Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Angry, griping blogging actually does something in the real world

So Yeah. My computer problems have been resolved successfully. Dell sent me a replacement HD with double the capacity of my old drive (extra points for it being a reliable brand of HD this time), and threw in enough physical memory to double my RAM, as well. Can I be bribed? Yes. See previous comments.

The notable thing is how my problems came to their attention. It wasn't the fact that I called Dell multiple times to make them harass the technician for me. I couldn't get the technician to call me, or eventually, to return my phone calls.

As an aside: the technician was supposed to call me on Monday, by noon, to schedule the replacement of my HD (using the part that they reordered after the tech lost it), but he still hasn't contacted me. This is not a surprise, and doesn't particularly bother me. All I was going to tell him is to cancel the appointment. But it is an interesting coda to this that even after I got the parts from Dell directly, and fixed the computer myself, the techs still haven't gotten off of their behinds and called me. I can't say enough bad things about the poor quality of customer service that the technician gave me. But I digress.

Anyway: the way that this came to Dell's attention was that they read it on my myspace blog. (That is the companion to this one, but in this blog I get to swear a lot more.). They actually have a group of people whose job is to search blogs (via technorati, I think) for people who blog about bad Dell service experiences. Amazingly, they saw through my wickedly cunning "let's call them 'Prell'" ruse. After reading my posts, the Dell guy then contacted me directly (through myspace), apologized sincerely for my experience, and swore that it wasn't typical. He must have been reading the blog (where I said that replacing the HD was a repair that I could do in ten minutes), because they said that they would send the parts directly to me, eliminating any incompetent technicians entirely.

And, before I even responded to this guy, the parts were already in the shipping pipeline. Without checking whether it would be okay, they set stuff up. They didn't wait for me to say "Yes, this will settle things," they just offered it to me, and it was in the pipeline before I could even say yes. (I was going to tell them yes anyway.) the stuff as a courtesy. Which, considering that the upgrades were not inexpensive, is a pretty great thing. The Dell guy even apologized that they were unable to send the parts the next day (a Saturday), because they didn't have them in stock right where that Dell guy was. Later that day, he made sure that they had the right address and contact information, that I knew how to contact him if there were any issues, and basically seeing that it was as satisfactory a conclusion (at least as regards me and Dell) as it could be, under the circumstances.

The parts came at about 10:00 Monday morning, even earlier than they were supposed to get here. I know that you're all wondering "you say that you could do the swap in ten minutes. How'd you do, smart guy?" It took me a grand total of 15 minutes, but to be fair, 12 of that was trying to get the new memory properly seated. The hard drive swap took three minutes from start to finish. So all you haters can go soak yourself. Anyway, it took a lot more time than 10 minutes to install and configure XP, and I still haven't got all of the previous programs that I had up and running, but I managed to save all of the important data off the old drive, and the computer is fully functional. And fast, which is a nice bonus. In any case, thanks, Dell guy (whose name and email I don't really want to post), but who will probably read this on technorati anyway. You did a great job. I'm happy that a program like yours exists, and that you have the power to try and resolve complaints quickly. I don't know whether the technician you guys hired will ever even bother to call me back, or if he's keeping the (both of the) parts you sent him (and selling them on eBay or something).

As for the rest of you all, as always, thanks for letting me vent my spleen to the empty air. Especially these last few days. It's nice to know that if you complain, people still hear you.

Anger Problems

I have probably mentioned my receptionist to a few of you. She is an older woman and like many of her generation, she likes to lecture younger people, especially younger women. I have been the object of many lectures for which I smile and nodd.

Friday went something like this. First, she got mad a one colleague of mine because she did not like the place she picked for lunch. At said lunch, she told one of my bosses and another colleague that they were members of a cult because they are Catholic and do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. [This is ironic because she publishes to any person who will listen her strong Christian beliefs.] She then goes on to tell us how she beat-up this girl in grade school and sent her to the hospital (and yes, she was proud of this story). As you can guess, she was in quite the mood that lead to me being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Well, one of my bosses (J) calls into the office in the afternoon. He wanted to speak to my other boss (L), but L was in a meeting. So, he asks to talk to me. I start talking to him when the receptionist tells me that L is coming out of his meeting to speak to J. I wait for J to finish his sentence, so that I can tell him this but L comes up and asks (in the meantime) if J's call is an emergency because he is in a meeting. I ask J. J says "no." L says that he will go back to the meeting and talk to J later. I speak to J for a few minutes and then we end the call.

Well, a few minutes later, the receptionist comes and YELLS (yes, a colleague heard the whole thing from a suite away) that I should have put J on hold and that J did not call to talk to me. I try to explain what had happened (in a normal tone of voice), but she interprets me to YELL at me further and scream "CASE CLOSED" and storm away and complain about me to another colleague loud enough that I can hear her an office or two away. Have I mentioned yet that my office is next to a conference room and there was a meeting in the conference room?

