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Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Do you ever feel lately like the clowns are running the circus? Sometimes I get up, pour my coffee, turn on the news and push the off button after the first few words of the latest news report have run off the anchor’s teleprompter. Totally exhausting. Never that I can remember have I been so in need of a relaxing vacation. I’m leaning towards tropical but at this point a day trip to Death Valley is holding some appeal.

The majority of the smoke from the latest inferno has finally left the valley and a glorious backdrop of bright blue skies and white puffy clouds is visible from my kitchen window. There is a hint of fall in the air, my Halloween decorations are up (in spite of the fact I keep hearing it has been cancelled), and life is beginning to feel just the slightest bit, shall I dare to say it, NORMAL. Well, not pre-pandemic normal, but at least leaning towards weather normal. I’ll take it.

My birthday is on the horizon. It shows up about this time every year, and I am thankful to be sitting here writing about another full turn on my annual clock. There is always a touch of melancholy that passes over me a few weeks before my big day. Perhaps it’s the gentle mourning of the passage of another year or possibly indulging in a little reflection on what I’ve done with the 365 days since last I celebrated.

The littlest member of our clan, Zeppelin also recently celebrated a birthday, his second. The little guy has no idea how much world he still has laid out in front of him. For Zeppelin it was all about his new desk with interactive buttons, exploring the delightful sound of all the words he has recently discovered coming out of his mouth, and the dozens of balloons his family blew up to help make his day really special. My daughter said after I left he kept pointing at the door and saying “Nana”, that would be me. Loved that. I haven’t been able to get up close and personal with him since the pandemic made itself known so it is nice to know he still understands who I am.

Funny how we humans adapt to our surroundings. There would have been a time not to long ago if someone passed me in the driver’s seat of their car wearing a mask with a skull and crossbones on it, I would have assumed they were either attending a terrorism rally, off to an early Halloween party or had just knocked off a bank. Now it’s just another person dressed to go out for the day. I have probably ten masks in all different colors. People are always stopping me and commenting on them because most of the fabrics are colorful or have critters on them, so I guess they are somewhat more interesting than the plain black or paper models. Had I realized they were going to become such a hot fashion accessory I would have gone into production a few months ago. Truthfully, I could never charge for masks. Somehow that would feel uncomfortable to me. All manner of masks have shown up in the stores, however, so someone is making a profit off of them. There is always someone willing to jump on the band wagon when disaster strikes. No matter what the situation, a tee shirt seems to be generated to mark the occasion. Amazing.

Where there is money to made opportunists will show up for a piece of it. Scams are on the rise. Yesterday I heard there was a new scam involving Amazon. A victim was on the news describing how real the call seemed even down to the fine points like having a number appearing to be genuinely belonging to Amazon. In her case $1,000 was taken from her bank account. I use Amazon all the time, much more so since the bug arrived on the scene. Part of me is annoyed by the site, particularly since the company, so I’m told, doesn’t pay taxes. It aggravates the life out of me when people take, take, take and don’t pay their fair share to the pot. In this tax bracket companies can afford high end accountants well versed in finding the holes in the tax laws custom made to keep them from having to contribute. Conversely, you have a blue collar person working at a minimum wage job scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to pull together enough money to pay what the IRS says is their due. Don’t misunderstand me I’m all about capitalism and the right to do as well as you are capable of doing, but out and out greed is unacceptable to me. Just because you can get away with something does not necessarily make it the right thing to do. At any rate, I continue to go on to Amazon in order to not frequent stores on a regular basis and keep myself as safe as possible. Hypocritical? Most likely. As I say often, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Lately Amazon hasn’t been as reliable as it was in the past. I assume, like everything else, the downswing is due to the pandemic. It is hit or miss when I order a product when or if it will arrive at the front door. Several times of late I have had to generate a refund request for goods never received. When Rick was alive he always said I was his go to girl for any customer service issues. I am all about fairness. Never will I argue a point just to win, but if I feel I am right when it comes to good customer service I am like a dog with a bone. When we owned our restaurant I used to explain often to our wait staff how essential good customer service is to growing a business. Literally, it is the back bone of the restaurant business, or any business really. One dissatisfied customer walking out of the door doesn’t seem like a large loss, but when that customer tells a friend, a co-worker, a relative about their bad experience and they in turn pass it on to their circle that one person can cause a huge ripple effect.

A month and a half ago we invested in a rather expensive pillow for my mom’s wheelchair. From the description, it sounded perfect to keep her backside from getting sores or being uncomfortable after sitting for long periods of time. Because of a series of incidents the pillow didn’t get taken out of the original box until over thirty days after it was received. After being used for several weeks it became apparent it was actually causing sores and irritation rather than reducing the problem and wasn’t equally inflated making it uncomfortable to sit on. After locating a customer service number not listed on the site itself, I got hold of a representative. I explained the situation and, though pleasant, he said I was two weeks past the return window. That being the case, they could not return the money. Hmmmmm. Nicely, I said that would be fine. I went on politely to explain I had invested thousands of dollars with their business and in most cases been satisfied until lately. Since he was unable to return my investment (nearly $500) I would have to console myself by going on their site and posting an honest and detailed review of this product in the hopes of deterring anybody else from being caught in the same situation. The money, in total, was graciously refunded. I suggested they discontinue selling this product as it doesn’t live up to what is described.

