Tag: rants

In Which I Lament The Sad State of Affairs of Yogurt Container Design

Hey!  You!  Do you even test these things out before you manufacture them?

I’m talking, of course, to the designers of yogurt containers.  Almost every single one of them has something wrong with the design that makes eating a container of yogurt more difficult than it should be.

1) The original Yoplait “inverted” container.  Great for stacking, TERRIBLE for eating out of.  The inverted shape means the top is just wider than the bowl of your spoon, while the base is almost 1.5 times as big.  You end up getting yogurt all around the stem of the spoon while trying to scoop out the contents.  And when you get to the bottom of the cup and are trying to scrape the remains onto your spoon, there’s only about two angles you can get the spoon to that will actually pick up yogurt.  I end up running the spoon around and around the inside for some ridiculous amount of time to pick up the tiniest amount of remaining yogurt.

2) Yoplait’s Greek yogurt.  Although this one has the right standard-cup-type-shape, it has a nice little notch on the inside where the cup flares out at the top.  You end up getting all kinds of yogurt stuck around on this rim, and you can’t take your spoon and scoop straight from the bottom to top without having the spoon “jump” from one edge of the cup to the edge where the rim is – if you’re not careful, you can lose a spoonful this way.

3) Dannon yogurt.  Same as #2 above, but not quite as pronounced.  However, if I recall, the bottom isn’t completely flat so it makes it difficult to scoop across the container when you’re nearing the end of the cup.

4) Activia. Seriously, have you ever tried to open one of these?  As soon as you peel one of the corners back enough to let air in, it rushes in and yogurt comes flying out and usually lands right on the crotch of your pants.  And when you try to clean up yogurt from the crotch of your pants, there’s only one thing in the world the resulting stain/mark looks like.  It’s pretty damn embarrassing.  Other than this, though, the container is perfect and you can get out all the yogurt without hassle.  My advice? Point it away from you (preferably towards someone else’s crotch) and open away, and then enjoy the obvious winner of the yogurt cup design competition.


Time Warner Cable – The Power of (Screw) You

I sometimes wonder how Time Warner Cable manages to stay in business.  I think it must be a combination of general apathy on the part of its customers and its overwhelming, almost-monopolistic nature.  It certainly doesn't remain viable because of its customer service policies.

Before I get into my story I must preface this by saying that I have had excellent customer service experiences with TWC in the past.  Many of the reps have been helpful, courteous, kind, and willing to go the extra mile for me.  However, a company's customer service reputation should not be judged by how good the GOOD customer service experiences are, but how good the BAD customer service experiences are.  All it takes is one bad experience to sour a customer for many many years.

Two weeks ago, our DVR box from TWC started acting up.  The closed captioning would not turn off once it is turned on (until the box is hard-reset), and it was acting very sluggish and unresponsive to both user inputs and cable-feed inputs.  On-demand suddenly was unavailable on any of the free or paid on-demand channels.  Since their "software upgrade", we have had many of these problems flare up occasionally (although not usually all at once), and they're normally fixed by a reboot of the box.  This time however, the box reboot only made things worse as the operating software froze halfway through loading and would not proceed any further.

Being a Friday night, the tech support lines were already closed.  Luckily, they offer an internet-based chat with tech support reps that normally allows me to take care of these kind of things.  After waiting about 10 minutes, I got a rep on the screen who listened to me explain the problem.  He had no specific fix for the issue but attempted to "refresh the signal" to the box and had me reboot it again.  After trying this twice, and getting no closer to fixing the problem, he declared the box broken and informed me that I must take it in to a service center and exchange it for a replacement box.  At my request, he acknowledged that alternately, I could schedule a service call for later that week (Thursday was the earliest available) for someone to come swap it out.  I chose to take it back myself the next morning, rather than us having to wait most of a week just to have someone show up in person.  And that's where the fun with Time Warner REALLY started.

The closest Time Warner office to my house is about a 15-20 minute drive north.  This would be my 4th time replacing faulty hardware with them (in about a year's time), and I know that in the past they've occasionally been out of stock of the HD DVR boxes, so I decided to call first and ensure they had one there before I wasted the precious gas to go up there for no reason.  So Saturday morning I looked up the number to the office on the TWC website and gave a call to the 800 number listed there.

I immediately realized that this was NOT the local office number, but rather the main TWC support number.  While I was on hold (estimated wait time of 10-15 minutes), I grabbed a phone book and found another number for the office, this time with a local area code.  I hung up and dialed this local number.  And was connected back to the main call center support number, again.  This time the estimated wait time was 15-20 minutes.  I started to get a little frustrated, but waited it out fairly patiently while reading a book.

When I got a support rep on the line, I explained that I was trying to check whether that specific branch had a replacement box in stock for an exchange.  She told me that the branch had no direct number in place for me to call (I had already figured this out), and if I held on the line, she'd find out for me.  I agreed and waited on hold for about 3 minutes of phone silence, after which I heard the click of a transfer and the background music started back up.  I wasn't sure whether I had been kicked back into the queue or was still on hold, so I waited for about 2 more minutes until the muzak cut out and when I looked at the phone, I realized I had been disconnected.

