Amazon Gold Box? More Like “Shit Box”

Every so often, while browsing on Amazon, I’m tempted to click on my special “Gold Box Offers” button, just to see what crap is in there.
Today, I saw something that makes me want to offer up a suggestion to Amazon: Wire your head and ass together.
So, first off, it offered me up a copy of Iron Maiden: The Early Days, Part 1, a DVD that I’d been thinking about getting for a while:

But then I decided to click the link, and take a look at “what exactly was included on that DVD. So I literally clicked the link that Amazon provided me for the product:

So… if I ignore the Amazon “Special Gold Box Price” and just buy it at their regular discounted price, I save myself $1.10. Now, we’ve all known, and it’s well-documented, that Amazon changes their prices regularly, depending on who you are, where are you, what time of day it is, etc., etc., etc. BUT, you’d think that they’d have the entire system knowing about the various prices… For instance, you’d think that the “main item page” might know that I’m coming from a Gold Box ad, and display the “undiscounted” price (or, better, the Gold Box pricing since it’s the currently active Gold Box item). You might conclude instead that the Gold Box pricing “for me” should be lower than the “regularly discounted price”, i.e., if I can normally get it for $15.98 with no special deals, that my Gold Box price should be lower than that.
Instead, though, it’s the worst of all worlds… If I ignore the “special sale”, I save money. Which means that — after I notice this sort of thing — the Gold Box loses even the “occasional click-thru” value it had, because I know that going there is no bargain of any sort (and is, in fact, a means of getting you to pay more for stuff than you ordinarily would.

Bad Customer Service Weekend, Part Two

[UPDATE 6/24/2006 : It’s really important to note here, before you read this, that this — for Krause’s — is an extremely isolated event, heck, pretty much the only time in my entire 35 years of partaking of Krause’s candies. The only reason I keep it here, is because it tells a “segment” of a story in which we couldn’t, for the life of us, get good customer service and damned near anywhere over the course of a single weekend. I love Krause’s, they’re good people, with a good product, and 99.99% of the time, great customer service. I just bought a couple pounds of chocolate there the other day. Don’t read this and think that this is a “pattern” for them, it’s not.]
Hot off the heels of my crappy experience at Boston Market, D and I decided to stop at Krause’s Chocolates on our way back from Saugerties on Sunday afternoon.
Now, I stop at Krause’s all the time. I feel it’s only fair to point out that in my 34 years of life, this is the first and only time I can remember being so pissed off at Krause’s that I walked out without buying anything. It’s also a good background reference point that the way Krause’s “works” is that you wait in line over by the showcase, where they pick your candies for you, and then walk over to the register area and pay. The only time you don’t stand in line over at the showcase is if you’re just buying stuff from the “store” area, in which case you stand there, and they’ll ring you up after they finish dealing with one of the boxed-candy customers. Because you’re a quick transaction with no real effort, nobody in the candy line complains, and life is good. That’s how it’s worked for as long as I can ever remember there being a Krause’s Candys shop.
So I’m keeping track of the whole “who was here before me” thing, in the candy line. There’s one woman in front of us, and one guy with a stack of stuff at the cashier’s counter to pay for.
The two girls who are behind the counter are moving really slow today, but ordinarily, I can accept that. I overhear them wondering aloud about what happened to their third co-worker, who was apparently on break.
Ah, the woman ahead of us is being cashed out. Excellent. So we’ll be handled shortly, and this insufferable wait (about 10 minutes at this point) will be finally over.
The girl turns her attention to the guy with the pre-packaged stuff. She rings that up. He then says, “and I’d also like a pound box of chocolate.”
Now, there are a number of proper responses to this:

  • “I’m sorry, sir, if you want boxed chocolate, you’ll have to go wait in that line over there.”
  • “Right behind you are an assortment of pre-chosen boxes of chocolate, pick up one of the one-pound boxes, and we’ll be good to go.”

