Archive for the ‘consumer’ Category

What the Heck eHarmony?

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Somewhere around 10 years ago I joined eHarmony for the first time. With their matching metrics, I didn’t do well as I was overweight. I had a couple of conversations with men, but even more who had in their profile that they were intolerant of anyone overweight. I quit after a few months, matches had dwindled to a few a week. In the three month period I recall just one phone date.
More recently, I talked to a number of people who had met and been happy with the service. So I tried it for a month, costing almost $50.

What the Heck eHarmony?

In that month I was “matched” with almost 650 men. The four or five that seemed interesting never responded to my first steps to connect. Nearly all of the matches were with men with less than college. Ah, I didn’t complete college myself. Although I teach at the University level and pursued an alternative education that I’m very proud of, not a college graduate. So I apparently was matched with mostly no college graduates.

Most of the matches (I’m thinking 75% at least) were somewhat or very conservative. Not a match.

About half the matches were “a good match outside of my settings”. Not one of those seemed like a good match.

eHarmony used to be known for their very careful, scientifically based formulas for success. 650 men in four weeks isn’t showing a lot of discrimination or filtering.

I responded to two men who contacted me, both seemed wildly inappropriate. The first “moved on” after getting my email. The second one said nothing, but eHarmony contacted me a few minutes later saying the account was likely hacked, I should stop contact with him, and to be safe. Well that was uncomfortable.

One man followed through after contacting me, and we are looking for a time for dinner. He was able to find me online based on the information I provided. So he bypassed the eHarmony structure in the end. Not as creepy as it sounds.

Today I’ve canceled my account, pulled photo and all the other written information from my profile, and stopped notifications. I do hope that is enough to get out of this wacky system.

I feel I’ve wasted a bit of money and a lot fo time for a service that is not what it seems.

Loud Music Interferes With Community Building

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

I’m frightened and also tired of being bombarded with loud music in restaurants, festivals, parties, and other places where people are gathered for more than just listening to music. Although even in concerts where everyone is there to hear great music, I usually whip out my ear plugs that I keep on my key chain. I’ve left plenty of events earlier than planned just because it is too hard to talk, I’m tired of yelling, or the loud music is just so uncomfortable. I also know that listening to any noise above 85 decibels for an extended period of time can cause permanent damage to my ears.
Early_vacuum_tube_public_address_system
Amplified music has always been a part of your life if you are under under 60 or 70. The dangers of load noises has been known for decades, but we haven’t done nearly enough to make people aware of it or taken measures to protect our easily damaged ears. Almost 20% of middle aged Americans have some degree of hearing loss, and by age 75 the number is almost half. “Of the roughly 40 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, 10 million can be attributed to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).”

This is no small issue. This profound quote is attributed to Helen Keller:

“Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”

Loud music in social settings cuts people off from being able to talk and interact comfortably. Too much noise makes it hard to be part of and support the building of community.

And then, exposure from noise and loud music (above 85 decibels) causes hearing loss, and even greater potential social isolation.

I recommend that everyone carry ear plugs at all times, and use them. Specialized versions are available that decrease sound, without distortion. They are inexpensive, under $15.

Get a decibel meter for your phone. I’ve been using dB Meter Pro for my Iphone and it works very well. There are also plenty of free apps.

Ask restaurants and other venues to turn down the music. Ask restaurant reviewers to give a rating for sound quality with their review. Use your smart phone meter, and if it’s too loud move or leave. And tell them why.

Consider buying stock in Costco (which has some of the best and cheapest hearing aids) or other hearing aid companies and those who make cochlear implants. Because this is an industry that is certain to grow as baby boomers raised on loud rock and roll grow older. I’m only guessing, but it seems like a reasonable projection.

I’m partially sensitive to this topic as I’ve watched my dad struggle with his profound level of hearing loss. It has caused him to be more isolated, and less willing to be with old friends and his family. His hearing loss makes communication more difficult when interacting with health care workers, law enforcement, and in other critical situations. He has recently published a short book to help others cope with hearing loss – “Adapting to Hearing Loss”. It is an inexpensive and practical guide from the perspective of someone directly affected. These are not the kind of tips an audiologist would give you.

