The Most Wonderful Time of Year?

Leave a comment

Note:  This week’s post is being presented in both blogs as I feel it is important to interest all my audiences.

 

This SHOULD be the most wonderful time of year for retailers as many of them bask in the profits of all their hard work leading up to this time of year.

 

However, that idea of SHOULD for many is more like NEVER.

 

Just ask employees at the 13 Tim Horton’s locations that suddenly closed up here in Maine a couple of weeks ago.  No warning just closed down all from Waterville down to Kittery, Maine including two here in the South Portland area.

 

Or you could ask those people who work at the Gap stores in the Bangor Mall or Maine Mall about their future as these stores will be closing in mid-January.  I know that closing the one at the Maine Mall will leave a huge GAP (pardon the pun) in one whole section of the mall.  I doubt that will be filled anytime soon.

 

Speaking of vacancies, the Friday before the Black Friday, our family decided to take our annual trip to 3 New Hampshire malls in one day.  It seems that every year this trip gets shorter and shorter because the stores just keep getting worse and worse as I will explain.

 

The day started heading to the furthest location first of the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua NH.  This mall usually takes a little time to get through as it is a 2 story mall and doing 2 levels take a little time.  This mall has changed very little from last year’s visit and it is the only mall on my trip that still had an open RadioShack store, although there were no customers in the store at the time nor could I find an employee in the store as I walked by it.  The store appeared well stocked given that this is one of about a third of its remaining stores.  Most all of the stores in this mall were of national names with only a couple of local shops within it.  This mall also appeared mostly occupied by stores with only a couple of small vacancies, including a couple of vacancies in the food court.  Overall, I spent about 2 hours in total at this mall.

 

We then headed to the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester.  This mall takes almost as long to get through even though it is a single story mall because it is so large.  No sign of RadioShack could be found where it used to be, but the area is now occupied by a women’s clothing store.  The area near the center court, which last year had a then-vacant Disney Store now has been completely remodeled and now houses a shiny Apple Store.  A section just to the right of that location is vacant, which along with a couple of others are the only vacancies in this mall.  Most of the stores in this mall were of name brand national stores with only a couple local retailers in there.  All together probably spent about an hour and half at this mall, which is about average for a mall of this size and stores that I really wanted to visit.  However, one store missing in this mall that was in the other 2 malls I visited was a FYE store.  Apparently if you were looking for videos then Best Buy is your only choice at this mall.

 

Finally, we headed back to the Portsmouth area to wind up our shopping trip.  Before arriving in the Portsmouth area, we stopped at the Target in Greenland, which is about 5 miles or so from the rest of the Portsmouth shopping area.  Certainly not what I would call close at least not as close as what I am used to around where I live in Maine.

 

When we arrived in Portsmouth (actually Newington area), I noticed that the Kmart in one the plazas, which was vacant last year, still has not seen a new occupant since.  Our first stop was the Fox Run Crossing shopping area.  This area, which years ago was known as the Newington Mall, is lined with stores like Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Staples, and Kohl’s.  I visited the first 3 stores but didn’t walk all the way down to Kohl’s, even the distance is no further from one end to the other as when it used to be a full indoor mall.  Maybe I am just getting way too old to walk that far anymore.

 

I purchased my annual diary and calendar at Staples down there, my only purchase that I ever make with that company anymore only because they are the only store that carries it, otherwise I would never do any business with them.  Overall, I spent about an hour shopping at all 3 stores that I wished to visit in this plaza.

