Archive for the ‘Phones’ Category

Service of Stopping Robocalls

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Photo: arstechnica.com

I try not to pick up calls from unusual area codes because I suspect a sales or robocall. I read that the objective is not to let these callers know they’ve reached a live number. I was wrong at least when it comes to robocalls. Read on.

So what can I do to stop the onslaught? Nothing much, according to Katherine Bindley of The Wall Street Journal. She lamented “Why can’t anyone stop this madness? When will it end?” She was inspired to research and write her article after racing out of the shower to catch a call she thought was her boss. It was a robocall. This morning the same thing happened to me. The unknown caller left no message.

In preparing for her article, she heard “There’s no silver bullet” time and again from pundits She advises that you hang up if you pick up a robocall. If you respond in any other way the robocalling company might sell your reactive number to others.

Bindley explained: “Back when phone calls were transmitted over copper wires, businesses paid a lot of money for phone systems that allowed 1,000 employees to make calls without needing 1,000 phone lines. These systems inserted caller ID so, for instance, customers all saw the same business number, regardless of which employee made the call.

Photo: ksryangroup.com

“With the internet, businesses don’t need expensive hardware. Anyone can start a mini call center with software that auto-dials numbers and spoofs caller ID. They also need a provider to ‘originate’ the call, that is, connect the internet call to the phone network.”

Bindley wrote that “developers have proposed a call-certifying protocol…. If a bad guy tries to spoof the caller ID, the call would go through, but it wouldn’t be verified. Eventually, users would see a check mark or other indicator for verified calls.” Verification that a caller has the right to use a phone number leading to the approval check could take as long as five years though Verizon expects to launch a program later this year, Bindley reported.

She suggests you add your number to the Do Not Call Registry managed by the FTC. I checked and you can access by phone at 888-382-1222—use the phone you want to register—or online at www.donotcall.gov. Once the number is on the registry for 31 days you can report unwanted sales calls using the same phone number and website.

Photo: phys.org

Your carrier might have robocall protection as T-Mobile does for free. AT&T offers a free option and with one for $4/monthly you can block categories of calls, Bindley wrote. For $3/month Verizon will send spam numbers received by wireless customers to voicemail and Sprint’s Premium caller ID rejects calls if it determines that they are likely to be SPAM. It’s also $3/month. It’s active for IOS users only now and for Android users by fall.

You can check out Hiya, a free call-blocking app. “Nomorobo, $2 a month, identifies likely scam calls and can send them straight to voice mail. Unlike some other services, you don’t have to share your contact list for it to work.” I don’t trust the judgment of filtering services if they are anything like my SPAM and junk mail programs. I can be in a back and forth with a client, editor, reporter or producer when communication stops because their most recent email ends up in my SPAM file.

Bindley wrote that she blocked a robocall but got another one from the same business two days later.

Are you irritated by robocalls? Do you try to stop them or have you given up? Don’t you hope that the robocall protection systems and their detectives will distinguish between those we want—say from the pharmacy to announce that our prescriptions are ready or from the electric company that the power is restored at our homes when we’re away—from those we don’t?

Photo: techworm.net

Service of Expecting the Worst and Getting the Best

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Verizon Grand central flipped

Whether you dread a doctor’s appointment, party or visit to a cantankerous vendor, isn’t it miraculous when the doctor says you’re fine; the party is fun and the vendor agreeable and helpful?

I’d visited a Verizon Wireless store on several occasions before Icat takes a leap took the leap into the second decade of the 21st Century—or more accurately was pushed by my nephew who upgraded his iPhone and gave me his.

Long before, I knew I needed to upgrade but was discouraged by early forays to the store. I was off-put by the apathetic responses to my questions about the different phones and billing options. Each time sales associate reactions ranged from disinterested and dismissive to rude. I knew one thing: I didn’t want to buy anything from this crew or to ever return.

I asked around to see if there was another branch with helpful staff. Seems what I experienced was standard. I was anxious about my visit to transfer my mobile number to a different device–that required a visit–and came with reinforcements: My remarkable IT expert.

Blue ribbon for excellenceSo what happened? I won the equivalent of the best sales associate lottery last Wednesday. Tyrell Person was watching from the top of the stairs near the street entrance as I entered the Verizon store at Grand Central Station looking bedraggled with dripping umbrella, sopping shoes and soggy telephone folder. He was smiling. He said, “How may I help you? Please have a seat and you can put your umbrella over here, right near you.”

He quickly made the phone transfer, gave me an estimate of what it would cost to add my husband’s phone to my plan, [I wanted to think about this], answered all my questions and volunteered his contact information and the days he’s at work. He also sent me a text with his email address and phone number.

He was so nice that I returned this week with a few more questions, a favor and an add-on to my monthly invoice.

