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February 2010

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Yesterday I bought a new TV from Best Buy. It is a Samsung 46 inch LED LCD TV and it is completely awesome. The thing that wasn’t awesome was the buying experience.

I purchased the TV (with a Sony Bravio soundbar and some HDMI cables) online and for in store pickup. My coworker, Mike, has a truck so we were going to pick the items up at lunch and take them back to my apartment. I get an email shortly after 9:00 AM telling me my order was ready for pickup. At 11:30 we decided to head on over to pick it up. Of course, they didn’t have the order together, even though the email stated it was ready. 20 minutes after arriving to the store they start bringing the order to the front. There is no reason that should have taken that long, especially for an order that was supposed to have been ready by now. Oh well, I have my new TV, time to get it home. We take the TV to my apartment (20 minute drive from the Best Buy that actually had the TV) and take it out of the box and begin to put it on the included TV stand. This is when problem number 2 arose. The screws that were supposed to be included to attach the TV to the stand, weren’t. Not Best Buy’s fault, but annoying that I’d have to make another trip somewhere to get screws.

We decided to head back to the office when we noticed something wasn’t right. Looking at the TV it looked a bit small. We looked at the box, and sure enough, it’s a 40 inch TV. Now, I know I should have looked at the box carefully before we left Best Buy, but come on. It’s their job to hand over the correct product. The box was quite large so I assumed it was the correct TV. At this point I am extremely pissed. I call Best Buy and they tell me they will call me back. They have to verify that I do indeed have the wrong TV. They need to count their inventory to make sure I’m not a liar. About 5 minutes later they call back telling me that I do have the wrong TV (thanks for confirming what I already knew!) and that I can bring in the wrong TV and exchange it. I told them this would not be possible and that we came in over our lunch break and I would not have access to a truck. They need to deliver the new TV and pick up the old one or lose out on a sale. They were going to have to call me back. 15 minutes later they call back saying they can send someone out to deliver and set up the right TV and pick up the wrong one. They wanted to come right away but I explained I was at work and wouldn’t be home until after 5:00 PM. They said they would have to call me back. Again. They do call me back and confirm that an associate will be at my house around 5:00 for the delivery and hookup. Long story short (too late) he gets there around 6:30 and I’m hooked up and playing Heavy Rain on my PS3 by 8:00 (I had to run an errand in between hook-up time and TV enjoyment time).

I’ve long heard horror stories about Best Buy on The Consumerist and was expecting my story to wind up there. Fortunately, this wasn’t one. Yes, it was something should have never happened. Yes, it was an inconvenience to everyone involved. The bottom line is that Best Buy did everything they could to make it right and keep me a happy customer. All in all, the story wound up with a happy ending.

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My insurance (auto and home) is set to renew next month so I started looking around at the different insurance companies to get rate quotes to see if I could save a little money. Three out of the five companies I got quotes from had quotes that were significantly lower (more than $100 cheaper) than what I was paying for my current policies. The other two were significantly more (over $100) than what I’m currently paying. An agent from one of the insurance companies I requested a quote from called me. The company happened to be Allstate. Allstate happened to be one of the two companies that gave me a rate higher than my current rate.

I let the agent send me a more detailed and accurate quote for both auto and home policies and I replied saying that those rates were too high and my current company was offering lower rates than Allstate and that I have gotten quotes that were even lower than that she responded with an email that kind of touched a nerve. It came off as pompous and unprofessional.

Actual Email from Agent (Click to Enlarge)

Let’s take a look at all the things wrong with her email. First, she automatically assumes that my rate with SafeCo was going to go up. To me, that just seems very unprofessional. Her unprofessionalism doesn’t stop there though. She continues on to say when I’m ready for a real insurance agent I should call her. Listen lady, you are a business not a first baseman for my softball league. You are trying to be my insurance agent, and I respect that, but you won’t get anywhere by assuming that my current agent hasn’t been doing their best to keep me a happy customer. By assuming that they are a poor agent you are inferring that I have poor judgement in who I pick to handle my affairs, so criticizing them is also criticizing my judgement. The only thing you are really showing me is that I will never hire you as my agent. Strike 2.

Finally, we come to the actual look of the email itself. I might be a little more critical than the average person in this area because I work as a web developer and poor aesthetics on the web is cringeworthy. First, pick a font type and stick to it. You really don’t need to have four different font types in an email. You also don’t need to bold the body of your email. That looks horrible. Don’t even get me started at the various colors used throughout the email. The biggest thing that sticks out is how Allstate Insurance Company is hanging out in the middle of nowhere. Did you get the sudden urge to center something and that was the first thing that came to your mind? The last thing, which I’m sure it’s probably company policy, is the little survey at the bottom of the email. No, I’m not going to answer your questions and email them to the head of the branch. If you really want me to take a survey, put it on the web. If you don’t have the software to make one yourself any number of email marketing tools have them available to use.

