At Long Last! AT&T Arrives

Finally, two full weeks after experiencing a problem with the AT&T U-Verse service, and after having to call AT&T 10 times, a serviceman arrived.

He was prompt, courteous and thorough. He fixed the problem and then double and triple checked it. Our televisions now work.

It’s a shame we couldn’t get this sort of service 12 days ago. It’s dreadful that customers must face long waits, beg, fight and wait some more to get service. I suppose AT&T doesn’t care. Many of their operators acted like they didn’t, but then if you live six or seven or eight thousand miles from your clients and you had no training in providing excellent service why would you care?

The operators aren’t entirely to blame though. Their hands are tied as they must work within the bounds of poor policies.

I did get a prompt response from and they contacted AT&T immediately.  I highly recommend using for communication services gone awry.

Customer Service

Certainly, the activity I dread most when I return to the US is dealing with customer service. I expect piled up junk mail and sometimes that requires a customer service call. This time though my calls have all been tied to technology problems.

I forgot my newish desktop computer’s password and the number of my failed attempts to log in locked up my account and required a call to Apple. I figured it would take 15 minutes tops to resolve the issue. Boy, was I off. It took almost 2 hours. I wasn’t on hold for long as I used the service where you give them your phone number and someone calls you right back.

All the time was spent answering questions, many that had nothing to do with my problem. Before I knew it, for some reason the clerk was warning me that I’d have to delete my hard drive. Because I forgot my password? I resisted that and eventually got a senior representative who helped without doing anything to my hard drive.

Then we’ve got a problem with our printer, which is less than 3 years old. I tried several solutions posted online and on YouTube. I was pretty proud that I learned how to remove, flush and replace the printer head. I really thought that process, which took hours, would fix it, but alas, no. I called Canon and the operator guided me through a couple other fixes, which didn’t work. She then said Canon would give us a 15% loyalty discount on another printer, but I’m loathe to buy another Canon since this one didn’t last very long. I don’t like planned obsolesce and believe a printer should last 5 years. I realize now I’m a dreamer.

I hate spending so many hours on customer service problems. In Asia, service has been always so punctual and effective. I wish I could say the same about the US.

Can anyone recommend an inkjet printer which they consider reliable?

Can’t Believe It

I thought my Air Canada experience was quite good and that I’d fly them again and again, two or three times back and forth from Chicago to China.

Then I picked up my new suitcase and saw the side bashed in. Since then my dealings with Air Canada have been wretched.

I’ve described how I couldn’t find anyone to help with the problem at the airport and no one responded to my online form. So I took the bag back to the airport on Jan. 20th. Since then I’ve called and gotten no information about the status of my bag.

I leave for China Sunday, tomorrow. I called them on Wednesday after getting no response to my second online form. After a half hour wait, Fiona answered the call. I told her the details of my problem and she promised to look into it. Later that day, she called and left a message. She spoke a mile a minute and it was impossible to catch the number though I tried a few possibilities. Her message said she hadn’t found the bag but had made a bit of progress.

If it’s your profession to speak on the phone, clear, slow speech is a must.

Now I’ve been on the line for half an hour waiting for someone to pick up.

While waiting I wrote to the travel ombudsmen who’s column appears in the Chicago Tribune. I think he’s my only hope. I would like the bag either delivered to China or a check.

Finally, I got a clerk to talk to me. She couldn’t help me I have to call another phone number. She couldn’t connect me. This is beyond aggravating. I have to go out and can’t hang on the line all afternoon.

Air Canada must hate its passengers. I swear if I owned a company, I would not make people wait more than 5 minutes. That should be illegal.

Good Customer Service, Apple

I had time to go to the Old Orchard Apple Store today with my Mac Mini. My problem is I set this up in China and then when I brought it in I just expected to set up an appointment as I figure they’re quite busy. (I had trouble signing up for an appointment online, which is a long, dull story.)

The genius who helped me cordially asked if I could just wait 20 minutes. Sure since driving back and forth would take longer.

After 15 minutes I was helped by a knowledgeable, friendly genius. The problem was simple. I wanted to sync a Bluetooth™ keyboard to my Mac Mini, but couldn’t get past the window that wanted me to input a password to move forward. It was all worked out fairly quickly, which was delightful.

Bravo, Apple.

Apple Problem

I bought a Mac mini to take to China hoping that a new computer that’s powerful would get me better internet speed. It wasn’t any better. Seems the problem isn’t the computer, it’s the system.

So I’ve brought the Mac Mini home to set up here. I would like using a desktop with its bigger monitor as an alternative to my laptop. I found a refurbished screen on Best Buy for just $56 so I was uplifted with that purchase.

