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  • Archive for the 'Customer Service' Category

    Passing It On – I – The Pedagogical

    Posted by Ginny on 2nd July 2015 (All posts by )

    Some comments here criticized lectures. I doubt that medium is as central as the comments imply. Few who teach skills depend only or even mainly on lectures. Lecturing itself has been marginalized. The passion for “critical thinking” is a theoretic good, but, naturally, pedagogical studies emphasize method over content, new & theoretical over traditional. But, I would argue, lectures are designed to clarify content & connections, to model critical thinking. They are useful. (I’m not getting into content – the understandable complaints about that are topics for another day.)

    Not surprisingly, my defense is defensive. I lectured. Apparently I conveyed passion but could also elicit boredom. For some, that love made a bad class bearable, for others, it was meaningful. Most bubbled in positive but not extraordinary evaluations. Probably some felt I was nattering on, then socked it to them on the test. And lectures let minds drift. But I lectured.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Customer Service, Education, Lit Crit | 10 Comments »

    Technology and Mass Transit

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 29th March 2015 (All posts by )

    I have not seen a formal study of the impact of technology on mass transit but I believe that it has made it profoundly more valuable and useful. And I accidentally participated in an experiment that partially proved this statement in the inverse.

    In Chicago they have a CTA “bus tracker” that tells you when a particular bus will arrive at your stop. Or you can program it so that you can see all the buses from various routes that are coming past your stop (this is useful because in Chicago you can often take many different routes that go to the same place over shorter distances). It works on your phone and many of the newer stops have the bus tracker programmed into the canopy so you don’t even need to look it up on your phone.

    Sadly enough most days rather than looking up the street for buses I check the bus tracker. I can usually get from my condo down the elevator and past the lobby in 2-3 minutes so 4 minutes is the cut off time. One morning I looked and I thought I had missed the bus entirely because the next one was ten minutes away on my phone. However, instead of just trudging off, I looked up, and a bus was right there!

    I got on the bus and it was completely empty! Not a soul was on the bus. While it was a nice day, usually this bus line was crowded during rush hour, often so crowded that I don’t even bother getting on because I have to stand right in the front past the yellow line where you aren’t supposed to stand and then get on and off with every stop (to let people on and off) until the crowd thins out.

    The driver was totally bewildered too. I sat with her up front and I guess they had changed the bus she was driving to this route (from another route) and they hadn’t updated bus tracker. I said that because she didn’t show up on my bus tracker. Thus no one was on the bus – because if it wasn’t on bus tracker, it didn’t exist.

    I am sure that the River North area is one of the most technologically sophisticated areas of the city and probably in other parts of town people just wait at the bus stop for the bus to show up. But in River North – everyone has been trained to use bus tracker and rely on it and they wouldn’t contemplate a bus existing that wasn’t on bus tracker.

    For me, the bus tracker has made the Chicago bus go from something marginally useful to a highly useful way to get around town. When I lived in Bucktown we used to wait for the #50 Damen bus and 3 of 4 times we’d give up and grab a cab after waiting 15-20 minutes and the 4th time 2-3 buses would show up in a big bunch full of angry riders. If you took the bus you weren’t happy about it; it was an unreliable and slow way to get around.

    However, bus tracker is very reliable and now you have visibility of what is coming and you can plan ahead so that you are whiling away your day standing outside in the rain or snow waiting in vain for a bus that seems like it will never come. I don’t have statistics but I would bet that bus tracker increases utilization of assets for the CTA and has become a known and reliable method of transportation for those that give it a chance.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Customer Service, Tech, Transportation | 24 Comments »

    The Question at Hand

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd March 2015 (All posts by )

    I read of this particular school-administered survey the other morning on one of the news websites which form my morning reading, in lieu of the local newspaper – which I gave up some years ago upon realizing two things; practically every non-local story they printed I had already read on-line through various sources some days before appearing on the (rapidly diminishing) pages of the San Antonio Express News, and when it came to opinion columnists and cartoonists, most of the local offerings were … pathetic. Seriously – when I could read the best and most incisive opinion bloggers like Wretchard at Belmont Club and Victor Davis Hanson – why would I bother to read a dead-tree version of whatever lame establishment national columnist had offered a cheap rate to the SA Express-News?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Customer Service | 9 Comments »

    Dear Microsoft, Google and Other Retail Software Developers…

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th January 2015 (All posts by )

    [Update: These ideas apply to Web pages as well.]

