EVEN GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE HAS ISSUES – Marilyn Armstrong

My son ordered a label maker from Amazon. Not terribly expensive and not an obscure product. He got it on time, but when he opened the crate, it turned out to be an empty case. No label maker in it.

He was going to return the empty box.

I said: “Don’t be silly. You don’t return empty boxes. That will confuse everyone. They will want to know what happened to the label maker. You get in touch with them. They will fix it.”

I said that with confidence because they always try very hard to fix problems at Amazon.

“You can’t get in touch with Amazon,” he said.

“Oh yes you can,” I said.

“How?”

“Ask for the number or to chat live. They really will fix it.”

“How do you do that?”

The answer is not complicated.

Go into the customer service area. That is a bit circuitous, but if you use Amazon a lot, you figure it out. It needs to be about an order, so you should know exactly what your problem is and what you want them to do about it. That is pretty much true for all customer service.

After you are in the right area, type: “Need telephone number for Amazon customer service.”

They ask if you want them to call you (which they will do literally instantly) or would you prefer a chat? They prefer chats and so do I. It’s faster. Also, I can copy and paste information from the order into a chat file. That’s harder on a phone call. Not impossible, but harder.

I got the chat. Explained what happened. She said “Oops, sorry. Tell him he can keep the box and do whatever he wants with it. We’ll send him a new one.”

The would ship it as soon as possible. I called Owen back.

“But how did you know who to talk to?”

I explained I had talked to the guy at customer service and the new order was already in the order file, price $0.00. Shipment probably overnight.

Good customer service does make a big difference. Well-served customers keep coming back. Angry customers don’t. You hear that Dell? You hear that Apple? Got that Microsoft? Anyone listening at DirectTV, Charter, or AT&T?

Happy customers come back and sometimes bring their friends. And family. If you make us mad, we go elsewhere. Just saying.

The shipment arrived yesterday and guess what? It was another empty case. One empty case was not a big deal. Two? They have a shipping problem. Especially because this second box came with a big label on it that said: “CASE ONLY!”  I have to assume the shipping picker either had no time to recognize that the label maker had to be taken from another shelf and put into the case, or couldn’t read English.

I gave up. Although they offered to ship it again, there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t show up empty again. They refunded the money. Sometimes, you have to know when you’re beaten.

Good customer service helps, but so does getting the order right.

FOWC — CONTROL? WHAT CONTROL? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Control

If I thought that maybe I had finally gotten my online life under control, I was wrong. Again. It’s just getting worse and worse and there is no end in sight.

I just got this message.


Dear Marilyn,
As one of our registered users, we bring to your attention that on June 4, 2018, at 1pm EST we became aware of a data breach involving 92.3 million email addresses of MyHeritage users, and their hashed passwords (these are not actual passwords).
We learned about the breach when MyHeritage’s Chief Information Security Officer received a message from a security researcher that he had found a file named MyHeritage containing email addresses and hashed passwords, on a private server outside of MyHeritage. Our Information Security Team received the file from the security researcher, reviewed it, and confirmed that its contents originated from MyHeritage and included all the email addresses of users who signed up to MyHeritage up to October 26, 2017, and their hashed passwords. We made a public announcement about the breach within 8 hours of learning about it.
Your email address was one of the accounts in the data breach.
Immediately upon receipt of the file, MyHeritage’s Information Security Team analyzed the file and began an investigation to determine how its contents were obtained and to identify any potential exploitation of the MyHeritage system. We determined that the file was legitimate and included the email addresses and hashed passwords of 92,283,889 users who had signed up to MyHeritage up to and including Oct 26, 2017 which is the date of the breach. MyHeritage does not store user passwords, but rather a one-way hash of each password, in which the hash key differs for each customer. This means that anyone gaining access to the hashed passwords does not have the actual passwords.

That is more than 92 MILLION PEOPLE whose email addresses — at the least — have been breached. There is more to this information including that they are sure no one really got passwords. I’d like to believe them, but since this hack was way back last October and I’m only hearing about it NOW, I don’t know what to believe. At least they don’t store credit card numbers. I suppose I should be grateful at least for that … but do they now have my DNA results? They say not, but they could. AND my husband’s.

