Fit to be Converted

FitBit Charge HR Broken Band Sitting here waiting for the sun to go down a bit before a run so figured this would be a good time to make another post.  Like the time before this and the time before that and the time before that we once again have another bird free post.  For the record I sure expected at least a few dozen fan emails thanking me for this drought of feathers based on the amount of hate mail that shows up when I relish in them for extended periods.  Nope, nada, no sir, completely empty.  Oh well, I try.  Anyway, today’s post focused on a topic that hasn’t been touched in a while… Service.  Truth be told, it is usually a good thing there hasn’t been a lot of discussion on this topic because it means there was generally good experiences.  Today is in support of that hypothesis.  That good experience may have been amplified due to a bad experience followed by a bad experience followed by a bad experience followed by a bad experience.  Regardless, the good aspect warranted a mention because it is rare that I change an opinion of a vendor after a bad experience.

Let me walk you through the history real quick.  For Christmas, I bought Linda a health tracker.  After studying review after review I picked a Garmin product.  It fit Linda’s price point, had what I thought was the key features.  After talking about it she decided she would like the heart rate feature available on other models.  This resulted in re-investigating the options and deciding upon the Fitbit Charge HR.  Only problem .. it wasn’t available yet.  Deciding to pre-order we sat back and waited for it to arrive.  Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait…. after two months I sent them an email asking what the hold up.  Their response – we said 8-10 weeks..fine, I was at the 8 weeks – should have assumed it was going to be the worst case – strike one.  At 10 weeks I get an email saying.. sorry, we are going to be late – strike two, however, because of the delay we are taking 20% off your cost… some redemption.  It did finally show up and after some hardships getting it sync’d Linda was quickly tracking her steps, heart beat and whatever else that thing monitors.

Things were apparently going great until Linda informed me the strap had broken at the clasp!  strike 3.  This is not what I wanted to hear but it shouldn’t be too hard to get a new band, I’ve seen packs of Fitbit bands with different colors etc. at Best Buy so we’ll just go to Amazon and pick up a new plum one.   That was a total failure.  Not only were there no plum bands available.. there were NO bands available at all for the Charge HR.  I was flabbergasted – who would sell a product that you couldn’t replace the element that had the most likely fault point.  Bad engineering gets an automatic STRIKE FOUR – whiff on the pitch and get tagged out for good measure.  Only option was to contact Fitbit directly and at least voice our displeasure.  This task I gave to Linda (for Fitbit’s benefit – I was way over the edge).

Linda called them up (after spending forever to find their support number) and explained the situation.  Their response was something to the effect that it shouldn’t do that.  Duh!  They then started an information gathering phase along with an email address where they sent an incident number.  I am not exactly sure how the transaction on the phone went because I was not able to hear the entire conversation, but basically they agreed to replace the strap – sweet.  I remember her trying to confirm if she just waits for a box to send the bad one back in and then wait until they sent a new one.  That is when things took a change for the better.  The support person corrected her and told her to simply write the number they provided on a piece of paper and take a picture of the damaged strap with it.  Once done, simply email it back to him while he waited on the phone.  Wow, that was definitely a new approach.  Once he received the email he informed her a new one would be sent out immediately.  Oh, by the way, by “new” one I mean an entire new Fitbit .. not just the strap.  I will contend they did screw up their design since the strap CANNOT be replaced on this model without getting an entire new unit.  In closing, Linda asked them if there was a charge involved .. NOPE.  Totally free to us and they didn’t even want the broken one back even though it was just the strap that had the issue.  The unit was working fine other than that.  I thought that was a nice recovery for Fitbit to the point I actually took them off my quasi-ban list.  Other than the troubles getting it, Linda likes the Charge HR and seems to be giving her the data she wants.  She likes to tell me how many steps she was able to crank out for the day or high her heartbeat got during an agility run.

