Just For Fun: Introducing Milton

Just for fun, my favorite daughter and I introduce you to Milton, an electronic game produced by Milton Bradley around 1980. This may well have been the first talking electronic game not primarily designed as a teaching aid. (Yes, I know Speak And Spell predates it.) If it wasn’t, it was one of the first at any rate. Considering the technology of the day and what they did with it, it’s pretty phenomenal. Here’s the Wikipedia page all about Milton. Enjoy this blast from the past…I know I did!

HumanWare: Final Resolution

This morning, I received a call from Renee Gosselin, HumanWare’s customer service manager, regarding our email communications over the past week.

First, she apologized several times for the way Humanware communicated with me. She was on vacation and was unaware that no one had called me prior to sending the email from last Friday. Reading my second email must have clarified this to her, anyway, as it is true that no one had called to tell me what the problem was. This, Renee tells me, is what was supposed to have happened. In theory apparently, before the email I got went out, I was supposed to have received a phone call. I never received one. Even so, she assures me that their email template will be updated.

Second, my problem was liquid damage around the play button. She explained that she was able to examine the damage; I’m not sure if this was through the mentioned pictures of the damage or the actual unit. So, I guess it must have gotten splashed at some point. Fair enough. She explained that sometimes, such damage can be easily repaired, but sometimes not, and sometimes they will repair rather than replace if they are easily able to do so, although such damage is not covered under warranty, being as it’s accidental damage and not a product defect. (I did not suggest that perhaps some additional protection against liquid damage might go into the product design…like sealing the spaces around buttons maybe?)

Third, she has offered to replace my Stream free of charge, due to the poor way this case was handled on their part. I should be receiving this replacement sometime next week.

Finally, I thanked her for resolving this case, and for her apology for the way this was handled. I then asked specifically about the problems I mentioned with deaf-blind customers not getting assistance when they called using relay operators. She said that this shouldn’t be happening, and that they even do internal calls where they set up test calls pretending to be relay operators. All the techs and service people should be aware of how to handle these calls, and it’s important that they do so, since they do have deaf-blind customers and even specific products for the deaf-blind. They even have at least one deaf-blind person in product development, so clearly this shouldn’t be a problem. She suspects that there may be a problem with the receptionists, who are sometimes students, or in any case, may not be waiting long enough or don’t handle relay calls correctly, and she will address this with that department. Finally, she tells me that any such problems should be brought directly to her attention, and she will handle these concerns personally. She did not, however, give me an extension or a direct email address. She wrote to me from the info at HumanWare address. Also, individual email addresses appear to take the form first name.last name at humanware, so one can try that route.

Renee seems very sincere about changing their customer service interactions. I’d like to take her at her word on this, but I think it’s incumbent on the rest of us to do so as well. If you have less than great experiences with Humanware’s customer service, get in touch with Renee. Hold her to her commitment. I, for one, am eager for their service to equal the quality of their products, and I look forward to that happening more.

HumanWare Follow-up: Too Little Too Late? You Be The Judge

Four business days after my initial email from my previous post went out to Humanware, I finally received a response. Without further comment, as I think both their response and my response to it speak for themselves,, here is the latest exchange. I referred to Renee by first name, in part because I am informal, and in part because calling a male Ms. or a female Mr. would probably be even more offensive.

Humanware’s representative said:

Mr. Brannan,
Let me start off by saying that I am sorry to hear that we offended you.   We do appreciate  your constructive criticism and we will take the time to re-evaluate  both our marketing and email messages. Please be assured that HumanWare cares about its customers and we are determined to continue to offer quality products and service.   Feedback from our customers will help us achieve this objective.
Sincerely,
 

                                                       
   
Renée Gosselin
    Directeur, Relations Clients
    Customer Relations Director
   
 

I responded:

Hello Renee:

Thank you for your note, and for your apology on behalf of HumanWare. I’m sorry to say, however, that you seem to have missed at least some of the point. Perhaps it’s my fault for not being clear, so I will attempt to clarify.

First, you failed to answer the important question relating to my case specifically, which should be simple, seeing as how you have pictures. What, exactly, was the damage to my particular unit? I still don’t know, and, of course, this is a fairly major point of contention.

Second, while it’s true that I was offended on a personal level, it is as true, and more important, that I felt that not just I, but your entire blind customer base, was disrespected. You disrespected us, not only by not providing information that it should have been obvious would have been helpful, but you failed to provide said information while at the same time being accusatory and confrontational. Just one of those two things would be bad enough on its own, but both in the same Email is pretty inexcusable, especially from a company that should know better.

In part, your email says:
“Please be assured that HumanWare cares about its customers and we are determined to continue to offer quality products and service.”

Unfortunately, I have no proof that this statement is true. Your saying so doesn’t make it so. In fact, since the community has gotten wind of our exchange, I have received several public affirmations that, in fact, quite the opposite is true, and that bad customer service is not uncommon. I had at least one person tell me that she now refuses to purchase Humanware products because service personnel refused to accept calls from a relay operator for the deaf, and that she couldn’t get service until a hearing friend called on her behalf. While this was, apparently, several years ago, it certainly does not back up your claim that HumanWare cares about its customers. It makes my exchange seem petty and insignificant by comparison.

