a complaint letter works!…hawaiian airlines

Did not expect to be back writing about Hawaiian Airlines, and my less than satisfactory experience with their inept bureaucracy. However I’m here to tell you that it pays to let those in authority know when you’re…tired of being pushed around like some invisible non-entity!

After hearing from a senior counselor in the airline’s consumer affairs department who told me that my case was closed, I decided that the President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, Mark Dunkerley, to whom I’d addressed my complaint letter could care less that I’d been led down a merry path by his company’s front-line representatives. Then and there I resolved not to fly Hawaiian Airlines in the future.

Lo and behold, you can imagine my surprise when I received a letter from Avi Mannis, the Vice President of Marketing. He apologized for the delay in addressing my complaint letter sent some 20+ days earlier.

I am writing in response to your letter of May 2nd, addressed to Mark Dunkerley. I apologize for the time it has taken me to respond personally.

I was distressed to read of the difficulties you had in processing a fare adjustment. The communication from our representatives to you was frankly unacceptable, and inconsistent with the standards of service to which we hold ourselves. This is a matter that I take seriously, and–as in all cases in which we fail to meet the expectations of our customers–we are undertaking an investigation to understand how we can improve.

Mr. Mannis went on to explain in “plain English” what none of Hawaiian Airlines’ personnel could do during the several phone calls and emails that transpired between them and me. 

I’ll try to state our policy on fare adjustments post-purchase in plain English: If you buy a ticket from us directly, and the price subsequently goes down, we’ll issue you a travel credit (applicable to future travel) in the amount of the fare difference less a $40 service fee. The lower price has to be available on the same flights/travel dates that you purchased when you call for the adjustment.

Perhaps if I’d been speaking with local employees who were invested in Hawaiian Airlines, rather than out-sourced hired help in the Philippines, communication might have been better. Instead, it was as though the folks with whom I dealt could only speak what they’d memorized. Unfortunately, they couldn’t even get that right, in light of what Mr. Mannis was able to adequately convey in just a couple of sentences.

In concluding the matter, Mr. Mannis offered my family eTravel Credit towards future travel. I’m not certain the $300+ will convince my husband to book Hawaiian Airlines again, especially since the credit must be used for travel within the next year.

It’s not often we up and fly to Hawaii. Every few years is more our speed. It’s more than likely we’ll go back to booking whichever airline is offering the most attractive rates when we decide to make another trip home to our native islands.

Making a case to resolve what I deem as unfair treatment is something I will undertake without hesitation. There’s a thread of integrity that runs through my moral fibre which I’m unable to ignore when it begins niggling away at my conscience. Blame it on the Catholic nuns who hammered it into my psyche from day one of my schooling. Anyone who received an education from those women in black garb knows of what I speak. You don’t know brainwashing until you’ve dealt with a formidable female disciplinarian of God’s elite staff. 

When I take the time to voice my complaint, however, I make certain I have all my facts and figures at the ready.  I’m not one for blasting away without first lining up my ammunition. Chalk it up to my years as a paralegal for the now defunct Trans World Airlines.

I list dates, name names, and offer proof of conversations. Emails are God-sent, in that respect. I literally blow my unsuspecting adversary out-of-the water with facts. What the recipient of my complaint letter does with it is totally out of my hands at that point.

Voicing my dissatisfaction is what I can do as one individual. I’m not equipped to take on the world, let alone a corporation. 

Once I decide to take on Goliath however, I set about learning who it’s head is…the President and CEO. Once I even copied in the head honcho of the parent company. In this amazing age of GOOGLE, finding corporate information is easy-breezy.

In the not too distant past, I had to finagle the information from a receptionist by asking to whom I could send a commendation letter. Little did she know I was intent upon blasting the company for trying to inflate an original price quoted for delivering a piece of furniture some 3,000 miles, traveling from east coast to west coast. Yes, I ended up paying the original $261. Nowhere near the $900 the local representative wanted to deliver the piece to my home.

Other battles include a bank that tried to increase the interest rate on our mortgage application because the appraiser failed to turn in his paperwork with due diligence. The bank president’s executive secretary intercepted my call to her boss, and made sure we got the rate initially promised. I guess sobbing my frustration helped, although I had no intention of breaking down. Who does?

Rather than bury your stress deep within, put it out there in the form of a complaint letter. You’ll feel better…no matter the end results. And if it gets you concrete resolution, consider it the…

…icing on the cupcake!!!

………hugmamma.Nashville 09-2010 00023

 

 

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hawaiian airlines…resolved???

In my previous post, Hawaiian Airlines bureaucracy, irksome…to say the least, I told of my recent dealings with several representatives of the airline as I tried to ascertain if my family was eligible for a reduction in airfare for reservations we’d booked prior to receiving an email touting a better rate.

Long story short, we could only apply if we cancelled our prior booking for which we’d have to pay a penalty, or watch for another email and call in again to see if we could get the better rate.

I can see you’re grimacing as I did, and others to whom I related this story. Duh??? Would you mind running that past me again?

Unfortunately, it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but…

Feeling I’d hit a bureaucratic, brick wall, I did what any red-blooded American housewife would do under the circumstances…I wrote a six-page letter to the President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, Mr. Mark B. Dunkerley detailing my experience from start to finish, including the various emails sent me by the six or so employees with whom I’d been in contact. I copied the three executive vice presidents and sent the letters priority mail to ensure that they didn’t travel by way of the South Pole. I jest, of course. Although I did want them to receive my correspondence sooner, rather than later…or never.