But after setting up the monitor, I ran into trouble. I have a Bluetooth keyboard that I need to set up. However, I set up the computer to require a user enter their password. Here’s the problem. I need to connect the Bluetooth keyboard to the computer to enter a password. I can’t enter this password since the keyboard isn’t linked yet.

So I’ve tried to contact Apple either to have them call me for service or to set up an appointment. I can’t do any of this without knowing the computer’s serial number. The serial number isn’t on the computer. It’s found by viewing the “About” screen, which I can’t get to since the keyboard doesn’t work.

It’s so frustrating. I guess I’m going to go to an Apple store, explain the problem and request help to make an appointment through them. It’s so aggravating. I realize they design their system with just the usual problems in mind. No one on staff probably foresaw my problem.

I’d hoped I could call this in and get help.

Bad Service with Apple

In the past I’ve had good to very good customer service with Apple Computer, but not tonight.

My MacBook Pro has been running very slow for a year. Yes, a year. I think it’s picked up a bug or some malware I can’t see in China. Over there there’s really nothing I can do. Today I made an appointment using my Apple computer on their site using their system.

The only appointments in Northbrook were in the evening, which is an inconvenience. The other location Skokie had no appointments till Friday. I booked a slot and went about my day running errands and visiting my aunt.

Tonight it was raining, but I drove to the mall hoping to return with a speedier computer.

When I arrived there was a line of four people waiting to check in. Alright. I was surprised because in high end businesses customers aren’t supposed to wait especially when three employees are talking with two customers. Yep, three. A man entered the store after me and asked one of them for help and he was told he should get in the line. One of the Apple employees pulled out his phone and seemed to try to start a second line, but he couldn’t. That’s a glitch.

When it was my turn I gave the clerk my name and appointment time. She couldn’t see the my appointment. She said she only had one appointment at 7:45. She then said I should check my phone to see if the appointment’s there. It irks me that they assume everyone has an iPhone. I don’t want to be that embedded with anyone company, though I know a lot of people have iPhones.

So next I was dispatched to find evidence of the appointment. I took my computer to the side table and tried to look for an email confirming the appointment. The frustrating thing is it takes so long for my computer to boot up, hence the visit to Apple on a rainy night. I really had hoped to have gotten to explain the urgency of my visit and get an appointment since only one person was booked for 7:45. Surely more than one technician is working tonight.

The clerk did come by to ask if I found the confirmation, but when I replied no I was still waiting for their computer to boot up she told me to use their computer and walked off uninterested in helping. She sensed my mood was souring and didn’t want to deal with me.

Finally, I got into my inbox and didn’t see a confirmation. I am busy all day tomorrow but could come back, but not in the evening. I found the clerk who was milling about and explained the situation. She was adamant that she could not accommodate me and wasn’t interested in hearing about my case. It seems to me that if you’re representing a high end company as a customer service clerk, you should have an interest in the customers and their pathetic stories and computer woes. Well, I’m not in Japan any more so of course they don’t. Maybe I should have found an Apple store in Osaka.

I worked in customer service for a clothing store that never treated people the way I was treated. All the associates had to wait till the last customer left the store even if that meant 20 of us hung out an extra hour. We’d have been taken to task if we showed the smallest sign of annoyance — even when it’s justified. Now clothing isn’t a computer, in fact it’s not as essential since anyone who shopped at Mark Shale had loads of clothes at home. I doubt my problem would have taken all that much time, but it would have meant the world to me if they had customer-oriented clerk at the door.

I just bought an Apple Time Capsule to back up my data. It’s due to arrive tomorrow and cost $300. It’s going right back to the store. I like their products but they cost an awful lot more than PCs. Financially, I’d be better off with a different brand and this one clerk’s inability and disinterest in helping is leading me away from the brand.

I guess car repair can be as frustrating, but boy have dealerships upped their service in the last few years. I know I could call in for help, but I want someone to see the screen, not for an operator to ask me if I see X or Y and tell me where to click next when I can’t see X or Y.

Some semblance of caring would have gone a long way to keep a customer loyal.

More on Healthcare

I’ve just learned that when you enter the hospital, at least in Illinois, one of the forms you receive is for when you feel you’re being released too soon. You must fill this out before you get released. Then you have a chance at staying.

