Of Mice and Repairmen

Which should have been the title of yesterday’s post. *sigh* But I will waste no time on regrets.

Yesterday, I had big plans. This is what my schedule looked like:

9:30 : Drop Squish at Parents Day Out

10:00 – 2pm : Write

So simple. A good, quiet solid four hours in which to write. It looked so great on paper. Things don’t always go according to plan. Here’s what actually happened:

6:00 Wake up and realize husband is throwing things out of the freezer. The worst has come to pass, and the refrigerator has died in the night.

6:01 Develop an awareness that I will be expected to participate in fridge cleaning if I get out of bed. 

6:45 Finally get out of bed because I need to make the coffee and breakfast before he returns from his run. I know you’re asking yourself what I’m doing making coffee when I gave it up a few weeks ago. But marriage is about give and take. I give him good coffee, and he takes my crap.

6:50 Search internet for repairman

6:52 Locate said repairman with A+ rating on website. And wait for a decent hour so I can call him. 

8:01 Call repairman. 

8:02 Call repairman.

8:03 Call repairman again. This guy MUST be good. His phone is always busy.

8:09 Finally reach repairman and schedule appointment.

8:09:30 Wonder if, perhaps, I have selected the wrong repairman when I am asked to spell my name four times. Slowly. Very slowly, and my last name only has six letters.

9:10 Leave early to take Squish to school because I have to pick up chocolate bars for his picnic.

9:20 Become aware that I have already forgotten about the chocolate bars and have passed all the grocery stores I am familiar with.

9:35 Arrive at school, chocolate bars in hand. But now I’m going to be late for the repairman.

9:55 I’m home! I fire up my computer in the hopes of getting some writing done while I wait.

10:15 Repairman arrives. He is very prompt, but also speaks no intelligible language. I have lived in the South my whole life and thought I had a handle on all the major dialects. I clearly do not. He sounds like a cross between James Earl Jones and a grizzly bear.  I just hope he can write the important information down.

11:00am Consult with repairman. Repairs will cost $750. Here’s a play-by-play because you know you want one.

“Sir, do you know what’s wrong with it?”

“Yes.” Insert long, incredibly uncomfortable pause.

“Can you tell me what it is?”

“It’s the box.”

“The box?”

“The box that runs everything.” I am now enlightened. He adds,  “It’s not worth fixing.”

11:05 Write check to pay for the opinion.

11:10 Beat head on desk.

11:45 Begin online search for new refrigerator. Compare brands, prices, special offers

12:45 Beat head on floor

1:00 Freezer is broken, and there is no ice. Wish I had thought of that before I beat my head on things.

2:30 Squish retrieved, the pair of us visit giant appliance store.

2:45 Though there are seven free employees, not a single one of them offers to help me. When I approach a salesperson, he leaves. Gosh, so do I.

2:50 Leave and drive to different store that is far, far away. 

3:15 Arrive at store and am greeted by two employees, both happy to help me.

3:16 Locate model I was looking for and start paperwork to purchase.

3:17 Employee tells me they will be happy to deliver my new appliance. At the end of July. It’s on backorder.

3:18 Poop a brick.

3:25 Select a floor model with a small dent. It has full warranty, a feature that I was actually looking for but the first one didn’t have.

3:30 Am told by employee that they will be happy to deliver it. In one week.

3:32 Beat head against refrigerator. Not mine, of course. And the dent I left means that someone else will get a nice discount.

3:35 Purchase my refrigerator. Ask for measurements. It’s taller than the other one.

4:30 Arrive home. Measure the opening the refrigerator will nestle in.

4:31 Measure again.

4:32 Measure again. Repeat twelve times.

The space under the cabinet is 70 inches. The refrigerator specs say it is 69 3/8. It is going to be a close one. It had better fit. I’ve run out of surfaces to beat my head against.

Catching You Up

In case you’ve been following my computer saga (and who hasn’t? It’s riveting!), I am now on my third computer in two weeks. The color on the first two was bad. After returning the first two and opting for a different brand entirely, I brought the newest one home with much trepidation.

After Squish went to sleep, I unpacked it all. With bated breath, I booted it up. I was so angry at the distorted appearance on the monitor that I was ready to throw the whole thing out of my second story window. My blood boiled as I thought about having to trek back to the store AGAIN to return a faulty laptop.