… or variations on that theme.
The proper response is not to walk over to the empty boxes saying, “What would you like in that?”
D explodes (rightfully so, I’m about 3 seconds from exploding), saying “Uhhh, excuse me, we’ve been waiting in line over here??!!” in an incredulous voice, completely amazed that the girl has this low of a level of customer service.
Hot off the heels of the Boston Market episode — as well as having an hour earlier dealt with fresh-off-the-boat-and-not-speaking-english waitpersons in two different restaurants in a rather frustrating situation where one of our friends needed a bathroom and the wait-staff didn’t speak enough english to direct them to the bathroom — my pain-threshold for “shitty service” is at an all time low. This will be the fourth place in thirty-six hours that D and I have walked out of.
I throw my hands up in the air, and I’m like “Screw it, forget it, I’m outta here.” D is still railing on the cashier, but I seriously can’t hear her because my blood is boiling. Fifteen minutes in Krause’s smelling the chocolate and I wanted nothing more in life at that point than to down a couple chocolate creams, but my inner hatred of crappy customer service has trumped that and told me I can’t have any. About thirty seconds later, D follows me out. Clearly she had more to say to the girl that I never heard. Too bad. D’s a really funny person, I bet she got a lot better quips in than “Screw it, I’m outta here.”

Bad Customer Service Weekend, Part One

Saturday evening I decided, “Hey, I’d like some Boston Market”. I should have learned my lesson a long time ago.
First, we go to the drive-through, because there’s a long-ass line inside. Turns out the drive-thru is closed. Grrr. OK, I go in.
As I am walking in, one woman says to me, “Better hurry, they’re selling out of things.”
So I stand in line. And wait. And wait. And wait. I see someone walk out with Roast Sirloin. Cool. That’s what I want. So I know they’ve not yet run out of sirloin.
Along the way a school bus shows up and gets in line behind us. The manager(?) sees the line triple in length, runs and does an inventory and says to the crowd, “I’ve got no meat loaf, and I’ve got no turkey.”
“Cool,” I think. There’s only one person in line ahead of me. It becomes my turn to order, and manager-dude asks me what I’d like
“I’d like the a la carte sirloin, some mac and cheese and…”
… and I drift off because he’s just walked away from the register and can’t hear a word I say now. No “Let me check something.” No “One second please, sir.” Just walk away and ignore the customer you’re taking an order for.
He wanders back about three minutes later and says, “I don’t have enough for that. I only have a single five ounce serving left. Sirloin will be ready in 15-20 minutes.”
“So that leaves you with just Ham and Chicken in your inventory?” I ask incredulously.
“Actually, she just got the last of the Ham.”
At this point, I explode. I can’t fathom the depths of incompetence that this must require.
“Did FEMA come in here in the last half hour and suddenly requisition your entire inventory for use in New Orleans? How the hell do you manage to be so completely incompetent at planning that you have like next-to-no food available to sell at 6:30 on a Saturday night?”
“I can have them for you 15 minutes.”
“Forget it, it’s just not worth it.”
At which point I stormed out, got in the car, and went to Wendy’s.
Seriously… how the fuck can you underestimate your sales by that much?

