Posts Tagged ‘consumer education’

Dear abandoned blog, we are back at it again: 72 ideas in 72 days

September 2, 2015

So, a few years ago I attempted the 72 ideas in 72 days challenge.  I am going to try it again (call it a ‘cleansing diet’ for those who like Oreos.  There maybe some days I skip, I might do them out of order, and well, I’ll probably fall off the wagon around day 30 (honesty).  Here is the list that I am attempting to follow  (with a nod to whatever list it came from).

th that, focus on the next thing.

  1. Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.
  2. Evaluate your commitments. Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life. Everything, from work to home to civic to kids’ activities to hobbies to side businesses to other projects. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing. Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren’t in line with those things. Article here.
  3. Evaluate your time. How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Make a list, and evaluate whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day.
  4. Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest. Read more.
  5. Simplify home tasks. In that vein, think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list. And we’ll never get that done either. So focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).
  6. Learn to say no. This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much. Article here.
  7. Limit your communications. Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it. Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes (I recommend twice a day, but do what works for you). Only do IM once a day, for a limited amount of time. Limit phone calls to certain times too. Same with any other communications. Set a schedule and stick to it.
  8. Limit your media consumption. This tip won’t be for everyone, so if media consumption is important to you, please skip it (as with any of the other tips). However, I believe that the media in our lives — TV, radio, Internet, magazines, etc. — can come to dominate our lives. Don’t let it. Simplify your life and your information consumption by limiting it. Try a media fast.
  9. Purge your stuff. If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels seriously terrific. Get boxes and trash bags for the stuff you want to donate or toss. Here’s my guide on decluttering. Here’s a post on starting small. More on purging below.
  10. Get rid of the big items. There’s tons of little clutter in our lives, but if you start with the big items, you’ll simplify your life quickly and in a big way. Read more.
  11. Edit your rooms. One room at a time, go around the room and eliminate the unnecessary. Act as a newspaper editor, trying to leave only the minimum, and deleting everything else. Article here.
  12. Edit closets and drawers. Once you’ve gone through the main parts of your rooms, tackle the closets and drawers, one drawer or shelf at a time. More here.
  13. Simplify your wardrobe. Is your closet bursting full? Are your drawers so stuffed they can’t close (I’m talking about dresser drawers here, not underwear). Simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of anything you don’t actually wear. Try creating a minimal wardrobe by focusing on simple styles and a few solid colors that all match each other. Read more.
  14. Simplify your computing life. If you have trouble with too many files and too much disorganization, consider online computing. It can simplify things greatly. Read more.
  15. Declutter your digital packrattery. If you are a digital packrat, and cannot seem to control your digital clutter, there is still hope for you. Read this guide to curing yourself of this clutter.
  16. Create a simplicity statement. What do you want your simple life to look like? Write it out. More here.
  17. Limit your buying habits. If you are a slave to materialism and consumerism, there are ways to escape it. I was there, and although I haven’t escaped these things entirely, I feel much freer of it all. If you can escape materialism, you can get into the habit of buying less. And that will mean less stuff, less spending, less freneticism. Read more.
  18. Free up time. Find ways to free up time for the important stuff. That means eliminating the stuff you don’t like, cutting back on time wasters, and making room for what you want to do.
  19. Do what you love. Once you’ve freed up some time, be sure to spend that extra time doing things you love. Go back to your list of 4-5 important things. Do those, and nothing else. Read more.
  20. Spend time with people you love. Again, the list of 4-5 important things probably contains some of the people you love (if not, you may want to re-evaluate). Whether those people are a spouse, a partner, children, parents, other family, best friends, or whoever, find time to do things with them, talk to them, be intimate with them (not necessarily in sexual ways).
  21. Spend time alone. See this list of ways to free up time for yourself — to spend in solitude. Alone time is good for you, although some people aren’t comfortable with it. It could take practice getting used to the quiet, and making room for your inner voice. It sounds new-agey, I know, but it’s extremely calming. And this quiet is necessary for finding out what’s important to you.
  22. Eat slowly. If you cram your food down your throat, you are not only missing out on the great taste of the food, you are not eating healthy. Slow down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more. Read more.
