Posts tagged “service”

Dim Prospects

These dimmer switches are new and they will always be warm to the touch

Seen in a lecture hall at the Berkeley School of Information. Presumably maintenance got fed up with responding to what they deemed to be false alarms. I’m no electrician, but I do have to wonder about dimmers that are warm enough to warrant a service call.

Brand Extension

I saw this sign earlier this week in Colorado Springs. Turns out that yes, it’s a real place.

What are the two things people don’t like doing on a regular basis? Why, washing their Vehicle and washing their Dog of course. Both are time consuming and messy. So I created a professional, clean and fun environment where you can bring your vehicle, dog or both and get them clean.


A celebrity or personalized wake-up call for your next Hyatt stay

The Hyatt Wake-Up Call service provides Hyatt guests with the opportunity to wake up to personalized greetings from loved ones back home. For a limited time, you can also receive a celebrity greeting from Christie Brinkley. From the press release the service is designed to help frequent business travelers maintain connection with others while on the road and personalize their stay with the sound of a familiar voice in the morning.

To celebrate the launch, supermodel Christie Brinkley, well known for balancing a hectic travel schedule and life as a mom, recorded two limited-edition wake-up greetings available for download.

The direct mail piece I received today comes with 4 perforated cards that I can give to others so they can record messages for me. I can see this being a hit with families with young children, but it’s going right into the recycling for me.

The mail piece:
Family and friends can easily record wake-up calls for you
By using the enclosed cards, family members and friends can create and schedule personalized Hyatt Wake-Up Calls for your stays. The process is simple.
1. Hand out the attached Hyatt Wake-Up Call cards with unique access codes
2. Remind them when you will be at Hyatt
3. Have them call the phone number or visit the website listed on the card and follow the instructions.
4. Look forward to special wake-up messages via your cell phone

Cell phone? They can’t even integrate this into their wake-up service at the hotel? You actually don’t need this to be tied to your hotel stay to use it? You could prank call a bunch of friends, or have Christie call them. It’s masquerading as a “wake-up call” but in fact, it’s just a recorded message delivery, outside of any hotel interaction.

Lame, lame, lame.

The little touches that mean so much

We did an unplanned meal shopping thing at Safeway the other day – went in for that night’s meal, thinking “let’s get some fish, and maybe some vegetables.” We check out the fish and choose Dover Sole, relatively bland. We think about some spices and I go off to the spice aisle for something from Zatarains or whoever has that silhouetted dancing chef (anyone?), but then we see this pretty cool display right in front of our noses (there’s so much crap on display in these stores that I guess we tend to look past it when possible) – a variety of spices and marinades.

The fish-prepping man was incredibly nice, very genial, and asked lots of questions as he prepared our food (“how spicy do you like it?”, etc.). We could get the spices on the fish, or on the side. He pointed out another flavor they had but didn’t have room for in the display. We went from ingredients to meal with an enjoyable and custom bit of service (yeah, you can buy flavored/spiced fish and chicken, already done, but this was done at that moment, just for us).

Of course, there were no ingredients on these containers and if you’ve ever read the packages on marinades and flavoring spices you’ve probably noticed the ridiculous amount of salt they contain. We usually comparison shop at length until we find something that is not going to drown us in NaCl. Well, as you can imagine, the fish was spicy and really really really really salty. Each bit was like someone held your tongue with a pair of tongs and held a container of free-running salt above your head for a full minute.

Interestingly, I don’t blame Safeway for that. I take responsibility – caveat emptor – for purchasing a likely-to-be-salty product without finding out more. I compliment Safeway for providing a value-added experience (with the quality of the service – the human – really making it work). I guess we won’t do that next time, and will take the prep burden back on ourselves.

also: I thought the design of the marinade dispensers was kinda cool, allowing you to measure and presumably prevent overpouring.

Shave Ice Paradise (or Dystopia)


A uniquely horrible part of our trip to Kauai was stopping here for a shave ice. This place was staffed by a gaggle of poorly trained, incompetent, aggressive, rude teenage girls. They stood behind their window and acted as if the people on the other side were not human, but merely objects. One stood there talking loudly about her social plans for that evening, ignoring the long line. Another complained about the line, and how much work she had. “I hope this fucking line goes away soon! I’m so sick of people!” she yelled to her friends, not 18 inches from the fucking people who were waiting to give her money. Everyone was made to feel as if they were inconveniencing these girls’ lives. One man received his shave ice in a foam cup with a leak; he went back up to return it or get a new cup and they were horrible to him; he shouldn’t expect anything from them since he only spent a few bucks!