    A few suggestions from a mere user:

    -Stop using script-based popup menus. Go back to old-style Microsoft-standard (c. 2003) clickable nested menus emanating from a static menu bar, with standard headings (FILE, EDIT, etc.) plus the unique headings needed for each piece of software. If you are using script menus as a workaround for complexity you should redesign your user interface. If you are using script menus for any other reason you should stop.

    -Knock it off with the icons. Use text buttons instead. The point of software it to economize on human effort, not to appear stylish. A trash-can icon is probably OK, but much more than that and users are forced to waste time mouse-hovering over your icons or (worse) looking things up in the online help.

    -Hire focus groups of 75-85 year-old occasional computer users and turn them loose on your products. They may not understand the fine points but they will tell you quickly if your products have any gross UI deficiencies that people like you who use software all day may be overlooking.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Customer Service, Deep Thoughts, Systems Analysis, Tech | 14 Comments »

    Proof Positive

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th October 2014 (All posts by )

    Below the fold, pictorial proof that everything IS bigger in Texas…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Customer Service, Humor, Photos | 12 Comments »

    Retail Therapy ‘n’ Woes

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th October 2014 (All posts by )

    With so many other bad and dangerous things hanging over us like a Damocles sword – an Ebola epidemic in the US, ISIS setting up a new and brutal caliphate in the middle east, the final two lame duck years of the Obama administration, and the anointing of a minimally-talented yet well-connected legacy child like Lena Dunham as the media voice of a generation – and the upcoming marathon of holiday markets and book events in front of me like so many hurdles to be gotten over in a frantic two-month-long dash – where was I?
    Oh, yes – amidst all the impending gloom, doom, and Bakersfield (that’s a California joke, son) my daughter and I are coping with the rather minor tragedy of a friend of ours loosing her job. Minor to us, of course – but not to our friend, a vivaciously charming English lady of certain years whom I shall call Kay, whom we met when she managed a thrift shop to benefit a certain well-established local charity, in a preposterously wealthy outlaying town within driving distance from San Antonio.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Customer Service, Diversions, Personal Narrative, USA | 5 Comments »

    Gypsy Retail in the Autumn

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th October 2014 (All posts by )

    My daughter and I spent almost all of last Saturday at our booth in the parking lot of a local Beall’s, in the heart of what would pass as the new downtown of Bulverde, Texas – if Bulverde could be said to have a downtown of any sort. There is a sort of Old Downtown Bulverde, at the crossroads of Bulverde Hills Drive and Bulverde Road, where the post office is (in a teeny Victorian cottage covered with white-painted gingerbread trim) and around the corner from one of the original settler’s farmsteads, complete with an original stone house and barn – now repurposed into an event venue. There is a small airfield nearby, and astonishingly enough, Googlemaps show a polo ground. But the landscape all around is that of the lowland Hill Country – low rolling, patched scrubby cedar, and occasional stands of live oaks. Everything – including a perfectly astounding number of single family housing developments are scattered unobtrusively here and there among the hills, the cedar and the oaks.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Customer Service, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, Personal Narrative | 9 Comments »

    New! The Essential Chicagoboyz Bog-Roll Reserve

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st September 2014 (All posts by )

    Against the day when the danger of a zombie apocalypse is wiped from the earth…

    Why, yes – Chicagoboyz shop at Costco or Sam’s Club. It is always more economical to purchase the staples you know you will need in bulk.