We need to learn to have a voice. This does not mean going about bulldozing people down every time we are dissatisfied, but it does mean standing up for what is right. My “voice” is something that has come to me after years of not speaking up, or times I’ve let someone take advantage of me. Now, thankfully, I am able to stand up and fight for what is right. Rick used to say, “she’s little but she’s fierce”. Hah.

Blissfully I am about to slip on my tennis shoes and step outside for an early morning walk. Have a great weekend. Stay safe.

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fort In the end life is really just a series of beginnings and endings, a string of cheery hello’s and sad goodbye’s. Today I said a sad goodbye to Mr. Friendly, my best friends dear scruffy black kitty. Mr. Friendly has been a fixture at their house for nearly twenty years and my bunk mate on the blow-up mattress I sleep on each time I pay them a visit. Always before I closed my eyes his dear old body would cuddle up next to my feet. He will be sorely missed at the end of the bed the next time I am in town. Continuing on my way, I will add this furry friend’s name to the ever growing list of animals and friends I have had to leave behind. As Robinson Crusoe might say, “it is hard to be the last man standing”. For Mr. Crusoe, or at least as portrayed by Tom Hanks, a painted face on a coconut was the only thing between him and total desolation. If things don’t lighten up pretty soon, I may have to go to Trader Joe’s and see if I can dig one up and break out the magic markers.

I commented to a friend the other day with all that is going on in the world of late, if the Four Horsemen went riding by I wouldn’t even blink an eye. Life seems to have gone to hell in a hand basket over the past months and I for one would like to yell “ENOUGH already”! I know there are a lot of people out there far worse off than I, so for now I will simply whisper softly, “please make it stop” and hope the message is received.

What an odd couple of weeks. In my previous blog I was discussing two wall units with shelving which I ordered a while back. The units were going to replace a dresser I was using for storage in my spare bedroom. Having already given away the dresser, all the contents of the drawers were piled up everywhere awaiting the arrival of the replacements. They originally were due to arrive the first of last week, but with mail being effected like everything else, I got a notice they would be late. A second notice showed up saying they would be here by the end of the day on Friday. Yay. The tracking information provided to me had shown no forward movement since the week prior. According to UPS documentation both units were still sitting in Pennsylvania waiting to be shipped. Waking up Saturday morning to an empty porch, I had a feeling UPS was on to something. I called the store where I originally ordered them, and they in turn contacted their third party shipper. Hello? Anybody out there? I heard back shortly from a customer service rep from the store saying the shipper was not responding to their emails. That being the case, the store would be returning my money and would write the items off as lost in transit. Sigh. I sat on my porch and did a visualization. It has been said I have a certain knack for tapping into this super power of the mind. Rick used to call it “wishcraft”. It involves simply repeatedly picturing what you want, in this case boxes of storage cabinets sitting on my stoop, and concentrating on only that for about five minutes. Done and done.

When mentioning to a friend I had ordered units needing assembly, he offered to help me put them together once they arrived. Since the originals had gone missing and the money credited back to my card, I felt comfortable to order two different units to be delivered. Shortly after placing the order on Amazon, my friend called to say he had found two at his local hardware store and could pick them up and bring them to me. Quickly, I called and cancelled the order I’d just placed being assured it had been caught before it shipped and there would be no problem. My friend then offered to pick up two new units he had located and help me put those two together. Are you with me so far? Good. At last I was beginning to sense some forward momentum. Yay.

For some reason in every relationship I’ve been involved with I’ve always been the one called on to assemble anything needing to be put together. I married interesting, sometimes difficult, charming, and intelligent men but not one of them was what you might call “handy” when it came to fixing things around the house. If I ordered something, once the boxes arrived, it was always me sitting on the floor trying to comprehend the poorly written instructions and the numerous bags of parts. Next time around I am definitely getting in the princess line. Nice to have an offer of extra hands. After bringing the two new units to the house, we unpacked the sorted the pieces and then counted all the hardware to make sure we had everything we needed. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve ordered something only to find out it’s missing an integral part necessary to put the thing together. This time we were on the money.

My friend had forgotten to bring his drill. This would add some time to the assembly process. I have what he referred to as a “girl drill” which, though pretty, doesn’t have enough power behind it to drill a toothpick into a piece of cream cheese. Soooo, we took out our Phillip’s head screwdrivers and began the process of figuring out how to create the cabinet the old fashioned way. I’m a logical being. Before starting such a project I lay everything out in order and line up the pieces alphabetically. Makes things move along a lot more seamlessly. The instructions were actually excellent, both clear and easy to unravel. Some I’ve gotten look as if they had been written on a piece of 2-ply Quilted Northern while seated on the commode. When you are assembling two identical units, the second one is always much easier as you already understand the process. The first one, however, can can be a bit of a b—-.  Can’t tell you how many times I’ve put something on upside down or put the left side on the right side and had to break a piece of furniture down and start all over again. Once my son and I assembled a barbecue in the garage on Thanksgiving with twenty-five people showing up for dinner without noticing we had put the entire bottom part of the unit on upside down. Note to gueststurkey will be late. Ach.

