Customer Service?

I was at the self check-out at Albertsons this afternoon. I looked over and saw a paper cut-out of a hand. On it was written “Good customer service? Give us 5!” You’re kidding me, right? I’m serving myself and you want a good customer service rating? Rather than giving them 5, they deserve 1 (and with the finger of my choosing).

Eat Your Vegetables…er, Voots

Those who know me know that I’m not a big fruits and vegetables kind of guy. I know that I should eat more, but I definitely struggle eating the balanced diet that I should. I really am more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy.

As I was running around Costco today, lunching on all the free samples, I ran onto a product called Voots. They are little chewable tablets, each of which they claim to contain 12 fruits and vegetables along with all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and flavonoids. This is fantastic!

They claim to taste like candy. I tried a sample and they don’t taste too bad. I could eat these and never eat another fruit or vegetable again…woo hoo!

Then again, I could try Vitameatavegamin and eliminate meat also…heh.

Hey, She’s Still Paying Attention

I really thought that as of 2 or 3 years ago, the Older Daughter no longer cared about my opinion nor was at all influenced by me. It really seemed that she was in her own teen world and had it all figured out–at least in her opinion. Well, I found out this week that I actually do still have some influence.

Her high school held a mock election on Tuesday. I asked her who she voted for and she told me. When I asked how she came to the decision, she said that she really didn’t know who to vote for. But she knew who I was voting for, so that’s who she chose. Now of course that’s not the right way to pick a president, but it made me smile that she thought enough of my judgement to make the same choice.

Then last night we were at Wal-Mart picking up a few things. Homemade dinner was not in the cards, so we we picked up some stuff at the deli. The Older Daughter and I both chose the turkey sandwich and threw them in the basket. Then I noticed her checking the shelf again. Pretty soon, she grabbed this huge turkey sandwich and put the smaller ones back. It seems that she noticed that the huge sandwich was roughly equivalent to 3 of the smaller sandwiches but was cheaper than the 2 we were going to buy. When I complimented her for noticing, she said “I learned it from you.” More smiling on my part.

Just when you think you have lost them, they go and show you they are still watching and learning from you after all.

Idaho Special Edition Barbie Dolls

You may recall a previous post in which we announced that Mattel was making special edition Barbies for Oregon. Just in time for Christmas, we are now pleased to announce the release of limited-edition Barbie Dolls for the Idaho market.

Nampa Barbie

She comes with an assortment of Kate Spade Handbags, a Lexus SUV, a long-haired foreign dog named Honey and a million dollar farm home. Available with or without tummy tuck and face lift. Workaholic Ken sold only in conjunction with the augmented version.

Melba Barbie

The modern day homemaker Barbie is available with Ford Wind star Minivan and matching feedstore outfit. She gets lost easily and has no full-time occupation. Traffic jamming cell phone sold separately for traveling.

Garden City Barbie

This recently paroled Barbie comes with a 9mm handgun, a Ray Lewis knife, a Chevy with dark tinted windows, and a meth Lab Kit. This model is only available after dark and must be paid for in cash (preferably small, untraceable bills) unless you are a cop, then we don’t know what you are talking about.

Boise Barbie

This yuppie Barbie comes with your choice of BMW convertible or Hummer H2. Included are her own Starbucks cup, credit card and country club membership. Also available for this set are Shallow Ken and Private School Skipper. You won’t be able to afford any of them.

Challis Barbie

This pale model comes dressed in her own Wrangler jeans two sizes too small, a NASCAR t-shirt, tweety bird tattoo on her shoulder and no teeth. She has a six-pack of Bud light and a Hank Williams Jr. CD set. She can spit over 5 feet and kick mullet-haired Ken’s butt when she is drunk. Purchase her pickup truck separately and get a confederate flag bumper sticker absolutely free.

Sun Valley Barbie

This collagen injected, rhino plastic Barbie wears a leopard print outfit and drinks cosmopolitans while entertaining friends. Percocet prescription available as well as newly built high rise condo.

