Archive for January, 2008

My heart rate increases even before I call customer service….in anticipation of stupidity.

Customer service excels at impossible loops, deflecting accountability, repeating themselves, giving unrelevant/inaccurate information, telling the customer they should’ve behaved differently, and suggesting the “put the finger in the damn” solution.

I avoid calling if at all possible, doing all kinds of homework to try to solve it myself.  When I do call its usually something relevant, and not cleared up by their usual suggestion, “Is it plugged in?” or “Did you press the ON button?”.

Also, can they quit authenticating me? The phone system asks me to enter my account number…..then the rep asks my SSN, mother’s maiden name, and name of my favorite teacher in elementary school…..and they ask for my account number over again even though I just entered it. Then, after I tell them all that, I tell them I’ve forgotten my PIN #……nope, they can’t give me that. You just verified me didn’t you? Doesn’t matter. “You can change your PIN online,” they tell me. But I need my PIN to get online. I tell them that, and they agree and say they can mail me my PIN. “By email?” I ask. Nope…by mail.  CS rep:  “Also, can you please verify your email?”  Me:  “I’ll verify my email if you’ll verify my PIN.”

There was the time I wanted frequent flyer miles from United for my trip to India. They told me I needed proof of flight and to complete a form with the receipt and mail it in for review to add the miles. I said, “YOU are United airlines. Why do I need to prove I flew on YOUR airline. Wouldn’t you already know that?” I had to call another dept with United, pay them $45 dollars to send a proof of flight, and then send the proof back to United to get the frequent flyer miles. My stress levels shoot through the roof.

Exhibit A:

I enrolled in automatic draft with Georgia Power, because I don’t like to have to remember to pay my bill each month. I was unsure though that the outstanding charge I already had for activation would be covered by that, so I called to ask if I had to pay that one differently.

CS: “Yes…that won’t be covered. Your automatic draft will start next month.”
Me: “Ok…so can I pay the outstanding charge online separately from automatic draft?”
CS: “No, if you are enrolled in automatic draft; you cannot pay online.”
Me (confused): “Huh? If I enroll in an automatic online draft function to pay my bill, I can no longer pay online? Its like an oxymoron.”
CS: “I can unenroll you in automatic draft. Do you want me to do that?”
Me: “So I can then pay online, so I can then go back and re-enroll in automatic draft?”
CS: “Yes.”
Me: “That doesn’t make sense…but ok. I guess that will work”.
CS; “You are now unenrolled. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Me (I keep them on the phone till I’m completely done since there is always some hitch): “Let me just process this while we’re sitting here and then I’ll be done.” I went through some links and payed my activation fee online.
Me: “Thanks…that worked.”(hang up) Then I go back to the automatic draft section to re-enroll. I get this message:
georgia power error message

I can’t re-enroll. It won’t let me. So I call back CS.

CS (after I explained what happened): Just write over the XXXs with your account number.
Me (like I wouldn’t have thought of that): It won’t let me. The field is un-editable.
CS: It won’t let you re-enroll because your payment hasn’t cleared.
Me: You mean the system message from GA power for “Please wait till your previous payment clears to re-enroll” is “Account numbers must be numeric”? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Can you just re-enroll me?
CS: No.
Me: Huh? The previous rep un-enrolled me. Why can’t you re-enroll me?
CS: You have to do that online.
Me: I just explained to you that I can’t do it online. That’s why I called you in the first place.
CS: Wait a few days and go back online and do it.
Me: Ok…what if I do that and it still doesn’t work?
CS: Call back customer service.
Me: Why so they can tell me to go back online?

I have several other great examples that are popping into my head but I’m tired of writing so I’ll paste in this last conversation with Charter. This one is great because it isn’t a reconstructed conversation….its the actual conversation, lest you fools think I’m just making this stuff up.

Exhibit B:

Websites have these “Chat with a Customer Service Representative” buttons now…so I did.

A representative will be with you shortly.
You have been connected to Carlos .

kellio kellio:
can you connect me to the video chat support group?

Carlos :
My name is Carlos. Thank you for contacting Charter Communications. How may I assist you?

kellio kellio:
can you connect me to the video chat support group?

Carlos :
Sure thing, one moment.

Carlos has left the session.

Please wait while we find an agent from the Video Support CHAT department to assist you.

You have been connected to Jomar .

