Aaaannnd We’re Back!

After a 60 hours + downtime, Literal Barrage is back on line. I’ve received no explanation from VizaWeb, nor do I think that I am likely to. In light of recent events, please leave your recommendations for reliable hosting with ssh access and php4/5+mysql access.

The Joys Of Big Box Retail Outlets

Jeff over at the Shape of Days has discovered the “joys” of shopping provided by big name electronics stores (in this case, CompUSA). As regular readers will recall, I’ve had my own experiences with big box retailers, although not CompUSA specifically.
Jeff lays out his experience with painstakingly amusing detail. A snippet:

But those pathfinding and gathering skills that were etched into your DNA by a hundred generations of plains-dwelling ancestors are no help to you today, because all of that is based on the assumption that you’re in a rational, natural and internally consistent environment. If you were in the woods, you’d be fine. But you’re not in the woods. You’re in a CompUSA. And it’s not a natural environment. It’s an environment that was designed, over a period of several years in a series of all-day staff meetings so lengthy and boring that it made the Thirty Years War seem like the seventh-inning stretch at an Astros game, to be as baffling and overwhelming as possible. Which explains why the mobile phones are right next to the printer paper which is right next to the energy drinks.
What follows — and you’re not proud to admit this — is thirty seconds of pure, unadulterated stymiedness. You look this way and that, which is fine; but then you look back, as if hoping that you might catch the item you’re after lurking there behind that stack of discount DVDs and pounce on it like some kind of modern-day suburban leopard.
Finally the realization sinks in. It’s not where it should be. You need help.

Go ye and read the rest and, as has become the rule when reading Mr. Harrell’s recent writings, mind the naughty words, mmmkay?

A Post Delayed Is A Post Denied

Or: How I Have Virtually Assured Myself Of The Irrelevance Of The Information Contained Herein By Merit Of Waiting Until A Full Two Weeks After Bride And Groom Returned From Their Honeymoon To Post This Drivel
I am many things to many people, but those that know me best know that there is one thing that I am not: punctual.
Sure, I have excuses as to why I haven’t posted my summation of the trip down to South Carolina to attend Brad and Lauren’s wedding – I’ve been busy at work, my wife and I have been preparing for the arrival of our child, tectonic plate shifts, etc. And yes, there was free wireless at the hotel, meaning that I could have begun my summary while still in the midst of the celebrations, but alas and alack, my slackerlybetter instincts won out.
It is, therefore, with a mix of pride and chagrin that I hereby present My Account of Brad and Lauren’s Wedding Weekend.
Wednesday, May 11th
Wednesday evening was spent driving to meet our good friends Andy and Andrea in Virginia. Andy was in the wedding as well (Brad, Andy and I have known each other since middle school), so we intended on carpooling down to Charleston, SC. Unfortunately, Andy and Ange’s babysitter bailed at the last minute, so Ange had to stay up “north” with their son.
Thursday, May 12th
Early Thursday morning, Andy, my wife and I piled into Andy’s Jetta TDI and hit the road. We gobbled up the mileage and I must say there’s something extremely psychologically satisfying about getting 50 miles per gallon. That little TDI can book, I tell you whut.
We arrived in Charleston around 4pm or so and checked in at the Holiday Inn and, of course, my bad customer service mojo kicked in. The room we were assigned had a balcony door that was slightly off kilter, meaning that it wouldn’t shut the whole way, thus allowing both the charming sounds of high schoolers on Senior Week excursions playing by the pool and generally making public nuisances of themselves and the lovely humid seaside Charleston air access to the inner reaches of our room. I tried several times to shut the door, as did Andy, the both of us using varying amounts of force, speed and combinations thereof to attempt to secure the services of said door in keeping our room a bit more sanctuary-esque, to no avail. Not being particularly fond of either 17-year-old flirting-by-proxy or of sleeping amidst clammy sheets, my wife and I decided that I should call the front desk and ask for a maintenance worker to come up and have a look.
Continue reading “A Post Delayed Is A Post Denied”

I Keep Trying To Tell People, But Do They Listen?

