Everything that follows is a result of what you see here.

Welcome to my site. I’ve had this domain for awhile now and was never really sure what I should do with it. I’ve got so many things going that it was difficult to pick just one. So I decided not to pick just one. This will be sort of a catchall site. Part experiment, part promotion, part play. At the time of this post being published, this is a WordPress 3.0 beta1 site, see what I mean?

Everything on the site will have something to do with something I’m either currently involved with or on which I’m working or those things past, hence the quote (with apologies to Isaac Asimov) that is the title of this sticky post.

I’m sure this will suffer from fits and starts and then periods of heightened activity and most definitely it will change, sometimes almost in discernibly and sometimes not. It is after all, my site. I hope you enjoy your time here.

Dear Tom, An Open Letter to Tom Karinshak, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at Comcast

Tom Karinshak, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at Comcast

Tom Karinshak, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at Comcast

Dear Tom Karinshak,

I am writing to you because you say on the Comcast Contact Us page

“…We have numerous ways you can reach us. Please choose one that’s convenient for you…”

Unfortunately, the methods I chose neither respected my time, nor answered the questions I had presented and so I have no faith that using the Send Tom Feedback link at the bottom of your Hear from Tom Karinshak page on the Comcast site would even reach you, let alone be read by you, hence the open letter approach.

The message from Tom Karinshak, bottom of the Comcast Contact Us page<

Bottom of the Comcast Contact Us page (click photo to enlarge)

I should start from the beginning.

How “Any day now” becomes a month

The beginning

I am a recent Comcast customer. I had requested my account be closed this past July 21, 2014, as I was leaving my current residence. I was told that I needed to pay the bill for the entire month, even though with the billing cycle that meant that I would be paying for about two to three weeks more than I would be using. I was told I had to pay and then the refund would be figured out after the billing cycle and a refund would be issued by check. That’s the only method of refund used by Comcast. I gave a new mailing address (which I have confirmed is in the system each time I have contacted Comcast) to where the check could be mailed.  I had no choice but to wait for my refund. So I waited.

“Any day now”

That takes us to September 4th. I normally would have checked in on the situation earlier, but I had a short hospital stay and another family emergency and was out of town at the time; so I was a bit behind when decided to log in and check the progress of the account and refund. Except I couldn’t log in. I tried every recovery option on the website, but nothing was getting past the initial log in screen, so I called. I came to find out because the service has been stopped and the account closed, I couldn’t log in on the website.

Once that was established, my call was passed from Technical Support to Customer Support. We went through the verification process of who I was again and once that done, I asked about the refund. The support person said that the refund had been processed at the beginning of August and that it would take 4 – 6 weeks to get sent out and that the check would be there “Any day now”. I double checked that the check was being sent to the new mailing address and it was confirmed.

…And now it’s a month

That bring us to yesterday, September 19. That’s 44 business days if you use the standard Monday – Friday five day business week (allowing for the Labor Day holiday) and still the end of the ninth week after the account was closed at my request and 11 business days (two full business weeks plus) after my last call to Comcast. Still no check.

I call again. After verifying that it is indeed me, I explain the situation including my last call, the “Any day now” statement and that I have received no check at this point. The support person asked if I had moved. I said “you have a new mailing address for me, it’s…” and I was cut off with “oh yes, I see it” and the new address was confirmed. I was then told to hold on while the account was looked up. The support person came back and gave me the same information about the the refund being processed and sent out, then asked me to hold while she checked on this with the supervisor. I was put on hold. when the support person came back again, I was told that the refund had been processed and sent out and that it takes 6 – 8 weeks for the check to come, so I would be receiving it withing a week and a half to two weeks from now. And now it’s a month.

Terrible Customer Experience

Two timelines that don’t match

My immediate reaction to being told it would be a week and a half to two weeks for the check to arrive was the timelines don’t match. If the timeline I was being given yesterday was correct, then there is no way the timeline I was given on September 4th was even physically possible, let alone feasible.  I have worked a help desk, I have supervised a help desk and I have been sole client escalation contact for over 1100 clients in a managerial capacity, so I changed my approach.

I replied with “Wait minute. If it takes 6 – 8 weeks for the check to be delivered after the refund is processed and sent out, why was I told I would receive the check any day now over two weeks ago?”

The support person said “I don’t know, my supervisor and I just checked this.”. So I asked  if the 6 – 8 is the standard and the reply was “My supervisor just checked this.”

I replied that the different timelines were ridiculous and that I wasn’t mad at the support person, but they couldn’t do anything about it and I would like to speak to the supervisor about this. The support person told me she would transfer me to the supervisor line and a supervisor would pick up as soon as they could.

Left twisting in the wind

I waited on hold for 20 minutes before posting this on both Twitter and the Xfinity Facebook page:

   My fianceé took a slightly different approach at about the same time:

Facebook exchange with Comcast

click to enlarge

 Then at the 35 minute mark of being on hold, I was disconnected and I posted again:

I received no response on either Twitter or Facebook, you can see the limited response to my fianceé above and then, no follow up. Twisting in the wind.