  23. Drive slowly. Most people rush through traffic, honking and getting angry and frustrated and stressed out. And endangering themselves and others in the meantime. Driving slower is not only safer, but it is better on your fuel bill, and can be incredibly peaceful. Give it a try. Read more.
  24. Be present. These two words can make a huge difference in simplifying your life. Living here and now, in the moment, keeps you aware of life, of what is going on around you and within you. It does wonders for your sanity. Read tips on how to do it.
  25. Streamline your life. Many times we live with unplanned, complex systems in our lives because we haven’t given them much thought. Instead, focus on one system at a time (your laundry system, your errands system, your paperwork system, your email system, etc.) and try to make it simplified, efficient, and written. Then stick to it. Here’s more. Another good article here.
  26. Create a simple mail & paperwork system. If you don’t have a system, this stuff will pile up. But a simple system will keep everything in order. Here’s how.
  27. Create a simple system for house work. Another example of a simple system is clean-as-you-go with a burst. Read more.
  28. Clear your desk. If you have a cluttered desk, it can be distracting and disorganized and stressful. A clear desk, however, is only a couple of simple habits away. Read more.
  29. Establish routines. The key to keeping your life simple is to create simple routines. A great article on that here.
  30. Keep your email inbox empty. Is your email inbox overflowing with new and read messages? Do the messages just keep piling up? If so, you’re normal — but you could be more efficient and your email life could be simplified with a few simple steps. Read more.
  31. Learn to live frugally. Living frugally means buying less, wanting less, and leaving less of a footprint on the earth. It’s directly related to simplicity. Here are 50 tips on how to live frugally.
  32. Make your house minimalist. A minimalist house has what is necessary, and not much else. It’s also extremely peaceful (not to mention easy to clean). More here.
  33. Find other ways to be minimalist. There are tons. You can find ways to be minimalist in every area of your life. Here are a few I do, to spur your own ideas.
  34. Consider a smaller home. If you rid your home of stuff, you might find you don’t need so much space. I’m not saying you should live on a boat (although I know some people who happily do so), but if you can be comfortable in a smaller home, it will not only be less expensive, but easier to maintain, and greatly simplify your life. Read about downsizing your home here.
  35. Consider a smaller car. This is a big move, but if you have a large car or SUV, you may not really need something that big. It’s more expensive, uses more gas, harder to maintain, harder to park. Simplify your life with less car. You don’t need to go tiny, especially if you have a family, but try to find as small a car as can fit you or your family comfortably. Maybe not something you’re going to do today, but something to think about over the long term.
  36. Learn what “enough” is. Our materialistic society today is about getting more and more, with no end in sight. Sure, you can get the latest gadget, and more clothes and shoes. More stuff. But when will you have enough? Most people don’t know, and thus they keep buying more. It’s a neverending cycle. Get off the cycle by figuring out how much is enough. And then stop when you get there.
  37. Create a simple weekly dinner menu. If figuring out what’s for dinner is a nightly stressor for you or your family, consider creating a weekly menu. Decide on a week’s worth of simple dinners, set a specific dinner for each night of the week, go grocery shopping for the ingredients. Now you know what’s for dinner each night, and you have all the ingredients necessary. No need for difficult recipes — find ones that can be done in 10-15 minutes (or less).
  38. Eat healthy. It might not be obvious how eating healthy relates to simplicity, but think about the opposite: if you eat fatty, greasy, salty, sugary, fried foods all the time, you are sure to have higher medical needs over the long term. We could be talking years from now, but imagine frequent doctor visits, hospitalization, going to the pharmacist, getting therapy, having surgery, taking insulin shots … you get the idea. Being unhealthy is complicated. Eating healthy simplifies all of that greatly, over the long term. Read about how to simplify your eating habits.
  39. Exercise. This goes along the same lines as eating healthy, as it simplifies your life in the long run, but it goes even further: exercise helps burn off stress and makes you feel better. It’s great. Here’s how to create the exercise habit.
  40. Declutter before organizing. Many people make the mistake of taking a cluttered desk or filing cabinet or closet or drawer, and trying to organize it. Unfortunately, that’s not only hard to do, it keeps things complicated. Simplify the process by getting rid of as much of the junk as possible, and then organizing. If you declutter enough, you won’t need to organize at all.
  41. Have a place for everything. Age-old advice, but it’s the best advice on keeping things organized. After you declutter. Read more here.
  42. Find inner simplicity. I’m not much of a spiritual person, but I have found that spending a little time with my inner self creates a peaceful simplicity rather than a chaotic confusion. This could be time praying or communing with God, or time spent meditating or journaling or getting to know yourself, or time spent in nature. However you do it, working on your inner self is worth the time.
