24 Things I Noticed While Moving for the Umpteenth Time

Well that's just ducky!
What every new home needs!

I turned in the keys to my old apartment today, and so I once again bid farewell to one apartment while getting settled into a new one.

  1. Whily my method of shuttling stuff back and forth with my compact car is horribly inefficient, it gets me plenty of exercise.
  2. Okay, yeah, its ridonkulous and I should just do everything at once next time.
  3. I thought “why is it pink instead of blue?” upon seeing the toilet paper and rubber duckie above and then I saw the Susan G. Komen card and pink ribbon.  Ohhhh.  Derp.
  4. Speaking of which, I always leave a roll of toilet paper in the old place. I’m not sure why, its just something I do.
  5. Sometimes I wonder if I am really this elated at being here, or am I just high from paint fumes?
  6. It only took two trips to move the crap that wouldn’t fit in my car, so yeah, I should have packed everything else up.
  7. Cable guys are much more efficient when you have the apartment folks call them.
  8. That’s a good thing, too, because once again, I’m facing the wrong way to get a satellite.  Rats.
  9. Digital thermostats are awesome.
  10. The new place’s built-in shelves can hold all of my games and movies, and it is BEAUTIFUL!
  11. I have been in such a better mood now that my commute has been cut in half.  God, how I hate traffic, and once those really tall ramps (or skyways as I like to call ’em) on 281/1604 are done, the commute should be smooth sailing.
  12. My commute should be cut about in half, which is good because holy cats, gas is getting expensive!
  13. It really says something when even the dollar store in the new neighborhood is nicer.
  14. The nearest HEB is an older one.  Somehow, this isn’t a problem.
  15. The nearest Wal-Mart got upgraded from a “Raunchy-Mart” to a Supercenter since my last visit.  Nice.
  16. The nearest Best Buy might just be a little too close, I think I need to freeze my credit card…I mean literally, as in ICE.
  17. I should have gotten rid of that old living room furniture a LONG time ago.
  18. Shopping for new furniture has been a drag so far, maybe I should just get a bunch of beanbags, or move my bed into the living room.
  19. Moving stuff while working the 9-6 shift work during the wintertime SUCKS.
  20. Really, it wasn’t until that first Saturday that I went, “Gee, this is what this place looks like during the day.”
  21. The water heater at my old place didn’t hold enough hot water to take a bath, no wonder I was so cranky there.
  22. The oven here isn’t much bigger than the one at my old place, but at least it has A LIGHT! Seriously, the last one felt like an Easy-Bake.
  23. The margin of error on that thing is pretty darn thin, though, one long paragraph or trip to the bathroom and I end up with dark brown instead of golden brown cookies.
  24. My TV looks kind of small now, maybe its time to upgrade! 🙂
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Pre-Paid, or Pre-Pain?

As my cell phone contract nears its end, I find myself metaphorically drooling over the thought of getting a new phone.  Well, okay, so maybe I’m doing a little bit of real-life drooling, too.  While the Samsung Moment I got from Sprint has been fairly reliable these past two years, it would be nice to get something new, and yes, there is some gadget-lust feeding that desire to upgrade as well.

While my desire to keep up with the virtual Joneses is strong, it is tempered by my desire to be more responsible with my finances.  I recently consolidated all my debts and am working on boosting my savings, which, of course, means cutting back on expenses.  I currently pay just under eighty bucks a month for my cell phone plan.  That isn’t bad, but it would be nice if I could get that number to drop.  I recently learned that I can an employee discount through my job.  Even then, I think I can shave even more off my cell phone bill by going with a pre-paid provider.  Doing so will come with a few caveats, but before I go over them, I should mention that I had pre-paid cell service from T-Mobile way back when because money was tight.  It was pretty good, but it was quite some time before I had a smartphone.  Now on to the issues:

The biggest one has to do with the carriers themselves.  While some of them piggyback off of the big boys (for example, Virgin Mobile uses Sprint’s network) and some are run by the big boys (Verizon and AT&T each have their own pre-paid services) others have their own networks that are not as robust as the ones the “big boys” have.  This probably won’t be a big deal when I’m at home in San Antonio, but once I go to other cities for conferences or events things just might not work!

Related to this issue are the phones that are offered by pre-paid providers.  They aren’t nearly quite as nice as the new ones the major providers carry.  From what I have seen in my research, some of them are just downright awful, as they are often made by second- and third-tier manufacturers.  Adding to this is the fact that you have to pay the full cost of a pre-paid phone up front.  That is one of the reasons that pre-paid service is less expensive, those carriers don’t subsidize the cost of their phones.  This isn’t quite as big a deal as it sounds, because the phones that I can get for free from the big boys are about as lousy as the one I have now.  If I want something better, I’m going to have to fork out some cash up front either way.

