Tuesday, September 27, 2016

In Which Putting The Team Together Was The Only Thing I Knew

Star Wars trivia is as intimidating as it sounds. You may think you know Star Wars until you meet those who really do know Star Wars. Then you can be like me and know really nothing about Star Wars and still enter into Star Wars trivia, and then really hope to win.

My officemates-turned-trivia-team joined together once again to compete. I was helpful in that I wanted to win. I also nodded a lot to support the team. I knew not one answer.

In fact, this is what happened right before heading to trivia:

I also was very supportive when my teammates challenged certain answers. Supportive here means helping to catch the attention of the hosts and then again nodding feverishly at their claims. I'm very good at, "Yes, what they said!"

When people challenge, it can get heated. Teams start countering as to why the challenge does not make sense. The hosts cringe a little inside. The thing about my team is that we all teach for a living. We are so used to a room full of people sending dagger eyes our way that challenging is really no biggie. We lost the challenges for the most part. I turned to my teammates, and seeing their faces, I realized that it was quite possible they were heading home to watch hours of Star Wars just to make sure the right answers were really right.

The tea I had was delicious. We came in not last. So, you know, mission accomplished. All good things happen at Sip This trivia night.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Another Virgo Day

From Bing
I had to work on my birthday. That doesn't seem like a big deal, but I haven't worked on my birthday in I can't remember how long. I went in early to take a workshop in how to use a system I already know how to use (incidentally, I screwed up something on that same system this past week--woopsie). Then I taught.

When I came home, I found balloons in different rooms and happy birthday signs
and a card and a gift bag with bubbles in it. Does my husband know me or what? (Also, I have the wish list of a two year old).
When he came home, I squealed about all my balloons and signs and bubbles. Then we headed to Beginnings, a book-themed restaurant in Atlantic Beach. We had to pay a toll to go over the bridge because I couldn't remember how to avoid the bridge. This was so dumb.

Anyway, the restaurant has the best waitstaff in the history of restaurants. Also, the best decor.
For $75, you can attend a food and cocktail pairing of five courses based on a book theme!
Any menu with a typewriter is a menu for me.
Random London phonebooth
The check comes in this! It makes you excited to pay!
Author portraits

I've been getting kind of courageous lately, sipping some beer and booze here and there. Beginnings has cocktails named after literary things. I had to drink. I had a DaVinci Code. It was amazing.
Also amazing was the food. And the dessert.
My husband could be a professional dessert photographer. This is peanut butter goodness with a fried banana, nuts, and chocolate and more nuts.
Posing for prom, apparently
 We went to my parents afterwards to open presents (I like presents) and eat cake but we didn't actually eat the cake because I had already eaten the dessert at the restaurant and neither of us likes ice cream cake. I blew out candles, though, because, again, I am a child.
Then, the next day, I got mini cupcakes at work because my colleague who ran the workshop found out it had been my birthday and decided that cupcakes make a birthday better. Yes, yes they do.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Freebie Collection Day!

Right after my birthday, I travel around to various stores, collection my free birthday things that I've been offered through signing up for newsletters and joining free VIP clubs. I love this day, Freebie Collection Day. Eddie thinks of it more like Anxiety On The Verge Of A Heart Attack Day. His ideas about free stuff and my ideas about free stuff differ a little bit.

On my actual birthday, I went to Dunkin Donuts on my way to work and got a free iced green tea.

The day after my birthday, I went to Starbucks and got a free tall iced caramel macchiato. I could have gotten a bigger size, but with the amount of sugar that drink has, I was fine with the tall. I didn't want to go into sugar shock. When I ordered, I explained that I couldn't find the birthday offer on my app, but it had been there the day before. The cashier wished me a Happy Birthday and said that it would come up when she scanned my card. Then she wished me a Happy Birthday again.

On Freebie Collection Day, I started at Roosevelt Field. I got a free cleanser from Sephora. I had a choice between that and an eyeliner/lipstick combo. I've never had a choice before! The cashier wished me a Happy Birthday twice. This was fun.
I then visited Teavana for a free sample of tea. This is not birthday related. I simply always go there for a free sample. Then I headed over to David's Tea for the same reason. There, I actually bought something. They had travel tumblers on sale, marked down from $10 to $5, and that included filling it with what would be a $4 cup of tea. I paid for it with a birthday gift card, so, you know, free. And now that I signed up with a frequent buyer card, I got another free tea that I can go get, plus another free tea for finishing my profile. Two more await. All free. All for me. I also found that Jamba Juice has free samples, so I tried two flavors there. Yum.

Chatting with the Teavana gal
Being sold by two David's Tea staffers

Up in the food court, I hunted down where I could get a Chock Full O' Nuts coffee. The coupon I had said that I could get a $16 oz coffee in the food court, but there wasn't a Chock Store anywhere. Then I saw that one of the salad places sells that kind of coffee. I asked them if I could redeem my coupon there (while Eddie stood about a mile away from me). The cashier looked at the coupon all puzzled. Then she showed it to a manager. They both came over and told me I had to go to the place outside of La Bottega. So I asked, Even though the coupon says specifically to come to the food court, I have to go to the other place? They said yes. I said, Ok thank you!
Me haggling
Over in the corner, there's a pow wow going on.

So I headed over to the grill across the way that also sold Chock coffee. I showed it to the cashier. She didn't know what to do, so she showed it to the guy flipping chicken on a grill and another guy standing around doing what seemed to be, well, simply that--standing. There was a lot of conversation about this whole coupon. Then someone came out from the back, and they all showed her the coupon. She read it a few times, and then she said, Give her a cup of coffee. It was less of a Happy Birthday coffee and more of a Just give her a coffee dammit, but still, free is free.
We went to Green Acres mall for the second round. I had a coupon for The Pretzel Maker. The deal there is to buy a medium or large drink, and you can get free pretzel bites. Last year, the cashier gave me sort of a hard time, but then gave in. When I approached the counter, Eddie whispered, It's the same woman from last year! I wasn't sure that it was or not, but I was certain that after last year, I'd get my pretzels without a problem. I'd buy my drink with my birthday gift card, and it would all be free.

I showed the cashier my coupon, and she said, I don't know.

How do you respond to that? There was no question asked. The paper clearly explained the whole deal. So I went about explaining the whole concept: I did this last year. I come here, I hand you this coupon, I buy a medium drink, and you give me pretzel bites with it. Just scan the coupon. Look, your address is right here. It's your store. Okay?

She instead told me, I don't know. My manager isn't here.

I said, You don't need a manager.

She looked at the coupon and then asked, Is this your phone number?

I paused for a moment and then responded, No, it's your phone number. Like, for this store.

So then she asked for my phone number. I gave her a fake one because this was getting weird. She then asked what I wanted to drink. I asked for a medium lemonade, which would run me a little over $2. Then she told me the total was $4.69.

I wanted to respond, I don't know, but instead I asked, How is it $4.69 if the drink is only $2?

She was like, I told you I don't know, and waved the coupon at me.

So she asked for my order as if she would accept the coupon and then charged me for the whole order, though I'm not sure what she did exactly because pretzel bites are not $2 also, so the total should have been higher than what she said. I think she was making things up.

I politely took back my coupon and asked that she cancel my order. I went over to Eddie, who was standing about a mile away looking mortified, and told him I couldn't get my pretzels. He told me to write a very strong letter. I said I was already doing so in my head. (later on, I wrote an email to the company telling them that if they put a store on their coupon, they should inform the store of the promotion--the store doesn't have to participate, but then don't put it on my coupon. They responded by telling me that the stores are independently operated so they would alert the store of the issue. Meaning I'm not getting my pretzel bites. For shame, The Pretzel Maker, for shame!).
The approach
The explanation: It says it right here on this coupon.
The confusion

We walked over to Panera. I told the cashier I was there for my birthday treat. She wished me a Happy Birthday and told me to choose any baked item. I had another choice! I chose a large festive candy cookie.
Easy Peasy at Panera (also I'm noticing my ass looks like a box in this skirt)
Then we went to Baskin Robbins a few blocks away, and I got a free small scoop of chocolate chip ice cream. The cashier wished me a Happy Birthday.

I brought the cookie and the ice cream to my parents to enjoy. I told my brother that I would have had pretzels for him but the cashier "didn't know." He was okay with that.

Yesterday I took my coupon for a free Fribble to Friendly's. The cashier saw what was in my hand and told the other worker behind the counter, It's a birthday coupon. So I was like, Oh, you've seen this before! She was like, Happy Birthday, by the way. The other worker was like, Happy Birthday, and I was like, Can I have a chocolate Fribble please? Then she made a chocolate Fribble and handed it to me, telling me to enjoy the rest of my birthday. I brought it to my parents for them to share.