U-Haul: The New Bane Of My Existence

OK, yes, I procrastinated, but not that bad.
Dateline: Tuesday Afternoon
On Tuesday afternoon I go to U-Haul’s web site, and reserve myself a 17′ truck for my upcoming move. I put in on the form that I will pick it up on Friday, 9/23, and will reserve it for 24 hours. I get a note back a short time later saying basically “reservations are not confirmations, you should hear back from us within 24 hours to confirm. If you don’t hear from us, call our regional office and we’ll sort it out.”
Dateline: Wednesday Afternoon
I still haven’t heard from U-Haul, so I call the regional office. They’re closed. They open at 7. I’ll call them tomorrow.
Dateline: Thursday 9:00 a.m.
I call the 800 # to the regional office. Give them my confirmation number. They pull up my reservation. Yup, there it is, pick up on Friday, for 24 hours. All I have to do is call the local pickup site to arrange what time.
Dateline: Thursday 10:00 a.m.
Call the local office. They can’t find my reservation. He’s having some computer problems. “Let me find the reservation and call you right back.”
2:30 p.m.
Still no word from the U-Haul site, so I call them back.
Me: You were going to call me back about my truck reservation. How late can I come by to pick up the truck tomorrow night?
U-Haul Dweeb: Well, you have the truck reserved for tomorrow morning, you can pick it up at 7:30 in the morning, and bring it back in the afternoon.
Me: Ummmm, no. I reserved it for 24 hours, with the intent of picking it up tomorrow night, starting the loading process, and then having a group of people help with more stuff on Saturday, and bring it back to you when I’m done.
U-Haul Dweeb: We don’t rent in-town trucks for 24 hours on weekends, we only have them for six hour time slots.
Me: Well, that’s not what I reserved, I reserved 24.
U-Haul Dweeb: Who did you talk to?
Me: I didn’t talk to anyone. I went to “uhaul-dot-com” and made a reservation there.
U-Haul Dweeb: Well, you have the truck from 7:30 tomorrow morning until tomorrow afternoon.
Me: Except, of course, that that time frame is completely useless to me, and not at all what I asked for or needed. Meanwhile, with roughly twenty-four hours to go, you’ve completely screwed me by leaving me in the lurch now with no truck when I actually do need it.
U-Haul Dweeb: On-line reservations aren’t confirmations. Nothing was guaranteed.
Me: Did you call me within 24 hours like you were supposed to?
U-Haul Dweeb: Excuse me?
Me: The reservation. It said you, the local site, were going to call me within 24 hours to confirm. Did you call me at all yesterday, to perhaps tell me that you couldn’t provide what I reserved?
U-Haul Dweeb: Sir, reservations aren’t confirmations.
Me: Right, but if you had called me yesterday then I could have told you that what you had was completely useless to me, and I’d have had an entire extra day to line up a replacement truck. Instead, you’re screwing me over in the eleventh hour.
U-Haul Dweeb: If you want to look at it like that, sir.
Me: How else could I look at it? Should I take it as a personal favor that you happen to have a truck at a time that’s completely un-useful to me?
U-Haul Dweeb: If that’s how you want to see it.
Me: What would you suggest that I do? I asked for something from you guys, nobody called me to tell me there was a problem, and I only find out about it because I’m literally chasing you down to get the info. I have people coming over Saturday to help me move, and I need a 17′ truck. Exactly what should I do at this stage of the game? What is U-Haul going to do for their customer?
U-Haul Dweeb: There’s nothing I can do for you, sir, other than give you the truck tomorrow morning. The only other possibility is to contact the Regional Traffic Office, they’re the ones who put trucks where they’re needed, perhaps they could do something.
Me: What’s their number?
U-Haul Dweeb: ####
Me: *scribble scribble* Thanks.
*dial dial dial*
Regional Dude: U-Haul Regional Traffic.
Me: Yeah, I need to sort out what’s going on with my reservation? (insert info here)
RD: OK, yeah, I see that you’re scheduled for tomorrow pickup for 24 hours.
Me: Right, except that the truck that the local site is willing to give me is only available tomorrow morning for 6, not tomorrow evening for 24 like I asked for. It’s pretty much useless.
RD: Yeah, I see that.
Me: So what am I supposed to do?
RD: Well, reservations aren’t confirmations.
Me: Right, but here’s the deal. I made this reservation on Tuesday… the site was supposed to contact me before the end of Wednesday, but never did. I called somewhere – I think this office – this morning just like I was supposed to, which told me to call the local site. I did that. They said they’d call me back. They didn’t. I called them back a couple hours later at which point they completely blew me off. I think I’ve pretty much done everything a customer can be expected to do except jump backflips. Near as I can tell, the uhaul-dot-com web site dropped the ball by letting me reserve – and achieve a modicum of expectation for – a 24 hour period. The local site dropped the ball by not calling to confirm anything with me — heck they didn’t even SEE my reservation this morning.
RD: Well, you could try speaking to the site manager.
Me: I did. The guy I spoke to was the manager and he was completely non-sympathetic. In fact, almost a complete dick. Who does he report to?
RD: He reports to $NAME and $PHONE.
Me: Sweet. Thank you.
RD: There is one possibility. Maybe there’s a chance that there would be some one-way equipment we could redirect into the right place. Can I put you on hold?
Me: Absolutely.
Hold… Hold… Hold… Hold… Five Minutes .. Hold .. Hold. … Disconnect.
Me: dammit.
(As I’m doing this next call, I’m already instant-messaging D who is looking for local “guys with trucks” companies in the Woodstock Times, as well as surfing through Budget’s web site and making a new reservation with them. They can apparently supply one for me. D has also located a “guy with truck” who is our fallback option. D has also floated the idea of “going renegade” … just rent the truck tomorrow morning, return it hella late, and deal with the penalties).
*dial dial dial*
*hold*
Me: Yeah, so I was on-hold with someone who was trying to find a one-way truck to use to fill my 24-hour reservation request?
U-Haul Chick: One sec.
*hold*
U-Haul Chick: I can get you a truck, you’d have to pick it up in Poughkeepsie instead of Kingston, though.
Me: Would there be any free miles included with that rental?
U-Haul Chick: Free miles?
Me: You know, to account for the fact that you charge $1.39 a mile and that’s about 40 additional miles round-trip?
U-Haul Chick: No, sir, you would be responsible for all miles.
Me: I couldn’t just get you to relocate it to the Kingston location on your own dime and then I’d be responsible for everything just like I expected?
U-Haul Chick: No.
*click “Submit” on the Budget rent-a-truck rental reservation
Me: Let me call you right back?
U-Haul Chick: OK.
*dial dial dial*
BudgetGuy: Budget Truck Rental.
Me: I just made an online reservation and I wanted to confirm it?
BudgetGuy: I won’t see that for an hour in my system here. What’d you ask for?
Me: 16′ truck, pick up tomorrow night, keep it til Saturday night.
BudgetGuy: Yeah, I can do that. It might be tight if someone returns late, but I could just upgrade you to a bigger truck at the same charge, if that happened.
Me: Sweet. Thanks!!
BudgetGuy: No problem. See you tomorrow.
*Ring*
Me: This is Derek
CSR: Hi, this is Bubbles [or some other meaningless name] from U-Haul, calling you to confirm your reservation
Me: Are you fucking kidding me?
CSR: Sir?
Me: The only reason you’re calling me to confirm is because I’ve been rocking the boat and that’s finally kicked loose whatever hole my reservation fell into.
CSR: Ah, I see. Well, I have you down for 7:30 tomorrow morning until mid-afternoon.
Me: (deciding to have some fun) What if I return it late?
CSR: You can’t return it late, it’s going back out tomorrow night on a one-way to New Jersey.
Me: But, you know, speculate, if I was to come back late, what are the penalties?
CSR: You can’t come back late. The truck is going elsewhere.
Me: If say I was to have a heart attack and didn’t bring the truck back on time or something, what would the penalty be?
CSR: You have to bring the truck back on time.
Me: Right. You can go ahead and just cancel the entire reservation, because frankly you guys are pretty much useless.
CSR: Are you sure, sir?
Me: Yep. I’ve already reserved a new truck with a better company.
CSR: All set, sir. Have a great day.
Me: Blah.
*click*
So the lessons we learned:

