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customer service

Generally this will probably be a complaint, but sometimes it’ll be a complement..

Written By: Gary on January 29, 2011 No Comment

So my* McDonald’s still has the McRib, so I came up here for lunch. Free WiFi and a McRib sandwich, can’t beat that!!

The box isn’t right, but who cares? It’s what’s inside that counts!!!

* In Dearborn (Michigan, USA) on Michigan, between Greenfield and Schaefer Rd.

Written By: Gary on December 23, 2010 No Comment

I went to Cobano to go to the bank and wanted to get some lunch but I also wanted to be closer to the bus, so I got lunch to go. Here’s my story…

View the HD video at YouTube.

And the chicken (as usual) was delicious, and the big piece was huge! The two pieces plus the bread “stuff” was $3 and I think I paid about a $1.20 for each of the two Coca-Cola’s that I drank; honestly that sees a little pricy for the Coke for just being the vegetable stand in Cobano, but usually I get the bottles at a restaurant and they’d charge more so it’s hard to tell…

Written By: Gary on December 14, 2010 No Comment

Poor customer service has always been a annoyance to me. Be nice and be courteous and try to deliver it with a smile. Especially in this economy, how can you afford not to be nice and courteous?

That said, the folks at the Wash Haus (in Dearborn, Michigan) have always been extra-nice and ultra-courteous. They have a laundromat, drop off laundry, dry cleaning and they do alterations. I’ve got a washer & dryer at home so I only use them for dry cleaning and repairs/alterations. And when I say repairs, I mean some stuff that I wasn’t even sure if they could fix.

wash-haus.JPG

Today, I dropped some items off today to be dry cleaned and an odd shoe repair (my Five-Fingered Vibram shoe has a tear in it) and he took my number so he could call me to let me know if they could fix it (he’s called me before about repairs).

I think it’s just the way the owner talks to me, he’s just polite (maybe even respectful) and it doesn’t matter if I’m in shorts or a suit (and I think the owner has been there every time I’ve been in). And it’s not like I’m their best customer, I probably haven’t been there much more than a half-dozen times in the last year, he actually remembered that it’s been about six months since he’s seen me.

Bottom line, if you’re in the area you should give them a try! They’re at 5280 Schaefer Road on the south side (between Ford Road and Michigan Ave.) in Dearborn; before this year, the place was under different management so if you didn’t like them before, there’s new folks in charge. Check out the photo since there’s a competitor a block over; plus I thought the blue sky came out awesome for just stopping in the road and using my phone for a quick snap. I couldn’t find a web page but they do have a Facebook fan page (which has a year old price sheet).

Written By: Gary on September 21, 2009 No Comment

I love WordPress. I think I’ve expressed that many many times. The plug-ins that people supply are amazing too. But what I’m surprised about are some basics that some plug-ins don’t have. When going to the configuration page from a plug-in they neglect some basic information:

  • the name of the plug-in
  • the version number of the plug in
  • the name of the programmer
  • a related web site
  • a link to where the plug-in is located on WordPress.org
  • A few sentences with some very basic instructions would be nice too :)

How can I recommend your product to anyone else without a link? Or how can I donate to the author if I don’t know where (or who) they are? Or how to use it without any instructions?

Some of the plug-ins have great instructions, but if you can’t find the site with the information it’s not very helpful. Some of the plug-ins have the information in a read me file in the plug-in folder, but some of the folders don’t have names that match up with the name of the plug-in very clearly. And really, if you’re going to create a read me file with important information, just paste it into the plug-in page.

Some plug-ins are great and include all the above, but many leave out a thing or three.  Some go above and beyond: including a list of people who donated and a list of information to include when reporting bugs (WP, PHP, MySQL and more); please note in this example, that they don’t tell you collect the information, they actually have the list with all the version numbers (all you have to do is copy and paste).

I might be sounding fussy, but I’m not talking about user interface and minor confusing instructions, I’m talking relatively big things here. Things that could get the author recognition or donations. Things that could prevent people from using the plug-in that they bothered to create (they do want people to use them, don’t they?).

Written By: Gary on September 20, 2009 No Comment

This new free add-on to AT&T Cell phones that starts today for sign-up. You’ll get to choose 5 numbers with unlimited to and from calling for individual plans $59.99 a month or higher. Family plans $89.99 a month or higher get to choose 10 numbers (shared between all users). It looks like this is Unity or Nation plans; see http://att.com/alist for more info (this link still gives you info, but the login seems to generate an error, so just login normally and click on manage your A-List).

That’s calling to any other company cell phones or land-lines!  It’s a free upgrade to those who qualify so it’s kind of a no-brainer to sign up.

alist-att.png

Five numbers for an individual plan. That’s huge! I’d guess 95% of my minutes go to the same five numbers; 75% percent probably go to just three numbers.

Only standard domestic landline or wireless numbers may be added. Directory assistance, 900 numbers, customer’s own wireless or Voice Mail access numbers, and machine to machine numbers are not eligible. Only voice calling is eligible.

- From the AT&T A-List “Feature Terms & Conditions”

Even if you have enough minutes, it’s silly to not sign up and get the free leftover minutes put into your rollover account. It might even be worth it to lower your plan if you have a much higher plan.

Here’s the thing though, if you have more than enough minutes, this really isn’t going to help much, you’re probably already on an appropriate plan. It’s really most helpful if you were already considering raising your minutes. If you were considering adding another phone (or two) to your plan, you might get away with doing it and not having to add more minutes. Or if you’ve considered ditching your land-line and just going cellular. Remember AT&T is doing this to be competitive and probably did the math for everyone’s most called numbers; it was probably this or lower prices and who wants to give up money these days…?

Please let me know in the comments how this plan might benefit you most. And remember to come back in a few months and let me know how this affects your bill, especially if you change your plan and save money because of it.

Written By: Gary on May 30, 2009 No Comment

This has happened to me several times at Kohl’s Department Stores. I’ll return something after paying my bill and while I might buy something there I’ve still got a credit with them (i.e. they still owe me money). So they send me a refund check.

