Claudia Schiepers

New York holiday
May 27, 2009, 8:25 pm
Filed under: New York

If you are looking for a recession proof holiday in New York, look no further! I'm subletting my apartment until the end of August, so if you are interested, give me a shout.
150 USD/night or if you take it for longer than a week, the price goes down to 3,500 USD/month.
More info of the apartment here, but if you contact me directly, there is no agency fee!

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Aldo, how to deal with unsatisfied customers
May 22, 2009, 7:27 pm
Filed under: New York

A few days ago I posted a rant on this blog after a horrible experience at the local Aldo store in Queens (about 3 minutes walk from my new home). Yesterday I received an email via my Facebook account from Mr. M. V., district sales manager for Aldo in Queens. I quote from his mail:

I just read your blog post about your experience there on Sunday.
I'm really embarrassed.

I work really hard to train and motivate people to offer a great shopping experience.
feedback was really disappointing to read – especially since in a
crowded store – you weren't the only customer poorly serviced on that
The experience you had in the store is totally ridiculous and I'd like to be able to make it up to you – if you'll let me.

He continues his mail by offering me a 50% discount on the shoes I bought and a plea to let me have him personally restore my image of the Aldo store. (Not sure what he means by that!)

I have to say that at first I was a little bit shocked that my rant made it to someone in Aldo (and then I was a little bit proud that it did…).

Mr. V, thank you for your kind response. You could have chosen to simple ignore it, but you didn't. I appreciate that you find it important enough to try and change my opinion of the brand you work for, especially since I am just one of many, many customers worldwide. I have to say that it worked. I will not stop shopping at your store and every time I go there, I will think of the how you went out of your way to try and make up for my bad experience.

I did buy the shoes back then and I love them (even though they hurt like hell, like all gorgeous shoes). Thank you for offering to pay me back 50% of them, but I cannot accept your offer. I didn't start this rant in the hope of getting something out of it. I'm just really glad it might prevent another customer from experiencing the same.

Have a nice holiday weekend everyone.

May 22, 2009, 7:07 pm
Filed under: New York

My drum teacher has a band… check them out. Can't wait to start my lessons again as soon as I figure out the job situation…

Aldo, how not to deal with customers
May 17, 2009, 9:55 pm
Filed under: New York

I always liked shoe-shopping at Aldo. It is one of those trendy shoe shops with lots of modern, hip, cool looking shoes at decent prices. Not the world's best quality, but that's ok if the style is nice and the price is affordable. 

I changed my mind today…

At the Elmhurst shopping mall in Queens (it's huge!), there is an Aldo, just like in all the nice malls in the United States. Like all hip stores, the staff on the weekend exists mostly of youngsters, probably still in college/school trying to make an extra buck. That's all fine with me as long as they do their job. In a shoe store that means finding the shoes you want in your size and taking away the boxes of shoes that people don't want. With all respect to shoe shop staff, it's really not that difficult.

While walking into the Aldo today, we noticed immediately that the store was a complete mess. Boxes and shoes everywhere on the benches and on the floor. There were quite some people in the store, but it was not extremely busy at all. I could tell, because four of the sales clerks were having a laugh in the corner with each other while taping a discount sign on the back of one of their colleagues without him noticing. I'm all about having some fun with your co-workers but there were at least 3 customers trying to get help from them.

Finally I found someone willing to help me find the shoes I liked. It turned out she was the manager. While literally dumping the boxes in front of me, she started yelling at the other staff to clean up their mess of shoes, but nobody even looked her way. Everybody was still snickering over the dude with the sign on his back.

I started trying on the shoes I liked and the one pair I really wanted only had the left shoe in the box. So I beckoned someone over asking him to get me the other shoe but all he answered was: "Who was helping you!" Now, when I say asking, I actually mean biting my nose off…
I almost answered: "You are, you dick head", but the manager saw my face and came to the rescue.

After loving both shoes on my feet, I went to the cash register to pay and the girl behind the counter asked me who was helping me. I pointed to the manager and said: "She was the one… she was actually the only one in the whole store helping anyone!" The girl laughed and said: "Well, she IS the manager!" 
I think it was one of those rare moments where even I didn't know what to answer.

