Thursday, November 29, 2012

Woman In Pink Hair Who Saved The Day

In the past month, I’ve spent 60 hours dealing with Customer Service as a Customer.

10 hours with a friend trying to get a $56.48 refund from a furniture store.  50 hours with a bank trying to get bank statements for my Dad's Estate (after 6 months of trying). 

The hotel charging my dead father 13 days posthumously was no saint too. No one was authorized to remove his bag, they said, so we had to pay for the room after he died. The vacant hotel didn't have to charge a dead person of course. But they did. 

This wasn’t the first time we’d been screwed.

* * *

A cell phone company charged my daughter nearly $500 (includes hidden fees) because of a download she didn’t order. Cell phone companies later got sued by the government $31 million for misleading advertising and  hidden fees.  The cell phone company  had the nerve to lecture me on being a bad parent for 1 hour and how I should supervise my daughter better after I told them they couldn’t sell an under-aged minor this 18+ product in the first place. 

When I called another number they gave me to get my refund finally, they too read the same company line! How I should be a better parent (ad verbatim). This is after I'd been a loyal customer for 13 years on record. 

The thing is…I’d been charged nearly $500 by the same company for things I didn’t order too – and suddenly $2/month for the paper the phone bill was printed on.  So I believed my daughter. I'd already received $1500 in credit for bad charges in my lifetime with this company.  And the $500 hidden-fee pricing for 1 download was so outrageous, it smacked of dishonesty.  

This was the ad.  Anyone could enter my kid's phone number. If she'd clicked link for "10 Bonus Ringtones," I get billed $10/month up front, plus $30 invisible carrier download fees/mo.  $10/mo fee was advertised in grey font, fine print. The $30/mo cost was not advertised. 

No one works for an honest living here! 

* * *

A home renovations company sold me 2 sinks they didn’t actually have, delivered a broken one of a different color and forgot to deliver two sinks. This is after they didn’t show up the first time leaving me to wait hours, elevator booked. No one on the delivery service phone would answer me.  I had to drive to the store to get service and they had no customers there and more than a dozen staff! 

The frequency of incidents and people waiting hours for Customer Service made me realize, they should really change their name to No Service.  

 I was forced to accept wrong color sink (or wait months for the sink we paid for to be in stock) and this in turn caused me to pay for a different color paint to match. They recommended I not use their unreliable delivery service. Without a trolley, I carried the sink many floors up.    

After they delivered a carpet that wouldn't fit the elevator and were also missing carpet for one room, management gave me $260 credit for my troubles. This is after waiting 6 weeks for the carpet to be ordered in. 

My Dad passed away before he could see his apartment finished. 

* * * 

You could write a book on why the Western economy is tanking.

When they sell you something, they are so fast – they even have hidden ways of charging you. They've automated technology to charge you instantly. 

But when you want your points redeemed for loyalty, they will be the first to be unloyal. Wait one hour. When you want a refund, you can wait hours. 

I have a few thousand dollars in car points and air miles they are clawing back.  This of course was not what they promised me for loyalty.  I had $500+ in cell phone points, but had to buy an iPhone full price. Apparently, I was locked in a contract for 2-years for a  $20/mo discount (credit) they gave me for bad service. Points can't be redeemed while under contract for iPhone. . 

"Never Again."  We've said that often.  Don't "Dear Customer" me. We are not "Dear" to you. 

When you want false charges removed, they will make you feel like a criminal. When you want a store credit for your troubles – well, good luck with that. 

The days of honest retail relationships are over.

Sure, Mr Customer Service you can worry about your what your boss says at the store, worry about your job. Sure, it’s not a legal obligation for you to be a hero. Sure, it’s not even a moral obligation for you to be a hero. Your company does not order you to be a hero.

But as my old boss once said in situations where people didn’t do the right thing to solve the problem and are only focused on blocking people or complaints, “you’re no hero.”

* * * 

I thought about writing about how this all happened, but there wouldn’t be enough space. So I thought I’d focus on the one hero we did meet yesterday.

I had driven my friend who didn't have a car to a furniture store and a refund was then needed.

Collectively, my friend and I had already spent 10 hrs unsuccessfully, and more than $50 in gas and transit, now on our 3rd trip just to get a $56.48 refund. The goods were already returned two trips ago to get a refund card (I didn't have my friend's credit card). A trip ago, the call-center spent 2 hrs trying to remove credit card charges (failed).   A trip ago, the store had refused to accept this gift/refund card with its receipt because she was missing a receipt for the original purchase (they didn’t tell anyone to bring).  Some gift card! This trip was a disaster – 1 hour line up, 87-year-old mother randomly injured and hospitalized, all on my friend’s birthday. Ya, it was a long day.

Gift card and this receipt were invalid without receipt of original store purchase for this refund. 

We almost gave up yesterday. I said, “one more try.”  This was no longer for the money. We’d already spent so much  time and more money than the refund to try and get it. It would be easy to say, “cut our losses.” To complicate matters, we now had the original store receipt, but one new problem. The gift card was lost in the chaos of the emergency room situation of my friend’s 87-year-old mother. We did have a picture of the gift card with all the numbers and its receipt (above). But in this world, there’s every excuse to say no.