Buhl Barbie

This tobacco-chewing, brassy-haired Barbie has a pair of her own high-heeled sandals with one broken heel from the time she chased beer-gutted Ken out of Jerome Barbie’s house. Her ensemble includes low-rise acid-washed jeans, fake fingernails, and a see-through halter-top. Also available with a mobile home.

Jerome Barbie

This doll is made of actual tofu. She has long straight brown hair, arch-less feet, hairy armpits, no makeup and Birkenstocks with white socks. She prefers that you call her Willow. She does not want or need a Ken doll, but if you purchase two Twin Falls Barbies and the optional Subaru wagon, you get a rainbow flag bumper sticker for free.

Kuna Barbie

This Barbie now comes with a stroller and 2 infant dolls. Optional accessories include a GED and bus pass. White boy Gangsta Ken and his 1979 Caddy were available, but are now very difficult to find since the addition of the infant.

Idaho Falls Barbie

She’s perfect in every way, mainly due to the high levels of antidepressants in her system. We don’t know where Ken is because he’s always at church meetings.


Also don’t miss Oregon Special Edition Barbie Dolls.

Advertising Rant

I’m so tired of seeing companies brag that they have 80 years of combined experience with yada, yada, yada. This is a meaningless selling point. That could mean that they have 240 18-year-olds with 6 months of experience each; or it could mean that they have just one really old dude that is on life support. Neither extreme would make me feel comfortable with the company. I know that the truth is somewhere in the middle. Give me the average years experience per person–that would be a much more telling statistic.

Insanity on Wheels: The Final Chapter

You may recall that we had decided to buy a used vehicle, sight unseen, from an out of town dealership. Indeed, the Older Daughter and I flew to Portland over the weekend. We took a quick test drive, had lunch with our family there, then drove home.

It was an extremely long day. However, the RAV4 is exactly what we were looking for and this appears to be a good pick. There are a few minor cosmetic things that we need to get fixed up. But for a 10-year-old vehicle, it is in excellent condition and runs great.

And here is the Older Daughter beaming with pride. Of course, you can’t tell because I have blurred her face out of my extreme paranoia.

Insanity on Wheels: Go With Throttle Up

You may recall from a previous post that we are considering buying a vehicle in another city without actually touching it and test driving it ourselves. We have a little bit of an advantage in that my brother-in-law lives near the vehicle in question and was able to test drive it today for us. The report came back that it drives and looks great.

So…we’re going for it. I’ve made a deposit on it and booked flights for me and the Older Daughter this weekend. We’re going to fly over in the morning, go take care of the paper work and payment, and then start driving.

The flight is with Alaska Airlines on a Bombardier CRJ-700. I really don’t like these planes. They are “tiny” and only seat 70. They bounce around way too much for my liking versus the big planes. Oh well, that’s how things go. I’ll update you soon…assuming we don’t die in a fiery crash.

Insanity on Wheels?

Using our Ford F-250 as a commuter vehicle is killing us. Plus, we will soon have a licensed teenage driver (run for cover folks!) So, we decided that it was time for a third vehicle. The third vehicle will become The Wife’s primary commuter vehicle, but will also be driven by the Older Daughter quite a bit. Unfortunately, there has been no agreement on what type of vehicle is wanted. Here is what we were basically looking at:

  • Me: I’m the household accountant, so I want one of those coffins-on-wheels that gets like 67 miles per gallon.
  • The Wife: She wants a 4-wheel drive pickup. Wait, that’s what we are trying to replace as her commuter vehicle. What the heck? Okay, maybe a smaller truck would get slighter better mileage. That’s not very helpful.
  • Older Daughter: It has to be cute and/or hot…preferably both.

You can probably see that this is a very difficult situation to resolve. However, after much weeping and gnashing of teeth, we settled on the Toyota RAV4. It’s a 4-wheel drive (Wife: check), it gets great gas mileage (me: check), and according to the Older Daughter it’s cute (someone kill me now please).