This receptionist is the type of person that the whole office tips-toes around on egg shells on a regular basis. Although, Friday's outburst was more prominent than her usual spoutings, it is not wholly surprising.

No, I was not appreciative of the scene and emailed my bosses. It doesn't look like much will be done due to the fact that my bosses are non-confrontational (rather ironic for their profession). I really wish I could say that I thought that the small talking-to she got would change the situation but knowing people like her (yes, you probably know the person I type about), nothing is going to change.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A totally unexpected happy ending, out of left field

Something happened, as I was writing my previous angry phillipic (indeed, prior to its posting, and about the time of its initial composition) to change my tune. More on my happy ending later, but it turns out that Dell actually spontaneously made good on its promises, and gave me free upgrades for my trouble. More than that, they made an unsolicieted apology. So yes, I'm a whore, I can be bribed with apologies and free stuff. More on this later. My next post may well take place from my fully repaired and upgraded computer.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

No complaints, just introspection

OK, I haven't blogged in a while, and I have an hour to kill before UMD tries to beat up on UNC. Yes, by the way, I know I'm dreaming. Anyway...

Two significant things going on right now. First and foremost, Sharon and I are buying a new house. This came up only in the past week. As of about 10 days ago, we were just talking about looking at places. As of today, we have a contract down on a new house, and have received a contract on our current house. So, barring any unforseen events from the sellers, who have been a bit cranky, or our buyers, we should be good to go.

I am writing about this because, well, we're expecting this to be the house in which we raise our kids. It has four bedrooms, a big backyard, and a big rec room where we can throw children downstairs and let them yell and scream all they want. Yet we're not having kids right now, unless something unforseen happens. Our idea is to get into a house and be settled before pregnancy and kids, and house prices are pretty decent right now (well, relatively). It all makes sense, and I have no doubts that we are doing the right thing. But still, planning for kids is a humbling thought. I pretend to react badly whenever Sharon mentions kids, for the sake of entertainment, but truthfully it is still just an idea in the ether, with minimal definition. How can you react positively or negatively to such an idea when you have no real experience of it? When we spend time with our four nephews and niece, we usually leave referring to the experience as a foolproof form of birth control. Let me caveat that by saying that they're all great kids and we adore them, but five of them running around can be a bit much. Having our own will make it a different experience, but it is still something that you can't quite know until you've done it yourself.

The second current even in my life is that, coincidentally with this major purchase, I am going to have eye surgery. Now, when I started looking into the surgery, we weren't thinking about the house. But because of my impending move to an office which requires working nights, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and rid myself of contacts. However, I am not going to be doing LASIK, as I am not a very good candidate. Instead, I will be undergoing a pretty new procedure involving an ICL, which stands for Intraocular Contact Lens. Basically, the doctor will be inserting a contact lens into my eye. The procedure is a bit more involved (don't worry, I won't go into too many details) but they don't have to burn the hell out of my corneas as they do in LASIK, and it can be removed if necessary.

I write about this in conjunction with the bit about the house, not merely because they are happening at the same time, but because this surgery brings out the same feelings of uncertainty and opportunity as does the new house. For those of you who have good vision, I don't really expect you to understand what I feel when I think about this. But when your vision is as bad as mine, you resign yourself to the fact that you will never be able to see the clock at night, will never be able to see your beach umbrella when you are swimming in the ocean, and will always have to be messing with your eyes. The thought of being able to see all the time is such a paradigm shift that it is hard to even imagine. So I move forward with this surgery with some trepidation, worrying that they won't get my prescription right, that it will damage my eyes, or that it costs money that we need right now. But though I have these small reservations, and an inability to comprehend exactly what will come next, I move forward with both of these momentous life changes with confidence that the possibility of improvement is endless. What better reason is there?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dell's technician lost the part.

They. Lost. The. Part.

(Somehow, I will try and dial down the vitriol and profanity to acceptable levels)

As expected from the quality of service that I have gotten from Dell and its contractors (Yes, it's Dell. Anyone who couldn't figure out my transparent ruse from the previous posts probably should have their head examined), there continues to be problems with getting the needed part for my computer. The part that was supposed to fixed the hard drive crash that I had at the beginning of February, which was sent from Dell on Wednesday, February 14, was delivered to the DHL center on Thursday, February 15, that was not picked up by my technician until Wednesday, February 21, and was then promptly lost by the technician on Thursday, February 22.

