Thursday, October 27, 2011

Please visit my other blog: Live Your Love Out Loud

Thank you so much for reading this blog. It has been an awesome way to turn a professional back ground and my pet peeve into something positive and constructive. Please read my other blatherings at my Live Your Love Out Loud blog, where I post daily often.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Help Found: Kashi Foods

My dog Steve was decidedly pleased when I got the mail today. This is a picture of him with a Kashi TLC Pita Crisp. We got a WHOLE BOX OF CRACKERS in the mail today!!! Yippee! (Note: some of my friends get free beds, trips, cards and clothes....but I have to say I am pretty stoked with free snack foods! (My caboose isn't this...*ahem*...luxurious from salads y'all!)

I LOVE all things Kashi. We have eaten most every cereal, cracker and cereal bar they put out. We signed up online to get the newsletter and any freebie surprises. I have received free coupons for anything they offer a coupon for, along with four or five additional $1.50 coupons for my friends. I always sometimes share them with my actual friends. Never have I received a whole real full size box in the mail from them. (Perfect with a Three Floyd's beer!) I don't know if they are all that different from their awesome TLC "Tasty Little Cracker" line, but they sure are awesome. Of course, they should come in cheddar.

Kashi offers excellent customer service in both their culture and marketing campaigns. Their website, packaging and branding is very clear in what they are offering and how much they value their customers. For example, I already buy their food and they keep sending me generous coupons. Their products are not only (truly) healthy and made of real food, but they feel friendly too. Can a cracker or cereal feel friendly? You betcha. My pita crackers are a'smilin' at me right now, gotta go eat 'em now...Steve the dog only gets that one. I wonder if I can hide them from should share them with my husband and daughters?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Help WANTED & FOUND: Hormel vs. Tyson Pot Roast

We do not buy much processed food. I'm a big fan of Michael Pollan's book Food Rules and so we strive to eat real food and cook most of it ourselves. Except when we go for fast food naughtiness too often. (Ahem, I digress.)

At any rate, one night when my brain was scrambled and dinner was NOT going to happen without some help from my husband John, he went to the grocery store for us. John chose a pot roast from the refrigerated section. A POT ROAST! You know, the food item your Grandma makes on Sunday afternoons because it takes hours to do it right? Well this one took a few minutes in the microwave, and was so delicious we scraped our plates and I was a little angry there was not more of it. I was THRILLED, mortified and stunned about how easy it was. Since the ingriedient label wasn't as long, complicated and gross as one might imagine, I decided we would buy this again sometime as soon as possible.

A few days later we were in the grocery store and I was looking for the pot roast. I was a woman on a mission. We got it home and when I cooked it, it didn't smell as good as I remembered and didn't look very appealing. I asked my husband if he'd shredded it or something to make it look so yummy the other time, and he said "Not really". I tried shredding it a bit but it wasn't real tender like I remembered and didn't smell like pot roast in my food fantasies. When I plated it and we sat down to eat I took one bite and was grossed out. It tasted like wet chunk dog food smells. I was mortified. I didn't eat it. I rarely let food sit idle around me, so you must understand this was A BIG DEAL. I was so disappointed. My husband did eat his, but he sure didn't come after my serving. We talked at length and figured it must have been a different brand of pot roast we bought the first time.

I actually got online after dinner and we figured out the pot roast my husband bought was HORMEL Pot roast with au jus. The nasty pot roast that was everything you would expect from a microwavable meat item was Tyson. I'm remembering the difference by the "T" T is for terrible, and the Tyson pot roast was TERRIBLE.

I was so disgruntled I called Tyson ("dinner made easy") to complain. I talked to David on 6/14/11 at 4:19 EST. I asked if they had an au jus version of their pot roast, he said they did not. I explained that we rarely buy processed food but my husband had brought home a packaged roast beef in au jus and we LOVED it and meant to buy it again. I said we bought a Tyson roast which was packaged similarly but was unappealing to look at and was so nasty tasting I didn't even eat, and I am not a girl who misses meals. He asked what exactly was wrong with it. I said it tasted like dog food. Which it did. He thanked me curtly for my feedback and said "I appreciate your feedback and will report it." End of call! No apology, no refund, nada. I guess they aren't just missing quality and flavor, but customer service as well.

I went to the Hormel web site and was pleased to find the right pot roast. I was also happy to read this:

"From microwave to plate in just four minutes and now with no preservatives, Hormel® refrigerated entrees are the centerpiece of a hearty, nutritious family meal! Just combine one of our entrees with your favorite side dish to help build a convenient meal in minutes."

