Archive for the ‘Consumer Advocacy’ Category

eBay Charges Final Value Fee on Shipping? Really?

April 7, 2012

I was reviewing my eBay charges and found that eBay charges a final value fee on shipping charges?  Really?  I guess that’s their way of preventing artificially low prices on items and high shipping charges to avoid final value fees on the item itself. 

I’m going to continue to tone down my eBay usage and work on Craigslist, Webstore and Blujay more.  Screw eBay.  There are plenty of other alternatives.


American Airlines Continues to Dig Its Own Grave

October 27, 2011

Last quarter (3Q11), American Airlines lost over $160M.  Each time they have a bad quarter I hear the same thing…blame it on the price of a barrel of oil.  But is that really what’s going on?  Or, are they simply making bad decisions that are forcing their captive market to make significantly different decisions on the way they travel?

Like a lot of DF/W residents, I’ve been traveling on American for more than 20 years.  I was here when the “big airport” was built and the Wright amendment went into effect (which, by the way was, and still is, one of the worst things for the air traveler and competition ever).  I’ve held Platinum, Gold, and “Tin” statuses as an AA traveler, most of the time due to the type of job I’ve held.  I currently hold the “tin” status with more than half a million miles. 

I can only imagine the backroom conversations in the corporate offices when they determine how to maximize their profits.  What kind of rules can be created that will add directly to the bottom line without completely pissing off our loyal customers (those with “status”) while really sticking it to the travelers who might not be flying with us next week, next month or next quarter?  Profit optimization what-if scenarios are being performed with a complex computer model showing the effects of a rule or fare change to the bottom line.  Who can argue with the numbers?  We need to stay afloat another quarter.  Our shareholders are expecting returns.  It’s the typical short-term outlook and vision of many large corporations.  The bottom line is, when you have no status on AA, you get screwed at every opportunity and the rules bear that out.  But I digress…

I have no problem with corporations, large or small, but one can definitely tell when a corporation has had a lot of government influence.  By that I mean AA existed during the era of government regulation of the airline industry when prices were controlled.  Therefore, their corporate infrastructure was built around more of a "cost plus” mentality, not a mentality of superior customer service.  The newer airlines have had the luxury of building their infrastructure around open competition (I use the word “open” loosely) and have had to seriously compete and find their niche in order to compete with the big boys.  We’ve seen the big ones, and some small ones, come and go.  I can’t really  knock a new startup airline for failing because their business plan didn’t pan out (unless, of course, it was based on business criteria from a decade or two ago), but I can knock a large, heavily capitalized airline for failing to recognize the changes in the marketplace and be able to change its business plan to compete in the “new” marketplace.  This behavior reminds me more of a large government entity.

Which leads me to my main point.  I, like a lot of my friends and coworkers, look at air travel as a burden…a burden that is to be avoided, if at all possible.  I find myself doing the travel math to determine whether I would much rather get in my car and travel for four hours or go through the hassle of traveling to the airport, parking the car, checking in, checking bags, being vetted by “Thugs Scaring Americans,” playing the gate change game, getting on a flight that may or may not be on time,  retrieving bags, getting a rental car, and on and on and on.  Heck, four hours is nothing in a car.  Insert bag, insert key, start engine and drive.  Cruise control is great!  When you arrive, you are at your destination.  Plus, you get to see some stuff along the way.  I’m finding more people who are not only willing to take a four hour drive, but also that day-long 12+ hour drive.

American Airlines instituted yet another “tin traveler” status rule (in February of 2011, I believe).  If you want to travel standby and you have a “cheap” ticket, you get to pay the “bend-over $50” fee.  Why?  Because they can.  Because the market will accept it…at least in the short term.  And that’s my point.  Many people, me included, will pay the $50 fee…in the short term.  However, my, as well as others’ behaviors, will change.  I can tell mine is already changing.  I am looking for alternatives to AA when I travel.  Instead of thinking “I’ll book it on American” I’m thinking “What are my other options besides traveling on American?”  If I’m going to be treated as part of an optimized business profit solution then I’m going to insert my own parameters into the equation, and many of my resulting decisions will lead me away from AA. 

One of the primary obstacles to making alternative decisions is the Wright amendment.  When it is gone in its entirety, I’ll be “free to move around the country” more efficiently on an airline like Southwest.  And I, like others, will remember my experiences on American and bid them adieu. 

P.S.  I write this as I am traveling on a regional jet from DFW to CVG.  I guess my $50 change fee was not enough to cover the repairs to the restroom at the rear of the aircraft, as the door was broken and would not lock (I held it closed with my foot), hence the light was flickering, and their was no running water, only moist towelettes, with which to wash your hands.  The flickering light reminded me a bit of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but thankfully, no one died.