 

It was then off around the block to the Fox Run Mall.  Needless to say that this mall created the most shock of any mall I visited on my trip.  Gone from this mall was one of the few CVS stores located in malls that I ever visit.  This store was always busy and surprised to see it gone.  In its place was a boarded up area with an indication that H&M store would be coming soon in the “Fall 2015”.  If my indication is right, they probably missed that date and possibly not even coming to the mall at all.  Unfortunately, for this mall, there are several boarded up vacancies with no indication of any new tenants coming in.  The only place not boarded up is the spot where RadioShack was, just a curtain covering the opening of the store with a bench sitting in front of it.  A couple of other late stores in this mall still look like their past tenants, but have new tenants.  One which is a sport memorabilia store occupies the old Suncoast Motion Picture Company store that vacated about 5 years ago and it has never been remodeled.  Walking by this store reminds me of just how much money I used to spend in this video store over the years…oh the memories there.  The other non-remodeled store is the now vacant GM Pollack jewelry store now occupied by a local store selling cellphone accessories.   Overall, this mall is about 1/3 local stores, 1/3 national stores, and 1/3 approximately vacant.  This sort of split is reminiscent of how the Newington Mall was before it died and was eventually razed.  If the Fox Run Mall doesn’t get more national retailers, I see it getting the same fate.  Overall, I spent a mind-numbing 20 minutes in this mall as it offered nothing to really shop in except a lot of disappointment.

 

So overall, the trip saw a lot of changes but to the average shopper would also present a lot of disappointment in some of the shopping areas.

 

This leads me to the next idea of what happened on Black Friday.  Word is that nationally retail sales were down about 11% from the previous year (or for those keeping track about 25% over the last 3 years total).  It is understandable why this is happening:  no good places to shop and those that are good just didn’t have in stock what people want.

 

From my own experience over the 3 day shopping weekend, I found no problems parking at the local Target, Walmart, and at the Maine Mall nor did I find any of the 3 places overly busy when I arrived to each in the early afternoon.  Walmart was the least busy even to the point that I was able to park about 10 rows up from the entrance.  Of course, the couple of things that I wanted to buy was readily available for purchase in substantial quantities even though they were advertised specials.  So either, the stores didn’t sell that much or had more inventory than they expected to.

 

This leads to the question of what happened this year.  Of course most people are shopping online and buying in store as a last resort.  This could spell curtains for struggling retailers who need to do well this year or will end up in the history books.

 

However, there are some signs of stores that won’t make it another year.  For example, JCPenney, which for years, have advertised free Disney snow globes to their early customers announced this year would be the last year of that program.  Apparently they may be thinking that this will be their final holiday season.  Other stores at risk include the previously mentioned Gap, which may close even more stores, Sears/Kmart (closing more stores), and Staples, which continues to shed stores to save themselves and prepare for a possible merger with OfficeMax/OfficeDepot.

 

Finally, I would like to mention that I really have not missed leaving retail 6 years ago.  After spending nearly 25 years in retail, I am seeing that retail as we know it is quickly falling apart and as I have written in the past malls are becoming a thing of the past.  It would be sad for people of today to tell their grandchildren of how retail of today becomes obsolete tomorrow just like downtown retail of 40 years ago no longer exists.

 

For everyone, what used to be the most wonderful time of year is no longer as such anymore?

 

But the real question is:  Is it too late to get back to old-fashioned retail again?

 

I believe it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Was Not SO Perfect

Leave a comment

Note:  This week’s post is being posted in both of my blogs.

 

Today is being called “Back to the Future” Day as it celebrates the date notable in the second movie of the trilogy.

 

One of the items in the movie was a product called “Pepsi Perfect”.  To celebrate the movie’s 30th anniversary, PepsiCo released a limited number of a special edition “Pepsi Perfect” product collectively boxed.

 

This product was limited to 6500 units and was to sell online for $20.15 for residents of the U.S. PepsiCo’s website did not state what online retailers would be selling this product but it was later discovered that the retailers were Walmart.com and amazon.com.

 

Of course, all was well and good to try to snag one of these bottles at the stroke of midnight on the east coast.  I had my computer on and launched to search on twitter to see who was selling the item.

 

Quickly, I found myself shocked when the #PepsiPerfect hashtag was trending as the product was already sold out at both online retailers well before the official launch time/release date.

 

Apparently, this product started selling online at approximately 10:15pm last night, a full hour and 45 minutes before it was supposed to be sold.  Twitter was exploding with comments showing anger from dozens of people who felt cheated that the two retailers started selling the product before the official release date.