    Posted in Conservatism, Customer Service, Diversions, Miscellaneous, Photos | 7 Comments »

    The Roboticization of Customer Service

    Posted by David Foster on 16th June 2014 (All posts by )

    (Ran into this 2006 post while searching for an old Photon Courier post, and realized it had never been posted on Chicago Boyz.  It is unfortunately still quite relevant.)

    Almost every day, one encounters some business that is attempting to micromanage the interactions between its employees and its customers.

    At lunchtime a couple of weeks ago, I was in the mood for bacon & eggs, so I went to a restaurant (part of a local chain) that has breakfast items all day long. The interaction went something like this:

    Waitperson: Welcome to Snarfers-by-the-Lake, my name is Linda, I’ll be your server today.

    Me: Hi, Linda. I’m kind of in a breakfast mood, so I think I’ll have the bacon & eggs.

    WP (looks confused, as if she’d never heard of this dish before): Bacon & eggs? I don’t think…Oh, that would be our “eggs any style.”

    Me: OK…style I like ’em is over medium, with the bacon pretty crisp.

    WP: Over medium…and would you like bacon or sausage with that?

    Me: Bacon…pretty crisp.

    WP: And our soup today is cream of broccoli.

    Me: Soup with breakfast? That would be something different!

    WP: I know it’s silly, but they make me say it.

    I know it’s silly, but they make me say it. In how many consumer-oriented businesses could employees say the same thing?

    Also a couple of weeks ago, I had to call my local telco, always a dreaded experience. After I had finally gotten through the levels of the voice response menu and got a person, it was:

    CS Agent: Thank you for calling, how may I provide you with exceptional service today?

    How may I provide you with exceptional service today? You can bet the agent didn’t come up with this phrase all by herself. And I doubt if her management came up with it all on their own. No, I detect the fine hand of a consultant here–maybe the pointy-haired guy in Dilbert went into the CS consulting business.

    What imaginable purpose is there in requiring this phrase to be used in thousands of calls per day? Customers will decide if the service is “exceptional” or not based on what gets done or not done. You’re not going to convince them by using the word. And from the standpoint of the CS agents, this kind of thing can only breed cynicism.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Customer Service, Human Behavior, Management | 32 Comments »

    Green Acres is the Place to Be…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Yes – I like this place very much. Although there is probably altogether too much traffic on weekends.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Customer Service, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, North America, Personal Narrative, Photos | 7 Comments »

    On Ice

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Just this week and thanks to gaining a new book-publishing client, I was able to complete the purchase of a new refrigerator-freezer. Oh, the old one was staggering along OK, still keeping the refrigerated foods cold and the frozen food frozen … but there were so many dissatisfactions with it, including the fact that it had such deep shelves that in cleaning it out we discovered an embarrassingly large number of jars of condiments whose best-if-sold-by-date were well into the previous decade … not to mention a couple of Rubbermaid containers with leftovers in them that we had quite forgotten about. Well, out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. Truly, I don’t like to waste leftovers, but in this case, we had a good clean-out and as of now are resolved to do better, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die. The new and larger refrigerator-freezer has relatively shallow and many adjustable shelves in its various compartments; so that we dearly hope that the buried-at-the-back-of-a-deep-shelf-and-totally-forgotten-about syndrome will be banished entirely.