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In the middle of figuring out the first cabinet, I heard the doorbell ring. I had been on my hands and knees for an hour, so it took a crane and two winches to get me vertical again. Finally making it to the door I saw the UPS van driving off having left two huge boxes on my porch. Oh-oh. “Lucy, you got some splaining to do”. Darn. Yup, the lost units had definitely been found. Wow. So, I got back on the phone and once again endured the endless round of music and explanations of why the wait was so long on the original company’s website. Finally getting a human, I explained the situation. Obviously I wasn’t taking these huge boxes into the UPS store, and they had already refunded my money so where do we go from here? “Keep them”, says he. What? “Yup”, he said, “they are yours”. Really? So, I had no storage units and now I have four? Boy that visualization stuff is really powerful. Hmmmm. On the negative side here, I don’t need four large storage units in one small bedroom unless I plan on sleeping  vertically in one of them. I considered adding being interred in one as a codicil to my living will but decided it might lean toward tacky so thought I might sell them as the customer service rep had suggested. Nothing, and I repeat nothing, of late is wrinkle free. I decided like Scarlett to ponder this tomorrow and we dragged the boxes in the back yard.

After spending the whole day in the spare bedroom we emerged shaken but not stirred with two finished storage cabinets with hinged doors. My muscles were aching but my mind was doing the lambatta. There is something terribly satisfying about completing a job after putting some serious hard work, at least for me. Getting ready to send my friend on his way with a large bowl of homemade potato salad and a peach pie for his trouble (baking is my therapy of late) I opened the front door and guess what? Yup. The two supposedly cancelled storage units were now resting comfortably on my front porch. Sigh. Do not try this visualization technique at home unless you are prepared for the abundance which may ensue. Whew. So, I now had six units, two free, two assembled, and two, well I didn’t know yet. I called the store where I’d ordered the last two and this time they ordered a return. They said a UPS truck would be around the following day and to leave them on the front porch. Okay. I put the return label they issued as instructed on each box and left them where they stood. The following day I was out watering in the back when the UPS guy came by. He left a notice saying they were only authorized to stop by once and they were unable to pick these up the return label wasn’t on them. OKAY, seriously make it stop. The store representative and I now on a first name basis, once again discussed the situation. Guess what? They want me to keep them. Abundance can be a burden.

In the end my dresser went to a cancer patient, my dining room table to a group of starving students, and each storage unit but the two I kept went to people who really needed them. Maybe this was the gift?

At any rate I “wish” for you today abundance in all things…..health, happiness, and love. Make it a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This has been a busy few weeks in this blonde’s life. In spite of the pandemic roaring on outside my door, work of one type of another keeps seeping in through the cracks. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m a self-professed “worker bee” so enjoy being busy. Having plenty to do is not a complaint from me but rather a godsend, in case the universe is listening. If TV was the only avenue I had to focus my attention on, a good deal of my day would be spent with my feet up and my eyes closed. Thankfully, my days are mostly filled. This keeps both my mind and my fingers occupied which, as my grandmother used to say, was a good thing.

Much of my work is in graphics, which was my profession before I semi-retired. When working on a graphics project my right brain kicks into gear and I tend to become hyper-focused. Until I get it laid out in my mind I think about the project even when not looking at it on my laptop. Yesterday was a good example of that.  I opened Adobe Illustrator early in the day and worked for several hours. I took a break to grab some breakfast and catch the news. The temperature, according to the weather man was going to be in the high nineties. I love my garden, so I try to treat it well. Hearing it was going to hot, I went out to water before the heat moved in. My garden fountain has been turned off for the past few weeks due to a shortage of distilled water, which according to the manufacturer keeps the motor working well. I went to four stores looking for distilled water and none was to be found. Apparently people use distilled water for medical devices such as C-Pap’s, and the recent virus flare prompted a run on it. Day before yesterday I found the store shelves again restocked so picked up a few bottles. Deciding to go ahead and fill the fountain, I noticed the bushes around it had begun to encroach on the area where it was sitting.  Retrieving my brand new extra sharp clippers (I really shouldn’t be allowed sharp objects) I commenced to give the bush a trim. Yay. The cord running from the pump to the outdoor plug was partially hidden in the branches, so I pushed it aside and began to clip, clip, clip around the outside edges. Somewhere in the middle of my clipping I came across what felt to be a particularly large branch so I gave the clippers a good squeeze and heard it snap. Right afterwards the cord popped up now cut neatly in half. It must have slid back down out of sight. Sigh. Some days it is better to stay in bed. I guess I’ll look on the bright side, at least it wasn’t plugged in so I’m not sitting here keying this with sizzling hair. As is typical of the way things work I am now well stocked with distilled water and have no pump for the fountain. Good news, the pump is the most expensive part.  I can’t help but wonder when I look at my life if these things happen to other people or is it just me? When I was little my mom used to say, “Susan, slow down. You move before you think.” Words of wisdom.

The day when it begins like this, tends to end up in the same manner. Perhaps it’s a mindset or just the planets out of alignment. I have been doing my bi-weekly therapy appointments on Zoom of late.  Yesterday after cutting the cord, so to speak, I was upset with myself so rather than go back to work I decided to go to the market while it was still fairly cool outside.  In the vegetable section picking out a good cantaloupe, my 1:00 Zoom meeting popped up on my phone at not surprisingly 1:00. Whoops, another one bites the dust. Darn this mind. The meeting had completely disappeared from my radar. Hard to bluff my way out of it when shoppers with carts were wandering around behind me while we were talking. Ah well.

