Cable TV companies suck

I never thought it would get to the point where Time Warner Cable is forcing me to decide whether to cancel TV service, but that is exactly what is happening.

Not too long ago I lost most (key word here is “most”) of my HD channels. This had happened before, I’m not sure why, but it has happened before so I figured eventually it would come back around. However, the longer I waited the longer they have not returned.

I have since figured out it was due to cable encryption. Apparently to service customers better you are required to have a cable box even for basic TV service. True it appears as though I will not get charged for it for the first two years (how kind of them) but I don’t want a damn box. I hardly watch TV as it is and now you wish to force me to add a box to my TV? This information was, according to their website, sent to me in a letter but I am sure I ignored it (yes, my fault).

Sure I can watch TV without a box, I still get all the channels I did before, well all except most of the HD ones. For some reason I still get NBC and CBS in HD as well as a few others. The thing is the standard ones look crappy on my HD TV and now if I do want to continue watching, I either have to get a box I don’t want or suffer with some terrible reception.

Since I hardly watch TV I’m leaning towards getting rid of cable. The most difficult part of this decision is football. I enjoy watching football. There are others things I’ll miss like watching the news in the morning or just flipping on to find something to watch. I probably can catch the news online and less TV just means more time to do other things I guess.

Football is the main thing that I need a good solution for. You can’t get it online easily. I have found some sites that stream illegally but they aren’t the best quality and it isn’t as comfortable to watch at my desk (though I could easily hook it up to my TV the quality isn’t worth the trouble).

Oh and before you suggest getting an antenna, I did try that route once. Yes it was a fairly cheap one, but I figured if it got a few channels, I’d know it would work well enough. It barely got one channel. I just don’t really want to go back to antennas, basic cable got me what I wanted but now Time Warner Cable (and I’m sure other cable companies do the same) are forcing me to get a box or suffer.

How is that a way to do business? I understand that they say the boxes save from sending a tech out often, but that’s not altogether true. It is easy to trouble shoot with no box, if cable TV isn’t working, more than likely the problem is at the pole. Maybe they can send a signal to fix things remotely with a box present, but I don’t care. I do not want a box. I don’t see why it has to be forced on me.

Growing up we could always get a few channels without paying a dime. I realize not everyone lived closed enough to a TV station to get reception so cable became a necessity. I’m happy to pay for my basic service (well not entirely happy but it works) but I don’t see how I should be forced to get a box I don’t want. Who cares that the box is free for 2 years, it is still a stinking box that I don’t want. Don’t even get me started on how suddenly I pay for my modem ($7/mo) which used to be free.

Cable companies are the most disliked companies in America and forcing something like this on us does absolutely nothing to change that perception. Cable companies suck. Complaining about it won’t matter either, they figure they may lose a few customers over this in the short term, but once it becomes the norm, no one will complain.

Walmart woes

Maybe you love Walmart, live by Walmart and would never shop anywhere else. Maybe you dislike it with a passion but end up shopping there because you have no choice. I have choices but feel I need to stop shopping there as much as I can and let me tell you why. Yes this was triggered by my most recent visits, but most of it has been festering for some time.

Let me step back a bit though and explain that I spend about 8 years of my life working for this company, though that was now over 10 years ago. I was successful there, I made a decent career of it. I even spent a year as an Assistant Manager – incidentally the worst year of my career there but I won’t go into that. I just wanted the reader to know I worked there and so my experience as a customer has some basis on knowledge of how the company works.

The number one thing about the experience shopping that bothers me is the main aisles – they are full of displays down the middle and leave barely room for carts on either side. You can’t easily find your way around to see the side aisles because “specials” are in the middle. That may be the point, they may not care that you can’t find what you are looking for since the longer you are in the store, they figure you will see more things and spend more money. It just makes me want to get in and get out even faster. It is frustrating to shop that way.

When I worked there they actually cared about customers, as there used to be benches instead of merchandise in a few places. Gradually those were removed because they just to fit more stuff out.

It makes it far more difficult though to checkout. The aisles used to be empty at least there so you could find a line and checkout. Now even there it is packed full of crap in hopes that you will add one more thing to your cart. Half the time you can’t even see the cashiers because there is so much stuff in front of the registers.

Greeters is another area that used to set Walmart apart. They made you feel welcome, they gave stickers to the kids. Now if there is one there, they ignore you (most of the time) or you can’t even tell it is one because no one wears a vest. I thought the vests were annoying when I was working there, but now you cannot even tell who does work there.