Building community is important. Let’s turn down the volume so that it is easier and less stressful to connect. And so that we’ll be still able to share stories and words in the years to come.

Review: An Odd Meal At Lena From Beginning to End

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Lena has been open for a few years now, but I hadn’t had an opportunity to check it out. I liked the previous incarnation on Washington Street, and looked forward to the new experience.

On Labor Day lots of restaurants were closed, and a friend wanted to treat me to dinner. We ended up at Lena.

It was noisy, but that is par for the course. The wait for water was long, they were not at all busy. The waitress stopped by, observed we had water, and the usual “let me know if you have any questions” and then dashed off before we could pose those questions.

She ended up not knowing much about the menu, and had to consult, and one of her earlier answers she corrected. Simple things like an ingredient, if the salmon was farmed or wild, and what was the fish of the day. It wasn’t fish, it was shrimp.

We ended up with three appetizers and one main dish to split. The food was interesting, unusual tastes, and nicely filling. The Cuban bread served with the meal was as bad as Cuban bread is – I first ran into this in Puerto Rico and it is great for feeding fish when you are snorkeling. It just isn’t good bread. The Gnochi was rich, as she predicted, the potato appetizer was spicy and nice – the request to serve the avocado on the side for my sensitive friend didn’t happen.

The plantain is really good, and they served it with a very nice salsa and sauce.

The cauliflower salad (which was served first) was also refreshingly different and had a combination of bitter and sweet and other. The odd part was the waitress dumping it off in a dash as she went by — in the middle of the table. And we waited, and ended up flagging her down minutes later to ask for plates.

I get that we were a poor tale – no drinks, splitting meals, what wait staff don’t like. But we did tip them off that we were first timers, and the restaurant was not at all busy. Should I feel guilty?

The end of the meal was similar, very long waits for a glimpse at the desert menu, opting to not indulge, and an even longer wait for the bill. In the midst of that, I used the restroom, and one stall (the handicapped) was clearly (yuk) out of order, a problem of no water in the tank so it wouldn’t flush.

No sign. Hmm. So I reported it to the hostess, who said she would take care of it, and that they had been having trouble with that toilet – old plumbing in the building. Sorry, I take that as a bad sign that it is an ongoing problem that was not being monitored, and that it just hasn’t been fixed. I had a similar bad feeling at Eastern Accents months before they closed. The toilet overflowed when I used it and the response was yeah, that happens a lot, we have a plumbing problem. If there is bad plumbing then… I’d rather not go there.

I can’t help but imagine the possible kitchen problems, and what else they aren’t paying attention to. And of course the staff training. It leaves a true bad taste to end the meal by confronting their bad plumbing. Which is apparently not unique.

Details. It matters. So truthfully, I didn’t leave thinking “Yes! I can’t wait for another chance to come back!” No, it wasn’t like that at all. It was just odd and too many small moments of discomfort. And so I end my review with “sorry”. Which is not what a restaurant wants to have happen.

Reporting in Ann Arbor

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The Ann Arbor Chronicle ends next week. One of the more successful – by some definitions – news publications in a long while. After six years the Editor and Publisher are calling it quits. David Askins and Mary Morgan have gone above and beyond the call of duty, and apparently that is not a sustainable business model, or lifestyle.

There have always been an odd assortment of publications in Ann Arbor, and I’m thankful that I have written for a number of them. Two special pieces in the Chronicle on people important to our community – Ken King and Dick Siegel. I also posted very frequent “Stopped Watched” short reports, on many natural and unnatural events I observed mostly while just walking around.

