Friday, January 30, 2009

Winter Weekend 2009

It was time for another winter weekend. Darren drove up from St. Louis on Friday and met the other four of us in Grand Rapids. We made our pit stop at Aldi on the drive up and "roughed" it for the weekend at the cottage.

We spent Saturday afternoon geocaching just like last year. This year we were a little more successful and found TWO geocaches near Newaygo. The clue for the geocache below was "old man of the woods." See him?We walked through the woods and messed around for awhile. And of course we had to go snow tubing.
We also played one of the world's largest games of Settlers. We combined settlers, seafarers, and cities and knights in a massive 4 hour epic.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Dreaded Charter

Dear Charter Employee,

I’d like to describe the most frustrating customer service experience of my life. The incident happened with the installation of my new Charter service. For the best and most clear flow of events I’ll summarize the experience as a set of chronological bullet points.
  • On Monday October 13 I called the Charter sales office and ordered high speed internet and basic cable with an HD box for the new customer promotional rate. The agent asked when I would like to set up installation and that their schedule was basically open all week. I picked Thursday morning from 10-12.
  • On Thursday, October 16 I made arrangements to leave my work from 10-12 and waited at my house. At 11:59 I was called by Charter and informed that the technician was running late and couldn’t be there until 12:30. I said I couldn’t wait that long but would be home at 3:00. The Charter employee said that wouldn’t work and I agreed to be rescheduled for the next day from 1-3. I explained my frustration with wasting 2 hours of my time and the employee told me they could call me 15 minutes prior to installation so I would know when to be at my house. I thanked him and stressed the importance of making sure it got done the next day as I had arranged for a friend to come that night to help me install my home theatre and wireless home network.
  • On Friday, October 17 I called customer service at 1:30 pm asking if they could find out when the technician would come. They informed me that dispatch couldn’t give any information until the appointment time was missed. I said I didn’t understand why a communications company had such a ridiculous policy. A communications company should be able to seamlessly communicate with its various divisions. She told me dispatch had to email her a status update and she would forward it on to me as soon as she got it. I gave her my email and phone number and hung up. I never received an email or call back.
  • At 2:45 I called again to check on the status. The agent told me we had to wait until after 3:00 to be able to contact a supervisor since my appointment was technically still open. I told him about the missed appointment on Thursday so to contact the supervisor on that premise. He put me on hold several times and eventually said he would call me back. He never called me back.
  • At 3:30 I called again. This time I spoke to a helpful employee that was the only one in this entire ordeal that followed through on a promise (a call back). She said she would get things straightened out for me and get me an answer and promised to call me back. About 15 minutes later she called me back and said the supervisor would contact me by 4:00 and if a technician couldn’t come out, the supervisor himself would come and do the installation. I thanked her and asked if I could get the installation fee waived due to all the inconvenience. She said that was fair and took care of it. I felt this was appropriate, but still not enough to make up for my hours of wasted time and to this point over an hour of fruitless phone calls.
  • At 4:00 I arrived at my house to wait for a technician.
  • From 4:30 to 5:30 I called at least 3 times and each time I had to go through the same name, address, and social security confirmations. Each time I had to explain the entire situation and stress the importance of me getting service THAT NIGHT. The friend that was helping was coming from out of state and had to leave Saturday morning. Each phone call ended with the agent promising to call me back or disconnecting me while trying to transfer me to a supervisor. No one ever called me back.
  • At 5:45 I called again and went through the same confirmations/explanations for at least the 8th time. This time I told the agent I wasn’t hanging up until I got a straight answer because no one was calling me back despite all the promises. This agent was able to achieve some form of written communication (email or text) with the local dispatch saying they would check on the situation and call me. He informed them that I wasn’t hanging up until I knew what was going on. After 10 minutes of waiting my cell phone battery was starting to die and I wasn’t near a charger. I told the agent he had been helpful to that point and I trusted that he would call me back. He promised to call me back as soon and he heard from dispatch. I asked him to call me in 15 minutes no matter what. He said he would.
  • At 6:30 I had not been called back and I called again. As I went through the automated section of the call I was informed that my appointment had been changed to 10-12am the next day. I asked immediately to speak to a manager. The female agent said she had all the authority of a manager so I explained the situation to her. She said she would check on it and put me on hold for more than 15 minutes. Finally she came back and said that somehow all my service calls had been routed to an employee that wasn’t even working that day and that they could no longer get to me. It was now 6:55 and I said I had been told that there were appointments until 7:00. She agreed but said they couldn’t get to me. I said that was unacceptable and they needed to keep someone on overtime or call someone in. She said there was no way. Finally I said if there was no way then I felt I should be given something to compensate for my serious inconvenience. She offered me a “$20 guaranteed install credit.” I said that was NOTHING compared to what I had gone through so far. She then offered me a couple free movie channels. I said I didn’t really want those and asked for a few months free service. She said she wasn’t allowed to do that. I accepted the movie channels since that was supposedly all she could give me. She put me on hold for more than 15 minutes while she set me up in the system for the extra channels. I reluctantly agreed to the Saturday AM appointment. She assured me that the appointment was flagged as a “must do” and was the first one of the day. She also told me they would call me when they were on their way.
  • On Saturday, October 18, I called in at 10:30 after I had not heard from Charter yet. I asked to speak to a manager and was connected to Britney. Britney would not even check with dispatch because it wasn’t the end of the 10-12 appointment time yet. I explained what happened Thursday and Friday and she guaranteed an installer WOULD be there by 12:00. I said I didn’t believe her and asked her to back up her guarantee. She said she would call me back at 12:00 to confirm. I said I didn’t believe her on that either because of all the broken phone call promises so far. She gave me her phone number and said I could call her at noon. When I asked why wasn’t the installer there yet since I was first on the schedule she said that there were appointments as early as 8:00. What?!?!
  • The installer never called and finally showed up at 11:57. My friend had rearranged his personal schedule so he could stay until 12:30. After the installer walked in to ask where we wanted things, he didn’t come back into the house for 25 minutes. Finally I went outside and saw him chatting with another technician that had shown up in a different truck. I told him of my time constraint and asked him to hurry up. A few minutes later he finally came back in and the other truck drove off. He fairly quickly finished the installation and left around 12:50, but my friend was already gone.
  • I am not great at home theatres or home networking and after the technician left I had to spend considerable time on the phone with my friend to get things working. I didn’t get things working until Sunday.
  • Britney never called at noon as promised. I called her number at 12:30 and 1:30 and got put to an answering machine, leaving messages both times. 19 days later I called again, left another message, and she finally called back.