On a side note, the Fitbit is trying to move in on our relationship.  She woke up one day and the display said SMOOCHES.  Back off Charge!! – You’ve been warned

A Small Big Mistake

Howdy folks, time for a quick change of pace.  Figured you needed a break from the barrage of Indy Zoo pictures that have been thrown at you as of late.  Randomly selecting a topic from the blog idea list resulted in today’s topic of Service.  The irony is we usually spend our time railing against poor service against the larger corporations – the Bigs if you will.  These larger outfits can usually weather any annoying complaints by their customers merely based on the overall volume of business they do.  However, it is my sad fortune to recount a disheartening experience with a local establishment – or as they are commonly referred to… the Small.  You may not know, but I do try to support Smalls possible.  By definition I am therefore willing to sacrifice a little convenience and likely pay a little more for a given item due to being unable to leverage the high volume discounts of the Bigs.  The trade off is we benefit a local establishment and in turn the larger community as a whole.  The benefit to us – Smalls are more attentive to pleasing their customers and the service is rarely anything but outstanding.  Let me repeat that for emphasis –  Smalls are more ATTENTIVE to PLEASING their customers and the SERVICE is rarely anything but OUTSTANDING.

There are three Smalls I focus on supporting every chance I get.  One is Running Central where almost all my running gear comes from.  Although they have since moved a little closer to where I live, it is still a healthy trek to make it there.  With the ever increasing gas prices (thanks current administration) this can add up,  especially since we have a Big sporting store less than 15 minutes from my house.  The staff is all runners themselves and are very helpful with all my running/nutrition/therapy questions.  True to form, their prices tend to be slightly higher but walking into a store where they greet you with a smile and know you personally easily trumps that downside.  Another Small Linda and I enjoy supporting is Emack and Bolio’s.  If you have not heard of them, they are a gourmet ice cream store.  Ours is actually located very close to Running Central making trips to get running stuff extra sweet.  One could argue that it is a chain, but it is locally owned and the two guys that own it always greet us personally and make our experience quite pleasurable. If you are in the Peoria area, get yourself to Peoria Heights – you will not be disappointed (especially you Cold Stone people).  The third small is a place in Bartonville called Presley’s Outdoors.  They are a sporting goods, hunting, camping outdoorsy outfitter.  Now getting to this location takes us close to 40 minutes and more importantly I pass right by two competing Bigs to get there.  Not to mention 40 minutes in a slightly angled trajectory gets me to a Mega (as in pull from far and wide corporations).  It would be significantly easier to purchase most of my goods at the Bigs I pass, but again… the intent is to help the Smalls survive in a competitive market.  Last year I made some significant purchases at this store and although I have not gone back and tallied up the actual numbers (YET) the smaller purchases likely added up to a pretty penny as well.  An amount that would represent a premium over the same purchases at a Big or Mega.  From a business perspective, this inherently poses a risk.  Breaking the trust or tarnishing the brand can result in loss of loyalty – loss of loyalty can make that 10 minute trek look a whole lot more appealing than a 40 minute trek.  If you can obtain equally bad service in less time .. less time ALWAYS wins out.

Hit the jump to find out how a mighty Small crumbled

Continue reading A Small Big Mistake

The I’ll Pass Bro Shop

Okay, it’s been awhile since I ranted about the concept of good service but I’m full to the brim with disgust at the moment.   Since I am down some posts this month (ugh),  figured it was time to let off some steam.  So, let’s do some associative math.

Profit =  Money Gained – Money Spent

Money Gained = Customer Money Spent

Customer Money Spent = Customer Satisfaction (yes, this is dependent on the industry since there are clear examples of customers spending money that are not happy about it at all)

so by association:

Profit = Customer Satisfaction.

Are there really any business people out there that do not understand the fact that satisfied customers lead to more profits?  Granted a loss may not be realized at the time the bad service is experienced (again, because there are some transactions that occur because there are no other options at that point in time), but looking forward, is that same customer going to subject herself to another bad experience or seek a more customer friendly vendor?  Thinking this is probably covered in Business Class 001.   I write that, yet I now have had 4 experiences this week alone that brings that into question (actually it should have been 3 but I broke my rule which allowed one of them to happen – more on that later).

