How I Spent My Morning

Took three coffee cans nearly filled with pocket change to be counted and redeemed. Collected over a period of sixteen years, it came to nearly $140.00, which will come in handy over the next three weeks.

Later, waited in the repair service phone cue, since my internet was out. Waiting on hold, went as usual.  The experience outlined as follows.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

The app store is available for your convenience.

My internet was out, how could that work?

Talk with a representative live on comco.com.

Fat chance that would work with dead internet.

Have you heard about fast in home service with paperless billing?

A representative will be with you as quickly as possible.

I’d heard that promise too many times before.

At home phone service at lowest prices.

Feel secure with internet security from comco.

All representatives were busy, please stay on the line.

Had I heard about comco’s mobile app?

Comco’s help line, with social media team, available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

I just wanted my internet to work.

I could chat live with a representative, anytime on comco.com.

Internet service from comco was the fastest, most reliable in the area.

I sure wish mine worked.

Why not opt for paperless billing.

At that point, all words muddled. “Paperless billing?  Gownless evening strap?”

All representatives were with other customers.

The mycomco app allowed for paying bills on line.

Our apologies for the wait. A representative will be with you shortly.

Comco provided the latest technology, to ensure the fastest digital speeds.

I just wanted my internet to work at any speed.

Many more ” representatives will be with you shortly, sorry for the wait.” Then the phone rang.

It had to be a foreign call center.

“This is Danica, how can I help.”

“My internet is out.”

“Have you checked your cords?”

“Yes, I’ve done all that.”

After I’d waited 45 minutes, she announced.

“You’ve called the wrong number.”

“Please call tech support at, 1-844-XXX-XXXX.”

On hold again. This time with terrible, insipid, generic music.  The kind of music, that required no royalty payments. 

Three bars of each tune, repeated until they became familiar. At 11:35AM the phone rang. No one answered this time and I was immediately cut off.

That was enough for me. After lunch, rebooted the Wi-Fi gadget in desperation. Surprisingly, everything came back to life. 

Clear Days & Fog-Shrouded Thoughts

Bless me or curse me. It’s been [five], no, six days since my last post.

No particular reason. Getting started was the hardest thing.
Here’s what I had to work with–miscellaneous titles, with nothing following.  Wasn’t “jambs,” as in door jambs, a strange word?  It rhymed with lambs.  “Silence of the Jambs?”  No, that was too weird.

Gravel Gertie
Kick Out the Jambs
Long Shadows

When the mental fog dissipated, how could I have forgotten an event over the holidays?  As some of you may know, I crave omelets for breakfast.  To the extent, that I taught myself how to make them.  The highest praise came from my wife.  “Your omelets were better than mine.”

That was before reality “hit the fan.”  Per Dr. “Killjoy” “Your cholesterol is way too high.  Don’t eat eggs every day.  How about some cereal and fresh fruit?”  I gave in, at the doctor’s and my wife’s insistence.  Egg consumption, only on Sunday mornings.  Vacations are an exception.

Recently my joy was eroded.  How could the server have misinterpreted my omelet order?  A traditional Western omelet consisted of ham, tomatoes, onions, Monterey Jack cheese, and green peppers.

After a difficult nine hour drive the day before, and arriving late, it was going to be great.  Everyone in our party of nine chatted incessantly at the table.  My omelet came out last.

Three pancakes on a separate plate came first–as expected.  Then, the shocker–the omelet was covered with chopped broccoli.  Chopped broccoli?  Where had that idea come from?  Yikes!  There was even more broccoli inside.

It was too late for do-overs.  Everyone else was almost finished, and I didn’t want to delay, what would be a short visit, before heading home on the last leg of our journey.

“That was a first.” I complained to our waiter.  He seemed puzzled.  “I’ve never seen  a broccoli omelet before.”  “I can have them make you another one,” He offered.  “No, it’s too late,” I replied.  I liked broccoli, just not in omelets.

 

Another Customer Service Cautionary Tale

Rented a car from a local business. Our car was in the body shop for repairs. Needed something for local driving–nothing fancy or expensive.

“Pre-Owned Cars, Auto Repairs, Auto Rentals, Auto Detailing,” Declared the sign by the busy main thoroughfare. What I got was a nineties Mercury Grand Marquis.