Why I’m Not A Cellular One Customer

So I got a new cel-phone today from work. (I’ll be carrying two phones, my own that I love and adore, and the cheezy, crappy, Cellular One phone that work provides). After I get home, I start customizing the settings on it, making it be “how I want it to be, etc., etc.”
At some point, in the equation, the phone becomes completely unresponsive and says only:

Enter PUK Code:

So I call Hell One to find out what it’s all about. Now, this is a huge college account. There’s probably a hundred or so phones on this account I imagine…
CSR: Can you give me the billing address on the account?
Me: Blah blah blah
CSR: And your name?
Me: Blah Blah Blah.
CSR: You’re not one of the authorized contacts, do you have the password?
Me: Nope.
CSR: What can I do for you today?
Me: I was changing the settings on my phone, and it now says “Enter PUK code,” whatever that means.
CSR: That’s a PIN Unlock code, it means your SIM card has locked itself up.
Me: So I need to enter something to make it stop?
CSR: Yes, but I can only give that info to the authorized contact.
Me: Right, that would be $NAME, but she’s on vacation.
CSR: Correct, I do see $NAME as the authorized contact.
Me: So what should I do? She’s on vacation, and this is my 24×7 call thing.
CSR: I can only give the PUK to an authorized contact. Do you have any way of getting in touch with her?
Me: It’s called “vacation” for a reason. Who else is an authorized contact?
CSR: I could only give that information —
Me: — to an authorized contact. Blah blah blah. We’re a big college, man, I can’t just go through the employee and faculty directory in alphabetical order asking if they’re an authorized contact on the cellular account. You need to tell me at least who I should be speaking with to get this resolved.
CSR: Sir, there is only $NAME on the account. She is the only person listed.
Me: Seriously? You gotta be kidding me? So how the fuck do I get this broken phone resolved?
CSR: It’s not broken. It’s locked.
Me: Can I make calls on it? No? Then it’s broken.
CSR: Would you like the number to the insurance company for Cell One phones?
Me: Is this phone covered with an insurance plan?
CSR: I couldn’t tell you that —
Me: Fuck you. This attitude you’ve got right here? This is why I don’t pay you guys a dime, and I’ve got my phone through Verizon. Let me speak to a supervisor.
CSR: One second please.
(some time goes by)
CSR: Sir, I spoke to my supervisor and he says that without you being an authorized person, we couldn’t —
Me: Good, then he can tell me that himself when you put him on the phone. I no longer wish to talk to you, I wish to talk to him. Put him on.
CSR: One second please.
(some time goes by)
CSR: I have $SUPERVISOR, he will further assist you.
Supervisor: How can I help you today?
Me: My phone went into this “Enter PUK Code” mode all by itself, and I have no way of getting it to work.
Supervisor: We could only give that info to an authorized person on the account.
Me: Right, but $NAME is out on vacation, so I’m pretty well screwed, and this is supposed to be used for 24×7 on-call service.
Supervisor: How about $OTHER_NAME or $THIRD_NAME, can you reach them?
Me: They’re authorized contacts?!
Supervisor: Yes, sir.
Me: That little fucktard told me definitively that there were no other contacts other than $NAME.
Supervisor: No, sir. Both $OTHER_NAME and $THIRD_NAME could get that information for you.
Me: Man, I’m glad I asked to speak to a supervisor. I managed to reach someone who wasn’t either going to lie to me or just be too stupid to read the screen right. Thank you very much, I’ll chat with $OTHER_NAME and get it all fixed up.

