Ban v.20

So looks like the nudity ban held up in court. I would have been surprised if it hadn’t. It was carefully worded. It is a shame we ended up with this law on the books but now maybe we can all move past it.1  I never supported the ban on it’s surface but I also never supported the so called nudists. Legislating personal behavior is a tricky and dangerous slope. However, I can tolerate it because it strives to strike what I believe to be a fair balance. 

It is truly unfortunate a selfish few had to ruin it for all. And yes, I say selfish because that is exactly what it was. Regardless of my theories on nudity, it is selfish anytime you decide your wants are more important than everyone else’s. The cognitive dissonance regarding the whole ordeal has sparked a post of it’s very own. (forthcoming)  But I do truly hope we can all move past it now. For something so silly, it sparked a lot of debate within the community. I wish we put half the energies invested in all this towards dealing with the homeless, skyrocketing rents, MUNI, etc. The Castro, as a gay neighborhood, is dying a slow death. It’s being strangled by greed, selfishness, and gentrification. The latter being totally unavoidable but as a whole I think the “Castro” as a gay hood will be gone in 10 years. Local businesses cannot afford rents and the neighborhood seems dead set on preventing anyone who might be a chain from opening. So spaces sit empty collecting yet more homeless encampments.

Anyway, if you really think about it, the ban pretty much maintains the status quo before all this started. You can still expose your buttocks pretty much anywhere. You can still go nude at beaches, fairs, events, parks (to a degree), etc. You just can’t park your butt in the hub of the neighborhood naked anymore. This is where we were before these guys decided to push the boundaries. I do not believe, as some have stated, that SF is becoming conservative or fascist. That is all lip service for “I didn’t get my way so I’m gonna call you names.”  SF is still a wonderfully progressive city in so many ways.

On a side rant, unfortunately, SF is facing an identity crisis. It has moved beyond a “small town” to a thriving city and the attitudes and approach to managing it are still stuck in the days of old. If SF is going to truly thrive and remain diverse, it needs to move away from viewing itself a small city and start managing itself as the city that it is.

  1. I’m sure some won’t and will lament even louder about how fascist SF has become. Seriously, just think about that for a moment. []

Moved

I’m all moved to my new site now. Unfortunately, I was unable to merge the old blog. Apparently, WordPress only supports xml imports up to 2megs and mine was 9megs.

*sigh* I just set it up the way it was before so nothing has really changed. All the old links were kept intact as well so I guess there is that.

Now I get to finally fire 1and1.com and their shitty customer service!

 

Down

After almost 24 hours, my blog & email are back up and running. My ISP, 1and1.com, in it’s complete incompetence took my domain down over a “system error.” Three phone calls later, it’s finally back up after who knows how many emails sent to me bounced.

Mistakes happen, I realize that. Unfortunately, this is not the first time it’s happened. After losing my wallet recently, I got an email from them stating I had a balance and needed to update my cc info. No biggie, I log in and update with the new info. I did this almost 2 weeks ago. Yet somehow, their system did not register the update on the payment side so they locked my domain. Uh, don’t ya think it might be relevant to have the system look for new info? Especially when you send me a nice confirmation email of the change to my account two weeks ago!

Even worse, my first call the rep was too busy to even bother with trying to help me. While I was annoyed, I was courteous and by no means disrespectful. He then has the audacity to tell me, while I am on the phone with him, I can file a complaint by email. NO MA’AM! I am on the fraking phone with you, why in the hell would I need to send an email. Oh and btw, what EFFING EMAIL! You turned off all my email! Needless to say, after a few rather unpleasant obsenities regarding his indifference, he decided it was best to get me his supervisor. While polite, she was no more helpful than he was.

Realizing their mistake caused the problem, do you think they acted in a rush to get my site/email back up? Nope. First, I was told within the hour, then within 2 hours. On my 3rd call at the 2 1/2 hour marker, the girl was very apologetic and got something done. Keep in mind, this is 4 hours after my original call when I was told no more than 2 hours, at most.

