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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An Unexpect Reappearance or Yeah, That Happiness Couldn’t Last Could It?

It had been at least 6 months, but the idiotic lady put another note on my car letting me know I may get towed because I blocked a wall that was a loading dock in some previous life.  It’s the same note she puts there all the time, but today I have new questions to ponder.  Why has she just now decided to tag my car with her ridiculous note?  Was I taking the spot she so desperately needed for her dog groomer?  I wasn’t the only one blocking the walls of her office, so were the others some sort of Oakland unicorn? Or perhaps they were her coworkers, given special dispensation to park in front of the imaginary loading dock.  We’ve already decided she’s a bit off her rocker.

I think my next move is to sell her character to TV as the next sitcom villain, a la The Soup Nazi.  I’m starting to think she’s make a great long running foil for Jeff Garlin on “The Goldbergs”.  Of course first we’ll need to address the subtle anti-Semitism on that show. I wonder if half of the country even realizes they are Jewish.  There are no cultural religious references past the traditional names Adam, Barry and Murray.  Did you miss that there was not Christmas episode? Instead there was a hilarious Thanksgiving episode, with no religious overtones, no dreidels and no latkes.

Let’s suppose the Goldbergs are highly assimilated.  That’s not a crime.  My paternal grandparents were.  But there home and their lives were not devoid of Jewish culture.  It is who we are and what we know.  No one is going to accuse me of being overly religious or unassimilated.  Yet if you look, there are religious symbols in the home, a beautiful Mezuzah on the door, a few special pieces of art here and there.  Some things should never be forgotten.  I hope that Adam’s family remember that this season.  I do seriously want Big Tasty to some sort of hardcore rap espousing the virtues of the latke.  Badly.

Murray and Pops from the Goldbergs would have a conniption with my nemesis, the parking Nazi.

<breaking the 4th wall> By the way, feel free to suggest a new name for this bitch.  She needs a more appropriate name for the next note I put in their mail box. </rebuilding the 4th wall>

Much like myself, the senior Goldbergs would ponder what type of company could this crazy parking lady work for?  Why would they let her run hundreds of copies of ridiculous notes off their copier?  Why would they allow her to antagonize the neighbors and local color?  You know that downtown Oakland, much like Philadelphia, has more than its share of nut jobs.  Why would you risk antagonizing them?  Is parking rage about to become the crisis of 2015?  I can see that.

Let’s look at her erratic behavior from a different angle.  Perhaps she pays for the copies out of her own pocket, either making the copies at some local copy shop or on her home printer. As you recall the note is written in 40pt font with a marker.  If you owned that company and you saw your employee doing that, wouldn’t you wonder what else she was doing?  More importantly, I might question what she WAS NOT doing by focusing on parked cars.  Which leads me to my most disturbing realization.

She either owns the company or holds a position of ridiculously imbalanced importance.  Oh fuck.  Imagine the poor souls whose employment depends on her making sound business decisions.  I’m still waiting for her to have my car towed.  I will own that fucking company.  Meanwhile, I guess I will work up a character treatment and see if I can get a meeting in Hollywood.

I’ve seen Episodes.  How hard can it be?

A Piece of Tape Too Far

An Open Letter to the Parking Nazi at 217 (or is it 229, Who can tell?) Harrison in Oakland, CA.

As you and I both know, I park in front of your building when I drive to work.  I park there because there are always spots there.  You have done such an effective job of scaring everyone away, there is always a spot.  You must realize it is your fault that I infuriate you so much.

(For those of you coming late to this party, 217 Harrison has a banked curb leading to 4 loading docks;  3 of these docks have been converted to office walls or doors, making them LEGAL parking spots.  The office puts flyers on cars, trying to intimidate them into leaving.  I love knowing that 95% of the time I have a spot waiting for me.)

I returned to my car recently, finding 2 new notes.  There was they typical “NO! NO! NO!” flyer, which is often found in on the sidewalk around the neighborhood.  There was also a note, loaded with vitriol, about how you’ve told me many times not to park where I park.  There was also paper taped to my driver’s side window saying “Tow this car!”

