OnStar response team failed to call me

As the proud owner of a 2011 Chevy Malibu I have maintained an active subscription with OnStar.  I've never had a problem with them thus far, nor have I needed them in an emergency...until today.

At approximately 5:15pm EST I was on my way home from work when another driver drove through an intersection in front of me.  The area that I was in consisted of one lane splitting into two, and I was proceeding to move into the right lane at that time.  About 100 yards ahead is a stop light, and I was going to be in that lane to turn right.  Traffic was backed up to the preceding intersection waiting for the light to turn green.  

As I approached the intersection and moved into the right lane I was passing a vehicle who was stopped in the left lane.  The driver that I hit was crossing the intersection in between the stopped cars, and did not stop or look before proceeding through into my lane.  There was no time to react, so I slammed on the brakes but ended up T-Boning the car in the center of the passenger side door.  The speed limit through that area is 25mph, but with the traffic I was doing 15-20mph at most.  However, it was enough to cave the side of the car in about 6-8 inches and to actually push the car into another vehicle that was sitting at the stop sign on the other side of the intersection (to my right).  As a result we now have a 3 car pile up.

I immediately got out of my car to see if everyone was ok, and reached for my phone to call 911.  I didn't even realize that the 3rd car was involved until I was on the phone with the 911 operator.  As I reported the accident I asked the driver if she was ok.  She was obviously shaken up, crying, and her hand was shaken tremendously.  I answered the 911 operator's questions, and gave as best of a description as I could give considering the events that just took place.

After I hung up the phone the driver of the 3rd car got out and walked around her vehicle.  She looked quite distraught, so I asked if she was ok again.  She said she lived down the street and needed to contact her husband.  I gave her my phone and told her to call him and let him know what happened.  A couple minutes later the police arrived to assess the damage and make out the report.

I didn't realize that all this time my car was still running.  So I opened the passenger side door and turned off the key, but the stereo continue to play since I opened and closed the driver side door with the ignition still turned on.  Despite the damage to the front end of the car (as you can see from the pictures below) the electrical system was still in full functioning order.  In fact I later moved the car into a nearby parking lot once the police took pictures of the scene.

When my wife came to pick me up we were discussing the accident and I realized something...OnStar never called the car's phone system to check on the incident.  This could only mean one of two things.  Either there was some type of problem with the phone system in the car, or OnStar was never notified of the crash.

I later went to the hospital to get checked out, and when I returned home I searched the internet for reports of OnStar not responding to an accident.  At first I thought that maybe it was because the airbags didn't deploy, but then I found other stories of the same type of crash and the person also stated that OnStar never called, nor had any record of a crash.  This peaked my interest, so I dug in a little more and found more than one story resulting in the same scenario.

I then called OnStar's customer support line at 1-866-466-7827.  I decided to record the call so that I could have it on record in case I would need it in the future.  After listening to their voicemail tree, I finally got through to a customer representative.  The next part of this post is the full 15 minute audio recording of the call with my phone number bleeped out.

Recorded call to OnStar customer support

As you can clearly see from the recording I notified her that I was recording the message (according to Pennsylvania law), and proceeded to ask her about the service, how the sensors worked, what the response team would do in the event of an accident, if the system in my vehicle reported any abnormalities, and if there were any software/hardware updates that my particular system needed.  She stated that everything was in order and that there were no reports of any defects, and more importantly no accidents detected by the system.  When I asked about the sensors, she clearly stated that there were enough sensors on the car to detect a crash from multiple angles of impact.  This indicates that in the type of crash that I was in there should be no reason why the sensors should not have detected the impact, and even more an impact with resulting in the extent of damage that my car received.  The accident occurred at approximately 5:15pm and I called OnStar at 11:18pm the same day.  According to the customer service representative my vehicle was in perfect working order, even though at that exact time it was sitting in a secured area with the front end completely damaged, with parts falling off as it was towed..

This brings to light a severe discrepancy in the OnStar service, and what OnStar claims in their advertisements and promotional material.  When we bought the car the dealer touted the features, and made specific note of the OnStar system.  Since this was my first vehicle with OnStar, I was interested in the features that they offer.  After further research the particular system in my vehicle is OnStar version 9 which was a new model for the 2011 class, and is supposed to the the latest version available.  All of the advertisements that I have seen indicated (or imply) that if you are in an accident an OnStar representative will contact you through the internal phone system to inquire as to the severity of the accident, if you are alert, what type of emergency assistance you need, to dispatch emergency personnel etc.  None of this happened in 30 minutes that I was on the scene of my accident.

I couldn't understand why the system didn't work as it is so plainly advertised.  After calling OnStar I realized why this was...the system never notified the response team that I was in an accident.  None of the variables that could cause a notification not to be sent were applicable.  I was in an area that had enough cellular signal to make a call (proven by my call to 911), the vehicle was in perfect view of the sky (for GPS functionality), the electrical system was fully functional (my stereo and the fact that I moved the vehicle after the fact proves this), and according to OnStar the system reported no faults or irregular activity during any diagnostics sessions since the service was activated in May of 2011.  Quite simply the OnStar system in my car failed to perform as it was advertised to me when I purchased the vehicle, and in every discussion that I had with OnStar since purchasing my subscription.  In effect I have been paying for a service that does not work as it is advertised, or how it is designed to work, and apparently I'm not the only person that this has happened to.

I'm not sure of any recourse that I may have at this point, but I am going to seek legal advice regarding this.  Clearly (at least in my understanding of the law) this is at least a misrepresentation of a product and/or possibly false advertising since the product did not work as it was explained to me when I purchased it.  I was led to believe that I would receive a certain level of service, specifically if an accident should occur, yet when it did I did not receive the service indicated.  Effectively I've been paying a company for a service that failed to deliver.

I'll update this as the details come in, but for now here's the pictures of the accident scene.