Installing Internet Explorer 9 Breaks SharedView

September 27, 2011

Hey Microsoft!  When you fix IE9 so it doesn’t break SharedView I’ll install it…again.  Even though I’ve installed IE9 on multiple computers and servers, I haven’t found any real compelling reason to install IE9.  All of the “compelling” reasons to install it make very little difference once it breaks something else. 

Is it faster?  Not really noticeable on my 2.5Ghz dual core notebook.  I’d be better off getting an SSD.  Is it more standards compliant?  I guess so, but it has hung on my so many times that doesn’t really matter.  Does it work with SharePoint any better?  Not that I’ve found…especially when you factor in all the times it has hung on me.

I will give them kudos for making the uninstall uneventful.  I guess they really want to push more people to FireFox…

This is why I like Dell support

January 19, 2011

I have been purchasing Dell Latitude notebooks (M65, D830, D820, etc.) for several years and always purchase the 3 year warranty and purchase the additional year extension when the 3 year warranty is about to run out.  I’m always impressed by the service I get.

I recently had a display issue with my D830 with a vertical green line appearing towards the right side of the display.  So I got online with Dell support.

Here’s my recent chat log with the Dell ProSupport technician, Mike Gallagher.  Do HP, Acer, Sony, Toshiba and the others have this kind of support?

1:00:58 PM        System  You are now being connected to an agent. Thank you for using Dell Chat
1:00:58 PM        System  Connected with ProSupport Michael Gallagher
12:47:25 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Hi, my name is Mike, thank you for contacting Dell Technical Support. While I am pulling up your information may I please get a brief description of the problem and any troubleshooting that has already been done.
12:48:20 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  I am showing that this is a D830, is that correct?
12:49:08 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  My D830 has two problems. One developed in the last 24 hours. It has a green vertical line on the right side of the display that extends the entire length of the display. Also, the "eject" button has fallen off from the card slot.
12:49:49 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  The PCMCIA slot?
12:50:06 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  It’s the "other" card slot. Can’t think of the name…
12:50:47 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  The "express" card slot.
12:50:47 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Is the green line seen on an external monitor?
12:51:09 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  No, I currently have it docked and it is only on the display on the notebook.
12:52:24 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Ok…I need you to undock, power the system off, then hold the D key and the power button down for 2 seconds then release, and tell me what you see.
12:53:41 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  How do I do that without losing you…since I’m using the computer to chat with you?
12:54:32 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  oh… I did not realize that we were chatting on the same system.
12:55:11 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  I can chat back with you on a different computer, if there is some way to connect back to you.
12:55:11 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  I will suspend the session , then you can do that, and when you go back into chat you will get me.
1:02:01 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  The screen cycled through all the colors with each colored screen displaying the vertical green line except, of course, the green screen where the line couldn’t be seen. 🙂
1:03:09 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  hello
1:03:17 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  Hola.
1:03:34 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  that’s what I need to know
1:03:39 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  It the LCD
1:03:54 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Can I please get the address contact name and phone number that will be used for this dispatch?
1:03:57 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  That’s what I thought…either that or a cable going to the screen.
1:04:19 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  yep…going to replace them both
1:05:16 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  Russell Wright, xxxx xxxxxx 
1:05:43 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  Usually at the biz address during the day.
1:06:10 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Where do you want me to send a tech?
1:06:21 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  To the biz address.
1:06:35 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  no problem
1:07:02 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  Don’t forget the "eject" button for the express card slot! 🙂
1:07:53 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  is that Richardson TX?
1:08:01 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  Yes.
1:09:03 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Any other issues with he system that need to be addressed like missing rubber feet or cracked plastics?
1:09:08 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  *the
1:09:57 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  Nope. All looks good except for some scratches on the lid.
1:11:43 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  We will fix that too while we are out there.
1:11:48 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Please bare with me while I process this request, this will take several minutes.
1:12:06 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  Wow! I’ll be grabbing some snacks.
1:14:04 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  no problem…. enjoy
1:14:24 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  Chips ‘n salsa.
1:18:39 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  it will be just a few more minutes
1:18:48 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  OK.
1:28:40 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Thank you for your patience, Your dispatch number is 140933333 
1:28:55 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  This part should ship next business day and you should be contacted by the onsite tech by 1:00pm tomorrow
1:29:00 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Is there anything else that I can help you with today?
1:30:07 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  No. You’ve done great! Thanks for your assistance.
1:30:25 PM        ProSupport Michael Gallagher  Thank you for choosing Dell! We are always available at Please feel free to close this window at your convenience.
1:30:36 PM        RUSSELL WRIGHT  Bye!

