Memory’s a Funny Thing…

A while back I read an article on cracked.com about how our memory isn’t exactly great at keeping things straight. This week has been an excellent example for me of how true this is. Somewhere along the way during the times I’ve moved house over the last 6 or so years I lost track of a couple of things, and put it down to stuff getting packed in the wrong box and accidentally taken to the tip.

However, my mother mentioned that she’d found a box of my stuff at her place, and wanted me to go through it before we moved interstate.  So, I open up the box, and find a bunch of stuff I forgot that I had.  What was even weirder was that the two items I’d “lost” were in the box too.

What was weirdest though, was that I had distinct memories of using one of these things in my previous house, and had a distinct memory of packing the other up when we moved out.  Clearly both these memories were bullshit, because I had neither item in that house.

It’s got me wondering about just how accurate my memories are, and how many of the ones I’m absolutely certain of are in fact utter horse shit…

New Years Resolutions

Based on previous years’ lack of success keeping my new years resolutions, I’m going with one that’s impossible not to keep.  This year my new years’ resolution is to not make new years’ resolutions.  Ignoring the obvious logical problem with that previous sentence, this will make 2017 the year that I don’t fail to keep my resolutions.

Continue reading “New Years Resolutions”

It’s Never Too Late

Three weeks ago I wanted a small app to simulate rolling dice on my computer.  Unfortunately the few apps for Mac OS that I could find didn’t really do what I wanted them to do.  So, rather than admit defeat and just roll a handful of actual dice, I decided to learn how to write software for Mac.

I had a bit of a chuckle to myself over that, because I had the same thought 18 years ago, when I was studying at Uni.  Back then I was studying electronics, but had several subjects devoted to programming, and I wanted to be able to write software for the Mac.  I even went so far as to outlay a large (for a uni student) chunk of cash on a software development package.

The reason I found it funny was that back then I struggled to find the resources to learn the ins and outs of programming for the Mac, and never actually managed to write any software.  Now, however, it’s completely different.  It’s possible to get everything needed for Mac software development for free, including some very good tutorials.  I think I spent 3 or 4 days learning how to use Apple’s new language, Swift, followed by a couple of days building my first app.

Now, I won’t claim to be any sort of expert, and I’m pretty sure that the code I’ve written could be improved, but I’m pretty happy.  I’ve managed to achieve something that I’ve wanted to do for many years.  I might even be able to make some software that someone else finds useful.

Back From the Dead (Thankfully not Literally…)

Wow, it’s been 2 and a half years since my last post (not including the draft post I discovered from 2 years ago), talk about a lapse in posting.  There have been some major upheavals in my life over the last 12 months or so, starting with me resigning from my job, followed by a stint in hospital shortly after with a brain haemorrhage and fractured vertebrae.  Consequently I’ve spent quite some time recovering, plus thinking about exactly what I want to do with my life now.

Having the haemorrhage has made me deal with things like how Ive been dealing with ongoing depression and stress in my life.  Being out of work has been a mixed blessing, as it’s made things tough for us financially, but I’ve been able to take a deep breather, metaphorically speaking, and deal with the side effects of being in an unpleasant work situation.

On the positive side, I’ve made some quite significant steps forward with recovering from depression, and for the first time in over 2 years I actually feel like I am making some progress.  Yes, things are still tough to deal with at times, I still have down days, and I don’t always deal with stress particularly well.  But I have enough really good days to know that the bad days aren’t here permanently, I’m better able to deal with the way my mind works when I’m feeling down, and there’s a lot less stress in my life than say 12 months ago.

So, I’ve decided to revive my blog, with the plan to write about a few new topics.  Firstly, there’s my newly discovered hobby of radio controlled quad copters.  Then there’s my old hobby of war gaming.  Then there’s my new interest in online stock trading.  I’ll be posting about all of those things in the near future.

 

How to do Customer Service

Well, it’ds been a while since my last post (yeah, I’m a slack-arse, but to be fair, the last couple of months have been hectic…), so I thought I’d kick things off again with a complete turn around from my last post.  Rather than share a crappy customer service experience, I’ll share what has been quite possibly the best service I’ve experienced from a retailer anywhere, either on line or in a real shop.