Update #1 - 2/21/13 @ 9:57am

I received the call from OnStar executive team, and explained the situation and my concern.  Soco (the name of the representative) proceeded to explain that not every crash would be detected by the system, and that my crash most likely fell into that category.  I expected this answer, so informed her of the conversation that I had with the previous representative, and the detailed questions that I asked leading up to me divulging that I was in an accident.  She maintained that there are a limitations to the system that would cause a crash to not be detected and reported.  She then asked if I read the Terms and Conditions of my OnStar service (a copy of which can be viewed here).  Again, I expected this answer as well.  I stated that I had read them, and that the limitations stated in the T&C did not apply to my situation.  After going over the stated limitations, and explaining how they did not apply to my accident, she stated that there are some limitations that are not outlined in the T&C, but then changed the topic.  This raises a concern over the disclosure that OnStar is providing in their contracts, as well as their T&C.

In the end she indicated that if I had any out-of-pocket expenses for towing that I would be reimbursed by OnStar since part of the service is roadside assistance.  She also indicated that once the vehicle is back on the road that she would like to give me 3 months of service for free.  My first thought was "Wow..a whole 3 months or a service that obviously does not work", but I did not say this to her since I do appreciate the attempt and did not feel that a smart answer would be appropriate.  She stated that she would be performing and investigation into the accident, and we ended the call.

On a different note, I just received an email from OnStar as I was typing this edit stating that my hands-free calling minutes are about to expire, wanted me to refill.  I really don't think that I'll be doing that anytime soon.

Update #2 - 2/21/13 @ 3:58pm

The insurance adjuster completed the damage estimate and sent me a copy.  According to them there is $7335 worth of damage.  They stated that the entire front end of the car needs replaced, including frame damage on the left front area of the crash zone.  Afterwards I called Soco at OnStar to get my case number, and informed her of the findings.  She continued with her line of "there are limitations to the system" as well as "our terms and conditions".

On a side note she is sending me a reimbursement check for $150.00 to cover any out-of-pocket towing expenses.  I'm supposed to receive the check sometime within the next 30 days.  She also gave me 3 free months of service now that she knows that the car is going to be repaired.  I'm not supposed to be charged the normal $12.95/month fee that I've been paying until June.  And she said that she is continuing the investigation and will contact be with more information.

Update #3 - 2/26/13 @ 6:10pm

I went to Sterling Auto Body on Rodi Rd where my car is being repaired to use the OnStar system inside the car to run a diagnostics.  In doing so the representative stated that the 5 codes that came back were related to the transmission, a drivetrain malfunction, and various air sensors.  I specifically asked about the OnStar system and she stated that there were no codes related to it, and the system was reporting 100% functionality.  Again, I recorded this portion of the conversation for my records.  

I then called the executive review team (with recording) to speak with Soco.  She was unavailable to I spoke with another representative.  After detailing the case again she added a few additional notes to the case and stated that she would have Soco return my call the next day.  I also informed her of the statement that Soco made regarding the limitations not outlined in the T&C, and that I had recorded the conversation.  I explained the concerns that I had about this statement, and that I have a real problem with this type of behavior from a company.  She said that she would make a note of it in the case and bring it to Soco's attention.

Update #4 - 2/27/13 @ 1:47pm

Sterling Auto Body just called me and gave me the final estimate of the damage to my car.  They explained that they dismantled the entire front end and cataloged and inventoried all of the damaged parts.  As it stands the total is now up to $8800, but they won't have the final estimate complete until the repairs are completed (misc. bolts, clips, etc.).  He stated that the left frame rail would need to be cut out and replaced, the upper right rail has 3 or 4 kinks in it, and the rest of the components in the front (steel bumper rail, radiator, a/c condensor, plastic body parts etc.) would all be replaced.  Thankfully there's no mechanical damage to the engine or transmission, but rather structural parts around the engine compartment.  Taking into consideration the extent of the repairs he gave me an estimated completion and delivery for my car of March 20...a full month after the accident.

I asked about their knowledge and experience with OnStar systems, and if they could tell me why the system did not detect the crash.  He said that he had no idea, and suggested that I take the car back to the dealer after the repairs are completed and have them run a full diagnostics.  Once again no one can tell me why the system failed, including OnStar themselves, considering the significant amount of damage ($8800 worth) that was done to this vehicle.

Earlier I was able to speak with Soco and I informed her that I would like a refund for the total cost of services that I have paid over the last 18 month (minus any complimentary time periods).  She sated that she would see what the total amount that I have been charged is to date, and would get back to me this afternoon with a decision.  She also stated, in regards to her statement about the limitations not covered in the T&C, that she misspoke and that everything is indeed outlined in the T&C.  I confronted her on this, reciting and quoting her from the recorded phone call, and she said that she apologized but that was not what she meant.

21. February 2013 01:02 by Admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

eBay and Paypal account restrictions are unfair and borderline blackmail

Over the next few days I will be listing approximately 25 items on eBay in an attempt to have a restriction lifted for withdrawing funds from my Paypal account from eBay auctions.  Anyone who buys the item(s) with be reimbursed for the selling price.  For those of you wondering why on earth I would do something like this, please read on.

I have had an active eBay account since 2003, and have it tied in with my Paypal account.  Both accounts have verified identity information, including credit card, bank account, and all of the usual things associated with the accounts.  I've sold 90+ items over the years, and bought even more.  That may not seem like a lot of items, but for the casual seller it is a decent amount.  Never once has anyone filed a complaint on anything that I've sold, asked for a refund, or otherwise had anything bad to say about my level of service as a seller.  Even two customer service reps at eBay and one at Paypal that I spoke with confirmed that my reputation is impeccable.  With all this in mind, there should be no reason why I should have to worry about any kind of restrictions or limitations on either of these accounts right?  Well, apparently that isn't the case, nor will it be the case for anyone who sells on eBay the same way I do.