    Anyway – enough of my failings as a thrifty housekeeper; the thing that I was marveling on this afternoon was that the new refrigerator-freezer has an automatic ice-maker. Better than that – an automatic ice-maker and ice-water dispenser in the door, and a small light which winks on when depressing the lever which administers ice (in cubes or crushed) and ice-water and then gradually dims once released. And if all that is a small luxury compared to the previous refrigerator-freezer, it is a huge luxury compared to the electric ice-box that made my Granny Jessie’s work and food-storage capabilities somewhat lighter than those of her own mother. It’s monumental, even – and no one thinks anything of it today, unless the electricity goes off.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Business, Customer Service, India, Personal Narrative, USA | 9 Comments »

    On Being an IT Project Manager

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 23rd October 2013 (All posts by )

    My profession is much in the news at the moment, so I thought I would pass along such insights as I have from my career, mostly from a multibillion-dollar debacle which I and several thousand others worked on for a few years around the turn of the millennium. I will not name my employer, not that anyone with a passing familiarity with me doesn’t know who it is; nor will I name the project, although knowing the employer and the general timeframe will give you that pretty quickly too.
    We spent, I believe, $4 billion, and garnered a total of 4,000 customers over the lifetime of the product, which was not aimed at large organizations which would be likely to spend millions on it, but at consumers and small businesses which would spend thousands on it, and that amount spread out over a period of several years. From an economic transparency standpoint, therefore, it would have been better to select 4,000 people at random around the country and cut them checks for $1 million apiece. Also much faster. But that wouldn’t have kept me and lots of others employed, learning whatever it is we learn from a colossally failed project.
    So, a few things to keep in mind about a certain spectacularly problematic and topical IT effort:

    • Large numbers of reasonably bright and very hard-working people, who have up until that point been creating significant wealth, can unite in a complete flop. Past performance is no guarantee, and all that. Because even reasonably bright, hard-working people can suffer from failures of imagination, tendencies to wishful thinking, and cultural failure in general.
    • Morale has got to be rock-bottom for anybody with any degree of self-awareness working on this thing. My relevant moment was around the end of ’99 when it was announced, with great fanfare, at a large (200+ in attendance) meeting to review progress and next steps, that we had gotten a single order through the system. It had taken various people eight hours to finish the order. As of that date, we were projecting that we would be doing 1,600 orders a day in eight months. To get an idea of our actual peak rate, note the abovementioned cumulative figure of 4,000 over the multi-year lifespan of the project.
    • Root cause analysis is all very well, but there are probably at least three or four fundamental problems, any one of which would have crippled the effort. As you may infer from the previous bullet point, back-office systems was one of them on that project. Others which were equally problematic included exposure to the software upgrade schedule of an irreplaceable vendor who was not at all beholden to us to produce anything by any particular date, and physical access to certain of our competitors’ facilities, which they were legally required to allow us into exactly two (2) days per year. See also “cultural failure,” above; most of us were residing and working in what is one of the most livable cities in the world in many ways, but Silicon Valley it ain’t.
    • Not to overlook the obvious, there is a significant danger that the well-advertised difficulties of the website in question will become a smokescreen for the fundamental contradictions of the legislation itself. The overall program cannot work unless large numbers of people act in a counter-incentived (possibly not a word, but I’m groping for something analogous to “counterintuitive”) fashion which might politely be termed “selfless” – and do so in the near future. What we seem likely to hear, however, is that it would have worked if only certain IT architectural decisions had been better made.

    This thing would be a case study for the next couple of decades if it weren’t going to be overshadowed by physically calamitous events, which I frankly expect. In another decade, Gen-X managers and Millennial line workers, inspired by Boomers, all of them much better at things than they are now, “will be in a position to guide the nation, and perhaps the world, across several painful thresholds,” to quote a relevant passage from Strauss and Howe. But getting there is going to be a matter of selection pressures, with plenty of casualties. The day will come when we long for a challenge as easy as reorganizing health care with a deadline a few weeks away.

