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My Road to a SurfaceBook

You probably know Microsoft introduced the Surface Book on October 6th. It is a well designed, and powerful, Windows laptop. My current laptop has developed an annoying hum so a getting a new one seemed to make sense. I decided to splurge and on October 7th and placed a pre-order. This is the formal complaint letter I filed with Microsoft's Executive Escalation team; documenting my horrible pre-order experience.

My Formal Complaint

October 29th, 2015:

My name is Jeffry Houser and I wish to file a formal complaint about Microsoft's handling of my Surface Book pre-order.

As you know, Microsoft announced the Surface Book on October 6th. I was very excited about getting a powerful well engineered Windows Laptop and decided I had to have one.

What follows contains the full details of my pre-order experience problems including order number, case numbers, and the names of support people I spoke with. I hope you'll excuse if me I have incorrect names on the list; as my notes are imperfect, and my phone connection to the support personnel was never crystal clear.

On October 7th: I placed a pre-order for an i7 512GB with 16GB of RAM and a Surface Dock.

On October 19th: Microsoft tried to charge my American Express card and American Express triggered a fraud warning, declining the transaction. I got a phone call from American Express and immediately approved the charge. American Express requested I have Microsoft do a re-authorization on the card and they would approve it. I also received an email from the Microsoft Store asking me to update my payment information.

I tried to re-run the charge on the Microsoft Store site and it was declined. I was notified I only had three remaining chances to fix this issue.

I tried to enter my credit card details as a new card and it was declined because the card was already on file. I tried to re-run the charge on the Microsoft store site a second time with the existing credit card profile and it was declined. I was notified I only had 2 remaining chances to fix this issue.

I called Microsoft around 3pm and spoke to "Roan" who told me a lot of people were having the same problem. Microsoft was working on it. I should wait a few hours to try again.

Around 6pm I tried to run the charge on the Microsoft site a third time and it failed, letting me know I only had a single opportunity to fix the issue remaining.

Around 6:30pm I got on the phone with American Express. They informed me that no additional charge attempts were made against my card and they did not reject it. With American Express on the phone, insisting the charge should go through, I submitted my last attempt through the Microsoft Store and the order was cancelled. Before getting off the phone with American Express, I had them verify that no charge was attempted or declined on their end.

After getting off the phone with American Express, I called the Microsoft Store immediately. I spoke to "Christie". She assured me that the order was not cancelled and that it was just a problem with the Microsoft Store system and the cancellation email was erroneous. She promised me a call back within 24 hours.

On October 20th: I did not get a phone call back within the 24 hour time frame. I called the Microsoft Store around 9:30pm. I was told they were still waiting for an update from a high level support team and promised a call back in 24-48 hours.

Around 10:30pm I received a call from Gloria from Microsoft Store Support. She created a new order for me and promised that my original ship date of October 26th would be honored.

On October 21st: I noticed that the ship date on the second order for the Surface Book listed 6-7 weeks which is very different than what I was promised verbally. I called Microsoft Store and was assured that the email was erroneous and I would still receive the product on the 26th.

On October 22nd: Microsoft called me to cancel the 2nd order and place a new one. I spoke to two support technicians in two separate calls. Both promised I would get the product by the original promised ship date. The Surface Dock on the second order was kept active while the Surface Book on the second order was cancelled.

In retrospect, I am unclear why this was required.

On October 26th: I called Microsoft Store Support around 8:00am to get a tracking number for the Surface Book. The Microsoft Store could give me no information. My Surface Dock was received on this day, but there is no sign of my Surface Book.

On October 27th: I received an email to let me know there was no update on shipping dates.

On October 28th: I received an email to apologize for the delay.

On October 29th: I called Microsoft. This time I called the number in the October 28th email (1-800-642-7676) instead of the phone number in the Order Emails (1-877-696-7786). On the first call, I got disconnected immediately. I assume this was an honest mistake.

I called the number again spoke to someone who asked a lot of my information. In my frustration, I used some inappropriate language. I should not have let my emotions get the better of me, a feel remorse for my verbal slip. I was transferred to the Microsoft Store support team.

