The Active Pack Hikes

I’ve been asked recently for some local hikes that are dog friendly. Here are a few that our pack goes on regularly.

In general I don’t go to the LA Mountains without another human for safety reasons. Plus I’d rather take my chances with the one mountain lion at Griffith, P-22, vs. all the critters you can find in our local mountains! For that reason most of these hikes aren’t in the mountain area BUT now there are a ton there that you can explore.

When in doubt two great hiking sites are:

Links can give you addresses to use in navigation.


  1. Runyon – This is a LEGAL off-leash Dog Adventure. We usually park at the top of Mullholand although you can start at the bottom in Hollywood as well. There are three main roads. The middle road is the paved and easiest. The Spine, or West Trail, is the hardest. Finally, the Stairs, or East Trail, is in between in difficulty. Don’t worry what you take. You can’t really get lost. Pick one way down and the other up! It’s clearly marked when you can take the pups off leash.
  2. Cherry Canyon – This is my new favorite set of trails just above Descanso Garden in La Canada. There are a couple trialheads but we usually use one of the two noted in the map below. There are a number of loops that you can add on to make any hike longer. If you get lost no biggie – just keep walking until you get to another loop. For reference keep an eye out for JPL, Descanso and the main entrance. Those are good markers. If you look toward the mountains and follow them to the right you will see the JPL buildings. The main entrance to the park is on the other side and is easy to spot since it has a big trail to it and a home sits near the main traihead. Finally you most likely passed Descanso Gardens to park. Just keep that in mind and it’s easy to spot their parking lot in places.

    cherry canyon

    The two parking areas we use at Cherry Canyon.

  3. Hahamongna – Park at the main Watershed park. From the lower parking lot (by the soccer fields) walk South toward Pasadena to do a loop around the actual watershed. At one point you can duck under a bridge and take a 4 mile trail to Cherry Canyon through the backyards of La Canada. OR you can go over Devil Gates Damn to the Upper Rose Bowl loop which adds a couple miles and is an easy enough path to follow around the main area of the  Rose Bowl golf course. — If you head North, toward JPL at the parking lot instead you can do that same loop backwards OR keep going past the JPL parking lot to an entire set of trails! (There is another place to park to get to these if you like them let me know and I’ll tell you where that is.)
  4. Eaton Canyon – Easy to get to and navigate and out and back to the waterfall. It’s more impressive when there is water so you have water crossings so keep that in mind.
  5. Deb’s Park – Sure you might find a dead body but it’s still a great set of trails and a wonderful view of LA! Park at the main park. The trailhead is near the back parking lot opposite the park.
  6. Echo Mtn – Head up Lake from the 210 and at the top before the street turns to the left you will see a traihead to the right. At the fork stay right. This will take you up to the ruins of the old hotel/resturaunt which is FASCINATING. If you have an enormous amount of energy after that you can keep going up to Inspiration Point.  It’s very cool but a long hike so energetic pups only and make sure you have water and some snacks.
  7. Elysian Park – Park at the Lodge and follow the others walking around there. There is a very cool (and easy) loop that takes you up above the lodge and around.
  8. Griffith Park – This is my main hiking location. I LOVE it. There are a ton of options. A friend found the BEST trail map so take a look at that and plan out a route (map link). Our main places to park are Mineral Wells Picnic Area, The Old Zoo, The Golf Course, The Greek, The Observatory, Fern Dell and The Merry Go Round. All the trails intersect so you can go long or short depending on your mood (3 versions of a loop with Amir’s Garden are shown as an example). MOST trails go up and down so expect elevation. Any trails on this map are good solid trails that are used by many. The only ones missing are two set of stairs going up to Amir’s Garden and part of the Old Zoo Loop. You can’t miss them when you see them though. I’ve highlighted a few of our hikes below. Note we don’t usually do the ones further North since those have more horse traffic and Riggins hates horses!Mount Bell Observatory - Bird Sanctuary Old Zoo Loop Capture Fern Dell - Observatory Loop Greek Theatre - Cedar Grove Greek Theatre - Observatory Hogback Trail Hollywood Sign - Bronson Caves Dantes - Mount Bell Capture Amir's Super Loop Amir's Loop plus amirs garden loop 5-points

When Riggins is Booked or Unavailable

IMG_7798If you don’t know, I am a dog sitter. I get a lot of requests asking who to use when Riggins and I are unavailable. This post is for those people. Everyone else can just move along!