 

So what exactly went wrong?  We may never know the answer to this question, but my thought is that someone decided to let it get released on the websites early unknowingly that it had a somewhat specific release date/time.

 

It would have been better if PepsiCo had announced a specific time of release and list of retailers who were going to be selling the product.  By not doing this, the retailers made up their own minds as to when to sell the item.

 

This brings me to the point of my blog.  Release dates are important and retailers (online and physical stores) should strictly adhere to them.  To be fair to everyone, the guidelines should be met at all times and not waver from them.  Companies produce these rules to keep everything fair for everyone and when someone violates that, the result is nothing but anger which has spread across the internet.

 

Unfortunately, there are no winners in this whole situation except for the few who managed to score one of the few available collector bottles.  I, however, will remain disappointed as I missed out on this as well.

 

In a future post, I will discuss more about release dates and the awkwardness they create and how now they are worse than ever.  As if anything could be worse than missing out on a collectible Pepsi bottle…

 

 

My 2015 Commencement Address

Leave a comment

Warning: The following post may be offensive to some readers.  Discretion is advised.

 

Welcome folks to my annual commencement address!

 

This year I am not only addressing those graduating school, but I also have some brief advice to others as well.  I am going to do this in a top down fashion starting with those graduating college.

 

Fellow college graduates, you have that wonderful degree that you just received from your favorite school with a degree in Amish electronics.  The problem is now that you have that paper but for some stupid reason you cannot find a job using that degree.

 

Ha!  You just became the victim of going to college and wasting money on a useless degree.  Of course, if Obama has his way, that money you paid for that degree will be forgiven and you will not owe anything for it.  That’s right, friends, get that useless degree and enjoy those years not having to join the workforce.

 

Naturally, you will have to join the workforce at some point.  While places like McDonald’s could be an option that is not what you were going for.  So your only choice is to get some low wage job that you can get, more than likely retail is certainly a fine choice, just like your humble speaker did.

 

Now onto the high school graduates, you are in the pretty much the same boat as the college grads.

 

You have the choice of spending money you don’t have to go to a college for a degree that will be useless in 4 years or so or you can go out and get a real job in the real world with the high school education you have.

 

Naturally, many students are not prepared for college.  I was one of them.  I found myself in trouble very early but I persisted and kept at it until I got my degree after 8 years of going part-time.  I could never get into a work-study program with my major because apparently I was “too rich”.  Seriously, too rich when I was taking out student loans every year to survive, what are they thinking?

 

This brings me to the point of a disclaimer that I have been hearing that “a degree doesn’t guarantee a job”.  It used to be that colleges would offer job placement assistance, now all they do is send you out the door with a “good luck” attitude.  They should just hand you a Walmart name tag at graduation instead.

 

Now for the kids in middle school and elementary school, you are the rebel group.

 

You spend your time with your little smartphones.  You play games, texting, talking to your friends, and using them to help you cheat on tests.  You may also be using them to send out those inappropriate pictures of yourself to your friends and to everyone else in the world as well.  Believe me, I have seen pictures before and the parents should be ashamed of not teaching proper etiquette.  Instead the parents shame their kids on the internet, sometimes with tragic results.  One child just recently committed suicide after being public shamed by their parents.

 

Which finally brings me to the parents and the little babies in their lives; you are the ones who should be acting like grownups here.

 

You opt out of vaccinations because people like Dr. Jenny McCarthy (not a real doctor, by the way) say that they cause autism.  You do other readings from others who echo these false claims.  Sure, you can send your kid to school unvaccinated, but you run the risk of not only having the kid getting sick but also spreading disease to others as well.  I am not just talking about in school, but any public place as well, such as shopping malls, where large numbers of people gather.

 

As livings in one of the states with the highest opt out rates in the country, I am disgusted that such behavior can go on.  When I was young, I could not even go to school unless I brought in proof that I was immunized and then the school secretary called the doctor to verify the information.  Back then, there were very few exceptions and if you didn’t follow the rules, you weren’t allowed to go to school period.  We should go back to those ways when everyone was protected.