  43. Learn to decompress from stress. Every life is filled with stress — no matter how much you simplify your life, you’ll still have stress (except in the case of the ultimate simplifier, death). So after you go through stress, find ways to decompress. Here are some ideas.
  44. Try living without a car. OK, this isn’t something I’ve done, but many others have. It’s something I would do if I didn’t have kids. Walk, bike, or take public transportation. It reduces expenses and gives you time to think. A car is also very complicating, needing not only car payments, but insurance, registration, safety inspections, maintenance, repairs, gas and more.
  45. Find a creative outlet for self-expression. Whether that’s writing, poetry, painting, drawing, creating movies, designing websites, dance, skateboarding, whatever. We have a need for self-expression, and finding a way to do that makes your life much more fulfilling. Allow this to replace much of the busy-work you’re eliminating from your life.
  46. Simplify your goals. Instead of having half a dozen goals or more, simplify it to one goal. Not only will this make you less stressed, it will make you more successful. You’ll be able to focus on that One Goal, and give it all of your energy. That gives you much better chances for success.
  47. Single-task. Multi-tasking is more complicated, more stressful, and generally less productive. Instead, do one task at a time.
  48. Simplify your filing system. Stacking a bunch of papers just doesn’t work. But a filing system doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful. Create a simple system.
  49. Develop equanimity. If every little thing that happens to you sends you into anger or stress, your life might never be simple. Learn to detach yourself, and be more at peace. Read more.
  50. Reduce your consumption of advertising. Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it works. Find ways to reduce your exposure of advertising, whether that’s in print, online, broadcast, or elsewhere. You’ll want much less.
  51. Live life more deliberately. Do every task slowly, with ease, paying full attention to what you’re doing. For more, see Peaceful Simplicity: How to Live a Life of Contentment.
  52. Make a Most Important Tasks (MITs) list each day. Set just 3 very important things you want to accomplish each day. Don’t start with a long list of things you probably won’t get done by the end of the day. A simple list of 3 things, ones that would make you feel like you accomplished something. See this article for more.
  53. Create morning and evening routines. A great way to simplify your life is to create routines at the start and end of your day. Read more on morning routines and evening routines.
  54. Create a morning writing ritual. If you enjoy writing, like I do, make it a peaceful, productive ritual. Article here.
  55. Learn to do nothing. Doing nothing can be an art form, and it should be a part of every life. Read the Art of Doing Nothing.
  56. Read Walden, by Thoreau. The quintessential text on simplifying. Available on Wikisources for free.
  57. Go for quality, not quantity. Try not to have a ton of stuff in your life … instead, have just a few possessions, but ones that you really love, and that will last for a long time.
  58. Read Simplify Your Life, by Elaine St. James. One of my favorite all-time authors on simplicity. Read my review here.
  59. Fill your day with simple pleasures. Make a list of your favorite simple pleasures, and sprinkle them throughout your day. List here.
  60. Simplify your RSS feeds. If you’ve got dozens of feeds, or more than a hundred (as I once did), you probably have a lot of stress in trying to keep up with them all. Simplify your feed reading. See How to Drop an RSS Feed Like a Bad Habit.
  61. But subscribe to Unclutterer. Probably the best blog on simplifying your stuff and routines (along with Zen Habits, of course!).
  62. Create an easy-to-maintain yard. If you spend too much time on your yard, here are some good tips.
  63. Carry less stuff. Are your pockets bulging. Consider carrying only the essentials. Some thoughts on that here.
  64. Simplify your online life. If you have too much going on online, here are a few ways to simplify it all. Article here.
  65. Strive to automate your income. This isn’t the easiest task, but it can (and has) been done. I’ve been working towards it myself. Article here.
  66. Simplify your budget. Many people skip budgeting (which is very important) because it’s too hard or too complicated. Read more here.
  67. Simplify your financial life. Article from a financial planning expert here.
  68. Learn to pack light. Who wants to lug a bunch of luggage around on a trip? Here’s an article on using just one carry-on.
  69. Use a minimalist productivity system. The minimal Zen To Done is all you need. Everything else is icing.
  70. Leave space around things in your day. Whether they’re appointments, or things you need to do, don’t stack them back-to-back. Leave a little space between things you need to do, so you will have room for contingencies, and you’ll go through your day much more relaxed.
  71. Live closer to work. This might mean getting a job closer to your home, or moving to a home closer to your work. Either will do much to simplify your life.
  72. Always ask: Will this simplify my life? If the answer is no, reconsider.

