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Preface to A New Start

Preface to A New Start

One day short of my 8th anniversary, I was laid off.  I find myself feeling relieved. There were seven good years, and after the stress of the last year or so, I am grateful for the chance to regroup and start again. It was past time for me to move on, and this works.

It has been almost a month, and my mojo is returning. I’m catching up on all the things that I didn’t have the energy or inclination to do over the last year. My hair and nails are getting healthier, and my dentist is making progress against the acceleration of gum disease. I am even getting poised to attack the “my brand” tasks (very uncomfortable for someone like me).

I have not yet decided the exact direction to take going forward, but am inclined to try something different. I could start my own business. I could turn a heap of text with rather bad dialogue into a real comedy novel. I could move into a different industry, or try a different role. When I think back about what I loved best about working at my old company, it was really about meeting a wide range of people who were able to rally around some core values in order to achieve something. I would like to find that again, but perhaps in a completely different context.

This is just a kind of landmark post, but I intend to blog again soon, if only to get back into the habit of writing. It doesn’t flow the way it used to, and the solution for that is always the same: write more.

For now, just feeling grateful for the privileges:

  • a little wriggle room to refocus
  • a clear, clean conscience
  • decluttering the home office
  • sleeping in a little, reading more, family time
  • “spring ahead Monday” at home!
  • the feeling of anticipation toward what lies beyond this new turn in the path

Looking out

up up and onward

Hello AT&T – Structural Silo Problem on Your Billing Systems

Hello AT&T – Structural Silo Problem on Your Billing Systems

For the second time in two months, I’ve had to spend time with an AT&T customer service representative. It’s still not sorted out. You have structural issues. This time, I did it all in text. Observe, exhibit A (slightly altered for privacy):

