December 17, 2010

Customer Service

This post has nothing to do with my kids, my friends, food, or even knitting (because sometimes I blog about knitting). Just so you know that going in.

Today I got a bill for $45 from Sirius/XM, the satellite radio people. A one-year subscription to satellite radio and a kick-ass overhead entertainment system came as freebies with my just-this-side-of-crappy minivan. Both were things I didn't need, but they do add some value, mostly in that my kids don't try to kill each other in the car when their brains are full of mush. Case in point: Radio Disney, which is a lifesaver on long car rides when I forget to let the kids bring their various electronic devices. In our area, you can't get Radio Disney on an actual radio unless that radio is satellite-friendly. Mine is. Big win.

The other thing I like about satellite radio is that I can find a station - in fact, many stations - that play music in the mornings. Which means there are no horrid deejays screeching at me and trying to be funny, something most commercial radio stations consider to be an asset. I do not. I don't like mornings. I particularly don't like loud mornings that try too hard. My satellite radio understands.

But I don't like paying for it. I mean, this is not a thing I need. If I don't want people hollering at me, I can just shut the darn thing off and play a CD.

So I got this bill from Sirius/XM for $45 for three months of service. I get a similar bill every, oh, let's just say it's every three months. It's not, really, but let's say it is. And when I get said bill, that $45 reminds me that I'm a single mom on a budget, and satellite radio is not something I need. So I call to cancel.

And then they tell me I can get five months for $15. Would I like to renew?

Well, sure. I can give up one cinammon dolce latte a month for Radio Disney and a quiet morning commute.

Five months later, like clockwork, I get a bill from Sirius/XM for $45 for three months of service, reminding me once again that I'm a single mom on a budget and satellite radio is not something I need. So I call to cancel. And then they tell me I can get five months for $15, and would I like to renew?

Uh ... sure?

The thing is, I'd just pay the damn bill if they'd charge a reasonable price in the first place.

They are almost as bad as Verizon, who gives me my phone and internet. Blazing fast speed and a dial tone every time I pick up the phone. I like that.

What I don't like is the following conversation, which I have had with them five times - yes, five times - in the past six months.

Verizon Rep: Hi, Rosemary! I'm calling to offer you Verizon FIOS for the low low price of something much lower than you're paying now.

Me: Wow, that's a great offer. I'll take it!

Verizon Rep: Uh ... wait. Our records show that you already have FIOS.

Me: Why yes. Yes, I do. I've had FIOS for more than five years now. But that prices is fabulous! Thanks for offering it to me. I'll take it.

Verizon Rep: Yeah, see, we can't do that. Because you already have FIOS. And we want to reward your loyalty over these past five years by charging you far, far more than we charge anyone else.

Me: Gee, how thoughtful! Thanks a ton for screwing me over and then calling to let me know all about it. Much appreciated.

Verizon Rep: Glad I could help. Have a great day!

For the record, I generally like Verizon, or I'd have switched a long time ago. Just as I like Sirius/XM. But seriously (ha ha - SIRIUSly, get it?) ... that business model, it's not exactly customer-friendly.

Now, here's one that is. This is my experience with the fine, fine folks at DirecTV. See, they don't know this, but they caused the first big fight of my marriage. My then newly wedded husband wanted a satellite dish so he could watch lots and lots and lots of sports. Back then, though, you had to buy the dish. And the box. And the remote. And when you added all that up with installation and the first few months of service, it came to roughly $1,000. If I think $45 is too much to pay for three months of radio, you can imagine how I felt about paying $1,000 for TV.

Well, I lost the fight, and we got DirecTV, which I inherited along with the house when the ex and I separated. Thing is, I'm a single mom on a budget, and I could not afford the $140 or so a month we'd been paying for the privilege of watching television. So I called DirecTV.

Me: Hi, DirecTV. I'm now a single mom on a budget and I need to cancel my service.

DirecTV: Ma'am, I see you've been a customer since the dawn of time. We value your loyalty. How about we shave this and trim that, and maybe refund you a bit of this, and while I'm at it, how about I send you a free remote to replace the one you accidentally put out with the recycling?

I now pay $32 a month for (very basic) satellite TV and a DVR, which means I can put my kids to bed and still watch Burn Notice in its entirety. Now, if only DirecTV could give me Radio Disney in the car, we'd have something.

December 9, 2010

Sometimes You Get Anchovies

It is well established on this blog that the perfect food is ice cream. That stuff is creamy crack in a carton, which is why I no longer keep it in the house unless someone else buys it. Someone who, I must admit, looks exactly like my evil, ice cream-addicted twin.

But there are other foods that run a close second to ice cream, and not all of them are chocolate. In fact, one of those red-ribbon foods may just be the anti-chocolate. Because it's not a dessert. It's a fish. The anchovy. No sugar. Almost no saturated fat. Just salty, protein-filled goodness.

And no one else likes them.

At least that was my impression given how frequently my pleas to order even half an anchovy pizza have fallen on deaf ears. These people, they don't know what they're missing. Anchovies do something amazing to a pizza. They give all that fatty warmth and comfort a bit of a salty edge that makes all the sweetness in the sauce and the cheese not quite so cloying. If you add a veggie or two, it even feels healthy.

Anchovies are awesome. Even if I have to eat them alone.

Except that I don't anymore. Because my San Francisco sweetie - remember him? He likes them, too. We recently had a spot of time together babysitting for a few junior family members, and we ordered a pizza. You'll never guess what was on it. With no prodding, no poking, just a little, "Hey, what would you think of ...?" and an immediate, "Absolutely!"

And then we had them again, not a week later, at a tapas place, wrapped around a little bamboo skewer with a fat, green olive and a tiny, marinated pepper that together made the perfect bite.

He likes them. He really likes them.

And I had no idea. Which is funny. Because I've known this man for two full decades. We've had coq au vin au chocolat and cauliflower goat cheese gratin. Green curry and noodles of the drunks. Coconut cake and fried green tomatoes. Vichysoisse and tapenade. And once, during a blizzard, a heart-warming Irish stew.

And yet, we'd never shared a pizza.

Now we have. And now I know something new about him. I know he likes the salt and the tang and the difference of anchovies. Which is one of the coolest things about dating one of your dearest friends. Sometimes, you get anchovies. And you didn't even know they were there.