Another reason the ‘lousy phone’ thing may not be an issue is the fact that I just don’t do a whole lot with my smartphone.  For all the “OMG THOUSANDS OF APPS” available on Android, I barely have any apps installed and use less than ten on a regular basis.  Non-smartphones have gotten smarter these days, so I might be able to ditch a smartphone completely and go with a much cheaper non-smartphone plan.  If I can find a messaging phone that does Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail, that would be just about perfect.  The obvious downside is that I would probably be very limited to what I could install on that not-so-smartphone.

One final consideration is the porting of my current phone number.  I’ve had the same phone number for a few years now and have gotten pretty attached to it, so I’m a little jittery about moving to a new provider.  I get even jitterier (yes it’s a word, BTW) when I consider that a lower-cost operation may not have all of those nice people answering phones for them in customer service.  I’ve actually received good customer service the few times I’ve had to call Sprint, and shudder at the thought of talking to who knows who from who-knows-where.  That isn’t an “I hate Indian call center” thing, either.  In my AT&T debacle from earlier this year, I was actually glad to get a polite person with an accent instead of all the home-grown jerkasses I had been dealing with up to that point.  Yeah, the ‘USA-based support’ they were so proudly trumpeting was that bad.

While the thought of getting a shiny new phone with a nice big screen, new operating system and fast CPU is a pleasant one, the thought of being caught without enough money in the event of an emergency is enough to make me think over the amount of cash I’m currently shelling out for my phone service.  On the other hand, the service I have been getting has been pretty good, even in the boonies of my hometown and I’m not sure that going with someone different for the sake of saving a few bucks is the best plan in the world.  My bill should be dropping thanks to the employee discount, so I’m wondering if perhaps going pre-paid isn’t worth the trouble when things are working well as it is.

And yeah, those shiny new phones in the Sprint Store are looking pretty nice!

RANDOM REVIEW REVISITED: Sprint Overdrive

Read the Sprint Overdrive review here.

After purchasing my Sprint Overdrive about a year and a half ago, I was a pretty happy camper: I could access the Internet from pretty much anywhere, even in the hole in the Internet that is my hometown of Odem, Texas.

Two problems eventually arose, though. The first being that my income took a pretty nasty drop (like to zero) and so I came to rely on my Overdrive as my sole source of internet.  While it served that purpose fairly well, I couldn’t help but notice the less expensive alternatives that were popping up courtesy of pre-paid providers such as Cricket and Virgin Wireless.  After my employment situation stabilized, I wondered if it wouldn’t be worth the trouble to ditch Sprint and use a prepaid device for those few occasions when I needed internet on the go.

Overdrive with "battery critical" message
He's Dead, Jim

The second thing that happened was that the Overdrive stopped working completely.  Turning on the device resulted in a “Battery critical. Charge Immediately” message appearing on the screen, and after a few seconds, the device would turn off on its own.  Upon first seeing the message, I plugged in my charger and the device reported an 85% charge.  I let it charge completely, and the message appeared.

I went to a Sprint Store and they did offer to repair the device for $35, which seemed reasonable.  Despite that, I decided not to repair it because of the fact that I was not using the Overdrive enough to justify the $60 a month expense.

While it is pretty lame that the Overdrive did not even last long enough to cover the 2-year contract I signed to get it, the bigger story here is that $60 a month for the service is too much for the few times that I actually used it.  My current job doesn’t pay as much as the one I had when I bought it, so I’m cutting back where I can now.

While Sprint has apparently been kind enough to cancel my contract (as far as I can tell, I’ll know for sure once my next bill comes in) I will probably end up getting a 3G USB device from a prepaid provider.  Sure, it’ll be slower, but it also won’t be as expensive, and I won’t be tied down to a contract.  I could also get a new Android phone, but I’m not too sure I want to stick with Google’s wunderkind.  That’s a blog for another day, though.

In conclusion, the device worked great while it lasted, but be sure you are going really NEED an always-there fast internet connection before signing a 2-year contract with a provider for a 4G device.  If you have to think that question over, then you just might be just fine with a prepaid 3G device.  The operative word, of course, is “might,” though, I’ll let y’all know how that works out!

Five Things I Learned From My DSL Debacle

So after the smoke cleared, I got my DSL turned on and AT&T got another customer…well for now, anyway.  It only took a trip to AT&T’s website, 2 customer service reps, one angry tweet, 3 techs, two social media team people, three executive escalation people, about a dozen voice mails, about twice that many phone calls, and seven days.

