13 July 2007

Abby's Tips for Decent Customer Service

I just got off the phone with Auntie M, who has been going through her own special Hell with AOL.

Considering the holes in walls and my dashboard from various recent interactions with Kenmore/Sears, Sprint/Nextel, the Title Company From Hell, and a wide variety of other largely Satanic entities, I thought I'd throw out a simple set of concepts that might be helpful to any of my loyal readers who are thinking of starting their own business that might require, you know, customers.

1 - Everybody has a supervisor. If you are not empowered to help whomever you're talking to, you're also not being paid enough to cover for the people who can. Don't tell me you don't have a supervisor - I bet you don't own the company, and given that, I bet there's someone who ensures you show up and put on your headset every morning.

2 - Greet people. I know that some customers like to rattle on a little, but I bet you're being paid by the hour. Answering a call with an abrupt "ThankyouforcallingEvilConglomerate, GiveMeYourTenDigitPhoneNumberAreaCodeFirst," is a no-go. Particularly when you're passing a customer up the food chain - if I've been on the phone with you for an hour, you're aware of my phone number. Stop asking for it.

3 - Don't give your phone reps a stupid script. If I've been struggling mightily to resolve an issue and your representative has been unhelpful for twenty minutes, I do not want to hear "thank you for calling EvilConglomerate, I hope you've had a wonderful interaction with our company today!" Are you fucking insane? My interaction with your company has been the customer-service equivalent of a nasal hysterectomy. It's bad enough if you're evil, please don't also be stupid.

You know, there seems to be a theory out there that providing a lot of terrible customer support is as good or better than providing good customer support. But it ain't so. Putting people on the phone who are not empowered to do anything might allow you to hire people who cost next to nothing, but wading through human ferns costs you money by pissing off customers. 100 useless monkeys could probably be replaced by 20 empowered and functional representative who can operate without a script, and they won't create an entire demographic of people who are entirely willing to burn your headquarters to the ground.

I cannot think of a single company I deal with, whether buying gas, ammunition, internet access or plane tickets, that is a sole source. I can always go somewhere else. So can everyone else in the world. Dealing with large companies is slowly becoming so painful that we're all going to start building our own shit rather than doing it. When you think about the red-hot-poker-in-the-eye that is, say, NorthWest Airlines, it doesn't make getting a pilot's license and buying a plane sound so crazy, does it?

It's all too much. I'm going to take my grumpy ass off to bed. Perhaps I'll take a nice warm shower (water heated by Atmos Energy - where the ladies who answer the phone call you by name and act like they give a shit), then read a little (light provided by Commerce energy, who turned my power on with a minimum of drama, exactly when they said they would). But first I'll lock up the gunsafe (made by Sentry, who will send you replacement parts if you break your shit and be cheerful about it), and ensure my bedside handgun is where it belongs (which I purchased from Kastle Keep Firearms in Largo, Florida, because the sales guys are smart and helpful).

I'm seriously just focused on the day when I can be a hermit in a cabin and don't have to deal with anyone ever again.


Another lovely Texas morning. The Mister and I ran this morning - with my work schedule, running from 0730-0800 (or thereabouts) is a winner, and I'm trying to get in that habit.

I showered, am enjoying a bowl of Raisin Bran and listening Pot O' Coffee #2 brewing.

So what, you ask, could cause me to title this one "Annoyances?"

The world outside my house, of course.

We're trying to cancel our old cell coverage (provided by Sprint/Nextel). We've had two lines with them since Nov 03, but made the grievous error of replacing a phone (which I lost in a little fire in Iraq) in Nov 05. Now, of course, we're being told we must pay not just one $200 cancellation fee, but two.

After talking to four different people, I managed to get a direct number for "corporate escalations" (yes, let us escalate your annoyance) and confirmation that they'll talk to Mr. Abby (although my name is on the account).

Oddly, every person I spoke to on the subject insisted on first asking why we wanted to cancel our service with them, and what they could possibly do about it. Duh. Stop being evil.

[pounds head on table]

Additionally irritating is my continuing lack of a driver's license. All the Texans I talked to spoke highly of their state's ability to get a license out quickly once one went down to the DMV for that joyous experience.