As I wrote, my aunt was released last Saturday and went to a poor-quality rehab center. On Monday she was readmitted to the hospital with a cracked rib. None of us know the story on that. Then we heard that she’d have a procedure done for her back on Tuesday. I went to the hospital Monday and she wasn’t in her room. She was getting the procedure done. That was rather worrying because:

  1. No one explained to the family what the procedure was or
  2. Why it was being done so fast

I was willing to wait, but if it was going to be hours, I’d come back later. Because of HIPPA, the US rules on privacy, the nurse couldn’t tell me when the procedure began or estimate how long it would take. She couldn’t answer specific questions, which was frustrating and no doubt an unintended consequence of a policy. Finally, I found she could answer, “If you were me, would you wait here?” She said no. Since my aunt was fine when I saw her yesterday, I’m satisfied. However, I also realize from talking to friends whose near and dear ones have been hospitalized, that the doctors and nurses are okay with people not visiting. The fewer witnesses the better? For them, that is.

She had a treatment where they drill holes in your back and insert a substance “like cement” to decompress the vertebrae. She said she felt better and the doctor said she wouldn’t call it surgery, as it’s not that bad. Still I’m shocked that they wanted to release my aunt yesterday, less than 24 hours after getting her back drilled into. What is wrong with American health professionals? Luckily, the new rehab center couldn’t take her till today. I just learned about this form so perhaps she can stay longer.

I really have decided I’d rather take my chances with the healthcare overseas. Not somewhere where they steal your organs of course, but somewhere where they don’t kick you out of the hospital so fast because, they want better productivity. (They can’t make money from people who’re just resting and not getting lots of tests and procedures.)

Healthcare’s the Wrong Word

Last week we found my aunt had fallen and was lying on the floor for at least one day. (She’s a bit cagey about the details.) She went to Lutheran General in Park Ridge and got good care. I was impressed with the nurse’s professionalism there. They always introduced themselves, explained what they had to do and respectfully and carefully answered questions. You could tell they aspired to excellence.

On Saturday she was moved to a nearby rehabilitation center. What a downward slide! I’m just livid about this move and we don’t know who recommended this place. The nurses just don’t seem to care. They’re slow to respond and just seem out of it, like they aren’t listening when spoken to. At different times my aunt and her roommate have asked for assistance to go to the bathroom and it takes the nurses so long to respond that they’ve had accidents. Another time my aunt pressed the bell for a nurse and she took 20 minutes to arrive.

Since the food is not tasty and my aunt needs to eat to gain strength so she can go home, I said I’d bring dinner tonight and then we’d watch Downton Abbey. I got to the center at 6:45 and discovered the chicken place forgot to give us plastic utensils. I asked a nursing assistant for silverware and he said he wasn’t sure he could get any. What?

When I asked how we were supposed to eat, he agreed to try to get silverware and sauntered off. Ten minutes later he returns with one set of utensils. I told him I needed to eat too and he looked very put out, like a put upon teenager. (This man’s 40 if he’s a day). He slowly left to possibly get me silverware.

I’ve checked out their website and couldn’t believe that the images contained are all stock photos that do not resemble the center. I will say the center’s lobby is nicely appointed, but the rest is very drab and basic. On one page it describes the rooms and “suites” (bigger rooms) and mentions it’s like a hotel. They left out that it’s like a one star hotel. Also the picture on this page isn’t of the rooms. It’s a copy of a drawing in one of the corridors! How dodgy!

I know my aunt could get better care in Thailand or South Korea. What does that say about the US?

I pray we can get my aunt out of this place and into somewhere with more caring professionals.

High Tea at the Hyatt Jinan

watermelon, apple tart, mango cheese cake

watermelon, apple tart, mango cheese cake

mango pudding and macaroons

mango pudding and macaroons

Saturday I went with a friend to high tea at the Hyatt in Jinan. The offerings had changed with the season, which is the mark of quality. I ordered darjeeling tea and my friend got a double espresso. It is nice that they let you order coffee.

While we waited for our high tea, smoke wafted through the room ruining the atmosphere. Smoking in restaurants has recently been banned in China, but enforcement is weak. My friend told the waitress the smoking bothered her, but this waitress had poor English. Soon we spoke with the manager. I’m surprised how the English skill of the Hyatt staff has gone down. Usually international hotels get staff with good English.

Clearly, the staff were uneasy, but the manager did ask the smokers to move. At first they moved closer to us, then they realized they made a mistake and moved away. It was rather confusing for a time. The manager gave us mango pudding and some macaroons on the house to make up for the smoking.

