Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Who’s On the Line?

The other day, a friend stopped by and wondered why I hadn’t answered the three voice mail messages she had left over the past four weeks.

I had been wondering if we had offended family members and all of our friends, since we hadn’t found even one message on our answering machine for quite a while.

I decided to dial our land line from my cell phone, and the response came from a sedate, older woman’s voice instructing the caller to leave a message. As I left one, I looked at the answering machine, but there was no blinking light indicating that I had called. Somehow, AT&T had eliminated my own voice mail message, and the default went to them.

When I punched the button to see who had called, there was nothing at all, so I called the tech support line at AT&T to see what was wrong.

I was connected to a pleasant, accented operator in the Philippines, whose name was Javin. After I carefully explained my frustrating situation, she reassured me that she could easily resolve my problem. If I would give her permission to enter my AT&T site, she would work “side-by-side” with me.

One hour later, she admitted that she was having difficulty with my particular situation, and said that she would consult with her supervisor and call me back within an hour. I kept my phone line open for more than an hour, and six days later, I still hadn’t heard from her.

I called the tech support line again today, and was connected to India. After explaining my problem to a woman in support, I was adamant in telling the tech person to transfer me to someone “on shore,” a term you should use to get back to an American operator. I said if the problem wasn’t resolved now, I would close my AT&T account forever and move my local, national and international phone service to Comcast, along with my Internet.

Within minutes, Saumik was on the line, and introduced himself as a supervisor who was now aware of my problems, and said, “We will take care of it quickly.”

He kept thanking me for my patience and had me go to the land line, disconnect it, and then he called me on my cell phone. He kept reassuring me that it would all work out.

It turns out that the problem had been caused when AT&T switched me to their new U-Verse program against my will. Apparently this had happened to many other customers (or possibly former customers) who didn’t get help from Saumik.

It took him only twenty-minutes to resolve my problem, and to ensure me that any future problems would be quickly and efficiently resolved, he gave me his ID number and told me to ask for him.

I won’t tell you that ID number, however I will tell you that since Saumik comes from Eastern India, his name is pronounced Shaumik. It turns out that his office is only ten minutes away from where a former San Jose State University student of mine lives at 55 Palace Road in Bangalore, zip code 560052. If you run into Swaroop Balakrishna when you are in the neighborhood, please say hello.

If you manage to get hold of Saumik or any other competent AT&T supervisor in India, and they easily resolve your problem, thank them afterwards by saying “Bahnyabad.”

Don’t forget to get their ID number for the next time you may need it, but be sure to keep it to yourself.

How you react to any negative situation is important to your well being, and you can learn to mentally deflect unwanted occurrences.  Start to bring in good vibrations by doing the “Kum Aher” exercise, and then do the “Gay Avek” to send away the unwanted. Both are found here, and they are from my book The Oy Way — Following the path of most resistance.”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Are Warm Nuts Worth the Price?

When we fly, we try to purchase the least expensive ticket available, and we did so when we bought our round-trip tickets for a Florida trip in January.

Then we realized that we had more than 350,000 Frequent Flyer miles, and decided to trade some of them in for First Class tickets. Unfortunately, there are only a very limited number of those seats to be had on each flight, and there were none available on our San Jose to Dallas and Dallas to Ft. Lauderdale flights.

There were seats available on both flights coming home, but they would cost us not only 30,000 miles, and $150 each to move us to the front of the plane.

My wife Carmen and I have separate Frequent Flyer accounts, since she flies to Montreal each year, and had accumulated more than 30,000 miles on her own. She has been inundated with credit card solicitation mailings to upgrade her card from “plebian” to “platinum.” If her application was accepted, she would not only get the upgrade, but also 50,000 bonus miles as long as she charged $2,000 during a three-month period, and there would be no $82 annual fee for the first year.

She filled out and mailed in the form, was readily accepted, and easily spent the amount needed to receive the bonus miles. Carmen uses her credit card for everything, and the monthly invoice contains sums as low as 21¢ for duplication at Staples.

We used 30,000 of her free miles, charged the $300 upgrade fee, and flew home from Florida first class, all of the way. First class does offer many perks, including free checking of baggage, boarding the plane in the first group, sitting in wide, comfortable ersatz leather seats with plenty of leg room, being among the first to leave when we land, having attendants that smile and try to take care of our every legitimate need, and deliciously prepared warm food that we don’t have to purchase.

I was particularly pleased that at the start of our first-class flights, we were each given a nosh of a variety of warm nuts that filled a small ceramic white bowl. I have never had warm nuts on a flight before, but wonder if the price paid to get this first-class treat was really worth it. Since we intend to spend all of our accumulated Frequent Flyer miles on only First Class tickets, I may have to get used to such amenities.

Disturbing News for First-Class Travelers  
It was reported that in January, that instead of cattle rustlers, many farmers in California’s Central Valley have had their nut crops regularly rustled. Apparently, nut rustlers surreptitiously sneak into the ranches in the middle of the night with huge trucks, and recently stole more than $400,000 worth of walnuts,  $100,000 of almonds, and a like amount of pistachios.