Thursday, June 30, 2011

FREE Harvey's Burger Upgrade

Harvey's on UrbanspoonLike many other foodies out there I enjoy a decent burger.  In Richmond Hill there are several choices for burgers. 

On the last day of each week I tend to like to also to go out for lunch.  Again in Richmond Hill there are several options to choose from that sometimes I have no idea where I want to go. 

Sometimes a little help comes along.  Help?  I don't mean in terms of the four flyers and counting I received in my mailbox now that Canada Post has returned normal operations after a strike (READ: All I get is flyers and Canada Post says that there is a backlog in mail?  Um...how about dumping the outdated flyers in the recycling bin and start moving the mail with addresses on it!)....but I digress....

The little help came in the form of an online coupon from Harvey's.  The coupon entitles the bearer to enjoy a Great Canadian Hamburger combo for the price of an Original Combo.

That did it, I headed off to my local Harvey's (9471 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill) for one of these combos with fries and Pepsi. 

The burger was deliciously good.  The mushrooms and cheese just added to the deliciousness of the burger goodness. The fries were run of the mill warmish Harvey's fries and the Pepsi the boring fast food fountain pop.  But at least on this day the fast food burger meal was a decent find.  In fact I might try this all again next week as the coupon does not expire until July 12th. 

Happy eating!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Norton Auto Renewal = One hand in your pocket, in your pocket

Recently Jack blogged about his travails of his dealings with the call centre of AT&T. His blog posting read like the ranting and raving of anyone who has had to deal with a "customer service" call centre supposedly designed to respond to customer inquiries and concerns.  On Jack's posting one could simply replace the company name (i.e. AT&T) and insert some other company name and it would all work out. 

Last Friday, I had the same horrible experience as Jack.  Instead of it being a telecommunications company like AT&T or Bell or Rogers, it was with the trusted company of Symantec, the makers of Norton Antivirus.  That evening I was trolling through my junk e-mail folder to see what pharmaceutical companies were offering these days.  As well I was looking to see what free money I could get from African countries who seem to more than willing to send these funds my way as long as I send them my banking information.

 In this junk mail folder was also a message from Norton complete with my name and some credit card information.  The message was a little mysterious to me as Norton normally lets me know via a pop up window that my antivirus subscription was about to run out.  Never in has it shown my credit card information and sent it via e-mail.  I scrolled over the link to see the internet address to see if this was a phishing scheme.  No it was not, it was a complete Norton.com internet address for renewal.  I clicked on the link.  Both the e-mail and newly brought up webpage said that if I do not request otherwise that my subscription to Norton Antivirus would be renewed on my credit card.  As well, to request this automatic renewal from not going forward I would have to sign in with my e-mail and password. 

E-mail address and password?  Since when did I have an account with Norton? I requested the password be sent to my e-mail address.  I then signed into this supposed account to find my complete mailing address and credit card information.   I cleared out as much information as I could from this account. To say the least I now have a few newly painted blue walls to take care of in my house. 

FIRST CALL: I called Norton's customer service number and somehow by act of the big man upstairs my call was routed to the Phillipines.  I nicely explained the issue to the customer service agent who picked up the phone what the issue was and how I did not appreciate Symentec and Norton storing my personal information without my express consent. I also had her promise that Norton or Symantec would not use, sell or give away my e-mail address and that her agreement would constitute a legal agreement.  She agreed to this statement. She offered to put me through to a manager right away and put me on hold.  I stayed on hold for 10 minutes listening to their music before hanging up. 

SECOND CALL: I called back and got the same agent.  She said she would put me through to the manager once again.  I was then put through to a different sounding que that said "Your call is very important to us, a project manager will be right with you."  I heard this again for another ten minutes before hanging up yet again. 

From what I can tell at least this time the customer service agent put me through to a que to speak to a manager.  The first call the customer service representative put me on hold and hoped I was going away.

While on hold during these time periods I did a Google search and found several customer service complaints about the Norton Antivirus auto renewal process.  All of these complaints noted that the customer never got to speak to a manager at any point.  A few of these complaints the customer's bank was contacted and charges to the credit cards were at reversed only to have Norton reapply the charges back on later. Norton customers were understandibly frustrated.