I realized Mr. Dunkerley might never read the letter. Most likely his executive assistant would redirect it to whomever she felt should handle the matter. It’s probably rare that a company’s top man bothers with such matters, although my husband informed me that his company’s President/CEO always reads mail addressed to him. This doesn’t surprise me since I know the man, and he’s one-in-a-million. I’ve not yet met another high-ranking executive who is as concerned about people as he is.

My husband felt certain I’d hear back from a director…at least. But no. My concerns weren’t even warranted that level of handling. Instead I was referred back to the senior counselor in Consumer Affairs from whom I’d received the last email advising me to look for another email offering a lower rate.

The woman told me my letter to Mr. Dunkerley had been referred to her for handling. Talk about bypassing all the levels between the head honcho and a clerk. It’d be like free falling from the top of the World Trade Center to the ground floor.

Closing the lid on my case once and for all, I was informed that in our upcoming trip to Hawaii our family would be allowed one piece of checked luggage for free. Well, I guess that’s something.

Funny thing is, an apology for what I’d experienced in the way of poor customer service would have sufficed. Acknowledging that my family’s business, present and future, meant a great deal to Hawaiian Airlines would have gone a long way in securing our patronage. We would have applauded their efforts on setting the record straight to right a perceived wrong.

Upon reflection, our family agrees that the airline industry as a whole is totally immersed in the “bottom line.” Passengers are simply a means to that end. Management is too busy dreaming up ways to take our last dollar, while the lowest employees on the totem pole are charged with making sure we remain parted from our money.

So as I said to Mr. Dunkerley in closing…“Customer satisfaction is a relic of the past, it seems. As is passenger loyalty.”

…we all do…what we have to do…corporations and individuals, alike…

…sad, but true…

…hugmamma.

hawaiian airlines bureaucracy…irksome, to say the least

Forgive the rant, but tangling with airline bureaucracy is never a “walk in the park.” It’s more like treading water in the middle of the ocean…with no land in sight.

So why get involved with a dragon that breathes fire, while rearing its massive, unwieldy head? Or in this case…Methusala with her many heads, all of which do not converse with one another?

Well, I’ll tell you.

IMG_4514Our family is planning a visit to Hawaii to see relatives and enjoy some time together in the sun, sand, and blue waters. Normally my husband books the cheapest flights he can find. To the islands, it’s more than likely we’ll fly with Alaska Airlines. This time, however, I insisted we fly on Hawaiian Airlines, the unofficially crowned carrier of the islands where my husband and I were born.

Call it nostalgia. Call it hokey. But from what I recollect, the flight attendants pour on the famed Aloha Spirit the minute you step through the aircraft door. And it doesn’t stop until you touch down on a Hawaiian island runway.

At least that’s my expectation.

Unfortunately from what I’ve already experienced on the administrative end…methinks I smell a rotten on-board experience in the offing as well. Or at the very least, little sign of the so-called Aloha Spirit.

What started this rant? A seemingly innocuous email from Hawaiian Airlines.

Almost immediately after our flight was booked, I got an email touting a “Dream Fare” from Seattle to Honolulu for $538, round trip. Almost $200 cheaper than what we’d paid, I took the advice of a niece to call and see if we might take advantage of the lower rate.

Unbeknownst to me, when I called Reservations, I was actually dialing an offshore call center in the Philippines. I wondered as I spoke with the woman whose heavy accent was, at times, difficult to understand. I had to ask her to repeat herself several times.

After explaining my situation, she put me on hold while she went in search of an answer…a couple of times. When she returned the second time, she indicated that she’d be transferring me to another department for what I thought was a price adjustment.

I got Greg in Web Support, which I’ve since learned is also in the Philippines.

Repeating the reason for my call, Greg told me that the only way I could take advantage of the lower fare was to cancel my previous reservations for which I would pay a penalty.

Duh??? What brainiac at Hawaiian Airlines thought I was going to go through the hassle…to pay…to save? 

Having agreed to a survey beforehand, I blasted away with both barrels firing.

Evidently the Marketing Department dreamed up the “Dream Fare” email, ASSUMING the recipient would know not to call if he or she had already booked a flight. No, there was no mention of this in the email. With Hawaii being the destination and the fare being that low, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the bargain?

As I told both offshore reps for Hawaiian Airlines, had the email specified that the offer did not apply to previously booked reservations I would have deleted it. End of story.

When I asked to speak with a supervisor, Greg directed me to the airline’s Consumer Advocate’s office. “Wow!” I thought.  “Hawaiian Airlines actually goes through the trouble of installing on-site advocacy for passengers?” Well, don’t expect too much. It’s more than likely also in the Philippines. And if it is in fact in Hawaii, it’s a last resort effort to be heard.

As of yet, I still hadn’t spoken with anyone from Hawaiian Airlines itself. It’s cheaper for them to have foreigners front the operation. Not something other corporations aren’t guilty of as well. More money in their pockets if labor costs originate in poorer countries whose folks are willing to work for pittance.

But the Aloha Spirit airlines skimping on…the ALOHA? OMG! What’s this world coming to?

At first I decided to end the charade and not call the consumer advocate. A glutton for punishment, I decided to take Hawaiian Airlines up on its offer to have someone take up my cause…before I took the matter into my own, very capable hands and went directly to the top of the pyramid.

I provided Hannah, the consumer advocate, with a thorough rundown of my conversations. She filled out a form for submission, agreeing that the email misled in its omission that booked passengers need not inquire. Hannah explained that I should receive feedback within 30 business days. I decided I would probably not hear back, but that I did what I could at this peripheral level of Hawaiian Airlines.