This time it was only for $8.37, and after a month or two they mail me a check refunding me the amount. For one thing, it’s a pain, I have to go deposit the check and it’s not not for a very big amount. And (B) it’s not like I won’t be shopping there again. This has happened to me a few times before, I think always for small amounts. It just seems a waste on many levels, time, stamps, billing, etc. (I understand the computer just spits it out, but there is still expenses); not even to mention the non-greenness of it. BTW, Kohl’s is the only credit card that I have that won’t automatically deduct a bill from my checking account.

Better yet, they should mail me the check but tell me I can take it to any Kohl’s store and can redeem it with the attached five dollar coupon or (better yet) one of their 30% off coupons and get me to spend more in the store. In theory I’ve got this ‘found money’ plus whatever bonus they might offer me. They’d have to put limits on this so people don’t scam the system, but it’s not like they don’t pass out similar coupons all the time. It would have cost them nothing to put such a thing in the same envelope.

Another thing, mailing checks to people’s mailboxes when they aren’t expecting them strikes me as a security thing; now this wasn’t a large amount, but I really don’t want large checks sitting in my mailbox when I’m not expecting them (or when I might throw them away).

On a side note: I called a friend today and they were shopping at Kohl’s and I thought “I haven’t been there in a while” and instead of running over there today, I’m sitting here blogging about their weird refund policies :)

Written By: Gary on April 13, 2009 354 Comments

So I get an e-mail from iTunes today stating that an episode for my new season pass for “Sophie” has arrived. The first thing I thought was that I accidentally clicked “buy season” when I downloaded the free pilot last week. But when I check the receipt I see six other items (in addition to the season pass) totaling $61.93! Not only that, I see another order for $5.97! Not a chance that I placed these orders (FYI, the orders were placed at 1 am and 5 am).

Here’s the really strange part:Almost all of the purchase was videos (tv, movies, movie rentals) and I think those kinds of videos still have DRM in them and no additional computers were authorized. What good are these to anyone if they didn’t authorize a computer? Can they even play them? Wouldn’t it have been easier to have just downloaded torrents of these files? These oddities make me think it’s an accounting error.

So I had to “report a problem” to Apple/iTunes for each of the 10 individual items. The e-mails went something like this:

I did not place this order for any of the 3 items on this order. Nor has my computer downloaded these items. It’s order XXXXXXXX I also have another order from today (ZZZZZZZZ) that I did not place.

I’ve changed my password as a precaution. I also tried to play some older protected/DRM’d music and it still plays (so I’m guessing if someone hijacked something they didn’t deauthorize my computers).

Gary LaPointe (phone ###-###-#####)

PS – These purchases don’t even meet my normal purchasing patterns.

My responses appear to be identical other than contact info (and I only got one response for each of the two orders):

Dear Gary,

My name is Jane Doe with the iTunes Store. I’m so sorry to hear of the unauthorized charges made with your iTunes Store account. I can certainly appreciate your concerns, and will do everything I can to assist in having this resolved.

With regards to financial reimbursement for the charges in question, these would have to be removed by a specialized team, designated to handle requests of this nature. I would urge you to contact your credit card company as soon as possible to inquire about canceling the card and removing the unauthorized transactions. A member of your credit card’s fraud department will contact the iTunes Store directly, and this team will resolve the issue. I apologize that I’m unable to remove the charges myself, but all unauthorized transactions must be handled in this manner.

If you suspect you are the victim of identity theft, please consider following these recommendations:

(they then gave 14 lines of tips that I cut out)

I sincerely hope that you are able to resolve this matter with the help of your credit card company, as soon as possible, Gary. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe
iTunes Customer Store Support

Please note that I work, Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 12:30 PM – 9:00 PM this week

The identity theft issues don’t even make sense. Why would someone steal my charge card number and log into my iTunes account? The CC number won’t even get them into my account and if they had a CC number, they could just create their own new account and I wouldn’t have know about it for days. And Apple doesn’t display the account number. I’m thinking, it’s an accounting or some bits on the web got mixed up. And the responses were generic enough where I’m not 100% sure they read the post.

I did notice they they did include their working schedule, which was even evdifferent for the two different people who responded (neither of whom were named “Jane”), it’s a nice touch but they both had the same return address (although the “follow-up” code could possibly redirect it).

I responded with:

Jane,

I will have my charge card company dispute/remove the charges as you said to do below. I have changed my password.

I have four (4) questions below in bold.

Unless I’m mistaken, they only gained access to my iTunes account. They don’t have my charge card number, iTunes doesn’t display the number for them to see, correct? A charge card number will not get them into my iTunes account. If they actually have my charge card number, I’d think they’d charge more than $70 of music/videos and

So this is either someone guessed my password (which was letters, numbers and non-alphanumeric characters) or some data packets got mixed up as someone else was placing their order. Since I have the two authorized computers in my possession and I know no one else was here using them, I’m assuming the latter.

Can someone actually download songs/videos to a non-authorized computer if they guessed my password?
Since videos still have DRM, someone wouldn’t actually be able to play them, correct?

Someone at the iTunes Customer Store Support can’t actually intervene in some way, at least to stop someone from downloading the season pass?
If it’s just an accounting error, it’s still going to download the season pass to my computer the next time I purchase a song.

Without my new password I’m assuming someone cannot download more of the season pass. I don’t even see how they could have in the first place without authorizing a computer.

Thank you,
Gary

And I can’t even dispute these charges yet since they haven’t fully been charge to my credit card company yet.

If anyone from iTunes/Apple is reading this and wants to fix this. You can leave a comment below or contact me directly.

UPDATE:

Wow! Lots of people with similar problems these last few weeks (see comments below), but I’m the only one that didn’t seem to have gift cards purchased on my account.

So it looks like my charge card is refunding the two dollar amounts to my charge card. This is contingent to Apple not disagreeing with my claim. FYI, after I said it was kind of stupid that they weren’t going to cancel the season pass since I was disputing it and they were still delivering the shows, Apple did contact me to say they would refund the rest of the season pass (right around the same time).