I Should Learn, or, Why I Hate Brown Today

Now I should have known better.
I had to ship out the first of the eBay packages today. So I checked the UPS web site (since I needed to have it boxed up, and there’s no FedEx/Kinkos anywhere near here). It told me that the local store’s hours were 8:30-7:00. So I came home from work, picked up the stuff to get boxed up, and headed over to the UPS Store. Got there around 6:30 or so.
Found it dark, locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Apparently, they actually close at 6.
I should have learned these lessons in the past. I mean, I keep getting sucked in by their convenient proximity to where I live, and it seems to temporarily make me forget how much their completely abysmal customer service ethic will annoy me after I’m sucked in.
Argh.

How To Lose A Sale

On the way over to D’s for dinner last night, she asked that I pick some stuff up from Shop-Rite, including a pound of coffee from the Dunkin’ Donuts inside there. So I go in, it’s about 7pm, and pick up the bag of coffee. There’s a sign there: “Coffee Bag purchases may be rung up at registers after 8 p.m.” Since it’s still only 7, I go over to the Dunkin’ Donuts register instead. She rings it up, I hand over my American Express. She says, “oh we don’t take that.” OK, that’s not uncommon, I exchange it for my Visa. “Cash only,” she says.
I tell her I have no cash. She suggests I go hit an ATM (and, of course, pay a service charge). I said, “Well, clearly in an hour it’d be ok for me to buy this at the regular cashier, can I just take it over there and pay for it?”
Nope, only allowed to take it over there when the Dunkin Donuts staff is not around not just when they refuse to take your payment.
The lessons for retailers here are twofold:
1.Make payment methods consistent. If I walk into a grocery store that has the Visa/MasterCard/AmEx/Discover logos in a big sticker on the door, I don’t expect you to tell me when I get inside that “this little portion over here doesn’t take any of those”. If the store takes these various payments, everything in that store should take those payment methods.
2.Arbitrary rules suck, and piss off your customers. Clearly, Shop-Rite’s registers are capable of ringing me up for the coffee. If I’d come there an hour later, they’d have been happy to do so. Clearly, they’ve already sorted out “how to reimburse Dunkin’ Donuts for pounds of coffee that get rung up at the normal registers.” If all that is the case, don’t force me to pay for that coffee at the Dunkin Donuts register. Even if they took my payment method, you’re making me stand in two separate lines when all I really need to do is stand in one. But, especially when they’re not capable of taking my payment, it’s clearly in the retailer’s best interest to let me use another established payment location (the checkout lanes) so as to bring in the money.
Instead, what they got was me telling the girl to void the coffee sale, and then went through the checkout lanes with the rest of my stuff. They could easily have had $7.99 more worth of purchase, but they clearly didn’t want it bad enough.