Almost immediately, I received an email from Nel/GBA of Web Support asking that I provide her with the fare I was seeking to re-book. I forwarded her the email I’d received to which came an instant email reply that no one was tending the site. Frustrated, I called the consumer advocate back for help. Wouldn’t you know it? I couldn’t speak to Hannah again because Olive was unable to transfer my call.

Okay. So I repeated my entire story to Olive. Of course I huffed and puffed my way through, explaining that this was only adding more fuel to the fire. Explaining that I had to attach the original Dream Fare email to my reply responding to the email I had just received, rather than forwarding it separately, was like telling a very old dog to do a trick he’d only ever done once before. Now, how did that trick go? Instead, Olive sent an email to Web Support on my behalf. Meanwhile, I simultaneously sent a reply telling Nel/GBA of Web Support indicating what the lower fare was.

The final outcome of this several act Hawaiian Airlines farce is that the following email was sent that has seemingly ratcheted up the ante.

…call Web Support at 1-866-586-9419…

We can actually do some price adjustment on your reservation, though when we tried repricing it, we were not able to get the same fare anymore, as it is possible that the fares advertised is already sold out.

We hope you can call us as soon as you can so we can see about possibly doing some price adjustments after assessment. We are open 24/7 so you can call at your convenience.

Feel free to contact us or reply back if you have any more inquiries. Web Support is open 24/7 to take in your web-related concerns.

Mahalo,

Nel/GBA
Hawaiian Airlines Web Support

I called early this morning and had to repeat my entire story for the fifth time to Jervis. Evidently Nel/GBA sends emails, but doesn’t do phone calls. Very matter-of-factly, Jervis told me that the lower fare was no longer available for my flight. Probably the allotted number of seats for $538 had been filled.

Jervis, Olive, Hannah, Greg, and the first rep I spoke with all apologized for any inconvenience caused me by Hawaiian Airlines.

Rather than doing another annoying, pre-programmed, so-called “short” survey at the end of my call with Jervis, I told him I’d be blogging about the long, bumpy road I’ve traveled in less than 24 hours with Hawaiian Airlines.

It all started with an email that came hot-on-the-heels of booking our reservations. Makes me think Hawaiian Airlines’ Marketing didn’t check beforehand to see that we already booked and, therefore, couldn’t claim the Dream Fare being advertised. Were they trying to play…GOTCHA? Or is it that they’re just dumb?

Check out our latest low fares to Hawaii and book your next flight on Hawaiian Airlines today! Enjoy complimentary meals served at appropriate mealtimes and our authentic Hawaiian hospitality as soon as you step on board.***
 Booking Period: Apr 29 – May 5, 2014
Travel Period: Jun 13 – Aug 11, 2014

My thoughts are that as well-intentioned as their consumer advocacy program might be, it is merely a fancy spin on an old ploy of…”dodging the bullet.” A lot of fancy footwork here, even rivaling that made famous by boxing notable Muhammad Ali, in his prime. Jervis indicated I’d hear from Nel/GBA. I think not. She’s probably some phantom embodiment for Hawaiian Airlines Web Support.

So our family will head for the distant shores of our ancestors enjoying whatever Aloha Spirit we find en route. With what I’ve experienced of them thus far, I’m no longer expecting Hawaiian Airlines to provide anything more in the way of on board service than I would find on Alaska Airlines or Delta Airlines, for that matter. And from now on, I’ll remember that age-old saying…

…if it sounds too good to be true…it probably is!

………hugmamma.IMG_4544

 

 

the art of complaining…

Blogger friend Marcia Clarke posted the following on her blog…Marcia Clarke-La Chica Writes at http://www.chicawrites.com 

Having worked at TWA for several years, and in retailing and health insurance before that, I’ve become a stickler for great customer service. I’ve handled more complaints than I can recall AND done my fair share of complaining too. Never have I encountered the use of, or thought to use, reverse psychology, i.e….lavishing compliments that literally drip with sarcasm.

English: Don Mueang Airport domestic terminal,...

I tip my hat to writer Arthur Hicks…complainer par excellence!!! And to Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic fame, for bringing this to our attention. And, of course, to Marcia for having re-blogged it.

Having once received what many regard as the world’s best complaint letter, I was tickled to see another brilliant note to a different airline.I phoned the customer who wrote the above note to apologise and thank him for his letter after he experienced a less than perfect culinary experience on board one of our planes. It is important to take customer feedback on board in order to improve – and also to be able to laugh at yourself.

With that in mind, here is an open letter to Caribbean airline LIAT, written by Arthur Hicks, who also happens to be a great tennis pro.

Dear LIAT, 

May I say how considerate it is of you to enable your passengers such an in-depth and thorough tour of the Caribbean. 

Most other airlines I have travelled on would simply wish to take me from point A to B in rather a hurry. I was intrigued that we were allowed to stop at not a lowly one or two but a magnificent six airports yesterday. And who wants to fly on the same airplane the entire time? We got to change and refuel every step of the way!

I particularly enjoyed sampling the security scanners at each and every airport. I find it preposterous that people imagine them all to be the same. And as for being patted down by a variety of islanders, well, I feel as if I’ve been hugged by most of the Caribbean already.

I also found it unique that this was all done on “island time,” because I do like to have time to absorb the atmosphere of the various departure lounges. As for our arrival, well, who wants to have to take a ferry at the end of all that flying anyway? I’m glad the boat was long gone by the time we arrived into Tortola last night — and that all those noisy bars and restaurants were closed.

