Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Great Pickle Experiment!

Those of you who know that I moved to Florida from New York City also know that one of the things I miss down here is food. As an example, I can't seem to find a good, sour garlic pickle. Criminal! Worse, Ba Tampte and Schoors have stopped making them, or at least they're not stocked in Publix. What the... Surely I can't be the only one who loves these sour, garlicky treats with a sandwich, or as a snack.

Dire situations call for drastic measures! I have done extensive research and found a sour garlic pickle recipe. I made my first batch today, but won't have the results for about a week. I will report back on my success, or lack thereof, and be happy to share this recipe once I'm sure it's a success.

Stand by pickle lovers!! More to come!

Comcast delivers

I've been holding off on writing this post because I thought my good experience with Comcast customer support might just be a one-time event. It turns out, it isn't. These guys are damn good at it.

It starts with answering the phone. Such a simple thing, folks, but these people actually answer the phone promptly.

Once they do, they solve the problem. From placing an order to replacing my cable box with a PC card (I own a Tivo HD), or installing a cable modem, they've been helpful every time.

A few months ago I sent an e-mail inquiring when more HD channels would be available. I got a personal phone call from HQ to discuss what they're doing and when to expect more HD programming.

Last night I was unable to get a few of my premium channels, I called, they reset the cable connection remotely and everything was fixed! Time spent: under 3 minutes.

I know I'm quick to rag on someone when they do badly, but I want to make sure that I acknowledge best-in-class service. I don't know what it's like elsewhere in the country, but in South Florida, Comcast customer service is the clear winner over DirecTV.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Garmin is a real disappointment

Last week my Garmin 765T GPS went dead because of a firmware update that I installed from Garmin. Their instructions were to send it in, at their expense, and the unit would (presumably) be repaired.

So don't you think if the reason an expensive piece of electronics turned into a doorstop was because the software you issued was faulty that you'd bend over backwards to get the unit replaced? Don't you think this would be true, especially if you represented yourself as the premier maker of GPS units for automotive, aviation and marine use?

You'd be disappointed. In my opinion, these units that became dysfunctional should have been hot-swapped. Garmin should have sent out a new unit and I would have returned the old one. This is what Apple did when they found out the 3G power adapter was faulty. This is what HP did when my Photosmart went bad. In fact, this is what any manufacturer would do who had half a concern for their customers.

What's happened is that they issued free ground shipping to, first, return the unit to Garmin, then wait to find out when they intend to ship the replacement. (For the record, I'm still waiting. No communication yet although UPS confirmed the delivery of the returned unit last week.)

I use my GPS in business as I travel the country. It's not a convenience to me, it's a necessity. That's why I bought a high-end device like the 765T. You'd think that a customer like that would receive at least a modicum of communication from Garmin, but apparently this would cost too much or is simply too much trouble.

It is Garmin's failure of their Q&A process that caused the problem in the first place. Unfortunately, it's now become my headache because of their decision not to hot swap these units.

So now I wait. And wait. Clearly they are swamped with the return of hundreds, maybe thousands, of units and have decided not to hire any additional help on to handle the load. I suspect that's because they simply don't want to spend the money on something that was percipitated by their carelessness in not having the appropriate Q&A for checking software. Then again, I'm just a customer, who spent hundreds of dollars on this unit. Who the heck am I to complain!!

My advice? Think twice before buying a Garmin GPS. One month ago I would have recommended them on the basis of having owned three of Garmin's GPS'. Today I'd tell you that I never had to use their tech support before, and I realize now that profit at Garmin far outweighs the customer, even in a situation where Garmin is the perpetrator of the problem.

Caveat emptor.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My vote for product of the year!

I know it's only mid april, but I am awed by a product that I stumbled across yesterday at Bed Bath and Beyond. It's a portable back scratcher!

Folks, if you've ever needed to scratch your back and used a tree, wall, or any of a million other bizarre surfaces, then you'll know that a back scratcher is a one-of-a-kind appliance.

