March 29th, 2006

Expedia Eats a Little Crow

Honestly, the number of people that give up must be staggering. Who wants to make all those phone calls? And even when you KNOW, you just KNOW you’ve been wronged, if you can’t get the right person to help you, you’re just, well, you’re f*cked. I have endless persistence, a high speed internet connection, and a handy sense of search. That’s how I found the National Geographic Travel Ombudsman who helped me get this resolved. But I’ll bet nine out of ten screwed consumers just give up. Here’s to the other ten percent.

Ms. Nerd’s Eye View

I apologize that there has been a delay in our response to this matter. I would like to assure you that your matter has been looked into and researched fully.

We have received your complaint made to Christopher Elliott, ombudsman for National Geographic, via our Public Relations department. I have personally researched your case and noted that, while our agents did provide you with correct information with regards to the usability of your reservation, they did not recognize that this information was not made clear to you prior to purchase.

After a review of our website and your itinerary, I can see that the fare rules for only one portion of your ticket was displayed; ultimately, the rules indicating that your ticket could not be changed were not made available. For this, I cannot apologize more.

It is never our intent to mislead or miscommunicate to our customers, nor it is our intent to cause such confusion or inconvenience. In light of this, I would like to assist you with making accommodations for your return flight from Vienna to Seattle, at no cost to you.

Administrative stuff here.

So. There. Ha.


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March 29th, 2006

Top 10 Bollywood Remakes of American Movies

New game–invent titles for Indian remakes of American movies. Think Bride and Prejudice.

Peter and I started this list today. Here’s the top ten(ish). We invite you to add to the list.

  1. Three Days of the Tandoor
  2. Citizen Khan
  3. Apu Grows in Brooklyn
  4. Give My Regards to Banjara
  5. Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jagadeesh, Jagadeesh
  6. My Cousin Vikram
  7. Any Which Way but Delhi
  8. The Unbearable Lightness if Bangalore
  9. Bombay Confidential
  10. Dhal Day Afternoon
  11. The Talented Mr. Ramamurthy
  12. Samosas and Sensibility

Ok. Forum’s open. Be creative!


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March 29th, 2006

Jane Says

Dress and Serve Greens

“In a series of narrative images ­ a sexy game of cards, a scantily clad lawn mowing seductress looming over a lawn-chair lounging TV dad, Richlovsky explores how desires for excessive consumer goods ­ a suburban house, a nuclear family ­ are in essence sexual desires. In constructions inspired by magazine advertisements from the 1950¹s, she attaches rectangles of painted patterns to the images. The abstract patterns contradict, reinforce, or parody the content and formal qualities of the ambiguous narratives with which they are paired.”

Anyhow, that’s how her press release reads.You maybe don’t even need to know all that to know that you should go see her show. What you should know is that she is an amazing painter. Just go.
Details:

Ballard Fetherston Gallery
818 E. Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98122
Gallery Hours:11:00a.m. ­ 5:00p.m.
Tuesday-Saturday and by Appointment

Exhibition dates: April 7th -May 6th
New Paintings by Jane Richlovsky
Artist Reception: Friday April 7th 5-7pm
Artist Gallery Lecture Thursday April 20th 6pm


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March 27th, 2006

Randomize Your Life

Just like my thoughts…

when adopting a cat and taking it home, it could be scared and have a tendency to crap all over you and your car. if that does happen the best thing to do is roll down the windows and throw out all the clothes you were wearing that had crap on them. but make sure you get your wallet out of them BEFORE tossing them out the window.

Man, The Cheesecake factory is my new favorite food joint.

My reading list is made by Jon Stewart. I started reading every book I saw on The Daily Show in January… that happened to be a lot and I’ve only managed to get through a weeks worth of book recommendations. So far the best one is also the most eye opening. “No Place to Hide” by Robert O’Harrow, Jr. is a chilling look at how the very low regulated gathering of information by private companies is now being merged with biometrics and purchased by our government.
Costa Vida is a sub-par burrito joint. It’s just my opinion.
Oklahoma and Utah have pretty much the same alcohol laws… but Utah is worse because you have to by a membership at a bar if you want to drink.