As a digression, I started by helping to create and write for “Yenta” – a student publication at Community High School in the ’70s. Our motton was “Chicken Soup for the Mind”. I wrote a few pieces for the Ann Arbor Alchemist, one I story in particular really enjoyed on the underground vaulted sidewalks downtown. I’ve written for The Ann Arbor News (guest editorials), The Crazy Wisdom Journal, I started and wrote many years formy own nearly monthly newsletter called “Contributions to Wisdom”. The best part of that newsletter was the monthly interviews of people who I found interesting, generous, and doing important work. I also wrote a few pieces for “The Ann Arbor Observer”. The first was on capturing a swarm of bees, then on the death of my odd neighbor, and most recently on a trip down the Huron River. I was also asked to blog for The reinvented Ann Arbor News – annarbor.com.

The Ann Arbor Chronicle had, from the start, a very clear mission. My interpretation of that is striving for very high standards of writing and reporting, an obligation to report for the community and provide an accessible record of public and especially governmental events. It turned into a forum for thoughtful and mostly kind commentary and additional contributions form readers. Something that informed readers in Ann Arbor no longer take for granted. David and Mary also became frightfully informed sources able to quickly reference and make sensible previous decisions, and related actions. Their ability to provide deep background and useful explanations became more and more awesome the longer The Chronicle went on.

The current version of The Ann Arbor News (reinvented yet again from annarbor.com reinvented from the The Ann Arbor News) continues to provide much of the important day to day “hey there was an accident”, this is happening or has happened, breaking stories, informing us of crime and mayhem. Some good recipes, access to restaurant inspections, and some good news as well. It is a quicker, simpler, more basic kind of news without the context and linking that The Chronicle excelled at. The “news” also has its moments of awfulness, I agree. A running joke around here is in any breaking news event waiting for the story of how people feel about what happened rather than actual reporting on what happened. The recent ferris wheel mishap seemed especially heavy on reporting if people would still go on the ride. This is not news reporting.

The comment section of the Ann Arbor News is especially painful as nearly all the comments actually add nothing of any substance, but are quick conclusions, strongly stated opinions without a lot of substance attached, and often confusion and misinformation. It often destroys any positive reaction I have to a story, and leaves me wondering about the fate of humanity. Signed and verified comments would improve things I believe. The accusation is that it isn’t done because comments increase clicks which increase ad revenue. Yikes. This is no way to get good content.

The Ann Arbor Chronicle ended up relying heavily on voluntary paid subscriptions. Mary tells me I may be the longest subscriber they had. I would be very proud of that if it is true. I believe in these alternative funding models, and while my support was never in large amounts of money, the persistent confidence and trust that a regular payment portrays is also a very vital part of supporting a venture I truly believe in.

I will miss reporting for the Chronicle’s Stopped Watched column. I’ll try and do more of that in my blog. Short, interesting posts that are image heavy. I will miss The Ann Arbor Chronicle as a resource. But I trust other venues will emerge. There is a very funny group of people who tweet city council meetings, #a2council They may become the public record of actions taken within city hall. That would be funny, and not all bad. But a little weird, like the fact that so many now rely on Jon Stewart to get the world news.

It matters a lot to me that Mary and Dave stick around, even that they are in my neighborhood. I hope their next adventures will include my selfish need to have people as funny, talented, creative and with such enormous integrity near by. I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Local reporting can be done so much more on an individual basis. Blogs, facebook, twitter, are three dominant methods. Relying a bit on larger corporations that are in it for the money isn’t all bad. They do employ some talented, creative, and caring people. I know many at The Ann Arbor News, and respect those individuals. I refuse to be bitter or absolute in my critique of that news source. A broad brush does not meaningfully describe what they are contributing.

The best thing that can happen next is creative, interesting ideas for local news and information. The largest hole that will need to be quickly addressed is the need for eyes on government. Openness and transparency in public work requires good and extensive press coverage. Dave and Mary set a new much higher standard, and proved how important this is. How do we meet it now?

Arbor Wiki – an underutilized resource for Ann Arbor

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Maybe you’ve checked it out for birthday specials. Maybe you’ve enjoyed the page I created on fountains and water features in Ann Arbor. Maybe you can add to it? That’s what a wiki is all about, and this one is special for Ann Arbor. Do you want to add your name and accomplishments? Check out a events? Wonder what restaurants have closed?