Now to what actually sparked me to write this – the produce section. In general it is pretty good there usually, while still difficult to navigate due to congested aisles, you can find what you want. The problem this time were the plastic bags for produce, the locations for them were all empty except for 3 spots. Those 3 spots were above everyone’s head. I could reach them being 6 feet tall, but the majority of people cannot. Why have them that high though anyway? There was a worker nearby filling more produce, but what about the bags for us? Truthfully I can usually find bags, but I was shocked that they were all empty except for those high ones.

Not that I like the bags since they are the most difficult things to open. Couldn’t they come up with a way that they open themselves when you remove one? They suck – though to be fair it seems most stores have these crappy plastic bags for produce.

Another area the stores near me do not perform well is the sliced meat section. Usually there is just one person there until someone from out back pokes their head out and decides to help. Today there was one person and apparently she was dealing a large order, but she ignored me even so. At the very least she could have acknowledged me and said she’d get with me shortly. She could have taken the extra step to pause a moment and get help perhaps, but nope just ignored me.

Keep in mind that Walmart doesn’t do take a number, so you kind of have to fend for yourself or be kind to strangers (which does happen – good customers look out for each other).

Back to the counter. I could tell there was at least 2 people in the back doing something. In fact one popped out a couple of times on some errand. Then a second person popped out as well. Neither of them bothered to acknowledge that I was there waiting – in total maybe 5 minutes, but it can feel longer when you just need help and no one bothers to acknowledge you exist. Finally one lady came out and asked for what I wanted. She wasn’t very friendly, but got the job done (slices were uneven thickness but I wasn’t about to wait even longer to get it done correctly).

Near the meat is the bread section and I love french bread but they always have huge loaves of it not things smaller for one person, but the section was empty. Apparently they used it to fill a section up in the front of the store. People get used to finding things where they should be so that should be full, who cares about some special display? But Walmart doesn’t get it, they want to make it difficult to find things so you can spend more time there. However, I’m not going to bother, unless it is extremely important, I’ll go without.

One more thing in the produce area that rattled me. They changed the pre-made chicken salad. It was often sold out anyway, but this was really good chicken salad. Good chucks of chicken and reasonably priced. It is still reasonably priced but they ruined a good thing. It is now more like processed chicken, no chucks. It also has fruit in it. I’m not a big fan of that, but could live with it if the chicken was any good, but it is terrible.

More often than not they are out of the Breakfast Chocolate Milk I get. In this case they did have one package, but it was broken. Apparently this product sells better than the other brands there since they are always full, but no one realizes that the that sells out should be given more shelf space. It is out of stock on nearly every visit so clearly they don’t know what sells.

A couple of things that I noticed while I visited the Mansfield, OH area stores though have seen similar around me as well. Mansfield was especially messy in the games area. Tons of games just lying on the bottom shelf or stored improperly. I realize this is other customers causing this but isn’t anyone cleaning the store (this was on a Sunday – understandable that Saturday is a busy shopping day). When I worked there we had to focus on areas like this that were obviously messy. It isn’t the first time that I’ve seen it that way either. Who wants to shop in that mess? Walmart is a discount store, but I didn’t know that meant “let’s look like crap”.

One minor quibble was the signage for the TV’s. One sign was in front of the wrong TV. I realize this can happen if things get changed as I had it happen before as well when I worked there though tried to correct it as quickly as possible. Still lucky if the displays or box stock have correct pricing there. More often than not, you can’t find the price or can’t be sure it is the correct one.

Finally a good thing. Electronics has some displays up for computers, keyboards/mice and a few other things. It doesn’t mean they are in working order, but good for them to finally display some products.

One thing they have in the Mansfield store that many other Walmart’s have done is a clearance section. You may think this is a great thing since all the clearance items are all in one location. It could be a great thing, but it is trashed beyond belief. It is not enjoyable to shop that section. Electronics does have its open separate section in front of that department and while a little better organized it is still crappy.

Heck I used to work there, our clearance sections were often crappy as well. It is very difficult to merchandise it well, when you have ones and twos of some things. Unless you have a lot of one thing, clearance sections always look like crap and most customers like myself don’t want to dig through it all. One thing I did do when I worked there was be sure it was kept as neat as possible. It sells better that way, but guess they don’t teach that any more.

Lastly in this longer than expected rant, is the checkouts. I touched on them briefly already about being too difficult to find open lines with all the merchandise surrounding them. But it doesn’t matter if you can find lines, because they are always several customers deep. Unless you shop really early in the morning or very late at night you will find lines. It doesn’t matter that there are sometimes 20 items or less lines, people can’t count and usually have too many items in the carts and I usually have too much for those lines anyhow.