 

Now I place the blame for this on parents.  You know you are a bad parent.  You may even be a single parent.  You may be a single mother.  You may not even know who your child’s father is.  You may have even had several children and don’t know who any of the fathers are.  Just watch any of the afternoon TV programs and you will see this played out in all its glory.  Parents need to become more aware of their children and more responsible people.  You are raising the future generation and you only get one chance – don’t screw it up!

 

In conclusion, let me say that society is going to hell fast.  We are all hating each other.  Authorities are not being respected.  People are becoming liars just so that they can get ahead in this world.

 

So people put down your gadgets and look around you.

 

We are becoming a world where nobody likes each other and just want to create chaos everywhere.  Add to this, a President who is out of touch with reality and wants to do nothing to make the world a better place.  I am ashamed of the USA and you should be as well.

 

Remember after 9/11, how we all came together united as one nation.  What happened to that?  Now we are beating each other in the streets, murdering each other, setting fires to local businesses and creating chaos everywhere.

 

This needs to stop today and we need a leader who can bring forth the kind of change that will bring us back to the greatness we once had.

 

Soon, we will be electing a new President.  I recommend that everyone pay close attention to each of the candidates and see how each of them plan on bringing this country back to greatness.

 

After all, we are ONE NATION.  We are AMERICA!

 

You are now free to go and continue to live your lives.

 

Thank you and good day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Deal That Died…

Leave a comment

It is officially dead.

 

The merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable (TWC) is history.

 

The federal regulators ended this possible merger by saying that the combined company would be too big.

 

Mostly, the combined companies would have over 30% of the total television market and over 50% of the broadband market in the country.  While the television amount is not that large, the broadband amount may have spooked the regulators to throw out the merger.

 

However, I believe that with so much competition out there that those broadband figure is way too high.  With so many getting their content on so many different devices and with so many different services, I think that this number is wrong.

 

While many have complained that the service would have gotten worse, I believe that the combined companies would actually have improved both the quality of service and quality of how it is delivered.

 

Anyone who has been a long time reader of this blog knows that TWC has had many problems with their recent upgrades to their service.  Many times the cable boxes freezes up and must be restarted and just as often channels just come up blank requiring a reboot as well.

 

Certainly the boxes could stand a complete program rewrite.  To those who remember the old blue & white screen system may recall that rarely did the cable box need to reboot.  Ever since they changed to the black version, problems have been epidemic.

 

While I haven’t reported any recent changes to the software in the cable boxes, the only significant change that I have noticed is that the guide now can go up to about 14 days in advance for most channels even though after about 7 days, the guide just gives generic descriptions.  This is a small step forward to getting full cloud guide and DVR service, but I expect that someday it will happen.  I believe that if Comcast and TWC had worked together, the software process would have been updated more frequently and been much more stable.

 

Now there is rumor that TWC wants to merge with the smaller company of Charter Communications (CC).  Since CC is a much smaller company, I think that this merger has a much better chance of going through.

 

But before we start thinking this is a done deal, the truth is that this is a lousy deal for those who have TWC service.  From a couple of checks of different areas, the number of available HD channels and channels in general are significantly less for CC when compared to TWC.

 

Does this mean that TWC will lose many of its channels when this sort of merger takes place?

 

My answer is quite possibly and the chances are that the number will drop significantly.  However, on the plus side, the CC DVR system looks more advanced and much more user-friendly.  If we could keep the channels and get CC’s DVR service, it would be a better combination.

 

But that is just my opinion of what I would like to see happen.  Reality usually would bring us the crappy TWC system for everyone and that would be mean that we would all lose.

 

While this entire merger idea is still in its earliest phases, I am slightly optimistic that this would be more of a positive than negative.

 

In the meantime, there are 2 other mergers that may meet regulators roadblocks as well.

 

The first is the possible merger between AT&T and DirecTV.  This one like the Comcast/TWC merger may have the same problems as these are two large companies that may create a monopoly in one category or another.  I don’t see this merger happening at all.

