Archive for April, 2006

“The new AT&T” – a customer’s rant on customer service

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

As some may have noticed chads.homelinux.org went down for most of Friday. I had called AT&T at around 10:00pm to figure out what was going on as I had power-cycled my router and DSL modem, restarted my machine, and anything else they’d expect me to do before I called.

At first I had given them the benefit of the doubt and assumed that I just forgot the password for my modem, so I just called for a password reset. So I tried dialing the 1-800 number for Internet Services only to get a recording stating that the Account Management center was closed. I was sitting there going “WTF?! I thought they were 24 hours?”.

So I called all 5 numbers that appeared on the bill and finally 1 hour and 20 minutes later after going through menu option hell, I FINALLY got ahold of a human only to be told that I’ll have to call the Internet Services number (the one that was “closed”). I got to a human after choosing the wrong option – something along the lines of “if your business line is down and you need to schedule repair, chose this option”. After explaining to them that I tried calling the Internet Services number, they had told me that they’ve been having problems with the recordings over there telling people that they’re closed and routing them to the wrong area. Yeah, I was completely impressed that the phone company can’t get their own internal phone services to work correctly. I was then told that it might be noise in my line and blah blah blah…I fell asleep listening to the bullshit excuses that they’re scripted to say. After that, I was then told that I’ll just need to keep trying to call Internet Services and they just must be at lunch…they should be back shortly from any break they might have been taking and will answer my call soon.

Okay…so which is it? Are their internal phones broke, or do they just not have anyone cover the phones during lunch? Either way, it screams of incompetence on the company’s part. That must be “the new AT&T” quality service shining through. It’s good to know that once you’re a monopoly you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want, but I digress.

So I called again two hours later at around midnight only to go through the same menu option hell as before. At this point, I’m starting to get a little irritated. I’m a student in college who takes online courses – what if I had a final exam due during this time frame? Am I supposed to suffer because of AT&T’s incompetence? Once again, the person on the other end of the line told me that I’m going to have to call the Internet Services number to “get my problem resolved in an efficient manner”. Great. Corporate speak. Just what I want to hear at a time like this. Perhaps you can assist me in drilling down into the matter by creating an opportunity of value added sales and better service by thinking outside the nine dots? GAH!

So I get frustrated and go to bed.

I wake up this morning and start the process over thinking that maybe, just maybe, they’ll start accepting calls for DSL problems now. No such luck. Same garbage as before. Finally, I call the wrong number again so I can talk to a human again. I got ahold of a guy who not only connected me to a human in their Internet Services area, but told me how to get around the annoying fact that I kept getting a recording* (explaination coming up). So at this point I’m starting to gain just a little more confidence in AT&T – just a little.

After explaining to the guy in the Internet Services department that I power-cycled everything and that he should just reset my password and we can start from there, he goes “Whoa! I figured out what the problem is – it’s not the line, it’s corporate telling me that services have been cut due to non-payment”. WTF?!?!

After thanking him, I called the billing area only to get a recording telling me what my payment is and when it’s due. Wonderful, they told me what my normal payment is every month (as if I didn’t know) and that it’s due in a week. Great. I then purposely called the wrong number again to get a human to speak with and asked what was going on. I had explained to them that I was told by a recording that my next payment isn’t due until May 5th and it’s April 29th so what gives? I was told that it was likely a system error and that they’ve been experiencing these errors once in a while. Apparently the shutdown notices are somewhat automated and this one was only “getting ready just in case” a shutdown would be required in a week. So this also tells me that if they don’t get their payment and if they don’t process it by the due date, they’ll shut you down the next day AND it’s all planned out regardless of if you’ve paid on time every month for the last 10 years or not. Nice. Then just to make sure they go a little further and piss me off a little more, I was told “though this was a mistake, please be sure that payment is made by May 5th, otherwise, the connection could be removed again”. So great – you fucked up, but you want to make sure that I make my payment on time regardless of my payment history…”because we wouldn’t want anything to happen to your connection…now would we?”. Nice mob tactic you got there.

So the last thing they tell me is that my connection will be up in somewhere between 4 and 24 hours. Oh now I’m really really impressed. You’re giving yourselves a window of 20 hours to get your mistake on my account taken care of? How generous of you.

So here I sit. Waiting for my connection to be re-established because they screwed up. Now that I think about it, I should probably call them when my connection is re-established and ask them exactly how they’re going to compensate me for my trouble of not having an internet connection during final exams. Not only that, but all of the scholarships I applied for are to be delivered to my own mail server. Chances are they won’t give a shit nor will they give me any sort of compensation – after all, they’re as close to you can get to becoming a monopoly as you can get, so why would they care? What are you going to do, switch phone companies?

And that’s the “new” AT&T.

*To get around the recordings, I was told to just keep hitting the # key which eventually just kicks you over to a human.