Paws in Motion – This is a great service with a great team available for your pup. They will take your dog for a run during the day to poop him out! They do many of the same trails The Active Pack (that’s Riggins and me) do, but run them! Perfect for super active dogs.

Waggy Trails – Romeo’s (one of my sweetest pup clients) mom has started her own dog sitting business! She is available for walks — dogs of all sizes accepted.


Waggy Trails – Romeo and his mom are available for overnights — small breeds only.

You found me on DogVacay and I’m not the only great (if I do say so myself) host available. Here are a few other hosts that my clients have turned to when I’m not available (in no particular order). I like DogVacay because of the insurance available and the network that allows hosts options if they need to reach out for help. I always suggest setting up meets and greets with a number of hosts prior to your trip to see who is available and a great fit.

Full-Time Fun & Puppy Love in WeHo! (I’ve met 1/2 this team in person and swapped texts with the other half. They are a very caring couple that seem like great hosts.)

Nikko’s Secret Garden Another client turned sitter. Autumn and Nikko are wonderful and make great hosts.

Bark and Breakfast

Long Walks in Griffith Park

Echo Bark

Dog Angels and Pet Lovers Paradise

Tails and Trails

Doug’s Dogs

Fido’s Friendly Family (I’ve actually spoken to this host and she is very sweet.)

Active Home for Active Dogs

I’m sure there are many others through the DogVacay service. If you have had your pup stay with someone not listed and you had a positive experience let me know (or if you have had a negative experience with someone on this list) so I can keep this updated.

Of course your first choice should always be The Active Pack!


Photo by Lori Fusaro

Photo by Lori Fusaro

You haven’t heard from Riggins and me in a while. To be more accurate you haven’t heard from me. Riggins never writes anything on this blog. Such a slacker!

My lack of blogging doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say (I’m sure you weren’t too worried about that). While I’m over here getting my act together please check out these other sites that are overflowing with Wendy and Riggins-isms!

See you soon!

As an extra bonus pick up the last few issues of Dogster Magazine from your local pet store or newsstand. I write the Dog Cents article!

The Best Mardi Gras Masks

I just got back from New Orleans where I spent Mardi Gras with some of my good friends. Although I have visited the city numerous times I had never been to a Mardi Gras celebration(s) before. It was a new experience and I loved it. I wish I could live in Mardi Gras-land all the time. My liver does not.

Blue hair and gold mask!

Blue hair and gold mask!

When doing research on the festivities I realized I would be able to dress up EVERY DAY. I immediately did a happy dance and brought down my box of wigs. My biggest concern was that I didn’t have any Mardi Gras face masks. What’s a girl to do?


After spending some time on that wonderful web site called Pinterest I found this post – It looked easy enough. I had also learned that the cool and hip thing to do with this light masks is to glue them to your face vs. tie them on with a string. Gluing random objects to your face my scare other people but not me! If I’m going in, I’m going all in!

iphone 2_18 2015-02-13 057All the how to’s are on Sprinkles in Springs’ blog post but here are some of my tips … from someone who now knows —

* That mask template is for a child or toy doll. I have a small/skinny face and I still had to enlarge the picture before printing it out. I’d share that with you but I didn’t save it so you will have to re-do that work on your own.

* I had purchased glitter and wanted to make a zillion in every color I had so I laid out

Valentine's Day hair and mask.

Valentine’s Day hair and mask.

multiple templates together on my counter and just rolled the white tulle over it. Don’t do that. Cut a little square of tulle out for each mask. That will help keep it from sliding around too much.

* I tried to find other templates online so I could have a choice. It really wasn’t necessary since the one I had was perfect. Now I see that Sprinkle in Springs has posted more templates! If you are going to use the glue vs string attachment method just be careful of the masks that touch your hair. You can’t glue to your hair. I suppose you can but I suggest against it.