Like any wiki there is straight up practical information, as well as obscure and yet helpful stuff.

We can make this more of a treasure the more people participate. I learned about it from Ed Vielmetti who hosts editing parties and encourages contributors.

I’ve just made small contributions, but try and remember to add to it with useful bits of miscellaneous stuff form time to time.

Arborwiki.org

Why “Eliminating Dairy” is weird

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

There is dairy, and then there is dairy, and then there is dairy. At least three vastly different kinds of milk – and that is just from cows. There is also dairy from the many different mammals, and the many forms of dairy once processed into something other than simple fluid.

Lumping it all together and calling it bad makes no sense.

Conventional milk comes in many forms, but the bottom line is most cows are raised in appalling conditions with miserable lives, hardly see a blade of grass, aren’t fed the stuff (grass) that makes them strong and healthy, are injected with rBGH, end up living shorter lives, and have to be “pre-treated” with antibiotics and other drugs for illnesses and gut disturbances that might otherwise kill them. That milk? Not so good. And if we do consume it we have a very direct responsibility for supporting the conditions and treatment of those animals.

Another option is organically raised cows. It sounds like a good trade up, and often it is. Not always. Cows raised naturally are pasture fed. It seems contradictory, but not all organic cows are given that option. But the chemical load is much less, their intake is far better, and there is often better treatment as far as confinement, and the cows are healthier. Many of us believe this results in a better quality more nutritious milk. Especially when compared to conventional cows milk.

Untreated, unpasteurized, non homogenized milk is another option. In the US this is mostly called “raw” milk. Without being heated to kill off enzymes and other “live” parts of the milk, this is a truly different milk that has many claims for its nourishing abilities. For my part, I know that conventional and even organic milk and many of the milk products make me feel sick afterwards. Drinking raw milk did not have that effect. It was a pretty amazing difference. Even with raw milk, there are critical differences. The biggest is that we don’t just not pasteurize regular milk. Because pathogens are not killed off by heat treatment, the dairy practices of cleanliness and having healthy cows are much more important. Pasture feeding is integral to having healthy cows, so that is the only option. So “raw milk” is a whole set of understandings about the cows lineage, their breed, the size of the herd, how you milk them, how you chill the milk, how any infection is treated, and much much more.

Rather than “eliminate dairy” it makes much more sense to upgrade to a better source, or even a better type of cow. Considering all three of these kinds of milk as one suspicious food doesn’t make sense.

And then there is the processing. Are raw milk cheeses different from all other cheese? Of course. There are different organisms within the cheese. No question. Can that make a difference in how it is digested and the health affects? It makes a taste difference, and some of us believe the effects go further. Cheese making is an art. The subtleties and the varieties are amazing. Fresh cheeses, aged cheeses, cheese made different cultures (mesophilic and thermophilic processes). Even the wild cultures in your kitchen will affect the flavor of cheese. Someday I’ll write a whole blog that will only begin to touch on some of the awe I have for this art, which I have only slightly delved into. My experience? Raw milk makes outstanding cheeses. And it is stunningly simplistic to try and lump them altogether and say don’t eat any of them.

Fermented milk is a process that by necessity is thousands of years old, at least. Now research is confirming the importance of fermented products on gut health. It isn’t just about making milk last longer. This is both fascinating and complex, even something as simple as yogurt than can be made so many different ways with a range of different results of healthy bacteria and other organisms. The milk matters, the temperatures used matter, what you do next matters. The sugar added to most commercial yogurts in the form of flavorings affect the bacteria that you end up with when you go to eat it. Put simply, sugar feeds bacteria, kills off much of the healthy stuff, and you are eating a less potent and altered product than plain yogurt where flavoring or sweetener is added at the last minute. So even all yogurt isn’t the same!

Kefir, cottage cheese, soured cream, whey, the list of how you can process milk and the differing effects digestively and nutritionally are immense. “Dairy” encompasses a truly amazing range of products and ways of eating milk.