I’ve had it with 1and1.com now. Their customer service and incompetence is approaching AT&T levels. If any of you have a good webhost that offers robust packages with plenty of emails, please let me know. I don’t even mind if it ends up being more expensive that what I have now. I would strongly recommend against using 1and1 now. What a waste of time.

Come & Go

In my last post, I mentioned the new Sliderbar restaurant that opened. It’s basically a twist on slider burgers. When Nikitas and I sat down, two of our friends were finishing up and gave it a scathing review. Being brand new hiccups are bound to happen so we decided to stick it out, granted our expectations were low.

The food turned out to be pretty decent. They had a diverse menu of sliders and we tried a couple different ones. Other than a snafu with our order getting entered timely, the overall experience (prior to me leaving my wallet like a dumb ass) was pleasant. The food was fresh and tasty.

Of course, like many places that seem to pop up these days, I doubt it will survive the long haul. They’ve taken something that is traditionally a comfort or fast food and tried to put a fancy spin on it. It is hard to sustain a business based on overcharging for fancy mini-burgers. I liked the remodel but I honestly doubt it will survive. They are trying to live on a niche market that is just not built on being pricey. Criolla Kitchen that was there prior was pretty much the same problem. After an owner revolt, the remaining owner ditched the all Cajun menu1 for a more general Southern style comfort food menu with a hefty price tag. Sorry but comfort food by it’s very nature is not price. And trying to charge upscale prices for food you can get elsewhere for a fraction of the cost is just not good business IMO. I will give Criolla credit, their food was very good. But they failed to truly understand their customer base and went under because of it. I fear Sliderbar is headed down the same path. While my first experience was pleasant, it didn’t wow me and I’d be hard-pressed to find myself eating there a lot.

I don’t wish them any ill-will and certainly like having a variety of restaurants in my neighborhood. Sadly, there are 4 burger joints within a few blocks of each other and frankly I don’t see the demand as being that high, even with a high tourist ratio. I could be wrong and I certainly wish them luck though.

  1. Which was what they claimed to be []

Riddance

I’ve finally rid myself of BofA (Bank of America) this week. What started as a loving relationship almost 20 years ago has blossomed into a gaping hell of constant annoyances, hidden fees, and gross incompetence. I’ve been threatening to leave for years but the hassle of changing everything to a new bank was a significant hindrance. One major annoyance with BofA, besides the overly-high ATM fees, has been not getting my monthly statements. Somehow they kept trying to email an old old OLD email account from way back when I lived in Texas and had a different account number. No matter how many times I changed it online, called had them change it, they kept trying to email the old invalid email address. I somehow got all my bill-pay reminders by email but getting a monthly statement was beyond them. Well that is up until recently. Suddenly, I’m not even getting my reminders on-time. Some would come thru and others wouldn’t. Every time I logged in online I’d get a big glaring message about problems with my account. After incurring several late fees from various outside accounts, the Occupy protests, and the sudden move to charge customers a monthly fee to actually use our money, I’d had enough.1

I know with recent changes in the law, courtesy of Prez Obama, they are loosing a very lucrative service aka exorbitant fees. That being said, they’ve always known this was an unregulated area and its their own fault for getting greedy and ruining it. They had plenty of time to self-regulate and failed to do so. Anyway, I guess they counted on the usual customer indifference to fee hikes and passed on a new fee structure to the customer. They got a massive wake up call and have helped ignite a very vocal and visible contingent of the American people.2 Instead of camping out in a homemade slum for days/weeks at a time, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and move my money to a local credit union. I’ve had an account with them for years and they’ve also had both my motorcycle loans. On top of that, the credit union reimburses me for ATM fees instead of charging me for access to my money. I know, what a novel idea, right? lol

I should have made the switch years ago but, as mentioned, the hassle was daunting. Its amazing how much crap gets linked to your bank account over time. Zipcar, Fastrak, Muni, insurance, Paypal, etc are just a few. It took me almost 2 months to track everything down and get it all switched over to my CU account. I was smart and kept a list of everything this time so I have it, just in case. lol

So now, I am officially Bofa-free. And to my delight, my credit union online service is almost as robust and fast as BofA. There are a few minor differences but nothing overtly problematic. The only real hassle is making a cash deposits. While I can use a variety of ATMs around town for depositing checks, (including one 2 blocks from my apt) depositing cash has to be done at an affiliated CU ATM. I don’t deposit cash often as I use direct deposit so again its not the end of the world. I’m already enjoying my new credit union account and am loving the ATM-fee reimbursements as well. I’d encourage anyone reading this to bite the bullet and make the switch. Tell the greedy giant corps they can’t abuse you as a customer anymore.