This information made me feel pretty good about using Hormel brand of processed food in a pinch.
I emailed Hormel ("Life better served") through their website right after my Terrible Tyson phone call. Here it is:

"I LOOOOVED your beef roast, we rarely buy packaged food and my husband bought this. Meant to buy it AGAIN the NEXT WEEK but accidentally bought Tyson's beef roast. It was ugly looking and so nasty I didn't even eat it. When I called to complain I was curtly thanked and that was the end of the offer for refund or apology etc. I am a customer service blogger and cannot WAIT to write this one."

I got kind of a blase form letter reply in my email the next day. For as fabulous as their pot roast is, I would like to see a little more personality in their customer service interactions. Here is their response:

Mrs Novak,

We appreciate your taking the time to contact us with your compliment on HORMEL® Beef Roast Au Jus.

We continually strive to achieve the highest quality possible in our products. It is nice to hear from consumers who feel we have met this goal and appreciate our efforts.

Thank you for your comments.


Consumer Response Representative

Ref # 2061120

I guess when your pot roast is that good what more do you need? Well, I would have loved a coupon or something. Especially since I wasted seven or eight dollars on their competitor's 'meat'. I would have been over the moon with a measly little coupon. Great customer service is about more than just responding quickly or having a solid, desirable product. Having a satisfied customer isn't enough, you want to have Raving Fans! Hormel could have made me a raving fan of their COMPANY not just their one food item. It was a missed opportunity to do a little more and gain a lot in the way of brand loyalty from a customer. I still like them, but I'm not in love. (It's not you, it's me.) We will buy the Hormel Beef Roast Au Jus again, but we aren't running to the store this time. Even though their seductive meaty deliciousness still calls me. Mmmm. I'm once again gun shy of processed foods and look forward to attempting to make my own grass fed pot roast in the crock pot at home. I sure hope I earn Raving Fans!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Help WANTED: The Apple Store, University Park Mall

The Apple Computer Store: Heaven or Hell?

Some of you see this modern technology store as a holy place worthy of a pilgrimage. Well let me tell you, I pilgrimaged and it isn't Heaven. Maybe Hell is a bit harsh...but let me share the customer service experience I had this week.

My husband has turned me into a Mac person more because he knows a lot more about these sorts of things than I do. I think the branding of Mac as hip and cool is super effective. As a Mac user I feel ten years younger and twenty pounds thinner not to mention MUCH smarter just because I use a Mac. But here is where I am not thrilled: The customer service at the telephone level.

I had called a few days earlier and set an appointment at the Apple store at University Park Mall in Mishawaka, Indiana for 12:15pm Thursday June 30th to have our iMac G5 looked at. It was NOT performing whatsoever despite my hubs efforts to do all the stuff we can do to make it work usually. They asked my name and maybe my telephone number. I was surprised they didn't ask what was wrong with it, but I think I prattled about that to them anyway even if they didn't ask.

This was my Thursday: Pack up and load my six month old baby and two and half year old daughter into the car at 9:30am (right after taking the baby to the doctor for her six month visit and shots, I may add.) Drive one hour and some on the toll road spending three bucks to get to the store. I had spent considerable conversational effort with my friend Maggie who was going to watch my kidlets while I dragged the computer into the mall. The time change meant after arriving I was an hour behind which made everything trickier. We decided she would meet me in the mall and I would wear the baby to the store while her toddler played with mine in the mall play area.

As I put the baby on, got the boxed computer out of the car (my fabu husband kept the original box, not sure what I would have done otherwise!) and balanced the toddler out of her car seat with one hand I realized I could not carry the computer through the mall...too heavy and bulky. So I got the tiny folding umbrella stroller out which the toddler cried to ride in, balanced the computer box on it and proceeded into the mall at an embarrassing and traffic stoppingly slow pace. I was sweating, the toddler was crying, and the baby spit up all over me and the carrier. We had not even entered the mall yet.

We finally made it to the Apple store...all five of us after hooking up with my pal and her son. What I really liked about the store and the employees is they had a kid level table and chairs and computer stations right by the front which our tots ran to. I was greeted right away, they took the computer from me (WHEW!) and when I asked if I had time to find a bathroom, they offered theirs....which was hidden behind super cool stainless steel doors next to the service counter. I asked if all of us could go, the hip computerista said "Do whatever you have to do!" So we all went into the secret hallway and used the facilities happily. When we came out it was just a few more minutes before I was called up to the computer bar. The baby threw up on me again. It hit the floor with a wet splat and I apologized to Katie who had called me to the counter. She was gracious and kind about it which I really appreciated. It is gross enough to wear baby hurl like perfume, worse still to have it dispensed on private property.

