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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Historic Mechanicville 

This blog is dedicated to Mr. Mark Furnish, Esq., the man who led this horse to drink from the water of blogdom. Thank you, Mark, for sharing blogging with me. If you want to see Mark’s blog page, it is at: Jefferson's Spirit

Mark, and his wife, Kim, had a great Oktoberfest and karaoke party this weekend. Knockwurst and Bratwurst are great lipolysis fuels for the Atkin’s Diet and so I had a great time.

The interesting thing I noticed, however, was on my way to their house in Mechanicville. We were driving along a dark upstate road and came upon a fancy, gilded sign that said, Historic Mechanicville. I immediately wondered what was so historic about Mechanicville.

The funny thing is that once I got to the party, several other people were wondering the exact same thing. So, as a public service, I have decided to do the research. Here is a listing of what makes Mechanicville historic:

1. Settled in 1714 by the Dutch, who promptly built twelve houses and a schoolhouse. They called it “a Borough of Halfmoon.”
2. Home of the “Rambo of the American Revolution”, Captain Lemuel Roberts. He killed two bucks with his bare hands and beat a bear to death with the butt of his rifle.
3. Liberated its last slave in 1826, fifty years after most other northern territories emancipated theirs
4. The Champlain Canal was built in 1830 and brought large industry to the borough
5. On July 6, 1859, the city of Mechanicville was incorporated with 977 inhabitants.
6. Home of Elmer E. Ellsworth, believed to be the first Union soldier killed in the Civil War (1861)
7. Fifteen Mechanicville residents bought “exemption certificates” to get out of serving in the Civil War (why didn’t poor Elmer buy one too?)
8. Mississippi Jenkins, a slave from South Carolina, was purchased by Mechanicville in 1864 to help fill their quota of new recruits for the Civil War.
9. Through the 1920’s, Mechanicville became known for brickyards, paper mills, freight transfer, sash and blind manufacturing, and textile mills.
10. Population swelled to nearly 10,000 during its peak in the 1920’s
11. Was paved with yellow bricks for a time.
12. 1908 Birthplace of Ray Heimdorff, nominated for 18 Academy Awards as a musical director.

So, let’s see here. What is it that makes Mechanicville deserving of the title Historic Mechanicville? Two war heroes, reluctance to free their slaves, industries responsible for horribly polluting the Hudson River (no wonder they are opposed to dredging; they are probably afraid of what might churn up), fifteen draft dodgers, buying another slave in 1864 to let other folks dodge the draft, colorful streets, and a musician.

Whoop-dee-doo. Call me crazy, but I can think of a more impressive and laudable history from the kids who grew up on my block.

Perhaps the sign should be changed:

Barely Historical Mechanicville

Sordidly Historical Mechanicville

Take Our Word For It And Don’t Look It Up For Yourself That It’s Historical Mechanicville

Or maybe most appropriately, just change the sign to: Mechanicville, Home of Mark and Kim’s Kick-ass Oktoberfest and Karaoke Party.

To the folks who embrace Mechanicville as the cradle of Western culture, please make a case for that sign. Otherwise, tear it down!

Monday, September 29, 2003

First, an update on the progress of my CVS experience. I have been getting a lot of inquiries from readers on the status of my film.

Some customer service representative named Lily or Rose (or some type of flora), called and asked me all sorts of questions. I did not rat anyone out, but I made everything clear to her. She was aghast, most disturbed by the part where the woman told me that one-hour photo means one hour from when she feels like developing my film.

After a long while on the phone and numerous emails, CVS has finally assured me that they have rectified the problem. All I have to do is walk into the New Scotland Avenue facility and pick up my pictures and disk.

I hope it’s that simple. We shall see.

But, my larger issue here is that, rather than focusing on making customers happy to begin with, customer service has been reduced to a complaint line. Reactive, rather than proactive.

It seems that most retail stores nowadays employ marginal help. What I mean by marginal is that they are marginally above retarded.

I don’t want to insult anyone who has worked at a fast food restaurant, but there was once a time where this “marginal help” was only found at McDonalds. Fast food places are historically places where people who are at the register didn’t know how to count change, and the fry guy could not be relied upon to fill a cup with Sprite. The manager was superior to all the other walking zombies in age only, and only by a year or so.

Somehow this inept segment of the population has multiplied and infected other parts of our community.

Incompetence is now all over the retail industry. In an effort to cut costs, businesses have resorted to hiring workers (if that is what you want to call them) who only shuffle around and shrug. The ongoing attitude amongst these people is “Hey, if I get fired I will get a job at K-Mart or Best Buy. Who Cares?”

Well, I’ll tell you who cares. I care!

