Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Service of Excellent Outcomes

Thursday, January 5th, 2023

What a thrill when situations that look discouraging turn out well.

Print That

My heart sank when I broke my brand-new Canon printer. I’d removed an empty cartridge to determine its order number and didn’t return it to its spot once I learned that my nearest office supply store didn’t have it in stock, and I’d have to buy it online. Turns out you’re not supposed to leave the housing empty.

When I put in the new cartridge the carriage moved to the right, out of sight and stuck. A doomsday message appeared in the digital window. YouTube videos and instructions on Google to fix it didn’t do the trick. I had visions of lugging the printer somewhere for repair.

That’s when I decided to try Canon customer service. It took me some eight phone calls to reach a person. Before that when the computer voice asked me for the name and TR number of the product the computer voice ignored my response and repeated the question again and again. My neighbors, if passing by in the hallway, must have wondered why I was yelling “Pixma TR4720” at the top of my lungs. Punching 0 a zillion times did nothing.

Eventually I lucked out and landed on Christian, a person. Step by step he guided me through unplugging the device from electricity to tapping the on button multiple times to a fix. It worked! I was grateful and relieved. I never got the request to rate my experience. I was disappointed as I’m asked to rate a paper towel order and I wanted to share my gratitude with management.

Lost and Found

A friend didn’t tell me that she’d dropped off a magnificent Christmas gift a few nights before December 25: A stunning orchid. She knew I hadn’t received it because I never mentioned it. Almost a week later she told me about the glitch. Because it was so late—10:30 pm–she asked the doorman NOT to call me. She said he began calling different tenants anyway while she pleaded with him to stop. We figured someone else was enjoying this magnificent plant.

I mentioned the situation to the best building manager on the planet. He explained that the doorman was a new temp and he’d look into it. A few hours later he called to say he’d found it! Mirabile dictu. Hooray!

Am I the luckiest person? Have you experienced situations with potentially bleak outcomes that turned out splendidly?

Service of “Hello, Hello Is Anyone There?”

Monday, December 12th, 2022



Image by Nebraska Department of Education from Pixabay

I called a pharmacy to see if it would deliver a prescription and instead of speaking with someone up the street, I ended up at a call center in India. The person kept asking me when I wanted to make a Covid vaccine appointment. He disconnected me—inadvertently I suspect–and I ended up in a survey. You can imagine what grade I gave each of the questions between 0 and 10 about the effectiveness of the call. I got a person but…..

When calling an insurance company or large corporation I must be in a good mood, preferably on a sunny day. I know in advance that my question won’t fit one of the choices—“Press One for billing; Press Two for technical assistance,” etc.—or that I’ll be directed to the website and that I’ll be left hanging and frustrated.

Wall Street Journal reporters Rachel Wolfe and Allison Pohle wrote: “It’s Not Just You: Businesses Are Making Their Phone Numbers Hard to Find” with a subhead “More customer-facing phone numbers are being replaced with chat boxes and virtual reservation systems that can make connecting to an actual human being next to impossible.”

They reported: “A 2,200-person Morning Consult poll conducted for The Wall Street Journal shows that about half of respondents said they had to search a company website extensively to find a number in the past year, and 41% of all respondents said no number was available. Some 43% of survey respondents said they prefer talking with a customer-service rep over the phone, while 5% prefer talking to a bot through instant messaging.”

Replacing a phone service with automated chat functions or with communications through social media is cost-saving but is it good for business?  “Consumers say those options leave them spending hours sorting through FAQ lists, sending emails to nowhere and talking to less-than-helpful chatbots to resolve issues that could have taken minutes to fix with a human on the phone.”

The reporters wrote about a 26 year old who frittered away five hours trying to reach an airline with nothing resolved. Her brother and father had no better luck. Finally, a customer service rep fixed the problem on Facebook Messenger***. According to that airline “the shift to digital service ensures customers get the information they need as efficiently as possible. The airline says it had found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels and that live agent support is available 24/7.” Really?


Image by lindsayascott from Pixabay

***Are you up the creek if you’re not on Facebook?

A large Las Vegas hotel uses a digital tool that wasn’t working for one guest who tried using it a few times to report he had no hot water, so he didn’t bother to try yet again to note there was gum and hair in the sheets. Calling the front desk didn’t work either. He landed in “a general call-services center.” And in person? “The line at reception often snaked around the hotel lobby.”

Only after the Wall Street Journal reached out did the system accept an update with a driver’s license change on a customer’s profile at a major car rental service. The customer had tried unsuccessfully to provide the info for over a year during which time he’d rented many a car.