THIRD CALL: I called back again and gave an agent, named Raj, my Norton case number and asked to speak to a manager.  He said "yes Robert I can do that."  Um...Robert?  Whose Robert?   Great, customer service who cannot even get a name right.  And these guys hold onto and have access to your credit card information?  I said to Raj that I wanted a customer service manager on the phone within 5 minutes or I would be leaving Norton as a customer due to the poor customer service.  Raj then wasted another one minute reading his script apologizing profusely for the experience I had undertaken.  I, of course, rudely interrupted his "Recitation of the Great Apology" to periodically tell him the time he had left to get a manager on the phone every fifteen seconds. 

At the end of apology, Raj just sat their silently.  I asked after 15 seconds of this if he was still there, he said yes,  I said did he understand what I requested, he said yes.  I then asked why he was not transferring me to a customer service manager as per my request and repeated the time back to him of how fast I wanted to speak to a manager.  Raj said he understood and then sat their silently.   Apparently Raj is great at reading corporate customer service call centre scripts but is terrible at completing simple tasks like transferring a customer to a manager for escalation of the case.  I got put on hold again (same music as the first call), I waited the prescribed five minutes and hung up again. 

FOURTH CALL: I called again, I got through to customer service agent named "Lay".  I asked to speak to a customer service manager again.  She put me through to the same que promising some hogwash about the importance of my call.  I waited five minutes before hanging up. 

During the second and fourth calls I drafted two e-mails.  One to the Toronto Star consumer columnist, Ellen Roseman. The second was an e-mail to the executive team of Symantec which I found the addresses after a Google Search here.  I sent both off before dialing again.

FIFTH CALL: I dialed yet again, and I got an agent who did not even give his name as far as I could tell.  I explained the issue again, the fact I had just sent off e-mails to a consumer columnist with Canada's largest daily newspaper and the higher ups at Symantec about the terrible customer service I had received.  I said he had two minutes to put me through to the Customer Retention department as I was now ready to leave Symantec for their competition at McAfee. The agents response was he was not allowed to give out the contact information for executive level personnelle and that I would be put through the to department.  He then went on with yet another "Recitation of the Great Apology."  I interuptted him about three sentences in.  telling him he had two minutes from when I say go to give me the Customer Retention Department.  Then I had silence.  Apparently this agent was trained by Raj. I merely counted down till there was no time and hung up on him. 

SIXTH CALL: I called again and hoped at least I was helping to run up the phone tab for Symantec's 1-866 number to the Phillipines. I got another agent with no name.  I explained that I wanted someone to call me back.  She promised someone would and asked what time would be the best.  I replied before I give that out, I said I would like to, no offense, speak to someone in Canada as I had enough issues with the call centre in the Phillipines.  She replied with the start of the "Recitation of the Great Apology" followed up with having someone from the United States call me.  I gave her my name and number (reciting my number a second time for good measure) and said to have someone call me between 9-5 my time.  She agreed this would happen.  I followed up with that if I'm not home the manager is supposed to leave their name and number of where they can be reached on my voicemail. She agreed and we hung up.

Fast forward to Saturday shortly after 11 A.M. I received a phone call from an American sounding manager.  I relayed my frustration from the night before and all the action I had taken in trying to escalate this issue to no avail and was glad he called. 

Next, I went through the research I had done online.  The manager said that I did not have any context for the cases found online and if these customers ever found resolution.  My response was that I had plenty of context of the frustration.  Like the other customers, Norton was holding onto my credit card information and was going to charge my credit card information without my consent.  I also noted that these other customers were also angry with Norton for doing so and outlined that they also had issues in speaking with a customer service manager when calling.  I also mentioned that I had contacted the executives and a consumer columnist for follow up if need be.

