Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hermes Changes Policy On Selling Handbags

French leather and luxury goods company, Hermes, has changed their arrogant position on selling their sought-after women's handbags. Previously, the retail branches for the store would amazingly not allow customers to special order their lofty women's handbags - specifically the "Kelly Bag" or the "Birkin Bag".

In today's God-awful economy even on Rodeo Drive - things are changing drastically in the way luxury goods are sold. Now Hermes is calling other stores to swap inventory to make sure the customer get exactly what he or she is paying for. At $7,000 and up for a purse - you'd expect better than to be told "if you want a tan Kelly bag then come back to the store every day and if it is in you MAY buy it!" Now the consumers who have the interest in buying such high-end items are in control of the buying process which is about time.

The problem for Hermes is - people are learning that they can live without a $7,000 purse and be very happy.

Even The Rich Can't Get Credit These Days

All of the talk today when it comes to the economy is the "frozen" credit market. $350,000,000,000 of money from our taxes hasn't seemingly done anything to slow down the foreclosure rates as U.S. banks are simply using the free government money to cover the butts while loaning to basically nobody.

I was told of a local "agent" who offered to put $1,500,000 down on a $3,000,000 home with a bank that he and his clients have over $30,000,000 in deposits with and a long standing relationship and he was rejected. He makes many millions of dollars per year and thankfully pulled a solid eight figures out of that small bank. Perhaps they will go out of business as they certainly deserve to suffer.

During my wedding, I got a Citibank American Airlines credit card as American and United are the two best airlines to fly on out of Los Angeles if you like to fly (upgrade) to First Class. I racked tens of thousands in spending which I responsibly paid down to a zero balance. Without notice my credit balance was dropped from $35,000 to $6,800. I asked Citi - a company I have a seven figure mortgage (man, I can't wait to pay that monster down/off) - to increase the limit as I just used 60k of the 90k miles I have in my American Airlines frequent flyer mile account and they plain refused. I told them of the business I send them for my mortgage and three different people up the food chain could care less. Like the agent above - I pulled my business and canceled the card on the spot. I don't care what it does to my FICO score. I can't do business with Citibank if that is how the treat a customer like me.

My good friends has one of those American Express "Black" or Centurion cards that supposedly have no limit. Guess what - they DO have a limit. His was $250,000 and he spends a TON on the card with his business for which he, of course, pays off in one month. AMEX dropped him to $120,000 which still seems high but when you are buying millions of dollars in parts from every corner of the world - its a major pain.

Both my buddy with the Black Card and I in the past week have had our zero balance home equity loans "frozen" by the bank that issued them citing a drop in home value. Both homes have more than four times the amount of the equity line in home equity on the worst day but seemingly everyone in Southern California are getting these cutbacks.

The moral of the story is no matter what your income, FICO score or borrowing power - do not forget what these greedy banks have done to the U.S. Economy and to you as a consumer. Punish them whenever possible by pulling your business and or paying off your debt. In the mean time, the people who spend the most in the economy are less and less able to spend anything because the banks are sitting on the free money they got from Congress specifically to free up their lending.

Friday, October 31, 2008

AMEX and Sentient Jet Team Up With The Business of No

I stopped using my American Express Card a few years back when after spending over $140,000 for that callendar year the company refused to offer me a "black" (Centurion) card as the standard was $150,000 in yearly spending (its now over $250,000 reportedly). I informed a Sr. vice president of customer service at AMEX that I was getting married the next year and had a home in Los Angeles that I was fully renovating and that I would gladly pay their $4,000 fee for the card. Even with $100,000's of pending spending in the near future I was denied the card therefor I moved my business to Chase who has both a business and personal card that gives me valuable United Airlines miles. I have racked up nearly 1,000,000 since then and have cancled all but one of my three AMEX cards as I don't want to lose the 590,000 AMEX rewards miles. Overall I am very happy with my decision to cut my AMEX spending down to a mere few $100 per year.

This week I received a glossy printed book about my many options for AMEX miles and over a luxurious, Jared-inspired Subway six inch "club on wheat" I read through the book. I have always thought the best value in credit card miles is to use them for flight upgrades. You can spend $700,000 and get a $4,000 watch if you like but you can also buy a $1,500 coach ticket from Los Angeles to London and upgrade it with 50,000 miles to a $17,000 business class ticket thus getting a lot more value for your miles if your are inclined to fly in Business or First Class.