In all I wasted over 10 hours of my personal time waiting for Charter to show up to install my package…and I’m a NEW CUSTOMER!! I spent over 3 hours on my personal cell phone and missed 4 hours of work. All I was offered was to waive the install fee, a $20 credit, and some channels I didn’t really want.

Frustrated customer,
Randy Elenbaas

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Mischief Maker

Little Miss Evelyn has become a very lively baby. She's been crawling for almost 4 weeks and she loves the freedom. Gone are the days where we could set her down and walk away. Now she is on our heels wherever we go...unless she finds something more fun on the way. Last weekend Evie was thrilled to help me with whatever project I was doing. Later, Erin and I reorganized our pantry and cupboards. Evie helped in her own little ways. Evie now feels the need to protest what she doesn't like. When she doesn't want to sleep she tells us. We typically put her down for bed around 8:00 and some nights she cries loudly. We let her go and soon she's fast asleep. When we check on her we can't help but laugh. She has thrown her stuffed animals and pacifiers out of bed on numerous occasions. She also falls asleep in crazy positions. Here we found her pushed in the corner, still clutching the railing in protest.

Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 Results

I stated my 2008 Goals early in the year. I struggled meeting my goals this year but it my typical relentless fashion, I followed through for the most part. Here are my results:
  1. Learn to juggle 5 balls - Result: REALLY Dumb goal! Why would I want to do that?!? Failure.
  2. Run 750 miles - Result: SUCCESS! I ran exactly 750 miles this year, finishing with a 4.5 mile run at 3:00 pm on December 31. My running was way down this year because I didn't run a marathon. Adding to that the weather was awful for January and February so I started out way behind. I picked it up through June but then injured my hip in early July. After my half ironman in August I basically didn't run for 6 weeks putting me 230 miles away from my goal on October 5. I seriously doubted I would reach my goal at that point. However, I paced myself the rest of the year and had a solid 4th quarter, just barely reaching 750 miles by the end of 2008.
  3. Bike 1,500 miles - Results: Ummm... I biked 1,461 miles on the road meaning I kind of failed. But, I spent over 15 hours on my bike trainer in my basement last winter before the roads cleared. So I'll count that as a quasi success. I really wanted 1,500 road miles and would have hit it but the entire month of December was shot because of heavy snow. I only rode 4 miles in all of December.
  4. Do 30,000 sit ups - Results: SUCCESS! This was a very annoying goal but good pacing kept me on track all year and I finished with 30,120 sit ups completing my goal on December 30.
  5. Do 5,000 pull-ups - Results: SUCCESS! Another ridiculous Randy goal. This wasn't overly ambitious but annoying none-the-less. I finished with 5,002 pull ups. My strength really improved over the year. Initially I could only do 7 in a set and I peaked at 20.
  6. Weigh less than 185 lbs at some point - Results: Ummm...I never officially weighed in at sub 185. My lightest weigh in (on Thursday mornings on a specific calibrated work scale) was 187 lbs, however I definitely weighed well below 185 at the finish of my half ironman. Again, I'll call this a quasi success.

So officially I only reached 3 of my 6 goals with arguments for 2 others.

My 2009 goals are going to be much simpler, but also more difficult.

  1. Run the Riverbank in less than 2:00:00
  2. Run a marathon in less than 4:00:00
  3. Read at least 4 books cover to cover

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