THE WAITING GAME

YOUR PACKAGE IS HERE!

Along with the joy and excitement of on-line shopping, has come the lesser joy and excitement of awaiting delivery. We can order anything from everywhere, whether its Scottish jelly, Za’atar from Israel, or jewelry from Asia or Africa. Ordering? Piece of cake.

Then, there’s delivery. Mostly, if you are an Amazon Prime member, they promise you automatic two-day delivery and at least 75% of the time, that’s what you get. It was a bit rocky when the program began, but after a year and some, they got it nailed. Mostly. Depending.

Depending on whether or not they use UPS which almost always gets the package here, to our door, in 48 hours. FedEx, who get the package somewhere in 48 hours, but not necessarily here. The neighbors are the not infrequent recipients. Or, the post office, which may or may not ever deliver the package.

I have no idea what becomes of packages sent by Amazon’s version of snail mail which starts out as UPS, but then is delivered to a local post office somewhere. Typically, they drop the package in Sudbury, about 10 miles north of here. From Sudbury, they send it to Lexington, Kentucky. From there, it travels aimlessly to Seattle, then Los Angeles. During these wanderings, I get messages from Amazon.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

“Your package has been sent to the wrong delivery address,” it says. They’ve taken my package from a local post office here in Massachusetts and shipped it to the west coast. “But we’re correcting it right now,” and it includes a happy face so I know that I should not get upset about it. With each subsequent wandering delivery attempt, I get another chirpy letter. Sometimes, weeks later, the package arrives. Sometimes only a part of the package arrives. In the course of sending each package twice around the world, the box gets a bit damaged. It was probably the monsoons along the coast of India. Nothing like ten inches of rain to soften up a cardboard box. Occasionally, it looks like they put it on a ramp and drove the truck over it. Twice.

And then there are times when I never see it, but I’m pretty sure someone is enjoying it. Somewhere.

About a year ago, Amazon thought they could lower their delivery costs by starting their own delivery service. I’m not sure exactly what they were intending, but I know that none of the package sent by Amazon’s own personal service ever got to my house. They assured me it was impossible because the electronic thingies in the trucks would only beep when they were within a few hundred yards of my house. I explained that they may be beeping with rage and fury, but the package wasn’t getting to my house. Once, we tracked it to a neighbor’s house and he begrudgingly gave it back. The rest of the times? Refund and me giving up. I finally told them that if the choice was between not ordering an item or getting it through Amazon’s special delivery service?

Just say no. It would save us all a lot of agony.

When the snow melts in the spring, I find things. Items long-buried under snow appear, a lot the worse for wear. I don’t know what they used to be, but they aren’t that any more. There are packages deep in the woods and in piles of sand along the road. Usually, they are so disgusting, I don’t want to know what they were.

I should mention that normal snail mail packages get here in the usual way of our local post office. For example, a letter mailed from the other end of Uxbridge can take two weeks to get to us, but a letter mailed from Boston will get here in a single day.

It’s part of the excitement of the world-wide web and it’s “anything you want from anywhere in the world” shopping mall. Delivery in 2 days, guaranteed!

COMPUTERS, ICE, WINTER, WHATEVER

Yesterday Garry’s computer up and died. It apparently didn’t die of not having a battery because (are you ready?) — it doesn’t have a battery. It’s got some other weird thing in it. On the positive side, my previously hot computer is still really hot. Aside from having a rather full hard drive left, it is a computer worth fixing. Forever. That is the point of buying a really good computer. If you need to fix it, you can. Meanwhile, it’ll do fine on Windows 7 for at least the next few years.

Hands in motion

Hands in motion

I was doing okay, all thing considered … until my Kindle died. It was one thing over the line. I could cope without my second computer. I wasn’t happy, but I was okay. Garry needed a computer? I had one.