73 days until the Presidential Election: Oreo Cookies.

August 25, 2012

Ok, I was going to start on Day 74 but that would have involved a tirade on trying to find lavender that can be used in cooking in Boston which would have become a long rant on various annoying things people do at grocery stores which is the exact OPPOSITE of what I’m trying to do.

So, expect 73 blogs (give or take) of things that are good about these 50 states, various territories, outposts and things that we have accomplished. Some will be silly, some serious and some historical. All will be written with my inherent bias of a white, lesbian native Midwesterner with a mild disability living in the Boston area.

But today, I choose to uplift the Oreo cookie. Why? It’s simply the best selling cookie in the US. It is proof that one can eat vegan and have a horrific diet. The Oreo, in its simplicity, can spar hours of debate on the proper way to eat an Oreo. I admit doing some light (read Wiki) research. Remember how people (read probably a parent or grandmother) used to try to pass off Hydrox as Oreos? Oreos were invented by Nabisco to compete with Hydrox. Who says copies can’t be an improvement.

Yes, I try to eat as much non-GMO, 100% locally grown food as possible. But let’s face it: there are days that demand Oreos. And water. Never milk. And keep in mind that there is a reason that in October, especially around the 3rd Saturday, orange colored but not flavored filling comes out in the Oreos. We all know who the Oreo gods side with during that game. You never see a crimson colored Oreo. That would, of course, be blasphemy.

Red Tents, Lowe’s & Tebow . . . . thoughts from mid December

December 13, 2011

Two stories seemed to populate my twitter feed yesterday: The Houston Police arresting the OWS protestors under tents, outside of the view of others.  And Lowe’s decision to pull its advertising dollars from All-American Muslim on TLC (in fairness, supposedly BOA, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and GM also pulled their ads but those companies said they didn’t have any additional ads scheduled).  Facebook seemed to be teeming with Tebow.

Ack. I’d rather swallow cyanide.  The arrests out of public eye disturb me.  I’m not saying the Houston police did anything wrong.  It is the perception of arresting individuals outside of the public view when the individual is being arrested at a public assembly.  I really don’t have enough vested in the entire OWS movement (aside to think it’s hopelessly organized without goals for first order change) to even think it’s going to make a difference (ok, let’s shut down ports for day labors to protest imports?).  What does disturb me is the keeping the press away from arrests, breaking up camps and events in general: it happened in Boston (in our pretty liberal city with a Mayor For Life).  I’m also bemused in that ironic way that defines me that the only time various cities can seem to act together is in arresting citizens who really aren’t breaking any major laws.  Heaven forbid cities work together for something like, oh, job creation, sustainable development or crazy things like that.  Let’s face it, the OWS protestors/campers really didn’t do a lot of damage compared to winning say, the World Series and a good Nor’Easter or such event would have sent many scurrying.

Oh Lowe’s.  Once again, a company caves to the views of a few.  First, the group that managed to get Lowe’s to stop ads managed to raise the profile of a so-so cable show (brought to you by the network of the pro-creating crazies in Arkansas (what are they at? 20 now?), the objectification of children as beauty pageant contestants and the whacko kate/jon/children drama).  The sad reality is that Lowe’s is (compared to Home Depot) a low activist company: very few dollars donated in the past election cycles.  Seriously? You are going to go after Lowe’s for advertising against the trumped-up right-wing ‘values’.  Um, while you are at it .  . . how about going after Delta and Expeida for supporting the LGBT community? Or Goya for daring to sell food that is traditional found in Latin American cuisine? And Lowe’s? Seriously? You are running from a fringe group.  I’d say boycott Lowe’s but most would run to Home Depot … and well, Home Depot has a worse record since buying local is “more expensive”.  Rolls eyes.

Which brings me to number 3.  Tim Tebow.  Ok, look, he is probably a nice kid.  He is a Florida Gator so…that’s a strike.  I don’t believe in a view of any faith that starts off with “Let me first give thanks. . . ” (I’m pretty sure there is a part in The Bible about praying in private….which makes that weird pose he does annoying).  My thought (and in all fairness, I’m suspect of any born again anything) on Tebow is this: he’s what 23? Who isn’t dumb at 23?  I’m bemused at best by his comments on marital relationships when he is admittedly an unmarried virgin who has already published his autobiography!  Look, I get that he is a PK missionary kid: he is a good quarterback.  He hasn’t done something to fall from grace like Lance, Tiger or Maguire.  I hope he doesn’t: not because OF his faith but because I hope he is a decent person.  I don’t believe he has a “divine talent”, it cracks me up the amount of time people have spent talking about Tebow (ok, this week Boston plays Denver so…).  Maybe Tebow became “hot” because of Penn State and people wanting to believe in football again (for those of us who follow the SEC, we’ve seen this annoying pose for y-e-a-r-s).  Maybe Tebow became hot because of the insane 4th quarter comebacks (note to Tim: don’t try it against New England or in the playoffs).  Who knows. But there are a lot of devout football players: the difference, most of them are not white quarterbacks.  Maybe why that is Tebowmania drives me nuts (that and his gator heritage).