Towards the back of the brochure was a promotion that caught my attention. An attractive couple were stepping out of what looked to be a Challenger 300 private jet featured on a right-facing page. The copy on the promo said that AMEX has "flight experiences starting at 500,000 miles with partners like Atlantic Aviation, Delta (private) and Sentient Jet. With an upcoming trip from LA to Pebble Beach in December, this got me to put my cardboard-tasting sandwich down and call the 800 number. I just had to know what my 500,000 miles got me. I didn't expect much but anything helps right?

At my new offices I have phones that count off the time you are on the phone. It was 19:45 on hold with AMEX before someone picked up. The person quickly realized I needed to be handed off to the "land and sea" department and waited on the line with me until I got to a woman to help me. The problem is - she couldn't pronounce Sentient Jet let alone explain to me what the program was with the charter and jet membership company. At around 32:00 into the call - she transferred me to Sentient Jet.

A minute later, I had a guy on the phone who knew a LOT more about private jet travel and he needed to have someone get me a quote for my trip on a shorter basis and or see how my 500,000 miles would pay for part of one of their "membership cards" which I assuredly would be adding tens upon tens of thousands of dollars to. This gentleman, who sells one of the world's most fantastically luxurious commodities on the planet Earth, said he would have someone get back to me the next day with a full quote for both options. He took down all of my info - specifically about the trip up to Monterey, the airports, the aircraft I might want to use etc...

Its been five days with no return phone call or follow up from Sentient Jet.

In America, you can outsource your customer service to Bangalore or New Delhi or you can keep it right at home but as long as you don't know how to close and or don't care if you close a qualified client - the results will always be the same and those results are not good. When the economy is booming or during difficult times like now, truly qualified clients are hard to come by and when you get them on the phone - closing them should be a company's top priority. AMEX walked my business because of their ultimate arrogance and Sentient hasn't made much of a statement about how much they want my future business or my up-sell to their $50,000 membership card. Even in the straosphere of luxury, you still can find companies mired in the Business of No.

I am sure there is someone who wants to earn my business for this flight even if its United Airlines. Perhaps I should save the money and buy stock in companies who are in the Business of Yes? How is Berkshire Hathaway stock looking these days?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gay Techno Doesn't Sell Anything But "Don't Panic" T-Shirts

Yesterday I called on a client who has been having some issues with his business and I wanted to check on him before we meet up at the upcoming CEDIA tradeshow in Denver next week. When I got him on the phone he let me know that his father had unexpectedly died at 56 years old. There was little to say other than that I was sorry to hear the news and to offer my sincere condolences.

As soon as I got off the phone, I headed down to the card store a block from my new offices and looked for a condolence card as well as some nice "thank you" notes as I believe you can never have enough of those around. Handwritten notes show people in a digital world that you actually care enough to send them a meaningful thought.

As a music major and a "recovering" audiophile, it only took me about 15 seconds of a new song coming on the boom box in the store (note: not Musak) before I was considering writing my wife a condolence card because I was considering killing myself just to stop the pain of listening to the musical abortion on the CD player. The song was a remix of "Lady Marmalade" from Moulin Rouge yet it wasn't the rap-laden Christina Aguilera version. This was something much more drum and bass. More "fantastically" gay and enough to make this heavy metal loving music enthusiast look for something sharp to jam into my ear drum just so my wretched screaming would make the music go away.

So I guess I have a big mouth considering I asked the girl behind the counter "got any other shopping music?" and she just looked at me. Another lady chimed in "This is the gayest song I have ever heard!" and no response. When getting ready to check out - I asked the girl why she didn't change the song and she said "I really like it and I work here." Brilliant. To quote Barack Hussein Obama "This election isn't about me - its about you!"

When walking back to my office it dawned on me about how the best salespeople are all about other people and their needs. The best closers never say "lease this Mercedes because I need to make my month" they say "this is the lowest price I have ever been able to lease a car like this to anyone and I am glad that person is you." And then they send a written thank you note (hell, I could lend them one from my shopping bag).