I spoke to "Kemp". He said there was a chance my order may get delivered up today, or that it may show up in 6-7 weeks. I pushed for a specific delivery date and asked to speak to a supervisor. He put me on hold and eventually came back to tell me Monday November 9th. I asked once again to speak to a supervisor. After being put on hold, Eugene came on the line. Eugene offered me a $50 discount off my order and promised me a delivery date of November 2nd. During this single call I was given 4 different delivery windows. Given past delivery promises, why would I have any faith that any of them are correct?

At this point, I decided it was time to submit a formal complaint. I've had six different support reps promise me that my order will ship by the 26th; yet here it is four days past that and I'm getting a different story every time I talk to someone.

You can watch a full 30 minute edit of the support calls from before October 26th. You can also watch, a shorter compilation of your Microsoft Store Reps promising me the original ship date will be honored.

Your Microsoft Store staff has always been polite and professional, but ineffective.

This experience has soured my enthusiasm for the Surface Book. As long-time Microsoft Customer, and a small business owner who makes much of his living developing software with Microsoft technologies, I am left with a sour taste in my mouth. I'm no longer asking myself "When will the Surface Book ship?" I've started asking myself "What can Microsoft due to keep me as a customer?"

Can you help restore my faith in Microsoft?

The Aftermath

10/29/2015: Justin H from Microsoft Global Escalation Services emails me in response to my request to file a complaint and tells me he sees nothing wrong with the order. This was in response to me calling Redmond and asking to file a formal complaint, but before I actually could file the formal complaint. The letter above was sent shortly thereafter.

10/30/2015: I walk into a Microsoft Store and buy a SurfaceBook i7 off the shelf. They had a pre-order that wasn't picked up. Now; I have the machine part by coincidence and part by luck.

10/30/2015: Justin H emails me to tell me that the i7s are not shipping until 11-20 and the dates I was given were wrong all around. It turns out either Justin or his warehouse fulfillment team is confusing the Surface Pro 4 i7 with the SurfaceBook i7. I'm not sure if this mixup was an accident or something done just to try to satiate an upset customer.

I email back to have Justin cancel my existing order. He also offers me a partial refund of--roughly--10% of the purchase price. I accept.

10/31/2015: I speak to Justin H on the phone and he apologize for all the problems and promises me the refund. He is going to close the ticket I opened with him. IF there are any problems with the refund or the computer, I should email back and it will reopen the ticket.

So, here we go:

I'm fairly happy with the unit and hope to write a formal review at some future point. I don't think I'll ever be pre-ordering anything from the Microsoft Store web site again.

ATT UVerse Made me Pay to Open Port 25

Words cannot express how seething I am and how I've been treated during my DSL upgrade to ATT UVerse. This is my attempt at getting some closure.

The Setup

Before I get into details, let me start with some background. I signed up for DSL service when I moved into my house, roughly 10 years ago. I'm not sure why I chose DSL Internet over Cable Internet, but that is the choice I made.I signed up with SNET a company eventually swallowed up by ATT.

I run a home based business, and as part of that business I have my own email accounts on my own domains. I also pay for static IP Addresses and run a home based server. This server contains things I use for development, such as a SVN repository, a database server, a web server, and a backup software.

I used a Netopia Router to route the static IPs. It was pretty cool, at the router level I was able to use any of my static IP Addresses to a machine based on the Mac address. I gave one to my Vonage router; one to my development server, and one to the rest of the machines in my house.

During the course of any day, my development server may need to send out email, such as notifications related to the backup software, or errors that occur on server. To make that happen I have the IIS SMTP Server installed. It acts as a relay, only accepting emails from the box it is installed on. This should prevent my server from becoming a big spam bot that some open relays.

This setup has worked fine for years, with minor changes. At one point, many years ago, everything stopped and I could not send email. I got on the phone with support and eventually I found out that--without notice--they started blocking port 25. Port 25 is used by many email servers to send email. As best I understand, it's blockage has become much more common in an effort to stop spam emails from being sent. I don't have an inherent problem with that, but my situation is unique and I need that port open. I don't remember details, but I think this was shortly after SNET merged into ATT. It was some time on the phone and everything got fixed without issues.