PS – It appears the Apple does not allow you to cancel a season pass! This is insane, it’s to their benefit to get you to subscribe, the fact that you can’t cancel is a non-motivator. Obviously if it was a discounted season pass and you canceled it, you’d pay the full price for episodes already received. Just seems like an obvious solution.

I still don’t understand what they are doing with these iTunes protected movies/shows if they can’t play them? Why not just download torrents off the ‘net if they are going to steal?

MY UPDATE: I got Apple to cancel the season pass and I did get my money refunded from my credit card company. It was confusing the way it cam through, I might have actually gotten credited from the rest of the season too (so I might have come out ahead, but after all the e-mails/contacting, I’m sure I ended up way behind).

——- ARE YOU FROM BOSTON?!? ——

A news station is doing a story on this and was looking for some people in the Boston area. If you are interested in being contacted please state so in your comment. I’ll pass your e-mail on to them. If you put your phone number, I’ll pass that on too, but I’ll delete it from the comment (if you’ve never commented before your comment should not appear until I approve it). Sadly I never heard any more details about the Boston story after forwarding details to them…

Written By: Gary on November 28, 2008 No Comment

So riding the bus in Costa Rica is cheap and it’ll take you anywhere. The problem is figuring out when the bus is going to be running.

In the bigger cities this doesn’t appear to be a problem, if you miss a bus another one will be by soon and if it’s not the right bus it’s still heading in the correct direction, just hop on. In the more remote areas (such as Montezuma) they probably don’t come more than every two hours so if you miss the bus it’s a pain.

The people closest to the bus stop seem to have the most reliable information. Restaurants and internet cafes have it written down, but they wrote it down ages ago. My trickiest problem is asking “when is the next bus?” and they tell me “it’s in 20 minutes” but that’s too soon for me so I try to find out about the bus after that and it’s no good; I have to come back in 25 minutes and ask again to get the info for the bus after that :)

The appears to be no schedule posted, even at the bus station in Cobano (a central town in the lower Nicoya Peninsula). I did notice the bus that goes from Montezuma to Cabuya to the National Reserve does have a schedule taped to the window (4 trips a day) with pricing and everything; as an added bonus, it generally seemed to be leaving Montezuma at the correct time! More info below.

Pricing is cheap though. In San Jose I took a bus for about 150 colones (28 cents) but honestly I don’t know far that would have taken me, it was in front of me heading the right way and it kept going once I got off. In Montezuma, it’s 300 colones (55 cents) to go to Cobano which is 7 km. away (a very hilly/dusty walk).

You can get a direct bus all the way to San Jose from Montezuma, but you might not get a seat and there isn’t any A/C but I think you can do it for about $8-ish (maybe $10 including the ferry ride). CORRECTION: The direct bus does have air conditioning; if the directo bus in Montezuma does not have A/C, when you switch onto the directo in Cobano that one has A/C (and little controllable vents like on an airplane), I’ve taken it three different times now and it is an excellent value (it seems like it will stop at the SJO Airport [you must ask/tell them!] or San Jose at the Coca Cola bus terminal (updated March 2012; I think I paid just under $14 and that included the ferry ride). Montezuma to Cabuya to the National Reserve info: When I saw the schedule it said 600 colones to the Reserva and 500 colones to Cabuya (just over or under a $1.00). It leaves Cabuya for Montezuma at 7:20 am, 9:20 am, 1:20 pm and 3:20 pm (not sure what time it actually leaves the park). It leaves Montezuma for Cabuya at 8 am, 10 am, 2 pm and 4 pm. Obviously they get a long lunch hour or maybe it doubles as a school bus? (These times and prices are from November 2008).

Written By: Gary on November 28, 2008 2 Comments

So I think part of what makes Costa Rica (and other places I’ve traveled to in the world) so interesting to me is the learning that’s going on. Just going into a restaurant is a new experience, almost like when your parents let you order your own food for the first time. And many other basic things becomes a learning experience.

In Costa Rica if you don’t ask for the check (la quintaff cuenta) they’ll never bring it to your table. In England, in a pub, you have to go up to the bar in order to get drinks or food and many places will let you sit until you figure it out. It’s part of the fun at least to me it is.

When I travel, I don’t just want the sights, I want the learning that goes with it. I’ll hit the local places off the beaten path specifically to figure things like that out. In Costa Rica, taking the bus (the bus another post to come) or getting a driver’s license is an experience that lets you figure out how things work in that country. I find all those parts particularly interesting and enjoyable…

UPDATE: Usually, I don’t update a post as much as I’m about to…
But I’m reading a Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson, a humourous book about traveling in Europe. And he said.

Bill Bryson Quote

And I just thought that kind of exactly fit what I was saying a few days ago.

I’m going to change the date on this so it floats up to the top, so if you saw it already, you’ll see it again for the new content…

Written By: Gary on November 27, 2008 No Comment

Does anyone know where the Official Bus Schedule for Public Busses in Costa Rica is? A million sites list bus schedules but they’re all different (and mostly wrong).

I understand the busses don’t run on time. But there isn’t any reason for me to be at the bus stop at 11:30 if the bus isn’t until 12:30 (especially if it’s going to be late), it’s certainly not going to leave early.

Written By: Gary on November 11, 2008 5 Comments

So went to get my driver’s license today. What a bureaucracy! The only plus was that it wasn’t very busy.

I knew this was going to be a hassle so I hired ARCR (the folks that did the relocation seminar) to take me there and work me through the process, it was $35 well spent. I would have spent that on cab rides alone.

Here’s the process we took: Crlicence

  • Copied my passport, entrance stamp and US license.

