06 August 2012

Can't I Just PAY For It???

Scenario: Big box store (cough cough Bed Bath & Beyond cough cough)
Purpose: Purchase ice trays since my 13 year old ice maker has quit and I have yet to find a friend who knows how to fix one and I do loves me ice!

Already researched it online, ice trays are in Kitchen...Canisters. Makes sense, sort of. Except there aren't any. I stumble over and around the four shopping carts that are stuffed with new merchandise that a clerk is shelving which are blocking not one, but two end caps.

Finally, I ask the clerk. The damn things are right in front of me, of course. Except these things are $8 apiece with some kind of weird cover so you can release "just one cube". WHY WOULD I WANT "JUST ONE CUBE"? Then he points me to the silicon rubber ones, also $8 apiece. I look up, and oh my, there they are! Plain ol' plastic ice trays. I take all eight of them, at $3 a pair.

There is no one at any of the five registers. But a perky guy named Adam calls me over to the Customer Service Desk. And now the interrogation begins.

With a perky smile on his face, Adam first asks "Did you find everything you need?" Well, duh, whadda think, brainic? If I hadn't, don't you think I would have asked someone? Perhaps even you, since you were at the Customer Service Desk. Yes, I found everything I need.

"Do you have a {special store card that will impart nothing but more email and junk mail to my house}?" No, don't you think I would have offered it if I did?

"Would you like to get a {special store card that will impart nothing but more email and junk mail to my house}?" No, thank you. I'm still in the polite mode because I know this is a script, and not Adam's fault that his manager is standing right behind him listening to his every word.

(Note that if this were a grocery store, at this point the next question would be "Paper or plastic?")

"Would you like to try {some sort of special towels hanging on a rack blocking access to a third of the counter}?" No, I would not like to try some weird towels.

"Would you like to feel them anyway?" WTF?!?! NO NO NO! Just take my fricking money!!!

He scans my four items. We manage to make it all the way to me swiping my card....wait for it...yep...you got it in one:
"Credit or debit?" It amazes me that in the 21st Century, the POS terminal can't figure it out based on whether I put in a PIN or hit cancel and enter my ZIP Code (not to mention the receipt that prints out will be different and want a signature if it's credit).

I enter my PIN, he turns to carry on a conversation with the manager while we wait for the approval and receipt, and then, right on cue:
"Would like your receipt in the bag?" This wouldn't have been so absurd except that I'm reaching for the paper he is thrusting in my direction while he still has the bag below counter level! No answer needed.

The same seems to be true in so many stores. Radio Shack used to asked for my phone number. I'd ask if my phone number was necessary to complete a cash purchase, and at least one time, I was told it was required. I told him to keep the merchandise and walked out. They have stopped that practice. Why do these stores seem to think that an inquisition is necessary to accept money from your customers? Just smile, simply ask if there is anything else, and TAKE MY BLOODY MONEY so I can go home!!!

03 August 2012

Random Ramblings

Who cares about Chick-fil-A? Cathy didn't do a damn thing wrong, and he is entitled to his views. To the best of my knowledge, there is no requirement that his franchisees share his views, other than closing on Sundays and Christian holidays (and it's their free choice to lose that business, even in malls and other locations that traditionally don't close but maybe Christmas Day). So don't eat there if you don't want to, but you're hurting the local owner more than Cathy; he gets his franchise fees in any case. Lots of businesses you shop at every day contribute to causes that are not necessarily GLBT friendly. So you'd be really busy uncovering all of them - and very limited in where you can shop, eat, buy fuel, etc., etc., etc. Oh, and they are an NBC Sponsor of the Olympics. I hate that people use the Bible to discriminate against anyone, but they are entitled to their views. This topic alone would be two or three posts (read: rants).

Next rant - with some kudos! VerizonFIOS - high speed Internet service, TV, and VOIP phone all stuffed into a fiber optic cable that terminates on the back of my house. I'm pretty satisfied with Verizon's FIOS service overall. It's been reliable, fast, and when there's been a problem, they have corrected it quickly. So technically, they've got it down. But administratively, they're a mess. The first screw-up was when I tried to change the service from a former roommate's name to mine. They wanted to remove all the equipment and send new stuff, even though I had a full DVR of stuff I wanted to keep. Finally they decided that yes indeed, they could just change the name on the account (God help any women who get married).

(This was a few years ago.) On Thursday, a tech showed up to find out where he had to run fiber. Um, there is fiber in place! Then on Saturday, three boxes show up so I can pack up the equipment and send it back (who knows how long it would have taken to get new stuff). I began to suspect something wasn't right. I came in on the following Monday, the day this change was supposed to be made, and found all the equipment dead. I dig out a bill, call Customer Service, and since they can't seem to reboot the outdoor box (the Optical Network Terminal - ONT), they tell me it will be FOUR DAYS before they can get someone out to fix it, and then it will be an "all day" appointment window, meaning I'll have to take a day off from work!!! To say I was furious was an understatement. I scheduled it, but then dug around and found another phone number - the Fiber Solutions Center. This tech couldn't ping my ONT either, but HE could schedule a tech for 8AM the next morning! I asked no questions. The next morning at 8AM, here came a technician. The ONT was truly and totally dead, he could not access it by physically plugging into it, so he replaced it, and lo and behold, everything worked again! YAY for the techs! BOO for the admin folks.

