Archive for April, 2009

Thank you Tony

April 26, 2009

Dear Tony D,

   I would like to thank you for your hospitality at your restaurant last Saturday.  I often wondered how long I could stand without eating and I think you have allowed me to discover my threshold.  Thanks should go to your two hostesses who I can only assume you have asked to tell people it will be a 45 minute wait.  Because what sensible adult in this city expects to not have to wait up to an hour for pizza.  Now, I understand the restaurant is still fairly new, and we were expecting a wait on a Saturday night during the dinner hour, but perhaps a more honest estimate of one and a half hours would have been better received. 

It was a thrill to watch other patrons head up the stairs to their tables.  An added bonus was watching the hostess come back down those stairs and scan those of us in the crowd.  It was like getting picked to go on a game show.  Will we be next?  I don’t know.  Let’s both look at her, not too desperate, but like we know what we’re doing.  Nope, guess it’s not us this time.  It was a nice touch to have the hostess check the book and tell us there were two groups of four and two groups of two ahead of us.  That gave us the count down.  Okay, there goes one group of four.  One more of those and two twos…wait, there goes a two.  Now one of each.  Of course, we got a little confused when a group of five suddenly entered the mix.  A glance to your reservations restrictions shows those are accepted for parties of five or more.

My almost favorite part of the evening was seeing people come in that obviously knew you and watching them come up to the bar, have some small talk and then somehow find a table.  How did that happen?  My only assumption is they must have gotten there earlier and signed in, then left a shoe with the hostess as a promise of their return.  I’m not sure what that says to make your friends walk around with only one shoe, but whatever works for you to keep them coming.  I’m sure they are far more important as patrons then people you don’t know who tend to dine out and spend money.

What really showed your class though was the move you made at the two hour wait mark.  When it was obvious to us that we were not getting seated in favor of some of your pals, the bartender mentioned to us the following, “Tony would like to offer you each a drink on him since you’re having to wait so long.”  An appeasement gesture of course and I can understand you not wanting to walk to us from two feet away.  We watched the mastery with which you dried  wine glasses one by one, holding them up to the light to make sure they did not have any spots on them.  Perhaps you could have put down the glass and come over and told us that yourself.  Even better, find out what we’ve been drinking and just offer it to us, along with sincere apologies, perhaps some bread or one of your pizzas that are supposedly worth two hours of waiting. 

Of course, that’s just a suggestion from someone who patronizes locally owned restaurants, enjoys time at each and tips the staff very well.  We may not be part of your target audience.  Judging by the comment made to my wife from your friend who I assume was getting our table, I’m guessing we’re a bit too respectful of other people to qualify for seating at your establishment.  Please feel free to continue to do business as you see fit.  I’m sure the local economy is simply grateful to have you be a part of it.  Your presence alone must make Corn Hill Landing that much brighter a spot on the downtown map.

Our meal at 2 Vine was delicious.

Truly,

Aaron

Advertisements

can you use twitter for an interview

April 25, 2009

I’ve heard of people doing it, think I’ve at least watched discussions in progress but never tried it myself.  So why not?  Tonight I took the plunge and conducted a live interview on Twitter.  I got to interview a musician which made me think back to my days on WITR hosting Rochester Sessions, a life changing experience in many senses.  That’s a story for another time though.  I thought the best way to show this was to simply give you the transcript and let you see for yourself how something like this could be done provided you are patient and slightly masochistic.  A few things to note so you can follow along easier.  The person being addressed appears as the “@”  person.  So when you see @AaronCU95, that is the band talking to me.  When you see @Sinzibukwud, that is me talking to the band.  If there is no “@” the comment was made to the general Twitter population whoever they may be.  Oh and one other thing, in case you haven’t read by now, you only get 140 characters for each “tweet” so it actually makes for quick interviews.  Or disjointed ones.  Enjoy.

getting ready to interview @sinzibukwud. why am I so nervous. it’s just a rock band after all

@sinzibukwudhello and welcome to the twinterview. let’s start off with an introduction. tell us a little bit about your group

@AaronCU95 not so fast pal, you said yesterday if we agreed to the interview you’d introduce yourself first. i believe the mike is yours

@Sinzibukwud good point, I am a music fan, marketing man, and have no tan. now let’s talk about the band

@AaronCU95 thanks, well we are a four piece group based in Rochester, NY. used to be two then somehow doubled in size yet tripled in age

@Sinzibukwud how do you triple the age of the band by adding two members, are you sure your math is right?