Katie looked at our computer's serial number and plugged it into her system. She frowned and turned to me with a genuinely concerned look on her face. "I am so sorry to tell you this, but your G5 is six years old, and we are not allowed to work on anything that is older than five years, it is considered vintage."


You know the slow motion montage you see in some movies where the protagonist climbs over the counter and throttles someone as a fantasy but in real life they just stand there dumbfounded and some shade of irate? That was me. Katie was so kind and concerned about it I wasn't irate, but I was super unhappy. I said to her, "Katie, I know this is not your fault...but I have just driven over an hour with two tiny babies, had a friend come with her small child to meet me and help, dragged this computer in here and now you cannot help me?" She gave me a card (Katie Holt: Genius) and jotted down the info for a computer place in town that could work on my machine, Pixel Creek Technologies. It was all the way across town by the airport. My plan had been to hang out waiting for the computer if need be with my girlfriend who lives near the mall and nowhere near the airport. I turned, near tears and fuming, towards the door.

Katie then did the best thing ever: she offered to have Azeem carry the computer back out to the car for me! "ABSOLUTELY!" I said. Now THAT was excellent customer service. It only partially redeemed the situation for me, however. As I left the store with my entourage I realized one basic, simple, obvious question could have averted this awful experience. One simple question that seems would be standard for any person calling Apple with technology issues. One question would have saved us all: What kind of Mac are you bringing in?

I hope Apple adds this no brainer question into their telephone exchanges in the future. My Mac may make me thinner, younger and smarter, but I expect more too. I expect not to have the day I had again. I won't sell off my kids, so my only hope to never have this happen again is that Apple learns to ask more questions before my young, skinny, smart self straggles into their store again.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Help FOUND: Menard's, Valparaiso

Help FOUND through Assistant General Manager Ron Potter at Menard's in Valparaiso, IN

We bought this grill with some yard sale proceeds and were excited to return to our charcoal grilling foodie heaven!

It was on sale, nice sized and good lookin'! My dear Husband battled with some shlocky hole alignments in putting it together, but other than family entanglements expected with two tiny kidlets, assembly was timely. We used it for the first time on Father's Day. (If you must know, we grilled onion burgers. Yup, they were tasty.) What left a bad taste in our mouths was the top of the grill on which the paint peeled up. We are not idiots, we didn't light a huge fire and close the grill or anything...this was just a shoddy product. A shoddy product that we paid cash for since we live debt free. A shoddy product for which we threw away the receipt, not expecting this would need to be returned.

The booklet for "The Original Outdoor Cooker" charcoal grill insisted that "Should you encounter any problem(such as the top of the grill peeling up after one use) or obtain replacement parts CONTACT US FIRST Do not return product to the store."

I called the company phone number and left two different messages along with my story and contact information on Friday June 24 and Tuesday June 28. Surprisingly, have not heard back from the company.

After reading grilling recipe articles in our local NWI Times newspaper I began to resent the fact we would not be grilling this fine Fourth of July weekend. I thought even without a receipt and even though we paid in cash (Menard's will happily look up and replace a lost receipt from a credit or debit card transaction) I would at least call and see if they could help.

I usually find better help for sticky customer service situations when I talk to an employee or manager in person. Unfortunately with two babies and the large item in question I didn't think I was up for the challenge. I called Menard's and asked to speak with the manager on duty. I spoke with Ro-- I tried to clarify, Rob or Rod? He said RON! I think we both laughed. Maybe it was just me? I explained the whole evil grill saga and Ron (Ron Potter, I found out later) not only said they could offer store credit at sale price without a receipt, but he took the time to look up all grill transactions under the SKU I gave him, found ours and even told me we bought the grill at 3:43pm Saturday June 4th!

Ron said Menard's could give us our full purchase price with the "Transaction Inquiry" he printed out. We established that he would leave it at the Office Manger's desk up front and I could get it anytime today to do a return. I was so happy with this result that I told him I was a customer service blogger and I could feel a blog coming on. Ron laughed and said "This is what I get paid to do, I don't need accolades!" I asked if I could send the blog link to anyone and he did say on the Menard's website there was a customer comments area, so I will send this there too.