  • Drove to the MOPT (their Department of Motor Vehicles).
  • Walked out of the huge complex and down the street to the Doctor’s office and got a blood type test $10 and then went to a different room for a “medical” for $20 (which consisted of an eye test, blood pressure and some questions).
  • Walked back into the far side of the complex and queued up.
  • Every time someone went in, we all moved down a seat closer to the door.
  • Got approved for a driver’s license for an automobile.
  • Did not get approved for a motorcycle. She didn’t accept the “CY” in my endorsement section was for a motorcycle. Says I’ll have to go to the U.S. Embassy to get a note from them. This was even after I showed her my “International Driver’s Permit” which very clearly identifies me as having a motorcycle endorsement and it’s in Spanish (FYI, Costa Rica does not honor this permit for driving so I can’t bitch too much); if Michigan defined “CY” on the back of the license I’d have been fine.
  • Went downstairs and waited but this time we had a number.
  • This was to get everything keyed in for the license.
  • Walked back to the front of the complex to pay for the license.
  • Walked back to the back of the complex to show the receipt that we paid.
  • Got my picture taken (was allowed to smile), signed the computer tablet and had my fingerprint taken.
  • Waited for a few minutes more and got my license! Good for two years!

    Throughout this process I showed my US license, passport and the copies a million times. At some point in the process they did let us leave to make a copy of the doctor’s medical test (all the way back to the front and down the street to the doctor’s) and then they stamped it certified so I don’t have to get another test ($10).

    The $35 for the escort well spent, especially since I speak barely speak Spanish. But if they had known a little more I could have gotten the paperwork I needed to get the motorcycle endorsement and gotten both. I’ve heard they are making license’s harder for non-residents so maybe I should get it now (I’m assuming they’ll let me renew it even if they change the rules) that was part of my motivation in the first place. I can go back myself but like I said before, if I don’t have a car it’s going to cost that much for cab fare. If I have a car at the end of my trip when I come back to San Jose to leave I’ll do it…

  • Written By: Gary on September 15, 2008 5 Comments

    So I’m getting desperate in my quest. As a last resort I e-mailed Ronald and Co. today, I said:

    Dear McDonalds,

    I see that McRibs are back at “participating” McDonalds.

    How do the fans find a McRib?

    Where in Michigan (Detroit or otherwise) or even Toledo, OH or Chicago can I find one of these? I’m traveling next month? I’ll schedule a layover for my flight so that I can stop in a McRib city, seriously!

    Is there a list somewhere or at least someway I can check out some specific markets?

    Thank you,
    Gary

    Do you think I might get a response?

    Written By: Gary on September 10, 2008 2 Comments

    El Punto B+BSo when I got trapped in Costa Rica for the few extra days I ended up staying at the El Punto B & B. It turned out to be an excellent place, it only has five or six units with a theme of colors, it might be the cutest place I’ve ever stayed. My unit had A/C, a ceiling fan, a very hot shower (but I never could get that much heat from the two sinks), two beds, two tables, three chairs and something I’d call a kitchenette but there wasn’t a way to cook anything but coffee (had a sink and medium refrigerator). I had found huge very comfy towels and a washcloth, made me feel very civilized. Outside I had another chair and table with a hammock. There was free internet but only up by the office and they also had what appeared to be a community area with couches, chairs and a television. There was also a nice double-sided page with info about the area (such as suggested restaurants), how to access the WiFi and useful info that all hotels should mimic.

    ElpuntothumbBreakfast was amazing! A mini loaf of bread with jellies and jams and watermelon and pineapple and eggs with coffee and juice. My only real complaint is there just isn’t enough space to unpack (but I have that complaint quite often).

    Here are some photos of the room at El Punto and of breakfast (breakfast included coffee and OJ which didn’t get shown in the photos).

    It’s right around the corner from a nice outside mall, across from that is a Burger King/Papa John’s/Church’s Fried Chicken and down the street a bit (easy walk) is the downtown area. I’ll stay there again sometime (on purpose). I think they’re pretty close to the Zoo (that’s supposed to be excellent) and a nearby Volcano that was also recommended to me. Plus if I’m flying out of the Liberia airport it’s pretty convenient (I think during the busier season they might provide airport transportation?) and a cab was about $15.

    Written By: Gary on September 5, 2008 3 Comments

    So I’m at a pizza place and they don’t have bottled pop and I’m not drinking any fountain drinks if I don’t know where the water and ice is from. So I order a bottle of water and then I realize the place next door (a very nice restaurant that I ate at yesterday) has bottled pop so I went to get a Fresca.

    I didn’t realize I’d put the place into such a tizzy! I walk up to the area where the bartender (not a bar), the register and two waiters are standing and order a Fresca. They all appear to understand me, I know they all know the word Fresca, but they don’t know what to do (I guess since I’m not at a table?). I’m stunned, they must do take-out, the BK across the street has a drive-thru, but they’re stuck. It’s not like they’re busy, I olny make customer number five. They ask me two more times what I want and I clarify that I will bring the glass bottle back to them (and I know this waiter knows I’m the guy sitting outside next door). Then he mentions that it’ll around $2 and I’ve been holding a 2,000 Colones bill ($4) most of the time I’ve been there.

    Here’s how it ends: I hand him the bill and he has me go sit down outside and a few minutes later brings me the drink and my change. It’s just the little things like that which make life fun…

    In hindsight: I should have just walked over to the grocery store and got a Fresca or maybe since the pizza was pretty boring I probably should have just gone to the restaurant next door again tonight…

    Tags: [, , ]
    Written By: Gary on September 4, 2008 One Comment

    Severe flooding kept me from getting to my flight today. They closed the bridge heading towards the airport and said it was going to be closed overnight (maybe until manana afternoon); please note I did say “the” bridge and not “a” bridge; I think it’s the only way to get to the airport from the peninsula in the rain (if it’s not rainy season, you just drive across the river). Surprisingly, they opened it 90 seconds after I abandoned my car and was planning to walk over the bridge (pedestrians were allowed).

    Anyone have any contacts at Delta? They still want to charge me a $150 change fee (I’ve called two different numbers at this point US and CR). If this wasn’t an “act of God” that should cover my fee then I don’t know what is. Once they get my $150 here at the airport I’m sure I’ll never see it again…

    I’m booked in a hotel for the next two nights (no flights on Friday) and I want to be here (8 kilometers from airport).