This is a fairly complicated setup for a 'standard' home network--although probably dead simple for a corporation. I fear any changes to the network because they could interfere with my ability to do business. I've looked at the higher bandwidth of Cable Internet service and never made the switch, everything I had was good enough for my purposes.

This time, I was seriously considering a switch to cable, and was prepared to make the phone call to prepare for the upheaval of my business. I even spent an hour talking to a sales rep from the cable company to ask tons of questions about port blocking, bandwidth limits, and how to use static IPs on their system. Then a letter came from ATT, saying that everyone had to upgrade. I assume this was because I was an SNET customer and they were working to move everyone to the same service.

On paper, this sounded good. It would double my bandwidth and I didn't have to switch providers. I spoke to a sales rep about static IPs, port blocking, bandwidth limits, and related stuff. I was assured that the "modem" they provide could handle the static IP Routing. I was also assured that the setup should be really easy.

Everything sounded good; I decided to stick with ATT for the upgrade. ATT didn't know it; but they kept a customer that day.

Upgrade Day

The upgrade was done on Monday, and it has caused a generally horrible week.

The guy came to upgrade. He had never dealt with static IPs before; and had to get his manager to help to get them setup. I think the installation was delayed at least an hour because he plugged a cable into the wrong phone port. My house is rigged for two independent phone ports in every room--a relic from the days before Cell Phones and VOIP.

But, my question was "how do I make use of the Static IPs with this router?" He kept telling me "You souldn't need to change anything; it should just work." I kept saying, but all the information about the Static IPs and routing is in the Netopia Router that is unplugged and sitting on my desk." The only other time this guy had to set up static IPs was for a hospital. My setup was apparently more complicated than theirs.

We eventually figured out how to use a static IP from the windows machine; just setting the network settings manually. That would suffice for now. I'd prefer a hardware solution like I had last time; but I fear that will not happen.

I spent most of Tuesday trying to get my network setup with a hardware solution, using the new Motorola UVerse router in front of my old Netopia Router. On my server, if I used a static IP; then the machine could not access file sharing on my local network. If I used a dynamic IP; then the server was not remotely accessible. Eventually I discovered that I could get files on and off the machine by using the static IP. That isn't as elegant as what I had, but I'll deal with it for now.

In my previous static IP block; my "dynamic" machines would use one from my static block. That made it easy to tell my managed hosting provider to just open access to the servers for these IP Addresses. (They only open things like FTP and SQL Server for specific IP Addresses)

Unfortunately, with the new system, the public IP of my U-Verse router is not one from my static IP block. That means my primary dev machine will need to use a static IP address in order to not lose access to the static IP. This wouldn't be a problem if I could have just add a router for all my work machines and assigned it a static IP based on the MAC Address of that router. That router could provide all the machine behind it a dynamic internal IP. It would be my preferred setup.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to finagle the ATT provided router and the old Netopia router to work together. Here are instructions that should work--as a work around. Alas, I was not able to get them to work. The IP Mapping feature of the Netopia was ignored.

I crawled into bed at 5am on Wednesday morning, completely defeated. I haven't come that close to an all-nighter since studying for a calculus final freshman year in college with Scott, Jude, and some other girl I do not remember. If memory serves me, Kurt Cobain was found dead while we were studying and I found out the next morning. But, I digress.

Why can't my server Send Emails?

On Wednesday, I tried to resume development (AKA Client Work). It became immediately apparent that my server was not sending emails it should. They would end up in the queue directory of the IIS SMTP Server and the event viewer would show me messages like this:

Message delivery to the host '' failed while delivering to the remote domain '' for the following reason: The remote server did not respond to a connection attempt.

It was SMTPSVC Error code 4006 for the search engines.

I assumed it was a port blocking problem based on past experience; but wanted to isolate every possibility. So I spent much of Wednesday trying out all options, including trying to open up specific ports using the UVerse router, which is a Motorola NVG510 for those keeping track.

Eventually, I decided I'm getting nowhere and decide it is time to call ATT Support. Believe it or not; this is where my story starts.

