return to OCLUG Web Site
A Django site.
December 6, 2012

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» The Apple Support Experience

So, having jumped into Apple land with a Mac Mini recently, and having some problems, I of course took advantage of my included 90 days technical support. Being part of the Apple ecosystem includes being subject to how they support their customers, so I think it's important to write about.

Normally my idea of support is to figure out what piece of software I'm having a problem with, locating the open-source community responsible for it, and then tracking down a mailing list, IRC channel, whatever, where I can ask for help. I usually loathe help lines of any kind, as North America and most of the world handles these very poorly these days.

You know the story. You call hoping that you'll talk to a flesh and blood human, and you get a machine telling you that, "we are currently experiencing a higher than normal call volume," which is what you'll hear every damn time you call so obviously it's not higher than normal, and they're just cheap bastards who understaff their support infrastructure, but I digress.

Well, I collected a few questions together before calling Apple Canada, as I hate calling help lines so I figured once I found a human I'd hammer him/her with several questions. Better throughput. Can't help it, I think like a programmer. And, of course, I got a machine. I asked me what product I was calling about, using voice recognition to understand me as I said, "Mac Mini", and asked me for the serial number. That all worked, and I finally got a human, with little difficulty. No Indian accent either, I think it was Spanish, but I've called a few times since and there's no discernable pattern, so perhaps it's not overseas for a change. Not that I care all that much, as long as they actually help, but I've had some really bad experiences before with uninformed first-line support reading from their scripts.

Well, the guy I talked to couldn't help with the software bugs, obviously he doesn't own the code, but he can report the issues and I can hope that a developer at Apple will fix them. I already reported the issues at http://www.apple.com/feedback/ anyway, and hopefully that's not a digital black hole like most feedback pages. He did help me understand how to do a couple of things that OS X considers advanced, like launching a terminal from a keystroke. BTW Apple, that's pretty basic in any Linux window manager, so please do better.

Then we got down to the hardware issue I'm having. At least, I think it's hardware. Many other people are having the same problem. It makes me wonder if there was a bad batch of Mac Minis out of Apple recently. I called in about it, mentioned to the nice lady that wanted to sell me an Applecare package that I likely wouldn't need it, as I was thinking of taking the unit back, and suddenly I was talking to a nice man in second level support.

He took the issue on personally, gave me a direct contact number to him, and the email address, and we started swapping hardware to narrow down the potential problems. I swapped the LCD with one upstairs, no help. Got a new HDMI to DVI adaptor from Apple, no help. He arranged for a full unit exchange and data migration, which was done very professionally (albiet with some data loss that was easily made up for), unfortunately it didn't help.

Finally, we're running an app from Apple to gather up logs, and I'm told that the Engineers at Apple know what the problem is, they think it's software, and to keep my eyes on the software updates. There was one recently in fact, labelled graphics performance and reliability, so I wonder if that was it. I'm waiting to see if the issue happens again.

Thus far, I must say that Apple raises the bar for what good customer support should be. I've had plenty of bad experiences with other companies, and so far I've had mostly good ones with Apple, and now an exceptional one. The guy I'm talking to deserves a raise. Fingers crossed that the experience continues to be this good.

February 16, 2012

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Kanata Honda – The customer experience

I complain a lot about companies that provide poor customers service. It’s easy to do, as they’re so common, and it can be fun to read and shake your head at. I haven’t found a lot of material online about how good people can be, but it’s overflowing with complaints and rants. Human nature I guess, we bitch a lot more than we commend.

We bought a 2010 Honda Fit from Kanata Honda a while back, and you never know how a dealership is going to treat you once they have your money and they don’t have to suck up to you anymore. In general I never expect much, although I hope for the ideal. The car is too knew to have any major problems so far, although Honda is as cheapo as every other car company out there, and my OEM Dunlop tires won’t make it to 30000km at their current wear rate, which is ludicrous. Take your head out of your ass Honda, and put on decent tires.