So thank you, LIAT. I now truly understand why you are “The Caribbean Airline.”

P.S. Keep the bag. I never liked it anyway.

As a colleague said: “I guess this is why LIAT is reputed to stand for Languishing In Airport Terminals!”

But seriously, making customer service key to your company will keep your employees motivated and your customers happy. This in turn ensures enduring loyalty, business success and a better experience for everyone.

By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group

…some folks get it…so many more don’t…

………hugmamma.

Virgin Millionaire Richard Branson doing a qui...

a brave decision…a necessary one…

English: A member of the audience holds a &quo...

English: A member of the audience holds a “Thank You” sign during President Barack Obama’s speech on medicare fraud and health care insurance reform at St. Charles High School in St. Charles, Mo., March 10, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stepping out from behind his conservative mantle Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts stood apart, and gave voice to his own thoughts on the matter of Obama‘s Health Care Reform Law.

In my 20s I worked for Hawaii Medical Service Association, the Blue Cross-Blue Shield in that state. I was a customer service rep for a few years, helping insured members understand the hows and whys of their reimbursements or nonpayments. It was a tricky path to maneuver, defending the insurance giant’s decisions.

Looking back…it was a lot of mumbo-jumbo, smoke and screens. Granted, it makes more sense when one is ensconced in the jargon on a daily basis. However the reality of it is insurance companies want to give back as little of the money as possible in benefits, that they garner in premiums from its members. At the time I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable that the big-wigs were giving themselves great salaries and nice perks. I heard this from a friend who was married to a rising star in management.

Granted, huge compensation packages are part and parcel of capitalism. Companies use them to attract and keep excellent executives. However in dealing with life and death, making money is not like buying and selling merchandise. Unlike any other enterprise, health insurance coverage deals in morality. Dismissing this fundamental fact in favor of believing that disbursement of health dollars should be strictly measured according to some committee’s valuation is disturbing…at least to me.

I don’t profess to be an expert on Obamacare. Just as there are some good points, I’m certain there are some that don’t bode well for certain groups. I can only speak to those that hold value for me.

Among those items I support…family plans to allow coverage for children until age 26, drug help for seniors, premiums for women the same as for men, no disallowance for pre-existing conditions, and no maxing out of coverage. 

Having to explain to insured members that they aren’t covered for treatment of diabetes or heart disease or pregnancies because they’re pre-existing conditions was like walking on hot rocks. Not fun. Not easy. But I made it to the other side of the argument. And if I didn’t, I turned the customer over to my supervisor. He was better at walking on hot rocks. I guess it helped that he made more money than me. That helps when you’ve got to take on a nearly-impossible task.

 Then there were the times when I had to tackle the conundrum of insured members maxing out their medical benefits. “Oh, sorry. We’re no longer covering your chemotherapy treatment because you’ve run out of coverage. Sorry. Sorry.”

think outside the box

think outside the box (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Ever since I left the insurance business, I’ve been extremely reluctant to deal with my own or my family’s medical claim problems. I know the rigamarole, the yada-yada-yada, the run-around. I’m resigned to the fact that customer service reps are regurgitating what they’ve learned to say by rote. Thinking outside the box is not generally allowed.

insurance

insurance (Photo credit: I am marlon)

Rather than succumb to stress which would ultimately undermine my own health, I try to “think outside the box” to help myself. Not everyone has the means or wherewithall to do the same. So I commend President Obama for sticking his own political neck out, and Chief Justice Roberts for alienating his conservative cronies. They have given a hand up to those unable to take on the big conglomerates by themselves.

Having been to the emergency room on several occasions, I can attest to the astronomical costs those visits incur. After my last trip when I was sure something was terribly wrong when nausea and sharp abdominal pain came on suddenly, I firmly resolved never to return when I saw the $8,000 bill. And I have insurance! So I’m not obligating my fellow taxpayers to foot my expenses. Without health care reform, we’re all paying emergency room visits for the uninsured.

Those with the most to lose, don’t like it when the status quo is disrupted.

Change is inevitable. History overflows with examples. Mankind has always adjusted, sometimes kicking and screaming all the way. Life moves forward, regardless.

My advice? Live long. Live happy. Even if you can’t embrace it, get use to change…

…especially when it’s…for the better of all human beings…not just some…

………hugmamma. 

calling comcast…are you there?

Early readers of hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul are familiar with several posts I’d written detailing my experiences, good and not-so-good, with cable giant Comcast. Knock-on-wood, for the most part I’ve enjoyed uninterrupted internet service since then.

Customer Service

My good fortune is owed in great part to the tracking of hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul by Comcast national customer service rep, Mark. It’s been some time since we’ve “spoken,” so his last name escapes me. At the time I knew it backwards and forwards, that’s how much I had come to rely upon him.

Before I go the normal route of responding to computerized questions to resolve my situation, I thought I’d try calling Mark via the blogosphere. “Yo, Mark! Hugmamma calling…hello…are you out there?” 

 Just found his contact information from my earlier post, below…

Mark Casem
Comcast Corp.
National Customer Operations
We_can_help@cable.comcast.com

As a combination wedding anniversary/early birthday gift my husband bought me an android, a cell phone like an iPhone…but not. Talk about a boost to my brain cells. I must’ve grown several million these last few days while figuring out all the bells and whistles.

I got a great deal on my Motorola. Since it’s being replaced by a newer version with a larger battery pack, the price was reduced. With no room in my small purse for a thicker phone, the choice was a no-brainer for me. Additional savings of 30% was included when I bought other necessities…more gigabyte, a charger, a backup battery, cover, screen protectors.