The First Set of Calls

I start on the ATT web site and click an IM support link; basically asking if a port is blocked and I can't send email. They seem to want to redirect me to someone who can configure my email client. :ugh: I'm given a phone number and give them a call. [I can't find where I wrote down that number, sorry]

I speak to a bit with someone whose name I didn't catch. She redirects me to a second person, "Mickey". Mickey sounded like a girl, but the name is usually Male in the US, so I'm not sure. I go back and forth with Mickey. She asks about my email client I'm using. I say "Thunderbird." But, of course the problem is not with my email client. The problem is with an SMTP Server.

Sending email used to be a problem in the past, but I recently switched to Google Apps which does not use port 25 for their outgoing SMTP server.

I think we eventually got the the port 25 issue. Sometimes she was hard to understand. She gave me the impression that there was on department she couldn't reach and they may be able to fix it for me; but since she can't reach them I had to pay a one time fee of $15.

I was pretty upset about this; as I've been a customer for 10 years and they forced me to upgrade. I argue with her; and ask to speak to her manager. Somehow she talked me out of that. I'm, roughly, two days into this now so I decide $15 is a no-brainer so I can get back to servicing real clients. I say, "okay, let's go for it."

Then she starts reading me the terms and conditions. The first word that sticks out is "monthly." And I call her out on it, because she had said it would be a one time fee to open the port. She explains that she is reading an old version of the terms of service and not everything will apply to my situation. I grudgingly let her continue.

Then she comes up to a termination of service fee. I question that too, as it is a one time fee; not a service. She explains, once again, that these are old terms of service and do not apply to my situation.

She also explains that all calls are recorded and she would get fired if she lied to me and she doesn't want that.

Even though, Mikey guaranteed me this problem could be fixed tonight; part of the terms and conditions were that I was eligible for the time they spent even if they couldn't fix it.

I let her continue. She shifts me to another line to pay, then I'm transferred back to her. She says thank you and offers to transfer me to "Connect Tech". She gives me the number, 1-877-888-7360 and transfers me to Kevin.

With Mickey I was probably too vague on what my issue was. Instead of pushing off her queries about "what mail client do you use." I should have been more explicit. With Kevin; I decided to be more specific. "What Mail Client do you use?" "I use Thunderbird, the issue is not with that, it is with a server that sends outgoing emails. I'm getting the message that it cannot connect." We go on and off; and he eventually tells me he can't help me. I need to talk to ConnectTech-360. I paid for this?

Kevin transfers me to the new ConnectTech-360; which feels like starting from the beginning. It's an automated system that appears to want to tell me how to reconfigure my email. Since I've been through this before, I call out agent, and the system disconnects me.

This was around the time I punched the wall.

My Second Round of Calls

I spent about fifteen minutes walking around the house trying to think up creative curse words; then decide to try again. I think I started with the main number [which I can't find out where I wrote it down]. I go through the automated system again and eventually get to Jason. At this point, I'm being very specific. "Is port 25 Blocked? My outgoing emails are not being sent." Jason insists that this is not a problem, and goes through "something" and eventually says "Yes, it looks like it is blocked I missed it the first time." He can't help me, but can forward me to someone who can (Consequently called Connect-Tech).

This time when I'm transferred; they ask me to put in a zip code. That's a first, it feels like I'm getting somewhere even if I don't know where.

Kevin transfers me to AJ. The number they gave me at this stage was 1-888-905-2838; which is the same as the first Connect-Tech number they gave. I'm not going in circles too much. I give AJ some information and I think he eventually shuffled me to Sean. I spent most of my time on the phone with Sean [and being on hold]

The first thing that Sean did was congratulate me on purchasing a Connect Tech subscription.

I immediately snap back that I didn't purchase a subscription and that I was told it was a one time fee. Somewhere in my mind; I took a breather while practically screaming at him.

I explained my situation and asked if Port 25 was blocked. He swore up and down that ATT does not block any ports and everything is open and that is part of what people use it for. I said "Then is Port 25 being intercepted in any way?" And he said no; and rattled off a bunch of related ports (110, 80, etc.. ) which should work just fine.

I was pushing him hard somehow. Eventually, like magic he said "oh, we do, let me remove that from your account." I am surprised at his about face on the blocking, which felt like he changed his mind in mid sentence.

He told me it'll take 15 minutes or so to take affect and I should unplug the router and plug it back in.