This place is in the Hanalei Center on the north side of the island. Do not go there.

We only saw one other shave ice place on the whole island, Jo-Jo’s Shave Ice in Waimea. The experience there was great. This place here sucks.

Hawaii, especially Kauai is a tourist economy; people were appropriately awesome in most places we went to. This place was off the scale in the other direction. Please stay away.

A little Econ 101

The New York Times takes a quick look at how companies manage pricing of equivalent goods and services, and how people perceive value.

Although some people care a great deal about cutting-edge hardware and software, others would happily settle for simpler machines if that meant lower prices. Offering discounts to buyers of traditional white machines enables Apple to expand its market. And this reduces its cost per unit sold, freeing resources to develop even more sophisticated machines.

Everybody’s stalking:

Accidental entrepreneur David Weekly sets a new record for startup failure – Valleywag

Well, I learned a little bit about viral marketing. I also learned that big companies sometimes don’t like small companies innovating using them as a platform.

As part of some programming contest, some smart dude launches a site that monitors MySpace accounts and sees when someone’s relationship status changes to or from single. There are other sites that do something similar. Site is launched, reviewed, and then MySpace lawyers send a letter.

I just thought the quote was interesting, as it’s fascinating to watch the ecosystem (ahem) of products and services emerge around big successes. eBay takes off, and suddenly you’ve got sites to handle posting photos, other sites to handle creating an eBay store, and then even meatspace facilities that will take your item, hold it, post about it, sell it, and ship it off. The iPod has launched more white plastic crap than we can truly conceive of. And here’s an example where it didn’t work, or at least this guy’s example didn’t work. It raises the question, though, where are the MySpace accessories?

Like Robinson Crusoe, we’re as primitive as can be

A landslide has disrupted telephone service on the Coastside from Montara to Pescadero.

It appears that no calls can be made to or from the Coastside, but that some calls are possible within the Coastside. Sprint and T-Mobile cellular service have also been disrupted.

The landslide – off Highway 92 at 10pm on Saturday night – took out an AT&T fiber optic cable to the Coastside. Sgt. John Gonzales of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office says that the outage is in a location where AT&T can’t take heavy equipment, but are crews are hiking in to fix the problem. He says there is no estimate when phone service will be returned.

We lost DSL about 9:30 last night. I was able to call some 800 numbers for tech support, and even a local number for dial-in access. Was wondering what the heck was wrong with our DSL; then this AM found that a neighbor had the same problem, so that’s reassuring when you find out the problem is bigger than just you (I gave up on SBC last night when the tech support person – which is a generous term) had me rebooting and telling me I would have to contact my router manufacturer since it was their fault – I hung up on ’em). Now we see that the problem is really big.

Infrastructure here seems so fragile. Devil’s Slide/Highway 1 has been closed for a few weeks and they have no estimate of when it will re-open. Nearby SF is now an hour’s drive away, through much heavier traffic than we’re used to.

Every winter is filled with frequent power-outages. Our cable TV service is low-quality, noisy, and relatively unsupported. We have no cell coverage here. And today we can’t get phone calls in or our, and barely any Internet service. It feels landlocked and info-locked and it’s scary. Looks like email is the best way to reach me right now.

Update: Various news reports said that phone service was restored around dinner time, and our DSL came back somewhere between 9 and 10 pm.

Flush with Success

The America’s Best Restroom contest has selected five finalists.

Organizers do research about the businesses but don’t actually try out the chosen throne rooms before selecting five for the online poll. “We have nominations from all over the place. It would be too hard,” said Bensten.

And the nominees are:

  • All Seasons Bistro, East Lansing, MI.
  • Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City, NJ
  • Hemenways, Providence, RI
  • Quad City International Airport, Moline, IL
  • Wendell’s Restaurant, Westerville, OH

Wired News: Netflix Critics Slam ‘Throttling’

This is creepy

Netflix typically sends about 13 movies per month to Villanueva’s home in Warren, Michigan — down from the 18 to 22 DVDs he once received before the company’s automated system identified him as a heavy renter and began delaying his shipments to protect its profits.