I don't even know who I can blame at Dell, or how I could reach them. Directly e-mailing Dell takes days to get a response. Their telephone service voice recognition software is impossible to navigate, and each time I have called, I have been shunted off to offshore tech support. Each time that has happened, the people in the offshore call center have been unable help me. All they could do is look up the delivery of parts to the service tech (something I was able to do) and tell me that the part had been delivered, and that the technician would contact me. I was able to have them call the technicians for me, but that hasn't helped. The people in Dell's call center remain totally unable to help me, beyond simply checking up on my order, saying that the part was in, and then telling me that the tech would get in touch with me. And, each time I try to call to get help, I wait on hold on the phone for an hour, to talk to someone for five minutes, who tells me the same thing that I have heard before.

At this point, it is not a failure of Dell's customer service so much as service company that they hired (Qualexserv), and their technicians. Yesterday, the company assigned me another technician, Dave [Last Name Deleted]. Dave called me, was nice, courteous, and told me that he would be meeting my old tech to get the part from him, and make my repair. Dave told me yesterday that he could not find the part for my computer, but that he would speak to the other technician, and get the part from him. Then, Dave would call me to set up an appointment. At about 9:45 this morning, Dave called me to tell me that he was about to speak to the other technician. An hour or so later, Dave called me to tell me that the previous technician had lost my replacement hard drive, and therefore that they would not be able to make the repair. They would have to enter in an entirely new service call, and get a new hard drive shipped to them on Monday.

I know that the people from Qualexserv do not work directly for Dell. this is the problem. There’s no direct oversight, and no way for me to get any. Though Dell has impotent customer support (and they used to be AMAZING at it. It's why I kept buying Dell machines, and why I used to encourage everyone I know to do so), that is not the problem. It's closer to say that it's dell's fault for shipping the part to the service technician, who picked up the part and then lost it the next day. It is Qualexserv's fault. And I have no recourse with them. they don't care whether I get service now, or next year. I didn't make the decision to hire these guys, Dell did. And therefore, there is nothing I can do. Nothing I can do will punish the company, or the tech who lost my part. Dell's not willing or able to discipline one of the employees of their contractors, and Dell's not going to drop Qualexserv over this incident. There is nothing I can do, no one I can complain to that will care enough to take any action.

I know that this is not Dave's fault. It is the other technician's. the other technician lost the part, and then, at least according to Dave, has been lying about losing the part. The other technician says that it is lost in his car, which had previously been in an accident, and was still in the shop. But if you follow some of my previous posts, the tech’s car was put in the shop last Monday. Dell gave me a tracking number for the part. I know that the tech picked up the part on Wednesday afternoon. Sometime between then and this morning, he lost the part. And since then, apparently, he's been lying about it to cover his posterior. The upshot of which is: they're ordering the part again. The case has been reassigned, not to Dave, but to the original technician. The one who can't return phone calls, and can't hold on to a hard drive. It'll go out today (hopefully) and the technician will pick it up on Monday. And then, he'll call me. This is something that he has been very bad at in the past. I don't hold out much hope that the tech will even pick up the drive.

And of course, Qualexserv says that they will call me sometime on Monday to set up an appointment. This means that I have to arrange to take time off from work, again, so that this technician can install a hard drive. A hard drive I could have installed by myself, without losing the part. I just don't know what to do. I have no real recourse against the bad technician, while Dave the other technician was reasonably helpful (while still essentially and politely telling me to suck it up and wait for a more convenient time for Qualexserv). I have already paid Dell for my (expensive) warranty, and so Dell doesn't seem to care if I get the excellent service that I was promised, and that I already paid for. what does it say about them if neither they or their contractors can deliver?

I don't know what to do now, or if anyone there even cares. (Or you readers. But thanks for reading me as I have my slow burn.) I'd like to be optimistic that everything will work out as promised, but given the way that I have been treated so far by these guys, especially this tech, I remain totally cynical.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fun with customer service on two continents, or I nearly have an aneurysm

Okay, I learned how to spell aneurysm. This is good, because if it were to happen, I would want whoever was writing about it to know how to spell it correctly. And also to note on my tombstone that I died trying to save a busload of orphaned children from an attack of Zombie Nazis. Because suffering grievous brain injury to self is not as cool as saving the orphans.