But when the Kindle stopped working, I totally, utterly, lost it. Not that too. It turned out for reasons someone knows (but I don’t), my Kindle was no longer listed on Amazon. None of my audiobooks were listed. There are other Kindles there too, but for some reason, this “main” one seems to be the only one that really counts.

Three hours later, having given up on every possible other thing, we had to de-register, then re-register the Kindle. Then wait while 1,500 audio and regular books … maybe more like 2000 … loaded. That’s a lot of books. A lot of audiobooks. I didn’t even bother to deal with the email. Too much like work.

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Meanwhile, it tuns out, our guy can fix Garry’s computer. For the $100, it’s cheaper than anything I could buy. Whatever that thing which isn’t a battery is, it’s being replaced. I will use it and let Garry use “the much better one.” I need one on which I can write. A keyboard and a screen. This will be fine … and amusingly, it will be my computer again because it was my computer, then it wasn’t. Now, mine. Again. They come, they go.

I did totally lose it last night. To lose Garry’s computer and then the Kindle in one single day was one thing over the line for me. It’s weird. All kinds of other stuff can happen to me, but losing a computer? That’s where the buck stops. Take away everything, but leave me the WiFi, router, modem … and a computer.

Meanwhile, my granddaughter came over, stayed the night. Leaving her car at the bottom of the driveway. Who leaves their car at the bottom of a long, sloping driveway in the winter? Really? She got it out eventually. We are getting rain for a few hours and Garry’s going to “hit the grocery” while he can. By nightfall, it will be freezing. Everything will turn to ice. Even the computer guy knew not to put his car at the bottom of the driveway. Sheesh.

So, everything will work out. One way or the other. As long as nothing else breaks down.

I CAN FIX THAT FOR YOU

CAPABLE | THE DAILY POST


People used to help me do all the setup and wiring stuff of life, but things have changed. Today, they call me. It’s not like I’m particularly good at it. I’m not. About the best you can say of me is that I’m logical . I can dope how to plug A into B and B into C. Usually, it only fits together one way. If you stare at the plug awhile, you will have an AHA moment.

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I guess it’s that Garry is less capable at this stuff than I am. He looks at something mechanical and his brain freezes. Like, say, a vacuum cleaner. I look at it and I figure there’s got to be an “on/off” switch. There has to be one of those step-on-it release thingies so the upright will let you vacuum under things. And there’s got to be a release button on the canister so you can empty the dirt. The problem isn’t whether or not these buttons, pedals, et al are there. The only question is “where”? Garry says just one thing: “HELP!”

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Anyway, last night I finally got the extension cords I had ordered. Amazon has a new delivery service. Their own. Not UPS and not FedEx and not even the pretty lame USPS. Nope, it’s AmazonLogistics, or AMZL. I had ordered these from Amazon because I didn’t feel like hauling ass to the mall or Walmart. I figured with Prime, I’d have them in a couple of days.

It took a week. First they sent them to Wisconsin. I got an emailed apology that they had been sent to the wrong city. Then they wandered around the midwest for a while, showed up somewhere in Texas. Got another apology. Eventually, the night before last, I got a note saying they had been delivered. To my back porch.

We have a back porch. A deck. It’s a steep stairway nobody will climb in anything but full light, and never ever if the steps are icy or even wet. Except for one FedEx guy who not only brings the package to the back door (which is on the deck), but knocks and hands me the package to make sure I got it. The man is a saint, but I digress.

It was 1AM. It was pelting rain. I suppose I should have checked earlier, but usually, I get an email to tell me something has arrived. But that’s from UPS, FedEx, or USPS. Amazon doesn’t do that. You have to look at the order to see if it was delivered. I didn’t want the electrical cords out in the rain, so I put on my robe and slippers and went to the back door. No package.

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I limped downstairs and checked the front door. Nope.

Went down another flight of stairs to the bottom floor. Checked the two side doors. Nope. Nada. Nothing.

