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The Official Baldrige Blog

This is a two-part blog, each about just one day. Part A Just one day.... after four weeks of examiner training ended for 2013 it happened. I had a customer service experience that would have made a great story for the customer service tales I usually recount at our Wednesday evening sessions.

My wife and I frequently buy our poultry at a butcher that has fresh chicken and turkey products, naturally fed, etc. We went this past Saturday and made a purchase for $29.22. We gave the service person our credit card and wondered when she called the owner over to the credit card machine. He subsequently came over to us and apologized profusely that the "2 key" sticks on their machine and we had inadvertently been charged $22,292.22. The service person had not checked until the charge was accepted and the receipt printed. They immediately entered a credit for the same amount, but they thought we may want to call the credit card company while in the store, in case there were any questions they had to answer.

One might first wonder why the charge was even accepted by the bank. People don't generally spend $22,000 at the butcher; it certainly was an unusually high single purchase for us; and, as we later found out, put us over our credit limit. Nevertheless, when we called, after five minutes on hold, the first thing I was asked was why did I agree to the purchase. I countered that they have questioned less unusual purchases in the past before approving them and that I had never agreed to the purchase, that this all happened before the merchant ever told me about the error. I was informed by the bank that the purchase appears immediately, but that credits take two days to process and therefore I was being billed an "over limit" charge. After much complaining, I was transferred to the security department and then a supervisor in that department. The butcher got to talk to all of them as well.

After an hour (including when they inadvertently disconnected us, so we had to start over) I believe all is finally resolved and we will supposedly not receive any over limit charge. I don't have room here to tell all the gory details, but you would certainly be amused at our banking system foibles. The good news is that I now have the cell number (in case of any issues) of my new best friend, the butcher, and he was so embarrassed and concerned that the meat was given to us as a gift!

Part B Just one day... a few days from now, I will sign the final papers and be retired after 40 years at NIST and 21 years with Baldrige. Just one day, like any other. But what a day of change...not a good-bye, just a change. After a mandatory (government rules) month away, pending government approval, I plan on returning to NIST on an intermittent appointment in the NIST Director's office. In addition I would have the opportunity, as Director Emeritus, to help the new Baldrige Program Director in a support role. I also look forward to having the privilege of continuing to interact with all my friends and colleagues in the Baldrige community.

In the interim, and after returning, I will spend more time with grandchildren and family, hopefully do some teaching, and relax a little more. The past 21 years have been a true delight and privilege. The privilege to work with and represent all of you is more than I could have ever dreamed. I am thankful for the most warm and supportive colleagues in the Baldrige staff. I have been amazed by the dedication and outpouring of love from the Baldrige volunteers and Award recipients. And I have been doubly blessed by a loving wife and family who have been  there for me at every turn. So, just for a day....I say good-bye, recognizing that saying good-bye is necessary before you can say hello again. And meeting again whether in a month or a year, is a certainty for friends. Bless you all!

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences...

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Harry, It has indeed been a pleasure to experience your leadership. Even though I am no longer an active member of the Board of Examiners, over the past 15 years, I have been an active advocate and ambassador for the program, currently serving on the Board of Directors for the California Council for Excellence and our CAPE program. Best wishes to you in your retirement..............until you return again to active duty. David Blanco
Harry, Never say good-bye - always say "see you later". Happy Retirement! and very happy that you will be staying around some more as Director Emeritus. Your counsel is always genuine and appreciated. Plus I will get to the pleasure of adding a few more grey hairs your way. Best Wishes, Thom
Harry - I think the most appropriate term is "see you later". Maybe even forget it's a government rule, but take it as a "vacation from Baldrige" for a month off. And then we'll see you back again, somehow. So, see you later! Have fun with the grand-kids. Jon
Harry, Best wishes for you and your family! I'm quite certain we'll see you around. Wrap your arms around that family stakeholder...they've earned it and so have you! Kim
Harry, Best wishes....and thank you for all that you have done and contributed to the Baldrige program and our country over these many years. Your contributions have been invaluable. See you around. Pat
Thank you for your leadership and your unwavering commitment to advancing performance excellence in the United State, Harry. It has been a true pleasure working with you all of these years, and as others have already said: we'll see you later. Brian
Harry, You will be a very hard act to follow. Your leadership, wisdom, wit, and humor have enhanced the experience of many of us involved with the Baldrige Program. I'm very glad that your hiatus from NIST will be so brief. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future. All the best on this part of your own performance excellence journey, Kay
Harry, Best wishes to you and your family for a most enjoyable retirement. I will miss your bits of wisdom. Nancy Timmons
I have always looked forward to read your blog - which highlights the finer points of Journey through the maze of continuous improvement. You seem to be retiring fully contended with your work with NST and Baldrige - which speaks highly of the two organizations as well as your dedication to them. In India, Baldrige is not widely known in the SME sector and we, as Management Consultants, always make it a point to introduce the concepts promoted by Baldrige - directly or indirectly. The examples you site in your Blogs help us make our points clearer to our clients. So a humble request - keep writing - there are many who would serach your words and thank you from the bottom of our heart. Best wishes for the next part of your journey! Vinod K Mehandru
Part A: I'm glad that you were able to sort this out - and yes, it's quite a story about customer service - both the butcher and the credit card company. What gets me though, is though you didn't do anything wrong, could conceivably 'pay' for this error long after it occurred. You mentioned that it took you over your credit limit - I can imagine a cascading series of events, the runway train, the nightmare of having to rebuild your credit after a lifetime of making all the right choices. People with fewer resources, less time and education would be stymied by the runaround and find themselves in an awful maze that might be difficult if not impossible to get out of. Imagine going to buy a car for your work across town to feed your children, and then you find out, much to your chagrin that the loan isn't approved, because of that customer service glitch a few short weeks ago. As I am new to the NIST Baldridge community, this experience reminds me of the impact on people, in additon to improving business processes, quality, and on it goes. A small mistake could have significant ramifications and impact – particularly those unintended consequences. Part B: Unlike many who read this blog, this is the first time I have heard your name and imported your words. I like what I am reading! But it’s at the end of your formal career. No matter – your story and experience has touched me, and it resonates as much as if we worked together on a project. That’s more than one can ask for – to be connected to someone who has made a difference regardless where they are on their path. Thanks for sharing with us! - Randy Fisher Ottawa, Canada
From Oklahoma, best wishes to you, and yes, I have discovered, there is life after retirement! Readjustment for use of your time will be a challenge, but will bless your family, friends, and present and future colleagues. I hope to continue reading your observations about real life experiences relating good quality and those where quality is lacking. Is it only my observation, or is the quality of life degenerating in our grand country??? I see more and more areas where quality pays the price for less than stellar organizational, systemic, and functional delivery of products and services.

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