I think her little looks like this can be priceless. :)
I was mighty tired and after doing pictures didn't feel at all like writing anything, so I decided to go to bed rather than make a completely pointless post.
I made some calls today, all with one intention in mind -- to negotiate. I'd read somewhere (probably one of those 'simplify life' or 'zen' style blogs) a few weeks ago that there are numerous opportunities available for negotiating better rates for pretty much anything you pay for. So I decided to try it -- after all, the worst that can happen is that they say no.
I started out with what I knew would be the most difficult negotiation -- Internet service. Since we live in a fairly remote area, the only real 'high-speed' Internet option is to go with satellite. This we've done for the last three and some years now. It's not cheap by any means, but it's much better than dial-up (no comparison, actually) and there's no way I'd even think about the Flickr stuff or some other things I do without [high speed Internet access].
My current provider is HughesNet. By and large, I have to say that they've been pretty good for me (with the exception that I feel taken advantage of when it comes to their rates). They have a reasonable service and for the most part it has served me well. That's not to say it's been without problems. But we won't get into that right now. The point is to see if we can save some money.
So I called and got put through to some call center in (presumably) India. The representatives with whom I spoke were fairly accomplished English speakers, so that aspect wasn't difficult to overcome (I can deal with accents). I said that I had a question about my billing rate, and was given the stock answer of 'you're on the cheapest plan available -- there's nothing we can do' -- which falls nothing short of what I expected out of the lowest tier of the support chain.
I ask to speak with a supervisor. I'm told that this person is currently 'engaged' with other representatives and will tell me the exact same thing. I simply respond, "That's fine. I will wait."
About five minutes later, the supervisor, Phillip, answers. After explaining the situation briefly (he'd already read the note on my call), I was told the same bit -- lowest plan, nothing we can do. To which I simply answer "that's not acceptable."
I got the striking suspicion that this guy wanted me to get off the phone as quickly as possible, but I wasn't going anywhere. Not just yet. Anyway, I explained that I've been a 'loyal customer' for several years and a competitor is offering service at a lower rate in my area. Better, faster, more reliable service. Cheaper.
Still the stock answer -- cannot help you.
I then kick in the 'you don't care about my business, I see...' bit. I'm quickly given the lip service of 'you are an important customer and we do care...but we can't change the rate' bit. Plan: try to make frustrated customer feel good with calming words in hopes they don't drop service.
At this point in time it's now become a bit of a game. I decide Phillip isn't going to get me anywhere, so I ask if his supervisor is available. He tells me he's a supervisor, and I repeat my question. I'm then told the next highest level supervisor(s) are currently in a meeting.
I calmly inform Phillip "Okay, that's fine. I'll wait until they're done." I'm quickly told that this meeting is likely to last a few hours. "That's okay, you guys are paying the phone bill for this call..." I state in return. "...I will wait."
I'm put on hold again...
About ten minutes later, Phillip comes back and informs me that he's used all his resources and is unable to help me (or escalate this) any further. He does, however, give me a mailing address to which I should physically write to explain my problem. It's the corporate headquarters, and I get a specific box and internal routing information.
I ask his name again and if there's something I can include in the letter to reference this exchange. He gives me this information and our call ends.
I haven't gotten anywhere with this yet, but I'm not giving up. In fact, it's going to become a bit of a project for me. I'm going to write the letter. And send it. And wait a week. Then I will call again. And wait (presumably a week). And call again. And wait. Well, you get the point.
I'm going to play the part of the squeaky wheel and see if I can get something done about this ridiculous rate. I very well might not get any action, but it won't be for a lack of trying. We'll see how it goes.
I called DirecTV as well, and that was a fairly pleasant experience. I didn't really demand much of anything, but was able to get a $5/month reduction for a full year without doing much more than complaining about my rate. There's really nothing exciting about that call...but it went well.
Anyway, I'm on to day five of recording 'The War' series on PBS. I've not yet watched any of it, but I read an editorial in the Wednesday Morris paper that implied it is indeed worth watching. So I'll keep recording it in the meantime. I'm starting to run low on disk space, though -- going to have to make some DVD's here this weekend. The longer episodes are about 6GB of raw low-compression video.
And so that's about all for now. I still hope to do some work with pictures this weekend (especially if it's raining and prevents me from working outside much). But until then...
"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."
- Mel Brooks