Yes, the hands are disproportionately large. Thanks for noticing. We'll call those my "angry hands" and call it a a day, 'kay?

.

About 10 seconds later, I remembered to remove the thin black foam used to protect the screen during shipping.

.

And we can call these "stupid hands."

.

Then I carefully packed everything back into the box to return it. Because I am maybe too stupid to own a computer.

.

In case you’re wondering, that was not the issue with the first two computers. I swear!

How To Provide Excellent Customer Service

In this dog-eat-dog world, the only businesses to survive will be the ones who are so big that they own everything in sight really care about their customers. It’s important to be in touch with your consumer base in order to go above and beyond the call of duty. Here’s how to really meet their needs.

1) Have a great website. The more flashy stuff, the better. Seriously. Things that flash, and lots of it. Customers appreciate a website with a little bling. Nothing like a seizure to make them forget about a rough day. They’ll thank you.

2) Provide a contact link. Customers like to be able to get in touch. Know what they also like? Easter egg hunts. Who doesn’t love an endless search for the prize? Be sure to hide that contact link in the least likely place you can think of. If you’re really committed to providing a good time, move the link every couple of weeks.

3) Know your customers. Like, really know them. On your contact form, request as much information possible. You never know when you might need to know the name of their mother-in-law’s best friend’s dog.

4) Address all complaints in a timely manner. In order to do so, don’t feel compelled to read their entire complaint. Every third word will do. After all, time is money. They’d rather you get back to them in a hurry with any answer than to have to actually wait for the right one. I’m pretty sure.

5) Timely, but not too timely. Don’t respond to email complaints immediately. It makes you seem needy. A waiting period of at least twelve hours sends the message that you are prompt, but not desperate.

6) Provide a detailed solution. The more complicated steps required, the better. The harder they have to work for it, the more appreciated the result will be. It’s especially effective if they’re required to restart their computer several times in order to read the instructions again. And if correcting their problem involves the use of a piece of equipment they don’t actually have, so much the better!

7) Find the cause of the issue quickly. By blaming them. When they feel like they’re the entire problem, you have empowered them to become the solution. And if you’re convincing enough, they’re less likely to sue you.

8 ) Always apologize for any inconvenience. Whether you mean it or not. After all, there is nothing worse than inconvenience. In the lesser-known eleventh plague of Egypt, God removed all the Redboxes and 7/11s. And horror filled the land. Inconvenience is the pits. Your customer is not screaming at you because the computer monitor you sold them set their hair on fire. They’re complaining because it will be a total pain in the behind to drive over to Wal-mart and buy makeup so they can draw their eyebrows back on. Apologize. Often.

9) Don’t live in the past.  Keep no records of your clients’ customer service history. If you have any questions, you can always ask them again. And again. And again.

10) Encourage two-way communication. By limiting your email responses to a single, incomplete sentence. People love cliff-hangers. They’ll send you back a reply almost instantly and be ready for a response from you, which you can supply. In twelve hours.

.

.

Update: An excellent post on creating a user friendly website can be found here. No tongue in cheek, just really good advice.

Technical Difficulties

From the day I opened the box, I thought the color on my new computer looked weird. And not just a little. Every page I visit appears as though it has been bleached by the sun. I have tinkered with the color saturation and brightness. And that’s the most annoying part. Every single time I reboot the computer, I have to adjust the color again. I’m ready to scream. I am working on a book about the tortoises at my zoo, and being able to sort through my blue-million photographs and see which ones are good is kind of important. I am not above thinking that this issue my fault, but I decided to contact the company for tech support.

The moment I went to their site, I was invited to register my purchase. So I did. My dog is registered, so why not the computer? The first thing they requested however, requested the model number. Which happens to be on the bottom of the computer and contains more digits than the profit sheet of an oil company. The process would have been a wee bit simpler if I could have typed the digits in myself, but computers are not here to make our lives easier. Instead, I was presented with a drop down menu and asked to select my model number. From a list of 75 nearly identical numbers, all in tiny, cross-your-eyes pale blue font. It took several minutes of scrolling, turning the machine over to double check, scrolling some more, before I located what I was looking for. Wait. Does that have an extra digit? It does. Where is mine? Where is mine? Just as I was about to quit altogether, my model number appeared as if by magic. A few more clicks, and the process was complete. On to the help center.

