Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wake Up America

(Image: iStock/Getty Images)


Removing Steve Bannon will not change Donald Trump.

And removing Donald Trump from office will not fix what is broken with America.

That Trump is a shameless opportunist, a man without honour or a shred of decency is not in question. His actions and words are neither defensible nor warrant defending. That is not the issue.

The issue is that men like Trump thrive and live in the political, social and ideological divisions we have created; both real and imagined. As our divisions fester and grow deeper, they will only give birth to more men like Trump.

Until we start to fix these divisions, America cannot heal.

And the time has come to fix them, before we have more blood of innocents on our hands.

It begins with looking within and spending an honest moment reflecting, acknowledging that each and every one of us has had a part to play in our country's reaching this nadir.

In small, vociferous or silent ways, it does not matter. This is not about apportioning blame (there is enough to go around) but about taking responsibility, before it is too late.

Republicans are not the enemy. Democrats are not the villain. Wall Street is not evil. Liberals and Socialists and Conservatives and Christians and Muslims and Jews and Hindus and gays and lesbians and illegal immigrants and transgender can all agree that the enemies of civilized society are the men and women who marched through the streets wearing Nazi regalia, chanting vile and hate-filled slogans.

We must remember that irrespective of whether people vote Republican or Democrat, they care about the same things that we do. To give their children access to education and opportunities that enable the next generation to have a better and healthier life than they did. That’s it.

Now we do and will always vehemently disagree with each other on how to provide those opportunities and the healthier and better life, but that does not make us enemies. No the enemies reared their ugly symbols on the streets of Charlottesville.

Only our divisions can give them the oxygen they need to survive and only our unity can deprive them of it.

As an immigrant, I have always marveled at the greatness of America. Not the country, but her people; they made America great. It is not that I thought that Americans were wiser or more intelligent than people anywhere else, but that every time it really mattered – unlike most other nations, Americans of all colours, viewpoints, religious and political affiliations, consistently managed to rise above ideological differences, petty politics and cable news divisions to unite under one flag - in pursuit of a higher ideal.

E pluribus unum. Now more than ever we need to become one again.

America’s future depends on it. Our childrens' futures depend on it.

God Bless America.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Trump Assisted Suicide of Liberalism



“If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.”
-Barack Obama 

November 7th 2016. 9pm EST
Obama won two terms and now Hillary is set to take the mantle from him. After electing the first black President, we are on the verge of making history with the first woman to occupy the Oval Office.

She will continue his legacy in this post-racial, post misogynist America. An America where success means “rethinking conventional ideas about masculinity.” And one where “men must resign themselves to working in “pink collar jobs”. An America where climate change is considered a far greater threat to life than Muslim terrorists mowing down nightclub revelers.

In this new America, we don’t take issue with the President circumventing Congress to pass far reaching legislation using executive power, or pushing it through the Senate without any bi-partisan support, because we know the President is a good man.

We justify these overreaches because the evil Republican Party has repeatedly dug in and refused to co-operate with him, simply because of the colour of his skin. And we have no concern with the Democratic Party's ignoring of long-held House and Senate conventions because they will always have a majority.

Who needs debate, discussion, diverse viewpoints and going through the hard work of consensus building to convince ardent and vocal opponents? These quaint and old-fashioned notions of democracy are no longer needed because it is clear to that the good people are in power and in their hands government must be trusted blindly.

We now trust our leaders with opaque domestic surveillance programs, increasingly frequent extra-judicial killings and the use of drones in Muslim majority and sovereign nations. The collateral damage caused by drone strikes is no longer reported or discussed in the media because the civilians being killed are being murdered in the name of good. Bush and Cheney’s drone operations were killing civilians in the name of evil.

We are laughing at the golden maned reality TV star who is upending the Republican Party. The media cannot get enough of Trump. They cover everything he says and does, every second of every minute, of every day - at the expense of all other news and world events.

Can you blame them? It is Trump’s fault for making it so easy for us to stand on our liberal-utopian pedestals and look down mockingly at the ignorance and stupidity of his followers.

Every off-colour comment and misogynistic statement is covered, scrutinised and analysed by panels of pundits on every TV channel, and then made available on the internet for a lifetime of public display. What harm could come of this – we know that nobody will actually vote for this buffoon. The mainstream media can have their clicks and eat it too.

The media are reveling in the fact that they can garner reality TV ratings for “news”. There is no longer need to waste money and precious resources on fact checking, or even verify sources before publishing stories. The media’s singular focus on Trump means they cannot waste ink on less important issues, such as the Obama administration's statement about the Russian government hacking the Democratic National Committees’ email servers.

