Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Getting squared away

We are at the Elks lodge in San Jose, California (map), a frequent stopping point for us when we are in the bay area. And, even though we were just in the bay area a couple months ago, we are here again because, as I wrote at the end of January, we will be taking a cruise from South America that ends here. Between now and our departure, we are taking the opportunity to get some projects done, and get the coach squared away for its longest-ever lay-up since we hit the road 30 months ago.

The secure storage facility we will be using does not provide power, so, as usual, everything will be powered down except for critical loads such as the alarm system. Our new solar panels should take care of keeping the batteries topped up and the alarms and monitors running. A big question mark is the fridge. On past jaunts away from the bus, we've either been plugged in, or we've been gone only a week or so, which is within the capability of the batteries alone to run the refrigerator as well as the other items.

This time will be different, in that we will be gone too long for the batteries to do all that work without help. One option is to leave the generator on Automatic, which will let it start as needed to charge the batteries if the solar does not keep up. The other option is to empty the fridge for the first time in two and a half years, and shut it down for the duration. I'm leaning towards this latter option, since there is a risk involved any time an engine starts and stops unattended.

One of the projects I am hammering through right now is the full checklist for a long lay-up. We've had the idea all along that we might have to do this, even including such features in the coach as remote disconnects for the chassis batteries. It's just that, until now, we've never had to actually execute such a plan.

We did manage to make suitable arrangements for the pets, with the dog going to one set of friends, the fish tank going to another, and the cats going to an acquaintance who is in the cat rescue business. We hope the arrangements for all of them will be a bit less stressful on them than the usual kennel fare. Healthier, too, we would figure.

Speaking of projects, this has been a frustrating week on the vendor front. I've been arguing all week with the glass insurer about getting the window replaced. They really have no clue what they are dealing with, and can't understand why we can't just drive in to Bob's Auto Glass and get this done. By the end of last week, I think I had them convinced that the work had to be done by a qualified bus garage, and the glass had to come from Neopart. But this week, they called back and insisted that Safe-Lite was going to do the work, just as soon as they could find the glass. It's been two days, and they still have not gotten back to me with a schedule or a shop. Also, you may recall, our upper glass was put in by an automotive glass shop, with disastrous results. If Safe-Lite is going to do this, we're going to hover over them and supervise, to make sure they do it right.

The other vendor I've been fighting is Verizon Wireless. Over a month ago, Louise ordered herself a new phone, responding to a promotional email that said she qualified for a discounted replacement (we are long-time customers). Well, fine, she ordered it on-line, and eventually got a message from Verizon saying it had shipped, and we've been waiting for it to show up in one of our recent mail drops. After a month with no phone, we went back on-line to check on it, and followed a link over to FedEx with the tracking number.

According to FedEx, Verizon got a tracking number assigned and sent over billing information, but never actually shipped a package. Louise asked me to take care of it, so I called Verizon.

That was my first mistake: they won't do squat without the subscriber's permission (which makes sense), so they had to call Louise (who was out shopping) to verify that I could do this. Fine, but then they insisted on keeping her on the line during the whole process, which took 40 minutes (really)!!!

Silly me -- I thought I was just going to explain that they neglected to ship the item, and they were just going to type a few keystrokes and re-send the order. But nooooo.... First, they told us that they shipped the item, and it was returned to them (I later called FedEx and verified that, no, the item never made it into the FedEx system). Then they strongly implied that this was somehow our fault, specifically that there was no one "home" to sign for it.

Now, I've been doing business with package services for years, and I know for a fact that they try at least twice and usually three times to get a signature, they always make contact with the recipient by leaving a note, and they update the package status on the website with each delivery attempt. Furthermore, our mailing address is a mail-receiving service, which is always staffed during business hours. FedEx, UPS, etc. know this -- it's not really possible for a FedEx driver to show up at PostNet and decide "oh, I guess they're not home -- let's return this to sender."

I tried to explain this to Ms. Customer-Disservice at Verizon, but she was having none of it. Verizon could not possibly have made any kind of mistake -- the problem must have been at the customer end. OK, so can they just re-send it?

No, of course not. We need to completely re-do the order, from scratch. On the phone, where what took five minutes on the web mushroomed into 40. Oh, and, by the way, the price on that phone has increased, do you still want it? I hit the roof -- this has got to be the worst customer service I have ever experienced in the business, and I've been in the telecommunications industry for a long time. It reminded me of that snippet that made the rounds a while back, of some guy who taped his call to AOL to terminate his service (Google it -- it's hilarious and sobering at the same time).

I have to say that, if Verizon's network wasn't so vastly superior to every other carrier out there (and/or our no-longer-available National Single Rate plan was available elsewhere), this call would have been the last straw and I would have dropped our Verizon service right then and there. But I sucked it up and finished the process -- after supervisor intervention, we got the original price and the phone re-ordered. Once we have it in hand, I will be sending a formal complaint to Verizon about their crappy customer service in general, and in particular about one Cheyenne Sgheiza, who just doesn't get it that even big companies make mistakes and maybe sometimes, the customer just happens to be right (I have no illusions that anyone still believes the customer is always right).

In stark contrast, FedEx (who knows where its bread gets buttered) was extremely accommodating in researching the issue. After confirming what I already knew from the web site, they put me on hold while they called the originating center to find out if any items had come from Verizon with unreadable bar codes or other possible explanations for the package bouncing back to Verizon from FedEx without capturing tracking status. Then the two of us had a good laugh about Verizon incompetence and how they had tried to blame the customer for a shipping problem that we both knew was on their end.

OK, I'm done ranting for now. I think I'll have another cup of coffee...

1 comment:

  1. not that I have a vote, but I'd say empty the fridge. It is a good idea to churn and burn every so often. It gives you an excuse to clean out and start fresh.

    verison has best coverage, that's only reason I tolerate their customer dis-service


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