Friday, December 08, 2017

Rustomers: Rus's IT Customer Tales

My name is Rus.

In a former life, I repaired computers - more specifically - Apple computers. From time to time, I still dabble in IT work as a side income.

I say the words, "former life" almost literally as I feel I may have died - several times - come back only to be able to relate these stories to you  ... much like the character in the TV series "Forever". (preview below)

Here is one of many insane stories of customer service nightmares I've had to deal with over the years. I'll add to this story in the weeks to come.

1)  In the times before Apple Stores were within a reasonable driving distance, I was in pretty high demand. Also, in some cases, certain people, for certain reasons didn't want to go into a large retail establishment - especially a shopping mall.

I used to work in a small computer repair shop as
"The Apple Guy" ← that was kinda my unofficial title.

One day, a tall, rail framed, young white male with a scar through his left eyebrow, diamond stud earrings, a backwards hat that said "Brooklyn" written in graffiti-style cursive above the plastic sizing snaps, acid washed jeans about mid-thigh, jockey underwear showing, a sports jersey style shirt that said "00" and "Brooklyn Dodgers", and a very large gold chain around his neck with what seemed to be a solid gold and diamond studded emblem that said "BOSS" around his neck - came into the shop to ask for a diagnosis of his Apple laptop that wasn't booting.

I should stress that he asked for a diagnosis - and specifically said several times to call him before I made any repairs. The diagnosis was a standard $35 dollar charge - of which - the balance was applied to your final bill should you have our shop repair your computer. I confirmed that the unit was not booting in front of him while he turned the laptop towards me over the customer counter.

I don't want to make this sound stereotypical - but it was. This guy had bloodshot eyes. He had what looked to be heroin bruise holes and belt/tourniquet marks on his arms. Every sentence he spoke began with, "Here it is" like he was about to break dance for me and every sentence ended with a hip hop style, "you know what I'm sayin' yo"

He filled out his paperwork with only a first name and a phone number. 

The first name he wrote?

FIRST   _____BOSS______      LAST _____________

I didn't question the contact information. 

He left the shop and I started immediately into it. As was my standard practice, I used a program called "Diskwarrior" to see if I could diagnose and fix the booting process and then go from there.

Diskwarrior booted the unit fine. I started the Diskwarrior processes. It completed. I restarted the unit. It booted perfectly.

Upon finalizing the boot, several programs/documents were apparently set to launch on startup. A map of a nearby neighborhood popped up that had red dots on it. An excel database popped up with names and phone numbers. A word document with numbers that looked to be balancing a checkbook popped up. I honestly didn't examine it thoroughly, but it was kinda obvious what popped up. It was a narcotics delivery and balance sheet.

I immediately shut down the laptop. I waited a little while then consulted with my colleagues about the situation. We agreed that I would wait 30 more minutes then call him and tell him his computer had been diagnosed and to come back in. I should have followed that exact plan. Instead, being excited that I had fixed the unit in less than 15 minutes and his only charge would be the diagnosis fee - I called him after a little more wait and said ...

"Your computer is fixed."

I was going to add that it was fixed in the process of diagnosis, but I was interrupted with a very loud scream through the phone.

"WHAT!!!!! I told you to diagnose it yo! I told you to diagnose it yo! I said mother[bleep]in' diagnose NOT FIX yo! I'm coming up there!"

I started running all sorts of scenarios through my head. Was he loading bullets into a gun? Was he loading bullets into guns, plural? Was he about to crash his car through the lobby? Should I call 9-1-1?

He arrived. His face was red. He opened the door violently - and if any harder - he'd have ripped it from the hinges like The Terminator after John Connor. He came up to the desk and said,

"Where's my computer yo? I told you to diagnose it yo! That's what I said! You heard me! Diagnose! I didn't say fix! I said call me before you fix it yo! You said, "Yes." I said, "You know what I'm sayin" You said, "Yes" again. What did you do? What DID YOU DO? You fixed it and that's not what I said, you know what I'm sayin'?"

The more he yelled, the more purple his face turned - the more I could see his jugular vein in his neck pulsing.