* The paint pen I used was fatter than what I would have liked. I think a skinnier point would have made for a more elaborate and delicate design. Mine mushed together a bit. It also didn’t help that I covered the ENTIRE THING in glitter. For reference the ones I made were all done with black paint pen. You can’t tell … all you can see is glorious glitter! I highly suggest you add glitter.

* After making a few masks I gave up because I didn’t think it was working. The next morning when the ones I had made were dry, I realized it had worked and they were glorious! Don’t fret too much if it doesn’t look all that great at first.

iphone 2_18 2015-02-14 044* You can make them – OR — You can go to the store Fluerty Girl in the French Quarter. They sell the masks there for $30. Seriously SAME EXACT MASKS …. SAME PATTERN …. EXACTLY THE SAME.

Now for the part that Sprinkles in Spring doesn’t talk about … the gluing.

To glue glitter and puffy paint tulle on your face you need to go purchase some eyelash glue. One little bottle of glue allowed me to glue on 3 masks. I probably could stretch it to 4 now that I know what I’m doing.

Lie the mask down on a table upside down. Using a q-tip put eyelash glue all over the iphone 2_18 2015-02-14 080back (If you have a tiny brush that would probably work better). Put the mask on your face by starting at the bridge of your nose and working out. You will have to hold each section down for a bit to get it to stick …. just like you would your eyelashes.

Once the mask is in place you can add glue to any areas that needs extra help. This seemed to happen most around my eyes and at the sides of my nose.

Now give it some time. You are going to feel weird and think I am just playing an elaborate joke on you. I’m not. It talks a little time to get use to. Let the glue fumes go away so your eyes don’t hurt (what we do for beauty and fun) and give yourself time to figure out facial expressions aren’t going to harm your mask.

See I wore non glue masks too ...

See I wore non glue masks too …

Believe it or not the glued on mask is WAY more comfortable than many tied on masks (I wore both while in New Orleans) plus you don’t have to worry about retying it over and over again.

When you are ready to go to sleep just peal it off your face and wash off any extra glue that is still hanging out on your cheeks. The mask can be worn multiple times. I wore glued masks two nights in a row. After that my face needed a time-out. Still, I wish I would have made more since they were so fun!

There you go! The best Mardi Gras masks are just a craft store away.

Bar Method – Lavender Status

You all know that I love going to my Bar Method classes. I’ve been going for years without any thought to the number of classes I’ve attended, amount of times I’ve wanted to secretly punch my instructor, how often I cringed when told to get into “chair” thigh exercise position, and the amount of money I’ve spent. I haven’t been counting because there is no need. I go, I feel better, I look better, and that makes me want to go again!

Recently I received the best email ever:1978861_10205814042850223_7836022288121708350_n

Did you read that? I rock! It says so right there in black and white! I was so excited and have my lavender pair of Elite Status grippy socks tucked away safely in the bag I use to hold my Bar Method stuff (a handful of mismatched grippy socks and 3 pairs of ballerina slippers). I didn’t go to class consistently during the 10923726_10153039790842229_6787474657722302773_nholiday weeks and I’m afraid I’m not in tip top enough shape to wear them yet. I’m horrified that some newby will eye my well dressed feet and scream, “Why does she have those? She can’t even do the splits!” Then I’d have to scream back, “Mind your own business and tuck your butt in. Your form is horrific so just zip it non elite loser.” Then we’d both be kicked out of class. I’m planning to wear them soon … so look out!

In the meantime, I got curious and crunched some of my Bar Method numbers. Here are some Wendy Bar Method number facts.

  • I took my first class on 9/9/2009.
  • My first instructor was Maxx. I’d call her “to the max with two XX’s” – agreeably not very creative but I was suffering from muscle fatigue whenever I saw her so give me a break.
  • I’ve attended 681 classes (double lavender ya’all).Capture
  • I’ve taken class on Friday’s less than any other weekday (11 in total).
  • Monday’s are obviously my favorite day of the week to take class (190 in total).
  • I took the most number of classes in the 5:15 time slot (194). Although to be fair the class schedule shifted at one point so if you add the 7:30 and 7:45s together they probably take that number one spot.
  • Kelsey is the instructor I’ve taken the most classes from (127). She co-owns her own studio in Silverlake now. Since I’m loyal to my Pasadena location that means another teacher will take over the title of number one in the future.

