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Feb 19 2013 Last night I received the following email from MacMall:

"Good Morning Sir,  This is Kenneth Aranda, Assistant Team Lead. I was informed by my Manager to contact you regarding the sad event early today. Can you provide me the best phone # to reach you? I will call you as early as tomorrow morning and we’ll deal with the said issue no matter what. Thank you for your utmost understanding."

I looked on their website after reading the above and saw that the laptop I was interested in was again shown at $1,849, the price I had inquired about when the websitle showed $1,999.

I sent him my number and he called back promptly the next morning. He said that my email had alerted them there was a problem on the website which they corrected and thanked me for bringing that to their attention. The two folks who had chatted with me had been talked to ... wonder how that went. And he offered me a nice discount on AppleCare for my troubles. Oh, and they are running a promotion where phone orders get a $100 restaurant.com gift card. So, I think I did alright altogether and am happy with their response.
Feb 16 2013 I sent the following to MacMall's customer service email address:

Please read through this chat. I would like this message referred to a supervisor immediately. Then such a person can respond to me via email. The gist of the initial inquiry was to find out why there seemed to be a price change between yesterday and today on a closeout MacBook Pro with Retina display, 13", 512 GB Flash Drive, 2.5 GHZ processor, 8 MB RAM found at;
 
It was $1849 yesterday and $1.994 today. No one would give me an answer. Marian seemed clueless. Ross just kept putting the burden back onto me rather than just looking at what I had sent him. Then, when it was all over (after over 60 minutes of Maria and Ross), all he could do was punt it into Tuesday. Not good. I am an old and constant customer of MacMalll and expect better customer service than what I received.
 
So, dear supervisor or manager, please read all the way through this set of transactions and respond to me about (1) the basic question I asked about the price, and (2) your assessment of how I was handled by Maria and Ross.
 

 

Chat Content:
Ross: Welcome to our real-time support chat. My name is Ross at extension number 87144. How can I help you today?
Hi Maurice, good morning

Maurice Hirsch: See the text if a chat that seemed to end nowhere: 
(here is text of chat session with Maria which somehow seemed to have been cut off)

Maria: Welcome to our real-time support chat. How can I help you today?
Maurice Hirsch: Yesterday, you had a closeout MacBook Pro with Retina display with 512GB flash drive for $1,850. Same thing today seems to be $1,994. What happened that the price went up almost $150 in a day? It was a 13" model
Maria: our marketing team determines our prices so there might have been a change that needed for us to do this
Maurice Hirsch: Yesterday was the first day of the "special" closeout prices/models. Should not change price within 24 hours. Not right. Not fair.
Maria: I'm sorry that you feel that way
Maurice Hirsch: Just putting it off on the marketing department is not a real answer. Let me talk to your supervisor.
Maria: but just like what I said we don't determine prices on sales end
Maurice Hirsch: You are not answering my questions. All you are doing is passing the buck on this. Let me discuss this with someone who can respond with answers. Supervisor, please. If you look at the website, the one model that is out of sync with how all the other closeout models are shown is the one I am inquiring about. I am a regular customer of your company. Please, can't I get someone who will respond to my questions?
Time has passed with no response at all from your end. You still there? ( I ended that chat since there was no response from the other end)
 