Three of these experiences are directly related to a decision to increase my zombie survival coefficient – well, that and disgust over reading public statements by Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel who apparently hasn’t read the US Constitution and thinks he can restrict my rights to bear arms – but I digress.  Needless to say I did some research and had a general idea of what I wanted to purchase.  There were some questions on features and model variations but figured those could be easily handled by the expert at the store.  So off I went with Linda to check out the local offerings.  First off was Gander Mountain, a chain Sportsman/Outfitter that generally carries a number of different makes and models.  Up to the counter we went with a pretty high degree of excitement (well, I was excited, Linda .. not so much).  Their clerks were busy with other people so I walked over to the area I was interested in and started looking at the different options.  After exhausting everything I could find out about the different models and trying my best to match them up with my catalog, I turned back to get some help.  Still nobody available – more time to double check the catalog and pick a few up to check the weights and feel… anybody?  nope… guess I’ll try to figure out which one was posted in their ad we saw at the entrance to the store… ummm .. can’t even match that one.. finally I caught the attention of a lady working behind the counter.  Great, now to get down to business.

and to do that you need to hit the jump

Continue reading The I’ll Pass Bro Shop

The Airing of Grievances

Before my relatives panic, this post is not the airing of FAMILY grievances, but rather a small collection of annoyances that have been piling up on my desk over the last couple of months awaiting an opportunity to get them posted on the blog.  It occurred to me today that this would be a perfect time to get this done.  And why is this the perfect time… well, in tribute to the classic Seinfeld episode, it’s “Festivus for the Rest of Us”.  Taking the risk this post will make me out to be a heartless, puppy kicking grinch, I begin…

  • To Peoria news stations, stop reporting on the fictitious high unemployment rate the area is supposedly experiencing.  Why do I believe this is a waste of air time?  Well, this opinion is due mainly to one indicator that is almost always a positive side effect of high unemployment – the Service Meter.  High unemployment by definition implies there are multiple applicants for just about every job – especially in the service industry.  This in turn means the employer has a choice when hiring.  For example, an employer, could say, choose an individual that has higher math skills to fill a numbers related opening like a cashier.  Additionally, it could be a tipping point if one applicant is very positive and cheerful for a position that interacts directly with a customer.  But alas, this doesn’t seem to be the case around here.

    Example #1: A few of us went out to lunch at a local restaurant that begins with an A and ends with an S that serves cheap Italian food.  After completing our meals we headed to the lobby area to pay.  A friend ahead of me was joking about the condition of his penny looked (looks like it had been found by a weekend warrior with a metal detector) and was glad he could finally get rid of it.  It occurred to me that I didn’t have a penny meaning my change due would likely result his penny heading to me.  I gave the cashier my $6 for the $5.27 bill.  As soon as she rang it in, a friend behind me gave her two pennies to apply to my payment (jokingly to prevent me from getting the bad penny).  What proceeded stunned us both.  She literally stared at her register tray picking up random coins and looking dumbfounded.  After about 30 seconds my friend told her the change would be 75 cents which was met with “Thanks, I’m just not good at this thing”  I would have laughed if I wasn’t mortified.  Of course, this is the same restaurant that charges more for two half loafs of bread than one whole loaf (trust me, there is a picture of that menu coming in a future blog).

    Example #2: Linda and I went to a Burger King to get a quick bite to eat while shopping in the area.  After struggling to get my order taken (see the hamburger grievance below) we proceeded to wait for our order to be filled.  We waited and waited and waited while they worked on getting the chicken sandwich cooked – note, we were the ONLY people in there.  Meanwhile, they have my hamburger done sitting on the non-heated ready shelf.  Pretty soon the manager grabs up our fries from the heated fry shelf, slaps it on a tray and sticks it up on the non-heated shelf and proceeded to head for the bathroom.  For the next 10 minutes I stood there staring at my cooling fries and hamburger.  Eventually the chicken finishes cooking.  Sure enough the chicken and hamburger are put on the now cold fry tray and handed to us.  Needless to say, we demanded warm fries (note, manager never did come back).

    Example #3: We made a quick run to McDonalds to get something to drink before Linda’s doctor’s appointment.  The drive-thru was pretty busy (maybe 8 cars lined up) so we went inside to make our order (where there was only one party ahead of us).  Our total order was one small hot chocolate and one small Sprite.  I didn’t clock it, but I had to wait over 15 minutes for them to actually make my hot chocolate.  That 15 minutes actually felt more like 30 minutes having to endure their conversations:

    Hit the jump to see the rest of the grievances:
    Continue reading The Airing of Grievances

Before and After – A Marketing Disaster

As an admission, I am officially behind schedule on the blog but we need to delegate blame to a guilt trip a certain person placed on me.  Apparently queuing up a few posts is second on the evil meter only to kicking an elderly woman down the stairs because she is impeding your timeline to rob a convenience store.  Being haunted by the stigma this would bring to my parents, I was forced to immediately stop using the post buffer to compensate for busy times of the month.  Of course, now I am left foregoing all charity work and our annual prairie dog mission of peace to free up enough time to bring you this month’s quota.  When those dogs take up arms and start ravaging our countryside that person is going to have some apologizing to do!

