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Customer Service in the 21st Century (Hardly Ever Touched By Human Hands)

My darlin’ wife recently ordered an LED Exit Sign for her shop from Amazon.com. She asked me if I would install it for her. Exit (2)

The sign arrived Friday morning. I opened the box to find an exit sign attached to a smooth plastic box that had no obvious access points, no little “trap doors,” no attachment points… just a perfectly smooth plastic exterior. And, of course, there were no instructions in the shipping box… neither in English nor en Español.

But, being the clever devil that I am, I identified the manufacturer from the packing material, a lighting company in Ohio who, for the purposes of this blog, shall be called, CutOffCo.

A couple of minutes with Google identified CutOffCo’s website, cleverly designated, “cutoffco.com.” Typing the item number into their search engine produced the specs of the sign… in other words, its measurements… which I already knew because I had the dingus in my hands. But, there was not a single hint on how the hang the bloody thing or how to attach it to commercial power so that the LED’s actually light up.

But, all was not lost! CutOffCo’s website offered a “Contact Us” tab, in which were a few 800 numbers, depending on whether this was a consumer call, an industrial call, or a call from a blue-eyed, left-handed Tasmanian.

Also, for the real suckers, it had the capability to send an email to the concerned customer-service people at CutOffCo.

I chose the 800 number for consumers in states with an odd number of letters ending in a round vowel, who are calling from west to east, M thru F, 8 AM – 5 PM Pacific Island Standard Time.

JS Bach (2)Surprisingly, I didn’t have to presso uno keyo to hablar Ingles, but then again I was dealing with an Ohio company where everyone is expected to speak fluent buckeye. I did, however, have to deal with a robot who offered me various options to access by playing one of the Brandenburg Concerti on my phone dial, which in some obscure way was supposed to “enhance my CutOffCo experience.”

I finally settled into a queue, which I suspect is same the queue into which everyone is dumped despite their mastery of Johann Sebastian Bach on the touchtone keyboard. There I waited, being entertained by elevator music, adverts for CutOffCo products, statements of concern about the wait time, and promises to be with me shortly… and waited… and waited… and waited…

While I waited, I decided to use the websites email dingus to document my experience with CutOffCo. The following is the email I sent after my call was complete.

Cust Svc Reps (2)

 Called 800-555-1212 to get installation instructions for Item# 12345… after listening for an hour or so to your robot state, “Your call is important to us. We appreciate your patience. We will be with you shortly”, your sincerity for providing any modicum of customer service was beginning to ring a bit hollow… then I was told by “David,” who claims hold time is less than one minute, that I have to go over the “industrial side” despite my status as a retail customer… so… back on hold, listening to elevator music and being thanked for my patience… finally got picked up on the industrial side by “Kayla” and was told that the instructions should be in the box (they weren’t) and the people, who might possibly have the instructions are all out to lunch (no pun intended)… BUT, “Kayla” would be happy to pass my request along and someone(?) should(?) get back to me by email… when I asked for a direct call back in case I do not hear back, “Kayla” told me that no one in the company has a direct line… including the company president, Harley Quinn… the BEST way to follow up, is to call in on the 800 number and get back in queue… I can just imagine Mrs. Harley Quinn waiting on hold for an hour listening to the best of the Longines Symphonette Society and being thanked for her patience, when she wants to tell Harley to pick up a loaf of bread and a quart of milk on his way home from work.

 This is CutOffCo’s response to my email.

Robot (2) Thank you for contacting CutOffCo Customer Service. Your email is being routed to an available customer service representative. You will receive a response shortly.

If you have a matter that requires urgent attention please contact TCP Customer Service at 1-800-555-1496 for immediate assistance.

Thank you!

The CutOffCo Customer Service Team

Note: your email has been assigned an identification number for tracking and quality assurance

 

Wow! I feel much better now… an identification number for tracking and quality assurance, which wasn’t stated. This despite the fact I just wasted over two hours of my life and still have no idea how to plug in my brand-new CutOffCo exit sign!

Signs That You Have Become A Crazy Cat Person.

My darlin’ wife and I have six cats.

Only one, Pudge, our oldest, is “store bought.”; he used to belong to my daughter who left him with me when she went away to college. So,  Pudge moved down to Indiana with me from Evanston in 2003.

Four are “rescues”; it seems that our neighbors have developed the bad habit of dropping their unwanted cats off in our subdivision.

The last, Kitty Cassini, adopted us. She showed up one morning under our bird feeder, escaping from a house full of kids who wanted to pick her up all the time, and never left.

So, with six cats in the house – and during an Indiana winter they are literally in the house – my darlin’ wife and I sometimes worry that we may have become “crazy cat people.”