When I got home with my groceries I noticed a package in my mailbox. I assumed it was the remote I had ordered from Amazon several days before, which it was. Recently I had a new TV system installed by a new provider. The technician couldn’t complete the installation with regard to Neflix because I didn’t have the remote for the Blu-ray  undoubtedly hiding out in a bin somewhere in my storage shed. I went on-line (truly you can find almost anything) and amazingly found the correct remote. My Blu-ray is about eight years old so in the tech world it would be considered a bit of dinosaur.  In spite of getting a comprehensive package on my TV touting 600 channels I can’t seem to locate one program I want to watch. 575 of the programs tell you how to remove belly fat, get rid of that double chin, use an air fryer or get help for your acne but nothing else of of much interest. At least with Netflix I should have some options. Over the years I’ve become pretty good at being my own IT guy. Personally, I think they should include at IT tech with every purchase of an electronic item, but I don’t see that happening in the near future so I’ve learned to adapt. Excitedly I hooked up everything and went on line to synch Netflix with my device. Life was good. Everything looking like it was a go I selected a movie and then hit PLAY. A screen came up with the error message “Netflix no longer supports this device. Please call to speak to a technician.”

After waiting the usual thirty minutes for someone to answer, I got a lovely lady on the line who was very helpful. Using the three remotes I now had to put into service we went in and out of the TV setup and Blu-ray three or four times until we determined “Netflix no longer supports this device”. Sigh. So, I have a remote for a device that doesn’t work and now I have to order a Firestick and am paying for Netflix though I can’t watch it. Sure glad I saved that extra few bucks by switching providers.

I will end, however, with good news on the customer service front. Over the weekend I decided to dip into my savings to purchase a new dining room table. This house is much smaller than my previous home and the dining room table, though it does barely fit in my dining room, is much too big for the room. My body sports numerous bruises from the constant beating it takes every time I run into a table corner or bang my arm on a chair as I pass through to the kitchen. I looked on-line first and found a lovely table and chairs at a large furniture retailer for an incredibly good price. Their website said I needed to make an appointment at their showroom if I wished to see it, so I did, and showed up on time. The employee at the reception area looking as though he’d rather be almost anywhere than sitting at that front desk, said I didn’t need an appointment and with one disinterested finger flagged down a salesman. OK. I suggested to him they take down the appointment paragraph on the website so people don’t waste their time. From his expression I’m sure he got right on that suggestion. The salesman conversely was a very pleasant man who said he was on his second week of work. I had brought the Item numbers of the table and chairs I had looked at as well as the quoted website prices. After looking at the other tables available, most higher priced than the one I’d looked at, I said I still wanted the original one from the website. When he looked at the price he said, “that can’t be right”. I looked it up on my phone, and there it was in black and white on their website. Oh-oh. The salesman said naturally they would match that price. Naturally. The chairs were listed as $90 for a set of two. When I showed him that he said he had to get the manager. OK. The manager came and I showed him their own website and the prices. His face clouded over. “That can’t be right”. Again with the “that can’t be right”. It is your website, yes? Next he said, “I hate that website”. I didn’t respond. The man is entitled to his feelings. Next, he tried to convince me the $90 was for one chair. “Nope”, says I, “set of 2 clear as day”. Finally, he gave up and they sold it to me for the website prices. Stand your ground in a situation like this. To be clear, my goal was not to get something for nothing. However, if your business advertises a price for your merchandise you need to be prepared to honor it. When I went up to pay the manager he appeared downright upset. He said he was new in this position and the website wasn’t posting the right prices. That, as they say, is a personal problem. I try to spend my money wisely and research where I spend it. Most likely I will have this table for a long time and am happy to have gotten a good price for it. Sooooo, my lovely new table arrives next week. When I got home I looked up the table again just for giggles and sure enough the prices on both table and chairs had gone up significantly.

Two steps forward, one back. I’m okay with this. Life is always interesting, often entertaining, keeps me curious and energized. Make it a great one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am tired. Tired of complaining, hearing people complain, complaining about people who are complaining and generally just tired of the whole mess. How about you? This has been a weird and unpredictable couple of weeks even for my life which in a normal world often veers off to the right. Sigh.

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To begin with the microwave died. This truly is not a life shattering experience but with everything upside down in the world, it is an added irritation. So programmed am I to warm up a cup of cold coffee or reheat something for lunch, I find myself opening the microwave door and inserting something inside every five minutes before remembering the damn thing doesn’t work. The nice thing about renting rather than owning your house, is that when something breaks down the phone call you make is to the landlord. You don’t have to go through all the rigamarole of finding a repairman or going to the store and getting a new appliance. I rather like that. For years Rick and I watched as our vacation money flew out the door to replace a broken water heater or the money put aside for a special dinner went instead toward purchasing a replacement for a broken dishwasher. There is a downside to renting as well, of course. I do miss being able to paint a wall chartreuse if the spirit moves me, or on a whim adopting a litter of Great Danes without having to ask permission. Other than that, I rather enjoy the freedom of not having to worry about when the other shoe is going to drop when it comes to house repairs. These days I will take a win wherever I can find it.