I limped back up the stairs, got back into bed and called Amazon. She said “sometimes the delivery people say they delivered it, but they haven’t.” I said looking for a package that ISN’T THERE in the middle of the night IN THE RAIN is uncool. I know why they mark things delivered when they haven’t been, but I’m too old to be running around in the rain to find a package that isn’t there. Eventually, I got compensated (appeased) and drifted grumpily into sleep.

Last night, I realized I should use those cords. Garry had been unable to use his heating pad for more than a week. The cable box and Roku in the bedroom were strung together with a huge, heavy-duty surge protector that was overkill in the extreme. It was safe, but weird.

I dug through the stuff stored between the dressers (extra bedding and pillows in zip bags) to find the outlets. Moved the lamp plug. Added the new extension with the multi-plug and connected Garry’s beloved heating pad. By then, Garry was done with his nightly ablutions and was offering to help. I let him hold things while I did things easier done with two hands.

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Detached the cable box and the Roku. Carefully unplugged and removed the huge, heavy surge protector. Replaced it with a standard extension cord (note to self, should buy shorter extensions for future use). Managed to NOT knock over every single thing on the dresser (only half of them). Booted up TV, cable box, etc. Lights came on. All was well.

Garry was happy. I had brought back the power. And I’m thinking “I just added an extension and replaced another” … but one person’s simple act is another’s miracle.

When I wondered when (and why) I became the woman who fixes stuff? When did people stop helping me and instead begin asking for my help?  I should be glad. If I had to call someone for everything that needs doing, I’d spend my life waiting.

I’m not old enough for that. Yet.

THE PERFECT CAMERA BAG … I THINK

I was window shopping online. I liked the way this bag looked, so I read its description, hoping to get the dimensions.

Anyone know what this means? Translation, please!


Product Highlights:

This kind of bag is made from pure cotton canvas, texture is soft, strong and durable, carry comfortable. The Lord of the bag is a pocket, the upper used the cotton rope of convergent way, plus a lid, the structure is simple. External vice bags and the ornament of fastener broke the appearance of drudgery, optional but not casually, fashion and brief. It makes the whole bag beautiful and easy, and never lose plain. This kind of bag is very suitable for photography lovers do for short trips, also can be used in the daily travel.


Who is the Lord of the bag? Does he cost extra? What is an external vice bag? The ornament of fastener broke the appearance of drudgery — which sounds like a good thing, but why? And I am glad it is options, yet not casually. Fashion and brief? Is that also transitory?

camera-bagI still don’t know the dimensions, but the price is pretty good. I’m just not sure I want to buy anything that comes with a Lord or external vice bags.

LOVING AMAZON … AND THE BEATLES

Not so long ago, I bought a bunch of Beatles albums and one by John Prine. The day before yesterday, just in time for Christmas, I got this email:

Amazon-Music-clipular

And when I opened my Kindle last night, what to my wondering eyes should appear but three Beatles albums and the John Prine, ready for my listening pleasure. I didn’t even know I was entitled to the download. Golly.

So I decided to put them on this computer, too. I downloaded the Amazon App for music.

Amazon Music App

Quick as a wink, I created play lists … and realized I have thousands of album cuts and single songs in my library that I don’t remember acquiring. Obviously, I did. In my sleep maybe?

Merry Christmas to me! There are days … many days … when I really love Amazon.

GLORIA MUNDI! NEW ROUTER, NOT SICK!

Our intermittent connection problem went critical. We had been having connection issues since before Christmas, but I thought it was an outside problem. Charter being Charter, as it were.

netgear ac750 router

It took a bit of tracking down, but eventually, we realized that the old Linksys was in its sixth year, which for computer gear so critical to everything we use, is ancient. And it was failing.

Charter has been ramping up their broadband speed for the past year, so I knew it was likely the old router couldn’t handle the higher speed. But it was more than that. It was not broadcasting a strong enough signal. Diagnosis: Tired old router needs replacement and honorable retirement.