I guess Texas has a differnt concept of "quickly" than I do. I'm only bummed because there's a gun show this weekend, and although we know Abby doesn't buy many guns at such events, there's one firearm in particular I'm looking for, and I'd like to go and cruise for it. Alas, unless the mailman is on my side today (and how often does that happen, really?), the FFLs of North-Central Texas will have no chance at my hard-earned cash this weekend.

Which is fine, really. I'll just buy more ammo.

Alright, I'll stop bitching and go to work now. Just thought I'd share the morning's cause for eye-rolling.

12 July 2007

House votes and drunken old soldiers

I'm thinking about this House vote...

...House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Thursday's mixed report on the progress of the war shows it's time for American troops to come home.

You know, I came up in the Marine Corps, which we all know has a slightly different outlook on excuses, quitting and mission accomplishment. But hey...
"President Bush continues to urge patience, but what is needed -- and what the American people are demanding -- is a new direction," she said.
And what we've all learned from the Democratic Congress is that any time we're not sure about a strategy and we think a "different direction" is in order, that direction should always be capitulation.


Two nights ago, one of my old Army buddies from Iraq was in town for business. He dropped by for some beer drinkin', steak eatin' and bullshittin'. It was a good time.

This guy's a thinker, a real smart guy. He ran our "projects" side in Iraq - the money, the contracts, the payouts, etc. A lot of vision, probably should have been an officer, you know the kind.

He and I were sitting outside enjoying about our 71st cold beer of the evening.

"What do you think," he said, "about..." and he let it trail off.

"Iraq? Shit, man...I dunno."

He nodded. "Me neither."

And folks, my old buddy and I are two people who always "know" (or at least "know" enough to ramble on at length, even if we're full of it). But, we agreed, the political shitstorm surrounding the entire Iraq situation is pretty much unprecedented. I still feel about the war, and I still think about the war. But I no longer have a fucking clue what is going on with the war.

I'm a Petraeus True Believer. If there's one swinging Richard in a uniform who can fix this, it's him.

He was approved, and he was sent. And he implemented a plan that finally kicked off at 100% strength last month. I was under the impression we were expecting a "benchmark" report in September. However, apparently halfway between full manning on the surge and the "benchmark report," we decided we were not sufficiently progressing toward the point where we wanted a progress report.

So, said House Democrats and assorted other fools, we must not wait. We should make plans with little regard for what may or may not be going on in Iraq.

But...I note...this pullout date is about seven months before the November '08 election. Coincidence? I think not.

Here's my prediction. The Senate passes something similar. The President vetoes. Neither chamber will be able to override. Of course they won't override - that's a phenomenally stupid thing to do.

But - throughout the entire election season, everyone who voted for the precipitous pullout will be able to say, "I tried to get them home. If I'd had my way, they'd be grilling in the back yard."

And, if everything is not sunshine and roses and Liberation-of-Paris-style success (and would the modern media even allow the Liberation of Paris to be a success today? Perhaps, but the pictures would be of US GIs pissing in alleys), those who opposed the "pullout" will be castigated. Every bomb, every fatality, every setback, every Reuters photo of a big-eyed grubby urchin, will be turned on those who chose "the harder right over the easier wrong" and voted to stay and try to finish what we started.

I would have more patience for the Loyal Opposition's yammering if they were really seeking a "better direction." There are a lot of strategies out there, and I'm always open to hearing smart people try to find better ways to do things.

But they're not seeking a "better direction." They're seeking a way to appease the shortsighted American public, to find a painless answer.

Sometimes, there are no painless answers. And the worst thing about this kind of debate is that there is no debate. There's no search for the best way to win, to accomplish our goals. There's an embattled President who couldn't articulate why one should look both ways before crossing the road, a VP with the charisma of Darth Vader, and a few gutsy legislators trying to hold the line. That and a few hundred thousand GIs and some real smart generals, none of whom play a tune half as appealing as that the surrender monkeys are cranking out on their newsprint organs.

Tell you what, it's enough to make a couple of old soldiers sitting outside drinking beer say, "ah...fukkit. I don't know anymore."

Settling in - the battle continues

If moving in is a campaign (martial type - not election), then we've had the invasion. We're beyond the beach and spread out around the countryside, we've beaten back all their organized formations, and we're doing the last bit of mopping up before we declare victory.

In more realistic terms, we received our second TMO shipment, so we have all our shit, and we're down to a couple of rooms and the garage that are still a wee bit out of control.