In conclusion, you fail as an agent. You were unprofessional and pompous and I don’t see how you can actually gain any customers. As a side note, my current agent showed me what a “real insurance agent can offer” by delivering a policy that came in over $300 lower than your quote. So, Ms. Allstate Insurance Agent, maybe you should call him so he can show you what a real insurance agent is like.

I just finished watching the excellent series Battlestar Galactica. Now I know what all the critical acclaim was about. This was a fantastic series. I would have to rank it up there with The West Wing and The Wire. I never watched it when it was on because it seemed like a geeky show and I assumed it was just like Star Wars or Star Trek with aliens running around and whatnot. Any time I heard someone mention the show I automatically thought of Dwight from The Office talking about it. It was a show for geeks. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. If you’ve never heard of the show here’s the basic premise:

In a distant part of the universe, a civilization of humans lives on a series of planets known as the Twelve Colonies. In the past, the Colonies have been at war with a cybernetic race known as the Cylons. With the help of a human traitor named Baltar, the Cylons launch a sudden ambush on the Colonies, laying waste to the planets and devastating their populations. The human survivors flee into space aboard any spacecraft they can reach. Of all the Colonial Fleet, the Battlestar Galactica appears to be the only military capital ship that survived the attack. Under the leadership of famed military leader Commander Adama, the Battlestar Galactica and its crew take up the task of leading the small fugitive fleet of survivors into space in search of the fabled thirteenth colony known as Earth.

It’s very difficult to describe what this show actually is. It’s part West Wing with politics, NBC’s excellent but short-lived Kings for its alternate look at humanity, history, and religion, and part Lost with the questions, mysteries, and eventual answers. There were no aliens, no light sabers, nothing that I usually hate about the sci-fi genre. The acting was superb, special effects great, and story even better. There’s really not much I can say about the plot without giving away crucial details, but it kept me wanting more and more with each episode, just as Lost does. In on episode you find one of your favorite characters fall from grace, only to redeem themselves several episodes later. I will probably have to purchase this series on Blu-Ray and watch it all over again. I’m sure there are many parts of the story that I might have missed during the first run-through. If you like great TV, I suggest watching this.

One of the first things I tried doing when I got my PS3 is turn it into a media center without modding the system. I’ve heard of several different ways people were doing this but also heard that the PS3 lacked the ability to play some of the most popular codecs. I also needed the server software to run on my iMac, and not Windows. While on my search for creating the ultimate solution I found Rivet.

I downloaded and tried the Rivet demo and found that the app was easy to use. It required very little set up. I turned on my PS3 and found that my designated folders were showing up on my PS3. I was able to listen to music and look at my photos. Then came the true test, AVI files. I navigated to my videos directory and tried playing an episode of How I Met Your Mother. No luck. Six Feet Under didn’t work either. The Sopranos was next. Needless to say, it didn’t work and I decided Rivet should sleep with the fishes.

Fast forward a couple months and I decided to try giving Rivet another shot. Downloaded the demo again (it gives you 25 free video streams). The configuration was just as easy as before and it was showing up in my PS3 within seconds. So here comes the ultimate test, part 2. I played The Big Bang Theory. Success! I played Battlestar Galactica. Success again! I played an episode of Scrubs XVID encoded. Success again! So Rivet now works flawlessly with my PS3 and the videos look great on my TV. I don’t think I could be any happier with it. Minutes after installing I purchased the app for the low price of $19.95 and haven’t looked back since. So if you’re looking for a media streaming solution from your Mac to your PS3, I highly recommend Rivet.

I’ve never really been a big fan of science fiction movies or shows. I hated all the Star Trek Shows and movies (except the new one that just came out) and I hate Star Wars. It is an overrated crap movie whose plot has more holes than Swiss cheese, in my opinion. The only sci fi shows I ever really got into was the Original Twilight Zone and The X-Files. The Twilight Zone was great because it had great, original stories. A lot of the themes had to do with human traits and expounded on them. The X-Files I got into because I enjoyed the acting of David Duchovny. When he left the show I became less interested.

Lately I’ve become more interested in sci fi tv shows and movies. As I’ve said, I really enjoyed the new Star Trek remake. Also, after hearing many of the people I follow on Twitter rave about Dr. Who and Torchwood, I began watching those shows. Torchwood I like a little better than Dr. Who but they are shows that I probably would have never enjoyed before. The latest show that I’ve been enjoying is one that even the mainstream critics raved about: Battlestar Galactica. I just started watching it over the past couple days and it has been a fantastic show. I also really enjoyed the canceled ABC show Defying Gravity. I really wish that one was still on.

I find it odd how my taste can change. Maybe the stories and production value of sci fi themed entertainment has changed enough that is is now entertaining to me. I don’t know. I do know that I won’t dismiss something that is labeled as sci fi because I think I won’t like it anymore. Chances are I will like it.