The favor was to replace a cracked screen protector. I was warned that it’s tricky to lay it just-so on a spotless screen without creating bubbles. Tyrell performed the operation with the expertise of a surgeon.

He also discovered that I was inadvertently doing something that wasted the iPhone battery and shared the remedy as well as a few other shortcuts as he continued to recalculate the bill. He added my husband’s phone to my plan, took the time to call my mobile number with the other phone to make sure the setup worked and to ensure that I have the right number in my phone.

In addition Tyrell remembered, from the week before, an answer I’d given about my previous usage.

In spite of charges for the additional phone, the total bill should be about what I was paying before.

The nicest part: Tyrell was pleasant, patient and kind. As I left the second time, he reminded me that I have his email address and that he checks email daily and assured me that I should come by anytime.

While he was working with me one of his other fans came by and we agreed how lucky we were to be working with him. The man said he’d be back in an hour and joked about being Tyrell’s neediest customer. So the word is out about how customer-crucial he is!

Have you expected the worst and instead enjoyed the best? Isn’t it grand?

 iphone 6 screen

Service of “Hello” II

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Vintage telephone

Phone conversations may be on the wane but you never know when you’ll need to carry on a coherent one. The way things are trending, fewer and fewer Americans will know how to answer a business phone as naturally as locking the front door. It’s to their detriment.

Sue Shellenbarger, in her Wall Street Journal article, “What Children Learned from the Shared Family Phone,” addresses the subject. She wrote, “Nearly half of U.S. households no longer have landlines and instead rely on their cellphones, up from about 27% five years ago, the National Center for Health Statistics says. Among young adults ages 25 through 34, fewer than one-third have landlines. Even at homes with landlines, the phone rings mainly with telemarketers and poll-takers.”

vintage woman on phoneShellenberger quoted one parent describing her kids speaking with her parents: “It drives me bananas when I hear them on the phone saying, ‘Yup, yup, yup.'” [My guess is that many kids did that as long as there have been telephones and calls to grandma.]

The reporter pointed out other benefits of landlines: They work in a blackout and don’t need to be charged. And when you use one to call 911, the emergency operator will know where you are calling from.

Should anyone care about whether kids are taught to answer and speak on the phone? You may be thinking that thanks to technology, companies don’t need a person to do this, so why the fuss? Not everyone wants to depend, for example, on a site like opentable.com, especially if they’ve ever been turned away by a hostess claiming she didn’t have a reservation, as happened to a pal who had invited me to dinner.

When they are older, children might be at a disadvantage if they are interviewed on the phone for a job. A friend’s daughter, who lived on the east coast, just got a great position in the west where she wanted to move. She was invited for an in person interview only after she aced a few telephone calls.

kid on mobile phoneSome jobs involve interviewing others. What if you must cold call to earn a living or if you want to serve on a phone bank to collect funds for a charity or encourage fellow citizens to vote? While customer service jobs in this country are shrinking, there still are companies here that need people to help customers through tech and billing issues. Staff picks up the phone for small companies, from an auto body shop, restaurant, pharmacy or dry cleaner. Do such businesses have budgets for phone training?

Were you taught to answer the phone at your parent’s home at such a young age you don’t even remember when it happened? Do you think phone skills matter? Do employers still assume the ability to answer and speak on the phone is so basic that people arrive with the natural ability? Are there other skills that technology has made obsolete that might still come in handy?

Teen on phone in 1960s

 

Service of Coming Clean: Verizon and Laundry Card Supplier Make it Impossible

Monday, November 24th, 2014

 smart card in machine

Lots of apartment houses have laundry rooms and before the washing machines were retrofit to accept cards–a blessing–we had to collect countless quarters to wash and dry. It was nerve-racking.

It’s easy to fill the cards. You slip a credit card in a terminal on the laundry room wall, type in the amount of money you want to add to the laundry card and you’ve fed it.

This works if there’s telephone service.

Verizon has been unable to fix the building’s telephone since October 17. On that date building management was told it would be up and running by November 8. Now the fix date is November 20-something. Today is November 24–the building still has no phone service.

laundry smartcardAs my laundry card had run out of funds I explained this no-phone situation to someone at the laundry card company and asked them to take my credit card number and whisk me another card with $25 on it. A very polite person told me she couldn’t take this info over the phone. She said to mail my card to them with a check for the amount of money I wanted on the card, with a letter telling them what to do. Tick, tick, tick [will they wait for the check to clear or until they have 20 cards to make before cutting mine?] and the pile of laundry is mounting.

I know what you’re thinking: “So go to a Laundromat!” There isn’t one in our neighborhood anymore. There’s a restaurant where one used to be.

laundry smartcard 2You might wonder what happened: Did we get back the card? Yes.