But if you are going to boycott Lowe’s please don’t go to Home Depot. . . .

Best laid plans. . . .

December 12, 2011

There are a million reasons I could never be a parent.  Most of them involve my utter lack of ability to plan and execute to a “normal” level.  Take today for example.  ALL day I sat around thinking “potato soup”.  I completely obsessed about it: and came home to find out that I didn’t have any potatoes. Massive #fail!  Sigh.  Fortunately, I had some onion soup left over from when my mom visited: 100% local (except the cognac).  I mean, my mom whipped this up one afternoon when I was at work. WHO whips up onion soup? (aside from the obvious?).

Onion Soup

Oh winter soups . . . .

I was so glad to have this to come home to have as my Plan B!  I spent the weekend in Atlantic City: had a good time but realized how bland commercialized food can be.  Honestly, I found myself wondering how much junk I put into my body when traveling: I honestly would have flunked tell this salad from its companion apart.  The food wasn’t bad … it just wasn’t good.  I’ve become used to the freshness of food.  Somebody remind me of this come January when I’m looking for an avocado.

So, for the soup:

Broth based on veggies from Shared Harvest CSA and beef from 8 O’Clock Ranch.

Onions from Red Fire Farm

Cheese from Grasse River B Ranch (via 8 O’Clock Ranch).

Not local: Cognac.

 

Random Acts of Kindness

December 6, 2011

So, apparently my car decided that it wanted to see a mechanic today, not tomorrow which fit my schedule much better.  I had a hunch I had a loose cable connection but honestly just don’t have the grip strength to open the latch of the hood of the car.  So, on my way home the blasted thing died.  I saw it coming and was able to ditch into a parking lot of a Nissan car dealership.  Ok, if you *live* near these guys, go there for car repairs if you have a Nissan family of cars.  I spend my time complaining about poor customer service (aka Best Buy) and frustrations on common courtesy.  Here is what happened today:

My car dies 1/2 way up their driveway (great, eh?).  They push it up hill.  Try to run the diagnostics: because I have a Ford (and hush, it’s 6 years old, 90K miles and no problems) they can only offer to replace the alternator.  They were not 100% sold that it might not be a slipped cable or a cabling issue.  They didn’t want to just slap in a $500 part/labor item when I could be towed to a Ford dealer (they do business with them and suggested them, hey, that works for me) and have a lesser repair bill.  I’m thrilled.  Then the service manager said “I’m not charging you fo the diagnostics: we can’t diagnosis because of the differences and it’s not right to pass a bill to you.” What?  ::blink::  He then called over to Ford, said I was being towed over and made sure they could look at my car tomorrow morning (they closed at 5:30 today, it was 4:45).  I think I’m in love.

I get over to Ford, they are ready, fill out the paper work and confirm they don’t have a loaner.  The rental place doesn’t have anything until tomorrow mid-day and the woman tells me “why don’t you wait until we run the diagnostics: your lights, dash and other items are coming on before renting a car.” It still could be the alternator.  It still could be a few days.  But in both cases, two different service departments went out of their way to make sure I didn’t spend extra money.  I’m not a long-standing customer, I’ve never been in either one before.  Maybe a bit of restoring of people looking out for people: maybe another side of doing business with local merchants.

I’m mostly just grateful for random acts for a few people today: I hate dealing with cars and while I don’t have the bill, I’m not completely freaking out about what comes next.

Lessons From BestBuy and Occupy Wall Street

December 1, 2011

I really think it was karmic revenge.  I finally received the UPS tracking number.  I should have the item on Monday.

I try to be a local consumer as much as possible.  Let’s face it: it is damn near impossible to be 100% locavore/consumer unless you live in a city and don’t have a car.  I linked somewhere about the average carrot traveling approximately 900 miles before reaching the consumer.  Mine travelled 28.  I have heard about rising food costs (ok, don’t laugh at me: most of my food comes from CSA/farm stands which tend to have some fixed prices) and when researching a completely different issue on the Attorney General’s office, learned that in MA, the minimum wage for agricultural workers is$1.60/hour (compare that to wait staff who receive tips and have a minimum wage of $2.31/hour) and wonder where the disconnect is between the two points.

