April 16, 2005

can you hear me now, Ivan?

Today's SF Chron (and thus the SF Gate) has a mind-boggling story on Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon, the largest US carrier and the parent of Verizon Wireless. Presumably you've seen the ads with the "Can you hear me now?" guy, right? ("Good!") The clear implication is that anywhere you go, even in the remotest regions, Verizon has great wireless coverage. So what's with this?

Seidenberg, for instance, said people often complain about mobile phone service because they have unrealistic expectations about a wireless service working everywhere. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon and Vodafone, is the state's largest mobile phone provider.

"Why in the world would you think your (cell) phone would work in your house?" he said. "The customer has come to expect so much. They want it to work in the elevator; they want it to work in the basement."

Um, yeah. Those darn customers, they just want stuff to work.

Oh, and here's Seidenberg on San Francisco's plan to build a free community Wifi network: "That could be one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard.''

This guy is such a fine example of arrogance on parade. Many thanks to the Chron for getting Mr. Seidenberg to speak candidly, so that we can all see the finely honed inner workings of this high-powered executive mind.

Posted by Gene at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2005

microsoft xbox live, you need to change this too

Microsoft, your Xbox Live subscription renewal policy stinks. It is unfriendly to your customers, especially to families, and it makes you look like greedy profiteers. You should take the lead for the online gaming industry and fix it.

Here's the problem. When my kid's 12 month subscription expired, you billed my credit card automatically for a 1 year renewal. Unfortunately he doesn't like to play on XBL ever since Halo 2 turned out to be a disappointment to him, so he's not using it. I called your customer service line to cancel, and they told me that I could cancel the account, but they would not refund my payment. When I told them I expected the refund in full, they pointed me to the terms of service which state that they will bill customers for an automatic renewal, and once it is paid the policy is "no refunds". If I wanted to cancel, I had to do it before the previous subscription expired to avoid the renewal! Oh, and they told me they had sent me an email notice prior to the expiration; I never received such a notice (were they thinking that email to an address given during registration a year before, was as reliable as a registered letter???) At that point I was pretty fried and escalated my complaint up two levels of supervisors in the call center, of course to no avail. Finally, a manager told me that I could write a letter to Microsoft describing my complaint. The address? One Microsoft Way, in Redmond WA. Oh, MSFT corporate headquarters, yeah, that'll get results. Thanks for that advice, geniuses.

Anyway, with my intelligence firmly insulted and my 50 bucks firmly embedded in the Microsoft bottom line, I have a new reason not to like this company and not to buy their products. Unfortunately, predatory billing policies like this appear to be increasingly common in the online gaming industry (see my recent experience with Sony, for example). I would like to think that the large influential companies like Microsoft would take a more enlightened view of customer service, and lead the rest of the industry by positive example. I'm probably delusional for thinking that will ever happen though.

Posted by Gene at 11:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

sony, you need to change this

Sony Online Entertainment, you need to change your subscription billing policy. It is unfair and takes advantage of families to generate excess profits. What do I mean? Consider this scenario: kid wants to play Star Wars Galaxies online, and asks parent to provide a credit card for payment. Monthly charges start hitting the Visa bill. Kid plays SWG for a few months, finds it boring, and quits playing. A year later, parent notices the SOE line item on the Visa bill and asks kid if he still likes SWG. Kid says he quit playing a really long time ago. Parent contacts SOE and asks for a refund because the account has been unused for a year. SOE refuses, and points to the legalese in the click-through agreement that says they get to bill until the account is officially cancelled, without limitation. Helpful SOE customer service rep suggests parent should "write a letter" to SOE. Parent fumes, sends email to George Scotto, SOE's VP of customer service, requesting attention. Parent waits for a response. Parent waits more. Parent briefly considers throwing Sony digital camera against the wall. Parent vows not to buy anything from SOE in future. Parent starts telling people about how unhappy he is at Sony over this. It's all downhill from there.

Listen, I know that automatically renewing subscriptions is an increasingly common practice for online services. But I think it's a lousy business practice that takes advantage of people's natural tendency to lose track of these things. My magazine subscriptions don't automatically renew, they stop after a year. And the publishers remind me *frequently* of this fact. Did Sony remind me? Did they notice my kid hadn't logged on for a year, and alert me? Why not?

Hey SOE, what's more important to your business model: creating long term customer loyalty by being fair to your players and payers, or padding your profit margin by billing for dormant accounts?

Posted by Gene at 12:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 07, 2005

hotel experiences

JW Marriott hotel in Bangkok, US$99: very good. Big, well-appointed room, super comfy bed, great hot water supply for shower, strong air conditioning, friendly attentive staff, excellent concierge, cheap ethernet, short walk to Phloen Chit skytrain station (where you can go from Phloen Chit to Mo Chit in air conditioned comfort ;-)

Pan Pacific Hotel in Singapore, US$88: I cancelled since it's under extensive renovation for the next 6 months. No wonder they had a good rate.

Swissotel Stamford in Singapore, US$100: not so great. Big but uninspired room, very nice city views, extremely UNcomfy bed, flow-controlled trickle of a shower, expensive but slow ethernet, they sent someone else's luggage to my room.

Posted by Gene at 07:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 14, 2004

paper chase

I was frantic this weekend, driving around to all the local computer, stationery, and office supply stores trying to find blank inkjet greeting card stock to print my Christmas cards on. Nothing. Sold out, don't carry it, never heard of it. Hey folks, this stuff is an essential consumable for my digital life, so what's up?

TGFTI (Thank Gore For The Internets ;-), I found the paper I needed online at hp and it was a buy-two-get-one-free deal, w00t! I bought nine and the savings paid for the FedEx next business morning shipping. Perfect.