He continued for another 2-3 minutes - repeating the same thing over and over. All of my colleagues came out. One of my co-workers who was a rather big guy said,

"Look, how about we give you your money back. It looks like the Apple Guy here followed your instructions exactly, it's just that sometimes - the diagnosis fixes a computer. There just wasn't a lot wrong with it. Just something out of place."

He started breathing hard. I could see what looked like the outline of a gun on his hip slightly protruding after each stomach pump from his hard breathing 

With not a word further. He put a $50 bill on the table. He stormed out with his laptop like King Kong about to scale the Empire State Building with a girl in his hand.
The End.

More to come soon.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

I bought a DART, But Got TRANKED Powerless By Their Customer Service.

I guess it seemed cool, with a successful kickstarter campaign and all ...

In the original fundraising text on kickstarter, FINSIX promises with the DART ...
"One, tiny Dart. Power for all your devices. 
Perfect for your mobile lifestyle."
 Then there's this gem of jargon ...
"The Dart is the world’s smallest, lightest laptop adapter. At a powerful 65W it is a perfect complement to today’s thin, lightweight, portable laptops. It fits in a pocket and is designed with a USB port and single outlet profile to make it easy for you to stay charged up when you're on the road. We hope you are as excited about the Dart as we are and looking forward to finally carrying just one, tiny Dart to charge all your electronics. Join our campaign and never be stuck powerless again!" 
I admit, I liked the wording. So, when I saw the product at my local Staples and thoroughly examined the box, I was excited. I thought ... "Okay, gonna power me some Macbooks and chrome laptops!"

Why on earth did I think that?

Because FINSIX said so, right on it's box.

Wish it had given the web page listed (below) on the box. It's a HUGE list of incompatible laptops. In fact, there's more that the DART doesn't work on than it does work on. The list of incompatible laptops is so big, they have to make up a new English dictionary entry ... 

This page isn't the "incompatible page", it's the "noncompatible page".

All sides of the DART Box
(click picture to enlarge)
DART Non-compatibility Page 

But here's the real gotcha in that wording .. 


Yes, I read "Check your compatibility at", but I see absolutely no one in a store, besides me EVER, researching products, especially Universal AC adapters that will "power all of your devices - tip compatibility gauranteed." What about senior citizens? Most don't have a smartphone, and the ones that do, don't use them like that - in store. I mean, I'm an IT guy who repairs computers and I admit, I was duped by the awesomeness.

So, I get it home. It doesn't have a USB-C tip. It doesn't have a Macbook tip. It doesn't even have an older iBook tip - like nearly all Universal laptop power supplies do. The Macbook at several points during its sales trajectory has been the number one seller. I can actually understand not including a proprietary tip like the Apple magsafe tip - even though the wording might tell the novice differently. What I don't understand is the USB-C tip - which is common among several brands of computers now.

Let's give FINSIX a pass on Apple adapter tips for a moment. 

What about Chrome laptops?

Nope. The two most common Chromebook laptops are made by Dell and Samsung (which are technically the same) - also no tip included.

So, I decided to send an email to get my tips - because you know - tip compatibility guaranteed right?

I won't bore you with the details, but to make a long story short .. the DART is not the DART-C. So, even though the manufacture date of the AC adapter is rather recent (2017) - the DART doesn't fit laptops released over the last 3 years. There's an entirely different universal AC adapter. So, even with tip compatibility guaranteed, no DART for you! But wait! If you want to fork over an additional $30, DART will ship you a DART-C cord/tip/whatever.

The Macbook? Well, that's interesting! After failing miserably with a customer service guy at DART, I tried for a MacBook Magsafe magnetic tip/adapter. I was certain this would also be a gotcha. To my surprise, I was told that a MAGSAFE 2 tip was available and for the free shipping as promised on the box. That's interesting because Apple didn't license that tip out to anyone (nor did they license out the original Magsafe adapter.) Although the Magsafe adapter was extremely awesome, Apple actually went to USB-C on it's laptops so it could be powered by universal chargers.

So, I got that tip in the mail a week later. I'm happy, but kind of in the way the tree, cut to just a stump, in the book, The Giving Tree is happy.

