If we ran Amazon, we’d make a more useful customer follow up

This morning I called Amazon to complain about my “The Avengers” Blu-ray not arriving yet. I pay extra for Amazon Prime so whenever something doesn’t arrive by the time it’s supposed to, I call and complain.

The guy I spoke with said something about delivery issues and said the would put out a replacement. He also said he would knock a few bucks off the Blu-ray.

I was satisfied with the resolution but didn’t click on Amazon’s “How did we do?” automated customer service email just yet:


… I wanted to wait to see how the resolution played out. Later in the day, when the disc still wasn’t replaced and it seemed I was going to have issues, I did click on the link in the email to let Amazon know that “No, my problem still wasn’t resolved.”

But I was annoyed to notice that clicking on the link was so useless. Look at what the web page shows:


If Amazon’s solution wasn’t helpful they need to make that follow up email more useful.

If We Ran GroupMe, We Would Make the Following Changes to the New Website

GroupMe updated their site today but I wasn’t really happy with it. Luckily, they were responsive on twitter. Here is the conversation that happened.

Shahryar: Trying out the new @groupme website. Please be good… please be good

GroupMe: @Shahryar let us know what you think!

Shahryar: @GroupMe I’m disappointed-1) can’t open diff groups in diff tabs like w/ old groupme? Right-click just does this:

GroupMe: @Shahryar You can still open them in separate tabs, just have to create tabs first… looking into fixing the rt-click behavior though. #)

GroupMe: @Shahryar also if you have one group open and receive a message in another, you’ll see an alert pop up in the window. #)

Shahryar: @GroupMe 2) I like that what I say is highlighted yellow – but no avatars anymore? Harder to see who’s talking

Shahryar: @GroupMe yeah, but creating the tabs first is a chore though if you have a ton of active groups

Shahryar: @GroupMe again, all my groups are really active so it’s easiest to just be able to jump around within them through multiple tabs…

Shahryar: @GroupMe your old system of the groups name getting an icon next to it and moving up on the list when a new message came was pretty solid

GroupMe: @Shahryar Thanks for the feedback! We’re definitely still working on it, and you have the option to keep using the old site for now. #)

Shahryar: @GroupMe 3) I don’t like the “Auto-jump” to bottom whenever something new is posted

Shahryar: @GroupMe no problem. Thanks for listening. Your app is the most used app on my ios iphone 4s and (as a result) I use your site heavily too

GroupMe: @Shahryar Nice to hear, thanks!

Shahryar: GroupMe: @Shahryar If you’re scrolled up in the chat, it shouldn’t jump for new msgs… only when you’re already scrolled to the bottom of the chat

Shahryar: @GroupMe I’ll try again but I’m pretty sure it was jumping to the bottom even when I was scrolled up

If we ran Maryland and Baltimore, we would penalize fairer

Sometime in 2011 I didn’t pay a speed camera violation (something else I have issues with, but let’s ignore that for now) on time. A MVA flag was put on. What ensued was a complex battle to get the flag released so that I could renew my plates.

There’s a lovely simple system in place to fine you, put on penalties, and put on flags. But when it comes to resolving things and dealing with issues, it’s not so simple.

So this is an annoying reality but nothing noteworthy enough for me to want to start a blog post.

The part that did though was what happened during the time my tags were expired. Two separate expenses occurred – speeding and a parking ticket (Yes, I know both were wrong but for now, let’s just leave them as common mistakes). The speeding ticket was issued by the State of Maryland via a State Trooper. The parking ticket was issued by the City of Baltimore via a parking ticket officer.  For both, two separate expired tags tickets were issued.

When I complained about this to the City of Baltimore, the latter issuer. They said they were a separate entity and had a right to fine. Nevermind that Baltimore is a city within Maryland.

Really, the whole thing just seems like a money grubbing opportunity (more so than the usual fining method). On a smaller scale, I’d like to see my unnecessary expired fees violation from the parking ticket removed. On a larger scale, I’d like to see a stop to being penalized through multiple parties for the same single offense.

