Friday, November 27, 2009

Brick to: Priceline.com for totally out-of-their-mind hotel quality ratings

We booked two nights in a "3 star Upscale" hotel via priceline.com last weekend, and were registered at the Crowne Plaza Boston-Newton in Newton,MA.

Here's the short review: wallpaper peeling; rugs stained and ancient; hallways smelled of must and odor repellent; all furniture fabric in our room was threadbare, with stuffing showing; construction scaffolding everywhere; highway ran under hotel; train line ran next to hotel; noisy all night.

Suffice to say that, although we were registered and paid for two nights, we bailed after one night, sacrificing our second night's unrefundable payment to priceline.com. We weren't at all sad to leave the premises a night early.

Priceline.com's categorization of this construction zone - aka Crowne Plaza Boston-Newton - as a "3 star Upscale" hotel is about as absurd, over-the-top a misrepresentation of product as I have ever encountered. We need to head back to the area soon, but it won't be to the Crowne Plaza, and it definitely won't be with Priceline's help.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bouquet to: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for telling it like it is

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that October, 2009, was the third coldest October on record, fully 4 degrees Fahrenheit below the mean temperature this Century.

No wonder Pew Research Center finds increasingly fewer people buying the simplest presumptions about global warming.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Brick to: Appleseed's for inappropriate telephone solicitation

I purchased an item for my mother-in-law from Appleseed's clothing catalog this past summer. Tonight I received a phone call from them that thanked me for being a customer. The fellow then proceeded to try to sell me accidental death and dismemberment insurance!!! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This was also, mind you, at 6:30pm, right during the dinner hour. I will never buy from Appleseeds again and I urge you to do the same or else you will be bothered by slimy sales calls during dinner!!!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brick to: Health Products USA

An order for vitamins placed April 18, 2009, to Health Products USA - which goes by http://healthproducts-usa.com/ - was charged to credit card on April 18, and confirmed as "shipped immediately" by email on April 18. No tracking information was provided. On April 30 - 12 days later - no evidence of product, no follow-up email to indicate delay, no tracking information provided.

Email inquiry to admin@healthproducts-usa.com not responded to during business day. Telephone inquiry during business hours (to website-provided phone number 866-877-2810) was not answered by person. Voicemail instructed that inquiries on current orders must go to orders@healthproducts-usa.com. Made such inquiry and am still awaiting reply.

At current time, status: BEWARE

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One business day after email inquiry, I received email response from admin@healthproducts-usa.com saying order was backordered and has now been shipped.

At current time, status: WATCHFUL WAITING

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Product arrived May 4, 2009, slightly more that two weeks after order. Looks like may have been shipped same day I received email reply. CONCLUSION: nothing malevolent about company, though somewhat sloppy with customer service and communication practices. Ok to order, but keep copies of your receipts and be prepared to follow-up via email. Do not order if in a hurry for product.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bouquet to: The Sun...

...rising over Burying Hill Beach, Westport, CT...


yielding an April warmth that allowed many to play later in the afternoon across town at Compo Beach...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Brick to: Bottle Shock - the movie

I am a real fan of wine and winemaking. So, Bottle Shock (sometimes seen as "Bottleshock") was a movie of real interest to me. Though it got some historic details of the prophetic Paris Tasting of 1976 (also called Judgment of Paris) France/California wine tasting correct, the over-the-top nature of Bottle Shock as film-making turned me off so much that I could never recommend the movie - even to my most oenophilic friends. A big, wine-drenched brick to the film.

Consider: 1) the over-the-top last-minute conversion of "too perfect" brown chardonnay into perfectly clear chardonnay; 2) a key secondary character (Gustavo) who disappears entirely from the film once the female lead character (Sam) decides to unexplainedly exit his bed for the lead character (Bo); 3) many instances of 20-20-hindsight prophetic wisdom (Spurrier: "This is only the beginning. Someday, I predict we'll see wines from places like Australia... and even South Africa!").

Oh, give me a break. Just stay home and enjoy a bottle of Mollydooker The Boxer -from Australia - and without all the sanctimoniousness of "Bottle Shock"!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Brick to: Obama for Putting Fox in Charge of Hen House: Steven Rattner as Car Czar

Brick to the Obama administration for placing Steven Rattner in position as special adviser for automobiles ("car czar"). Consider his Bio: financier (Lazard, Morgan Stanley, Quadrangle) earning investment banking fees from picking apart newspapers and media companies over his career. How have they fared over the decades? Shall we pick apart a few auto companies now for sport - gotta be a few fees in there somewhere, right?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Brick to: Verizon FiOS help line 888-GET-FIOS (888-438-3467)

Verizon FiOS web site (verizon.com/fiostv) cannot find my home address, nor any address near my home. Site responds:

Address Still Not Found

Sorry, we are still unable to find your address. Please edit your information and try again.