Our budgeted price range put us at about the 1997-98 model year. We couldn’t find any locally, so we widened our search to places within a day’s driving range from home. This evening, we found this one in the Portland area:

I spent some time on the phone this evening with the salesman. He test drove it for me and checked it out. Of course, the report back is that it’s a great vehicle. Fortunately, my brother-in-law lives in the area and is going to check it out for us tomorrow. If he gives the green light, we’re going to buy it. Yes, Sunday morning I may be flying to Portland to buy a vehicle that I have never seen in person, touched, or test driven. Is that complete insanity? Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

For the Truly Lazy

In case you have been trying in vain to find more ways to burn less calories, help is on the way. The folks over at SeeFred have developed some products that will help you conserve energy. In these trying economic times, we really do need to conserve all we can.


 First up is the Motorized Ice Cream Cone. Yes, just pop some batteries into this puppy and you’ll never again have to waste calories or risk carpal tunnel syndrome by turning the ice cream cone with your hand. This handy device will take care of the task for you.






But what about spaghetti, you ask? It’s such a strenuous task to twirl the fork to get the spaghetti on it. Not to worry–we’ve got you covered here also. Similar to the ice cream cone, just put some batteries in, push the button and the Spaghetti Fork will take care of the rest.





Really,  how lazy could you possibly be to not want to spin your own fork or ice cream cone? These products just put us one step closer to being brains in a jar that have no need for muscles. Simply outrageous.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some shopping to do.

Lithia Sucks

I have never hesitated to use my blog as a sounding board to point out when a business just sucks. Boise Goodlife recently experienced horrible customer service when buying a car at Lithia. From being treated rudely by the salesman, to taking 2 hours to complete paperwork, to having a car that was not detailed, to a missing key and owners manual to boot, it was a nightmare experience.

But here’s the one that bugs me the most: They told her that they don’t fill the gas tank on a used car that is at least 1/4 full. Is that not outrageous? It’s standard practice for major dealerships to fill the tank of any car purchased–from the high-end models to the ugly duckling on the lot. Stay away from these jerks.

Grocery Shopping Rules

Aaaaagh! I recently had another frustrating supermarket shopping experience. It was quite similar to the Grocery Shopper From Hell tale I told several months back. I’ve had it with people too stupid to efficiently navigate a grocery store. Therefore the DITH Supreme Council has handed down several rulings–effective immediately.

Checks are now forbidden: Really? A check? Come on, at least update yourself to the 1990s and get a check card. It’s simple, quick, easy-to-use, and secure. I don’t have the time or patience to wait for you to painstakingly fill out your check and then the register before finally handing the check to the clerk. Then the clerk has to run it through the crazy check validating machine to make sure it’s legit. I bet that I’ve cumulatively spent 5 years of my life waiting just because people are too backwards to use a check card.

Cash use is severely restricted: Give me a break! Cash is even more ancient than checks. What, did you pull some cash out of your mattress for this shopping trip? However, never let it be said that I’m not tolerant. I’ll allow the use of cash with some restrictions. Supermarkets can still accept cash, but only paper money–no coins whatsoever. Purchases will be rounded up to the nearest dollar. I’m not about to stand around while you figure out if you have the correct change in your purse or pocket and/or have the clerk count change back to you. One exception: supermarkets can allow coinage if they have a separate “Cash Only” line. Regardless, shoppers will be encouraged to shamelessly ridicule cash users.

Middle-of-the-aisle stopping is prohibited: There’s nothing more frustrating than to have the person ahead of you stop their cart in the middle of the aisle. Common courtesy would call for moving as far to the right as humanly possible when you stop. However, the absence of common courtesy has necessitated this mandate. Violation is punishable by summary execution.

10 items or less means what it says: Not even one item over is allowed. Once again, violation is punishableby immediate, torturous, painful death.

Thanks to the DITH Supreme Council mandates, you’ll be able to once again enjoy shopping.