There you have it. The moral of this story? You should go check out your local Bar Method studio. For me to stick with it this long is pretty amazing and according to the random worker men who stopped what they were doing the other day and told me I have a nice ass, the exercise seems to be working.

Post Serial Depression

(SPOILER WARNING – If you haven’t completed listening to the podcast Serial and plan to, know that this blog has spoilers that you may not want to read.)

Normally when I have a long drive ahead of me I download an audio book or a few podcasts. I stick to comedians that I know will make me laugh away the miles. I had planned to see if there was an audio version of David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes in Owls. Sedaris is always a good bet when you need to kill time and enjoy it. Before I looked into that possibility I remembered that I had heard about a podcast that was all the rage, Serial. I decided I’d listen to that.

Photo Credit - Serial's Facebook Page

Photo Credit – Serial’s Facebook Page

After the first episode I was sucked in and could not stop. I was actually sad when I got to my destination and grabbed my earphones from the car so I could sneak in a few more minutes whenever possible. I just finished the last episode today and I realized that I was really sad. I had heard from other fans that they were sad when it was over … because it was over and they didn’t have any new episodes to listen to.

This wasn’t my problem. I was overwhelmed and tearing up for a multiple reasons. For one it was such an emotional adventure. For those who don’t know Serial is a weekly podcast that looks back at the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, an 18 year old who attended Woodland High School. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was found guilty of murder and is serving life in jail. To this day he says he is innocent. The reporter/narrator of the story is great. She is easy to listen to and when interviewing people involved with the case she asks the questions I want her to. I feel so sad for her and the people who helped her with the series. They worked so hard, so many hours, so much energy. They must be EXHAUSTED and just spent.

During the 12 episodes you get to know many different people and you get fully involved in the events of their lives during and after the 1999 murder. It reminded me of how I felt after a grueling emotional stage performance in college. I was spent at the end and there was some relief it was over.

What caused me the most unhappiness, though, was my final conclusion of the case. I, unlike most listeners, actually do believe Adnan did play a part in the crime but I also believe there is no way he should have been found guilty if the jurors in the case actually followed the instructions of the court. This is what makes me the most sad. Over and over I find reason to believe that our court system is horribly flawed and I would have a nervous breakdown if I ever had to go to court as a defendant ESPECIALLY of a crime I didn’t commit.

I don’t think that anyone who listened to the podcast or looks at what was presented during the trial can say that there isn’t “reasonable doubt” about Adnan’s guilt. There is actually very little that ties him to the crime. So why is he now in jail … for the rest of his life?

In Adnan’s case his lawyer did him no favors. Apparently she was a great lawyer but for one reason or another she was not at the top of her game during Adnan’s trial. The excerpts that Serial plays make you want to punch her in the face. I wanted to transport myself to the courtroom back in time and hip check her to the side so I could take over. She needed to prove REASONABLE doubt and it was nothing BUT reasonable doubt and yet her style seemed to cause only confusion. That and the fact her voice was horribly grating. This shouldn’t matter BUT IT DOES. I’ve sat on a jury on a murder case. Liking or not liking the attorneys DOES matter. Strike one against our system.

Adnan - Photo Credit

Adnan – Photo Credit

Trial by your peers is just not possible. It isn’t. A jury is an odd group of people. The jury I was on a few years ago in Los Angeles was a group of misfits. There were industry people, obviously, it’s LA. There were folks from the “bad” part of town who felt bad for the young gang member who was on trial. There were a couple dudes that said ridiculous things because, I swear, they didn’t want to go back to work. I told them so at one point. That didn’t go over well. Our case was obviously different than Adnan’s. The victim in Adnan’s case was a lovable young woman. On the trial I was a juror on the victim was a fellow gang member who was actually accidentally killed during a robbery. Our guy was far less likable and yet it took us DAYS to come back with any kind of response for the court room. Adnan’s jury was out for just hours before convicting him of murder. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? Honestly I’d consider “MAYBE” 3 people that were on the jury with me someone I would call my “peers.” The others I tried really hard not to roll my eyes at. People are stupid. Strike two.