I don't expect to get Blake (the Alex Baldwin character in Glengarry Glen Ross) when I am buying a sympathy card as some tiny shop but the idea of people-centered interest was driven home to me during this shopping experience - driven home like the credit card pen in my ear from that God-awful song that I still can't get out of my head.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rude Restautant Service Comes To "Fruition" in Denver

As somewhat of a foodie, I love the idea of being able to take clients out when traveling to a new town. This September's CEDIA custom AV installer convention is my next opportunity and with one full month before the show, I set out to make some reservations for industry dinners.

While I do not have a $3,000 per month pornography habbit like allegations made about Christy Brinkely's husband and his spending - I do pay about $3 per year to have access to The site, which once was free, can be a good place to find new restaruants as well as see how people really feel about the better eateries in town. Its like a for food and Dener is one of the cities they cover so I started my search looking for the highest rated places.

The newest, most highly rated restauant in Denver is called Fruition. It is reportedly a "new American" cuisne joint that people are raving about. It has a 26 (of 30) for food which is pretty strong by any city's standards so I gave them a call to book a reservation around noon Pacific Standard Time. A few hours later a surly French-sounding host called me back and things went downhill fast. I was asking for a table for 6 at 7:30 on Friday with one month's notice. And please notice that this isn't The French Laundry or Il Mulino in New York we are talking about here. This is Denver with a full month's notice. The level of attidude I got was unreal. I got the you can eat here at eaither 5:30 or 9:00 with no apologies. Then the "we don't seat tables that large" line. How can you be a restaurant and not seat a table for 6? I wasn't asking for a table for 16 - a table for 6 is pretty standard even for the smallest restrants in the country. Ultimately, the guy just hung up on me after saying "I just can't help you!" If you were ever looking for the defintiion of The Business of No - this is it.

Think of the work it takes to be a well rated restarant in Zagat? Top chefs and resauranturs sweat their ratings there much like they worry about losing their third star from The New York Times yet this newcomer to the restaurant world - likely with investors who have yet to recoup their money yet - are turning down business that simply comes to them.

What I can tell you is - the girl at the next 26/30 rated restaurant down the list, called the Barollo Grill, was unbeleivable sweet and accomodating. She went out of her way to ask "Is this a special event?" and "How can we make your meal with us extra-special?" When I told her I would have important clients with me she immediatley responded with "We have a perfect table for 6 that is a little more quiet. I will reserve that one for you." I am excited about dining at this restaurant just from booking the reservation.

My prediction is that the only thing that will come to Fruition is a bankrupcy filing. The restaurant business is too dificult to treat customers like this especially when you are in Denver - not New York, LA or London. Get a clue.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

United Front on Bad Customer Service (Chase Bank)

My last post was about American Express and their arrogance/stupidity with their benefit-deprived Black Card but the other credit card banks are not unfortunately much better.

Instead of a Black Card from Amex, I ultimately chose a United Platinum Visa from Chase Bank which gets me miles on an airline with a hub in Los Angeles which has helped me be able to get upgrades for most of the flights I have traveled on in the past three or four years. My AMEX miles are still sitting in their account with it being literally impossible to redeem. Trust me, I tried to use them. Those 750,000 miles are plenty to buy my wife and I a first class trip to Paris and one call to Delta (Amex's biggest mileage partner) got me flights stopping in Salt Lake, Atlanta and then on to Paris thus adding 6 to 8 hours onto an already intolerably long flight. They were blacked out on the direct flight from LAX to de Gaulle in Paris. The last time I tried to book flights to Maui on Delta (they have 2 a day from LAX non-stop) the agent had me leaving LAX at 6 AM going to Salt Lake, connecting to Honolulu and then being stranded there needing another flight. What a great solution. I flew on United and used miles to upgrade.

Today I got an email offer from Chase Bank to upgrade my card to the Gold level. While I have platinum card from them (whatever that means) yet they are touting double miles, no mileage blackout dates (see nightmare above) and other perks. They provided a web link from the email that that was broken. They offered an 800 number and I have been on hold for 31 minutes and counting waiting for them to answer. Their first level customer service girl was "going on her break" and didn't have any idea how to help me. This wait - which is more of a war now and I am curious to see how long the wait would be - may not be over anytime soon. Note: they sent the offer by email but offered no way to correspond by email to take the offer.