You want to know how we get hacked? This is it. Companies get hacked. Half the time, they don’t know they’ve been hacked until months later, after which they do everything in their power to cover it up.

Hackers don’t need to breach our personal computers. All they need is information they get from hacking the companies with whom we work. I’m beginning to wonder who has NOT been hacked. Which company I use has thus far been spared.

Has any large company been spared?

Anything that sounds too good to be true isn’t true. Anyone giving you something for free is lying. Calls from Microsoft or the make of your computer (Dell, for example, or Mac for another)?

It’s a hack.

I got a call from “Dell Customer Service” this morning. Although Dell hasn’t announced a breach, I’m guessing there has been one yet to be announced because hackers have my computers basic serial numbers– which unlike a password, are embedded in the computer. As are numbers for every computer made. That’s how we can identify where the information came from and to whence it is going.

teravivos.com

There IS no safety as far as I can tell. Don’t talk to anyone on the phone if you have no reason to expect the call. If you have not contacted them and asked for a return call and given them a code word so you know it is actually the real people calling, HANG UP. No conversation. Don’t be cute. Don’t play mind games. Hang up. Immediately.

On another — yet somehow parallel concept — Donald Trump, our erstwhile national leader, seems to think he can trust Kim Jun On to “do the right thing” vis-à-vis nuclear arms. Right.

It’s another hack. Our NATIONAL hack.

HOW DID THAT HACK HAPPEN? – Marilyn Armstrong

A friend asked me how a hack could happen.

You can find plenty of information about this in the news almost every night. Multiple attempts by many governments to locate these guys and take them down are always underway. The problem is, there are a lot of them. Many are funded by the Russians and for all know, other hostile governments.

Does everyone think these guys hacked our election, then quit hacking?

They’ve hacked (that I know of): Equifax, Bank of America, Adobe, Lands End, Amazon, Facebook … and probably a lot more than that, but these I know about because they have all been in touch with me to warn me.

Forget about the dozens of television series that deal with this issue. If you read a newspaper or watch the news, the information is not exactly secret. The busting of these hacker rings has been major news for at least three years and probably longer, so if you’ve missed it … you should catch up. Hackers thrive on people who don’t understand what’s going on. That’s why they pick on the elderly so often.

Essentially, it all happened in one afternoon. Anyone whose identity has been stolen can understand how quickly your financial life can fall apart. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me. I lost no money, although I had to spend $90 on a new router. I also spent a lot of time rebuilding my computer, but since I did it myself, it didn’t cost me anything.

Should credit card companies be more on the alert? Absolutely. They are pretty sharp even now. Far more alert than our so-called government who seem collectively helpless to fix this. I think they don’t want to fix it, but what do I know, right?

Anyone can call Experion, Equifax, or TransUnion and ask that they put your credit on alert. You can do this automatically on the phone and you only have to call one company who will alert the other two. If one of you has been hacked or think you might be in danger, you don’t have to wait until they have hacked your accounts before you deal with it.

Once you’ve set up an alert, all credit companies must contact you directly before granting credit in your name or changing your address, telephone number, email address, or password. I can’t even count the number of people who’ve been hacked on Facebook — had their accounts stolen. I think someone stole my Twitter account, but since I never used it, I didn’t know about it for weeks.

If you think you are safe because nothing like this has ever happened to you, you are naïve. It can — does — happen to everyone. Anyone. Young. Old. Retired. Poor. Rich. It hurts more when you are poor, but it won’t stop the hackers. If you’ve got any money, they’ll take it and leave you with nothing.

These are not people with a conscience or a sense of right and wrong. They don’t care what happens to you. They do not care if they kill you in the process, either.

So, here’s the timeline:

1.  Facebook gave my personal data to Cambridge Analytica. For a fee, I’m sure. I know this because Facebook told me they did it. They didn’t seem upset about and felt I shouldn’t be either. Right.

2.  Cambridge Analytica sold my data to hackers, most of whom are supported by the Russians.

3.  They got more information by hacking my home router. This had already happened in Europe, but no one mentioned it on our news, so we didn’t know. By the time they did mention it, it was 24 hours too late for me.

