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Archive for the ‘Helpdesks’ Category

another Apple iMAC fails

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A little more than a year old, our iMAC dies.  As reported, of all of our household goods, Apple computers are the most unreliable object (then followed by an old Ford Tauras (which as a gift, so renames a fair investment)) we own. 3 Apple Computers, 8 repairs in 3 years = Average Time between repair-replacements is 13 months.

As an Apple 2 owner from the start of the 80s, I continue to be disappointed in Apple’s attitude change on environmental  sustainability and lack of consideration for product quality and ability to repair. Given the massive sales and corporate worth of Apple, the market continues to say Apple is right in producing sexy designs that will not last nor can be readily repaired.

For us, repair or replace?  If replace, is it time to abandon the Apple platform?  Can I transform my Photoshop licenses to a PC. Calls to Adobe coming soon!

Now you know why I do not have an iPad, nor buy a iPhone which already has a bad reputation for durability.

Written by raspberryfisher

2013/04/01 at 19:32

Posted in Helpdesks, Tools

Booking reward flights on Aeroplan – ugh!

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I have used my Aeroplan miles to book flights to Madrid, Paris, Colorado, New Zealand, et cetera, but I have notice as the airlines add fees, airport fees rise, taxes get added – all of which is not covered – the benefit-value of my miles have degraded significantly with time. Given this degradation, I started shifting my rewards back to financial rewards.

Yet, I started looking at using my miles for a major vacation. So I started thinking about booking a flight to New Zealand for a 2-3 week period to see how much the fees will negate the benefit.  So looking at what available flights there were, I could find a couple of departing flights and returning flights within the year (shown below – looked out to the fall of 2013), but there were no roundtrip flights that required less than a 5 week vacation.

I spent nearly 40 minutes slowly scrolling (waiting for the page to refresh) through the calendar to find nothing is available for the next year.  A lot of time used to find nothing.

The next choice, given how poor the app works, is to call and pay more to find something that works.



Postscript – Looking to Sydney Australia, there are many more choices and costs seem more reasonable (additional fees not covered – 652 CAD$ round trip per person), but does require 135K Miles.


Written by raspberryfisher

2012/10/18 at 20:14

Posted in Helpdesks, Work Travel

Continental to United Merger Failures – Prison Seats

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With high density of wireless (mobile – cell) telephone service, high energy costs and complex access rules, Southern California is a place I frequent. It usually involves about 6 hours in the air and a couple of fligths.  Unfortunately, the service-options to fly to the right airport (SNA – Orange County – John Wayne) has degraded over the past 2 years.

  • Air Canada – stop their direct flights from Toronto.
  • United– Mixing their flights with Continental – and the merger is making it worse.
    • Passenger Information enabling frequent flyer information and seat selection is not properly transferring from system to system. This trip, I spent an hour on the phone to clean up the reservations, another 30 minutes to try and correct the online check-in and then another 30 minutes at each check-in actually completing the fix.
    • Yes, the problems were there before, but it is getting worse and consistently each trip is requiring a lot of time to fix!  I have left messages with Customer Service, but to date, but no response.  It is evident the merger is making it worse.
    • …. Months ago, buying the more leg-room option at initial purchase stopped.
    • …. No longer always accepts my frequent flyer number.  Might, might not.  In this trip, 1 of the 2 flights per leg was correct.
    • Though I waited 30 minutes at the United check-in to fix my flight (which is aggravating), the United Airline staff there were kind. One reason I like John Wayne Airport, the airport has a good vibe to it, from the car rental agencies to the airlines to TSA.
  • Continental – Travelling in the still tube, especially Continental – sitting jammed in a seat, in a full plane, in a seat you could not select, beside a person with bad breadth, with a small screen 12″ in front of face constantly seeing the same advertisement for DirectTV for 4.5 hours is a form of prison – with the only good news, you know you will be released soon! 
    • Practice your zen, consider taking up airplane seat yoga.
    • Share breadth mints with those sitting beside you. Strike up a nice conversation, and when it is going well, offer them a mint.

It is clear to this frequent flyer, the United-Continental merger is failing. From the tool integration or the stewardess who refused to provide coffee – “They took away our serving tray, so I cannot bring you coffee, so leave a message with your customer survey”. Well I have before, but no response and the only changes are worse.



