Friday, December 23, 2005

It is the cry of women

The economy must be good. How else can people who suck at customer service keep their jobs? Service is even worse when you're dealing with a monopoly like the cable or phone company: they are allowed to blatantly not care whether you're satisfied because you're pretty much stuck with them anyway.

I have been cooped up in the house for 3-1/2 days because I've been sick with the flu (or cold, or some kind of crud). I decided to run some errands this afternoon because the weather was nice and I was feeling a little bit better. I came home at 2:00 to find that my Internet connection had been down for about an hour. This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but I work from home. Not only that, but I am on call for this long holiday weekend. I'm still not feeling great. And going into the office isn't an option since "on call" means 24 hour coverage. And even if I wanted to spend the weekend at the office, it's 680 miles from here.

After switching from wireless to wired, doing a power cycle on both the cable modem and our router, and connecting to our router from my PC to make sure it wasn't the problem, I called my husband at work to see what a blinking power light on a cable modem means. The diagnosis: "You're screwed, call the cable company."

After being cycled through their automated phone menu twice and keying in my phone number twice, I got a human being who promptly asked me for my phone number. (Argh! The phone company does the exact same thing, and they already know my freaking number!) Anyway, I finally got to tell someone that I can not connect to the Internet.

Assuming I am an idiot, the customer service rep began to read off the script before I could even tell her what I'd already done to troubleshoot. I at least got to avoid one trip to the basement (where the modem is... and I don't have a phone down there) when I was able to tell her that I already cycled power on both the modem and the router. Either she didn't believe me that I can communicate with the router from my PC (my husband is a network nerd: he taught me), or didn't know what that meant, since I next had to drag my laptop downstairs to plug it directly into the cable modem, even though my previous trouble-shooting showed that the router was not the problem. After that didn't work, next on the script was "Are you free next Thursday between 1 and 3?"

Sometimes my frustration level is such that I can barely keep the emotion out of my voice, and I sound as if I'm going to cry. That is an extremely useful quality to have when on the phone with customer service reps who don't care. I can't cry on demand like my sister can (gets her out of speeding tickets), but on the phone I can sound like a big bucket of hysterics is welling up just beneath the surface, and one more drop of "I don't give a damn" will cause it to blow straight through the phone like the Taum Sauk Lake.

There were several back-and-forths:

Rep: "You should have a business account if it's mission critical."
Me: "A business line gets a different signal that would be working right now?"

Rep: "Can you go to a friend's house to use their connection?"
Me: (incredulously) "Invite myself to somebody's house for Christmas weekend so I can use their Internet connection?"

Rep: "We are having lots of trouble calls in your area already today and all our technicians are already out with someone else."
Me: "So you're saying there's an outage that's already being worked on? Maybe whatever they are fixing will fix my problem."
Rep: "No, they haven't declared an outage."

It became evident that I was going to be a pain in the butt if she didn't at least pretend to do something, so she sent me running back down to the basement several more times to try different versions of "unplug this" and "plug in that." Finally, after about 50 minutes on the phone and several power recycles, my Internet connection suddenly worked again. The problem was on their end: they didn't have my modem "provisioned" or something like that.

I will admit the customer service rep was polite and professional throughout, but that didn't really make things better. If there are other things a rep can troubleshoot over the phone, why is the preferred course of action to blow off (and piss off) the customer and make an appointment to have someone come to my house a week from now, when it is something that was fixable over the phone in less than an hour? And why does a customer need to be on the verge of tears before a customer "service" rep actually does something besides put you in a queue? I had a very similar experience with my washing machine manufacturer a couple months ago.

A typical call center costs a company about a dollar a minute per call. Had the rep gone through all the possible troubleshooting measures first instead of trying to sweep it under the rug, we could probably have resolved the issue in 30 minutes, less if she would have not assumed I'm an idiot and taken my word that it wasn't a router issue because I had already checked. $30 has to be cost them less than sending out a technician.

Of course, I know the answer to that because we were dealt with by our old cable company in much the same manner. They'd say there is nothing they can do, make an appointment for some date far in the future, then a few hours later the problem magically "fixes itself." Then it becomes the customer's responsibility to cancel the technician's visit, and they can treat the whole matter like it was all in your head to begin with.

I suppose I could try DSL, but believe it or not, the local provider is even worse. Their idea of customer service: "Since you're calling because we screwed up the service you purchased already, how about buying another one of our crummy services, too? We're running a special."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Speaking of Grindley. . .