4.  They pretended to be a different company and had sufficient data to make me think they might be real. When they demanded money to protect my computer, I instantly knew they were hackers.

5.  They attempted to take money from a bank who controlled 3 credit separate cards, two of which I knew about. I stopped the transfers and they never got anything. The final one I only discovered today, but again, I’m covered, so no loss to me.

6.  They locked my computer and demanded $1000 to “protect” it. Talk about a mobster move! Not a snowball’s chance in hell. There’s no guarantee if you give them money they will release your computer anyway and I’ll bet they don’t. Not exactly trustworthy guys.

7.  To get my computer back, I had to rebuild it. From scratch. Which was not so bad — boring but not difficult. Because I back up my files, I was able to restore everything. In all, I lost one document, but I can live with it.

8.  I had to buy a new router with a protective patch.

Does this mean they can’t get me — or you — again? Of course not. These hackers are gigantic organizations heavily funded by Russian money. if they can hack Equifax, they can bypass my protection on a whim. And the places they operate are glad to have them. They hire people. They are a big business.

At the bottom of my personal mess is Facebook. They casually took my personal data and sold it to hackers.

It’s so simple …

Facebook made this happen. Our government helped them by refusing to go after the hackers. If you think Trump is a good guy, remember he and his team have protected these guys from the get-go. They have allowed the hacking, encouraged it, and supported it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are also getting paid off.

You could be next. They may already have your number.

SHOP TILL YOU DROP – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love shopping when I’m looking for something specific. It’s like a treasure hunt. My pulse quickens and all my senses go on high alert. I’m like an animal stalking prey. Will I find it down the next aisle? Or around the next corner? The perfect short-sleeved top in a bright summer color with a round or V neckline. Or the earrings that will go perfectly with my turquoise and white print dress.

Why do we get such a rush when we find some item to buy that meets the needs of the moment? Why do we get such a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when we buy it and take it home? Why do we get so excited when we take it out and use it or wear it for the first time?

The endorphin rush I get from shopping must have physiological and evolutionary roots. It’s such a common phenomenon among humans. Maybe it’s like the primeval drive of the hunter or gatherer to provide for his family. Maybe we are programmed to enjoy the search for the necessities of life. Then, by extension, we end up thrilled by the search for amenities and even frivolities as well.

People can even get addicted to shopping – online shopping, QVC television shopping, all kinds of shopping. Most people can control their shopping urges. I have actually been on a long shopping hiatus. These days I only shop at the supermarket, the hardware store and the pet store.

I’m at a point in my life when I really don’t need much. I have enough clothes and too much jewelry. Also a house full of books. After two years of decorating, my house won’t need anything decorative for years. My only recent purchase was a new Cuisinart to replace the old one that broke.

So I satisfy my shopping needs by shopping with friends. I get the thrill of the hunt with none of the guilt from spending too much money. Or the angst of deciding what to buy and whether or not to actually buy it. It’s also fun figuring out what someone else will like. It adds an intellectual element to the game.

I went clothes shopping with a friend today. I’d forgotten how intense and focused I get when I shop. I was thrilled when my friend said I have a good eye and that I’m a great shopper. What a compliment! I felt elated!

Now that I’ve got my shopping fix, I can go back to suppressing my shopping urges. At least until I can find another friend who has to go to a wedding!

IT MUST BE ME – Marilyn Armstrong

It can’t be coincidence. There has to be a reason. I have spent literally every day for nearly a week on the phone with customer or technical support. Earlier, it was computers. The PC, iPad, Macbook Air.

I got through it. I am alive to tell the tale.

All computers are working except the PC which still won’t accept the download from Microsoft. They try a couple of times a day and it gets rejected each time. Eventually I’ll call and find out how it’s going on, but they said it might take a few weeks — not to worry. I’m not worried, at least not about the PC. It is working fine.

Today, Garry put the laundry in the machine and kindly offered to vacuum the rug. At some point, he stopped and I emptied the cup where the dirt goes (is there a name for that? and put the dirt thingie back in the machine. Which is what we’ve done dozens of times.