Again, thank you for writing, though I would appreciate a fuller explanation of the damage not covered under your warranty, if only for my own education.

Cordially,

What To Do About HumanWare?

Back in August, I purchased a second generation Victor Reader Stream from HumanWare at a promotional price. While I thought that the included accessories were a bit stingy (a case with no belt clip and no SD card), I thought the device itself was well designed and well executed. The user interface was a worthy follow-up to the first generation. It has easy-to-use controls that are intuitive, and really, I liked mine so much that I often used it instead of other players I have around here, including ones on the iPhone.

Back in February, my Stream developed a problem. Some important controls (play, fast forward, rewind, and the sleep timer button) started acting strangely. They would either intermittently not work, or they would intermittently act as though multiple buttons were pressed at the same time, or one button was pressed multiple times. Both hoping the problem was a fluke and would clear itself up, and also because I had more important things to deal with at the time, I put the player aside. When, recently, I pulled it out again and the problem persisted, and my other irons in the fire were well into resolution, I called HumanWare tech support and sent my Stream off for repair. They received it Tuesday, and I received the following Email from them today:

Recently you sent us equipment for repair.

After evaluation,  the technician found out that the damages caused to your unit cannot be repaired.
We will have to replace the unit.
He also found out that these damages are not manufacturing issue and so cannot be covered under warranty.  We took some pictures.  If you need copy of them, please let us know.

Please find attached a copy of the quotation for a replacement unit.  As soon as we receive your purchase order or payment we will proceed the order and the unit will be sent to you.

Please take note that after receiving this quote, if you do not wish to proceed with the replacement unit, HumanWare will return the unrepaired unit and freight will be at your expense or a diagnostic fee, if applicable.  In case you do not require the unrepaired unit back, HumanWare will dispose of it for you. Failure to reply will lead to unit disposal after a period of 3 months following quote issuance.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the customer service department.

Sincerely,

Customer Service,
HumanWare Inc.

My first reaction wasn’t disappointment over my problem not being covered under warranty. (I did read the attached PDF and saw that I can get my out of warranty problem replaced for half the cost of a new unit.) No, my first reaction was to marvel at the sheer rudeness of the email. The problem wasn’t a manufacturing problem, it’s your fault, and we’ve got pictures to prove it. Rude and confrontational all on its own, but remember, this is a company whose primary audience includes people who are blind. This specific product’s main users, and buyers, are people who are blind. Those would be people who cannot see pictures, no matter how damning the evidence.

Of course, if this were merely an oversight, it might be excused, but it’s a pattern. HumanWare has put out several marketing campaigns with product teasers that were purely visual in nature. Hey, look at the picture of our new product! We won’t tell you what it is, nor will we describe the picture, but you’ll love it! Oh, by the way, it’s a braille display, we find out later. Really?

I should stress here that I don’t find fault with their conclusion necessarily. After all, I could have accidentally done something or other to break the thing. That sort of thing happens sometimes, in spite of our best intentions. My problem is with their delivery, which struck me as abysmally bad customer service. I therefore replied with the following:

Hello:

Thank you for your Email regarding my damaged Victor Reader Stream. While I appreciate your telling m that the repair is not covered under warranty, not being a manufacturing defect, I can’t say I appreciate your delivery. You have pictures and are happy to send them? Great! This would do me, as a blind person, and by the way one of your primary markets, any good, exactly how? Would it really have taken you that much more time to have explained, in plain language, what the problem was? “Unfortunately, it looks as though your Stream got splashed with water.” Or “Unfortunately, we found foreign matter in your play button.” Or perhaps, “Unfortunately, a peanut butter sandwich will not fit in the SD card slot.”? Really, an Email that says, “Sorry, it’s your problem, and we have pictures to prove it” is rude and confrontational, besides being terribly unhelpful to a blind person, who is, I may stress, part of one of your primary markets. I would suggest that this is an unacceptably poor level of customer service.

Allow me, if I may, to craft an Email that you may use in future dealings of this nature. I’ll even give this to you at absolutely no cost. Feel free to use it in full or in part. Do not, however, use the Email you sent me in future dealings of this nature.

———-Cut———-

Dear [Insert customer name here]:

We are writing to follow up with you regarding your recent repair request, with RMA #XXXXXX.

After inspecting your [product name], our technicians have determined that the damage cannot be repaired, and a full replacement of the unit will be required. We found the following problems:

* There was foreign matter dropped into the controls.
* Liquid damage from [water, coffee, etc.] is apparent.
* A peanut butter sandwich will not fit in the SD card slot. Please do not attempt to put one there.
* A crack in the control board indicates a drop from a significant height.
[And so forth]

If you wish to inspect the damage as outlined above, we can provide photos upon request.

Unfortunately, this damage is not covered under the limited manufacturer’s warranty, as it is not a manufacturing defect. Please see the full statement of warranty here:
[insert URL to limited warranty]

Since your [product] was returned to us within the warranty period, we are prepared to offer you a non-warranty replacement at half retail price plus applicable shipping and tax. Please reference [invoice number] when you phone if you would like to take advantage of this offer. For your records, we have attached an accessible PDF with full offer details. This offer is good for 90 days from today.

