Almost a fiasco…

Saturday morning I discovered that my local Apple Store had in stock availability of their new flagship, iPhone X. I wouldn’t usually venture anywhere near a mall two days after Thanksgiving, but the desire for new and shiny tech got the better of me. Stunningly, I arrived five minutes after the mall opened and parked within 20 yards of the door. It seems that their “holiday hours” are poorly advertised and almost no one realized they were opening an hour early. Fine by me.

I was an AT&T cellular customer since back in the mists of time when they were known as Cingular. I was generally a satisfied customer, too – until I moved to Fortress Jeff, which is located in a black hole of their coverage map. I could make and receive calls over wifi, but when wifi was down, my cell was pretty much an expensive paperweight. Unacceptable. With this change of phone, I wanted to make the jump to Verizon, who neighbors promised had at least a bar or two of coverage even the local power and cable is out. It happens more often than you’d imagine out here at the end of the transmission line.

Without going into details, I’ll just say that AT&T, Verizon, and Apple corporate policies all threw up roadblocks to converting from the Apple Upgrade Program under AT&T to the same program under Verizon. The guy I was working with, though, was an absolute bulldog and took the problems first to the floor manager, who was as confounded as we were. The floor manager then elevated the issues through two layers of management “in the back.” Finally they decided there was actually no way to get from Point A to Point B using existing policy and procedures. That’s they point where one of them decided “we’re going to break the rules” to make the sale.

I can’t say for sure if any rules were broken, but if the number of Apple employees standing around looking concerned while they fiddled with various entries on their tablet is any sign, they were certainly doing something unusual. In the end it took six people and almost an hour to make the sale.

It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t seamless, but in the end I walked away with exactly what I wanted. I appreciate that level of tenacity when the easy answer was “we can’t.” I appreciate it even more when I’ve got two bars of service when the wifi’s off. Well done, Apple. It’s a wonderful lesson for other business out there that customer services really, truly doesn’t have to suck.

How to get a tip…

It’s a weekday. The regularly scheduled shuttle between the hotel where I’m staying and the concert venue I’ll be at tonight stops running at 9:00. No good for my plan. A quick trip to the concierge, a few mumbled words, a bit of special paper changing hands and within two minutes, it’s “No problem, Mr. Tharp. Call my cell when you’re ready to leave and I’ll send down one of the hotel drivers.” Motel 6 would have been cheaper, but it’s hard to beat the overall value I’m feeling just now. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Appointments. Look, I’m the customer. I’m calling your business for an appointment. When I tell you that I don’t want an appointment after 4:00 the next three times you try to give me should not be after 4:00. When I tell you Thursdays are not a good day for me, how about not offering up times on Thursday. I’m trying to give you a not insignificant amount of money to provide a service. The least you could reasonably be expected to do is make the transaction slightly less onerous.

2. Being a square peg fitted into a round hole. There are many subject matter experts in my building. I’m not one of them. My skills don’t lie in my technical expertise. They do, however, lie in making sure the people with the right skill sets all show up to the same place in the often vain hope that something might get accomplished by the time it’s over. I’m a facilitator. When Person A has a problem, I make the appropriate introduction to Person B and then stand back and let the magic happen. I know just enough about the details for my opinions on them to be wrong at least as often as they’re right. That’s why I don’t sell myself as the resident expert… so when you try to cram me into that role because I happen to be available in the moment, don’t be surprised when things don’t go exactly how you planned.

3. Acceptance. I’m an Anglophile from way back. If it weren’t for their ridiculously high taxation and periodic dalliances with socialism, I’d strongly consider England a strong contender as a place I wouldn’t mind ending up in retirement. I follow a number of official UK government social media feeds which have been filled in the recent days with pictures of Her Majesty The Queen and assorted members of the Royal Family distributing knighthoods. I’m starting to come to the grim acceptance that the clock may be running out on my chance to ever make it onto the Honours List.

Customer service…

Often enough I’ll put companies that fail to deliver even basic customer service on blast here online. More rarely I get to give the good word when a company does something right. Tonight, fortunately, is the latter.

Last week I stopped by Wawa for a sandwich. That’s not unusual. It happens about once a week. Their consistency is one of the biggest reasons I like the place. I know what to expect when I open the wrapper. Creature of habit that I am, that means a lot. Last week’s sandwich was an outlier, which was why I ended up Tweeting at them in the first place. I didn’t expect anything to come from it other than making myself feel a little better about the lunch I threw away because it reeked of banana peppers.

