Qwest just sent me a link to take a survey

This kind of sums it up no?


Oh the Irony of Qwest: Great Service In Person

Image via Wikipedia

So after my 48 hours of no Internet service from Qwest (debacle explained here), today at about 9AM an incredibly skilled and very pleasant technician came out to my house.  He spent over an hour here working with me to get things up and running.  He even identified that the modem/router they had sent me was DEFECTIVE and immediately replaced it with another. 

We had a great conversation about their contracted tech support and how painful customers have it when those folks "stay with the script" over and over and over again. 

Turns out (like I suspected yesterday) that someone had miswired my connection out on the street somewhere yesterday.  Had tech support simply listened to my unique problem (vs. trying to put me in the outsourced Qwest boxes), I wouldn't have written this rant.

The economic argument over outsourced tech support doesn't fly for me anymore.  I took up 2 hours of outsourced time yesterday that could have been solved by 10 minutes of insourced, Iowan, free thinking, able to deviate from script technicians. 

So now I'm flying at over 10mbps down and still the same 800kb up and convinced that I could run that company better than current management.

Memoirs from a coffee shop...or another complaint about Qwest

I'm writing this from a slow local coffee shop connection because my Internet service is still down at Midwest Command.  I'm tired and a little frustrated so I'll be brief:

  1. Excitement:  I can upgrade my slow 1.5/896k DSL service to 12/896k for not too much money.
  2. Supposed to happen at 5PM on the 8th of Sept.
  3. My existing service goes down at 10AM on 8th of Sept.
  4. Numerous calls to tech support later and resolution is "just wait til 5PM and everything will be OK"
  5. Pain:  Things don't work at 5PM or 8PM or Midnight.
  6. Call tech support on 9th.  After numerous people, I'm told a tech can be assigned for Sept. 10th AM.

I ordered an upgrade of service.  They killed my connection during the day of the upgrade.  I'm not sure if that's supposed to happen but today they say, "no, it should remain uninterrupted".  It will be 48 hours later when I have Internet service because "the dispatcher just can't move things around".  I ask to speak with the dispatcher.  Response:  "Oh no...they aren't trained for customer service..."  Sound problematic to you?

If these semi-monopolies really want to improve customer service and perception...can you remove silos please and give someone the power to think for themselves?  The cost for making me happy would have probably been X hours of overtime for a technician.  Instead, I'm in awe of how it's MY PROBLEM that they cut off my service for no reason.  I'm in awe of how I'M SUFFERING because their people didn't identify this as their issue yesterday...when they could have scheduled someone for 8AM TODAY.  That would mean I'd not be typing this memoir from a coffee shop and adding to the cacophony of negative energy out there about telcos and cable companies customer service woes. 

To Airlines: Your Savings Will Kill Us

Image via Wikipedia

This is my opinion...what's yours?

It seems I'm reading daily about issues with airlines facing some kind of unplanned landing.  Whether or not these issues were "real threats" is less important to me than the frequency with which they are happening.  I read a major airline pilot's blog that chronicles issues facing pilots, service crews, and the industry as a whole...and it's not good.  His accounts of "squeezing through storms" and landing in major crosswinds since fuel levels are "critical" are far too common.

I believe the airlines industry is "saving" its way into a disaster.  That disaster will be the deciding factor in transforming an industry that refuses to face reality.  It's going to take a national tragedy to halt the downward spiral of a business that continues to keep prices low when it's losing billions...merger after merger.

The recent grounding of American Airlines MD-80's for inspections that hadn't been completed (no matter who's fault it was AA or the FAA) shows a serious lack of attention to detail. 

Today I read this article that highlights the growing discontent among pilots and the fuel savings issue.  More and more are coming forward to complain that saving fuel by reducing the load on board is causing close calls that will lead to disaster (less on board means more efficiency from what's there through reduced weight.)

In March, for example, an airline pilot told NASA he landed his regional jet with less fuel than required by FAA regulations. "Looking back," he said, "I would have liked more gas yesterday." He also complained that his airline was "ranking" captains according to who landed with the least amount.

Ultimately it's the captain's call on the fuel load (per the above article)...but it's kind of like the "15 pieces of flair" conversation that Jennifer Aniston has with her boss in Office Space.  The implication is that "you can" do that...but "you SHOULD" do this. Pilots can make the call but the mother ship seems to be silently punitive and edgy with pilots that carry too much fuel (ie waste the airline's money).  Call it management by browbeating.