Getting REALLY frustrated now (blood-pressure set to about medium-high), I called back and got back in line for ANOTHER 15-20 minute wait time.  As soon as I was on hold, I fired up a web browser and initiated one of the internet-based chats, hoping a rep on there would help me more quickly than through the phone system.  I also knew there was less chance of being put on hold and disconnected on the online chat, so I had the following chat while I waited on hold on the phone:

CSRep: Hello! Thank you for choosing Time Warner Cable's Online Chat, My name is <CSRep>. Please give me a moment while I retrieve your account details.
CSRep: What I understand is that, you are trying to find out if Kannapolis, NC office has replacement HD DVR boxes.
Ross: yes
CSRep: Please be assured I will try my best to resolve the issue.
Ross: I've been on hold on the phone for 15 minutes and disconnected once, so I figured I'd try asking on chat
CSRep: I apologize for the inconvenience caused.
CSRep: Can you give the Zip code of Kannapolis NC?
Ross: I have no idea
CSRep: Any near by area?
Ross: 28083
Ross: using your time warner cable lookup page on the website
CSRep: http://www.timewarnercable.com/Carolinas/customer/contactus/
CSRep: Please visit the above weblink.
Ross: why?
CSRep: And please check with  Customer Care Center
Ross: I have
Ross: I gave you the zip code I found there
Ross: they have NO DIRECT NUMBER, which is why I am having to go through all this crap
CSRep: Please allow me a moment.
CSRep: http://www.timewarnercable.com/CustomerService/PaymentCenter/TWCPaymentCenters.ashx
CSRep: Please visit the above weblink.
CSRep: For customer care center in Kannapolis.
Ross: THERE IS NO CUSTOMER CARE THERE
CSRep: Have you opened the web link?
Ross: I am competent enough to navigate your website prior to calling/chatting
Ross: YES
Ross: The only information there is a link to the main number
CSRep: Ok.
Ross: Which put me on hold for 15 minutes, and then disconnected me
CSRep: Please take down the address and telephone number.
Ross: (877) 566-4892 is the main number – there is NO DIRECT NUMBER to that office
Ross: which is why I need someone within Time Warner Cable to check for me
CSRep: Kananapolis, 1730 S Cannon Blvd, NC- 28083.
CSRep: 877-566-4892.
Ross: THAT IS NO HELP. I'm talking to them right now on the main number.
CSRep: That is the only number for Kannapolis.
CSRep: Please try with 704-377-9600.
Ross: That is the same support line as the main one, just with a local area code.  I'm STILL on hold with them and can't believe you all can't find out something as simple as a stock issue without me visiting in person.
Ross: This has to be the most unhelpful customer service group I've ever dealt with.  Thank you for nothing.

About the time I began banging my head against the keyboard during this web chat, I got through to another rep on the phone.  I explained my issue to the gentleman on the other end and he asked me to hold while he checked it out (this time, no disconnect or transfer occurred).  When he came back, he informed me that there was no direct line to the Kannapolis office.  I told him I knew that, as I had been informed of that information by at least 2 other customer service reps this morning, and that is why I was calling the main customer service line for them to check. 

He clarified that statement: The Kannapolis office has NO OUTSIDE LINES available, so not even Time Warner main customer support can contact them!  The best they can do is email that office and hope that one of the reps there is responding to email!  He did let me know that there was no record of the office indicating there was a LACK of boxes available, so in all likelihood there were some in stock, but I would have to go check in person.

I decided that going into an argument weighing the merits of proving something through evidence vs. proving something through lack of evidence to the contrary would not get us anywhere, thanked him for his efforts, and hung up.  End result: 50 minutes spent on the phone/computer with nothing to show for it.  I drove out to the Kannapolis office and was able to swap out the box, come home, and hook it up.  Then I was presented with a message to the effect of: "This cable box is not authorized for service.  Please call Time Warner at [TWC phone #] to resolve this issue."

Having learned my lesson about the 20-minute wait times, I jumped on both the phone and internet to see which way would get me there first.  The web-chat won by a couple minutes, but still took me a total of about 15 minutes total to get the box up and authorized.

All told, I spent about 3.5 hours dealing with reps on the phone, online, and in person to resolve my issue.  I'm not happy with how it all turned out and have written a letter to Time Warner explaining the frustration I dealt with all the way through this effort.  Unfortunately for me, Time Warner really is my only choice for all the services I need at the features and costs I require.  However, if I have another run-in like this, I'll seriously consider taking a hit on either price or service options to go with an alternative and show Time Warner my dissatisfaction with their behavior in the only way they seem to understand – with my wallet.

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New Group – I Declare SHENANIGANS!

Hi folks,

Because of MiamiShyner's recent post, I decided to make a new group here on Vox called "I Declare SHENANIGANS!"  I sent invites out to a few folks in my 'hood but didn't hit everyone up.  However, if you're interested (see description below for more information), I'd love it if you joined the group.  Oh, and I'd love it even more if you have some old rants or posts of your own that you could repost to the group to get the content level up.  Thanks!

