First World Problems – The Customer Is No Longer King

Sometimes I wonder what other people are thinking.  Or you can hear Jerry Seinfeld ranting “what were they thinking?”  I learned early one that most things have an element of customer service.  I work in IT and while there is a ton of technical details to consider, learn and execute, if you fail on the customer service aspect, you’ve failed completely.  Pretty much everything you do, you are doing for someone.  If they aren’t happy, you aren’t succeeding.  I don’t know about you, but I want to succeed every time.

Of course I realize that many companies put rules in place to manage exactly that their employees can and can’t do which often can result in dissatisfied customers.  This is especially true when the staff are not empowered to use common sense or have avenues to do the right thing.  The corollary to everything is customer service is that it is far cheaper to retain a customer than it is to get a new one.  In this case the cost to retain the customer was $35.  I haven’t made up my mind, but as you will see by this on-line venting, I’m not happy.

Let’s rewind the film to last week.  The hard drive on my satellite dvr/receiver died.  There it was on the screen right before work.  Error 311 I believe.  No NFL AM, no Good Morning America, no Despierta America (ok, that’s a guilty pleasure of dancing and Honey the Chihuahua).  I gathered my wits, went to work and called in the problem to DISHnetwork. Or @dish if you are on twitter.

Issue one, you can’t call in a problem unless you are in front of the TV.  They need way too many numbers to do anything.  Of course I got a call center where they wanted me to reboot the device several times.  Of course I had done this 3 times per the instructions on the error message to no avail.  It was dead as doornail.   This also means no Daily Show or Colbert Report before bed.  How would I get my Fox News?  It made me wonder, why couldn’t the installer have noted which machine was in which room?  Add two pieces of info and the need to specifically identify each device is rendered moot.  Unless they don’t want to.  Hey executives, use this idea for free!

So, here I was at work unable to get this party, I mean process, started.  When I finally got home it was late but I called it in and yet another staffer wanted me to reboot.  I satisfied his inner curiosity and showed him it didn’t work.  As well as you can via the telephone.  So it is Thursday night at 11pm and I finally have  convinced someone to send me a device.  It will cost me $15 in shipping.  Ok.

But of course it will take 2-3 (meaning 3) business days to get to me.  Yep, that means Tuesday, best case.  So of course the device comes at 7:30 PM on Tuesday.  Following the Giants win in World Series game 1, I got to installing the receiver at 10pm.  I can do this.

My first clue something would go wrong was step 6 where the software checks to see if my connected phone line or Ethernet cable is working.  I have had DISH for the better part of 20 years, I have never had a phone cable near where the receiver was.  All that means is that I can’t order pay per view.  Color me crushed.  This is great user interface after it fails that step, it lets me know to try again.  Why not ask me if one is connected?  That’s not an option. So it tries again.  That’s two times at two minutes each.  Remember this.  It will come back like that bad fish from that road house you wish you had avoided.

Then came step 7.  This is the step where it tells you call in to active the receiver.  I call. It knows I want to activate.  So far so good.  It doesn’t like the number I’ve punched in.  I’m reading it off the TV screen.  3 time, no bueno.  I push 0 and hope I get a decent agent.  I do.  She activates it.  Then comes step 7a.  10-20 minutes to set up.  Sigh.

So I say goodnight and watch the status bar move slower than traffic at the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza at rush hour. At the 15 minute mark, the screen changes.  That’s right it wants me to call in and activate the receiver, again.  So I call again.  This time there is not activation process, because the system believes it is activated.  I get a nice enough young woman.  Sally as I recall.   She and I had plenty of time to get acquainted.  We were stuck at the activation screen.  She had me  pull the smart card out and that’s when the fun really started.

Pulling the smart card is a hard reset. All sorts of moving parts moved and rumbled.  It was loud.  It was ugly.  It went on for 15 minutes.  And then there was the false ending.  That’s right we were back at the test the phone segment of our show.  FUCK ME.  She suggested I skip this step.  I suggested they put a path for e to skip this step. And we were stuck at the call and activate segment, again.  She sent signals.  I did a rain dance.  I prayed to Cthulhu and the old ones.  No dice.   We pulled the smart card again, and waited 15 more minutes amid the rumbling.

