change the e-mail address, then bye-bye, so long, guess I won't be getting your e-mails anymore.

From a marketing point of view, why would any company want to make it hard for a customer to receive e-mails? Don't they want to advertise to me? Don't they want me to buy stuff from them? And don't they realize that if they don't make it easy, I just might not care. I might not even notice if their e-mails stop showing up. If you send e-mails to customers (future, current, past), make it easy for them to update their e-mail profiles. You don't want to lose them.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bye-bye, ATT Worldnet! Hello Verizon (Only It's Not That Simple!)

I always knew that our ATT DSL (powered by ATT Worldnet) was different than the rest of the ATT Internet world, but I didn't realize that was a problem until last November when we got an e-mail from ATT saying that changes were coming. I assumed that meant we'd get swept into the bigger ATT family, enjoy the lower rates I saw advertised, and even have access to ATT WiFi hotspots. Silly me!

At the beginning of March the e-mail arrived -- "Action Required!Discontinuation of ATT Worldnet and ATT DSL Services: As mentioned in a previous communication, we are streamlining our Internet services to offer you an even better Internet experience. As part of that effort, ATT Worldnet Service and ATT DSL Service will no longer be available as of March 31, 2010." And they gave two options for keeping your ATT e-mail account. First was switch to Covad DSL service, which made some sense as they were actually the company supplying the DSL under the ATT name. Second option was "You can move your DSL service to ATT Dial Internet service which will also allow you to keep your Internet account with ATT — including your email, email IDs, and settings, plus many of the same features you enjoy today."

Switch to dial-up? And this was going to provide an even better Internet experience how? After I stopped laughing, I started exploring the options. For what we needed, Verizon DSL had the lowest price and offered access to Verizon WiFi hotspots around the country. So I called Verizon to arrange the switch. The nice person I spoke with was happy to enroll us as Verizon DSL customers, except for one little problem. They couldn't place the order for our Verizon DSL until our ATT DSL was disconnected -- and there could be a gap of three to four days while we waited for the Verizon installation kit to show up. (I couldn't understand why they couldn't send me the kit, wait for me to cancel the ATT DSL, and then connect the Verizon DSL). But, good news, because we have a second phone line, the Verizon DSL could be installed on that line. And then, once the ATT DSL was gone, we could always switch back to the main line.

So that's what we did. Which led to me having to track down a splitter so I could set up the telephone jack on the first floor (where the modem and router were plugged in) for the second phone line (which, at the time, was only available on the second floor in my office). I went on-line and looked at the diagrams of phone jacks to figure out how to change the first floor jack, which, because it was a wall jack, looked nothing like the diagrams. And I wound up giving up and putting the new Verizon modem in my office, where, with only minor trial and tribulation, I was able to set-up our new Verizon internet account. Meanwhile, we opened several Gmail accounts and started notifying our contacts that we were changing e-mail addresses. (That is another whole story which I will talk about another time.)

We were now in final countdown mode, less than a week to go. And I still hadn't figured out how to get the new modem and existing router connected to the second line from the first floor jack (no space in my office for the router and the modem!) That's when I realized we'd been paying Verizon a vast amount of money each month for "wire maintenance". Perhaps I could make use of that and have a Verizon technician change the jack to receive both lines. The entire phone call with Verizon service was done with their chirpy computer voice, but we did have an appointment for the following Monday to "service a problem with a line or jack". The fact that the appointment was for sometime between 8 am and 9 pm just added to the silliness (as I told everyone, if he showed up after 6 pm, I'd just invite him to join the Seder). And we received two different computer-generated phone calls to confirm the appointment and make sure we'd be available. I actually expected a robot to ring the doorbell, rather than the real live technician who showed up around 10:30 am. Who called the house first to announce that he was outside in his truck and after collecting his equipment, he'd be at the door. The technician was very nice and very friendly. Turns out the jack was already set up for two lines, but a change had to be made in the junction box in the basement (something I never would have figured out). In just a few minutes, he had it all set to go. He also didn't understand the problem with going from ATT to Verizon DSL -- Verizon basically runs all of ATT's equipment anyway.

So now it's Tuesday, March 30 -- we're down to the wire. I brought the modem, my laptop, and various instruction books for Verizon and our Linksys router downstairs. I'd previously downloaded the Linksys router wizard onto the laptop and I was ready to switch things over. I unplugged the ATT modem. I followed the various instructions for the order to plug in the Verizon modem, the router, the laptop, etc., etc. I entered user id's and passwords, I watched the Linksys router wizard try to connect to the Internet, and try to connect to the Internet, and try to connect to the Internet. Hmm, maybe I hadn't entered the correct information. So I called Verizon, where I got a technician who was thrilled to help me until he found out it wasn't a Verizon router. He did offer to give me the phone number for Linksys and he did, grudgingly, confirm that I was using the correct user id and password. So I called Linksys, where I was connected to a very nice technician. I agreed to let her have remote access to my computer and away we went. Turned out the router and the modem had the same IP address; with her help, the IP address for the router was changed, and . . . we were connected to the Internet. (She was even nice enough, after she heard me coughing, to ask if I was sick and when I told her I had a bad cold she asked if I was taking my medicine.)

 But now it's April 4 and guess what? I still have ATT service -- e-mails sent to all of our old ATT e-mail addresses are still arriving, in spite of the messages that said as of March 31 it would all disappear. I guess I will have to break down and call ATT and find out what's going on. If you don't see me for a few days, you'll know I'm on hold with ATT.