Customer Service Failures:Does It Matter to Businesses That They Could Lose a Customer?

In 2003, my wife and I had to replace 10 windows and the sliding glass door in our house. We opted to use Window Wizards. The sales process and installation went well enough, but getting service has been a nightmare. Nobody seems to bother to check the voice mail on the service line. I’ve tried to call sales to get service, and still be given the voice mail. I’ve had service calls get canceled after taking a day off and sitting around. I’ve had repeated problems with some parts, and by the way, a “lifetime” warranty isn’t a lifetime warranty.

My wife recently started pointing out to me that I’m going to have to call Window Wizards again. The vinyl on the back of our sliding door is cracked again, and the door is hard to open and close. We have a window that needs to be adjusted because it won’t stay open, and the wheels on our screen door rusted out, rendering the door useless.

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Some Interesting Developments in eBooks Today

Today brought some very interesting developments in the world of eBooks. The information also came to me in interesting ways. My wife was sick, so I stayed home from work to take care of the boys. I was using my mobile devices heavily. First, because the iPhone and iPod Touch have Exchange server support, I was able to keep up with a few things at work because of my Touch, which is set up for my company's Exchange server. I have a work issued BlackBerry, but I was carrying my Touch around with me anyway to listen to my podcasts rather than let a bunch build up. I was also using my Samsung Epix heavily today. I'd let a bunch of email pile up lately, so I was bouncing back and forth between the two devices to get through my personal account. I like the larger screen on the iPod Touch, but some of my html mail reads better in FlexMail 4 on the Epix. Also, the Epix's keyboard is slightly easier to use than the touch keypad on the iPod Touch.

I was catching up on some Twitter traffic on my Epix in Twobile when I saw that Michael Hyatt had downloaded something called "Kindle for iPhone". I switched over to my Touch, brought up the App Store, and searched for Kindle. I found it and downloaded it. From what I've read so far, using this application, I can purchase Kindle formatted books WITHOUT having to buy the $359 Kindle, but if I buy the Kindle, my books will sync between the devices.

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Don’t Tell Sellers at a Yard Sale That You’re Going to Sell on Ebay

I’ve written several posts about how the words we use and the way we say them can cause seriously negative consequences for us. I’m just as guilty as anybody of this, which is scary because I try to be conscious of it.

My wife and I have had a few yard sales over the years. We’ve also been to a lot. My wife loves yard sale shopping. I’m sure that within the next month, when yard sales start back up, she’ll expect me to get up on Saturday and start driving her around. I’ll do everything in my power to get out of it, including offering to keep both kids at home with me.

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Rant: Valentine’s Cards and Men and Directions

This post is going to be little more than a rant. If you don’t like rants, please read some of my other work. I appreciate good rants. If they’re well written, they can be highly entertaining and they can make a point. Maddox is a master of the rant. I enjoy reading his rants.

Last night, my wife and I were at Wal-mart. I broke away to look at Valentine’s Day cards. The first thing I noticed is that a bunch of women were blocking the small section devoted to cards for wives. I don’t know why. I’m not aware of a high lesbian population in Deptford, NJ. I finally got an opening and went in to see what I could find. I like to go for the slightly humorous cards when I can find them. The first card I picked up sounded cool, except of course it had to make mention of "I get lost because I won’t ask directions." I’m a geek. I love humor, but I also love accuracy. I have a phone with a GPS and Google Maps, so seriously, there is no need to ask anyone but Google for directions. I put the card away. I picked up another one. Same thing: it had some decent self-depreciating humor but also had to bring up the "men always get lost because we’re too stubborn and stupid to waste precious time by stopping the car and getting out and waiting for some clueless gas station attendant who can’t speak English to give us directions". I editorialized that line a little bit. I put that card away and picked up another one. Same thing: 3 good points, but the direction thing. By this point, I was getting frustrated and decided that now my ultimate goal was to find a Valentine’s Day card that had nothing to do with men, driving, and directions.

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No Spend January

My wife got the idea to go for an entire month without spending money. I think she got the idea from one of her blogs. At first, I was against the idea, then I didn’t believe it could work, but I decided that we had nothing to lose and agreed to do it. Here are some of my thoughts and experiences from our “no-spend” month.

Obviously, going into a no spend month requires setting some goals and boundaries. It’s  impractical to not spend ANY money whatsoever, so we had to restrict ourselves to the most necessary expenses. I needed to put gas in my car to get to work, and we allowed a $20 a week withdrawal for fresh fruits and vegetables. We figured this would be realistic. We also allowed cash withdrawals to give to church. My wife fueled her car up at the end of December. Since my car is the family car, hers is only used for errands and she can easily go two or three weeks without putting gas in her car.

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Things I Don’t Like About Christmas

I know, what’s not to like about Christmas? Actually, I’ve developed several annoyances regarding this upcoming time of the year.

1) Generic and Unmentionable Holiday

This is by far the worst offender. I can understand the point of referring to a “holiday season” which can encompass everything from Halloween to Presidents’ Day, but when referring to one specific day as “holiday” strikes me as the worst kind of intellectual cowardice. Simply saying the word “Christmas” does not make one Christian and does not in any way acknowledge Christ. When I see commercials or advertisements or movies that specifically refer to Christmas themes but cover with the “holiday” word, I can’t help but wonder if those behind it have ever seriously given this any critical thought. I hate when I go to a store that is decorated with Christmas decorations (lights and trees really don’t fit with Hanukkah or any other celebration this time of year) and I’m told by the cashier to “Have a nice holiday”, I often respond with “You too. You have a wonderful generic and unmentionable holiday yourself.” I’m not trying to be a jerk; I’m just trying to get people to think in the only way I can.