I wonder about the ease of the food supply chain (avocados in January, in New England? No problem!) and wonder what that is doing to our bodies, our environment and well, the reality of what are we seeing in terms of a constant on-demand society.  I made one of my rare grocery store trips the other week for a few oranges to put in a chutney I was making.  My choice(s) were South African, Florida or Mexico.  The South African oranges were the cheapest: how? Having done the flight from Boston to that part of South Africa, I can say it is an excruciating 26 hour flight.  I’m not going to get into the debate of “buy American” over oranges: my thought was exceedingly simple: how on earth is it cheaper to get an orange from the RSA versus the end of I-95?  None were organic, I’ve come to realize that “fair trade” and agriculture is an oxymoron, and all were probably commercially farmed.  I went with the one from Florida. I’m not sure that I want to go back to only being able to get locally grown, native foods (let’s face it, Columbus was looking for a passage to India for a reason) – plus I live in Massachusetts and I hate kale. I’d probably die if I had to survive a winter of kale based products.

I’ve been thinking about the local business movement: franchises throw me for a loop, national marketing support and/but locally owned.  The statistics abound about buying locally and the economic return to your community.  For me, I’ve realized it goes a bit deeper: buying from a small local farm, chances are I’m supporting a local business that is family run: not allowing a ConAgra to pay a person under $2.00/hour to pick my veggies (think about it for a second: based on a full year, a person working for that sanctioned wage makes UNDER $4,000 a year).

Two weeks ago, I was chatting with one of the farmers who grew the squash that is now in my freezer.  We talked about different recipes, favorite ways to cook squash and had a pleasant conversation.  This week, I did battle with a big box company that still hasn’t responded to me.  The reality? Both organizations received roughly the same amount of money from me.  One group (the farmers affiliate with the CSA appreciate my small volume of business, the other place? I’m a number.)

Karmic revenge.  Yes, in part it’s customer service but it’s also about investing my dollars into my community.  Can I be a 100% local only consumer? No.  Can I be a 95%  local consumer? Hopefully.  Maybe (in part) that is part of the message from OWS.  We have to invest in our local communities.  Our bailouts aren’t coming: but we can back away from the big boxes.  If $2 separates you from a local vendor vs a chain, you probably don’t need the item.  And from my perspective? How can we complain about a lack of local jobs when our shopping habits dictate so much of the employment opportunities available.

Still wating a response from Best Buy . . . . .

November 30, 2011

Dear Mr. Dunn, Ms. Smith and Mr. Paragi,

I am writing to inform you that I have simply never experienced such a monumental break down in customer service that I have endured for the 6 days with BestBuy.com.  While I realize many customers say they won’t shop an establishment again as a mere threat, I won’t shop with you again.  You won’t miss my business: I purchase very little in the way of electronics and when I do, I prefer to use local merchants.

However, this year, my sister wanted to purchase a Sony Computer Entertainment America-PlayStation 3 (160GB) Complete Entertainment Bundle-98310 which, as you know, was Black Friday door buster for $199.99.  This pricing or item was not unique to BestBuy: Wal-Mart and Target also offered the same product at the same price.  My sister’s preference for BestBuy had me purchase the item for her.  I used my credit card, had it shipped to my address.  On 11/24, I received an order confirmation stating that Order Number: BBY01-429769002426 was in process and expected to ship in 0-1 days.  On Monday (11/28) I received an email telling me there was a problem with my credit card or order.  As the on-line status indicated the item could not be cancelled and was in process, I did not pursue it feeling it might be an on-line scam.

Once I received as second email on 11/29 (Tuesday), I felt there might be a problem.  I called my credit card company, American Express, and they verified an authorization in the amount of $297.47 (American Express authorization number xxxxxx) to BestBuy for my order.  At this point, I called your customer service number to inquire as to the problem (I surmised it might have been a missed CIV number).  After spending 10 minutes on hold, to be transferred where I sat on hold for another 20 minutes, my day of sheer lunacy with your company began.

1)      Call number one: I was disconnected after being on the phone for approximately 46 minutes.

2)      Call number two: after second hold time of approximately 30 minutes, I spoke to “Judy” who claimed to be a supervisor.  She opened case number 9296255 regarding the multiple issues with this order.  I asked to speak to her manager: she stated that she did not have a supervisor as she “was” a supervisor.  I pointed out to her that everybody had a supervisor, even Mr. Dunn who reports to the Board of Directors.  I asked to hold: she declined and took my number and said one would call me back “within the hour”.  22 hours later, I am still waiting for a call back. During my conversation with Judy, she explained that because my order shipped in 2 parts, my credit card had to be re-authorized.  At this point, I explained your organization is still holding a charge pending and it’s a debit system back and once all 3 items are deducted, the balance owed to you from American Express and ultimately me would be zero.