Shame on Lileks. He went to Best Buy (cbtn) to replace a fritzy DVD player, managed to get upsold on a shady “HDTV” player and then discovered that Best Buy (cbtn) is no longer content with simply taking his money. Now they want his demographic information too:

At the checkout counter the clerk asked for my phone number. “Why?” I said. I hate this new wrinkle. I just hate it. I hate the fact that I can’t buy a frickin’ candy bar without a procedure that rivals a mortgage application. I’m always interested in the rationale they give.
“We need the phone number before we can let the merchandise leave the store,” the clerk said. Practiced response, right out of the employee handbook. Fine. Let me say no, and let the burly boys tackle me as I try to leave with my paid merchandise. Sir! I need an area code sir! Then she said “This DVD player has a two or a four year extended warranty. Which one would you like today?”
This isn’t upselling; this is deceit. “Which one” doesn’t include the option of “neither,” of course. And then she offered me a free 8-week subscription to a magazine, so they could have my address as well as my phone number. [Jeepers]! Let me buy the fargin’ thing and let me go! You want a stool sample too? Here!
I have no idea if Best Buy knows, or cares, but every annoying check-out interchange reminds me anew: buy online. If I hadn’t needed the DVD player that night to review some family movies I’d just cut (want to get them done now, since I’m wiping the drive to install Tiger nice and fresh next Friday) I would have ordered online. Not because I think my privacy is held in greater honor – they have my address, too – but because it’s just less of a pain in the [rear]. As it stands, you end your Best Buy transaction by saying NO, NO, and NO. They might consider ways to let people leave with the word “yes” fresh on their lips.

Gee, Best Buy, dishonest? Unscrupulous? Out for profit and nothing else?
Who’d a thunk it?

What Timing!

No sooner do I post about Best Buy (cbtn) then I notice a thread on Fark pointing to this Gizmodo entry (pointing to this AnandTech forum thread which, in turn, reprints a Baltimore Sun article that the Sun website puts behind a registration lock and key, so just use the AT thread to read the story) about a man who, as a form of protest for dismal service received at a Baltimore-area Best Buy (cbtn), decided to pay his bill in $2 bills.
In turn, Best Buy (cbtn) had the man arrested for possibly passing counterfeit currency. If that doesn’t say “Customer unfriendly atmosphere,” I don’t know what does. May they someday be bought out and run into the ground by Sam Walton’s progeny.
The consumers speak with a united voice! Behold,!

Now I Just Need An Eyepatch, A Parrot And A Diploma From “Pirate U.”

As of this morning, a long, drawnout chapter in my dental history has finally drawn to a close.
I had a gold crown (well, really almost an entire tooth) put in place to finally close out the Saga of the Root Canals. Now I’ll just have to come up with a decent story to tell my grandkids (“That’s right, kids, your grandfather caught an Iraqi bullet in his teeth! Cost me mah molar, but there’s nary a sacrifice too high for good old Uncle Sam!”).


I woke up to a cold house this morning – apparently, my heating oil company’s “auto” “replenishment” program wasn’t working right and my tank just plum ran dry.
A repairman just stopped by and got us up and running and an oil tanker should be by later to refill our tank, so short-term I think we’ll be alright. However, this is the third or fourth time this exact thing has happened. I’ll be registering a complaint with the main office tomorrow morning, I can assure you.

A Glutton For Retail Punishment

– or –

Fool Me Once, Shame On You, Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me, Fool Me Thrice, You Must Work For Best Buy!

