Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Customer Service in America

Is it any wonder the United States is falling apart? Nobody gives a )%&# about anybody else in this country. Everybody bows to the almighty dollar and if screwing customers over can bring in more money then so be it!

In the late 90's, we were customers of Southwestern Bell. Their customer service was horrible - to the tune of being without dial-tone for as long as a month due to their own ineptness. They kept sending technicians to the wrong address. They told us "The technician will be out there sometime between Monday and Wednesday." They blamed it on the weather. They blamed it on a strike. They kept pointing fingers at everybody but themselves. As soon as the phone industry was de-regulated we jumped ship.

AT&T was a great customer-oriented company. One 15-minute phone call generally resolved issues within hours, not days. We loved being AT&T customers. But then the baby bell SBC bought AT&T, bringing us back to the land of crappy customer service. So, we got VOIP. At first we stuck with AT&T CallVantage, 'cuz the introductory rate was great. Also, there was a direct number to dial for CallVantage and I didn't have to deal with the typical SBC run-around. But, as time went on, the introductory rate expired and the cost went up. Eventually we were paying double the introductory rate.

So, we switched to Vonage. Not bad - we got the hardware quick, installed it and were running. Even though they promised us we wouldn't get double-charged for the month we switched, it did happen. But several phone calls later that was credited to our account. Then the customer service nightmare started. Several days went by without a dial-tone. We had internet, but there was no signal from Vonage. They admittend there was a problem on their end, but refused to credit our account for the downtime. Several more phone calls and a couple of managers later, we saw the credit on our account. But the dial-tone problems continued so we started looking for something worth our while. Even though I loathe AT&T, I tried to convince my wife to switch back to CallVantage simply so we would have steady phone service. The costs were too high and we couldn't afford it.

Then ComCast took over Houston's cable service from Time-Warner. With Time-Warner we had unlimited access to UseNet. As a Linux user, I download a lot of stuff from UseNet. But ComCast nixed that. No more downloads. And they restricted e-mail sizes, so I switched to gMail and 10MB attachments. And they restricted bandwidth (apparently) because the service kept getting slower and slower. And all the phone calls to their "Customer Service" basically told me if I didn't like it, find something better."

So, this month we switched our internet and phone back to AT&T. Not that their customer service is any better, but dammit, we should have a steady dial-tone and unrestricted internet service. Last night, while hooking up our new hardware, I called the repair service. They told me a technician was coming out and I needed to contact customer service in the morning to make sure the tech would call me. I called and got moron after moron who had no idea what I was talking about. They could not see that it was a new install on their computers 'cuz they didn't bother looking.

So, after 40 minutes on the phone, I got in touch with a lady who did know what I was talking about. She got everything straightened out - yes, a technician is coming out; no, I don't need to be present to win.

I vented regarding the lousy customer service I had experienced and lamented the fact that no good telephone company remains in the US. Maybe T-Mobile qualifies, but they're mobile only. And they're not an American company, they're Deutsche Telecom - a German company.

So, what should we do? Every time you contact lousy customer service, demand to speak with a supervisor. Let the supervisor know that the service was lousy and tell them it needs to be fixed. Do this every time you encounter lousy service and suck up all their time talking to them about it. Eventually, they'll come around and, maybe - I know it's a longshot, but maybe - they'll fix it.

I'm tired of my blood pressure going up every time I need to find out something from a giant conglomerate that doesn't believe I'm a human being.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur. I just cancelled my COX phone and TV packaged with the internet. I kept the Cox Internet service. Every month they send the bill a little sooner and then say "you are late" and tack on charges. Customer service just says you are late" and they know what they are doing. Say your bill was normally due on the 20th and so you mail in the money on the 18th -- then they say your next due date is the 15th .. soon they are billing you 13 times a year. I just got a bill in the mail October 15th and the bill was due on the 1st -- so obviously I am "late." Did they mail the bill in September? NO. They mailed it yesterday. So its a shell game. I told her to cancel the TV (which is worthless) and the telephone (which is also worthless) and just leave me on the Internet $45/mo. Then I only have pay late charges on $45. Now I need to change my paradigm .. from land line to cell phone and from 911 to direct call in emergency. I have not "trusted" a phone company since divestiture.

16/10/08 00:37  

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rethinking a Green Approach

I'm not an environmentalist. I whole-heartedly believe the radical environmental movement around the world has brought progress to a screeching halt. Many have good intentions but the road to hell...

I do, however, propose a new approach to green thinking.

If you truly desire to show the benefits of green thinking to an ungreen society, you must change your paradigm. I'll tell you how this ungreen conservative found the wonders of green thinking. It was actually a different type of green that made me start looking at alternatives.

With the price of fuel at record high prices, and the failure of our home climate control system on a Southeast Texas summer day, I knew I needed to start finding another way to live a non-Amish life. I began to research alternatives that could not only save me money, but perhaps increase my own. My research included:

  • Solar Power
  • Wind Power
  • Hydrogen Power
  • a Cistern
  • Proper Construction

I started with Solar Shingles. Though an initial outlay of $25K-$50K, I will pay zero for my electric bill. In fact, the law says that the electric company has to buy back my excess - which means I'll make a profit in the long run. Then I looked into Wind power. The cost is between $15K and $50K - though I am certain I won't need the high end system.