Please call 888-GET-FiOS for further assistance. Representatives are available 7 days a week, 8:00 am to Midnight (Eastern Time).

So, it is 9:47 p.m. Eastern Time. I called. Entered all information. Recording said, essentially, "Normally, I would get you a representative. But our offices are closed now. Please visit our website."

Think I'll go with AT&T Uverse!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bricks to: The Administration's "Hard Choices" Budget

The Wall Street Journal shows the Administration's "Hard Choices" budget with a 40.9% annual increase in Ms. Clinton's State Department. Please raise your hand if your household budget is being increased 40.9% for the year ahead. Check out the graphics here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bouquet to: GE Answer Center (for General Electric Appliance)

Our GE microwave/oven combo got into a strange condition this weekend, with a "Door Locked" status showing while the oven door was open. A call by Karen to the GE Answer Center (on a weekend evening) got an immediate answer; a representative looked up the model and condition immediately; advised us on the immediate remedy. Very cool!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Brick to: American Express branded prepaid card

On Feb. 12, I received a postcard which had absolutely no identifying or telephone contact information but said "The American Express branded prepaid card issued to you is about to expire."

I did not know of an outstanding card issued to me, and did not have one in my possession, so I felt that was worth a phone call to check.

Interesting, there was not a phone number anywhere on the notification card - I had to call American Express service center for their normal card service center and find an alternative number for prepaid cards. I thus called American Express 877 796 4678 on Feb. 16.

On the phone call with American Express, they said they could not find the information since it was an anonymous prepaid or gift card. I challenged that it could not be anonymous, since they sent a postcard to my name and address telling me that the card still had unexpired points.

A service agent kept checking, asking me what was the balance on the card (I repeated I did not know of the card, so I did not have a balance), what was the number on the card (I repeated I did not know of the card, so I did not have it and could not see a number), whether the card was denominated in numbers or points (I repeated I did not know if the card, so I did not have it and could not look), what was the name on the card (I repeated etc etc).

Ultimately, the service agent said there is not record of me at American Express. I said did that mean they did not send me the postcard from American Express? She said that is correct. I said that is odd, and wanted her to absolutely assure me that she was the proper department for "branded prepaid cards". She said it was the right department for "prepaid gift cards". I said was that the same thing? She said she would check, then came back on a said she would need to transfer me to a different department.

So, after a wait, I had my third American Express representative. We went through the same routine of him asking me about the card. Then he looked up my name and - good sign - actually began asking me for validating personal information.

Then the agent said he found the account but that, unfortunately, the account was already expired. I pointed out that Feb. 16 (today) was before the expiration date of Feb. 28. He asked to wait a moment, then came back on the line and verified that, yes, I was correct. But still he said they would not be able to issue a replacement card because it takes 7 to 10 business days to receive it. I pointed out that that meant there was a very good chance I would receive it before the Feb. 28 deadline. He said they would not be allowed to do that. I asked if it would be possible for them to provide the information to me in a secure way that would allow me to use the card online, or without physical use of the card. He checked and said they would not be able to do that. I asked if they could issue me a check for the balance on the card, perhaps by charging me a check issuance fee. He checked again and said they would not be able to do that.

I asked to speak with a supervisor, since I would be willing to take the chance that the card might arrive in time.

The representative came back online and now said he had a new alternative - they could send the card to me within five business days by UPS for a $20 fee. OK, now we're FINALLY getting somewhere! So, we made those arrangements. Just for the record, I asked what phone number I was talking to. It was 888 900 2347.

Now I'll wait the five business days, not really hopeful, but at least feeling like there's a remote possibility something good will come from this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Brick to: 336-367-7125

...for making unsolicited satellite installation marketing promotion calls to cell phones. Responded to solicitation, reached human, asked for removal from call list. We'll see...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bouquet to: The Pulitzer Prize Board

Bouquet to the Pulitzer Prize Board for deciding this year to accept Pulitzer Prize submissions from online-only publications as well as traditional media.
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