Tag Archives: Frank Zappa

Customer Service, the Old Fashioned Way

I was born a while ago, back when your handshake was your word, your yes was a yes, and there were implied warranties in everything you purchased.  There was no “built in obsolescence” and no need to put the words “built in America from American parts” on anything because that was the norm.  “Made in Japan” used to be something outsourced, and therefore kind of cheap.  That was 50 years ago.

With the passing of Andy Rooney, an undeniably grumpy old man, we have lost an icon.  His ranting for years on 60 minutes provided a kind of benchmark, a watchdog function, which will not soon be forgotten.  There have been few that have had as much impact, on me anyhow, for not sitting still for the cheapening of the American expectation.

“I’m a moron, and this is my wife.   She’s frosting a cake with a paper knife. Everything we got here is American made, it’s a little bit cheesy, but nicely displayed…”
Fresh Flakes – Frank Zappa

You might think that since we have become a nation that really doesn’t make anything; at we would get the “service” part of “service industry” right.  I would seriously challenge anyone who thinks we have a great track record lately to listen to the song behind the link above and maintain that they cannot relate.  Our Technical support has been offloaded or outsourced, to India; our technicians cannot afford to work on a simple appliance any longer, we don’t bother to fix anything anymore, we just replace it.

This could be turning around.  With the advent of the social media, and sites like yelp, we now have a chance to see someone’s track record before we interact with them.  Last Saturday I was determined to install a dishwasher.  It was a relatively simple operation, any five year old with a wrench can do that, right?  Not so fast.   The house is 60 years old and the builder put the dishwasher in with hard copper lines.  The new dishwasher was just enough different (yes, it was American made) that after 45 mins of banging my knuckles under it I gave up and called a plumber.  Not wanting to be a victim, again, of Mr. Zappa’s Flakes, I actually started reading reviews of local plumbers and found a reasonable one.  The kid came out and did what I was trying to do in about 15 minutes.  I was still charged an amount equal to some Midwesterners house payments, but at least this kid was bright, friendly, spoke English, and got the job done.

My wife has a classic old Audi TT. She likes to keep it in Bristol shape.  Good for her.  We have been driving 45 minutes each way to have it serviced at the dealership where she bought it.  Ii think their shop rate is $135 an hour, and if you complain about how long it takes to pick your car up (after they told you it was ready) they reset the codes in your radio so you have to go through an army encryption class to reset them.

Again, on the internet, I found and researched a local mechanic that specializes in Audi’s and charges us less than half of what the big dealerships do.  It has also somehow miraculously helped for me to take the car in to be serviced.  I guess they don’t feel quite so free to push unnecessary repairs off on a guy.  Our tune-ups and services are running in the $300 range instead of $700, and the amount of “suggested” bull has dropped down to zero.

The last time I was in for a part to be replaced, they had to order it and I had to come back.  When I did come back, they put the part on and it didn’t fit.  They had to do some modifications to the old car, and it took almost an hour.  When they were done, I went to pay the bill – no charge for the labor, and I had already paid for the part.  “Just come back to us again…”  Well thank you Fred’s Garage of Redwood City California, I will.

The Prius I have needs servicing about every 5000 miles, and I go in and they drive me home.  I bought the contract, so I don’t have to pay a dime.

I went into a paint store to grab some sandpaper and a couple of paint paddles the other day, and they were busy so he told me to just take them.

I don’t know if it’s just that I am becoming a bit mellower in my old age (finally) but my service karma has seemed to be improving of late.  Maybe there is something to all this twitting and yelping we are doing after all.


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Labor Day Gift for Parents: Since the Apple Won’t Fall Very Far From It, Plant Your Tree Accordingly

Oh Lord, what have I done?  You have turned me into my father, and my children into me.  It says in the “Good Book” that the sins of the fathers will be vest unto the 3rd and 4th generation.  Does this mean that they have to go through EVERYTHING I did “growing up?”

I have two wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, rebellious, independent daughters that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  It hasn’t always been that way.  Believe it or not Daddy was not a perfect saint (nor was his father) and there might have been the occasional indiscretion during their collective childhood that might not have seemed politically correct.

Having been a professional photographer since high school (thanks Cindy) and also possessing a rather unique sense of humor (thanks Frank Zappa) there have been instances where my more devilish side took precedence over what my mother (and current wife) would have thought acceptable.  If your child is already hysterical and throwing an incredible hissy fit for not getting her way (down to the swimming pool fast enough) what harm could evolve from taking advantage of their relative lack of mobility (being 18 lbs at the time) and hanging them on the hotel coat rack – just for a quick photo?  Child Protection Service does have a statute of limitations, don’t they?