There is nothing more irritating to me than standing in a huge line at the only open register at Target while a half dozen “sales associates” hang out not fifteen feet away at the customer service desk giving each other noogies (sp?).

The manager’s opinion on the matter was, “By the time I get a register open, that line will be shorter, so why bother?”

Am I the only one who sees the tragic irony of this?

I would be happy to go to a store that charges a little extra and provides proactive customer service. However, studies show that financial incentive is not enough to keep morale and job satisfaction high. And, unfortunately you can’t pay someone to be less stupid.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I remember getting our first answering machine back in the early eighties. I remember my grandparents (who were really old to me at the time and not very technologically inclined) getting one soon after us and putting Hawaiian music on it. The answering machine has been with us for decades.

It has evolved through the ages from one tape (which took dreadfully long to fast-forward and rewind to the right part of the tape to leave a message) to the two tape (much faster) to digital (where you can selectively delete or save messages) to voicemail (which has all sorts of funky options).

So, after all of this time, why do people still find it necessary to leave detailed instructions on what to do after the beep?

We know already.

After the tone leave your name, phone number, and a brief message.

Good god. We know already.

Being that I own my own business, I am on the phone a great deal. I leave a lot of messages. I figure that I leave at least five or six messages a day and each time I waste ten seconds listening to someone give me explicit directions as to what to do after the tone. That's one minute per day.

That's about six minutes per week. That's five hours per year. Over the course of my career, that's 150 hours! Think of it. I can expect to spend about five full weeks of office hours through my career listening to someone or other tell me something I already know.

When will the day come that people will come to understand everyone knows how to use an answering machine?

If you do not, here's how it goes:
1. Listen to some inane babble
2. Listen to tone
3. Speak pertinent information
4. Hang up

Pretty easy. So, next time you are fumbling with the buttons and getting your scripting straight, cut everyone a break and...


Monday, September 08, 2003

I contacted CVS via email and telephone complaint line regarding my experiences with their 1-hour photo service.

Mr. Bill Westerlind (or some such name) returned my call within a few days. He wanted to know my issue regarding the photos and I laid it all out for him. Pretty much how I told it to you in my previous blog.

He apologized profusely and seemed most concerned about the ultimate quality of the photos and photo disk. He assured me that if I were to bring the negatives back to the store, they would be sent out to the best CVS in the Capital District to be re-developed at no charge to me. He also offered to provide the photos on CD rather than on floppy, which would provide better resolution.

Hopefully, my family won’t be distorted beyond all recognition in these photos.

I stopped by my CVS a few days later and dropped off my negatives and floppy disk. The store manager was very polite and apologetic. She took the materials back graciously and told me that the services would be provided at no charge and that I should return to pick up my photos on Thursday.

Well, I wish I could tell you that my problems end here, but that is simply not the case.

My wife, Elaine, went to pick up the photos on Saturday afternoon. She handed the pick-up slip to the woman and she started digging through the “L” bin. When she came back to the counter they discovered “CANNOT PROCESS” written across the envelope in big black letters.

“Oh, my husband is not going to be happy about this,” Elaine said.

“Why not?” asked the woman.

Now, let me stop here and make a comment. There are a whole host of reasons why someone would not be happy that their photos were not developed and had “CANNOT PROCESS” across the envelope in big, black letters. It seems that this particular one-hour photo lady could not think of even one.

“Because he already had trouble with CVS over this same roll of film.”

“Well, let me look into it while you finish shopping.”

The woman did look into it while Elaine finished shopping and the end result was that there is no reason that the film should not have been re-processed and she was going to send it out to be re-re-processed.

Coincidentally, I received a postcard in the mail today from CVS:

Dear CVS Customer:

Our records show that you recently contacted the CVS Customer Relations Department to voice a complaint. We would like to gain your feedback about the way your complaint was handled. Please call toll-free at 866-559-8861 and answer a few brief questions regarding your experience with out Customer Relations Department. You may call any time, day or night, 7 days a week. Your input will go a long way in helping us better serve our customers in the future. Thank you.

Debbie Kelmel
Customer Relations Manager

I am about to call that number now.

Now, I will not fault CVS for poor follow up, but it seems there is a problem on the technical side of processing or with the actual floor persons.

Coincidentally, I recently saw the movie One-Hour Photo with Robin Williams. It is a dark comedy about an anal-retentive, depressed, psychotic one-hour photo guy [Williams] who obsesses about a family that brings their photos to him. He begins to stalk them and things get nastier and nastier. But, the truth is he was a really good photo guy! And obviously they are really hard to come by. I watched that movie and rather than being frightened, I became depressed myself, wishing CVS had a guy like that behind the counter.

I will keep you posted on the developments (pun intended).

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