At least the cashiers are usually friendly enough, but inconsistent baggers. Some cashiers won’t combine the right things together (deodorant does not go with produce), some make the bags too light (just 4 things of yogurt in one bag?) and some cashiers don’t ask courtesy questions like: Do you want your milk in a bag? Who bags milk? It has a handle. But at least most of them ask about it.

As I said, the cashiers is my least problem point at Walmart. While they aren’t always very friendly, they are competent and do a pretty good job. I know it isn’t easy to cashier, I’ve done it.

Here though I will end this rant/article. It really isn’t going to have much effect on who shops at Walmart. You may not mind the lines, you may not mind the aisles stacked with crap, you may not mind having difficulty finding things, you may not mind your groceries packed poorly. You may not miss the greeter (or even the exit greeter some used to use), you may not mind the messy aisles or the messy clearance – it is all about saving money for you.

I like to save money as well but I like to “enjoy” shopping. Ok some enjoy it more than I do, but I want to get what I need easily and pay for it and leave. Walmart is not enjoyable, it is a slog. I’ve gone there because of the convenience of having general merchandise as well as the groceries, occasionally I need those other items that a typical grocery store won’t have.

There are a few items though that Walmart carries for my groceries that the other stores near here (Giant Eagle, Acme) don’t have. It puts me in a quandary. I have decided though that I will just have to make some adjustments, but I cannot continue to have the terrible shopping experiences I keep having at Walmart.

Overall they are cheaper than elsewhere, but it isn’t worth the bit of savings to not find what I want, to have un-courteous help, to have terrible or no produce bags, to shop in a messy store and have to weave my way around stacks of merchandise all the while trying to avoid crashing into other customers.

The other grocery stores near me generally have a little less selection in some areas, but I have decided it will have to do. I am disgusted with shopping at Walmart. They do not care about the customer, they only care about selling more merchandise.

At Acme, they are friendly, they have baggers and everyone is dressed quite well with a tie, dress shirt and pants (not that I really expect that, but you certainly can tell who works there). I’m not a big fan of their store layouts, but otherwise generally always a good experience.

At Giant Eagle, again they are friendly, sometimes have baggers and you can easily tell who works there. The aisles are wide open, a bit better flow than Acme and a pretty good selection. I dislike the floors some of them have in their produce/meat sections. They aren’t smooth floors there, they are tiled and you bump along in the cart. It is horrible if you have something delicate in there, makes a racket (small) and is just uncomfortable. Still, in general, a far better experience than Walmart.

You may disagree with me and that is your right. Your Walmart might be a picture of perfection, but out here I am disappointed no matter which one I go in. I actually like Meijer (its in Mansfield, OH) but unfortunately none around for me so have to make due.

Oh and Target is a FAR FAR better shopping experience than Walmart, but they don’t do groceries. Feel free to share your experiences both good and bad with these stores mentioned here. I’m sure there are some other groceries stores out there that do a great job, but these are the options I have and felt I needed to express my frustration.

Writing this won’t change a thing with how Walmart does business, but perhaps some may be convinced they need to break free from this gargantuan retailer who doesn’t care about shoppers, and only cares about making money.

The Woman I have not Met

The internet has created something new that really couldn’t happen in any other period of history. The ability to get to know someone but not meet them. Sure technology is changing this, but there is still the chance you can get to know someone online and never have the opportunity to meet them without the technology. You can’t see them smile, you can’t see them flip their hair, you won’t notice the mole they have on their arm they never brought up on-line, you can’t enjoy their cooking (maybe that’s a good thing?); there are many things you can’t do, yet you develop a connection.
I have a connection with a woman, yet I have not met her. Sometimes I think what it would be like if we did meet in person. Would we enjoy each others company? Would we laugh at the same things? Would we want to do things together? Some people do end up with the chance to meet someone they first knew only online. I’ve had that opportunity before. I enjoyed it, but the visits weren’t very long, though we didn’t run away from each other. In fact one of them I still maintain a friendship through Facebook, but we do not talk to each other often (just remember birthdays and holidays).

Why am I writing this? Not everyone meets people they talk with online. I just felt I needed to write a tribute to her, The Woman I have not Met. A bit of my words to let her know how much she means to me even though we do not talk everyday like we used to do. It is my doing. I have had to hold back since it was difficult to be close to someone as close as we were but know that it couldn’t be more than I wanted it to be.