Ebay bought Paypal back in 2002, and has tightly integrated it into the whole eBay buying/selling process.  So tightly integrated that as of an eBay policy change in 2008 it is virtually impossible to sell something on eBay and not take Paypal payments as the exclusive method of payment.  Because of this, eBay "double dips" in regards to the fees that they charge to sell something.  They charge an initial listing fee based on the features that you choose.  When the auction is over they charge you a percentage of the final selling price (a.k.a. the "Final Value fee").  Then you have to pay a fee to accept Paypal payments.  They force these conditions on a seller by the following paragraph located on their site at http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/paypal-payments.html

"Sellers who offer PayPal as a payment option in their eBay listings (either via logos or through text in the item description) must accept card funded payments. Sellers must have a Premier or Business PayPal Account or be willing to upgrade from a Personal PayPal Account to a Premier or Business Account upon receipt of a card funded payment. Sellers may not communicate to buyers that they only accept account balance or bank account funded payments, or will not accept card funded payments."

So, in order to sell on eBay I have to accept Paypal payments.  In order to accept Paypal payments I have to acept ALL forms of payment including credit and debit cards.  To do that I have to upgrade to a Premier or Business account.  And in order to have such an account I am subject to a 2.9% to 3.9% fee for each transaction according to the fees page available at https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/paypal-fees.

Here's something better.  At any point in time eBay and Paypal can restrict your account by placing a "pending hold" on any funds.  The hold can last up to 21 days, but it is explained that the hold can be reduced by providing tracking information for any item that you sell.  The hold is then released 3 days after the item has been verified as being delivered.  They claim that this is in attempt to handle refund claims by dissatisfied buyers.

Fast forward to present day.  I havent sold anything on eBay since 2010, but have made quite a few purchases.  My account is still in good standing, with no issues on either buying or selling.  In April 2012 I list three cell phones of eBay because I was in the process of switching from AT&T to Verizon and had no use for the phones.  A few days later I receive an email from Paypal that they are restricting my account and placing a hold on any future incoming funds for up to 21 days. After logging into my Paypal account I saw the following banner at the top of my Account Overview page.

click the image to enlarge

Two of the phones sold immediately, and the funds were already in my Paypal account.  The auction for the last phone had not yet ended, so the funds were never sent.  Fortunately I was able to withdraw the funds for the first two, but the last one was indeed held.  In my case it was held for the full 21 days even though I provided the tracking information.  So why was my money held, and what would make eBay and Paypal do this to someone who has an impeccable history for the last 9+ years on buying and selling on eBay?  I called the customer service number for Paypal and asked that exact question.  What I found out makes me seriously reconsider selling anything on eBay.

The Paypal representative listened to me, and took a look at my account.  She stated that she saw absolutely no reason why my account had been restricted.  She said that it must be something eBay placed, so she transferred me to them.  The representative that I spoke with from eBay informed me that the reason was because I did not sell 25 items in the last year, and therefore failed to meet their requirements for un-restricted selling and withdrawls.  After explaining to her, and her verifying my history, I stated that what they were doing was completely uncalled for, unfair, and borderline blackmail.  After speaking with another representative claiming to be a suprevisor in some capacity, he instructed me that once I meet the 25 transaction count that the restriction will automatically be lifted.  Essentially what they are saying is that unless you pay them money they are going to hold yours for up to 3 weeks.  For those of you who don't see this, refer to my previous statements regarding the fees that we are charged to list an item and complete a transaction including payment.

So, the bottom line is this.  According to eBay's policy for selling you have to have to satisfy all three of the following requirements:

  • You must complete at least 25 transactions per year.
  • You must have at least $250.00 in total revenue based on all of your transactions.
  • You must not have created your account within the last 90 days. 

So according to these requirements, even if you sell 25 items for $5.00 each you still have not fullfilled the requirements, and are subject to having your funds held for up to 21 days.  Likewise if you sell 3 items (as in my case) for almost $1000.00, your account is subject to the same restriction, regardless of the history that you have as a reputable seller and member of the eBay community.

As a direct result of this, I will be posting approximately 22 eBay listings (I already sold 3 cell phones towards my 25 count) where I am selling insignificant items (i.e. pencils, erasers, paperclips, consulting services, etc.) just so I can get up to my 25 transaction count and have the current restriction lifted.  If you are looking at one of my auction listings, and have any reservations about why I've sold such items, you can now rest assured with a clear understanding of the reasoning, and can bid in complete confidence that you will receive exactly what I am listing in the exact condition that is described.

Additionally I am asking for your help.  If you would kindly go out to my eBay site at http://www.ebay.com/sch/cg1997/m.html?item=150806905589&rt=nc&_trksid=p4340.l2562 and buy any item that you see that is less than $5.00 I will refund your payment back to you plus any fee that you are charged for accepting the money.  I am doing this simply to procure my 25 transaction count, and have the restriction lifted.  Since eBay doesn't let you post "multiple identical items" I'll need to spread this out over the next few days as each active listing ends.

** UPDATE **

It appears that my voice has been heard (or at least read) somewhere.  I received another email from Paypal stating that the restriction has been lifted, and that funds from all future transactions will be immediately available.  I'm not exactly sure what prompted this, but I have a feeling it was from the links that I put in each of my listings pointing to this blog post.  I'll never be able to confirm that for sure, but at least I can go about my business without worrying about this type of unfair action.

It's sad that people need to go to these types of "extremes" to be treated fairly.  I understand that businesses need to protect themselves, as well as others that you may interact with, but to place unfair restrictions on people who have never given reason for such action to be taken crosses the line.  I will continue to use eBay and Paypal because I truly believe in the concept of both.  I just hope that I, nor others with similar circustances, have to deal with this situation again.

Thank you PayPal and eBay!!!

10. July 2012 14:12 by Admin | Comments (1) | Permalink

Will customer service ever get any better?

Nothing burns me more than dealing with customer service reps that obviously can't handle the job they're doing, and companies who do nothing about it.  It appears to be the growing trend, and one that really needs to be dealt with the gross amount of money these companies make from consumers.  While their profit margins are skyrocketing, the people who allow them to be so successful are getting the short end of the stick from every angle.

My frustration comes from my latest experiences with Verizon, on both the cellular and FIOS customer service fronts.  We have a Verizon MiFi for accessing the internet on the go, and FIOS for our home phone, TV, and internet.  While I can't say anything about the speeds and quality of service that we get, I have a lot to say about the customer service when there's a problem, and the total lack of professionalism in handling an issue when it arises.