Fast forward to last week. I saw an ad for a free DVR upgrade - from an 80GB hard drive to a 500GB hard drive - lots more space for recording shows! So I log into my account using Firefox 14 (the latest version). I find the offer. If course, it isn't "free", there is a $39.95 handling fee. OK, so what. It's only money. I click "Confirm" and nothing happens. I go through the whole thing again, and click "Confirm". Nada, zilch, nothing. No movement. So I fire off Chrome (the latest version). Exact same thing. No confirmation page, no email confirming the transaction, even after waiting 30 minutes or so. Finally, I grudgingly open Internet Explorer 9 (the latest version). Lo and behold, it confirms. I get a nice confirmation page, and an email, showing that I will be billed $39.95 and that my new DVR will arrive in 3-7 business days. (Notably, I tweeted this fiasco, and @VerizonFIOS actually answered me, asking about browser versions, and thanking me for the information.) Oh, and every browser opened to a different page, even while using the same URL, forcing me to search each time for the offer. This was on a Thursday. Saturday morning there was a thump  and a knock on the door, then a revving as the UPS truck left. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door and there are, gasp! TWO new DVRs on my doorstep. I immediately call Verizon. Yes, I was told, I will probably be charged $39.95 twice. And, because it is so early in the billing cycle, neither of the charges is showing yet, so there isn't anything he can do until they do. I tweet all this, and naturally, @VerizonFIOS is silent in return. In the meantime, I unpack a nice, new Motorola Set Top Box DVR for FIOS HD TV. This is a simple install. Hook up the coax, plug in the HDMI cable, add AC, and it turns on and activates. Perfect! Fifteen minutes after unpacking, I've got the new one playing TV and recording another show. Until BOINK! It reboots! And goes through activation again. And its initial download of data again. It does this once an hour or so, all evening long. Sunday morning I unpack the other DVR, hook it up, and it works. Bottom line: VerizonFIOS sends me two by mistake, which by luck, saves their ass from another chewing out. Now I have to take the old box, and the dead box into work and put the boxes in the UPS pick up pile.

Yesterday morning: Bank of America. Oh good grief do I even have to go here? Everything BoA is a disaster these days. I will admit this time it was my fault, but my initial reaction was fury. I stormed into the local branch at 9:00AM, opening time. As luck would have it, the Personal Banker who served me was an expert at defusing pissed off customers. He knew me from having Travel Notifications put on my accounts in June. But now I was boiling. At 7:50AM this morning, I got an email notification that one of my accounts, my pathetic business account, had a low balance. Excuse me?!?!?! This account hasn't been used in at least two months! (Note this statement.) BoA took over 50% of the balance ($15, so you know this business is pathetic) as a "Monthly Maintenance Fee". Darryl explained to me that the debit card had to be used once a month to avoid the charge. I explained, and he agreed that it was clearly an oversight since I was out of the country for a lot of June and July. So BoA refunded the fees. And waived them for 3 months so I can "get back in the habit of using it once a month". Here's what's funny about this.

This is the first time I've been charged the $15 Monthly Maintenance Fee. If I use the card once a month for business, which is typical, I might spend $15 or $20 unless I'm really lucky and paying for expenses related to a photo shoot. Some months, I use it to buy breakfast...$4 or $5. Using what I know about credit/debit card fees, they average around 2.9% plus about 30¢ per transaction. So if I am not totally brain dead, and use the card to buy a meal a month in the months I don't have real costs associated with the business (checks don't count, I do write a few of them for professional associations and periodicals), BoA will make a few cents off my account. But God forbid I forget, then they make $15!!! The fee is "to encourage businesses to use the card rather than write checks". OK, I get that. But if I am not costing you anything, DON'T FUCKING CHARGE ME, EITHER! Especially since you made a few cents at least off my miserable business balance of $29.10!!!!!

I did leave with a better deal on my personal checking. I get .09% more in interest than I did before. WOO HOO!!!! Oh, and free checks. Too bad for me I had just ordered new checks from Current Checks, since I was down to the last one of 800 that I bought in 1999!

Work is interesting. It's either feast or famine. I had an interesting problem to solve that involved a library search site that would not retrieve the actual article. The company was using port 8080 (too complicated to explain) that is usually used by proxy services and other nefarious things. But I could get the articles at my location, no matter what our Internet filter settings were. The main firewall had exceptions to the port for this service. Turns out our "traffic manager" - a computer that looks at what comes in from the Internet and prioritizes it according to a set of "top-down" rules, had a rule buried WAY down that I had never seen that blocked port 8080 traffic. So the solution was to put the new search engine sites in a rule that preceded the block rule. Fixed. Too bad it took 3 days and 5 people to figure it out. But I am the hero in this tale!

Man, is it expensive to live these days! Yesterday, I made a few stops on the way home from work, and parted with nearly $200!!!!
ABC Store: $25 for some of my friend Evan Williams.
Sonic Drive-in: $5 for 2 hot dogs for dinner.
Target: $93 (for 2 bottles of shampoo, 3 cans shaving cream, 1 box trash bags, 6 tubes tooth paste (one pair was free due to a free $5 gift card), package of razor blades - 10 for $26, some address labels, a box of staples - this all fix into THREE little plastic bags!)
Wawa: $59 for fuel - that's a weekly fill up. And before you Limeys start up, yeah, I know it's a lot more expensive over there!
Convenience Store: $2.30 for ice since I forgot to put Ice Trays on my Target shopping list. My ice maker has quit, and I am not paying someone more than it's worth to fix it, so I shall make ice the manual way.

So that is where I will leave this LONG post. I hope you made it through it. I know my posts have been few and far between since I got back from my trip to England (with its 20+ posts). Maybe I'll find a few more things to rant about as I ramble along!