Posted by Gene at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2004

i-names redux

The i-names folks read my earlier post and published my questions on their wiki for further discussion. Now how cool is that? (I'm still waiting for some other companies to read their feeds...) Anyway, should be fun and I expect we'll all learn something new. Join the discussion at the idcommons wiki.

Posted by Gene at 05:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2004

watching ink dry

Actually, waiting for ink to run out. I'm in the middle of a huge print production run of 200+ full color pages on my trusty hp photosmart 7550 printer, and I'm pissed. Hey printer guys at hp, I need you to do two things please:

1. When the ink is running low in a cartridge, give me the option to have the printer pause and ask whether it should continue. Yesterday I launched a 30 page job and left it to print, and returned hours later to find that every page after the first one was ruined because one of the colors had run out. That oh so helpful "low on ink" dialog box had popped up, but of course the printer just kept on printing. Net result, I wasted 29 pages of nice glossy paper and lost a half day of production time. Arrgh.

2. Do a better job of predicting remaining ink capacity. In the example above, one of the colors gave out almost immediately after the "low ink" warning came up. Tonight I got the same warning (after about 55 color pages), so I decided to run just 5 pages at a time to avoid losing another big pile of good paper. I've been sitting here for an hour, it's 15 pages later, and there's no sign of it running out. WTF? I really want to launch a big job before I go to bed, guess I'll be tossing yet another partial empty cartridge before its time. Expect me to be non-happy about this too.

3. Did I say 2? I meant 3. Hey hp folks, start a printing blog! That is to say, get some people in the company who love printers and printing and photos and projects and scrapbooks and writing and engaging with people, and give them the charter to be honest evangelists. Need an example? Start with Scoble and the Microsoft bloggers. (Do read Robert's corporate weblog manifesto, it is a little old but still mostly right on). There's a giant community of folks out here that want to help you make better printing experiences, so why not take them up on it?

Okay, finally we're on to the new cartridge and off to dreamland. Tomorrow, another day and another 100 pages. Man, I'm going to need an ink pipeline plumbed to my house.

Posted by Gene at 12:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 09, 2004

bait, switch, repeat

The Fairfield Inn (a Marriott sub-brand) is nothing special as motel chains go, but it is reasonably cheap and reasonably clean, and good enough if you're just wanting a place to crash overnight en route. Pretty much good enough for me tonight, but what made it a lock for me was the promise of free high speed internet, w00t!

Every day is a great day at Fairfield InnŽ by Marriott because each room is always bright, fresh and clean.

So I get to the Fairfield, and it's just okay. Dingy flourescent energy miser bulbs, steel reinforced door to the parking lot, "firm" bed. Non-smoking room that smells like some vile chemical they used to cover up old smoke. (Side note: I've smelled this odor before, it's the exact same one that was in the car we sent back to Corporate Motors! So that's the deal, it was a smoker's car.) Oh well, let's fire up the net and get on with it. It's WiFi, so I'm prepared for it to be a bit slower than full-on LAN, but imagine my surprise to find it's only 256K! Oh, and for a nominal charge of $3.95, they would bump it to 512K. Well maybe I'm just spoiled, at least it's better than dialup, right? Call down to the desk, get the access code, good to go. Erm, but the code doesn't work, and neither does the second code they give me. Then I get locked out for too many unsuccessful login attempts. Now I'm definitely getting what I paid for.

Anyway, this is coming to you over good ole GPRS at dialup speed, thanks to AT&T. Sigh.

Posted by Gene at 05:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

fred's new car, part 1

Well, newer, anyway ;-)

We bought a car from Corporate Motors in Hayward a couple of weeks ago, a 2002 bmw. Really nice, except it has one problem, a persistent unpleasant odor in the heating system. Not the usual condensation/mildew thing, more like a big old air freshener gone to hell and all. The Corporate Motors folks said they would stand by the car and remedy the problem, so we're going down that path with them. They have a chance to be customer service heroes on this, I'm hoping it turns out well.

Posted by Gene at 11:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2003

And another thing

I just got a new copy of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and dashed upstairs to drop it in the ripper, and there's no track info because there's no CDDB data because there's no Internet because there's NO DSL?!!!


Posted by Gene at 10:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

thanks, SBC!

wa-hey, the new DSL line is working! And DNS changes for fredshouse are trickling in! It's all good! Or...not. It started to go queer when I noticed that when the phone rang, my VPN connection broke. Weird. Then the data line went belly up. Now, we don't even have dial tone. That's right, the phone's dead too. It's like a cheap slasher flick, what next, the lights?! Man, I've *never* had a problem with my POTS service. This is ridiculous. Hello, Comcast Cable? Oh wait, never mind.

So SBC customer service has an amazingly deep IVR system where you can get your phone problems debugged without ever talking to a human. It was so good, it was able to tell me that yup, my phone service had a problem. Well I'll be. Truck roll, 4 hour appointment window, wasted morning in your near future. All without a single homo sapiens lifting a finger. I guess that promised land of productivity and leisure is upon us, at least if you work at Ma Bell.

It crossed my mind that there might be telesales karma involved here. Right before it all went awry, I had a call from an SBC person trying to sell me long distance service. I was kind of rude, this being the fourth or so time that I've had to tell them "no". I told her it would be good if she could put a flag on my account requesting they didn't call me about this anymore. Y'know, maybe they have a big red button on their console, labeled "I'll fix you, a-hole", 10,000 volt transient down the twisted pair and bye bye customer premises equipment. You think maybe?

Anyway, I appointed Fred in charge of meeting the service guy. She may not tear him a new orifice, but I assure you she's fully capable. She knows a technology driven lifestyle improvement when she sees one, heh. Hopefully by this time tomorrow we'll be back on the grid and cheerfully fielding those great offers for long distance timeshare debt consolidation service.

Posted by Gene at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack