October 24, 2005

Verio Hosting's Lousy Customer Service

Yesterday Verio, the company that hosts this website, had a massive failure bringing down with it the many thousands of websites they host. In my case it also took down my email. This happens. Computers and networks are unreliable. Annoying, but no big deal. But what was less forgivable was Verio's customer service. Calling in to the customer center the hapless customer would be routed through an hour long mechanized tree of options eventually ending in either a busy signal or an endless hold. No status page was posted on Verio's main site. There was no explanatory message on the phone message. Annoyed, did a bit of research and called the Verio corporate headquarters (303-645-1900 btw).

I didn't even have to explain.

The woman who answering the phone was tense. "All our servers are down. They're trying to get the backup system up, but it's not working."

"You know it would help if someone just left a recorded message or put up a message on your support page," I suggested.

"Well so many people were calling we just shut the phones off. Everybody's in a panic."

Indeed I could hear what sounded like panic in the background. Then the phone died.

Now my curiosity was peaked, what in the world was going on? A call to another office revealed that hurricane Wilma had struck the data center and knocked out the generators and the backup generators.

I don't fault Verio for getting hit by a hurricane. It happens, but knowing that a hurricane is coming don't you think it would be wise to at the very least have a couple of pre-recorded phone messages allowing for the possibility that things might go south?

Almost 18 hours later updates started appearing on the Verio home page and now of course all is back to normal. Me being in the dark for 18 hours is no big deal, but imagine if your company's ecommerce site had blinked out and you had no information about what was going on... Not good.

February 8, 2005

Sirius Radio Review (a rant I'm afraid)

New York radio has never done it for me. In all my stints of living here I've listened to exactly one station, WFMU. And WFMU isn't even based here, it broadcasts out of Jersey City. LA had a couple of good stations, KCRW being the big gorilla of radio goodness. There were also several good college stations scattered about although I could only ever pick them up in the Valley.

Anyway, frustrated with local NY radio, in my general quest to make everything digital, and because of Jenn's desire to have music in the kitchen, I impulsively bought a Tivoli tabletop radio with Sirius satellite radio.

Spying the attractive Tivoli box, visiting friends instantly assume we are in radio nirvana, but it hasn't worked out that way.

First the satellite radio sound quality is poor--probably worse than normal radio. This is, I'm sure, a consequence of living in a city with lots of tall buildings, but even with a clear view of the sky... not so good. (normal radio on the Tivoli sounds great).

The second issue I have is the whole concept Sirius is built on, namely mainstream narrowcasting. There are 184 channels each one very specifically focused on a certain type of music. So for example, there are 6 jazz channels, each dedicated to a different type of jazz, but each is basically a "greatest hits" channel. None delves deep. And many of the DJs are just record spinners who just read label info and put on records almost at random. My idea of a jazz dj is some former beatnik who lives in a house whose foundation is crumbling from the weight of the records it bears, a guy who gets furious when you make a mistake identifying a session drummer on Bill Evans live show... a guy who wants to share what he knows because he loves and breaths the music.

Ditto for the punk DJ, ditto for the old time country DJ, etcetera. Wait. Sirius has no pure punk channel. Nor does it have a real classic country channel (it has something called the roadhouse prone to playing 70's crap. Where's my Tex Ritter, Hank Snow, and Jimmie Rodgers? How about some Collins kids.) How about playing music that music buffs actually get excited about?

Sirius has it all wrong. They are taking the same approach that Clear Channel used to destroy commercial radio, except they have more bandwidth available and are making each channel more specific. There is logic to this, but ultimately this strategy will always lose out to the ipod. The ipod is the ultimate narrowcast, it's only the music you already love, commercial free delivered whenever you want it.

How does satellite radio compete against this? By offering real DJs in the mode of the late John Peel. People who are fearless musical explorers with a taste for the unordinary. A good DJ brings you into his world, if he is happy, he plays happy songs, if he's sad he'll play an hour of music that will break your heart, if it's raining he might play a couple of rain songs. He doesn't stick to one genre or time period. He just plays the next song that needs to be played because it feels right. That's radio that excites and draws people in, not this mindless polite stuff they are now broadcasting from too many channels.