  1. They’ve retracted the plan to charge customers but I fully expect it to pop up somewhere else. []
  2. I personally think the occupy protests aren’t helping but I support their right to do so. []

E-what?

It’s no secret that I’m a big proponent of the digital age. It’s been great to see the push to convert traditional printed media to e-formats; be it music, video, books, magazines, etc. In an ideal world this would mean people are getting more access to content they own with a minimal of fuss and a lot less waste of natural resources.

Sadly the reality is somewhat different. The ridiculous and often extremely out-dated copyright laws in this country are strangling the growth of the digital convergence. Not to mention even more ridiculous restrictions by content authors. And if not updated soon, it promises to make things even worse. There are 3 different bills regarding copyright and “fair use” circulating thru congress as we speak.1 None of which does anything to improve access to the consumer. I blame the whole Napster/RIAA drama for jumpstarting an atmosphere of litigation based on irrational fears, ignorance, and flat out lies. Every independent study I’ve ever read shows pirated content makes up a fraction of the total online availability of econtent. Granted, theft is theft regardless of the format. That being said, the approach here is draconian and ineffective. For every illegal site taken down, 10 more pop up.

You’ll always have a few folks who want to beat/cheat the system. That won’t go away so trying to legislate them out of existence is an exercise in futility. Most people on the other hand will do the honest/right thing when given the option a convenient, cheap, and effective distribution model. Case and point, I can view an e-subscription of the SF Chronicle on an actual Kindle device but I can’t view the same subscription on an iPad, iPod, or Android device running the very same Kindle software.2 Now how exactly does that solve anything? I’ll tell you what it solves; it means I won’t be buying an esubscription (or any other) to the Chronicle. Instead, I’ll continue to scour the web for my news/info from free sites. Yes, it’s a bit harder but I want to consume content when it’s convenient to me. A prime example of control vs. use gone wrong. Considering printed newspapers are already dying a slow death, it borders on sheer stupidity to limit your user base. While I can get the same content for free elsewhere, I am perfectly willing to fork over a small monthly fee for
congregated content related to my interests.

Another example. Two of my favorite scifi/horror authors have several eBooks online for sale3 yet once again you can only get it on this device or that. Even worse, several books in a series are available but 1 or 2 in the series aren’t. Once again, does it mean I’ll run out and buy the missing book in traditional paper? NO! It means I will pass on the entire series until I can get all of them in the format of my
choosing.

I am hopeful that companies and authors will wise up and realize they are cutting their own financial throats. The music industry was dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age and for all their fear-mongering and lies; they are still making money hand over fist. The RIAA even admitted a while back that yes, pirated content is only a fraction of global sales and distribution. tsk, tsk! Why other industries haven’t learned from them is beyond me. Actually, that’s not true, I know why. Greed. They are holding onto dying, yet originally more profitable, distribution models.4 As they watch traditional distribution (and consumption) of content dry up, they become ever more restrictive of the content itself. They seem to overlook the fact that while newer digital distribution models demand less per person, they reach a much much larger audience (and cost a whole lot less to produce). This more than makes up for any loss. One would think it’s a no-brainer but sadly not.

  1. I read up a lot on TechDirt. I highly recommend you follow them if you like reading about such stuff. []
  2. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not picking on Amazon as this isn’t their doing. []
  3. at the same price as a paperback which is ridiculous in itself but whatever. []
  4. And don’t even get me started on the things people/companies actually try to
    copyright now. []

T-mattle

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard by now that AT&T1 has finalized a deal to buy T-mobile.  *pause here for really long exasperated sigh*  Seriously, I’m totally upset. The title is a spoof on the two names. I joined Tmobile almost 10 years ago and for the most part have been a very happy customer. I will be making the jump to someone else as soon as I can. I’m hoping there will be an out-clause for the merger but even if they don’t, I’ll probably switch.