Alternatively, if you wish to have your damaged [product] back, we require that you pay return shipping charges. If you do not wish to take advantage of our replacement offer and do not want your damaged [product] back, we will be happy to responsibly dispose of it for you at no additional charge.

If you have any questions or concerns, please phone or Email. We are available weekdays from [range of hours], Eastern time.

We appreciate your business. Thank you for being a HumanWare customer.

Sincerely,
Joe Schmoe
HumanWare Customer Service

———-CUT———-

Let me stress here that I have no doubt that you really do have pictures of the damage. I also have no problem believing that the problem is not covered under the warranty terms, not because I know what caused the problem (I don’t), but because, let’s face it, stuff happens, sometimes stuff even happens of which one is unaware. It would, therefore, be really helpful if you could tell me, in plain language, the nature of the problem, so that I know what caused the keys to do the strange things they were doing. I would really appreciate this information.

I really love the Stream. It’s a fantastic product. It does what it does very, very well. It is well designed and easy to use, and I’ve found that I have started using it in favor of other book players I have around here, including ones on the iPhone. So, yes, it really is a great product for the tech savvy blind guy, too. I would even like to get a second one for my wife, who has just lost all of her remaining vision, has very little feeling in her fingers, and is not at all technology friendly. She has a first gen Stream and likes it a lot, and I know she’d like the new one even more. Unfortunately, due to the nature of your communication, I honestly don’t know what I want to do about either a replacement or a second unit. How can I, in good conscience, support a company with so little regard for its target audience? After all, your Email is only one of several such instances; I reference the several years of product teasers (at least one of which was for a braille display) that were purely visual in nature. Can I, indeed *should* I, support a company who, essentially, thumbs its collective nose at the population it purports to serve?

Cordially,

Whether HumanWare was right or wrong in their determination isn’t really the point. Well, I guess it kind of is, because I have no idea either way, having been given no information about it. But even if they were correct in their assessment, their handling of how I was updated on my repair status left pretty much everything to be desired. In short, their Email was a great example of how not to do customer relations. If you do customer relations this way, stop it. Please. Just don’t.

The Budcast: Fopydo Scanning Stand

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted anything like a podcast. True, this isn’t much like much of anything, but I wanted to get it out as soon as possible, without a lot of fuss. So, in my usual, casual, unedited and sloppy style, here it is.

The folks at Fopydo have developed some low-cost stands for general photo taking and document digitizing with an iPhone, tablet, or digital camera. After expressing some interest in these, I was able to test some of their offerings. The latest is a stand that Fopydo has designed specifically with the needs of blind and visually impaired OCR users in mind. At a projected selling price of $10, this is going to be a hard one to beat. In this latest Budcast, I describe the stand and put it briefly through its paces.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the stand, or about a projected availability date, drop Fopydo an Email as directed on their web site. Tomek is definitely interested in our needs and in making a product that will be of benefit to us.

One thing I forgot to mention in the recording is that there are holes in the back of the stand to assist with raising the stand to capture larger documents. These guide holes help to ensure that both sides of the stand are level and the height is predictable. The guide holes are on both sides where the L-shaped base wires fit in the back of the stand.

Fora slow news day: Verizon Continues to Give Me the Shaft

Update: Verizon just called to tell me that, miraculously, they’ve finally worked out that, yes, the phone arrived, and yes, they were able to finally authorize my credit. Of course, I only got apologies for the delay and assurances that, yes, I was correct, there really was no excuse for it taking this long. *Whew*

I just sent the following Email to our local NBC affiliate. Feel free to share with whoever you like.

Perhaps for a slow news day, though I’m at my wit’s end with this. Verizon has not resolved this problem after nearly three months. To save time, here’s what I originally wrote on the matter, admittedly in some heated language, on my personal blog:

[Blog post deleted, but you can read it by visiting this page.]

That was posted on 29th October.

After that, I received a query for more information from Verizon’s Facebook page, and they assured me that they would look into the matter. They also sent yet a third round of shipping labels. Between the three mailings that were supposedly ordered, I got one plastic bag with instructions to use the label provided with my replacement phone (which had already been used, of course), and, finally, a shipping label I could use. As I was out of town for part of the beginning of November, the phone was shipped out November 10th, and received, according to USPS tracking, on November 14th. To date, Verizon has not credited me yet, they still claim that the matter is “under internal investigation”, and, while they claim to have put a hold on any collections proceedings and marked the amount as not due, I’ve received calls and texts from the financial services department at Verizon Wireless asking for payment, in order to “avoid an interruption of service”.

Here is a full transcript of messages between me and Verizon wireless on Facebook:

As requested, I’m sending a private message. The details of this are posted already, so I need not belabor them. My Verizon mobile number, so you can look at whatever you need to, is (814) 431-0962.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for the message, Buddy. Yes, I can see the previous posts and I am aware of the issue regarding your iPhone. I’m very eager to review your account. However, it’s protected by a billing system password (not the same one used at My Verizon Online). Please share so I can review further. – Dion
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Right. Hi Dion, Andrea, Jennifer, Alan, and all the ships at sea. It’s [redacted]
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for greeting all of us, Buddy. It’ll just me me this time around. I’m having a look at the equipment history on your account to find the replacement device that you’ve advised was issued through Apple’s inventory.