Complete mismanagement of expectations

I can’t say what happened. I know what I feel happened. Someone or something messed up and the check didn’t get sent on time. If that’s the case, I would have preferred being told that’s what happened and being offered an alternate refund method. At least an apology would have been nice. It actually wouldn’t have been difficult to make this more manageable. I most likely wouldn’t have been happy with the outcome, but I would have understood it and accepted it. Instead, I’m left feeling as if I’ve been lied to the entire time in my dealings on this refund.

My time is of no value to Comcast, especially to the Customer Experience area

I’ve had to make numerous calls, but mainly the last two. The first in early September, when I thought it was resolved and there was no possible way it was and the 45 minute call yesterday (35 minutes on hold for a supervisor), plus waiting for the return call from the Facebook interaction. My time is of no value to Comcast at all. Since I do Freelance work at $75/hr with a minimum 1 hour charge per instance, should I bill Comcast an additional $150 dollars for wasting my time, due on receipt, since I was never allowed 6 – 8 weeks to pay for my Comcast services?

These are your words, Tom

From the Hear from Tom Karinshak page on the Comcast site:

We are constantly working to serve you better.


Dear Comcast Customer:

The Best Customer Experience, that’s what we strive for every day. As a company, our job is to make sure every interaction you have with us is a special one. We know your time is important. We know you want answers to your questions quickly and you want issues resolved the first time. We heard you. We are listening. And it’s all about you…

I don’t feel it’s all about me, not in the slightest. Do you Tom?

But the bigger question remains, what are you going to do about it?

WordPress Basics: Primary Formatting Toolbar

There have been some changes  in the latest versions of  WordPress and they affect the formatting toolbars, so I decided to start a new video series on WordPress Basics. Here is the first in the new series. The Primary Formatting toolbar.

YouTube Preview Image
If the video doesn’t appear above, you can watch it here.

Best Practices Tip badge, as seen in the WordPress Basics videosAs an added bonus, as they come up, I’ll include Best Practices Tips. Tips that could apply to a variety of things such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), section 508 accessibility compliance or things that just make good sense for a website. Look for the Best Practices Badge to pop up in the video.

First in a Series of videos about WordPress Basics. This video is about the Primary Formatting Toolbar, which works functions exactly the same way whether you are writing a Post or a Page in WordPress.  See the published post that was built in the video.



The Definition of Success

[Disclaimer: Theresa Carter, founder of The Local Tourist LLC,  is my fiancée. I love her and I am in love with her. But more than that I both admire and am very proud of her and her success. Read on and you’ll see why. These thoughts are my own.]

 Success Event

The "Suggested Post" by Sosh Chicago on Facebook that shows success for The Local TouristI was perusing Facebook today and came on a “suggested post” (the screenshot you see here) by Sosh Chicago. It’s a pretty obvious salvo launched at The Local Tourist, whose company tagline is “Experience the fascination of a tourist; Feel the comfort of the local”. I saw that and thought to myself “She’s being recognized for her success!”. That may seem a little odd to you at first, but let me explain.

Who the Players Are

If you haven’t heard of Sosh Chicago yet, I wouldn’t be surprised. They first came to my attention about a month or so ago, when I saw they launched for Chicago. So I did a little research and by little, I mean I looked them up on CrunchBase. They’re based in San Francisco, CA, started in 2010. They have $16.30M in funding and “…Sosh is being built by Offline Labs, a stealthy startup founded by former Google and Slide employees.”. In other words, they’re very smart, they’ve got a lot of money and they can afford to move very quickly into a new market.

On the other hand, The Local Tourist started as an online business directory for the River North neighborhood in 2002 on a nonexistent budget. That’s not long after Theresa moved to Chicago and saw the need and saw she could fill it. Over the past 12 years, it’s grown organically to include all of Chicago by neighborhood and everything that’s happening in Chicago that you would want to know about. For most of those years, Theresa was the IT team, the Editorial staff, Sales staff and the Writing and Photography staff. While a good part of that has changed in the past few years, the Local Tourist still runs on a bootstrap budget.

While this does have a ‘David and Goliath’ element to it, that is not the point, by far.

Why This Shows Success

So what do you do when you have the team, you have the funding, you basically have everything in a new area but the market share?  You do what I like to call ‘the young gun in town’. You’ve seen it in most Westerns. The young gun finds out who the best gun in town is and puts them on notice, the “I’m gunnin’ for ya” approach. And if the young gun is really smart, they figure out who the real best gun in town is, not just the one with a reputation.

I don’t know about you, but if I was looking for a team to tell me who has the best market share in town when it comes to a web presence, a team of former Google employees would be exactly the group I’d want. And who did they find? The web arm of a National Media outlet? Nope, the home town, organically grown, bootstrap media outlet, The Local Tourist. That says success in my book.

So as a supporter of The Local Tourist and its success, I’d like to say thank you to Sosh Chicago for the compliment and kudos, but more than that thank you for taking time to research and find out what The Local Tourist is truly all about; The best Chicago has to offer.

3 things about Comcast’s Neighborhood WiFi HotSpots

I haven’t read anything about the Comcast Neighborhood WiFi hotspots issue, I just found this and decided to make an observation or three. I’m not sure how well this was thought through by Comcast…But I digress.