(Now we begin transactions with Ross):
Ross: May I have the MacMall part number for that MacBook Pro that you saw a price change in please?
Maurice Hirsch: So, you see, I was going to buy the 13" closeout that was advertised yesterday at $18u50 but is now shown as $1994 and its presentation on your website is at odds with the rest of the page for closeouts on retina display MacBooks. It's the 13" closeout MacBook Pro with Retina display, 8GB RAM, 512 GB flash drive, 2.5 Ghz processor right in the middle of your page of closeouts for MacBook Pros
Ross: May I have the MacMall part number please so I can check with our marketing and purchasing division the price for it yesterday.
Maurice Hirsch: And if you look at that webpage, you will see it's the only model where no savings are shown. How in blazes am I supposed to know a model number? None is shown on any of the computers. Not even when you look at them to buy. Look at your own webpage, please. Perhaps it's Z0N3, if that is a model number.
Ross: A MacMall part number starts with a 9
Maurice Hirsch: Remember that the price posted of $1849 was just put up yesterday. How can it change in a day? Had special email about it yesterday. Thought about it overnight, went back to page to order it, found out that it's now $150 more.
Ross: You can send me the email you received.
Maurice Hirsch: Where is there a MacMall number? Your own webpages don't show anything about a number. This is getting frustrating. Do you work for MacMall? I have deleted the email. And that's not the question. As a regular customer of MacMall, I am getting angry about this exchange with Maria and now you. This isn't rocket science, here. What's the scoop? If you cannot respond to my questions, please hand me over to someone who can. Just look at your own webpage and you can see the problem. And the email itself was a link to your webpages where the prices for all the closeout models were shown. The email didn't have prices other than to say there were savings up to $649, I think.
Ross: The 13" MacBook Pro closeout models each have a different setting for the RAM and Flash pre-installed. Each setting will have a corresponding MacMall part number so we can differentiate them. Not unless you can provide a MacMall part number for the one that has a listed price of $1849 yesterday then I really can't forward anything to our marketing division so we can have it checked.
Maurice Hirsch: Okay, I'll play your game. WHERE CAN I FIND A MODEL NUMBER on your webpages? So far, none seem to be shown. I have an idea: You look at your own webpage and tell me where there is a model number. http://www.macmall.com/n/Macbook-Pro-Retina-Display/macNavLinks-753  Look at the Huge Savings section, and the 13" model that is in the middle of the second row of that section. So far, I have invested over 30 minutes in live chats with Maria and you and have not gained any specific answers to my questions.
As a constant customer of MacMall, I don't think this set of transactions has been helpful. 
Ross: As an example, after you picked out the one you want to place an order for, it will show a detailed description of what it is and then on the middle part of the page you can see the MacMall part number for it
You can follow that link as an example. We cannot give any specific answers because you do not have a specific part number for what you are referring to.
Maurice Hirsch: Why would I want to place an order when I an asking about the price? And why are you putting the burden on me when I've told you exactly where on your webpage you can find the model I am inquiring about? [I then put the computer into my "basket"] 
Try MacMall Part #: 9418712. You could have done this as easily as I have done without putting me through all this. Hate to sound sarcastic, but the name of the game is customer service. When we are done with all this, I would like you to give me the email address of an upper-level supervisor so I can write this whole exchange up.
Ross: Thank you for the information. I will now forward your question to our Marketing team as I do not have any information of what's the cost of this specific MacMall part number yesterday. I apologize if I need to get the MacMall part number from you directly as it will not really help if I assume that what you are talking about is "this part number" or "that part number"
Maurice Hirsch: You can assume all you want. I was very specific about the model's specs with 13", 512 GB Flash Drive, 2.5GHz processor, 8GB RAM, that it was a MacBook Pro discontinued model shown on your page. Gave you the webpage link. If I had known the model number, I would have given it to you when you first asked. I don't know what more you wanted of me as a customer.
Ross: Our Marketing division is currently closed for the weekend. We will send you an update about your question for the recent/sudden price increase you mentioned about this MacBook Pro. by Tuesday
Maurice Hirsch: Please give me the name of a supervisor where I can register a complaint about this whole set of transactions with Maria and you. Also seems as if you knew that you had to deal with marketing many minutes ago (you are I are up to 36 minutes right now), you could have found out they were closed over the weekend and wouldn't be back until Tuesday. So, what's my contact's name and email?
Ross: We have your email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Maurice Hirsch: Yes? But I want to SEND an email to a supervisor.
Ross: You can send in an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Maurice Hirsch: Seems pretty general, perhaps low-level. What about a manager, a supervisor? Something direct that doesn't start at the lowest level of the customer service chain?
Ross: You can send your concern to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Saying that our marketing division is closed for the weekend right off the bat couldn't have helped the situation at all, as you might think I am shunning you away without even asking what the particular product is
If you have a concern with how this is handled, you can send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Maurice Hirsch: As a customer who just purchased an iMac from you this past week, who buys Mac equipment from you for a company I'm affiliated with, who has bought lots of Macs from you over the years, this has been quite unpleasant and might affect my choice of a vendor.
If you were not going to have an answer for me regardless of what model and were going to have to check with marketing (which is what Maria said earlier), why would knowing the model number have helped? You must think that I'm just a cranky person. Actually, I'm not. Just very frustrated with the time this has taken and the complete lack of information I am leaving with having now invested an hour in this enterprise.
So, here we are. I still don't have an answer to my question. I'm irritated about how I was handled. What was a sure sale is now a real question mark for me as is my overall choice of Mac vendors if this is the way you are going to handle customers. Thank you for considering my thoughts. mlhjr

We shall see what they say in response.


 
Sep 15 2012 I assume you know this familiar phrase from television advertising. In an earlier piece, I wrote about choosing a new credit card and my thoughts regarding rewards. So, I got a credit card that gives you two points for every dollar spent toward rewards that include refunding the cost of an airline ticket you purchased on that credit card.

Ah, but there is a catch that I didn’t know about when I got the card. If you have lots of points and then buy an airline ticket, no problem. You use the points to offset the cost. So, a ticket of $300 would need 30,000 points (which translates into $15,000 of credit card spending). Yes, it’s really like a cash rewards card, but more focused. Good so far.