5 things that make my head explode: conservative politics, pop music, fox reality shows, the awesomeness of shaun white, the delay again of Windows Vista
Coolest thing I saw this week: a bar sign near the LSU campus advertising a new drink… “Ridick’s Tears” (courtesy of r.randall fransen photography)


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March 24th, 2006

King George: One law for me, one law for thee

Once again, Bush quietly slips a signing statement in when signing a law — this time, the renewed
Patriot Act  — basically saying he doesn’t have to follow the law.  Remember, this was a change to the Patriot Act supported by Republicans and Democrats alike to put Congressional oversight of some of the more nefarious provisions into law.  But Bush says the Constitution allows him to ignore it. By that logic, is there any law that the President is obliged to uphold?  Doesn’t that make him less a leader of a consitutional democracy, and more of a monarch … or dictator?


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March 23rd, 2006

Outrage II: The Customer is Always Wrong

CHANGE-100.00 USD BEFORE/AFTER DEPART SEE TEXT RULE
CHANGES ANY TIME
CHARGE USD 100.00 FOR REISSUE/REVALIDATION.
CHANGES ARE PERMITTED PRIOR TO THE TICKETED DEPARTURE TIME OF EACH FLIGHT.

Pulled from the ‘Rules and Restrictions’ portion of my ticket. Emphasis is mine.

I purchased my British Airways ticket on Expedia in late summer. All fine, decent fare, reasonable terms, yadda yadda. I always buy a ticket that permits changes, my bicontinental lifestyle requires it. Fast forward to last week, when I accepted a two month contract at Sony in Salzburg and attempted to change my ticket.

  1. I take my intinerary to the travel agent. The agent calls British. British says they won’t do business with an agent as it’s an individual purchase.
  2. I call British. British tells me my ticket can not be changed. I quote them the terms you see above and they disagree with my interpretation of the text. They tell me changes are not permitted after my outbound flight. They tell me I may apply for a waiver by faxing the above terms to British. I ask them if they are kidding me. Faxing? What? I ask for a supervisor.
  3. The supervisor tells me I must settle the deal with Expedia and that the ticket as seen by British is not changeable. They say Expedia must pay for any changes.
  4. I call Expedia. The agent says, “Sure, I can go ahead and make that change,” but is then unable to do so. I ask if she sees anything that tells me I can not make the change and then, she says no, but British must make the change because travel has already started. She connects me with British and leaves me there. Lather, rinse, repeat.
  5. I call Expedia. The agent says, “Sure, I can go ahead and make that change,” but is then unable to do so. She does some further research and says that my ticket has “two fare rules and that they are required to apply the most restrictive rule.” I ask, rather politely, I think, where that information is available to me and she concedes that it is not. I ask for a supervisor.
  6. The supervisor tells me, repeatedly, that the terms of the ticket are clear and that changes are not permitted after my initial outbound flight. I ask, repeatedly, where where that information is available to me and she concedes that it is not. She finally says she can contact British to apply for a waiver.
  7. I call Expedia. The agent reviews my case but says that the British has not yet been contacted and asks me to hold. I refuse. The agent, who is actually trying to be helpful, agrees to contact British and request the waiver and tells me to call back.
  8. I call Expedia. The agent says “Sure, I can go ahead and help you with that. Changes are 75 dollars.” (What? Huh?) I explain, again. The agent, who is actually trying to be helpful, reviews my case and sees that the request has been made, but has been denied by British. The agent has a suggestion for me, however. She says that the flight schedule has been changed and it’s my right as a passenger to refuse that change and ask for a different flight. She suggests I try that route with British. She then offers me a 75 dollar credit on my Expedia account. I say, rather politely, that is insufficient to cover my expenses and time, and if British refuses again, I will incur additional hassle and expense. I say that Expedia is responsible for all this hassle and that I want them to resolve the issue. The agent concedes that it’s a drag, but says that if she contacts British, they will resist because “they know she knows the rules.” She says it’s really best for me to do it and insist upon my rights as a passenger. The change which allows me this loophole? A delay in an outbound departure.
  9. I call British. British tells me that, yup, I’m correct about the rule, but the schedule change has to be a two hour minimum. My flight change? 20 minutes. (Still, good to know. Fliers, keep that in your pocket should you ever need it.)
  10. I call Expedia. Luckily, I get the same agent again. She asks me what I want her to do. I tell her that Expedia needs to either compensate me for the half of the ticket that I can not use or provide me with a new flight. She connects me with a supervisor.
  11. The supervisor says that because I was informed that the ticket was not changeable, there is nothing she can do and she offers me a 100 dollar voucher. I tell her that actually, I was informed that the ticket was changeable by several Expedia agents, who happened to also be wrong. The conversation devolves, I kid you not, in to a “no you didn’t” – “yes you did” sort of thing. I suggest she review the tapes of the conversation, but she insists that I was never told that the ticket was changeable.I ask to speak with her supervisor. She puts me on hold after stonewalling me about how her supervisor will tell me the same thing. Worn out for now, I hang up.