Go right ahead...I bet you can't even try to tell me this isn't the most adorable picture you've ever seen.
I also handed over my free meal from IHOP. I had my Pancake Revolution Anniversary last month for which I had a different free meal, so I probably won't make it to this birthday one. I have to see if they'll change my anniversary date so I can space out my free meals.

You see, it's not that I want all these free things for myself. I want to share the love. And I want people to continue to wish me a Happy Birthday.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Why This Whole Verizon Fios Thing Is A Scam

I have Verizon Fios auto pay. My most recent bill arrived and it was 80 dollars more than usual. Apparently, the contract had expired without them notifying me it was about to expire.

Then came a chain of phone calls, each more interesting than the next because each person told me something different.

I was told, you know, it's right on your bill when the contract expires. To which I responded, I have auto-pay. To which he responded, but you can click the link to get to your bill. To which I responded, I have auto-pay so I don't have to click a link to get to my bill.

What I'm saying here is that they should send a separate email that says, Hey your contract is about to expire--call us now to renew!

Instead, they send you a bill that's 80 bucks more than what you've been paying and expect you to pay it.

Eddie spoke to the first guy who said we have a plan that no one else has. We knew that. We knew eventually we'd have to pay more. Someone messed up our order and gave us a plan that didn't exist about four years ago. However, two years ago, we called to renew the service, and they still offered us incentives. It went up, but not $80. So this guy told us we'd have to pay over $200. No, we didn't want to do that. So then he offered something else, adding HBO and Showtime in but taking out other movie channels that we don't watch. It was still pricey. He told us we could email him directly to take the quote  he'd sent.

I sent back a negotiation and asked him or a supervisor to call me back.

Then I called. I got someone different. I told him about the plan the previous guy explained to us. This new guy said the first guy probably wasn't looking at our region because Showtime and HBO come with the our TV bundle and are not extra. Then  he gave us options and other prices, offering a $35 incentive (as opposed to our previous $65 discount that no one else in the world had). Okay, that seemed doable, but we needed to do some math.

We'd been looking at HBO Now and Showtime online to see the price difference if we ordered those channels separately, only for the months we'd use them. The cost would have worked out if we opted for a smaller channel package, but then I'd lose some channels I actually watch while keeping channels I've never watched in six years.

I want to be able to pick and choose my channels instead of having bundles and packages. That has to be coming soon, right? Otherwise, no one will have cable and everyone will stream through Netflix and apps.

Anyway, I asked this guy to call me back on Monday if we could keep the price he emailed me. He said that was completely doable.

He didn't call me on Monday, so I called on Tuesday.

The first guy I spoke to said that I hadn't had a contract since 2014 and he couldn't do better than a $25 discount. I told him it didn't make sense because we'd called in 2014 once our contract was up and renewed it. How else were we receiving service in the past two years. He understood my question and didn't have an answer for it. He couldn't really do anything, so he transferred me to customer service. He was a really nice guy, laughing and joking, but he had no authority to do what needed to be done.

The second guy listened to my dilemma. He told me that he couldn't replicate what the guy a few days ago had done. He said that sometimes the offers that are emailed expire. So I said, Then when I asked if the deal would be good on Monday, the other guy should have said No. This guy was like, I can't say one way or the other about that.

I asked for a supervisor. He said that he really didn't have the authority in the system and no one would be able to give me what the offer was because the programming didn't work that way. The choice was gone from the system. I asked for a supervisor. He told me he would transfer me but the software wouldn't allow anyone to do what I was told I could do. I asked for a supervisor, explaining that this exact thing happened two years ago--someone offered us something that didn't exist, put it in writing, and then they had to honor it and someone worked with the system to do it. He put me on hold.

He checked in with me several times because the hold time was really long. He asked if I wanted to hang up and they'd call me. I was like, I'm staying on the line, thanks.

Then I got a supervisor. She went into the system. She saw that someone was supposed to follow up (she suggested the guy might be out sick because the follow up was noted as missed). She found the emails that were sent.  She was like, Yes I can do this for you.