 

(From the group description):

Have you ever wanted to call someone out for their actions but instead just sat, fuming?  Maybe it was that non-handicapped person who parked in the handicapped space, or the guy who tried to pass you in traffic, only to slow down once he got in front of you?

Well, here's your place to vent, tell the world what happened, and (possibly) share photos of the transgressors!  Tell the world you're not happy, and say, "I Declare SHENANIGANS!"

 

I've reposted some of my old entries to the group as examples of what I was envisioning.  Hopefully you'll have some more to keep the shenanigans declarations coming!

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An Open Letter to the People on My Drive Home Yesterday

  • To the driver of a silver BMW that absolutely had to cut in an out of traffic already going 80 miles an hour, only to end up in the exit lane and speed up to 100 in order to cut back over into traffic just before you would have been forced to leave the highway: You sir, are an idiot and a menace.  I hope all four of your tires develop flats on the way to work tomorrow morning.

  • To the jacktard driving the black Corvette with his left hand holding his cell phone to his right ear, while barely steering with his right hand while going 5 miles under the speed limit while in the fast(est) lane: You sir, are a douche.  If you hung up the phone or at least drove with a hands-free set, you might have less problems with everyone cutting you off every 2 seconds.  And if that doesn't work, try hanging out in another lane, preferably one all the way over on the right where the cars going your speed tend to congregate.

  • To the driver of the gold Accord who made a left at the intersection WELL AFTER the light had turned red: Were you in such a godawful hurry that you were willing to cut off oncoming traffic and risk an accident to arrive somewhere 1 minute earlier?  I hope you managed to catch that last minute of commercials before Judge Judy came on – it would be a shame for you to go through so much effort just to miss out on the latest advertisement for Papa John's super-mega-meatlovers-extreme pizza.

  • To the lady in the white SUV with the vanity license plate that read "USA": I hope your name is Ursula Sarah Adams, because NOBODY needs to be so patriotic that they choose to name their vanity plate after their country of residence.  It's not clever and it's not cute.

  • To all other drivers out there:  Thank you for not pissing me off on the way home.  I actually had a pleasant drive, besides these nincompoops that made me dictate these comments while I was driving home.

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DD Blues

Well, tonight was a big flop. Not only did I not participate in NaDruWriNi (National Drunken Writing Night, for those not in the loop), I didn't get to participate in the activities I squandered my precious drunken writing time for in the first place.

See, my wife and I are looking to have a second child. And she's fertile. And she's all up on scheduling sex to ensure we hit the fertile period. And Saturday night was the first night of the month to try. And she had planned an adults' night out with her sisters and their spouses. And she didn't want me to drink much so we could make sure to have sex.

So I volunteered to be the DD. And I expected to have a couple beers, lay off and by the end of dinner (when I expected we'd be going home), I'd be straight-sober and ready for the drive…and all subsequent activities. But when my wife and everyone else started to intersperse shots with their pitchers of beer, and decided to wait a whole hour and a half at our restaurant JUST TO SEE THE START OF THE KARAOKE, and then decided to stay for 3 more hours so they could get in queue to sing a song that they didn't know half the words to, things went downhill. I recall early on in the evening that someone brought up the idea of going to play pool instead of hanging out at the restaurant all night, which I heartily endorsed. But then the next pitcher of beer came and the thought was forgotten/dropped, and I didn't bring it back up to spoil what was obviously an enjoyable time for those folks partaking of the alcoholic libations.

Anyway, I was bored out of my mind, didn't feel much like talking to anyone (especially after inebriation set in), and was getting a headache from the smoke (did I mention that 3 of my wife's family smoke, even though it is obviously causing health problems for them?) and the loud noise. But I figured I'd be a good sport and wait it out.

So come midnight, we shuffle/stumble/trip/hop/dance out of the restaurant and my wife starts to feel ill. Suddenly. So a speedy drive to drop off her family turns into a speedy drive to our house, so she can go get sick in her own toilet, followed by my shuttle service to each of the other houses, a trip to the gas station (dangerously low), and a final arrival at our house just in time to catch my wife slipping into a drunken sleep, from which she will wake multiple times this evening in her restless state, cursing the booze that did this to her and avowing it will not happen next time (until next time comes, that is). Let's just hope the baby doesn't get up too often tonight…

Yes, I shouldn't be too bitter. I did have some enjoyable bits in the evening. Listening to someone sing "Bodies" by Drowning Pool and getting all the screaming parts down pat was pretty damn cool. But overall, I just didn't have the time I thought I was going to have, and it makes me a little bit hesitant to want to ever volunteer to be a DD again. I'd rather be safe than sorry, of course, but maybe next time I am feeling like I did tonight, I'll just volunteer to come back and pick everyone up when they're ready to go. It'll save me some hours where I'm wishing I was somewhere else, and everyone else should be having a little more fun knowing that everyone sitting at the table is having just as much fun as they are.

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