February 28, 2008

Losing customers... at Sprint speed

As a Sprint customer, I find the news that Sprint lost $29.5 billion last quarter... well... incredibly easy to believe. Also incredibly satisfying.

And I'm especially heartened to read that the company is acknowledging that it's losing money not because of market trends or writedowns related to its acquisition of Nextel, but because it's, um, losing customers at an astounding rate -- 700,000 customers who had annual contracts left in the last three months of 2007 alone. That's impressive.

I wonder if it has anything to do with the unimaginably atrocious customer service. Apparently, being complete assholes every time you interact with the people who pay you for the privilege of using your service does turn people off -- even if the customer service page on your corporate web site advises us that "Sprint wants you to enjoy the best customer experience."

Like many others, I have a Sprint tale of woe. Two years ago, someone hacked into my account and added three lines (including one for a phone number in northern Indiana -- ick!) and ran up about $800 in calls in a month. After weeks of my begging and pleading, Sprint kind of figured out that those lines and those calls weren't mine -- must have been tough since that's about what I spend on cell service in two years. But they were still going to make me pay half of the fraudulent charges.

It took several more emails and calls to work it out; each time I contacted them, they grudgingly agreed to knock off a hundred dollars or so until the balance came out to zero. Actually, because of their convoluted way of doing the math, I wound up with a credit of something like $7.32, which was great, but somehow made me hate them even more.

It's amusing that the CEO blames some of the company's struggles on the "brand" lacking "relevance and a clear message." I think the message that Sprint pretty much hates its customers comes through loud and clear.

Oh, and, yes, I'm still a customer. I get a monthly discount through my employer. What a sucker!

February 25, 2008

Spend in the clowns

Maybe contributing a few bucks to support the campaign of your fave presidential candidate is a very American thing to do -- playing your tiny-but-oh-so-valuable little role in this fine democratic system.

On the other hand, maybe you're just paying for a crapload of donuts (and, by the way, would you really support a candidate whose staff chose Dunkin' Donuts over Krispy Kremes?) and filling the coffers of overpaid and generally ineffectual corporate p.r. agencies.

Think maybe I'll do something more useful with that $25, like buy myself a donut and download 24 songs from iTunes.

February 22, 2008

Name game

If your name is Allison Edwards or Allison Epstein or Allison Engel, this post will be really interesting.

When I was flying home on Monday, I sat behind a guy wearing a Hard Rock Cafe baseball cap. (How original of him.) On the back, said cap bore the following slogan, which I assume to be Hard Rock's signature: "ALL IS ONE."

After pausing to dedicate one great big deep thought to that profound and well-placed mantra, it occurred to me that it would be really cool for someone whose first name was Allison and last name started with an E to have a company named All is One.

Two words

Flossing sucks.

February 14, 2008

I reject your rhetoric

In an article about the Obama-Clinton delegate duel, in today's New York Times:

"We don’t think our lead will drop below 100 delegates,” David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, said in an interview. “The math is the math.”

Once and for all: Can people stop saying stupid things like that? (Or, at a minimum, can newspapers stop printing them?) Is it just me, or has this construction -- along with such brilliant turns as "It is what it is" -- suddenly become acceptable as worthwhile analysis of any given situation? Does anyone else think this is the laziest possible way to make a point? Does anyone else realize it doesn't actually mean anything?

I guess it's a useful rhetorical tool -- it's kind of hard to argue with someone who puts forth that "the math" is, in fact, "the math." But I think we need a new rule. If any sentence you're speaking begins and ends with the same two-word phrase, separated by another singular word, you should just shut up.

Sorry, you can't disagree with me. I write what I write.

If loving you is wrong...

Thanks to the continued steroid silliness on Capitol Hill, newspapers all over the nation today have front-page photos of Roger Clemens testifying that he never used performance enhancing drugs. (Kind of looks awkward in a suit, doesn't he?)

Smart move by Roger. I mean, vehemently asserting his innocence in front of a Congressional committee and scores of cameras worked so well for Rafael Palmeiro. Oh, wait a minute.