The reporters offered a tip: A free online database, “GetHuman,” shares intel on how best to reach 10,000 companies. The director of operations told them: “……. users are very particular about where they are spending their money right now. It’s a bad time to be making enemies.”

Do you have tricks for getting through to a company that doesn’t want anyone to speak with you? Are there any companies that do it right?


Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Service of What a Difference One Person Can Make

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

If you’ve become dependent on your smartphone, as I am, should it crash, you panic.

I made the wrong decision when this happened to me, bought a new phone from untrained, irresponsible employees at a reputable company–Verizon Wireless–and was saved by a young man at Apple. He stepped out of the routine–he could have palmed me off to someone else, making me wait, but he sensed my distress and sprang into action.

As Paul Harvey used to say, and now the rest of the story.

AJ Rosario at the Grand Central Terminal Apple store rescued me last week. I thought that Verizon Wireless had sold me a damaged iPhone 13. He assessed my mood and quickly put an end to the drama.

Verizon staff did not know how to download my apps and programs from the cloud, which was clear after two days, and its staff washed its hands of the lifeless device they had sold me by ignoring me. Fortunately, the Apple store is in the same building. Once I realized I was persona non grata, simply warming a seat, I dashed to the Apple store.

AJ was at the top of the stairs crowded with people, the first employee I saw. He was as kind, understanding and reassuring as he was expert. He whisked me to a table and rolled up his sleeves. Quickly my thousands of contacts appeared in my address book as did my emails and texts and eventually the apps–and my sanity returned too. The new phone came to life in his hands.

As AJ worked on my iPhone I texted a friend from my iPad. I told her that a guardian angel at Apple was helping me. I told AJ what I’d just written. He whispered that he’s known by AJ at work but his name is Angel–“and don’t tell anyone.”

Do you share my anxiety when purchasing new electronic devices because like me you’re at the mercy of people who know their way around them–or maybe they don’t? Have you had exceptional service–good and bad–of late?


Image by Stefan Kuhn from Pixabay

Service of Built-In Obsolescence

Monday, August 8th, 2022


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Built-in obsolescence has always infuriated me. Is it because I love antiques? In any case, I’m a victim again. 

I’ve written before about this kind of waste as in celebrities who make the news for tearing down a $12 million house to build a new one in the same spot. Can’t they buy property to build on and not destroy what is probably someone else’s dream home? The fancy makeup cases of my youth are the first examples I recall. Subsequent iterations didn’t accommodate refills forcing me to buy a new case and toss a perfectly good one. I wasn’t thinking about the environment then. My gripe was about feeling ripped off.

So how is this impacting me now? My perfectly good laptop, inherited years ago from my nephew, still works like a charm. My miracle IT man has helped maintain it perfectly. He gave it a good bill of health a few months ago. 


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

But it needs to go. Why? Because the Microsoft program it currently uses can’t be upgraded and doesn’t meet the requirements of a crucial vendor that soon is moving platforms. So I must buy a new laptop. Grrrrrr.

I have a historically terrible experience with upgrades and updates. I was forced to change a gizmo for one of my phones. It took weeks to be activated and now, every few days, needs to be disconnected because it cuts out so my phone goes dead. The original gadget wasn’t persnickety, lasted a decade and never once did it have a bit of trouble.

An upgrade on WordPress, the platform on which this blog reaches you, caused me fits until I figured out that I needed to format posts in Google Chrome not Firefox [the latter had worked for years]. Once simple changes or inserts require more steps.

I dread learning where documents will be tucked and my fingers are crossed that crucial documents, emails and photos on granny laptop can be transferred. Based on previous experience I anticipate many moments of stomach-churning YIKES and towel-tossing.

The media celebrated and applauded restaurants when they deep-sixed plastic straws and claimed they were saving the world by using paper ones instead. I’ve not read a word about the waste we make by force-tossing millions of perfectly good laptops, computers, tablets and phones–have you? Hmmmm.

What are other examples of built-in obsolescence?  Does it bother you? Should I take a deep breath, shrug, get over it and move on?


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of Above and Beyond

Thursday, March 10th, 2022



Image by marekr from Pixabay

Though service sometimes seems to have its dry spells, lately I’ve experienced a riches of the best, even if I had to nudge one instance along.

Old Fashioned Service

As you could tell from my last post I’m not thrilled with the lifting of pandemic mandates with so many unanswered questions and inconsistencies. For example, if the pandemic is over and face coverings useless why are they required anywhere? Which businesses and organizations plan to continue to check vaccine status?