    I’ll do a “flood blog post” later, it’s gonna be a long one (home come this never happens when it’s sunny?). Wish I had taken more pictures now…

    Written By: Gary on September 2, 2008 6 Comments

    So except for the last trip I’ve never had any “stomach issues” and on that trip it was very minor and passed in few days (no pun intended). This trip the same thing happened for a few days and by Friday I was feeling fine. But then Saturday came…

    I think it was the water in something I ate or drank, I don’t drink the water or take ice, but there are vegetables and juices and all sorts of stuff with water. It could have been the bottle of water I purchased from a street vendor on Thursday, the cellophane on the bottle seemed a little loose but the cap seemed sealed but it had crossed my mind enough to check and it seemed fine (but it’s still in my head).

    Feel free to skip the rest of this blog post, I avoid getting graphic but it does have a bit on my experience with the health care here in Costa Rica.
    Let’s just say Saturday morning I made a few too many trips to the restroom that I went to the farmacia before I left San Jose. I purchased some pills and some electrolyte mixture to add to water. Then I headed out to Samara still feeling lousy. When I stopped for lunch I couldn’t find the medicine anywhere but then I got to my hotel I tore everything apart and still couldn’t find the medicine. And, of course, all the pharmacies were closed by then.

    My symptoms got worse as the day went on. That night I got up at least forty times during the night and it got worse as the night went on. The next day, Sunday, all the pharmacies and doctor’s offices were closed so I head on out to the hospital in Nicoya. If I was leaving town, then I was going to see a Doctor…

    The hospital in Nicoya was about what I expected not much of a building, no Air Conditioning (fortunately it had been raining and was slightly cool) and they said the Doctor’s did not speak English. I checked in and sat down in the crowd. I starting translating words to Spanish so it’d go faster when I saw the Doctor. I expected to be waiting for hours but I’d say it was only about twenty minutes. The Doctor said he didn’t know English but between what I wrote down and what he knew, we only had to look up a few words. He sent me for an IV and some tests; the IV was really a huge syringe and it as at least an inch-and-a-quarter around and five inches long. It wasn’t too bad but it made me a little dizzy, which they didn’t want to understand as they’re trying to move me to the next room (when I plopped on the a chair and stopped, I think they got the hint).

    All of these things had a very short wait except for waiting for the test results. The test results were at least two hours. Then waiting for the Doctor took a while which would have been fine if I could have sat down and not queued up where they had us. He prescribed what I assume to be a similar electrolyte mixture and some pills (more for the stomach pain I believe). Total time four maybe four-and-a-half hours.

    The room for the IV was the nicest and I didn’t even need to try and say “utilice por favor una aguja nueva”; it was a specific sentence in the Costa Rican Spanish book for the phrase “please use a new needle”, I assumed it was in there for a reason. Some of the rooms were more warehouse-ish than anything with roofed cubicles in and around the building. FYI – the office for the Doctor and the syringe room were both air conditioned but that was it. I’m sure the building would freak many of you out :)

    I got a receipt for the 40,000 colones (about $73) but it’s lacking info so we’ll see what Blue Cross does with it when I try to submit it…

    So, I left there and headed towards the main highway, I would have sworn there was an “American Hotel” that I was planning to splurge for but I couldn’t find it. So I drove all the way to Tamarindo (second largest city?) and grabbed the second hotel I tried (the first one was full). I was still sick for about a day and a half, but I was slowly getting better. Part of the problem was that I wasn’t eating either, I normally graze and eat 4-5 times a day but I was averaging less than I meal a day. Monday night, I forced myself out for a second meal hoping only for some soup and a sandwich, and while I’d normally avoid an American chain while I vacation, the Subway fit that requirement for me. I took it back to my room and the soup was so good and I nibbled on the sandwich over the next few hours. From then on I’ve only been feeling better.

    It’s Tuesday and I’m not perfect but I’m way better. I’m eating (most of three meals I’ve had) and I got more of a similar electrolyte solution from the farmacia today. I’ve felt well enough to wander around town and the beach a few times and I’m in a hotel I really like so that makes it even better…

    Written By: Gary on August 28, 2008 No Comment

    The proper name of the hotel is Occidental Torremolinos (Occidental owns a bunch of hotels, but I’m not certain if it’s a “chain” or what) it’s a two floor hotel built in a square (hollow in the center) with an outside pool/hot tub and some tables outside in the middle. It is a nice standard “American” hotel and it’s located just off the edge of a busy area but it’s not too busy by the hotel. The room is standard “Holiday Inn” but with nicer finishing touches it was about $80 for the night.

    I walked around last night and my only real complaint is there were too many American chain restaurants (there were a lot of Chinese restaurants but not in one particular area, they were scattered all over) the neighborhood seemed fine. Lots of Internet cafe’s all over the place.

    This is a boring review but I always have a hard time deciding where to stay when in big cities and San Jose is pretty big so I thought I’d offer the basics.

    Breakfast is free, in a nice dining room, it had juices, fruits, some Kellogg’s cereals, scrambled eggs and some kind of sausages but a bit below a full blown buffet but as included breakfasts go, it was great. Air conditioner, ceiling fan, TV, hair dryer and coffee pot in the room. There was a phone in the room which definitely not standard in the costa areas but I guess I’ve had them downtown and near the airport. The have a few old Windows machines with free Internet off the lobby, but WiFi is $8 a day (I think it’s accessible from the rooms too). Free semi-guarded parking too.

    It’s very near the big Parque Metropolitano La Sabana, if you’ve ever seen a map of San Jose it’s the huge park in the middle of town. I haven’t had a chance to go in it yet this trip, I did go in about nine years ago so we’ll see how it changed. I mistakenly stayed in San Jose my first trip, I only say mistakenly in that I just needed to spend the night until friends showed up the next day, but the San Jose airport is not in San Jose (just like the Detroit airport is not in Detroit) I should have stayed neared the airport in that case.