All advertising in my opinion boils down to Cost Per Acquisition of client meaning you spend all the money you spend on advertising and marketing to ultimately get quality leads and from those leads you close whatever percentage you can. If you spent $1,000,000 on email campaigns - wouldn't it be nice to know you closed X number of upgrades and each cost you Y per customer? In this case - I was interested customer who is packing significantly above 800 credit. The email got me on the hook and that is where I died as a lead. There was no reasonable way convert and that is a waste of their money and my time.

Ultimately, it was 37 minutes before I got someone on the phone from Chase who explained to me that the Gold card is really a downgrade over the Platinum card I have and that the offer is only for my personal card and not my business card - where I book most of my travel anyway. Brilliant.

Its nice to know AMEX doesn't own a monopoly on moronic marketing and bad customer service. While unquestionably arrogant - at least AMEX picks up the phone faster than 37 minutes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

AMEX's Black Card Is Really A Black Mark On Their Customer Service Record

I understand the martkeing magic of the red velvet rope. The idea that one cant get into Studio 54 or Sykbar only speaks to your human instinct to truly lust after what you can't have. Once inside, you will rationalize the $22 crappy martini and even think the $3,000 a night hooker/actress/real-estate-agent might really "like you" when she over heard you talking about the movie project you have "in development".

American Express suffers from the same velvet rope malady with their lofty Centurion or "black card". Originally offered to their biggest spending clients who spent $150,000 or more per year (its reportedly $250,000 per year in spending now to be invited to get a Black Card) - the card quickly because a status symbol for the very wealthy around the world. Amazingly the card card comes with as much as $4,000 in fees yet the perks of the card (other than the status of plunking it down to pay for your $800 bottle of Cristal via "table service" in San Tropez) are few as well as being avaiable from other companies for far less money.

When the standard for getting a Black Card was $150,000 per year in spending and a $2,500 fee - my company spending was $140,000. My father convinced me to get an AMEX card before I went to college as I wouldn't spend beyond my means as most college kids do - and his advice was excellent as ususal. As my company and spending grew I got a gold card from Amex and ultimately was invited to get a $400 per year platinum card - which I still have today. I was a loyal AMEX customer for more than a decade thus accumualting points to use for a trip someday (note: AMEX has no meaningful relationship with any of the LA-based airlines like United or American Airlines) to somewhere exotic.

Knowing I was spending a lot on my company, that I was about to renovate a home and that I was going to get engaged thus needed a ring and the full Hotel Bel Air wedding - I called Amex to ask for a Black Card. The level of "the Business of No" I got was astounding. Note: I was $10,000 away from their spending limit at the time and was poised to spend hundreds of thousands more dollars and they told me absolutely no on the black card. I went back and forth with one seniour customer service person who tried to help me but to no avail.

Can you imagine what it costs to earn a client who spends strongly both for his company and personally as well as has a merchant account? Imagine the three percent fees disappearing because that's just what they did. I canceled all but one of my AMEX cards (they can be good overseas) for which I use to maintain the miles I can't find a way to use to go anywhere. I signed up for a United Airlines card which has no prestige whatsoever other than the fact I use the miles I get from it to ALWAYS fly first class on every trip I make on the airline. I am still trying to book a flight to use my Amex miles on one of their partner airlines like Delta. Delta tried to get me to fly to Paris with connections in Salt Lake City, Atlanta and then to Paris. Right.

Warren Buffett should bitch slap the CEO of American Express during his once a year during his once-per-year meeting. There is a reason why you walk into a restaurant and they say "I am sorry sir, we don't take American Express" That's because they too have been screwed or insulted. American Express needs to lean the Business of Yes to retain the wealthy clients of the future.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Under The Umbrella I Found Integrity

I was on the phone with my friend from Philadelphia while sitting on my deck in Brentwood (not too far from the former home of Heisman Trophy winning USC tailback Orenthal J. Simpson) enjoying a glass of Walter Hansel 2006 chardonnay from the Russian River Valley as the three red tail hawks soared above my property - when the world came crashing down on me.

Well, actually it was my big umbrella from Room and Board and the gigantic plastic top of the unit cracked this leaving the umbrella to fall on me disrupting my peaceful evening and leaving me blurting out a few choice obscenities as if I was back in Philly - perhaps at a Flyers-Rangers game.

This isn't the first time this umbrella has broken but the last time was my fault. In trying to get the PERFECT shot for a photo shoot of my house for Modern Home Theater - I pushed in just the wrong way and SNAP. There went the umbrella. I manned up and ordered another one which was quickly delivered and installed without incident. That time was absolutely my fault.

