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Just an observation

xmas me
You know, the more you tell me that my call is important to you, as you leave me on hold, the less I'm inclined to believe you.

Lessons learned from the weekend:

xmas me
1. If you have a casual afternoon conversation mentioning that the service at Outback Steakhouse has gone, shall we say, a little bit downhill since its glory days (assuming that you agree that Outback Steakhouse ever had glory days, but that is a separate conversation), and another person, a few hours later, suggests dinner at Outback Steakhouse, it is probably best to think deep thoughts about that casual afternoon conversation and run, run, run.

2. When an Outback Steakhouse says that it's out of beers on tap, this is not a good sign.

3. When the same Outback Steakhouse says that it's also out of numerous beers not on tap, this is also not a good sign.

4. When the still same Outback Steakhouse says, not altogether apologetically, that it has just run out of prime rib at 8:45 pm on a Saturday night, this is a worse sign.

5. Explanations that "Well, we always run out of prime rib – you have to order it early" will not exactly inspire confidence in the kitchen management.

6. When the still identical Outback Steakhouse also attempts to strongly discourage you from ordering your meat medium rare, this should be a blaring sign.

7. When forty-five minutes after ordering, with no contact from the server since that time, you have difficulty flagging down another server, and then need to wait another seven minutes before server two returns with the hasty explanation that yes, yes, the food is arriving, this should be taken as a sign that the food is not, in fact, arriving.

8. Many locals, of course, are already guessing that I must have been with unsigned. (We were joined by evilstoryteller and mlxplx, but I have had outstanding restaurant service in the company of these two.) You can all draw your own lessons from that.

9. As it turns out, Smokey Bones is open later than you would expect, and serves the food it lists on the menu. Smokey Bones is also closing most of its restaurant chains since they are not making enough money; while Outback Steakhouse claims to be expanding. I'm not sure we want to examine the lessons here.

10. The end result of these adventures, however, will keep you from entering the cheery confines of a Starbucks and instead force you to face a bartender with a very bad British accent.

11. In August, the apartment complex pool will never be empty, no matter when you arrive.

12. The latest incarnation of Flash Gordon is a hideously bad show, and by hideous, I mean, virtually unwatchable, but deserving of a bit of snark in a separate post.

13. But I will add one lesson learned from Flash Gordon: even a leather clad girl can only do so much to save a show – or in this case, not save.

Raised eyebrows:

xmas me
How can a supposed telecommunications company (Bellsouth) be so terrible about basic communication with its customers?

And on a related note, anybody want to bet on how long it might take Bellsouth to actually change this billing error?

Imcompetent lies: amusement

xmas me
My father is one of the most difficult people in the world to shop for, bar none. Which is exactly why I found myself frantically searching the internet on December 23rd, which is when I found, to my joy and excitement and relief, his perfect present. I clicked. I entered addresses and little numbers. The website told me, in equal glee, that the gift would be shipped December 27th (accounting for holidays and so on.) I slept in joy and contentment and glee because I -- I had achieved nirvana: I had found the perfect present for my father.

Days go by, and my mother e-mails me with the note that the gift hasn't arrived. Grumble. I call. No one picks up. I get a nasty shiver down my spine. I e-mail. No one answers. I begin to feel a bit twitchy.

So, this morning while waiting for Important E-mail, I give the group a call. The phone is answered by a very nice girl. Here are the more amusing parts of the conversation:

1) She initially tells me that I ordered the item on December 16. If true, this in fact makes the saga worse. I point out that I have a little printout saying otherwise. They correct themselves.

2) She then assured me that the item had been shipped on December 16. I mentioned my skepticism.

3) "Well," she said, "it was shipped."

4) Except, of course, that it hadn't been.

5) She then told me that my credit card hasn't been charged yet; I point out that Washington Mutual, a more trustworthy entity at this point, listed the charge as appearing on December 23. "Oh, well, you were charged, but we didn't actually receive the money."

Pause.

"I was always under the impression that if a charge appeared on my bank statement, that meant that the payment had been processed."

6) By this time we had moved on to a new story, which was that the item had not, in point of fact, been shipped (I'd guessed that) because the order had not gone through until December 27 and they needed five to seven days to process the order and at the end of five to seven days they had been in inventory so weren't shipping anything. Also, the item hadn't actually been in stock on the 27 but it was certainly in stock now. I said that aside from the part about the item not shipping, which I was inclined to believe, I was not overly convinced by the rest of the story.

