Random thoughts, dubious rants, curiosities and worthy citations on the media, politics, marketing, music, inanity, and animals, among other things. Words and pictures and stuff, mostly from south central Wisconsin USA
These nincompoops on FOX News, especially the clowns on the FOX & Friends morning program, are so often unintentionally hilarious that it's hard to keep count anymore. But the Daily Show does what it can...
We moved my Dad into an assisted living community last week. I'm now doing a lot of the follow up stuff like disconnecting his utilities at his old townhouse.
So far, Verizon wins the customer service derby. Connected with a live person within three menu choices and two rings. The entire disconnect process for local phone service took less than three minutes.
Meanwhile, I am still listening to the annoyingly repetitive AT&T hold message telling me how committed they are to serving their customers. Dad had his long distance with AT&T. Amazingly, he has been paying over $40 a month or more for the same level of service he will be paying $10 at his new home. That service will be provided by... AT&T. He never looked into getting a better deal in the ten years he lived in the townhouse. (Let that be a lesson to you, telecommunication consumers!)
What is most annoying about AT&T's customer service is that the customer has no choice but to call in to cancel long distance service. It can't be done on line nor by mail. And it can't just be ignored either, because AT&T will continue to bill the monthly service charges, required government fees and other taxes even if the local service (from Verizon in this case) has been disconnected.
So far, I have been able to read most of today's newspaper, catch up on email, and write this post in the time I've been on hold with AT&T customer service... 43 minutes now, and counting. FORTY THREE fucking minutes. I have to think this is actually intentional. This is the only path one can take to cancel service. I wouldn't put it past AT&T to figure than a lot of people will give up, only to rack up fees for several months and not even know it.
Well, AT&T, with every loop of the 30-second promotional blather I am listening to on the speaker phone while waiting, I am more and more inclined to dump you for my iPhone service as soon as Apple allows Verizon into the provider pool. Count on it. Every time your recording tells me I am a "valued customer" I feel less and less valued. I look forward to bidding you farewell.
51 minutes and counting.
Update: 72 minute wait time, and then a few minutes more insisting I reconsider. Asshats.
Yesterday I pointed out to a friend that there was a Tonight Show even before Jack Parr did it. It was actually Steve Allen who began the show in 1954 as part of a multiple day-part strategy conceived by NBC's Pat Weaver. Weaver's intention was to offer a topical late night program as a matching bookend to his morning Today Show, created two years earlier. While Allen and Parr got it going, Johnny Carson really made the show into a broadcasting icon in and of itself.
Alas, that was then, this is now. Jay Leno got tired of Tonight and made his play for prime time. He failed, miserably. His reward, it seems, is to screw new Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien right out of his brand new Universal lot studio. Sure, O'Brien's ratings weren't as strong as Leno's, but as every NBC local affiliate knows all too well, Leno's sucked big time. NBC made a miserly move to try to get out of producing high quality dramas and similar programming for a real life bobble-headed joke and cliche dispenser. FAIL.
So Conan takes the fall for their idiotic decisions. Granted, he lands on about $30 million. NBC Sports CEO Dick Ebersol trashed O'Brien in an interview with the New York Times' Bill Carter. Ebersol calls O'Brien gutless for taking shots at Leno, and cites the sharp decline in Tonight Show ratings as a failure on O'Brien's part. I'm no television genius like Dick Ebersol, but I have to think a show like O'Brien's needs more than seven months to find it's spot. Look at Letterman's track record early-on. (Isn't it curious how Ebersol can slag O'Brien for ratings shortfalls while his own NBC Sports' Olympics coverage is losing the network hundreds of millions of dollars. Explain that one to us, Dick.)
Of course, Letterman's been having some fun with this, as well he should. NBC more or less fucked him out of the Tonight Show gig back when they installed Leno. As Dave put it earlier this week, you'd think after that debacle, they'd have been a little more savvy about their late night franchise, but instead decided to make it as disastrous as their prime time efforts.