Thank you for choosing AT&T. A representative will be with you shortly.
You are now chatting with S.
S: Hello my name is S. Thank you for allowing me to be your specialist today. How may I assist you?
Heidi: Hey – I had a long conversation with a rep last month on the overcharges – it was supposed to have been adjusted to $200-something, but you guys auto-charged me 426.10.
S: I apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced.
S: I apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced regarding billing concern. You have reached the right person. I can help you with that!
S: Please allow me a moment, while I access your account.
Heidi: Was my conversation documented? It took a while to straighten out,.
S: I will check your notes.
Heidi: I’m supposed to be charged something like 240 a month. The current bill looks over as well, but I can’t believe after all that there was an autopay of $426 last month.
S: I am checking it.
Heidi: ok
S: Please allow me a moment, while I access your account.
S: Heidi, as I can see that your U-verse bill is correct. That is $64 plus taxes.
Heidi: Previous Balance $493.78Payment – 08/10 $426.10CRAdjustments $67.68CRBalance $0.00New Charges $285.92Amount to be Debited $285.92
Heidi: 426.10 – charged last month
Heidi: 285.92 charged this month
S: Heide, regarding the adjustment, I can help you to reach our wireless department.
S: Your inquiry requires contact with a specialist who handles billing and payment requests for wireless accounts. I apologize that I do not have access to your records to assist you in my office. Allow me a moment to connect you to a representative who will be able to assist you. In that event that you may be disconnected, please contact a representative at 1-800-xxxxxxxx or visit the wireless website at: http://www.att.com/wireless
Heidi: I am on a share plan – why is one phone costing a lot more than the other two?
Please wait while I transfer you to an operator at AT&T Wireless Customer Care.
Welcome! You are now chatting with ‘V’.
Heidi: Wow, ok. So can you read the transcript so far?
V: Heeeeey there Heidi , good evening! I will be happy to take a look at this .
V: I am going to take up the notes
Heidi: I went through this last month, and was quoted a figure of 200 something after adjustment, but my account went autopay for over 400 – and this month, it’s 285, with one phone being charged a lot more than the other two. I do not have international, and although there is no charge here, it’s on there twice for some reason. Lots of problems here and I am quite unhappy.
Heidi: I have had other things now tied up because this money was taken, despite my being told it would not.
V: I apologize for the inconvenience .
V: Let me pull up your account so we can get this taken care of.
Heidi: Last month they said it was because the changes to my account were on some kind of cusp date and it messed everything up. I thought that my time spent last month on this was going to be my last major issue.
V: Can you provide me your 10 digit phone number?
Heidi: XXX-XXX-XXXX
Heidi: I have a share plan – two other lines belong to my husband and son.
V: Thank you
Heidi: For some reason, mine is more expensive
V: Hey Heidi lets try to get one thing handled at a time I can assure you we will get this handled today.
Heidi: ok. I’ll give you a chance to read and examine for yourself then. 🙂
V: Thank you
V: I am in now reviewing the bill
Heidi: Look at this month, and last month.
V: Already ahead of you
Heidi: ok
V: Let me break down some things
V: One line can be any line really has to be charged for the plan plus the price of the phone . In your case it was your husband who was charged for the plan and his line and you were only charged for the price of the line.
Heidi: No – I am charged for everything.
V: Okay so your husband is the one who is charged for the line correct?
Heidi: And it’s my phone line that is more expensive, not his.
Heidi: No – I pay the bill. No one else pays the bill. We recently created a new number, along with one for my son, to take advantage of the 99 cent phones and the share plan.
Heidi: I have always been a customer.
Heidi: My husband switched companies to you.
V: Okay Heidi just a moment
Heidi: He shouldn’t be charged anything at all.
Heidi: One bill, three lines
Heidi: I pay
V: I understand completely
Heidi: It’s supposed to be about 230-240 a month total for the three lines and home wireless, provided that we do not go over the data plan, which we have not.
V: I definitely see that. I do see you are on the wrong plan as well
V: I see you can save about 20.00 by just switching to the 6gb plan.
Heidi: I am supposed to be on a share plan, allowing for 10gb
V: Correct
Heidi: The bill last month is wrong. At the end of my conservation, I was quoted a figure of 240 or so, then I was still charged 426.
Heidi: The woman I spoke to said she fixed everything. Clearly she did not. I gave her a good customer service survey too.
Heidi: Perhaps you have documentation of that conversation.
V: Heidi.
V: Please I am already looking at these notes please allow me a second to catch up lol I do understand how this could be a little frustrating . I am a customer too and promises are all you have as a customer
V: I can assure you I will get to the bottom of this for us today.
V: I am reading the notes now
V: I have reviewed your plan and your bill but I need you to bear with me.
Heidi: This is infuriating after having already spent time on this.
V: I need you to give me time out the kindness of your heart to get this handled for you
V: I understand completely!
V: I do see that you were credited from your wireless to your landline
V: I see that credit for 429.29
Heidi: 8/10 had a payment of 426.10
Heidi: That’s what I’m questioning first, since that was not the figure by a long shot.
Heidi: And given these continuing issues, I would like to cancel autopay.
V: No worries I can walk you through this
Heidi: I’ll need to vet the charges before the company takes the cash.
V: I understand
V: What page are you on ?
Heidi: pdf of this month’s bill for 285.92, showing a payment last month of 426.10
Heidi: and adjustment credit for only 67.68
V: Okay can you hover over Billing and usage at the top of the page?
Heidi: So I’m asking that the credit adjustment they said they already did by applied to my account. By my calculation, you owe me close to 200.
Heidi: And this month’s bill is also too high, just not by as much.
V: You were also credited 221.43 at 11:19 on 08/06
V: This was added to your landline as well.
Heidi: I don’t have a landline
V: You do have uverse correct?
Heidi: My landline was XXX-XXX-XXXX – it was cancelled a couple of months ago. My Uverse cable was also cancelled. I only have home wireless and three phones.
Heidi: cell phones
V: Okay yes combined bill correct?
Heidi: right
V: Quick question: Have you spoke to uverse yet?
Heidi: yes – they transferred me to you
Heidi: $51.00 Total U-verse Internet Charges$51.00 Total U-verse Charges $64.49
V: Okay they have nothing on file about these credits?
Heidi: No idea, they said they didn’t have access to my record.
V: I do see these credits I am not sure why they do not but I am getting my team on it right now
Heidi: may 14 – 390, june 14-124, july 14 494, aug 14 286
V: Okay just a moment
V: While my team takes a look at this would you like to cancel your auto pay?
Heidi: yes
V: Do you see My att in the orange bar up top?
Heidi: yes
V: Hover over that and then hover over Billing and Usage
Heidi: ok
V: Select Manage Autopay
Heidi: That is not an option
Heidi: Billing/Payments/Usage, none of which with that option,.
Heidi: Bill Details, Paperless Billing, Bill History, Bill Reports / Arrange Late Payment, Payment History / Usage since last bill, usage reports
V: Okay go ahead to the overview page
Heidi: Ok – I got it. Cancelled Sept 9 payment, discontinued autopay.
V: Awesome!!!
V: Woot woot!
Heidi: Now we just have to figure out what the correct amount is.
V: Already ahead of please allow them a few more moments . We are investigating now
Heidi: ok
V: Thank you
V: So we have came to the conclusion that you were conversing with uverse you need to be conversing with combined billing. Your combined bill has its on ban that is why no one can see your adjustments .
Heidi: Why wouldn’t my combined bill have been updated with the adjustments to my… um… bill?
Heidi: Otherwise, what is the point of the combined bill?
V: This is something that you need to speak with our specialist about.
V: I can provide you with the number or I can conference you in .
V: Which ever works.
Heidi: Conference me in please – we need everybody on the same page. This seems to be a service gap on your side.
Heidi: My job is business process improvement in high-tech… lol
V: Okay just a moment
Heidi: Am I going to have to go through this whole story again?
V: No you can give them a brief summary of what is going on basically saying I want to see where these credits are
Heidi: It seems like the person who did the credits last month ought to be on the line for accountability to fix it.
V: I wish it was that simple.
Heidi: If it was put onto a bill that never actually credited me and isn’t on my combined bill.
Heidi: In some kind of weird silo situation.
V: Okay just a moment while I get this handled .
Heidi: Then – why am I the one having to straighten out your process?
Heidi: For the second time in two months.
V: I am giving them a call now please hold a moment
Heidi: ok
V: Thank you
Heidi: I can take direction… I’m just going to give you all that valuable customer feedback. lol
Heidi: And recommend escalating this conversation to see where these gaps can be remediated, and to ensure visibility for better decision-making at a higher level.
Heidi: This isn’t the sort of thing that should be happening to loyal customers.
V: You are totally correct
Heidi: I give my permission for the text to be escalated and communicated up any management chain you like. 🙂
V: Thank you
V: 🙂
Heidi: Perhaps that could save hours on both sides.
Heidi: It’s really a cost-savings, efficiency measure as well as a customer satisfaction and loyalty issue. Might even affect NPS score.
Heidi: Some leader may wish to ride that wagon. One would hope so.
V: I understand
Heidi: I feel badly that you have to listen to this sort of thing and figure out how to fix it for the customer when the problem is clearly a structural one. You’re doing fine.
V: Thank you so much ! I am calling and making sure we get this handled but it seems that every department is closed right now >_< Heidi: of course! lol Heidi: And you get that most people can't call during regular business hours V: Of course it kind of but you know what I wont give up! Heidi: Thank you. V: No probs Heidi: We're just people. We just have to try to navigate as best we can given whatever constraints there are. V: You are so right! V: I do see that every department you can go to is closed 🙁 V: The best thing I can do is give you the number so you can give them a call tomorrow. V: Do you work during business hours? Heidi: Right. So... let me ask you this. Is there a way to continue the issue to tomorrow, saving the notes you have taken or whatever action is on your list so that I don't feel like this was a complete waste of my time? V: Definitley Heidi: Yes - I do. I could probably call on my lunch, but in my experience it takes longer than an hour. V: definitely V: I have already been writing these notes as we went Heidi: And whoever I'm to speak with tomorrow - will they have ACCESS to these notes? lol V: Correct Heidi: Well, thank goodness for small favors. Have you written a summary with a recommendation as a big headline at the top? Heidi: (laughing helplessly) V: Lol yes I actually did it in caps so they can see it Heidi: Too funny, but you know how that works V: Yes I sure do V: lol Heidi: Ok then, who is the proper person for me to call tomorrow, and what is the best thing to say to efficiently propel them into action? V: Just tell them to check out the notes. Here is the number XXX-XXX-XXXX Heidi: And they will know what I mean by "the notes" right? V: Yes Heidi: Ok, then. Thank you V for your efforts on my behalf. You do the company proud. V: Thank you so much ! V: Heidi, you have been a absolute pleasure to help today! On behalf of myself & your AT&T family we hope you have a amazing day. We are always here for you:) Heidi: I hope you have a great night - and thank you.