Jomar :
Thank you for contacting Charter High Speed Internet Technical Support. My name is Jomar. How may I assist you today?

kellio kellio:
i get getting routed to the internet chat, but I want to reach video chat support group…this is the third time its happened.

Jomar :
May I know your concern please?

kellio kellio:
I have a new install on an HDTV tomorrow. What do I need to have on my end to make sure everything runs smootly? (For instance, for the internet installation, I already own the cable modem and will have that for them when they arrive.)
kellio kellio:
its not an internet question

Jomar :
Okay, I will transfer you.

Jomar has left the session.

Please wait while we find an agent from the Video Support CHAT department to assist you.

All agents are currently busy. Please stand by.

You have been connected to Dave .

Dave :
Thank you for contacting Charter Communications Video Department. My name is Dave. How may I assist you today?

kellio kellio:
I have a new install on an HDTV tomorrow. What do I need to have on my end to make sure everything runs smootly? (For instance, for the internet installation, I already own the cable modem and will have that for them when they arrive.)

Dave :
You need to have the hd box.

kellio kellio:
you guys are supposed to provide that
kellio kellio:
i currently have an HDTV…nothing else.

Dave :
Yes. That is correct. That is part of the order.

kellio kellio:
what about cables?

Dave :
No need since the upgrade is for the HDservice only.

kellio kellio:
this is a new install

Dave :
Yes. Our technician will provide everything during the installation.

kellio kellio:
HDMI cable?

Dave :
By the way, do you have a cable service with Charter?

kellio kellio:
no…this is a new install
kellio kellio:
of cable

Dave :
I see.

Dave :
With regards to your concern, please call us at 1-888-438-2427 for further assistance.

kellio kellio:
huh? you can’t answer my question?

Dave :
Are you referring to a new installation of cable service?

kellio kellio:
kellio kellio:
i think i mentioned that.

Dave :
Okay. With regards to new service installation, please call us at 1-888-438-2427.

kellio kellio:
so this isn’t the right chat room?

Dave :
Yes, definitely.

kellio kellio:
can you not answer that: do I need to provide anything additional at install (like HDMI cables)?

Dave :
No. As I have mentioned earlier, we provide that during the installation.

kellio kellio:
ok, thanks!!

Dave :
You’re welcome.

Your session has ended. You may now close this window.


My installation happened yesterday. The installation rep informed me that I DID need my own HDMI cable. They didn’t provide one.
Install rep: “Didn’t Customer Service tell you that?”
Me (smiling): “Uhh….no.”

My favorite line to any rep (and I use it often) is: “You know how they always say ‘This call may be monitored for quality control purposes’…..I hope this is one of them.”.

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some more mysterious than others.

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Several political candidates are talking about some sort of universal health care. Everyone knows I am for socialized medicine. If we provide free basic education because we believe education is a right everyone has, then how can being healthy not also be a basic right? I would say health is a basic right before education even.

Few would argue the basic premise there; the issue is that it is too expensive; however, all other industrialized nations provide universal healthcare at a total cost less than what we are already spending. In essence, we’re already paying for universal health care…so why don’t we have it?

Let’s run a simple thought experiment (luckily no economists read this page) that models the health care market, and allows us to see why costs might spiral a bit…and mainly points out why more government intervention in our current health care system will raise prices, not reduce them:

Let’s say there are 3 people in the economy and they each have 1 dollar. One is sick and has to go to the hospital. How much can the hospital charge? One dollar. Nothing can cost more than a dollar, because the hospital will go out of business if it charges more (because no one can pay).

Let’s say insurance companies get into the mix and you buy a 1 dollar insurance policy, and of course you potentially get more than that in health care. Now there are two hands in the pot. Your 1 dollar and some amount from the insurer…for the sake of argument let say they are adding an extra dollar on top. How much can hospitals charge now? 2 dollars.

Let’s say the government gets in the mix, and subsidizes health care by 1 dollar. How much can the hospital charge? 3 dollars. Now we are starting to get the picture…

Every dollar added to the total pot to spend on health care expands the total dollar amount that can be charged. You can never charge more than what people can pay. Conversely, the price a market charges for a good/service will always expand to fill the total money in the pot.

Everytime the government says they will pump money into the health care market, they are raising prices because more total money is available to be spent. If there is a tax credit of 30%, in the most simplistic model, prices rise by 30%. The goverment is accomplishing the very opposite of what they’re hoping to do.