The first request in the help center was, of course, my model number. Again. I scrolled, I studied the bottom of the computer, scrolled some more. Clicked it, moved on. I discovered that the page was a dead end for me, so I clicked to go back to the help center. And I was asked to select my model number. Scroll, turn, scroll, swear, scroll. Click. Another dead end, and back to the help center. To select my model number, which now is suddenly no longer visible. I may not know Squish’s social security number yet, but by golly, I can rattle my model number in my sleep. And I did.  For kicks, I had it tattooed on my bum-bum.

After about eight tries Finally, I found the right page and was able to send off an email requesting help. When I woke up this morning, I had this response:

.

If you need me, I will be drinking.

Dear Amazon, You Can Have My Kindle Fire Back

Don’t get me wrong.  After a very rocky start, I came to love the device. It was my first gadget, and it took some getting used to, but I did enjoy it. I loved snuggling under the covers with Squish and watching an episode of Sesame Street, and hiding in the dark reading a good book. When I discovered that all seven seasons of Malcolm in the Middle were available free using Amazon Prime, I was hooked. But I’m letting it go.

My husband bought me the reader for my birthday, and I wanted to send it back within 12 hours. The device would not let me complete the steps to register it, and it was unable to connect to the internet. The Fire does not come with any instructions besides a simple illustration showing how to turn it on. The entire owner’s manual is contained on the Kindle itself, but sadly, I couldn’t access it without being able to register the device in the first place. I spent a Saturday on chat with customer service and discovered something totally fun. The software was obsolete right out of the box. And despite its $200 price tag, it does not come with a USB cable, so  couldn’t just upgrade to the new software. They had to ship me a new unit. And I had to front the money for shipping, though it was later refunded.

But when I finally got it working, it was great. For Christmas, my sweet bought me a cover and some accessories, but the big item was an Amazon gift card so that I could purchase a year of Amazon Prime and have access to my favorite old TV shows.

Today, I sat down and entered the card number into my account and tried to purchase Prime. Turns out, I can’t. I spent much time with customer service to discover that the only payment type they accept is a credit card. We follow the financial teachings of Dave Ramsey and cut up our credit cards years ago. We have no interest in going into debt. Pre-paid cards have fees of up to 18% attached. Besides, the money we would have used is tied up in a gift card that they say can’t refund.

Legally, Amazon is probably covered. Even though their gift-card page does NOT list Amazon Prime under “limitations,” and even though it took even the customer service rep about 5 minutes to find it, there’s a clause buried on the Prime page requiring a credit card. They have me. And my money.

Without Prime, there’s no reason to have the Fire. I’m not a gamer, so the apps are not my thing. We don’t have cable. We wanted to stream shows. If I can’t do that, I don’t need the extra features of the Fire. I can get a different reader for less. So the Fire is going back. I spent my afternoon on e-chat with customer service reps and got everything I need. I’m heading off to print the shipping labels in just a few minutes.

Here’s the kicker. I don’t get a refund. They credit to my account. Apparently, I missed my window to send the device back for an actual refund. So I can’t vote down a crummy policy with my dollars and go elsewhere. This time. Once I’ve used all my credit, I’m finished with Amazon.

Amazon, if you are listening, here are my biggest complaints.

A customer should be able to purchase a product if they have actual money. And if we cannot purchase what we would like with the money we give you, we should be able to get it back to spend elsewhere.

When your customers show great patience with a poor product, treat them better. I put up with a lot over the first several days of owning this stupid device. I spent hours of my time working with customer service, had to make a trip to find a UPS store to ship it back, wondered if I had made a mistake in getting it to begin with. And now you won’t let me use the money I have spent.

There is no way to get in touch with a person with any authority.  Customer service is limited to a person in a cubicle. Those people have been fabulous and so kind, please don’t get me wrong. But their hands are tied. The only thing they can offer is empathy and a promise to “forward on the feedback.” Not good enough for me.

I am reduced to one tiny voice in the great clamor. And it’s unfortunate. My dollars won’t make a bit of difference to Amazon.

But my kids see. They see that being debt-free is way more important to us than a stupid electronic device that will be out-of-date before Squish is old enough to start school. They will see that when a business treats them like they are nothing, there are plenty of other companies to do business with.

.

.

