How to alienate your supporters?

Today, I got yet another notice of a “mandatory” parent meeting, a few days from now.   It’s not the first, but the first from this particular organization.  It’s not work-related, and not an organization of which I am a member… but like the others, a group of which my children are members.

Note to the folks who orchestrate these things: the likelihood of my participation drops to near zero if you call a mandatory meeting without first asking whether I’m available, and providing information about the subject matter.  Unfortunately, I’ve already been to far too many of these (all associated with my children’s activities, not my own) where, after I’ve cancelled something far more important, I learn that the subject of the mandatory parent meeting is simply to provide information that could have been sent in an e-mail.  Yes, the very same e-mail sent to demand my presence.

It’s odd, but I’ve never had a notice that a parent-teacher conference was mandatory, although I would readily consider it such.  For that matter, no teacher has ever assigned me a time to show up without first asking when I’m available.  I’ve had children in school for 17 years now, and I’ve never missed a single one.

In three out of four of the groups I’ve gotten mandatory-meeting demands from lately, the topic was the need for volunteers.  Okay, that could have been handled by e-mail, or a note sent home with my child.    Furthermore, I’m far more likely to volunteer if you don’t first waste an hour or two of my time to make me show up somewhere, just to tell me that you need someone to bring cookies to practice or write an article for the newspaper.

Grouchy?  You bet.   I know that everyone’s mother or grandmother taught them the bit about catching more with honey than vinegar (or some variation on that theme), but it seems that all the extracurricular things my kids are involved in have gotten caught up in this business of “mandatory” meetings, while also using the sample of paystubs for payments and more.

I suspect that participation will further dwindle as demands escalate.   Mine does.

Mountain Wisdom

This morning, Robin Smith — Chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party — kicked the Speaker of the House out of the GOP.  In doing so, she negated the party’s majority; worse, she sent a message that anyone not in lockstep with the hard right isn’t welcome anymore.

It wasn’t always that way.  It shouldn’t be that way now.

The Elizabethton Star said it quite plainly:

   The two-party system has served this country well. There is never going to be a time when everyone agrees on the same candidate. We all have different values, different views and different opinions on how government can best serve the people, and how people can best serve their government. To disagree is not wrong. Not every Republican agrees on every matter nor does every Democrat. Heaven help us if they do.

     Furthermore, we do not think that Republicans in Memphis and Chattanooga, where Ms. Smith is from, should be meddling in Carter County politics. We may live in the mountains, but we aren’t ignorant. We are learned enough in politics to vote. We don’t need the bright out-spoken lawyer from Memphis nor the "blonde" saleswoman from Chattanooga to tell us how to vote, nor do we need them to select our candidates. My gosh, our ancestors were the first to settle in Tennessee. They formed the first independent government west of the Alleghenies. Long before there was a Tennessee or a Chattanooga or a Memphis, our folks were living here in the Watauga Settlement. They were busy building a community and forming a government. I don’t know if they were Republicans or Democrats, but it really doesn’t matter. They were daring, brave and they sure didn’t let the British tell them what to do.

     Perhaps, Ms. Smith should know that when she kicks our representative out of the Republican Party, she has dealt a blow to every Williams voter in Carter County.

     And, what’s more, the members of the Republican Party will have shot themselves in the foot — they no longer will have the majority in the Tennessee House. It keeps getting worse for Rep. Jason Mumpower. First, he was shot out of the saddle as House Speaker. Now, if Williams is kicked out of the Republican Party, he will become chairman of the minority party rather than the majority.

Back in the 1990’s, it was productive and fun to be affiliated with the "big tent" party.  Today, I am ashamed of Ms. Smith and her short-sighted temper tantrum.  Congratulations on single-handedly losing the majority.

When Stuff Doesn’t Work…

Electronic gadgets are one of the rare indulgences of our household, and we usually don’t have any problems with them.

Several years ago, we bought a digital video recorder.  It’s sort of like TiVo, except there’s no monthly subscription fee.  It records anything on TV to a hefty internal hard drive; programs can then be edited (i.e., commercials deleted) and burned to DVD.  It’s not the easiest thing to use, but we figured it out.

Now though, I’m having trouble burning a DVD from the HDD.  Surfing about the magnificent internet (the world at my fingertips is SO cool), I’ve found dozens of AV forums where people all over the world are having similar issues.  Unfortunately, none have a workable solution — there’s just  a lot of grousing about it.

I’ve upgraded the firmware, but that didn’t make a whit of difference.  I went to the company’s website and submitted a trouble ticket via e-mail, but haven’t heard anything from them.  Then, I scoured the website further, only to find that this company — LiteOn — has discontinued all of their A/V products.  So, I called the (not toll free) phone number listed, only to be given a toll-free number… except that the recording at the beginning says that support is $1.49 per minute, charged to a Visa card.

Forget that idea.

So… it looks like I may be purchasing a replacement DVD-RW drive and taking the thing apart for transplant surgery.  I’ve surfed around to see if there are better products available, but TiVo seems to have the market cornered, and I refuse to sign on to their subscription service.

The HDD still works fine, so recording stuff to watch later isn’t the problem.  But, if I could burn it to a DVD, I have some cool software that lets me import it into iTunes and watch it on my iPod.

Anyone out there have a better idea?