    If I had to stay in town I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again (and I decided to stay Friday and leisurely leave on Saturday).

    Hotel Occidental Torremolinos
    Calle 40 y Avenida 5 bis
    San Jose, Costa Rica

    Phone: 011 (506) 2 222-5266
    Fax: 011 (506) 2 255-3167
    San Jose West, San Jose, Costa Rica

    Written By: Gary on August 25, 2008 4 Comments

    So I tried to open a bank account today. Why? Because bank access in the southern Nicoya peninsula is very limited and the one bank they do have never lets me use my ATM so I thought an account might be useful. I was just thinking a few hundred dollars for emergencies and then it would be established already or if I needed money wired here a bank account would be handy (I could wire it to myself from the US while I was here, I checked with my Michigan bank on this already). I had e-mailed the Costa Rican bank (Banco Nacional) a week or two ago about this, but never got a response.

    So I waited and waited and then finally I got to to wait some more. Then I asked at a different desk, because if I don’t have what I need, I don’t need to be waiting and got a very helpful guy whose english was good enough for us to figure it out. Turns out I need

  • a passport,
  • a local address / phone,
  • a few letters of refererence from other banking institutions (these made me feel like I was living in older times); they said a hotel would do for the address/phone but some coordination would have to be done since they wanted proof (like a utility bill) but what I was asking for was not unheard of,
  • a minimum deposit was $10 (obviously for emergencies that was much less than I planned).

    So I’ll get some letters from the bank and be ready to take care of these when I need to.

  • Written By: Gary on June 28, 2008 One Comment

    So the other day I purchased this Aiptek HD 720p Video Camera, I liked it but I saw it was on sale at this week so I went in to get the $30 price difference. Well, I couldn’t find the receipt so I went in to make sure it was the same camera first. It was not the same camera, it was the new better model, the Aiptek HD 1080p Video Camera, for $30 less. From the way it was on the rack I am pretty sure the old one was also on sale (i.e. clearance) since they didn’t have them any more and this one seemed to be replacing that one at the same price point.

    As I walked up to the counter I decided I didn’t want to bother to return the old one and buy the new one since the differences were minimal and there was a 15% restocking fee. I just wanted them to credit me the $30 for the old one. They couldn’t print me a new receipt, nor could they credit me the $30 without the receipt, but they would refund my money and they weren’t going to nick me the $30 if I purchased a new one, so I went back, got the better camera (which was even better than I thought) and got my $30 back too. From the receipt, it looks like they have the same SKU, so now I’m sure both were $30 cheaper.

    Sadly it was a waste of materials and money (they’ll send it back to the manufacturer) since they didn’t have a mechanism in place to credit me back the difference. But at least I made out on this one: better camera, $30 and a new receipt.

    Written By: Gary on May 30, 2008 No Comment

    Have you used Google’s Free phone information service at 1-800-GOOG-411 or 1-800-4664-411? It’s voice activated directory service! They’ll even connect you for free if you’d like!

    If you’re on a cell phone Say “text message” or “map it” and they’ll text you the information with phone, address with web and map links (with driving directions too).

    It’s not new but I’ve never gotten around to mentioning it. Here’s direct YouTube link to Google’s Free phone information.

    Written By: Gary on April 6, 2008 3 Comments

    Argh! I’m annoyed with creating user accounts. Everyone has their own damn process for passwords:

  • all numbers
  • must contain one upper-case character, one number, and be at least 8 characters (but ONLY 1 uppercase letter)
  • no characters other than letters or numbers
  • must be 8 characters

    But no, I can’t use 12 characters with letters, numbers and punctuation because it’s more than 8 or because it doesn’t have a capital letter.

    An the real pain is when you go to log in, they won’t remind you of this “rule”. And I really like it when it says “username” when what they really want is my “e-mail address”.

    My absolute favorite stupid rule is the hint to get your password must be at least 8 characters. Sorry, my hometown, mother’s maiden name, first pet and street aren’t that long! How am I supposed to remember this.

    And all these companies need to have the ability to handle multiple e-mail addresses. It’s such a hassle when I need to change something (for something I signed up for 5 years ago) and I can’t remember their rule and the e-mail address I signed up with doesn’t exist any more.

  • Written By: Gary on March 15, 2008 No Comment

    So I’m not just talking about regular mail, I’m talking shipping and receiving from companies and just getting deliveries. The way things arrive and the order in which they arrive is just strange sometimes.

    My most recent computer order is one example, I ordered a computer (with a larger hard drive so it had to be “built”), a spare battery and spare charger. The computer has already been assembled and shipped, the battery didn’t ship until a day later than the computer (I assumed it would have shipped the day before the computer) and the charger hasn’t shipped yet. Maybe, this is all a plan from Apple, they know how fast everything will get here so why have someone rush to ship the battery when they had something else to do, the computer system could be smart enough to do that. It just seems strange. Although, I find it strange it’s cheaper to do the final assembly in China and ship them here one at a time via FedEx.

    I’ve been on vacation and mailed postcards on the same day (from the same mailbox) to people in the same city and they arrive weeks later. Where was the other one? Stuck in someone else’s magazine? Did it travel a different route?

    I’m currently subscribing to the TicoTimes, it’s a weekly English paper that covers Costa Rica. It’s published on Friday and sometimes I get it the following Wednesday (5 days later). I’m not sure when they actually mail it, I’m sure on Thursday or Friday. But sometimes I get it days later, I think the record is 12 days (I think I got it 4 days later, on Tuesday once). Why such the time difference? It looks like they ship it from Costa Rica, I wonder if it makes more sense to ship all the US customers in one package (shipped faster) and have them re-mailed from the US. I know they ship to a few US newstands to sell them so the re-shipping wouldn’t be too hard.

    And I find it really strange when I order something from Amazon (in stock) and in the same order I get a used book from one of their used-partners and I get the used book days before the new one…

    Most of the time when I order from places like CDW, I get the item the next day even when I don’t pay for fast shipping (I almost always choose the cheapest).