It was sluggish.  Acceleration was leisurely at best.  To stop, required standing hard on the brake pedal. All this I could have dealt with.  The first time I applied the brakes, after my car was returned, I almost threw myself into the windshield.

On turn-in day, came the unexpected. As per contract, I filled the tank at the gas station directly across the road–no more than a sixteenth mile away. I continued to pump gas multiple times after the automatic shut-off clicked. Never did that on my own vehicles.

The final inspection, upon turn-in, included extra charges for not filling the gas tank. I scratched my head in disbelief. How had they arrived at that conclusion? Any more gas and it would have run out on the pavement.  I’ve never had that happen, before or since.

I concluded, the owner of the business was shady and unscrupulous.  There wasn’t much to be done, except give the firm a bad review. Stay away from “XYZ Highway Motors” and places like it, if you value your hard-earned money. Cheaper wasn’t always better.

Recommendations

Trip to a local bookstore–reading material for our upcoming flight to Australia.

Lunch date, a place recommended by friends. Service was good, food was mediocre, and too pricey. Recommendations didn’t always pan out.

Regular oil and filter changes at 6,000 mile intervals were expected.  Other maintenance items had no set timetable.

Why was it that service advisors at local automobile service departments made recommendations whether they were needed or not?

Answer:  To make profits for the dealership.  My advisor, recently recommended a wheel alignment.  There were no signs/symptoms of misalignment–uneven tire wear, cupping, steering wheel shake.

Different brand of car, different dealership, a few years earlier, had the same policy.  I objected to their alignment suggestion–whether it was needed or not.

So what if my vehicle had 30,000 miles on the odometer?  Mileage didn’t directly cause misalignment–or alignment.

I’ll do what was done before–go to an independent repair shop that specialized in brakes and alignments.  If no alignment is needed, then I’ll only be charged for an inspection.

Waste, Not Wanted

I am continually troubled by items, appliances in particular, that are so complex, that when they break down, it’s less expensive to get rid of them, buy new items, than to have them repaired.

Our washing machine is no more than five years old. There are warning signs, an expensive repair may be imminent. Of course it has complicated digital controls. None of the inner workings are covered by warranty.

The local big-box appliance store will carry away the old machine, and I know from working there, they re-cycle.  Which makes me feel better, because I wouldn’t want to contribute to excessive landfill waste.

It hasn’t happened yet, but if and when it does, the replacement washer will have a conventional agitator, and less complicated controls.  A previous machine lasted 26 years, before gearbox teeth ground away into iron filings.

Expensive extended warranties shouldn’t be necessary.  It’s like manufacturers know their machines won’t last.

Another One Bit the Dust

Our local International House Of Pancakes is closed. It was no surprise, that a business poorly managed, with dismal customer service went out of business.

Victim of modern times and tastes? Hardly–more a cautionary tale of how not to run a business.

Five years ago, the place was tip-top. It was sad to be disappointed over-and-over with poor service.

On my last visit, customers waited to be seated; tables weren’t cleared; trash cluttered the floors. A member of the wait staff grumbled about making change for a twenty at the front check out.  Wasn’t that why he was there?

When they were opened twenty-four hours, shift workers, could grab a cup of coffee at two in the morning. One morning, at four AM, they were out of regular coffee. There was plenty of decaf. I didn’t want decaf.  Decaf wasn’t going to keep me awake at that early hour.  The manager claimed to have failed to reorder.

Other than “Business Closed” signs, the bad memories came back. Especially, the certificate for a free breakfast, offered after my poor customer service complaint to their 800#.  I used it in my local restaurant.  They charged me double price.

Restaurants come and go.  This restaurant previously housed an Outback steakhouse franchise.  We could use another decent breakfast restaurant–especially one with a buffet.

Signs, Signs–Everywhere Signs

Early Sunday morning at a familiar chain restaurant famous for pancakes.

Signs were there–everywhere. This place had changed since our last visit.

Half the floor space had been partitioned off. A new entrance added, with a for lease sign in the front window.

There weren’t many diners in the place. Yet, it looked like some had left in a hurry. Tables hadn’t been cleared. Trashed littered the floor. Where were the worker bees?

The waiter/manager/greeter was in a snit over making change for the customer in front of us in line. Had he been given a large denomination bill?

“He’d left his wallet at home, and thank goodness, his brother worked there–otherwise making change would have been impossible.”