The Norton Manager then walked me through how Norton obtained my personal information.  He explained a year ago when I renewed my subscription with Norton using my credit card and other information that somewhere in the process there was a Auto Renew function turned on.  I told him that I had never knowingly authorized  the autorenewal function and felt this was like negative option billing.  I explained that a number of years ago Rogers had a similar incident that caused them to lose a bunch of customers.  

The manager then ensured the auto renew function had been turned off from my actions I took online Friday evening.  He confirmed this option had been turned off.  I followed up with the simple question of "what credit card number do you have on file?"  A couple of computer clicks on his end and he said he was unable to see the number.  I replied it was a trick question to ensure the Norton record systems were working as I had cleared out that information the evening before.   He then apologized, this time without the "Recitation of the Great Apology" and asked if there was anything he could do.  I replied that considering my experience, I would be contacting my computer specialist to see what other products that Symantec did not have a hand in were available.  The manager then said if I wished to renew with Norton to watch for the autorenewal function on the sign up process.  He said this option comes after the agreement in a tic box on this years renewal process.  I thanked him for his time and we hung up after that point.

On Saturday, I checked the junk mail folder of my e-mail again.  I found the below e-mail:

Dear Michael,
I’m sorry to hear that you have been encountering issues with the support that you have received.
To ensure that these issues are fixed, I would like to organize a time to call you back.
Please provide me a date, time and phone number of when I can call you back or you can call me up on + 1 866 870 0267.
Thank you
Vayapparaj K
Symantec Customer Relations
Direct Ph # 1 866 870 0267.

----------

Obviously Vayapparaj K had failed to read the notes on my case number.  Otherwise he would have found that I spoke with one of this American counterparts that day.  He would have also noticed that I had specfied what time I would like to be contacted at. 

I wrote back to Vayapparaj with the following:

Hi Vayapparaj,

I'm thoroughly disgusted with customer relations. I waited over an hour combined on multiple occassions to speak to a supervisor. I'm not interested in speaking with you at this point as I spoke with an American representative of your company who understood what I was concerned about and actually answered my technical questions about renewal.

I also find it funny that you need my phone number as I, reluctantly, gave it to the customer service relations person on the final call after giving up.

I have contacted the
Toronto Star's consumer Columnist Ellen Roseman about the poor customer service and autorenewal functions provided by Norton and Symantec.

Again, if you and Symantec wanted to resolve this issue, you had plenty of time last night to have a manager on the phone. After all, I was told repeatedly "your call is important to us..." several times while I was holding in the que. But apparently my call was not important as Symantec and Norton would have ensured enough management was there to take the call.

I'm now waiting for the Toronto Star to contact me about the possibility of others learning how Norton underhandily automatically renews contracts without the consent of it's users.

I hope their follow up will help others in my situation as I have noticed that I was not the only one to have issues with Norton. I had plenty of time last night waiting for a manager to use Google to see about how others felt about Norton Automatic Renewal process and the commentary was not good from over ten users that I found.

As well, I had time to e-mail all the top executives about the customer service issues with the Phillipines and the lack of customer service supervisors available in that call centre to adequately address Norton's customer service issues. I also included all the names I had from the phone calls and how useless they were. I also included the fact that I do no approve of the autorenewal process used by Norton.

I hope this helps Norton to become a better company in the future. For now I'm weighing my options of joining McAfee for my virus protection as Norton has lost my confidence.

Thanks

Michael
-------------------------

On Sunday, I received a reply from Ellen Roseman of the Toronto Star.  She noted she had received my e-mail. She also pointed me to an article she wrote last December about similar issues with McAfee and other companies.  I replied thanking Ellen for the heads up on autorenewals with McAfee and how I may have to "hold my nose and renew with Norton." 

On Monday I received a phone call from Stefan Osthaus, Symantec's Vice President of Worldwide Support & Customer Service.  He apologized for the experience I had calling it a perfect storm.  He also noted that according to their records I was hung up on twice by their agents.  He asked if I had any feedback for them or questions on what I experienced. 

I started from the very beginning on how frustrating the experience was.  I also said that I was now considering exploring my non-Norton options due to the autorenewal practices by Norton. 