On a related note, here is the reason why the goverment may or not pander to universal health care, but nothing will really change: Too much is already invested in the current system. Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in business revenue would disappear.

Imagine the extreme model (again simplified): Nationalized Health Care.

Nearly the entire health insurance industry (BILLIONS of dollars) could close up shop overnight. What good would private or employer-provided health insurance do if you already had it through the govt? It would be useless. All those jobs, gone. (some could get a job with the govt…but not nearly the same numbers would be needed.)

Employer provided benefits disappear. HR departments would thin out significantly…no more Benefits department. All those jobs, gone. You may think non-health care employers would be all for that, but the US is unique in that you HAVE to have a job to get health care…that sort of forces you to get a job (and keep one). I’m not so sure employers would be for it (although surely some would).

Health Care Consulting/Outsourcing would disappear overnight. I actually worked for nearly 4 years in health care outsourcing. This business is billions of dollars a year…just helping companies sort out all the laws and options, and helping adminstrate (coordination between all the health care providers, the business, payroll, employees, etc). 10,000 plus jobs…gone.

The health care providers (hospitals, doctors, etc) would see prices drop in nationalized healthcare. There might be price controls, health care would no longer be a for profit business, a single payer system (if that happened) would put a natural cap on what could be charged. Overall, health care providers have a profitable and fairly predictable business model right now….fear alone would give them a vested interest in the status quo. (unlike insurance/consulting/outsource though, at least most of these jobs would remain)

Big-pharma would lose too…they are some of the big winners (profit-wise) in the current health care system. Anything that damages their pricing structure is a threat. Drug companies would still exist in a nationalized system; however, they will complain that reduced profits means less money to research new drugs (which may be partially true).

So you see three things here: 1) The vested interest of these multi-billion dollar corporations is to continue the current system…so we’re unlikely to see a change no matter how well-intentioned (<– yeah right) the politicans are, 2) SOOO many people are employed in the health care industry who would almost instantly be put out of work……nothing is going to be done, and 3) All these thousands of people and billions of dollars in revenue is a large part of WHY your healthcare costs so much today…the more hands in the pot, the more it will cost.


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Almost 40 percent of America’s children are born to unmarried parents.  Wonder where they got that stat from?

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I haven’t read/written much about happiness lately; I just read this article and decided I would revisit.

So what did I learn reading that article?  Nothing that I didn’t already know.  Let’s recap some happiness facts in no particular order:

1)  Money makes you happier until you can pay for the basics of food, clothing, shelter.  After that you’re “Keeping up with Joneses“.  (On a side note I would love to meet the Jones family.  They are obviously doing very well if everyone is trying to keep up with them.)  Other countries are happier than the US, and happiness doesn’t correlate strongly to GDP.

2)  Genetics tell most of the story of your happiness.  Whether you win the lottery or lose an arm in a lawnmower accident….you stay basically as happy as you were before.  (there is some debate on whether you can inch aggregate happiness up in a Bentham-style “greatest happiness of the greatest number”…we’ll see.)

3)   Happiness is generally composed of 1) moment to moment pleasure, 2) engagement with your life (how much you’re into your job, friends, garden, car-club, etc), and 3) a sense of meaning (how much you think what you do matters).  I personally think 2 and 3 are very similar.

4)  IQ, good looks, youth, athleticism, other natural talents, etc…..don’t affect your happiness much.  I’ve seen research that people with high IQs are actually less happy (don’t feel like digging that up).  Also, older people tend to be happier in industrialized nations.

5)  Your relative position in society makes you happier than your absolute position (unless you’re dirt poor).  Better to have 100 bucks when your friend has 50 than have 1000 when your neighbor has 2000.  This makes a pretty good case for government wealth re-distribution.

6)  So what does make you happy?  Spending time with friends/family, marriage (in general), being grateful for stuff and telling others you are grateful for them (gratitude actually has a pretty large effect), doing nice things for others, contributing to something you believe in larger than yourself, getting lost in the moment (even if it is gardening…or drinking).

7)  What doesn’t make you happy?  Spending time alone, buying stuff/anything, chores, crap at work, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, financial troubles.

8)  What are we unsure about with regards to happiness?  It boils down to cause and effect….we don’t know what causes which in many cases (or maybe they’re just correlated).  Happy people do make more money, but does the happiness cause the money or does the money cause the happiness.  Happy people are healthier, but if you are unhealthy and convince yourself to be happy, will your health improve?  Married people are happier.  Does that mean marriage makes you happy or happy people stay married?  Don’t know.