The Day The Customer Service Died

Yesterday was a travel day from hell for me. I already blogged about the minor TSA nonsense, but that really was just sort of a small window into a day filled with really really bad customer service.
Step One: Hertz Car Rental, San Jose, CA
I left bright and early from Jeremy’s house. It was a dreary, rainy, California day. (California having two types of days, “bright and sunny” and “dreary and rainy”) As I pulled my rental car into the row of rental returns, I spotted the guy with the little handheld barcode scanner walking towards my car. You know the guy, he scans the car, asks you if everything was ok, and hands you a receipt.
Except this guy doesn’t have a bar-code scanner, he tells me “go see the woman over there” (points at a small stand under the canopy near the main Hertz building). I cart my luggage over there, and ask her to check in my car. She asks for my rental agreement.
Now, in the procedure I listed two paragraphs ago, the original rental agreement never comes into play. They don’t need it. They scanned your car, they know whose car it is, etc., etc. So I don’t keep it handy at check-in. It’s buried in my luggage somewhere with the paperwork and such from the trip, all kept together for tax write-off purposes later.
I tell her I don’t have my paperwork handy. She tells me she can’t check my car in without the paperwork. I tell her that in all the dozens of rentals I’ve returned before I’ve never needed my rental paperwork handy before. “Why don’t you just go out there and scan the car like you would ordinarily do, and have done, every time I’ve ever returned a car to Hertz?”
“Because it’s raining,” she replies. Oh. My. God. Are you shitting me? It’s not like downpour raining, it’s a light mist, and isn’t that this chick’s freakin job?
Meanwhile, as we’re having this conversation, the shuttle has pulled up to take people to the terminal. I tell her, “Well, the car is there, I’m leaving it there. I’ve got a plane to catch,” and board the shuttle.
Step Two: American Airlines, San Jose, CA
After the plane departed the gate at SJC, it taxied off in some random direction, shut itself down and got awful quiet. The pilot came on to announce that we’d pulled away from the gate “because some other jet needed it”, but that we would not actually be departing for another hour and a half.
Never mind that I only had an hour layover expected in O’Hare between the legs of my flight. Never mind that if they had said that this would happen before the plane left the gate, I might’ve tried to juggle my flights to go a different (non-delayed) route. Oh, and here’s the kicker, because the plane left the gate at the right time, the hour-and-a-half delay still meets the FAA definition of an “on time departure”.
They completely pissed all over their passengers, simply so that they could appear “on time”.
Step Three: American Airlines, Chicago O’Hare and Newburgh, NY
When the plane finally arrived in O’Hare, I broke the land-speed record getting from one concourse to another. (And kids, watching the fat-man run across O’Hare isn’t a pretty picture). Of course, while I managed to run down one concourse, across the terminal to another concourse, and then all the way down to the end of the second concourse, all without aid of any mechanized devices… my luggage, which had to move about 55′ in a straight line, with three guys to help it, and a nice little truck to do it, couldn’t seem to actually make the same distance.
I get to Newburgh, and lo and behold, there is no luggage there. This is only slightly more problematic than normal because — wait for it — my car and house keys are packed in one of my bags. I ask the baggage clerk “what now?”. He tells me my bags will probably be on the 9:30 pm flight (about four hours later). I tell him that I am not sitting around the airport for four hours waiting for my bags.
AA: Well, you could go home, and then we could deliver them to you.
Me: How would I get home? I told you, my car keys are in the bags. Further, my house keys are right next to my car keys, so even if I got home, I couldn’t get in the door.
AA: I could probably get you a cab voucher.
Me: Up to Saugerties, where my spare house-key is, and then back to Kingston?
AA: Yes.
Me: That might be do-able.
AA: How would you be coming back to pick up your luggage?
Me: You’re asking me that? That’s something you need to figure out. This whole thing is AA’s mess, it needs to clean it up.
AA: Ah, ok, let me get a supervisor.
Me: OK.
The supervisor was like “I can probably get you the first taxi voucher, I might be able to get you the second, not sure how that would work.” I explained to him that he should really just get me a rental car from one of the fine institutions over there against the wall, because it would certainly be cheaper than cab-fare up to Saugerties (45 miles), down to Kingston from there (15 miles), and then another Kingston-to-Newburgh run (30 miles). It simply made sense, economically, to get me a rental car, let me drive it myself to get my own spare key, and then I could come back later that night or this morning to return the car, get my luggage, get my keys, get my car, and go home.
Except, of course, that he’s not authorized to save the company money. Seriously. The bureaucratic chains have bound him to only having available to him “taxi service”. And the big-ass airlines wonder why they’re going broke? I’ll tell you — it’s because they don’t give the front-line employees the abilities and authority to make decisions that will save them money. Not all your airports are in areas where cab-fare to local destinations is cheap, so don’t lock your employees into what you think will always be the cheapest solution, let them decide that for themselves.
So I tell him, “Look, I’m not going to go home on the principle that you might be able to get me back here to get my stuff. If you can’t guarantee me, right now, that AA is going to get me back down here to pick up my stuff, then you need to either authorize a rental car, so that I can get myself back here, or I’ll rent it myself, and request a charge-back against my credit-card, and/or take it out of American’s ass some other way, because I’m not going to get myself stuck thirty miles away from here with it suddenly my responsibility to pay a cab to get me back here. It wasn’t your crew that made the mistake, but it was your company’s, so somebody from AA needs to step up and take full responsibility.
He told me he couldn’t do that, so I rented a car, and am now driving around in a Hyundai Accent that I plan to raise holy hell over with American.
Amusingly, I decided to be a prick, and “reward” them by making them deliver my luggage to me this morning. Even though I’m going to have to return the car today to the rental counter which is thirty-five feet from the baggage claim. They can deliver my luggage, like they’re supposed to, and then I’ll go pick up my car.
Ugh. What a nightmarish day.