It started getting interesting when I looked into Hydrogen Power. According to Motor Trend, a residential hydrogen station will run about $500. Add that to a hydrogen car, and I'll be able to drive for free. The cistern provides water for the hydrogen station.

Finally, I looked at proper construction for a house. Older houses, built before air conditioning, had high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that provided cross-ventilation no matter which way the wind blows. So, if I build a house with high cathedral ceilings throughout, I should be able to cool the house for less. Add a close-able roof vent and the warm air will go out during the summer. Since we have extremely long summers (generally from June 1 to May 31), this construction will serve us well.

What does this have to do with big business? Simple. We've all been stupid in our devotion to mechanics. Let nature do the work, and we'll all save a fortune. In addition to that, the environment will be greener.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How can you be so stupid...

Three years ago, when the tragedy of Katrina struck, I kept hearing people ask how anyone could be so stupid as to build a city below sea-level. Well, I chide them for their ignorance (New Orleans has been sinking over the last couple hundred years - it used to be above sea level), then point out that the city in which I (and generally the other party as well) is also very close to sea-level and floods quite often.

Then, today, I heard about a whole lotta shakin' goin' on in California. And I got to thinking. How can anybody be so stupid as to live in...

  • A city that is so hot and humid that it didn't even start growing until Air Conditioning was invented. A city that is very close to sea-level and floods quite often. A city where the mosquitoes and alligators are more at home than the people.
    Answer: Houston, Texas
  • A city that shakes - at least a hurricane will give some advance warning.
    Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc.
  • Farmland where tornadoes are guaranteed every year to come by and wipe out at least a portion of your crop
    Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa...
  • A place where blizzards routinely punish the citizens with snow drifting so high it's better skiing than Vale.
    Minnesota, North Dakota...
  • A place where nothing can grow because the ground will only support sagebrush and tumbleweed.
    (I used to live here ->) Pahrump, Nevada or any other desert community

My point - either we're all stupid or we've come to accept that there is some point in our chosen residence that others may not be willing to live with. But each of these places has something beautiful to trade for their single point of contention.

Since I started picking on New Orleans, let me tell you that the countryside surrounding New Orleans is unique and beautiful. And the people - they're wonderful to hang out with and amazing cooks. Coffee in New Orleans is the best in the world. Jazz was invented here. So was gumbo. What more need be said?

And, my current home of Houston does have a lot to offer. History, science, children's activities - there's never a dull moment! Yeah, it gets hot, but that's what freon's for!

Los Angeles - no matter what climate you like, you're never more than an hour away from it. Put on your skis and hit the slopes. Next day go surfing! Get some fresh fruit and spend the evening at a restaurant watching celebrities. Enjoy the round-the-clock comfort of perfect temperatures.

Tornado country - is also home to America's food source. Nearly everything you buy at the grocery store comes from the Great Plains. No need to level your field! Just plow and plant. Don't forget to check out the Great Rivers as well for some fun in the water.

The frozen north is our dairy country. Minnesota is known as the land of 1000 lakes - and they've adapted quite well to the cold. Heck - Houston comes to a screeching halt if the temperature dips to 25F. Minnesota keeps going at -50F! And they can handle the warmest, most humid days Houston can dish out. Beautiful countryside and four real seasons. What more could you ask for?

Pahrump, Nevada. Home to Art Bell. First place blown up in “Mars Attacks” (Jack Nicholson for President)! More brothels than wineries. An hour away from Vegas and Death Valley.

See - we're all stupid. We all like to live in inhospitable places. But we learn to make the best of it wherever we may be. Next time you want to call someone stupid 'cuz they live in a flood zone, think about your own hometown. Why wouldn't I want to live there.
Ah- but then again, why would I?

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Monday, April 23, 2007

SFTROOCFTBOTDB Success!

When I was but a young lad, I enjoyed reading a short-lived publication by Marvel Comics called Pizzazz Magazine. No, it wasn't a comic, it was more akin to Mad or Cracked. Stan Lee really wanted to get in on more action than just comics.

It was funny stuff. This issue, for example, had an article about the Society for the Removal of Old Cars from the Backs of Ten-Dollar Bills. In the article, they reproduced the back of one of the offending bills and detailed the locations of the old cars. Here are the old and new bills, with the offending bill on the bottom.:

Unfortunately, though I tried and tried, I could not locate a good enough image to use. Sorry! But, the bill had about 10-12 old cars on the back. The new bill has no cars - old or new - on the back!

Congratulations to the Society for the Removal of Old Cars from the Backs of Ten-Dollar Bills! Their lobbying effort has been a true success!

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dishwasher works.

Cool. I ran the dishwasher for a while and kept opening the door every cycle. At one point, it was full of bubbles. Well, Samurai Appliance Repair Man say "Impeller cannot pump bubbles!" Somehow, some Dawn made its way into my precious dishwasher. I ran a cycle with about a tablespoon of Wesson Oil (advice from Samurai Appliance Repair Man) and my dishwasher is running quite nicely. I ran two loads last night.

Domo!, Samurai Appliance Repair Man! You have again saved the day!

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