That is the point where idiot me unplugged the router. When you a VOIP phone--which my new ATT UVerse phone is--an unplugged router means no phone. I hung up on them, inadvertently.

The router restarted, and he called back 5 minutes later or so. I do give them kudos for that. I ask if he can remove any and all other port blocks and he says my system should be completely open now.

After the router restart, I also restarted SMTP services on my server and magically the queue of emails immediately got sent. Things appear to be good; or at least functional.

It is time to fight the Charges

I still have serious issues about having to pay more money just to get the same quality of service I had before they forced me to upgrade. I regret not going to Cox for cable modem service. If I was going to go through hell, at least it could have been a brand new hell.

I got this email regarding my purchase, I added emphasis:

Thank you for your AT&T ConnecTech® Services purchase.

The following order has been processed for your requested service.

The service(s) ordered was/were:

AT&T Support Plus Online with ETF (CSR Only)

If you have questions on your remote service, please contact us at 1-866-294-3464 from 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM Central, seven (7) days a week.

Your AT&T Support Plus Online with ETF (CSR Only) subscription is a 12 month term agreement. An Early Termination Fee of $120.00 (reduced by $10.00 after each completed month of the term) applies if you terminate service prior to the end of the 12 month commitment.

You will receive another e-mail in the next few days with tips and additional information that will help you get the most out of your new Support Plus service.

Can't wait? No problem! To get started now, go here and enter your zip code.

The overall price of your order is $15.15 (includes one-time charges, initial subscription period, discounts and taxes).

For monthly recurring subscriptions ordered, you should expect to pay $15.00 monthly after your initial bill (plus applicable taxes).

All AT&T ConnecTech Services are subject to certain terms and conditions for service. The terms and conditions for your service order are available at You agree to be bound by these terms and conditions by continuing to receive your ordered services.

So, I was clearly told by Mikey that this was a one time charge; but the email (and the comment by the Sean) make me think they signed me up for a recurring subscription. Honestly, I don't know if I want to spend another day on the phone to fight it at this point; but I think the principle of the thing is important.

A final point about static IPs and Hardware

A friend of mine suggested that I try a LinkSys RV042 Router; and I found the manual. On paper it sounds like their One-to-one NAT function is exactly what I need for the IP Mapping on the hardware level. I still have concerns it will actually work, due to other stuff I've read about what the Motorola modem device does.

Writing this was very cathartic for me; and I am less likely to scream at someone during my next phone call.

TMobile stops giving discounts if you buy your own Phone (Updated)

The whole reason I signed up for TMobile as a mobile service provider was because they provided discounts, and no contracts, to people who provided their own phones.

Those plans are now gone, so I have to pay the same amount as others who subsidize their phones over the course of a contract. I assume this change relates to the TMobile current advertising plan comparing 4G TMobile to iPhone ATT.

It appears that their monthly plans are your best option now, but they don't have an option for unlimited data. I am considering signing up for one of the lower priced ones, and then using the "unlimited daily plan" when I need it, which is rare.

On the other hand I got horrible data speeds in LA and New York. Getting 3G in my house, where I have WiFi hooked up to DSL doesn't help me.

What do you guys recommend for cost effective "pay as you go" service? I really only use the cell when I travel.

Here is the full transcript I had with TMobile support:

info: Thank you for choosing T-Mobile. A representative will be with you shortly.

info: All representatives are currently assisting others. Your estimated wait time is 0 minutes and 14 seconds. Thanks for your patience.

info: You are now chatting with Sasha.

Sasha: Welcome to T-Mobile online Sales support. How may I assist you today?

You: You used to give discounts on plans to users who bought their own phones. Do you still do that? I can't find information about that on the web site.

Sasha: Are you referring to the no contract plans?

You: Yes

Sasha: As of November 13, we don't offer those plans any more.

You: Bummer; it was my primary reason for choosing TMobile. Thank You!

Sasha: We do offer less costly plans, that will fit your needs.

Sasha: What kind of usage were you looking for?

You: I rarely use the phone at all. ( ~30 minutes last month), and I occasionally text. ( ~50 last month ).

Sasha: We offer pay as you go plans, as well as prepaid plans.

You: Where can I find out information about those?