AT&T’s move was a smart one but not because they were afraid of Tmobile, hardly. But, by buying Tmobile, AT&T gets access to their infrastructure which will boost their coverage significantly, not to mention the extra wireless spectrum. It makes total sense from a purely business point of view. Sadly, I’m not the only Tmo customer who is more than a little upset. Even worse, Sprint was in negotiations with Tmobile to merge when the parent company sold’em to AT&T. *sigh* A Sprint/Tmobile merger would have had its technical challenges as they use different technology to power their networks. But the combined company would have totally given Verizon and AT&T a run for their money. By snatching Tmobile away from Sprint, AT&T effectively bitch-slapped Sprint into remaining the #3 carrier in the US, probably permanently.

For now, I’m stuck with it. I’m hoping for the best but I’m not really expecting it. I’m girding my loins for the worst actually. 

  1. formerly Cingular and otherwise known as the company with the absolute worst service in the world []

T-shirts

As many of you know, Apple guy has been working on launching his own t-shirt/jock (strap) business. Folsom was the official launch.  And after a plethora of bugs and hiccups with ISP/domain transfers, the website for the t-shirts finally went live today! (The jock strap site is coming soon!)

http://www.monkeywrenchtshirts.com

Now keep in mind these are just a few of the designs that will eventually be available.1  He plans to roll out the rest as time goes by. Some of the shirts are edgy, some are funny, and some are a little of both.  Either way, feel free to pick one (or more) up now while they are still on sale. Once the sale is over, its full price for everyone. 

And if that doesn’t convince you, look at it this way, every shirt you buy goes to the “feed the Moby and Shane” fund. lolol  Ok, all joking aside, he has put a lot of work into it2 and you’d be doing me a solid if you picked one up. Or at the very least, pass on news about the site.

*TV Announcer voice*  But wait! There’s more! As an extra special tease, I have a secret (and somewhat dirty) surprise for the person who buys the most shirts while they’re still on sale.

Whaddya waiting for? Go check’em out already!

  1. He has almost a 100 already. []
  2. I’m so proud of him! []

Not So Zippy

**Update** ~ Apparently, they do pay attention to blogs and cyber “stuff”.  I got an email and a phone call from the corporate office. The guy was nice and very apologetic. He gave me a credit, which at this point I don’t care about but I appreciated the offer. The part I did care about was his genuine concern. He made a real effort to understand my problem and listen. He also gave me his personal work email for future problems.

Don’t get me wrong, all is not forgiven but at least someone is finally paying attention. The face I had to bad mouth the company in a public forum to finally get a response hasn’t escaped my notice either.

I discovered Zipcar when I first moved to SF. For those not in the know, the concept is simple. Instead of having to rent a car by the day or week, you rent by the hour. Your hourly rate includes the cost of the car, insurance, and gas. The process is also very simple. With registration, you get a card with a digital chip in it. You log online via the web or various mobile apps, sign up for an available car of your choice, show up, slide your card over the scanner, start the car and drive away.  Great idea right? It used to be.

Zipcar started out as a bright, fun, spunky little company with a novel approach to renting cars. A niche market for sure, but in a city as dense as SF one would think there is virtually no way to fail.

Where do I start with my frustration? I don’t know if its because they’ve grown too big or just plain greedy. Either way, this fun little company is ranking one step below AT&T for all time worst customer service right now in my mind. Oh yeah, you begin to feel my pain.

It all started about 2 years ago with a car that had a flat tire. I didn’t notice the flat until I hopped in the car to drive away. I made it less than a block, turned around, drove back to the spot and notified the company. Imagine my surprise when 2 weeks later I got a bill for the repair. I called, got a credit, and went on my merry way. A month later I find a suspicious charge on my bank statement. Turns out I got re-billed for the flat. Even though I went out of my way to help, because I physically drove the car before noticing the flat I got tagged with the bill. As disappointing it was, I accepted my part in the process and ate the cost. I figured one hiccup along the way was acceptable.