Southern California Desert


Written by raspberryfisher

2012/02/12 at 19:58

Posted in Helpdesks, Work Travel

Apple Computer Reliability – Poor Record

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Our use and adoption of Apple computer pre-date the Mac (or MacIntosh back then) with Apple IIs, and have an Apple ever since. In my 30 years of system engineering, much of it, was involved in the design and manufacturing of computers, from fault-tolerant servers, to Unix workstations to laptops.

In our house-hold, we have 5 computers:

  • 3 Apples – 2 MacBook Pros and 1 iMAC
  • 2 Win-PCs – Two dinosaurs running Microsoft – 13 year old desktop (runs current software, like TurboTax for small business) and 5 year old laptop (current apps, but a little dam slow with all of the security overhead laid on top to). The laptop is the standard issue from my company, who believes computers should remain current for a minimum of five years (unless you are in IT or a VP).
    • Apple maintains a support for spares of 4 years maximum.
  • Also have 2 Toyotas – 1998 Corolla and 2006 Sienna.
    • With a few acres of land and forest, also have chainsaw, tractor, snowblower, et cetera, ~10 year old.

The repair record for the past 2 years:

  • Apple: 7 trips for repair, one of which is damaged caused by my daughter (accident in moving), requiring replacement drives, motherboards and an OS rebuild. It is not just the laptops, but all three computers have needed repair and replacement – 3 under the 1 yr warranty.
  • Dinosaur PCs: 0
  • Old Toyotas: 1 – Remove nail out of tire.  Does not include Oil Changes and seasonal tire changes.
  • Tractor, Chainsaws, Blowers, Lawnmowers: 1 – Drive belt slip (my fault), does not include maintenance.

So of all of the equipment we have, I spend the most, the majority of, effort managing and repairing Apple Computers.

Acknowledging my Brother-In-Law replaced his second iMac in 6 years (2x motherboard), and my Mother-in-Law her iMac (screen) as well, but my fathers’s Win-PC keeps working (damm old thing (last motherboard refresh is 7 years ago), I have come to the conclusion that Apple Computer reliability is just plain bad.

But hey, they have a solution for their poor reliability, spend more money and get an AppleCare programme to extend replacement to 3 years.   Keep in mind, after that, a failure will cost you dearly, and after 4 years, no authorized Apple centre is suppose to have parts to repair your freshly minted electronic-waste filler.

Apple provides a premium computer and a companywith 81 Billion USD in cash reserves, but it is time Apple spent some of their hoard in managing quality, reliability and maybe at the same time, we will slow the rate of growth of electronic waste into our landfills.


Postscript > If I had any good news, the quality of the AppleCare Support Team is high – on phone or those that I have visited. Now, they need to match this quality experience with a reliable PC. A computer should not be designed as a disposable fashion accessory, but a good tool.

My corresponding Twit can be restated as:  iMac repair done well & working. Repair history for Apple worst than my 98 Corolla, is Apple the new old FIAT (Lada).

The drive into the “Genius Bar” was a challenge with  snow, ice and freezing rain, but as the last day for 2011, the computer was still running, weather cleared and start of the next year looks good.

Anyway, time to move on, at least forget until an Apple computer breaks again.

Written by raspberryfisher

2012/01/03 at 19:10

Posted in Helpdesks

Selling or Soiling your Brand – Sears Marketplace

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Trying to emulate (copy) Amazon and Yahoo, Sears has created a shell for other retailers to sell under the name. It enables other vendors to use (or sadly) exploit the (once) trusted name of Sears to sell their product.

Case study:

  1. Bought Microsoft VISIO 2010 Pro at a Market Prices from Sears Marketplace. Not discounted, not off ebay, et cetera, so all seem legit.
  2. Installed, but would not activate.  So after several phone calls and a day plus with Microsoft (Case Number 111062467009014 ), it is communicated that the “activation number” has been improperly used from a MSDN kit.  Microsoft’s only path of support – get the vendor to replace the kit or refund.
    Note, desite the intial faux-pas with Microsoft in not knowing how to handle-route this problem, once we got to Aaron in Minnesota and his boss Sanjeev, the support, follow-through and monitoring was A+.
  3. Call Sears Marketplace Customer Service to address and their reply can be summarize as “We are a front for another company, you need to contact the actual company and work out the problem, here is their email and phone number.”  (Sears Tracking > Order 240288667 – Pirated Software (KMM17788298I15977L0KM)) (See final important note on discussion on fraudulant-pirated software).
  4. So was the email (gmail) or phone number valid?  No, on both acounts. So Sears is directing you into a void.  (Later, mail did out of the gmail account).
  5. So after some pressure, we get a request to ship the software back, which they get back, and after a few weeks of email, remainders, requests, there is no resolution.
  6. After several weeks we push harder – noting we will take further action. Next response from Sears, is the statement again, “We are a front for another company, you need to contact the actual company and work out the problem, here is their phone number.”
    I also think there was also an email to effect, “please lets us do what we do best, Customer Service”.  (Irony not losted).
  7. And yes, it is the same phone number as before, and it still does not work.  Why bother, have they not read the file, they just blindly continue on the same path.  Also since it is already been identified as non-operational weeks ago, why are they still using it. Were is the follow-through and corrective action.
  8. In this final frenzy of pushing, going to the manufacturer, Sears, copying Microsoft, talking to the Credit Card company to refute the delivery of purchase, the replacement software arrives and it works.