I do actually undertand that I’m in the wrong about the terms of my ticket. But so were several Expedia agents, so it’s not really surprising that I didn’t get it right. The terms as stated are not clear – it does not say anywhere that changes are not permitted after travel has commenced. Are the terms intentionally obfuscated? I can’t help but wonder.

Nonfamousi, do you know anyone at Expedia? I’d like to, um, get in touch with them.


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March 20th, 2006

Go peddle crazy somewhere else…

They’re all full up at “No Room for Contraception,” a web site devoted to achieving a reality not unlike Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale by spouting ridiculous and misleading social and “scientific” evidence of the dangers of contraception.

There’s a scary article in Salon, too, about the nutjob behind this and others of her ilk.

A few months ago, I was blithely reading a query in advice column when I was dumbstruck by a women writing in for advice describing herself as educated, professional and far from a feminist. What kind of woman, especially an educated, professional, woman, would state that she was far from believing that women are equal beings and should have the same rights and priveleges and protections as men in society? Apparently, these folks, who believe that women are just baby-machines. These people are seriously nutso.

And lest you think me paranoid, let’s not forget that last week Missouri decided that it was inappropriate for the state’s health care system to cover contraception for low-income women. At the time, I was thinking, well, hey, what better way to increase the number of abortion! Unless Missouri decides to follow South Dakota’s lead and ban those too.

Am I just paranoid in feeling like there’s a growing war on women in our society?


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March 16th, 2006

Outrage

Why do I have to yell and throw a “hissy fit” when I need a corporate customer service organization to do the right thing?  Is it really that customer service is dead or is it something more sinister – is their CRM system telling the service rep on the other end of the line that I am not one their most valuable customers and therefore I can be f*cked with mercilessly?

Anyone who has been reading this blog long enough already knows that I skirt the edge of professional paranoid.  However, I think I may have hit upon the true reason that I never receive good (or even halfway decent) customer service – I have a low “lifetime value” as a customer.  In fact, I probably cause most of my vendors to lose money in maintaining me as a customer.

As a professional marketer, I almost never respond to direct mail or other advertisements in a vendor’s attempt to upsell me to a more expensive item or service.  Rather, I spend a few minutes dissecting the piece for its relative merits and faults before I toss it away.  But this Lifetime Customer Value thing is big business and I think it is undermining the very thing it was originally designed to support – personalized service.  When 1-to-1 marketing was first promoted, it focused on how to increase the value of your customer base by serving or anticipating their needs better.  Now it is about culling the fattest calves from the herd and sh*tting on the rest.

The vendors that provide me with truly personal service I reward with not only my loyalty but with referrals and testimonials.  The ones that treat me like a number and a set of behaviors I ditch at the first opportunity and steer people away from every chance I get.  I realize that it is unfashionable to have customer service agents that actually care about resolving a customer’s issue or speak English as a first language.  And until we as consumers rise up as one and slay the evil market whores vote with our dollars on a large scale we will have to yell and throw stupendous verbal fits in order to get our lifetime value returned.


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March 14th, 2006

Quote of the Year

I’m sick to death of lawmakers spouting the Bible when discussing the legal issues of the day: abortion rights, gay marriage … and it seems just about anything these days. So too it seems is Jamie Raskin, American University law professor and candidate for Maryland State Senate, who gave the perfect retort when a right-wing senator rose to say, “Mr. Raskin, my Bible says that marriage shall occur only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?”. He replied:

“Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”

Perfect. (Via Sullivan.)


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March 11th, 2006

The Right Pharmacist, II

The Seattle Times has a headline article today about an “informational meeting about whether to allow pharmacists to deny medication based on their moral or religious convictions.”

This would be a good time to write a letter to the editor of the Times. And the Washington State Pharmacy Association.

I’m just sayin.


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