Verizon, my cell phone provider, offered another amenity for which I wasn’t prepared, but which made sense for us…land line service. Though generally satisfied with Comcast triple-package, phone/cable/internet, a definite downer occurs when we have a power outage. No electricity means no calls coming in or going out.

During our last outage due to high winds and heavy ice accumulation, I was on my own without access to my husband who overnighted in Seattle. And making my way to friends, and even neighbors, would’ve been hazardous because of falling branches and limbs.

Verizon land service began yesterday. To continue with Comcast, we now need to find out if they’ll offer us a good price for a double package. If not…the search begins…

…any suggestions?

………hugmamma.

comcast’s “secret weapon”

Comcast Center, the headquarters of Comcast - ...

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t say enough about the quality of service extended by Mark Casem of Comcast Corp’s National Customer Operations. In my professional life I had worked several positions in the service sector, first as a store salesperson and department manager, then as a health insurance customer service rep, and then in the airline industry in personnel as benefits supervisor. While the jobs could be tiresome and tedious some days, what job isn’t, the gratitude of those I helped gave me satisfaction. And what remains with me to this day is the desire to make a difference in someone else’s day…for the better. I’m hopeful I’m succeeding, in small part, with hugmamma’s mind, body and soul.

Singapore Airlines flight attendants

Image via Wikipedia

My husband and I both worked in the airline industry, which also requires public service. Airline employees today will agree, especially in the current economy, that their job security is dependent upon great customer service. Of course the range of quality is across the board, running the gamut from heavenly, like Singapore Airlines, to almost nonexistent in some of the larger carriers. My personal preference is Southwest who’s somewhere in the middle. But because their air fares are usually favorable, and their boarding procedures are quick, I would rank them a little higher. As a result I’ve not traveled on Delta or American in many years, and I can’t remember when I last flew United. Customer service is as important a consideration for me, as are prices and product. Jerk me around long enough and I will go elsewhere. Not a threat, just a fact.

I meet a lot of great people who service the public in restaurants, retail shops, banks, medical establishments, and other businesses, but a gem like Mark Casem is the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” But once found, he remains on hand, desiring to serve “above and beyond.” Lucky Comcast. Lucky me.

One Response to and the award goes to…

  1. ComcastMark says:

    Hello Hugmamma! I am happy to come across your blog again! I am glad to know this was addressed with the help of Mike. Mike Cardone is on of my colleagues (he works the later shift after I leave).

    I will share your daughter’s experience again to my contacts to make sure that they are all addressed and resolved. I am sorry that your daughter’s request was not accommodated the first time she called. I agree with you, (we) should have tried harder in meeting your daughter’s request.

    As always, we are here to help if you need more help in the future.

    Mark Casem
    Comcast Corp.
    National Customer Operations
    We_can_help@cable.comcast.com

guardian angels do exist…we just have to look for them…in each other…hugmamma. 😉

The New Guardian Angels

Image by ckaiserca via Flickr

 

 

and the award goes to…

Comcast Corporate Customer Service!!! Yessir, they’ve done it again. Just as I’d done months ago (check my winter month archives), I sent an email off to my buddy Mark Casem at we_can_help@Comcast.com, this time asking for information regarding my daughter’s cable service. She was under the impression that because she was moving from one apartment to another, that there might be a promotion offering a discount of some sort. I wasn’t so certain. So she called her local Comcast, first as a current customer, and then, upon my husband’s advice, as a prospective one. In both cases, my daughter was treated as though she were engaged in the sidewalk scam, the shell game.” The guy shows you a pebble and directs you to watch it as he moves it from under one cup, to another, then another. After doing this a few times, the game ends with you selecting the  cup under which the pebble finally came to rest. Our family’s not the type to engage in mind games. We prefer to deal truthfully. Of course there are times when you’ve got to strategize. That’s code for confrontation…without being confrontational. Not my cup of tea. But hey! That’s life. If we have to…then bring it on.

Unable to decide whether she should simply transfer at the same rate she’d been paying, or disconnecting and trying for a better rate, my daughter pondered her options. With the clock ticking towards 6/28, tomorrow, when Comcast was scheduled to cut off her service, I told her I’d write headquarters to see if they were aware of anything that might help persuade my daughter one way or the other. My mantra continues to be “It never hurts to ask. All they can do is say no. It’s nothing personal, after all they don’t know me from Eve.” Of course I may not like their answer, but I can always opt out and go elsewhere. Not easy, for sure. But again, that’s life.

Mark Casem didn’t reply to my email, but a Michael Cardone did. He asked me to forward my daughter’s account number (telephone number) and her contact number, which I did. The next day my daughter received a confusing voice mail. Because I’d been one digit off in her account number, Comcast headquarters asked the local Comcast to call a Mr. Collins about his query. Of course my daughter felt the call had been misdirected, but when another voice mail was left, she decided to call the local rep back. 

Customer Service

Image by RW PhotoBug via Flickr

Happily, my daughter indicated the Comcast rep couldn’t have been nicer, and offered my daughter the same deal she received when she moved to her old apartment 4 1/2 years ago, $99/month for all three services, phone, internet and TV, for an entire year!!! Normally the package costs $160 monthly. Satisfied, my daughter decided to take the offer.