The same Netflix formula also shoves Villanueva to the back of the line for the most-wanted DVDs, so the service can send those popular flicks to new subscribers and infrequent renters.

The little-known practice, called ‘throttling’ by critics, means Netflix customers who pay the same price for the same service are often treated differently, depending on their rental patterns.

Waiting is the hardest part

Lady: I’m sorry, we have no midsized available at moment
Jerry: I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have the reservation?
Lady: Yes we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars
Jerry: But reservation keeps car here, that’s why you have reservations
Lady: I know why we have reservations
Jerry: I don’t think you do, if you did, I’d have car. See you know how to take reservation, you just don’t know how to hold reservations. That’s really most important part of reservations, holding, anybody can just take them.

I ordered something from eBay just after Xmas, hoping it would arrive in time for our upcoming trip. It hadn’t arrived, so I checked the shipping status (yep, the shipper sent it USPS with a confirmation on it, very nice of them for $6.99). And the tracking info has been stuck since Dec. 28 with

Dec 27 2005 Mail Retrieved From Customer
Dec 27 2005 Received at UPS Mail Innovations Origin RPF R. Cucamonga, CA
Dec 27 2005 Processed at UPS Mail Innovations Origin RPF R. Cucamonga, CA
Dec 28 2005 Manifested (Postage Paid)
Dec 28 2005 Entered USPS Facility – SCF SAN FRANCISCO, CA

It’s been in San Francisco since December 28. That’s a long time already. I went in last week with the printout of the tracking information and the nice people at my small-town post office took the printout and my phone number and passed it along to the postmaster. I figured they’d call that day and I’d have an update. That was almost a week ago, so I went back in. They still have the piece of paper and the only thing they can tell me is that we can wait for it to arrive.

Wait for it to arrive? What is the purpose of a tracking number? The package is obviously stuck in some sort of delivery problem, it’s a one-day delivery trip from SF to Montara. Nearly two weeks of waiting, and the only thing we get from this tracking technology is that we wait?

It’s a sham, isn’t it? They have no ability to diagnose or debug or actually track the package, regardless of what the name of the feature implies.

I can’t believe they told me to wait. I don’t want to wait; I want them to find it. That, however, is not going to happen.

Out in the boonies

We’ve lived in this area called The Coastside for two years now, and I’m amazed and appalled at the lack of infrastructure. I’m not talking about roads and plumbing (though I’m sure those are issues; I just don’t know enough to complain about them). We don’t have sidewalks and we don’t have home delivery of mail. That may be seen as charming; but it’s getting a bit old for me.

We have no cell coverage. I can’t imagine that will change at any point.

Our Comcast cable television is terrible: image quality is consistently bad (with over-the-air artifacts like ghosting common on some very low channels) and audio is low volume and filled with hiss on higher channels. Recently, channel 3 went out completely. Comcast told many residents who called that they wouldn’t regard it as a real issue until they had reached a minimum number of service complaints that resulted in a scheduled technician visit. In other words, if you called in and told them about the problem, they would treat it as a local-to-you problem that didn’t require any action on their part until someone came and looked at YOUR house and eliminated that as the specific cause. It takes several days to get someone to come out and so it took a few days for Comcast to even acknowledge that they had a problem and to take any action to fix it. We pay the same as everyone else (if not more) for cable, and we get lousy service (both the product itself and the customer service).

Our power goes out many times each winter. For an hour, or for 7 hours. You never know, of course. It’s dangerous, inconvenient, stressful. We aren’t supposed to use the water when the power is out. There’s obviously some non-redundant connection that is very vulnerable to wind, wet soil, trees, or whatever. But PG&E is not investing in any infrastructure to develop a robust solution, so we’re stuck with frequent outages that leave a big section of Montara without power. Our power bills in Montara are ridiculously higher than other places we’ve lived.

Our telephone service is sub-par. Caller-ID information is often not received. A year or so ago I found that I would get a busy signal when calling the voice mail number – and that my own callers would often not be able to leave voice mail; instead having it ring and ring. It took a great deal of effort to get someone at SBC to acknowledge and fix the problem (they were out of circuits or something arcane). Last week we encountered terrible static when calling to Montara from outside of Montara. Calls to either of our home numbers from a cell phone or land line located elsewhere would be at best scratchy and at worst, unlistenable. I have reported this to SBC as have many other local residents. As with the cable, it’s being treated like a problem local to our own service, despite the fact that it’s not, but of course, we can only report our own problem. I was informed by SBC that they’ve checked and everything is fine. It’s not fine; my phone service is only semi-usable (I have to shout at my callers that I’ll return their call), and SBC has decided not to act. Of course, we pay the same fees to SBC that everyone else does.