A few weeks ago I contacted Verizon Wireless customer support with a signal issue with my MiFi.  The MiFi is a small wireless router that allows 5 devices to conect to their 4G LTE network.  This can be laptops, iPads, or any device that has built-in wireless connectivity.  The problem was that in order to get a solid connection I had to reboot the MiFi (sometimes more than once), and hope that it would actually get me online.  This would happen in dowtown Pittsburgh where I was well within the range of a 4G signal, and was quite an annoying thing to have to deal with.  So I called and explained the issue, and was sent out a replacement unit within a couple days.  I got the unit, and it worked fine for about 2 weeks.  After that, I noticed that everywhere I went it would only connect to the 3G signal instead of the 4G LTE signal, which is considerably faster.  So, I called again and explained the issue.  The rep decided that the best plan of action was to send me a different unit made by a different company.  I had the Samsung SCH-LC11 and he wanted to send me the Novatel 4510L instead.  He would have to get his manager to approve the replacement, which he promptly did, and we were in business...or so I thought.

Before he could send me out the replacement unit, he told me that I would have to buy a battery since my battery wouldn't work in the device.  Verizon's replacement process only sends you the actual unit itself, with no battery or battery cover.  I already knew this since I had already had one unit replaced, but thought that having to buy a new battery shouldn't be part of my responsibility, but I agreed to pay the $30 to resolve the situation.  He put in both orders, and I was supposed to receive the items in a couple days.  I ended up receiving the battery on Friday, but the device itself didn't come until the following Tuesday, almost a week after my initial call.  When it came, they didn't send a battery cover.  I had the battery (which I bought), but nothing to hold it in place, because the cover off of my old unit wasn't the same style.  So, I called Verizon again.  This time I expressed my frustration, stating that this isn't even something that I should have to deal with considering the fact that the previous rep knew the situation and why he was sending me this unit.  The rep apologized and told me she would get one out in the mail overnight and that I should have it the next day.  She said that she would call me back the next day as well to verify that I received it.  I thought this was a good thing, and thanked her for her assistance.  The next morning I received an email stating that the shipment wasn't due to arrive until the following day.  What?!?!  How can this be, when she specifically told me that she ordered it and had it sent out overnight?  So, when she called I again expressed my frustration.  She apologized, but couldn't give me a reason as to why it went out late.  In the end I couldn't even use the service that I pay $50/mo. for, but had to continue to pay for it.

The FIOS ordeal is even more annoying.  Verizon (as with a lot of other companies) pushes you to use their online services to recevie your billing statements.  This saves them from having to print out paper bills and mail them.  I get that, and have no problem in doing my part for the environment.  However, when it severely inconveniences me to the point of having to spend over an hour on the phone trying to access my account, then I have a real problem with it.

For some reason our service was temporarily suspended because of a billing issue that wasn't even our fault.  So I called FIOS support only to be even more frustrated when I couldn't access my account.  In order to get anywhere with them you have to know your customer account number.  This number is on your bill.  But, in order to access your bill you have to be able to log into your account.  When your service is suspended, you're not allowed to log into your account.  What kind of idiot thought that this was a good process to implement?  And, the best part is that they tell you that you can still go online to pay your bill and reactivate your service.  The problem is that in order to do that you STILL have to have your account number, which AGAIN is on your paperlesss bill that you don't have any access to.  And no one at Verizon sees this as a problem, but instead tells you to do something that you can't do, and refuses to help you.  And we pay these people money?

In the end, something needs to happen so that these companies understand that without us, there is no business.  Instead of finding new ways to squeeze more money out of us, how about providing better service and rates so that people actually want to use your service, as opposed to locking us into contracts that cost more to break than to deal with the incompetant idiots that they pay minimum wage to answer the phones.  It all goes back to the corporate greed that I talked about before, and it needs to end before it gets worse.

13. February 2012 11:12 by Admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

Bye bye Arby's...no more business for you

Over the years I have always enjoyed changing things up a little from the burger and fries and going with the good 'ol Arby's roast beef sandwiches.  Then when they introduced the Turkey Bacon Club sub, I was in heaven.  But all that changed recently because of the complete lack of professionalism of one store, and the manner in which my complaint was handled by their "Feedback Team".

Overall there were 3 incidents that changed the way we think about Arby's.  The first involved me stopping in to grab supper, only to wait for almost 15 minutes for our food as 3 other people who came in aftr me were served and left.  My order consisted of two Beef 'n Cheddar combo meals, a kids roast beef meal, and mozzarella sticks.  From eating there in the past I knew that the cheese sticks would take an extra couple minutes, but I had no idea how long I was going to wait this time.  From what I could tell there were 2 managers on duty.  One of the managers named Chris Attwood was supposedly manning the fry station, but obviously wasn't interested in doing his job.  I realized later that my fries and cheese sticks had actually been hanging in the basket above the grease for a least 5 minutes before they were put in their containers and ultimately into my bag.  The other manager (who's name I didn't get) saw this, realized how long I had been waiting, approached Chirs and had words with him, and then apologized to me for the long wait.  He gave me 2 coupons for free combo meals, and again apologized as I walked away.

A few weeks later my wife and I decided to dine in, and used our free coupons that we were given the previous visit.  Again Chris was the acting manager, and Pat was our cashier.  We placed our order and handed Pat our coupons, who immediately told Chris that she needed him to process the coupons.  She finished ringing up our order, but couldn't cash it out until Chris came over to assist.  Ultimately it took Pat 4 times to get Chris to come over because he was discussing with another worker what he was going to be doing later.  He then proceeded to discuss a scheduling issue with the employee, totally ignoring the fact that we were standing there waiting to complete our order.  When my wife voiced her concern to Pat a second cashier named Robin (who was standing behind the counter with her hands in her pockets) stated to us "Well he's doing about 5 different things right now", attempting to take his side.  Surprisingly Chris never said a single word to us, nor apologized for his inconsiderate behavior.  He simply walked away.  To top it all of, his shirt was half untucked, making it appear that he had just crawled out of bed before his shift, and paid absolutely no attention to, nor was concerned about, his appearance.  We were appalled at the complete lack of regard and professionalism that these people (Chris and Robin) has exhibited in front of us.