I’ve found that there was a replacement device activated on your line in November 2013. What I don’t show is the origin of the device (as being a warranty model). Does that date jibe with your records or was it at some other time? Do you happen to have any documentation from Apple left over from the exchange? – Dion
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
That’s the one, yes. It was definitely under warranty (after all, the 5S was only released in September of last year), and it was replaced under Apple’s expedited replacement. They only charged $29 for the cross shipment. This was handled over the phone with Apple’s support department, and I didn’t have AppleCare, so definitely standard warranty replacement. I don’t think I have anything from Apple on this, but if I do, it’s on another computer.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
I could come up with a payment confirmation from Paypal, but I’m not confident I can come up with any more than that.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Pay dirt!
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thank you for all of these details, Buddy. Just in case, what Apple Store did you visit in order to have your original device replaced? – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
None. There isn’t one here. I called Apple.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan

AppleCare

Dear Clyde Brannan, Repair ID:
D108330606

We have shipped the replacement IPHONE 5S you requested. Please allow two business days for delivery.

Courier: FedEx
Tracking number (active within 24 hours): 582783491141

Shipping address:
1114 W 30TH ST
ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA 16508-1540
UNITED STATES

To protect your shipment, Apple’s courier won’t deliver your package without obtaining your signature. If you’re not present for the delivery, the courier will return the next business day.

Identification Numbers of the Original Product
Serial Number: F17LG13LFNJM
IMEI (GSM network): 357989051615436
MEID (CDMA network): 35798905161543

Identification Numbers of the Replacement Product
Serial Number: F17LF2NUFNJM
IMEI (GSM network): 357989054813012
MEID (CDMA network): 35798905481301

Please retain this email as a record that your product’s identification numbers have changed as a result of this service request.

The replacement product will come with instructions for returning the original to Apple. To avoid being charged a non-return fee, you must return the original so that Apple receives it by 2013-11-29.

Visit Repair Status to view the current details of your service request.

Regards,
The AppleCare Team

Copyright © 2013 Apple Inc. All rights reserved.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
That was November 15, 2013.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Sorry. I was on a call (work, tech support, just finished). The Email from Apple should have everything you need in it?
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thank you for this information, Buddy. I attempted to reach out to you to provide you these details, but you weren’t available to take my call. I will be submitting a request for escalation regarding the serial number for this device, in order to have it updated in our database. Once I receive confirmation, I will reach out to you to make sure this is all taken care of. Thank you once again. We look forward to getting this resolved for you. – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Great, thank you. I’m sorry I couldn’t take your call, I was on another call myself.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
No worries, Buddy. I most definitely understand! The last email excerpt definitely includes all the details I will need for this. Once I hear back/have a resolution I will reach back out to you. Should hopefully be no more than Five business days. Thank you once again, Buddy. May you have a great evening. – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
OK, thanks. Meantime, if I ever get shipping materials, it’s going back post haste. With tracking.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, that’s a great idea. We will be speaking with you soon. Have a great night. – Katie
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Thanks Katie. And you’re #6. Have a good evening.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Do you know, this is now officially beyond stupid. Apparently yesterday we received an envelope from Verizon, one presumes that this is what passes for “return shipping materials”. It included a plastic bag to put the phone in, and instructions to use the box that my new phone came in, along with the shipping label included with my new phone. This, of course, is impossible, since that shipping label went back to you when I shipped this phone back the first time and it was returned to me. With no return label. Which the replacement “shipping materials” should have included if anyone had any sense. If I was angry at Verizon Wireless’s corporate incompetence before, rest assured I’m far beyond that now.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Lets clear the air, Buddy! Just to confirm, we did not include a shipping label in the return packaging? I am truly concerned as one should have been sent to you. If not, we can request for another to be shipped out. – Lena
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
I’m not sure which batch of return shipping materials this is, as yours would be the third ordfer for them, and this was the first that was received. In the envelope was a letter, as outlined, a plastic bag, and nothing else.
As this has been ongoing for over a month, from my first return of the iPhone 5S to today, you can well understand why I am, to put it mildly, disgusted. And angry. And have zero confidence in a smooth resolution.
I believe I asked this on the phone before, but I can’t just take this phone and turn it in at a Verizon store?
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, we want to restore your confidence in us and resolve this equipment matter right away. You will need to ship that device back to us in the shipping materials that you were provided with. Please retain the tracking number for your records. Once the device is recieved, we will submit an escalated request to ensure that your Edge trade in is accepted. – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Seriously. You gotta be kididng me. Have you in fact read this whole exchange? Have you reviewed what’s transpired to this point? You must not have if you sent an inane reply like this. Seriously. Read through the history. This response did absolutely nothing to restore any confidence.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, I apologize for my confusion. After reviewing your account, I see that was a follow up placed by a previous representative to ensure that your issue is resolved. However, the notes are very vague. I’d like to take ownership of this matter and further assist you from here. Can I contact you by phone? Do you have a moment to speak with me this afternoon? – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Yes, but before you do, you’d better read this, so that we’re not covering already covered ground: http://buddy.brannan.name/blog/2014/10/dear-verizon-piss-off/

[Lasina then called, we discussed the issue, she summarizes.]

Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thanks for taking the time to speak with me this afternoon. As we discussed, I’ve submitted a request to send you the shipping materials again. It will take 7-10 business days to reach you via U.S. Postal mail. Make sure that you retain the tracking number once you ship the device back to us. I will contact you on November 11, 2014 to follow up with you and submit that request to dissolve that equipment charge on your account.

Again, I truly apologize for these inconveniences. We take full ownership/responsibility of this matter and look forward to getting this resolved for you soon. – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Thank you. I’ll be happy once this is all behind us.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, no worries! I got you covered. I’ve already submitted an escalated request to accept the device once it is recieved. I will be submitting another request once I’ve verified that it’s been accepted in our warehouse. Additionally, your account has been noted to ensure that everyone on our end knows exactly what’s going on.

Please feel free to reach out to us anytime between if you have additional concerns. – Lasina
Oct 31

[No contact from Lasina on the previously agreed November 11]

Buddy Brannan
For Losana: Looks like Verizon received my phone a few days ago. I got the label before I left for a long weekend on the 6th, the phone went out on the 10th, y’all received it Friday the 14th according to the postal service.
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
Umm. Make that last for Lasina. Oh dear. I really butchered that, sorry.
Nov 19

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for the reply and the update Buddy! Lasina is not in the office yet. Can I assume that all of your wireless concerns has been addressed now that your phone has been received? If you have any additional questions then please share as we are here to help. – Arnett
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
Hi…No, you really can’t. It was received last time, too. Please pass on to her, she’ll understand what to do with it. Once I receive my credit properly for the returned phone, then we’ll be resolved, but not before.
Nov 19

Verizon Wireless
Understood. The issue is currently under review. We appreciate your patience. – Yosef
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
For Lasina:
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
Ahem. Yes. For Lasina: we have a problem. Verizon has, according to the postal service, received the iPhone 5S I shipped back on 14th November. I not only have no acknowledgement of this from Verizon, and not only does my account show a past due amount, but I just got a call from Verizon financial services requesting payment. As I have fulfilled my end of the Edge contract not once but twice, faithfully, and as requested, and Verizon has dropped the ball in processing this *several* times,, beginning with not recognizing a warranty phone replacement, I clearly do not owe the balance of the contract at around $374. Not owing this amount, I also do not intend on paying it. Moreover, any marks on my credit report will be disputed and should be removed, if indeed they such has been filed. I have fulfilled my end of these transactions in good faith and have received hassle and bother in return. While all of the actual people I’ve spoken to have been nothing if not unfailingly polite and helpful, the process has been anything but.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thank you so much for the details. I can understand your concern. We would love to check into this information for you ASAP. Do you by chance have the tracking number for the package that you sent back? If so, can you please provide that number to us. Please keep us posted. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
9202090107859993927533

USPS says:
delivered
removed class name to show expected date on closed state
Expected Delivery Day: Thursday, November 13, 2014 tooltip widget/added Sept27’14Release/JR

Product & Tracking Information
Postal Product:
First-Class Mail®
Features:
Return Service

DATE & TIME
STATUS OF ITEM
LOCATION
November 14, 2014 , 5:28 am

Delivered

FORT WORTH, TX 76190
New Status Summary Panel

Your item was delivered at 5:28 am on November 14, 2014 in FORT WORTH, TX 76190.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
Thank you so much for those details. I did place in a ticket for our warehouse to review this information so we can get these chargers cleared for you. Your ticket number is: 183630. As soon as I hear something back I will make sure to inform you. I have reached out to our financial services department for you as well to place a hold on the account due to the investigation. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
No doubt you’ve seen the previous action on this issue. Thanks.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
You’re welcome! We will normally hear something back with in 48 to 72 busines hours. But, with the holiday in the mix it may be a little later. Looking forward to getting this taken care of for you. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
Again for Lasina: Verizon has had the iPhone 5S sent in as part of my Edge upgrade, for the second time, since November 14th. As it hasn’t come back to me a second time, I assume this means it’s in process; however, I have received no confirmation of this, and I have also not received an appropriate credit for it on my bill. Instead, I have received a request for payment of a past due amount, followed by a threat (today) of service interruption if the past due amount is not paid. I reiterate: I am not paying the amount you claim I owe on this phone upgrade, as I have fulfilled my end of the contract. Twice. You have not. This ball has been dropped more times than I care to count. This issue has gone unresolved for what is now going over two months. I get apologies. I get assurances. I get no resolution, and I get lots of hassle and inconvenience. I have been very patient. I’m through being patient. Were I as slow to resolve a problem you had with me, I can assure you that Verizon would not be nearly this patient with me, and it would demand immediate resolution. When the shoe’s on the other foot, however, I’m expected to patiently wait for your incompetent systems to work their “magic”. This needs to be resolved. Immediately.
Dec 6

[Lindsey called me, assured me that a block was again put on the amount that isn’t really past due, and I shouldn’t receive any further communications from financial services. Except I did, about five minutes later, if not less.]