To find out I left a message at the Metropolitan Museum of Art members department last week to learn if the organization was still asking for proof of vaccines. I never expected to hear from anyone. I’ve left messages on voicemail at other places before, such as on my councilman Keith Powers’ [followed, in his case, by an e-mail], and never heard back. Hence the surprise when a cheerful woman called Tuesday to tell me the vaccine restriction at the Met is gone. Oh well.

White Glove Service 1

I just came from Staples looking to replace the mouse for my laptop. I know, I know–I should use the touchpad like 99.9% of the world but I don’t. The young man I lucked into tested the mouse I brought–extremely polite asking if it was OK before heading to the back. He thought it was fine yet I still wanted to buy a backup and I said that it would be worth $20 to me. “Oh, you don’t have to pay that much!” he said handing me one for $13.99. He wished me good luck, hoping there wasn’t something wrong with the laptop portal [me too] and we had a brief discussion about the beauty of old gadgets that work perfectly well. He was in his 20s, hip enough with his long hair, and yet an old soul in this regard who gets five gold stars for service.

White Glove Service 2

Where I live, once a year handymen check the 510 apartments to change AC filters, confirm that smoke detectors work and so forth. All tenants know is that the inspections will take place between certain hours over a matter of weeks. That didn’t suit me. I wanted to know the day they’d come to my apartment, at the least.

I make use of every surface including the AC/heating element covers where plants sit so I planned to move them–but when? The staff slide open the covers to switch out the filters. And for countless other reasons, with advance notice, I could be sure to be home.

So I found out who was on the inspection team and tracked one of them down, asking him for a heads up the day before they’d land on my floor. I handed him a note with my phone and apartment numbers. They warned me and more, giving me a choice of times and they arrived on the dot! I was prepared, they were in and out in short order and everyone–especially me–was happy.

Have you enjoyed service that was above and beyond lately?

Service of Knowing When You’re Not Considered or Wanted

Thursday, February 10th, 2022


Image by Sozavisimost from Pixabay

What will seniors do if they aren’t computer literate, don’t own or know how to use a smartphone other than to speak on it or a tablet other than to read a book and have nobody to help them? The third reminder confirming an eye doctor appointment asked me to sign in to a website to fill out a bunch of Covid information. And if I couldn’t?

I will only order food from businesses that take my request over the phone or have easy-to-navigate websites and I usually pick it up. I avoid Grubhub, Uber eats, Doordash and the other delivery services and I use restaurants that have their own delivery crew on the rare instance that I require it. The additional cost appears to be prohibitive although you’d never know it by all the bicyclists whizzing around the city toting packages big and small.

Here’s one example. There’s no flat charge for a Grubhub delivery. In addition to the recommended $5 tip to the delivery person, Brett Helling explained on ridester.com “Grubhub’s pricing is based on delivery and service fees, which make up 70% of the meal price.” He wrote:

  • “Grubhub’s delivery fee is the fee charged by the restaurants to deliver food to the customers’ locations.
  • “The service fee is the amount Grubhub charges the restaurants for facilitating the order.”

In addition to the expense, and confusing pricing, arranging for delivery is done online. Older citizens on fixed incomes who may depend on such service will feel the impact most or do without.

Some restaurants are making a drastic change–the ones that Victoria Petersen wrote about in her New York Times article “Restaurants to Customers: Don’t Call Us, We Won’t Call You.” She reported: “Channeling all communication through emails, direct messages on social media and reservations apps might frustrate diners and deter those who are technology averse, but restaurants are finding that communicating this way frees up time for front-of-house employees, is more efficient for restaurant administrators and gives flexibility to restaurants operating with a small team or through Covid-related staffing shortages.”

Nice for the business, but what about customers? At the same time I read about the difficulties that restaurants are still having because of the Pandemic. I’m not sure that this is the best time for them to eliminate a form of communication that some depend on–that is, unless they don’t want taking up space, and ruining the hip vibe, older folks who would probably prefer the traditional way to reserve a table.

These marketing decisions have most impact on older citizens. Have you noticed systems and setups that convenience vendors and service providers and ignore or discount some of their patients and customers?



Image by Concord90 from Pixabay

Service of I’m Not Weeping: Feeble Crises Due To Tech Blip

Thursday, December 9th, 2021


Image by Ashish Bogawat from Pixabay 

I couldn’t tell if Sarah E. Needleman was being sarcastic when she chose the examples for her article “Amazon Outage Disrupts Lives, Surprising People About Their Cloud Dependency,” in the Wall Street Journal.

