Customer Service

Disturbing Trend Against Photographers

Tonight, I went out to CityWalk as part of the Microsoft Tech-Ed conference in town this week. They reserved The Groove for jam sessions. I decided this year I'd rather shoot than play, so I packed up my D200 and a couple of lenses.

Universal Studios Orlando has a bag check before you enter CityWalk, and I have no problem with that. Disney does the same thing. However, I was particularly disturbed when the security guards held me aside and said, “We've got another one.”

I looked over and there was another man with a Nikon around his neck. I tried to ask the guard what she was talking about, but she kept putting me off with “one second” as she talked to someone on her radio.

It had something to do with the fact that I had a professional camera. I explained to her that I wasn't working on an assignment – this is my hobby. My photos are no more professional than the hundreds of people she let enter with a point and shoot camera. No response.
Finally, the voice on the other side of the radio had her tell me that I could take photos inside The Groove for my event, but nowhere else in the park.

First, that was my intention all along.

However, why do they discriminate against a bigger camera? They aren't prohibiting all photography (which is their right), just those of us with nice gear. I explained that I'd been there with my camera many times before without this kind of incident.

Brick wall. She doesn't care or respond. I truly hate that kind of mentality and rudeness.

It's their property, and they do have the right to say what you can and can't bring. However, I have the right to vote with my money. Goodbye, Universal Studios and CityWalk.

Warranty Repair? Unlikely

Consider this a warning from one home-owner to another. If you hire a contractor or service to do some improvement around your property, resist the urge to give them the final payment until everything is absolutely complete and you've inspected to your satisfaction. The only incentive contractors have to do any work is to get that paycheck. Once they have it, don't count on seeing them again for any warranty repair.

I posted a while back about some home repairs I was doing, including tree trimming and putting up a new fence. In both cases, I made the mistake of giving final payment when they were almost finished. The tree trimmer left before clearing out some remaining branches. More disappointing was the fence contractor – Florida Custom Fence.

When I first contacted Jay York, president of the Florida Custom Fence, he impressed me with his professionalism. Then again, so did another company with a better rate. When I called Jay back to tell him that he came in second, he worked hard to get the bid. He matched the other company's rate and was able to start sooner. I liked his attitude and gave him the job.

Most of the work seemed pretty solid. They didn't bring in pre-fab segments, they built the fence board by board. It looked pretty solid, though there were a couple of errors (including a sprinkler head that was now on the wrong side of the fence.

However, they really screwed up the gate. I gave clear instructions that I wanted the gate to open into the fenced area, and I wanted to lock it from that side. The previous fence worked that way. However, this seemed to confuse the fence builders a bit. They ended up putting the hinges on a different side, and it had a hard time closing flush to the fence. They also had a problem installing the latch, and there was no way to lock it because the latch was up against a 4×4 post. When I called about it, they came out a couple days later with a circular saw and cut a notch into the post.

A few weeks later, the wood on the gate started warping and it certainly wasn't flush. The top leans back and the bottom extends forward from the rest of the fence by several inches – enough for my smallest dog to wiggle out. That sort of defeats the purpose of spending a few thousand dollars on a new fence.

When I called back, there was a new voice on the phone. Someone named Hunter took over the customer service. Ok, it took several calls before Hunter managed to come out to inspect the fence. Several calls and a couple of weeks, and at least one missed appointment. When he finally arrived, Hunter was friendly enough. He agreed the fence wasn't up to their standards and they needed to fix it.

That was the last I ever saw or heard from Hunter.

I called Hunter several more times, another week or so passed. Finally, I e-mailed Jay York. A few days later, he e-mailed back to agree that the problem was covered under warranty. Someone would be out within a week to fix it.

That was a two weeks ago, and it was the last I've heard from Jay York, president of Florida Custom Fence. The professional attitude I admired so much when he was trying to earn my business was completely gone now.

There's no profit in warranty work. It's an expense that a small business just doesn't want to make. For all I know, the time it takes to do it right for the second time may eliminate whatever profit margin he made from me. I already gave him a concession by allowing him to bill me for a check instead of using my AMEX card so he could save the percentage he'd have to pay to the card company.

Now I'm getting ready to search for another set of contractors. One to do some drywall repair and paint inside the house, and another to fix the gate that Florida Custom Fence botched.