But, the dealership is selling the cars, not making them. They rely on mark-up, and accessories like $200 steering wheel covers. Say no more. And, they rely on you coming in regularly for service, which I will not do if they are going to overcharge, or provide bad service. And they cannot afford to, as this is really their bread and butter. They don’t make much profit on the cars, the accessories are ridiculously overpriced, so that leaves service (Y’know, one of those reasons why Saturn killed their own electric car? Big I digress…).

So far it’s been oil changes, tire rotations, and I allowed a questionable brake service, and had them put in a block heater, which I love BTW. No service problems, good treatment, although their Wi-Fi was broken when I was there. Guys, c’mon. Me techie. Need Wi-Fi. Recently I had some questions, like where the jack points are for my floor jack instead of the provide scissor jack, and I dropped by yesterday to have a windshield wiper adjusted that was off due to ice buildup.

Each time the service guys at KH have just welcomed me in, answered my questions, and got me on my way without issue. I didn’t expect to be charged for the service and I wasn’t, and that’s the kind of service that keeps me coming in for oil changes. Sure, I’ll likely do my own in the summer, in the driveway, a few years down the road when most of the warranty is gone, but for now I’m drinking the Honda kool-aid and it doesn’t taste so bad. It’s our only car so I don’t have to cut corners on maintenance to try to pay for two, and I do question the services and usually allow them with some skepticism. If I was only keeping the car for 4 years I likely wouldn’t bother with anything but oil changes, but I like to keep my cars for 10 years, and I expect them to be built properly to last that long, if I give them a little love.

So, good job so far people. Keep it up please.


October 18, 2011

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Perhaps why magazines are dying?

So, earlier in the year I decided to try a one-year subscription to Car and Driver magazine, ’cause I bought it a few times at the magazine stand and I liked it. So I signed up online.

Within a few months, I started getting notices in the mail about my subscription ending soon (or so it appeared). I checked online, and all was well, I was good until April of 2012. So why am I getting notices about my subscription ending? Online support didn’t answer that question.

Today, I get a letter with big arrows around it, and “third notice” underlining it, in big, important, threatening text. I look online and I’m still good until April, so what the hell is going on? Well, lets talk to a human.

Easier said than done. Looking online, all of the references for support are email or snail mail. No phone numbers. I dug for 20 minutes or so, and finally came across the answers.com wiki which actually had…*gasp*…a phone number! So I called, and of course got a lousy IVR. I kept saying, “operator”, until it finally sent me to a human being.

A very nice girl explained that the letter was just a promotion, and that my subsription was not being cancelled. I asked then, why the letter gave no indication of this, and she insisted that my actual cancel date was on the letter. Damned if I can find it. The letter says,

ATT: MICHAEL SOULIER. IN case you didn’t realize it, the end of your subscription is quickly approaching. And without your renewal instructions, there’s not much we can do.

We just want to confirm the continuation of your subscription while our

    discounted rates

are still in effect.

To avoid missing even one fabulous issue of CAR AND DRIVER, you must act quickly. Simply complete the Account Renewal form above and return it in this envelope we’ve provided. The regular Canadian subscription price includes postage and handling plus GST/HST (registration no. *********).

So please return your renewal instructions before the cut-off date. Thank you.

** THIRD NOTICE **

Now, I’m no expert, but I don’t think that I can be blamed for interpreting this as anything but a notice of the end of my subscription. Draw your own conclusions.

Lets just say that I won’t be renewing. I have no time or patience for this nonsense, and I don’t reward this behaviour, or have any desire to have anything to do with a company that goes to such lengths to not provide a phone number.


July 11, 2011

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Honda Fit – Elastic doors?

I was climbing into our 2010 Fit yesterday and my wife pointed out something hanging down from the driver’s side door.

Elastic falling out of my door

Elastic falling out of my door

That can’t be good.

I contacted Kanata Honda and they said that they don’t know what it is either, so they suggested that I drop by and they’ll take a look at it. Sounds good to me.

Update Jul 13: They took a wild guess that during some promotion someone tied a balloon to the car and lost the elastic string inside of the door. Too funny.