 

The other, which I have discussed in my other blog, is the Staples/OfficeMax/Office Depot merger.  While Staples claims that such competitors are companies like Amazon and Walmart, I don’t believe that this sort of logic will hold any water whatsoever.  Yes the 3 office supply stores are dying and must do something to survive, but in reality they should just admit to their death and become part of the retail history landscape.

 

Overall, any merger of that involves large companies never have a very good chance of happening.  The government wants to keep monopolies from happening, but sometimes misses what could be something good for all involved.

 

Then again, when has the government ever gotten anything right anymore (or ever).

Predictions of 2014 and 2015

Leave a comment

Well, it is that time of year again where I dig out my crystal ball and look back at the 2014 predictions and make new ones for 2015.  I reported that at least 3 would come true – let’s see how close I came.

 

Here are the predictions and the results in parenthesis:

 

  • Justin Bieber will go to jail.  (It happened at least once maybe more.)
  • Kim Kardashian will admit that “Baby North” really never existed and that her pregnancy was fake.  (No, it did not happen.)
  • Kim Kardashian will marry and divorce Kanye West all within the year.  (No, it didn’t happen.)
  • RadioShack will be out of business.  (No, it hasn’t happened yet.)
  • JCPenney will be out of business.  (No, it hasn’t happened yet.)
  • Kmart will be out of business.  (No, it didn’t happen.)
  • Amanda Bynes returns to TV in a new comedy show, but will also do an interview with Oprah describing the last few years.  (No, it didn’t happen.)
  • Time Warner Cable will be sold and broken up into pieces leaving smaller markets such as where I live without any providers at all.  This means that many small independent cable operators will start up after many years.  (No, in fact a possible merger with Comcast might happen instead.)
  • Lady Gaga will do a Playboy layout proving that he/she is dual gendered leaving many fans disgusted. (Thankfully, this didn’t happen.)
  • Nickelodeon will scrap “Sam & Cat” and Dan Schneider will leave the network and produce shows for rival Disney.  (The first half is true, the second is not.)
  • Hilary Duff will divorce and sister Haylie will marry.  (Not quite on both.)
  • ABCFamily cancels that horrible “The Vineyard” and “Twisted”.  (Fortunately, yes to both.)
  • Fox News fires Karl Rove after making offensive statements that the network hates.  (No, it didn’t happen.)

 

So last year I once again scored 2 ½ right out of a possible 13.  I barely missed my goal of 3 correct, but I was close.  Now let’s gaze into the crystal ball for 2015 predictions:

  • The merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast will be placed on hold as both companies would have to discharge some of their market holdings.
  • The possibility of a Staples/Office Max (Depot) merger is canned as neither side can agree on any merger details.
  • Given no merger, Office Max (Depot) shuts down at least half of their remaining locations.
  • As well, Staples shuts down an additional 300 stores as the hack attack of 2014 grows larger.
  • On the brink of bankruptcy, RadioShack is saved by a last minute investor who wants to merge it with another big box retailer.
  • Walmart suffers a major hack attack, which causes millions of credit and debit cards to be compromised.
  • The E! Network finally cancels everything Kardashian as the network struggles to survive.
  • Adam West, TV’s 1960’s Batman, will be the voice of an aged Bruce Wayne on an episode of the Fox series “Gotham”.
  • California will suffer a substantial earthquake in the area north of Los Angeles.
  • Keystone pipeline will be defeated in Congress.
  • MTV will cancel “Eye Candy”.
  • My ex Tanya will get a divorce and return back to Maine wanting to search me out and try and patch things up. Of course, I accept (what choice do I have?).
  • I will either get a new job or a new girlfriend in 2015, but not both.

Out of my 13 predictions for this year, I predict only 2 of them will actually happen.  Maybe it is time for a new crystal ball.

Next time, I expect that my 2 blogs will each have their own unique content again.  At least that is my plan for now, but I can’t make any promises because I can’t predict what happens in the world especially given my seemingly defective crystal ball.