No, “grabbing pussy” is a far more serious and weighty issue - more important than Putin trying to circumvent American democracy. We all know that Russian hacking stories cannot deliver the same clicks that grabbing pussy does – c’mon!

There is no need to waste energy dispatching reporters to investigate allegations of wrongdoing within the Clinton foundation because we know that they are good people. Unlike Trump, they save lives and have championed women’s rights. As for Bill’s minor transgressions, all those years ago, does anyone even remember the names of the women whose lives were so publicly destroyed?

Turn on any TV channel and Trump is on 24 hours a day. He also graces the front page of every respected newspaper and magazine; why not make hay while the mane shines!

It is fun to see Trump make Republicans like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio squirm and get into uncivil shouting matches and arguments about their manhood on the debate stage. This will be doubly priceless because Trump will destroy what is left of the evil Republicans by the time he is done. Not even Hollywood could have scripted this election.

This is so easy that Hillary doesn’t even need to waste time and energy crafting a campaign platform or coherent message for the electorate. There is no need for her to traverse the country shaking sweaty palms and hugging working class folks. She can simply stand on her coastal pedestal and reach out to connect with Americans by just simply bashing Trump. He has made Hillary’s long overdue coronation all but certain. 

American liberals are on a righteous path, and we already know that population trends favour our enlightened way of life. We would be remiss not proclaim that we are within touching distance of the land John Lennon imagined, right before he was so violently murdered. As for the small, ignorant minority of Americans who reside in the heartlands and support Trump – well, once Hillary wins they will fall into line, be drowned out, or will naturally die out.

In any case, nobody wants to listen to uneducated and ignorant bigots; especially since erudite and intellectually endowed minds on both the coasts are now in charge of the mainstream media, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street, and are firmly leading the enlightened Americans to the Promised Land.

Just look at how well Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea have done by quashing all debate, discussion and alternate points of view. Just imagine an America without conservative viewpoints, religious backwardness or diverse and competing ideas.

We are on the brink of a golden age of liberalism. Tonight we shall sleep like babies and wake up on the morning of 8th November with a big smile on our faces.

Bill Clinton is a genius for having convinced Donald Trump to run…sleep tight.
 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Unlimited Frustration: A Sunday with Sprint


Image: Sprint Retail Store Poster

“Customers have to wait one or two hours to get a phone and that's not acceptable.”
Marcelo Claure, CEO, Sprint Wireless

At the outset I want to be clear that dealing with wireless companies has always been akin to getting a wisdom tooth removed without anesthesia. However, given that this is 2017, the age of big data, real-time analytics, beacons and of every grandmother knowing that CRM stands for customer relationship management, I had some expectation that my experience with Sprint would not be like it was still 1990.

Our fateful journey started at the only Sprint store near us. The first sign of trouble came when the store manager informed me plan options the store offered were limited, compared to what customer service could offer. It is odd that Sprint is unable to offer the same options at retail, via phone or online, in 2017, but I said I would call when I got home. But that would have been too easy; we were informed that it was better to do the upgrade after we changed our plan, or we would not get access to the good plans.

I thought to myself that Sprint should make life easier for customers, not harder, especially for loyal ones who are about to renew their vows with the company.

I acquiesced and spent the next hour deciphering plan options with customer service by phone while standing at the store counter. During this time we also found out that we would need to postdate the new plan or face pro-rating fees that would double our cost for the month. No doubt this was designed to be just another way for customers to pay Sprint for their loyalty.

Two and a half hours later we walked out with one phone, one on order and a new plan that would take effect in a month. 

My phone arrived a few days later and it was the wrong colour. By now I was also starting to get used to the obstacles Sprint seemed to like to put up – to test customer loyalty.

Upon informing the store of their mistake, I was told I needed to wait for a return package that would arrive in 5-7 business days, by mail. Then I needed to wait another 5-7 business days for Sprint to process the return, and only then could the store order the right colour for me.

Out of data and with no new phone, I asked why I was being punished for their mistake. I was told it was because this was not a Sprint corporate store.

I realised that I has just failed another test of customer loyalty.

I walked into this store, the only one in our area code, after seeing a big fat Sprint logo on the storefront, Sprint branded posters on walls, shelves full of Sprint merchandising, promotional cardboard cutouts with Sprint exclusive offers, Sprint logos on the salespeople’s t-shirt, but I failed to notice the small certificate on the wall that said “Sprint preferred retailer.” My bad.

I decided to make a last ditch appeal to the all-powerful customer service and asked them to ship me a new phone, while I waited for the circuitous return process to unfold. They were very apologetic and set-up an appointment for me to visit a corporate store, on the other side of town, and said I could simply exchange the phone. Problem solved!