Pushed the on button. Nothing happened. No clogging choking sounds. No sounds at all. An utter silence where there ought to be something, at the very least, a sucking noise.

After accusing Garry of breaking another vacuum cleaner, which he instantly rejected as he hadn’t done anything except vacuum our 4 by 6 rug  and a bit of the floor … which, he pointed out, was voluntary … and there I was accusing him … FALSELY … of malfeasance. In my own defense, Garry has slain more than a few vacuums  so it wasn’t such a big leap.

This time, it just died — on its own.

I reviewed the machine. I checked the brushes. Put the plug in a different outlet. This machine isn’t rechargeable and has a 25 foot cord. I have heard, though, that other machines have this problem. Apparently something in the electrical box pulls apart during use. Easy to fix — if you can fix something electrical. Which I definitely can’t. I’m not even sure why electricity doesn’t come slithering out of the walls on its own.

I switched it on again. Nope.

Turned it off. Resisted the temptation to give it a whack with a hammer. Did it again and again because I couldn’t believe it would just stop working, for no reason, when there had been no previous problem.

Finally, I said: “Well, for once, I actually bought a warranty.”

Why? Because these little lightweight machines don’t hold up. I’ve never had one survive longer than a year. This one didn’t make it to six months. Five months, less three days, actually. The warranty cost only $10, so I said “You know what? I’ll buy it.”

I found the warranty and the website. They wanted information in formats I couldn’t provide, so finally I called them. The third time, I got a human on the phone. She said it was still under the manufacturer’s warranty, so they should take care of it. She called them as a three-way call.

Shark offered — IF I sent it back — to send me a new one for just $20 … plus tax on the full price ($8) — and I would have to buy the box. Which, considering this is a vacuum cleaner, would be another $30. But they’d pay for the shipping.

Wow. That’s real service.

Moral of the story? A limited warranty is worthless. In years of buying things with limited warranties, never has one of them paid for anything. Limited means “You’re kidding, right?” If it’s limited, it’s not a warranty.

Eventually, the SquareTrade representative said “Shark is giving you a ridiculously hard time, so we’ll just honor our warranty and refund your money. Let’s hear it for SquareTrade!

“And I won’t,” I commented, ” be buying another Shark.” But I don’t know what I’m going to buy. I can’t push a heavy machine and Garry’s getting tired too. Maybe an Oreck Commercial type.

They  break too. I know. I owned one and the belt broke almost every time I used it. Of course, that was years ago, so maybe they have improved. I sure hope so.


Is it me? Do I have some kind of weird problem with service? Or do they do this to everyone? If this is how the world is turning, life is going to be a total bummer … even worse than it already is!


From start to finish, this event took almost four hours. Four more hours spent dealing with customer service and I didn’t shout at anyone, not even once. All for a $99.99 vacuum cleaner I bought last December that should still be working.

Oreck vacuumI used to earn that much every other hour I worked and now, I do this for free. It must be some bizarre karmic thing because nobody who isn’t working for customer service should spend this much time talking to them.

It was a pretty good machine — for its brief life of just under five months. I noticed that Amazon isn’t selling it anymore. Shocking.

I wonder why not?

THE MYTH OF PRIVACY

Who really thinks they have any privacy remaining?

What a shock it has been, discovering Facebook misused our personal data. Who could have imagined such a thing! Not.

All those cute little games on Facebook were a way for a sleazy political group to gather personal information about us and try to twist us to their goals. Like we didn’t already know that.

I also know people on the internet with blogs who think they are anonymous. They are anonymous from me, but that’s because I’m not interested enough to search for their real data. But — anyone who wants to know can find out anything they want about me or you or pretty much anyone. That’s reality.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Do you believe you are really hiding from anyone who is actively seeking your personal information? Because I can assure you, the only person you are fooling is you.

I stopped worrying about privacy when I began using the Internet. I was working in tech and I knew that everything you ever put out there stays out there. Forever. That was the end of whatever remained of our privacy — and there wasn’t much, even then.

Yet, the myth remains that we have privacy left to lose. Some folks believe we can trust our phone company, our devices, our ISPs, our government, and our postal system to keep their noses out of our private lives. This hasn’t been true probably ever, but certainly since before I was born.