Anyway, if you read my previous entry about this idiocy, you know my theory that Congress is wasting its time on this imbecilic quest mostly because congressmen are hoping to rub shoulders with famous athletes. (An addendum to that theory is that these legislators were student-government dorks in high school who were jealous of the star athletes and they're taking out their frustration by harassing the kinds of guys who used to beat them up.)

Call it men's intuition. (Hm. Why is it I've never heard that phrase before?) Call it common sense. Call it an excuse to write another post on an otherwise slow news day. But I dare say that coverage of yesterday's hearings proves my little hypothesis.

To wit, the honorable Elijah E. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said this to Clemens: “It’s hard to believe you, sir. I hate to say that. You’re one of my heroes, but it’s hard to believe you.”


Apparently, the microphone malfunctioned after that, so most people didn't hear him say, "And, can I get your autograph? Make it out to E.E., but make sure those initials are capitalized. People always confuse me with that poet guy."

And any notion that this isn't just ridiculous political grandstanding seems further supported by the fact that reporters have observed that the committee is split along party lines -- the Republicans generally siding with the players (shocker) and the Dems choosing to believe the allegations in the Mitchell Report.

Next, maybe Congress can get to the bottom of this whole Britney mess. Far-fetched? I don't think so.

February 13, 2008

Small mess with Texas, or the Lone Nut State

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times: Small-town Texas mayor agrees to take care of her neighbors' dog for a few days, tells them dog's dead, changes dog's name and sends dog to live at her twin sister's ranch before being charged with tampering with evidence and fabricating a police report. (If only they could charge people with "being a raging moron," life would be so much better.)

The best part of the story? The small-town Texas mayor -- now ex-mayor -- has a lawyer who was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the very subtle message, "No Cupable." That's Spanish for not guilty, for those of you who live outside of Los Angeles.

Good thing the attorney picked that shirt out of his drawer instead of the one that was underneath it, which read, "Mi cliente está loco."

Here's some free advice you can file away for the next time you call your lawyer: If your legal counsel is professing your innocence via imprinted sportswear, it might be time to get new legal counsel.

Kudos to the Times for letting its writers get a little funky, though. Referring to the dog, whose name had been changed during this caper, the reporter observed: "Puddles/Panchito had no comment. But he sniffed around Mr. Canales’s desk and lifted a leg." And beneath a photo of the wacko mayor holding her pilfered puppy, this gem of a caption: "Grace Saenz-Lopez, ex-mayor, and Panchito, ex-Puddles. "

So, Stark, now aren't you sorry you left the Lone Star State?

February 11, 2008

Fewer letters, more accurate

I moved to Chicago in 1993, but it took me a few years to get used to the comedic stylings of the legendary announcer Harry Caray during Cubs radio broadcasts. (And, yes, I'm using "comedic stylings" to be diplomatic. If I weren't being so diplomatic, "incoherent ramblings" might be the better adjective and gerund to use.)

By the mid-90s, Caray had taken to using the airwaves -- during ballgames, mind you -- to give listeners such valuable information as, "Sammy Sosa's last name spelled backwards is ... Asos." It was even more fun when he tried to use that trick for players like Nomar Garciaparra or Todd Hollandsworth. His freewheeling style (again, that's the diplomatic description) frequently led to funny exchanges with his broadcast partner, Steve Stone. One time, Harry said something like, "I'm crazy about baseball," and Stone deadpanned, "Well, you're half right, Harry."

I mention that just to introduce a quick observation. I saw a headline on the New York Times web site today that I thought would be even more accurate if we could just remove the letters "d-a-t-e."

The headline read:
Bush Gives Update on Economy

February 9, 2008

Filet o' fun

That handsome dude in the photo is my superstar nephew, Jacob (also known in some circles as Steve "Cardboard" Levin), who turns 6 years old today. Happy Birthday, Steve-o!

To celebrate the big half-dozen, Jacob's parents are taking him to see something called "Finding Nemo on Ice." That struck me as funny. By the time you're 6, don't you start to figure out that when you see fish on ice, those fish are usually, well, um, dead?

That seems like a real downer for a birthday party. Oh well. I'm sure they'll have fun.

Note for Jacob: Have a great b-day! Come visit soon!