But guess what! I had bought several DARTs at Staples. So, I asked for another tip - a Samsung Chromebook. Nope. FINSIX/DART wouldn't send it to me. Why? I got a weird message about only powering 18.5 volt to 20 volt laptops. Wait, I thought MIT engineers designed this thing as an AC adapter. Nikola Tesla says AC is better than DC because Alternating Current (AC) is better than Direct Current also known as (DC) For the record, the adapter supports 5V USB connections.

I could pick each one of the above as false statements but I want to focus on one in particular. Most AC adapters within the past two years are pretty small. So I think they could get by with "half the size of most adapters".
Let's go back to that box shall we? "Overvoltage Protection" and my favorite wording - fits all major brands ... Samsung .... Oh! No! No! My favorite wording is from the kickstarter campaign ..

 "At a powerful 65W it is a perfect complement to today’s thin, lightweight, portable laptops

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pinless Debit Transactions ...

For those of you that shop at Walmart and Amazon and use cash back cards or use rebate apps ...

I've discovered something interesting ... Big retailers are switching to "pinless debit transactions" * WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT * for transactions under $50. 

Why does this matter? 

As part of the Dodd-Frank "financial reform" Bill ... credit card companies were forced into (3) scenarios 

1) Chip cards 

2) No signature credit transactions below $50 

3) Transactions can run as a debit transaction if card is a debit card and transaction is under $50.

First, chip cards have been an utter failure. They don't take so long because of slow equipment, but because of all the red tape the transaction has to go through. Your card is encrypted - that encryption has to be read, verified, retransmitted, transmitted again and then sent to your retailer. If you read that like I typed it - you'll see that at one point - unencrypted info is at some point traveling the www. 

What's the point? 

Case study: While moving to Chattanooga last year I had a pretty rough going with my bank, etc transitioning smoothly. I used my wife’s chip card for two months. Her full name is clearly not a man's name. Not once did I sign or get questioned in the dozens of places I used her card. 

What's supposed to be so secure about these cards? I know the technical answer, but it doesn't pan out in the real world. The sole reason chip cards were put into place is tracking and whatever you read otherwise is just subterfuge.

Two, debit cards work privately with your bank. Credit cards work in harmony with your retailer. (And your credit card company is better at what they do) Debit cards cost a retailer 20¢ per transaction. Credit cards (on average) cost a retailer 2% per transaction. It's obvious to see why a retailer would want to force you into a debit transaction. 

And so is the way of all government - Walmart lobbied heavily in the House and Senate to get the little Trojan Horse of pinless debit transactions. Think of a pinless debit as you virtually signing your receipt. Or think of it like I do - a retailer getting to forge your signature so they can save and you can't.

Three. One small convenience is not having to sign for most transactions under $50. Well, that's nice until you realize you are now on the hook for $50 a day if a hooligan or reprobate steals your card or info. This little clause in the law has led to identity thieves stealing volumetric amounts of micro-transactions rather than stealing large sums from 100s. If you can steal 30¢ from millions, why steal $300 from 100s?

All this presents two problems:

1) You don't get cash back because cash back comes from credit card use.

2) You may not get printable receipts which results in loss of receipt submission app rebates. (I.E.,you can use your credit card in any fashion IF you use Walmart Pay. You get your 1.5% back but you don't get a printed receipt NOR WILL WALMART PRINT YOU ONE)

I've tried hard to convert to paying apps rather than swiping my card for security purposes. This is just one of the bumps I've run into.

Hope this clarified some of this for you.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How can you © copyright something you created, drew, or wrote?

Know, that as an American citizen you are protected by the laws of the land. One of the most comprehensive laws is that governing copyright, trademark, and service mark.

Familiarize yourself with The Lanham Act that allows others fair use of your work. Know that copyright also has to be defended in court if challenged - and that can be an expensive and lengthy battle.

There are two low cost ways to copyright an image or written work:

Print it, or more preferably hand write it/draw it.

Put it in a manilla legal envelope, seal, and mail to yourself from a post office with a certified return receipt. On the receipt put copyrighted © poetry by [your name]

Then ...

