Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Joys of Customer Service at

One of the nice things about having a blog is that it gives me a good place to vent on occasion. Today's been a long day - three classes to teach and met with student for about three hours in addition to that answering questions abut their valuation models. So, I'm basically wasting time before I have to leave and pick up the Unknown daughter from Girl Scouts. So, here's a minor vent.

I recently bought a Nook Color from "Daily Steals" ( The price (only $130) seemed like a deal that was too good to be true.

Being a born skeptic, I often tell people "if it seems like it's too good to be true, it probably is." I should listen to myself more often (and not merely when I'm saying "my preciousssss".)

About two weeks after I bought my Nook, it started malfunctioning - it would unexpectedly turn off, and then wouldn't boot unless the charger cable was connected (I think the "on/off" button might have had a bad connection - once booted, it would stay on, at least for a while). So, I sent them an email, and received an automated response saying
Your email is very important to us. You can be confident that we will adress your questions in a timely manner. A Customer Service Representative will personally respond to you within 1-2 business days. You may also contact our Live Chat during
business hours, Mon-Thu: 9:30-5 ET and Fri: 9-2 ET. We are closed on Saturday, Sunday and Holidays.
Two days go by, and no email response. So, I call their customer service number. I got a recording (that sounded suspiciously like Kasey Kasem - maybe he's doing a bit of work on the side), and ended up on hold for a half an hour.

Next, I tried their "live chat feature, and got a customer service person in a chat session. Here it is (I've done very minor editing only, since my typing-fu is not all that great):

Judith: Hi There! Welcome to DailySteals Live Chat. How can I assist you today?

Me: I am following up on an email I sent abut a defective product (two days ago) -- I have pasted the content into the email into the chat window to make your life easier. Here it is:
I ordered a Nook Color (order ID XXX) on 10/16/2011 (and received it on 10/27). It worked fine for the first few weeks, but it now appears to be defective. It will only boot when the charger is plugged in (and not using battery power only). In addition, it sometimes cuts off unexpectedly. The device information on the Nook says that if the Nook is defective and it was NOT purchased from a Barnes and Nobile store, I should contact the retailer from which I purchased it. So, I am contacting you to see what you can do for me.

Judith: Please send us an email to so we can have someone look into this for you.

(methinks Judith needs to read the message I just sent)

Me: I have already sent an email (as I mentioned in the chat, I sent it two days ago). I am chatting to follow up on that email. Are you saying that I should send another email to verify the first one? After all, It's been several days, and I haven't heard back on that one yet.

Judith: I am unable to assist you with this via live chat and if you have received an email correspondence, you need to respond to the email

(this sounds like a canned response)

Me: I am not responding to an email. I am "talking" to you because I HAVE ALREADY SENT AN EMAIL AND I HAVE NOT RECEIVED A RESPONSE. My problem is that I have sent an email and I have received no response. Is there a real live person I can talk to?

Judith: When did you send your email?

(again, there seems to be a lack of reading comprehension here)

Me: Please read my previous chat - I sent it two days ago.

Judith: You will receive a response very soon

Me: What does that statement mean? Is that a standard response to inquiries, or does it mean that you have checked into my SPECIFIC request and have verified that my problem is being handled?

Judith: It means that based on the date you emailed, you will receive a response from a representative shortly

Me: in other words, the first case.

Me: An additional question - what does "very soon" mean? A day, three days, a week?

Judith: Either today or tomorrow

Me: Good. If I haven't heard from anyone by then, I will assume that customer service is
not a priority (after all, three days is a long time to wait to receive a response for a basic inquiry). At that point I think it would be appropriate to post this whole episode on my blog - I have a bit more than 1,000 subscribers, and I'm always looking for material. That's not intended as a threat, by the way. It's just that I (and most people I know) value customer service highly. So, buying a product at a "great" price is not a deal if there are easily avoidable problems down the line.

Just for the record (in case anyone wants to contact me), the email is and my cell phone # is XXX-XXX-XXXX

It will be interesting to see how long "today or tomorrow takes." Ah well, at least I know that if it doesn;t work out, I have the satisfaction of knowing that the thousand or so subscribers who have nothing better to do than read this blog (seriously, people, you need to get a life) will know whiat the downside of "deal sites" are.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Random Thoughts

It's been a busy month or so since FMA, so I've been out of touch blog-wise, So her are a few snippets:
  • We're now in the final throes of the semester (only two weeks left once the students get back from Thanksgiving), and they just had their second exam in my principles class). So, I had about 1000 pages of grading to do (I don't do scan-tron graded exams). But they did extremely well, so I feel good about it. Now all I have left to cover is CAPM and WACC, so I'm right on schedule.