As we were eating in the dining room we discussed what had happened, and how upset we were at the service that we had just experienced.  We would have actually walk out of the restaraunt if it hadn't been for the fact that the kids had not yet eaten supper, nor did we.  About half way through our meal Pat came over to our table and personally apologized for what had happened.  We were surprised that she would do this since she was not at all to blame for any of the situation.  I told her that the reason we had the free coupons was for the previous experience, and that Chris was the cause of that issue as well.  After we expressed our disgust at Robin's actions, we then found out that Robin was supposedly a manager in training.  We both said that we felt that it was a mistake based on her actions, and that we would be dining elsewhere if that indeed happened.  Pat apologized again, and we left.

The third incident involved me passing through the drive-thru on my way home from work.  Again I ordered two Beef 'n Cheddar combos, and a roast beef sandwich.  Again I waited approximately 8 minutes for our food, but didn't voice my opinion at that time.  I folded the top of the bag to keep the heat in and the food as fresh as possible for the drive home.  Our house is 1 1/2 miles from the store.  In the 5 minutes that it took me to drive home and hand the food to my wife, when we began to eat you would have thought that I drove around the block with the food hanging out the window.  Everything was cold, and the buns on each sandwich felt like they had been sitting on the shelf for months.

I immediately got online and tried to find a customer service number for Arby's.  However, on their website the only thing you can do is fill out a form and send them a message.  I typed up a limited description, checked off a bunch of boxes, and submitted the form.  They only allow you 2000 characters to describe the issue, and that proved to be not enough to relay the anger and disappointment that I was feeling.  Looking that the total number of characters that I have typed in this post so far I'm already up to 5251 characters, and I'm still not done.

The next day I received a standard form email from their Feedback Team.  It basically said that they received my complaint, were sorry, and would send me out come free coupons for combo meals.  Obviously no one had actually read the complaint to any form of detail, and they were just using their standard response.  A few days later we received a form letter in the mail, and 2 coupons for free meals.  No phone call from anyone...no appearance of a real apology...no personal contact from anyone regarding the situation at all.  Obviously the way that Arby's chooses to handle any complaints about their stores.

As it stands we will no longer be eating at any Arby's in the future.  If this is the way that they choose to run their company, and the people that they choose to put in charge of their stores, obviously they don't care about anything but their bottom line.  If they can't take the time to pick up the phone and talk to someone who has given them the feedback that they want, or offer some type of personal attention, then they don't need my business.  I'm not saying that they have to personally deal with every single complaint that comes in, but they should at least make it appear like they care about their customers more than what they obviously do.

8. January 2012 16:39 by Admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

Don't give out your email address...OR MINE!!!!

It never fails that every couple months I receive an email that provides me with a long list of email addresses and names that I didn't ask for.  The reason for this is always the same...no one knows how to properly and safely send email.

Ever wonder how your new email address end up getting "male enhancement" messages, or "local singles want to meet you" messages within a couple months of you creating the address?  It's not that you've signed up for newsletters or mailing lists, although that too doesn't help the situation.  It's because all of your friends that you just gave your new address to love to forward jokes, chain letters, etc. to everyone in their address book.  But that's not entirely the problem.  The problem is that when they add your email address to the message, they use the "To:" or "CC:" fields to do so.  This in turn allows everyone who receives that email to see your email address as well.

The problem is compounded when someone forwards the email that they received without removing the unnecessary headers and email addresses that are included in a forwarded message.  Now not only can you see the email addresses that the message was sent to, but you also have the emails and names of each person that it was forwarded to since the original message was sent.

Think about it this way.  Let's say that I send an email to 10 people.  Those 10 people then each send it to 10 of their friends.  Mathematically that's 110 people that have received that message.  Each of those people now send it to 5 people, and you can see how the number exponentially increases.  Eventually 10,000 people now have my email address, and that's a very conservative number.  By the time the message runs it's course it could potentially hit every country in the world and have been viewed by millions of people.

Now for the problem.

That original email gets sent around as I have stated, forwards and all.  Eventually it gets sent to a spammer, or someone who collects email addresses so that they can sell them to spammers.  Realistically they know that the majority of the email addresses in the message are good because at some point the message was sent to that address.  The only way it isn't good is if the address was mistyped, the account was recently closed, or the user no longer checks that account.  Even if 10% of the addresses are good, how many addresses could potentially be sold to the highest bidder?  Obviously that depends on what stage of the process the person received the message, but for our purposes let's say the message has been going around for a couple months.  If no one "cleaned up" the message (which most people do not) then that message could contains hundreds, if not thousands, or addresses...yours being one of them.

Along with the email address, it's very easy to also get the person's first and last name.  How many of you use your email programs address book to keep track of email addresses by the person's name?  So, when you click to include the person as a recipient, the email program enter the name, email, or combination of both into the message.  Now when someone clicks the "Reply to All" button, not only do they get the email address, but they can also call the person by their first and last name as well.  Add a little more seriousness to the situation now doesn't it?

The more concerning problem is this...how many of those addresses belong to kids under the age of 18?  How many of you have received a message that includes your kid(s) as one of the recipients?  How many people forwarded that same message on to someone else without removing your child's email address?  And how long is it going to be before your child's email address ends up on the receiving end of Viagra and Cialis ads or ads to meet local singles in your area or worse?  Now the situation is a lot more serious than what you originally thought.

So how do we resolve this problem?  One simple solution is to use the “BCC:” field available in 99% of the email programs available.  If you don’t see this field, you may need to look in your settings to turn it on, or click an area in the message you are sending for it to appear.  “BCC” means blind carbon copy.  This prevents the email addresses of everyone you are sending it to from being displayed in the message, and prevents it from being given to any of the recipients.  If you have doubts, try it yourself.  Send a test message to another email address that you have, along with 5 of your friends.  When you and your friends receive that message you will see that the list of emails isn’t available.