Sasha: I will send you that link right now, so you can view the plans.

Sasha: click here to view the pre paid plans.

You: Much thanks!

Sasha: Your welcome, you can leave the chat open in case you have more questions.

You: Are there unlimited data options with prepaid plans? I liked the option to turn on data only on the months I was travelling.

Sasha: Although we don't offer the unlimited data with pre paid plans, we do offer with 2gb, 100mb, and 30mb. How often do use the web, or download?

You: If I'm at home; almost never; if I'm traveling tons.

You: I travel rarely.

Sasha: We do offer a web DayPass, for $1.49. Unlimited 24-hour mobile web access for Pay As You Go (also available if you need more data than included in your monthly plan).

You: That may work for me.

You: Will either of my phones work with your monthly plans? ( I have a Google Nexus One and a Blackberry Torch )

Sasha: That's a good question; let me look into that for you.

Sasha: Great news, you are able to use either one of those phones.

You: Great; thanks! That answers all of my questions for the moment.

Sasha: Your welcome, would you like me to keep the chat open in case you have further questions?

You: Nope, I'm good for now! Thank you!

I do have to say, I was happy with the support and information they gave me through the on-line chat. But, last time I was impressed by a how a company reacted through an on-line chat, I ended up reporting them to the BBB.


According to an Engadget post, T Mobile still offers these plans, but do not list them on the web site in order to streamline their on-line experience. I believe this is in direct contradiction to what I was told in the on-line support chat,

I also remember that adding unlimited texting to my plan was $5 per month, whereas when I called the 800 number they insisted it was a $10 a month option. It is a $10 per month option on the web site plans. I couldn't find the promotional document they gave me on pricing, though, to verify my memory. Maybe I'll try to get out to a store to see if I can get another brochure.

Letter to my Oil company

I went over the number of gallons I pre-paid for my heating oil this year. In fact this is the highest amount of oil I've used in the past 5 years. Every single year it has gone down as I've "learned" the house more. Along with the bill from the oil company, I sent them this letter:

Included you will find a check for XXXX for the oil delivery that occurred on April 8th, 2009.

I have to say I was very surprised to find out that I had used up the pre-pay amount, so I reviewed my records. This is my highest oil usage in 5 heating seasons, and I am 118 gallons over the average of the last 3 years. This year's calculations do not yet accommodate for a 'final' delivery that has traditionally happened in the end of May or beginning of June.

During our yearly cleaning / inspection at the beginning of the season, I had your technician turn down the heat on my hot water heater, which I expected would help limit my usage.

All this makes me wonder if the first fill up (11/3/08) accidentally went into my neighbor's tank. The fill location is labeled left side; however there is no fill valve on the left side of my house. I attached a copy of said receipt for your own amusement.

The overrun hurts extra since I locked the price in at what turned out to be an obscenely high amount, and I am currently not generating any income.

If there is anything you can do on your end, or you have any thoughts to share on the matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

What would the oil company do next?

A stellar customer service move would be to credit my account for the initial fill up. It would make me a customer for life.

An okay customer service move would be to not charge me for the overrun. They'd say things like "It was ~6 months ago; we may have screwed up, but don't know. You should have been watching the tank to be sure it was full every time you got a fill-up." This is kind of like splitting the difference. If they do this, there is a ~75% chance I'd stay w/ them as a customer.

A realistic business decision would be to say "It's way to late to complain about something that may have happened 6 months ago. We're sorry, but tough luck." I'd shrug my shoulders and say "whatcha gonna do." At this point, there is a 50% chance I'd stay as a customer. Could something else have cause the discrepancy?

A horrible customer service response would be to cash my check and not contact me at all. This wouldn't surprise me. 25% chance I'd stay with them for the next heating season.

Last time I had a complaint with a different oil company, the person yelled at me on the phone saying everything was my fault. I not only stopped being a customer, I filed a complaint to the BBB.

I wish I knew more. I wish I knew that they did something incorrectly. I wish I caught the mistake--if there was one--back in November.

When do you notify the customer that they will be incurring costs?

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau against my oil company, Edward S Mull. After multiple back and forth, the BBB just dismissed my complaint. I hate being wrong, but am not sure that I am.