Invention idea

Beta, the freshman physics major, was home over the weekend.  I gave her an idea that I’d certainly be willing to pay for… but she  says that’s "not her kind of physics."  So, if there are any other inventor-types out there…

I like the sound of cicadas on a summer night; I enjoy listening to rain on the leaves, or a soft breeze.   Nothing is more relaxing than the sound of a river in the mountains.  I abide the sounds of traffic when I’m in town, simply because I have to.  However, I should not have to abide the sounds emitting from some freak’s car with bass speakers the size of my chest freezer, creating a "thumpa-thumpa-thumpa" that I can feel through the soles of my feet in the parking lot, in my car on the road, or even inside my own home.

It’s illegal (we do have a noise ordinance), but evidently it’s not very well enforced.

I need a keychain-sized device that works as a kind of ray gun, emitting an electromagnetic pulse that will blow the  speakers of any vehicle within earshot.  As easy as clicking the door-lock button on my car’s remote, I would shut down these menacing thumpers permanently.

The idea came to me on Friday in the Kroger parking lot, but another such vehicle that rattled the windows just now got under my skin enough to throw the  idea to the blogosphere.

Afer all, this is Oak Ridge.  If anyone knows how to build such a thing, they’ll be here.

Customer DISservice Rant

I’ve owned a Husky Powerwasher for a few years, and I really like it.  It can be set gentle enough for the car, or tough enough to clean mildew stains off my sidewalk.  Unfortunately, just about the time i really needed it to clean some of the engine parts from Beta’s vehicle that we’re rebuilding, it failed me.

I must have let it freeze with water still in the pump, because the manifold assembly is cracked.  After weighing the cost of the replacement part against the cost of a new power washer, the replacement part won.  It’s not that hard to take apart and put back together.  So on June 26, I ordered one.  Expected to have it by July 3 or so, since it’s just coming from Illinois via UPS.

After almost two weeks, the order tracking system on still says "billing information received."  Unfortunately, their website doesn’t have any contact phone numbers, just a "live chat" that is sporadically manned.  Yes, they have posted hours, but it’s been my experience over these two weeks that they don’t monitor the chats anywhere near the posted hours of operation.

Here’s the transcript:

Please wait for a site operator to respond.

Chat InformationYou are now chatting with ‘Adolphe’
Adolphe: Hi.  How may I assist you today?
Netmom: I placed an order for Part Number: 7000174 Description: Manifold Assembly on June 26, and the payment cleared on June 27. The order tracking still says "billing information received" after almost two weeks! When can I expect this part to ship?
Adolphe: full name please and phone number
Netmom: [my name and phone number]
Adolphe: ma’am sometime UPS delay things like that. I will ask you to contact us monday in case you don’t receive it
Adolphe: it was shipped on june 30
Netmom: Can you provide me with a tracking number?
Adolphe: Tracking Number: [1Z …]
Netmom: Thank you.
Netmom: UPS says that the billing information has been sent to UPS, but the package has not been shipped.
Adolphe: Billing information has been sent to UPS. Check site later for updated shipment status or contact shipper for more details.
Adolphe: Tracking Number:  [1Z …]    
Adolphe: Type:  Package    
Adolphe: Status:  Billing Information Received    
Adolphe: Shipped To:  OAK RIDGE, TN,    
Adolphe: Shipped/Billed On:  06/30/2008    
Adolphe: Service:  GROUND    
Adolphe: Weight:  1.00 Lb  
Netmom: Yeah, that’s what it says. "Billing information received" means that they’re expecting the package, but it hasn’t actually left your facility yet. Is there a phone number where I can speak with a supervisor?
Adolphe: ma’am just wait till monday.allow 10 to 14 business days for delivery
Netmom: I cannot do that.
Adolphe: 8473481547
Adolphe: is there anything i can do for you today?
Netmom: No one is answering at that number. Is there a number directly to a supervisor or manager?
Adolphe: that’s it
Jacky: That is the manager’s number
Jacky: customer service number is 630 789 7601
Netmom: The recording says "you have reached the sales department."
Netmom: Is there any phone number where I can get a live human being to help me?
Jacky: We have a high volume of incoming calls, your patience is appreciated
Jacky: what is your phone number?
Netmom: (865) [nnn-nnnn], but I’ve left it in e-mail and voice mail messages repeatedly, and no one has ever called back.
Jacky: Will call you in a few minutes
Adolphe: I am calling you

After two phone calls from Adolphe — I have no idea where he is with that accent (Sudan, maybe?) — he finally figured out that the part has not shipped at all.  It’s on backorder, and isn’t expected to ship for "at least two more weeks."

In summary, first he blames UPS.  Then he wants me to wait until Monday and check back.  They gave me two different phone numbers that go directly to voice mail (I know by now that they do not return voice messages), then finally, he actually checks with the shipping department and finds out that they don’t even have it in stock.

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Unfortunately, the part will arrive AFTER the main things I needed it for are over with.  As much as I like this product, the service experience has soured me so much that I’ll absolutely buy a different brand next time.   I also plan to contact the company president, but that information isn’t easy to find; I had to go to the Network Solutions WHOIS to find out who owns the domain.  I guess I’ll have to do a little more sleuthing to get to the top of the food chain.

Forewarned is forearmed.  Bad customer service is the worst thing a business can do to itself.

PS: The internet is grand.