Monday, June 29, 2009

More Vonage Tips

In case you are interested in pursuing a Vonage phone line and you travel, I wanted to share these tips I received from Vonage:


The best part of summer is getting away, but even when taking a break from the real world, everyone still needs to be in touch with work, loved ones, or both. Vonage offers a number of ways to do just that:

- Domestic Travel: Did you know that if you take your Vonage adaptor with you while traveling domestically you can make and receive calls for the same cost of using the adaptor at home? Just plug in an adaptor in to a high-speed Internet connection, and your home phone number comes with you virtually.

- International Travel: If you are traveling or moving abroad this summer, Vonage offers a way to make calls back to the U.S. without getting charged an arm and a leg on your cell or using cumbersome calling cards. Plug in your Vonage adaptor and you can make calls to the U.S. for free.

- Virtual Number: While abroad, you may want to add a local phone number to your Vonage account so locals can call you for free. Vonage has you covered here, as you can add a local international number in several locations for an additional $4.99-$9.99 per month (more details here).

- Vonage’s $24.99 Residential Premium Unlimited Plan includes calls to the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and landlines in Italy, France, Spain, England and Ireland are included.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vonage Phone Service Rules...so far

If you've been following my cell phone drama, you know how unhappy I've been with AT&T. While it appears my cell phone issues have been resolved, I can't take the chance of being held hostage again if my service decides to go out. In addition, I was paying some God awful high cell phone bill every month for unlimited calls. I liked not having to watch my minutes, but I work from home and was talking on my cell phone in my home office most of the time. I can't really justify keeping an expensive cell phone plan, and I don't feel I should be giving my money to some ungrateful corporation.

In an effort to solve my phone issues, I did some research on Vonage. They provide voiceover IP service, which is an adapter that connects to your internet box. You must have high-speed internet in order to qualify. My last company used VoIP service exclusively, because we worked from home when we weren't traveling and it was very cost efficient. A good friend of mine (you know who you are), who is my technical guru and hero, came to my rescue when my cell phone service went out. He's had Vonage for years and has never had a problem, and convinced me to give it a try.

I called and spoke to a Vonage representative on Monday and then ordered my service online. What my technical guru didn't know was that if I put him down as a referral, we would both receive two months free. What a bonus!

I received my Vonage adapter today via UPS. All that was required of me was to plug in a cable from the Vonage box to my internet box. Voila! So far, so good.

If you are considering putting in another phone line or switching to a less expensive plan, I would recommend considering Vonage. They can port over existing cell or home numbers. One of the bonuses is that you can take the Vonage box with you anywhere you move in the country (as long as you have high-speed internet) and keep the same number. It's great for those of us with home businesses, because you never have to change your number. You can also pick any area code in the country you want. If you always wanted to live in New York, pick a New York area code.

If you try Vonage and are referred by an existing customer, make sure you click on Benefits---Benefits of VoIP---Refer-a-Friend, or mention the Refer-a-Friend if you call to order the service. You just need their phone number. This is the only way to get two months free for you and your referral. If you do not personally know someone who has Vonage, I would appreciate if you would use me as your referral. You have 30 days to try it so if you don't like it, you didn't pay for the first month, so nothing lost. Depending on the phone package you order, the adapter is usually free. If you don't want to wait to receive the adapter from Vonage, you can buy it at your local electronics store (Best Buy).

Just presenting another cost savings idea!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BMW Issue Resolution

As a follow-up regarding my letter to BMW, I received a voicemail last week from the Director of Finance indicating that she was in receipt of the letter I sent to Jim O'Donnell, CEO, BMW of North America, and would be contacting the dealership regarding my complaint. She said to expect a call from Customer Relations this week. Sure enough, I received a voicemail today from a gentleman in Customer Relations letting me know that the issue was resolved and they would be sending me out a check. I have to be honest, I didn't really expect that they would send me a check, because this is a 6 month old complaint, but obviously, they do take their customers seriously. I was really happy to see the loyalty returned. It does go a long way.

Remember, always go to the top. I know I keep saying this; it is definitely my mantra, but it works. There is no way any of my letters would be addressed had they not been sent certified to the CEO. You deserve to be heard. Also, keep in mind that you are not only fighting issues for yourself, but for others. There is more power in numbers, so never think what you are fighting for is not important. It could be impacting others, who do not think its important enough to fight, and if we all thought this way, nothing would be get fixed.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

AT&T Issue Resolution

As a follow-up to my cell phone saga with AT&T, as of today, it appears to be fixed. Since the problems are now intermittent (sometimes I can make a call from my home and sometimes I need to drive a block away to make a call), I am going to bite the bullet and get a VOIP phone in my home. I will be cutting back on my monthly cell plan. AT&T's CEO's office continues to e-mail me, and are monitoring the situation. It's great to have that level of service and a contact at the top. It definitely helped with expediting a resolution. I will be getting a month of free service.