The Serial crew including Sarah Koenig in center. - Photo Credit

The Serial crew including Sarah Koenig in center. – Photo Credit

No matter what you do a jury often doesn’t follow court instructions, partly because it goes against what they “feel.” As I mentioned I do think Adnan was part of this crime but at the same time I don’t think he could be considered guilty based on what was shown at trial. It’s hard to follow rules that go against what you think is right. Serial’s host/journalist, Sarah Koenig (my new BFF – I loved her narration and storytelling), tells the listener that the jury was specifically told NOT to consider Adnan anything but an American. After all he was born in America and is indeed … an American. Just so happens he is a Muslim American with ties to Pakistan. A juror even admits to Koenig, although she doesn’t seem to know she is “admitting” to any wrong doing, that Adnan’s background did play a part in their decision. A fellow juror mentioned to everyone how badly Pakistani men treat their women (For the record I know one man that is from Pakistan and he is crazy super duper nice and is always very supportive to me … a woman.). That’s all it really took to add that bias to the equation when it, most likely didn’t belong there and certainly legally didn’t belong there. Similarly Adnan’s boring and annoying lawyer shouldn’t matter but it is hard to think it doesn’t. I mean she couldn’t convince the jury that a guy who ADMITS he lied is not a believable witness! It’s hard to go in to a court room and strip away everything you know and think and ONLY focus on the facts presented at trial. Strike three.

I’ve had limited time in a court room personally but when I have been there isn’t one time where I felt justice was really served. The jury I was on? Although the defended was found guilty of murder we couldn’t come to a decision on some of his other crimes including “attempted murder.” Why? Because a few jurors felt the defended pulled the trigger to the gun on accident. They were told by a gun expert that the gun was NOT a hair trigger. They were walked through all the experiments done to prove this. They held the gun in their hands and the weight of the weapon and overall importance of it did sway some people, but not all. Still there was MORE THAN ONE PERSON that decided it was an accident. When pressed for evidence of this, evidence that was given to us in trial, their answer was that’s just how they felt. It was the vibe they got. The guy was guilty and lucky morons where on his jury. No questions asked.

Another time I’ve been to court was at small claims where an owner of a fancy car said I hit him while parking in a lot.  He wasn’t around so didn’t see anything but knew I did. I did not. My insurance company investigated and decided I didn’t so did not pay him out his claim. He took me to court. He had a ton of things against him. He waited almost an entire year to get his car looked at for a quote on the “damage,” a year when anything could have happened. He had no front license on his car which is illegal in the state of CA. He had no witnesses except his wife, who happened to be an attorney and wasn’t anywhere near the parking lot when the non-accident happened. It was a shut and closed case as far as I was concerned. His word against mine and he had less than no evidence except forcing the 24 Hour Fitness to give him the record that showed I was there at the day and time in question. Something I fully admitted. You know what happened? He was awarded the case. I swear it’s because the judge (it was not a jury case) was tired, really old (really old), and simply hungry and wanted to go to lunch. I don’t even know why I showed up. It didn’t seem to matter that I was there nor any portion of my side of the story.

When I’ve mentioned before that I think our court and trial system is broken I have friends who ask me what the solution is. They also suggest ours is better than other countries. True. It is better and I don’t have a solution. I DO know that if I was on trial for a crime I didn’t commit I’d be really freakin’ scared.

Adnan supposedly tells other inmates to take a plea. Guilty or innocent take the plea because you have little chance of winning. Take the plea so at least one day you can get out of jail … even if you didn’t do it. Is’t it sad that I agree with him?

If you haven’t listened to Serial do it. It’s totally worth it and an interesting phenomenon that such an “old school” story telling technique, like the old radio days, was able to be so popular by using such a “new school” technique of podcasting.

