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“We’re reaching out to you, Dr. Lant.”. Nagging problems and irritating gobbledegook at Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, the titan that just doesn’t get it.


Author’s program note

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

If you’re one of the handful of folks who believes customer service is
better today than at any time you care to name, read this article carefully,
because you’re deluded; thinking no doubt that “say representative”
isn’t the beginning of the cruel and usual punishment that it is.

As for the rest of you, you’re gonna be mighty glad I wrote this, since you’ve
taken it long enough and should distribute these sentiments to anyone
everywhere who has been insulted by these fighting words, “We’re reaching out
to you…”

For the music I have chosen for this article a little ditty by protest songster Malvina
Reynolds (1900-1978). I must confess from the eminence of my penthouse across
the street from Harvard Law School and a lifetime of preppified clothes whose style
never changes, never mind I am now a bit long in the tooth for my undeniable
chic; I must confess, I say, that Malvina has never been and will likely never be
one of my favorite chanteuses. Her visage (and please understand that am merely
stating the obvious, passing no judgement whatsoever) resembles something
adorning Notre Dame de Paris. Her voice is like a frog aspiring to greatness….
la toute ensemble distresses me who grew up with a stylish mother for whom the
strict code of Chanel answered every fashion question.

But then there are Malvina’s words and they overawe every reservation…  I have
often said and insisted my students understand (particularly those who aspire to
gain points by proclaiming they intend to become writers, “like you Dr. Lant” ) that
a good writer must have rage, for only the forge of rage produces truth, the rarest
commodity on Earth, and the real reason our civilization is on death watch.

Malvina hath rage… and that is why I have returned to her frequently over these
fifty years, although I often wish she would iron her clothes before each
performance and put just a dollop of Coty behind each ear.

I was going to select as the official song for this article, Malvina’s catchy thrust
“Boraxo”. It’s got just the peppy tune we need to get up and at ’em. But the chorus,
while apropos, goes just a hair farther than this incident warrants. We’re talking
after all about stupidity, insensitivity, and  cluelessness after all, not murder. See
for yourself by finding the song in any search engine. “It’s all right, it’s all right/ Tho
you’ve had your hands in blood up to the elbow/ You can always wash them clean
with Boraxo… And your conscience is washed clean with Boraxo”.

Instead I have chosen her grim ballad “The Money Crop” with its sharp,
unrelenting message for sharp, unrelenting capitalists all suave insincerity,
helpful only by accident, reaching out in phrase only.

“Well, money has its own way/ And money has to grow/ It grows on human blood
and bones/ As any child would know… And those who take the money crop/
Are avid without end.”

Some Background.

You should know I am no troublemaker, never have been.  I am of the live-and-let-
live temperament. But I can and do rail against people who are put in positions
of authority and either can not or will not do jobs for which they’re being paid,
complaining the while that pay is insultingly inadequate, a joke, when it’s they
who are insultingly inadequate, a joke.

You should know I have been a customer of Guardian Life Insurance Company
of America for a long, long time; think decades, not just years. I am, if I do say
so myself, an ideal customer. Conservative, no axes to grind, contacting them
only when I have timely and appropriate business at hand.

Being that I have no children, no wife, no former wives, no ball and chain or
other obstacles to consider, I use GIAC as a slush fund for acquisitions for my
art collection where J.P. Morgan’s celebrated quotation applies, “If you
have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

On that basis I have created a celebrated collection where I scatter my money
with joy, exaltation and often breathless audacity and sang froid. My policy at
Guardian has been a help in achieving my lifetime objective…until just the other
day when a passel of “customer service” representatives destroyed a
relationship that had been good for all.

Here are the facts, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Your Honor.
I hope every employee at Guardian reads this and feels ashamed to know the good
work of many is destroyed by the ineptitude of a few, still a few too many.

If you have never borrowed money from an insurance company, you may not
know that doing so is easy. You simply complete a short form which you can
these days download from the net, or call customer service to have the form
mailed by post, faxed, or emailed. Completion of the form should take twenty
minutes, not more… This, I say, is the theory of the matter. But Guardian has
manned its portals with people who have turned something straightforward
and smooth into an exercise in bumble and muddle. Let’s see how they did it.

“No, you don’t need a medallion.”

I called GIAC, was on hold for the regulation 15-20 minutes; so common an
irritation it scarcely bears mentioning. In due course a representative responded
and emailed me the necessary form. Everything was clear… maybe. I particularly
noted the section that dealt with the medallion signature guarantee.

Simply called “the medallion”, it is a special signature guarantee for the transfer
of securities. It is a guarantee by the transferring financial institution that
the signature is genuine and the financial institution accepts liability for any
forgery. The form was clear that the sum to be transferred was not sufficient
to require a medallion. Now, I am an old fox wary and battle scarred. Thus I
made a point of confirming, not just once either, that I did NOT require a
medallion for this transaction. I was assured, not just once either, that I did
NOT require a medallion.