We finally left and on the way out I saw that the manager finally figured out why her complete staff was having fun and not helping anyone. She moved behind the dude with the sign, read it and buckled over laughing…

I still like the shoes at Aldo, but I don't think I'll be going to any of their stores any time soon. I don't mind paying a little bit more if I get a friendly service and a clean store. Otherwise, I might as well do all my shopping online.

May 5, 2009, 5:45 pm
Filed under: New York

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a cake decorating class at the famous French Culinary Institute in New York. Every Saturday (for 5 weeks) we get trained for five hours on making a great cake (and lots of chocolate buttercream of course). The teacher, Chef Cynthia, has her own cake decorating business and from looking at her website, she is quite good at it too. 

Although it's difficult for me to adapt to the classroom situation again (with the apparently prerequisite teacher's pets, suck-ups and being treated like a kid), I'm really enjoying the tips and tricks of how to make these beautiful cakes. Even though the demos are quite long, we do get a lot of time to try everything out ourselves. And being in the Institute means that we have all the professional equipment (and funny outfits) we need to do the baking, mixing, whisking etc. (that does require some creative thinking when doing it at home…) 
Cake decorating is pretty much without limits. The more tools you have, the crazier you can go. That's why I love the guys from the TV show Ace of Cakes, where they really make every cake into something special.
The goal in my class is to make a 3-tier cake by the end of the 25 hours, fully decorated. The first tier is real cake, the 2 other tiers are dummies, but decorated with fondant and icing. Our designs were due last week and although most of my classmates went for the traditional piping and flowers, I decided to make a birthday cake for Mike. And let's just say he is not the flowers kind of guy. So, my influence for the design was his love for drumming and hard core metal music… Below the design and in two weeks I'll show you what the end result looks like! 


April 30, 2009, 3:48 pm
Filed under: New York

In a few weeks/months (depending on the contractor!) my official new zip code will be 11373. Here are some interesting bits about my new neighborhood:

– 105,723 people live here (measured in 2000) in 34,219 homes 
– Of all people over 15 years old, 50% is married
– 17.6% of the population in 11373 have an income below the poverty line but the estimated median house/condo value in 2007 was 518,893 USD
– On average, if you are a white family household, your house is worth 465,567 USD, if you are Hispanic, your house is worth 503,373 USD, if you are Asian, it's 480,827 USD and if you are African American, it's 502,741 USD.
– The average income is 47,049 USD/year
– The median age is 33.6 years (New York State = 35.9)
– 59% takes the subway to work, 17% takes a car alone and 7% walks
– 70.6% (!) is born outside of the US of which 15% are born in China
– 355 people are in a home for the mentally ill
– 11373 is the most diverse zip code in the USA. Some of the first ancestries reported are:
Other Groups: 78061
Italian: 3303
Irish: 2129
USA: 1492
German: 988
West-Indian: 883
Arab: 671
Greek: 604
Haitian: 497
English: 323
French: 300
… (skipping a few)
Dutch: 79
African: 73
European: 64
… (skipping a few again)
Maltese: 7
Other Subsaharan African: 7
And last but not least: BELGIAN! : 8

I'm gonna feel right at home here.

April 21, 2009, 5:51 pm
Filed under: New York

For the last 2 months, Mike and I have been trying to redecorate his apartment in Queens before I move in. Some big works (completely new bathroom, knock down a wall) and some do-it-yourself stuff (painting, scraping, sanding, moving).

I forgot to take pictures before we started doing the work, but I made these two videos with about half of the work done. You can see the half painted living room, the kitchen after we knocked down the wall, the new bathroom with the missing sink/vanity, the almost completely finished bedroom and the finished hobby room, now serving as a storage until the end of the works.

As soon as the contractor shows up again (he has been missing for 2 weeks now) and the bathroom is done, I'll post a video of the after.

And maybe another video one once my stuff is moved in and everything is organized. Not sure when that will be as I still have my apartment in Manhattan until August and I might rent it out furnished for a few months or to vacationers.

Let me know what you think.