The WORST Customer Service Experience EVER!

Leave a comment

Editor’s Note:  This post is being presented to both of my blogs as I feel that the topic is relevant to all readers.  The following is a true story that happened a few weeks ago, around the week of Halloween.  However, the story seems much less of a treat than a very bad trick.  Sit back and enjoy the longest and the final posting of this year.

 

When I was younger, many years ago, if you wanted to make a phone call in a public place, you would use a phone booth for that important call.    Over time, these phone booths were replaced stands with phones on them.  Gone were the days of trying to fit into that tight fitting location and then closing the door just to make that short (or long call).  I think part of the reason the phone booth disappeared was that the general public were getting larger and not in a good way.

 

Unlike the phone booth, these phone stands popped up everywhere.  They were at malls, gas stations, grocery stores, and on basically every corner.  Even on many highways emergency phone call boxes were set up for the people’s use.  In fact, I carried a small bag of change with me in case I needed to make that emergency call.

 

Of course, this was all well and fine for a long time.  That was up until the last year or so.  In that time, the phones have disappeared from those malls, gas stations, grocery stores, and the local corner.  Of course, the empty stands remained but the phone was gone taken out like some bad dream.

 

Naturally I never thought about the need for the use of a phone since I never had any reason to call anyone.  I never owned a cellphone because I never had the need for one at all ever.

 

That was until that faithful day happens when that emergency happens and there are no phones around and I don’t own a cellphone.  Of course, a little panic set in, but I went into the nearby store where I was and asked if I could borrow their phone.  Naturally, I was nervous and felt a little stupid that I had to ask to borrow a phone.  After all, I was probably one of a very small group of people who don’t own a cellphone.

 

I ended up playing phone tag trying to reach the person I was trying to call with absolutely no success.  Thankfully, everything wound up pretty much ok at least for that day.

 

At this point, it was determined that the family needs to get a cellphone.  No longer was it a matter of just some passing interest, but something needed for security purposes.

 

So I spent a couple of days doing some research.  With my aging eyes, I needed something big enough to see, but not something huge that would be unbearable to carry.  I came down to a couple of choices of what was on sale at the various local stores.

 

Most importantly to our family was something without a contract.  Those who remember way back when cellphones came out, it was required to sign a contract and be committed for years at a time.  To make matters worse was that you also had to have good or great credit to get approved.

 

Then over time, Tracfone was introduced.  They were the no-contract, no worry company for cellphone service that everyone who had bad credit would buy.  Most importantly, the phones were cheap and the refill cards to add minutes were relatively inexpensive as well.

 

Over time, all the major carriers started having similar no contract phones with cards as well.  The only problem was of course, who’s phone and who’s service.

 

After talking with a salesperson in one store and spending nearly an hour doing so, I finally decided upon the phone that I liked.  The salesperson also told me that I could switch the carrier on the phone to Walmart’s Straight Talk service without any problem at all.

 

I had read some pretty good reviews of this service from Consumer Reports magazine and thought that this service of “bringing my own phone” to their program would be wonderful.  After all, Straight Talk is owned by Tracfone so I thought the service would be pretty good given that it got high ratings from Consumer Reports.  I checked the website of Straight Talk and found out that given my zip code and special phone id code that I could use their service.

 

When I opened the box to the phone and turned it on, I received 2 error messages that the phone could not load the software.  This right away seemed like a bad omen to me as if anyone can find a bad item in a store, I certainly would.

 

So the next day, I exchanged that nonfunctioning phone for another one.  When I got home, I immediately turned it on to see if it would start up and happily it did.  I got the phone set up with the default carrier, tested it, and downloaded a few apps for it   I also registered the phone with the initial carrier’s website.  I did not test the phone part because I didn’t buy a phone card.  My intention was to use the Walmart plan instead.