@AaronCU95 well it’s pretty simple really. we went from combined age of 70 to combined age of, hold on, carry the 4…172. one guy is 93

@Sinzibukwud can you explain the where you came up with your name? using 140 characters or less of course

@AaronCU95 no

@Sinzibukwud fair enough, where do you find the inspiration for your songs

@AaronCU95actually, i’d like to answer the previous question instead

@Sinzibukwud go ahead. answer it then i need to head out for a bit and continue this discussion later

@AaronCU95 it means “drawn from the wood” a name we had as a two piece acoustic act. after adding keys and bass we added a “the” and “band”

@Sinzibukwudokay, i’m back. had to take a domestic break for a while. can we continue our interview now?

@AaronCU95 oh; you’re back? how long does it take for you to go to the bathroom anyway.

@Sinzibukwud domestic means i was home, had dinner, did dishes…never mind, i don’t have to explain this to you. lets move on

@Sinzibukwud what is the inspiration for your original songs

@AaronCU95 nothing too incredible, taken from life really. the best stuff is written when you’re down and best sung when you’re up

@Sinzibukwud what about the song, revenge of the meter maid on your CD, was that from personal experience writing tickets?

@AaronCU95 well no, that was from getting tickets.same with waiting in line at the supermarket. but the current group doesn’t play those yet

@Sinzibukwudso how come you’re not playing tonight? it is friday after all, there must be some place to do a show

well some nights are good to stay in you know, plus 1/2 the band is out of town which would make it tough to do a big show

@Sinzibukwud understood. you have a show coming up next week. @RocTwestival care to talk about that?

@AaronCU95 sure, it’s the second one of these @roctwestival events. we played the first one too. this time it’s @bouldercoffee

@AaronCU95the event is raising money for Foodlink during a time that families are needing food more than ever, perfect timing i think

@Sinzibukwud rumor has it you did a decent job at the last @roctwestival too, where else have you been playing

@AaronCU95i’m not interested in talking about that right now. how about we have a quick discussion on the economy and the job market

@Sinzibukwud okay, i try to steer clear of topics like that for obvious reasons, do they tend to work their way into your lyrics?

@AaronCU95 no,the topics change so fast that would be like writing about Madonna or something,next thing you know she’s out of the limelight

@Sinzibukwudright, she’s out of the limelight. so i’ll bite then, what are your thoughts on the economy

@AaronCU95 the economy is tough, the world is rough, we need more money, it’s not really funny. people are mad, politicians are glad

@Sinzibukwud it’s like you were just waiting for me to ask

@AaronCU95 don’t you be trippin’ into the TARP funds I’m dippin’ i need that bonus cash just before I make a dash

@Sinzibukwudokay, i’m getting your mood

@AaronCU95 do you have a job to hobnob with the glob and some guy named Bob who eats corn on the cob. it just makes me want to sob

@Sinzibukwud okay, well I’m looking forward to seeing you at the show next week. will you be freestyle rapping there too?

@AaronCU95anythings is possible. Twestival 2 in Rochester @bouldercoffee see you there. Peace, thanks for the questions

@Sinzibukwud you’re welcome, thanks for the insight.

that was probably one of the strangest band interviews I have ever done

@AaronCU95 I heard that

i can’t stop something from going out in 21 days

April 15, 2009

“Hi, this is a manager from GNS – Slim Seduction diet pills, I was calling to follow up on a claim that you did not order our products.”

“Great, thank you for calling.  Yes, there was credit card fraud and someone ordered the pills with my card.  I don’t need them and wanted to make sure you were not going to send more and bill me.  Your representative told me they took care of that yesterday.”

“Well sir, we are going to send you the pills in 21 days.  The system is set up to do that automatically and we will be charging $70 to your credit card.”

“Right, well your person yesterday said they could cancel that, in fact, two of them told me it was done.”

“Sir, we cannot just cancel these things in our system, they are set up to ship automatically.”

“You’re telling me there is no way to cancel something from shipping out 21 days from now?”

“That’s correct, sir.”

“There is no way in your system to click cancel, close the account, stop shipment, pick up the phone and call the warehouse, press a button, put a $0 balance?”

“No sir.”

“I’m sorry but what the hell kind of system are you running over there?”

“Sir, it’s really quite simple.  All you need to do is fill out a police report for fraud and mail that in to us.  If we get it within 21 days, we can cancel the shipment.”

“Oh, so you can cancel the shipment.”

“Well yes.”

“You just said you couldn’t.”

“As I said, you need to fill out a police report for fraud and send that in.”

“And then that activates the cancel button?”

“I’m not sure what you mean, sir.”

