I just want to pay my bill

The antiquated way Cox Communications operates

The antiquated way Cox Communications operates

Cox Communications pretty much sucks. The only reason to use them is the local Ch. 3 programing they offer (Dish does not deliver that hyper-local community TV). And every few months I am reminded of how bad of an organization they really are. Today, I wanted to update my credit card on file with two different accounts. Of course one being home and one business there are two different groups you need to spend time on hold to reach.

My favorite part was not that the first person I spoke with told me with 100% certainty that he could not update my credit card.  He was wrong, sort of.  The supervisor was able to, but apparently I must await an email (that has not arrived yet) and take some further action. That was for my home account.  The business group is even less helpful. They claim the only way to update a credit card is via mail (like with a stamp?) or to go into one of their stores (like a post office?).

I pay Cox Communications a fair amount of money every month, more than $500. I doubt they will miss my money.

UPDATE: See my 2012 Orange County Register column on how Cox Communications sucks and why I want ATT UVerse to compete in Irvine: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/cox-365632-service-irvine.html




Sketchy Mickey

Sketchy Mickey

Creepy Mickey

With my daughters birthday coming up, we were searching for a fun theme and some characters to attend her party. Naturally, Mickey Mouse is a favorite of hers so I looked into having him show up.

I didn’t come as a surprise that there is no perfect Mickey Mouse for hire. I understand why Disney would not want to sell or license a sanctioned Mickey Mouse consume for personal appearances.  For one thing it takes away from the special nature of knowing Mickey lives at Disneyland/World and you have to go there (or to a Disney On Ice show at an arena near you) to see him.  Also the likelihood of some random ‘Mickey’ doing something inappropriate or downright illegal would be constant worry for the company – it just isn’t worth it for them.

Even if Bob Iger doesn’t approve, you can get a mouse to attend your kids birthday party. Search Craigslist or do a Google search for “Mickey Mouse character for birthday” and options will pop up. But none are ideal. Here is a list of the biggest problems I have found:

Skinny Mickey – no one wants a skinny Mickey, the mouse is chunky and that’s the way we like him

Creepy Mickey – you know Mickey when you see him, if his features are off, even a toddler can tell and will call him and you out on it

Dirty Mickey – those costumes are a mess, Disney probably dry cleans them daily and swaps them out on some regular interval, no so much the case for small-time characters for hire companies who likely store the costumes in their garage or car trunk and rarely clean them or buy new ones

Legal Technicality Mickey – none of the companies that will dispatch Skinny/Creepy/Dirty Mickey to you will actually call him “Mickey Mouse” out of fear of being sued by The Kingdom, they usually have a name like “Mr. Mouse” and it just cheapens the whole experience

So what did we do instead of getting the mouse?  We hired Queen Elsa.  Yes, there are lots of the same issues, with her, but a teenage girl singing Frozen songs and doing face painting seems a whole lot less creepy.

Overcoming Impossible Odds, I Got a Hotel Room in Sold Out San Francisco During Dreamforce

I had been tracking Hotel Tonight for days–it’s always a good indicator of availability and pricing. And I knew every single hotel room near SFO was sold out. I knew because even the Hyatt 800 reservation line which handles all their other lesser brands, said they were sold out for a 30-mile radius.

Dreamforce attendees took over the area. I was there on business having nothing to do with Saleforce and I am somewhat of a hotel snob. I won’t stay in a ‘basic’ hotel, I prefer ‘luxe’ whenever possible. But I had my sights set on the Hyatt in Burlingame. Unlike Hilton which will put their name on anything (have you seen the Hilton Oakland Airport? It is a total dump.), Hyatt has preserved standards for their brand.

Having recently read, “Heads in Beds” by Jacob Tomsky, I felt empowered to win at the hotel game. I walked into the lobby, tipped the bellman $20 and asked, “Who is my best friend at the fronts desk?”  He pointed.

I walk up to, let’s call her ‘Glenda’ to protect the innocent, and ask for a $100 bill for my 5 $20s. When she handed me the $100 bill I told her it’s was for her, but I needed a room. She felt guilty telling me they were sold out, oversold in fact. But went to the ‘back of the house’ and returned with two options: a smoking room (I later found out they keep 5 of them…stupid) or a parlor suite — the kind you get for a reception at a convention that is attached to your real room. I chose the parlor. The downside: it came with a sleeper couch, no bed. That’s what I chose.