The landlord said the earliest she could get a repairman to replace the microwave would be mid-August. I’m not surprised. She was kind enough, however, to offer me a loaner microwave, a countertop model rather than one suspended over the stove such as I have now. This is better than no microwave for sure. However, my kitchen is a two-butt kitchen. Even with only two people operating in it at the same time, cheek to cheek contact is definitely a risk you take. Perhaps I can put it in the spare bathroom though cooking food next to the toilet doesn’t really seem like the most desirable of plans.

The lawn is also included in the obscene amount of rent I dole out every thirty days. I’m thankful for that as well. I neither have a lawn mower nor the desire to push one around so am happy to have someone checking both boxes. Recently they hired a new team to manage the landscaping. They swoop down like vultures on road kill, machines whirring, grass flying, and are in and out before you can say lawn genocide. What they do to the lawns in that short of a period of a time is mind blowing. How you mow a lawn leaving huge patches of long grass next to nearly shaved areas defies understanding. Once I asked them if they could take care of the weeds on the side of the house. They took the weed whacker and leveled everything but the house itself including all the viable plants minding their own business in that bed. Looked like locust had passed through. Personally I believe there was a method to their madness. I never asked them to whack the weeds again.

I also pay “cat rent”. Amazing. This is a relatively new gimmick for landlords to extract that last ounce of blood out of their tenants. Boo hasn’t worked in years, so this falls to me to take care of. I’ve gently suggested there are mice to be chased and lizards to be tailed but she remains steadfast in her desire to simply perch on her queen’s pillow and wait for me to serve her.

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To add to the mix, I got my “bundle bill” as I call it, day before yesterday. Its where your service provider bundles all your electronic needs into a nice little package that fluctuates more than the stock market when changes in interest rates are announced.  I’ve been in this house a year and I signed up for a year contract. Now if you are waiting for the provider, in this case the television service, to notify you your year is up you will be sadly disappointed. It is up to you to monitor the last day your “discounts” awarded when they initially sucked you in will no longer be in place. Mine had just expired. My bill went up from $187 to a little under $300 for last month. Ach. On the same day the bill arrived, two fresh faced young people knocked at my door suggesting they could lower my bill significantly and offer me another cable provider along with several tantalizing perks while keeping the same Internet and land line provider. Hmmmmm. They showed me their badges, called the office to confirm they worked there, and offered me a worm I could not seem to pass up. Now I know better. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. This was Rick’s adage and he applied it to almost everything. That being said I plowed forward all pistons firing. After contracts were signed and deals cut the two porch pirates left with a promise to call me once the new system was installed to make sure everything went smoothly. Okie.

The installer arrived as promised. He removed the old equipment and began the process of setting up the new system. First, he had to drill a hole in the bedroom ceiling in order to get the cable to the second TV. OK. A long dark cable now hangs down behind the dresser. Not pretty, but I can live with it. Then he told me there was an extra charge for hooking up the Internet to the TV which was supposed to be thrown in for free. I finally convinced him, after showing him my contract, this was to be included. Reluctantly we got that going. Then I was offered free HBO for a year and Cinemax for $10/mo. Doable. The sales duo also convinced me all the channels on the less expensive package included the channels I said I enjoyed. I know I was there during this conversation but obviously not paying attention. One up and running every channel we clicked on said “you are not authorized to watch this channel”. Basicially, we determined our options were the knitting channel and the news. Hmmmm. Also, HBO and Cinemax were not activated. The installer indicated this was not his problem. Of course not. This would require a phone call on my part. First, I tried called the salesperson’s contact number as instructed. Straight to voicemail. Naturally. Next I went to the customer service number provided and got dumped into the loop at the call center. Not only could I not understand the representative I got on the phone but it sounded like she was answering in a wind tunnel. Turns out it would take three days to activate the pay channels and surprise, surprise if I wanted the channels I usually watch there would be an additional charge. I felt the hook sinking deeper into my lip. I asked to speak to a supervisor. I was told she could make me an appointment.

Sooooo, I was now in for less money than the $300/month but more money then the original contract. I decided to call back. This time after circling the endless loop of questions and rerouting I got a young man who tried, I believe, to help. He offered me the pay channels free for three months but said there was no way HBO could be given to me free for a year. I said I had a contract. Apparently that held about as much weight as single layer toilet paper. Good Lord. I asked to speak to a supervisor. He said he would call me back with a direct number for me to call. Right. Um, that never happened. Now I was getting really frustrated, and the hair on the back of my neck was beginning to stand in place so you could add mad to the pot. Once again I called and miracle of miracles I got someone in Idaho who actually could help me. First, she told me these reps probably were third party reps (turned out they were not but actually employees like her) and that they basically said a lot of things they couldn’t follow through on. In the end I got stuck with paying extra, no HBO for a year but rather three months, and they did throw in faster internet speed as a bonus for my trouble. After all this the original little girl at the door called to say she was going to straighten everything out. Why? Why me?

Sometimes I think I’ve learned all my lessons but find lessons keep showing up, sometimes on a daily basis. I guess for today I’ll just be thankful I have a TV and a house to watch it in. I’ll be thankful I am well for today and have friends and loved ones in the same condition. I will wish you good health and a safe route through all this maze of uncertainty in the future. Finally I will take this lesson to heart and remember to never sign anything without thoroughly investigating it. I can see Rick shaking his head and wish he was here to handle these things the way he used to be.