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Commiserations, Current Events, Customer Service, Health Care, Internet, Law, Medicine, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Systems Analysis, Tech, USA | 6 Comments »

    Chronicles of the Fed-Gov Shutdown

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th October 2013 (All posts by )

    For all the times that this federal government shutdown repeated fiscal game of chicken has been played – and I have been through this rodeo a number of times – it’s the sheer, petty spitefulness of this iteration which has raised my hackles. Barrycading off the open-air monuments along the Mall – including the WWII and Vietnam War monuments – blocking off scenic overlooks and the parking lots at Mt. Vernon, and forcing the closure of a number of otherwise self-supporting attractions which have the ill-luck to be on federally-owned property. I am glad to know that the governor of Wisconsin is telling the feds to go pound sand, and suspect that the governor of Arizona may be coming close to doing so, likewise. Meanwhile, the commissary at Andrews AFB is closed, and the golf course is open. Yes, I know that they are under different funding organizations, but the optics of this are really, really bad. If this were a Republican administration, I suspect we’d be hearing all about it, with video and stills of tearful and hungry military dependents all over the news, but then if my aunt had testicles, she would be my uncle. For all I know the junior enlisted troops are happily shopping at Wally-world and the generic shelves at the local grocery stores and not missing the commissary very much at all … but knowing that President Barrycade likes to golf there and takes every opportunity to do so … really, as I said – bad optics.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Society, Current Events, Customer Service, Health Care, North America, Obama, Politics | 6 Comments »

    Archive Post – Military Rites, Practices & Legends: BX & Commissary Privileges

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st October 2013 (All posts by )

    (An archive post from [gasp] 2004, wherein I attempted to explain and demystify certain military practices and establishments to a strictly civilian readership. I was reminded of this series, as one of the chief effects of the fed-gov shut-down is that just about all of the military commissaries at stateside bases will be closed from about midday today. The resulting effect on the retiree and active duty population at stateside bases probably will be rather minor, especially for those bases in or near larger cities, since Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club and local grocery chains provide alternative sources.)

    The main attraction of these privileges – access to the military base Commissary and Exchange – lies mostly in the fact that such access is forbidden to the usual run of civilians, and so they tend to think of them as vast Aladdin’s caves of riches and materiel things, to which they do not have the magic key! Alas, while I am fairly sure that the gold-plated bases in the military pantheon probably are pretty well stocked with the luxury goods, and may very well resemble Aladdin’s cave, at the ordinary level they are as Cpl. Blondie observed “full of stuff you don’t need.”
    When I was giving the school-kiddy tours at Mather AFB, to kids who had never been on a military base before, I would have the school-bus driver take a circuitous loop around the base, and point out the various establishments: “A base is just like a city or a town– this is the Headquarters building, it’s like the Mayor’s office and the City Hall, over there is the housing area, where everyone lives with their families. There is even an elementary school for the kids. That is our grocery store, only we call it the commissary. We even have our own gas station… this is the Exchange, it is just like a small department store, with a little bit of everything…”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Current Events, Customer Service, Military Affairs, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, Taxes | 10 Comments »

    Celebrities Behaving Badly

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th August 2013 (All posts by )

    How very interesting that über-celeb (and possibly former über-celeb) Oprah Winfrey has now tried to walk back a very publically-made accusation of being treated with racial bias in an expensive Swiss handbag shop in Zurich with one of those lame apologies which aren’t really apologies, more of that sniveling, ‘I’m sorry that you were offended,’ statements which are framed so as to throw blame on the offended party merely for being offended. At least, she has skipped over the second part of the pro-forma excuse and non-apology, which is usually some variant of, ‘gosh, don’t you have a sense of humor?’ Both statements of which, I am obliged to confirm, do not remove the sting that a party thus abused takes away from the experience. Or even that that such an apology has been honestly and fully rendered to the aggrieved party.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Current Events, Customer Service, Human Behavior, Media | 17 Comments »

    iTunes, Threat or Menace?

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th June 2013 (All posts by )

    iTunes was always crap. I run the Windows version. It has inconsistent menus, disappearing menus, a different user interface on each page, a sync button here, an important checkbox there — overall an outstanding example of poor UI design.

    My iTunes got corrupted and for years the text labels on most of the buttons and menu items were invisible. Some kind of font issue, I guess. I tried uninstalling, reinstalling, fiddling with Windows fonts, nothing helped. Fortunately, I remembered where the sync button was. That was all I needed, most of the time.