We went in together – I had a car, my friend didn’t. This furniture store was only accessible by car. Ya, you know the one.  I saw a woman with pink hair. Like picking a border agent, I said, “She’s the one we want.”  By lucky draw, we managed to get her  (1 in 3 chance).

She knew how hard it was to get to the store by subway (which requires crossing train tracks and hopping  a 7-foot fence to get onto the property from the station). She knew the long line ups. 

She knew our problem. She listened. She didn’t talk down to us. She didn’t treat us as if every customer is wrong, so the company can keep our money. She didn’t make us wait one hour. She got the refund done.

Her kindness was payment enough for me to blurt, “We don’t want the store credit you offered (for our troubles).” We then went to my friend’s birthday dinner and had a wonderful time. Thank you Ace, and thank you Gabby’s. 

We appreciate.

It made me feel better after some nauseous mornings waking up after spending 6 months trying to get bank statements for my Dad’s estate from a bank where my Dad was a loyal customer all his life. We have had properties and charities financed through them. I am now at the stage where my lawyer is on standby with a legal notice just to get a bank statement and payment due dates. Why did it have to come down to this for something so simple. “You’re no hero.” 

If I hear the word, “policy” chanted by them, I don’t hear the words, “Customer Service.”

But the woman in pink hair, you just erased all of these fumes from my head. Because that’s what heroes do. You are Customer Service, just like I knew it when it was good.  You treated us like community citizens.

I wake up today, thinking of a hero.  The woman in pink hair who saved the day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Medium is Oxygen

After geo-tagging 34,000 notable stories for a project to create a cartography of media coverage, it is hard not to notice who’s stories are missing.

Story vein - Greenwich Village 

Stories documented are largely due to coverage in history books, music, film, media, art and literature.

The the older the vault, the more male it gets. The newer the vault, the more ethnocentric it gets. The latter sounds strange to say in the modern era after a Civil War and Civil Rights movement.

But documentation  is straight math.

The roots of the modern web were in Silicon Valley. Organically, the internet started off in the English-language in population. 

"90% of the deals" to fund the internet come from Silicon Valley. 
One third of all US capital spent is on this road. 

Documents accessible online would easily be English-dominated.  The source of the content river is in Silicon Valley which mostly funds companies living within a "20 minute drive." 

Much of the world is still today without internet access. Some geographies even block/control access where political regimes want to control thoughts. So today's historians will forget much of the world.  

At least of a third of the world.

* * *

A bright coder recently had a conversation with me to build a history browser. His passion was to focus on First Nations stories. Having covered First Nations communities as a journalist, what he said resonated with me. I was also questioning media holes - virtual gaps in which people forget a big part of the world exists. 

But I'd also known First Nations communities have been  rich in oral tradition and less adoptive of technological innovation for story-telling. 

There’s a reason too.

The "magic" of Haida Gwaii cannot be chronicled in documented form 

First Nations  chronicles are very spiritual in nature and pass from generation to generation. Communities must keep close and stay tight knit for these stories to pass from one person to another. The stories truly become part of who you are.

People are even named after stories.  

* * *

By comparison, media cultures have very little retention of documented stories.  Media dissipates every story for the next new story.

The stories are all over the map. 

It would be hard to retain a body of documented work from one generation to another, let alone any  spirituality.  

Old media stories we read are “not us.” 

There's a detachment from stories when about someone else.

New media stories are reversed. They are about  "my profile" and "myspace." 

The New World of media is structured to be self-centered.

* * *

Stories in new media are also becoming rapidly transient and disposable.

Even the apps to create media have become disposable 

Hard copies were harder to throw away.

Today social media makes a story last less than a day - 18 mins on average per tweet.  It has made many question – what is to become of us.

In fact, more time is spent on social media than making life happen. More time is spent creating social media, than the time it lasts as social media. 

Additionally, social media users as a whole spend more time chronicling the chronicle rather than creating original work.

If the medium was the message before. Today the medium is oxygen.   More breaths are spent on social media than on anything else.

* * *

Flavourful pills - we think

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What they don't teach you in Harvard Business School

Managing is tough. In the best case scenario, there's always a person with bad day, makin' a mistake. No shortage of the financially needy. Drama is somewhere out there always (inside voice or not) - rarely timed. Add the odd sick day and bad weather. Add constant change and insecurity. Then the ecosystem with success attracts manipulators, the political animals and the sharks. The entitled ones. Add passive aggressive behavior and starved egos...and the cannibalizing critics. Few and far between, the great citizens grow respect.

They don't teach this in business school or political science. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Riffing Off

The more I see, the less I can see. 

Andy Warhol made the shallow end deep. 

Basquiat stoked the street...until he died. 

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”  A big reason I love Art Battle  is that you can see colors live in progress and the event forces you to abandon Art sooner. A snapshot of Art in progress is Art itself.

Top: Willem DeKooning in progress at East Hampton (1968) photographed by Linda McCartney. Bottom: Morgan Booth in progress  ( Feb 29, 2012) at Art Battle in Toronto's Great Hall photographed by Eric Forsyth.

Mondrian saw unique patterns. 

345 East 56 Street, New York,  is where he painted Broadway Boogie-Woogie. 

385 1st Avenue, New York, NY

Art transfers into other Art. 

These are screen captures of thoughts in my head riffing as I chronicle other Art. No editing to make it flow.  "Good artists copy, great Artists steal" your mind, heart and soul.