Amazon isn’t cheaper for everything, but for electronics, they usually have the best prices and selection. If you have Amazon Prime, they are offer the fastest delivery at no charge.

I’m a real fan of Amazon. They honor their promises. If you don’t get your package, they send another. If the product doesn’t work, they refund your money or send a replacement — your choice. They are nice when you call with a problem. Rather than go over to our local Best Buy or Walmart, we went online.

We were right. Amazon had great prices on a huge selection of routers. There were so many to choose from … and the technology has changed so much since the last time we installed a router … most of our time was spent trying to figure out what the descriptions meant, and which router was the right one for our house.

Owen said NetGear was easiest to install. Even though we’d been using Linksys for so many years. Since he was doing the installation, I saw no reason to argue the point.

We settled on NETGEAR AC750 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router (R6050). At $81.99 plus tax, with free 2-day shipping, it seemed likely to do the job. We ordered it Saturday and surprise! It arrived this morning, Monday. No, I didn’t pay extra for speedy shipping. Amazon is very fast.

It’s installed. It took about an hour, including some hassling with the wireless printer and some more hassling with the Roku. There’s one more Roku in the bedroom I will have to reset plus three Kindles. Owen’s has hooked up his laptop and tablet. My three computers and Garry’s two are also up and running.

Do you think we have enough wireless stuff around here?

The router works really well. No dead spots in the house anymore! Not one, not anywhere. Finally, we have full coverage through both floors and in every room.

What could NetGear do to improve the experience? Provide better instructions!

Every problem we encountered was not a problem. It was just something for which no instructions or explanation is provided. I know everyone thinks tech writers are obsolete. I AM a tech writer. But seriously, folks. How much could it cost to hire a tech writer for a couple of days to write proper, English-language instructions? We work cheap!

Reading through reviews on Amazon, I’m betting 90% of the complaints were failures to understand what to do. Better instructions would solve the problem.

Can you say “Happy Ending?” Sometimes, things work out better than you expect. This is one of those times!

YOUR BUSINESS IS IMPORTANT TO US

It’s an epidemic, a pandemic  — of bad service.

Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. It wasn’t that long ago.

Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until approximately 2002, at which point everyone — more or less simultaneously — decided to save money by “automating” customer service, eliminating it entirely, or shipping it overseas to be handled by people who speak heavily accented English and don’t know anything about the products they are supposed to be supporting. That was when you and me, the customers, the ones who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services, became unimportant.

outofserviceThat was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.

The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if you can get away with it. All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”

Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.

SO WHAT DO I HATE?

Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching. Calls that display on caller ID as familiar phone numbers, but they’ve hacked your data or bought it from someone from whom you bought something.

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Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of breast cancer research or some other form of advocacy. Who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.

“Surveys” that are nothing but scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.

“Discount cards” for every shop you go to, all of which are a way to collect your personal information so they can sell it. Because you may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.

Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t recall the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on and on, until you are ready to scream. Worse, you have to listen to the entire spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …” Recently was 10 months ago … or a year or more. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.

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Many places no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.

Our electric company had customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi.

If your whole life is online, it’s over when the power goes out.

Death cust serv

Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.

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Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers are probably playing games on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.

THERE ARE STILL SOME GOOD ONES OUT THERE 

Amazon and Audible. Audible is an Amazon company now, but they always had terrific customer service. The more I deal with Amazon, the less I want to deal with anyone else. They are proof getting service does not have to be a nightmare. Trauma need not part of all interactions with vendors, medical facilities, utilities, or other corporations.

AT&T is good. Not as good as Amazon, but you can eventually get a real live person who knows what they are doing. And oddly enough, Medicare and Social Security. Though you may need to wait on hold for a while, you will get a live person in the end — and they will speak your language. They will stay on line with you as long as it takes. Credit where it’s due. These underpaid public servants try hard to help you.

L.L. Bean has wonderful customer service. Land’s End is good too.

To everyone else, I offer a big raspberry and a Bah Humbug in honor of the season.