Friday, August 22, 2008

Off to ROME!

To all my fellow bloggers, I will be literally off the charts for a few weeks as I fly to Rome (yeah, uh huh, that's right--I said ROME) and cruise the Mediterranean for a few weeks!

To say I am fairly excited would be a MAJOR UNDERSTATEMENT. . . this was one of my 'Bucket List' dreams. . . and I am happy that at least one of them is actually coming true!

Here are some photos to tide you over until I can get back and bore you with some more!

Ciao Bella!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Whatever happened to customer service?

OK. . . it's time for a little

Lately my experiences in retail have left a little something to be desired. . .

(OK--they've left a LOT to be desired)

Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned common courtesy? Is courtesy no longer COMMON? Is customer service no longer a job requirement when working with the public?

I am aghast and agog (GREAT words by the way) at what is happening in the goods and services market here in the U.S. It's becoming the norm to do the LEAST amount you can get by with and being polite or actually making eye contact, much less SMILING are no longer standard fare--but quite a rarity if it occurs at all.

I'll just share my most recent experiences with two major retailers of products here in the good ole' U.S. of A.

The first is with VERIZON

Their catchy little logo seems to be: 'It's the Network'

But I would beg to differ. . . In my experience, they need to learn that: 'It's the CUSTOMER SERVICE, stupid!'

I had been with a competing internet/phone/TV cable service company for over 10 years. Their customer service was great in the beginning--but then they kept raising rates and providing less and less service. My computer kept crashing, wireless routers weren't working, cable would go out--and on and on. They were nice enough to 'come to my rescue' when problems arose--but with the increase in the monthly bills--the problems kept coming at a faster and faster pace. I was paying MORE and having MORE PROBLEMS as a result.

Now VERIZON enters the picture. For months and months they had been courting me with promises of a BETTER DEAL, lower rates, faster speed on my computer, no more interrupted service or computer crashing, no cable going out, better picture quality on my TV with more channels, better phone service, and immediate installation with skilled professionals that would not only set up my service but make sure I knew how to work ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING before they left.

So I caved--because who doesn't want a bunch of BETTER STUFF that costs less money?

What I ended up with was a completely dead lawn from where the 'installer guys' gutted and killed my yard, and messed up my driveway from where they brought in the 'fiber optic cable' to my house. They couldn't wait to get out of there after installing my TV/Computer/Phone service, so simply bypassed the part where they were supposed to show me how to work everything before they left. Not to mention that they set me up on some sort of 'premium channel' service for my TV that I did NOT order nor did I want.

I called every day for over 2 weeks to get these channels removed only to be told that they would be removed the very next day. But when 'the next day' came--these channels would still be there and I'd have to call to get them OFF my TV and get them off my bill. . . . only to be told not to worry--they would be removed the very next day!

After about 3 weeks of this nonsense, I hear the doorbell ring and discover that a brand new DVR cable box has been delivered to me by Verizon! I did not order this or want this either--as they already set me up with one at the time of my installation.

When I called Verizon to ask them about this new development--they told me that I would be billed 40 bucks a month for the new cable box! (that I didn't order) I could send it back or drop it off at the nearest Verizon service center if I didn't want to be charged for it.

I was NOT a happy camper and luckily there was a Verizon store about a mile from my house--so I took this box there--and oh my! That's when the fun REALLY began.

First off. . . when you walk into these places, there is usually a stand with an automated box where you take a ticket for the next available customer service rep. I say this is what USUALLY happens. But since VERIZON is so 'high tech' and far above the norm--there was a little podium with a little 'guest book' where you signed your name--right as you came in the front door.

All the way down the other end of the store--there was one lowly customer service guy at a service window. After waiting on a customer--he would have to go through the back, around the side to come out the door, walk up to the front of the store and call off the name of the next person. Then he would walk all the way to the back--go to the side door, walk back through and come up to his widow again!

I was looking around for hidden cameras--because I figured this had to be a 'punk' of some kind!

There were about 4 people ahead of me when I got there--and about 6 more came in after I did. The lady just after me was even more amazed than I was. After watching this agonizingly SLOW service for 20 minutes while the guy waited on JUST ONE CUSTOMER and was about to make his laborious way up to the front of the store--she yelled to him in the back:

Lady with a brain: 'Hey! Don't come out! Just stay right there! If it's OK with you, I'm going to read off the names and let the people wend their way down to you. Then someone needs to take over after it's my turn, OK?'

Me (and everyone else in the store): Sounds like a good plan.

Verizon guy: But I'm supposed to go up and read the names.

Lady with a brain (and now a pain in her head): Does it really matter? We promise to go in the order we came in.

Verizon guy: (reluctantly) Well, OK--but only if you promise.

Guy whose turn was next: Hey, aren't you guys supposed to be 'cutting edge' with your FIOS and whatnot? What's with the ancient sign-in system? This is STUPID!

Other guy who looked about ready to leave: And why is there only one of you working? I thought you guys were all about service? You sure have a lot of folks on that TV commercial, where are they?