And of course in the US we think milk, we think cow. That is not and has never been the only type of milk consumed. Camel, horse, goat, sheep, yaks, water buffalo, reindeer are also just a few other milks that have been and are still used. Can they all be lumped together as suspicious for human health? Not rationally. We’ve been using them (and enjoying it!) as long as humans have been farming – or longer. Thousands of years.

Milk is the product of females. When we overstate and overgeneralize and are critical of dairy it is also devaluing what women produce, and the very beginnings of how we feed and nurture our babies.

If you think you have a problem with dairy, get specific. Very detailed. It is unlikely to be milk itself, but rather something about the source, the treatment of the animal, the way it is or is not processed, what other things have been introduced to the animal or to the processing. Try upgrading those things, and you can better nourish yourself.

There is a lot of evil in this world. Dairy is not included. There are evil practices associated with some dairy production. You do not have to participate. The broad negative conclusions that so many people (including health practitioners) make about dairy are absurd. Absurd because they dismiss thousands of years of use, our own individual responses to dairy food, and the myriad of forms and sources of milk. It just isn’t that simplistic.

Nostalgia for the Art Fairs

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Last week’s art fairs were unusual for having cool sunny weather. The fairs usually take place in scorching hot almost unbearable heat and humidity, broken only by often violent storms and rain. And more humidity. So I enjoyed walking around and seeing most of the fairs in relative comfort. I was glad this year I wasn’t wandering the streets pouring water over my head trying to keep cool.

This was my 44th time at the art fairs (yes, there are more than one – actually four or five or six depending on how you count). As I wandered, I was very nostalgic for all the other times I’ve been and what has changed.

The fairs had many more commercial booths interspersed with the artists. I found that disconcerting. And of course, those booths has people pushing their product much more crassly “selling” than the artists normally do. Although I was reminded of a time 25 years or so ago when I was swept up in the sales pitch of a guy selling pewter figurines with crystals. He talked me into buying it. Although at a deep discount he was a good salesman who wouldn’t let me go.

I used to buy a wooden box every year, until about 5 years ago I figured I probably had enough wooden boxes by now. About thirty or so. I also started liking the ones over $200 more than any others, and that was not a rational way to use my money. So that collection is “closed” to further purchases.

I do like the wood, and am still more attracted to that art than any other.

Back in the ’70s, when I first started going to the art fairs, there were a lot of “hippy” srtists with fancy wax candles of rainbow colors and I bought a lot of those. Incense, bongs, antler pipes, macrame, a number of remnants from that time that you no longer find.

Perhaps the biggest change is that long ago there were true street musicians and performers – slack rope artists, magicians, others who would travel and earn money being talented on the streets. They are gone. Even the musicians from Central and South America were missing this year with their pan pipes and small amplified guitars and traditional instruments. Where have they gone?

So the fair seems quiet. It used to be that everyone I knew went to the closing night – Friday night – at the “Graceful Art Stage” on E. University for Madcat and Gemini to close out the evening fairs. Dancing, hugging, talking, flirting, it all went on that night with great music and a sense of a wonderful tradition we were part of.

Even the water sellers and other venders were mostly silent. Was there a proclamation made against announcing your wares loudly? Pizza sellers, bottled water pushers, roasted almonds samplers, all seemed very restrained this year. Very quiet.

That was near to the non-profit booths that used to assemble at the Engineering Arch, S. U and E. U. I staffed a lot of booths there, for McGovern in 1972, for Ozone House for many years – we did face painting and were one of the first to offer that. I got into some heated arguments when I staffed a booth for the American Friends Service Committee opposing the death penalty. I even got applauded for one of them when I stayed reasonable while being shouted at.

The non-profit section was very quiet this year, and I walked by a few times without engaging with anyone including the Salvation Army guy who may not even know how that group has spoken out against gay marriage and urged celibacy as the only option for LGBT people.

