MyPlay: Why customer experience matters

A good customer experience can be a heck of a great marketing tool, but a bad customer experience can be more toxic than a reality TV marathon. So let’s talk about…

Contractors II: Global Builders Restoration

funny-pictures-owls-twisted-headAfter the previous 2 months of crappy contractors, I had high hopes that things were going to be looking up. I decided to go back to Global Builders Restoration. They had put a roof on my house about 2 years ago and had done good work. They did good work once, they can do it again right?

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Dude! My berries are frozen!

Dude! My berries are frozen!

I have been kind of quiet here for the last few months, but with good reason. On Tuesday, it will be 6 months since my water pipes froze and burst during the first freeze of 2014. This two part post covers the last six months of my life as I attempt to recover from the freeze. I am writing this, not as a list of woes and worries, but to ask a simple question; what the hell is wrong with contractors?

January 8th

pipes1It’s the second night of the big freeze, Delta Plumbing responded quickly in the emergency, and while I might quibble with the pricing, given that fact that they were working round the clock to fix things and the fact that they came when they said they would (8pm on the first call), I will tip my hat to them and say thank you.

Soggy carpet and 4 industrial fans means 3 days in a hotel with 3 cats.

Soggy carpet and 4 industrial fans means 3 days in a hotel with 3 cats.

The man from Delta had recommended a contractor called Apex Mitigation services to handle the water removal. Like Delta, Apex came when they said they would and responded very quickly and efficiently. The only knock on them was that they managed to nick one of my alarm wires.

This was totally not their fault, as we didn’t know where the wires were run and since it was only a nick, I didn’t even know they had done it until over a week later when the alarm would start intermittently beeping at me for no reason. Not a big deal, I just had the alarm company come out and track down the break and fix it.

The electrician sent out by My Alarm Center had the old school habit of stripping the wires with his wire cutters. As a recovering electrician myself, I have done this in a pinch, but it always runs the risk of  creating a weak spot in the wires if you crimp to hard (much like the previous issue he was there to fix).

Sure enough, I was in line for the bank later in the day when I got a call from the alarm monitoring station that my alarm had gone off. I went home, discovered the bad splices and just re-did them myself. Irritating, but it could be worse. Yes… yes it could.

Apex had recommended a renovations contractor called AYS (At Your Service) to fix the kitchen and bedroom water damage. They came out and did the initial walk through with the insurance company and I talked through a number of potential issues with them. One thing I was very clear about was that we would not do the demolition of the kitchen until the new cabinets where actually in our hands. I had no urge to be weeks without a kitchen (ah the naiveté of youth).

February 20th

As the weeks passed I had a horrible time getting AYS (Assemble it Your Self?) to call me back when I left messages. No one could tell me, when the work was going to get done or even when they would come out again. They missed 3 appointments including two days when I stayed home from work to wait for them. The final straw was when they called weeks later to say they would be out to demolish the kitchen the next day… without even asking me what cabinets I wanted to order. Are You Serious? I have a 8 foot square of bare concrete in my bedroom and the kitchen counters are starting to sag. Nothing was started and the communication was awful. So AYS got fired.

March 5th

I did a bit of looking around and decided I would let Home Depot do the carpet in the bedroom. If they did a good job, I would get them to do the kitchen. Home Depot’s subcontractor is a company called Romanoff Renovations and they made me feel all kinds of stabby.

Basically, the carpet guys wanted to leave me with my bedroom in my kitchen

Basically, the carpet guys wanted to leave me with my bedroom in my kitchen

Having dealt with the alarm wires in great detail since the original damage, I knew exactly where each one came up near the wall. I took great pains to point each of these 3 places out to all of the guys working on the crew. You need to be careful here, here and here… They managed to cut Every… Single… One.

At first, they just wanted to continue putting in the carpet, then they started talking about just leaving and then, despite being told not to on multiple occasions by both myself and their own supervisors, they started trying to fix it themselves.

I was eventually able to get an alarm technician to come out on an emergency service call to fix things and check the system. After far too much aggravation, they were able to get the carpet finished. Romanoff agreed to reimburse the cost of the repair, which was the least they could do… and in fact, all they would do.

To add insult to injury, their check for the reimbursement came with a legal release statement which basically said that by signing the check I agreed never to ask them for anything else. I will state this as plainly as possibly, I would not hire Romanoff Renovations to build a birdhouse. If I was legally able to ask them for anything else, I would ask them to go fuck themselves. Home Depot should pick a better class of contractor.

By this point at least I had carpet, so all things considered, it could be worse… much worse in fact.

To find out just how much worse things could get, read Contractors II: Global Builders Restoration


Dropped off at the postoffice

Dropped off at the postoffice

Here’s a business model for you…

How about I:

  1. Charge you $4 for shipping
  2. Send your package to another state (In the utterly wrong direction)
  3. Then drop it in the US mail for actual delivery

DHL – When going out to your own mailbox is just too hard!

Another Brick In The Wall

It’s about 3 am and I am having a really odd dream… I have been re-hired at Earthlink and I am sitting next to some guy at a desk and he is going over my job with me. I am really not paying much attention, because a lobotomized monkey could do the work he is describing.