Replacing a magicJack with netTALK Duo

October 16, 2010


So I bit the bullet and purchased a netTALK Duo to replace my magicJack.  So far it’s been my best decision of the month.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


Had to unplug and replug power on the Duo to reboot it (lost dial tone).  Other than that, it’s been working great.


Was on a call with a client for about 3 hours.  I started with a netTalk conference and, from what I could tell, she kept getting dropped.  So, I had her call me directly.  Call dropped every 15 minutes (she actually started timing the drops).  So, I called her back.  Didn’t have a drop for the rest of the call (over an hour).  Not sure this has anything to do with netTalk, but the drop was like clockwork…every 15 minutes.

Sorry, I Dropped You. I’ve Got AT&T Cell Phone Service.

August 6, 2010

I find myself uttering these words on a regular basis.  I didn’t use to, but over the last year the service in the D/FW area has become pretty unreliable.  Wonder if Verizon is any better?

magicJack Limitations

January 7, 2010

I’ve been using my magicJack for over a year and have found that, while the audio quality is usually just fine, there are some significant limitations that prevent it being “ready for prime time.”  Here are my findings.

  1. Call duration limitation.  Do you get on a conference call with co-workers and customers?  Do you stay connected for over 2 hours?  I do.  I’ve found that at the 120 minute mark, my magicJack call simply terminates.  That’s not how a production-ready voice service should operate.  UPDATE 2010-02-05 – I was on a call today with a guy from the U.K.  He was calling me on my MJ and, while the connection was very good (like he was next door), it kept dropping about every 5-10 minutes.  For our two hour call, I finally had him call my cell phone as he called me back about 5 or 6 times on the MJ.  NOT a good experience!  UPDATE 2010-05-12 – Again, on a call with a guy in the U.K. and the call dropped every 5 or 10 minutes.  Possibly due to network latency?
  2. Calls to conference call services diverted to magicJack’s free conference call service.  Has someone invited you to a conference call using one of the several free conference call services?  If so, plan on not being able to participate.  Some time in 2009, magicJack decided that the termination charges for these type of calls were more than it could afford so it unilaterally decided to intercept the calls to these numbers and redirect them to their free conference call service.  To hell with you if you were invited by someone to the conference call and have no control over what service is being used.  Can you imagine if AT&T started looking at the numbers you were calling (perhaps a store) and redirecting them to a number of their choosing (perhaps a store they own)?  Do you suppose the FCC would let them get away with that?  This prevents magicJack from being a useful business tool.
  3. Software stability.  After some software update at some point in time, my Windows XP SP3 machine and Vista machine both started freezing up after using the magicJack for 20 or 30 minutes.  There’s some magicJack process that starts hogging the processor(s) on my machines until they become unresponsive.  I noticed today that (2010-01-07) “Lucky You” was getting another upgrade.  Maybe this will be the one that makes it stable again.  With the instability in the software, this makes magicJack nothing more than an interesting toy.  This is the most serious issue (and may be resolved) preventing it being “ready for prime time.”  I’ll be providing an update here after I use it again with the new software update. UPDATE 2010-01-07:  I have been using my MJ today and haven’t experienced the software instability.

When it works, it works well.  I used it while I was in Cancun and everyone wanted to borrow it to make calls back to their friends in the U.S.  Audio quality for me has always been outstanding, until the software instability destroys it.  I’m really hoping I can get more business value out of the device in 2010.

MagicJack Call to Free Conference Call not Placed to 218-339-2500

August 26, 2009

Just trying to call in to a free conference call number from my MagicJack. Trying to call 218-339-2500. I’ve done it before. Get a recorded message that says to call 305-848-8888 (which appears to be a free conference call service controlled by MJ). So, I can’t call in to the original conference call…my phone call has been hijacked!

Get on a chat with MJ “customer support.” Here’s the chat log. I’m thinking I’m going to have to register a complaint with the FCC or something. I doubt I’ll ever get a return call on my problem. What do you think?

Please wait for a site operator to respond.

You are now chatting with ‘Garnet’

Your Issue ID for this chat is LTK419075471946X

Garnet: Hello, how may I help you?

Russell Wright: Why can’t I place a call to a conference call number? Magicjack hijacks my call and prevents me from dialing in.

Garnet: Hi Russell.

Garnet: May I know if you are the host of the conference call?

Russell Wright: No, I am not the host. I am just trying to dial in.

Garnet: I see.