Buddy Brannan
You will fix this problem immediately. Now. If you an’t, you will escalate it to someone who can. I just got a call from financial services, not five minutes after you assured me I wouldn’t get any such calls. Now, please.
Dec 6

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, I do apologize about the phone call form Financial Services. The system was not updated for the hold on the account before that call went out. We did make sure that the hold is in place going forward. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused. – Kevin
Dec 6

Buddy Brannan
I’ve had apologies. I’ve had assurances. I’ve had excuses. I’m done with it. The only thing I want to hear from you is that this problem has been resolved, and that my account is in good standing. That’s it. Make it so. I’m done with everything else.
Dec 6

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thank you for speaking with me. Have a wonderful rest of your day. – Lindsey
Dec 6

Buddy Brannan
On this coming Sunday, verizon will have my second-time returned phone for one month. A week after that will mark three months of this particular nightmare’s duration. This has gone far beyond ridiculous. Let me draw you a picture. For this to be properly resolved, do I need to file a complaint with the PUC? Do I need to take it to the media? I note here that, even though it is completely irrelevant, I am fairly certain the media would just love a story of “blind mobile phone customer being jerked around by the big mobile phone company”, and, irrelevant as that detail is, the fact of my disability would likely get a lot more attention than it deserves. I can see absolutely no resaon that this problem has gone on as long as it has. This needs to be addressed today. Further payment will be held until this problem is resolved. I’m sure you can understand my position on this.
Dec 12 at 8:27am

Verizon Wireless
Hello again, Buddy. I know that you’ve really been pushed well beyond your limits on this matter. I wish I had more information to share with you, but we are still trying to resolve this matter internally. The investigation remains open at this time. – Dion
Dec 12 at 11:54am

Buddy Brannan
Please do not bother to explain the following text, just received:
To avoid interruption of your Verizon Wireless service, please click http://mobile.vzw.com/paybill to make a payment or dial #PMT from your handset.VZW FreeMsg.
Instead, escalate this issue right now.
20 minutes ago

—End—

Thanks,

What is wrong with us?!

I seem to be asking myself this question an awful lot. Really, what’s wrong with us?!

I’m put in mind of this question, again, after hearing about this story on the news this morning. Well, the little snippet on the morning top of the hour news only mentioned the case, but it was enough. Why can’t we just do the right thing, even if not doing the right thing is legal? In fact, why must there be laws forcing people to do the right thing?

Sure. I understand that what “the right thing is” isn’t always the same from one person to another. Right for whom? Right for the investors? Right for the bottom line? Right for the workers or families of workers? I guess it all depends on your values.

I guess I don’t understand why our corporations, and maybe our society in general, has the skewed values it has. Is it a byproduct of our throw away society? Things are so disposable. It’s kind of like A Brave New World. Actually, it’s really disturbing how much of that novel we’re actually seeing in our society. Think about it. Throw stuff away rather than fixing broken things. Just get a new one. (Sure, sometimes you just can’t, what with, for instance, electronics, being so miniaturized that they can’t be fixed.) Is that also how we handle people? Just throw them away, we can get new ones. They’re just parts, they’re replaceable, one’s about as good as another. Do we value each other so little? Do we value saving a penny, never mind a buck, so much that we can’t modify duties for a pregnant UPS driver? I see that UPS has announced that it’s going to implement a policy that mandates accommodating pregnant employees such as should have been done in this case, yet they maintain that their stance was still legally correct. What about morally correct? Are we so wedded to being right that we can’t unconditionally admit when we were wrong and then make things right?

I don’t suppose that this UPS driver got, or ever would get, an apology. Maybe someone sees this change in policy as an apology of sorts, but there’s really nothing worse than a conditional apology, or an apology with a defense. “I’m sorry, but I was still right” strikes me as something like that. It reminds me of this time when I had an argument with my mother. I was still living at home, though I was by then over 18. I came home late…well, I came home later than expected, at any rate. I walked in the door and I got both barrels. I was selfish. I didn’t care about anyone but myself. If I really had any consideration for anybody else’s feelings, I would have called. (It wasn’t even 10 at night, and it was a weekend!) I was pretty upset. I went back to my room. Some time later, mom came into my room, brought me a sandwich, and said, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you pissed me off.” Nope…that didn’t help. I didn’t consider that an apology at all. Oh sure, it used the right words, or it started to anyway, but it fell short. I think you can see how.

It seems to me that we’d live in a much nicer world if we lived by these rules:

  • If you can do something for someone else, do so cheerfully. Everything we do comes back to us, good or bad.
  • If you wrong someone, apologize sincerely, completely, with feeling, and without reservation.
  • If you make a mistake, own up to it, and do what you can to make it right.
  • Say thank you, and by god, mean it.

Is that really a lot to expect?

