Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Wake Up Call

Scott McLeod posted his presentation to the NEA as a slide show and an audio file, on his Dangerously Irrelevant blog.

Since he graciously licenses he work under creative commons, I took the liberty of using Adobe Presenter to sync the audio to the slides.

If I might sum up his message to the NEA and education in general, I would say, WAKE UP! But then again, that has been his message, my message, and the message of many others for years. I honestly think people are starting to listen, but listening is still a long way from acting.

If you want to see and hear his presentation, click on the picture above or here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Expedia and Orbitz Need to Clean Up Their Act

A marine was scheduled to travel home to be married. Unfortunately, he broke his jaw and the doctors would not allow him to travel. The wedding would have to be postponed. They were able to make all of the necessary changes with the hotel, caterer, everyone one that one end of the situation. The airline was willing to make changes, but the tickets were booked through Orbitz. They held the money and they refused to make any changes.

The mother of the marine sent out a plea for suggestions or help. It reached me via my Facebook Live Update. I contacted someone who I thought might be able to help. While they didn’t have any contacts in Orbits, they suggested they go through the military desk of the airline. After a great deal of back and forth, they were able to make the change for $200!

Lest you think this is an unusual case, Dave Farber’s case is even more infuriating. His son was set to go on his honeymoon, but his mother became terminally ill and is in a hospice. He needed to change plans. The hotel had no problem with it, nor did the airline. However, the tickets were booked through Expedia. They held the money and refused to make any changes.

If the name, Dave Farber, is not familiar to you it should be. (Just do a Google Search) If not for Dave and folks like him, the Internet would not be around and Expedia would not even be in business, but that made no difference to Expedia.

Dave runs and Internet mailing list called Interesting People (IP). The list is populated by everyday citizens like you and I, along with industry leaders, policy makers, journalists, and a wide array of movers and shakers. He posted his problem to the list and the list responded.

Here is a portion of that post. “However interactions with Expedia, which were necessary since they hold the money until the trip was taken, yielded a complete refusal to do anything. I find this. to put mildly, shocking.

I've tried to reach out to see people at Expedia but they seem not to be reachable.

I need this like a hole in the head right now. It's become an issue not of the money but of a company that seems to have no heart.”

Needless to say, I’m sure Expedia heard from a flood of people from the list, but the very first post back to the list summed up the situation nicely. The low level support people were unresponsive to the public relations nightmare they had created and offered no solution other than writing to the travel desk, which this person did. Here is a section of his letter.

“I am requesting that someone with the appropriate level of authority call Dr. Farber and facilitate the resolution of this problem. You will need to be responsive Dave's situation: it is a major stress to have a life partner in Hospice and likely to die in the near term and, at that point, need to deal with this kind of situation. If you take this kind of proactive action and resolve things to Dave's satisfaction (he is a reasonable guy), I am sure he will report that on Farber's list (as Interesting-People is known) and you'll recover some of your credibility with the readership.

Please confirm to me by email that a call has been made and that you are working to resolve Dave's problem. I am anxious to learn whether Expedia can step up to a situation of this sort and behave in a supportive fashion.”

A few hours after this letter was sent, Dave posted to the list that Expedia had contacted him and the situation was resolve. He received a message from the president of Expedia. They are providing a full refund and waiving any documentation of his wife’s condition.

We are all relieved and overjoyed that Dave’s mind can focus on more important matters, but the situation points out the lack of concern that big companies have for individuals, or at the very least, the lack of a mechanism to resolve issues of this type without having to jump through hoops or wage wars. It is obvious that there are such mechanisms that would allow for refunds with medical documentation, but not even that was offered to him until the fire storm hit the president’s desk.

Here’s a quote from his message to Dave about his conversation with an Expedia manager.

“In particular, they did not want you to have to worry about obtaining a doctor's statement of the emergency, that was waived, that neither Expedia, the airline or the hotel needed any further action from you.

I have his name and direct phone number -- contact me if the full purchase price is not back in your account within 2 - 3 business days.

I told him I would pass this info on to you.”

It also points out the power of social media and the Internet. With out it, Dave’s situation, and the marine’s plight would be unresolved. It’s heartening to know that individual can make a difference, but disheartening that it takes the mobilization of the masses and a threat to the bottom line of a company in order to get them to be responsible citizens and be responsive to these types of situations.

Compare these two examples to an experience I had last week with Southwest Air. I was doing a workshop in Delaware and booked flights through their site that arrived on Dec. 1 and returned on Dec. 4. On Dec. I tried to print out my boarding pass from the hotel, but the site told me I was trying to print it out too early, but I wasn’t. I waited a while and tried again, but got the same message. After a little investigation, I realized that Captain Klutz had struck again. I had booked the return flight for Jan. 4!

