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Strangely enough, I got asked the "you speak English so well. . . where are you from?" line of questions far more often in California than in Iowa or here in Oregon. But anyway, this is pretty hilarious:
I love Amazon, both as a customer and as an investor (I own a little bit). Obviously, its pricing is usually fantastic, and Prime is well worth the $79/year for me (and getting better with more instant videos available for free streaming). The downside of Amazon's dominance is that it has been killing off local stores, ranging from small used bookstores to even once-mighty chains like Borders.
But what's sometimes overlooked in the reasons for Amazon's success is its customer service. Amazon's shipping is reliable. I think in my long history as a customer, there's only been one instance when it wasn't able to fulfill an order that it accepted, and it was fairly diligent about letting me know within a reasonable amount of time.
Let's contrast that with my recent (ongoing) very negative experience with Sears. I ordered my wife's birthday present a full 10 days in advance. The item showed as "not available from warehouse but will ship directly from one of our stores," with a promised delivery date the day before her birthday. Okay . . . nine days seems like an awfully long time to fulfill the order, but whatever, there was an extra day just in case.
My credit card was charged immediately. (Amazon, on the other hand, does not charge my card until the items actually ship.)
I received an order confirmation email and then . . . silence. Now, I probably should have followed up on the absence of a shipping confirmation email, but when I checked my order status online, it showed as "SHIPPED" -- though oddly, with no tracking number. [Deceptive practice? As you'll see, it had NOT shipped at that time, or perhaps even now.]
The day that the present was supposed to arrive, it did not. I checked the order status online again, and it still showed the same information (and lack of tracking number). I opened up a live webchat window, and the Sears representative, clearly having been taught some rudimentary tricks about dealing with customers ("make sure you repeat their concerns to show that you are listening"), looked into the problem. He was unable to tell me when I would receive the package. He promised to send this matter to the research department to see what happened, and told me that I would receive a response within 15 days.
15 days? This after repeating that he understood how disappointing it was not to have my wife's present delivered on time.
Not long after, I received an email from Sears, reading in relevant part:
Thank you for shopping at Sears.com!
We are still in the process of researching your order, however wanted to follow up so you know we are still working on it. We sincerely apologize for the delay. Please allow 5-7 business days for a response. We regret any inconvenience and appreciate your continued patience.
Look for Great Ideas throughout the store and find Sears exclusive innovations from great brands like Sony, Kenmore, NordicTrack, Craftsman and Reebok.
Thank you for researching this. I appreciate your efforts, but I must say, this is a fairly disappointing experience. I placed the order 10 days ago, which I thought would be plenty of time to arrive before my wife's birthday tomorrow. Nevertheless, I can understand that sometimes unavoidable delays occur. However, the absence of a tracking number, or even the ability to determine quickly where the [item] is or if it has even shipped is shocking.
I suppose I will convert this to a Mother's Day present and have to scramble tomorrow to find a birthday present locally.
The next morning, I received the following response:
Good Morning Tung,
Thank you for contacting Sears regarding your order number XXXX. I am sorry to hear that you have not received the order.
We are currently working on the issue. You should expect to receive a response from us by 5/15/2013. The feedback that you have provided today regarding shopping experience will be taken into consideration as we continue to enhance our services to meet the needs of our customers going forward.
Tired of getting emails that simply repeated the same lack of content, I decided to call. My purpose was to see if the item had even shipped, and if it had not, to cancel the order.
The customer service agent was apparently better at researching the order than the webchat or emailers were, as she determined that it was "preparing to be shipped." I asked to cancel the order since it hadn't shipped yet.
She said that she couldn't cancel the order because it was already prepared to be shipped. I pointed out that they had already missed the delivery date, and my card was charged 11 days earlier. Why weren't they able to cancel it? She repeated that she was unable to do so.
She then told me she would pass the matter along to a supervisor, who would respond to me within 24-48 hours. Well . . . at least the timeframe for response is getting shorter.
Finally, she saked if I wanted to order anything else(!). I said, "Honestly, this experience has been so negative . . . no, I do not want to order anything else."
Instead, I was tempted to go buy a few more shares of Amazon stock. I hope Amazon eats Sears for lunch.
Unfortunately, it doesn't help her case that the list of Asian-American pro baseball players she uses (Ichiro Suzuki, Hideo Nomo, Hideki Matsui, Byung-Hyun Kim, and Kaduhiro Sasaki) are actually all foreign players, so Asian, not Asian-American.
But whatever, apart from that, it's a good refutation of the stereotypes. I thought the "Asian F" (i.e., a grade of a B) was especially hilarious. (Been there, endured that.)
Remember the "Talking Tina" episode of "The Twilight Zone"?
Well, that's a little like how I felt earlier this weekend. We were wondering why my wife's data usage had gone through the roof ever since she switched to an iPhone 4S a little over a month ago. She doesn't stream videos or music, doesn't video chat, or do anything that hogs data. At home, she uses wi-fi. And yet Verizon was sending alerts every other day about how close she was getting to exceeding the 2 GB limit.
When I checked the data usage info on our account, I saw that the phone was sending out huge amounts of data in the middle of the night! (When it should have been using wi-fi, no less.)
A call to Verizon didn't really help, as they suggested "restoring" the phone, and/or turning Siri off. Apple apparently had a software issue in earlier operating systems where the phone claimed to be using wi-fi, but was still on 3G. Maybe that would help, but what was the phone doing in the middle of the night???