Bye for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We had our carpets cleaned yesterday so I was holed up in my kitchen with the cat. I’ve been avoiding having them done because it means pulling everything up off the floor, moving the small furniture, and hanging around for a day watching the carpet dry. Being somewhat of an “A” personality hanging around waiting is not a the top of my list of fun activities as you might imagine.

The bill was just under $200 for the three bedrooms, hall and stairway. All in all around three hours work. While writing the check, we were talking about how expensive it is to live these days. Believe it or not there was a time where you could buy a loaf of bread for less than the sticker price of a Lexus. To really date myself I can remember getting a loaf of bread for around thirty-eight cents. I know!

People seem to be hunting out bargains, flooding on-line sales, cutting corners, and looking for ways to stretch what money they have. I stood in line at CVS yesterday behind a woman with a bulging three-ring binder taking up most of what I call “the baby seat” portion of her shopping cart. Reaching the front of the line she began madly flipping back and forth between pages in the massive volume pulling out coupons from here and coupons from there. Mission complete, she handed the man at the cash register a pile of coupons equal to the size of a small phone book. Why is it I always end up in the line behind someone like this? It’s a gift really. I don’t begrudge anyone their fair time with the checker, but really? There can be ten lines open and I will end up in the only one with the customer waiting for a recently hired bagger to locate an item somewhere in an unfamiliar store. Last week I stood behind a man with broken eggs. The bagger dispatched to replace the eggs came back with the wrong carton and so had to go back to retrieve another. The week before the machine ran out of tape just as they were going to print my receipt. If there’s a customer who either has a complaint or simply enjoys the sound of their own voice, I seem to seek them out and step obediently in line behind them.

As expensive as grocery shopping has gotten I certainly applaud people straining to squeeze their money’s worth out of their purchases. While in one of the major grocery stores recently I got in line in the only lane with a light on. People quickly began to line up behind me and the usual muttering began about the lack of available cashiers. I try to avoid this store for this very reason. However, their store brand bottled water happens to be Rick’s favorite so I sacrifice myself for the cause whenever he runs out. As I moved into the number two slot and placed all my groceries on the conveyor belt two lanes opened up on either side. Sigh. Waiting patiently the woman ahead of me began to complain to the cashier. From the gist of the conversation, a number of her store coupons didn’t match up with the in-store price on the items in question. Fine. I finished the afghan I began knitting when I first got in line and moved on to a sweater for my Mother for Christmas. Just kidding, but it wasn’t far from the truth. After the slip was reviewed and corrected, the lady then had a return. Naturally. Also, it appeared the store had moved things around during their recent renovation and she couldn’t locate the aisle with the denture cream for her husband. The bagger was dispatched, and I completed the sweater for my mother and went on to a hat for Rick which was finished by the time she returned. Now there were four people behind me. The rather bored looking store manager watched the goings on from behind the customer service desk. Finally, my eyes boring through his head, he sauntered over and removed all my items already on the belt to a check out area two aisles down and checked me out himself. They need to consider renaming the customer service department something more appropriate, say….. the “We Really Don’t Care, We’re Getting Paid Whether You Are Happy or Not Department”. As I was leaving the manager offered me a free coupon for a cup of coffee at the Starbuck’s on the way out. Coffee in hand I noticed the woman was still at the check stand mouth moving as I left the store.

This is the same store where on my last visit the lady in the deli department gave me trouble with my lunch meat. Lunch meat need not be a difficult order. Rick likes his lunch meat cut thin for sandwiches. I asked the rather put out looking lady behind the counter if I could please have a half a pound of peppered turkey sliced thin. Reaching under the counter to the pile of turkey already sliced, I stopped her saying that the precut meat was too thick and she would have to cut it fresh. From the look on her face one might have deduced I’d ask the woman to go out in the back, chase down a nice bird, wring the poor thing’s neck, cook it and slice it in thin slices. Next I was told it would shred. I suggested we dial one up from shred and give that a try. Leaving it on shred she held up a piece of mangled meat nodding her head as if to say I told you so. I said, once again, “One up from that should work”. Seriously?  Now I’ve gone from being in a delightful mood to somewhat less sunny over a piece of processed fowl. She repeated it would probably still shred to which I responded, “go ahead, I feel lucky”. Good Lord. Give me the slicer and I’ll do it my damn self.

I try to be nice. I really do. If I want me turkey sliced thin at $8.99 a pound, PLEASE CUT IT THIN!!!!!! Sorry.

This is the perfect comfort food to soothe my ruffled feathers. I had a lb. of ground lamb, a lb. of ground beef, and some leftover mashed potatoes. Hmmmmm. Why not? I found I really liked the mix of the lamb and beef. As a note I usually precook my carrots slightly in the microwave to ensure they are cooked through.

Lamb-Beef Shepherd’s Pie

Mashed Red Potatoes

4 red potatoes, skin on, large cubed
2-3 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 Tbsp. butter cut in pieces
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Place potatoes in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and continue on low boil until potatoes are cooked. Mash with potato masher. Add butter 1 Tbsp. at a time. Using hand mixer whip on high speed until potatoes are fine. Add sour cream, milk and seasonings. Whip until smooth. Stir in chives Set aside.