Okay, so yesterday, I attempt to call the tech, using the same number that I had used before to call him. To schedule an appointment. To see if he had gotten his car out, and would be making an attempt to actually fix my computer. This would be an uncomplicated procedure that any jackass with a screwdriver and a passing technical knowledge could do in ten minutes, perhaps an hour or so more if they were actually going to have to reinstall the OS for me. It’s a SATA drive, so you don’t have to even set jumpers. You just plug in power, and one cable to the motherboard. I could do it with my eyes closed, but apparently “Prell” has to involve a technician. Anyway, I call the guy’s number, only to find out that this guys phone, the primary point of his contact with me, has been disconnected. At this point, a lot of stuff goes through my head, including “poor guy, lost his phone service” and “he didn’t call me before, how will I call him?” I had a work meeting upcoming, so I didn’t do anything right away that morning. I figured that I would call Prell, since they probably had better contact information, and they would light a fire under his ass. When I finally got out of my four hour meeting, I decided I would call Prell customer service. Surely they could help me. They were so nice and helpful before, surely it would be the same.

So, I call Prell support. I’m just going to break this call down by time from here on in. Time is now in excruciating, sphinchter clenchingly frustrating minutes.

0:00-~10:00: After navigating through a truly asinine menu that takes forever to get to a human, I finally got into the “I’m going on hold” music, waiting for a real person. After about 10 minutes, I get an (obviously Indian) voice, saying “Hello, my name is Jenny, can I help you”. I talk for about half a second, and then I get put back on hold. No warning, no chance to say my peace, just that damn hold meeting.

10:00-25:00: Not knowing whether I have been put back on hold or dumped out, I wait for another 5 minutes. An American voice picks up, basically asking what I am doing on the line, because I’m not supposed to be routed there. I give my call number, and customer number, and case number, and am routed to another department. I keep waiting.

25:00-35:00: Finally, someone answers. Another Indian woman, who said that her name something like Mary or Alice. First of all, It’s insulting to our intelligence to pretend that you’re American by using an American name. We all know tech support and customer service is outsourced to India. I don’t mind, as long as you can help me. But it’s a breach of trust to lie and say that your name is something that it is obviously not. It’s as if I were to make sales calls, and claim that my name is Amanda Huggenkiss. Not only am I not a fucking woman, but there is no one named Amanda Huggenkiss. (If I am wrong, I hope that the Amanda Huggenkisses of the world accept my humble apologies. In fact, please convey my apologies to the entire Huggenkiss family.) It’s not your name. Just use your new name. I promise that I will not make fun of your name, or say “what kind of a name is that?”, and I will do my very best to pronounce it correctly.

But I digress. I patiently explain to this woman that I am waiting to hear back from the technician. I give her my number, and explain that this is the second time I have had to do this. Dissatisfaction is dripping from my voice like poison honey. This is all lost on MaryAlice, who proceeds to put me on hold for five minutes look up the shipment of the hard drive, and note that the technician picked it up that day. I patiently explain to her that I know this, that I can check up on the status of the package too, and that I am trying to get a hold of the technician. She puts me on hold again, presumably to check something. She then tells me that she is transferring me to another rep, who will be able to handle my service questions. She then tells me that she will write me an email memorializing our interaction. It is worth noting, at this point, that the name on the email is “Preethi.” So, she transfers me again.

35:00-50:00: I am on hold again. While I try to work (I am at work), the anger-based- aneurysm begins to develop. Veins in my forehead begin to throb visibly.

50:00-52:00: I am connected the person who is supposed to specialize in service calls. “Joseph” answers the phone. He immediately asks me what the problem is with my computer. I explain to him, briefly, that the hard drive has crashed. He, in turn attempts to begin the repair tree. This guy is obviously not a customer service rep. MaryAlice, due to a limited grasp of English that doesn’t follow the preprogrammed call script, has transferred me to technical support. I realize that this guy is trying to troubleshoot my computer, which is beyond troubleshooting. So, I explain that I was trying to check up on a service call. Twice.

52:00-1:05:00: Joseph finally gets that I don’t need troubleshooting. To his credit, he can handle my request. He takes my information, and checks up on the service record. I tell him my story, that I am concerned that I can’t contact the tech, and that this is the second time I have had to call Prell directly. At this point, you can think of my mind as the Hoover Dam. A seething pool of pressure and anger is building up behind a relatively thick concrete wall of social decency and politeness. The only thing keeping the dam from bursting is that this guy probably doesn’t deserve to be unloaded on. The dam is showing signs of stress, though. Joseph doesn’t help things when he tells me that the vendor records indicate that they tried unsuccessfully to contact me on the 15th, 16th (essentially every day) without success. At this point, a tiny crack opens in the dam. He says “if you aren’t around to be contacted, how can they set up an appointment?” As if it is somehow my fault. Losing my patience, I explain to him that that is total fucking bullshit. I make sure that he has all of my contact information, Cell, home, and work numbers. I tell Joseph that I will be at work until 8:00EST, then I will be home. I tell him I will be home at around 9:00. This is for purposes of contact. Joseph tells me that he doesn’t expect that the technician would be able to come out at 9:00pm. Well la-di-fucking-dah. I knew that. It was so they could call me tonight to set up a time. These jokers only work from 9-5, thus ensuring the maximum possible amount of inconvenience. Seeing as I am required to be at work from 8:30-5:30, at the least, there is no way that I don’t have to take off time.