I encourage any and all questions that I can answer, and offer assistance if you are unsure of how to properly change your settings.  I have access to most of the online email services available, as well as email programs for Windows, Mac, and Linux.  Please feel free to get in touch with me…you already have my contact information.

6. December 2011 12:42 by Admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

Lasting impressions of abuse

By now you've most likely heard of, or have even watched, the video of Judge William Adams, the Texas judge beating his then 16-year-old daughter with a belt, and the controversy that it's caused.  The video was secretly taken by his daughter in 2004 while she was a minor.  Now 23-years-old she has posted the video on YouTube and Reddit where the video has gone viral, including a Today Show interview.

Before I post a link to the video, I want to make it clear that it may be disturbing to some viewers.  In fact, it should be disturbing to most, if not all viewers simply for the fact that this is in reality a first-hand look at what goes on in a bedroom where child abuse happens.  How do I know?  Because I could have taken the same exact video in my own bedroom, only it was with a wooden paddle and not a leather belt.  And while the marks are still slightly visible, along with the broken blood vessels and chronic pain of sitting for more than an hour, the memories are pushed into the back of the mind until something like this surfaces.

There's a lot of comments out there from people stating that they remember taken beatings like that, and they are glad that their parents disciplined them like that.  Or that the girl most likely was a habitual behavior problem, or troublemaker and needed that kind of discipline.  I've seen posts from people saying that it's a common thing in the south for children to be raised with a firm hand and tight belt, and that what the video shows is nothing more than firm discipline, and in no way abuse.  Well, I'm here to tell you that people are dreadully mistaken, and truly have no concept of what abuse really is.

Now, I'm not going to try an use some cliche phrase like "until you've walked in their shoes....", but the reality is that you can't understand what it's like to be abused until you have had to live with the fear and pain that you experience in that situation.  You can't understand the psychological damage that is done until you are litterally afraid to stand up and fight for yourself because you know that if you do you'll be punished for it when you get home.  I used to run home from school, or take an alternate route, just so I didn't have to face a group of kids that were 2 grades below me.  The reason...because I knew if my father saw me in a fight, a shoving match, or whatever the case may be that I would be paddled at home, and then grounded for weeks, or even months on end.  It may sound like I'm embellishing the truth of the matter, but I assure you that I'm not.  The sad part is that this reality compounded the problem, because then I was looked at as a coward who ran home from school from the younger kids.  Anyone reading this who went to school with me can most likely relate to it, and it may answer some of the questions that they had back then.

When I finally got tired of it and made my stand my senior year, once again I was knocked down.  I remember vividly walking down the stairs from the second floor by the office to my next class, and Bruce Holisky knocking my books out of my hands.  As I watched my papers and pens land on the bottom floor, I stopped, took a breath, turned around, walked back up the stairs and pushed Bruce across the hall.  He returned the shove, and the match was quickly broken up by a teacher.  We both got detention, but that was where his punishment ended, and mine began.  The next day my father pulled me out of school, and a week later enrolled me in home schooling.  I had to restart my senior year because my credits didn't transfer, and missed out on all of the things senior year means to someone.

This is just a very small look into what I personally dealt with as a child.  I'm not going to go into detail of the first 17 years of my life, because it's not going to change the fact of how I grew up.  Likewise, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I never got into trouble, or that I was on my best behavior at all times because that is honestly not the case at all.  But what I will tell you is that I know what abuse is, and I know what the effects of it are, both physically and psychologically.  Aubrey and Ashlyn will never know what it's like to deal with something like that, although they will understand the meaning behind the discipline that Missy and I give them.  And that it what makes it effective...understanding why you're being punished, not fearing it.

I haven't spoken to my father in years, not because I don't want to have a relationship with him, but because I refuse to subject my family to the abuse that he shows even to this day.  Unless something changes at some point he will never know what it's like to hold his grandchildren, or be a part of their lives.  And while some people may say that I'm wrong, or that as a grandparent he deserves to be in their lives, the truth of the matter is those people again have no idea what it's like to be abused.

Below is a link to the video.  There are a bunch more out there, so if this one goes down at some point, you should still be able to find it.  I'm not going to embed a copy of the video in this post, simply because I refuse to have any material showing this type of content on my site.  That's my choice, and I appreciate you respecting that decision.



** UPDATE (11/11/11) **

Adams has been served a restraining order effectively, preventing him from visiting his now 10-year-old daughter without first getting his ex-wife's permission.  The original story published in the Washington Post can be viewed here

** UPDATE (11/23/11) **

The Texas Supreme Court has suspended Adams "pending the outcome of the inquiry started earlier this month by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct".  The original story can be found posted on MSNBC can be viewed here and the order handed down by the Texas Supreme Court can be viewed here.

 ** UPDATE (11/8/12) **

The Texas Supreme Court has now lifted the previous suspension on Adams. The following is an article originally posted here.

The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted its suspension of a South Texas judge shown in a video beating his teenage daughter.

Justices had suspended Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams with pay in November 2011 while the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct investigated the 2004 incident. The commission issued a public warning to Adams on Sept. 6.

In its one-page order Tuesday, the justices approved an agreement between Adams and the commission asking that the suspension be lifted. As part of the agreement, Adams had waived his right to appeal the public warning, which is essentially a public reprimand with no other consequences.

The action allows Adams to return to his judicial duties in the Gulf Coast town of Rockport, Texas, immediately.

Adams' older daughter, Hillary Adams, uploaded the 2004 video to YouTube just over a year ago. The video shows William Adams repeatedly whipping his then-16-year-old daughter with a belt for illegally downloading music.

The nearly eight-minute video viewed millions of times shows the judge lashing Hillary in the legs more than a dozen times and growing increasingly irate while she screams and refuses to turn over on a bed to be beaten.

"Lay down or I'll spank you in your (expletive) face," Adams screams as Hillary wails and pleads for him to stop.

Adams' former wife and Hillary's mother, Hallie Adams, expressed disappointment in the decisions of the state commission and Supreme Court.

"Hillary and I are both really sad today," she said. "I had really hoped the judicial review process would work. I had really wanted to see the public protected."