Meat Mixture

1 carrot, chopped fine
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced.
1 lb. ground lamb
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/4 cup beef broth
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. ground oregano
1/4 tsp. ground thyme
1/4 tsp. ground rosemary
1/8 tsp. mint leaves

Preheat oven to 375

Place carrot in microwave for 2 mins. on high.

Add carrot, pepper, onion, garlic lamb, beef, salt and pepper to large skillet. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Return to pan. Add flour. Cook and stir over medium heat for 1 min. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat and continue on simmer for 10 mins. stirring occasionally.

Spray 2 quart casserole with cooking spray. Spread meat mixture on bottom of casserole. “Ice” with mashed potatoes sealing all edges. Place butter pieces around top of potatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 50 mins. Cool for 5 mins. before serving.

Serves 4-6

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Yesterday Rick and I spent about an hour on our backs on the deck each trying to install a new part on our barbecue. Often I have written in this blog about customer service and I’m about to do it again. We purchased this behemoth gas barbecue with a well-known brand name attached to the hood when we moved in this house. In June we celebrated our second year here. In barbecue years, I don’t believe this is old. Hardly used the first summer, it hasn’t been overly burdened. Kind of like a car owned by a little old lady who only drives the vehicle back and forth to church on Sundays. Though we do barbecue frequently during the summer months, the machine has not been abused. As it takes the other three seasons off, I don’t see why it refuses to perform during the one season it is expected to.

Rick has been on the phone so often with the technical support gentleman that they’re discussing china patterns. Lemons in all types of products are a reality and this one definitely is a “Friday car”. When we first purchased it we paid the $60 to have it delivered. The closest store selling such things is a half an hour from us and unless Rick strapped it to his back and schlepped it up the hill, delivery was the way to go. Once installed and the truck back down the hill we discovered there was an issue with the lighting mechanism. Great. After repeated calls to the store we were told they would exchange the barbecue for another one but we would have to bring it to the store. Ummmmm? If we couldn’t bring it to the store to exchange it for another, yup you win the stuffed bear, for $60.00 they would gladly pick it up. Good news, for another $60 they’d then bring the new one back up the hill. Well, where do I sign?

Finally it was decided they would ship us the defective part and when received walk us through installing it. I believe if this is the case we should charge them for our labor, and we’re don’t come cheap. The part was due to arrive in two weeks but never showed up. Rick once again was on the phone with his new friend in the customer service department. After some research they determined the part had never been shipped. Why am I not shocked? I’m just askin.

The new part showed up several weeks down the road. After some finessing we managed to get it installed and for at least a month the barbecue performed as promised until once again the same part malfunctioned. This time Rick called the store directly. The manager in charge of the outdoor equipment indicated she would come up personally and inspect the barbecue. She arrived as promised and after looking it over said the wrong part had been ordered and ordered the correct part while here. For another month we could not use the grill while waiting for the right part. Are you with me so far?

The part arrived and for the remainder of that first summer we seemed to have achieved lift-off. Last year when we fired up the grill ignition was again a problem. Unbelievable. Rick was getting so good at working on the grill I thought of hiring him out and making some side money. We labored through the summer with adequate on and off grilling and covering the beast for the winter hoped for the best this year.

Wellllll, guess what? First the heating was off. The grill gets too hot so has to be constantly regulated to make sure it doesn’t either cremate whatever is cooking or not cook it at all. To add to the mix the side burner needed a replacement part because when turned on created a flame probably picked up on satellite and burned a hole in the bottom of my good saucepan. The newest replacement part for that unit arrived this week and that is what we were trying to install yesterday. Somehow the new screws do not fit where the old ones used to. Screw being the optimum word here.

Ahhhhhhhh. Once again Rick found himself on the phone. The gentlemen on the other end assured him how much they appreciated our being a member of their brand’s family. During the conversation it was discovered they had not only given us once again the wrong part, but we had the wrong propane tank. The tank we have been using for two years (suggested by the store we bought it from) apparently, should be smaller. Okay. BTW as to being part of their family, we already have a family and enough on our plates with the group we have without adding more settings at the table.

My solution is a simple one. I say we use the bigger tank, turn it on full, and blow the thing up. With the current fire danger this probably would not be prudent, but I am warming up to the idea (no pun intended). Sigh. Sooooooooo, a new tank has been ordered. I don’t hold out hope for seeing it any time soon, but Rick may well be leaving me for the customer service man.

I had a bowl of plums that needed to be eaten so I tried them in this alternative to traditional pineapple upside down cake. Yummy. Thought it would be pretty on the table for the holiday.

Plum Upside Down Cake

1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
8 ripe plums (not mushy) cut in half and seeded
2 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup hot water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spray 9″ square cake pan with cooking spray. Place butter in pan and put in preheated oven until melted. Sprinkle brown sugar over top.

Prepare plums and turn cut side down on bottom of pan in four rows of four.

Beat egg until lemony colored and fluffy. Slowly add sugar to eggs.

In separate bowl whisk together dry ingredients. Add to egg/sugar mixture in two increments, mixing well after each addition. Put lemon juice and vanilla in hot water. Beat into mix.