I tell him this, using much less obscene language than I would have liked to. It’s a curse, generally being cool and polite on the phone. Plus. I am not sure he would appreciate the cursing, or fully understand the “colorful idioms” that I would use.” I then detail each time I spoke to the tech. Again, I have to repeat myself, before he gets it that I am saying that the technicians are liars, who are lying to cover their ass so they won’t get in trouble with Prell. So, he decides to call them, while conferencing me in, but telling me not to talk. That he will handle it. I agree, because at this point, large cracks are appearing in the dam, and rage is silently spraying out. Also, Jack Bauer is fighting Chuck Norris atop the dam. they are both losing to Carrot Top.

1:05:00-1:10:00: Joseph calls the technician’s company. He now identifies himself as “Neil”. Honestly, do they just pick a new name out of a hat whenever they call someone? He gets a person on the line, who I can barely hear. But I know that voice. It’s that same damn tech! Chunks of concrete begin to fall off the dam. Then “Neil” just starts laying into the guy. He points out that it is more than a week late. It’s supposed to be next day, or at the most, three days. (As of now, it is 8 days, I think). the tech says some bullshit excuse that I don’t hear clearly. “Neil” says that he doesn’t care. It has to be done, and soon. The cracks and holes in the dam begin to patch themselves. Neil demands to know when they will come. I hear “Friday”. Cracks begin to reappear. “Neil” hangs up on the technician. Cracks spread a little.

1:10:00-1:13:00: “Neil” cheerfully informs me that they will be there on Friday. It is obvious that he considers this all successfully resolved. “When on Friday, I ask?” I think it’s a reasonable question. Seeing as I will now have to take time off so that this jackass can do his repair, I feel I should be able to plan my day. He tells me that they’ll call me to set it up. I ask when. He says Thursday, or Friday. So, I am supposed to trust that these ass-backward technicians, who already show a talent and a flair for 1: saying that they will be there when they won’t, and 2: avoiding customer calls, will call me exactly as advertised, and that I should just take time off on Friday. Not that he gives a good goddamn about me anyway, but this is somewhat grating as my whole problem has been that the technician wouldn’t call me unless I was threatening to sodomize his family pet and put sugar in his gas tank. So, I ask for assurances.

1:13:00-1:18:00: “Neil” suddenly tells me “don’t worry. They’ll call you.” I can’t really describe the tone he was using, but it was like a combination of a used car salesman telling me to trust him, a surfer dude who is trying very hard to make himself seem like my friend, and a parent reassuring a slightly mentally challenged child that the tooth fairy was the one who left that dollar under their pillow. It’s the kind of “trust me” that mentally translates to “bend over, you fucking idiot.” So, I don’t like his tone, and I don’t trust the techs to call me back. Or show up. You can bet that If the guy ever shows up, I will be watching everything he does like a hawk, so that he doesn’t accidentally further fuck up my computer. “Neil” gets points for laying into the tech, but the technician’s reservoir of trust is long since dried up. Replaced by the lake o’rage. So, before “Neil” steamrolls me into hanging up, I make sure that he gives me the proper contact information for the tech company, and all the info I’ll need. Because I’ll be damned if I am waiting for them to call me, Then, using my frostiest manner, as he tries to get my ass of the phone, I make sure that everything is written down, inform him that I am not happy, but that if it gets fixed, everything will be fine. He probably gets paid to minimize call time, anyway, so keeping him on is sticking it to him a little bit. Also, I have now been on the phone or on hold for one hour and 18 minutes, and I don’t want to be on the fucking phone anymore.

So, now it’s Thursday, I am waiting for the tech company to call me, because basically, I am going to have to wait and work up some righteous anger. this blog tends to take it all out of me.

Anyway, the dam status: Filled, but not, at the moment, cracking. The citizens below, in the Las Vegas of Josh’s overextended metaphor, are safe for now. But there’s always later today. Who knows?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise (Being a foray into shitty customer service)

Where to begin….

Okay. The technician from my previous rant was supposed to call me on Monday morning. A lovely, holiday Monday morning. I would have loved almost nothing more than to sleep in, but I wanted my computer fixed more. I was up, when the technician called at 8:00.