I think it is time we clear the air.  For the last several days there have been no flyers on the cars parked where I often park.  Are these your cars or have you been ill?  If you have, I hope you feel better.  I’m neither vindictive or evil, contrary to what you believe.   I feel sorry for you.  Your parents must not have taught you the hard lessons about sharing.  Did you scream when other kids touched your toys?  It must have been lonely not having friends as a child.  The public parking spots on Harrison Street are not yours alone, you really need to share them.  I can only surmise sharing is foreign to you.  I would also point out that putting flyers all over car does not make you my friend.  It does, however, make your passive aggressive and inconsiderate.

Let’s not talk bullshit about how the (mythical, magical) truck needs to park parallel and therefore you are saving me from being blocked in.

  1. Trucks back up to loading docks
  2. Trucks block traffic all the time in our neighborhood
  3. I have never, ever, ever seen a truck at your location
  4. Let’s not forget the time you told me, in our only conversation that you needed access to the windows 8 feet off the ground,  which  told you was ridiculous
  5. Go ahead, block me in.  I work till after 5, often after 6.  What truck driver is leaving your business that late?  That’s right. None.

I won’t minimize the fact that you want these spots all to yourself (or possibly your firm.)  Its an admirable, if misguided goal.  The fact remains that these are public spots and the signs you have posted are not legal.  You do not own the street and any implicit easement was eliminated when your firm build walls rendering the loading docks ornamental.  The parking authority won’t write tickets for the spot I park in and tow trucks won’t be towing me based on your note.  The past 18 months of results bear all this out.

Perhaps you had an “incident” and your sense of reality is skewed.  Did you take the brown acid at Woodstock?  seriously, you were warned. Let me help you in ways your parents and coworkers clearly have not.  Your notes and wishes won’t change reality.  The fact that you don’t want people parking there won’t make it illegal.  I want to win the lottery.  Just because I want to, won’t make it so.  Nevertheless, my odds of success are far higher than yours. Rather than tilting at windmills, perhaps you’d be happier accepting reality and getting on with your life.  This isn’t the Twilight Zone and you won’t wake up tomorrow finding that your misguided sense of reality is the new truth.  Grow the fuck up.

How sad must your life be if you spend this much time placing flyers on cars that aren’t yours?  I’ve seen your work on other vehicles and more importantly, all over the neighborhood.  Clearly you realize that we work near the water and the wind kicks up in the afternoon, cascading your inane flyers over several blocks.  I’m guessing the police are looking for you.  With all the green initiatives in the Bay Area, how do you sleep at night knowing you are a major litter contributor, let alone resource waster?  Have you no consideration for the forests you’ve decimated and the trees you’ve condemned to be part of your folly?

I think you would be better off finding a new hobby.  I don’t think it would be out of line to suggest you start fostering cats.  Start with one, and with your obsessive nature you can add more. Clearly, you will agree that being a crazy cat lady is far better than your fixation on my parking habits.  Let’s be honest, you’ll probably have more friends as the Crazy Cat Lady than you will as the Parking Nazi.  Or at least  you’ll have cats.  And Grumpy Cat on the internet.

Of course if you really wanted to have my car towed, you would have called a tow company.  And since the car isn’t yours the liability you and your company would face in the light of an illegal seizure would be monumental.  It appears that the note you put on my car is a feeble attempt at drawing unsuspecting innocents into your fantasy.  I think it is time you gave up on this fantasy, became and adult and embraced reality.

As I have tried to empathetic to your plight, I know your therapy bills are probably much higher than any plan your company provides, I feel I must be honest with you.  You have annoyed me far more than you have a right to.  I’ve stopped finding your notes funny, silly or sad.  That you have gone so far as to use tape on my car, I feel that your behavior encroaches on battery or defacing of property.  My car is my property and it is not your bulletin board.  Any further defacement of my vehicle will result in my filing charges with the police and ultimately lead to a civil suit.  I am actually considering a class action suit.  You have badgered many people and I’m only too happy to find them and develop a much larger action.  Do you really think all the people you’ve pissed off don’t care?

This is a warning.  My attorney is only too happy to proceed on my next phone call.

I hope you are feeling better.  Perhaps your therapist should increase your Xanax.  You might suggest that on your next visit.