Headbands and Snowman Poop – HOW-TO


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Every year a few of my girlfriends and I get together for a holiday dinner and fun. If you remember last year I made us wonderfully over the top Christmas flower headbands. They were great but they had been done so I had to think of something else to put together for my pals. For years I had made us Christmas candy so I went back to that tradition (can you call it a tradition if you skip a year?) and added a much tamer headband to make a fun and festive holiday gift for everyone.  Here is what I did:

IMG_1327HEADBAND – I really wanted to make everyone sweet and classy lace head wraps. You know those delicate sweet things that wrap around the heads of equally adorable and sweet young women. Three things stopped me from doing this:

  1. We are too old for lace head wraps. The fact that I found an image of what I wanted at “Wet Seal” was a huge red flag.
  2. I look like a mentally insane American Indian reject in this style. The white girl who ran away from the wagon train and self adopted into a wonderful Indian family and tried to be just like her new clan, but ended up failing completely. My hair is too short and my face is too long. It just squeezes in my brain and my hair poofs up above it like an atom bomb blast while manic tuffs stick out all around the bottomed.
  3. The lace was too expensive.

So I scrapped that idea and grabbed a couple rolls of glittery Christmas ribbon that was 60% off and hit the check out stand. I will never be too old for glitter.

IMG_0725Back home a took two hair ties (I stole this woman’s how-to to make my headbands and despite what she says not everyone has hair ties just hanging out unused in their house. I had to purchase a pack at the grocery store.) and interlaced them.

The young woman who did the original how-to suggested you need 12 inches of lace. She must have the head of an 3 year old because I needed a piece around 19 inches to be able to wear the headband without being afraid I was causing myself brain damage. After you cut a length of ribbon about 19 inches, loop each end around each end of your mini hair tie chain and sew the ribbon down. Ms. Tiny Head sewed by hand. I’m an adult … I used a sewing machine.

These were lots of fun and added sparkle to our night!

IMG_1057SNOWMAN POOP – I read about this recipe for Christmas candy that utilized the slow cooker. I’m all for anything that I can put in that bad boy, turn on, walk away from, and come back to only to find a perfect happy edible treat. After thinking about it for two seconds I threw that recipe out the window. Coco butter? Butter flavored shortening? No thanks. That screams too much work for me. I wasn’t giving up on the slow cooker though. Here how you can make easier candy blobs like I did:

Grab a crock pot plastic disposable liner and stick it on your slow cooker. It will make clean up MUCH easier. Take 3 packages (that’s what I used because I was making a big ol’ patch) of white, vanilla flavored candy melts and toss them into the crock pot. If you are me you just happened to find a bag of peppermint special seasonal flavor candy melt and you add that too. If you aren’t as lucky as me just add peppermint oil … or forget it all together … that’s what I’d do. Cook it on low for 15 minutes. Remember that you should add something to take the place of the stuff you left out so grab a container of coconut oil and plop in 1 1/2 heaping spoonfuls. Let cook another 15 minutes. Stir it all together until it becomes a wonderful white candy pool of yumminess. Dump in some crushed up candy canes or, again, if you are me purchase a bag of pre-crushed candies at Michaels and dump in the giant bag. Take some pretzel sticks and mash them up IMG_1056and toss those in too. I like the pretzels so add a lot. Mix it all together in the magic pot and then plop out blogs of goo in spoonfuls on wax paper. Once dry they harden-ish and are a wonderful tasty treat that look like piles of poop.

I didn’t mean for my creation to look like white poo. They just did so I rolled with it. I stole and then modified a poem I found online and taped it to a bag with three or so blobs in it.

I have to tell you melting chocolate in the crock pot is a game changer for me. It was so much easier. Definitively my technique from now on.

If you want an easy and fast Christmas hostess gift then may I suggest Snowman Poop. Despite it’s name it was a big hit with everyone!