Verizon guy: (ignores questions and helps current customer)

It's finally my turn as the Lady with the brain calls out my name. I march back there with my 'new in package' DVR cable box sent from Verizon and explain to the guy that I want to turn it in because I never ordered it in the first place.

Verizon guy: What's wrong with it?

Me: Nothing--it's still in the box.

Verizon guy: Well, you should try it out first.

Me: I don't need to try it out--I don't want it.

Verizon guy: (getting huffy) How do you know you don't want it, if you don't try it out?

Me: Please just scan this in and accept it so it can be taken off my bill.

Verizon guy: I have nothing to do with billing.

Me: But you can look up my account and then scan this and the number should match the one on my account--and then it will be taken off, as it will show I've turned it in.

Verizon guy: (looking skeptical) Where did this come from? (looks at return address on box) It says Pennsylvania. You need to send this to Pennsylvania.

Me: I was told by Verizon when I called that I could take it to a Verizon center and turn it in.

Verizon guy: But it came from Pennsylvania!

Me: Yes, I suppose it did. But you DO stock equipment around here--so please, just scan this in so that I can turn it back in as I did not order it.

Verizon guy: (muttering under his breath as he opens the box) Man, this is a PERFECTLY good, brand new DVR cable box and you don't want it. I guess, I could take it to UPS and they would send it back to Pennsylvania. (He gets ready to put the 'closed, be right back' sign over his window)

Me: Wait! You don't have to go to UPS. Just use that little 'scan thing' right by your cash register!

Verizon guy: But this box is from UPS!

Me: But YOU can scan it and accept it here, can't you?

Verizon guy: Look--I'm gonna try it, but I'm not promising anything. After all--it came from PENNSYLVANIA! (he says this as if it's a dirty word)

He scans the bar code on the DVR cable box and the package.

Me: Thank you. Now will you print me out a receipt please, so I have my own hard copy showing I turned it back in?

Verizon guy: Man! You want everything, don't you? (figures out how to hit 'print' on his keyboard and my receipt prints out)

Me: (literally turning his flat screen monitor around so that I can see that this actually came off my account) Thanks.

Verizon guy: You seem like you know stuff. Hey--maybe you could work for Verizon. We really could use another person around here. I get sick of being the only one here.

Me: (smiling and heading for the door) No, don't think so. I'm probably over qualified. Have a nice day.

Next we have SPRINT!

So this past weekend, I take my boys to get cell phones--as one will be a senior in high school this fall--and one will be entering college in the spring. . . and well, (as tightly as dear hubby wanted to spare them from MORE 'high tech' stuff) it truly was about time--and besides they were having a HECK OF A DEAL on adding multiple phone lines for next to NOTHING on your existing family plan.

I must tell you, the Sprint store was MUCH friendlier and better organized than Verizon was---nevertheless, if anything CAN go wrong--it will. . . and it my case it did--MULTIPLE TIMES!

First of all my boys could NOT decide on which phone they wanted. (now granted, one had been out of the country for two years serving a mission in Norway--so he was on sensory overload just being IN the store) Youngest son had to try out every phone and send multiple texts to OTHER phones IN the store--to compare screen size, speed and handling.

After we got THAT part out of the way--the customer service rep had to take down all my information---over a DOZEN times, as his computer kept crashing. . . and then he had to change my family plan over and over again as he could not keep the names and phone numbers straight (we were only adding two phones, but you would have thought we were adding a small village)

Then the phones wouldn't work. . . then my bill wouldn't print out. Then the receipt for the bill wouldn't print out. . . then the phones wouldn't work again! After spending half a day in the Sprint Store we finally got everything straightened out and my boys were happy--the customer service rep was happy--and I was happy. . . just to be OUT OF THERE AND DONE!

Today I get a call from Sprint asking me if I would like to change my family cell phone plan and add more lines as they were running a real heck of a deal on adding phone lines to existing family plans! (What the?????)

Me: I already added two new phone lines this past Saturday--and upped my plan and minutes! I was in one of your stores.

Sprint customer service rep: Really? You did? We have no record of that!

SHEESH! I'm not gonna tell ya what happened next, because. . .. well, it ain't pretty!

I'm thinking of moving to Norway. . . .

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The spirit of the Olympics!

YES. . . YES. . . YES!

I am truly getting into the competition. . . excitement. . . thrills. . . and drama that are all a part of the OLYMPIC story. (I mean, come on, how can you not be ABSOLUTELY ENTHRALLED with that total merman, Michael Phelps????)

And even though Beijing's opening ceremonies will most likely NEVER be outdone in any of our lifetimes. . . ya gotta admit, China's greatest resource is what the author of Soylent Green has said all along: 'It's PEOPLE!' Whew boy!

Dear hubby and I found ourselves mustering up enough enthusiasm to actually enter and participate this year. . . and although we did not make it into the finals, or much less serious medal contention--we DID manage to turn out a respectable performance.

Here are a couple of clips of our efforts.

GO U.S.A.!

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