She added on a sports package that we'd pay for in addition to the original quote, but then she gave me a five dollar discount for a year that she found in the system. She had me on hold for a long time because she had to figure out how to put it in the computer properly. I gave her two phone numbers. She gave me her name and what office she was in and said she was the only supervisor there with that name, so I could track her down through Customer Service if needed. We hung up.

Five minutes later (bringing this process to well over an hour), she called back, emailed me the deal, stayed on the phone as I clicked through the process, and then we happily ended our phone call.

The cable companies work in the same way all big for-profit companies and financial government organizations do. They make the process tedious, confusing, and frustrating. They send you in circles. They tell you all different things, most of which are wrong. They send you things in writing and then say, nope, that was a mistake. They offer you the world and then you wind up paying for the world and Pluto. They want you to get tired and then in the end accept the raw deal.

But they don't realize that I've got all day to talk on the phone. I'll talk and talk and talk. I'll passively-aggressively ask over and over for the same thing until I get what I want. I'll play the game. I'll jump through the hoops. I mean, come on. I got tenure AND sabbatical. This is totally my bag.

However, maybe if they would make it simpler, they'd have a much better outcome. Happier customers who keep coming back and paying for quality service.

And if that doesn't happen, I have thirty days to switch to Optimum.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wahlburger Bummer

With as much reality tv that I've watched, I haven't watched Wahlburgers, but my sister-in-law does. One of the highlights of her visit back to New York was that we'd all go to Wahlburgers in Coney Island. So after a long day out in the sun, riding rides and playing games and winning stuffed things, we went over to Wahlburgers.
Later that day, I sent four emails. I sent one from my AOL account to a customer service email for the restaurant in CI. It got bounced back. Then I sent it from my Ymail account. It got bounced back. I sent the email to the customer service for the company itself from my AOL account. It got bounced back. Then I sent it from my Ymail account. Then it got bounced back. So then I took to Yelp:

The wait outside around 5 PM took less time than what they told us, which was fantastic. They took us into the dining area on the first floor where tables had been put together for us. There was one other group in the restaurant who already had their food.

We ordered quickly as there was no line, and then we sat and waited. We had three children with us who patiently waited as well.

We asked several times about our food order as we waited. Nothing seemed to be happening. The staff was very friendly, but still, we were hungry and thirsty.

Our food--a few burgers, a turkey burger, some mac and cheese, and fries--took 40 minutes to come out. That wait time seems rather long, especially when waiting with children after spending a day outside. [We checked at the counter several times, and each time they said it was coming soon].

The food unfortunately was not all worth the wait. The portions were terribly small for the price range, but we could deal with that had the food been delicious. It wasn't. The burger in the Thanksgiving Day sandwich was really bland as were the Sweet Potato Tots. On the plus side, the sauce and squash on that sandwich were very good.

Overall, the experience was underwhelming, especially after planning to eat there for months as we waited for my in-laws to finally arrive. I hope that future customers have a better experience.

On Yelp a few days later, I got an answer from Wahlburgers:
Hello Christina. Giving our Guests a great meal experience is our primary goal. If you could message us the date of your visit we'd like to investigate further. Thank you for the thorough feedback.

So I messaged them privately. A week later, I updated my Yelp review to add this:
*Update: I messaged the business here because they asked me to, and no one ever got back to me.

About three days later, I got a message in my private Yelp inbox from a guy named Mark, apologizing that no one got back to me, asking for my email.

So you know how at the end of May I found a new best friend named Sinbad because Sinbad responded to my tweets? Yeah, so I immediately realized that this person apologizing and asking for my email was my new best friend, Mark Wahlberg. Not that Sinbad was being replaced. No, Mark Wahlberg and Sinbad were now my Co-Best Friends. It's a thing. Don't judge.

So here I am with Mark Wahlberg extremely concerned that no one responded to my issues with the restaurant. What to do? I sent my email addresses, explaining that he should email me at both because I was having a problem with bounce backs from his company.

Wouldn't you know it? Mark Wahlberg emailed me back at both, asking me if I got his message.

I did, and I asked him for this thoughts.

He replied that I should call him on Monday. He gave me his phone number.

Also, I should point out that Mark Wahlberg was cleverly disguising his identity by using a fake last name. So while Mark "Smith" was emailing me, I knew it was really Mark Wahlberg, my new best friend who is my Co-Best Friend with Sinbad. 

I called him on Monday. The first thing he did was give me his cell phone number. That way, if I was back at the restaurant and something was going wrong--even if I saw something that didn't concern me--I could call him and he'd immediately contact them to make it right.