February 7, 2008

Thanks for stopping by: The Mitt edition

So long, candidate Romney. Thanks for playing.

Anyone who can make it that far in the electoral process despite having campaign signs shaped like baseball gloves (yes, we get it, a mitt is also something you wear on your hand) deserves kudos for overcoming bad graphics, if nothing else.

Just curious what changed between Tuesday night, when you said you were staying in the race, and this morning, when you announced you were suspedning your bid to become the first person-named-like-a-glove in the White House. Must have been the results of all of those primaries and caucuses on Super Wednesday.

Don't you want me?

I know many SFTC readers are die-hard sports fans. (Just kidding -- two certain attorneys in Oswego, N.Y., and New Market, Md., are probably the only ones.) So although this post is somewhat sports-related, all of you non sportsies can think of it as a mystery/thriller post. I think you'll find it interesting even though it mentions the word "football." To make it really worth your while, I'm including details below for how you can win the much-anticipated second SFTC trivia music giveaway.

Seems that a high school football player in Nevada thought he was being recruited to play at a handful of top-tier college football programs, including the University of California and Oregon. Friday, he held a news conference at his high school -- in front of other students and local media -- to announce that he had chosen to play football, um, I mean enroll as a student-athlete, at Cal. According to the Washington Post's account of the news conference, the kid had two caps -- one Cal, one Oregon -- on the table in front of him, and he made the announcement all dramatic-ish by grabbing and putting on the Cal hat. (Now if that's not drama, you tell me what is.)

There was one small problem. Turns out that Cal hadn't actually recruited him. Nor had Oregon, for that matter. Or Illinois or Nevada Oklahoma State, some of the other schools he believed had tried to woo him.


Apparently nobody is sure whether the kid was duped by people who were pretending to be coaches from the various schools, or whether he made the whole thing up himself -- possibly to somehow cover for having accepted a loan of several hundred dollars from someone he believed to be a recruiter -- and couldn't figure out how to stop the hype machine that led to his news conference.

By the way, high school seniors having pressers to announce where they're going to school: Great trend that's developed lately, isn't it? How about we just stop that silliness? If I were in school, I'd be all for getting out of class for another lame-ass assembly, but isn't the pressure of choosing your own college enough without having to watch some other kid tell TV cameras where he's playing, er, enrolling next year?

The NCAA and law enforcement are investigating. If I read anything else about it, you'll be the first blog readers I tell. Promise.

Oh, one other thing. I thought it was kind of funny that the student in question was described by the Washington Post as a "6-foot-5, 290-pound football player" and by The New York Times as "6-foot-4, 305-pound senior." Can we get our fake-overhyped-football-recruit stories straight, people?

Today's contest: This post's heading is, as you might have noticed, a song title. Win a free iTunes song of your choice by being the first person to post a comment with the first line of the song's lyrics, the artist and the year the song was released. (Yes, you'll really get a free song.)

February 6, 2008

Keeping it simple, alright

I swear this is what President Bush said this morning, in reference to the deadly tornadoes in the South, during a news conference:

"They were ... big storms ... uh ... affected a lot of people ... in ... ah ... variety of states."

You've heard the adage, "Keep it simple, stupid." It's nice to know POTUS continues to find new ways to apply every last word of that advice.

February 5, 2008

Recession, injection, same thing

Really? This is what our national elected officials need to be working on at this exact moment?

I'm pretty sure there's a war going on somewhere in a desert, kids can't get decent health care, schools suck, approximately all of my paycheck goes to taxes, and I think we're now officially in a recession. I'd love it if the people we elected to make laws and approve budgets and stupid stuff like that would -- how to put this? -- do something about any of the above.

But your good buddy Arlen Specter (Wow! Would you believe he's a Republican? Sorry, a ranking Republican) wants to use his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to grill the commissioner of the NFL about whether the New England Patriots used video surveillance to cheat. In football games. Football. Games. Games! And not the kind of football games that affect our national security, or solve fiscal crises, but ... Christ, I can't even finish this sentence ... he wants to investigate possible cheating in football!

