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Talk about Luxury

Check this video on flying in the suite, known as “The Residence” on Etihad Airlines. I’d be tickled pink just to get the luxury of not standing in line forever for security (see below), never mind the champagne, though I wouldn’t pass up Dom Perignon.

If you want to see whether the service is consistent, check out the second, longer video.

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Problem with WordPress

Ugh!

For a week I’ve been having problems with WordPress. On Sunday I reached my limit for stored images so I upgraded from 3GB to 6GB. Afterwards there was no change in my storage space. I figured I should wait a day or two. On Tuesday and Wednesday there was no change.

I tweeted @WordPress and was first told that the website was up. I knew that.

After my second tweet I was asked for an image of the message. Then I was told to clear my cache. I did and now the problem it is is that my new message says that I’ve used 100% of 6GB’s which would be impossible since zero new images were uploaded.

Now I’ve posted my problem to the support page of WordPress. Funny that there isn’t a menu button prominently presented for help.

Fingers crossed that this problem, which has gone on too long, is resolved.

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.

Ctrip Review

I’ll never buy train tickets online from Ctrip.com. I thought it would make getting tickets a lot easier, but boy have I been proven wrong.

First I signed up for an account, as I would for any website. Then I selected my tickets. Again this was typical and I didn’t have any problems, but it took longer than most sites. I then selected my tickets and the page loading was slow and I had to start over three times. After investing an hour in this process I found I would have to pay a $10 fee for each ticket. The usual fee is 50 rmb (around 90¢). I went ahead and bought just one ticket planning to get my return ticket at my hotel.

Ctrip’s site says consumers can pick up their tickets at any kiosk. That was key for me.

I went to a conveniently located kiosk and was told that the only place to pick up the Ctrip ticket is at the train station. Yikes! Chinese train stations are known for slow service and long lines.

I wound up having to go to the station where I had to wait 50 minutes to pick up my tickets. Ctrip is a horrible way to go for train tickets. If I’d just gone to the station and bought mine there I’d have to wait in line for 50 minutes, I’d still have saved an hour and $9.10.

Good Customer Service

Alas, it’s easy to come across bad customer service in the US. I abhor the automated phone (“Press 1 if you want our address, Press 2 if you want your balance,” etc.) service. I dread calling about problems. When I can, I’ve gone back to writing actual letters to companies. More and more, that’s not even allowed. O, mores! O, tempora!

Today, I called to ask American Express if they’d remove a late charge I incurred because I didn’t get home and see a bill till the day after it was due. Although the service could be better by eliminating the raft of “choices” callers are given and the request for a “security code” which isn’t a password or digits from your social security number so I don’t think I have one so that results in a loop that’s low grade frustrating.

Yet once I got a real live operator the conversation was almost ridiculously positive. Since I was an “outstanding” customer with an “amazing record for paying on time,”   they would wipe away the late fee. The operator could not praise me more for my excellence. It was over the top, but it made the call pleasant rather than a fight.


Another satisfying customer service was with Apple’s telephone service.  I chose the option to have them call me. There was a bit of a fail there as someone else answered the phone and though I hurried, by the time I got to the phone, the robot operator decided no one was there and  didn’t hear me so it hung up. Then I called them back rather than wait 10 minutes.

Apple makes you call them back when they call you, which is somewhat odd. I had to wait for assistance, but Apple gives you a choice of three types of music to listen to as you wait. That’s fairly good. (Though why did you call me, but not have a technician ready?)

The guy who helped me did a stellar job. His communication skills were top notch as he was knowledgeable, patient and sympathetic. We went through some processes with the Disk Utility feature and found out that the El Capitan operating system I’d recently downloaded was corrupted. Before fixing the problem, I had to back up all my files so I had to get a new external hard drive. (My current one had gone kaput.)

Saturday I called Apple back again and the customer service was mediocre. This clerk didn’t have the same communication skills and didn’t listen well so she had me do some of the same time consuming procedures I’d already done. She was reluctant to trust the first guy. She just wound up making a reservation at a Genius Bar where they did fix my computer by uploading El Capitan again.  The “Genius” I spoke with today was as good as good as the first Apple employee I spoke with. They all get extensive training, but the second person didn’t take it to heart the same way.

If you communicate clearly, treat me with respect and do what you say you’ll do, you’re well on your way to good customer service.

 

Back in the USA

After a 2 hour delay and a 12 hour flight, I’m back home in the USA. Jetlag has set in and it’s 2:42 a.m. and I’ve been up for an hour. I’ve gone through some of my junk mail and tossed most of it. I’ve eaten a Mertz cheddar cheese on rye sandwich and had some red wine, which I hope will make me sleepy. I am wondering about some other treat as the sandwich wasn’t quite enough. I’m happy to be back where the internet is free. Many times last semester I wanted to throw, just hurl, the school computer out the window because it’s so slow and limited.

My flight home was nothing special ~ which is sadly the case for air travel nowadays. They got us the ho hum dinner fairly early on and then brought out the snack about a half hour after dinner. They must mindlessly follow a schedule that favors the staff’s break time over logic and customer service. I lucked out with a seat mate as I sat by Ming, a young Chinese girl who was visiting her sister in Albany. Like Ming had, the sister was getting a Masters degree in the US. Ming worked for a company that helped the government with city planning. We talked about Christianity, social trends and materialism in China. I mainly listened to Ming who made it clear that I’d underestimated the materialism, competition and greed found in China.

We did not have the individual screens, which I love on flights. Why has United done away with this? It’s a crap shoot in coach if you’ll get them. So we were all stuck with the same movies. I watched one, Eddie the Eagle, which wasn’t too bad and The end of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which didn’t make much sense since I missed the beginning and it’s not like the story by Thurber.