Messages were left with the commission, William Adams' attorney and Hillary Adams. In an email, a State Bar of Texas spokesman declined to comment.

The Aransas County district attorney said at the time the online video created a national sensation that too much time had passed to bring criminal charges against the judge.

Adams doesn't come up for re-election until 2014. However, county commissioners voted earlier this year to cut his 2013 salary by 1.6 percent to $144,000. Other elected county officials received a 2 percent cost-of-living increase.

Also, Adams may no longer preside over the physical domestic abuse cases that previously comprised much of his court docket. At the time the investigation began, Commissioner Howard Baldwin of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services had told County Attorney Richard Bianchi that the department did not believe Adams could serve in the best interest of children and parents in abuse or neglect cases. Bianchi told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on Tuesday that the agency has modified its request to apply only to cases involving violence with children, which will be filed in state district court.

3. November 2011 16:52 by Admin | Comments (1) | Permalink

Justice is served

 AUGUSTA, GA - Orville Smith, a store manager for Best Buy in Augusta, Ga. told police he observed a customer, later identified as Tyrone Jackson of Augusta, on surveillance cameras putting a laptop computer under his jacket. When confronted the man became irate, knocked down an employee, drew a knife and ran for the door.

Outside on the sidewalk were four Marines collecting toys for the Toys for... Tots program. Smith said the Marines stopped the man, but he stabbed one of them, Cpt. Phillip Duggan, in the back; the injury did not appear to be severe.

After police and an ambulance arrived at the scene, Cpt. Duggan was taken for treatment.

"The subject was also transported to the local hospital with two broken arms, a broken ankle, a broken leg, several missing teeth, possible broken ribs, multiple contusions, assorted lacerations, a broken nose and a broken jaw ..... injuries he sustained when he slipped and fell off the curb after stabbing the Marine," according to a police report.

2. November 2011 10:44 by Admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

Extreme photography

One of my new favorite sites and topics.  This kid really knows how to do some awesome stuff with a camera and some props.

Check out his site at http://photoextremist.com


25. October 2011 17:17 by Admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

Corporate control takes over again...

If there's one thing that I hate, it's when corporate idiots who know very little about how the decisions they make negatively affect their customers insist on putting in place policies that do just that.  This evening I spent a considerable amount of time talking with my internet service provider, explaining the exact cause of my problem, and asking what I could do to get past it.  We have Verizon FIOS, and generally have had good experience, with the exception of a few minor things.  Tonight proved to be one of those times.

The story usually goes that when I call for tech support (on the rare ocassions that I do), I have to fight through their voicemail system until I finally get to talk to a customer service rep.  I go into the call knowing that the person that answers the phone most likely is not going to have a solution to my problem.  This is mainly because I am a seasoned tech experienced in a wide variety of areas of the computer field, and have dealt with enough issues to be able to solve the majority of the issues myself.  But ocassionally there are things that I can't do, and I need to make the fateful call.  Most of the time is involves escalating the issue to the next level, or simply asking to speak with their supervisor because I'm just not getting anywhere with them.  This was how tonight's call went.

For those of you who are less technologically experienced, information is transferred around the internet using protocols (or rules) and ports (or communication channels).  The following is a list of commonly used ports, and what they are used for:

80 - Used for standard http communication for websites
443 - Used for secure SSL communication on websites
110 - Used for incoming email communication
25 - Used for outgoing email communication
21 - Used for copying files to a web server
3389 - Used for remote desktop connections

The problem that I had was that I could not send email from my work email account while I was connected to my home network. The reason for this is because Verizon blocks communication on port 25, which from the above paragraph you can see is the port that is used for outgoing emails. This is a big problem for not only me, but a lot of other people too who need to be able to send work email from home. I've known about this problem for some time now, and it hasn't really been a big issue until I had to send an email tonight and couldn't. My own personal website email uses an alternate outgoing port to send email on, so I've set up my email accounts on my computers to simply connect to that port. However, I can't change the port that my work email uses since our corporate headquarters controls those settings.

So I call Verizon FIOS tech support, and talk with a lady who obviously doesn't know enough about how the internet works to even be considered a viable option for the position she's been given.  At first she tells me that Verizon doesn't support data communication on port 25.  I told her that wasn't true since I could send email through my Verizon email account just fine.  She then says that 3 months ago Verizon changed things, and that I will need to change my settings at some point because it will quit working.  I explained to her that this still didn't make sense because I could send email through my Verizon account now, but can't send it through any other email account.  Essentially, if it works for one, it should work for others.  My next sentence provided further information as to why I could send email through my Verizon account, stating that it was due to the me authenticating with the server, allowing communication on port 25 to proceed.  She still insisted that Verizon no longer supports port 25, but to hold on and she would do some further checking.

After a brief hold, she comes back on the line.  She the proceeds to tell me that I need to contact the hardware manufacturer of my router so that they can unblock port 25.  In the same sentance she stated that Verizon is the one who blocks the port, but that my router manufacturer could unblock it.  At this point I couldn't believe what she was trying to say, or that she was even attempting to get me to believe it.  I responded with an explanation of what she just told me, and my reasoning on why that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  After listening to me, she agreed that it didn't make any sense.  A brief pause, and she asked me again to hold.  She came back and began telling me that there was nothing that Verizon could do to unblock the port, and that I needed to contact my corporate email server and have THEM allow me to communicate over port 25.  Once again this boggled my mind as to how she could even make a statement like that, and once again I explained it back to her, and she agreed with me again that it made no sense.

Towards the end of the conversation I further impressed upon her the knowledge that I have about computer networks and data communication.  I named off all of the above-mentioned ports, only to get a reply from her that she "doesn't know anything about port 80".  How can someone who is supposedly trained to deal with internet-related issues not know about port 80?  It's only the port that is used whenever anyone goes out to a website, and is the most widely used port on the internet.  I was astounded at the pure ignorance that I was dealing with.