I have my books now, and they're in the bookshelf. Reject books have been banished to Goodwill. I am left with this:

They're all on the shelves, but I'm still trying to get them arranged. It's one of my favorite things to be obsessive about, but it takes some work. We start with military history and theory on the left, and it should gently segue through other history, bios, politics, conservation, bird, guides, travel, then fiction in roughly the same subject groups. We're not there yet, but it does give me something to do - walking over and shuffling books around.

On the other side of this room (the Study/Armory), we have this - My First Gunsafe.

We broke on of the handle "leaves" off moving it - but gotta love Sentry, because they're sending another one at no charge and it's pretty easy to just stick the new one in.

This will probably not be the last gunsafe, since I still have this lurking in a third corner of the same room:

But the first safe is a good start. If we stumble across another used one of the same size at a decent price, we might pick it up. The first one accomplished the primary goal, though, of holding everything we really don't want to have to replace and of ridding us of loose guns lying around in stacks and on coffee table.

And yes - we can get away with the antlers next to it at that height. Neither Mr. Abby nor I are tall enough to put an eye out. Kind of a bummer, hey?

10 July 2007

Coolest. Object. Ever.

Mr. Abby doesn't have to check in for another week or so, so he's been running wild around the greater DFW area, buying shit and generally being out of control.

He apparently found the Used Classic Lighter Store, which masquerades as a gas station. While there, he picked this up for me.

What the Hell, you ask, is that? Ladies and gentlemen, that is a fishing lure lighter, butane type. It works fabulously. Here's an "open" picture.

How groovy is that? An envelope of Casey hair as a prize to whoever can identify the lure this lighter is based on. This is an easy one.

09 July 2007


Y'all know I just love this kind of thing.

We've politicians, folks, who are Defenders of the American Family (voting NO on spending federal money on anti-teen-pregnancy education). They stand for all that is Right and Good For the Moral Fiber of America (YES on a consitutional amendment to prohibit "flag desecration.")

These are men who know about Family Values (NO for American women being allowed to pay for abortion services in overseas military hospitals).

I just love it when one of these guys gets busted with hookers.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said in the statement. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them..."

You know, I'm not 14. I didn't learn the term "hypocrite" three days ago, and a little bit of failing to live up to one's rhetoric doesn't shock and offend me.

But listen - there's a hierarchy of bad form here. Running around on your spouse is a Bad Thing. Running around on your spouse with your interns or subordinates is Slightly Worse. Running around with WHORES (that is, hookers, escorts, dancers, etc) is Worse Yet. From there it's a quick slide down to sexual assualt of juvenile kittens.

Hey - Sen. Vitter, I wasn't going to judge. But once you claw your desperate little way up on that pedestal and try to legislate your judgement onto my choices...well, you're fair game.

Loser. Your wife oughta leave you and take all your shit. Then you can try to get a real job to pay for the ass that apparently nobody is willing to give you (seriously - if you're a Senator and still have to pay for it, that says something about your skills).


Mr. Abby sent this one along - apparently he was cruising the "bikes for sale" ads on MySpace...

serious inquiries only please--- i do not wanna haggle with you over price for 3 hours on something that obviously isn't new.. i love the bike/ride it every day to work, and could care less if i sell it so don't come to my house thinking you're gonna pitch me down. save that junk for the garage sale in your neighborhood.

Well, that's one approach to selling something, I suppose. Nonetheless, I am now curious. Just exactly what does this bike look like? What is it this man is selling, but does not particularly want to discuss?

Well, here it is.

Huh. Not exactly pretty and shiny. But maybe if I were a college kid or something, you know...low on cash...

*special note to college kids--i know it's the summer and you REALLY want a motorcycle to tool around town on and be cool and stuff but i don't give a rat's ass if you're poor, i do not do payment plans. i am not a dealer, i'm an individual dude tryin to make enough money to buy a bulletproof vest so i can run around at night pretending to be batman and not get my ass shot off in the process.
make sense? good. now come buy this bike.

Well, ok, then. Just in case any of y'all in the North Texas area are in the market for a bike exactly like this one.

The world's most expensive dog toy

That would be the swimming pool. I'm pretty much content to sit by it and drink, but the kids and the dog...

We had some folks over yesterday, and one of our guests was amazed. "I have never seen a dog that liked to swim that much," he said. "That one just swims and swims and swims."

Yes. Yes he does. But the upside of that it, once we let him back in the house, he sleeps and he sleeps and he sleeps.