April 9, 2010

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Hydro Ottawa (aka. Need a longer lasting UPS)

Lately living in Stittsville is feeling more and more like being in a third-world country, given the frequency of power outages lately.

Two days ago the power was out in the morning for over an hour, and I look at the outage report and it says this:

2010-04-07  	Goulbourn  	7:42 am  	9:17 am  	95 minutes  	3325
    • cause unknown, line was patrolled and no cause was found

And this morning it went down again. The website doesn’t show this one yet (they seem to update the site as an afterthought) and when I called into their irritating phone queues the human being that I finally reached had no information.

Reliable power? Not here.


August 27, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Bell just as stupid as Call Select

So, now that we have our long-distance service switched back to Bell, and Call Select admits that we owe them nothing, you’d think that the whole issue was over, right? Wrong.

From our bill:

Jul 23  Order #**** Removal
 From Jul 23 to Aug 12
 1 Unlimited Canada & US LD Plan 24.95 20 16.63cr
 1 Network Charge 5.95 20 3.97cr
Jul 24  Order #**** Addition
 From Jul 24 to Aug 12
 1 Unlimited Canada & US LD Plan 24.95 19 15.80
 1 Network Charge 5.95 19 3.77
Aug 01  Order #**** Addition
 From Aug 01 to Aug 12
 1 Residence line 2.00 12 0.80
Miscellaneous Charges:
Jul 23  LD Plan 30 Day Deactivation Charges  23.29
Jul 23  LD Network 30 Day Deactivation Charges  5.55
Total Other Charges or Credits (before taxes)  28.61

Umm, we never asked anyone to cancel our long-distance service, so why are you charging us for it, you utter morons!

Update: So I called 310-BELL and waited in their phone queue, and talked to a very nice woman who sorted out the problem. Lets hope that’s it…


August 18, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Call Select does the right thing

I just got a few calls, two of them from Call Select. The first one asked me to call back and the second said that the matter was cleared-up and we would not have to pay anything, meaning that they can’t find any proof that we ever agreed to their service in the first place.

Why they didn’t just immediately absorb the buck-and-a-half of fees incurred is beyond me, was it really worth the hassle? The person I talked to claims that they most-likely made a mistake. Possible, so I shouldn’t overreact here. The fact is that I don’t know, regardless of what my cynical side wants to suspect, so I’ll just let it lie. I’m more interested now in why this kind of thing is possible in Canada.

Anyway, I also got a call from a reporter a the Ottawa Citizen, as I did email him about the issue, and he said he’d been looking into it. I’m not a big believer in coincidences, personally, so I think I’ll go buy the Citizen for at least the next few days. I suddenly like them even more than usual.

If the Citizen wants to follow-up on weak laws around telecom in Canada, more power to them. Maybe it will help the next guy.


» CCTS is no help

So, apparently the CCTS will be of no help at all since Call Select is not a member. That’s just a wonderful system we have here in Canada, isn’t it?

So, according to the CRTC‘s guidelines I’ve followed up with them again, amending my complaint about being billed on a fraudulent claim. I’ve called Call Select this morning but they’re not awake yet, west coast and all, so I’ll have to wait for a while.

I still can’t believe my long distance can be taken in this country without my written authorization.


August 17, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Call Select sends us a bill

So we just got the mail, and it seems that Call Select just doesn’t get the point, ’cause they sent us a bill for $1.44.

I really don’t care about the size of it, we’re not paying it, and I’m filing a complaint with the CCTS since they obviously can’t get their shit together.

I called them and they say they’re still investigating. I really don’t see what that has to do with deleting our account, which we did not ask for. If they cared one iota about customer service they would have zero’d the account when I first called them and never sent me anything in the mail. Ever again.

I’m not impressed.


August 2, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Still No Long-Distance


So, thanks to our long-distance service being taken over by Call Select without our permission, every time I try to make a long-distance call now, I am asked for an access code.

I was told by a Bell rep that it would be fixed by now, but it’s not and they’re off until Tuesday (long weekend), so no long-distance calls for us.