Let’s take my situation. I get a new credit card. I then buy an airline ticket for a flight many months in the future. Over the next couple of months, I start to accumulate points (miles) for redemption. Now the hitch. When you go online to check your rewards, you find out that the card company only “erases” (their term) an airline ticket purchase made within 90 days. This makes it hard on a new card member like me. Obeying the rules posted on their website, I would have until the end of this month to meet the rewards requirement for the ticket I bought the end of June … or would lose the ability to “erase” it (i.e., get the rewards applied against that ticket).

I called customer care and explained that this requirement seems to be missing in all their TV advertising. While I am sure it’s somewhere in the fine print of what came with the credit card, this is a biggie given all the hoopla in the TV ads and what’s implied in them.

The customer service agent explained that the 90-day rule was dictated by how much data they could easily retain in the rewards department’s database. However, she would grant me a 90-day extension to meet my goal to redeem my June ticket cost. I would have to call in to do this, since there is no way around the website to get to special circumstances. I was assured that her notes would be in my record when I called in.

 Short-term problem solved. Longer term, I am rethinking the whole idea of rewards again. This is a glorified, but restricted, cash-back card and it has an annual fee. I will probably switch it to their regular 1.5% cash-back card (real cash, Jimmy Fallon?) and get an airline credit card to deal with flying.

Another reference on these cards:

http://blog.checkadvantage.com/2011/10/13/capital-one-reward-cards/

Sep 26 2012 Tuesday – Got up this morning to find that my iMac would not start. It was just supposed to be asleep, but, well. After a phone call to Jeff, I opened my laptop and got an appointment at the Apple Store this morning.

While I was waiting to go, I thought I’d catch up on some business and do the payroll for Chesterfield Arts. So, I opened QuickBooks on my laptop. Since we back up our files with Intuit, I went online to pull up a backup files I had put on there two days earlier. However, the Intuit site only showed backups I had made in December, 2010. Yep. Nothing since then according to what I pulled up on their site. I had a brief conversation with one of their customer service folks, but ran out of time before I had to go to the Apple Store.

At the store, the tech guys diagnosed the problem as a failed logic board, which was what Jeff guessed. And it cost to repair it would be about $600. Since that is such a large percent of what I could get a new one for, I dragged the computer home. I then called Intuit again.

They verified I had a whole slew of backups and there was one from two days ago. Okay for that. The rep took control of my laptop and it took her 45 minutes to restore my file, something I should have been able to do since that’s what we pay Intuit for on an annual basis. Then it was a matter of getting print drivers for the laptop, etc. Throughout all this, our son, Jeff, was extremely helpful and spent scads of time with me all through the day.

While the rep from Intuit was working on my laptop, I used my iPhone to make a purchase of a new iMac. At the end of the transaction, I was told my credit card had been denied. Hmmmm. Well, I put in another and it went through. About 3 minutes later, the fraud division of that first credit card called to see if I had tried to make the computer purchase. Yes, I did. I was told I could enter the card again and it now would go through. Too late. On another card. And as things were about winding down from the Intuit rep in control of my laptop, the computer store where I had ordered the new machine called to verify if, indeed, I had placed the order. Yes, I did.

After a very late lunch, I hurried out to get some food and do some chores. Back in the garage, I slammed the tailgate down on my head. Ouch!

 Oh, one more thing, as if this weren’t enough. Both Monday and today, my “contacts” list on my computer and iPhone was totally messed up. I mean there were people who had passed away years ago and people in directories where they should not be. It has taken my three cleanings to get things into order, but we shall see what comes from iCloud that messes it up again.

It’s Kol Nidre tonight. So I will chill and reflect. And how was your day?

Sep 11 2012 Eleven years ago today I was recuperating from prostate cancer surgery, still at home, still with catheter attached. It’s like when JFK was shot – we all remember, and should continue to remember, where we were and what we were doing. I was watching the “Today” show much like any other morning. First, there was the confusion about the smoke coming from the first tower. Then we saw the second airplane hitting the second tower. And, and, and from that point on down the twisting path since then over these eleven years.

About five years later, I wrote the following poem on, yes, 11/9, but reflecting:

Shadows on 11/9
 
Overhead,
three buzzards
thread the wind currents,
trace sweeping shadows
as they arc over leafless trees
south of the pasture.

On the trail today as I pass
bushes with lustrous green leaves,
cherry-red berries,
an owl’s shadow cuts across the path in front of me.
I look up,
but into the sun.

Back home,
two crows argue on the split-rail fence
outside my bedroom window.