I’m to close to completing my 4th year of blogging to blow my quota now, so it’s time to get to it.  Today’s post comes to us courtesy (and by that, I mean lack of courtesy) of Bridgestone.

As a little level setting, Linda and I finally gave up dealing with all the annoying problems we were having with our Dodge Durango.  The car was actually fun to drive when it was actually working but it was plagued with electrical problems.  This was similar to problems we had with our Grand Cherokees.  During our hunt for a new car we were ignored by a dealership while trying to buy an Explorer (shocking at the time because they were in the middle of the economy crisis and cash for junkers was in full swing).  After a few other failed dealerships we broke down and checked again at Dodge – guess what, they decided to get out of the large SUV business with what appeared to be a failed attempt with the Aspen.  Frustrated, we stopped into Toyota, had a wonderful experience and promptly came home with a brand new SUV (built in San Antonio so hold the complaints).  This vehicle has been mechanically free of errors since we bought it with the exception of the special deer magnet (link here).  BMW could learn a few things from this automaker (link here).

Now is good time for the BEFORE shot:

hit the jump to read “The rest of the story”.

Continue reading Before and After – A Marketing Disaster

“You Know … I Can’t Do Basic Math”

Cough howdy cough sneaze folks!  I have fallen victim to a summer plague given to me by a certain someone who will go namelindess.  As a result, most of my nights have been spent laying on the couch turning my brain to mush with reality TV – apparently this is the only programming on TV these days.  This has been extremely frustrating seeing as how it has prevented me from some important training runs.  The good news is my steady diet of vitamin C coupled with heavy doses of NyQuil have finally gained the upper hand.  Unfortunately, this hell spawn has reduced me to a short post today (besides, my posts of late have tended to be a little verbose so it is probably for the best).

Tonight’s post is as fresh as it gets folks.  This didn’t happen a year ago like my vacation posts, or even a month ago.  Nope, this entry is based on an experience that happened a mere 4 hours ago.  It isn’t so much one aspect of the event that caused my quandary as it is the contradictory logic involved.  Let’s get to the details shall we?  Linda likes to refer to me as Mr. PVC (actually that is probably one of the nicer monikers she uses).  This is due to the fact I tend to head straight for the white plastic whenever I need to translate a crazy idea into something tangible.  Take for example the Halloween decoration (link) or the latest example of the new bird feeder (link).  She nixed my idea of building our house out of the versatile product.  Needless to say, another project is at hand which involves the need to interchange certain parts.  A few hours in the PVC aisle solved the problem which included the three piece coupling pictured above.  A late design change (after a prototype flaw) required me to purchase 5 more of these couplings to perfect the design.  Not wanting to get confused with the half million (just a slight exaggeration) different coupling options available, I decided to take one of them into the store with me.

After work today, I decided to stop by the local Lowe’s store and finish the material purchases.  Conditioned by the annoying Walmart and Best Buy greeting system coupled with Sam’s Club’s “everyone that leaves the store is a thief” model has made me overly sensitive to causing a shoplifting accusation.  Big thanks to those three stores for making an honest person worry about this – all they need to do is add a TSA patdown when you come in and I’ll be turning Amish.  Holding my little coupler openly in my hand (picture above is almost lifesize), I waited in line at the return desk to get a sticker or something to indicate that I had already purchased it.  My turn came up and I held out my coupler and asked him if they needed to mark it.  The clerk looked at me and said “Oh no, we don’t sticker anything, just go right ahead”.  Ummm okay, that is both refreshing and concerning at the same time.  Hey, this company trusts me … or is it Hey, we have a sucker on the hook.  I decided to give them some credit and went with the former assessment.  Fifteen minutes later I had built the 5 new connectors and headed to the register.  I placed the couplers on the counter and made it clear to the clerk there were actually 10 end parts and 5 middle parts so again, no one thought I was trying to sneak something by them.  At the same time I showed her the one I had brought in and told her I brought that one in with me and put it in my front shirt pocket.  She didn’t hesitate a second and proceeded to ring up the 5 new couplers.  Wow, Lowe’s appears to have a well understood “trust the customer” policy.  There was probably a goofy grin on my face the whole time she was ringing up the items…. and then she hit the total button.