Here are some of the “danger signs” we watch for.

Felix the Cat (2)

 

  1. Speaking to the cats about how your day went.
  2. Asking the cats how their day went.
  3. Using “baby talk” when speaking to the cats
  4. Believing that your cat is speaking to you.
  5. Making cat sounds when speaking to people.
  6. Making cat sounds when talking to yourself.
  7. Taste-testing the cats’ food.
  8. Reading the ingredients on the cat food bag to your cats and asking them, “does that sound yummy?”
  9. Spending more time preparing the cats’ meals than you do your own.
  10. Reserving areas in the bed for specific cats.
  11. Wrapping parts of your body around a sleeping cat when getting into bed.
  12. Not stirring in bed because you’re worried about booting a cat.
  13. Not rolling over in bed because to don’t want to make your cat move.
  14. Not getting up to go to the bathroom because you’re afraid of disturbing a cat.
  15. Wondering what you did wrong when a cat wakes up and jumps off the bed.
  16. Giving yourself a cat name… in cat language.
  17. Believing cats actually have a language.
  18. Celebrating a cat’s birthday… with party hats and favors.
  19. Referring to yourself as “mommy” or “daddy”
  20. Dressing your cat in a costume at Halloween
  21. Dressing yourself in a cat costume when it’s not Halloween
  22. Giving your cats Christmas stockings with their names on them
  23. Telling your cats to be good or Santa Claws will not bring them presents.
  24. Not letting the cats have what’s in their stockings until Christmas morning.
  25. Sending Valentines to your cats.
  26. Getting depressed because your cats didn’t send a Valentine to you.
  27. Purring along with your cat.
  28. Purring when alone.
  29. Purring.
  30. When your cat stops purring, you wonder what you did wrong.
  31. Check where each cat is before you’ll leave the house.
  32. Feeling guilty about leaving your cats alone in the house when you’re out.
  33. Getting depressed because your cat doesn’t seem excited to see you.
  34. After making the bed, checking it for any extra lumps.
  35. Actually trying to convince your cat it doesn’t want an extra treat.
  36. Being able to distinguish your cats by their meows.
  37. Leaving lights on so the cats can find their litter box.
  38. Leaving the lights on so your cats won’t get lonely.
  39. Leaving the lights on so your cats won’t get scared.
  40. Leaving the lights on in case your cats want to read.
  41. Having more pictures of your cats than you do your kids
  42. When you meet friends, you immediately start showing them the latest cat pictures on your phone, saying things like, “Isn’t she cute,” and getting upset if your friends don’t agree… immediately.
  43. You actually believe that your cats smile when they see you.
  44. You get depressed because your cats didn’t smile when they saw you.
  45. Spending more on lint rollers than you do on food.
  46. Choosing clothes because they won’t show cat hair and never realizing the impossibility of the goal.
  47. Having so many cat toys in the house that you can no longer navigate through the rooms.
  48. Refusing to pack up cat toys that your cats ignore because you’re afraid they’ll be depressed.
  49. Attaching a long ribbon to your belt and running through the house to get the cats to play with you.
  50. When your cats stir in their sleep you actually imagine that their dreaming about chasing mice.
  51. When your cats make noises in their sleep you actually imagine that their having nightmares about dogs.
  52. Actually believing that your cats are plotting against you.
  53. You think your cat’s breath smells good.
  54. You get excited when you find a new episode of Simon’s Cat on YouTube.

 

There’s No Good News in the Media Anymore – Gas Prices

Is it just me, or does the media not report good news anymore?

It’s not that there isn’t any good news, but the media seems to go out of its way to over dramatize the mundane, create disasters out of common mishaps, and find a dark, dark gray lining in every silver cloud.

Remember last winter? There were some really cold days in January. When I was a kid, we’d call that a “cold snap”; put on your woolies, your mittens, your stocking hat, and get your butt to school.

polar vortex (2)But, for the media, it’s difficult to dramatize anything called a “snap.”

So, last year, we had “The Attack of the Polar Vortex”! Sounds like something that comes from outer-space to destroy the planet… or some nuclear-induced mutant monster in a 1950’s monster movie… the Polar Vortex That Ate Buffalo!

Then there’s Ebola. Certainly a tragedy for the African people. But, if we were to believe the media coverage last Fall, by now the entire western world should have been laid low by a plague of medieval proportion.

The media seems to have “portmanteau” horror scripts to create disaster scenarios from recurring events. They just need to be updated for time, place and body-count.

Look at the weather coverage for the west coast. If it’s dry, the stories cover brushfires and draught; if its wet, mud slides and floods.

The stories are already written. The media just waits until it rains… or doesn’t.

There’s no good news anymore!