  1. I discussed with the next 3 people the lack of “ship complete” options available on BestBuy.com.  I verified this when I made the order and then again today.  I would have done ship complete as the controller and blue-ray DVD remote are of no use to me without the PlayStation.  This is a basic feature for web sites.  In the early 1990’s (fully 20 years ago), Talbots had this feature available for telephone orders.  BN.com has this available today.
  2. I do not understand the logic behind multiple re-authorizations of a credit card when the credit has already been reserved by the credit card company.  At this point, BestBuy.com is holding $279.97 AND $212.49 of my credit for an order that totals $279.97.

3)      After contacting American Express, they agreed to one-off a second authorization to BestBuy.com for $212.49 so the item may be shipped.

4)      I called BestBuy.com again and provided the credit card number: the individual I spoke with was unable to verify that the charge went through (BestBuy case number xxxxxxxx)

5)      At 2:19 pm, I contacted the customer relations department listed on your web site and spoke to a gentleman named Lee.  He informed me it was not his job to handle complaints from BestBuy.Com.  At this point, I would like to point out the insanity of listing a customer relations department on your web site that does not handle web issues.  He then transferred me to “web research”.

6)      After spending 7 minutes on hold, Amy, verified that she was unable to do anything, unable to expedite my order and unable to explain to me why there was not a ship complete option and why the dual charge/charge release was your business practice.

7)      As of 10:38 this morning, the tracking number for the controller and remote are not showing tracking information.  My order for the PlayStation is still showing as “pending” and I have an additional charge (with no credit release) to my credit card company.

I am quite disgusted with BestBuy.com on several fronts: first, my calls were routinely dropped after 10-11 minutes of hold time because the phone lines were “too busy” according to the automated reply.  Second, your employees are not empowered to provide customer service to individuals who purchase from your store/on-line shop.  Third, there is not a mechanism to re-enter a credit card number during your on-line system when you have indicated there is an issue with a credit card number.  Fourth, there is zero point of escalation for individuals when resolution is complex.

I am not asking for a free PlayStation (although that would go a long way in taking your organization off of my blacklist) for my sister.  I do believe that your organization should do something to compensate me for my time and sheer lack of customer service provided by your organization.  At this point, I expect delivery of all 3 of my items by the end of the week and my American Express card to reflect a total charge of $279.97 with no pending debit holds from your company.

As you know, customers are exceedingly choosy about who they shop with for a myriad of reasons.  I had a choice when selecting who to purchase this item from: I made a mistake. The “bargain” that this item sold for has been nothing but a nightmare, between charge/charge backs to my credit card, unable to ship complete on web orders, employees who have lied to me and a simple inability to find out when I will receive my product.

I look forward to your reply,

(A not so) Best Buy: Tales in (missing) Customer Service

November 29, 2011

I’m sure this is karmic revenge for my friends who are tired of hearing me rail on the evils of on-line box stores.  First, let me be clear, this was my good deed of the decade as I was trying to help my sister surprise her tweeners.  It turned out to be my pro-local business, über vigilance coming back to bite me in the butt.  (Really, Santa, it was a GOOD DEED!).  My sister wanted to purchase a video gaming system for her kids for Christmas: since she has prying eyes, we agreed I’d get it for her, she’d pay me back – thus avoiding the problem of a possible false flag for credit card fraud and a surprise on Christmas morning.

Somehow, I managed to check every hour, on the hour, until this blasted thing went on sale.  I pre-notified my credit card company of out of habit spending.  I got it! I received the happy email from Best Buy saying “we will be sending this shortly”.  Great, I could see the authorization hold on my card and thought nothing of it.

Yesterday, I received and e-mail saying their was a problem with my credit card.  Since I don’t shop at Best Buy (and note, never will again), I decided to call them (being a bit paranoid about credit card scams since the on-line status said my order was pending).  I was on hold 10 minutes. .  .to be transferred to the department that handles payments for games.  Ok, seriously? It’s a CREDIT CARD.  I sat on hold for 27 minutes (thankfully, I was working on a table at work) before being told my credit card had been denied. What? I provided them the authorization number given to me by the always fantastic American Express.

So, it turns out when you have an order shipped in more than one package (and there wasn’t a ship complete option!), Best Buy re-authorizes your credit card. Each. Time.  My credit card company thought it was fraud. Fast forward 6 hours (!!!!).  I had called Best Buy numerous times: including a supervisor who when I asked to speak to a manager said she didn’t have one: I pointed out she had a boss, even the CEO has a boss, called the customer service number listed on www.bestbuy.com and was told this number wasn’t for dot.com orders (what?) and that customer service couldn’t help me.  After much frustration and a bit of laughter from my co-workers I finally found somebody who could answer my question: the order was forced through after calls between Best Buy and American Express.  The person who “researches” internet issues told me she’s had a few hundred of these complaints.  Gee, I wonder why? Charging-refunding-charging cards? All with fees attached to both the consumer and company?

