How Is AT&T Still In Business?

I just had another horrible experience with AT&T customer support, and I know I’m not alone. They have to be one of the most hated companies on earth for this reason. I just tried logging into their website to make changes to an account and since I do this so seldom, I could not remember my password. Against my better judgment, I attempted to reset my password online — to avoid having to call them, which is an even more painful experience. Twenty-five minutes later, after struggling with the user interface of their site, I get to the point where I click a button to have a temporary password sent to me so I can login. Upon clicking said button, I get a message informing me that the “My AT&T” site is down temporarily for maintenance. It’s tragically comic. Or comically tragic. I can’t decide which. But I do know that if I had another option available to me for DSL service, I would no longer be an AT&T customer. But since they are a monopoly, I’m stuck complaining about their crappy service to you, my dear reader. Thank you for listening.

 I Speak For The Trees

[continued from Part 1]

After meeting with the contractor that Ameren dispatched to walk my property line and mark trees, he invited me to walk the line with him. I was glad I did. Not only did this give me an opportunity to recalibrate his understanding of easements, but it gave him a chance to come clean and admit that he had already marked a half dozen of my trees with orange spray paint — designating them for removal! These trees were nowhere near the easement, but he said that they look for trees that will become a problem in the next few years and remove them as a preventative measure. He was very reasonable, and agreed to cover up the paint so that Nelson Tree Service would not touch them. (If it were only that easy!)

In my second letter to Ray Wiesehan, I recounted all of this and included photographs of the trees that had been painted. I concluded by telling him:

I very much appreciate your time and attention in coordinating with me prior to the trimming activity. However, it will have all been a waste of time if this information is not communicated to the Nelson Tree Service crew who actually performs the work. I have erected four Private Property signs along my property line to aid the crew in determining where they are allowed to cut. I have done everything I can reasonably do to protect my property. Now it is my expectation that you will do the same.

It quickly became apparent that all of my work had been for naught. Despite my due diligence, there had been no coordination whatsoever on Ameren’s part. The showdown I had hoped to avoid occurred May 5, when Nelson Tree Service showed up with their Super-Axe-Hackers, ready to fell my beloved Truffula Trees. I explained the situation to their supervisor, Randy Jennings, and he was also a very reasonable gentleman, but his complete lack of concern for where his crew was cutting left me quite dismayed. I asked him if anyone had talked to him with regard to my property, or if he even had a map of the property lines. The answer, of course, was no, and obviously, without a map, easements have no meaning.

The irony is that Ameren’s own web site says, “Ameren may have to remove trees that we deem a high risk to electrical service … A contractor from Ameren will notify the homeowner regarding the need for removal.” This is nonsense. It is painfully clear that even if a homeowner goes out of her way to demand this kind of interaction, it probably won’t happen. No, the only way to protect your trees from Ameren’s hired vandals is to camp out in your yard and be ready to speak on their behalf.

 I Am The Lorax

I am not a fan of Ameren. Ever since I spent seven days without electricity in the throes of a St. Louis summer, there is very little that company can do to find favor with me. I’m sure I’m not alone. That incident in July 2006, where a half million residents lost power for days following some severe storms, actually gave Ameren enough of a black eye that they started to at least pretend that they cared about their customers. In response to the public outcry, Ameren launched an initiative to make their service more reliable. What they actually launched was a War on Trees.

I’ve always been a fan of trees. Spending your entire childhood right next to the woods surrounding a creek will do that to you. The value of a tree is difficult to quantify when you consider all of its benefits. Beyond the sheer beauty, there are the obvious environmental benefits, not to mention the financial benefits of a shade tree that makes your air conditioner more efficient. In our current house, I’ve discovered that the abatement of noise and visual nuisances is one of a tree’s most valuable functions. I’ve also discovered that unless you are willing to speak in defense of your trees, you are likely to lose them to people who do not care.

So let’s ignore for the moment that Ameren is a monopoly that acts as an agent of the government (which by itself is plenty of reason to despise them), and focus on just the impenetrable bureaucracy of a public utility. In March I received a notice in the mail from Ameren that they were once again beginning their quadrennial assault on our arboreal assets. In response, I fired off a letter to Ray Weisehan, “Onceler” of Vegetation Management, asking that he direct his chainsaw mercenaries (Nelson Tree Service) to carefully consult their maps before setting foot on my property so that they would know which trees were in the Ameren easement, and which trees to leave alone.

To my surprise, Ameren actually responded by dispatching a Jared Rielson from the Utilimap Corporation to walk my property line and mark the trees that should be targeted. One might expect that a contractor from a company called Utilimap would have consulted an actual map before performing his duties. One would be wrong. It also came as a surprise when I told him that Ameren’s easement extended a mere five feet on either side of their electrical lines, and not the ten feet that he had been led to believe. But the last surprise was on me when we finally walked the property together…

[continued in Part 2]

 Hey Airline Industry!

Recent surveys have indicated that the airlines are getting worse instead of better when it comes to customer satisfaction, one of the key areas being on-time arrivals. Now it doesn’t take a genius to realize that arriving on time is heavily dependent on departing on time, so it follows that anything an airline can do to reduce the amount of time a plane sits at the gate will serve to improve this valuable metric. And yet, the airlines continue to make decisions that will most likely have the opposite effect.

I travel fairly frequently, so I get to see the impact of these decisions first hand. First, the whole charging extra for baggage thing has had a direct impact on the time it takes to load the plane and push back from the gate, as passengers now have incentive to carry on luggage that was never intended to be carried on. This holds up other passengers, while they try to figure out how to wedge a 60-pound steamer trunk in the overhead bin. Second, you have American Airlines implementing new policies allowing coach passengers pay extra to reserve the prime seats closest to the exit, essentially creating a new class of passengers — Super Coach? First Class Lite? This will only serve to further clog the aisle in a process that was not flowing all that smoothly to begin with.

Which brings me to the point of this rant. I’m used to being assigned a group number that determines what order the passengers are allowed to board the plane. Has anyone else noticed that membership in these groups seems to be completely random, and that your seat assignment seems to have no bearing? Here’s an idea: if you’re going to go to the trouble of breaking us up into groups to board your lousy airplanes, why not do it in something approaching a logical manner? For instance, American Airlines has six groups (not counting First Class, and all the other priority seating classes). It seems to me that Group 1 should be all windows seats in the rear half of the plane, Group 2 should be all window seats in the front half. Group 3 should be middle seats in the rear, while Group 4 is middle seats in front. And finally, Groups 5 and 6 should be aisle seats in the aft and fore respectively.

If the airline industry cannot manage even simple steps such as this to streamline the boarding process, then they are doomed to continue failing to meet customer expectations. And don’t even get me started on lost luggage.


This is addressed to those who routinely mispronounce the name of my home state. Some of you, inexplicably, are from this state and you still don’t know how to pronounce it. Since you somehow managed to escape any proper instruction in its pronunciation, allow me to enlighten you. It is pronounced Mizz-oo-ree. Please note that the word ends in the letter ‘i’ and not ‘ah.’ Would you care to explain why Missouri gets special treatment? I’ve never once heard anyone say “Miss-iss-ipp-ah.” Or talk about how they had spaghett-ah for dinner. So what exactly is your problem, anyway?

I don’t mean to impugn anyone’s upbringing, or education level. I don’t think those are relevant, anyway. Our very own Senator Kit Bond, who grew up in St. Louis, went to Princeton and was a Rhodes Scholar after all, suffers from this same horrible affliction. I guess I need to write him a letter and ask why it is he can’t correctly pronounce our state’s name.

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