I don’t think there are as many true bargains as there used to be. I still use the panniers I got from Bivouc almost 30 years ago when Eclipse was going out of business. Two pair of very sturdy paniers for my bike for just $20, the special rack to hold them another $10-15. I still use that as well. I bought lots of sandals and sneakers and other stuff deeply discounted. Orchid Lane would have sales and especially since I lost weight that has been such a great bargain that this year I had to pass by as I really don’t need more clothes. Have I changed or have the sales changed?

Every year I see certain artists, most notably a friend from high school (he was on staff st Community High School) who sells colorized sports prints. He used to sell antler pipes. It’s nice to get a hug and kiss from him every year. Sometimes we have a chance to talk, sometimes he is too busy with sales to say much at all.

I mostly go alone to the fairs, there is enough to see and do and having to keep track of someone else is distracting and sometimes I want to move more quickly than a friend. And part of the fair is stopping to talk to people you meet on the street – old friends, strangers, I make a point of striking up conversations with the artists and sometimes linger for a while. Most are friendly, some are bored, some try to sell something heavy handedly, some are clearly not people friendly.

I love this event. I spend a little money – usually not more than $100, and that hasn’t changed much over the ears. My biggest most expensive purchase ever was a large photo limited edition print by famous National Geographic photographer Steven McCurry, of a sacred gilded rock at sunrise in Burma. It was great to meet and talk with him. That was about 20 years ago. I still love that photo.

The summer has turned, the art fairs are over, now starts the winding up for fall.

My Cars

Friday, July 11th, 2014

I was just at the Rolling Sculpture Car Show downtown. Many of the same cars come every year, but it is still fun to look at the older cars and think about this “car culture” that includes old beaten up hunks and the muscle car hot rods and the very expensive very sleek models.

i like the old cars, I liked seeing four electric cars sitting together – a brand new Tesla, a Citicar from the 70’s and two Detroit Electric cars from around 1920. A Volt would have been a good addition to those four.

I love seeing the old VW’s, probably because my first car was a 1965 VW Bug.

i like functional cars, so the very old trucks and cars with built in campers, the Jeeps and Land Rovers that look like they have been to Africa and back are also fun.

i learned to drive with a 1965 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon. Once I got the hang of the shift, I could drive the 1969 Red VW Squareback that we got in Germany. Both cars were what my parents had in 1975 when I was practicing for the drivers test. But I got my license the morning of my 16th birthday driving my boyfriends parents green Plymouth sedan – we didn’t think my parents’ cars would pass the car part of the inspection.

A year or so later my dad got a huge Ford truck. In the 70’s cars were still mostly small. No minivans, only a few other pick up trucks. When I drove the truck I was above all of the traffic. And it had this powerful engine with a passing gear that was awesome. I drove that truck a lot.

As I was leaving home the got a Dodge Colt, a little blue thing that was pretty cheaply made. I set them up with a relatively new Datsun that a friend was selling before moving to Australia. That was a really nice car.

On my own, I biked or walked almost everywhere. I sometimes would borrow my parent’s car for a longer trip but it was a hassle to go and get it. I didn’t own my first car until 1981. I cashed in my penny collection (a bit over $200) and sold my waterbed (another $200) and bought a dark blue 1965 VW Bug. It was great fun and worth every penny I paid for it. I called it Grover.

Eventually it began to cost a lot to repair, so I sold it for $200 and bought a 1971 Volvo from a family friend for $1,000 that seemed far safer. It was an automatic, which I didn’t like, but it did well for a couple of years until I sold it for $400 in about 1983. I found another 1965 VW that was in far better condition and had had some things like new seats put in. I drove that until 1987.

At that point I wanted something for hauling stuff and building, and I got a brand new Mazda B200 pick up truck. It was silver, and new, and seemed pretty amazing. I loved having a new vehicle and I loved having a truck. In 1995 I inherited some money and also a sudden fear of that truck. It didn’t ave any safety features, including no head rests. I got another new truck, a 1995 Ford Ranger with an extended cab. It was purple, is was roomy, and that thing hauled all sorts of stuff for myself and for friends and for family.