Publish it, anywhere, especially online because it will have a timestamp.

Include your name and the © symbol and the current year.

If you regularly publish online or have your own blog, your site is protected by the nature of publishing. You do not have to include a copyright notice but it doesn't hurt if you wish to not be a victim of plagiarism or piracy.

Social media and search engines are actually very responsive to takedown notices if you can prove ownership.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A testimony...

"As for you my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don't know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable. Back where I come from there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds, they are called ... Di uh di uh di uh  ... Good deed doers and their hearts are no bigger than yours. But, they've got one thing that you haven't got - a testimonial .

Therefore, in consideration of your kindness, I take pleasure in giving you a small token of honor, esteem, and affection. 

Remember this my sentimental friend ... A heart is not judged by how much you love, but how much you are loved by others."

~ The Wizard Of Oz

Friday, March 17, 2017

"I think there's a danger in that we seem to only listen to the loudest voices or the articulate voices, because there's lots of humility and subtleness to one's silence or even their shyness. I feel everyone can tell you something. Few can tell you something in small terms or just gestures or even art and it mean something profound or life changing."
~ Jonathan Ive, Chief Design, Apple

Certain tick bites may cause allergies to red meat ...

Fascinating read ...

"A bite from the Lone Star tick can cause people to develop an allergy to red meat, including beef and pork. The Lone Star tick has been implicated in initiating the red meat allergy in the US and this tick is found predominantly in the Southeast from Texas, to Iowa, into New England."

Followup to FYT story about eating Angus Beef:

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Do savings apps and social media pages actually save you money?

Today marks one  year trying to see how much money I can save by using my smartphone and social media.

Here's my findings:

None of the following rebates or savings disqualify you from rewards or using other rebate apps/methods or couponing. One app (described below) will occasionally mention that the item cannot be discounted by a coupon printed outside of the store.


IBotta is well worth the effort. As of last night, I had accumulated $531.38 in direct deposits to my PayPal account since March 9, 2016. 

It requires some effort, BUT out of all the apps or other methods I used it has the most healthy options and the most ways to save. I also like that I can use it like a shopping list and verify each purchase with a barcode right in the store while I'm shopping. 

Ibotta offers rebates on healthy (and occasional treat) items that I buy regularly. If these items are also on sale in the Walmart Savings Catcher app, the items can be free or a money maker. I usually make money on the healthy item of the week, especially carrots, cucumber, sweet potato, or banana. 

On the week these items are on sale/rebate - I get one item - to make it a part of a meal or as an ingredient in a dish. Usually the "Healthy Item Of The Week" is just 25¢ but a nice size carrot or a banana isn't even ¼ pound in weight - yield a savings/ money maker even at 25¢. A few times, my other savings apps have yielded the same healthy item of the week - doubling my savings.

At some stores you can link your rewards/bonus cards and savings that you've reviewed and checked in the ibotta app and they are automatically added to your rebate total. Others stores you have to take a full picture of your receipt. Stores that have a QR code (Walmart /Target) at the bottom of the receipt - all you have to do is aim your phone camera at the general direction of the code and it uploads your info. With QR code uploads on ibotta, your rebate is near instantaneous, while linked reward cards can take up to 2 days to appear.

You can "get your money on ibotta" once you've reached $20. You can get the money by PayPal or by popular store gift card via an eCard mailed to your email address. I have always chosen direct to deposit to my PayPal account.

I typically save $10 a week with ibotta

Walmart App:

You have to have the entire Walmart app to use a portion called "savings catcher". With Savings Catcher, you upload your receipt via a quick snap of your QR code at the bottom of the receipt and within 7 days, you receive what their app "finds" in price differences at other stores. 

Note some caveats about this.  The money saved can only be spent at Walmart via gift card or by loading a free American Express you are mailed (if you choose that option)

Also, DO NOT SHOP and plan to use Savings Catcher on a Friday or Saturday. Your app searches over the next three days and sales typically go off over these days so your savings will be less because the app "cleverly checks" stores as their sales expire. 