It’s been my experience that local Comcast stations aren’t as diligent about customer service as the corporate office. I suppose as with any operation, the further afield one gets from headquarters, the less “corporate” the mentality. Rules have a way of becoming more localized, perhaps to suit the surrounding population. Dealings with our local rep here are a whole lot better than when I lived with my daughter for a couple of years in Atlanta. Service there was “hit or miss.” My feeling now is if I can’t beat them at their own game, I’ll just call out the big guns…Comcast Corporate Customer Service.   

I will always be grateful for having lived and worked in NYC. I learned to speak up rather than always hold my tongue; try very hard not to take things personally; and celebrate the small things… for therein lie our biggest accomplishments. I think my daughter’s becoming New York savvy. 

Comcast Building

Image via Wikipedia

…another win…for david and his slingshot…hugmamma. 

 

comcast…another go round

Internet Access Here Sign

Image by Steve Rhode via Flickr

Just wanted to warn you in case my internet connection goes on the fritz again for longer than I would wish. Knock wood, ever since my last 9 rounds in the ring with the cable giant, life has been cruising right along. I’ve been able to blog to my heart’s content with minimal, if any, interruption. Although my local service fixed the nuts and bolts, Mark Casem of Comcast‘s corporate customer service got the ball rolling. I will always be indebted to his good will on behalf of his employer. Casem was definitely cut from a different cloth, something vintage from a bygone era.

Egyptian magic wand. From the collection of th...

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The last few days, our internet connection was operating in fits and starts. Yesterday was a real struggle trying to write and then publish my post. I kept having to restart my laptop in the hopes that the problem would go away. But no such luck. When a new screen opened up, the old message was still there explaining what I might do to resolve the issue. I almost reverted to the early days of my amateur computer skills…wanting to toss my laptop through the window. But I’m a “black belt” amateur now…so I refrained, grumbling under my breath instead. Of course hubby got an earful. But even his magic wand was no match.

Lo and behold, late, and I mean late, last night my internet connection graced me with its presence once more. So I tinkered on my post, finally publishing it in the wee hours of the morning. By the time I lay my weary head down on my pillow it was probably several hours into the new day. What I didn’t dare do was turn off my laptop. So through the night its light shone like a beacon in an empty room. But it worked! I was able to pick up right where I left off last night.

Comcast‘s repair man scheduled to make a visit today, called first to ask if I was still experiencing problems. No idiot, I indicated that the cable connection came and went. Which I was certain would occur if I turned off my laptop, or even signed off of Aol.com. So the man stopped by explaining that, in fact, others in the neighborhood have complained, and that only this morning did Comcast find that there is a huge disruption to service in our area. Tyler checked the wiring and finding it to be old, changed it. Why the repairman who changed our arcane modem didn’t do that the last time was incomprehensible to this rep, as it was to me. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Are things done in dribs and drabs as a ploy for job security?

Comcast truck

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Tyler left assuring me that things should be fine…kinda. He told me to wait a week, maybe more for Comcast to figure out what they’re doing with the bigger problem. He said they might do this, or they might do that, but that I should be patient. Just wondering? Can I hold off payment of my bill until Comcast figures things out? No. I guess that’s not an option.

What frustrates me is being at the mercy of a monopoly like Comcast.

Comcast Center, the headquarters of Comcast - ...

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It’s not like I can walk away and sign up with one of 7 other competitors. Or can I? My husband is researching the possibility of signing us up for the little stick thing he inserts into his company laptop. I think it’s through AT&T, but perhaps Verizon offers it as well. No harm in checking. We’ll have to weigh the pros and the cons. The con being…demasiado dinero. Spanish for…mega bucks!

…so i’m hanging loose…until whatever happens…happens…hugmamma. 

a hiccup…albeit a big one

The last 12 hours or so has had me pondering the ups and downs of blogging. Not something I’d set out to do when I awoke yesterday. But being blindsided by another “tsunami,” I had to deal with it. I’m becoming very familiar with those of late, as regular readers of my blog are aware.

I’d been writing about being spammed out of leaving comments on other blogs. “Speaking” with WordPress support staff, I was told to check with Akismet, which I did, but got nowhere. So I hunkered down and continued writing, hoping the situation would even itself out. Meanwhile I’d check to see if I was able to leave comments with blogging buddies. Eventually it seemed I could, with a few of them.

I got a message from Akismet saying they’d tweaked the system, leading me to think I would no longer be spammed from participating in the WordPress community. Proceeding to publish my last post, I pressed “click.” What happened next was reminiscent of the viral attack on my laptop several weeks ago. Across the top of my blog were words to the effect that it was suspended because I’d broken rules and regulations, and needed to go elsewhere with my blog, which was no longer suitable for this site. Well, I have to admit it was like a punch to the stomach.

WordPress.com

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Recovering somewhat I sent off a message via an automated screen, and clicked “report blog.” That seemed to trigger the message to the entire community that “hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul” was suspended. So it looked to me like I “cooked my own goose,” by seeking help. A couple of friends inquired as to what happened, and I told them what I knew. Waxing philosophical, I decided what occurred was probably inevitable, given that I was labeled a spammer.

I held no ill-will towards WordPress, still don’t, because I’m on their site gratis. I understand I must abide by their rules. I just wasn’t sure which rules I’d broken. But I’d need to “cool my high heels,” or flats as the case may be, and wait to hear back from their review. 

The entire situation was disconcerting to say the least. But now I was free to do other things which I’d neglected. So I puttered, and puttered, and puttered. Eventually I returned to my laptop and began looking through tech sites which reported on WordPress’s recent DDoS, Distributed Denial of Service attack. In so doing, I came to understand its vast reach on the internet, and its correlating, gigantic presence.