Can you tell I’m fed up?

Air Canada Introduces $2 Inflatable Pillow

From Travel Agent Central

Air Canada will no longer offer customers free pillows. Instead, for a $2 charge, the carrier will offer customers a so-called ‘comfort zone’ kit that includes an inflatable plastic pillow and polyester blanket, according to media sources in Canada. Apparently, the kit is a pouch with pillow case, blanket and an instruction card on blowing up the pouch into a pillow.

I can’t help thinking of a prescient series of parody radio ads from the 70s somewhere in Southern Ontario (Hamilton? Toronto?) for Air Harold, where everything, including seatbelts, were extra.

This is such a messed up industry.

Poor interoperability is a major challenge to good user experience design.

This type of thing seems disturbingly common nowadays: I am preparing to book a hotel for an upcoming conference. The hotel is part of a chain I’ve never stayed at before, so I decide to see if they’ve got some sort of affiliate program or bonus/loyalty/mileage thing, before I book.

I sign up for the program and get my number about 12 hours later. I tried to book online but because I was looking for a conference rate (without a code) I gave up and ended up calling.

And they don’t show my loyalty number.

I’m looking at the auto-generated email, with the number in bold text. And we try several times. They try my name, everything. And give up. Even though I have the “receipt” on hand. No dice.

So the convenience factor – not having to read out every single piece of contact info I’ve already entered, not having to specify room preferences that I’ve already entered, all gone.

They pointed me to the service number for the loyalty program, and the person I speak with explains it may take 7 to 10 days for a newly issued number to be available to the rest of the hotel systems (such as reservations). He was able to quickly put the number into my reservation for credit, and both people I spoke to were incredibly helpful and genuine (besides being forced to read some clunky scripts), so this isn’t really a complaint about bad service, but really an eyebrow-raised in amazement over bad design.

Shouldn’t a requirement of the system they design to create and issue the loyalty numbers be rapid integration with the reservation system? Isn’t a likely use scenario going to be booking of a reservation very quickly after creating a new account? IT systems in silos is scary for what it prevents.

I guess the band-aid would have been to explain this limitation in their “welcome” email but that might have been too big a peek behind the curtain. They did inform me it would take 48 hours to issue the new account at the beginning of all this (although that also seems silly, what are they doing, checking my references?)…

In general, poor interoperability is a major challenge to creating a good user experience. And this example seems highly typical.

Recently rolled out an integration of their home delivery accounts and web-content accounts (I think to help sell their premium access service), but they did it in a terribly clumsy and confusing way, leading to service calls to agents who had no information (I was told, after a lot of vague language like “when you go out of the system you have to come back and and when it asks for your account you enter your number” to wait 24 hours and try again) and no interest in helping (“this is all the information we have. We can only read this out to you; that’s all we can do.”)…a disaster, as far as I am concerned. Maybe it’ll be better now, but the NYT hurt their brand pretty badly, at least in my case.

Craig and the Craiglist brand

Quote from an article about pressure being placed on Craiglist to restrict pet ads

“Backyard breeding certainly existed long before Craig, but he’s brought down the barrier of entry to where anyone can (advertise) for free, and it’s having tragic results,” said East Bay SPCA spokeswoman Kirsten Park.

It’s interesting that the SPCA, in opposing the actions of Craigslist, chooses to refer to Craig himself, rather than the similarly-named institution he symbolizes. It seems to be a form of rhetoric that doesn’t quite survive the journey from interview to story to reader. Perhaps it’s that insulting formality one may use…If Mr. Newmark feels that he’s doing this community a service…sort of haughty and bitchy?

Craig is often quoted in articles about Craigslist, but in this case, they talked to someone else at the organization, so the only mention of Craig-the-man was the above quote.

Something about this branding/perception/commnication challenge resonated with me, since I offer a professional service that shares my name. Mine is less tangible that Craig’s, so the confusion or blending is probably more common with me. Yeah, Steve Portigal, the guy that started Steve Portigal! Doesn’t happen too often.


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