25 July 2007

As if fat people need another reason to be feared and taunted

This just in: obesity is socially contagious! Yes, sir, stay away from fat people. Don't be friends with them, and if one of your friends--or worse even your spouse--starts to put on the gain, ditch them before you too fall victim to this spreading scourge.

From the New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 357:370-379, July 26, 2007, No.4

A person's chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if he or she had a friend who became obese in a given interval. Among pairs of adult siblings, if one sibling became obese, the chance that the other would become obese increased by 40%. If one spouse became obese, the likelihood that the other spouse would become obese increased by 37%.
There are so many angles to take this story I don't even know where begin--"Now remember kids, don't talk to strangers or fat people." "I'm suin' my ex-wife fer chunkin' up and causin' my heart attacks." This might be the basis for discrimination against obesity in the work place. Hey, we can't smoke indoors, why would we let people of girth eat around us? That's just dangerous.

Maybe we'll see more studies showing that getting up early is contagious and jogging is addictive. Then it's just a matter of hanging out with the right crowd. Dark chocolate is officially health food now, so who knows.

On the other hand, if we could "cure" all obese people, maybe there would me no one left to catch fatness from...

18 July 2007

God created the Universe in 6 days

After I cleaned up from pissing myself laughing I got scared.

It's not just a case of American ignorance or stupidity, it's part of a world-wide fundamentalist religion problem that's killing and maiming people every day.

45% of the population of the USA believes that the Universe is only 4000 years old (yes, four thousand years). 45% of the USA! That's ~135 million people, walking around with that idea in their heads every day. That means there must be 135 million Americans that have never read a book or been to a museum that wasn't part of the multi-billion dollar faith industry. Richard Dawkins has the scoop and George Carlin adds his bit.

Will wonders never cease? Jesus, save me from your followers!

I swear sometimes I'm clairvoyant

Last month I was in Europe. I spent a lot of time on the train with people whose language I do not speak. So I brought my mp3 player.

I was sitting on the train, window seat, beautiful sunny afternoon, gliding blissfully through the post-communist country side, girl-friend asleep beside me peacefully.

Star Guitar by the Chemical Brothers was for some reason stuck on repeat but I didn't mind. I kept thinking "man, this song is exactly perfect for coasting along on a sunny afternoon on a train when you're in a foreign country".

I just saw the video. Blows my mind.

17 July 2007

Customer Service: 3 strikes in one day

(I haven't written much in a long time, I've had a hectic couple of months. Luckily my dedicated readers will forgive me. I'd love to be able to sit around and just blog all day like Scoble does. What is that guy selling anyway?)

Things, as they say happen in three's. Perhaps because I've been reading a lot of Seth's Blog, I noticed a disturbing trend in three encounters I've had in the last 24 hours. I've broken it down into three posts 'cause I'm wordy. Here are links to posts 1, 2 and 3.

--- I think of customer service as a subsection of the Golden Rule: treat others in a way that you'd enjoy being treated. Obviously if you're a masochist this won't always pan out well, but you know what I mean. People are lazy. We have narrow areas of interest, and most things outside of this area of interest fall into a category called "shit I wish I didn't have to deal with".

For example, I used to have a folder in my filing cabinet marked "TAX" where I put all my income tax forms, phone bills, student loan applications, bank statements, receipts, etc. I thought 'tax' was the correct label because it included all the organisations in the world that pick my pockets. But when I realized I was also filing appliance warranties, apartment leases, and passport renewal applications in my "TAX" folder I realized that it was actually my "shit I wish I didn't have to deal with" folder after all. But I digress.

Good customer service takes something out of the "shit I wish I didn't have to deal with" pile and puts it into the "shit that someone else took care of so I can get on with enjoying my day" pile. And that's a great pile, even when it's a bit steamy and smells of beef. The best way to help people out is to take care of their needs. If you have some skill or ability like a car to lend, a delivery network, or a service that people find useful, make it easy for them. After all, you need them more than they need you: there is often competition just around the corner.

I don't want to hear "there's nothing we can do". That goes nowhere but straight into the "shit I wish I didn't have to deal with" pile. Give me "here's what we can do", "there has to be a work-around somewhere, I'll take a look", or "I'll take care of it for you". Give me some initiative. Great service does make a difference and it does get rewarded. And it's not about subjugating yourself to the customer, it's about taking control of the situation and being a good host.

Anyone want a job tending my filing cabinet? Hey, maybe Scoble will hire me to file his blog posts...

Continue to strike 1

Customer Service: Strike 1!