My hobbit’s eyes were opened. My spam situation was microbial compared to what WordPress has been dealing with this last week or so. And from what I read, there are only 75 staff who handle millions of customers. I now understood why my blog was probably still reeling from the trickle down effects of the attack. It’s not to say I shouldn’t have queried the support staff about my issues, because they would not otherwise have known. It is true that the “squeaky wheel” gets the oil, or whatever the adage is.

Robogallery

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With such a massive operation, it’s obviously imperative that WordPress is on a highly sophisticated automated system of checks and balances. However it wasn’t infallible to hackers determined to wreak havoc. My blog, it seems, got caught up in the warfare. I’d be curious to know if other blogs were similarly affected.

So while the events of recent days have “stirred the pot” until it boiled over, I’m a little wiser to the downside of blogging. There are things beyond my control, and in those instances I can seek solace in my family and God, knowing that there’s always a bigger picture in which I’m just one of his creatures.

It did help that when I awoke this morning, 2 messages awaited me from the WordPress support staff.

 

Hi, 

Your site was flagged by our automated anti-spam controls. I have reviewed your site and have removed the suspension notice.

We are very sorry for that happening and the inconvenience it caused you.

--

Anthony

WordPress.com

and

> Since my blog, "hugmamma's mind, body, and soul" has been suspended, I wondered if I could have access to my files.

Your site doesn't appear to be suspended - what's the URL of the site that you're speaking of above?

--

Ryan M.

WordPress.com | Automattic

Thankfully, WordPress's relatively small administrative staff does respond to questions from a non-paying blogger like me, even in the midst of managing a major crisis. I tip my hat to them for doing the best they can, which is pretty good, considering.

i'm learning...not such a novice anymore...hugmamma.  

“well done!” comcast

Communication between my friend Sylvia and Mark Casem of Comcast Corp, should be a model for dealings between customers and service providers. In addition to the adage I mentioned in earlier postings of my own Comcast dilemma, “You can get more with honey, than you can with vinegar,” I think it’s safe to say “You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours” is also fitting.

Dear Mr Casem,

I wanted to tell your putting me in touch with Ms Williamson, resulted in today’s visit from a Comcast technician. He was at our house for about an hour and found several problems, which caused the problems with telephone and Internet. He also found we had a very weak signal with the TV

 I have to commend Mr Craig Ralston, for not only his work but his rapport with his customers. He explained all he did and even gave us some education on our systems. He left us with his own business card to call him with any problem in the future. Hopefully that wont be the case.

 I thought you would like to know you have made another Comcast customer happy!

                Yours Truly,…Sylvia

To which Casem replied…

Thanks for the note! I will make sure Mr. Ralston and Ms. Williamson are commended for the job well done.

 

Best regards,

Mark Casem
Comcast Customer Connect

National Customer Operations

that’s it in a nutshell…and i love nuts…hugmamma.  😉

comcast to the rescue…again!

Glad to know that my friend Sylvia has finally got Comcast sorting out her telephone problems. I don’t think either of us will ever underestimate the power of the internet. I send out an S.O.S. to Mark Casem at Comcast’s corporate call center, and sooner or later he answers. None of us ever want to face a behemoth of a company, but when we have no choice, having inside help with the bureaucratic red tape is a God-send. And Mark has been just that, a God-send.

I just received the following good news in an email from my blog buddy.

Well today was the BIG day with our visit from Comcast! Having received email from Ms Williamson earlier, she had said she was unable to find anything wrong with our system. How she looked I don’t know, but in any case she said she would set us up with someone to come to the house to investigate.  I sent back dates, times of what would be convenient to us. She chose this  afternoon.
   Turns out there were several problems with the Internet, and telephone. He even found out our TV signal was insufficient. He was here for about an hour fixing everything that was wrong, some of which was on the outside of the house! The nicest man he was too. He gave us his business card with his personal number and assured us if there was a problem he would come and take care of it.
   I have since emailed Mr Casem as well as Ms Williamson, (who he put us in contact with) and told them how happy we are with the service we received today from Mr Craig Ralston.
   So now I have to thank you Millie for your blog, which got us to today!
   I asked Mr Ralston if he knew how it was that he was here today and he said he wasn’t sure about all, but he knew it came from Corporate. I then told him all about you and your blog! He was surprised, but tickled!
   Funnily enough his wife’s cousins are our next door neighbours we found out in conversation.
   Anyway, thanks again.
   Hugs to you both……………and a big lick to Mocha, I miss her.
   Oh I almost forgot  your dear husband thought about me while he was in England, and bought me back newspapers!!!! I’m having fun going through them with a fine tooth comb, even the ads!
   Glad you are home.         Love Sylvia

 

faith, hope and charity…lessons learned from the nuns…just trying to pass them on…hugmamma. 

lost or delayed baggage, “cha ching!?!”

The following information was posted on 41 NBC News website on 2/14/11. I thought it was important information for all travelers. Readers were invited to leave comments. Mine follows their reporting.
Last year, nearly two million bags didn’t show up on airline luggage carousels as scheduled according to the Department of Transportation, leaving many travelers desperate for every day necessities.Federal rules require airlines pay each passenger up to $3,300 in compensation for lost or delayed luggage.

 

Many people file a claim if their bag is never found, but you have the right to money even if your bag is just delayed.

Most airlines try to keep that a secret.

Sometimes consumer rights are posted; other times the details are buried on the airline’s website.

When you’re at the lost baggage counter, remember to use these words: “my legal rights”, “delayed or lost luggage“, and “compensation”.