On Identity, Being Trapped, And Freedom

Yesterday on Twitter and Facebook, I made this observation:

Do you know, I haven’t felt this free in ages! I really do have a new beginning.

I elaborated this morning:

The thing is, I didn’t know I was trapped until I wasn’t, if that makes any sense. Now I just see all kinds of possibility.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this.

First, I want to thank all of my friends, and all of the wonderful people who have been so supportive during this change in my life. Truly, I am blessed, and I won’t ever forget that.

Anyway, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. I really out of nowhere had this epiphany last night. It’s not anything I’d ever thought of in that way before, but it all emerged over the next bunch of hours, starting with the feeling I mentioned of freedom and lightness. It was amazing, and it was something I haven’t felt in a long time, if ever. I could be anything, I could do anything, I had no chains or walls to bind me.

And that was odd, because I never thought I had any chains or walls before.

I never knew I had them until I didn’t have them anymore.

That realization hit me like the very cliche ton of bricks. How could I not have seen the walls that imprisoned me, especially when I built them all by myself?

I’ve always thought of myself as a technology guy. It was what I did. I’d always done it. I’d always do it. Even during the times that I was doing things like manning the phone and opening the back door for the nurses who went to pollute their lungs at the VA (irony, no?), I still thought of myself as someone who worked in technology, and it really is what I’ve done most of my adult life. But even when I didn’t, it’s how I thought of myself.

Some people say it’s a guy thing, that guys have their identities all tied up in their work. Who are you?, someone might ask, and who I was invariably had something to do with what I did. I don’t know, and don’t care to argue, whether this is an especially male outlook. But it was mine, for good or ill.

And then, gradually, I started to become restless with my identity. And one fine day, I thought to myself, “You know, you’ve spent your entire adult life, for all intents and purposes, doing stuff with technology. With computers. With machines in some way. And how do you feel about that?”

I was tired of it. I was drained. I was burned out on it. More and more, the work that I had basically devoted my life to became less satisfying. I began more quickly losing patience with the griping and the complaining and the bugs and the “We should have this” and the “It should do that”.

So what was I going to do about it?

I was going to do something else, that’s what. In the back of my mind was a notion developing that I’d really like to work with animals. I’d like to train dogs. I’d like to work closely with animals, and less closely with computers that were possessed by demons. So I started to make a plan. The plan started to come together.

Then, the plan got a kick in the ass.

Ready or not, with one thing and another, I left my tech support duties at Serotek. This was a relief in some ways, and really scary in a lot of others. But one thing it did was showed me a world of opportunity.

That evening, as I thought, “What are you going to do with yourself now?”, Melanie suggested that I call our vet to see if they needed any volunteer help. What a brilliant idea!

I’d thought about checking the shelters. But before I started my plan, I can guarantee you that it wouldn’t have crossed my mind.

Somehow, amidst all of the confusion, and relief, and dread, and “OMG what have you done?”, and “Smartest thing you’ve ever done”, and all the other things, I cast off my identity as “a tech guy”.

And saw that the only person who meant anything that was putting me in that box was me, myself. Oh sure. Some people thought of me that way, and maybe that reinforced the idea, but I’m the only one who can decide who or what I am. And I had put myself in that box. No one did it for me. All I had to do was to take myself out of the box I had slowly, even unwittingly, put myself into.

Who I am doesn’t have to be tied up in what I do. What I do is just a thing I do. It may be a thing I do passionately, or with gusto, or routinely, but what I do is not, after all, who I am. I can be anything I want, but always, always, I am myself. Not the tech support guy. Not the computer guy. Not the animal guy even. Those are things I do. Those things can change. Being just myself, without the labels or definitions, leaves the world open in front of me. Just being myself means I can redefine my role as much as I want to. Still me under there.

This isn’t coming out the way I see it in my head. Doesn’t matter much though. My point is, I can be, or do, anything I want. And so can you. You know how people talk about getting out of your own way? Yeah, doing that. Allowing yourself out of the walls you’ve built for yourself.

Anyway, I’ve got a long ways to go on this journey. I’ve always heard that people go to find themselves a lot earlier than this. Guess I’m getting a late start, but I’m at least getting a start, anyway.

The best is yet to come.

An Open Letter To Tim Cook

In response to this article, I dropped the below Email to what seems to be Tim Cook’s Email.

Howdy Mr. Cook,

As a fellow but different minority (I suppose several, though a blind person first), I stand with you.

Specifically, two paragraphs really stood out for me:

“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

“Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.”

Sir, my hat, if I wore one, is off to you, and I agree with you completely. I, too, see my blindness as a gift, and in much the same way as you do. Would that those minorities who face discrimination, misunderstanding, bigotry, and societal limitations all felt the same; it surprises me still that so many perpetrate the same kinds of attitudes upon others that they themselves face daily.

I, like you, look forward to the day that your announcement would not be news. In fact, I’ve often wondered why it *is* news, or anyway, why some feel the need to “come out publicly” in the first place. After all, if it isn’t a big deal, why make it one? I think you have clarified this issue for me somewhat. I thank you for that, and for handling this issue with such grace and class.