Thanks again Call Select. And thank you CRTC for working so hard to prevent this kind of thing.

August 1, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Follow-up to the CRTC


I followed-up to the CRTC on my complaint with this, just out of my own curiosity.

Thank you for responding. The issue is resolved for now, my only concern is how easy it was to “slam” my line in the first place.

How is it that anyone considers the current system to be in any way secure, where some random phone company can claim that I requested their service without any authentication from me whatsoever? Is that not an obvious flaw in the system that should be addressed at some point?

If the CRTC is not regulating the rates, terms of service or business practices of long-distance service providers, then who is?

Thank you.

» Response from the CRTC


So the CRTC responded.

From: CRTC DONOTRESPOND/NEPASREPONDRE
To: msoulier@digitaltorque.ca
Subject: Your message of 7/29/2009 6:20:15 PM (Reference Number: *****)

Dear Mr. Soulier,

Thank you for taking the time to contact the CRTC about your concerns.

The CRTC no longer regulates the rates, terms of service or business practices of long-distance service providers.

If your long-distance telephone company is switched to another company without your permission, it’s called “slamming.” Slamming is not condoned by either the industry or the CRTC. To find out who is providing you with long-distance service, call 1-700-555-4141 from your telephone and check your monthly telephone bill. Then, report the transfer to your original long-distance company immediately and ask to be switched back. Pay only the rate you would have paid to your original phone company and file a complaint with the company that switched your service.

If you’re not satisfied with their response, check the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) to see if your service provider is a member. If so, you can contact the CCTS with your complaint.

The CCTS is an independent agency that helps resolve your complaints about your telecommunications service. Contact them at:

* email: info@ccts-cprst.ca
* mail: P.O. Box 81088, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1B1
* fax: 1-877-782-2924
* toll-free telephone: 1-888-221-1687
* toll-free TTY: 711 or 1-800-855-0511 (voice)

I am also providing you with a link to the Fact Sheet entitled “How to File a Complaint About Your Telephone Service” which explains the CRTC complaints process : http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/INFO_SHT/T12.htm

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please do not reply to this message using the email address indicated above as we cannot receive e-mail at this address. To reply or to add to your submission, please click here and follow the prompts: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/rapidsccm/landing.asp?lang=E&caseid=*********

Yours sincerely,

Chantal Proulx
CRTC Client Services

So it doesn’t look like anything will come of this to improve the situation. I’ll follow up with a few questions, but I don’t expect my one complaint to change much.

July 30, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Introduction to Call Select


So, I pick up the mail tonight and in it is a letter from a company called “Call Select”. According to the letter, this is them.

Also, according to the letter, they were very happy to welcome us as a new customer. This was a surprise to us, as we had no idea who they were, but apparently they had taken over our long-distance service from Bell. Umm, what?

I called Bell, and indeed, on July 22nd, our long-distance service carrier had changed. According to the individual that I spoke to at Bell, there is no authentication in place when this happens, the company in question simply submits a request to change my long-distance carrier, and Bell honours it. Sounds ripe for abuse to me, but perhaps the CRTC has their reasons. I’d love to hear them.

So I complained to the CRTC, had Bell put our long-distance back, and complained to Call Select. They claim that they’re going to investigate how this happened. I’m on the edge of my seat.

Meanwhile, shouldn’t I have to like, sign something, to enter into a contractual agreement of some kind? I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that to be bound legally, then yes, I must.

May 25, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» Another letter to Transglobal’s manager


After calling Transglobal back and asking for the manager to call me, I just sent this email to the customer service address.

Hello,

I’m addressing this to Julie, the manager at Transglobal as I understand from quickly talking to her.

Julie, you asked me on the phone whether there was anything that you could do in compensation for all of the difficulties that we’d had last week in replacing our refrigerator, that was under an extended warranty. At the time I said that all I could focus on was getting a replacement.

The replacement arrived Saturday, and it got me thinking. I was told by Transglobal that our warranty was not really used, since it was covered by Frigidaire, hence the RA request. If that is the case, then I’d like to know what benefit we received from having an extended warranty in the first place.