Sam’s Club Funniness

Factoid: The three most popular credit cards for small businesses are, in order: (1) Visa (2) American Express (3) MasterCard
George and I went to Sam’s Club today to buy supplies for tomorrow night’s Barroom Blitz II play-testing session. Like any typical Sam’s Club run a person makes, I ended up putting bunches of other stuff that caught my eye into the cart — stuff I didn’t necessarily need, but that was at a good price, or stuff I wouldn’t ordinarily buy in volume except that it seemed like a bargain, etc., etc.
After we load up the cart, I leave George with it, so I can go to Member Services and renew my membership (haven’t used it in like 18 months… oops). As I’m waiting in line, I notice that the sticker on the counter reads like:

We Accept (Some type of Discover Card) … (Some other type of Discover Card) … (Some other type of Discover Card) … and then icons for “ATM”, a generic “Discover” logo, and the various Sam’s Club charge accounts.

“Do you not take Visa?” I asked the woman behind the counter.
“No, not for a year.”
“How about American Express?”
“Nope.”
“MasterCard?”
“Nope.”
“The three most popular credit cards which in total control like 85% of the credit card market and you don’t accept any of them?”
“Nope.”
“Riiiight, guess I don’t need to renew my membership, then.”
… at which point about $150 worth of groceries was left to sit in the cart, abandoned in the middle of Sam’s Club. If they won’t take my money, they won’t take my money, what can I do?
But, in all seriousness, how can a retailer have a motto like “We Are In Business For Small Business” and not accept the credit cards that small businesses are actually using to run their daily operations with? I mean, that just seems either downright fraudulent or stupid, I’m not entirely sure which.

How Not To Design A Motor-Vehicle Ticket Tracking System

A lot of talk has been made in recent months about national-standards for drivers’ licenses, and of making sure that all states join a national database instead of just the 30% or whatever that are part of it now.
After watching how George has been fighting with them now, for nigh on eight months, I can’t help but think we were far better off when the state DMVs were all balkanized and didn’t speak to each other.
The first problem is that the various states don’t just “look at” other states’ data, they actually – for reasons passing understanding – repeat it. For example: George is trying to get a NY license. He is told that “his NYS driving record is clean, except that there’s a hold on your license from Nevada for an unpaid ticket.” So he calls Nevada. What’s the “hold”? a ticket from New York. In other words, New York is trusting Nevada to tell New York about New York tickets. What the fuck?
We won’t even go into how he got a ticket in a state he’s never even been in. Or how they had to track down a ticket in the system “the hard way” because the ticket that New York “doesn’t show” that Nevada does is actually real, but has bad birth-date info on it, so NY doesn’t show it (or, apparently care to chase it down), but Nevada does. Of course, Nevada also had the wrong ticket number (because it wasn’t, apparently, an electronic transfer, it was data-entry, because they transposed a Q into an O.
Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention — each of these states that “copied” the data (often, as above, that copied it wrong) demands a monetary tithe to take the “hold” off, even though the hold wasn’t even for a ticket in their state in the first place! In the worst case scenario, you could get a ticket in New York and have to pay forty-nine other fucking states to get the various holds removed.
Seriously. We want to add more of this bureaucratic nonsense?