“I’m going to come and fix your computer at 1:00” he said. Fine, no problems there. I wait around, on said holiday day, until 1:00. No tech. I wait until 2. No tech. I wait until 2:30. no tech, no explanation. By checking automated Dell services and emails, I get a shipping number for the part that he was supposed to go pick up. and bring to me. By 1pm. It’s still waiting at the DHL warehouse. The tech left no phone number (because obviously, he doesn’t want me to call him), but since he was calling my cell phone, I have it on caller ID. I call him back. He tells me that he had a car accident this morning. “I’m sorry to hear that, I say.” Of course, he could have called me to let me know that. Was the tech planning to call me, and tell me? Obviously not. Because he would have called me. even if he did have a backlog of 20 jobs (a highly dubious number), it only takes a minute or two to call all of them and say “I can’t make our appointment today. don’t bother waiting for me.” But, since they don’t give a fuck about customers or customer service, or the fact that I am spending my glorious holiday vacation day waiting for them, the tech does not. This apathy/sloth/anything-but-a-legitimate-oversight costs me money, as I was going to go in and do work on the holiday, thus earning me much-needed overtime. (Yes, I could have actually enjoyed my day off, but I had planned to do work. And even if I hadn’t, I was stuck in the house waiting for them). But I can’t, because they promised me something, and I waited for them. When the tech became unable to deliver (I am willing to believe that the accident was no fault of their own), they simply chose not to follow up with me. And, I assume, chose not to tell the rest of his pissed-off customers. Why would they do such a thing?

He’s afraid that I’ll yell at him. He’s afraid that I’ll bitch and moan to his boss, and get him in trouble, which, eventually, I probably will. But for now, I just want the part. The tech tells me that he’s backed up, that the ice storm knocked all the technicians out of commission, that no one worked at all last week. (Bullshit. I was dug out in one day, and I could even move my car around on Wednesday night, the day of the storm. This tech’s office is in Upper Marlboro, less than twenty miles from me. Mailman came every day, garbage was only off by one day, other services, even government services, ran on time.) He hopes that I’ll sympathize. Well, I did. The first time you used the excuse, last week. Now, sorry, but my give-a-damn’s busted. Today, he tells me that he’ll find out about the car by noon tomorrow, at which point you will call me, and let me know when you’ll be coming over. he promises that he will call me after he finds out about the car. He promises that he will come on Tuesday, at the end of the work day, to fix the computer. Fine.

Tuesday: I work from home, using a jury-rigged combination of an old hard drive, and the new computer that I mentioned previously. I feel okay about this, because two other people are coming in. A guy from Sears, fixing the dryer, and a roofer, because we had some dampness in the house. So, one more won’t matter. (As an aside, the Sears guy, from a company known for lousy service, was a consummate professional. In and out within about an hour and change, despite the fact that he had to fucking take our dryer apart to install a new motor. The roofer was a little late, but called to say he’d be late, and when he came, diagnosed the problem in less than 10 minutes. No complaints.) So, noon rolls around, and the tech still hasn’t called. Surprise, surprise. I call him back, and, obviously surprised to hear from me, I ask him how his car is doing. he said that the mechanic hasn’t called him back yet, but that he will call me as soon as he hears. Only now do I appreciate the fucking irony of that particular conversation. so, I wait for another couple of minutes, working from home, and waiting for this clown to tell me when he’ll be coming. Out of patience after about another 45 minutes, I call him. I ask him “[Name removed], you won’t be coming around today, will you?” He tells me no. he tells me that he’s upset, that he can hear it in my voice. Of course I’m fucking upset. Wouldn’t anyone else be in this case? He tells me that he tried to assign me to another technician, but that no one was able to take the case. Again, I call bullshit. See above arguments re: garbage and mail. Also, streets have been plowed since Thursday. He says that he’ll call me back to schedule an appointment. that was yesterday. What happened next will come in a second article, full of so much frustration that I nearly had an aneurysm. This would have, of course, saved them the trouble of actually coming to the house and fixing the computer.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Slow and Cranky Old Men

On Sunday morning, I woke up at 7:30 am as I usually do and bemoaned the fact that nothing was open at such an early hour. I needed to get some files to start a major organization project (because I have a life, really). Well, since Whole Foods was open, I do some grocery shopping and then get a vegetable juice and wait at the bagel place next door to the Office Depot until it opens. However, I noticed that there was a queue forming out front, which I thought was a little odd. I mean, waiting outside in the freezing cold to get into Office Depot? Are they all as excited about starting their filing projects as I am? So the store opens and people rush the place. I go to the back and contemplate the files (I had to get colored ones, of course, and I had to decide whether I wanted the fall or spring themed colors). All of a sudden, there is shouting and cursing. I poke my head out and the curser is a man who is in his 50s, who is with is 80-year-old mother. He's shouting "Fuck this, Mom, we'll just go to Staples!" and flounces out with the geriatric mother in tow. It turns out that there is a laptop of some sort on sale, but only 10 arrived and the quicker, spryer, non-geriatric people got to them and were waiting in line to pay before the old people even registered what happened (slow old people). I go to the back and ask if someone can ring me up so I don't have to wait in the stampede up front - I just have some files. The guy is ringing me up when I hear more shouting. A 60-year-old tubby man is shouting at a poor, doesn't-get-paid-enough-for-this-type-of-abuse shelf stocker who is just trying to get away. Tubster then KICKS over a display of laptop cases. And once they have fallen, continues to kick the shit out of a laptop case on the floor. The manager has to come over and tell him to calm down or he will escort him from the store. At this point, I decide to leave.

