September 17, 2006

Customer Disservice

The Internet is platform-neutral by design. That means that any application and any computer type that speaks the correct protocol should be able to talk to any other computer type and application using that protocol. For example, my Macintosh running Safari, Internet Explorer or Firefox should be able to talk to XM Radio's account management site running who-cares-what web server. But that is not possible, because some moron who programmed XM's site put in a check for the browser type, and won't let you connect to the site unless you are running a "supported" browser. These include IE, Netscape and AOL. But even IE on the mac (though it fits the version requirement of > 5.01) does not work. So it's apparent that XM's website is looking for the platform along with the browser name and version. I guarantee that I would never hire the person who made that decision to build a website.

This would not be a problem if XM did not charge more for using their phone service.

I know one thing: our investment in hardware for XM is relatively small, and I'll be looking very closely at Sirius the next time I buy a satellite radio.

Posted by jeff at 2:38 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 7, 2006


Kudos to the Philiadelphia Inquirer for running one of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons of Mohammed. In their excellent explanation of why, the editors end with this statement, which should be read to the editors of newspapers like the NY Times, as a challenge:

This is what newspapers are in the business to do. We educate people, we inform them, we spark discussion. It is not only our profession, it is our obligation.

More of this kind of attitude, and I'll have to stop criticizing the media so broadly.

(hat tip: InstaPundit)

Posted by jeff at 1:26 PM | TrackBack

January 27, 2006

Ah Ha!

We are closing our old bank accounts, and cleaning up the last few things that draw from them. The last one was DirecTV. Now, we like our satellite TV service: the signal is fantastic, and since we put up the dual-LNB antenna has not once rain faded that I've noticed (better aligned than the last one, because we paid a professional to do it); the programming is quite good, and we get the services we want for a price we can pay, along with about another 200 channels that we don't care about; the DVR allows us to record two shows while watching one we've already recorded, and it's TiVo rather than some less-functional knock-off. But their customer service is execrable. That's not fair: their customer service personnel are fine, when you can reach them.

Well, after half an hour of digging through voice menus, and not being able to find an option to let me do what I want or to talk to a person, I finally figured out how to get a person. In the hopes of saving someone else the trouble, here's how to do it: lie.

When you dial DirecTV's customer service number, any option you pick will ask you to enter the service phone number. Enter a nonsense number (you need 10 digits; I entered the correct area code and switch, and a random last 4 digits). The service will ask if you are sure that's your phone number. Assure it that you are, and its inability to find your account is certainly the computer's own fault. It will then ask you for your account number. Be sure to tell it you have no clue what your account number is. At this point, the computer will metaphorically throw up its hands in frustration and transfer you to an actual person, who in my case resolved the actual issue I had within 5 minutes.

If the alternative was anything but Comcast, I'd likely switch providers if I ever have to call them again: it's easier.

Posted by jeff at 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 4, 2006

Annoying Airline Stuff

I tend to fly a lot. Generally, because of where I'm going, I've been using AirTran lately. And generally, they've been good to deal with. (Heck, their built-in XM radio led to a great Christmas present. Tonight, however, they get a criticism.

AirTran's hub is in Atlanta. Atlanta is a busy airport. However, you would expect them to be able to transfer a bag from one gate in a terminal to another gate in a terminal. Especially when the gap between the incoming and outgoing flight is something like two hours. And especially especially when the departure of the flight is held up for about a half hour in order to "make sure all our luggage gets on board". But no, apparently not.

There were about 20 people who didn't get a total of about 50 bags on the flight. Apparently there were a similar number of bags not transferred last night. And apparently, this is pretty common (although, to be fair, I've never had it happen before on AirTran).

I understand the complexity of baggage routing: it's not an easy problem to send tens of thousands of bags per day from one point to another, even in the same airport, when the actual flights people are going to be on are themselves changing, so the end point keeps moving. However, it startles me to think that there is apparently not one single airline who can yet do with my bags what FedEx or UPS can do with a package: determine where it is with reasonable certainty at any point in time, and make sure that it gets where it needs to be with little chance of error, so long as circumstances do not change en route (again, a cancelled flight is an obvious reason why a bag might not make it to the right place).

Mainly, I'm annoyed that I'm in Pontiac, Michigan and my heavy coat is in Atlanta. And it's cold here.

Posted by jeff at 2:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 28, 2005

Good Customer Service

I am supposed to be in the air, nearing Atlanta, on my way to Flint, MI. Since I'm typing this from DFW, you can guess how that plan is working out. (Yay, weather in Atlanta.) Knowing I'm going to be hours late getting into Flint, and well past their normal closing time, I called Hertz's customer service number. I got a real person immediately, who gave me the direct number to the Bishop Airport Hertz center at my request. Again, I got a real person immediately, and then explained when I would be getting in. The agent thanked me for letting her know I was definitely going to make it, because she had already been planning on waiting for me, and was hoping it wouldn't be in vain.

Kudos, Hertz.

Posted by jeff at 8:11 PM | TrackBack