1. You’re now a commercial transmission site

Transmission towers, wifi

Photo Credit: Susie

Let me explain. When you start your internet service with Comcast, there is a physical installation of the transmission cables and you either pay a technician for that, or it’s already been done and you either pay to have the technician hook up the equipment or you can do a self installation. Regardless of the method, the physical cable has to be run in order for you to receive personal, protected (as much as possible), reliable Internet service.

Comcast is now taking that private, physical installation and making it a transmission site for a commercial WiFi hotspot that any Comcast customer can use without your permission or knowledge or ability to opt out, from what I can see [Update 2013-06-19:  I had a reader inform me that the customer can opt-out of the program and confirmed it based on the Mutlichannel.com article Cable Show 2013: Comcast Turns Wireless Gateways Into Neighborhood Wi-Fi Hotspots]. That Hotspot can’t exist if only the cable is there. There has to be a modem and router in order to broadcast, or distribute the hotspot signal. If there’s no Comcast customer there, there can be no hotspot.

Think of it like all the cell towers you see around you. While the companies own the equipment, it would be impossible for them to own all the land and buildings those towers are on, so they pay some sort of  combination of rental and/or access fees for their towers to be transmitting from those locations.  I don’t know of any compensation for Comcast customers and especially for those who own their own modem and router.

2. You’re providing an unpaid public endorsement  for Comcast by being a Neighborhood WiFi HotSpot

Funny story. I was going to use a photo of Captain Amazing (here’s a link to the results of a Google image search on Captain Amazing if you’re interested) from the 1999 Universal Studios film Mystery Men which is owned by Comcast, but couldn’t find a copy marked for free use. If I used one, it would be me distributing their product without a licensing agreement or compensation, which could be considered piracy, as opposed to them distributing their product using me as a distribution point without a licensing agreement or compensation which is considered…What now?

Anyway, you might ask how that’s a public endorsement? It goes hand in hand with the last thing…And I’ve saved the worst for last.

3. Your privacy can easily be violated

[There will be a lot of blanked out information following for privacy reasons]

I went to the site and saw that you could search for HotSpot locations, so I did. I went to http://hotspots.wifi.comcast.com/ put in a zip code for a Chicago neighborhood and I got this result:

Xfinity Neighborhood WiFi HotSpot Search Results

Click to enlarge
(opens in new window)

This was my first search and I noticed something about the first street address result and I left it uncovered in the picture above. It says Fl Ground, short for Floor Ground. That doesn’t sound like a business address to me, it sounds more like a billing address. So I went to  http://www.switchboard.com/ and did a reverse address search and these are a portion of the result:

Switchboard.com reverse lookup results

Click to enlarge
(opens in new window)


From two quick searches, I got these pieces of information:

  • A person’s name (And it was a person’s name, not a company or business)
  • Street address
  • Telephone number

And one last piece of never before publicly available information that ties all of this together in a scary and possibly dangerous way:

  •  The extremely high probability of that person being a Comcast customer. A business which sends technicians out to onsite service calls, in many cases house calls.

As I said in the beginning, I don’t think this was thought through very well and based on the information I was able to find out in less than 5 minutes using only widely available internet tools, Comcast might want to work on plugging some holes and soon.


Without a second thought

Big Tony's Pizza

Big Tony’s Pizza in Logan Square

I’ve had a couple of weeks of horrific customer service, so I decided to focus on an example of customer service that will keep me as a customer for a long, long time.

There’s a little place called Big Tony’s Pizza in the area. Yes, they’re a pizza place, but they also have Burgers, Italian Beef, Gyros and more.  There are some tables in the place, but I’d be willing to bet that most of their business is split between carry out and delivery. I tend to pop in, order and bring it home because I can run some quick errands after I order and be back in time to pick it up and I really like their burgers and Italian Beef a lot. It’s one of those “Ooo, you know what sounds good right now? A burger from Big Tony’s.” type of thing. But that’s why I started going there. Here’s why I’ll keep going there.

Not long ago I went in with Theresa and it was the busiest I’d seen it in there in awhile. I don’t think there was an empty table and people either ordering or picking up orders were 3 – 4 deep. We ordered and sat down and this time we decided to eat there. We were talking when I heard someone say something I couldn’t make out, but it made me look up just in time to see the man behind the cash register say “just a minute” to line of people three or four deep.  He turned and walked over to a physically challenged man in a wheelchair who had a couple pieces of pizza and a soft drink in a can with a straw and put the straw to the man’s mouth so he could take a drink and turned back to the cash register in almost one single motion. If I hadn’t looked up right then, or I had blinked, I would have missed it. A lot of the people did miss it. But there was also this moment of “you saw that, right?” bit of silence for those who did see it.

It wasn’t that it was the right thing to do, even though that’s exactly what it was, or that it was good customer service. It was those things and there was no complaint, no fanfare, not even a break in stride.

It was done without a second thought.

I don’t know about you, but a place that employs people with customer service like that gets my return business, period.  And it makes Big Tony’s Pizza a happy place for me.