The latest national media-catastrophe is the fall of gas prices. You’d think that was “good news.” And, that’s where you’d be wrong. It’s a really an insidious and potentially disastrous international conspiracy on the part of OPEC.

gas prices (2)When gas prices were peaking over four bucks a gallon, the media acclaimed that this was a dire threat to the economy and our way of life.

Not only were these high prices eroding Americans’ discretionary income, threatening the consumer economy, but they were fueling inflation by increasing the cost of logistics to bring goods to market and to grow crops. Those nasty, predatory capitalists were passing the increased costs along to consumers. Soon we wouldn’t be able to afford bread, and the government didn’t want us to eat cake because we were too obese already!

The media on the right screamed that the government should intervene to reduce fuel taxes! Release the nation’s strategic oil reserve! Build the Canadian pipeline!

Use tax-payer funds to develop alternate sources of energy… solar… wind power! Subsidize the purchase of hybrid cars! Tax SUV’s! Place hyper-taxes on oil company profits! Regulate the oil market! Make speculation illegal, screamed the media on the left!

The nation is spiraling the drain!

We’re leaving a cold, dark planet for future generations!

So, now that oil prices are low, crisis over… right!

Nay! Nay, Moose breathe!

An article in a local newspaper in Indiana, which tends to lean a bit to the right, asserts that OPEC is flooding the market with cheap oil in order to destroy the fracking industry. The devious Arabs and their South-American socialist lackeys want to keep the industrialized world dependent on OPEC oil.

Now there’s apparent justification for those commies, who run the State of New York, to illegalize fracking in that state. And, worse! Now Obama’s pending veto of the Keystone Pipeline seems defensible… we don’t need such a dire threat to the environment when gas is below two-bucks a gallon.

low gas prices (2)That is, until we’ve burned our bridges and Saudi Arabia turns off the spigot.

But, what about the left?

While I was out in the Peoples Republic of San Francisco over Christmas, I read a newspaper article that cheap gas prices were an absolute disaster! They were subverting the market for hybrid cars! Consumers were going back to those eight-cylinder, ten-mile-a-gallon, penis-augmenting, predatory rich people vehicles… HUMV’s, SUV’s, Mustangs, Camaro’s!

Using government funds to develop alternate energy sources… FUHGETAHBOUTIT!

So, although high gas prices were a disaster, now low gas prices are a catastrophe… right and left!

To add insult to non-injury, recently some congressional bone-head is proposing an increase in federal gas taxes, because, with gas prices so low, consumers won’t mind! In fact – watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat – through other mysterious tax off-sets, this proposed increase in the federal fuel tax will somehow be “revenue neutral” to consumers.rabbit hat (2)

Huh?

Yes, the nation’s infrastructure is in bad need of an overhaul.

Where would these new fuel taxes be going?

General funds, so the politicians can allocate it any way they want. A bridge to nowhere, anyone?

It’s the state lottery scam all over again!

Oh… and don’t hold your breath waiting for the offsetting tax adjustment. Some media-inspired disaster is sure to make that impossible.

I’m just going back to read back issues of Time and Newsweek to catch up on the Swine-Flu Plague of 2009 until this whole gas-price thing blows over.

At least I know how that melodrama ends.

Learning To Deal With Gov-Speak.

Earlier this week I received an obviously computer-generated notice from the Social Security Administration.

It was in one of those convoluted, foldy, envelope thingies where you have to remove the bottom tab first; then hold the envelope up toward the east and remove the tab on the right; then turn three times in a counter-clockwise motion, face the setting sun and remove the southern-most tab … or the entire correspondence self-destructs into unreadable shreds of paper.

I finally had to use my old Ranger K-bar, some steam from the kettle and one of my dear, sainted grandmother’s magic spells to pry the bloody thing open.

It stated,

social security (3)IMPORTANT INFORMATION

 Your Benefit Amount

 We are writing to tell you that your Social Security benefits will increase by 1.7 percent in 2015. Please check the other side of this letter to learn how this affects (sic) you.

 

There followed a good foot-and-a-half of explanation in the finest bureaucratic gibberish of what a 1.7% increase to a benefit could mean in a government program.

But, what the heck, I thought! It’s an increase!

What could possible go wrong?

This is s a good thing! Right?

When I was a junior in high school, we were assigned a book to read, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It was a parody of the Soviet Union in which the government brutally controlled all aspects of people’s lives. The head of the authoritarian state is a mysterious and quasi-divine party leader, “Big Brother,” who enjoyed an intense cult of personality.

The government’s manipulation of its citizens is facilitated through the Ministry of Truth, ironically termed MINITRUE. This governmental control of perception is enhanced by a deliberate and purposeful manipulation of language, termed, “Newspeak.”