 

Over the next couple of days, I went to the local Walmart trying to purchase the “Bring Your Own Phone Kit” for the Straight Talk service.  After spending 2 days waiting about 20 minutes each, I decided to give up on trying getting the required kit.  On the 3rd day, I decided to be determined to get the kit no matter what.  As the associates of the electronics department was scattered around the area ignoring me, I decided to put my hand on the register counter and after waiting about another 15 minutes.  After about nearly a half-hour, an associate finally decided to wander over to me and asked if I needed help.

 

DUH!

 

The associate then scrambled to find a key to unlock the item from the shelf, but was told after nearly running around for another 5 minutes that a key wasn’t needed to get the item off the rack it was on.  All the associate did was push and twist the lock to remove it and get the product off the shelf.  Had I known how easy that was, I would have done that myself days ago.

 

Overall, I spent about $70 for the kit, including tax and the 911 service tax.  This kit also includes a $45 unlimited talk, text, and web refill card.  The biggest part of this package is presumably the multiple SIM cards in the package, which I didn’t need because the card in mine is non-removable.

 

The next day, I decided to set up the phone with the new carrier.  However, for some reason, when I started to set up the phone by inputting my required zip code and information from the phone itself, the website said that my phone was not compatible with my zip code.

 

HUH?!?

 

The reason I bought the kit in the first place was that the website said that the phone WAS compatible now it saying that it isn’t.  Something didn’t seem right somewhere.

Since I hadn’t opened the kit yet, I decided to call Straight Talk’s customer service to see what was up with the problem.

 

After being on the phone for nearly an hour and half, the customer service rep got all my information from the phone, my personal info, and all other relevant data needed for the transfer of service to them.  The person told me it could take 2 or 3 days for the whole transfer to take place.  During this call, I also was required to open the kit’s package to get the special codes needed to complete the transaction.

 

So I was excited to get a phone call (on my house phone), that the service was successfully transferred and that all I had to do would be to enter a special code on the cellphone to activate the service with them.  Most of this phone call was muffled and hard to understand but I did get the gist of it.

 

First thing I did was to check my old provider and also checked my new provider.  It appeared that my account was successfully transferred.  So now was the time to activate the phone.

 

When I typed in the special code needed to activate the phone, I got the message that the phone could not be activated at this time.  So over the course of an hour, I kept trying every few minutes to activate the phone with no success.

 

Something seemed to be very wrong so once again I ended up calling Straight Talk’s customer service.  After about working with the first person for about 15 minutes trying to fix the problem, I was hung up on.

 

At this point, let me say that anyone working customer service and hangs up on a person purposely should be fired and should not even be working at such a job in the first place.  So I called back a second time.

 

After providing information to my problem a second time, the first person transferred me to a second person after about 15 minutes unable to solve my problem.  After another 15 minutes, I was transferred to yet a third person to try and solve my problem.

 

Of course, at this point, I was starting to get frustrated.  However, this third person found out that somehow the information from the phone was entered into their system incorrectly even though the person read back to me the code correctly the day before.  How this mistake happened is beyond me.

 

After making the necessary corrections, the third person spent another few minutes to get the phone working.  Calling the special code results were always the same:  could not activate the phone with their service.

 

So this third person transferred me to a fourth person to try and solve my issue.  Again after 15 minutes, this person gave up as well.  It seems that the reason why all of these people gave up after 15 minutes, as one person told me, was that if the call lasts for more than 15 minutes then a supervisor would be required to intervene in the phone call.  However, at no point during my entire call was a supervisor ever put on the phone line because I was told that they were either unavailable or busy with someone else.

 

After the fourth person, I was told the one thing that any reasonable caller should never hear:  I would be transferred to someone in India to assist me.

 

Now let me say that this is the worst thing that anybody in customer service should NEVER admit to doing.  Nobody should ever feel the need to be transferred to someone outside their home country.

 

So here I was on person # 5 (the sixth if you count the one that hung up on me) and once again they could not solve the problem.  So once again I was transferred to a sixth person for another 15 minutes work session, which again had the same result.

 

I was then transferred to a seventh person who finally was able to cut to the chase.  This person told me what I had found out the day before that my phone and my zip code were not compatible with their service.