Hit the jump to read the rest about the rest of the experience.

Continue reading “You Know … I Can’t Do Basic Math”

The Guys Guide to Bathroom Etiquette – A Work in Progress

Updated:6/16/2011 – Bathroom etiquette has been a pretty hot topic as of late with some of my friends… that is when we can tear ourselves away from discussing the drama of Weinergate or Paris Hilton’s latest reality show.  There appears to be some confusion on some of the guy codes associated with the bathroom and I blame it all on our education system.  Just kidding, we all know it’s the fault of liberals.  Regardless, this situation must be corrected or there will be big trouble come the next Rapture prediction.  Clearly god will not take the risk of someone crossing streams or heaven forbid someone talking on their phone while in the stall.  In an attempt to document the major rules, I decided to go ahead and make a reference post…. and to give my friends the ability to quickly look up some protocols before using the bathroom at work.  Amazingly, I was able to find some notes I made about 10 years ago on this subject to use as a starting point (some of the points on that old list were cryptically written and I am having some trouble understanding what those entries were for – needless to say I may have been under the influence of alcohol when that was first penned).  Please post comments if you need a further explanation, desire to contest a rule, want to add some additional rules or maybe even need a call on a sticky situation.

Hit the Jump to see the Guy Code Rules for Bathroom Etiquette

Continue reading The Guys Guide to Bathroom Etiquette – A Work in Progress

A Double Helping

Linda: “Hey, I thought your little ego stroking blog was suppose to have trivial little observations on it with some meaningless babble about how it almost brought you to tears or something?”

Me: “Yep”

Linda: “Well, it looks like all you’ve been doing is barfing up photography related crap post after post”

Me: “uh, Sorry!”

Linda: “Don’t be sorry, get off your slacker butt and give the 3 people who actually read this drivel what they want”

Me: “K”

Well, that was awkward, but as always, she’s right.  I had to dust off my little blog idea notepad and fire up Photoshop to work on the required accompanying image.  Oh, for the record, I don’t cry … just wanted to get that out there for the record.  So today’s intriguing observation actually occurred a number of months back in the Menard’s parking lot.  Linda and I had done a little shopping and had made it back to the truck.  Okay, it is impossible for me to do a “little” shopping at Menards thanks to it being like a giant candy store for me.  Anyway, I had backed out of the parking spot and was proceeding up the aisle when we came upon an elderly man pushing a lumber cart with two full size plywood sheets on top.  Based on the brief time it took to pass him, it became apparent that he was struggling with the load trying to balance the weight of the plywood while negotiating the upward slant of the parking lot.  This scene actually hit a special chord with me.  Since owning our first home, I have been purchasing plywood, drywall and pressboard to complete one project after another.  Probably 90% of the time I am alone when the materials are bought and eventually hauled out to the truck.  I wouldn’t consider myself the strongest person out there, but I work hard to stay in some form of shape (thanks to a commitment in college to never become a stereotype of my geek profession).  Regardless of my bench strength, it is always a struggle to get those 4×8 sheets into the truck alone.  Add wind to that equation and you have plenty of fodder for a funniest home video show.  Not once has anyone offered to provide any assistance in this effort.  This doesn’t bother me on the receiving end, but I’ve always recognized this lumber battle and make it a point to offer my assistance to anyone in a similar situation (especially if it is WINDY!)

If I struggle with this type of material, clearly this individual was going to have similar issues.  After making my way past the guy, I pulled into an empty parking space and jumped out to lend a hand.  As soon as I got out of my truck and headed towards the man, another guy in the exact same truck (both in color and model) pulls into the empty space next to mine and gives me a nod of confirmation.  He had seen the scene and made the exact same decision.  By the time we had made it back to the old guy he had reached his vehicle which turned out to be a U-Haul truck.  The other guy asked him if he wanted the wood in the rental truck (mainly to confirm that we had the right vehicle).  The old guy was a little surprised and hesitantly said yes.  The other guy opened the truck up and jumped in while I grabbed the plywood and tossed it up to him.  The old guy thanked us for our help (still had a look of surprise on his face) as we put the cart back in the corral and headed back to our trucks.