For my trouble, I’m getting my first month of service free, which I think is fair enough.  I’m just happy that the switch got flipped, and hopefully things will be hunky dory from here on out.  I also learned a few things:

  1. Just use the phone already! I should have just called back the next morning, despite the terrible experience I’d had with the first CSR.  Its just quicker, especially considering..
  2. “The Power of Social Media” is worthless if the people answering the tweets don’t have the power to DO anything. Awhile back, a friend of mine had a problem with Netflix that he tweeted about.  Someone from the company got in touch with him fairly quickly and got the issue resolved.  Thus, when I got a response from AT&T’s social media people, I got excited that someone was going to get something DONE about my problem.  Sadly, the only thing the social media mavens that answered my angry AT&T tweets did was tell me to wait for a phone call that would come at some indeterminate time.  Of course, once I got past the social media d00dz, I found out:
  3. Just because they’re “executive escalation” doesn’t mean they want to talk to you. I don’t think I’ve ever played as much phone tag as I did with the executive escalation gal. Part of it was because of my job, which entails answering phones, and part of it was because of the phone system at AT&T, which did not put me through to the person directly.  Whenever I had time to speak, I had to leave a message and hope that she called me back before I got busy again.  This is hardly efficient, especially considering that…
  4. Competence is not “expected behavior” This was not the first time I had ordered DSL service from AT&T.  I had expected the positive experience I’d had before to be repeated.  Sadly, this was not the case; the smart people I’d spoken to years ago have probably either been laid off or hopefully, moved on to bigger or better things.  As for me:
  5. I may just be too patient.  I probably should have thrown in the towel after the social media dweebs told me to wait 48 “business hours” for a phone call but I was desperate to get back on the intertubes and I wanted to see this whole thing through.

So I now have sweet, sweet, internet and life is good.

Aww, crap…

GAME OVER. Press Start To Begin!

Evening of Monday March 8, 2011.

I left a message with the Executive service person in the morning letting her know that I’d had enough and was going to cancel my order.  We still had plenty of folks out sick, so work soon began in earnest.  Oddly enough, I got a call from a AT&T tech during my morning break.  After asking me if I had my own modem plugged into the phone jack (being repeatedly asked that question was another annoyance) he was going to get everything set up outside.  I reluctantly agreed.  After all, I had nothing to lose, and I wasn’t exactly clamoring to deal with Time Warner Cable.

I had to make a trip to the bank during lunch, but before I took off, I left another message with the Executive gal letting her know that I was going to give it one last shot before packing it in.  The morning had been busy and I was feeling a little frazzled, so I drove the few miles to the bank with the windows open and the radio on.  Arriving at the bank, I discovered that Executive gal had called while I was on the road.  I didn’t feel like leaving another message so I left the phone in the car while I went to take care of my business and have some lunch.  Of course, during that time, she had called again.

We played phone tag for the remainder of the afternoon.  I don’t know if it was the long day I was having or the constant stream of apologies that got thrown my way, but I did not want to talk with her.  I had planned on leaving early to see if my connection was working, I had just enough time to get home, check the modem and leave a final message with Executive gal.  That plan got shot to heck as I ended up getting stuck on two consecutive long calls with two irritating customers. It was past my usual time to go home and I was pretty beat.  The trip home was longer than usual, thanks to an accident that had occurred less than a block away from my apartment which totally hosed things up.

Being stuck in traffic is one thing, but being stuck in traffic just a few blocks away from home is maddening.

I was all but ready to collapse into bed for a quick nap.  Before doing so, I half-heartedly checked the modem again.  This time, I was greeted with four solid green lights and a fifth one that was blinking green.  They finally freaking did it.

HALLELUJAH!

I hastily plugged in my laptop, opened up Firefox and saw an AT&T error page.  Aww.

The error page provided me with a number to call.  I hesitated for a pretty good while before picking up my cell phone, steeling myself for another craptacular experience like the one I’d had just a week earlier.  The prize was finally within reach, I hoped that I didn’t get the same idiots that I had spoken with the week prior.  I didn’t.  Instead, I got a gentleman from India, who called himself “Ed.”  Go figure that one out.

As an aside, I’ve always wondered:  do those folks pick names out of a hat before signing in to their phones?  I just picture a bunch of people in India sitting at their desks practicing their new names before work begins.  “Ed” got lucky, I remember speaking with a less-than-convincing “Gladys” some time ago.

Moving on, I let “other Ed” walk me through the process, and except for one  hiccup that was my fault he got me on the tubes and I was now a happy geek:

Not bad at all!