As this all unfolded, the FOX network (not the cable news schmucks, but the broadcast network) was mentioned often as a potential new home for either Leno or O'Brien. Non-compete clauses being what they are, that may be a long time in coming. But I think FOX may have a real opportunity. And some of that opportunity could come in stealing share from Comedy Central's The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Consider that FOX only programs prime time until 10 pm EST. The 10pm spot is used by most local affiliates for a prime-time newscast. FOX could come back with a late night show that directly counters both Jon Stewart and the other network affiliates' late local news. With a strong enough hour, FOX could hold onto viewers that otherwise might have switched over to the Tonight Show or Letterman. If there was a $2 window for that bet, I'd be in line.
To extend the FOX scenario for which I'm willing to risk $2, consider that such a programming grid would mean after the FOX show concluded at Midnight, viewers could ride on over to ABC to watch the late night show that seems to have garnered hardly a mention in all this: Jimmy Kimmel Live. (Yeah, really. ABC has a late night talk show. Seriously. After Nightline or whatever that news thing is called now.)
Leno thought he might get a little positive mojo from turning to Kimmel earlier this week. He was wrong...
Looks like Conan's done, Leno gets a do-over, and I'll just stick with Letterman because he's really this generation's Johnny Carson in ways Jay Leno never was and never will be.
Apparently, to deal with the Illinois Tollway folks is to deal with incompetent nincompoops.
In July of 2008, I wrote this post about how we tried to pay a fine with the Illinois Tollway based on some I-Pass issues. I assumed we were at fault, and I sent the tollway authority a check. They sent it back, saying I didn't provide enough documentation, even though I sent them the violation notices. This post still draws a few hits a week almost 18 months later, telling me a lot of people are frustrated with the tollway's incompetent attempts to collect money.
Eventually, the issue above supposedly was resolved over the phone. We still got calls for a while but they finally stopped.
Today, we begin a new chapter in Illinois Tollway stupidity with our receipt of a letter from a certain Arnold Harris, Attorneys at Law. Arnold's computer-generated form letter tells us we owe $213 in tolls, fines and late fees for three unpaid fines at the Beloit toll plaza. My partner Tom passes through that plaza two times each weekday en route to and from his job. Mind you, no letters or anything else ever showed up to suggest we blew through without paying. One must assume that the tollway's technology is working, and one also must assume the transaction goes through since I-Pass transactions are conducted automatically at 55 miles per hour using equipment owned and operated by the Tollway Authority.
What's so ridiculous about this is that there was never any attempt, I am guessing, to cross reference this with the data in our I-Pass account. Within two minutes, I was able to go online, access the account, and see that all three tolls were logged as paid. I know they are the same tolls because they are listed at the exact minute as the alleged non-paid tolls.
In other words, even though we have three I-Pass transponders registered to our account under the exact same names and address our cars are registered under, and the exact same names and address the collection notice was mailed to, neither the Tollway Authority nor Arnold Harris Attorneys at Law made any apparent attempt to cross-check this.
Given that Illinois is in a world of financial hurt right now, as are many states, I'm sure they would much rather collect $213 than the actual $1.50 in actual tolls involved. And no doubt Arnold Harris Attorneys at Law gets a nice percentage if they collect. I'm not necessarily saying that the Tollway Authority or Arnold Harris Attorneys at Law are being deceitful, hoping that these kind of notices will just get paid. Nor an I necessarily saying that the Tollway Authority and Arnold Harris Attorneys at Law are lazy and just simply didn't do their homework before trying to collect money they are not owed. I am saying, however, that this kind of incompetency is why so many people little faith or confidence in government agencies. I'm also saying that if you are a law firm that makes a living by threatening people with legal action, you may want to check to see if you have a freakin' case before anything else. Little wonder why the average person has a low opinion of lawyers.
On Monday we'll fire off a leter with copies of the notice from Arnold and the documentation -- provided by the Tollway Authority's own web site -- to the Tollway Authority. With a little luck, we'll have this all clear up by Christmas. Christmas 2010. Maybe.