You have had some mighty big shoes to fill, and you haven’t filled them. Instead, you have made your own way, certainly building on the foundations that Steve Jobs and others have laid, but putting your own stamp on Apple. There are things you’ve done that would have never been done before your tenure. But make no mistake, I think you’re heading in the right direction, you’re doing the right things, and Apple is well and truly in good hands.

Thank you, Mr. Cook, for all that you do, not only for what you’re doing with Apple and the technology that makes my life easier, but for what you do to further equality, acceptance, and justice. Yep. I’m a Tim Cook fan.

All the best,

Dear Verizon: Piss off…

It’s so nice to know that the edge Plan from Verizon Wireless is so customer friendly. Except not really. Maybe I’m just special.

To begin, in November, I noticed my iPhone 5S had a manufacturing defect, so I called apple to have it replaced. This Apple did, with no trouble or fuss, even having the phone active on my Verizon account without me having to do anything to make it work, apart from restoring from my iCloud backup.

Fast forward to iPhone 6 time. I was able to upgrade on the Edge plan, except I got a warning that my phone wasn’t the one that they’d sent me. I explained to the sales agent that this was true, and it was true because the phone had been replaced by Apple. That didn’t seem to be a problem with anyone, and the sales guy put my order through, and I received my iPhone 6 on release day, as expected.

When I received it, I very carefully packaged the iPhone 5S and sent it back to Verizon, as directed, with the provided label. I received the new iPhone 6 on a Friday, and the 5S went into Monday’s mail. I can’t really think how it could have been done in a more timely fashion.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I received An Email like the following Email on Sunday, 29th September. Twice:

verizon
Please return your previous device.
View Online

Shop Support My Verizon

Please return your device.

For wireless number ending in 0962

Hi CLYDE,

You were recently sent a new device as part of the Edge Up program. When performing an Edge Up, you must return your existing device in good working condition.

Since we haven’t received your existing device, a fee equal to the remaining balance due under your Verizon Edge Retail Installment Sale Agreement has been applied to your account.

If you return your existing device immediately, we will credit the amount of the fee to your account.

View Return Instructions

Please disregard this message if you’ve already returned your previous device. You will receive confirmation of your return within 2 days of receipt at Verizon Wireless.
Thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless.

Previous Device Information:

Device ID Number:
357989051615436

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ID: 85458.4.0-F69661A7-DC43-B257-236E-AC0EAD96F440

Of course, I ignored it as instructed.

A couple days later, the post office’s web site showed that Verizon received my phone, and I thought everything was taken care of. Until I got a package a week later. The package contained an iPhone 5S. It contained my iPhone 5S. It still had the glass screen protector, but not the SIM card anymore, and Voiceover was still on.

I called customer service to ask what the deal was. Valerie didn’t know. There didn’t seem to be any record. I was able to read the slip in the box though, and, as I’d feared, the problem was that the phone’s ID didn’t match the one they shipped me when I started my plan. I explained the situation again. Valerie said she’d research and get back with me on that Friday, that would be the 10th of October. This she did, and again said that the ID’s didn’t match.

After about an hour with her on the previous Wednesday, after which I thought things should be resolved, I was starting to get angry. I told Valerie that I did what I was supposed to have, that I wouldn’t have been able to have used this phone if it wasn’t registered to Verizon’s network, and the fact that they didn’t have a record of this phone that was used on their network for the past 10 months sounded like poor record keeping. It was, in short, their problem, not mine, and they needed to fix it. Valerie assured me that they’d work it out, and she ordered the materials to ship the phone back.

Great!

Then I received the same “We didn’t receive your phone” Email on the 11th. OK, ignored, I’ve done my part.

Two weeks later, the 24th, I still hadn’t received envelope or label from Verizon, so I called again. Jolene was sympathetic. Jolene ordered new shipping materials to be sent, and she’d follow up with me on Wednesday, today.

She did. I didn’t. That is, she ordered more stuff. I didn’t receive it.

But I did receive, just now, the Email that they didn’t receive my phone. Again. This time, with no notice that they’d remove the charge if they received my phone, but both Jolene and Valerie said that they’d be sure I had it removed once this was resolved. Given the third round of “We didn’t receive your phone” Emails, I’m very, very skeptical.

I responded to Verizon’s Email thus:

Per discussions with Verizon customer service, I have returned the iPhone 5S in my possession. It was returned to me as not being the same device, which it isn’t, because it was replaced through Apple. That this replacement device isn’t properly documented isn’t my problem, it’s yours. That you haven’t received my device is, also, not my problem, it’s yours. Again, per discussions with customer service, I was supposed to have received shipping materials to ship (a second time) this iPhone back to you. I have not yet received these shipping materials. Not after two requests and nearly 21 days. Be assured that I will not be paying the balance applied to my account for the iPhone 5S that I have already attempted to return. I have fulfilled my end of this process. I intend to do so a second time. Picking up your end is not my problem, it’s yours.

Jolene says she’ll call me again Friday to see if I’ve gotten the shipping materials again. Whether I have or whether I haven’t, I’m not paying them a dime of the $374 and change they say I owe them. I’ve held up my end. They need to hold up theirs.