I called up customer support, I explained my mistake to the rep. She chuckled and said, “Well bless your soul. Let’s see what we can do.”

Within five minutes she had changed my reservations from Jan. 4 to Dec. 4, but because it was my mistake, I didn’t get off scott free. It cost me $16.

It's certainly not a case that my abject stupidity deserves more consideration than a service member with a broken jaw or someone with a dying wife. It simply a case on one company valuing their customers and the others valuing only the bottom line.

Southwest has always provided great service. Others in the industry need to wake up and take a lesson from their customer support operation and remember that we are all in the same boat!

The Postman Always Rings Twice

"The Postman Always Rings Twice" is a movie and an action that isn't practiced enough by enough people. I will say for the most part, when the postman delivers a package to our door, the doorbell does ring once. This is great, because it alerts us to the fact that a package is sitting outside, but for some reason other delivery services fail to ring.

UPS, FedEx, and other delivery services need to take a lesson from the postman. For whatever reason, they hardly ever knock or ring the doorbell when dropping a package at the door, unless a signature is required. We recently moved here and have ordered a LOT of accessories and furniture to finish outfitting our new house. We have had dozens of deliveries and the vast majority of them were simply left of the doorstep without a knock or a ring. On one case they even delivered two pieces of furniture to a vacant condo across the street from us while I was on a business trip. Fortunately a neighbor alerted my wife, but she had to drag the furniture across the street herself!

This is a major problem for a number of reasons, especially here in NH where the winter weather can get to the package, and where a new kind of Christmas shopping has emerged. Thieves have taken to following UPS and FedEx trucks. The watch them drop off the packages, wait a minute or two and then if no one comes to the door, they swoop in and do their "shopping".

This practice can easily be discouraged by simply taking an extra second or two and knocking or ringing a door bell. OK, I'll excuse the failure to knock. I don't want delivery men with bare bleeding knuckles. Nor do I want blood on my door, but some houses have knockers and I doubt that blisters would develop if they pressed the doorbell at each house.

Come on, guys. Ring that bell!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Why I Like NH Better than NJ - Reasons 3

Food... I guess I have to be honest about this one. Without a doubt, NJ has a greater selection of places to dine, but they don't have Maryann's Diner. Maryann's, in Derry, NH, is a 50's diner complete with waitresses wearing poodle skirts or jeans and bobby socks. The food is great, the portions are huge, the prices are low and service is fast, friendly, and efficient.

Jill ordered bacon and eggs and I had a western saute. It was all we could do to finish and we were both starved when we sat down. Check out the pictures. That's five, count em, five slices of bacon on Jill's plate and there was more ham on my plate than you would find in any three western omelets in NJ.

Our breakfast with bottomless coffee was $15, but that's nothing compared to the 2X2X2 early bird special of two eggs, two meats, and two small pancakes or French toast for $3.33!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Time to Change Our Focus

First it was predators, then it was cyberbullying, and now it is sexting. The news media is treating us to the fear dujour. They generate reactions that are at best, narrow in focus. It's time to end this kind of narrow focus, take a step back and look at the problem differently.

When you come right down to it, the problems we are seeing stem from kids being kids in an environment that has a lack of adult oversight and guidance. When we do try to provide guidance, they often fail to respond, because they more than know we do, or at least they think they do.

WiredSafety has always know that kids will listen to kids before they will listen to adults and that they will listen to adults if we give them the credit and respect they deserve. That's why long ago, Parry Aftab established Teenangels, groups of teens who are trained by WiredSafety and law enforcement to become experts in cybersafety. We learn from them, they learn from us, and they train others in online citizenship.

The idea of online citizenship is what it is all about. There are many different kinds of online abuse, but pretty much all of them can be prevented if we create good cybercitizens.

MTV, WiredSafety, and others have been working together to empower youth to take positive action, to take ownership for their personal behavior, and be part of the solution rather than the problem. Teens will be working with teens to stay on the right side of that thin line between appropriate and in appropriate behavior at http://www.athinline.org .

Part of that effort is offering teens an opportunity to win $10,000 by coming up with innovative digital ways of stopping online abuse, as well as offering an opportunity to work with MTV and a $75,000 budget to make their idea a reality.

Another part is giving teens a voice and a platform to talk to other teens as done on the site and on Facebook by teens such as Casi. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=192141552130

Of course, if you are reading this from school you can't visit the Facebook link. So here is the blog entry in two screen shots. Just click on each small image to expand.