    Then the computer that I had iTunes installed on conked out. I fixed the computer and installed a new hard drive and reinstalled Win 7 and iTunes. Works great but now it turns out that syncing doesn’t really mean syncing. I’m not sure what it means. All I know is that after I do it the file libraries on my iPod and iTunes don’t match. You can get them to match but only at the cost of deleting all of the files on your device. You cannot download files from your device to iTunes and add them to any new files you’ve acquired. It’s obvious why this is the case: Apple wants to keep people from busting the DRM on purchased files by downloading them to unauthorized computers. But Apple’s system makes life difficult for anyone who has a significant file library and replaces or upgrades his computer. There are workarounds but they are mostly a PITA for the user, and particularly for the non-tech-savvy user who replaces his hard drive or computer. This is a case where the customer doesn’t come first (though, to be fair, Apple is far from the only company that does things in this way).

    Posted in Customer Service, Tech | 8 Comments »

    Borderline Radio

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th May 2013 (All posts by )

    (An archive post from … umm, a bit ago. I am putting together an eBook of my own posts about the military, and thought that the Boyz and fans might find this reminiscence of interest.)

    Our local public radio station (which full disclosure impels me to mention that I was employed by their 24-hour classical sister station on a part-time basis until about May, 2008 although now I am so pissed at their general drift that I coldheartedly refuse to support them in their current pledge drive) aired a special some time ago ago about “border radio”— that is, a collection of radio outlets located just over the Mexican border which during the 1950ies and 1960ies— joyfully free of FCC restrictions on power restrictions, or indeed any other kind of restriction— blasted the very latest rock, and the most daring DJ commentary, on stations so high-powered they could be heard all the way into the deep mid-West and probably on peoples’ fillings as well. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Customer Service, History, Media | 12 Comments »

    Monday Morning

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd April 2013 (All posts by )

    -Internet service not working.

    -Call Comcast toll-free number to find out if there’s systemic problem. Press 2 for high-speed Internet. Ignore recorded sales pitch for pay-per-view boxing match. No mention of systemic problems. Ignore recorded suggestion to press 1 to send refresh signal to modem (tried a few days ago, ineffective). Press another button to speak to a human.

    -Complain about no signal.

    -Comcast rep “checks your modem” and says it’s fine (subtext: you idiot).

    -Optional: Point out to Comcast rep that there are many Comcast outages, outages always Comcast’s fault, everyone knows Comcast has lousy service, tired of being lied to by Comcast, etc.

    -Optional: Comcast rep’s vaguely insulting non-apology apology — “I’m sorry you feel that way, sir” etc. (subtext: Comcast’s lousy service isn’t rep’s fault, you idiot).

    -Check computer. Modem works, probably because something is misconfigured in Comcast network and Comcast rep’s action refreshed dropped connection.

    -Repeat every few days until Comcast fixes problem.

    Posted in Customer Service | 15 Comments »

    A Bleg on Behalf of my Dog

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 12th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Connor, the middle-aged Malti-poo is at the veterinarians office today, to sort out why he has been throwing up for the last day and a half, has no appetite and is terribly lethargic. The bill for his treatment will be an unexpected expense for me … so anyone going to my book blog and purchasing copies of To Truckee’s Trail, Daughter of Texas, Deep in the Heart, or the Adelsverein Trilogy in the separate volumes will help me to square matters with the vet, and put Connor back where he belongs, sleeping peacefully under my desk. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blegs, Customer Service | 7 Comments »

    Gessler’s Hat

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th February 2013 (All posts by )

    In the foundation-legend of the Swiss confederacy, Alberect Gessler was a cruel and tyrannical overlord installed by the Austrians, who installed his hat atop a pole in the public marketplace and decreed that all should bow to it … to his hat, not merely his person. Such a declaration was, I think, a way of rubbing in his authority over the common citizens – indeed, rubbing their noses in the fact that he could make them do so, and do so in front of everyone else.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Customer Service, Miscellaneous, Religion, USA | 27 Comments »

    “The Friction Always Works to the Benefit of the Company”

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd February 2013 (All posts by )

    That is what somebody told me after I told him about an experience I had with AT&T. It fits.