Every form we’ve filled out in the past 15 years is on a computer that can be hacked — and for all we know, already has been hacked. Or is being hacked as I write this.

Everything is out there. It can be gathered by those who make money grabbing it. Meanwhile, the FBI, CIA and postal system were invading our mail and telephone calls when Eisenhower was president.

As long as there have been governments, they’ve been spying on citizens. Their own citizens and any others they can find. These days, I’m sure everyone is spying on us. Advertisers, political hackers, our government, our ISP. Our bank. Every company that sells a product you bought or might buy someday is watching you.

Each advertisement you click, any product you buy, every time you use that “discount” card for your groceries or gasoline or whatever, your personal data goes into a file. A data mining file. Which is for sale. Anyone can buy it.

Facebook is a tiny piece of a huge pie and we are the slices.

Should we worry about being careful what we say and to whom you say it?

Maybe. Or maybe not. It may not matter what we do or say. The amount of information being gathered by everyone about all of us is monumental. Gazillions of pages and lines of data.

The good news? There’s no way on earth they can sort through all of that information. The bad news? They have all that information.

I’m sure, by the way, that nothing that happened on Facebook or anywhere on social media changed my vote or could change my vote. I  bet they didn’t change yours either. We don’t get our information from Facebook memes or Twitter tweets.

No one can fix your vote if you think for yourself.

MORE STUFF – WORLD SHARING!

Share Your World – January 29, 2018


If you had an unlimited shopping spree at only one store, which one would you choose? Why?

Can I make that Amazon please? I would head for the cameras and computers and possibly automobiles. Maybe pick up a couple of trikes for Garry and I. I could spend a lot of money at Amazon. I’ve got some serious wish lists going.

Amazon boxes delivery

It’s also the only place I know that has pretty much everything I want — other than repairs for the house, though it does have parts I need to fix the house. And they deliver in 2 days! It doesn’t get better than that.

What is the worst thing you ate recently?

I do all the cooking and I cook pretty well. I can’t remember the last bad meal I’ve had.

oven rice counter
Dinner, anyone?

 

So I have to say there really isn’t any worst thing. I didn’t like the ginger jelly I bought, but it wasn’t terrible, just not as good as I had hoped.

Name five things you like watching … 

We are truly watchers of so many things it really would be impossible to name. But we are very fond of late night comedy — Colbert and Trevor Noah, for two. John Oliver for three. NCIS. We’ve been re-watching the entire “Blue Bloods” series.

trevor noah the daily show

Intermittently watching Voyager, but we aren’t finding it truly mesmerizing. We watch baseball in season. Football right now because there’s Tom Brady and even though we are more baseball than football fans, Brady is something to watch. rake tv show

a place to call home tv show

Lots of stuff on Acorn — “Doc Martin,” “A Place to Call Home.” “Rake” and “Murdoch’s Mysteries.” Too much to mention, but if it was made in New Zealand, Canada, or Australia, we are probably watching it now — or already did.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  

Went to the doctor and discovered I’m alive! That’s right folks. I’m still here. It turns out those pains in my hand are (gasp) arthritis AND carpal tunnel syndrome. Considering I’ve been playing the piano since I was four and touch-typing since I was 10, it’s amazing my hands have lasted this long. We’re going to try braces and see if that helps. Otherwise, I suppose I’ll have to get the carpal tunnel surgery, but that won’t solve the arthritis problem.

Healthy Trail

Mostly, though, I’m doing okay. For me. Given one thing and another. This is as healthy as I’ve been in a few years.

doctor's office window
Doctor’s office window

Not exactly ready to run the marathon, but most of my parts are working pretty well, all things considered. I can’t remember anything — which is apparently perfectly normal. I have a chronic sinus thing — since forever — and it will never go away. I can usually breathe . My blood pressure with medication is within acceptable limits. And I got back the reflexes in both feet and knees after years of not having reflexes there. Remitting, recurring, remitting …

So, I’ll probably be annoying you with my posts for years to come. You’re not going to get rid of me that quickly!