[connection down from 11:20am Friday until 10:00pm Saturday]

States are looking to tax digital downloads

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

By their rationale, a DVD, a CD, and other types of media that are just media are also “software.” In a CD’s case for example, the CD causes a CD player program to react and play a tune, so is the CD now software? These idiots don’t even understand the distinction between “data” and software.

Let me give you a hint morons: software is executable, data isn’t, the two are not the same at all. Data, in and of itself, causes nothing to happen. You could double-click on an MP3 all day, if you have no player installed it doesn’t work. We seriously need to start getting people into office that understand computers at least to this basic degree.

For some reason, a state feels the need to collect on content that didn’t originate in the state, isn’t served by an employee that works in the state, isn’t stored on servers inside the state, and isn’t necessarily even bought inside the state (a purchase made on a laptop while on vacation, for example).

Article here.

Seriously though, what a load of crap. I see two issues here which don’t appear to be addressed by the authorities levying the taxes.

1) No justification for the taxation is provided. There should be some underlying benefit to “We the people” for any taxation. i.e. I pay a hefty tax every month on my communication bill for various services provided to society, two of which are funding for communication access for the disabled and funding for communication access to rural areas. Levying a tax on downloaded media just because they can is not justification and depending on what they are considering a download it could be construed as double taxation since I already pay several taxes on the communication itself.

2) One of the concepts which jump started the United States of America was the concept of “No taxation without representation”. Now I realize we have representatives in government who were voted into their positions by the people, however, if these representatives are not representing the interests of the people who voted them in and instead are representing the interests of the government or corporations then they are no longer representatives of the people. Before the American Revolutionary War the British argued that Americans did have “virtual” representation in parliament and therefore there was no need for American representatives to participate in the British government. We all know how that one turned out and virtual representation is no excuse today either.

State legislatures and tax officials, eager to find new ways to boost government spending and curb budget shortfalls, are eyeing the burgeoning market for digital downloads as a potentially lucrative source of revenue.

Isn’t it the boost in government spending (wasted money) that is creating the budget shortfalls? Just like raising gas taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, cigarette taxes, liquor taxes – it all happens because once lawmakers get their hands on those billions, they can’t help but spend it recklessly, to the point of drilling an enourmous hole in the budget that John and Jane Taxpayer have to fill. This is just local government trying to find a way to cover its own ass by papering over the hole, when we all know any revenue generated by these taxes is going to simply be frittered away.

Maybe these state governments should try balancing their budgets first before bludgeoning their citizens over the head with more taxes.

Slashdot submission – Judge rules in favor of websurfing at work

Monday, April 24th, 2006

According to an MSNBC article, a judge has ruled in favor of a worker that was repeatedly warned for surfing the internet on company time. Only a “reprimand” is a fitting punishment – not termination. FTA: “It should be observed that the Internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work.” Since I’m posting this from work, I wonder if I’m covered…since it *is* work-related 😉

Hooray! The article was approved!

Quote of the week: April 24th

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Old musicians never die – they just decompose 🙂

Gas price fluctuation out of control

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

Okay, someone please explain to me how when I went out for lunch yesterday gas was $2.89 a gallon, then when I got home from school at around 9pm or so, it was $2.74 a gallon. Two days ago, gas was $2.84 a gallon. Now today at lunch it’s $2.99 a gallon…and this is all at the SAME GAS STATION!

This is getting completely out of control. Seriously. How can anyone make any kind of budget for their home life when gas was $2.05 a gallon at the beginning of March and now in the middle of April it’s up to $2.99 a gallon? People have to get to work and eat – if they spend $20.00 to get to work each week (VERY conservative number) this month, and it goes up to $30.00 each week to get to work the next month, that takes money away from other things. This is not only greedy business tactics, it’s bad for the overall economy.

Gas companies blame it on the fact that it’s mandatory to add ethanol to gas now. There’s only one flaw with that arguement – some gas companies HAVE ALREADY BEEN DOING THIS FOR YEARS! Not only that, it’s not any more expensive to refine gas now than it was before – in fact, it’s slightly cheaper if you think about it. If you’re refining less oil and pretty much just adding an additive, you can create more volume and sell it at the same price.

Well, apparently that’s not enough for the greedy gas companies.

For instance, check out Exxon’s profits. Pay close attention to “Return on Average Capital Employed (percent)” and watch the years associated with it. In 2002 is when we started to see the huge climb in prices. Coincidence?

A friend brought up a very good point – the reason why most people don’t complain is because they don’t know exactly who to complain to. I did a little research and come up with a small contact list. Call, write a letter, and/or email all of them – a LOT. Make them accountable for their actions and demand an answer, not just a cookie-cutter response. Here’s my compiled list. Feel free to respond with more and I’ll add them:

Exxon Mobil Corporation
Attn: Customer Relations
Box 1049
Buffalo, NY
14240-1049
Phone: 1-800-375-4328
Email them using this online form.