Our tea set arrived. We got a plate of fresh fruit, savories including seafood bruschetta, Parma ham and melon and tomato with goat cheese and oil oil. The pastries included a mini-pannacota, a small apple tart, a mango cheese cake bite and some macaroons. I did hope they’d include scones, which seem like a pillar of high tea, and some tea sandwiches. The seafood bruschetta I gave to my friend since I don’t like seafood. The Hyatt bakery sells scones so they can make them. A couple small scones would be lovely.

Last time we got small roast beef sandwiches but the bread was really hard. They did make new sandwiches. I think there’s a tendency to prepare the food hours in advance and let it sit, which isn’t the best route.

After a while another guest started smoking and Melissa opened a door to a courtyard. This man realized his smoke was bothersome so he went outside to finish his cigarette. From the way he dressed, he seemed a little more international and probably had some experience with non-smoking rules.

All in all, tea was good, and the Hyatt apologized and gave us a discount for the smoky environment. I would go back, maybe not on a weekend, to avoid the smokers.

It Was My Fault, But Then

I didn’t make it to Wuhan as planned for the holiday. I got to the airport and discovered I’d forgotten my passport. Drat! It’s the most basic travel item.

I did have a copy of it, which in some places is enough. (Not many, so I knew that was a long shot.) However, the agent at check in said “No problem and gave me a boarding pass. If she had said no way right then, I could have jumped in a cab and gone to the apt and back just in time for the flight.

When I went to security the clerk said he’d have to check into this. I waited and he called another clerk over and they talked a while. Then they got a woman in a more impressive uniform. They all talked. Lynn had mentioned that when Immigration told her they’d have her passport for 9 weeks, she could travel with a copy of it and I had a tiny bit of hope I could. Then the most important woman said, “Follow me.” I hoped we were going to an office where they could look me up in the computer and see I was legit. Maybe they’d issue me some paper so I could return as well.

She then led me to the Information desk to a woman who didn’t speak English. They talked. I lost hope as I wasn’t moving up the chain of command, I’d been thrown down. Now too much time had elapsed and a round trip to the apartment was impossible. The security woman left and the Information clerk was on the phone. Finally, she handed me the phone. The speaker said, “Are you the woman with just a copy of your passport?” I said, “Yes,” and she told me to give the phone back to the Information clerk. They talked and then I got the phone again. “You can’t fly without the passport.” This I’d sort of known so I was frustrated that the first person I encountered hadn’t said this. Then I had a chance to get the flight. Now I didn’t.

I got back in the check in line to see about a change for today. After waiting, I was sent to another desk, then another. I explained my story and handed over my boarding pass asking for a change. With another woman who spoke English, I was told that for 420 rmb I could get a flight on Friday (today) at 15:25. I found out the flight number and arrival time. I texted Lynn with this information, asked if I could pay with a credit card and got a lengthy explanation about if I wanted to I’d have to do that over the phone, etc., etc. I just gave the agent the cash.

It seemed we were done and I was set. Then I asked for a receipt. A search for the pads for receipts ensued. Finally they found it and the girl started filling it out. Then the second girl told me “There are no flights tomorrow.” What???

What was all that information you gave me? Was it made up? How did you arrive at 420 rmb? How could you take my cash, Southern China?

The girl told me that Xiamen Airlines had a flight tomorrow. Right, but at least I had a reservation with Southern China so there’d be some money that could be applied to the new ticket. With Xiamen at the last minute I’d be lucky to get something for 1000 rmb, which I didn’t want to spend. (Already by flying rather than taking the train, I was spending more than I’d like.) And still I’m perplexed by the 420 rmb I would have been charged had I not asked for a receipt.

I decide just to go home on the airport bus and think this over.

I called Lynne and explained that contrary to what I thought, I wouldn’t be flying tomorrow and she encouraged me to find a fast train ticket.

I was so tired just from the red tape and somewhat miffed at myself for forgetting my passport.

Last night I did look for trains and it seemed that midday there were some tickets. I also tried elong and, but paying with an American credit card, just doesn’t work though the site says you can. (The site rejects the transaction.)

This morning I woke up and went to the train station since the booking agent near school is closed. I wasn’t looking forward to the long line at the station. I did see a booking agent office in front of the station and went there. He could look at all the stations from Jinan. No luck.

I’m just tired of all this business and will read and watch DVDs this afternoon. It would have been good to see Lynne, but things haven’t worked out. I’ve texted Brooke twice to see if she can get a refund for my return ticket on Monday. I have to cancel 48 hours in advance. She made the reservation so I need her to cancel it. She’s not responding. I don’t like losing the total 1500 rmb if I don’t have to.

I realize the fiasco is my fault, but if some of the airline staff had acted differently, I could have salvaged the trip. Oh, well.