It’s a shame that air travel has become so substandard. Would it kill them to offer better food or even choices of food? Or to offer more cordial service? Attention United Flight Attendants — it’s not professional to discuss the “woman who’s driving me crazy” when you’re standing in the middle of the cabin for all to hear.

 

I Wouldn’t Go to the Trouble

Last week I was in Beijing and when I went shopping I wanted to get a couple watches I’d bought fixed. One needed to be sized, one ran slowly and the other, the most expensive ($50) had died two months after I got it. The first two I bought in March and the third I got at the Pearl Market and the third at the market behind it in the sub-basement.

While I don’t expect these watches to last forever, I do expect a $50 watch to last at least 4 months.

Getting the first two watches fixed was no problem. The shop owner was pleasant and obliging. So I wound up buying a couple gift watches to boot.

Then I went to get the third watch fixed. I would have been happy if the shop owners:

  1. fixed the watch
  2. gave me a new watch
  3. returned my money

I first looked at the watches that were just like mine and asked about the price to make sure it was worth $50. That was confirmed. Then I explained my problem. Rather than saying how they could make the situation better, the dour sales clerk asserted that I hadn’t bought the watch there. “You must have gotten the watch somewhere else.”

You’ve got to be kidding. I certainly don’t have the time or inclination to come to this shop to fix a problem with a watch i’d bought somewhere else. I told her I certainly bought it there. She kept insisting I’d gotten it somewhere else. I held my ground and eventually told her her claim was a lie. A tourist was browsing her wares as we went back and forth. He smiled knowingly and soon left.

Then this dour, unpleasant liar relented and her husband repaired the watch. It was easy for him. He just replaced the battery and now I’ve got a working watch. I’ll never go back there. If they had promptly fixed the watch I would have. I realize batteries die, but a new watch should come with a battery that’ll last a few months at least.

I later went to look at shoes before leaving. As I walked by the bad watch shop, I saw a group of six or so tourists heading towards the bad watch shop. I shared my story and told them about the good watch shop in the Pearl Market. I hope they went there. I did convince them not to shop with the bad watch shop.

Let the Aspiring Screenwriter Beware

I’m waiting for my writing friends to finish reading and critiquing a script I’m working on. As their volunteering their time, I feel I can’t rush them. Yet I was getting antsy about moving forward on it. So I decided to get a professional service to do this.

Act One, whose workshop on screenwriting was quite good, offer script consultancy at various prices. I hesitated about spending $250 dollars because I wasn’t sure who’s currently doing the reading there now that Jack Gilbert their long time writing guru has passed away. Well, their $125 reading seemed very sketchy and I didn’t want to spend $450 on an unknown consultant. For $250 I was promised a 7 day turn around and a specific critique. It irked me that my report wasn’t done in 7 business days. I organized my schedule so that I’d have the report back in time to begin rewriting on a Thursday and then have all of the weekend to rewrite too.

I didn’t get the report by Thursday. I now know I should have complained immediately. I thought they’d get it to me by my Saturday. They didn’t. I complained and got four emails on Sunday apologizing and promising a report by Sunday. I would have liked a rebate of some sort too as I had explained how I’d organized my time.

The report was rather useless, sadly. The script reader had several grammatical errors and mistook my six act television show for a 3 act film. That was annoying and led me to think whoever did the work did it as fast as possible. Instead of suggestions, I got a slew of generic rhetorical questions. Who should I love? Who should we hate? The work was just so generic and expensive.

I’m not looking for someone to gush over every word I write, I want someone who’ll offer a critique that’s useful and can help me perfect the story.

My friends will provide specific insights and suggestions, for free in exchange for my critiquing their work. Act One is cheaper than a few other services, but it was a waste of money in this case. According to LinkedIn, the guy who read my script is their Webmaster cum Script Consultant. He’s never studied film or sold a script himself. If you’re saying that your consultants are “professionals,” you ought to have some standard of professionalism. You shouldn’t hire any average Joe with a B.A. in psychology, who’s never worked in Hollywood, and whose greatest film accomplishment was behind the scenes of his pal’s 5 minute film about a guy who digs holes and is losing his job.

Highway Robbery by Kohl’s

I recently got a dubious looking email allegedly from Kohl’s, the retailer. I emailed them via their website to see if it was a phishing email and soon got a reply that it was legitimate, despite putting my name in ALL CAPS.

So I called as directed and found out I’d forgotten to pay a small bill, less than $14. Before I could speak to a person I had to wait a long while and then got a recording that repeated my balance and asked the same questions six, count ’em six times.

Okay, that’s American “customer service” in the voice mail age. I wanted to pay over the phone, as I have $14. I was blown away that I’d also be charged $10 to do this. Jeez. That put me in an ugly mood and made me loath to ever shop at Kohl’s again. It’s not like they’re the only place that sells clothing in my area. The clerk on the phone was nice enough, but the company’s policies are awful. And since I’m not in America, I’m not used to waiting so long for anything.

In China there are hordes of people at various places, but I’ve gotten good at avoiding lines. And in a lot of places lines aren’t so bad. There aren’t any for restaurants or movie theaters. To get in line for a train is ugly, but we manage. I’ve never had to wait for more than one person ahead of me at a post office here. Think how amazing that is since there are one billion more people here than in the U.S.

Netflix increases prices, risks losing customers to Redbox

 
Netflix increases prices, risks losing customers. I’ll scale back. I can see switching from one type of account to the other. Too many films aren’t available for streaming. Yet sometimes I can watch a film or part of one in a day so both plans have shortcomings.

I will say Netflix has great customer service. They’re really on top of things and communicate with with customers.

 

Disclaimer

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