I plan on calling Executive Girl in the morning to let her know that everything got done and that I would be hanging around with AT&T for awhile.  For all the aggrivation, I will be getting a free month out of the deal and look forward to being “always on” again.  I’ll probably do one last wrap-up post after this, but for now I will bask in the glow of the sweet sweet internets.  Thanks for pulling it off in the end, AT&T!!

Freaky Friday

Afternoon of Friday, March 4, 2011

The last thing on my mind today was AT&T.  The “other important call” I had scheduled to take during lunch was a phone interview.  My current job is a temporary one; so technically, I could get the old heave-ho at any time.  I’d been burned in the past by being overly optimistic, so I decided to be overly pessimistic and assume that each day at work might be the one where I turn in my badge.

The day started out well enough: I got up, got ready for work, checked out the nice new H-E-B near my apartment, and stopped for a bite of breakfast and a blog update before the workday started.  I was feeling pretty good: this was going to be the first payday I’d had in awhile, and I was looking forward to seeing that direct deposit drop into my virtual wallet.

I logged onto my work computer and decided to take a quick peek at my bank balance before getting started.  I was disappointed to see it was about the same as it had been a few days before.  That meant I was going to have to wait for the check to arrive in the mail.  I shrugged it off, but at the same time I hoped that it wouldn’t take too long.

As I started work, I noticed the guy next to me was sounding pretty rough.  I could hear him constantly coughing, and he soon went home sick.  I also noticed that we were quite busy and sure enough, I soon learned that there had been a few people that had called in sick.  This did not bode well for my lunchtime plans.  Sure enough, about twenty-five minutes before lunchtime, I got a call from some idiot who kept me on the phone for an hour.  My heart sank as I felt the cell phone on my hip ring once, and then twice.  Needless to say, I was in a bit of a mood when I finally left for lunch.

I ordered and then sat down to check my voicemails and return calls.  Sure enough, the interviewer had called at 12 on the dot.  I left a message on her voicemail then listened to the AT&T gal’s message.  She wanted to try to reschedule a time for a tech to come out.  I was confused and asked her why the tech had to be there.  As it turns out, because my phone line was currently unused they could not automatically assume that it worked.  The last time I had ordered DSL, I actually had a landline so they knew that it worked to a certain degree.

oh.

It would have been nice if someone had TOLD me this sometime over the past three days: the tech didn’t write it on the note on the door, the idiot CSR didn’t say it even though I kept bringing up the self-install thing, the 2 social media reps were as useless as a knife in a soup-eating contest and the first executive whatchamacallit only served to bounce me to the second executive whatchamacallit.

I had to go to Mount Doom and back and talk to all those people just to find out something that should have been posted on the order webpage or put in some phone guy’s script or computer screen.  That is just plain nuts.

The Executive phone person asked when she could schedule someone to come out.  I told her about the whole ‘can’t miss work’ thing and she told me that their installers don’t work on weekends.  Glorious.  She said she was going to try to get someone out on Saturday.  Feeling cooperative, I told her that I would call the apartment to see if they could let their tech in while I was out of work.  She asked me to leave a message when I got a decision.  The apartment people said yes, but I was really unsure about doing that so I left a message with her saying that I needed a weekend appointment.

I went back to work after that.  Things were still busy, and with about an hour and a half to go in the day I took a break to check my voicemail.  I got two messages, the first was from the Executive girl asking me to call a “DSL Specialist” to verify the appointment and answer some questions he would have for me.  The second message was from that guy.  He had already attempted to call me but I had been too busy at work to pick up. I called the guy’s number and got a message saying he had already left for the day a half-hour ago.  Seriously??

I left a message anyway and also left a message with Executive girl letting her know I had just missed the boat because DSL guy had decided to pack it in early for the weekend.  Yeah, that’s the kind of day I was having.

Game Over.  Bueno, bye.  Sayonara.  Thanks for playing.

I had all I could stand and I could stand no more.  I figured the next time I got called back I would be telling Executive girl I give up.  Un-frakking believable.  Executive girl called back and she was very apologetic, even more so than before.  That’s saying something, because every time I spoke with her she started by apologizing for the delay and their lousy phone system.  It says something about the phone company when they have to apologize for their own phone system.

After kissing my feet for way longer than necessary, she told me to call DSL guy back.  She assured me that yes, this time he would be answering.  I called him, and to my surprise, he answered, asked me if I had a modem plugged into the phone (I did) and told me a guy would be coming on Saturday morning to get everything fixed up.  Yeah-yeah, sure-sure.

Well, here we go again!