Dumb Marketing Slogans

There’s coffee shop near where I work called Monday Morning. I guess that’s fine. I’m not a big fan of Mondays (okay, I hate Mondays), but fine, name your business whatever you like. However, they stepped over the line with their slogan: “When everyday is a Monday.” If every day is Monday, I want no part of it thank you very much.

Another one that puzzles me is the Fat Boy ice cream sandwich. What marketing genius came up with this name? Is this really supposed to encourage me to buy them? It should be obvious that you buy them, you eat them, then you become one yourself.

Finally, if you didn’t see my post a few weeks ago, the Scotland tourism bureau spent US$250,000 for this gem: “Welcome to Scotland”

Maybe I should get into marketing. If this is the best they can come up, I know that I can do better.

The Grocery Shopper From Hell

I think I ran into a 60-year-old lady that was on her first-ever grocery shopping trip. She was in front of me at the checkout line. She had placed her items on the conveyor belt and was standing there clutching her purse. The clerk asked for her loyalty card (I hate those things, by the way). The lady stood there in silence for a moment and then said “Hmmm?”. The clerk asked again: “Do you have a loyalty club card?” Finally you could see the 20 watt bulb above her head flickering ever so faintly. She opened her purse and rooted around in there for approximately 3 days before she found it. The clerk took her card and the clerk scanned it. The lady then returned the card to her purse and closed it.

The clerk scanned her items and said “Your total comes to $26.37”. Oh no…I saw that the light had gone out again. The lady struggled for a few moments to understand. Then she finally jerked just a little as the light flickered back to life and she realized that she needed to pay. She opened the purse again and fumbled around trying to find her wallet. She found it, then painstakingly searched for the correct bills and change. I was dying as she counted out what felt like 2,637 individual pennies to pay for her items. Has she ever heard of a debit card? Has she ever heard of not taking 6 days to complete a simple grocery purchase? In general, I’m a pretty patient, easy-going guy. She really tried my patience. But I was nice. I didn’t say a word.

Toyota Rules

In previous posts, I have taken companies to task for their poor products and/or service (see my Rants category). Today, the Dad In The Headlights Consumer Protection Division is launching a new campaign to shine the spotlight on businesses that actually do things the right way. So you’ll see posts titled “{Company Name} Rules” to highlight great companies as opposed to the “{Company Name} Sucks” that I have used for those that just don’t get it. I don’t think these posts will generate as much interests as my “sucks” posts. Sadly, a negative story will often generate more interest than a positive one. But hey, this gives me another category in which to flap my (virtual) jaws about.

Right after World War II, Japan was synonymous with shoddy products. Due to the efforts of W. Edward Deming throughout the 1950s, Japan became a powerhouse of quality. One shining example of this is Toyota. I have owned 4 Toyotas, and loved each one of them. Let’s take a look at why Toyota rules:

Reliability: This is key for me. I’ve had a couple of vehicles over the years that seemed to be in the shop for repairs every couple of months. This is not only costly, but a huge hassle when you have a busy life. I want a car that I can rely on for years. Toyota totally delivers here. I’ve owned 4 Toyotas over the years and have literally never had a problem with any of them. One that I sold to a friend of a friend is still running strong at nearly 200,000 miles.

Resale Value: Toyotas are absolutely amazing in this category. This is actually a downside if you are looking to save some money by buying a late-model used car. A Toyota that is a year or two old with low miles costs almost as much as a new one. Another example: I purchased a 1997 Corolla in 2004 for $8000. I totaled it in 2007 and the insurance cut me a check for $6700. Amazing!

Cost of Ownership: Notice I didn’t say price. Toyotas typically cost more up-front than other brands. However, because of their incredible reliability and low depreciation, the total cost of ownership is less than other brands.

Features: Are Toyotas the hottest cars out there? No, not by far. However, they are extremely functional and even the “stripped down” models are loaded with lots of features.

Warranty: This is one area where Toyata lags behind the competition. A new car still only comes with a 3-year, 36,000-mile warranty. They could easily offer a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty (as Hyundai does) and add very little their costs because of their reliability. I’m willing to bet that they lose some sales just because people want that peace of mind that a longer warranty provides.