If We Ran Verizon, We’d Make Our Order Verification Message clearer

Last week I called Verizon and we worked out a package as follows:

FIOS TV Prime HD – $74.99
HBO/Showtime – $11.99 + $16.99 – both free for 3 months
HD Set-top Box – $9.99 – free for one year
DVR – $15.99 – free for 3 months

The Activation Fee ($49.99), Installation Fee ($79.99), and cost of router ($139.99) would all be waived.

Ultimately, there would be three different rounds of pricing:

The first 3 months – $74.99
Months 3 to 12 – $110.99
Months 12 onwards – $120.98

Shortly after our phone call, I received an e-mail asking me to verify my order and for the part of verifying, here is how the information was presented:

By adding one new FiOS service (TV or Internet) to complete your double play bundle, you’ll receive an additional $10 per month credit for 6 months.*

Order Summary
Master Order Number: MD00101389386
Order Date: May 12, 2011
Product: Double Flex up to 15/5 Prime HD 24M 2010
Internet Speed: FTTP_15M_5M_TRUE


First Bill Estimate:
The Normal Monthly Charge excludes credits for promotions that last 3 months or less. This customized estimate of your first bill is based on your initial order and installation date. If you made changes after your initial order, those changes are not reflected below.++

Normal Monthly Charges Change in Service and Partial Month Estimated First Bill

Double Flex up to 15/5 Prime HD 24M 2010 $84.99 $14.16 $99.15
Other Current Activity
(Voice, TV, Internet Additional)
$62.97 $271.97 $318.94
Current Activity Total $147.96 $286.13 $418.09
Specials and Promotions -$10.00 -$269.97 -$304.96
Taxes, Fees and Other Charges $16.10 $13.51

Total $154.06 $126.64


Ignoring the fact that the $10 off to make it $74.99 is temporary it seems, I found this order verification screen to be very unhelpful.  What about you? Now I have to call to figure this out.

If We Ran OPM, We Would Improve USAJOBS By Doing the Following:

For (all? many? most?) people looking for a Federal job, they will have to use the site usajobs  The federal hiring process is usually considered to be annoying because of the KSA process but that’s getting better so now it’s easier.  Still there are some annoying things with using USAJOBS which should really be fixed.  Here are some I wanted to point out:

Change the info in the Expand option

Especially when it comes to the IT Specialist position, you really have to go through each one to see what you are or aren’t qualified for.  The “Expand” option should be changed to list out the first so many characters of the Duties and Qualificaitons.  That would immediately weed out what is or isn’t needed.  

Link directly to the Status Candidate position

I have no idea why on the page of a job listing, if there’s another listing (usually? all the time?) for a status candidate position, the announcement number is given like here:

Now you have to go and search for this announcement:


But it’s not that straightforward because this has to be searched in the ALL JOBS category so on the next results screen you will have to redo the search selecting all jobs.  Or sometimes the announcement doesn’t work (guessing the reason for the screen I got right below) so you’ll have to manually search on the job title, agency in the ALL JOBS section and then try to find it.  It’s annoying.

Allow sort by Location

Ok, so I want to see Nationwide jobs for something so I’ll leave the location blank but I should still be able to sort on order of closest to me

Location based e-mail search not working?

And finally, this one’s a little on the personal side- help me figure out why my New York jobs e-mail summary doesn’t actually show New York jobs – yet when I then click on “View all opportunities” link on the e-mail, it properly shows me New York jobs?

If we ran an airport (like Frankfurt’s for example), we would be more like Singapore’s Changi Airport

My vacation to Bali, Malaysia, and Singapore (from the U.S.) began on 2/24.   I went from BWI to JFK to Frankfurt Airport to Singapore’s Changi Airport and finally to whatever Airport is in Bali.  So far, of all the airports, Singapore’s Changi has been the most amazing.  The biggest thing for me were the free internet computer stations everywhere – you could login for 15 minutes at a time.  Ideally, I would have liked the ability to just wirelessly jump on for free but this wasn’t that bad an option. Plus, I think I even saw some stations where you could connect your phone via an ethernet cable (Something I had forgotten to bring with me) and jump online from there too via your device. 

There were other cool things about this airport.  There was this locker thing where you could leave your phone in to charge and take the key with you.  There were a bunch of technology showcase areas with 3D demonstrations, 3D gaming, etc.  They had these really cool looking recycling areas which stood out too.