And I’m back at the fucking phone test again.  And the activation screen.  When I’m about to give up and become a Hare Krishna Missionary, it activates.  Of course that means the 20 minute download.  No I’m not letting her off the phone till we are done.  Did I tell you she’s from El Paso and didn’t watch The Bridge? I must have been the only one because she was surprised it was cancelled. She did like Breaking Bad, though.  We bonded watching the status bar do its imitation of paint drying.  I convinced Sally to give me credit on my account, because I had gone 6 days without being able to use that TV.  $7 and change. Woo hoo!

At 23 minutes we discussed the lemon on my dresser and how to replace it.  Then, like Renly’s Ghost on the Blackwater, the TV suddenly went on!  Of course then we waited and bonded for 10 more minutes for the guide any my programming to download.  I hope my mother likes Sally, we’ve become very close  I decided to introduce Sally to the family, as Lambchop slumbered two feet away  ignoring my bonding with the telephone agent.  Finally, I had completed this hideous task.  What should have taken 20 minutes at 9:45 had taken almost 2 hours.  Sally and I parted, my boys would never call her mom.

At 11:45 or so I started watching the repeat of the repeat of the repeat of the World Series Post game.  As the Panda sat down for his interview, the system did hard reset.  That’s right. It was  rumbling and shaking, again making god awful noises.  I was too far into this to quit.  I shut out the light and decided to sleep through it and everything would be good in the light of an October morning.  I should have been thinking mourning.

The third time the system reset and woke me up, I turned off the power to the socket.  Do you think DISH cares that their hell spawned equipment ruined 8 hours of my life?  I don’t think so either. So first thing in the morning, well after a cup of coffee, I called again.  The nice system told me that Sally wasn’t available.  I wondered who the trollop was stepping out on me with.

It didn’t take long to convince the Sally surrogate to send me a new device.  Being reasonable, I asked to have it expedited.  I really didn’t want to wait another 3-4 days because they sent me a lemon.  It would cost $35 dollars to expedite the 3rd receiver.  I suggested as a longtime customer they should waive the fee.  At this point she informs me that because of my less than $8 credit, the expedite fee could not be waived.  I kindly suggested that she reinstate the $7.68 and waive the $35.  She politely informed me she could not.  I suggested she talk to her manager.  He denied me too.  There are rules you see.

Here’s where I got really pissed off.    But first, some background.  I pay DISH in excess of $125 a month.  How much in excess is embarrassing so we’ll skip that.  Let’s just say it has been at that level for about 6 years.  This is the 3rd receiver I’ve had break in 10 years, and I always have 2.  I’m not a high maintenance customer.

They let me know they would waive the $15 standard shipping.  As well they should.  It wasn’t my fault they sent a piece of shit box.  And the kicker?  I was informed if I had paid $8 per month for the protection package, they would have shipped the new receiver overnight FOR FREE!  Let me get this straight, you’d save me $35 if I pay you $96 per year, for the last 4 or 5 years?  I must not be as smart as they think I should be.

DISH is willing to risk a $1500+ per year customer over a $35 charge emanating from their product.  It doesn’t make sense to me either.  Perhaps the customer service VP at DISH is sleeping with the Parking Nazi.  Nothing else really makes sense does it?

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When Sixes Don’t Mean Boxcars

In 2013 at the World Science Fiction Convention, I had the great fortune of meeting Arriane “Tex” Thompson.   She was and acquaintance of a friend and she joined a group of us going out to dinner.  It took about 15 minutes before she charmed the entire table.    When dinner was over, I knew she had a novel being published in 2014 and that I would be reading it.  I wasn’t sure what to expect – either I didn’t ask or I had too much to drink and the former was unlikely – but I didn’t expect a western horror fantasy novel.  Don’t take the Sci-Fi portion of the convention too literally; the fantasy genre is often lumped in with it.  No one in their right minds thinks of A Song of Ice and Fire (which you may think of as Game of Thrones) as Sci-Fi and that was why I was there.

