Monday, August 24, 2015

Regal Really Cares

Today, I received a reply to a message that I sent through Regal Cinema's web-based contact form. This is a form that asks you for contact information - including asking for your name. I wrote to them to complain about their plans to implement bag-checking:

Dear Ms. Patron:

Thank you for contacting our office regarding Regal's policy to inspect backpacks and bags of any kind prior to entry into our auditoriums. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America. Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety

Again, thank you. We appreciate you taking the time to contact us over this matter. We value your patronage and hope to see you in a Regal Entertainment Group theatre soon.

Customer Relations Department
Operational Services
Regal Entertainment Group
My first reactions were: "Ms"?? "Patron". That's like "wow". Talk about making a customer feel like you're taking the time to give them special attention. The above was sent with a From/Reply-To address of "". So, at least I know the robot's name, eh?

I sent a reply to "Jamie". I did not make the assumpiont that "Jamie" is a Mr. or a Ms - more likely an "it" is it appears Regal bothered to pick a gender neutral name for their bot. I'm assuming it will never be read by a human, but it felt good to write it:
Thank you for your form letter. Its utter lack of personal response speaks volumes about your business practices and is a testament of your concern for your customers. I'm reasonably certain that nothing in my initial contact email provided indication that you should address me as "Ms.". Addressing me as "Patron" - when your web form asks for a name - means you can't even be bothered to do a simple mail merge. Your missive gave me the same kind of warm-fuzzies that receiving a letter addressed to "occupant" does. Way to really set a high bar on customer relations.

Having seen your bag inspection in practice, this weekend, I'd be embarrassed if I were associated with Regal Cinemas. If you're going to engage in this kind of farcical security-theatre, you should probably train your staff to at least not half-ass it. Asking my wife to open her purse and then just sorta glancing inside it is really pointless. While I'm not asking you to have your staff pawing through our bags, at least do something that indicates you're committed to the farce. If you're going to inconvenience me, don't make it such an obvious waste of my time. Frankly, your current bag-check execution makes the TSA - and their +80% failure-rate look like paragons of security. Your security efforts make feel more secure going to a nightclub in a bad part of town.


Should be interesting to see if I get any kind of response. I'm guessing either no response or yet another, completely impersonal form letter.

Oh well, fuck Regal. Their theatres are always filthy and poorly run, any way. Somehow, they even manage to fuck up the execution of theatres with luxury seating (seriously: no table service??).

I really wish Alamo would take a stab at closer-to-the-city locations.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rising Medication Costs

So, NBC news decided to do a click-bait style piece on the rising cost of prescription medications, tonight. They talked about the end-user effects but none of the underlying causes, so I decided to see why prices for existing medications were generally trending upwards in price rather than the downward that would be expected as mature products reached the point of "economies of scale". I found a ConsumerReports article on the subject. Interesting read.

Point #1 is kind of maddening. If you weren't covered by a large, powerful lobbying group and did the same thing, you'd end up jailed for price-gouging.

#3 is kind of a difficult nut to crack, if you're on multiple drugs and the lowest prices aren't found all at the same source. Who has the time to shuttle from store-to-store to score the lowest price (especially if you receive no co-pay difference for having saved your insurer money)

#4 I haven't found any of my doctors to be anything other than neutral on cost-concerns. Frankly, it's not my doctor's job to factor in price when prescribing to me. If price is a concern, he should be willing to work with me - and, when I've raised the concern, no doctor has been anything but happy to ensure that I am able to most-affordably acquire my medications (they'd rather you take something affordable than not fill scripts due to price problems)

#5 One of the medications I'm on is over $5,000/dose. My annual out of pocket maximums go up, year by year. The maker of the medication has an assistance program that, thus far, has made it so my annual out-of-pocket maximums are bridged.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Still Haven't Seen It All

I suppose it's nice to know that, even on the wrong half of my 40s and after two decades in IT, it's still possible for a vendor's "technical" presentation to be the worst one I've ever had the displeasure to sit through.

Seriously, vendors: if I'm asking you a question, it's an opportunity for you. You can either use that opportunity to impress me - to sell to me - or, like today, you can use it to completely turn me off of you and your products.