We then had an engaging conversation about how to best go about resolving the issue so other customers would not run into this issue.  I suggested that the autorenewal option check box be not automatically filled in when going through the subscription renewal process online.  This would ensure customers would have to add the check box to this function while those that just wanted to renew and move on could do so.  He seemed to like this idea.

As for the account creation online, I told him I was against this idea for yearly renewal subscribers similar to myself who did not want their information stored and no autorenewal function instituted. He liked that idea as well saying he could probably have the system programmed so that only those choosing the autorenewal process would create an online account with Norton.  I then said both sets of customers should have their product keys e-mailed to them after the renewal is complete for safekeeping.  I told them that is what HP (Hewlette Packard) does for new computers who are activated under their warranty programme and that I still had that e-mail. He also like that idea. 

At the end of the conversation he double checked with me what Norton programme I was using and  inquired if I still wanted to be a Symantec customer.  I replied that I was sitting on the fence considering my findings via Ellen Roseman about McAfee and my experiences with Norton. 

Stefan then offered two things, he said he felt he needed to make amends for making me feel like Norton had a hand in my pocket for money and needed to have his company regain my trust.  In doing so he said that he would personall e-mail me a product key that would give me a one year subscription for my Norton software for free and if at any point I had any further customer service issues with Symantec and Norton that I could e-mail him directly and he would have someone contact me immediately. I agree that that would be satisfactory to me in assisting me with my decision with choosing antivirus software.  After we hung up I had an e-mail in my inbox from Stefan with the product key and his contact information. 
At the end of it all, I spent over an hour off an on the phone running up the long distance tab of Norton via their 1-866 customer service number, e-mailed a well known consumer columnist, talked to a Vice-President and received a free one year subscription worth over seventy dollars. Sometimes it pays to be a persistant customer in search of customer satisfaction.  Too bad most of this customer service satisfaction has been contracted out by companies like Symantec and AT&T to script reading customer service call centres.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Subway: Eat Fresh?

Subway on UrbanspoonI never understood why the Subway Restaurant chain had "Subway Eat Fresh" as their tagline.  Subway restaurants are pretty well all the same.  Theme based on New York City's subway system, every single location in Canada and the United States has the same New York City subway map wallpaper all over.  One wonders why the words "fresh" and "New York City Subway" would ever be together.  New York City subway stations alone each have their own distinct smell and the smell is never good.  In fact each subway station has it's own distinct pungent odour that overpowers the nose sensors. 

Even the trains themselves can be overpowering, I wrote back in 2005 one way to guard yourself against boarding a subway car that was odiforis:

"How can you tell the smell is going to hit you before the doors open at the station you are going to board the train from? Look to see if the car is nearly empty or full. If the train car is full of people, chances are its safe. If the car is near empty, then WATCH OUT! There might be a funky smell comin' your way."

So why would Subway (i.e. the company not the method of transportation) advertise "Subway Eat Fresh" when there could be no way anyone would want to eat on a New York City Subway car reaking of bodily fluids and who knows what else?  Right, they serve fresh ingredients instead of odiforisity of homelessness.  

This evening I headed over to Subway (8865 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill) for a pair of foot long sandwiches for $5.00 a piece plus tax.  I walked into the store and was greeted by the sandwich chef. 

The Order: 1 Cold Cut Combo on Parmesan Oregano  and 1 Meatball Marinara on three cheese bread to go.

The sandwich maker quickly assembled the sandwiches just as I ordered them.  The amazing thing about this visit was this location actually had Parmesan Oregano bread.  Usually at this location the chances of getting Parmesan Oregano Bread is 50%.  The off times I normally have to choose another bread. 

That is really the only complaint I have about Subway, the availibility of their Paremesan Oregano bread.  Otherwise I walk in, get pretty well the same sandwich each time at each location and walk out.  No fuss no muss, just the way I like to get my fast food.