Buy American: Don’t start lecturing me about buying American. We don’t do the US automakers any favors by buying their crappy products (yes, I know they aren’t all crappy…pipe down). Competition is what drives improvements. If they lose sales to superior products, they are forced to improve or be driven out of business. We are starting to see the reliability gap between US and Japanese automakers narrow. Detroit is getting the message. Also, you can’t lecture me about buying American when I’m driving my Toyota made in the US and you’re driving your GM made in Mexico.

Dumbest Safety Warning Ever

I’ve seen a lot of really dumb safety warnings before, but I think the one below in a chainsaw manual takes the cake. The really sad thing is that you know someone tried this and ended up suing the company, so that’s why they had to include it.


HP Sucks

This just in from the Dad In The Headlights Consumer Protection Division: Hewlett-Packard royally sucks.

I am completely convinced that HP has developed a secret technology to cause products to fail right after the warranty has expired. This has happened to me twice with HP products over the past several years.

The first was with a laptop. The week after the warranty expired, the power jack broke off inside the computer. I contacted HP support and the only thing they could offer me was a “great deal” on an upgrade. It turned out that their awesome deal was more than everyday prices at any local computer store. I checked into getting it repaired, but it would have involved replacing the entire motherboard. In the end, it would have cost more to repair than to replace. So, I tore it apart piece by piece and spread the remains across eBay. I probably got about $200 for a laptop that cost a lot more than that.

Fast forward to 2007. We had problems with our HP printer several times throughout the year. It would suddenly just start printing out blank pages–even with full cartridges. Each time, I would get with technical support and go through excruciating steps to finally get it working again. Well this week, even technical support couldn’t get it going again and they said there was nothing more they could do. And yes, you guessed it–just a couple of weeks after the warranty ran out. They once again offered me these incredible deals on upgrades that were not such great deals. I pointed out that their own records showed that the problems started well before the warranty expired. However, they politely said that they would be happy to replace the printer–if it was still under warranty. Grrr….

Whatever happened to good customer service? I know, they are not required to do anything beyond the letter of the warranty. I get it…pipe down. If I were running a company, I think that I would have an unpublished grace period on warranties. If a product fails within “x” number of weeks of the warranty expiration and the customer requests it, I would replace the product. At the very least, they could have actually offered a good deal on a new printer and I would have been happy.

Instead, if this post deters just one person from buying an HP product, they are money behind by not keeping me happy. (Evil laughter)

Game Crazy Sucks

I wanted relate an experience a good friend had with Game Crazy. She wanted to pick up a Nintendo Wii, but the local Game Crazy was out. However, she got placed on a waiting list by leaving a deposit. The store promised to call when the unit arrived. After waiting quite some time, she called the store to get a status. The friendly representative said that the unit was in and that she needed to pick it up that day. She asked for a few days since she didn’t have the time that day, nor did she want to pay the $700 in gas it would have taken to make the 60 mile round trip. The friendly representative refused. They said the unit had already been in for 3 days, so they couldn’t hold it any longer. My friend explained that she never received a notification that it had arrived. She wasn’t asking for any special treatment–just the 3 days to pick it up that they were offering everyone else. The pea brain store representative couldn’t get it through their skull what she was trying to explain and insisted that the Wii had to be picked up that day or they would sell it to someone else.

How stupid can they be? They had a deposit in hand and the Wii was in such short supply that they could have easily sold the unit if she didn’t show up within a few days. There was no financial downside to Game Crazy to provide good customer service. The only financial downside is if you piss off the customer and then they tell others and then someone posts a blog entry about it. Now the financial losses are starting to mount.

That’s the staff of Dad In The Headlights looking out for you, the consumer.

Dumbest Person, Part II

You may recall from an earlier post (I’m The Dumbest Person On The Planet) that The Older Daughter apparently doesn’t think I have the brains to read a movie listing in the newspaper. And that because of this, I believe she now thinks that I have no more functioning brain cells.