Garnet: May I know if the host is a magicjack user?

Russell Wright: MagicJack seems to want to direct me to their “free service.” I’ve never had a phone call hijacked before.

Russell Wright: Have no idea if the host is a MagicJack user. How would I know?

Garnet: One moment please…

Garnet: May I know if you have tried joining a conferece call before?

Russell Wright: Yes, I have joined conference calls before. That’s part of my job. I get on conference calls all the time.

Garnet: I see.

Garnet: One moment please…

Garnet: Dial 305-848-8888. A Voice prompt will say ” Welcome to the magicJack Free Conference Service. Press 1 to join a conference room

Russell Wright: and…?

Garnet: You may use the access code for any future conference calls as well.

Russell Wright: Hold on! Have you answered my question? Why will my call I’m placing to a conference call not be completed? How do I make it work? I have no need for another number to call. I want my original call to go through as dialed.

Russell Wright: I hope that’s not too hard to understand…

Garnet: Okay

Garnet: One moment please…

Garnet: After dialing 305-848-8888. A Voice prompt will say ” Welcome to the magicJack Free Conference Service. Press 1 and please follow the voice prompt.

Russell Wright: Are you a person or a machine? You just repeated the same thing without answering my question.

Russell Wright: How do I get my call to go through to the number (218) 339-2500? Can you answer that question?

Garnet: Yes, I am.

Garnet: May I know if you were able to hear the voice prompt?

Russell Wright: Only if you will answer my original question. How do I get my call to go through to the number 218-339-2500?

Garnet: One moment please…

Garnet: Thank you for your patience. I will transfer you to a higher level of support. Please hold while I transfer you.

Please wait while I transfer the chat to the best suited site operator.

You are now chatting with ‘Yvonne’

Your Issue ID for this chat is LTK419075471946X

Russell Wright: Yvonne–How do I get my call to go through to the number 218-339-2500?

Yvonne: Hello, I am Yvonne. I will be assisting you.

Yvonne: How are you, Russell?

Russell Wright: Not very good, thank you.

Yvonne: I can understand your frustration with the issue. I am here to help. Let me just make a clarification. YOu are trying to join a conference call on this mj phone number: 218-339-2500?

Russell Wright: For the past several months, I have used MJ to join conference calls for my work. Most of these conference calls are set up by others using a free conference call service not of my choosing. Today, when I tried to join a conference call using my MJ to dial in, I get an “Important announcement” message that Magic Jack cannot dial in to the call and re-directs to a magic jack conference call service. I am unable to join the conference call through this MJ service. Since I do not set up the conference calls, it is impossible for me to change the service used for the conference call and I am unable to use my MJ to join the conference as I used to be able to do.

Russell Wright: Yes, I am trying to join a conference call at that number.

Yvonne: Thank you for telling that to me.

Yvonne: I just escalate your issue to our engineers. Please rest assured that your problem is being looked into even as we chat. We appreciate your patience. I will mark it priority for the concerned department. We hope to resolve the problem as fast as possible. We will resolve this on our end. We will update you at your email address as soon as we have this issue resolved. Is the best email to contact you?

Yvonne: Contact Email Address

Russell Wright: Yes, that email is fine.

Yvonne: Thank you for the confirmation.

Yvonne: We will work on this as fast as we can.

Yvonne: Thank you for your cooperation and patience. I really appreciate it. Would that be all for now, Russell?

Russell Wright: Yes, will you send me a record of our session?

Yvonne: Thank you for asking.

Yvonne: I am afraid I cannot send you our chat transcript. May I suggest that you copy and paste it and save that to MS Word document or to notepad.

Yvonne: .

Yvonne: Thank you for stopping by to chat, I hope I did a good job at addressing your concerns. Please take a second to answer a one question survey about the service I provided. Please click the “close” button on the top right of this screen and the survey will appear. Thanks again!

Yvonne: Have a great day to you and your family, Russell. Take care always 🙂

I have since filed a complaint with the FCC (Complaint #09-C00151199) using this form

CNN, MSNBC, Fox, ABC, CBS…whatever!

April 27, 2009

For those who refer to these broadcasters as “news networks” I can only LOL. Each is targeting an audience in order to boost ratings, sell space and make money. Some target the smart people, some target the dumb people, some target those in the middle. Seldom do these networks allow what few “reporters” they have the ability to report (and to think these folks went to school to be treated like this). They are simply trying to find an angle on an event that allows them to sell more commercials than the other guy. News…I don’t think so. They have way too much bias about any stories they air. They can be loosely classified as entertainment networks. I’d put them in the category of the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges…funny in a painful sort of way.