Last year I discovered Yerba Mate, and while I initially made it in a coffee press, I’d been itching to make it the traditional way, with a gourd and bombilla (which is a metal drinking straw).  Having found a place online, that sold everything I needed, I gave my lovely wife a not-so-subtle hint, and she got me the gourd and bombilla for my birthday last year.  Well, things being what they were last year, I never actually got around to trying the gourd until 6 months later.

Gourds for Yerba Mate need to be cured, they’re made from something similar to pumpkins, dried and hollowed out.  Before you use one, any excess pulp needs to be cleaned out, and the gourd soaked with hot water.  It was as I was doing this to my gourd that I discovered that it was leaking from some of the carved decoration on the gourd.  Bugger…

So, I jump on the Yerba Mate Australia website, and send off an email, explaining the situation.  I had a response the next day, and despite not having the email confirmation of the order, and it being six months since the gourd was purchased, the kind people there were more than happy to replace the gourd.  But, it gets better.  Apparently they only had a few of the gourd I had left in stock, and they were rather large, so they offered to replace it with a new leather covered glass gourd they’d just got in stock.  So, I replied, and said that the glass gourd looked fantastic, and a week or so later I had it in my hands.

So, what could have been a less than happy situation ended up working out quite well.  The folks over at Yerba Mate Australia have definitely won me over as a repeat customer, and I’ll be heading back to purchase some more mate when I run out.  Thumbs up to them for such tip-top service.

How not to do Customer Service

My wife and I took the opportunity  of traveling down to Strahan on the west coast for a few days.  We were quite excited about the cottage we were staying in, an old chapel dating from the 1870s.  On the Strahan Colonial Cottages website it looked like a very romantic spot, the ideal place for a few quiet days away.

Well, when we arrived our initial impressions were favourable, the cottage did have a romantic air to it, and we settled in for the next few days.  Well, apparently this was too good to be true, and our experience soon turned sour.  The problems started on the first night, when the smoke alarm went off shortly after midnight, and got worse from there.

I won’t go into the full details of our problems just yet, but the list of problems we had is as follows:

  • Smoke alarm prevented sleep from midnight till after 5:30am.
  • When we tried to contact someone about the problem with the smoke alarm, we were unable to get through to anyone (we were told the next morning that they person whose contact details we had was unavailable that night, due to working elsewhere)
  • After an electrician was called in to fix the issue with the smoke alarm (a flat battery), the smoke alarm was removed entirely, leaving no smoke alarm in the cottage.
  • The “king size” bed advertised on the web site was in fact two smaller beds pushed together, and which moved apart when the bed was used, leaving a gap between them to roll into during the night.
  • When we made the bed after our second night’s stay, we found cockroaches in the bedding
  • Light fittings in the cottage did not have bulbs
  • Out of three remotes for electrical equipment in the cottage, only one had working batteries

Sure, some of those problems are only minor, but the fact that we had them tends to indicate that the people running the place aren’t taking care of it.  I would have thought that things like missing light bulbs or flat batteries would be dealt with quickly, rather than being left for multiple guests to deal with (based on feedback in the guest book).  With this in mind, I sent a very restrained email to the operators, outlining the problems we had, and requesting a refund (we’d left a day early after finding the cockroaches).  This is the email I sent:

“Hello,

My wife and I stayed in the Church cottage from 26/12/11 to 29/12/11, and I would like to pass on some feedback about our experience.  From the first night our experience was, to be frank, quite unpleasant.  What we expected to be a king size bed in fact turned out to be two separate beds pushed together, which moved apart, as we found out shortly after going to bed, making for an uncomfortable night’s sleep.

In addition to this, the smoke alarm fitted in the cottage went off around midnight, and proceeded to go off periodically until about 5:30 in the morning, with anywhere from 30 minutes to 5 minutes between alarms.  We resorted to trying to sleep, unsuccessfully, downstairs on the couches, as the volume of the alarm was at least tolerable down there.  We attempted to contact someone at around 3am in order to get the alarm fixed, but was unable to contact anyone.