Don’t think this whole "holiday" thing is purely secular. My church is going to put on a "Holiday" program involving the children. My wife asked if we should involve our boys in it. I wanted to respond "Only if they call it what it really is." I think it has to be a bad thing when a church reflexively refers to Christmas activities with generic unmentionable holiday terminology.

To be fair, it’s possible that this could be a local thing. I notice in this region that during every holiday, people will say "Have a nice holiday." If I go to visit my dad in San Antonio, I’ll hear "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Easter" and "Happy Thanksgiving" rather than "Have a nice holiday". It could entirely be that I live in New Jersey, a state that I can’t speak of negatively enough even though it has somehow become my permanent home.

2) Christmas Music

97.5 FM in Philadelphia started playing Christmas music the first week in November. I’m already sick of it. Let’s face it, the collective artistic talent of mankind is not focusing one bit on improving the polluted gene pool that has become our reservoir of Christmas music.To top things off, I’m pretty much burned out on everything BUT Trans-Siberian Orchestra. There are a lot of Christmas songs that I simply can’t stand, and even if I once did like them, I’ve heard them way too many times in 34 years to tolerate them any longer. Most Christmas songs are not very good. The singing and the melodies are horrible, or the words are just plain stupid. "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas". Hey, did that guy have a literature degree from Yale or anything? Wow, seems like "Don’t Worry, Be Happy" had more intellect behind it than "Have a holly, jolly Christmas". "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" is another song that I really don’t like. The music starts out with an electric synthesizer that sounds like a small animal dying, then that woman with the raspy voice starts singing. I change the station or listen to music on my iPod when those start playing. I’ve heard "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" too many times and I can’t take it any longer either. It’s way too monotone for me. I lived in San Antonio for 7 years and spent the first several Christmases of my adult life going back there on leave, so don’t get me started on "Feliz Navidad".

Every now and again, somebody actually does come out with a new Christmas song, but it goes into the rotation of limited selection and grows old fast. In 2000, the song "Christmas Shoes" was thought provoking and tear jerking. Now, it gets the station switched as fast as "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas".

Believe it or not, I do like some of the classic or traditional Christmas music. Of course, those happen to be the songs that don’t get played very often.

I have little use for Frosty and Rudolf and Santa is coming, but I do remember enjoying them as a child so I try to put up with them for my own kids, but I will change the radio station if I can at all get away with it.

To all artists and musicians, I appeal to you: please, write some new Christmas music. If the record labels are stopping you, then release it as indies. We’ll find a way to get you the publicity that you deserve. If you have a new, Indy Christmas song, please send it to me and I’ll share it with my readers (I must have at least 2). Just make it Christmas. There is a song that’s been playing recently called "Happy Holidays". That’s like writing a doxology to atheism. Seriously, it’s a song about nothing. At least it’s a little upbeat, rather than the monotonous "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire".

3) Traffic and Poor Planning

We know that Christmas is on December 25 every single year, and has been for every single year in recent memory. There are people, every year, who apparently as I’m getting ready to leave work on Christmas Eve, suddenly look at the calendar and say "Oh, crap! Tomorrow is Christmas! I have 800 people to buy for!" Then they proceed to take out a second mortgage and pile onto the highway right in front of me as I’m trying to get home from work to my family.

I married a woman who is good at planning for Christmas. It’s November 14, and she’s already done. She has me, the kids, her parents, and our extended family taken care of. She even has presents wrapped. She’ll go out on Black Friday if there are some good deals, but we won’t be stuck in traffic or crammed into the malls the last few weeks before Christmas. We also won’t be thousands of dollars deep in credit card debt like a lot of you come January. We’re done, and we did it out of pocket. I’m thinking about getting my wife a new laptop for Christmas (I don’t think she reads my blog) and I won’t have to go into debt for it either. I have time to research and find a deal if I go that route.

It’s become a staple of the news to go to the mall the last few days before Christmas, and rather than actually report on anything that’s going on in the world, they interview the people who looked at the calendar on Dec 23 and said "Doh! Christmas is coming!"

4) Christmas is Coming…

I’ve hated this one since I was a kid. There’s a difference between a want and a need. Somehow after August, when I mention to my wife that I need a certain item, I’ll hear "Well, Christmas is coming." Seriously, I’m a grown man (at least, by most definitions). If I mention in September that I NEED something, chances are that waiting until Christmas is not desirable. Just let me get what I need and I’ll tell you what I WANT for Christmas.

Of course, I realize that Christmas is not about me. This blog, however, is. Have a merry Christmas, a happy Thanksgiving, or have wonderful generic, unmentionable holidays, whichever you prefer.

$10 to Pair a Bluetooth Headset? Ouch.

Back in 1996 when I started becoming a computer geek, I was absolutely shocked to find out what stores like CompUSA were charging for simple services that I could do with my eyes closed. A friend of mine said he wanted to upgrade his RAM, but CompUSA wanted $50 to install it. I think I broke something in my brain trying to figure out how sticking a chip in a slot could cost $50. I told him I’d do it for beer and pizza. Even with Sam Adams and a Meat Lover’s, I still came out cheaper plus I fixed a few other problems he had while I was at his apartment.

I guess $10 to pair a Bluetooth headset is fair by comparison. This is a tricky and painful though quick procedure. You definitely have to be patient, and pairings don’t always stick. I’ve had some pairings, like the author of the article I linked, that inexplicably stopped working and didn’t easily want to start again.

I do feel for people who spend hundreds of dollars to computer shops to fix viruses and spyware. My neighbors spent $300 when they got infected. I could have fixed it with free software that doesn’t bog your computer down and nag you to death like McAfee.