Monday, September 23, 2013

Customer Service

I understand the costs a company saves by having an automated customer service system, but in my opinion “automated and customer service” is an oxymoron.  I can’t even begin to list the number of things I have put off just because I did not want to deal with an automated and out sourced customer help service. Tech support with our satellite receiver, internet service, my new cell phone and getting my interest rates reduces on a credit card, are just a few examples.

I just do not have the time to call the company, enter all the requested info only to be given an answer that has no relation to my question. Yes I always hit the pound key and the star key like a mad woman in an attempt to get transferred to a real person. Most of the time one of two things happens. Either I get an automated “thank you” and disconnect or I get transferred to another automated system that tells me there is a 20 minute wait.

So I rolled the dice and called my cell phone company today to ask why, after following all the directions, I was unable to log on to my internet service at home. I went through the automated system and finely got to the option to talk with a real person. I had already invested 30 minutes into the process by then, so I waited the 30 minutes that really turns out to be 40 minutes of listening to a flute playing hard rock music. At last the moment came where an automated voice told me I am next in line. My victory of knowing that someone was soon going to be on the line was quickly followed by shear frustration because I could hardly understand what this person was saying. My call was put through to a foreign county call center. Somewhere in her thick accent and broken English I believe she said her name was Peggy. Peggy did not seem to understand anything I said. A little back and forth and I understood that Peggy wanted me to repeat all my account information that I had already entered in the automated system.

Several more minutes of attempting to communicate my issue and I got the feared phrase, “let me put you on hold while I check with someone.” This translated to another 10 minutes on hold. Peggy returned and began to walk me through some steps only to realize she was helping me set up my voice mail. Okay, l explained my issue to Peggy again.  I spent another 10 minutes trying to re-phase my inquiry in an attempt to get an answer.

I know you have all been in this situation. After investing over an hour in this senseless exchange and trying to remain easy-going, Peggy told me she had no idea how to do what I was asking. I know my tone of voice was getting edgy and I tried to refrain for fear Peggy would hang up.  We went back and forth until Peggy told me that I was being transferred to a supervisor. The dreaded transfer at best equates to several more minutes of flute music, at worst it means the call would be disconnected and I would have to start all over. I was lucky and the transfer was successful. Another person, a man named Jack claiming to be a supervisor, began by asking me in broken English for all my account information again, really?

About that time I had missed several other calls from people trying to call me, I had to run to the bathroom, let the dogs out and grab something to drink. I had been on the phone well over an hour and a half and was beginning to wonder if I really needed internet service on my phone. My spirits were lifted when Jack at least seemed to understand what I was asking. The answer was simple to him, if I could not log on to my home internet service with my phone after following all the steps in the manual, it had to be because my internet was down. I told him that my internet was working just fine because I had my laptop open and was logged on to my e-mail. Jack insists that it was an internet issue and asked me to reset my router.  That did not work so he wanted me to unplug the router and wait 15 seconds and plug it back in.

Jack tried to convince me to call my internet provider because it was a problem with them and not the phone. I lied to him and told him I already called them and they checked out my router and the issue was with the phone. Jack is stumped. He asked that I check to make sure I entered my router password correctly, I did. Next he asked that I shut my phone off and turn it back on, I did. Nothing. Jack declared that there must be a problem with the phone and wanted to send me another one to replace it. I explained that I had had the phone for two months and they had already sent me a replacement phone last month because they could not resolve an issue with sim card.

There was no changing Jacks mind however. He insisted it was a defect with the phone and he was sending me a new one. I asked that he look at my account for the service record so he could see that I had had this phone for two month and had not been able to use it much because after I first got it I had an issue and they had to send me a new sim card. Then there was second issue after I installed the new sim card so I had to wait while they sent me a new phone.  I did not want to wait another week for yet another phone. I told him to forget it I will use this phone without the ability to log on to the internet. We agreed and I hung up. That was two hours of my life I will never get back.

A week later I was putting the phone in my purse and I dropped it. When it fell to the floor the back came off and the battery went flying. I pick it up and put it all back together, turn it back on and looked at the screen to make sure I didn’t break it. To my surprise I got an icon telling me that I was connected to my home internet service. I thought about calling Peggy and Jack to tell them the answer to my question was to remove and replace the battery. But then I decided I really didn’t have two hours to waste that day. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Life Is What You Make It

I remember when I was a kid, my Mom babysat, ironed other peoples clothes and did typing so that she could stay at home with us kids. My Dad worked as much overtime as he could to make sure our family's bills were paid and to put food on the table. When we got older and were all in school, both my Mom and Dad worked full time. My Dad would often work 6 days a week,10 hours a day. My Mom would come home from work, change clothes, make dinner, do dishes and check that we had our homework done. On Saturdays, she would do laundry, go grocery shopping and us kids would help her clean the house. This was our routine.