Well, it is with deepest regret that I announce the death of The Wife’s last brain cell today. Let me explain. The Daughters have been in soccer for many years now–I think we figured out 10 years to be exact. The Older Daughter quit playing a few years back, but now wants to get back into it. Well, of course, all the gear (shin guards, shoes, etc.) is now too small.

So The Wife is talking with the Older Daughter and saying that they need to go gear shopping soon. You would have thought that The Wife had grown a third eye. The Older Daughter could not fathom that mom could know anything about what kind of items were needed to play soccer. Nope, The Wife has been doing this shopping for 10 years and even coached for a few years, but how could she possibly know what is needed? The Older Daughter thinks that a soccer-playing friend of hers is some sort of gear expert, so she wants to go with her. I get it, she’d rather go shopping with her friend than mom. Why not just say that rather than implying that mom could have no idea how to shop for these items? Oh well, such is parenting in the perilous teenage years.

Anyway honey, sorry about the loss of that last brain cell. You’re in good company with me now.

Kohl’s Sucks

Okay, it’s time once again for a rant on a business. In the cross-hairs today: Kohl’s department store

As I acknowledged in a previous post (Fuddruckers Sucks), any business can have a bad day. So I’ll always give them a couple of tries if things are not going well. Kohl’s finally opened in our area about a year ago. Well, we have been there three separate times now and have had problems each time. They have what appear to be some good deals, but the quality is severely lacking. Each time we were shopping for clothes and each time we ended up with a damaged article. The damage ranged anywhere from a stain to a tear to a failed seam.

We haven’t been back since. However, I was just talking with a friend recently and heard about their experience. They were shopping in the toy section. When they got home and tried out the toy, it didn’t work. So they returned to the store and exchanged the item. Same story with the second today…no worky.

I don’t think it can be chalked up to coincidence that every Kohl’s shopping experience I’m familiar with has had a problem with the merchandise. So I don’t really recommend Kohl’s. But if you do go, check out what you are buying very carefully to avoid a return trip.

Flip This Phone

We’ve long had an understanding with the girls that we would only provide basic “lifeline” cell phone service for them. That is, they can have any phone that is free and we will provide basic service for them. They have to pay for any phone upgrades, text messaging packages, minute overages, etc. The Older Daughter has been wanting to upgrade her phone for quite some time. She did some research and fell in love with the LG Voyager phone offered by Verizon. Now it is definitely a sweet phone and may give the Apple iPhone a run for its money. The full retail price of the phone is $469, though we have some discounts available that take it down to about $300.

At 14 and with no steady job, she obviously doesn’t have a lot of money. However, she wants to spend every penny she saved from some work last summer to buy this phone. While The Wife and I don’t necessarily think this is the best decision, we think she is old enough to make spending choices on money she has earned. So we headed on down to the local Verizon store. This is an experience that I rate right up there with going to the DMV. After about a 15 minute wait (okay, so it’s not as bad as the DMV), we make it up to the counter to speak with a friendly Verizon representative. As it turns out, we pick up the last Voyager available in the area. Just two days after its introduction, the phone is already sold out.

On the drive home, I hatched a plan to profit from the short supply of a hot new phone. I couldn’t convince The Older Daughter to part with her phone to make a nice profit. So I went out to Verizon’s website and confirmed that I could order another phone online for $300. Then I went over to eBay and found that the phones were going anywhere from $450 to $550. How sweet is that? So I ordered up a phone and setup an auction to sell it. Three days later the auction closed and the final price was $575! After various fees, I pocketed around $250 for just a few minutes work. This comes really close to my dream of finding a way to make tons of money with no risk, no investment, and no actual work. However, to my dismay, I was unable to purchase any more phones for the discounted price. Any further purchases would be for the full retail price of $469. So my dreams of becoming a billionaire by flipping Voyager phones were dashed. But hey, I was able to pick up a few extra dollars of spending money. That never hurts this time of year.