As long-time readers will no doubt recall, I’ve had my troubles with Best Buy (and customer service in general) in the past, but the events of the past couple of weeks have finally pushed me over the edge.
I know that I said that I wasn’t going to shop at Best Buy any more, but, alas, I’m a sucker for low prices. Plus, I have a BB credit card. Here, in short, is the story of my fall into hypocricy and my hasty redemption.
My wife and I have been looking at a Sony DSC-V1 digital camera for quite a while, yet we had been balking at the price. Fortunately for us, Sony recently discontinued the camera and, attendant to that, announced an immediate $100 street price drop. Near-synchronously with this, Best Buy sent me a 12% off “valued customer” coupon and announced 18 months no interest financing on purchases over $299. I had qualms about trusting BB again but decided that this confluence of events was just too good of an opportunity to pass up and so Aron and I set off for my local BB store.
Once we arrived, I headed immediately for the cameras, hoping to score a quick purchase. Alas, it took the camera section staffers around 45 minutes to determine that, in fact, they had zero V1’s in stock, even though their computer listed two. They did confirm that the King of Prussia location had 6(!) V1’s and so I thanked them for their efforts, grabbed Aron from the appliance section and took off for KoP.
We arrived at the KoP store and quickly got a clerk to grab a camera and ring it up, but unfortunately it was coming up as the old price (i.e., $100 more than I was looking to spend). Not wanting to leave empty-handed (and thus reduce the chances of me ever getting my hands on the camera) I decided to take the camera with me and then have my local BB location price match at a later date.
I called a few places in the area that night and finally met with success at the Camera Shop in Willow Grove who stated that they had V1’s in stock and were selling them for the reduced price. Contented, I went to bed and determined to hit the nearby BB the next day to execute the price match. I walked into that BB store the next day and strolled up to the customer “service” counter and, after waiting for a while, finally caught the notice of a customer “service” representative whom I then asked to process the pricematch for me. I told her that I had called the Camera Shop and that they were selling it for $100 cheaper than BB and she proceeded to call the Camera Shop and inquire as to their pricing.
She spoke on the phone for a couple of minutes and then came over to me and said “I’m sorry sir, but we can’t price match on that item. The Camera Shop says that all they have left are display models and our policy states that the item has to be in stock at our competitors in order to match their price”.
I then asked her, matter-of-factly, if she was honestly going to haggle with me over the fact that another store had the exact same item in their store and would be willing to sell it to me for $100 less than what BB would, yet they didn’t have it “in stock”. She nodded affirmatively.
By this time, I was getting both a little impatient and more than a little angry. I suppose I shouldn’t have reacted out of anger, but my past experiences with BB were definitely coloring my actions at that point. I said something to the effect of “You’re honestly going to tell me that you don’t want my money? You’re comfortable with me walking out that door without a camera and never coming back again? You’re going to sacrifice your relationship with a longterm customer who has spent thousands of dollars over the course of his life in your store because you refuse to match prices?” “Yes.” was all she said.
“Give me my money back,” I demanded. After ringing through the return (and refusing to look me in the eyes the whole time), she turned her back on me and I stormed out of the store.
So I went home, bought the camera off of ZipZoomFly for $150(!) less that very night and, with the money I saved, bought a carrying case, accessory kit and 256MB Memory Stick Pro from Newegg. Both camera and accessories arrived within a week of me placing my order (actually, one came via FedEx and one via UPS and, in a moment of grand cosmic coincidence, they arrived on the same day) and in fine condition.
That’s it, then. I’m done with Best Buy. I’ll never darken the doorway of another of their stores, nor will I ever hit their website again. If their inane “policies” are worth more to them than a long-term customer’s satisfaction, then so be it. If it’s worth it to them to risk me telling each and every friend, relative and acquaintance to avoid BB, then they’ve gotten their wish.
So long, Best Buy. I wish I could say it has been fun.

Even More Atrocious Customer Service

Yes, it’s that time again. Time for another installment in our ongoing series, “Doug Gets Poor Customer Service.”
My wife and I went to Genuardi’s the other day in order to obtain certain products that we’ve been unable or unwilling to find at our local Whole Foods.
<minor rabbit trail>
Yes, my wife and I now shop at Whole Foods. It is due, in large part, to a deal that she and I worked out involving:

  1. Me obtaining a Gamecube.
  2. Us going to Wholefoods to do our general grocery shopping.
  3. Me not whining about that process or carping about high prices.

</minor rabbit trail>
We used to like Genuardi’s, we honestly did. Ever since we moved, though, our closest Genuardi’s has been a consistent source of disappointment. The produce selection is smaller, the meat counter is über-sketchy and the service is inattentive and, at points, downright rude.
During our checkout process, we were being served by an older woman bagger and a younger woman cashier. Both were too busy discussing the forthcoming change in management at their store to even make eye contact with us, let alone address us directly. This, in and of itself, is no real oddity. I’ve received similar “assistance” at countless other area stores.
However, as we turned to go, the bagger turned to us and said “Why did Mickey dump Minnie?” I was taken aback, but quickly blurted out an “Idunno”, to which she replied “Because she was f***ing Goofy!” I gave her one of those “Hahahaha…. Run!” smiles and tried to walk out the door. She then stepped in front of me and attempted to tell another “joke”. “Why can’t Superman have any kids?” This time, she didn’t even wait for me to answer. “Because he has steel balls!”
Needless to say, I do not expect that sort of “value-added service” from my local purveyor of foodstuffs. I hope she doesn’t talk to people with kids in their carts like that.

Atrocious Customer Service

Let’s establish something: I attract bad customer service. I have bad customer service mojo. I am the customer service equivalent of two broken mirrors, an upside-down horseshoe, a sack full of black cats and roughly fourteen ladders standing in front of your front door. The Irish have lucky leprechauns, the Scottish have, well, unlucky me.
Normally, it doesn’t actually directly affect me, it affects those who are in my proximity. I cannot count the number of times that I’ve gone out to eat with someone, only to have them say at the end of the meal: “I don’t know what happened! The service here is normally great! I don’t get it.” It isn’t exclusive to others, though. I do receive my fair share of bad service myself. The class or reputation of an institution is immaterial; I’ve had bad service in lobster bars in Maine, Mexican restaurants in Jersey, auto dealerships in PA, hotels in California and reception halls in Texas. That list, while impressive, is by no means exhaustive.
I say all of this by way of introducing what could possibly be the worst (or second worst, if we don’t count the incident at the Starter Grille in Bethlehem, PA) customer service experience of my life. It involves Best Buy, a receiver and a significant amount of heartburn. May I illustrate it by means of a comic strip (with apologies to Penny Arcade)?:

Click for larger image.

