Thursday, May 03, 2007

Scenes from Rushmore.

I like ya, kid. Ya got grit. Ya got spirit.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hole from Hell

Look at #10.

Poetry from the common people.

NPR ran the latest installment in its Vocal Impressions series last night.

Here are the first two.

I figure a couple folks (mostly Fox) might be interested in describing the likes of Mick Jagger, Barry White and Pavarotti for the next installment.

Why the iPhone will kick ass

Seth Godin thinks the iPhone is going to kick ass. Seth Godin is no dummy.

I think the iPhone will kick ass, and here's why:
Two words: Paradigm Shift.

Have you seen the competition right now?
The Upstage? Please. The RAZR 2?

The iPhone is going to do to the cell phone game what the iMac did to the grey-box PC market.

No one is going to want to look at their lame old silver flip phone.
Or a horsey Windows-driven Q.

Not when you can have that sleek fucker.

As I've mentioned before, I'm doomed with my Sprint plan. Doomed to choose between phones with less personality than Bill O'Reilly.

Will the iPhone continue to kick ass in year two? Let's say that's up to Apple and the competition.
I will say it's Apple's to lose. And the Nanophone will be superdope.

Environmental Advisor

I saw this this morning, after I heard the whole thing about the arctic ice melting at a rate 30 years faster than initially predicted (And I keep waiting for a frost-bitten Jake Gyllenhaal to fly by on a snow mobile, chased by a tornado.)

Everybody knows that we need to figure out the environmental issue.
Unlike other long-term issues, like a 401K, which is set-it-and-forget-it long term investment planning, folks don't know where to start with reducing their biological and environmental footprint. We are worried about cancer. We are worried about obesity. We are worried about money. We are worried about violence. We are worried about education. All these things, we are worried about today. How can we also worry about something that is going to happen in 50 years?

Here's how: Make it like a 401K.

A financial advisor comes in and helps you get a handle on all your finances and helps you to set long term financial strategies. An environmental advisor (fictional job description) helps you to take stock of the environmental implications of your lifestyle and helps you to streamline your consumption, refocus your resources, and solve other problems in the process. (For instance, burn calories while flipping the compost pile. I know, bad example.)

There are some "environmental advisors" out there (I assume these people are helping businesses find the loopholes in EPA mandates so that businesses can pollute at the absolute maximum level possible without incurring a penalty.)
Instead of waiting for the government or Susan Sarandon to tell me what to do, I'd like to think there were options out there that would make it a little easier for me to evaluate and mitigate my impact on the environment.

I'd pay good money for that.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blogging customer service

One of the great joys I get out of this blog is airing grievances about various idiots I come into contact with as a consumer. And one of the reasons for this joy is: people who google "UPS customer service" get to read my diatribe about what a bunch of IDIOTS UPS can be.

It is my duty, then, to now turn my ire upon Verizon Fios:

Hopefully, these little emails will take on a life of their own. It makes for fun blogging. However, my hope is also to resolve this situation ASAFP so I can get back to picking apart celebrities, movies, advertising, and other things that matter more than the frigging phone company.

Let me first say: utility companies rival the government for shitty customer service. With an arched eyebrow and a "what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it, asshole" attitude, you have to step nimbly lest they "inadvertantly" cancel your service, leaving you in the dark.

After approximately 10 months of smooth billing, service, etc. I get two bills from Verizon. I'm don't know why. Fios is supposed to be TV/internet/phone on a single bill.

I pay the two bills.

My cable is turned off days later. We find out as reports of hail and tornados are whipping across North texas and my weather-channel gene starts to itch.


We figure out (huge, painful call-center fiasco that my wife gratefully left out all the details about goes here) the cable has been shut off and they agree to rehook it up. The separate bills continue. We notice we are not being billed for internet. I decide to check it out online. What follows will be that correspondence.

Expect me to get angry.

10PM Sunday, 4/29/07

My Fios account used to come to my house on a single bill. Now I get two separate bills, and I can't find the Internet charges on either. How can I fix this problem. Your call center has been NO HELP. Thanks!

When I Submit this email I get the following confirmation:

Thank you for contacting Verizon via email. You will receive a confirmation email with a tracking number shortly.

Shortly does not mean in the next five minutes.



I guess shortly does mean ten minutes. Not bad for a robot.
Their cheeky reply:

Thank you for contacting the Verizon eCenter, where we never stop working for you.

We will respond to you within one business day.