 

Obviously, I was furious that it took 7 people (8 actually) to get to this conclusion.  At this point, I asked what my options were given that I had already opened the kit.  I was told that I could not return the kit back to Walmart because it had been opened and that I would have to return the kit back to Straight Talk to get my money back.

 

This idea gets worse as they told me that I would have to ship the kit back at MY expense and that I would have to wait 30 business days to receive a refund.  This time period figures to be roughly 45 real days, much longer than I believe the law allows.  Why should I have to pay to send back something that their own website said would work and then wait a longer than an undesirable length of time to get my credit back.

 

At this point, I was extremely furious being that I had spoken to a total of 8 people over the course of 3 ½ hours with no results.  I asked why they were selling a product that doesn’t work in this area.  Of course, they could not answer that question and were very frustrating to deal with at this point.  I told them that I was going to try to return the product back to the local Walmart and see if I could get my credit back from them.  They wished me the best of luck snarkly and hung up on me.

 

The next day was Halloween and was the day that I decided to make my return to the local Walmart of my open phone kit.  The line for returns seemed longer than normal as it took about 20 minutes to get waited on.

 

Let me say on a side note that this was Halloween and I know that many companies including Walmart allow their employees to dress for the holiday.  However, I believe that anything that an employee wears on the holiday should be discreet and not be revealing of private areas.  Unfortunately, for the young girl who waited on me, she was wearing a very low cut top with enough of her small cleavage showing that if she bent over the wrong way or turned the wrong way she would be giving everybody a show.  Honestly, I am surprised that the management didn’t send her home to change into something a little more business appropriate.  But then again we are talking about ignorant Walmart.

 

When I got to the counter and explained my problem with the kit, the inappropriate dressed associate and another older employee who was regularly dressed discussed between them that it was ok for me to return the item because someone else had returned the same item earlier in the week for the same reason I did:  not compatible with the phone and zip code.

 

So happily I got my credit back and within a couple of days it was back on the credit card, not the 45 days that would have happened if I had mailed it back at my expense.

 

In the end, I had to reset my phone to set up a new number as the old one was still attached to the nonfunctioning Straight Talk account.  The good news is that the new phone number is very easy to remember.  The bad news is that I spent an afternoon reinstalling all the apps that I had previously installed, a small price to pay to finally get a working phone.  I am now happy and have no intention to ever switch service.  I did tell the salesperson who originally sold me the phone of all my problems and honestly he was surprised by all my problems.  But then again, I had problems from day 1 with the first defective phone.

 

Now let me summarize this entire process:

  • The initial purchase of the phone kit took several days to get an employee to get me the product. Bad service at the store level at start.
  • Incorrect information that 4 people overlooked before it was corrected.
  • Transferring the phone call to India to try to diagnose the problem not a great idea.
  • Having a total of 8 people over a period of over 3 and half hours and none of them able to solve the problem. Is this a case of ignorance or stupidity?  I will leave that up to the reader of this blog for that.
  • Being told that I would have to send the product back to the company and wait 45 days before getting a refund is not acceptable under any circumstances. How stupid do they think their customers are?  But then again we are talking Walmart here!
  • Even though it was Halloween, customer service in Walmart at time of return had inappropriately dressed employee. Certainly I got the desired result so there was at least some good closure in the whole thing.

 

With all the advertising lately for the Straight Talk program, I feel that people would get the same result that I did and therefore should avoid this program at all cost.  I also cannot recommend the similar programs offered by Net10, Simple Mobile, and Tracfone itself as these are all portals to the same company.  I also don’t recommend buying the more expensive phones that companies like Straight Talk offered as many of them are underperformers and should be avoided.

 

Finally, my score is 0!  Certainly the worst customer service experience ever.

 

Note:  This is my final post for 2014.  I will return in early 2015 with a look back at this year and a look ahead at the New Year.  So enjoy the holidays and stay away from those Straight Talk people, unless you want to make a lot of new people here and abroad.