At the moment I cannot see one.

If you could clarify this point, it would be appreciated.

By the way, why is Transglobal still calling us? I received an automated message at my home phone not 30 minutes ago, and I called back immediately. The person I spoke to wasn’t sure why we were called so I asked for you to call me back.

Regards,
mps

Any bets on responses?

» Ok Transglobal, you can go away now


I’m working from home today, and transglobal just left a message on our home phone, an automated one asking us to return their call about “a replacement for our product”. Umm, been there, done that, on Saturday. Why are you people calling me again?

May 24, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» And, we have a new Fridge


To our moderate surprise, the replacement fridge arrived at roughly 11am today. The guys took out the old fridge and brought in the new one with sufficient care, and we started pulling off all of the tape and styrofoam packing.

New refrigerator when it arrived

We didn’t have to do any assembly, just get all of the tape and plastic wrapping off, but there was no hurry since the guys told us to let it sit for a full hour before plugging it in. This turned out to not be a problem since the doors opened to the right and that was inappropriate for the space it’s in, so the first thing I did was start following the instructions to reverse the hinges.

I figured that it would take about a half-hour, and I was way off. Still, I made solid progress on it with a little man helping me out for most of it. As it turns out, Jaan is fascinated by my ratchet set.

I ran into a problem moving the handle over, as it required a 3/32-inch allen-key and I didn’t have one of that size. Luckily my neighbour did, and he gave me a hand.

All said and done, it opens to the left now and we plugged it in around 3pm today. Maria stocked it with what little we had, and it began to get cold in the fridge immediately (always a good sign). We wandered out and picked up some groceries now that we don’t have to worry about them rotting for the first time in a week.

New fridge after reversing the hinges

Maria stocked up the fridge and freezer sections with our new groceries, and made dinner. The only issue I notice is that now it’s been running for some time, but after reading the manual on that, it says that’s normal after stocking the fridge/freezer, and after plugging it in for the first time. We’re supposed to allow 24 hours for the temperature to settle, so hopefully tomorrow it won’t be running constantly anymore. I noticed early that it had shut off normally, so it must be all our new food.

I’m just a little paranoid at this point, given our experience. I’m hoping that The Brick didn’t supply us with a lemon…again.

Many thanks to those at Transglobal who actually tried to help, especially Dianne, who really followed-through on what she said that she would do. That was quite refreshing from most of the people there who seemed more interested in pointing fingers at the The Brick, Frigidaire, gremlins in their computers, anywhere but the mirror.

In my final assessment, Transglobal’s problem is that they simply don’t care enough, and The Brick most certainly doesn’t give a shit at all, or we would have had a loaner a week ago. Customers aren’t stupid, they can tell when you actually care. Stop treating us like we’re stupid and catering to the lowest common denominator. The Brick saleman we talked to actually told us a horror story about Bell that he experienced, apparently trying to suggest that at least they weren’t as bad as that. I’m not sure if he ever took critical thinking in school, but that doesn’t make you any less wrong. All it means is that you don’t suck quite as much as the company you’re comparing yourself to, and I doubt you’ll be hanging that motto over the store any time soon. “The Brick – We suck, but not as bad as Bell does!” Yeah, I’d pay to see that.

» And, we have a new Fridge

To our moderate surprise, the replacement fridge arrived at roughly 11am today. The guys took out the old fridge and brought in the new one with sufficient care, and we started pulling off all of the tape and styrofoam packing.

New refrigerator when it arrived

We didn’t have to do any assembly, just get all of the tape and plastic wrapping off, but there was no hurry since the guys told us to let it sit for a full hour before plugging it in. This turned out to not be a problem since the doors opened to the right and that was inappropriate for the space it’s in, so the first thing I did was start following the instructions to reverse the hinges.

I figured that it would take about a half-hour, and I was way off. Still, I made solid progress on it with a little man helping me out for most of it. As it turns out, Jaan is fascinated by my ratchet set.