Shell Oil Company
P.O. Box 2463
Houston, TX 77252
Phone: 1-713-241-6161
Email: ShellCustomerCare@shell.com and ssc@shell.com

BP Gas Stations
Email them using this online form.

CITGO Petroleum Corporation
P.O. Box 4689
Houston, TX 77210-4689
Phone: 1-800-248-4684
Mid-Atlantic: sundern@CITGO.com
Northeast: scompto@CITGO.com
Midwest: dmcinti@CITGO.com
Southern: pward@CITGO.com

Speedway Gas Stations
Speedway SuperAmerica LLC
Attn: Customer Service Department
P.O.Box 1500
Springfield, OH 45501
Phone: 1-800-643-1948
Email them using this online form.

Marathon Oil Corporation
Corporate Headquarters
5555 San Felipe Road
Houston, TX 77056-2723
Phone: 713-629-6600
(Here’s a nice area of the site that states it was updated in January 2006, but apparently they forgot to include the massively increased price changes since 2001 in the picture they decided to post. Sorry, gas isn’t $1.49 a gallon any more.)

Admiral Gas Stations and Speedy Q gas stations have not been listed as they are the only two types of gas stations that I know of that have actually attempted to resist the price gouging that the other companies have been doing – Shell being the worst culprit.

So call, write, and/or email as much as you can. The gouging needs to stop.

-Chad

Scholarship criteria sure has changed…

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

I’ve applied for a trillion scholarships for school and hopefully I’ll get one or two. I got a small scholarship for this past semester (Winter) which helped pay for books a little. Hey, something is better than nothing right?

It’d be much better if scholarships weren’t so weird now. I remember the “good ol’ days” when scholarships were based on merit rather than sex, age, race, religion, geographic location, handicap, etc. Then most of the scholarships only require a 2.5 – 3.0 gpa. I mean what the heck?! When I was in high school you had to have at least a 3.5 before you were even considered for a scholarship. 2.0 is a C and 3.0 is a B, so they only require a C+/B- to B range to get a scholarship? I could get a 2.5 – 3.0 in my sleep! Holy crap!

I’m applying for scholarships through my soon-to-be old school, my soon-to-be new school, and a few local scholarships as well. I was only able to apply for maybe 1/8 of all scholarships offered by Delta College (my soon-to-be old school) because of the “restrictions” – check it out for yourself.

  • Bay County Resident
  • Preference given to African-American Students from Bay County
  • Graduating Senior from All Saints, Central, Garber, John Glenn, or Western High Schools
  • Preference Given to Student from Protected Class under the Civil Rights Act
  • Graduating Senior from Bay City Central High School
  • Female
  • Documented Physical Disability as Evidenced by Certification by MI Rehab, MI Commission for the Blind, or a Physician
  • Saginaw County Resident
  • Minority Student
  • Graduating Senior from Midland High School
  • Preference to African-American Students
  • Prefer Polish-American Heritage (Discuss Heritage in Essay)
  • …and it goes on and on….

    Quote of the week: April 17th

    Monday, April 17th, 2006

    Do the thing you fear…and the death of fear is certain.

    Review: Auditor by Remote-Exploit.org

    Friday, April 14th, 2006

    Read about Auditor here.

    Looks pretty sweet…check it out for yourself.

    Definition of corporate speak

    Thursday, April 13th, 2006

    “You can use new technology as an opportunity to improve the operation of your business.”

    There was a time when the word opportunity was a management buzzword. I still hate the word. It seems to have become part of the business vocabulary even of people that hate corporate speak. Look:

    “You can use new technology to improve the operation of your business.”

    Take the word out and the sentence has lost no meaning. That should be the definition of corporate speak.

    Over-advertising

    Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

    In the not-so-distant future, you’ll get up, in the morning… your alarm will ring out a company jingle, and remind you that you were 5 min late to work yesterday — if this keeps up, it’ll be reflected in your performance review.

    You’ll get out of bed, and your coffee pot will let you know that the local supermarket is having a sale on a new brand of coffee filters that you would, probably, like – considering your habits.

    Your stool will be analyzed by your commode, and you will be informed that: 1) Your doctor’s office would like to schedule an appointment to check on your hemorrhoids, 2) There’s a sale on hemorrhoid cream, at the corner chemist’s, and 3)

    Your health insurance premium just went up by $0.25/month, due to your increased risk of developing colon cancer.

    With this joyful news, you step into the shower, where you will be able to learn about a new sign-up special at the local health-club, to assist you in dropping those extra 2.3 kilos that you picked up, over the holiday.

    Looking in the mirror, you will be able to catch an ad for a new hair-color which will help you to look younger, by hiding that gray (see it, there — left temple, *three* new white hairs!).

    …and on and on.

    Ad infinitum, ad nauseaum