I have a service plan at the highest level of protection on my heating system. Traditionally the water pumped into my steam heat system has been very low and the water gauge barely moved during my first few years in this house. However, it was starting to pump 10-20 gallons into the system every few days. I did not feel this was normal, so had them come out to take a look at the system.

They agreed it was not normal. First they did some type of chemical treatment. That did not help. Then they replaced a switch. That definitely helped, and now the system pumps in a couple gallons a week (instead of 10+ every few days). I assume the numbers will lower when it gets warmer and the heating system tuns off.

So, no problems I had a problem they came out multiple times and put in place a fix, right?

The problem occurs a few weeks later when I received an invoice in the mail for a used switch. I was unaware I was going to be incurring any costs. The oil folk have been out multiple times over the past 4-5 years to perform the service and I never got an invoice. I assumed that if I was going to be incurring costs I would be notified. This is the way I run my business. I figured this would be a "Customer Service 101" thing.

So, I called and spoke to someone. He explained that burner switches are covered, but end switches are not (because they never break). He said "she" did me good by getting a cheap used switch and not charging for labor. But, I'd have to talk to "she" about any billing issues.

I was not notified I'd be incurring any costs. I was not given the opportunity to do a cost or warranty analysis of "used" vs "new" parts. I should not be billed when I had no say or input in the process.

I put my thoughts down in a letter and snail mailed it to them. "She" called me, refused to remove the charge and we fought on the phone. Apparently it was my fault for not asking if I would be incurring a cost. It is my fault for not knowing that "End switches" are different than "Burner switches." Edward S Mull only notifies a customer if the cost is going to be over $100 (which the 'used part' was not).

As soon as I got off the phone with "She" I filed a complaint w/ the BBB. Company responded explaining the switch vs switch issue. I responded saying they did not address the root of my complaint and asked for documentation on their "customer notification" policies for uncovered work. The policy documentation they provided does not cover such an issue; it just says "Customer will pay for stuff not covered under this agreement" to paraphrase.

Company responded again and actually tried to address my complaint. They said they'd be more than happy to put the 'old broken part' back in at no cost; however if I have future problems they will charge me for new parts and labor to address the issue. If that truly was their policy, then why didn't they do that in the beginning?

I said that I didn't feel that putting an old broken part back in was a good move. BBB dismissed the complaint.

The question is, do I have them put back in the old part (and then have the issue fixed by a 3rd party) or do I just pay the 'unethical' charge to keep them 'happy' while I search for a new oil company? After all that has happened I'm cautious about letting them back into my house. Even if I were to watch them like a hawk, I have no way to judge the service done on a furnace.

So, am I wrong in wanting the charge removed from the bill? Is the company right for doing "uncovered" service without notifying me of the cost?

Paypal Weirdness

I have a contractor doing a small job for me. He accepts payment via PayPal, so I went ahead and sent payment via PayPal for $200.

My business card was declined. I tried it a few times, verified the card number, etc...

Finally I called my credit card number. They said that they needed "verification" that I (the owner) was authorizing the charge, but the PayPal interface was not "advanced" enough to give me those details, just that it was declined and should contact them.

I guess since PayPal is used in a lot of eBay scams, I should be happy that they needed verification. It is a minor inconvenience.

I verbally verified the charge and then sent it through. Everything looked fine. The $200 (I said it was small) charge was approved and my PayPal account shows the $200 dollars leaving my account.

Whenever I send a payment via PayPal, I get a confirmation e-mail. That confirmation e-mail came today, just like all the other times. Unfortunately, this time it shows that I sent $24,200. Yep, that is right, there is a 24K difference between what I intended to send and what the confirmation e-mail says I sent. That's a huge discrepancy, and about 5 times more than the limit on my card.

I guess I'll watch to see what is actually charged to my card. Scary stuff no matter how you slice it.

Dell Just Called

Dell just called to tell me that they were going to have someone call me. No, I'm not kidding. They called to tell me they were going to call.

Apparently the service contract on a server I bought is about to expire and they wanted me to renew. I didn't even know that the server had a service contract. It's a dev server, and sits in my office next to my other machines. If it goes done, it's inconvenient, but not the end of the world.