Googling -- love the irony there, using Google to figure out what was wrong with the iPhone -- identified a likely source of the problem: the iPhone supposedly sends error reports back to Apple. What kind of stupid phone sends so many error reports that it causes users to exceed the data limit???
As I ranted about its stupid engineering, my wife's iPhone all of a sudden came awake by itself! (cue Twilight Zone music)
I was just waiting for it to say, "Hi, my name is Siri, and I don't like you at all."
Double yikes!! But anyway, turning off the error reporting has solved our data usage problem. For my part, though, I am even more pleased to have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
I realize I am probably in the minority here, but some of us do like watching indoor volleyball at the Olympics, and indeed, even prefer it to watching beach volleyball. (Not to take anything away from the skills and athleticism of the beach volleyball players.) It was annoying enough that indoor volleyball was relegated to the daytime "live" hours only, or the 12:30 am telecast.
And the U.S. women's volleyball team was dominant, crushing everyone on its way to the gold medal match against Brazil.
Finally, that match was designated for prime time airing. And yet, even there, you screwed things up!
Showing the first game, where the U.S thrashed Brazil, made it seem like a foregone conclusion that we'd get the gold. Then there was a cutaway to Bob Costas, announcing upcoming NBC programming Sunday morning, and then he matter-of-factly said that we would be rejoining the match, with Brazil now up 2 sets to 1.
Not only that, when we "rejoined" the match, it was 18-11 in favor of Brazil in set 4. So between where we left off and where we picked up, either Brazil started playing out of its mind or the U.S. fell apart or both, but we viewers were shown . . . nothing.
At some point, one of the announcers said something like, "This is one of the most amazing comebacks I've ever seen."
I took my older son to a dental check-up today, and it was a very efficient process. We checked in, didn't wait long to be called, and the attention was good.
Then I took a look at the full billing statement, which showed what services were provided, what they cost (rack rate), what amount the HMO covered, and what amount we owed/paid. The only amount in the last category was the $15 co-pay, which was certainly reasonable.
$77 for about 10 minutes of the dentist's time . . . probably inflated a bit to make it seem like the insurance coverage was a good deal, but I wouldn't call it unreasonable.
X-rays, fluoride treatment, etc. Fine, fine fine.
$60 for instructions on brushing teeth?!?
I know this doesn't really matter, since it's just an arbitrary amount that the HMO has decided it's going to claim that its services are worth (except that there is a cap on annual benefits), but is there any relation between that amount and reality? I was there, and it was about 2-3 minutes of a list of rules. $60???
Here's an example of how California arguably over-regulates. California Proposition 65 requires businesses to post a sign warning customers about the potential presence of significant amounts of toxic chemicals in their locations. That sounds like a good idea!
But the devil is in the details. During our winter break trip to southern California, the place we were staying at had one of those Prop 65 signs posted in its underground garage. Yikes! Toxic chemicals in the garage? What we were exposing ourselves -- especially our boys -- to?
The sign didn't say, which made it all the more ominous.
By scouring the information binder in our room, however, I was able to determine that the toxic chemicals in question were . . . secondhand cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust.
No doubt Prop 65 is well-meaning, but if it requires businesses to warn about secondhand smoke and automobile exhaust, it risks becoming worthless through over-warning. It's much like highlighting every line in your textbook -- there's no differentiation.
Wait, it's not just $149, but $12.90 in shipping and handling. And, well, it's not even accurate. I mean, from 1996 to 1998, I was clerking for federal judges, and while that's a different kind of public service, it definitely wasn't as a member of the Bar. And from late-1998 to mid-2002, I guess I was serving the community, if you define "community" as super-powerful corporations and elite wealthy individuals. And from mid-2002 on, I've been teaching and haven't practiced at all. . . .
Heck, I haven't even bothered to display my law school diploma, and I have much warmer feelings toward Cal than I do toward law practice. . . .
Vincent Chin would be 56 this year if he hadn't been murdered back in 1982. Here's a reminder of the travesty of injustice from his killers' trials:
It will be 29 years on June 19th. On that day in 1982, Ebens, a then 42-year-old white Chrysler autoworker, along side with his stepson accomplice Michael Nitz, then 23, took a baseball bat and bludgeoned Vincent Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese American, to death on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, a suburb of Detroit.
The facts are indisputable. Some witnesses say Nitz held down Chin. Some say he didn't. Everyone says he was there and did nothing to stop Ebens, who ferociously struck and beat Chin repeatedly, with two savage blows to the head leaving Chin unconscious.
For their admitted role in Chin's death, here's the amount of time Ebens and Nitz served for the crime they committed: zero.
Ebens and Nitz were allowed to plea bargain in a Michigan court to escape mandatory jail time for second degree murder. Ebens pleaded guilty; Nitz pleaded nolo contendere. Both men got this sentence: three years' probation, a $3,000 fine, and $780 in court costs.
Just got out of a faculty meeting, the last 30 or so minutes of which were essentially wasted time because of figuring out how to satisfy a well-intentioned but needlessly nitpicking ABA requirement.
It makes you wonder how much collective faculty time is lost each year because of the ABA. And yet the one thing that AALS decides to stand up to the ABA on is the self-serving issue of the ABA's proposed elimination of tenure as a requirement of accreditation.