Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mike's An Artist

Mike is having a pretty good couple of days. He was asked on Thursday to help finish the set design for a local play being staged at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. He's been working evenings since Saturday to finish painting the set pieces. Tonight should be his last night on the job.

What's exciting about this is twofold. One, Mike is being paid for his efforts, making this his first official job in the arts field. Two, he's getting great experience and more material for his application portfolio, which he'll be submitting to the University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh College of Arts in approximately one month.

Today was also Mike's last day of summer quarter. So, on top of working until 1AM since Saturday, Mike has been going to school part time in the evenings and working full time during the days. No one can say he isn't trying his hardest to realize the dream. Happily, he now has a month off from school until fall quarter starts, at the end of September.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where's The Service?

A few years ago, probably early 2002, we were moving from Everett, WA to Belltown in Seattle. We had made our moving truck rental reservation online, with U-Haul, many months in advance. Desi called U-Haul the day before our move to confirm our rental truck would be ready and available the next morning. She was given confirmation by a gentleman working in the store (rather than the call center).

When we arrived the next morning to pick-up our rental truck we were told they didn't have it, but they had a smaller truck they could give us for $29.99/day and double the miles for free, since we were going to have to make two trips. Please note that on their price board in the store and on their windows (to mark the special) they were advertising the same size truck they were now offering us for $29.99/day as $19.99/day (in fact, there was no evidence of that truck costing $29.99/day anywhere in the store). Desi pointed this out to them. The manager of the store told her that price was only for some trucks of that size and not all of them. Desi asked if they had any of the cheaper trucks on the lot. The manager told her yes, but they were already reserved. She pointed out that her larger truck had been reserved, and confirmed, and that they should give her one of the cheaper, smaller trucks in order to keep her business. They rejected that offer and we walked off the lot without a truck.

The point: U-Haul was willing to screw us, twice, because they didn't care if they lost our business. The result: we have not used U-Haul since and never will. After walking off the U-Haul lot, we called J & R Trucking, a local truck rental purveyor, and they gave us the size truck we wanted for a very reasonable last minute rate and we only had to make one trip. We love J & R Trucking for that reason and, for all our local moving needs, we will only use them.

We tell everyone this story to prevent them from using U-Haul. We hate U-Haul and, to this day, Desi still fights the desire to do something destructive to the U-Haul stores that she sees.

Why are we bringing this up now? Because a similar situation just arose with Ryder. We had made a reservation for a van rental in Tukwila at least a month in advance to move some hardwood floors to Desi's uncle's place near Salem, OR. The day before pick-up Desi received a call from the Ryder store telling us they didn't have our van but a store in Tacoma did and we could go down there to get it. Tukwila is already 10 miles from our home and Tacoma is 30 miles from our home. Desi cancelled the reservation.

Desi used to work for Thrifty Car Rental. And, when a reservation was made for the Salt Lake City Airport location of Thrifty Car Rental but the car for that reservation was located in Provo, UT or Park City, UT they would move the car to the Salt Lake City Airport location because that's where the customer wanted to pick it up. The idea of calling the customer to have them pick it up at another location was never even considered. Because, they knew that if they called the customer with that request they would lose the rental.

The point: where's the service?! In this economy, where's the service? We're not asking them to do anything extreme. If they don't have the van, then don't grant the reservation. Desi was encountering this a lot when originally making the reservation. That's why she had to go all the way to Tukwila before she found what she wanted. But, the day before a reservation, you're going to call and ask us to go 30 miles (60 miles round trip) out of our way to pick up something we reserved over a month in advance? WHERE'S THE SERVICE?! Needless to say, we will no longer be patronizing Ryder with our moving needs.

A larger point would be highlighting the fact that dark economic days in history have usually resulted in companies creating a better experience for their customers. This typically results in better customer service, better products, better return policies, etc. But, in our experience, so far this current economic climate is not resulting in this type of fight for our dollar. Instead, we're being told to go to Tacoma. We're not going to take it anymore and are vowing to spend our dollar only where it is not taken for granted which can manifest itself in simple ways. For example, when grocery shopping, or shopping of any kind, not having to wait in line for the only open cash register would be nice. Or, when reserving a car in Seattle, WA not being called up the day before and asked to travel to Boise, ID to pick it up.
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