Final score: Hyatt Burlingame, $349 for the night + $100 tip = $449 (vs. $750 a night and a $65 Uber ride into the San Francisco for the very nice, but much more expensive Four Seasons).

My Apple Thunderbolt monitor just started smoking

Well, technically it went ‘poof’ and then started smoking. I took this footage after the bulk of the smoke came out – I needed to unplug it and make sure there wasn’t going to be a fire.

I took it to my local Apple store and a technical ran through about 75 questions about the incident, including if I had been hurt – I did feign a whip lash injury but he didn’t buy it. He said I should hear from Apple within a few days about the monitor.

I will post an update here when I find our what they say.

UPDATE: Apple fixed it, it took about a week and they said they had to replace just about everything inside the monitor, but there was no charge.

Never Publish a Testimonial Without a Full Name

Lame testimonial without full name

If you are going to take the time to post testimonials on your web site or print them in marketing material, make sure they are real people.  And if they are real people, make sure to include their full name.

Seeing “Jeanne K.” after a glowing comment does not give me confidence there is a real person behind that testimonial.  If a customer or client doesn’t have a comfort-level with people knowing they endorse your offering, then use someone who does.

Even better, put their city, company and other identifying information so that a serious buyer might contact them for a first-hand account of their experience with your company/firm.

Focus on quality of testimonial, true believers, champions, people who are happy to take a minute to sing your praises to a prospect.  Having a handful of these people in your camp is much more impressive and valuable than dozens of anonymous comments from nobodies who don’t even look real.

Rental Car Keys Are Too Bulky

There has got to be a better way.

way too bulky

Way too bulky

Nothing says, “Hi, I’m not from here,” like a massive key chain with two huge identical car keys on it.  And leaving them in your pocket might make people think you are way too excited to see them.

I understand that a rental car moves around a lot and may only be in service for a year or so and then sold off.  So keeping the keys together means the rental agencies don’t have to have some massive repository of second keys that need to later be married up with their respective cars before auction.  But I still don’t have to like it.  And I still want to find a solution that gives me the user experience I am looking for, one free of bulky additions to my otherwise carefree pockets.

Perhaps carrying a small wire cutter and a zip tie?  Clip the wire, use just the one key throughout my trip, and then secure it all back together with the zip tie before I return it?

Any better ideas?  Do other people think this a problem or is it just me?

Always Include an Email Signature With Your Phone Number

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 3.27.10 PM

At least a few times a day I find myself searching for a phone number for someone who has emailed me.  If only they had included a simple email signature, including their phone number, they would save me this frustration.

Unless you are trying to be super secret or you have no interest in doing business, getting job or just generally want to be difficult, take the several minutes to set up your email program (and smart phone) to add a signature to every email, both new and replies.


I Bet There are 100 Libraries Within Ten Miles of Your House


I am a huge advocate for libraries and the power of quiet learning in places with books and technology and people who are there for the purpose of reading and expanding their minds. Every kid has/should have a fond memory of getting their first library card (or whatever the modern day equivalent is).  So I feel I am on solid ground when I suggest that we stop building libraries.

There are thousands of libraries that exist and are entirely under-utilitzed.  Think about every elementary, middle and high schools exist in your city.  How many community colleges and other institutions of higher learning are nearby?  Each one of these buildings  houses a library, if not several.  And depending on the age and size, can be updated and staffed to serve the community’s library needs for a fraction of the cost of building and staffing a new library.

Schools would benefit from these new resources and the community will benefit from having access to dozens of new libraries in neighborhoods.  Sure there are the issues of security on school campuses – so you make it so the public is only welcome after school hours.

So the next time someone suggests a massive spending project for a new library, tell them to fix-up the ones we already have at a fraction of the cost.



Enough with asking me to sign paper receipts


Why do stores what me to sign paper receipts?  Do they actually keep them?  Almost every store has a point of sale system – why not allow me to sign electronically?

RiteAid specifically is annoying, but the most egregious example of paper receipts is Mother’s Markets.  They appear to be green and pro-environment, yet they waste so much needless paper by printing receipts and requiring customers to sign them.


DO NOT staple anything, every again




This is simple…do not ever staple anything, ever again.  I don’t own a file cabinet nor do I keep paper documents.  I scan them.  So every time you staple something you piss me off because I have to remove the staple to scan the document. I am not the only one that functions like this and more and more scan and shred will become the rule.  So buy some paper clips or large envelopes or alligator clips and throw away that old stapler.

Thank you.