Man without a faceI notice that every desk has a phone shaped like Santa Clause’s head. I ask him why and he tells me that this guy in marketing got a great deal on them for the company, but that nobody really wants to talk about it.

From there, I go to help some people put a sign on a door. Inside the door, there is a meeting taking place, which is pretty much what the sign we are hanging says. A dowdy older woman comes up and begins berating me, because sign hanging is her job and I am not doing it right.

I leave her to the signs and proceed to my new hire orientation. I am confronted by a thick stack of papers to fill out and sign, an overly chipper man in a pink shirt is telling me that everything must be filled out with a number two pencil. I begin to wonder why the heck I am here.

It’s not that anything here is so terrifically horrible, it’s just so mind-numbingly, soul-devouringly pointless. How did I get here? What happened to my business? Where are my guys? I began shoving things into my book bag and preparing for a mad dash to the door. I am pretty sure that I can find a sword somewhere and free Bryan and Brian from whatever heartless corporate hell train they have been shanghaied to… when my wife woke me up. She said I was making weird noises.

Honey, you don’t know the half of it.

Oh Noes… Part Duex

Mac PC upside down
I was trying to convert some old videos on my PC from divx to MP4 to play on my iPod and the converted video is upside down?!?!?!? Looks fine, but you must hang from the ceiling by your toes to view it correctly. One would assume this is an obvious bug with some kind of fix right? Nah… From the Yahoo tech list:

“The old upside down video problem is legendary and, by the looks of it, one that isn’t going away any time soon.”

Umm… isn’t that something a company should perhaps fix? The article goes on to suggest a lot of different potential fixes that all seem to revolve around doing things differently when you originally encode the video… They also point out a program that has hit upon the unique fix of simply playing the video rotated 180 degrees.

So if my machine types everything backwards, the solution is a word processor that flips my text?

Of course there is another solution they didn’t touch on, use a Mac and iSquint to convert the video instead of a PC (and just about any converter you can name). All the other Mac converters seem to work fine but iSquint was free and fast.

So far, my PC has proved great for games, but not terrible great at much of anything else. Oh well, Halo 3 will come out for PC eventually.

Oh Noes!

A Sad RealizationMan… I just had one of those PC experiences that make you glad you’re a Mac user.

I was trying out the 7digital website for some new music and was pleased to find that they had a few albums by the band “Camel” which I have been looking for in digital format. I purchased them while I was on my desktop PC, set them to download while I was at work and didn’t think much of it.

Turns out they were WMA format and not MP3… What a stinky load of weasel poop. Not only are they DRM‘ed to within an inch of their life, there was no way to “license” the tracks except one at a time (all 20 of them). So after 20 minutes of repeatedly typing my user name and password to “license” the music I just purchased, I launch Windows Media Player to burn the disc.

Urk… mistake number two. For anyone used to the simplicity of iTunes, this is like like learning to program Java on a Chinese keyboard while wearing mittens (track order? What track order? Oh you didn’t what a 2 second pause between songs? Too bad). In addition, each track runs through a process of being analyzed before burning (presumably to see if I had a “license” for it) which means it takes about twice the normal time to burn a CD.

Defective by Design indeed.

Never again.

Shipping Costs for the Wired World

Piggy BankMost of us who have been to the post office in recent memory, know that we are being wildly overcharged for shipping from mail order companies. The post office will ship via (3 day) priority mail a package of up to 3 pounds for under $5. So why does it cost a consumer $10 to have a mail order company strap a package to a slow, 3 legged camel and slap it on the ass?

My recent experience with Amazon may shed some light.

I was doing a bit of tinkering with my computer network set-up at home and I needed a few ethernet cables. Knowing that Office Depot wants an arm and a leg for such things, I figured I would save a couple bucks and order online. I went to Amazon and found seven foot long cables for around $3.99. Fair enough. I ordered four cables in different colors (so that it’s easier to figure out what’s connected to what) The cables are about 3 ounces each and all 4 cables could fit comfortably in a medium size padded envelope.

When I proceeded to check out with my order I was annoyed to see a shipping charge of $9 for the order. Still cheaper than a road trip to Office Depot, so I went ahead with the order.

About 4 days later, UPS shows up at my door with two boxes. The first box is a standard Amazon 12 inch by 9 inch by 5 inch box. The second box is big enough to fit a 1980’s VCR (roughly 17 inch by 14 inch by 6 inches). “What a bunch of moron’s,” I think to myself. “They couldn’t fit all four cables in one box?”

When I opened the boxes I got even more disgusted. Each box contained 1 cable. Not only was this only half of my order, I now had enough packing peanuts to contribute significantly to the toxic death of the planet. Checking with UPS shows that one package shipped from Addison, IL and the other shipped from Memphis, TN. The larger package came from Tennessee and we will not speculate on the possible issues this indicates for people from Memphis, Tennessee.

The third package is coming from Harrisburg, PA. As there are two cables in this order, I expect a package roughly the size of a Buick to hit my doorstep some time today.

The truly sad part is that Amazon doesn’t actually stock things like ethernet cables. They sub-contract with a company to handle small electronics orders. That company is, of course, Office Depot.