I’m livid with Best Buy, I’ll be writing several individuals in the company.  But oh, did I deserve it: I knew I should have bought the damn thing locally.  And trust me, I’m not going to purchase anything from Best Buy Worse Experience Ever again.  And the kicker? People asking me what they could do to help: hint, fix my order.

And while you are waiting you can get a (not so healthy) bite to eat

October 29, 2011

A few weeks ago I had to have some diagnostic testing done.  Nothing major – but there was a wait time involved and the tech said to me I could grab a bite to eat while I waited.  Since I actually was hungry (and had lost the paper that said if I could eat before or not…), I went to grab something at the Souper Salad located at my favorite HUB area teaching hospital.  I don’t know if it’s a city law (or state – things I don’t pay attention to in this area) but the calorie counts were posted and a full nutritional disclosure was available.  From their website, the restaurant claims  “Since 1976, Souper Salad has been satisfying Boston’s appetite with a healthy and delicious menu  filled with the freshest Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, Wraps, Pita Pizzas and our signature Walkabouts.”  Healthy? As in Carol Brady healthy.  I was stunned.  Normally this isn’t a blog worthy event: although I’ll admit being a bit surprised that all of the breakfast options had over 25 grams of fat and the sodium count is out of this world (I mean, we are IN a hospital people! In all fairness the other option is Starbucks which isn’t much better and is a privately owned chain.).  Thankfully, I found a Luna bar at the bottom of my bag and grabbed an over priced bottle of water.

I was thinking this was some wacko anomaly until I ran across the following post on Fooducate.  3 major children’s hospitals in this country have a McDonald’s on site.  Yup, you read that right: Children’s of San Diego, Children’s of Los Angeles and Texas Children’s.  According to Fooducate, the one at CHOP closed because of space needs.  Ok, let me think this through: you have a child at a major teaching center, chances are it’s not for putting in ear tubes.  S/he has some thing seriously wrong or (let’s face it) because of the teaching status of the hospitals, you might be on some form of Medicare/Medicaid.  What does it say about the hospital to rent out the space to a known purveyor of garbage? junk food as one of the options?  How do doctors/nurses/dietitians look patients in the face and provide advise on overcoming obesity, eating healthy with limited resources, and providing tips on foods that are better choices than fast food when down the hall sits the golden arches?

Look, I’m the first to say hospital food (for the most part) sucks.  But the one thing hospital foods (and eateries in a hospital should be) is nutritious.  Perhaps as part of their well needed awareness on the food choices people make, the medical community should examine the food available within the four walls of their institutions.  In times of need, stress many people will eat: perhaps not encouraging bad nutrition by what is available would be a good first step.

On occupation and other musings

October 9, 2011

I spent yesterday thinking about why the “Occupy Wall Street” protests bother me: I usually don’t care about protests as long as they stay non-violent on both sides.  At some point I realized why I was so bothered: it’s the myth of “all people being born equal”.  While there is a tad bit of truth (everybody is born naked, covered in junk and (hopefully) crying, after that, nothing is ever again equal until the final resting place of the body.  Every thing between is a combination of luck (as most of us railed at some point, we didn’t ask to be born or pick our families), fortune and effort.

For some reason, most people believe the idea of equality.  Ok, let me say this.  I don’t. Equality is a myth.  We all do not posses equal talents (if we did, would there be awe in the innate talents of some people?).  Where are we failing as a society? Has anybody ever seen a kid’s baseball game where all the kids play?  There is something for having every kid have an at bat and in the field but learning that as a person you are not good at something is, I would argue, is one of the more important lessons of childhood.  There is failure when there is failure of effort: NOT failure of skill (I’m speaking about children than people like, oh heart surgeons).

The ideal of a utopia is just that: an ideal.  Can the world be made more equitable? Yes.  But don’t for a minute think we are all equal: we are all unique and with different opportunities.  Our goal should be to maximize the potential.

But on the student loan side: here is a simple solution.  Before being allowed to take out a student loan, parents and students need to take a course demonstrating where they have to pass a test understanding the loan repayment and the needed income (net) to repay, rent a home within a 10 mile radius of the 5 most populated areas for alumni and receive information on the average monthly loan re-payment for graduates in the past 10 years.  Right now, students have to show they know the ‘evils’ of alcohol before enrolling at schools such as the University of South Carolina and Texas Tech.  How about mandating a valuable skill before handing over the fees?