Sadly, things have gone from bad to worse. I’ve experienced so much frustration since then I’ve lost all faith in the company. Granted, no business model is perfect and one that depends as much on its customers as it does its employees is bound to have problems. I totally understand that. But when I do have problems, the outright lack of concern and open disdain from the employees is not acceptable. More often than not, the line employees seem more intent on putting me in my place and citing policy vs actually listening. Out of the last 10 reservations, 4 have gone smoothly.

Today, I show up to pick up my car and its not their.1 My time slot arrives, still no car. I call in to find out what’s going on. I’m already feeling annoying expecting the worst. The rep couldn’t find the car or a previous reservation. After some digging he discovers the car was taken out of service for repair and returned. Apparently not as the car is missing. After some more searching with no luck, he offers to move my reservation. Keep in mind my start time has already come and gone. He ends up moving me to another car 4 blocks away. To be fair, he did adjust my slot and gave me an hour credit. However, at this point neither of which was any consolation. I’m just plain tired of crappy to non-existent service.

I show up at the new location to find my 2nd car parked and ready. While I’m picking it up, I notice the car I was supposed to have is parked 2 slots away. Stupid me, I was considerate enough to call back and let them know where the first car was. The 2nd rep didn’t seem to comprehend. Mind you, I am pretty angry at this point and I’m being none too polite. Her stupidity only made it worse. I finally got her to understand what I was saying or at least I thought I did. As I’m preparing to end the call, she says, “ok sir, I have changed her reservation and your new drop off time is all set.

Excuse me? No ma’am. One, I was already in my new reservation so she was flat out lying to me. Two, my slot was already adjusted so double whammy. I finally lose my temper, let loose a string of obscenities about her stupidity and hung up. I’d had it.

I’m at the point now where I’d dump them all together if there was a easier alternative.2 City Car share has a footprint here but they are much smaller and don’t anywhere near the number of cars or pickup spots.

Customer service is a dying art in most companies these days and to see a company with so much potential fall so far in such a short period of time is extremely disappointing.

  1. If the car isn’t in use you can pick it up up to 14 minutes early with no extra charge. []
  2. Of course, if they keep this up, someone better will eventually replace them. []

Shock & Awe

I guess customer service isn’t dead. Its no secret I tend to whine a lot about lip service most big corps give about customer service.

I sent the Apple guy flowers yesterday. Besides the obvious, he got some very sad news and I wanted to put a smile on his face. It might be old-fashioned but I think sending flowers is a very sweet and meaningful gesture.1 Anyway, I had never used 1800flowers.com before, they were top of the search list for online ordering so I decided to give’em a whirl.

My choice was a small medley of simple but pretty flowers along with a small teddy bear and chocolates; totally the right choice in my mind. They arrived no problem and he seemed to enjoy them.

However, he happened to post a pic online and I was irritated to all hell. Not only was it NOT what I sent, the flowers were already wilting and droopy. No no no, no ma’am, no siree bob, uh-uh, no-no . . .  I fired off a short but direct and honest email to the company.2 Being in a customer service oriented industry, I did try to balance my disappointment with constructive feedback. Just being nasty and making threats rarely works. I don’t think it is unreasonable to have an expectation of services promised and feel it is important for consumers to hold companies accountable for shitty service.

To my surprise, they sent him a 2nd round of flowers totally free of charge before they responded to my complaint. I actually had no idea until he texted me at work about the 2nd delivery. I logged into my email3 and sure enough there was an email apology, the notice of the 2nd delivery, and a $20 gift certificate!  Sure enough, the 2nd pic posted was much more in line with what I had originally ordered. Not only that, they were fresh!

You could have sold me for a quarter and got change back I was so surprised! A corporate entity actually went out of its way to make their customer happy! What a ducky idea! lol Seriously though, I was very pleased, as was the Apple guy to get 2 deliveries of flowers! And yes, I will give them another try in the future.

  1. As my luck would have it, so did he. []
  2. I honestly didn’t expect them to do anything but I wanted them to know how displeased I was. []
  3. I don’t load my junk email account on my PDA []