I haven't unpacked many of my pottery animals, since we may end up moving again within a year. However, in the "Grindley Pottery A Menagerie" book by Mike Schneider, he shows a fox on page 83 that is a possible Grindley. I believe this fox was actually made by one of the Morton Potteries from Morton, IL. I have one in yellow, and later found one in white with yellow splotches. The white and yellow splotches are almost identical in color and form to the glaze on a dog I have from Morton that was in the book and still had its original identification sticker. I'll post a pic if/when I ever find those pieces.

I found the box with the foxes and dog.
Here's the label on the dog. He's called a "gringham dog" (that's the way it's spelled in the book, anyway... I would think it's a "gingham dog" to go with the "calico cat") in Morton Potteries: 99 Years by Doris and Burdell Hall, page 146. It was made by Midwest Potteries, Inc. of Morton, IL sometime between 1940 and 1944.

Unidentified Cats

Another email from Chris:
Angie, these cats on your "Unidentified" page (see pic attached) are most certainy Grindley. I had this set at one time and have spoken with Mr Gridley himself who confirmed it. I think they are in his the book:
Grindley Pottery, A Menagerie by Mike Schneider, page 30.
Thought you might like to know.


Wow, thanks Chris! I have that book and didn't find them in there, but of course that doesn't mean they're not Grindley. That's a pretty small book, and clearly there's a need for a much more comprehensive one!


Chris over at the Pottery Auction sends me a picture of a strange hoofed mammal:

Click this link to see a very strange pottery creature.
Saw the scottie dog planters on your site (thanks) shall I send pics of the bottoms as someone requested?

In this case sending pics of the bottom probably wouldn't help, since he's got separate feet and no markings. Usually when a piece has one continuous bottom I can get a clue from what that looks like: the shape of the unglazed "feet" where the piece sat during firing is often a clue to the maker.

Grindley would have been my first guess for your animal, but after looking through the book I don't see anything like it. Also, the gold polka-dots I see on their animals in the book are either solid dots, or polka-dots in the shape of little padlocks. My second guess is California, although I don't have anything to back that up: there were so many California potteries that I've shied away from them for my collection. I'm afraid I'm stumped!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

2 times 4/3 when 4/3 is really 2 = lots of garlic!

Let me preface this with my math credentials: straight A's in math in high school, 3 semesters of college calculus, a semester of differential equations, and another semester of math that made my head spin so hard that I can't even remember what it was called. And statistics. Numerical analysis. Engineering classes. So anyway, I can multiply by 4/3, right?

So why is it that I am slowly losing my ability to follow a recipe? I caught myself doing this again last night, it's just an example but I seem to do this a lot. I was making a quiche, and actually following a recipe (rare for me, unless it's baked goods). It called for three eggs. I figured that the pan I was using was a little large, so did I double the recipe? No, that would be waaaay too easy. I figured I'd make it with 4 eggs instead of 3, since it was just a little bigger than a normal pie pan. So now I get to guess at measurements, each one not twice the original, but 4/3 the original. Being a math goddess, of course I just do it all in my head, right? Which was ok until I kept going down the list and some part of my head was convinced that I was doubling the recipe, instead of just increasing it by a third. That was ok for the greens, and for the parmesan cheese, but I probably should not have doubled the garlic (I can still taste that!). Oh, and I don't have a pastry mixer thingy any more (you know, that thing with a handle and little wires?), so I decided I'd just make a crust out of --- if any foodies are reading this, please just click away and get back to work or whatever you should be doing right now --- Bisquick! Except Bisquick isn't really for pie crusts, so it was a really thick biscuit-type thing (and I ad-libbed by adding cheese to the Bisquick "crust"). To complicate matters further, my new house has a convection oven. It will cook on "normal" mode as well, but why would I use the normal mode when I know convection is faster? (argh, I'm the same way in the car: why drive 65 when I know I can go 74 without getting pulled over?) So I'm always guessing on oven temperature (my rule of thumb lower temp by 15 degrees if using convection) and time (takes less time to cook, even at a lower temperature).

Anyway, whatever it was I made didn't look or taste anything like a quiche. It was OK, not knock-your-socks-off-great, but OK. It's a good thing my husband and I like garlic, because no self-respecting vampire would dare darken our door now.

I used to think I could cook. I mean, any idiot can follow a recipe, right? But one sad side effect of going out to eat at good restaurants so much is that I realize what a sucky cook I really am.