    I wanted to upgrade our backup AT&T DSL line, so that I could cancel our unreliable Comcast cable Internet service. The AT&T rep said that DSL is outmoded, that what I wanted was U-Verse, which has many more features and is cheaper than DSL. I was about to sign up, but I was googling around while talking to him and started to realize that U-Verse means replacing our old-style, robust, power-outage-resistant landline phone service with some kind of VOIP. This would be unacceptable. So I told the AT&T guy to cancel our U-Verse order until I could learn more.

    Since then we’ve gotten three calls from AT&T seeking to schedule our U-Verse installation. Telling them that we didn’t order U-Verse and were slammed by their sales rep results in punishment by being put on hold for large fractions of an hour while the clueless AT&T people try to find out what’s going on. We may not know for sure until we see our next phone bill.

    It strongly appears that AT&T’s system is set up with bad incentives. I would bet that the sales rep gets compensated based on how many U-Verse accounts he opens, and that he isn’t penalized for having a high ratio of cancellations. So it’s probably in his interest to open as many new accounts as he can. And it’s in AT&T’s interest to look the other way if he signs people up who don’t really want it. They can always cancel later, right? Since some of them won’t cancel, everyone on the AT&T side comes out ahead from this strategy. It’s like when companies require customers to mail in rebate forms in order to get a discount. To the extent possible, I try to avoid companies that operate like this.

    Posted in Business, Customer Service | 12 Comments »

    …But in Texas, Autumn Has Just Arrived!

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th October 2012 (All posts by )

    Romeo, the tuxedo kitten, with an arrangement of pumpkins, at the Sisterdale Market.

    Posted in Customer Service, Diversions, Photos | 3 Comments »

    What’s Happening on a Saturday in Uptown Luckenbach, Texas

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th October 2012 (All posts by )

    Uptown Luckenbach, as opposed to downtown Luckenbach, with the famed dance-hall and concert venue. There wasn’t anything happening, much, that we could see.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Business, Customer Service, Diversions, Photos, USA | 6 Comments »

    In the Post

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th August 2012 (All posts by )

    I’ve been thinking for a while – based on my own use of the service – that the good old US Post Office is something well past its best-if-used-by date. Oh, no – not that it should be done away with as a government service entirely. But I can contemplate delivery of the mail only two or three times a week with perfect equanimity … which is at least a little tragic for there were times when the daily arrival of the mail was a much-looked-forward-to thing. When I was overseas, or in a remote location – like Greenland (and in military outposts today I am certain) the arrival of the mail (three times a week) was anticipated with keen interest, since it was our lifeline to the outside world. There were letters from family, loved ones, magazines, catalogues and packages with goodies in them – sometimes gifts, sometimes items ordered … the whole world, crammed into a tiny box with a locking door in the central post office; the magical envelopes, the catalogues and magazines in a tight-packed roll, the little pink slips that meant a package … and then, between one or two decades, it all changed.
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    Posted in Big Government, Business, Customer Service, Miscellaneous, North America, Politics, Tea Party, Unions | 6 Comments »

    Junker Delight

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th July 2012 (All posts by )

    This week in the neighborhood where I live was designated for the annual bulk-trash pickup – so residents were notified a week or more ago. Once a year we can put out on the curb … well, just about anything except concrete rubble and chunks of stone. The city sends out a couple of long open-topped trailer trucks, and a special truck with a large mechanized claw that reaches down and gathers up the bulk items.
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    Posted in Civil Society, Customer Service, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior, Personal Narrative, Photos, Urban Issues | 5 Comments »