  • I've been experimenting with online web-conferencing software as an enhancement to my classes. We use a really clunky system called Sakai, which has limited web-conferencing capabilities (only 15 or so concurrent users). So I and another faculty who's also a techie have been looking into using a commercial vendor that will allow us to do deliver online instruction (and review sessions) for 50-100 students at a time. I figure that this (along with my pre-recorded videos) could be the backbone for a fairly thorough and well-done online class.
  • The little guy is talking up a storm, and is a riot to be around. He loves to get a running start and then do a running headbutt. Unfortunately, he's at just the right height that he hits his dad in a very sensitive area. But it was pretty funny at Thanksgiving when he caught his uncle unawares. It probably didn't help that I distracted him at just the right moment. when he wasn't. Not nice, I know. But funny
  • Trying to get a paper out this weekend, another one in the following week, and a third one over December break. And then I'll do the usual scramble to get a new piece together for the FMA deadline in January.
Finally, I came across a pretty good quote (by Aristophanes) that will probably make it onto my door: “Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever.”

Gotta get to bed. Later.

Putting on a Last Minute Push

Football coaches across the country work constantly on getting their players to play especially hard at the end of each game. Often, the difference between winning and losing is based on who can put on the strongest push in the final moments. One last valiant effort can lead to a victory that will be remembered with fondness for years to come.

When my students return from Thanksgiving break, they will have one more week of classes and then final exams. In less than 2 weeks, it will be all over. They can be lethargic or they can be energized. I know what I want. I don’t want them to coast out. I want them to finish strong. Why do all this work throughout the semester only to fade out at the very end? If the material is worth learning, now is the time to put on that push to add even more knowledge and understanding.

Here at the end of the semester, I like to challenge my students to keep pushing forward. I think it is human nature; people need motivation. For students, it is quite easy to start operating on auto-pilot and just coast out. I don’t want that.

So, this morning, I went through my grade book and divided my students into six groups depending on their grade so far this semester: A students, high B students, mid-range B students, high C students, mid-range C students, and students with averages lower than C.

For each group, I composed a general email where I first reminded them of where they stood going into the last few days of the semester. I didn’t want anyone to be delusional about their grades at this point. I think students can get used to “Santa Claus graders” – teachers who give them better grades for a course despite their averages. They need to know that I am not going to play Santa Claus. You can catch a student’s attention very quickly by simply reminding them: “If you don’t do better on the final exam, you are going to get a C in this course.” Reality sets in, or maybe panic.

Through these emails, I hope to challenge every student to give their very best efforts here at the end of the semester. Below is the email that I sent out to the students who were in the high B range. I really want to see if I can’t get many of these students to step up and go for the A rather than settle for the B. I always say that I like aggressive, ambitious students who play for the win. I think they’ll remember this course with pride for a long, long time if they are able to do well on the final exam and turn that B into an A.

“I am writing this note to the students who have a relatively high B average (84.5 – 89.4) going into the final week of classes. First, let me congratulate you on a very good effort this semester. You have done well and I’m quite pleased with your effort throughout this semester. This is a challenging class and you've done well.

“I am writing, though, to urge you to put on a good push here at the end of the semester and shoot for the A. It won’t be easy but you do have the chance. Every semester, I have students who move into the A range by doing a great job on the final examination. It is the biggest part of your course grade. It can make a big difference. You are capable of that. I’m always so very pleased when a student hits a home run on the final exam and goes from B to A.

“And, I do give grades of B+ and A- so even if you don’t quite make an A, you can still improve your grade.

“There’s no shame in making a B in Accounting 201. I actually made that grade myself when I was a sophomore in 1967 and my life hasn’t been ruined. But you’ve worked so hard. I would love to see you make it all the way.

“Good luck. I’ll be cheering for you. Win, lose, or draw – it has been a pleasure working with you in class this semester. You really should consider taking more accounting. As I like to say – you seem to have the knack for it.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to Read a Student Evaluation

Interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on what a professor can learn from student evaluations. The article is insightful as are a lot of the numerous comments that were left by readers.