And so I popped the finished form in the mail. This should have concluded the
matter but of course it didn’t.

I received a call from GIAC (later confirmed in writing) that the form I submitted
had inadequate information; it needed a… medallion; the reason given that my
signature didn’t match the signature of my last transaction. I would have to
trek up to my bank and start all over again. Yes, I was beginning to smoulder.

Of course things only got more and more disorganized, more and more
provoking. They told me I’d filled out the wrong form altogether; never mind
THEY supplied the form in the first place. They said at my plea for some, any
knowledgeable authority to intervene and expedite that the matter had been
forwarded to “management”; you may imagine why I thought that would be
just another level of incompetence. And then the coup de grace…

“We are reaching out to you, Dr. Lant.”

Clearly the low-level moppets handling what was no longer a simple matter
of issuing a check had lost control of the situation, looked like fools and
acted like the Bank of Dogpatch. They needed help and didn’t know how to
get it.

What’s more the more they bumbled, the more certain my next move had to be.
I wanted a solution and cancelling my long-term account was now the rising
option. Predictably GIAC’s elite team could offer nothing better than “reaching
out”, infuriating because they, not I, needed the help… and needed it at once.
I needed the certainty that working with a significant financial institution should
provide. I got the Keystone Kops. Not good enough… not merely good enough
at all. And so I cancelled my account.

It should never have come  to this. But because it did and because
incompetence in one department at least suggests the possibility of
incompetence in another, I am not only sending this report to “management”,
starting with the president of this gang that can’t shoot straight, Deanna
M. Mulligan. More important I am asking every reader to pass this report on,
remembering that forewarned is forearmed.

Finally, most important of all, I herewith invoke the indominable Malvina Reynolds.
The song is “The Little Mouse”, and it should constitute must listening amongst
the high muketty-mucks at 7 Hanover Square, Manhattan.

“A little mouse got into the wires/ At the central clearing house in Buenas Aires/
One little mouse short circuited the computers….”

“So much for the electronic brains/ That run the world of banks and aeroplanes/
And if one little mouse can set them all awry/ Why not you and I?… Yes, you can
sue, or chew the wires through,” thereby truly becoming the formidable mouse
that roars. We need you!

About the Author

2016 is fast approaching and with it Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s 69th birthday. He is, he likes to
say, in the prime of his prime. Thus does the “scribbling” life he commenced at age
5 continue. Twenty books. Thousands of articles. Untold radio and television programs;
worldwide recognition and enthusiasm, all of which culminated in the publication of
his autobiography, “A Connoisseur’s Journey, being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck and joy”. It was a book that screamed “classic!”, and he has
delighted in the several awards that followed.

To get your copy go to www.writerssecrets.com. You will also want to join his writing
course and learn from this master communicator just how you can improve everything you ever write.

Listen in to a special reading by the award winning author Dr. Jeffrey Lant:




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Tips for blog and other non-fiction writers.

Do you have a need to write non-fiction articles for your blog, newsletter, or other purpose? Then you’ll find this article timely, apt, and practical. I am going to share some tips which have stood me in good stead… and should be most helpful for you.

My writing credentials.

I have been a published author now for nearly 60 years; my first non-fiction article appeared in the Downers Grove (Illinois) Reporter and was a look at the neighborhood through the eyes of a five year old. Since then, I have written 18 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of subjects. I also have taught expository writing at several colleges and universities, including Harvard. In the last year I have written over 200 non-fiction articles of about 1,500 words each. You could say, and you’d be right, that scribbling is in my veins.

1) Have a writing place, a room or even just a desk that’s used only for your writing.

Have you got a place now that’s dedicated to your writing and to nothing else? Probably not… and that’s your first problem. All serious writers (and by that I mean writers who are dedicated, productive and focused) know the importance of a room all their own, a room where the rest of the world is cordially not invited. In this space — sacrosanct to your craft — there is NOTHING else going on but what helps you write. These days that means a computer with at least a 36″ screen. The older you (and your eyes) are, the more you’ll appreciate the screen size.

Make it clear to all the world that they are not to touch, ever, a single thing in this space. ALL writers have idiosyncratic organizational systems. Whatever is yours must be for you and you alone.

2) Have standard reference books easily at hand.

Good writers have a good working library containing appropriate reference books. For instance, I have standard dictionaries in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German. I use them daily… and so must you. Good writers are expert are finding just the word they need… the dictionaries ensure they get it.

Note: Some, presumably younger, readers will argue that everything they need is available online. It may be a function of my age and habits, but I like the old paper dictionaries and other reference books. That may make me an anachronism… but a happy and productive one.

3) Set up a filing system.