Stuff that Caught My Eye – Ouch!

Stuff that Caught My Eye – Ouch!

A snapshot of recent bits:

Video

So Called “War on Christmas” Persecution

To this strawman viral post:

“We can’t say Merry Christmas, now we have to say Happy Holidays? We can’t call it a Christmas tree, it’s now called a Holiday tree? Because it might offend someone? If you don’t like our “Customs” and it offends you so much then LEAVE!!! I will help you pack. They are called customs and we have our traditions. If you agree with this please post this as your status!! I AM A PROUD USA CITIZEN… MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!! Do you have what it takes to repost this?”

Response:

You can say Merry Christmas as much as you want. We just want you to be tolerant of those who prefer to say Happy Holidays or celebrate the season in a way different from the way you do. You can call it a Christmas tree too. You just need to be tolerant of those who prefer to have a secular Holiday tree, or perhaps a Menorah. If you don’t like living in the SECULAR America that the forefathers intended, LEAVE. I will help you pack. Perhaps you can move to a theocracy like Iran or a country with less government involvement like Somalia. I AM A PROUD AMERICAN CITIZEN. Happy holidays to all of you, no matter how you choose to celebrate the season! Do you have what it takes to repost? Happy Holidays Everyone!!!!

And They All Look Just the Same

And They All Look Just the Same

This one’s for Debbie, and you know why:

Little Boxes, by Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,

Where they all are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

Support Democratic Candidates – Commit to Vote

Support Democratic Candidates – Commit to Vote

Don’t buy the right-wing propaganda! It’s become very clear what Republican – and Teabagger – candidates will do.