I told them they were wasting my time by making two calls ( and thus interrupting me twice) and they better not call back. I was a bit irate on the phone, I think. The Dell call center person was polite nonetheless.

Netflix Weirdness

I know it's been proven that Netflix purposely penalizes people who are massive users of the system. They even, recently, modified their terms of use to say that.

From a business perspective it makes sense. If you send out 100 movies a month to a user and only charge them $20, you lose on shipping. The throttling tactics delay shipments of movies.

i think I'm being throttled in some manner, but I'm not sure why. If I watch 2 movies a week, it's a lot.

There have been times when Netflix movies have been delayed in getting to me (currently right now its happening with Halloween: Ressurection but more on that later).

The most telling case is Killer Klowns From Outer Space. I had three movies out. I sent one back. They sent me Killer Klowns. This was during the holiday season (late last year). due to other stuff going on, i never got around to watching / finishing the other two movies so did not send anything back. After waiting two weeks for Killer Klowns to show up, I reported it lost in the mail. They sent me another one ASAP, and all was fine.

Fast forward to January, I finally finish going through all three movies and send them back at once. They send me three new movies; yet I recieve four. the fourth movie was the missing Killer Klowns. It was still in that christmas envelope. I suspect they packed it up for me, sent me the e-mail announcement that it was on its way, but held off shipping it.

This is not the first time that type of thing has happened. Delayed movies have shown up at the very same time as 'non-delayed' movies.

i think my movie watching habits are sporadic at best.

Anyway, with Halloween Ressurection, I have not yet recieved the announcement that they recieved the movie I sent back and sent the new one. So, imagine my surprise when I signed into my account today to see that they had recieved it, and it was slated for a delivery of 4 days ago.

Suspicious. i bet it get when i send the current two I have back, and the 'new batch' gets sent out.

That could cause problems, however. I'm holding one so I can watch it with T. Who knows when that will happen?

Tracfone Problems

December 13th, I ordered a Tracfone based on a recommendation of a friend.

I got sent an e-mail receipt and waited. And waited. I called roughly two weeks ago (a month after I placed the order) and was told the order hadn't shipped yet. I asked why, they said they would escalate it and get back to me. They never did.

I called back today and was told the order was cancelled because the phone was on back order for more than a month. Why wasn't I notified? That's a serious customer service snafu.

I was told I wasn't notified because they don't do that. It's in their terms and conditions. Well, I checked the terms and conditions listed on the site and it is not actually listed in them.

I'm a bit miffed because the deal I ordered under no longer exists, so now I have to buy the service and the phone (instead of just the phone).

Is it worth it to save an estimated $400 a year. I'll probably give it another attempt...

Update 2/5/08:

Some people had posted the the personal number of Fredrick Pollak, the CEO of tracfone to this blog. Tracfone's in-house legal counsel contacted me to ask if I would remove the number. After discussions with my own legal counsel, we decided to comply. All comments with said number have been deleted. Tracfone representatives also asked me to say this on their behalf:

If you have an issue with TracFone that you cannot get resolved quickly and efficiently, call the Corporate Headquarters, Executive Resolutions Dept at 1-800-876-5753 and these specially trained agents will gladly assist you until your matter is resolved.

I invited them to post this information themselves as a comment, but in case they decide not to, there it is.

Two Hours

I spent two hours on the phone w/ customer service trying to get connected to my DSL. It just stopped working. Totally crazy.

The resolution was for me to go and buy a new DSL modem. After two hours, they wait until the stores are closing to tell me this. :groans:

The second level support guy (spoke English) was a lot better than the first level support guy (didn't speak English). I made the first guy esclate it when I asked if I could speak to someone competant.

Thank you Paul for ATT / SNET!

I was able to run out to Circuit City (which closed at 10, not 9) and buy a new DSL modem. I plugged it in and it worked immediately.

I spent yet another hour putting the computers back together (I had moved around 3 systems in the process of dealing with support ).


On a good note, I got to get together w/ D tonight. I had some Pizza at the place by Rookies. It was good. He took a full time job w/ the company that he had been consulting through. He's pretty happy, and I couldn't be happier for him.

There is nothing like seeing someone energized to energize yourself.

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