If I ask you a question, "I don't know" is actually an acceptable answer. If I ask you a question you don't fully understand, it's also ok for you to tell me you don't understand the question as asked and ask me to elaborate on or restate my question. Bulling ahead and trying to give an answer to a question I didn't ask - especially if it demonstrates you didn't understand my question - is not ok. Giving me an answer that can't possibly be correct and that you can't defend if I challenge the response is also not ok. Giving me an answer that contradicts something that the later slides in your PowerPoint say is so is also not ok. Framing your answer as an opinion rather than fact - particularly if your slides are making a contrary assertion - is decidedly not ok.

It's been a good, long while since I've left a vendor presentation completely furious.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Godzilla's Refuse-Haulers

Getting our cube-area ready for renovations, so we all have to move out. As part of that, there's a lot of trash cleanup involved. They asked for volunteers to help take rollaway carts down to the dumpsters. Got to the dock and was told "you need to take it to the end of that ramp and empty it into the big dumpter". Pushed my cart to the end of the ramp and leveraged the cart over the lip of the dumpster so I could empty it wholesale.

Get back to the bottom of the ramp and the dockmaster's shaking his head. He says to me, "was really expecting that you'd scoot it to the end and then dig the stuff out manually to empty it."

"Yeah, well: my way seemed faster".

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cut Loose

One of the realities of working on geographically-disbursed teams is you need a group calendar to help keep track of where everyone is (and who's out on vacation, training, etc.). The one weird thing I've noticed is that many of my co-workers, when posting their PTO days, indicate _where_ they're taking their PTO.

When I see the "where" notation, all I can think is, "that's nice, but why did you feel the need to post that detail?" Are you trying to demonstrate "I'm someplace that I can't really help you even if you do try to call me?"

I mean, you're on vacation. It shouldn't be the business of anyone on the team where you are. Set your Out of Office on your mail account and hit the road. Don't check your mail. Don't answer your phone (the latter is easy if, like me, the only number you give people is GV - since GV's really good at enforcing contact-hours and you can always set a group-level "I'm on vacation" voicemail greeting). BE on vacation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Traffic, Here, Is Ass

Illustrative of how dicked-up traffic is in the NoVA suburbs of DC:

Today is the last day at this job for a frequent co-worker of mine. Originally, they were going to have a going-away lunch for him. They rescheduled to a 15:00-17:00 after-work event. I got into work ass-early, today, expecting to leave for the day in time for the original lunch-window. Instead, I ended up coming home - figuring that, since the event-site is four miles from my house, I'd just drive back.

Unfortunately, that four miles is constrained by a bridge from NoVA to MD. Waze was showing red all over the damned place, already, with a projected drive time of forty minutes. I got to my route decision-point - the ramp onto the highway that crosses the river - and opted to turn-back. Traffic from the highway was backed up past the ramp and through the next-closest traffic light. No go.

Called my friend up to convey my regrets.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hit Or Miss

Went to this week's Lana Del Rey concert in Bristow, VA. It was supposed to be a friend and his wife plus me and my wife. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired to prevent his wife from coming ...and she was the primary reason for going to the show.

Still, Lana Del Rey has a pretty damned good voice. That said, she's not someone worth going to see in person. For being the headlining act, her set was much more like an opening act's. It was both unusually short for the main act and included no encore sets.

Look: I get that a lot of the people that go to your show might normally have worry about going to school the next day, but that's no reason to give me a $50 performance when I've paid $130 for each of my seats (not including the various "convenience" and other fees I'm forced to pay). And, while it's great that you decided to "interact" with the audience by walking down into the buffer zone between the stage and the pit area, that you failed to even give the token hello or acknowledgement that you knew where you were playing was kind of weak. I'd really hoped that the two times the camera had closed in on your face, what looked like an eye-roll was something else. But, given the other things, it just really seemed like you didn't want to be there.

Oh well. Maybe you're just more comfortable in small night clubs. I can't think that that many people showed up and keened if this is what you're like all the time. Then again, given the age of your primary demographic, it'd be unsurprising if this was a lot of those people's first concert-going experience. At least, for them, things can really only go up from here?