Thirty minutes later though, I got a note from one of Wawa’s social media team who quickly gathered up my information, appologized, and offered me a sandwich on the house. Again, I didn’t think much about it and didn’t expect anything to come if it. Sure enough, though, this evening there was a letter containing a Wawa gift card in my mail box and they were good to their word.

It’s the one bad experience I’ve had with Wawa in four years of being a regular customer and they made it right without arguing, or elevating it to a manager, or making it seem like the hardest thing in the world. They’re doing customer service right and I just wanted to take this chance to say so.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Someone I’ve never met. The human mind is a curious thing. I’ve been given a lot of thought to how amazing it is that I can feel such visceral dislike towards someone I’ve never met, talked to, or interacted with in any way. In all likelihood I wouldn’t recognized them if we passed on the street. But in my heart of hearts I’ve wished all manner of misfortune to come crashing down on their head… purely because of circumstances. I’m utterly ambivalent about most things, but this is just one of those times where every nerve seems to get aggravated. Every now and then, though, maybe you need a little malice in your heart just to know you’re alive. I’m not sure if that makes me a bad human being or just a normal one.

2. Lack of planning. When you’ve been told that shit’s going to get real but choose to ignore that reality rather than committing resources against it, you shouldn’t be surprised or think it’s a crisis when shit actually gets real. I’ll do what I can with the time and resources I’m given, but you can damned good and well know that the days of beating myself bloody from the effort of filling a five pound bag with ten pounds of work are a long way gone and they’re never coming back.

3. Glasses. I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when the bridge of my 6 month old glasses frame just gave up. I’m not exactly hard on glasses. They go on my face at the beginning of the day and then just sit there until it’s lights out. Should be a pretty stress free existence. But hey, at least the shop where I got them can get me replacement frames under warranty in “probably 8 or 9 days.” They did offer to tape up my old frames if I wanted them to. I declined politely while resisting the temptation to cleanse their cute little shop with the purifying goodness of fire.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Customer service chats. I like the customer service chat functions available through most major businesses. They save me from calling an 800 number and sitting on hold for half an hour. They save me from sending an email that “will be answered in 2 business days.” It’s instant enough gratification that I can call up a chat from my desk at work and get on with my day while resolving whatever issue I happen to have. I’m always surprised when I’m doing business with a large commercial entity that doesn’t offer this convenience… and it always makes me want to deal with them a little bit less.

2. Boxes. I forgot how incredibly awful living eyeball deep in cardboard boxes really is. Now that we’ve reached the stage of the process when just about everything that’s not tied down is living in a box, running into a moment of “oh, I can’t do that because X is packed already” is becoming situation normal. Although the situation will theoretically resolve itself in short order, I’ll be a far more content human being when there’s more stuff coming out of boxes than there is going into them.

3. Staff work. Some weeks there’s more work than three people could do washing across my desk. Other weeks it’s a challenge to keep the cobwebs from taking over. This week has been a case of the latter. The nature of the work doesn’t exactly lend itself to a nice constant flow, but damn it would be nice if it did.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. I’m trying to buy a house. I understand that there are effectively hundreds of bits of paper that I need to sign. As a matter of procedure, though, it’s not a good idea to send me a dozen of them and then disappear. When I email you, then follow up with a voice message, then follow up again the next day, and then email again the day after that and still get nothing in way of response, you can reasonably expect to assume it’s not looking good for your company to retain my business much longer. I tend not to make unreasonable requests and I’m Johnny-on-the-spot getting things done on my end, so expecting the same of the companies I engage to work on my behalf doesn’t feel like a big ask.

2. Today is the first official “snow day” for my office this year. “Free” days off are always something I appreciate whenever they occur. Of course even being an “off” day I find myself up and moving well before the crack of dawn, but it’s my time and that makes it OK. Unlike other people who would just take the day and enjoy it for what it is, my mind is already turning towards thoughts of “Damn. It’s only Thursday… I wonder what the chances of getting tomorrow off too will be?” Maybe it’s just my nature to never be quite satisfied with something good… but seriously even a full scheduled day of work tomorrow will mostly be a lot of people milling around waiting for the weekend to start – and the level of disinterest only increases if there would happen to be a few-hours worth of delayed opening.

3. Maggie is an emotionally needy dog. She has been since the day I brought her home. I have a share of the blame here, of course, since I’ve always let her get away with it. Since the boxes have come out, though, it’s been even worse. Even though there is no sign of “moving” anywhere here on the main living floor, she’s attached to my hip even more than usual. At the moment that translates into sitting on my foot with her chin on my knee while I type this with one hand and scratch her ears with the other. So I’m an enabler. Yet another reason I’ll be glad to have this entire process over and done with. Settling back into “normal” will be a good thing.