Disrupts lives? She reported that as a result there was one couple who had to manually feed their cats “like in ancient times,” the husband said, because their automatic cat feeder didn’t work.  A man complained that he had to use a broom and dustpan to clean up crumbs from the muffin he dropped on the kitchen floor because his Roomaba robot vacuum was disabled. Another felt lonely because he couldn’t ask Alexa for news updates or the weather. Alexa’s disconnect disrupted a woman’s day because she couldn’t ask it to turn on and off her lights. In addition, as the outage impacted Zappos, she couldn’t track a package.

Note: None of these people were disabled and dependent on technology to literally work for them. So I am not weeping.

About the December 7 cloud interruption Needleman wrote that “Amazon Web Services is the largest cloud-computing service provider in the U.S. The outage of much of its network lasted most of the day and disrupted several of the tech giant’s services, as well as many of its corporate customers’ websites and apps.

“It affected the company’s videoconferencing tool Chime and its home-security system Ring, plus many third-party applications that sit on top of Amazon’s cloud, including Ticketmaster and streaming services from Walt Disney Co. and Netflix Inc.

Echo smart home box
Image by hamburgfinn from Pixabay  

“For many consumers, it was an awakening to how many internet-enabled devices they now have in their homes and how much even some of their most basic daily needs depend on a connection to the cloud.”

Basic daily needs? What happened to food and shelter?

My health insurance company tried to get me to download an invoice when in the past they’ve mailed one with months worth of coupons. I was burned by linking to a fake document so instead I called to confirm what I thought was in the document.

This insurance is solely for the old and the ancient. I wonder if I’m alone in requesting paper for what doesn’t fit in an email. I’m not a total luddite: I’m happy to access my bank accounts online but I’m the one seeking the information and inserting my user names and passwords.

As technology surges on, I’ve noticed a vigorous trend for old fashioned marketing at the same time. This is the first year in ages I’ve been inundated by catalogs. I photographed the ones that came in just the last few weeks–photo below. I haven’t ordered from a catalog in a dog’s age. Can’t figure out the timing of this approach.

Are you addicted to your cloud and app-connected devices? If the reporter is serious and the lives of the owners of these devices are “disrupted” when they don’t work, impacting their “basic daily needs,” what does this say about the direction of our society? Should one company have so much “power” over people’s lives?

Service of Automation Hiccups

Monday, November 22nd, 2021



Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

I’ve written 74 posts in the “technology” category the most recent about the hurdles to sign up for the first Covid-19 vaccines; a restaurant where the only way to order was through a smartphone app that was faulty and platform upgrades that benefit the vendor and make life more complicated for the user.

Here are some examples that illustrate that those who designed the programs didn’t consider the vendors or customers.

Seeing Straight

I received an email asking me to make an eye doctor appointment. I’d already done that before leaving my last one but figured the office may have had a computer hiccup that erased all appointments so I called. There were 17 people ahead of me–an unusually high number. [I use telephone waits to water plants]. Turns out my appointment is scheduled and that the lovely assistant who kept her sense of humor said she’d received countless similar calls. The email had been sent automatically, she explained. My suggestion: revise the automated notification so people with appointments don’t get such reminders. Then office staff can focus on their work and patients don’t waste their time.

Here’s to Your Health

Prescription renewals usually take a minute by phone using a simple system: the customer types or says the Rx number. This time after I’d punched in the numbers the computer voice turned me over to the pharmacy department. Another wait. The pharmacy clerk who took my name and that of the prescription mouthwash was out of breath on answering and said to come in for it in the afternoon. The automated system used to do the same. Why bother drugstore staff? I have a lot of plants to water but not that many.

Do You Hear Me Now?

I’m early on this journey to unravel malfunctions galore and may write a post about the twists and turns once there’s resolution. But for this post I will simply note that to change my Verizon account from my husband’s first name to mine has caused tangles of many layers. Just one: the company is now billing me for both the cancelled account and mine. Hoping for resolution to this and the rest very soon. I think I’m in capable hands.

Have you found that some automated systems have fallen short or wasted your time? Which ones worked like a charm? What do you do while waiting on hold to speak with someone?



Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay  

Service of Thanking Before Dining is Over

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Last weekend I sat outdoors at a restaurant in the Village. The only way to get food was by downloading the menu, signing in to their website, ordering online and paying by credit card. No smartphone, no luck.

As with any restaurant credit card purchase there was the TIPS line which I filled in. I know, I know, I should have left a cash tip. But I didn’t. Next time.

I wasn’t thinking clearly. My mind was spinning from the unusual–for me–ordering process. After I clicked our choices, my first attempt didn’t go through; it took me forever to find ice tea–only coffee choices were evident. Intensifying by the second were my feelings of being a super all thumbs Luddite klutz which slowed me even further.