It was a bright and beautiful Sunday afternoon when I ventured out to exchange my phone. Upon checking in at the store I was promptly informed that the exchange could not be done at the store. And they added that they did not care what customer service had told me, because customer service had no authority over stores. Thankfully, they took pains to re-assure me that this happened all the time to customers, making me feel all warm and fuzzy for not being singled-out.

After a heated back and forth, I dug in and said I was not leaving until my issue was resolved. They dialed customer service and handed me the phone to figure it out with customer service. With a strong sense of déjà vu I spent the next two hours, on the phone, standing at yet another Sprint store.

The customer service people were apologetic and admitted that I had been given erroneous information, vindicating the store, but not really servicing this customer. They assured me that the rep would be “coached”, which was wonderful, but again did nothing to resolve my issue. After a long and patient wait, someone in the ‘order support department’ where I ended up figured out that they could simply cancel the original order and have the corporate store create a new one and give me the correct phone.

Wait, the best is yet to come. We now get to part two of the torment, regarding the plan change.

While upgrading the phone, feeling badly about the ordeal everyone in the store had witnessed, the salesperson offered to look at my plan and see if he could save me money, only to discover that I was tethered to a wireless hotspot device that was on contract - totally unbeknownst to me.

I remember it being given as a free gift during our last upgrade; one I was told required a data plan but no mention of a two-year contract. So I said get rid of it, which required me to pay an early termination fee of over $100. Again, the store folks empathised with my plight and genuinely tried to help, but clearly lacked the authority to free me from my bondage.

So I reached out once more to the all-powerful customer service, and they transferred me to the termination department and to someone who said they would solve my problem without a termination fee. I was unwilling to pay because I was never overtly made aware of a contract. Three quarters of the way through the process the line got cut. I waited but nobody called back, even though they had my number.

So I called back and got a different rep, possibly in the Philippines. She was completely clueless. This person could not even find the device I was referring to, leave alone understand the issue.

After what seemed like an eternity of explaining, and getting nowhere, I asked to speak with a supervisor, but she kept putting me on hold, while going off to ask someone questions and then coming back and asking me the same question. With my Gandhi-like patience starting to run thin, I firmly asked to speak with a supervisor, at which point she hung up.

Glutton for punishment, I called back again.

Of course, I got a new rep, to whom I had to repeat the entire ordeal (this happened every time I called); who was again polite and very apologetic, but said I needed another department. I asked that he at least brief the person they were transferring me to, so I wouldn't have to go through the entire story every time I was cut-off.

I must have repeated my story at least a half a dozen times as I got transferred between departments, and finally reached someone with an American accent. At least she could understand the issue – progress!

She patiently took me through numerous options. One requires a degree in rocket science to understand the permutations and combinations of data plans and device leasing options, but despite this she was unable to do the one thing I needed – waive the early termination fee.
 
I suggested she talk with a supervisor and explain that I was ready to leave Sprint over a $110 termination fee, resulting in a loss of approx. $200 per month revenue over the next two years from me. The math was easy. She agreed wholeheartedly, as did her supervisor but again both lacked the lacked the authority to what they truly wanted: to retain this customer. They did offer me a one-time $30 credit to lessen the pain.

Needing to right a great service injustice and feeling like a combination of Mandela and the Energizer bunny, I reached out to Sprint’s CEO, Marcelo Claure on Twitter, asking to speak with him directly because it was clear that he was the ONLY person in the company with the authority to waive this fee.

Needless to say he did not respond but had something called “Team Marcel” reach out. I got a call from a lady in the corporate office and she too was also extremely apologetic and said unequivocally that my experience was totally unacceptable and that she would personally look into the entire matter. She magically waived the early termination fee…

I am still completely at a loss to understand why such a simple process for an upgrade and plan change required numerous phone calls, three store visits, countless hours on the phone with representatives from multiple departments and continents and tweeting the CEO. I have been told childbirth is less painful.

I want to be clear that, based on my experience across all of Sprint's touch-points, the central issue has little to do with poor or rude employees; in fact the majority I dealt with expressed frustration at not being able to resolve my issue. It has everything to do with a complex organisational structure that is badly siloed, coupled with employees whose hands are tied and who lack the authority to provide resolution, use of third party resellers without a consistent service policy, and offshoring to poorly trained customer service reps who sometimes barely understand the English language, and finally the lack of a proper escalation policy.

This is clearly a management issue that begins at the top with a lack of singular focus on customer care and retention, which you would think is the most important aspect in an industry plagued with the highest customer churn.

So unless Mr. Claure meant he was working on increasing wait times to four and five hours when he said “Customers have to wait one or two hours to get a phone and that's not acceptable”, I do hope he gets in touch with me. I still believe he needs to hear this unbelievably frustrating and painful experience, firsthand, because no customer should ever have to be put through this again.