Monday, September 26, 2005

Pain In The Back, NetFlix & A College Kid

I realize the title of this post might actually be redundant, but I'm tired and didn't want to give it much more thought.

I got a call the other day from a local college student studying "Mass Communications" who had an assignment to interview a "mass communicator." He chose me because, "he had been listening to me all his life."

This was an alarming statement made all the more so due to the fact that it was true. He grew up listening to one of the country music stations I work for and still listens to today. I've been doing news on that station for 18 years, so in truth he had spent more time listening to me than all three of my children...combined.

He knew all about me in terms of my writing style, the type of news I like to do, my particular brand of wit, and the changes that had been made by other folks at the station which essentially eliminated my chance to use any of those talents which he found quite upsetting.

However he didn't know my name.

That particular station is the only one where I have used a fake name - another story for another day - so he was a little surprised when I told him my real name, my real job, and invited him to come up to the studios. I told him I'd be glad to give him 15 minutes of my wisdom, which is about 13 minutes more than I normally have in stock.

He showed up early and actually asked some very insightful questions...a lot of them. Suddenly, before I realized it was happening, I had become "Chatty Kathy" - in a figurative not the fashion sense - spouting all sorts of stories and pretending I was important. Before I knew it, it was close to noon and I had other stops to make on the way home, so I ushered both him and me out the door.

It was actually quite flattering and fun as long as I kept suppressing the idea that I had been this kid's primary source for news most of his life. Suddenly I felt like over the past couple of decades I should have left off a few stories about passing gas and put in a few more about nominating Supreme Court justices...but what's done is done.

I got over it...and got home to find Amy in pain. This is a relatively new pain unrelated to all her previous problems and soon we got the diagnosis, a bulging disc in her back. This could turn out to be a good thing - not that I want Amy in any form of pain - but I have felt she's been overdoing it lately and now her back is reinforcing my opinion in a manner that gets through to her no matter how much she tries to tune me out.

So I settled in hoping her sedentary state would allow us to stay in bed for the afternoon and watch movies we rented from NetFlix only to discover we didn't have any films from NetFlix. For some reason lately NetFlix either loses every movie we mail them or the postal service loses every movie NetFlix mails us. In any case I went on my usual complaint rampage which when dealing with Netflix requires you to fill out various on line forms. Each time I filled one out I got a very prompt response from Customer Service representatives and each time I could tell they were reading from a manual that instructed them how to respond. They all had nice names like "Mike" and "Chet" and "Brad"...but I'm relatively certain they were probably in India or some other distant land (or planet) and no one in their families ever called them by those names.

The final straw was when "Todd" or "Tim" or whomever it was I was dealing with, suggested that I get a P.O. Box to have the movies sent to, and that I take the movies I was returning to the post office to send back. I wrote back to "Brian" or "Bill" that if I had to get in my car and drive to pick up my movies as well as mail them, I might as well go to the video store.

I was quite polite during each exchange but still fairly blunt and definitely firm. Finally, I simply had enough and wrote to "Ethan" or "Jack" or "Watson" that it was apparent to me he was completely oblivious to my real issues and that I wanted him to forward my email to a Supervisor "in the United States" and ask that the Yankee supervisor actually LOOK at my account, otherwise I was quitting NetFlix.

Now I should mention that only two months ago I quit NetFlix because seemed to offer a better deal, but in a matter of one month I realized Blockbuster had so many flaws it wasn't worth even talking to their equivalent of "Rudy" or "Sam" or "John." I came back to NetFlix boasting about how much better their service was only to find it had gone rapidly downhill in the short time since I had been gone.

By the end of the day, after flurry after flurry of multiple email exchanges, a small vein in my head started to bulge like the disc in Amy's back and I was certain I was going to need an injection of whatever she was going to get in order not to sell everything we own, fly to India and no doubt be arrested for wandering around asking for people named "Mike, Chet, Chad, Brian, Andrew, etc." whom I intended to strangle on the spot.

Still, patience being a virtue and all, I decided to give NetFlix one more chance to respond and then I'd quit and either go back to or go back to renting movies the old fashion way.

Within minutes I got another Netflix email...from "Steve." However this one was was from "Steve H." an indication his name might really be Steve and what was even more exciting is that "Steve" gave me his PHONE NUMBER!

I know...I was shocked too.
I'll give you a moment to absorb my excitement vicariously.

Okay, moving on...

Here I was armed with an actual phone number for customer support from an on-line service. A phone number to someone in the U.S.. To a real person. I was absolutely fact I'm still too excited to call him.

I want to savor the victory so I'm going to wait until tomorrow to call.

I realize it's possible Steve H. won't be able to appease me, but if that's the case I also know that I am now in possession of something quite possibly more precious than gold...a working phone number for U.S. based customer support at NetFlix.

I may never rent a movie again, but I may be able to buy every movie I want to see with the profit I'll make by selling that number on Ebay.

Sometimes I can be a real pain...