Until recently, conventional back scratchers had two drawbacks. First, they were usually only available in the China Town. Don't ask me why that's true, since I have a very itchy back and can guarantee you that I don't have a drop of Oriental blood in me. Second, they are always about 18" long, made from plastic or wood, and therefore don't exhibit a great deal of portability. In other words, the damn thing is never there when you need it.


This puppy collapses like a portable antenna with a claw on the end. It even has a pocket clip!! It's also just sharp enough to give your back that satisfying scratch without drawing blood. It fits comfortably in a purse, backpack or briefcase and is always ready when the itch strikes you.


My congratulations go out to Smart Inventions, who markets this device. You have my uncontested vote for Product of the Year, 2009 from a grateful, itchy-backed devotee of back scratchers.

BTW, I notice on the packaging, it's made in China. Hmmmmm.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Correction to my blog on the Kindle

My thanks to Bob Edelman who corrected me on the synchronization issue. It can be turned off, albeit from the Amazon website, and not on the device.

Thanks, Bob!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Great News About the Amazon Kindle

Today, a story in the NY Times revealed that Amazon has just released a new app called the Kindle for iPhone. Folks, I love this app! I can now read the books of my choice on my iPhone purchased from the huge inventory of ebooks at Amazon. Sweet!

There are two limitations. First, it is only good for books, not periodicals. Some of you may know that the Kindle allows you to subscribe to a newspaper or magazine and have it delivered automatically to your Kindle. I don't care about magazines or newspapers on the Kindle iPhone app or on the Kindle itself. I'm only interested in books, so that's not a limitation for me.

Second is that you have to make your book purchases on-line at the Amazon website. The iPhone app won't allow you to download them on the fly as the Kindle does. While this is slightly inconvenient, it is definitely not a showstopper.

This is a great way to read on my iPhone, whose form factor I like better than the Kindle. With the iPhone I can catch a few pages whenever I'm waiting in a checkout line, on the subway or bus, or just have a few minutes to spare while having lunch. Since the Kindle isn't easy to have in your pocket, I far prefer the iPhone.

There are several other readers on the iPhone, including the much-loved Classics and Stanza, as well as the newly released ShortCovers. None, however, have the depth of content that the Kindle for iPhone app does, including best sellers and classics.

There is also a feature of this new app called WhisperSync that synchronizes the Kindle to the iPhone, and visa versa. So, if you've started a book on the Kindle, then start to read it on your iPhone, they will both be bookmarked in the same spot. Very cool!

Which leads me to the one suggestion I have for the iPhone app. I'd like the option of turning WhisperSync off on the iPhone. I own both a Kindle and an iPhone. My wife uses the Kindle while I use the iPhone. If we're both reading the same book, but we're at different places, WhisperSync can inadvertently make her lose her place since it will try and bookmark my position to hers, and visa versa. As a workaround, I've made sure that she keeps wireless turned off on the Kindle so it can't connect with the Kindle store, but I'd still like the option of turning it off.

Maybe in the future Amazon will figure out how to sell content via the App Store as well. For now, however, I am a VERY happy camper.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What Was I Thinking!!!

I've owned a Soundbridge M500 for the last few years and used it to stream content from my computer to my stereo. Think Rhapsody, iTunes, etc. Well, the other day it died and went to Soundbridge heaven, which led me to research what would be the best replacement. I finally decided to take the plunge and order a Squeezebox Classic. Those of you who know me know that I don't take these steps lightly! Well folks, it is one of the best decisions I've ever made. What was I thinking in not getting this device before!?

If you're looking to stream music to your sound system from a subscription service or from your computer (iTunes), the Squeezebox Classic is awesome. The first advantage is that it is totally controlled from a variety of sources. You can use the remote that comes with the Classic, you can use your computer or you can use your iPhone. The Classic doesn't use Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) to stream Rhapsody, it is a receiver itself and has wireless built in. Once it is set up, it logs into Rhapsody itself. You can control what it streams to your sound system from any of the devices I mentioned above. The second major advantage is that the free software supplied by Logitech, who now owns Squeezebox, allows you to do whatever you need from a web browser on your computer, and it is works like a champ.