This guy? Is no joke. Imagine, juggling movies, television, family, and the management team at the Wahlburgers in Coney Island.

I should point out that Mark "Smith" Wahlberg was cleverly disguising his identity by using a fake voice. Maybe it was computer generated. Maybe it's his mad acting skillz. Whatever the case, he did not sound anything like the Mark Wahlberg we hear on any screen anywhere.  Gosh, my new best friend is so talented.

So he asked me what happened, and I recapped what I'd wrote. Then he asked, So no manager came to you to explain what was going on? I was like, No, Mark "I Know Your Real Name Is Wahlberg and You're Using A Fake Voice" Smith, no one told us what was happening.

He sighed a very exasperated sigh. Clearly, he was unhappy. The reviews across the board are really bad. There are some reviews that give 5 stars on some sites, but for the most part, it's just really bad. He explained that they'd already switched the way they do service so that there's no more ordering at the counter. I said it was a great change. He also said that re-training was on the way. I said that was a great idea.

Then he said that to make things right and so that we could have the experience they wanted us to have, we could go back any time as his guest. He told me we should go on a Friday night to watch the fireworks from the rooftop. That sounded great to me.

A few weeks later, I emailed him to ask if the offer still stood. He said of course it did, cc'ing the general manager to let him know we'd be coming and when. He asked me to let him know how things went the next day.

Eddie and I showed up. We dined. We left. 

The next day, I emailed him this:

Dear Mark [I know your name is Wahlberg],

Thank you for having us as your guests at Wahlburgers in Coney Island last night. We really appreciated the chance to experience the rooftop and watch the fireworks. Great views!

I'm including this next bit of information not as a complaint but in the hopes that it helps you improve the restaurant. We unfortunately encountered several issues again. 

The wait staff could be more attentive. Our server rarely came to check on us in the nearly three hours we were there. It seemed he may have had too many tables to serve. When he did come over, he was very attentive and friendly. 

Getting drinks, a water and a Coke, took over ten minutes. The Coke was not good so we ordered a Sprite additionally, which was fine.

We waited for our food for over half an hour, but that wait time seemed typical for all the tables.

If ordered the mushroom sandwich, asking for no onions and the sauce on the side. I thought the sandwich tasted funny after a few bites. I found onions in it. The sauce never came (again the server didn't come over so I couldn't ask for the sauce or point out the onions. I should state that our server repeated No Onions to me as he wrote it down, so the problem was in the kitchen).

My husband said his burger was ok.
The fries seemed as if they were made of plastic. The tater tots were good, so I wound up eating those.

We'd been finished for at least 20 minutes before the server took our food and we called after him for a dessert menu. He strongly suggested the Fluffanutta, so we ordered that.

It took a half hour at least for dessert to arrive, but our server checked in with us to apologize and say it was coming. 

In the meantime, someone who seemed to be a manager came over and asked us how everything went. I told him about the onions on the sandwich. He said, Sorry about that, and then asked if we needed refills or if we wanted dessert. We said we'd already ordered dessert, so he suggested we have it with ice cream as he walked away.

The dessert was pretty good. The server found out and explained that the runner had tripped while bringing the dessert up so it had to be made again (we hope the runner is ok-- we saw them all hustling).

So that was our night. I know the restaurant is still fairly new, so hopefully you can work out the issues. Again, I appreciate your taking the time out to listen and to do your best to make it right.

He emailed me right back, obviously exasperated (I mean, he's dealing with this AND producing Ballers AND maintaining his physique), explaining that they'd hired a consulting company that was going to retrain all the management and then the rest of the staff, and that my input would be really helpful.

The staff isn't the problem, clearly. I mean, they hustle and they are friendly. They also seem to be running around like maniacs more than they should. It's clearly a managerial problem considering the manager's response to my having the wrong order was to run away while telling me to order ice cream. He had no idea that our meal was going to be for free anyway; he should have offered the meal or a dessert comped. The waiter was the one who knew and he made sure we had everything we needed right through to the end (even though everything took about 38 minutes in between. Yes, we left a tip. We're not savages.

Although it wasn't a great experience, I'm coming out of this one completely on top. After all, it's not every day a gal can have the greatest Co-Best Friends in life. Me and Sinbad and Mark, BFFs!