“Well, not to try to pull logic or anything but first you tell me there is no way to cancel things in this complex system and now there is if I send in paperwork.  Do you have a scanner that triggers the cancel button?”

“Sir, all you need to do is send in a fraud report.”

“Well I already called my credit card company, they cancelled the account and said they would handle this.  If you bill the account, you are going to find out it has been cancelled.  I’m just trying to save you time and money.”

“Well sir, if we bill the account and can’t get any money, we will send this to collections.”

“You will send something to collections when I told you I didn’t order it in the first place, asked you to cancel it, said not to send it, told you I cancelled the card…”

“Yes sir, is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Apparently not.”

glad to see someone has their stuff together, sort of

April 15, 2009

It’s been an interesting few days even without the cold I’m battling while trying to do presentations and record training materials.  On Friday I received the dreaded package.  This may be something you have experienced, a box shows up addressed to you that you don’t recall ordering.  In this day and age, you wonder who’s messing with you or who sent you a controlled substance that will blow up as soon as you open the box.  This is when it’s good to go through your list of people you have angered lately.  My list was short so the box was opened and in it I found some sort of anti-aging cream and some pills.  Okay, so perhaps you’re thinking, well, Aaron, your sub-conscience ordered these things for you.  You would be wrong.  That part of me only exists to make me feel guilty about crossing the street against the light.  Back in the box they went and to the computer I dashed.

You may already know where this is going, I checked my credit card statement and found three purchases that I did not make.  It was like a commercial, except they were rather small in amounts, at least the immediate amount was small, more on that later.  Time to take action.  What follows is the company by company results to date.  We’ll see what happens as the saga continues.

Chase:  (the credit card company)  These guys must be so used to credit card fraud by now they have it down to a routine.  All I had to say is I was disputing three charges and they rolled into action.  The card was cancelled, a new one is in the process of being issued, they blocked payment on those three charges and said they would contact the companies.  In fact, they did this so quickly that when I was trying to look at charges placed before the suspect purchases (to see if perhaps the breech was with one of those companies) that my account information was gone already.  They suggested I contact companies that charge me on a periodic basis (toll fees, video membership, etc) to let them know of the new card and that was it.  The jury is still out on this, but so far, Chase gets a solid four out of five drum sticks in this review.

Collagen:  (the company that sent me anti-aging cream)  I think that was the name of this company.  The process was relatively painless.  The documentation on the product had an 800 number to call, someone answered the phone, I explained I never ordered the product, they said put it in the box and mark RTS (return to sender, not Rochester Transit Service in this case) and they refunded the money.  At least that’s what they told me.  If I get another box from them, we may have a bigger problem later.  Collagen gets 2 and a half drumsticks out of five for ease of discussion, but is pending another full drumstick when I do not see more shipments from them.

Barnes and Noble.com:  (an on-line book seller you may have heard of)  I never, ever, ever go to barnesandnoble.com.  When it comes to on-line book purchases, I’m an amazon guy.  In fact, I’ve purchased books, CDs, electronics, a wagon, etc. on Amazon.  I have gone to Barnes and Noble here in Rochester many times and like the store.  So this purchase was a little odd.  I recalled buying something in the store (books for a birthday present) but didn’t recall that costing as much as showed on my card (and I think I used a gift card for that purchase anyway).  I called up BandN.com and they told me they would have someone call in their fraud group.  I understand security and disclosure of information, but I’m paying for something, how come I can’t ask what it was or where it went?  After confirming my information all I was told was “well sir, it looks like someone used your card number, security code and billing address to order something.”  Hey, thanks Sherlock.  What was it?  “I can’t tell you what it is due to security reasons but we will refund the amount.”  Barnes and Nobel dot com gets one drum stick for agreeing to take care of the issue while being “dickish” on the phone.

GNS:  (creators of “Sexy-Slim”)  This was a small charge (under $4) on the card which seemed a little suspect.  Thankfully, whoever the ass is that decided it would be jolly fun to use my card decided it would be more fun to ship things to me.  I received this packet on Monday.  The charge was for shipping of the free trial.  Inside the packet was information that said they would send me another 60 day supply for $70 within three weeks and continue to do that until I was “sexy slim” (obviously they have never seen how close to that I already am).  They did not have an 800 number to call, and when I did call their number I heard “due to the popularity of sexy-slim, you may experience long hold times”.  My first call got through, the person cancelled the order and future orders, and because I was claiming fraud, put me through to a manager.  15 holding minutes later I hung up to save my cell minutes.  I tried again and was transferred to the manager hold line and hung up once more after 13 minutes.  A third call was where I found this gem.  The person explained he would have a manager call me back since I could not wait on the line.  He told me I should make sure I was able to take the call sometime in the next 48 hours because they wouldn’t leave a message and I’d have to wait on hold if I called back.  That isn’t even the best part.  As he was looking at the account, he explained the process of the free trial and subsequent shipments.  “What we allow you to do is try the product, and if you don’t like it, you just cancel the next shipments.  It’s a very good product that I’m sure will give you great results.”  Seriously! 