My typical Savings Catcher savings on a $100 grocery bill is about $2.50 - $4.00. Within the year, I have spent $150 on a grocery trip at Walmart and my savings total was $6.38.

Note that the credit card or the E-gift card you receive your rebates on qualifies you for the 3¢ per gallon discounted gas at Walmart gas stations.

I save about $1.50 a week with savings Catcher but I also do not exclusively grocery shop at Walmart.


Although most of the rebates on this app are smaller (10¢ each) ... I like this app the most. Each week, items you'd buy anyway are listed in the rebates section. You check the deals BEFORE you enter the store and upload your receipt with 24 hours via the app. Since MobiSave is a a partner with PayPal, funds, no matter what the amount are automatically added to your PayPal account. Since I use a PayPal card for ALL of my purchases (and get 1.0% back) this is a nice extra bonus. I usually save about $1 a week with this app - which amounts to an additional 1.5% of my grocery bill.

Recently, I purchased some protein enhanced, gluten free spinach and cheese tortellini pasta through this app  and got $1 back + ibotta had a dollar back on the same. The pasta, which creates several meals (even standalone) was at Walmart for $2.48. The Walmart Savings Catcher found it on sale for $1.79 at Publix. The item was a money maker.

I save about $1 a week with MobiSave.


I like this the least of the apps I use regularly because the savings are typically structured like:

Buy $25 in Sargento cheese get $5. You typically have 30 days to build up your money. I'm just not a fan of things that aren't instant. LoL

This app does occasionally have great discounts that can be stacked with store promotions such as Lay's Potato chips, pilsbury products, and Progresso soup. 

The cash out threshold is only $5. 

I typically save about $2 a week with this app

Checkout 51:

This app features 51 items a week to receive discounts/rebates on.

This week I got $1.50 back on Del Monte fruit cups that my daughter eats every morning for breakfast.

This app had Nutella over the summer for $4 back and Walmart had it on sale for $3.88. (I later found out that Nutella sales had dropped because they were purchased by Ferraro who immediately put artificial ingredients in it to bring down costs)

This app has great deals but the cash out is horrible. After building up $20 or more, you get a check mailed to you. I "ordered" a check for $21.75 two weeks ago and got it in the mail yesterday.

I have cashed out $108.75 in a year's time with this app.

This app occasionally will mention that you cannot use other physical coupons to get the rebate.

The only other caveat about this app - it is run directly by a marketing company and your receipt is sold to third parties (without your personally identifying information attached) - this bothers me a bit.

This brings me to coupons dot com. 

Absolutely do NOT use this app, the website, or anyone that partners with them to print coupons.

This MARKETING COMPANY actually steals your personal identification information and sells it. 

I did an experiment with coupons dot com. I noticed that I was getting telemarketing calls to my cellphone in the following days after using coupons dot com each time I used it. So, I hooked a house phone up to my DSL line and put that number as "my verification phone #" to receive my coupons. Sure enough, the next day my phone rang - a telemarketing call about cruises, then another about listing my business with google. This would be okay with me if I knew they were doing this BUT, the fine print under the box you enter your phone number says (quoted) "We will not use your number for any other purpose and will not sell your number to a third party."

Using coupons dot com will also affect the coupons (that may be better) that will print for you at the register of some stores.

Using this method of couponing is very very tempting, but trust me, it's too risky.

I had to stop following the Facebook page Krazy Coupon Lady after she personally responded on one of my posts about using airline credit cards to get discounts on airfare. She was lying in her post (that was sponsored by Southwest may I add) and I caught her. She insisted in several posts she was correct. I copied and pasted from the southwest website and she still denied me and said I was wrong. So, I called southwest, recorded the phone call, used the customer service call to transcribe a message on my iPhone and copied and pasted the phone conversation to the thread. She STILL said I was wrong and that if you signed up (using her link) you would get 2 free airline tickets to anywhere in the country for free. Anyway.  Caveat Emptor - don't believe everything you read on Facebook or the internet or anywhere.

For my online shopping, I run everything through my MyPoints account. This portal gives you between 2% and 15% back on most every purchase from most every website.