Now, normally it takes a while before I ask to be transferred to a supervisor or someone higher on the food chain.  But as you can see I was getting absolutely nowhere with this lady, and I couldn't explain things any clearer than I already was.  So I asked to be transferred, hoping that the next person would understand what I was saying.  Her reply was that the person she transfers me to won't be able to do anything more than what she has done.  She then proceeds to tell me that during the majority of our conversation she has been messaging a Tier-3 tech who has been providing the answers for her.  Again, I didn't know what to say, other than this.  I told her that not being able to do something was different than having a policy that you're not allowed to do something.  I said that what she and her Tier-3 tech were doing was providing false information to Verizon's customers, with one of them knowingly doing so if what she was telling me was in fact the truth.  I then proceeded to inform her that I knew for a fact that this was indeed the case because Verizon business accounts do not have this limitation...only residential accounts.  Therefore, if port 25 was not blocked on business accounts, it is strictly a policy that it be blocked on residential accounts, and not a limitation that they have no control over.

At this point I again asked to be transfered up the chain.  She put me on hold, claiming that she would transfer me to a supervisor.  I should have known better, and ended up finding out that this was not going to be the case.  Instead, she transferred me to the billing department who had no clue what I was talking about, let alone how to fix it.  It is my belief that this was intentional and not simply a mistyping of the extension, but I obviously will never be able to prove it.  It just seems a little to coincidental that this is not the first time that something like this has happened in one of my calls to Verizon.  At any rate, I immediately asked to be transferred back to the tech support team, and specifically asked to be connected to a supervisor.  He apologized and stated that the best he could do was get me to the tech support department, and I would have to ask for a supervisor once connected.

Once I got tech support again, I again explained he situation.  The guy understood where I was coming from, and proceeded to pull up the notes from my previous conversation.  He then informed me that the lady I was talking with was indeed told by the Tier-3 tech that they were not authorized to unblock the port, and that it was a upper management decision to take that ability away from them, not alimitation of the hardware.  This was considerably different than what she relayed to me, which is the reason why I asked for a supervisor in the first place since I knew that she in fact knew nothing about what trying to convince me of.

In the end, my port is still blocked, I still can't send emails from my work account from home, and I apparently need to clear a block of time out of my day when I can elevate my issue up through the internal chain of command to a VP of support, from what I was told.  It's truly sad that we as customers have to go through this process when, if it wasn't for us in the first place, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, and all the other ISP's wouldn't even be in business.  We spend an enormous amount of money with these companies, but yet we have to deal with someone in a suit who thinks they have all the answers to put policies in that negatively affect so many people.  I could honestly see if I was running a web server or a mail server from my basement, racking up bandwidth numbers that rival Facebook and YouTube.  I can completely agree with limiting service to those types of people.  But to not allow someone to connect to their work email server, preventing them from accomplishing legitimate tasks is completely uncalled for.

11. October 2011 22:29 by Admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

Apple drops the ball

Today was the long-awaited iPhone announcement, and I must say that I am personally disappointed with what we were given.  For those of you who are aware of my tendency to lean in favor of Apple, and sometimes push people more towards their products than I have in the past, it may come as a surprise when I say that I will be waiting for the next version of the iPhone before I waste one of our upgrades on this one.

I've had every version of the iPhone, and i have to say that I have truly enjoyed the experience.  Aside from the limitations that Apple puts on customizations and a few other things, it really is the best phone on the market in my opinion.  Some may read that statement and ask "Then why do you have a Motorola Atrix running Android now?" and the answer is simple...I am a developer and wanted to start writing Android apps.  However, I have now put that on the back burner and want to focus more on iPhone/iPad apps instead.  That and the fact that I got my mom and my aunt and uncle to buy Android phones since they wanted smartphones and the iPhone was somewhat cost-prohibitive, so I needed to be familiar with Android so that I could answer their questions.

As a .Net developer I obviously can't switch everything to Mac and still be productive.  But I have my 15" MacBook Pro, iPad 2, Apple TV, and Missy has her 21" iMac, so Apple is definitely a big part of our lives.  Each time I upgrade phones, Missy is happy to get my previous model, and right now she has my iPhone 4 while Aubrey's iPod Touch is floating around somewhere too.  So the only reason I'm even considering getting another iPhone is so that I don't get any glaring looks when I need to test the latest version of my apps.

The new iPhone 4S is a good device, but its not enough to make me want to spend the money for it.  Sure the camera is better, but the iPhone 4 camera does a really great job with the pictures that I take.  We already have a video camera that does 1080p video, so that does nothing for me, and Siri may be nice, but I just don't see myself using it much.  The A5 processor is nice, but my iPad 2 already has that.  So really the only thing left is the new 64gb model, but I'm not spending $400 just to have it.  I guess the HSDPA speed is nice too, but if I really need that much speed my Verizon 4g MiFi is actually faster, so I can always connect to it.

So what would have made me think twice about buying the new iPhone?  For starters if it had at least a 4" screen like my Atrix, I would like that.  There were rumors of it happening, but Apple saw things differently I guess.  Also if the 64gb model was cheaper I may reconsider.  Memory prices are down right now, so at this point it's just price gouging by someone in the mix.  And since the iPod Touch 64gb model has been out for some time now, it's not like there's a massive R&D cost that needs recouped.  Then throw in some new feature that would be unexpected, and I may be singing a different tune.

With that said, it is a worthwhile upgrade if you're coming from the 3G or 3GS.  The 4(S) is a dramatic improvement over the previous versions in terms of speed, quality of display, and overall aesthetic features.  Aside from the antenna issue with the 4 (which I never really had any problems myself) the only other issue I have is the proximity sensor "thinks" that I moved the phone away from my face is I put it on my shoulder to use both hands for something.  Other than that, I do recommend the upgrade from the 3G(S) but not the 4 to 4S.

At this point though I'm going back to the iPhone, and sticking with the iPhone 4 until the next iteration arrives.  For now I picked one up on eBay in excellent condition, so I will once again be back in the iPhone clique.  I'll keep the Atrix as a backup, and for when I decide to pump out a couple apps, but for now it feels good to be back.


4. October 2011 23:28 by Admin | Comments (0) | Permalink