Positive Sprint Customer Service Experience

I’ve written in the past about the horrible experiences I’ve had with Sprint customer service, so I think it is only appropriate to write about a positive experience. Last month I decided to contact Sprint to find out what would happen to my account if I ported out the primary number and left the other lines alone. I’ve been forwarding my Sprint line to my AT&T iPhone for a year and decided to finally “reclaim” my number. I was holding out due to an ETF, but decided that the ETF got low enough that it was no longer a reason to keep forwarding the number (also SMS didn’t forward). The Sprint representative answered quickly and said that a new number would be assigned and nothing else would happen to the account.

I decided to try my luck and see if I could get the lines on the account rearranged to move included features to the lines that I was keeping. The rep said that since the plan was so old, the changes couldn’t be made which I completely understood. However, when I checked the account, the changes I requested were actually made! I was surprised, but pleased (I did verify this with a Sprint reseller).

After all that, my parents actually ported out their phones to Verizon so my Dad could get an iPhone. When I got my latest bill, it looked as if Sprint billed me a bit more than I expected. It should have been the regular monthly fee + the ETF for my line (Sprint bills one month in advance, so it was the normal fee without additional lines). When I contact Sprint on Friday, I got email back Saturday with an apology and a credit applied to my account; not just the credit I was supposed to get, but credits for other stuff that I won’t see about until the next bill shows up. That was great service to respond so quickly and fix the issue.

Thanks, Sprint!

Trust in business

This week I’ve seen a number of “leaks” showing Lion and iOS 5 as well as people Tweeting about some of the information contained in WWDC sessions. Everyone that attends WWDC has to agree to an NDA (non-disclosure agreement for those not in the loop) and Apple stated everywhere that with the exception of the keynote, the content of the sessions was confidential and subject to the NDA. So, all these leaks are violations of the NDA. Besides what I’ve read on the web, the most flagrant violation I saw was someone taking a picture of the slide that said something on the bottom to the effect that photography was not permitted!

As Jason Snell tweeted a few days ago:

And with that, I declare the NDA completely dead. RT @daringfireball iOS 5 Screenshots and Tidbits at Engadget: df4.us/hqy

There are, unfortunately, no consequences to these NDA violations as Apple wouldn’t accomplish anything by suing the small developer. However, that is no reason to violate it as it won’t help any developer get ahead (I doubt the sites that have published information have paid the developers).

The first point of the Scout Law is “A scout is trustworthy”. I always try to live by this and this includes everything I have done in every aspect of my life including business and work. I wish that more people, especially those in my field, would take trust seriously.

SeaWorld hasn’t gotten the privacy memo

Today my family and I visited SeaWorld as we do fairly often. As I was waiting at the parking toll booth, I heard the attendant ask a guest for his zip code while swiping his credit card. Apparently this guy and SeaWorld staff don’t read the newspapers. This action is in direct violation of the recent (February 14, 2011)  California Supreme Court decision of Jessica Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma Stores, Inc. In a nutshell, merchants cannot ask for a zip code when processing a credit card transaction (with a few exceptions). The zip code can be considered personal information and is a violation of California consumer protection laws.

I mentioned this to the attendant and he said that they ask for it for a survey and also ask it for of cash visitors as well. Yeah, that’s kind of the point as the zip code could be used to link the survey directly to the credit card user.

We’ll see what SeaWorld has to say with the message I sent them. They better act quickly otherwise the fines could start adding up. Too bad I can’t get paid for reporting the issue!

What constitutes an expert?

For years, I’ve always wondered where news programs find their “experts” on various topics. Some of the things that these so called experts say sound like common sense to me. What makes these people experts? Dictionary.com defines expert as:

a person who has special skill or knowledge in someparticular field; specialist; authority: a language expert.

The key word, I guess, is “special”. Who defines special?

I’ve been to a number of conferences where people get on stage and talk about topics, usually technical topics and I’ve considered these people to be “experts” in their fields. However, I’ve come to realize that being on stage doesn’t make someone an expert. As part of my ongoing technical training, I’ve been watching all the videos from last year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). One of the sessions had a presenter whose name I’ve heard for years and considered him more knowledgable than me. However, after listening to the session and reviewing the code from the session, I no longer take for granted that the people presenting are “experts”. (I disagree with a number of things said in the session and thought that the code could have been written better.)

Am I an expert? I don’t consider myself an expert (if I did, I think my head would swell!), but I’ve been writing handheld software for the last 15 years, so I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in terms of code. Maybe I’m more confident now than when I started or maybe I no longer take things for face value.

The wrong way to dispose of a tree?

The other day when I was running, I saw someone driving along with a Christmas tree dragging behind him. Instead of putting the tree on the roof of the Ford Explorer to take to the recycle site, the driver tied a rope to the trailer hitch and the other end to the trunk of the tree. This was absolutely one of the times that I would like to have used my iPhone for running instead of my Garmin Forerunner 405 so that I could have taken a picture of this. However, a picture didn’t tell the whole picture as the smell of burning wood (it wasn’t on fire) added to the humor of the situation.

Facebook as a news source

My wife is so addicted to Facebook that I always ask her what is happening in the world after she checks Facebook. She actually does find out stuff on Facebook about the world which I have also learned from more reputable sources. Last night when we were watching the local news, they had a story on the Mountain High Ski Resort where the newscaster said that the Mountain High Facebook page said that people started lining up at 6 a.m. That struck me as odd to use Facebook as a source for a news story. I would have expected them to at least call Mountain High and either get a quote or verify the information, but relying on a post on a Facebook page seems like poor journalism.

Maybe this is what journalism is in the future; get facts from potentially unreliable sources, don’t verify them, and then report them. Then the game of telephone starts where the unverified facts get distorted on and on. I think I’m living in the past where I trusted journalists.

Picking smoke detectors

Fire protection experts recommend replacing batteries in smoke detectors every year when you change your clocks for daylight savings time. So this year, I heard an ad that also recommended a carbon monoxide detector which we didn’t have. I started looking at combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, but quickly dismissed that idea as all the reviews indicated that the combo units ate batteries like crazy (my house is older and only has 1 hard wired unit). In addition, my reading suggested that houses have both ionization and photoelectric type smoke detectors. No combo unit had carbon monoxide and the 2 types of smoke detection.

Once I resigned myself to getting a separate carbon monoxide detector, I decided on a First Alert Carbon Monoxide Alarm. This was based on reviews by Consumer Reports, I believe. That was the easy part; I got one for upstairs and one for downstairs. Right now our son sleeps on a bed in our room, so we don’t need one in his room. When he moves back into his room, I’ll get one for his room.

The second part of this equation was finding ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors. Photoelectric detection is supposed to be better for smoldering fires and ionization is better for flaming fires according to the US Fire Administration (who even knew that this agency existed?). There are a small number of units that do both, so my choices were very few. It’s really surprising to me as the recommendation is to have both types. After going to Home Depot and looking at a few (after some research), I decided on the Kidde PI9000 Battery-Operated Dual Ionization and Photoelectric Sensor Smoke Alarm. I had to replace 7 smoke detectors and install another one, so this wasn’t cheap.

After I replaced all the units, I saw that most of the units were manufactured over 10 years ago. The US Fire Administration recommends replacing the entire unit every 8-10 years, so it was about time anyway to replace them.

So far, I know that at least one of the units works as it went off last night when my wife burned some pizza and opened the oven. Luckily the units have a hush button to temporarily shut them up (much safer than yanking the battery and forgetting to put it back in).

Why was this process so hard? Are my sights too high in trying to protect my family and my house? How many average homeowners learn so much about smoke detectors? My guess is probably quite few. I’ll just add this as another topic that I have more than cursory knowledge.

(Newer houses are required to have interconnected smoke alarms which sound all of the units when one goes off; retrofitting a house for this is not easy and there are only a few that offer wireless interconnect and none of those are both photoelectric and ionization. I did consider this for a few minutes, but quickly dismissed it.)

Abstract Photo

My son loves playing with our camera and takes lots of pictures. Most of the pictures are blurry and we delete them. However, sometimes he takes a picture that looks pretty good. He was playing in my office a few months ago and took a picture of the mouse pad (a funky HP one; it was the largest one I could find with a smooth surface).

Click on the picture on the left to see a larger version.

End of Garmin Forerunner 305

Today, I got all my gear ready to go for a run and found that my trusted Garmin Forerunner 305 failed to turn on. I put it back in the charger and it went from Charging in Progress to Charging Completed. The device turned on when connected to the charger, but when I removed it, it died. So, the battery on it is toast.

My options are:

  1. Get a replacement battery by sending to to Garmin. Cost unknown.
  2. Get a new Forerunner 305
    . About $150 from Amazon.
  3. Get a Forerunner 405
    . About $350 from Amazon (-$50 rebate).
  4. Don’t use anything.

My Forerunner 305 lasted almost 4 years, so I’m pretty pleased with how long the battery lasted. While a replacement battery would probably be the cheapest option, I’ve been having problems with the speaker on it, so I have no idea when that will go out. A replacement is the second, least attractive option. As I’ve been wanting to get the 405 for a number of reasions, I’m using this as an excuse to upgrade (like I need an excuse)!

Once I get the device and start using it, I’ll write a review. I’m sure the review won’t be as popular as my Forerunner 305 review that still gets comments almost 4 years later, but I’ll write something.

Hey Garmin, if you want to send me something to review, I won’t send it back!

Alarmist News Reporting

While it shouldn’t surprise me to have news programs try to increase ratings by alarming the public, I was quite disappointed by NBC’s Nightly News on Saturday. Here’s my letter to them:

On Saturday’s Nightly News, you had a story about the Toyota Recall. In the story, you highlight a retired orthopedic surgeon who had an issue with his 2005 Toyota Highlander hybrid. This model vehicle is NOT part of the current recall and either you know something that Toyota doesn’t or your story is trying to alarm the public. The recall only covers certain new model Highlanders; as an owner of a 2003 Highlander, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Your story didn’t make it clear that this story had nothing to do with the current recall. While the doctor highlighted may have had issues with his vehicle, I think it is quite irresponsible for you to do a story on an issue that has nothing to back it up; one person had an issue with an older car.

I would appreciate seeing a clarification to this story.

We’ll see if NBC does anything. Toyota does have a huge problem, but this story could likely make it even worse.