I often go through MyPoints to go to RAISE dot com where I buy discounted gift cards. MyPoints gives you an additional 2% back on gift cards purchased there. I go to RAISE to get Walmart and Lowes eGift cards that I can use immediately after purchase. I get 1.5% back using my rewards MasterCard. Sometimes I can order online, using my discounted eGift card, going back through MyPoints and save again.

Last year I cashed out $250 in gift cards on MyPoints - paying for about half of my Christmas gifts.

This may shock you but in all, I have received $27,000+ in total benefits MYPOINTS in the 15 years I've been a member.

If you are popular on social media or have a big friend circle, most all of these methods offer referral bonuses. You could get $100 or so by the end of the month like I did when I first signed up for these apps/website portals.

If you have any questions about couponing or discount apps, I'll try to answer them or get you the answers.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The 7 Types Of Friends You Need ...

The 7 Types Of Friends You Need ...

It's healthy to have a handful of best friends with different perspectives.

Here are the 7 types of friends you need.

1) Friends who make the effort.

I have one friend who, although he is swamped with his career, never fails to reach out via text, email or phone every few days, no matter what else is going on. Even if it’s simply something succinct — like “just wanted to touch base and say hi” — I truly appreciate these signals that I’m being thought about and that our friendship is important. 

2) Friends that are forgiving.

I also appreciate a friend who is forgiving. I’m not saying that someone should forgive offenses quickly; or superficially. It takes time to forgive. But if too much time is taken, bad feelings fester, and the friendship may never get back on track. No one is perfect and a true friend will understand that.

2) Friends who are genuinely happy for me when something good happens.

I’m fortunate enough to have at least a few friends who are sincerely and openly happy for me when something nice occurs. (You’re probably wondering ... shouldn’t every kind of friend be happy for others? You’d think so, but that’s not always the case.) Friends who are genuinely happy don't exhibit jealously. They are truly thrilled about my accomplishments. They watch and revel in my glory - without any inkling of bitterness - and I do the same for them. Friendship is a two-way street.

3) Friends who are upbeat.

You know the opposite of this type. Some among us ruminate over every little problem in their life again and again (I occasionally rut). The difference is making at least one move to change a situation. Debbie Downers are contagious. They bring me down. Misery loves company and downbeat friends generally are more interested in your bad news than your good news. People who are positive and motivated and optimistic (but not not superficial) and who lift up those around them are worth hanging on to. I have one friend who never fails to compliment me on something — even if it’s just “wow, are you still running? You look great!”

4) Friends who are up for anything.

I have friend who loves adventure and who has a daughter that is the very definition of genius. With genius and adventure comes curiosity. Since I run a town news source, I occasionally get bizarre photos and stories submitted for consideration. One day, I had a picture submitted to me through Facebook message of flaming meteorite that had crashed into a nearby field - a picture by happenstance while photographing the nearby mountain range at sunset. I texted this friend and the next day we were out looking for a crashed UFO or other curiosity in that field. It was fun. Nothing turned up but my dog loved it. I loved it. My friend and her daughter loved it.

5) Friends who are authentic.

This is the steadfast friend who is anything but pretentious — the one who’s not afraid to see you without any constraint. They're not ashamed to showing you their true self — or seeing yours. They're “real” and honest and will tell you the truth when asked their opinion. When your behavior is questionable, there is a fine line between expressing concern and expressing judgement. A true friend will tell you the truth — and will let you know they’ll always be on your side no matter what decision you make even if, in their opinion, it’s the wrong one. 

6) A friend that holds you accountable

A friend that holds you accountable is a friend indeed. Sometimes we need an extra angel on the other shoulder. This isn't the type of friend that judges you; it's the type that you consider to be wise in their path; successful because they've made good decisions.

This type of friend should pray for you and with you about your discernment of people and situations. 

7) A friend that's as passionate about your hobbies and interests as you are.

Be it hunting, sewing, creating crafts, technology and gadget interests - or politics. Someone that can inspire ideas or encourage you in something you enjoy, simply by discussing it with you, laughing with you, is a huge help in your path to happiness.