Rather than my going on and on about this device, I would urge you to go to the Squeezebox site to read what this thing can do. The only choice you have is whether to buy the Classic or the Duet. Every day I own it I am blown away by what it can do. I am absolutely going to get another one so I can control music separately in another room.

So for the third time, what was I thinking by not doing this before!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A follow-up to SkyGolf

A friend of mine asked what the outcome was of the SkyGolf story I posted on February 9th. They finally answered the phone after being on hold for an hour and they were able to resolve my problem. The agent was extremely contrite and apologized profusely for my inconvenience He said that because of the launch of their redesigned website—which they had thought would be a relatively inconsequential upgrade—they got bombarded with calls.

I submitted the URL to the original blog via their website and I was subsequently contacted by the Manager of Support via email. He also explained the situation and avowed that this definitely wasn't the norm for their company. He offered me an accessory for my SkyCaddie as an apology. I turned it down, but thought it was a nice gesture.

As for moving forward, my advice is that if you're buying an expensive piece of technology like a SkyCaddie, call their support number before you make the purchase and see how long it takes them to answer the phone. Ditto for email if that's your preferred method of communication. It is definitely part of my pre-sales routine. For top-notch technical support, check out Canon and Panasonic. They both set the bar for customer-facing help desks.

For what it's worth, I like the Sky Caddie and think it does what it's supposed to. (Now if only my game was improved!) I just live in hope that I don't have to call anyone back!

Monday, February 09, 2009

SkyGolf-another terrible customer service experience

Here's another vendor who is proving that a customer comes dead last in their list of priorities. Here's my experience in trying to get help with one of their products.

I recently decided to invest in a Skycaddie SG5, a top of the line GPS for golf. I've had a problem with the unit since I purchased it, and today finally decided that there must be a problem with the unit and not the user. As I write this, I've tried to get through to the tech support number 3 times today.

The first time the recording informed me that the queue was so full that they wouldn't even put me in the wait queue and promptly hung up. Hung UP! On a customer! Bet you don't do that in your business!

The second time, I was on hold for 30 minutes, listening to a recording telling me that they'd just launched a new web site and that call volume was higher than normal. They thanked me for my "... commitment and loyalty to SkyGolf." Are they kidding?? After this experience!

The third time I've been on hold for 45 minutes and am writing this as I listen to this unbelievably annoying recording repeat every 30 seconds. Has it not occurred to this vendor that if you've just launched a new web site, and that your abandon rate and average time to answer are through the roof that you need more agents!

This is another example of a company deciding that customer service is just an expense and that the customer will just have to suffer through it. How about management pitching in and answering the phones? How about taking a message and offering to schedule a call-back? Both of those methods would greatly increase customer satisfaction at virtually no cost.

So, the takeaway is that if you're considering purchasing any SkyGolf product, consider a Garmin instead. If you encounter a problem with your SkyCaddie, you'll never be able to get through to them, and you'll be out over $350 for a product you can't even use.

As for me, it's getting late, and I'm afraid they'll close their Help Desk on me after my waiting on the phone for one hour. That would send me over the deep end, so I think I'll just waste some more of my time tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Inauguration

While yesterday was Martin Luter King Day, I couldn't help but think this morning, on the eve of the inaugural, what a legacy this also is for Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General who started the civil rights movement. It brings extraordinary meaning to his death. Today, I am really awed at being an American, and how this country is a living, breathing organism, that morphs from the racially separated nation where I grew up, to the racially integrated country it is today, where a black man gets elected President. And all in my brief lifetime.

I already know that today will be one of the greatest days I will ever live through, one that I will remember until I die. Historic times, my friends.