Carefully pour over plums. Bake for 40 mins. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Place plate over pan and turn over.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

I’m contemplating getting another cat (insert swift kick in the butt here). Why, you ask?  I have no single idea. Could be dementia or possibly I’m just slow. Ach. When you sign up to volunteer the powers that be sense you might be the sort with a little extra empathy to sprinkle about. I need another feline like I need a third eye, but when they take the extra step and post a picture of an old cat with big sad cat eyes staring beseechingly at you what’s a girl to do? Boo, the Queen of Cats, naturally voted no. I caught her stuffing the ballet box with furry little mice. Last I looked she hasn’t made a mortgage payment so I believe I still have some say in the matter.

Speaking of houses and mortgages, which actually we were not but will now, owning a house is like having your blood siphoned daily. A weensy teensy drop at a time the life source is bled from your frail body. Saturday I was having a great day. The upstairs toilet was working again, always a plus. We can’t flush it often because it seems we’re locked in the midst of an extreme drought here in California even the deluge we got this weekend isn’t likely to break. The house was sparkling clean, and two beautiful bacon wrapped filets were waiting to be consumed in the outside refrigerator for date night. From the living room window, the mail person could be seen pulling up to our mailbox. Opening the box she deposited her daily booty of ads, bills, and magazines. Needing a bit of fresh air, I offered to walk up the hill and retrieve it usually a job left to my other half. Rick is far more enthusiastic about the mail then I am. No one writes anymore, they email or text. Mail is usually somebody wanting money, and I don’t find myself racing up to retrieve the good news on any given day.

Sure enough a nice stack of invoices. One bill in particular bearing the propane company logo caught my eye. I posted a check written to them several weeks ago that would have cleared the national debt. When we bought this house the previous owner said her heating bills barely totaled $100 a month even in the coldest of winters. That being said she must have been burning the furniture or living in a anorak to have achieved such success. Of course, this would be the same woman who said when I mentioned the porch railing was looking a bit rough (it is now sloughing off huge pieces of wood with the slightest hint of a breeze) told me it was as solid as the gold standard. All that was needed to complete the picture on that day in the real estate office was me with a large hook speared through my upper lip.

Deciding to wait to open the envelope until I’d gotten the good news from PG&E, always a giver, I wasn’t prepared for how much joy the propane company was waiting to dole out. $493.00 for six weeks worth of propane. I would have hit the roof but I was afraid it might collapse and need reshingling. Deciding to call and inquire about the size of the bill, I was told this was fairly normal for a 1,500 square foot home in this area…..this year. It was explained the price of propane has skyrocketed with the stiff winter in the midwest and eastern side of the country. Must be like insurance, it only goes up when you actually need it. Help.

Next in the pile was a bill for a credit card for several items of clothing I’d ordered on-line before the holidays. A $17 turtleneck, which I received and kept,and a $65.00 dress, back ordered at the time of the original order arriving two months after the fact. The dress was truly nothing like the picture portrayed it to be. Aside from that the seamstress allowed room to store an additional human should the need arise. Using the return label and paperwork provided, I returned it. This bill was for the return of the dress which it seems cost me $28 and change. Really? So I paid $28 for a dress I will never wear two sizes too big and $493.00 to keep from becoming a human popcicle? The gods, I fear, are angry. It’s a good thing those steaks were waiting for me or I might have turned on the propane and stuck my head in the oven. Oh wait, I can’t afford the gas or the cost of a funeral.

Deciding I’d had enough and was going to fight back, I dialed the customer service number on the back of the clothing company bill. After working my way through the phone system maze and providing the requested information, I was asked to hold and promptly disconnected. After four tries and a possible stroke, I connected with a human being. It seems I paid more to have the dress shipped the first time since it was back ordered and didn’t ship with the shirt, and the same amount to ship it back. Fourteen and change up and fourteen and change back.  I could have shipped a safe with a rhinoceros in it carrying a ball of lead for less. Not forgetting points toward her customer service representative of the month nomination, she offered to drop the $2.10 charge for bank fees. Wow, now I can book that trip to Corfu I’ve been sitting on the fence about.

Help me with the logic here, if you would. I paid more to have an item shipped because they advertised it but didn’t have it in stock. Stay with me here. In addition, I paid fourteen dollars to ship an item that weighed about as much as a letter sized legal document in about the same sized envelope probably costing around $4.00 at the post office to mail. Rather than being the correct fit, as suggested in their on-line size chart, it was easily two sizes too large and not much to look at. Adding all this up I am then responsible for paying another $14 to return the dress, and still have no dress to wear on date night. Is it just me? You can be honest.

I’ve been deferring to heirloom recipes lately. Comfort food, if you will. This is one of my favorites, rich in cinnamon and apples. Yum.

Apple Cinnamon Cake

1 cup canola oil
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cubed
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl beat 2 cups sugar, oil, eggs, orange juice and vanilla until well blended.

In separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat into sugar mixture until well blended. Fold in apples.

Spray 13″ x 9″ baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half the batter over the bottom.

Mix together cinnamon and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Sprinkle evenly over top of batter. Carefully spread remaining half of batter over top of cinnamon.

2

Bake 40 50 mins. or until toothpick comes out clean. Serve with whipped topping and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

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