I’m Still Here

IMG_0190Where have I been?  It’s been days and days since my last post.  As usual I’ve been busy with my life PLUS I’ve been writing blog posts for  Dogster is an online publication that I’m very excited to be writing for and that you should definitely check out!  If you want to go straight to the articles I’ve written follow this link:

I’ve also started a Facebook page for my dog sitting business, The Active Pack.  Feel free to hop over there, like us, and start following all the fun the pups have.

I’ve also received a number of requests on what trails the pups and I hike at Griffith Park.  This park has become my go-to for our daily adventures.  I once wrote about the places we would go but since then we have checked out a lot more of the trails so that is an article I definitely need to update.  In the meantime here is a the best trail map I’ve come across of the different trails.  Thanks to my friend, Tricia for sharing it!

(click to link to trail map)




Pizza Please

I think I’m a fairly intelligent person.  This week that belief has been in question.  Recently one of the trouble dogs I was watching went home.  She was here for just over a week.  The first day of her visit she tore up my bedroom carpet while I was at lunch.  After that little “incident” Bella (aka trouble) wasn’t allowed to be home alone.  That meant no trips to human only exercise (Bar Method), happy hour, or the grocery store.  If Bella couldn’t go neither could I.  At one point in the week I was so desperate for non-dog companionship I texted a friend begging to meet us at a dog friendly location and then spent over an hour researching one in her area.  Since this wasn’t a planned isolation I hadn’t stocked up on any kind of food.  Every meal my choices dwindled until I was living off oatmeal, popcorn, and anything I could get from a drive thru.

About this same time my toilet seat broke.  My dad was nice enough to purchase a new one and it sat on the counter in my kitchen for an entire week before he was sick of asking me if I had put it on and just came over and did it himself.  During that time I CONSTANTLY mistook the box, which was flat and big-ish, for a pizza box.  Had I purchased a pizza?  No.  That fact didn’t stop me from hoping

that one had magically appeared out of thin air.  I didn’t believe this illusion for an extended period of time mind you, just for a second or two.  It was a glimmer of hope.  I would walk by that perfectly sized box and think, “Oh good!  I can have pizza tonight.”  Sometimes I would even get through that entire thought before i remembered it wasn’t a pizza but instead a toilet seat cover.  You would be amazed at how many times this happened.  Sometimes I’d be driving home from my daily dog activity thinking about what I’d have for lunch and for a split second think, “I don’t need crappy fast food, I have that pizza at home.”

Why didn’t I just get on the phone and order a pizza you ask.  Well, because as much as I love pizza I can’t really eat it without my stomach hurting so I don’t eat it often.  When you are hungry, sick of oatmeal, and worn down from non-stop dog companionship you kinda just want a nice slice.  You know what I mean?  Stomach be damned.  It’s a real pisser (pun intended) when you realize the pizza box is a toilet seat.

ZineOne – Customer Service at Your Fingertips


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CaptureAnyone who knows me knows that I consider customer service the most important part of the consumer experience.  Sure the product needs to work and pricing should be good, but the thing that will win, or lose, my repeat business is a company’s customer service.  I was trained as a member of Disneyland’s Guest Relations.  I know what gold star service looks like and I expect to receive it.  Given the way I now shop this has become an issue for me, and I would assume, for many others.

I was an early adopter when it came to doing transactions via the internet.  When using my phone became an option it took me no time at all to download a number of apps where I could deposit a check, place an order for pizza to be delivered (light sauce, light cheese, pepperoni and pineapple), or purchase a giant bag of dog food, all from the safety and comfort of my sofa!  I just ordered toilet paper from an app just minutes ago.  Why should I do something crazy like get in my car and drive 3 blocks to the store when I can hit “add to cart” from an app on my phone while watching the premier of Madam Secretary?  It’s like I’m a member of the Jetsons.