Other customers lined up behind us.  Grumbling began among the ranks.  Why was it taking so long?  Were we waiting to pay or to get in?

How could a restaurant, that offered good service in the past, go downhill so quickly?

Last summer, with a group of visitors, service had been slow–otherwise not too bad.

There was the morning when this same restaurant ran out of coffee.  Plenty of the de-caffeinated variety; per the manager stock hadn’t been reordered.

That time, after complaining on their website, we were given a certificate for a free breakfast.  I’m not complaining this time–because I don’t intend to ever come back.

The “signs” suggested, detour; avoid this place; go elsewhere.

 

Editor’s Note:  My fingers fumbled and published this prematurely.  I should have added, that I  had no qualms about visiting other restaurants in this franchise.  The local one was the problem.

Sorry–No Selfies

The same young man was behind the counter last evening. With so much pent-up energy, he bounced up-and-down while taking customer orders.  My faithful favorite burger franchise, decorated with orange and white stripes was about to let me down.

I should have known something was up last time, when my favorite burger with grilled peppers and onions wasn’t on the menu. “Did they still have it?” I inquired. “Yes, ‘Mr. Bounceabout’ answered.”

What a let down. My favorite burger had been discontinued since my last visit. The bouncing counter attendant announced with cold finality.

Disappointed? Yes, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. Why did menu favorites come and go?  An acceptable substitute found, and a chance to explore new menu options.

More Caveat Emptor

“Revenge of Independent Hardware Stores.”  Independent hardware retailers are giving the big chains a run for their money.  These stores excel at giving friendly, knowledgeable, customer service.  Prices, aren’t necessarily cheaper.

We all know the requiem for retail stores in the twenty-first century.  Big-box megastores killed off the mom-and-pops.  Amazon and e-commerce crushed brick-and-mortar.  By the time the great recession hit, traditional retail was already toast–and the drop in consumer spending that came with the crisis burned it to a crisp.

Independent home-improvement retailers stand apart.  …Make up 50% of the market.  They are not just surviving.  They are thriving by offering products for local needs.  …Personal customer service.

Savvy customers are seeking local products or services, and are willing to pay for that knowledge and experience.  The hypothetical, was of a customer in a big-box store, seeking plumbing advice from an unexperienced employee borrowed from lawn-and-garden.

As an employee of one such independent hardware retail store–it was a pleasure and challenge to give good, personal customer service.  “Can you make me one of these?” Was frequently heard from customers–as they brought in homemade widgets to solve household problems.

My personal favorite customers, were those that dabbled in artsy-craftsy.  “I’d like to build a Christmas tree from plumbing fittings–something different.”  That turned out to be one of the easier challenges.

Self-employed inventors threw off bizarre vibes of paranoia.  They wanted help, without giving away what they were working on.

There were more humorous incidents than I can recall.  Some were doozies.  On my first day, a call from a customer with a chirping bird, hidden somewhere in her home.  Everyone thought her to be crazy.  It turned out to be a dying smoke detector battery.  The detector, forgotten about, stored away on a laundry room shelf.

And, downright silly things; a young cashier paged overhead for assistance.  “Could someone help the nice man on aisle seven find his nuts?”  “Did we have moronic acid?”  Which was really muriatic acid.  “Did we carry balusters?”  Further questioning revealed this meant ballasts for fluorescent lighting.

It was give-and-take between customers and employees.  We learned from each other.  What could be more meaningful than helping people?

http://www.ozy.com–

 

 

Thanks For Everything and Good Luck

I have a new favorite breakfast spot.  Been there at least a half-dozen times or more.  Christina was a great waitress, attentive, courteous, with a friendly smile.

“Would you like your usual?”  She’d ask. We’d sit at our favorite table.  Last Sunday, Christina, was no longer there to brighten the morning.

It turned out, she had a killer commute to work–moved on to better things, closer to home.  Can’t blame her–crossing the bay bridge and tunnel, famous for traffic tie ups, was nerve-wracking.

Maybe it’s nitpicking, but her replacements had a lot to learn.  Starting with the difference between one slice of thick marble rye toast, cut in half, and two slices of rye toast, cut in half.  Breaking in new employees was a tough job.  I can’t help it–Christina spoiled me.

Christina, I don’t need you to come back.  Wish you best of luck and happy landings.  Will miss you on early Sunday mornings.