I've been Twittering on this issue for the past few days, and my Twitter updates go to my Facebook page. A dear friend of mine in San Diego, who knows me very well and who has been following this issue, posted this on my Facebook page:

Given your reputation for extracting fine customer service I'm surprised that:

(1) The CEO of AT&T hasn't personally called you to apologize.
(2) He isn't onsite personally directing the erection of the replacement cell tower.
(3) The replacement cell tower isn't named after you.
(4) He hasn't invited you to work from his office and use his personal cell phone while yours is out.
(5) You haven't rearranged his personal staff, including firing two executive VPs where just laying around to make the entire operation more efficient at a cost savings of more than $1M annually.

This is the same friend who returned from Iraq several years ago, after serving there for a year in the US Marine Corps, and turned to me and said "JM, you could get the Shiites and Sunnis to stop fighting!"

You know the personality profiles and leadership exercises where you have to ask the people closest to you to describe who you are as a person? Well, it seems pretty unanimous. I am now, and will always be, a Gumptionista.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Last But Not Least - Beware of the Gumptionista, BMW!

My car lease was coming up in December, so in November I traded in my 2006 BMW and leased a new 2009. My last four cars have been BMW’s. Since I can’t afford a house in California, I might as well drive a nice car. During the lease negotiations, I told the salesman that I had two payments left on my current lease, which they needed to take over. Somewhere along the line, he missed that fact, and when I was handed the paperwork to sign for the new lease, it did not cover the last two payments. I asked about it and he said his “manager” would not agree to that. I was not happy about it, but figured that I would take it up with BMW Financial. I spoke to BMW Financial about two things. One, the fact that the dealership would not take on the last two payments and two, about a dent in the front spoiler, which I was told I would be charged $400 for on my last bill. BMW Financial agreed to split the last two payments with me, but I was stuck paying the $400. I paid my final bill in January however I continued thinking about it and knew that I had to take some action. Finally, after 6 months, I mailed a certified letter to the CEO of BMW North America. I explained the situation about the fact that dealership would not cover payments for a car that they had in their possession, and that I had to pay $400 for a dented spoiler. One of the reasons why I am so frustrated about the dented spoiler is that these cars are built to dent at even the smallest bump. If they are going to have a faulty design, I am not going to pay for what is inevitable. I was at the dealership recently and they did a walk around my new car and told me there is a dent on the front spoiler, and I nearly went through the roof. They need to figure this out, because I am not going to pay for this again. It is only going to get worse over the next three years, too. If you look at any BMW on the road, you will notice damage underneath the front spoiler. I will guarantee it. I requested my money back for what I paid on my final bill. I will keep you posted when I receive a response.

Beware of the Gumptionista, AT&T Wireless!

I hope my hellish day today is not a reflection on what my week is going to be like. My morning started off fine. I drove to my doctor’s office and picked up the sick note to fax to Southwest Airlines so I could get a refund. I haven’t needed a sick note since second grade, but, whatever it takes. I then tried to make a phone call on my cell phone, and lo and behold, nothing. I receive a Call Failed on any outgoing call, and all incoming calls go straight to voicemail. When I try to get into my voicemail, I get a Call Failed. I went to the local AT&T store twice today. The first time, they removed the battery and waited and it seemed to work for about 5 minutes. As soon as I got home, I had the same problem. The second trip to the store, they recommended that I go to the warranty location and get a refurbished phone. Through a friend who works as a Project Manager for AT&T, I was able to get my hands on the e-mail address of the CEO. I sent him an e-mail this afternoon explaining that I am a business owner and this is the only phone I have. I paid a lot of money for this phone a mere 5 months ago, and will not accept a refurbished phone. I requested a brand new phone (Blackberry Bold is what I currently have) and also a month of free service, since the Call Failed problem happens often.

A friend of mine, who sensed that I was going to slit my wrists over this issue, came over after work last night. He is my technical guru friend. As soon as he stepped foot in my parking structure, he lost his cell service. Thank God! I am not crazy after all! He called AT&T via Skype from my house, and was told that a cell tower had been down in my neighborhood since 8:00 AM. They were having issues bringing it back up and expected that it would be up with service back to normal by the morning.

This morning I woke up to the wonderful sights and sounds of Call Failed, again. I decided to get in my car and drive to see where I could get a signal. I got less than a 1/2 block from my house and was able to make a call. I called AT&T Customer Service and talked to them for 30 minutes before they switched me to technical support. Customer Service said that there was no report of an outage, but then Technical Support said there was an outage, and it was expected to be back up in 1 hour. Here we go again. While I was on the phone with technical support, the office of the CEO of AT&T left me a voicemail. I called him back and we discussed my e-mails and the situation. He was a nice guy, and very helpful. He has since called me twice today to give me updates. As of 1:00 PM, my service is still out so needless to say, I am getting frustrated. I am looking forward to a resolution. I supposed I should go back to a home phone for these types of situations, but I am fighting it tooth and nail.