Does it work? No. Calling it a smartcard is a misnomer.

We discovered this with three week’s laundry distributed in three washing machines. More phone calls. More time wasted. When I called for the second time on Friday, the voice on the phone told me that they don’t take checks and asked why I didn’t give my credit card.

And now we’re out the money that was left on the card that we sent for refill plus the $25 on the check.

In this day of high speed everything, I find this snail’s pace Verizon performance to repair a commercial line and the confusion, lack of training and inefficiency of the laundry card company incredible. [Do they realize that they are losing money if people can’t store money on their cards and use their washing machines?]

Have you been inconvenienced or flummoxed lately by technology you can’t access?

 piles of laundry

 

 

 

Service of Kill Switches for Mobile Phones

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Smartphone in subway

There was a time when you could hardly walk down a city street without hearing the crunch of ground glass under your feet because someone had smashed a window to steal a car radio and/or tape deck. It got so bad that people would remove and bring their radio with them either shopping or to dinner and post “No radio in car” signs.

Car window smashedNow car radios work only in the car in which they are installed. Result: No more such thefts. The windfall from all those replacement purchases lasted for quite a while but all affected industries willingly gave up that source of income.

According to Edgar Sandoval and Tina Moore in the New York Daily News, “In New York City alone, 20% of robbers went after smartphones, a 40% increase from a year ago, authorities said. The crime has become known as ‘Apple picking.’”

stealing a smartphoneTo cut down if not eliminate smartphone theft that has led to death in some cases, a Bronx Congressman is asking for Federal legislation to require manufacturers to participate in a similar way by installing technology that stops a [stolen] mobile phone from working.

They continued “The leaders [Bronx Congressman José Serrano, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton] said the phone companies could either make the move on their own or the law will be enforced by the FCC, Serrano said.”

Sandoval and Moore quoted Bratton who said “corporate greed is to blame for not having the kill switch in the phones already in existence. Manufacturers came through when the city saw a wave of car robberies in the 1990s and Bratton would like to see them same happen with phones, he said.”

Think there’s any downside to smartphone manufacturers installing a kill switch? What are the advantages for the industry to do it without Federal intervention? Does a manufacturer’s business plan include sales gains for replacements as a result of theft? Has your phone been stolen?

Stealing smartphone 2

Service of Unintended Consequences

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Transparent backpack

One business will get a jolt as a result of the Boston Marathon bombings because it appears that backpacks won’t be allowed at future ones there or in NYC either. Not every one of the some 45,000 runners who finish the NY Marathon depends on them but enough do. Add the smaller events here and elsewhere and the numbers add up. Fanny packs are allowed and will take their place. Perhaps transparent backpacks will eventually be allowed.

pickpocketThe increased incidence of pickpocketing in Europe will fatten the wallets of manufacturers of money belts and other contrivances to keep tourist cash and credit cards safe. Pilfering got so bad at the Louvre that guards went on strike. Security felt that the Paris police were too easy on the children who perpetrated countless daily thefts. [Why children? They get into the museum free.] On a recent “Travel Show,” Arthur Frommer noted that Paris isn’t the only European city to report record theft and suggested his listeners take care.

Airline limits on luggage have impacted that industry and orthopedic surgeon and audiologist waiting rooms flourish from the fashion for platform heels and ear pods on portable music devices.

Matchlighting candleHave you scrambled for matches to light candles on your dinner table or to add calming fragrance to the atmosphere? So few restaurants use matches to promote their businesses.

Finger nails are out for Android and iPhone users who expect to type on screens. Look around: There are fewer claws than in the past.The technique for those who use voice-to-text systems harkens back to the dark ages when executives had secretaries and typing pools. They chatted into Dictaphones with letter or memo copy and secretaries typed what they heard. As in days of yore, you can also ask your phone to add a comma and a period. There was no wink symbol then.

BicylesNew Yorkers are split about what to expect from the 10,000 cycles in the bicycle share program again about to launch: Increased lines in ERs perhaps? I’d written about the initiative last summer in “Service of Exercise” when we first expected it and haven’t changed my mind: Thumbs down and I’d like to be wrong.

I saw an able-bodied 50-something man walking briskly across Third Avenue at 43rd Street last week. Suddenly he fell flat on his back. He hadn’t seen a deep hole surrounding a manhole cover and lost his balance and his footing. We’re putting thousands of bicycles on these unsound streets?

New York drivers are unforgiving and rushed. If you’re crossing where they want to go—what’s a green light?–there’s a 70-30 chance they’ll stop. Maybe the unintended consequence the Mayor anticipates is a more cordial driving attitude. That would be nice.

Do you have examples of good and bad unintended consequences or some that are yet to be determined?

 courteous taxi

 

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