There  also might have been the occasional excuse to throw a giant party in the back yard, invite the whole neighborhood and entire Christmas list, buy a couple of kegs and have my buddies bring over a band or two and play music ‘till the cops come.  Thankfully it was usually an excusable occasion, like St. Patrick’s day in June, and usually a reasonable hour when they finally broke us up because the neighbors across the canyon (a mile and a half away) began complaining around 1:00AM.  It is always nice to have a few friends on the police force.  There is nothing quite as heartwarming as finding your three year old toddling across the living room floor (as the adults all migrated outside) helping mommy and daddy by draining the last inch of beer, mai-tai’s, and margaritas’ out of all of the cups lining the tables.  The next morning was not usually a good one for any of us.  Thanks again for that CPS reprieve.

Having had the neighborhood built-in pool, the trampoline, the pool table in the basement, etc.  My babies were raised in, shall we say, a convivial environment.  Don’t get me wrong, we went to Church at least once a week, were involved in worship ministries, field trips, the wife taught Sunday school, etc.  Just a couple of times a year we let our hair down, so to speak.  Having myself grown up in a similar environment there was no sense of hypocrisy at all.  My parents’ best friends were good old German Missouri Synod Lutherans, and every Sunday after church we’d get together with a few dozen folks, including the Pastor, for cocktails and a bar-b-que.

My wife and I were good enough parents in most ways;  helped with homework, softball games and sodas with the other kids parents in the parks on Sunday afternoons, lots of sleep over’s, and plenty of hours on weekend mornings watching Barney and Sesame street.  There were piano lessons, they both got there kiddy Black Belts in Karate, and we put them into a Spanish immersion school.  Our two little perfect babies really never gave us any trouble at all for so long.  Then there was High School.

I’m not saying either turned bad, or got into a real huge amount of trouble, but the attitudes changed.  As is the custom in California my wife decided that not all marriages were made in heaven, and that the grass was indeed far greener on the far side of the hill and we divorced when the girls were just entering High School.  Now I’m certainly not saying that I was any saint, and that she didn’t have a reason or two to want a change of scenery, just that the “better or worse thing” was something I took seriously.  Anyhow, timing being what it was we still tried our damndest to provide a stable environment for the kids.  I moved, and so that the kids didn’t have to move during high school we split the assets in a way that allowed them to keep the house that they grew up in.

Partly, I’m sure, blaming me for that and a few other faults, and partly that they just reached the age that I remember so well as spreading wings and a total disdain for authority, Daddy became persona-non-grata for each of them for a time.  Thank God it seemed to alternate years, and one of them was always being at least cordial.  Remembering my own high school and early college years, I think most of the time I came home it was to visit a girlfriend.  We didn’t hang out a ton, but that was just the way my parents were treated by then too.  We still had the annual waters ski trips to our secret lake, but instead of cousins and their mom’s family (we stayed friends, but that just got a bit weird for a while) the girls started bringing their friends, and boyfriends, and coming up in their own cars.

The eldest graduated Valedictorian in her high school, and is the case with so many second children; the younger had no interest in competing for grades.  She is just as smart and will do just as well in life, but the 4.3 thing just wasn’t in the cards at the time.  They also both took turns being the “wild child.”

After both threatening to spread their wings and go to school back east, the younger one ended up attending my alma mater of UCSB, and the eldest ended up at USD.  I guess dad brought them up to be California kids after all.

What brought this up is that currently they are both calling me, unsolicited, just to talk.  This is MAJOR and recent.  My older one had some boyfriend problems and needed a few extra daddy sessions, and my baby had some issues with attendance, but that has been resolved and she actually is going to summer school this year and is actually graduating a year early.  I am taking the long weekend and driving down with my new wife (both kids went to dads wedding two years ago) to see my baby in SB.  We spent the first week of the summer with the eldest at my new wife’s family reunion in Utah.  Great people, but the heat made that a huge sacrifice.  They have both turned out with wonderful aspects of their mother, and of me.  They are independent, directed, hard working, stubborn, loving, kind, bossy, empathetic, and giving young ladies and I could not be more proud.

The point is this:  for those of you with young ones, be patient.  They will hurt and destroy you, disrespect and loath you, scare the bejesus out of you, piss you off, and generally take you to the poor house.   If you’ve done a reasonable job of loving them and nurturing them, with the grace of God (and a little luck) they will turn out just fine.


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