In the summary response, it is note Sears should reflect on the problem (not the sympton of us getting bad software), but the problem ….

They are using their brand to sell bad product.  Which raises the question, how do they qualify and manage the companies they give their brand to.

They provide a non-functional problem resolution system, using email and phone numbers that do not work. Again, what is their process to ensure this mechanism works.

There is no follow-through, no system to identify corrective action has been taken – whether it is correcting the bad software shipment or their commuication system back to the vendor is faulty.  (Though the case was close with Microsoft, Aaron and Sanjeev keep checking back every week to see if Sears had corrected the issue).

So the resulting bad taste (lesson) is you cannot trust Sears Marketplace.

So after many decades of building a brand of good faith, passed down by generations (thinking of my mother, who retired more than a decade ago) to her children is being undermined, by the desire to emulate Yahoo, Amazon for money, by selling their brand, but not keeping to what was their core identify by providing the mechanism a safe environment to do business in.

Looking at this as a Business Case Study, is the process of Sears Marketplace an illustration of Selling Your Brand or Soiling Your Brand.



Important Note:  I have no reason doubt that the License from Microsoft was mis-appropriate. I do not believe Sears every intended to sell Pirated Software, and I have no idea about their partner.  Their partner early in the claimed stated … “We had to get authorization from microsoft to issue a replacement for the defualted products”.

Piracy also implies intent.  In the end, all that can be assured …. it was “bad” and Microsoft would not authenicate it noting the license number provided is for MSDNs and not for commercial sale.

This blog is not about the distribution of bad software, but when bad things happen, how does an organization respond.

Mistakes, problems, faults always has happen and will happen in the future. The stature and a quality of a company shines or diminshes in how it addresses a problem.

2012-01-02 Update: Sears has been annoucing they are beginning to downsize and close some stores. I am sure they can blame the economy and Wally-World, but truth in the matter, I think they let themselves become forgotten. A me-too product that was no better (worst) than who they tried to imitate. Sad.

Written by raspberryfisher

2011/07/30 at 17:26

Posted in Helpdesks

Helpdesk – The Oxymoron – Holiday Inn case

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I think we can all tell tales of bad service.  A recent case was Holiday Inn made and accepted a reservation for a hotel. It reminded me days before of my reservation … but there was a catch, the hotel was closed.  How did I find out? When I tried to drive into a closed parking lot of a very dark building at 10pm … whose Holiday Inn sign was down.  (How do you find it a hotel that is  down and dark, when you expect it to be there?).

By the time, I got through being on hold with “Guest Relations”, I had driven to another hotel, checked in and unpacked. What we found out after emails-calls, the hotel owner decided to close, renovate and go to a competitor.  It closed on Jan 1, and I was booked for Jan 3+.

In Holiday Inns eyes, all fault lies with the franchise owner.  No action is required on their part, they are sorry .. nothing more, just sorry.

My eyes, fault includes the reservation system.  How do they accept a reservation for a hotel that is closing-closed. If I made the reservation before they closed, upon notification, do they not have a process to go back, stop reservations and notify customers of a change of status.

If I miss a reservation night, I pay for it.

If they miss a hotel, nothing.

Yes, on January 3, I could still go to the website of the closed Holiday Inn.

What was I looking for, from Holiday Inn?  (No money, but please acknowledge my booked 3 days for continuing my “platinum status”), and more importantly correct the procedural error so I can book with confidence.  What did I get, ‘Sorry, it is on file, the fault lies with the hotel owner’.  Yes, it is on file, and the assurance that Holiday Inn has no responsibility or fault.  Effectively .. Any opportunity to correct the reservation system goes into the wastebasket. 