So I wrote in a generous tip–the percentage I would calculate at a standard restaurant. In retrospect all the wait staff did was to deliver the order and clear the plates. Turned out that they were forgetful in delivering our standard requests. We were sharing a giant luncheon salad and asked for a second plate. We had to ask two waitresses a few times. With temperature in the 90s, the water in a bottle left on the table, soaking up the sun as were we, warmed quickly. We asked for ice–several times too.

I’ll be better prepared the next time, with reading glasses at the ready, immediately locating the SEARCH icon [which is how I found iced tea as it wasn’t one of the upfront choices]. And I’ll have cash–which I don’t carry in significant amounts–on hand.

I suspect the do-it-yourself ordering process is in our futures at less expensive watering holes especially if the staffing shortage persists. It’s not a new concept. I have belonged to clubs at which the member wrote the food and drink order in the casual venues. It seemed easier.

Have you been tripped up by technology? Do you feel foolish when it happens? Have you, too, encountered such an ordering process at a restaurant? Is this a welcome trend?

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

 

Service of Vaccine Appointment Idiocy in NYC

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Photo: insurancejournal.com

I was stunned at the process to get a Covid-19 vaccine appointment in Manhattan and am shocked that I got one at all–for April 7 late in the day about two miles from home! I walk.

It took me the better part of two days of filling out countless forms to become eligible to make an appointment at a venue only to learn there were no appointments to be had. I repeated the process countless times. I grabbed one date and when I hit ENTER at the end of the process got an error message. My appointment went up in smoke.

It’s not just New York. Retired TV and radio sports broadcaster Warner Wolf, known for the catchphrase “Let’s go to the videotape!” said in a radio interview on Monday that he hasn’t been able to get an appointment in Florida. He’s in his 80s.

If your choice of venue has no available appointments you are told to “click here” for alternatives to get a Covid test. But you want a vaccine!

What infuriates me is how scattershot the whole vaccine appointment business is in New York City. It’s a mess.

  • Why do they increase eligibility when they haven’t taken care of the earlier categories approved to receive vaccines?
  • Why aren’t the locations offering vaccines listed in the city’s website by borough? Instead there’s one in Brooklyn next to a Staten Island followed by the Bronx with a few Manhattans sprinkled in.
  • Why aren’t the venues listed alphabetically?
  • Why doesn’t the search function work?
  • Why do you have to fill out all sorts of information in some instances only to find out in the end that the clinic or hospital or venue doesn’t have any appointments?
  • If your choice of hospital or clinic in the city system has no available appointments you are told to “click here” for alternatives to get a Covid test. But you want a vaccine. [Photo right]
  • I called 311, the city’s information service, for the link to get a vaccine appointment at the Javits Center when I heard it was added to the venues [it wasn’t on the city’s website and Google was no help] and the lovely voice said, “Oh! I didn’t know you could get a vaccine there.”  She had no information.

Saw this too often. By “event” the venue meant appointment.

Once I finally saw an opening, I grabbed it. I felt like a person with scarf over my eyes being twirled in circles before heading off to pin the tail on the donkey. I couldn’t tell you which site brought me to the venue with a free appointment.

There were questions after selecting the date and time. [I had no choice of time.] One wanted your mother’s maiden name if you’re under 16. I left it blank. In reviewing the information before confirming the appointment I noticed that one of my clients is listed as my mother. I use a lot of online websites to promote my clients’ events. So out of the ether his name appeared! Apparently all of these online forms are connected.

I was asked if I feel OK, do I have a sore throat? These questions would make sense if I was getting my vaccine this week. But I won’t see the needle for three months so the question is irrelevant.

I might have booked a reservation a few weeks from now had I been willing to travel to Staten Island or Coney Island or the Bronx. I have been Covid-cautious avoiding transportation since March. I’m not willing to expose myself to the virus to travel to outer boroughs in order to get the vaccine.

I plan to duck into the system again once more vaccine is available to see if I can get an earlier appointment and perhaps one closer to home. I suspect a shortage of vaccine is the cause of the paucity of appointments.

What about people without access to the Internet? WOR radio interviewed a 90+ year old woman who gave up after a three hour wait on the phone. She’d arrived without an appointment at the Javits Center, the newest venue in the city.

I am disappointed that with all this time to prepare that New York City made such a hash of the crucial step of getting vaccines into its citizens’ arms. Which city/state has a better system? Why aren’t communities sharing their intel?

Got excited to get this far but there was no way to pick a time. Back to scratch.

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