This time my wife called Minneapolis-based Room and Board to ask what they could do for us. In turns out - they can refreshingly do a lot. Within two weeks (including a holiday weekend) they delivered a new umbrella as well as studied why the last one broke. They charged nothing for the new umbrella. Zero for the installation and zilch for delivery. In fact, they were so fast that I couldn't even grease the guys a smooth Andrew Jackson for their efforts (I can't help it, I am an Italian raised in Philly who my friends say will "tip a toll booth attendant" if they would let me). The lead guy who installed the umbrella said that he has never seen this happen other than at my house and if it happened again that they would come out and replace it again.

This my friends - is the Business of YES!

Room and Board gets it in ways airlines and other stagnant companies do not. No $15 charges for Internet access at the Four Seasons or $25 fee to check a bag before a crappy coach flight to somewhere. Room and Board chose not to nickel and dime me and I thank them. The company just made sure I was a happy customer. In fact, they guaranteed that I will be a repeat customer even if I have to drive down to Irvine to their beautiful 40,000 square foot showroom the next time I need some furniture.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

USAir Begins With No

When Allegheny Airlines became US Air, the expensive media campaign that introduced the "new" airline to its customer base used the phrase "US Air Begins With You" (or as we used to say in Philadelphia, "US Air Begins With Youse").

It was a great concept -- customer service. An airline putting you into its marketing strategy.

Well, I lived in South Jersey in those days. Did all my flying out of Philly International (a big hub for US Air) and I can tell you -- along with most of its other customers -- nothing changed. It was still Allegheny Airlines as usual.

Today, the airline industry -- not just US Airways, the more sophisticated name that evolved from US Air -- knows very little about customer focus. In fact, they think they have bigger problems to solve -- like the spiraling cost of fuel.

No doubt the price of fuel is a major problem, but so is the fact that airlines are proving they can not only be poor marketers, but lousy business people. Only Southwest Airlines is consistently profitable in part becayse it has hedged its bet by buying aviation fuel on the futures market and blunting the escalating cost. Southwest is also pretty good at customer service.

Now US Airways has decided to raise fares (that's to be expected when fuel prices soar), charge a small fee for the first bag checked (silly -- just add $15 on to the next fare increase), a higher charge for the next checked bag (silly times two) and they've decided to charge for water, soft drinks, snacks, food and everything else for non-first class or Dividend Preferred travelers.

They're still losing money.

And public confidence.

Just Saturday US Airways announced that it will eliminate curbside check-in at three dozen cities to save paying the vendor and it will retain curbside check-in by using employees only at the largest hubs and select cities. So, if you fly from and to the right cities you not only get the privilege of paying extra to check bags but you can even lug them inside and wait in line there for a customer service representative that hasn't yet been laid off.

Pity the handicapped or overweight or elderly -- guess US Airways wants them to suck it up.

After its merger with America West the unions have still not been integrated into one happy family and that means many unhappy US Airways employees.

Yet there are some outstanding ones -- the people who still treat customers like their are, well -- worth it. I had such a flight a few days ago from Minneapolis to Phoenix. The flight attendants were outstandingly friendly and helpful. When my wife and I passed on the first class meal (we were upgraded), two flight attendants later thanked us because they got to eat them.

A number of months ago I was on a flight that came this close to hitting another plane upon landing at Phoenix/Sky Harbor. That's why the captain pulled this 737 straight up into the air and banked left as the plane shook and all of us -- including the flight attendants -- sat in silence and shock.

When everything is said and done, you want a crew that will fly safely in a turbulent airline industry -- one imploding from bad business decisions and one in neglect from the FAA and federal government.

Thank God the managers were not flying the plane. They might have elected to risk the landing to save on fuel.

Some of the employees on my recent flight were dealing with the crowded overhead compartments that are seeing more luggage as passengers look to save the checked luggage fees. I asked the flight attendants if this was becoming a problem and they all agreed it was. No room in the overhead spaces -- too much demand. In such cases the airline checks them for free. So, why not try to get your bags on and save money if they don't make it.

Sounds like a winner to me.

These fools are charging for aisle seats and window locations on some airlines. More legroom is an upgrade on other airlines.

As one airline employee told me, "management doesn't know what goes on in their own airplanes". That's why they come up with such silly practices.