You should have files for articles and books you intend to write. These files should contain ideas and research findings. Do not be casual or disorganized about these things; losing them could set you back days or weeks and is sure, at the very least, to leave you in a nasty temper.

You also need files for all the articles you have written. Such files will contain your notes and research data and a copy of the final article, as well as any fan letters you received (yes, you’ll get them) and other pertinent correspondence.

4) Have a handy place for all your writing supplies.

Writers need lots of supplies, including reams of paper, fax supplies, etc. You’ll need good pens, too, for editing. What you write online should always be printed out when it’s time to review what you’ve written.

5) Select your writing time and strictly adhere to it.

Seasoned writers are methodical writers. They set the exact time they intend to write, starting and concluding, and then proceed accordingly. In his must- read autobiography prolific Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope made it clear when he wrote and what he aimed to produce (250 words the quarter hour). He set the objective and then made sure he achieved it by being in his writing place at the set time… and focusing exclusively on his craft and output at that time.

6) Never take phone calls or other interruptions during your writing time.

Non-writers do not understand writers and our often curious ways; no, they never have and never will. That’s why they think of telephoning or even showing up during your essential writing time. Such people must be politely but firmly told that you never answer calls, etc. or attend to any other interrupting thing during that scheduled period. Life’s little interruptions are severely detrimental to what we must do, and we must be strict about controlling their access.

7) Write daily.

There isn’t a day that goes by, not Christmas, Thanksgiving or the 4th of July, that I don’t write. Thus, by adhering to a strict schedule, I produce about 325,000 publishable words each year. What’s important, however, is not the quantity of words produced but their consistent quality… and the fact that not a single day ends until the quota for that day is finished.

I live in an academic community where there are lots of experienced and even more aspiring writers. When one identifies himself to me, I always ask what he’s working on now, when he expects to finish it and when he finished his last writing project. The answers provide irrefutable proof as to whether the person in question is a writer… or merely a dreamer. Writers write… more importantly writers write daily.

8) Learn to use the search engines.

As a prolific writer, I spent in earlier years a great deal of time in libraries garnering necessary information. Nowadays, with up-to-the-minute data available online at your finger tips, I hardly ever set foot in such an archaic place. The key here is knowing how to use search engines, the “card catalogs” of the Web. Here are some tips:

  1. a) never limit your search to a single search engine. Different search engines can and do produce different results.
  2. b) never restrict yourself to one search term. Brainstorm different search queries; they will produce different results.
  3. c) Print the data and documents you discover as soon as you find them. What you find today may not be there when you return.
  4. d) Do your search engine researching during time you are not writing. Searching is not only necessary; it is actually fun and relaxing.

9) Set up a blog where you can showcase your work.

If you have a blog, use it. If you don’t, set one up at once as a useful place to showcase your work.

A blog gives you, unlike all previous writers, the opportunity to tell the world who you are and show them what you can produce. It should be well-written, simply but eye-catchingly presented, and always timely.

Last Words

Writers are special people; we have a privilege that most of the world can only imagine: the need, the obligation, the absolutely necessary task of seeking truth, contemplating what we find, then writing about it in the clearest, most honest way we can. In the process we touch people’s lives, inform them, change them, improve them. There is absolutely nothing more essential and more rewarding than that.

Now, with this article in hand, you are ready to perfect yourself as a writer and the process that produces just the words you want, just when you want them; for that is the last of today’s advice.To set a deadline for all your writing tasks… and stay focused so you achieve it…

… Which is what I have just done… finishing today’s article on time and the right length, too. In a few minutes it will be posted online, the next step to helping it wend its way to you. Thus we lucky scribblers change the world, one word, one article, one reader after another… people who make a difference every day and gladly so.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

For more excellent writing tips please accept a FREE Gift from Dr. Lant –

Get a FREE Copy of “How to Be a Writer Who Makes Money, Flies High and Dazzles the Folks Back Home. Oh Yeah!” by Dr.Jeffrey Lant Get Your FREE Copy CLICK HERE

* * * * *
About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books.

2016 is here and with it brings Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s 69 birthday. He is, he likes to

say, in the prime of his prime. Thus does the “scribbling” life he commenced at age

5 continue. Twenty books. Thousands of articles. Worldwide recognition and

enthusiasm, which culminated with the publication of his autobiography, “A Connoisseur’s Journey, being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck and joy”. It was a book that screamed “classic!”, and he delighted in the awards that followed.

To get your copy plus find his latest books, events and blog posts at

Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s Author Page at Author Central

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/author/jeffreylant/

. You will also want to join his writing course and learn from this master communicator just how you can improve everything you ever write at www.writerssecrets.co

Writers Secrets, an extraordinary online writer’s course of exquisite quality. Not just on writing but communicating, how to use words to move people, motivate, broaden horizons, build bridges and bring people together. There is a special emphasis on writing family stories to make your loved ones live again and soar!

Go to: http://writerssecrets.com