This summer, Tex’s  One Night in Sixes was published.  Having preordered it, it came with little fanfare in a box with a smile.  I had seen the cover on line, but I had not really gauged the entire “westernness” that confronted me.  I’m not really a western kind of guy.  I can say Zane Gray and Louis L’Amour because I’m observant – I’ve never read anything of theirs.  Nor have I read King’s Gunslinger series. My father always loved westerns like “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”, but I always resisted the nonexistent temptation to watch with him.  I have seen “Unforgiven” so I’m not completely clueless. Just mostly.  That’s enough from the peanut gallery.

one night in sixes

Of course when I hear “Sixes” I immediately thing of one thing.  No, not people whose looks are slightly above average, but the Rolling Stones “Tumbling Dice“.

I’m all Sixes and Sevens and Nines

As a craps player, and thank you Dad for teaching me the game and reinforcing its joys, we want sixes and nines.  But usually it is sixes and eights or nines and fives or seven and elevens.  It is context sensitive (in addition to being fully math/statistics based).  I ‘m guessing Mick and Keith don’t roll the bones for money.  So while I hoped the novel had a dice based theme, I knew better.

I opened the book and started with minor trepidation.  Was she going to brand cattle? Teach us how to use a lasso?  Perhaps chuck wagon chili was on the menu.  Oh well, I was going to find out.  It didn’t matter after a few pages of establishing the western motif, I realized we weren’t in Texas anymore.   Almost immediately I was thrust into a new world, where western elements mixed with the unusual.  Was this some post-apocalyptic future?  Perhaps an alternate universe where the weather and man’s arrogance transformed this part of the world into a heap of dry clay, ready to be molded but unable to maintain any sort of structural integrity.  It didn’t matter; the landscape in my mind’s eye provided an ample canvas for the tale to unfold.

We quickly meet Appaloosa Elim and Sil Halfwick.   My next thought was this was going to be the literary equivalent of a buddy movie.  You know, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in “The Road to Someplace” or Eddy Murphy and Nick Nolte roaming San Francisco for 48 hours, twice it seems.  But again no, the two main characters are not really buddies and they don’t really travel together.  Yes, I do have an overactive imagination.

The basic premise of the books is that Elim and Sil travel to the town of Sixes and bad shit happens.  Then it gets convoluted and worse shit happens and it continues to go downhill, with unusual characters and their veiled motivations pulled into that downward spiral ever faster.  I wondered if Tex listened to too much Nine Inch Nails while writing the book.

If I was 14, this would be where I start to summarize the plot and dissect the characters’ actions and motivation.  As an adult, I believe you can do that if you choose to do so.    What I do want to focus on is the depth and density of the detailed mythology Tex showers the reader with.  There are multiple cultures, languages and motivations that reveal themselves at her pace.    There are not any “remember when…” moments.  This is a smart book for intelligent readers.  The novel rewards both the thoughtful reader and the multiple rereads you will want to do.

She also pays homage and leverages what has been done well in the past.  I’m not about to say that One Night in Sixes is a new entry into the big book of Cthulhu mythos, but I definitely saw some influence from Lovecraft.  In my world that is always worth 3 bonus points.

Subtitled “Children of the Drought Book One”, this is clearly the first of a series, as the small print proclaims.  I’m looking forward to future books, as Tex has a fantastic way with words.  Her prose is engaging, descriptive and refreshing.  Here are a few examples.

A stab of fear pierced the fog as Elim was hauled up to his feet, and he suddenly understood done. (Page 122)

The darkness opened her eyes, angry white tears tracked down her cheeks, and found him. (Page 214)

But even with his hair half out from its tie and full pockets under his eyes, he knew better than to wait for an invitation to speak.  (Page 339)

Why yes, I did take these at random.  That’s what makes this such a rewarding read.  Her unique style fills the pages, keeping the reader – ok, me – fully in her thrall until she decided she was done with me.  Now all I can do is wait for the next book.  I’m sure I’m not the first to say this, but you’ll be hearing a lot from her.  My book collection is waiting for fancy limited versions that are trademark of beloved books.  I’ll make room for hers on a prominent shelf.

On a side note, Tex has called me “the MacGyver of Gastronomy”.  Don’t you think you should buy and read her book just for that alone?

 

Today’s blog brought to you by REM.  Boxcars – a carnival of sorts, if you please.