So, as most of us know who travel -- expect to hear "no" from the time you book your flight until the time you step off the plane. What has the business of no gotten the airlines? Unhappy customers and record losses. Keep in mind most airlines couldn't make money when fuel was cheaper and when the industry was deregulated to simulate a monopoly in some cities. Check their share price.

So, if airlines insist on boneheaded business practices, why try to stop them. They won't listen. Let's just come up with some more stupid airline tricks for laughs. These clueless managers may actually adopt them -- so be forewarned.

• Charge to use the restroom. Of course, first time is free -- it's on them. But the second and third times, you pay. Put the money in the lavatory door and open -- like in some European public bathrooms. Pity the passengers out of change on the flight from Mazatlan to the U.S. especially if they were drinking the water in Mexico.

• Assess an introduction fee to those who want to meet the passenger in front of them when their seat reclines -- especially dentists who can get a good look into their mouths. Great social networking tool.

• Charge extra for a copilot on each plane. Why are we forcing the airlines to spend all that money in the cockpit when they can cut the crew by 50% and their upfront expenses by almost that much. You want a copilot, you pay more. If not, it's the captain and the computer. Easy to do on an AirBus.

• Charge a fee for WiFi in the sky. Wait! They're already going to do this on American.

• Charge a hefty fee to be kept at least six rows from a baby spitting up, a kid or two screaming or any attention deficit person including a 20 year old with tattoos.

• The airline gets a finders fee for every overweight, out of shape business traveler who picks up another overweight out of shape business traveler. And, if you get a thin one, double the charge. Always remember, in the airline industry -- less is more.

Now, I am at peace.

I feel like an airline executive.

All cockamamie ideas to raise money and help our poor brethren at the airlines out in this dire emergency will be appreciated -- and maybe even adopted.

God forbid they just -- say, raise the price to cover their costs.

I'm just sayin'.

They might learn a lesson from a United pilot who was allegedly involved in an incident with other colleagues at Salt Lake City. The pilot went on the PA system and told the passengers he was too upset to safely fly them to Denver. Although the passengers were disappointed because some would presumably miss connections, news accounts said that they seemed to appreciate that the captain was honest with them.

And so, the lesson.

The business of yes begins with honesty.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

American Airlines To Test In-air Online Service

Normally, I get upset when a company charges for Internet access (think $15 a day at The Four Seasons when you are already paying $650 a night for the room) but the news that American Airlines is about to start testing a pay Internet service has me all excited.

Air travel today is simply painful - even when you buck up for the full-fare first class seat often costing $2,000 or more domestically. Flight attnedants are surly and often would rather bitch about union gripes than get you a fresh Diet Coke. Delays are everywhere. Seats are cramped. Flights are canceled all the time. And some airlines even have the balls to try to charge people to check a bag. Its just awful.

American Airlines, who is one of the two airlines I fly the most out of Los Angeles along with United - is onto something with this pay Internet service. With fuel costs high, we all understand that flights have to be more expensive. What flights do not have to be is less luxurious or less productive. Adding Internet service adds value to go along with the recent increases in price.

Online access is part of many private flights on some of the newer jets that have been retrofitted for the service. If you are rocking a Gulfstream 450 from Van Nuys to Teterboro or rocking the old Citation X from Napa to Maui - you might just find online access. The installation on a private plane costs about $300,000. When spending $80,000 to make that L.A. To NYC trip private - that almost should be expected but at $1,600 for a business class ticket on American - this could be something that gets business travelers truly tickled.

DirecTV and Wild Blue Satellite Internet

For several days I have been trying to schedule a satellite Internet installation.

Satellite is the last resort for high speed Internet if you cannot get DSL, cable or fiber optic. If you can avoid satellite Internet, do so at ALL COSTS! Some of the downside to satellite Internet are higher costs, longer contracts, punitive early termination fees, maximum throughput of 1.5 mbps down and 256 kbps up and potentially significant latency delays.

Given all that downside, what do you if satellite Internet is your last resort because you are in a rural area or do not fit the logistical profile for DSL, cable or fiber? The answer is, of course, you suck it up and get it. Fine, I did that and here is what happened.