Newspeak follows the same grammatical rules as English, but its vocabulary has a constantly shifting semiotic reach. Concepts and ideas 1984 (2)undesirable to the party are avoided or eradicated as the very words needed to express them are recast or simply expunged from the language.

According to Orwell,

“… the purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc (English Socialism), but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.

For example, the Newspeak word, “blackwhite,” has two mutually contradictory meanings depending on whether it is applied to an opponent — “impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts” — or to a Party member — “a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands”.

So, what does this have to do with s Social Security notice chirpingly announcing that my benefits have increased by 1.7 percent?

On the obverse side of the letter was a stack of actual numbers under the rubric

How Much I Will get And When?

First the good news … the number on the top of the stack was in fact higher than my current payment. But, this of course is a phantom number… a number which the government will never enter on a check which anyone could actually cash.

one and one (2)Now the other news … the number on the bottom of the pile – the one that is actually transmutated into money real enough to buy food, pay utility bills and buy a beer – after the announced increase is smaller than the current payment.

A quick analysis of the deductions indicated that the amount the government is now deducting for Medicare has increased beyond the soi disant 1.7% cost of living increase. So, yes indeed … the cost of living has gone up … obviously more than the stated percentage!

And, Uncle Scrooge is getting his before any of the 1.7% can escape into the consumer economy!

So, under Gov-Speak, an increase in benefits means the beneficiary gets less money!

George Orwell was a seer!

Headlines of the Future – The Roman Catholic Church Canonizes Its First Dog Saint.

Vatican City, 13 December 2024 – Today, in a completely unexpected move, Pope Patrick canonized ex cathedra the Roman Catholic Church’s first dog saint, St. Lassie.

Lassie (2)The gates of heaven were opened for dogs about ten years ago when the then-Pope Francis declared that one day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. “Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures,” said Pope Francis.

Pope Francis later tried to clarify his statement protesting that he had not made the comment ex cathedra, which would have evoked the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility on issues of the faith, but only to comfort a child, who was in pain for losing a beloved pet.

However, the “puppy was already out of the bag.”

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took up the issue of puppy heaven and doggie souls, finally declaring in 2015 that Catholic orthodoxy taught dogs did indeed have souls and were therefore candidates to pass through the pearly gates, hopefully not stopping on the way it to mark the gate posts.

Pope Patrick’s predecessor, Pope Linus II, whose own dog Snoopy was tragically killed by the Red Baron in a dogfight over Germany, issuedsnoopy (2) a papal encyclical entitled de animis canium gatorumque, “Concerning the Souls of Dogs and Cats.” He wrote that these animals did indeed possess an “anima,” a non-rational soul which, although only capable of barking and meowing, was created by God and could exist for all eternity in paradise, if properly “cloud broken.”

Pope Linus’ encyclical stirred up significant controversy by seemingly excluding canaries, parakeets and gold fish from entry into the kingdom of heaven. Although the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition is still considering the matter, informed sources indicate that the Catholic Church is unlikely to grant eternity to flushable critters.

Once the Pearly Gates were opened for our fury friends, it was only a matter of time before one of them was recognized for “heroic sanctity.”

In order to expedite the recognition of Lassie as a saint, Pope Patrick employed a technique known as “equipollent canonization.” This allowed Lassie to bypass the traditional stages of conventional canonization, “Servant of God,” “Venerable,” and “Blessed.”

In his statement, the Pope declared that “Lassie has a significant and long-recognized cult following, a constant attestation to virtue, and uninterrupted fame as a worker of miracles.”

Monsignor Augusto Annunziato, spokes-cleric for the Officium Verborum Sanctorum, noted the many times that Lassie pulled Timmy out of wells, lakes, rivers and burning barns as evidence of the new saint’s heroic sanctity.

“It is allegoria sancta,” Monsignor Annunziato declared, “holy metaphor. Sancta Lassia pulling Timmy out of the burning barn represents Holy Church rescuing sinners from the fires of hell. The water images of the well and lake represent the sacrament of baptism, from which the now pure and sinless Timmy arises with the assistance of the catula sancta!”

dogs heaven (2)The first American parish to declare the new saint as its patron, is the now St. Lassie Came Home Church located, not surprisingly, in the Dogtown section of Oakland, California. A life-sized marble statue of the saint has been commissioned, where the faithful can leave doggie-treats in lieu of lighting the conventional devotional candles.

When asked, in the light of canonizing a dog, whether the church would now reconsider its stand on ordaining women to the priesthood, Monsignor Annunziato declared, “Qual è il prolema con te? Sei pazzo? We allow dogs in heaven, not women on the altar!”