Sirius also has commercials (for Sirius!). The shame.

January 5, 2005

Those yellow wristbands

I know Lance Armstrong has raised lots of money for cancer with his wristbands, but why is it that everyone who wears one is kind of a jackass?

October 8, 2004

More Verizon DSL Frustrations

10 days ago Verizon told me my DSL was scheduled to be turned on today. Today they told me it would be 10 days from now. They claim there is a problem with the line or alternately that the line isn't provisioned. What is especially annoying is that DSL was working before and there was no problem on the line. The only thing that happened is that the main office tried to do something called a move order to move the service from one jack to the other jack (move orders are normally done when someone moves from one house to another house) and then cancelled the move order when it didn't work, but the DSL people never heard about cancellation and so it's still listed as a move order on the DSL side. My guess is that because it's still the same number and the same address the computer is confused and keeps delaying the order (who would move to the same address). This is exactly what happened with our voicemail (which only got fixed when we managed to get someone who actually cared about our dilemma on the line). But the DSL tech people are not trained to deal with these kind of situations so they just hand me off to something called the move department and the move department (seemingly staffed by people who don't know how to deal with anything out of the ordinary) hands me back to the tech people. The absolute unwillingness of people in those departments to do anything to get you out of this morass or even to clearly explain the problem is maddening.

I'm going to let it go ten days more then I cancel the order and go with another company. This is a perfect example of how companies lose customer good will. I, the customer, am stuck in a situation where nobody seems to know exactly what problem is, in which there is no escalation path so that a supervisor can actually get into the account to understand the big picture, and where the problem seems to get worse with every attempt to fix it. I'm starting to associate Verizon with incompetence and will definitely switch companies if I can. All this is in marked contrast to SBC the monolithic phone company on the other coast. When there was a problem over there I was always able to go up the chain until I got to someone who actually understood the problem and could solve it or at least give me an accurate timetable. In addition to losing me as a customer they are also losing hours and hours of time for all the calls back and forth while people dither.


October 5, 2004

Verizon Hell

Trials and travails of getting phone, cable, & DSL in this house. This is uninteresting, but I want it recorded if only to refer back to it.

Day 1:

We set up phone service.

Day 10:

We move in, there is no dial tone. We call via cell phone to get Verizon to fix the problem. I order Directv. directv says the guy will arrive in 2 days to do the install.

Day 11:

The phone people come, do their thing, leave. Only one jack out of 20 in the house works. It's in the most inconvenient corner of the house on the top floor. DSL works. Voicemail works. I call about the other jacks. Apparently the townhouse is listed by floor. They suggest canceling the phone or floor 4and moving it to floor 3. They say DSL will continue to work, voicemail and everything else will just be transferred. It will happen by morning.

Day 12: In the morning the other jacks do not work. We start getting our neighbor Kate's calls. Kates calls are also ringing in her house. This is confusing. Voicemail has been canceled. DSL has been canceled. The directv people never show up. I call Verizon, but it's too late to place a new repair order.

Day 13: I call directv and tell them their guys never showed up. They claim I never put in an order. I make a new order. They tell me the guys will show up in 3 days. I place a repair order with Verizon.

Day 14: Verizon shows up and physically wires all the lines from upstairs and downstairs together in a box. We have phones that ring to our number! Voicemail does not work. DSL does not work. We are told DSL will be available in 10 days. No way to expedite the order.

Day 15: We call about voicemail and are told it will work in the morning.

Day 16: Voicemail still does not work. We call again and are told it was shut off, but it would work in the morning.

Day 17: Voicemail still does not work. The directv guys show up. Install everything. But it doesn't work. Directv claims I have a bad card and that it will take 2-7 days to get a new one (what kind of spread is 2 to 7 days?). We call Verizon again and are told in will work in 2 hours. I am told to "hold my horses".

Day 17 (two hours later): The voicemail still doesn't work. I call again and a nice woman named Mrs. Petroski says she will personally fix my voicemail. She says she'll call back at 2:00.

Day 17: 2:30, Mrs. Petroski calls, the voicemail is fixed!

Status: waiting on DSL, waiting for directv

Choose Another Subject