Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sicilian dementia and customer care

It's been a couple of years since I've walked with my friend, B who is a retired nurse.  When I worked with B, I repeatedly told her that she was a the brains of the operation and I meant it.  B is a master's level nurse.  Beyond her medical knowledge, I frequently witnessed her compassionate care.  B is also "old school" Italian.  On this particular walk, we joked about aging and our perhaps declining memory when B identified an affliction she termed "Sicilian dementia". As B expressed to me her affliction with Sicilian dementia:

"I don't remember much these days, but I always remember a friend AND I never forget those who screwed me."

I think a symptom of of my OFS - old fart syndrome may be Sicilian dementia...

I have had recent highs and lows with customer service.  Among the lows, United Health Care (UHC) who remains on my shit list.  After numerous calls and speaking with numerous representatives and supervisors, I continue to receive numerous diverse explanations as to why they have not paid the hospital claims for a family member who was hospitalized in a "participating hospital" after a life threatening EKG reading.

In preparation of my written complaint against UHC, I contacted Time Warner Cable to obtain an Outbound Call Record.  In my contacts with Time Warner, I expressed my dissatisfaction with their "teaser incentives" for new customers, but failure to reward loyal customers.  Although I really like Time Warner's service (which is a primary reason for remaining with them for so long), I have been seriously considering other options due to the escalating cost.  I will note that I had voiced this complaint to them previously, but this time I hit pay dirt with C, a customer service rep.  Long story short, C listened to my issue and RESPONDED... I now have "turbo" Internet access - which they advertise as "twice as fast" as the service I had AND a DVR (still having fun learning this new toy) AND paying less than I was paying!  Yes, I understand that nothing lasts forever and that in another year or so I will probably need to re-contact Time Warner, but I am thrilled to have someone listen AND respond.

Similarly, I contacted the Health Services division of the New York State Attorney General's (AG) Office.  Wow, was I ever pleasantly surprised.  As I live and work near the AG's office, I called and asked if I could hand carry my UHC complaint to them.  They expressed that they were a very small unit and did not have this capacity, BUT after a very cordial conversation, M expressed that she would be happy to come downstairs and out to the street if I wanted to drop it off.  WOW!  I dropped if off Wednesday, by Friday of the same week (2 days later), C called me to tell me that they had received my complaint and were giving UHC 3 days to respond.  Later that day, C called a second time that she had spoken to a trusted contact at UHC and had learned that yes, UHC had received the medical records back in May (over a month ago) and that no one (even after I had spoken to numerous reps who expressed that they were sending the records for review) had reviewed these records.   DOUBLE WOW - UHC issues aside, let me express my gratitude and appreciation to the AG's office and to M and C specifically - Thank you.

I probably should have played the lottery this week.  Last Sunday, my daughter and I went to Dick's Sporting Goods in Crossgates Mall.   We went our separate ways to browse at our areas of interest and re-connected.  She had found a pair of sale sneakers that were in a clearance bin in the middle aisle with a big "25% off" sign prominently displayed.  They were priced about $40 so 25% was easy math - $10 off - $30... but not so fast...  We got to the register and they rang up $40+ - what gives?  Well I asked the cashier; he called someone and I was told that they had to end in $.97... yup, I walked back to the sign and buried under 2 layers of sneakers in small print that is what it said.  My normal method of operation would have been to have pitched a fit at the register and if the item was for me, it would have been a fast "no sale" but for my daughter... plus I was getting shaky from low sugar so I didn't throw my normal tantrum.  Later in the week, I get a "Please complete our survey about your shopping experience" email from Dick's... and another happy ending, I contacted the store, asked to speak to a manager and they listened AND responded.  Who knows, I might go back and buy that kayak yet.

Years ago, my wife went to the CapCom credit union to get some credit union promotion / discounted Great Escape tickets.  The CapCom rep explained that you couldn't pay by credit card, but that he could help her out with a work around.  This work around was a cash advance, so tickets that were supposed to cost about $50 ended up costing about $75 dollars.  My wife had never taken a cash advance in her life; didn't need to now and definitely didn't understand the implications of taking a cash advance.  I complained to both CapCom and to Chase, the credit card issuer.  CapCom made good - they're an All Star.  Chase never responded.  I stopped using my Chase credit card.  After several months of non-use, I sent Chase a second written message.  Once again no response.  I continued to not use my Chase credit card until they sent me a "teaser" offer - get $200 back after spending $1000 in 3 months... No problem, Chase - I spent the $1000 and I was happy to also accept your $200, but I've stopped using your cards again... yup, I think I may have a little Sicilian dementia!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

things your dog will do to annoy you...


...and I'm not just talking just skidding his nasty hiney across your carpet.

It is not well known, but these dogs go to a secret dog school to learn tricks like these...

Sneaking a snooze on the couch and turning your new shirt into an Angora sweater.

Your dog can sleep all day (or pretends to) except when you're working from home and have that important conference call, then he'll invariably find something to engage in a spastic fit of barking.

You're on a dog walk and have passed a wastebasket and he decides it's time to poo.  They know you don't want to carry poo all over the park so they make sure you're well past the last garbage can, but not close enough to the next one so you have to carry the poo and greet the oncoming traffic... "no, it's not really poo I'm carrying; it's my lunch."