Vote Democratic!

Action Sponsored by: Organizing for America at Change.org.

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

In 2008, Americans in record numbers voted for change.

But the health insurance companies, the Wall Street banks, and the special interests are already eyeing this November’s elections as an opportunity to put their allies back in power. Many Republican candidates have openly promised to run on a platform to repeal health reform, and roll back the progress that President Obama has made so far.

It will be up to each of us to support President Obama and keep the country moving forward by working to support Democratic candidates.

Commit to do your part this election season by voting in 2010.

Argue Pros and Cons of Healthcare Legislation Here

Argue Pros and Cons of Healthcare Legislation Here

The actual dialogue that we should be having has been eclipsed by the pathologies of the American public.

This post is for arguing the pros and cons of the actual bill, ok?

Civil dialogue, only, please. Stick to topic and argue the actual bill!

Ready Jonathan? Ready Phil? Ready Michael? Anyone else that wants to join in?

Here is your forum. Make your case. See if you can be fair and adhere to the rules of civil dialogue. Maybe then some points could arise that are actually important to everyone.

Here’s how this specific conversation started on Facebook:

I posted this link:

Swastika painted at Georgia congressman’s office – Yahoo! News – Someone spray-painted a large swastika on a sign outside the office of a Georgia congressman who was involved in a contentious argument over health care at a recent community meeting.

And this comment:

“So, this is Georgia and I’m confused. Is this an accusation or a proclamation?”

Feedback from Friends

Michael: Atrocities of WWII aside, that really can’t ever be put aside… EVER.. I’m actually kinda’ impressed that they have both the direction and the tilt correct.. given the usual pool of suspects, anyway. Unlike the one who painted it onto the Plymouth Rock backward… and was caught..

Heidi:
There’s a disconnect for me though. Rush, Limbaugh, etc. have been comparing Obama/Democrats to the Nazis all week, without being aware of the resurgence of the KKK and those sorts of attitudes among their base? Unlikely. Maybe it’s just especially weird here, this week.

Michael:
meh… he’s a clown who’s paid to fill a time slot.. you’d think by now people would wise up against per-minute ideology.

Phil: Typical. The sub-moronic trailer trash who are being goaded and funded to trash the nigg… I mean, that esteemed gentleman of color who happens to be president, praise Jesus and may the man die slowly… lack any apparent form of irony, rationality, intellect or historical knowledge. They DO, however, appear to know how to use spray paint. I guess all those opposable thumbs aren’t totally going to waste!

Phil: PS: Just in case my meaning was not totally clear, I am NOT referring to Obama by any form of racial slur. I am reflecting a sad truth about those who are so vehemently opposed to anything and everything the man does. At heart, they’re just terrified of a colored president, and will believe – or do – anything to counter that apparently terrifying reality.

Jonathan: I’m one of those who dislike the President’s policy decisions. I couldn’t care less what color he is. His policies scare me. Most frightening is the clear difference between his public words, and his actions. In other realms, that would be called lying.

Phil: *sighs*

The “lying” here, Jonathan, is being done by Obama’s opponents. Thanks for being one more American taken in by the high-stakes con-game being run to keep us shackled to the insurance companies! You are buying the lies wholesale, and we’re all paying the bill. If you want to know the truth, READ THE DAMNED PLAN, not the utter fabrications about the plan being spread by Sarah Palin’s lackeys and masters. It’s called “lying,” all right, but Obama isn’t the one doing it.

Phil: And as for “frightened,” be frightened by the people who are starting riots and inciting hatred at town hall meetings. This was done before, Jonathan, using exactly the same playbook. Germany, 1933. Look it up, and see who’s REALLY playing Hitler now.

Jonathan:
Wow. Do you have your tinfoil hat on to block the mind control impulses from the evil republican-neo-cons? We do have that vast right-wing conspiracy including insurance companies…

On a serious note, I’ve only seen/read excerpts from the bill, and those sections are disturbing. How about I post some links to those sections which clearly contradict the Obama rhetoric about the bill? I won’t have time until tomorrow night though. Gotta do laundry.

Phil: Who needs tinfoil hats? All you need is half a brain. As for the “mind control,” it’s quite simple, really: lies, lies, and more lies, backed up by utter fabricated hysteria from Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and FOX News. Utter. Complete. Fabrications. No evil conspiracies necessary. Just the old Vladimir Lenin truism: “A lie told often enough … Read Morebecomes the truth.”

Regarding the insurance companies, please watch the interview with former Sigma executive Wendell Potter; in it, he tells Bill Moyers exactly what they do, why they do it, and how they get away with it… including a mention of the “third-party dirty work” that would be employed to stop health care reform attempts. See http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07102009/watch2.html

As for the proposed bill, see: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/gpoxmlc111/h3200_ih.xml

Start from here – or start from your own concerns.