Your tracking number is: XXXXXXXXX

When sending us a reply, please ensure that the "Subject" of your email is unchanged and includes this tracking number.

If you haven't already registered on, visit us at to enroll now. Doing so gives you exclusive access to manage your account, view and pay your bill online and more!

While submitting an email from the Contact Us form is protected, subsequent emails transmitted from commercial email services may not be protected. Do not send credit card, password or other sensitive information in a standard email message.

I take issue with the phrase "we never stop working for you." Actually? Yes. They do. For instance, their billing department stops working every weekday at 6PM, and doesn't work weekends. Something which, unlike most other questions we've had for their customer service call center shmoes, each of them seems to know and is quick to tell you with a "I KNOW how disappointing this is to you" inflection that makes me want to smash things.

Oh, and another thing. The Verizon website doesn't work with Mozilla, which I find out through ten minutes of trial and error to trying unsuccessfully to login, reset my password, etc.



3:38, Monday 4/30/07

Dear J. Helms,

Thank you for contacting the Verizon eCenter. I have received your email dated April 29, 2007. My name is Laura, and I will be happy to assist you. I understand your concern.

It appear as if your telephone number has been ported out to another provider.

I regret I cannot access your internet account with the information provided.

Please provide your account number for your internet account so I may access your records.

Once I receive the requested information, I am confident I will be able to assist you. In the meantime, if you have additional questions, please let us know. We look forward to serving you.

Thank you for using Verizon. We appreciate your business.

Verizon eCenter

I like Laura. I decide she WILL be able to help me as soon as I give her the one crucial piece of information that she is missing (which I included in the web request, but strangely she doesn't have.) Still, I too am confident this will all work out.

I reply:


the account number is XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Thanks for your reply.




2 days of CRICKETS.



I decide to rattle Laura's cage:

10:50, Thursday, 5/3/07


It's been three days since I supplied you with my account number and I haven't heard back from you.
Has this issue been resolved?




10AM, Friday, May 4

Not one to disappoint, Laura responds:

Dear James,

Thank you for contacting the Verizon eCenter. I have received your email dated May 3, 2007 regarding your bills.

I regret I cannot locate an account with the information provided.

Please contact Verizon directly at (800) 839-1788 for further assistance.

Thank you for using Verizon. We appreciate your business.

Verizon eCenter

I am not shocked.
Even though they continue to bill me at this account number.
This phone number only works between 8am and 6pm M-F.
I am not shocked about this either.

I respond:


How is this possible?
Can you provide me any information as to why my account number which, in January,
was associated with my phone, internet and cable no longer is associated with those services?

Can you provide me with an option which will not necessitate me waiting on hold for
45 minutes in the middle of what is, for me, a very busy and fully scheduled day,
to talk to yet another person who can not help me?

How is it that Verizon "Never stops working for me" yet cannot seem to locate
my account number for a service I have been paying for at a rate of well over $100/month for a year?

Is there a customer service person I should be contacting directly who appreciates my business enough to look into it and actually help me figure it out?

I was sure you were that person.




No surprise, Laura's respnse is right out of the helpless call center lackey textbook:

8:45, May 7, 2007

Dear James,

Thank you for contacting the Verizon eCenter. I have received your email dated May 6, 2007 regarding your bill.

If you wish to combine all three bills, please contact Verizon at (800) 839-1788.

I hope I have resolved your reason for contacting us. If you have additional questions, or if we may be of assistance to you in the future, please let us know. We look forward to serving you.

Thank you for using Verizon. We appreciate your business.

Verizon eCenter

I decide to take Laura's direction and phone this number.
I am put on hold for 10 minutes
A call center employee asks for the phone number associated with my account and when I give him my area code, he tells me I have called a New Jersey call center. He cannot help me. He offers to transfer me. I agree. The phone rings, goes into hold music, five minutes later a stern voice message tells me the office is closed and to call back another time. And disconnects me.

I dig up a second phone number for customer service.
I spend 10 minutes on hold.
The person who answers says "Your account shouldn't have been split up."
This is the most encouraging thing I've heard since Laura told me she was sure she'd be able to help.
I hold for 14 minutes as she tries to get in touch with someone who can help

At 24 minutes "Bobby" comes on the line. He says he can help me.
He asks me about my existing services and thoughtfully tries to upsell me to digital cable.
I decline.
I am put on hold.

At 34 minutes he says it's taken care of.


YouTube killer?

Check out "Funny or Die".
Thanks to Dave at Jetpacks for the low-down.