Learn from my mistakes. That final payment is your final leverage.

Indian Call Centers Selling Private Data

A year ago, Britons learned that Indian call centers were selling their private identity information. It sems there's nothing new. SC Magazine reports that Indian call centers are still selling private credit card data on the black market. According to the article:

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) – adopted by the major credit card brands – requires organisations to monitor outsourcing service providers and states they are liable for fines if that provider compromises their data.

Good job, guys.

Another Laptop Stolen – More Personal Data At Risk

I checked the mail after getting home from work and found an envelope from th Harley Owner's Group (HOG). That got my attention, since Biketoberfest is around the corner in Daytona. Could it be an interesting offer coming to town during that event?

No, it was a Personal Information Advisery. It seems that a Harley-Davidson employee reported a missing laptop on Monday, August 14, 2006. The laptop contained HOG member data to facilitate registration at HOG events.

The letter claims that Harley-Davidson conducted an extensive investigation, notified law enforcement, and still want to retrieve the laptop. I'm sure that's true, though the word “extensive” means different things to different people. There are no circumstances provided regarding how the laptop disappeared, whether it was stolen or misplaced.

Harley-Davidson sent a letter to 60,000 people (including me) because the file contained either a credit card number and/or driver's license number. I know that HOG has both pieces of information from me, since I had to provide that information for a Fly & Ride rental during a trip to Salt Lake City in April this year.

Additionally, Harley-Davidson provided me with a free one-year account with ConsumerInfo.com to provide credit monitoring. There's a forum on the HOG members web site, and a promise to mail any pertinent information to me about the case.

This is a case where I understand why an employee had customer data on a laptop. Event registrations happen in the field without network access to a corporate database. Also, you never know who may attend an event. Harley owners frequently travel to HOG events out of their own state, so it makes sense to keep information on hand to accommodate those travelers.

However, I do not see any mention of security measures taken to protect data on the laptop. Theft or loss in the field is a reasonably high probability risk. Is the information password protected? Was the disk encrypted? I tend to doubt it, or the letter would probably try to assure me that my identity information was reasonably secure. How can a major corporation allow sensitive customer information outside of its walls without taking these reasonable precautions to protect it? These days, it's inexcusable to let a laptop with sensitive information go without disk encryption.

I appreciate the notification and apology from Mike Keefe, Vice President and Director of Harley Owner's Group. To Mike, I strongly recommend that you take my advice. Encrypt the hard drive on all of your remaining laptops. Customers like me depend upon your precautions.

Ouch!

I love my  bike. This morning, I rode it down to Orlando Harley-Davidson for its 25,000 mile service. The brakes need adjusting, it needs a new rear tire, and I told them I wanted synthetic oil. Who knows what else they do for this service mark?

Fortunately, it doesn't cost me much. I already have a four-year prepaid service plan for this maintenance, including oil & tires. Sure, I pay a little bit to upgrade the oil to synthetic, and I still have to pay labor to mount the tire. Overall, it's not so bad. On top of all that, they give me a free rental so I can ride home. That beats hanging around the dealership from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm.

About 4:00 pm, I got a call from Kim in the service department. I figured my bike was ready to pickup, but something in her voice sounded hesitant. The thought running through my head was, “What have you done to my bike?”

Well, they wrecked it. Not terribly, and the mechanic is OK. After doing all the work, they take the bikes out for a short ride to make sure everything feels right. He didn't get far when a car pulled out in front of him while he was making a left-hand turn.

Lucky for him (and my bike) that this happened at a slow speed; he figures about 5 mph. Still, it messed up a fork, bent the brake roter, and dented my front fender.

Orlando Harley-Davidson is taking care of all the damage. I would expect that much, but it's nice to hear them offer it on the phone without being prodded.

I can pick up my bike tomorrow morning about 10:00 am, but it'll still have a dent in the fender. They have to order a new fender and have it painted to match my bike's color. That takes about two weeks, and then I bring the bike over to have the fender replaced. I'd feel kind of dorky riding around with a dented fender. Maybe I'll put a band-aid on it.

Part of me wondered if the mechanic was a bit careless, but it doesn't matter. The damage isn't that bad, the dealer will take care of it, and there's not a damn thing I could change. It just sucks to have someone bang up your ride.