I left shaking my head and feeling superior until I remembered the I cried at Carmax. OK, fine, I can understand being upset, but I didn't kick the shit out of anything at Carmax. And I was nice to the men helping me - I knew it wasn't their fault. Just like I was very nice to the CompUSA people even though they were clueless bastards. And kicking shit is not a good look for a tubby man. But it greatly added to my day.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Time is of the Essence

I won't get into my bitterness about being the only employee in the office with my boss on Wednesday when the DC area was generally shut down. No, I'll blame that on my living too close to work and trying impress my boss. No, I have a bigger complaint. I did work on Saturday. I'm in the office on Sunday per the request of my boss and he is so far 30 minutes late. If you request an employee be in the office over the weekend, you should be TIMELY. My patience is running...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Snow Crash, and an uncharacteristically glowing review of Indian tech support

So, my computer's hard drive crashed a while ago. It's been a couple of weeks now, I think. Not to name names, but I have always found that my computer company of choice, who I will call "Prell" to be pretty reliable with their service. The computer is fine, but the hard drive, from a company that I will call "Laxtor" is apparently an unreliable part. I found this out on message boards, post-crash.

So, using my wife's laptop computer from about 5 or 6 years ago, I proceeded to investigate the problem, going to Dell tech support, downloading drivers, trying fixes, reinstalling the OS, all for naught. I don't know how many times I tried to reinstall Windows XP, but it took a big chunk of my time. So, I spent a lot of my weekend time on the phone, using internet chat, and emailing back and forth with Prell tech support, trying to get my hard drive fixed, which is covered under the extended warranty.

A note to all readers, extended warranties are generally rip-offs, a way to take more money. If the thing costs $30, a $10 extended warranty is useless. It's a way for Best Buy or Circuit City to increase their profit margins. Plus, if something goes wrong, it will go wrong within the normal warranty time. But I digress. Extended warranties are good on Cars, Homes, Playstation 2s, and Computers, and that's about it. I know that everyone’s paranoid about their electronics breaking, but they generally won't. Either there's something wrong right away, or it will break AFTER the extended warranty expires. In that case, you got your use out of the crappy piece of consumer electronics, just buy another one.

Anyway, I am supposed to have this tip-top warranty service on my computer. Obviously, the first thing that the tech tells me to do is reinstall. I am obviously reluctant to give up all of my data, so I try to reinstall without erasing everything. I do three of these installs, and windows hangs during the third one. Thus making any subsequent installations impossible. It doesn't work, at which point the Prell tech assures me that there is not a problem with the disk, that the problem is the operating system. And by that, I mean he actually tells me “I assure you that there is nothing wrong with the hard drive. Delete everything and you will be fine.” Meaning delete all of my documents, all of my stored pictures, from college until now, delete all of my settings, all of my music, every bit of data that I have. Based on the Prell tech’s assurances that the problem is not the hard drive. Now, I’m (A) a skeptic, and (B) I don’t want to lose all of my data. So I find a way to download Laxtor’s own diagnostic software, and run it on my Prell. Sure enough, Laxtor tells me that the hard drive is failing, and should be replaced. So even if I had done exactly what they said, it still would have crashed. Nothing wrong with the HD, my ass.

The reason that we are continually told to erase and reformat is that replacing my HD hurts Prell’s profit margin. So, the Prell techs do anything to keep from replacing the HD, even though that model of Laxtor is prone to failure. Replacement costs them money, as does sending out a tech to replace my hard drive. Money that I already paid them, for a WARRANTY. A warranty with NEXT DAY SERVICE. I paid for what the Prell tech was denying me. And, had I reinstalled, I would have lost the data, and the HD would have failed. I went back to the Prell techs, and told them that the HD was failing, and that it was NOT the OS. I emailed back and forth with a nice and courteous supervisor (you can say this for outsourced tech support, they are very nice), and got them to agree to replace the drive. This was about a week ago. I got confirmation last Saturday that they were sending the part to the technician. The technician would call me, to set up an appointment. The part was shipped via Airborne Express/DHL. So, it should have been shipped on…Saturday, Sunday? No, Prell waited until Tuesday to ship it.