If we ran a bank, we wouldn’t charge overdraft fees period

I got excited with the whole overdraft law that happened last year – until I learned (at least at Capital One) that the overdraft opt out only applies to daily “debit” purchases.  This is something I never do, I only use my bank card as credit to pay for purchases. Also paying by check can get you overdraft fees too.  So basically, the overdraft law has done nothing for me and I’m sure that’s the case for many others.  If customers still aren’t protected, what’s the point of this law?

If we ran the Washington Post, we’d make subscribing to us less annoying

You would think that in a time when newspapers are in trouble a newspaper company would do everything they could do to get and keep subscribers.  Why that’s not the case at the Washington Post is beyond me.

As long as I can remember we’ve had a subscription to the Washington Post in my house and it is one of the things my dad cannot live without (if he could, the bs I dealt with would have been the end of this tradition).  There’s something annoying the Washington Post does (as do most subscription businesses I notice) where they give you a nice promotion rate but don’t make it easy to opt out automatically when the promotion runs out.  We were paying $1-something a week for a good part of 2010 and then from mid November to Early Feb, they were delivering at their $5-something rate.  For the past few years, I call after I notice this, and they adjust the price they charged post-promotion back down to a promotion rate again since I’ll be subscribing to them again.  This time, while they agreed to give me a promotion rate for the next 6 months, they wouldn’t lower the full price $5-something rate they had been charging me.

If I was able, I’d fight some more but a) my dad wants the service to resume right away b) dealing with Washington Post subscriptions is incredibly annoying.

1) they close at 5pm on weekdays so you better be prepared to spend your working hours on the phone with them
2) the website doesn’t work (at least for me) – I was stuck on the login screen:

I was trying to get in to make the payment, this meant I had to work with phone.  They didn’t do check over the phone (I didn’t have my credit card on me) so I had to mail checks to Richmond to make payment.
3) I was given the wrong amount due – I called back in AFTER I mailed a check in to confirm something and was told the amount that was due did not include the tax.  Luckily, after waiting on hold for the phone rep to escalate to her supervisor, I was told they would issue the credit
4) And this is the kicker – I have to call back in after 7-10 days to see if they got the payment and ask them to resume the subscription.  It won’t automatically start when they get the payment. They’ll take the money, pay for the amount that was due and sit on the amount I paid for the next 6 months of service – until I manually call back and ask them to start.

You’re lucky you’re so deeply ingrained into my dad’s daily ritual Washington Post, otherwise you would have lost yet another subscriber.

If We Ran a Company With Sensitive Branding We Would Learn From Tata

Tata logo from the Financial TimesBack in December, I read a great case study in the Financial Times on Tata and how the branding is used within its companies.  Some use the tata name and logo, others don’t (like Taj Hotels).  This isn’t that big a deal, according to the article, what is most important is if the values are being incorporated into all the companies.

But there is a lot to Tata’s decisions to rebrand or not when it comes to their foreign acquisitions.  Tata has to consider their Indian identity and what their fellow Indians think, and also what the foreign consumers of the company they are acquiring might think.  So there are times when rebranding is appropriate, like with Corus, and times when it is not, like with Tetley. 

Great lessons to consider for a company that has a strong identity with a group of people.


If we ran a vision insurance provider, we wouldn’t have this authorization nonsense

I’m not a fan of vision insurance.  My take on it always has been that you have to be pretty calculated to figure out if it’s worth it to get.  It’s one thing to have something that protects against catastrophes (home, car, health, etc), but for something like vision – where the max amount of money you’ll spend is so limited, it’s just not worth the headache.

But, I just found out my wife had signed up for it because it was a really minimum amount extra so I might as well use it.  But, unfortunately, for me (and I assume many others) it’s not that easy. 

I called UHC Vision (formerly Spectera) to find out about what I could do with the insurance only to find out I couldn’t do anything because there were two authorizations which were pulled.  The vision insurance told me that I had to call the two eye care providers I had visited last year and have them let go of the authorization.  Why the insurance company itself couldn’t do anything is beyond me.

So I called the first place and they (of course) said they couldn’t find anything open for me and told me to call the vision insurance provider back and ask if they could call to the place.  I called the second one and I’m on hold there right now.