It was an interesting coincidence that two people in the exact same vehicle saw the exact same scene and made the exact same decision to help someone out.  However, what really held my thought was how this situation even came to be in the first place.  I can understand nobody witnessing the guy getting the plywood onto the cart based on my experience that there is never anyone in Menards when you need help with something.  If one of the other employees had not assessed this situation, clearly the cashier could have sized up the customer and called in some help.  Apparently not the case!  In summary, it felt good on the soul to help my fellow man, but left a sour taste in my mouth due to the lack of customer attention from one of my favorite stores.   The good news of all this is my Rapture quotient should have gained a few points to the better… of course, that really doesn’t mean much anymore does it (ha)

Pseudo WIT: I Think I’ll Pass

It’s been awhile since I’ve followed up the introductory WIT (What is This) category.  To help remedy this situation, today’s post is about a topic that made us go WIT.  This is actually a pseudo WIT in the sense you do not have to wait until the next post to see the answer, but it isn’t something you want to really know what it is (foreshadowing).  So with that, I give you images of today’s two WIT specimens.



I’ll give you some time to ponder our two candidates today.  When your mind is good and lathered up, hit the jump to learn what it [they in this case] is [are].

Continue reading Pseudo WIT: I Think I’ll Pass

Snowmageddon ’11: When Accu Does Not Stand for Accuracy

Take a gander at this weather forecast from our local Peoria Journal Star on January 30th 2011.

Pay particular attention to the Monday and Tuesday forecast.  Just taking a close look at the icons (which is exactly what I do 99% of the time) you would think that it will be cloudy on Monday with a few flurries and a mixture of sun and clouds on Tuesday.  This seemed a tad odd based on a report I had heard a few minutes earlier regarding a large front that was heading our way.  Maybe a closer inspection is required here.  Monday: Mostly cloudy, a BIT of snow; colder (okay match with icon).   Tuesday: Mostly cloudy, snow or flurries possible (this does not match the selected icon seeing as how I see no flurry symbols).  Note, this forecast was in our Sunday paper making the Monday and Tuesday forecast slightly harder than looking at a rock on the days in question.  At worst case you could look to the West, see what is happening on the plains and assume it will be on top of Illinois shortly.  But how could this be wrong, it’s from ACCUWEATHER (tm’d none the less).  For the entire rest of the day the local news and CNN were declaring “The Big One”  was on its way and would be hitting Illinois starting Monday and then pounding the entire state into submission on Tuesday.  How can this be, I’ve got ACCUWEATHER telling me to plan a picnic?   To top it off, the TV weatherman literally told everyone he expected us to be trapped in our houses on Wednesday.

So, want to know how accurate ACCUWEATHER’s forecast was?  How should I put this?  Let’s go with “A Pile of Feces”.  Monday actually turned out somewhat right in the sense it snowed a few flakes, but essentially nothing at all.  That day was not the one I wanted to focus on.  Tuesday started out with a rain and sleet mixture around 11:30am.  Shortly thereafter can only be described as a polar bear’s wet dream or an Inconvenient Truth for the gloBULL warming clown Al Gore.  From that moment on until early Wednesday morning, Peoria was in the midst of whiteout rivaling records set back in 1967 (a fantastic year by the way).  Once the storm moved out, we were left with about 18″ of the white stuff.

Score one for the TV forecast and a big fat ZERO for ACCUWEATHER. Sure enough we were snowed in. The plows never even made it out to us in the country until late Wednesday afternoon. Concerned about the amount of snow we were getting on Tuesday, I decided to do a pre-emptive plow late Tuesday afternoon in hopes of leaving enough space to put the rest of the snow. After two hours of this, the driveway was relatively cleared, but filling up fast from the blizzard. A last look outside before hitting the sack confirmed that the early plow was a wise decision. Well, a wise decision until I woke up the next day to discover all my work had been humbled by Mr. Snow Miser. Crap!!!

Hit the jump to see more pictures of Snowmaggedon

Continue reading Snowmageddon ’11: When Accu Does Not Stand for Accuracy