Then ask to file a claim and make sure the airline gives you a copy.

Some airlines will give you money right at the airport to help you with necessities until your bag is found.

Others will ask you to pay and reimburse you.

Others may give vouchers for purchases at the airport.

It’s important to note, never expect money for electronics.

They are not covered, even if your bag is never found.

Good to know; not so easy to enforce. Most passengers would probably be intimidated about getting into an argument with airline reps. I’m sure they don’t make it easy to get the cash, probably making passengers “jump through hoops.” Sometimes my blood pressure and stress level are more important than a confrontation, especially since I’m 61, and trying to stave off Alzheimer’s. Money or health? Health or money? I guess it depends on what’s more important to an individual…hugmamma’s mind, body and soul.

“comcast comes through!”…again

Great news! Mark Casem of Comcast Corp’s National Customer Operations has returned to save the day! I shouldn’t have doubted him, but this hectic, fragmented world being what it is, one never knows if connections will be maintained, or lost. Beyond that, I’ve always been a “doubting Thomas.” For those unfamiliar with the metaphor, Thomas was a disciple of Christ‘s who wouldn’t believe that He had risen from the dead Easter morning, until he, Thomas, could place his finger in the wounds inflicted when Christ was nailed to the cross, and where the guard had pierced a sword into His side ensuring that He was indeed dead. That’s me to a tee, a “doubting Thomas.”

My friend Sylvia has finally been in touch with Mark, and I’m hoping when I see her later today, her phone issues will have been resolved. As for my daughter’s phone problem, seems it’s gone away on its own. I pray that too will remain in the past…way, way in the past.

Should you encounter issues with Comcast, you should contact Mark Casem saying “hugmamma sent you.” He can be reached at We_can_help@cable.comcast.com, (Note that between “We” and “can” is an underline, as well as between “can” and “help.” They’re not visible because of the underline beneath the entire email address.) Mark can also be reached on Facebook or Twitter at Comcast cares or ComcastMark. He will need your account information and a link to my page. I’m not certain how you link to my blog, that’s why I recommended telling him I sent you.

we “davids” need to face “goliath” together…hugmamma.

an “international destination,” crossroads mall

Saw friends Sylvia and Jim at Crossroads Mall last night, a favorite hang-out for ethnicities of all creeds and colors. Weekend entertainment draws crowds. A Big Bands group brought back reminiscences of bygone days, not only for our friends, but for many other retirees sitting on metal, folding chairs. They seemed to be smiling, as though deep in thought and a million miles away.

Over the years, the mall has evolved into a true “melting pot” of cultures, including dialects, and products. The food court says it all. There are counters serving up Greek, Italian, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, BBQ, American, Mexican, and Russian. My choices when dining there are the won ton soup at the Vietnamese stand, the spaghetti with Bolognese sauce and Mediterranean chop salad at the Italian stand, and the bento box with teriyaki salmon and tempura at the Japanese stand. There are other outstanding dishes, but these are my favorites. I’ve gotten my friend Cindy hooked on the won ton soup. We both love the broth, especially on a cold, rainy day, which is most days, here in the Pacific Northwest.

The stores I frequent are Half-Price Books, where I can buy out-of-print books, and Silver  Platters, which has a great inventory of old movies. The mall welcomed a new restaurant recently, Crossroads Bar and Grill. The food is delicious and the service is quite good. When sharing meals, the wait staff will halve the portions, plating them up in  the kitchen before bringing them out. I’ve shared the Western burger and Mediterranean salad with my daughter on one occasion, and friend Sylvia, on another. Both times the extra service of splitting dishes beforehand made a huge impression. I’ve never experienced this anywhere, especially in view of the fact that the waiters seem only too happy to accommodate. It’s so much better than dealing with the mess, when attempting to split the dishes ourselves.

Anchoring Crossroads Mall are large stores like Sports Authority, Barnes and Noble, PetcoQFC Supermarket, Pier OneBed, Bath and Beyond, and Old Navy. Of course there’s a Starbucks, not a surprise since it’s headquartered here in Seattle. Rounding out the shopping options are Hallmark’s, Party Center, JoAnn Fabrics and Michael’s crafts. A variety of smaller stores fill in the mall’s nooks and crannies.

Bordering the mall’s perimeter is a very special gift shop, Common Folk. It sports a vintage feel, selling both antiques and reproductions. The owner, Kathryn, artfully melds both for a seamless blend of shabby chic, industrial, and pretty, pretty princess! More shops should follow suit. Next door is New York Cupcakes which sells  “fantasy,” and “sin” in  paper cups. And they’re worth the calories, any time of day. I know, I’ve sinned! When I do, I bask in the immorality of a red velvet, or strawberry cream, or key lime pie cupcake. Yummy! Yummy! They’re irresistible. Good thing the store was closed when we left the mall. I’ll have to make a special trip soon. By the way, I tried cupcakes from QFC’s bakery recently and couldn’t eat more than a few bites. More often than not, I’ve been disappointed by desserts that look like they’re “to die for,” only to find out that, in fact, appearances are not always what they seem. Funny, I’ve not learned that lesson yet. I continue to make the same mistake.

Across the parking lot on the other side of the mall is Crossroads Theatre, where the seats are huge, soft, comfy, and they rock, literally. If the show is boring, the seat will help lull you to sleep. Just don’t snore, and remember to wake up when everyone’s leaving. 

Crossroads Mall offers comfort food for one’s physical being, as well as one’s inner spirit.

 

i smile every time i walk through the doors…hugmamma.