7) She assured me that an e-mail had been sent out informing me of the delay in shipping. I assured her that it hadn't been received. She assured me that their e-mails frequently got caught in spam filters, so, it had been sent, just caught in a spam filter. As far as I can tell, that particular e-mail account has no spam filters whatsoever, unless, by spam filter, we mean a filter that lets everything through and indeed welcomes and solicits porn spam. So I can be forgiven for being slightly skeptical.

8) Shortly after this, she said that she would shoot me a confirmation e-mail to let me know that the item was shipping -- which was when she realized that the website did not actually have my e-mail address.

"Hmm," I said.

"So if you'll give me your e-mail address now --"

"What I find interesting about this," I said, "is that one minute ago you informed me that you had sent me e-mails regarding the status of my order."

"We did."

"Except that now you are claiming that you don't have my e-mail address."

"Yes."

"Do you sense a contradiction in these two statements?"

Pause.

9) "I can tell you," she said, returning to bright and happy persona, "that your item will be shipped on Monday via US Postal Service."

I wanted to make sure I'd heard this correctly.

"By Monday," I said.

"That's correct."

"Not today."

"No."

"Ok. Monday. United States Postal Service."

"Yes."

"Even though Monday is a federal holiday and the post office is closed."

Another pause.

"And, more to the point, this item is supposed to be sent via UPS, not the post office."

"It will be shipped," she said, brightly.

It perhaps speaks poorly of my faith in human nature to say that I find it difficult to trust her.

I must say, however, that it's not the lies that amuse me here, but the sheer incompetence of said lies. Doesn't anyone teach customer service reps to lie convincingly anymore?

********************

Aside from this incident, today is going much better than yesterday, and I'd like to express my personal appreciation to the universe for giving me a slight break here.

The great shuttle launch that wasn't:

xmas me
I blame Cracker Barrel.

Seriously.

As I've mentioned, I've never seen a shuttle launch before, and yesterday seemed like the ideal day to make up for that. And at first, aside from a bit more excitement over my hat than I found strictly necessary, all seemed to go well; I headed up north, picked up a friend; and we continued to head up north. Lovely lovely day, great conversation, all was going well until I saw a sign for a Cracker Barrel restaurant and realized that I was hungry. This is an unusual feeling for me these days, so I decided to run with it.

It was about, hmm, 1:20 when we walked into Cracker Barrel. If you're not familiar with the chain, it works something like this: you walk through the "Country Store" which is supposed to evoke old time memories of those old country stores, only with a considerably higher emphasis on expensive things and a lot more candy, assuming that you have actually even been to one of the old country stores. (They tend to be a look darker in real life.) The entrance to the restaurant is towards the back, and Cracker Barrel usually has you wait a few minutes and urges you to look around the store, in the hopes that your hunger for food will be so great that you'll decide to buy one of those overwhelmingly cute aprons. Or, if you're travelling, that you might get desperate enough to buy an audiobook. It's a hope, anyway.

The store told us to wait about 15 minutes, which was fine; it was about 20 minutes when we actually sat down and looked at the menu, still chatting.

About ten minutes later I tried to grab the waitress's eye, and missed.

About five minutes after that, I finally caught her eye. We successfully ordered drinks, and then, much less successfully, tried to order food. No chicken pie left; two of the side-orders were also sold old. We finally compromised: I would have barbeque pork and my friend would have beef stew. In theory.

Another 20 minutes drifted by with no sign from our waitress -- and no drinks. She finally walked by with drinks for another table, and told us that she would bring our drinks real soon. I was a bit skeptical. She took the other table's order, with some difficulty, and then came back to our table.

"Um, just so you know, there's no beef stew, so, you'll have to order something else."

"Actually, we have to speak to your manager," I said, more about the problem that we had been seated for 25 minutes and still...no drinks.

So that ended Cracker Barrel. We headed outside, and from the miracle of cell phone technology, found...

No shuttle launch after all.

That was sad. On the other hand, it gave us more time to stop at a Steak and Shake for lunch, which we did, before deciding to salvage the day by visiting the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and look at various animals and things.

It was closed.

So we ended up at the Smithsonian Institute's delightful little aquarium in Fort Pierce where we ended up talking, at length, with one of the biologists there, staying well after hours, which helped salvage the day, and then ended up in West Palm Beach with some delightful conversation, which meant that I didn't return from a non-existent shuttle launch until well after midnight.

Which is when I encountered the Great Munching Mystery. This is still Mysterious, but when I find out the end of this story, I will let you know.

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xmas me
mariness
Mari Ness

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