When we finally spoke to Russell the next morning he informed us that he would have been uncontactable, due to working elsewhere.  Russell advised us that he would arrange for an electrician to fix the alarm for us, and when we returned to the cottage later that morning, we arrived just as the electrician was leaving.  He advised us that the issue with the alarm was a flat battery.  After the electrician had left, I noticed that the alarm had not had a battery replaced, as I assumed, but had in fact been removed entirely, leaving the cottage with no smoke alarm at all.

Following the previous night’s brief period of uncomfortable sleep in the upstairs bed prior to the problem with the smoke alarm, my wife and I took advantage of the fold down double bed downstairs.  While this allowed a more comfortable night’s sleep, we were shocked to find, when we made the bed the following morning, that there were two cockroaches in the bedding.  This was enough to put us off the rest of our stay, and we made the decision to leave a day early, rather than continue our stay.

In addition to these rather major problems, there were a number of other issues which detracted from our stay.  We attempted to use the DVD player and TV, and discovered that out of 3 remotes (for the TV, Stereo and DVD player), that only one remote had a working set of batteries.  Also, we discovered on the first night that the kitchen had a light globe missing from the light fitting from beside the stove.  We ended up taking a globe from another light fitting in order to have enough light to be able to see properly while in the kitchen area.

Based on the information and photos available on the cottage’s website, we expected accommodation of a considerably higher standard than what we experienced.  Given the unsatisfactory nature of the time we spent in the cottage, I would appreciate being refunded the amount that we paid.  I look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience.”

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting the operators to give us a refund for all three nights, but I thought that they might have the decency to perhaps refund us for one night.  As it turns out, I couldn’t have been further off the mark.  This morning, I received the following reply from the operators:

“Wow. you just got  married  and this  is  the way  you see  the  world,  did you  not  read  the  guest  book 99%  happy  people,  yes  there  is  always 1%  and  you  must  be  one  of  them,  Well  I  checked  location  of smoke alarm  myself,  and  it  could  have  been  reached,  so  simply taking  the  battery  out  yourself  would  have  helped ,   the  world  is full  of  worse  things  than  cockroaches  so  if  that  totally  ruined your  holiday  I  so  feel  sorry  for  you,  Apparently  you  abused  the electrician  ,  a  dear  man  who  goes  out  of  his  way  for  all  in strahan ,  I  had  a  basket  of  chocolates fudge  etc  to  give  you  but after  <name removed>  spoke  to  you  he  said  not  to  give  them  to  you
We  do  our  best  to  help  our  guest  and  after  all  the  cottages  are COLONIAL  thats  why  people  choose  them  and  not   BEST  AND WESTERNS,etc,   and  <name removed>  did  let  you  stay  for  $195  per  night  as it  is $230  per  night  he  was  doing  something  completely  un neccesary,
ther  will  be  no  refund  ,   <name removed> .   think  you  cancelled  original dates  and  <name removed>  changed  dates  for  you   to  busiest  time  of  year to  help  you, ( especially  considering we  have a   NO CANCELLATION.POLICY)”

So, that’s apparently how the people who run Strahan Colonial Cottages believe customers should be treated.  There are a few things that concern me with this response.  For starters, they’ve glossed over the fact that the smoke alarm wasn’t functioning properly, and their solution to the issue is apparently to just disable the alarm.  Also, they’ve ignored the fact that the solution to a flat battery was to remove the alarm entirely.

I’ve responded to this email this morning, resisting the urge to make a smart arse response.  I’ll be interested to see when/if I get a response from them, and if I do, what they have to say…

The Great Web Host Saga Part 2

So, apparently my old web hosts still haven’t got the message.  After the last request for payment, I changed my address to a bluntly worded message, requesting an end to demands for payment.  Well, lo and behold, another one came in today, this makes the 26th request for payment since I started the process of transferring my domain.

To be honest, I’m sick of it.  I’d like to think that someone, somewhere at CWI will read my message and think “Woah, we screwed up there” and actually do something.  I don’t think I’ll bother to hold my breath waiting, though.