Fortunately for Arlen, we can't direct all of our elected-officials-playing-grab-ass ire at him. That's right, kids. Congress likes to jerk around with other sports, too. The House today continued its interminable and thoroughly useless investigation of whether baseball players stuck needles in their asses. (Don't they know it's normal for a 38-year-old man's feet and head to grow?) So Roger Clemens spent five hours today signing autographs for congresmen, uh, oh, I mean speaking with "congressional lawyers" about whether or not he injected himself with performance-enhancing drugs.

Is it just me, or does this all seem like a bunch of losers doing everything they can to meet famous athletes? I can't imagine this is what the founding fathers had in mind when they came up with the bicameral legislature. On the other hand, if Congress can come up with a way for the Orioles to make the playoffs once in a while, I'd be all for it.

February 4, 2008

A graphic display, volume 2

Another week, another kick-ass New York Times politicographic. (I think I just invented a word. Sweet!) Seriously, does anyone have more fun at their jobs than the politicographicmakers (another new word!) at the Times?

This one is set up all Sgt. Pepper-like -- a photo collage of celebs, pols and big-city newspapers (and, for some reason, the Hartford Courant). When you mouse over any one of them, an info box tells you which presidential hopeful they're endorsing. Or, you can click on any of the candidates -- wow! Ron Paul's still running? -- and the photos of that candidate's endorsers show up in bold. Um, Ron Paul, your big backers are Howard Stern, Arlo Guthrie and former Georgia representative Bob Barr. It's time to pack up.

As an aside, I couldn't vote for Ron Paul because his name sounds better suited for a pontiff. If he won I'd always want to call him "Pope Ron Paul II."

The candidate photos on the left side of the page are kinda interesting. Hillary looks all haughty, Obama seems very concerned, Huckabee looks like an extraterrestrial mutant (which is exactly the phrase that California state treasurer Bill Lockyer used to describe him at a presentation I attended last week), and Mitt looks like he's channeling George W's I'm-so-confused-I-thought-it-was-pronounced-newkyewlar face.

And if you needed any more evidence that, in any circumstance, the right thing to do is the opposite of what Ann Coulter does, she's endorsing Mitt Romney.

American idiot

I was only moderately ticked off when I heard last week that Ryan Seacrest would be hosting the Super Bowl pregame show on Fox. Seemed like, oh, I don't know, having Lou Ferrigno host an episode of America's Next Top Model.

But it didn't bother me too much because I knew I'd be watching little, if any, pregame coverage and because it quickly occurred to me that there are probably better things to get moderately ticked off about. (Like what, you ask? Like the fact that the word "vinegar" was misspelled on the menus at not one but two fine dining establishments we visited this weekend. I know, tough word for chef types -- hard to find on any bottles of VINEGAR that might be hanging out in the kitchen where you work.)

As it happened, I did catch a few minutes of the show yesterday afternoon. It was a few minutes that I might have enjoyed under other circumstances, because there was a live interview with (shameless cross-promotion alert) Hugh Laurie, star of the best show on television and a guy who is usually good for some smart, sarcastic remarks during interviews. Unfortunately, in case I didn't mention it, the pregame show was hosted by Ryan Seacrest. After establishing that Laurie had never before seen a football game, Seacrest got Laurie to tell the viewing audience that Laurie's dad had won an Olympic gold medal in 1948 in a rowing event called coxless pairs.

Luckily for us, that prompted a reminder of just how dim-witted the Idol host is. Of course, as soon as the phrase "coxless pairs" was spoken, Seacrest broke into a moronic grin like he was a third-grader who had just heard a fart joke -- or, I guess, a joke about coxless pairs. Lacking the good sense to just leave it alone, and without the wit to say something tastelessly interesting (I'm thinkin' "sounds more like a women's sport" might have been doable), he started to make some inane remark. Brilliant, Beavis. I'm guessing you also ask, "How's the weather up there?" any time you meet someone taller than 6-foot-5.

Thankfully, Laurie cut him off by telling him that he'd already heard every joke that could be made about coxless pairs, and the awkward moment passed. That is, until the next several awkward moments when Seacrest repeatedly referred to Laurie as "Dr. House" -- clue for Seacrest: that's a character on TV -- and asked the guy who had just professed his utter lack of interest in football to predict who'd win the game. Now, that's quality television.