1. Yesterday I went to rent a car for work at Avis. I was renting on the company account, which is on a Gold Visa so includes insurance. The customer service agent couldn't add insurance to my bill because the feature was locked 'off' on his computer. It's locked this way to prevent redundant coverage being added to the Gold Visa (aka accidentally overly-covered accident coverage). Unfortunately only the names of the firm's partners are on the card so the insurance does not cover me (I am but a young peon). I don't know how it is that I can rent a car on the card but not be covered by its insurance, but that's a matter for Visa to address. Apparently Avis can do nothing. And that's what the agent told me again and again, and what he then told my office manager over the phone in incrementally ruder tones.

Now I've worked my fair share of minimum wage service/retail jobs and I know that sometimes you are just in a bad mood, or tired, or hungover, or going through a bout of philosophical depression: working for minimum wage is not high on The List of Things that Add Value to One's Life. But come on! Work with me people! It wouldn't kill you to think outside of the box for just five minutes would it?

So this agent, his co-worker, and manager all watched me walk 30 feet to the Hertz desk across the hall, exchange my card for a set of keys, and get on with my now substantially delayed day. They didn't just 'lose a customer' in some figurative manner of speech, they physically watched me go, and take the rest of my company's corporate account with me. We are now proud members of AutoShare, although Hertz isn't so bad despite their 'death and decay' colour scheme and the tragic onomatopoeia of their name (why not Burns brand condoms, or Choke bread company?) Hertz turned out to be less expensive than Avis, too.

Avis, you're fired.

Continue to strike 2

Customer Service: Strike 2!

2. We sent out an important document to a client with a tight deadline. Purolator (Puro-later?) ensured us that it would be there by 9am, just like the stickers on the package declared. Our client called in a panic at noon asking us where the hell the document was. Now we look like fools, thanks to Purolater . We called the couriers to see what the hold up was. They accidentally delivered it to the wrong city, so they are delivering it back and will send it to the correct address tomorrow, a day late. What?!

They are couriers. They carry packages. Just one thing that they do. That's it. And they didn't get it right. Ok, we're all human. People make mistakes. That's cool. But when you make a mistake, and you know that you made a mistake, and it's perfectly clear that your mistake is going to ruin someoneelse's day, FIX IT. Clearly if tomorrow was ok, we wouldn't have stuck a bunch of colourful stickers on the package that said
9am today!

Again we are reminded that just because a job doesn't pay well, doesn't mean that anyone can be good at it. This is the second time they've lost our packages and made us look like fools to our own customers.

Purolator, you are fired.

Continue to Strike 3

Customer Service: Strike 3?

3. I called Rogers, the local telecom/ISP company, to get some issues ironed out with my bills and to address a few promises that they had failed to deliver on since the last time I had enough motivation to sit on hold waiting for one of the agents to get to me. While I'm on hold I'm thinking, 'this fucking sucks! Why can't they call me back? I should have the option to either hold or just put my phone number in 'priority sequence' and the next available attendant can give me a ring when they're ready. They are the phone company, if anyone should be able to call me you'd think it would be them. They own my phone dammit.' Of course being a cable company too, they'd only be able to do as good as 'call you back sometime in the next 1 to 5 hours' and we all know how well that turns out...

Anyway, eventually I get a super-helpful agent who solves all my issues. She was so good that I was going to ask for her manager's email so I could write a thank you letter. Hey, you can't tip a call centre worker, but good service should be noted and duly rewarded, I think. Unfortunately, 36 hold-ridden minutes later, while she was getting ready to transfer me to a tech person to finish off my call, my phone died and we lost connection. Now I can't call back because I'll just be on hold for 10 minutes before I'm transferred to some new attendant. I will have to explain everything over again because it's never "on their computer". I don't remember the name of the attendant I was working with, and even if I did I'm sure there is more than one Julie or Amanda or whatever working there. They have my number. It's right there on her screen. They have my address, my name, my credit card number. There are about 5 different ways that they can find my number, even if they didn't own my damn phone. And they didn't call back. Why the hell won't the phone company call me back?

God damn it, I'm going to wait a month until my next bill comes. I hope it shows the changes I spent 36 minutes of my life working on. If not, then Rogers will be fired too, unless that agent can think outside the box for just a second, take some initiative and call me. How sweet would that be? Sadly, it would set a new bar for customer service in the telco industry. Just like the 73 helpless minutes I spent on the phone with Primus set a new low. Primus (fully and forever Fired since 2005) still owes me $3.70 but they "can not process returns through a credit card" like that's fucking rocket science.

09 July 2007

I can't resist sharing this video of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the Microsoft Developer Expo.

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