As for the combos, steer clear of their combos in terms of price.  For $2.50 you get a fountain pop (or coffee if there before 11 A.M.) and a small bag of potato chips (or 2 cookies).  Really?  This is why I usually just get my sandwiches and go home to a nice large bag of potato chips ($0.99 each) and whatever the heck I wish to drink.  All for the grand value of less than $2.50 plus tax.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blocking Pedestrian Paths

White Wolseley Canada truck obstructing pedestrian crossing
Recently Anna wrote on her blog, livinginaurora.ca, about drivers failing to stop at stop signs.  She inquired with readers if she should whip out her camera and start photographing the culprits who fail to adhere to the rules of the road by blowing through stop signs. 

One of my pet peeves are drivers who fail to remotely adhere to the stop line at a STOP sign or traffic light.  Just last week I was walking south on the east side of Yonge Street near the entrance to Enzo's No Frills and the South Hill Shopping Centre. Rolling out of the South Hill plaza at the traffic light was a white Wolseley Canada company truck trying to make a right hand turn to head northbound on Yonge Street.  The driver failed to stop in time for the stop line and rolled to a stop across the two painted lines delineating the pedestrian crossing.  I walked around the back of the truck and finished crossing southwards.  However, northbound in the intersection was a lady walking across while pushing a stroller.  She had to carefully manoeuvre her way around the truck while the idiot Wolseley driver nonchalently watched the steady traffic on Yonge Street pass him by.  I was incencensed that yet another driver drifted their way into the pedestrian area and failed to even acknowledge that others were there and the car was in the way. I whipped out my phone and took a photo of the offender.

Richmond Hill and Aurora are seeing significant growth in the past two decades and this growth is expected to continue at least over the next two decades.  The Region of York is encouraging intensification and transit use throughout the area which will only increase pedestrian activity.  The police need to start enforcing the stop lines and obstructing pedestrian crossings.  If the police fail to do this than why should the Region and local municipalities use significant money in painting these lines on a yearly basis?  Perhaps if enforcement were properly undertaken, then the dumb looks of the offending drivers of "what the heck is going on?" as I walk across the street in front of the car might end as these idiot drivers would have been well informed by a nice yellow ticket by authored by York Region's finest.  Pedestrians can only hope, until then, like Anna I will be using my weapon to take photos of idiot drivers blocking the duly painted right away of pedestrians.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Play Pizza & Pub is Not Playing Much at All

Play Pizzeria & Pub on UrbanspoonThis afternoon my sister and myself took my father to a nice Father's Day lunch.  We visited Play Pizzeria & Pub (15420 Bayview Avenue, Aurora, Ontario). 

We were seated immediately, which isn't really a stretch considering the entire time we were there we were the only customers. 

In hindsight this should have been a red flag.  We were the ONLY customers on a Father's Day where people normally take out their Dads for lunch and we are the only people here? Really?

Anywho, we ordered our drinks and the waitress came back quickly with them and we ordered our food. 

The Order: Two Calzones and a Margerita Pizza with a Coke, Water and Tankhouse Ale.

The food, as noted in the menu, did take a little while to show up.  This is supposed to show that every dish is made with fresh ingredients caringly by their expert chef.  It took about 20 minutes for the food to prepared which is normal for most restaurants.  But considering we were the only party in restauarant this may be the reason why our food did not take that long.

I had the Margerita Pizza.  The pizza was a little cool when it arrived not like the popping hot pan pizza served at Pizza Hut I had a week earlier. Otherwise the thin crust pizza was delicious prepared and went down well.  The price of $16.00 for a dinner plate size pizza may have been a little much though.

Overall, two calzones, a Coke and a Marerita Pizza came to over fifty dollars for three people.  The food was decent quality so I may attempt a return.  The only concerning part was we were the only patrons there on a lunch Sunday around noon. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church Carillon Ringers in Aurora United Church


Last night the Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church Carillon Ringers visited Aurora United Church for a combined concert with the Aurora United Church Handbell Choirs.

The great group of high school aged teens arrived from Rochester, New York by the mid-afternoon to enjoy a little rehearsal time, wandering around Aurora time and of course some dinner time.

Later they took to the Aurora United Church Sanctuary to put on a great handbell performance with tunes originating from Harry Potter (Hedgwig's Theme), The Phantom of the Opera (see video below) and Celtic Praise.  