I became very interested in cars that were different. I wanted an electric car but the pricing made that impossible. I saw a smart car and fell in love. Since I don’t drive much it seemed perfect as a little city car, but with four airbags it would also be the safest car I’d ever owned, and the gas mileage was great. I had to wait a year before one was available, but in November of 2008 I brought one home.

I tried to keep my truck for the next year or so, but it was getting old and expensive and there was no place to put it. I had to keep leaving it with other people. So I finally gave up and was happy that a friend wanted it for his son. I got to borrow it back a few times over the years, and that was fun.

That’s it. Just 6 cars in all those years.
I’ve had as many bicycles. I started with a tiny green thing with training wheels when I was about 5, and soon got a gold “real” bike. I’m thinking it was a 3 speed Robin Hood, but I’m not sure if that is right.

So that lasted from about age 6 or 7 until I was in Junior High. I didn’t ride much the next few years, but when I moved away from home in 1977 I got a really nice Motobecan that lasted until 1995. I gave it away to a guy who had just moved here from Honduras. I got a purple Bianchi then, and loved it until just last fall when everything seemed to fail at the same time.

I was lucky to be gifted with a great Canondale that is so far better than any bike I had before, it is a real pleasure to ride. So I’ve been pretty easy on the bikes as well. Most have lasted a very long time.

I hope I am now set for the foreseeable future. Bike and car paid for, reliable, and in good shape.

I won’t be going back to Sears

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

I just wanted a new mattress. I had discovered that two long twins equal a king. It was touch and go getting the used king mattress upstairs to my bedroom a few years ago, it tested the new relationship I was in but with his ingenuity and some pure combined muscle strength we did it. But the bed was bad to begin with and it only got worse over time.

That relationship was over sooner than the bed. My current love has flourished even with a bad bed, and two dogs, but we deserved something new.

Now the story gets worse and worse.
Sears appeared to have a good selection to choose from. I did my internet due diligence, and went to the local store. I also tried Art Van but was very distressed by the high pressure slaes tactics and the guarantee that every mattress there would fit up a narrow winding staircase. The two sales people at Sears seemed sincere, no hard sell, and steered me to a bed I liked.
I went back the next day and bought the two twins, arranged for delivery the next week, and the female sales person said she would always remember me because I was her first sale made with the Ipad.
I paid the delivery fee, I think $60, and an additional $15 to take away the old mattress.

I was texted, emailed, and finally called to confirm the delivery date. Noon on Wednesday. At 10 am on Wednesday I got a call from Sears and all I heard was there was a problem, and we were disconnected. No one called back. So I called the number and they said the bed wasn’t ready and would be delivered on Friday. I had already disassembled my bed and couldn’t get it back together on my own. I was promised an email coupon for 10% of the purchase price for the inconvenience.That never came.
But then a little before noon a truck appeared in the parking lot across the street, and I got a call asking where my house was. GPS sent them to the wrong place. But I wasn’t expecting them, since the delivery had been cancelled. They dashed upstairs with the two mattresses, glanced at the old one and said they wouldn’t take it. It had to be stain free. What? What old mattress is stain free and why would that matter and no one said anything about that. So I had three mattresses piled in my bedroom.

I called the nice salespeople at the local sears and they said oh yes, that is true. We can return your $15. But I have nowhere to sleep and can’t get into my bedroom hardly. No response. They couldn’t figure out how to return my money,as I paid with a debit card. I suggested a check and they said okay, and about ten minutes later they had a manager authorizing that return. I said I would like to complain about being misinformed and now having no way to set up my bed and she was only going to focus on getting me $15.

I had to pay a friend to come and move the old mattress so that I could at least set up my new bed and have a place to sleep.

i got a call from another manager later, who said of course they would pick up my mattress and the whole thing was a mistake. Someone would arrange for my old mattress to be picked up ASAP. I again tried to register a complaint, and she said it would be taken care of. I got a number to make the new arrangements.