9)  Experiences make you happier than things.  Oddly, a new car will not make you as happy as if you blew the money on a trip through Europe (on a side note I’m not sure experiences have made me any happier…I don’t have the things to compare it to, so I can’t really say.).

10)  The freedom of choice does not make you happier.  Choices can cripple (its called the Tyranny of Choice).  Freedom to do whatever you want causes anxiety.  It increases opportunity costs….so that everything you choose presents an internal analysis of the endless choices you did not make….all that you gave up.  You only get 1 thing…but you gave up hundreds to make that choice.  How do you know you made the best choice?  The more choices there are, the more comparisons you make….the unhappier you are (I call it the Cortez Solution, after Hernando Cortez:  Legend has it when he arrived in the New World he burned the ships that sailed him there to prevent any possibility of retreat…eliminating the possibility of mutiny…of his crew turning around and going home.).

11)  Happiness is not easy to achieve.   Apparently you have to work at it; but if you have to work too hard, then that will make you unhappy in itself, especially if you don’t get there….which brings me to my last point:

12)  The harder you seek “true happiness”, the more you will frustrate yourself by not being able to get there.   Happiness seems to be a by-product, not an end result.  If that is the case….why worry about it at all?

Can I sum any of that up into something that might help people be happy?  Sure:  Spend all your time with friends and family, volunteer for your favorite cause,  be grateful everyday and tell others about it, get hobbies that engross you, do a job you like and uses the things that you are best at (not that pays lots of money).  Stop spending money on stuff.  Don’t watch the news or read pop magazines (which constantly compare you to others).

I think its such an interesting question (obviously), because underlying much of what we do in Western society is this notion of “do what makes you happy”.  My parents said that to me a million times, “I just want you to be happy,” or “You need to do what makes you happy,” or even “Do what’s best for you,” but underlying the idea of “best” is “what makes you happy”….but we really have little idea of how to achieve that, or even if its possible.  Its nonsensical advice if no one knows how to follow it.

In the end, after all these years of trying to learn about how to get to happiness, I don’t think I can affect it much.  I still brood and I’m prone to nostalgia….I think the state of things is sad and that we could scarcely make it better if we tried (which we are and this is what we get).

I do think you can increase general happiness some amount, but what have you achieved?  We still live and die.  What does it matter to the universe if we passed our blip in time slightly happier than if otherwise?  It doesn’t.

Burn your ships and be thankful for it.

Comments No Comments » creates a radio station around the genre it invents based on your artist choices.

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The cost of a long life. Anyone who doesn’t think the US healthcare system is broken has lost their mind.

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Since I took down the history of the website I can’t link to last year’s New Year’s post, but here are my resolutions:

“2007 is going to be the best year ever because I said so. If you do not think 2007 is going to shape up too well….then please don’t talk to me because I am only interested in having the best year ever.

I have made no resolutions this year other than that my life will be the best. I will get a new job this year, and buy a house. That means I will have to buy furniture…..but that’s OK, because the furniture will also be the best ever.”

So how did I do?  Well, predictably it wasn’t the best year ever.  That was 1995 when I went to Groningen.  BUT…the only two concrete goals I made:  1) get a new job, and 2) buy a house.  I sort of met those, just a few weeks late.

I didn’t meet them in 2007.  I close on my house on Jan 14th 2008, and the transition date for the new job that I was wanting is…let me check my email…wow:  It is also Jan 14th 2008.  I am two weeks late on both goals, but came pretty close.  Also, that is quite a coincidence.

So what are my resolutions for 2008?  People don’t keep them anyway.  Mine were a little different though since I could actually go back and read what I said. 

I can’t think of anything.  Since I just met my goals for 2007 I haven’t had time to set my sites on anything else.  I guess I could say, “Do well at my new job, and enjoy living in my own place” but in all honesty those are unmeasurable goals.  “Get a new job and buy a house”…that is concrete.

I could also make smaller goals like “write/record my own song” or “get the deck replaced on my house” or “go through the mixed doubles season without getting my serve broken”…but those aren’t really New Year type of goals.

I’m going to have to think about it, and maybe make my resolutions a few weeks late this year…after all, I was two weeks late meeting last year’s.

Anyone wishing to record their resolutions for review next year at this time, please make a comment so I can check back with you to see how you did.


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