The Great Web Host Saga

This post was very nearly titled “CWI Hosting are a Pack of Festering Arseholes, Who Deserve to be Shot, Hung, Drawn, Quartered, Run Over by a Tank, and Then Really Hurt”, but I thought it was a bit too long.  The story starts halfway through last year, when I received the yearly renewal invoice for my web hosting.  I was surprised, to say the least, to see that my web hosting had increased by 15%.  Upon further investigation, this was due to the 15% “Environmental Surcharge” that had been tacked onto my bill, without my knowledge.

I immediately contacted my host at the time, CWI Hosting, and asked them why there was this new charge, and why I had not been informed of it.  I received a response indicating that the new charge was because of rising energy costs for their servers, and that they had informed me of the charge the previous month.  Well, I checked my email records, and I had no such email from them.  I checked the records of contacts I’d had from them on their own support site, and there was nothing there, either.  So, I reluctantly paid the extra fee, seeing as I wanted to keep my hosting, and resolved that I’d move to a different host before the next renewal was due.

Fast forward to May this year, and I’d found a new host, who were here in Australia, which was a big bonus, as it means less bank fees for processing foreign currency, and a decent chance of getting phone support.  I looked into what was required to transfer the domain, and found that I first needed to unlock my domain, then submit a transfer request.

I also found that the transfer would take around a week, due to the way global top level domains (i.e. .com etc.) are handled.  No problems, I’ve got over three weeks until renewal is due, that should give me ample time to get this sorted out.  Well, wasn’t I wrong.

It turns out that CWI’s response times for support tickets goes from under 24 hours to a week when you want to move away from them.  A week after requesting the unlocking of my domain I received the advice that it was unlocked and ready for transfer.  I duly submitted the transfer request, and sat back to wait.

At the end of a week, with no sign of a response from CWI, I contacted them, and asked about the progress of the transfer.  I never received a reply to this request.  The week after submitting that request my hosting renewal with CWI became due.  Perhaps I’d unconsciously been expecting CWI to mess me around, but I’d made sure that my credit card did not have enough credit to cover CWI’s charges.  Just as well, because they have consistently tried charging me 5 or 6 times a week since that date.

In total I have tried contacting CWI about 15 times, through various means.  In the last two and a half months, I have been promised, via their support chat, contact from a supervisor within 24 hours on no less than four occasions.  At no stage have I received any such contact.  In fact, I have received exactly one response.  I had contacted the administrative contact for the domain, asking if the transfer process could be completed in a timely manner.  I received a response to this email, asking for further information, which was duly supplied.  This email, and a subsequent one were both ignored.

After over a month of inaction, I ended up taking matters into my own hands.  I contacted Tucows, the wholesaler for my domain at the time, and outlined my tale of woe.  Their response was heartening, at least.  They enabled me to first change the admin contact for my domain to my own email address, allowing me to respond to a transfer request.  When I found that I required an authorisation code for the transfer, which was being held by CWI, Tucows came to the party, and after giving CWI one further chance to actually do what they were supposed to, they provided me with the means necessary to transfer my domain.

To cut a long story short, CWI hosting effectively took what should have been a two week process, and dragged it out over 9 weeks (65 days from when I requested the domain to be unlocked to when I had full control of it again).  In doing so they have charged me for a service which I do not want, require, or even have any more (a month after renewal was due they canceled my hosting, effectively killing my main email account and website).  Apparently they are unswayed by my arguments that their lack of action is to blame for this, and to this day are still trying to charge my credit card.

Fortunately, there is one bright point to this whole sorry tale.  My new hosts, Webcity, have been nothing but exceptionally pleasant to deal with.  Response to email support requests have been prompt, and in addition, I have the ability to phone them and talk to a real person, in the event that something requires urgent attention.

Edit:
The saga continues, in Part 2.

It’s Alive!

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done any work on my website.  I’ve spent the last two months trying to get control of my domain, and switch to a web host that doesn’t seem to be intent on shafting me (which will be the topic of a post in the near future).  Now that I’ve succeeded on doing that, the plan is to set up a half way decent site.  Of course, these things don’t always go to plan, but I’ll try my best…