That was set up for Friday, and on Thursday I got texts emails confirming my delivery. So I went on line and confirmed – the thought they were to deliver two more mattresses. So I called, spent some time on hold, and the person on the phone said yes we are delivering a foundation. Which was never part of the arrangement. So I clarified there was no delivery, only a pick up. She said oh yes, we had you down for two mattresses. She canceled that.

The guys in the truck came two hours before their scheduled time on Friday, I wasn’t fully ready, and they also parked in the wrong place, missing my street entirely. But they had the mattress down stairs and gone in record time.

Each time I went on line to check and then to follow up I was asked how Sears did. Each time I rated the service as very poor. Each time – five times total – I asked for a follow up email and gave my contact info. In the next week I got a couple dozen emails from Sears about sales and coupons and it took almost two weeks to get unsubscribed from everything. Five complaints filed on line asking for follow up and twice on the phone, there was no follow up. I asked for reimbursement of the $25 I had to pay to get someone to help me at the last minute move the mattress that I thought I was now stuck with.

It was a stressful week. It was three days of upheaval and uncertainty. It was time spent waiting but all at the wrong time and for the wrong thing.

The check for $15 came the next week. That was to reimburse me for the mattress removal fee.

I counted about 12 errors in the simple delivery of two mattresses. And no corporate response, no acknowledgement, no one taking responsibility. A major breakdown in communications within the company and then with the customer. This is a company gone rogue, and apparently no idea that things have fallen apart. With such great blindness there can be no trust, no accountability, nothing you can rely on. That sort of blundering has reverberations throughout the entire corporation.

I do not want to ever buy anything from Sears again. I will avoid their store even if it was to be convenient our cost saving to shop there. It shouldn’t be possible to screw up so badly and not even notice. It shouldn’t be allowed to file 7 total complaints and not get one acknowledgement or a single response from any level. They do not deserve my business, I was warned that they are irresponsible and I didn’t listen. I let people know through facebook and now through blogging that this is not a good company to do business with, and they are entirely unreliable in customre service. I hope you will take my advice.

Meanwhile, the bed has turned out very well. It only took about two weeks to not feel stressed for a bit each night, thinking about the error of making the purchase from Sears. There is a hidden cost shopping from Sears in stress, time, and aggravation. Don’t pay it. Shop somewhere else. That’s my advice.

Stuff

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Mountains of paper. I’ve filled three recycling carts with files in the last month. I have saved paper for all my life. Some of it was filed carefully, and then there were about 10 bins of unfiled stuff. I’m down to the last last three bins.

It is liberating, it is scary to toss so much history away, and it is in the end a huge relief.

In the process of review, I”m finding bits and pieces of my life. Class evaluations that are scathing (some of the future pharmacists thought my class was a waste of time and money) as well as laudatory (life changing even). I was tempted to save the worst, to keep me humble, but they actually reveal more about the writer than how I can improve as a teacher.

Brochures from places I visited and forgot, places I loved and want to remember. The Grand Canyon, Sedona, Vancouver Island, Santa Monica, El Paso, decades of travel reduced to small pieces of paper.

And so much more that is now gone. No need to even list it here.

I don’t have descendents who would be the designated sorters once I pass. I do have friends and loved ones outlined in my will. This certainly relieves the burden on them!

Next I start putting books and records up for sale. I have parted with no records ever – so my collection goes back to 1968 or thereabouts. My first LP was Creedance Clearwater Revival — Pendulum. My first 45 was Back in the USSR. You know the artist.

With an entire backroom filled with books, I know I can part with a few hundred to start. Duplicates, and then getting more serious. I will keep thousands still – reference books, sci fi, poetry books of my mothers. But I have about 40 astrology books that are not being used and are collection items. They can all go.

I need to have found a lot of what I have now reclaimed for future books and articles. Success. In a way, knowing where it all is is even better than having so much of it saved. It was just more stuff than I could access and use.

Hurray! Less stuff and appreciating what I do have even more. This is fun.