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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lessons In Haggling!


Surprise!
I think her little looks like this can be priceless. :)
So I took a night off from the daily entry. My apologies to the mass of loyal readers. :)

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

--MZ

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Pictures!


Old Snow Fence
I really like how this picture turned out. Facing into the direction of the sunset and looking uphill (northwest) toward the snow fence.
So I'm getting closer to having all the random pictures I took on Saturday uploaded. Tonight I did the scenery ones, and sometime in the next few days I'll do the rest of the abandoned farmsite ones. Too many, and the photostream gets a little overloaded. That basically means anyone who visits daily will have to go through more than three pages of new material, which can quickly get daunting.

So while I'd love to upload a crazy bunch of pictures, I'm trying to do it in moderation.

Not much else new in the world, really. Same stuff today, although it was significantly cooler than in recent days. It's a sort of welcome/bittersweet thing, really. I like the warmer days of the year, but at the same time now that leaves are starting to drop I can handle the cooler days as well.

I'm not really looking forward to the forthcoming heating season, but I can handle the temps for right now without problems.

As another random note (even though the picture description also basically says this), I really like how this particular picture turned out. It was not my intention to get it looking like this, but in hindsight it's probably one of my most favorite of the bunch. Beth and I happened to go out picture taking at the most opportune time for stuff like this. :)

And since I really don't have much more to share tonight and I'm a little on the tired order, I'm going to wrap this up and say once again...

Until next time...
"Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so."
- Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

--MZ

Monday, September 24, 2007

Very Tired!


Gonna Eat That Foot
Mmmmm, foot. :)
I didn't sleep well at all last night, and it showed today. I was just having a more difficult time getting to sleep (probably because of my activities on Sunday). I usually don't have any problem falling asleep, but then last night just as I would fall to sleep Beth would start coughing. Then I'd be awake again for a while.

It made for a less-than-productive bit of beauty sleep. Ah well...I came home from work and took a bit of a power nap (I maybe slept for fifteen minutes before someone over at the neighbor's place started shooting at something).

It's been a pretty non-productive evening short of spending more time on Flickr getting some more pictures uploaded. I intended to do some of the pictures that I took on Saturday, but ended up handling some much older pictures from 2006 instead. As of tonight, I've got 2,302 pictures available online. Sweet. :)

I need to do some serious archival at home of pictures once I get the older ones up to Flickr. I don't uplod the original images (since I don't use Flickr to print images or the like), so I keep all the print-quality sizes archived here at home. The nice part about Flickr for me is that I can look up when the picture was taken, then quickly find the original in my local original archive by date. Thus finding the image to print or whatnot.

Anyway, what this all means is that I want to permanently archive this stuff to DVD or CD , but I want to wait until I get what I want online published. So I will likely spend the next few days working on checking over the old pictures and uploading appropriately. We'll see how that goes.

Short of that, not much is really new. It's bee the same old stuff, but it's supposed to get significantly cooler now in the next few days. So I might have to work on outdoor painting projects here soon. Just to get them done. Since they're mostly touch-up projects, it won't take long (just take time to do). But again, we'll see.

So that said, I'm going to set my computer to record the second installment of the Ken Burns World War II documentary and head for bed. Until next time...
"Wit is educated insolence."
- Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

--MZ

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Long Weekend


Not Too Sure About That Pickle
It was pretty cute to see her reaction to her first pickle.
Okay, so perhaps it's not a long weekend in the traditional sense (three days), but we were quite busy this weekend. It started out on Friday afternoon when we loaded up and headed for my folks' place for a night.

That was good times (as per the usual). Good time to simply relax a bit and just hang out. We ended up moving some more stuff from the old house, which is a strange place to visit now. It's very much empty and has been that way for over a year and a half now. Crazy to think about in ways...but it's a much-necessary upgrade.

I took a load of pictures during a few outings on Saturday afternoon/evening. It was kinda fun to do, and I think I came away with some neat pictures. I haven't uploaded those to Flickr yet (I figured 50 other pictures was enough for one night), but will do that presumably in the next few days.

I'm leaving this post pretty short tonight since I'm ready for bed and don't feel really verbose as a result. I intend to record the first episode of Ken Burns' "The War," which aired on PBS tonight. Due to a few circumstances, I wasn't able to see the first episode at the premiere time (which was okay), but I kinda want to watch the series...so I may have to record the entire thing and watch it later. We'll see.

One thing I did get completed today which was one major project that's good to have done is the replacement of the other basement windows. The two I replaced today were the two still in good shape, but still in need of attention. The process didn't take that long, really. But they're installed now, looking good (and functioning better), and I even managed to get all of the external caulking done on them. I ran out of caulk before I got all of the inside caulking done, but the external stuff is the more important anyway since I can finish the internal stuff pretty much anytime.

And that's pretty much the highlight material of the last few days. Good times, I must say.

Until next time...
"My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you'll be happy; if not, you'll become a philosopher."
- Socrates (470-399 B.C.)

--MZ

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