I had to step in at this point.  “Listen, I did not order this.  Someone else did using my card.  It was not someone that thinks I’m fat, it was a fraudulent charge.  Do you understand that?” 

“I do sir, but I think it’s a great product, you could think about using it since you have it there.”

“With all due respect, I don’t need it.  I eat well, work out five days a week and while I may sit on my butt all day at work, I make sure to take the stairs when I can and why am I telling you all this cancel the damn order and have a manager call me.”

GNS gets zero drums sticks and in fact owes me four and I’m going to use them to play rhythms on my desk while I listen to their hold music.

Good times all around.  Let’s see what happens moving forward.  I can’t complain too loudly, this is certainly not what I’ve read other people have gone through with stolen information.  Of course, this could just be the beginning.  Chase acted quickly, the others involved are still pending.  Now I’m just curious which vendor leaves their information floating in the breeze for people to grab.  (Attention: Business related note coming up now)  If you own a business and collect credit/debit card information, please double check your security standards and encryption.  USAT, I’m looking right at you guys.  If you truly value your customers, protect their information.   The last thing we all need in this economy is someone using our money to buy crap for us.  We can buy our own crap for ourselves, thank you very much.

Ritter rocked his own face off

April 5, 2009

I’m not really sure what that phrase means “you rock my face off” but someone once put it on our band’s website and then I started hearing it and the next thing you know, it becomes a title.  This is how revolutions start people!

Anyway, this past week, my guitarist, Tom, and I ventured southeast to catch a show by a group we had not seen in six years.  I’ll get into that in a future post.  This one is about the opener/co-headliner.  I’ve been on all sides of a music bill.  We’ve been the opening act, the closing act, the middle act, the third of seven, etc.  As the opening act, you didn’t want to upstage the headliner and as the headliner, you were at times upstaged by the opener.  Of course, when you play a club that doesn’t have a built in crowd, you tip your hat to any band that brings in people whether they sound good or not.  The way to get around the potential pride issue is to co-headline. 

Josh Ritter coheadlined last Wednesday at the Haunt in Ithaca and rocked the place.  I had never heard the guy.  I only knew he was playing because I wanted to see the other coheadliner.  I’m not sure the capacity at the Haunt (certainly more at their current location than when I was an undergrad and used to darken the door of their past place) but we had to have been pretty close.  Tom and I found a good spot on the left side facing the stage near Josh’s keyboard player and drummer about 45 minutes before they went on.  Some quick conversations in the front told me that group in front was there to see Josh.  Plain and simple, they were ready.  I figured if this many people know his stuff, we’re probably in for a treat.  The band came out on stage in order, drummer first, keyboard, Josh, lead guitar and bass.  Okay, I don’t know the name of the guys and didn’t feel like looking them up.  They were introduced by Josh as “my amazing band”.  In fact everything was amazing or incredible to him.  “Ithaca…why have we not played here before.  This place is amazing, you guys are incredible.”  I’m paraphrasing of course.  Suits were the garb of choice and I was happy to see the drummer was not made to wear a suit coat.  He elected the dress shirt with sleeves rolled and vest (not sweater vest) to hold in the tie.  I can appreciate that.  Last time I tried to play in a suit, my sticks kept getting caught in the jacket sleeves.  That lasted all of two songs and only made it through the second because the first went right into the second. 

This guy, Josh Ritter, had a smile on his face from the time he walked up onto the stage through when he sat in on the last tune of the co-headliner to end the night.  He did not stop smiling.  Song after song was played with an energy that was truly joyful.  That may sound corny as anything but you had to see this guy.  He was happy to play for the crowd, his band was happy to play along with him and the crowd was happy to sing note for note.  I had no idea of any of the songs but certainly bounced and swayed along with the others who were vocalizing as only fans can (slightly flat with heads tilted to the stage).  “Thank you” was most of his banter with the audience other than accolades on the people and place.  Oh, and one apology when he messed up the opening lyrics to a song prompting a quick break to remove his jacket and tie.  The guy had a Buddy Holly bounce, Bob Dylan grasp of lyrics and a bit of a Matthew Sweet vibe (yeah, remember him?).  We all dug it.  Good energy is damn contagious.