Now, the fun begins. Anyone who’s on the East Coast knows what happened on Monday and Tuesday. Ice storm. Oh Joy, O rapture. Everyone’s locked up in their homes, commerce comes to a screeching halt for days…no wait, it doesn’t. We got mail, the garbage was picked up, stores were open, the world ticked on, even through the worst of it. But the delivery company didn’t deliver the part until Wednesday. And, the part didn’t get delivered to the tech. The part is still at the DHL warehouse in Upper Marlboro, waiting for the tech to pick it up. The tech whose car (I later learned) has been stuck in a drift of ice for two days. The one who didn’t call me to tell me any of this, because he had a backup of people to call.

So, after not hearing for days, I finally call Prell this morning. I get transferred to a woman who is almost certainly in a call center in India, judging by her accent (educated British accent, with hints of Indian. Same for her supervisor). Surprisingly enough, this is the one aspect of the interaction that I have no complaints about. The rep was very articulate, clear, and helpful. In 5 minutes, she checked up on my case, called DHL, and called the tech. She assured me that the tech would call me in an hour, and even emailed me so I could contact her if I needed to.

Two and a half hours later: No phone call. So I email Prell, because I figure they’ll lean on him. Ten minutes later: phone call. Very apologetic technician. He says that he’s backed up, and says that he’ll get to me on Monday morning, if he can get the part from DHL. Fine. If he comes, I’ll be happy.

But here’s the thing. My computer’s been out of commission for more than two weeks. I wrestled with tech support for a week, trying to get them to do what I knew was correct. I paid for a warranty wherein parts would be sent to a technician, who would immediately call me. Parts should be sent within hours of Prell’s agreeing to send a replacement. Prell’s pretty automated, the parts could have been sent out that night. Or on Sunday (don’t tell me they don’t work on Sunday). Or on Monday. But they waited until Tuesday, when the entire region was blanketed in winter crap.

And the technician. Surely, he’s not the only contractor Prell hires in this area. If he was stuck in the snow, couldn’t he call Prell and have them send someone else? I know that hurts his bottom line, but I don’t give a rat’s ass. I paid for tech support, and it was weeks before I get action. If the contractor is unable to do his job because of the weather, give the work to a contractor who isn’t as stuck. And if the contractor not going to call Prell, call me. Tell me that you’re going to be late. Tell me you’re stuck. I’m not an unreasonable person. Just let me know, don’t make me make Prell HQ lean on you just so that you can tell me that you’re late.

So, I sit here, without my hard drive, waiting for Prell to replace my defective part, in my not-inexpensive Machine that I bought from them, which is under the warranty that I paid for, as I have been waiting for two weeks. In the meantime, using a very complicated setup involving a laptop hard drive, and external enclosure, and an old HD from a computer that Michele and I were going to donate, I’ve managed to get the important data off. This, I did with no help from Prell or Laxtor, because they wouldn’t do it for me even If I asked them. Once Prell takes the old HD, they’re just going to erase it. So, using trial and error, and a lot of sleeplessness, I got the stuff off. My data is safe, but I still can’t use the thing.

The odd thing is: every other time there’s been a problem, Prell has been remarkably efficient and helpful. So, did I just have bad luck this time? Or is Prell just getting worse? I’ve always liked their stuff, I’ll give it just one more chance.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Apallingly Bad Valentine Gift

I truly hate all jewelers who advertise on the radio and television. I mean, I ABHOR them. And their goddamned theme songs. Every single one of them - except for Mervis. I kind of like Mervis because they come on and pretend like they didn't grow up exploiting the natives. I bet they hobbled many a slave as a small child. Ah, hobbling. Good times -they are the only place that I would ever buy jewelery from, if such a need ever arose. They are trying really hard to prove that they don't have blood diamonds - a little too hard, if you ask me. I digress. . .

Anyway, I have officially found it; I saw a commercial for this and it has been burned into my brain:

Stupidest gift ever on the Kay Jewlelers website

This embodies everything that I hate about Valentine's Day and civilization in general.

  1. The ring itself in HEINOUS. Truly, truly, ridiculously ugly. I die a little inside each time I see it. The I Love You is the kicker - it's truly awful.
  2. You get stuffed animals with it - FREE, no less. First, stuffed animals are possibly the worst invention of all time. They are useless and just clutter shit up. Second, of course it's free because it's a claw machine reject. It's for you people who put the stuffed animals on the back ledge of your car - you know who you are and you will be destroyed in time.

PS: If you bought this for your new wife or girlfriend or whatever, I'm sorry if I have offended you. I'm also sorry that you may have questionable taste. But unconditional love is unconditional for a reason.