I ran into a problem moving the handle over, as it required a 3/32-inch allen-key and I didn’t have one of that size. Luckily my neighbour did, and he gave me a hand.

All said and done, it opens to the left now and we plugged it in around 3pm today. Maria stocked it with what little we had, and it began to get cold in the fridge immediately (always a good sign). We wandered out and picked up some groceries now that we don’t have to worry about them rotting for the first time in a week.

New fridge after reversing the hinges

Maria stocked up the fridge and freezer sections with our new groceries, and made dinner. The only issue I notice is that now it’s been running for some time, but after reading the manual on that, it says that’s normal after stocking the fridge/freezer, and after plugging it in for the first time. We’re supposed to allow 24 hours for the temperature to settle, so hopefully tomorrow it won’t be running constantly anymore. I noticed early that it had shut off normally, so it must be all our new food.

I’m just a little paranoid at this point, given our experience. I’m hoping that The Brick didn’t supply us with a lemon…again.

Many thanks to those at Transglobal who actually tried to help, especially Dianne, who really followed-through on what she said that she would do. That was quite refreshing from most of the people there who seemed more interested in pointing fingers at the The Brick, Frigidaire, gremlins in their computers, anywhere but the mirror.

In my final assessment, Transglobal’s problem is that they simply don’t care enough, and The Brick most certainly doesn’t give a shit at all, or we would have had a loaner a week ago. Customers aren’t stupid, they can tell when you actually care. Stop treating us like we’re stupid and catering to the lowest common denominator. The Brick saleman we talked to actually told us a horror story about Bell that he experienced, apparently trying to suggest that at least they weren’t as bad as that. I’m not sure if he ever took critical thinking in school, but that doesn’t make you any less wrong. All it means is that you don’t suck quite as much as the company you’re comparing yourself to, and I doubt you’ll be hanging that motto over the store any time soon. “The Brick - We suck, but not as bad as Bell does!” Yeah, I’d pay to see that.

May 23, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» The Brick delivery scheduled…again


So, the store manager at The Brick never called. I gave up and called the store, and someone there did follow up with me and confirm that we are, in fact, receiving the actual replacement refrigerator tomorrow, and not the loaner, since it’s all been confirmed now.

Dianne also called more than once to see if the store finally did the right thing, which was very nice. I feel like she single-handedly rescued this debacle. Transglobal had better keep her.

I just called the store to check the time that they’re going to be here tomorrow. They give you a 3-hour window, and hours in 10am-1pm.

Keep your fingers crossed.

» The Brick delivery scheduled…again

So, the store manager at The Brick never called. I gave up and called the store, and someone there did follow up with me and confirm that we are, in fact, receiving the actual replacement refrigerator tomorrow, and not the loaner, since it’s all been confirmed now.

Dianne also called more than once to see if the store finally did the right thing, which was very nice. I feel like she single-handedly rescued this debacle. Transglobal had better keep her.

I just called the store to check the time that they’re going to be here tomorrow. They give you a 3-hour window, and hours in 10am-1pm.

Keep your fingers crossed.

May 22, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
msoulier
But I Digress
» A call from Transglobal’s manager

Well, as promised, the manager of Transglobal Service called me at my desk a few minutes ago. She apologized for the situation, tried to explain it to some extent (computer problems), and asked me if I knew about their food spoilage form.

I told the truth, that we’ve managed to keep our food from spoiling all week, no thanks to Transglobal or The Brick in any of that, so I won’t be claiming any damages there. I simply want what is due to us, a new refrigerator.

She asked if there was any compensation she could offer. I probably should have asked for a full refund of my extended warranty, and I still might, but I told her that right now, if a device capable of refrigeration materializes off of a truck tomorrow like it’s supposed to, I’ll be amazed at this point, and it’s all that I really want.

She said that she would call the store to try to ensure that happens, and that she hopes that our next experience with them will be better. I assured her that there will not be a next experience, but thanked her anyway.

Now lets see if the store manager calls like she’s supposed to, and if a fridge of some kind is going to show up at our door tomorrow. Bets anyone?