(Original strip is available here, click the image for a bigger version.)
Perhaps further exposition is in order. Below is a copy of the letter that I sent to Best Buy via email and am in the process of sending via snail mail:

To whom it may concern:
I would like to express my disappointment in my most recent experience with the service department at Best Buy store #576 in Willow Grove, PA.
I recently brought my three year old Sony receiver, having purchased it at Best Buy, to my local store in order to have some repair work done to it. The staff at the service desk was rude and inattentive, to me as well as other customers. They did not acknowledge that I was waiting, nor did they give anyone waiting an indication of how long it might take, even though there were multiple employees in the service department at the time. All told, I spent roughly one hour waiting for a service representative and another half hour with the service representatives dealing with my issue during my first visit.
After taking my receiver, recording the service needed, and taking my initial service deposit, the representatives assured me that I would be called by the service center and given an estimate for the repairs before any repair work was begun. I then saw the employee who took my receiver drop the remote onto the floor and hurriedly pick it up.
Two weeks passed and the next contact I received from _any_ Best Buy representative was a call from a store #576 employee informing me that my receiver had been repaired and was ready to be picked up. I was NEVER contacted by the service center and I NEVER authorized the full repairs.
I picked my receiver up a few days later and noted that my repair bill was an additional $27 and the battery cover on the back of my stereo remote was broken and had been covered with a purple service sticker in order to try to hide the damage. I can only assume that it was the employee who dropped my remote that attempted to cover up that fact with a sticker.
After taking my receiver home, I found that it had not been completely repaired, so I took it back to the store on March 27th. I complained to the service employees about not receiving a confirmation call, the repairs not being completed and the fact that my remote had been broken and that they had attempted to cover it up. I was assured that, due to a 90 day warranty on all repairs, the repairs would be completed for free, that my remote would be repaired or replaced and that I would be given a confirmation call by the service center.
The next contact I had from Best Buy was a message from the service department informing me that my receiver was again ready to be picked up at the Willow Grove store. When I went to pick up my receiver, I was forced to wait for another hour while the service employees looked for it. They discussed my missing receiver within earshot and finally determined that it had been placed on the sales floor as an open box item. They had another employee bring it up to the service counter and then claimed that it had been in the back stock, not on the floor, despite what had been said within my earshot. I immediately asked to speak to a manager.
I explained the situation in detail to the manager, who proceeded to offer me a $20 gift card and an inferior remote from the floor stock in order to pacify me, but no apology or response to the incidents. Needless to say, I found this offer to be unreasonable and, frankly, a bit insulting.
I was upset by the repair service I received, but I was far more troubled by the atrocious service that I received from the service department and the manager. Having shopped at Best Buy for many years, I have come to expect more from your organization. None of the employees greeted me, made eye contact with me or bothered to have an attentive and respectful attitude throughout my visits. This series of events has made me reconsider my ongoing patronage of Best Buy. I sincerely hope that you will take the steps necessary to remedy this situation, both for my own benefit and for the sake of the other customers I saw receiving similar mistreatment.

Signed, sincerely, yadda yadda, etc.
Let’s run this down, shall we?

  1. Rude, inattentive service personnel who refuse to acknowledge my presence for an insane amount of time? Check.
  2. First “solution” entails me spending $300-$400 instead of just fixing the problem? Check.
  3. Dropping my equipment, then trying to conceal that fact from me? Check.
  4. Charging me without authorization? Check.
  5. Failing to fix my problem the first time? Check.
  6. Placing my item on the sales floor and then trying to conceal that fact from me? Check.
  7. Insulting me by offering me a piddling $20 gift card? Check.

I think that just about covers it.
Now, their response:

Thank you for contacting Best Buy about your recent experience with our Willow Grove location. I’m Kathy with Customer Care.
We realize it can be frustrating when we do not receive the service we expect, and we are disappointed we did not meet your expectations when you had your receiver repaired. Best Buy takes great pride in providing a fun and easy shopping experience for our customers, and we have shared your comments with the management teams from the appropriate departments who will review the situation for improvement opportunities. Please be certain Best Buy will continue to focus on satisfying our customers every chance we get.
Thank you for sharing your comments with Best Buy. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with additional questions or concerns.
Best wishes from Best Buy,
Kathy and the Customer Care Team

When “we” don’t get the service “we” expect? “Continue” to focus on satisfying their customers “every chance” they get?
It’s safe to say that, for the time being, “we’re” going to be taking “our” business “elsewhere” and “we’re” going to recommend that “you” do so as well.