My next step was to all my satellite company, DirecTV. Of course, they outsource this service to a company called Wild Blue. However, Wild Blue does not do the installation themselves. No, the installation is scheduled through a company called DSI Communications. But wait, they are not the ones that actually perform the installation. That is done through Ironwood Communications, wait, Mountain Communication, no, LC Communications. That is how many companies I had to speak with over the last few days, taking up no less than 5 hours of my time. I don't know about you, but my time is worth something. Something so simple should not be such a cluster f***.

Did I mention the installation date in their respective systems was different for DirecTV, DSI and LC Communication? Did I mention DirecTV said the installer would bring all the hardware only to find out it is actually being send via UPS and arriving at the subject property where there is nobody available to receive it?

DirecTV is the company that promotes their availability to facilitate this service. Consequently, they should do a MUCH BETTER JOB coordinating the logistics and workflow of these installations. They remind me of Verizon (perhaps in a subsequent post). Their left hand does not know what their right is doing. The end result is a seriously pissed of customer. I would have rather been connected to Mumbai or Manila where at least some guy will placate me, apologize profusely, and call me Mister.

Customer service in America is shameful. Does anybody want to do a good job anymore or make sure the guy who is actually paying the bills gets proper, courteous, EFFICIENT service?

If satellite Internet and DirecTV/Wild Blue is logistically your last option, consider going back to dialup. It will be significantly less frustrating!

God help this poor installer when he gets there...if he gets there.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Last Plane To Clarkesville (actually Charlottesville)

This week I made another one of my quick trips across the country. Leaving from Los Angeles on Wednesday to see my sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Rotella, in Charlottesville, Virginia for a day of discussion about putting and how to putt less frequently. Call me crazy if you will - but Dr. Bob is the king. He works with the best golfers in the world including major winners like Trevor Immelman (Master), Padriag Herrington (British Open) and Rocco Mediate (almost beat Tiger at this recent US Open) along with others like Ernie Els, Davis Love and Tom Kite. Oh yeah, and schmuck amateur golfers like me.

My trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Washington (Dulles) was pretty uneventful until the landing which was in a thunderstorm. The co-pilot (that's who stereotypically lands) put that United Airlines 757 down pretty hard but no harm no fowl right? Well when we landed the plane was met by NO gated agent and the connecting flight on a commuter turbo prop plane was in an entirely different terminal and 11 passengers from LA had no less than 21 minutes to catch our flight.

We all waited patiently as this boat-like vehicle took us from the domestic United terminal to the commuter terminal only to then run like Orenthal J. Simpson in those old Hertz TV ads (I actually think he might have flown in those ads) to the gate to meet a middle-aged woman at the gate.

We all thought that we were in the clear as the door was open and the small plane was waiting. But NOOOOOOO.... This woman wasn't going to let us make the connection as she "closed out" the flight 30 second earlier and she was unwilling to go out and waive at the pilot as she admitted that there were many empty seats on the plane. The 11 of use pleaded with her to let us on the flight as she acted as if she legitimately didn't speak English while the door closed, the props spun up and the plane left for our connection in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Two very easy fixes could have been had assuming the airline cared to not have the 11 of us miss our flight. First, an agent meeting the LA flight could have called the other gate and held the plan an extra 30 seconds. Secondly, the woman at the gate could have done even a modicum of work to simply waive at the pilot who could have reopened the doors and loaded the plane up. The result was a wait of over four additional hours for which I opted to rent a car and drive myself and one of the other passengers 90 miles to our destination. It saved me about an hour with my golf guru which to me was worth the $350 the rental car cost me.

In a world where United Airlines thinks nothing of charging for a checked bag (not for first class but what are they thinking) - its time they look to actually taking care of their passengers more than their bottom line. Charge more for the tickets if you must but don't screw over your most loyal customers.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Welcome to a blog about the best and worst in customer service

Welcome to The Business of No - a blog about the best and WORST in the world of customer service.

Every been treated like crap at an airport? Ever been given a hotel room overlooking a grave yard? Ever been treated like Julia Roberts shopping on Rodeo Drive? Ever been told NO repeatedly when YOU are the customer? Ever been redirected to India for phone support? Ever been told to "just unplug the unit and the problem will go away?"

And how did it feel?

If you are like me - the crisis of customer service is beyond worrisome. Its an epidemic. And this blog sets out to be a place to talk about good customer service as well as the bad.

Feel free to post comments and or email us with your own stories.