You can be up walking all through the house, but it's when you sit down in your recliner and have a laptop on your knees that he saves his special "I've got to go out" signal.  After you unload all the crap from your lap and lumber out of the recliner to the back door you stand and wait and wait and wait for him to do his business.  Eventually, you figure he wants to sniff around or do whatever dogs do so you take a bathroom break yourself... you guessed it as soon as you sit down on the toilet, he's back at the door barking like you've abandoned him.

One of his favorite tricks is one he learned in school with Flipper the bottle-nosed dolphin... I tend to keep the bedroom and bathroom doors mostly closed for privacy, but cracked so I can hear anything else that may be going on in the house.  This dog regularly uses his snout with Flipper like dexterity to fling open the door.  More than once I've been caught standing and fully hanging out in the bathroom (and no, I wasn't on the phone) when he has decided it was time to be noticed.

Loud snoring - yup, they're doing it on purpose... don't fall for that fake sleeping routine.

...and while he's sleeping he adds his favorite, the silent, but deadly fart...

then he (might) look up at you with innocent looking brown eyes and you know even as you're calling him a nasty hog, that your dog will be with even even when your kids don't know who you are.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

of Phones and Toilets

I did the deed.  I used my cell phone in an airport restroom while on the toilet.

It wasn't my intention.  I was exhausted after a day of travel, arrived at the destination airport and had an issue with my ground transportation.  I was told by the carrier that they'd call me back in about an hour... so sure enough about 10 minutes later and being well about my business the phone rings and what was I to do?  There was no way I was letting that go to voice mail so that I would need to call them back at their 1-800 customer (dis)service number... and so I answered it and offered up the best of toilet prayers that the stall next to me wouldn't flush until I quickly got the info I needed and off the phone.

And so it was that I did something I thought I'd never find myself doing.  I'm not a "Type A Personality Disorder," who is hard charging and glued to the phone.  In contrast, I had a seldom used Tracfone at the time.

Ok, so I'm not in the league of those swashbuckling manly men who gamely gab on their blue tooth while lined up at the urinal, but since that experience I'm beginning to ask myself, "who is this guy?"  I don't travel as frequently as I used to, but more and more I'm finding myself using the bathroom (among other things) while on the cordless home phone.  I realize this is not as risque as you have more control over the flush and the mute, but it's my version of multi-tasking.

Now after substantial phone-toilet experience, I need to plead with all phone manufactures... please, please, make a prominent mute button that has a nice bright red light when it's on as with the flimsy button on my current phone, it is only a matter of time before I screw up in a big way and express some serious gastric noises while on the phone with a friend... or the boss.

So I ask, Have you done it?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Oppression of Men

I am fortunate to have a work schedule that allows me a Friday off every other week.  I love it.  It's great to stroll the mall and shop without the droves of weekend shoppers.  For the most part, you can shop undisturbed.  One thing you will notice is that us guys are hopelessly outnumbered when it comes to Friday shopping and I'm not just talking in the grocery store or the jewelry section, I'm talking anywhere in the mall, even the men's department which leads me to my next thought...

There ought to be a law - at least 2 hours each day, no women in the men's clothing section.  

I'm serious, the ladies are a different species.  Men tend to be more solitary creatures when shopping, maybe its an alpha male thing or maybe we emit man to man pheromones to maintain at least 10 feet from another man when shopping.  Women seem to have a social packing instinct.  If I'm checking out a bargain rack, you'd think that someone just set out the flashing blue light... "Attention, all women over here, this is the rack that has all of the bargains you want... Swarm! Swarm!"  No kidding, I can bank on it within no time it seems the women move in and before I know it I can't shop because I have a woman blocking my rack movement to either my right or left... And it doesn't seem to matter what section it is, sportswear, dress shirts, pants, even underwear.  It gets to the point where I just want to hold up a pair of underwear and say, "Excuse me ma'am, do you think these boxer briefs would make my butt look big?"

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Jobs I Didn't Get (Fortunately)

There has been much ado lately about employers asking job seekers to provide their Facebook password.  Let me clearly state the right response - "hell, no" (feel free to add your own personalized expletive).  As I stated in my first post, I'm not a fan of Facebook; however, I do appreciate that Facebook does provide value and enhance the lives of many.  Any employer who has the audacity to invade your privacy to ask for a password is not an employer worth working for.

As I've matured and OFS (old fart syndrome) has set in, I more than ever view the employment experience as a 2 way street.  You should be evaluating whether you want to work for an employer just as they evaluate whether they want you as an employee.  The sooner you say "NO" to an abusive employer the better.  When I left the Albany County Probation Department for a lesser paying job, I had and still have zero regrets...This employer was ruled by a tyrant at the time and treated their employees poorly.  Life is just too short!

Money is only a single attribute of a position.  It helps to place this attribute in perspective; I use a headache to dollars ratio - how many headaches are they heaping on you for how much compensation.  Perhaps a job where you can wear Hawaiian shirts and flip flops might be the best job for you even though it might pay $20,000 less than the self-important wear a tie and  respond to a 24 hour pager position.

...and I now play tribute to jobs I didn't get...