It is all so wonderful, easy, and a time saver … until you have a problem.  A few weeks back I ordered a product from one of those retail apps, it doesn’t matter which one.  I was very excited, until the item arrived and didn’t work.  I honestly didn’t think this was going to be a problem.  It was so easy to order through the app on my phone it was obviously going to be just as easy to report the problem and get a replacement.  I hopped on my phone only to find there was no way to report my issue.  Worse still, there wasn’t even a phone number to call or an email address to write to.  There was nothing.  In shock I was forced to ditch my phone, my lifeline, and get on a computer.  I found the company’s website and was finally able to email through that.  Eventually I got the help I needed but it was not easy and I swore never to purchase from that company, and through their app, again.  This company had failed completely to fully leverage connecting with their client, me, through their mobile app.  This, based on the fact that I used it in the first place, would obviously be my preference.  Multiply me by every single person who has downloaded and used that app.  This isn’t just a missed opportunity to connect.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this translates into lost revenue.

A handful of companies have started to take advantage of this new avenue for customer service.  Amazon introduced the Mayday button and we have all seen the commercials for Kindle Fire where a live chat button is pressed and an entire living room of people see the live human (gasp) customer service agent smiling and ready to help.  I’m confident these solutions will prove to be successful for Amazon, but looking at the apps that I use it’s clear that there is not a one size fits all solution.  I realize that a successful business plan would not or could not include instant help to a live customer service rep 24/7 for every single company.  What is the solution?

logoLast week I had a discussion with Debjani Deb, CEO of ZineOne.  Debjani and the ZineOne team have thought a lot about this question and how to help companies integrate a higher level of customer connection and service into their apps.  ZineOne recently launched a product that can help any transaction based app take advantage of multiple levels of service in order to enrich their client experience and in doing so grow their client satisfaction scores and increase customer loyalty.  All of this results in higher market share and increased revenue.  ZineOne’s product takes a company through every step needed to effectively and efficiently handle client’s customer service needs.  Starting with analyzing data and identifying where help is required, to putting that help into action.  ZineOne doesn’t just help identify the issue it solves the problem.

At the basic level ZineOne will bring a company the data it requires to put together an app based service plan.  A user is tracked from app download through all usage points.  In analyzing this data it becomes clear where, within an app, customers are getting lost and/or having difficulty.  It also helps show app developers if the customers are being driven through the app as planned/expected.  Proactively identifying where usage problems may be and solving those will help increase user satisfaction.  Of course it also helps a retailer understand how someone is shopping in their virtual store and how to take advantage of that real estate to help increase sales (think the impulse buys that are done at check out of a brick and mortar store … like Trader Joes … and those delicious chocolate covered almonds that call to me even though I swore I only came in for a bag of apples).

Now that “sticky” points have been identified ZineOne will allow a company to put dynamic rules into place that help users navigate more effectively (and therefore with a bigger smile).  These rules can be changed and tweaked as needed.  As data comes in, a company can update their “rules.”  If the increased use of apps has taught us anything it’s that this new world of client access is not stagnant.  It’s always changing and often changing quickly.  A company doesn’t want to be locked into something only to find out a month later that customers concerns and needs have changed.  The ability to easily remain dynamic is key.

Finally, ZineOne can help identify who should get what message and how.  For example, my $25 worth of dog treats may not require a human to contact me to help explain shipping options.  Perhaps offering me a chat option would make more sense or even have me, the customer, answer a couple of questions so the shipping “FAQ” is fed to me vs. me having to go find it in a list of 20 other FAQs.  Have you ever tried to find the answer you need on a long list of FAQs on an iPhone screen?  It isn’t a great experience … believe me!  On the other hand, if I’m having difficulty because my $5,000 check I just deposited via my bank’s app isn’t showing up in my savings balance then perhaps I should have the option to push a button and have someone call me to help me out (I suppose $5,000 isn’t a lot of money to my bank considering they are a huge national bank.  It is too me though.  That’s what matters!).

Of course there is a technical aspect where the ZineOne SDK is downloaded and integrated into the app.  That all sounds like an alien language to me but I’m told any developer would understand it and easily be able to make it happen.

ZineOne allows companies to take their customer service to the next level.  It is the invisible bridge between a consumer sitting on her sofa with her iPhone and the customer service folks; even if those customer service folks aren’t actually there. ZineOne puts the customer service the user needs at their fingertips.

For more information about ZineOne and how they are able to do what they do, head over to their website –