I'm a big free market capitalist guy so I'm tormented by this issue.  Have airlines become "public utilities?"  Do we need to go back to a regulated, government "owned" system?  I cringe at the thought. 

I'm guessing that ticket prices would have to at least triple for these airlines to make a profit.   That would probably cut their businesses by 75%.  At that point, our aging airlines would probably have to ground and sell of 75% of their aging fleets.  These are the same fleets that are very fuel inefficient and have airframes/skins that are technically sound but I suppose those lifespans are engineering guesses?  Wouldn't this be a good thing to thin the herd?  I don't supposed the Wall Street folks have this in mind.

Could we possibly move to a system where there's not 8 flights a day to Chicago to connect me to Anywhere USA...but maybe a couple times a week direct from Des Moines to major cities?  Could the VLJ (very light jet) market fill in the blanks here with connections, hassle free short hops, and daily "air taxi service" from Des Moines to Sioux Falls?   Other business models have been very successful reducing choice and simplifying things for consumers.  Maybe it's time the airlines gave us fewer options, increased prices, reduced their gargantuan size and faced the economic realities that have stared them in the face for over a decade. 

Your business model is flawed and you will probably ask us for some type of bailout again someday and I simply don't want to pay.  Make travel as outrageously expensive as it should be...and something will step in and provide a solution. 

Until then, I'll be content to drive or stay home and do things virtually.

Gateway Market - Opening in West Des Moines after others FAIL

I wrote about my struggles with The Marketplace at Jordan Creek when it was still in business some time ago.
Now the thriving Gateway Market (Woodland/MLK) is opening a West Des Moines location sometime in June down near Art Dinkin in the Village at Ponderosa development.  So when it opens, go experience great customer service, the right sized selection, and then stop by and say hi to Art.

Too funny to not share

Does airline service leave you scratching your head?  Check out the new  "pay for safety" model here from MadTV.

I'm almost done posting on Mediacom

Mediacom just keeps entering my life.

  1. They came to disconnect the cable from my street or whatever they do.  The guy was very pleasant.  He handed me a photocopied flier like something out of a high school ASB campaign offering me a deal if I came back. I crumbled it in front of him with a smile.
  2. I forgot to turn off my "auto-pay" feature in my banking software. Oops.  They have more of my money.  When asked about a refund, "It will be 10-12 weeks".  I wonder if I can get free cable and not pay my bill for that long? 
  3. Despite my confirmations 3X with the guy at the counter that I was all clear and fully free from Mediacom, account closed, etc., they called me again yesterday asking for a missing "modem from when they swapped out the standard one for the VOIP one 2 years ago.  "So I'm totally clear right?"  "Yes sir".  Great.  If I get a $150 ding for a $29 modem that they've misplaced.....

Here come da pain!

Triathlon Training Update and another "Mystery Shop"

With about 6 months left until the HyVee Triathlon, training has kicked into high gear.  We're up to 3000 meters per workout, 3x per week (that's about 1.5 hours and nearly 2 miles in the pool each time).  Additionally, each time we do that, we're doing 4 miles on treadmill and/or elliptical. 

I've trying to get down to my "fighting weight" but have been struggling.  I'm down to 222 but really need to be at 200 to make life easier on my knees.  When I restrict carbs a bit to encourage weight loss...by day 3 I'm cold all day and have no energy.  Essentially I feel like I have the flu.  Bad move.  I spend the next 2 days eating everything I can find in the house and ultimately, I feel better. 

Obviously I'm depleting my energy stores and not supporting my fuel needs on the carb end of things.  So you ask...how can you loose weight, build or maintain muscle mass, stay energized, and be at peak performance?

Well...the answer is well beyond me other the normal research I've done through the years (don't eat bad carbs...eat lean protein...no refined sugars, etc).  So, like I do with many things these days where I lack, I've "insourced" my nutritional guidance to Ryan at Nutri-Sport.  The store is located just off Swanson and 100th just south of Hickman.  Ryan was recommended by triathlon trainer Chad Marchant.

Ryan welcomed me into the store...spent 30 minutes with me running through my situation and guiding my optimum nutrition for my workout days.  We're not talking meal plan stuff although I'm pretty certain he can do that for you.   Ryan is a competitive body builder so he lives and breaths his business.  Nutri-Sport offers personal training also.

Ryan didn't try to load me up with the junk that the kids at GNC typically try to pimp and I really appreciate that.  I spent about $30 on stuff today so at 30 minutes...Ryan hasn't made a dime off me yet.  But what he did today was inspire me to write this post and recommend that you use him for any nutritional needs you may have.  He had no idea (like most people :) that I write this blog or connect with quite a few people in the Iowa metro.