At 18 years old I was sure I knew it all and had everything figured out. I got married and a year later found myself expecting a baby. I guess I was lucky, because I found out when I was a teen, that I knew nothing. My marriage was full of problems. My husband could not keep a job, there was domestic abuse and he drank. Those, believe it or not, were the easy problems in our marriage. My parents sat me down and told me to figure life out fast before my baby was born. I knew that was not the life I wanted for my child, so I left my husband and filed for a divorce.

I got an apartment about a block north of my parents. They urged me to go back to school, get a college degree and a job. They offered to help care for my daughter if I would do those things. It seem impossible and I looked around and saw other single mom's on welfare, food stamps and section 8 housing that appeared to be making out okay. But my parents insisted that I look at the big picture. So I enrolled in college and was lucky to find a full time job there as well.

One thing led to another and at twenty, I found myself in the police academy. I worked full-time as a police officer for many years. While working, I continued to go to school full-time and earned my bachelor’s degree. It was not the easy road but I was trying to build a future for myself and daughter. My parents were my biggest cheerleaders. There were no “party years”, no easy ride. My time away from school and work, for the most part, was spent with my daughter and parents.

When the opportunity to attend Law School came my way my parents urged me to take it. Within months of starting Law School, I got a job at a Law Firm working full-time evenings and weekends. By the time I earned my Doctorate in Law I thought I caught a glimpse at the light at the end of the tunnel. After I graduated, I continued working at the Law Firm and also taught classes at a local college and at a University. I had bought a house, but spent very little time there. By now my daughter was in high school and a girls youth group. She was in the marching band and my social life consisted of attending her school events. My Tuesday nights and most weekend were spent with her youth group. It seemed that I was always on my way somewhere and slept whenever I could grab a few hours. I felt as if I should be doing more. Like I was letting life slip through my fingers.

In my late thirties I re-married and moved to a small rural town in Missouri. My daughter was in college by then. Jumping ahead to my fifties, I am still looking for that light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, I could have done things differently. But then maybe I would not be where I am today and I feel blessed to be where I am at this point in my life. As a daughter, wife, mother and grandma I do the best I can. I have slowed down a bit, but still have a full plate. I have a job, help my husband on the farm and deal with some health issues.

I watch with awe as my baby has grown into a beautiful woman, wife, mother and daughter. I see her doing whatever she can to make a life for her family. She is always on the move. She home schools her kids, is involved in their youth activities, holds down a job, has her own business and helps her husband with his business. I look around at others her age and see a lot of them out at parties every weekend, then complaining about what a tough life they have. Every month these same people scramble to hit all the food pantries, family members, charities and government agencies to help them pay their bills.

Is there an easier way to live? Maybe. We all have to make choices in our lives.It's no one's job to make our life easy, it is up to us to do what we can to help our self. There will always be people standing on the outside passing judgment on our choices. But only we know the path we have walked. In my years I have learned that life is not always fair and that the things that are handed to us usually comes with strings. 

No matter how your life turns out, remember you are the artist and you have control. Don't let the canvas of your life stand un-painted and do not turn it over to someone else to paint. Pick up that paint brush and do the best you can. Then step back and admire the courage it took to paint your picture even if you have no artistic skills, it's still your painting.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Drive-In Movies

I remember my very first date. The boy was a kid I went to high school with, but I don't remember his name. He came to my house to pick me up in his truck and we went to to see a move at the drive-in. That was the place to go on a date when I was a teen. I remember when there were times that my girlfriends and I would go sit in a car outside the drive-in to watch a movie because we didn't have the money to pay to get in.

It was fun. Even though we had no idea what they were saying, we would create our own story to go with the movie we were watching. But going to the drive-in was about the best place to be on a Saturday night. They always played two movies. One not so new and then the feature film. You could buy a bucket of buttered popcorn and sit on the tail-gate of a truck or the hood of your car. Many times there would be an entire group of us that would take up a whole section of the drive-in parking lot.

Some of the best memories I have happened at the drive-in. They use to charge by the person, so we would get as many people as we could in the trunk of a car. I had an old Ford Galaxy and we could get 3 or 4 people in that truck. Once inside the drive-in we would find our friends and spend the night watching movies. On Halloween, they would always have an entire night of old horror movies playing.

I am sure they have drive-in movie theaters here in Missouri that are still in operation, but I have not seen one. I was watching World News Tonight on NBC and they did a report about drive-ins. They said there use to be over 4000 drive-ins in the United States, but now there are fewer than 400. The main reason is because they no longer make “film” everything is digital. The cost to convert a drive-in from film to digital is $160,000.00. Since Drive-ins are not as popular as they use to be, most just do not bring in enough money to justify the cost to change, so they close.

Funny, you hear about every one going tailgating at sports events. There people have to pay for parking, stand out in the heat or cold then pay for tickets to go in to watch the event. All of that can cost a family of four several hundred dollars. Wouldn't it be great if the drive-ins could make a come back by encouraging families to spend an evening tailgating, BBQ'ing even selling area's to groups to meet in, then end the evening with a great family movie. I would plan a community, church or family evening around that.