We met online circa the year 2000 on a place called TalkCity. She wasn’t the first person I got to know there, but she has had the most lasting impact. We quickly related to each other despite our ten-year age difference. Both being Virgo’s and left-handed among other things helping to create a bond. She became my best friend online and she remains a close friend.
I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could, playing games (mainly trivia), just chatting, listening to music…pretty much what two people could do online and who cares about anything or anyone else. Being a flirtatious person she had other suitors (for lack of a better word) for her attention. She drank it up though tried to include me when she could, definitely had more energy for being around people, that I couldn’t keep up .
I did get my fair share and more, but over time realized that I was limiting myself by focusing so much on her. She had so many others vying for her attention that I knew I couldn’t ever be the main focus of her life. It’s no ones fault, connecting on-line does have its limitations.
A few years ago I completely shut off communication with her. I felt it was the only way I could break free of her allure and not only find someone who was attentive to just me (didn’t have as many “distractions”) but hopefully spend less time online and more in the “real” world. I can’t blame her for my addiction to being online but my attraction to her company made it difficult to ostracize myself from being online. She accepted it as any good friend would, though my explanation may have left her perplexed.
It was so difficult at times to stay away. I did not, however, find anyone else to “replace” her or spend less time online. Simply I am not good at meeting people, something she couldn’t understand since it comes so easily to her. In fact we could never have begun to know each other if she didn’t make the first foray.

My memory is not very strong regarding when we re-connected, but willing to bet she remembers more. I have a good memory but there are times she blows me out of the water with her memories. I think I started things up again, but then I could be wrong, either way I’m glad it happened.
Currently we rarely spend any time doing things together like we did before, we don’t even really chat much. I would even say that most of the time I still feel like I’m just a bit of driftwood in her sea of life. Pass her by once in a while, yet not much interaction. It ebbs and flows like any friendship with people with busy lives and their own families.
Though I have never looked at her friends list on Facebook, I have no doubt that they are numerous. She is a friendly person and enjoys people, both men and women. She gets many likes and comments when she posts and I get one or two (if that), which more times than not by the same couple of people who always like/comment. As much as we are similar we are clearly different in areas and that’s quite alright. I’m content being a small part of her life and it is wonderful to witness her life unfold.
This essay may not end up the way I first envisioned it, but it just came to me not long ago that I should write about her. I have not named her, though am hopeful she reads this or someone she knows reads this and directs her here. (though I will probably let her know since the lack of readership of my posts dictates she won’t find out any other way)
I just want her to know that through our ups and downs over the last 13 years, I continue to appreciate our friendship. It may not have amounted to what I had hoped for when I first got to know her and it may not even be what she has wanted. It has just continued to exist.
I enjoy people but am not an initiator. It is what has made knowing her so great because she is an initiator (of trouble sometimes as well) and she does make friends easily. Comparatively my friendship with her is a far greater percentage of my overall friend count versus how her friendship with me relates to her percentage of friends, but some have a capacity for more. She does.

She is the most important woman in my life I have not Met. I may never meet her but there is no doubt my life is better knowing her. I am thankful for many people in my life, but no one I am more thankful for, than her.

TalkCity Guidelines

I used to participate in chat rooms a lot, especially in the early years of the internet. One location I ended up spending the majority of my time was TalkCity. It is now basically defunct, they have forums, but it is nothing like it was back then. In fact you could make money working for TalkCity, chatting. It’s too bad the market didn’t support it. Today I’m sharing an insight into that business via a booklet they sent me.

TalkCity - 7 Basics for Customer Relationships in the Internet Age

TalkCity – 7 Basics for Customer Relationships in the Internet Age

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Man of Steel comments

SPOILERS may be contained in this post, you have been warned!

Recently I went to see the new Superman movie “Man of Steel”. I don’t intend this post to be a review of the movie exactly, but there are a few things that bother me about the story.

man-of-steel-superman-movie-posterOne thing to consider though is, does Superman have too many powers? Think about it, he is pretty darn near invincible right? Oh sure he has a weakness, Krytonite, thankfully not used in this movie, but otherwise he cannot lose.

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Windows Phone 8 – thoughts after using for two weeks

I mentioned previously that I had switched from Android to Windows Phone (previous post). Now I’ve had some time with it and figured I’d inform you how I was getting along.

My Homescreen on phone 6-29

My Home screen on phone 6-29

This is the current view on the first half of my home screen. I have changed it quite a bit through the short time I have had it as I either find other apps I prefer or information I’d rather see in a larger or live tile.

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WMWC – College Radio

These letters, WMWC, were the call letters for the “radio station” at Mount Wachusett Community College where I spent 2 years of school. I put the words “radio station” in quotes because our audience was basically the cafeteria. In fact these call letters belong to the University of Mary Washington. Yeah, I have never heard of them either, then again most probably haven’t heard of Mount Wachusett either.

WMWC board

WMWC board

A view above of our board and turntables, carts (for promos), reel-to-reel machine, mic and various papers and notices. Even a window! Not all radio stations have a window.

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