    And my absolute favorite is when I pay big buck$ for overnight shipping and I don’t get it for 3 or 4 days. Their reasoning, we didn’t get it shipped the first day, but when we did ship it, it went out overnight. I love that Amazon clearly marks when you’ll get it with one-day shipping if you order it in the next “3 hours and 5 minutes” or something like that. When my oven broke a few months ago the GE site, clearly stated that when I ordered it by a certain time it would ship that day, I could of paid less ($10-$15) from a few other sites, but I couldn’t be certain when it would actually ship; so with that little piece of knowledge, GE got my money instead and they got a premium…

    Written By: Gary on March 1, 2008 10 Comments

    First of all, I love Medco for so many reasons, but the fact that all the annoying things they do basically annoy me sometimes makes me wonder if it’s worth it. I’ll list what I like:

  • I’ve been very fortunate and pay virtually nothing for my prescriptions, at a local store I pay $5 a month and with Medco I pay $2 (total) for 3 months. Now that’s my current insurance plan and not Medco so it’s not a plus just for them (and my co-pay is about to go way up).
  • I can call with a drug question at any time and they can get an answer for me (I’m not sure if they’re 24 hours, but I know I’ve called close to midnight on a holiday before).
  • I can renew on-line and see my history of everything they’ve mailed to me for a long while.
  • They give me postage paid envelopes to mail in prescriptions.

    So this is where my “What I hate about Medco” rant starts, it’s everything else they kind of make as annoying as possible and it’s got to cast them money and time (mine too!). It’s really strange considering they’ve got the normal part perfect from a customer service standpoint (see above). It’s the odd things that they handle strangely, for example:

  • They called me the other day and left a message so I had to call back and they had to transfer me to two other people to figure out why they called me (plus they disconnected me once). Here’s what it is: the off brand of something works better for me ansod the doctor wrote it that way, they were actually calling me to tell me that they’re shipping me what I ordered and next time I should check to see if they have it in stock. I’m sure I’ve been using this for several years and had it written the same way every time and it’s never wasted 20 minutes of my life on the phone before. Besides the doctor wrote it for the drug I want (DAW=dispense as written), they shouldn’t ship me anything but that, I shouldn’t need to call them for them to ship me the correct drug, right? Big huge waste of my time and theirs.
  • Most calls that I’ve had to return to them over the years go that way, it takes them a whole to figure out why I’m calling (and I have the ref number they gave me) and it just takes forever and it’s usually on something odd.
  • They don’t handle multiple addresses very well considering they do ship out drugs that need to be kept cold (in the middle of summer I ship that stuff to work). So you have to change the computer address when you have them refill that medicine so it goes where you want.
  • In the mean time if you mail in a prescription with the other address pre-printed on the form and circle it in red and write in big letters “ship here” they still call you to make sure that’s where you want it shipped (duh!).
  • And then all paper-work notifications go to the work address since you had to change your address to that location. They need a way for you “billing”/paperwork address to be a different address.
  • When you go on-line in February and they list drugs they can be refilled in March if you click “refill now” for many of them you will get mailings or phone calls (I can’t figure out how they choose) that complain that “you filled them too soon” even though they told you to!
  • Today, I got a phone call for some prescriptions that the doctor sent in electronically on Monday and they’ll ship on March 3rd. For one thing if I needed it today, I wouldn’t have mailed it in, but why did it take them until Saturday to not know they won’t ship it until next week?

    The other big annoyance is everything they leave you a message about is useless since none of it mentions the drug name. It’s all some prescription number which means nothing to me. I understand they don’t want to violate HIPA, but it’s simple enough to check the file and see that it says: this guy wants us to leave him his information in a message this would be convenient to him and not any kind of violation since he requests it. This seems like a pretty simple process for them to impalement for the sake of customer service (it’d be like locking or unlocking your domain name).

    They do e-mail me some information (generally on shipment) but it’s also lacking the drug name, which is silly since I assume most of the population (not me) uses the same password for their e-mail as they do for the medical website it’s probably not protecting anything. But I don’t understand why they just don’t mail me everything.

    So as I said, I normally pay $5 for a prescription and I can get 3 months from mailing in for only $2. But when my insurance changes that’s going to go up to $10 a month and mail-in will be $20 for 3 months. I’m still saving money, but can I do better (or just as well) with local stores and coupons or with bonuses that they always offer to switch stores? Sure that’d be an annoyance but at least they’d be annoying me on my terms…

  • Written By: Gary on September 26, 2007 2 Comments

    So I got the last issue of Stuff Magazine, no big loss, it was just a gadget/girls/media magazine (and it was free). It was marked “final issue” and “collectors item” so it wasn’t a surprise or anything that it was the last issue (and a lot of the similar magazines have been dying lately).

    The weird thing was (wait for it…) there were still subscription cards inside the magazine! What are they going to do charge me and then send me a substitute?

    Written By: Gary on August 15, 2007 2 Comments

    So Justine from TastyBlogSnack.com got her detailed phone bill from AT&T for her new iPhone. They have detailed billing and she had about 30,000 text messages last month. It cost them $7.12 to mail her the bill in a box.

    Insane that her bill is that long, but it’s also insane that iJustine does a 1,000 messages a day! Of course she has the unlimited plan!

    I’ve never imbedded from “revver” before, in case it doesn’t work here’s the YouTube link and here’s her original post about it. I heard her talking about it on MacBreak Weekly #53 with Leo LaPorte today (but I had no idea she was SO cute)…

    Written By: Gary on July 27, 2007 No Comment

    It went down again. And it took two calls for someone to be able to tell me they are aware and fixing it. They need a way to keep customers all up to date. Have they ever heard of a status page (or a blog)? I wouldn’t mind any downtime if I could check on it in just a few seconds.

    Now it seems as if my permissions are goofed up in some directories.

    I’m not sure why you aren’t/weren’t seeing all the post content all the time…

    I’d get rid of them if they weren’t so awesome when they were working!!

