Still loving American Express

Amex Blue Card
As of late, my American Express card is getting a little worn out. I’ve found that I often have to swipe it a few times to get it to work and sometimes it won’t work at all. I do know a nice trick that a cashier once taught me: Try folding a piece of paper over the card being sure it covers the magnetic stripe then swipe it, I’m surprised at how well this works!
I called American Express today to get a replacement card, was done with the call in less than 3 minutes and they said that the new card will be delivered tomorrow. The woman that assisted me on the phone was pleasant. How’s that for service?

5 important lessons for entrepreneurs

Guy Kawasaki posted an entry here where he lists 5 lessons he’s learned as an entrepreneur.

  1. Focus on cash flow.
  2. Make a little progress every day.
  3. Try stuff.
  4. Ignore schmexperts.
  5. Never ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t do.

I personally like #2 and #5 most. I think it’s important to make progress on projects every day, even if it’s something small, just for the psychological win. Also, how many times have you been filling out a form on a website and just left in the middle of it? How can you expect your customers to suffer through things you wouldn’t do? Remember, your customers probably aren’t as passionate about your product/site as you are so you need to make things on your site that much easier for them.

Click through to the entry to read the full post.

Failure to simplify

A while back, we purchased an all-in-one remote to simplify the use of our TV/VCR/DVD/PVR/Sound system. I thought it was great. Yesterday, I was greeted by this paper on our stove with instructions for our babysitter.

So it turns out instead of reducing the complexity of our system, I now have a vessel of concentrated complexity in the form of a remote. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to simplify such a system for the non-geek?

See my vest

Having two young daughters, I’m destined to be surrounded by princess paraphernalia for at least the next few years. One of their favorite noisy toys is a little piano that plays a few songs from Disney’s princess movies. The one they like best is “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast. I’m inclined to get songs stuck in my head quite easily but fortunately I’m more familiar with “See my vest” from the Simpsons and that’s the song that gets stuck in my head when they’re playing with that piano.

The end of analog TV as we know it.

This is just a reminder for all of you out there that at midnight on February 17, 2009, all full-power television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to 100% digital broadcasting.

From the site:
“Congress created the TV Converter Box Coupon Program for households wishing to keep using their analog TV sets after February 17, 2009. The Program allows U.S. households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, that can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes.”

We received our coupons a couple of months ago, but I finally got around to using them today. I was able to order a couple of converter boxes from digitalstar.com for a total cost (including shipping) of less than $25 (our tax dollars at work.)

Coupons are limited, so request yours today!
“There are 22.25 million coupons available to all U.S. households. Once those coupons have been used, there are an additional 11.25 million coupons available only to households that solely receive their TV broadcasts over-the-air using an antenna. Households with TVs connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service are not eligible for this second batch of coupons. Consumers can apply for coupons until March 31, 2009, or until the funds are exhausted.”

Will the real terrorists please step forward?

Dirt TubeApparently, U.S. immigration officials incite more terror than the terrorists themselves.
Here’s some interesting commentary by Bruce Schneier regarding the terrorism “tax” that honest people pay. I found this quote particularly interesting:
“More respondents were worried about U.S. immigration officials (70 percent) than about crime or terrorism (54 percent) when considering a trip to the [U.S.].”

Tips for when you have to deal with support

This morning, I found myself chatting with a Comcast support rep. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and I’m sure many of you can relate. I find it particularly frustrating to deal with support when I know much more about what’s wrong and how to fix it but have no power to. There is a long blog post coming in a couple of weeks about that experience.

Anyway, I came across this blog post about “Tips for Dealing with Poor Customer Service” and agree the tips Michael Shurter suggests. I especially agree with #2-Get your issue escalated and #3-Learn what not to say.

Regarding #2-Get your issue escalated, I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to tech-talk over the 1st level support to get them to transfer you to someone who understands your techno-babble. Something like, “I ran a traceroute and there appears to be a problem with your router, ae-78.ebr2.Chicago1.Level3.net whose IP address is 4.69.134.61. There is a significant jump in response time from that hop of the traceroute and some packets are also being dropped there.” At that point, they realize that you probably know what you’re talking about and skip all of the standard “did you try rebooting your computer?” stuff. They also realize that they have no idea what you’re talking about and that they better send you on to someone who does so that their average call time doesn’t go up.

Knowing what not to say comes with experience. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to pretend like you’re being audited. Only answer the questions asked, don’t volunteer any additional information (unless you’re using my method mentioned above to get your issue escalated.)

Like I mentioned, I’ll be posting more about my Comcas(suck)tic experience another day. There’s something for you to look forward to.