After the performance I was able to try out bell ringing myself with the help of one of the Ladue Ringers who allowed me to hold onto, with two hands, "Charlie" the low C note bell that is sized bigger than my head alone.  You can see glimpses of "Charlie" in the Phantom of the Opera sitting on the table waiting to be used.  He is one of the larger bells. 

Overall it was a rare opportunity to see semi-professional handbell ringers perform in concert in a local setting.  During the performance there was an intermission with lemonade and cookies served by the church.  At the end of it all over 250 people took in the performance and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. 


Carillon Ringers playing The Phantom of the Opera

Carillon Ringers playing "Te Deum"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Memory of Barb Suddard...

My mother always loved children and the antics they got up to during her time at the YMCA and at Silver Pines Public School.  She would tell stories of her little charges doing weird and wonderful things while at school, at play and not wanting to go home at the end of the day.  

Silver Pines Public School is fund raising to help build a school in Kenya in coordination with Free the Children.  They are trying to raise $8,0000 towards the goal.  For every $10.00 donated your name will be put a brick to show the donation at the front of Silver Pines Public School.  

If you would like to make donation visit: http://my.e2rm.com/personalpage.aspx?registrationid=1137386&langpref=en-ca

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Stunt the Great Gonzo would be proud of!

The only question on the below video I have is, "WHY?"  and simply, "WHY NOT?" is just not an answer.

Only The Great Gonzo (aka Gonzo the Great) would be proud of this vid



NOTE: For obvious safety reasons, this blog does not endorse or encourage pudding diving of any sort.

Attention Pizza Hut!

Pizza Hut on UrbanspoonLast Friday my wife and I headed to Pizza Hut (9580 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill) for a little za and some soft drinks.  Nothing like an old time date night over some pizza and soft drinks. 

We arrived and our waitress, instead of a hostess, seated us quickly.

We hmmmed and hawed over what pizza we wanted for five minutes and the waitress came by twice to see if we were decided yet...then a eureka moment....AN ORDER!

The Order: Grilled Chicken Rustico Pan Pizza (pizza made with grilled chicken breast, roasted red peppers, fresh ripe tomatoes, basil pesto, and pizza mozzarella), a Pepsi and a glass of Richmond Hill's finest & wettest water.

The pizza took the full twenty minutes to cook.  But when it arrived it was piping hot and ready to be eaten!

I was a little skeptical about this choice of pizza, pizza with grilled chicken and veggies on it? Without any pepperoni? Would it be worth the money I paid?  It had better be, we were paying twenty dollars for this!

I was satisfied after taking a few bites of the first slice.  Then the next slice dissappeared.  Thank goodness we got a large pizza, otherwise my wife would not have anything to eat. The pizza was delicisious. 

One of the best part of the Richmond Hill Pizza Hut is it is one of the last remaining dining room Pizza Huts left anywhere in southern Ontario.  The Newmarket location just north of Eagle Street on Yonge Street is being renovated and is unlikely to return as it's old self. I have long memories of visiting that location with my family for pizza and spaghetti nights.  I believe I even had a birthday party or two at that location. 

So it is with excitement that I have a Pizza Hut dining location near my home.  When you just want to get out of the house and have some ZA this is the place to go!

Monday, June 13, 2011

So I Have Not Written in While....

So I have not written for a while.   The main reason was through May I started working on contract for a resume writing company and was staring at a computer screen all day.   This has now shifted to barely part time contract work, so I am on the job hunt again since leaving my previous position at the end of December. 

So if you know of any honest companies out there looking for someone in administration, feel free to send them my way via:

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelsuddard

My Guestbook: (select the privacy option so only I can see the offer): http://htmlgear.tripod.com/guest/control.guest?a=sign&u=michaelsuddard&i=1001&r=

Please note that I would post my e-mail address, but I have made that mistake before and received thousands of e-mails promising various pharameutical remedies that I really do not require as well as thousands of dollars if I reply with my banking information.

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