Regardless of the situation or the problem, always go to the top. It may seem like a small issue, but if it's important to you, let yourself be heard. Also, it helps to blog and twitter on these issues. As someone recently told me, companies are starting to pay attention to social networking, because of the press issues.

I'll keep you posted.

Beware of the Gumptionista, Southwest Airlines!

In the past week, I have written three letters to corporations regarding service issues. Even as I write this, my blood is boiling. Usually when I am having a bad day, a friend of mine who is very into the metaphysical says, “well, that makes sense, because mars is in retrograde and everything is unaligned.” Well, I don’t think I can blame my current issues on mars, but I wish I had something or someone to blame. I am just plain irritated. This is one of three blogs of “Beware of the Gumptionista.”

My first letter was to the CEO of Southwest Airlines. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I send all letters certified to the president or CEO of the company. The letter was in regards to a few different issues. The first issue was the expiration date policy on rewards tickets. I had two rewards tickets, which I gave to my parents as a Christmas gift, to be used to fly to Las Vegas for my sister’s wedding in October 2009. The tickets did not expire until August 2009, but since I was giving them as a gift in December, I went online in November and paid the $50 to extend the expiration date. Since their was no written policy on the website, I “assumed” that when I paid the $50 it would push out the expiration date to one year from the current date. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Well, surprise, surprise, that’s not how it works. When I paid the $50 online, I immediately received a new confirmation receipt showing the expiration date as one year from the day I paid. I called Southwest Airlines and asked why it was not one year from the original expiration date. They responded that the policy was that the new expiration date was one year from the day you pay for the extension. I indicated that there was nothing in writing on the website. They said they could not give me a refund (something I regret fighting for now), but would give me a $50 voucher to be used towards a future ticket. I was furious because the new expiration date was prior to October, which meant I had to pay another $50 to stop it from expiring.

In April, I was supposed to fly to San Francisco for a conference. I purchased my ticket on the website and applied the $50 credit voucher. I ended up terribly sick in April and had to cancel. I gave the voucher to my sister to use for a flight in October and when she tried to apply it to her total it said that it was not valid, because it would be expired by October. I knew that the credit voucher would expire in August, but the other half of my ticket which was paid by credit card should be able to be applied. I called Southwest and was told that when you use a credit voucher, your entire ticket expires per the credit expiration date. The ticket defaults to the earliest expiration date. What this means is if you apply a credit voucher to your ticket and your credit expires in two weeks, and for some reason you have to cancel your travel plans, your entire ticket expires in two weeks. If you don’t use it by the expiration, you lose the entire ticket amount. Absolutely absurd policy! No wonder why they are the only profitable airline. I have not received a response from the CEO, however I did call Customer Relations and explained the situation. They said if I could get a letter from my doctor proving I was sick during this time, they would refund the amount paid on my credit card. I faxed a letter today and am awaiting a refund. I do feel that this policy will come back to haunt them. Nothing is clear as day on their website. If you don’t search for every possible scenario, you will get screwed! It’s just a matter of time before a class action suit appears. I actually e-mailed an attorney about a class action, because I really think there is something there, but I really just wanted to resolve my issue at the moment, which I did. It may be resurrected, however. You cannot take someone’s money and not deliver. Because your website is technically challenged and cannot include two expiration dates, it's ok to take someone's money and not deliver? It’s similar to expiring a gift certificate, which is against the law in California.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How Can I Help You? Key to Networking.

The word “networking” is so overused, and people tend to define it based on their expectations. Networking is defined in the dictionary as “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” Networking in the past was about showing up at events with your business cards (and resumes) and selling yourself to others, so they either want to hire you, or do business with you. With the state of affairs and so many people looking for jobs, there truly needs to be a paradigm shift from the way we used to network, to the way we need to network now. When you go into a networking situation or event, lower your expectations. Think about what you have to offer to the people you are about to meet. What can you do to support others’ needs? There will always be someone more in need than you. I’ve always approached networking in this way (which may explain why I am popular, but not rich). Whether it is connecting with people on Linked In and offering to introduce them to others, or introducing them to others via e-mail. It took me a while to get to the point where I didn’t expect that when I needed help, those same individuals that I helped time and time again, would be there for me. When I was unemployed a few years ago and reached out to my “network”, I did not receive the responses that I expected. I was disappointed and it created tension with my relationships. When you offer to help others, you have to do it from a place of giving and not expecting anything in return; no strings attached. There are some people who always ask for help and never offer it, and there are others who just don’t enjoy helping. This is a fact, whether we want to accept it or not. Everyone is different. Remember, if someone is asking for help and you do not have the energy to get involved, simply say no. It is in your right to not want to help. If you do want to help, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.

I get asked often why I offer to revise resumes and connect people when I know I am not going to get a commission from it. I truly enjoy connecting people. I like to be a conduit for future relationships. I want to see others succeed. It makes me feel good. Why wouldn’t I help someone if it is within my power to do so? Whatever connection they make with the other person, is their connection. I know the person I am and I know whatever happens in my life, I’ll be ok.