So without hesitation, I'd recommend Ryan at Nutri-Sport for your sports (or couch potato) needs.   Tell him "Doug Mitchell" sent you.  Only 158 days remaining until I test my metal.  See you at Gray's Lake.

Now THIS! is why Mediacom will NEVER get my business again!

OK.  I'm not piling on an easy target here.  This stuff is stranger than fiction. 

My wife called an canceled all of our remaining Mediacom services on Sunday.  Of course the rep asked "Why?"  He was treated to an ear full and just had to chuckle at his own company's ridiculous lack of service.  Yeah...hah hah very funny (in my best Eddie Murphy Raw voice).

Well yesterday evening, just about dinner time, the phone rings.  It's Mediacom coming back from the grave.  An obviously ill trained youth starts reading a script to me about how Mediacom is dedicated to keeping me...how they want me to stay...how they're going to offer me a great discounted package for another year if I'll re-sign!

How dare they!!!!  THE WHOLE REASON I LEFT is that I can was getting the "regular customer for 12 months and 1 day screw you" price.  I gave them no less than 12 full additional months at their usurious rates to appease my desire to get a "fair" price.

Mediacom MUST know that all we consumers have to do is switch services about every 12 months to get the new customer price points by now.
I told the representative that it's ironic to be offered a discount package by him...an anonymous call center hack...2 days post disconnect vs. when I kindly asked for it 8 times over a 12 month period!


  1. How can the customer service process be SO broken that only a DISCONNECT makes them pay attention?
  2. How can Mediacom put such ill trained call center script readers on the "win back" call designed to woo the client?  I started toying with the guy a bit for my own pleasure with questions and comments well outside the script.  He simply returned to the script.
  3. Why doesn't Mediacom offer a "price for life" with an XX month commitment?  I'm TIRED of expiring good deals that go from market price to "at least make me a sandwich on the way out" price.   
  4. If you're "waiting for the new HD receiver" that actually works from them...I've heard that you have to go down in person and demand them.   The "list" that you are allegedly on doesn't exist.  I know...a bad dream.

Chronic Symptoms of Outsourced Call and Chat Centers

I'm a huge fan of "chat with a live person right now" buttons on websites.  I just love the ability to solve problems when I'm encountering them.  I'm far more likely to buy from a firm that offers this option (Qwest just got my business after a 45 minute plus chat session building my bundled services package with a very capable person with a real personality.)

Enter my chat session today with OfficeDepot.com.  I just received a $20 coupon of a purchase of $100 or more.  I tried to use it buying a $99.99 item.  Oops.  Invalid.  Since they probably don't have items priced at $99.98, I'd like to see them bend the rules and put in a $.01 web rule that bumps the deal so I can use the coupon...but that's another topic.

I added another item, a $40 MP3 player.  Still no coupon acceptance.  The error message kept telling me that I was at $99.99 and thus couldn't use it.  I started a live chat session, during which time I figured out my own error.  The fine print says NO ELECTRONICS so the website was correct...it was just rejecting me in an unclear way.

The person on the other end of the chat just didn't grasp that I had discovered the issue and rectified it on my own...never utilizing a drip of human interaction...rather attempting to stay on the scripted path.  Oh well.

Remember firms...LIVE CHAT doesn't give you the excuse to skimp on the experience.

Here's the transcript.


Agent21 has entered the session.
doug: no matter what i do, my coupon code will not work. my order is $139.98 but it keeps erroring and telling me that my order is $99.99 (because the first time i tried, it was under $100) but I added an item..now somehow this thing is cookied or whatever and i cannot complete my purchase using the coupon.
Agent21: Thank you for contacting the Office Depot online assistance team, my name is Janice and I have been assigned to your query.
Agent21: May I have the coupon code?
doug: 31543480
doug: u know what...i can't believe it...but i think it's not good on MP3 players...and thus the denial.
doug: hard to believe but true.
Agent21: This coupon excludes technology item, .
doug: i'll buy a $.02 cent pencil to make it work i guess.
doug: :)
Agent21: May I know whether you have added any technology item in your cart?
doug: yes an mp3 player.
doug: sansa
doug: that's why it' not working correct.
doug: i read the fine
doug: print
doug: it would be helpful to note that on the website if a customer makes a mistake like that...but so it goes.
Agent21: I am sorry, then you cannot use this coupon this coupon to this item.
Agent21: Is there anything else I can assist you with?
doug: no thanks.