Q: Do they try an prevent this repeat itself the next time a hotel closes to me or you?  A: No

Q: Can I believe Holiday Inn will have a room or even a hotel when I make a reservation?  A:  No.  Unfortunately, niether should you.

Q: Is this really Help?

It is easy to get frustrated with the person on the phone, but once you recognize they are place in a bad position to accept the blame for others, with no authority to correct or improve things, hopefully you  will have empathy with the person, and recognize the issue is above them – recognizing the need to address unusual faults and provide structural corrective action.

Q: Have I continue to use Holiday Inn?  A: Last week it was the Marriott.  This week it will be Sofitel and the following back to the Marriott.

Enough (for now) about bad Helpdesks.  There will be another subject next time, but for now, it is time to get to my gate (off to Dubai, via Frankfurt). Safe Travels.

Written by raspberryfisher

2011/01/22 at 22:07

Posted in Helpdesks, Work Travel

the cube Traveller series

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I spend too much time travelling, and not enough time fishing. At the suggestion of others, I have begun to write about the lessons, and pain and funny stories of doing a lot of travel.  Through this series, I will put in ancedotes and little about for me, so as you can understand my perspective. But for today, lets talk about helpdesks.  With cut-backs and low-cost operations, the term helpdesk has morph into an oxymoron.

Last weeks episode with an United Helpdesk employee in India.  Currently, my profile is wrong, and cannot be corrected.  You can enter the information in, you can save it, it does say it is saved, but when you go back, it is still wrong or it enters in different data!  So what do you do, you call the helpdesk, go on hold to try and fix the problem.  This was a painful excercise, marred by communications and accents, with a sample of the dialogue below.  The keyword here has been changed to protect the innocent and quicken the story.

Help:  What is the word again?  (think Indian accent)

Me: Iron (think Canadian accent, but no eh!)

Help: That did not work Mr Wilson, let me try again.  (Pause)  It still does not work, can you please spell it.

Me: I-R-O-N

Help: Let me repeat that Mr Wilson, R-U-N   (missing the I, plus an O substitution)

Me: No, I-R-O-N

Help: Let me repeat that again Mr Wilson, I-RA-N  

Me: No

Help: Please spell it phoentically Mr Wilson.

Me: India Romeo Oscar November

Help: Did you say, Romeo … (again missing the I)

Me: Interrupting with a NO, India Romeo Oscar November

Help: Ahhh, India Romeo Alpha Quebec  (changed countries now)

Me: No, it is a material, like nickel, not a country ….

Anyway, you get the story and yes, he did eventually enter in Iron. But this continue through the whole experience, with many fields.  After 45 minutes, they failed to help and promise someone would call back. No-one did call back, just wasted my time and the helpdesk.  The problem is still there, I cannot correct my profile and complicates any booking (details intentionally withheld), so with this, I now book my travel with another airline.  A promise was made it would be fixed, an apology was given and a counter suggestion was made ….

Book Online, then Call Reservations (go on hold for x minutes), then have the online agent correct the file.

As the various institutions respond to consumers who want it cheaper, service continues to degrade across the industry. The ability to fix problems that are not in a script becomes rare, as they all race to the bottom.  A milestone to this race is to avoid the carrying cost of human contact and with this, we get electronic billing, online reservations, et cetera, and yet the tools they provide are not robust. 

Advice … Make sure you ask them to enter it into the Problem Report log.  Have then recap what is in the problem file.  Rarely do the use it, as intended, but at least the record is there and you can call upon it.  If there are any implications, ensure this information is logged to.  In this case ….

“Please note in the file, until this problem is resolved, my reservations are being managed by an another company who can properly and effectively manage my personal data. When someone debugs the fault and calls me with the resolution, and then I can resume giving you my business. ” (or to that affect, illustrating, the issue is affecting their revenue)

Do not get mad at the helpdesk agent, yes, we get frustrated, but it was not their fault they are given a limited script, with no method to raise unsolved problems and given to a person who will work for the lowest wage an executive can imagine.  If you are frustrated, tell them it is direct at the process and company and not at them.

Do we need the “razzies” awards to shame the companies?  As I see not other motivation tools available to correct for the bad decisions that has got us here.

More Helpdesk horror stories in the next “cube traveller” short story.  But for now, to the airport.

Safe travels all!

Written by raspberryfisher

2011/01/17 at 17:18

Posted in Helpdesks, Work Travel