    Tags: [, ]
    Written By: Gary on May 19, 2007 No Comment

    So I’m at McDonald’s and I want my regular order, a number 3 combo (Quarter Ponder, Fries, Soda); so I order a “number 3, no pickle, no mustard” slow and articulated but as usual they have to ask me again what it is that I want. I don’t understand how they don’t get it the first time, it’s a limited selection of items that I can order even if I slur my voice someone should be able to figure it out, it’s not like I ordered an iPod with a side of onion rings. But that’s actually not my complaint today, she did get it correct and processed that part of the order quickly and accurately.

    So they hand me my order, while the QP box has the “no pickle, No mustard” tag on it there is an excessive amount of mustard on the box which lets me know to check before I bite. Sure enough there’s mustard on it (maybe pickle too). So I sent it back. Minutes later I get another one, with pickle and mustard. So I send it back, it’s easily 5 minutes more until I get a correct sandwich. They did give me fresh fries (the first order was better than delicious) and offer me a pie (but they didn’t have apple so I passed). They handed the final order to me in a togo bag, was that a hint?

    How much money (food and staff time) did they waste trying to make this sandwich correctly? We’re not even factoring in my time wasted and the fact that this is the most expensive McDonald’s around here.

    Written By: Gary on March 18, 2007 2 Comments

    I love 1 and 1 web hosting, I really do. Great features, great price, all sorts of configuration options and cheap domains ($5.99 a year). They’ve got decent reports and now they’ll automatically mail me stats. Some of their web interface stuff is a little slow (it’s too fancy) but it’s got lots of options so I can live with it.

    What I hate is their lack of customer communication:

  • They need a blog just to keep us up to date of the cool stuff they are working on.
  • They need a status page to let you know what problems are up.
  • They need their staff to know what problems they are having (it shouldn’t take 3 calls over 3 days to find out they are migrating some servers).
  • The need to let us know when they have problems or in advance when they plan to migrate servers.
  • If thousands of pages are generating 404 errors take a minute and alter to the 404 page and mention to the viewers (my readers) that it’s a temporary problem.
  • Even the utility companies can automate a hold message to say there are problems and they are working on it.
  • They have great up time and I understand that things happen, but had I known there was a major upgrade I could have:

  • Mentioned it on my site (probably wouldn’t have but would have had the chance)
  • Not spent time debugging and wondering if it was my fault
  • Not made 3 calls (waiting on hold each time)
  • Most importantly – Not be pissed about it and blogging about it.
  • I still can’t figure out what took them so long to fix it and I’m only really annoyed because of the lack of communication. An e-mail that apologizes for it either earlier in the process or even after they fixed it would have gone a long way with me…

    FYI: To clarify, they we mostly down for about two-and-a-half days…

    Written By: Gary on March 15, 2007 One Comment

    There are web problems with my host 1 and 1 which is causing 404 errors, these are not my fault, but they are affecting you. I’m sorry for that…

    I love my web host 1and1 but what I hate is they have no kind of status page that customers can look at to see what problems are happening with the network. If they just had a page where they could list something like “many customers are having 404 problems and it may take hours (or days) to fix it” I’d be happy (not if it happened all the time). Then I wouldn’t waste time checking on it (on the chance it is my fault) or bather calling them (or waiting on hold). It seems like customer service common sense to me…

    Written By: Gary on September 26, 2006 3 Comments

    So I had some of the best Coca-Cola* yesterday at Pangea’s Pizza in Traverse City. It was just extra tasty, I’m not sure why. And not only was it served in fancy old Coca-Cola glasses it was served by the charming Rachel** who attended to all my cuisine related needs. That, a slice of pepperoni pizza, some on-line access and I was all set. I was hoping for more dead animals on my pizza but I would have had to order a whole pizza.

    I mentioned WiFi availability earlier today: I could see a few local access points from inside the restaurant (none of which I think were Pangea’s) but eventually I’d lose the signal, the same if I hooked up with my cell phone. Not sure why. Probably something with all the pleasantness radiating from Rachel was interfering with my digital*** reception.


    * – In case you were wondering the best Coca-Cola I ever had was at the Chicago Aquarium in February of 2002. This is fountain Coca-Cola, in the bottles it’s generally the same, unless it’s in the glass bottles where it’s extra delicious.

    ** – I’m thinking Rachel was spelled slightly differently (sorry).

    *** – Pleasantness is a full spectrum analog signal in case you didn’t know. It’s supposed to overwhelm everything.

    Written By: Gary on April 30, 2006 No Comment

    It took them over three hours to decide to finally cancel our flight. That’s three hours after it was scheduled to depart, that’s not even factoring in that they had to have some idea there would be problems before the flight was even supposed to leave . We had a plane but no pilots, you’d think that wouldn’t be so hard to keep track of and keep us informed. I know I’m a little crabby from traveling but I’ve definitely been treated better than I was with the way the system worked tonight. If they would have canceled it hours before that I’d have been fine with it but I should have been home two hours ago and I’m just finally in a hotel. They’ve got free WiFi in the lobbys/resturants which is a bonus, but I’d rather have the A/C working…

    Please let me clarify: I understand things can be beyond their control, but at 7:30 when they are telling us at when the pilots land at LaGuadia around 7:45 they’ll taxi over and it takes until 10 PM to tell us they can’t get pilots they don’t really care about the customers. All they have to do was keep us informed. If they would have told me at 8 I would have gladly went over to the hotel, ate and gone to bed. They just dragged it out and the story they gave us doesn’t make sense.

    We didn’t get anything but a hotel room and a $7.00 voucher for dinner (that’s about 1/2 a burger at the hotel, everything at the airport was closed). Anyone have a good number or address at Delta for me to complain to? Please let me know. (Delta, if I misheard and there’s a free round-trip ticket in the mail for me, I’ll gladly correct this post…)

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    Written By: Gary on January 12, 2006 One Comment

    Michelle started the new year off right while giving a telemarketer a hard time.

    Written By: Gary on May 29, 2005 7 Comments

    Why is is so quick to get takeout at a Chinese Restaurant when it takes SO long at a “fast food” joint?

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