So many employees can help their customers like Ron Potter helped me, but they choose not to. They either do not care or aren't empowered enough in their work to make the extra effort that makes a difference. It may be true Mr. Potter just didn't want to see a crazy lady with two babies screaming and crying and dragging a big broken grill through the store...but I'd prefer to think he just likes to do everything he can to help people in ay situation he is in. Thank you Ron Potter, because of you my husband thinks I am awesome and we will be grilling this weekend...wanna stop by?

(Of course the full story will continue after I bring the behemoth of a grill into the store...stay posted for updates!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Help FOUND: Michael's Craft Store

Help Found: Michael's Craft Store
By Heather Curlee Novak

We moved to Valparaiso a year ago, but the basement and garage look like we have yet to unpack. Among the little often overlooked chores were several art pieces I had purchased over the years but never framed or hung up. One inspired morning (After six years or longer per piece.) I finally drug out all that needed to be framed in our home.

My previous professional framing experience was Hobby Lobby, which I love, but everything always cost fifty dollars. Three small things framed: fifty dollars. One poster framed: fifty dollars. And it took two trips because I had to go back and pick up my completed pieces a week or two later. Which now meant hauling tiny tots in with me and carrying them and my work out again. So you may see my reluctance to take four items in to Michael's to get them framed. I towed along my sleeping infant and charming two year old to finally get this nagging "to do" TO DONE!

Megan S. whom I later discovered is the Frame Department Manager helped me. I explained that cost was a concern, but shared what I was looking for in terms of style and size. She deftly escorted me to several locations to find their selection of frames that would fit my pieces without needing a custom fit or the cost of a custom fit. She also showed the frames that were on sale...cha ching! When I found a rustic wood frame and asked her to help me find glass and backing for it, She came through again. Megan showed me a comparable frame for much less and everything was together already. This was much better for me, because let's be honest, when am I going to find or make time to piece the frame parts together myself?

Megan even trimmed two pictures down for me to help fit them better in the pre made frames for a couple of bucks. All in all I spent less than thirty minutes and less than $45 for all four items. I complimented Megan and told her I planned to write about her awesome customer service. That is when she said she was the department manager. I can see she earns her position there, and I won't be surprised when someone tries to hire her to even bigger and better work. Thank you Megan, for caring about me, and for caring about what your work says about you. Frame on!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Help FOUND: Sally's Beauty Supply

I am a fake redhead. I've been a fake redhead for about 20 years and most every month of those years I have colored it red my very own self. I love salon color and know it is better in every way, but I just rarely have the budget for it when I know I can do a fair second for so much less. I have even tried beauty school color but it is just too hit or miss for me. Besides, I can color my hair in my own bathroom as my two bitty kidlets sleep instead of hiring a sitter and scheduling everything to go to have it colored by professionals. So I slack.

Recently I gawked at a beauteous head of red red red hair as we dropped our kids off at the YMCA to go work out. I said, "Please tell me that is not natural, and then tell me where you get it done!" The pretty lady laughed and said, "Actually I work at a salon, Vanis, here in Valparaiso." We talked and I struggled not to ask to touch her red hair like I did before when I had hair lust."

I plan to check Vanis out for my next haircut, but I still cannot seem to budget fifty bucks or more for color. For some reason this exchange with the firey faux redhead jogged my memory that I could buy professional hair color to use at home at Sally Beauty Supply! I also remember the only other time I bought hair color from Sally Beauty Supply I ended up with purple hair my first year in college! I now know not to do the violet reds. I was young then. I got very excited and couldn't wait to get in there and see what they had to offer.

On June 6 about 6:00pm a friend dropped me off to pick my car up from the mechanic and I decided to run a "quick kid free" errand to Target since my husband was home with the kids. Then of course I decided to "quickly" pop into Sally's and look at their color. I was trying to hurry and wasn't sure if I would get what I needed before my husband had to call to see if I was ever coming home.

The clerk Kirsten greeted me and asked if I needed help. Did I ever! I quickly babbled all of my information out and she easily and happily helped me find everything I needed in a super fast amount of time. I also asked about color depositing shampoos since red fades quickly and we have hard water to boot. She guided me to the shampoos but then mentioned her boss used a hair glaze when she was a redhead. She went to wherever that was and grabbed a tube to show me...I have no idea where she got it from because she did all the questing. It looked perfect (and cheaper than the shampoo & conditioner I would have purchased)

Shopping at Sally's and being helped by Kirsten actually felt like my gal pal and I were shopping together, not a clerk offering customer service! I was very pleased with Kirsten's customer service...she helped me with everything I needed and did it FAST. As you can see from my hair color drama I needed help, and I found it!