UPDATE: I have heard from  many people who have shared that they paid for Amazon Prime with their debit card. And I think that is how it should be.  I don’t know if this means that the policy is different from actual practice, or if it is a new policy. Interestingly, as I look for it this morning to take a screen shot, I cannot find it. Is it because they have now removed that clause? Is it because I have looked on the wrong page? No way of knowing.

I just wanted my readers to know that I didn’t jump to conclusions before I published this post. I spent an hour or more with customer service on this very issue, and they insisted that the only way to pay is with an actual credit card, not a debit. They were finally able to chase down a link where the information was posted. I now wish I had taken a screen shot of that one.

In the end, it’s too frustrating. If I have a question about policy and can’t find it on the website and their customer service reps can’t tell me, I really need to take my business elsewhere. I can’t always wonder if there is some clause buried somewhere on their site that is designed to stick it to the consumer. It’s not worth it. I don’t need stuff that much.

To those who have taken the time to read all of this, I say thanks. It’s a lot of information.

It’s Sunday, and I am now closing this post for comments, as I’d like to encourage visitors to read the update. If you’d like to comment and have read the update, the place to leave a comment is here.

The Walk of Shame, An Update

I know I said I wasn’t going back our usual kids-eat-free spot. I was simply tired of the inefficiency. And I had every intention of sticking to that resolution. Just shows that sometimes I can eat my words along with my freak-pizza. But now I’m really done. We went, and it was the biggest disaster to date.

I decided to contact the manager. After all, they can’t fix what they don’t know about. It took me a couple of hours to construct the email. Yes, email. Did I mention that I don’t do conflict well? I told him how much I enjoy shopping in the store in general because I really do. They have excellent prices on their organic milk and eggs, their peanut butter is full of freshly-ground awesomeness, there are no artificial ingredients in anything in the store. I then expressed my disappointment in the mess that has become kids-eat-free night. I also added some observations about the time when free-food night was not an actual free-for-all and made a couple of suggestions for improvement. Yes, friends and neighbors, my letter was straight from the annals of “How To Talk To Your Spouse So That They Don’t Think You’re a Whiny Crybaby, Vol III.” Those manipulation marriage conferences pay off in the real world sometimes.

Before I hit “send,” I, of course, carefully removed the signature with the link to my blog. The blog that contains photos of myself and my children. Photos that could potentially identify me and forever brand me with a scarlet letter “B.” (You can use your imagination to guess what that stands for. I’m sure you’ll come up with something.)

Within an hour, I had a response. A very apologetic response. The manager shared that he would be having a meeting with all of those involved to brainstorm and see how to make the experience more efficient. And he told me that there is a $10 gift card waiting at customer service for my trouble. Mmm-hmm. A gift card, or as I see it, bait. I am pretty sure that there is no actual gift card. They are just trying to draw me into the store so they can identify the whiner who ruined their lives.

I considered letting my husband collect the card for me. After all, he rarely goes there. They’d never make the connection. But there is probably some trace on the card itself. I am sure that if I ever tried to use it, an alarm will sound, red lights will flash, and all those vegans will satisfy their craving for human flesh. Maybe I have vegans confused with vampires. But still, it wouldn’t be pretty. So I am letting the card go and skipping the store on Thursday nights. You see where this is going, right?

Last night, my daughter and I were out getting a haircut. We were within a mile of the store, so it made sense to drop by and pick up coffee and milk, the two most essential morning substances. A heartbeat too late, it dawned on me that the path from the milk cooler to the register was leading me right…past..the deli counter. On Thursday night.

Granted, free-food hours had already passed. And the total lack of customers at the counter meant that the chefs had nothing to do but watch me as I slunk past on my way to escape the store. Did they know who the complainer was until that moment? Probably not. I’m sure their conversation went something like this:

“Who do you think it was? They said they were regular customers.”

“I don’t know. There are so many. Which regular customer didn’t show up tonight?”

“Maybe that one right there? It’s Pesto-Chicken-Pizza Lady! We knew something was wrong with her.”

I could feel their eyes burning into me, practically smell the stink-eye as I tried to act all cool and casual. Maybe I imagined it. Maybe it was all in my head, the years of home-training that drilled into my skull the notion that only evil people complain. Or maybe they really are planning to poop on my next pesto chicken pizza. I am not taking any chances. Before my next visit, I’m getting plastic surgery and a disguise.