Friday, January 16, 2009

Every day above ground is a gift … I guess

Corporate America and me

You’ve no doubt heard the adage that opinions are like assholes – everybody has one and they all stink.

I feel pretty much the same way about birthdays, and what measurable ones are left on the Great Calendar bring me that much closer to not having to exist in a world that is plainly going to hell..

I awoke with the kind of digestive issues I haven’t had in about six or seven years, which caused me to be a little late to work, where I was greeted by colleagues with a gooey cake. Digestion notwithstanding, the cake stood little chance!

Then Mrs. Nitty Gritty and I left after half a day of work to accomplish some errands, renewing our driver’s licenses and completing a commercial transaction.

First the transaction. Let me start by noting that in recent years I have owned small amounts of stock in two of the greatest names in American corporate history – so famous their stock exchange symbols are instantly recognizable: S and GE. I lost money on both, and I should have taken that as a sign to stop doing business with them. (In fact, I am going to return to “the simple” life if for no other reason that if you keep score long enough, you collect enough companies you will never do business with again.)

Add Sears and General Electric.

This should have been simple. Last May I saw a microwave oven on sale at Sears, and knowing that our current one at 18 years old (123 in human years) was about to be in need of burial, I bought it, took it home and it was not the color of what I had ordered. So I returned it. A few months later, the 18-year-old zapped its last kernel of popcorn. I went back and bought the same model but in the right color.

Now, just five months later, the new one flashed, banged and lost it nuking ability faster than Iran will after the Israeli Air Force gets the “go” sign. I did what any upstanding American man would do. I ignored it and tried again the next day to see if time would heat the wound. Then I sent Mrs. N.G. to Sears to see what redress was in the offing. (C’mon, there was a football game on TV!) She was told we only had a 90 day warranty with Sears which had expired, but would she like to buy the very same model for $20 off? That’s why I sent her. I would have murdered the sales clerk.

Two days later, a Monday, I got to work and, on your taxpaying dime, starting phoning GE to find out (remember I’m a guy, now) which portion of the microwave to hit to get it to work again. Several rounds of hold, “let me transfer you” and automated hang-ups produced a cheerful, helpful voice that advised I actually have a one-year warranty from GE, not the 90 says Sears lied about, and that the company has had problems with model, which has been designated as “vendor return.” I was led to believe all I had to do was schlep it back to the local mall and Sears would replace it with another model.

When I did went back to Sears, no question but that it was the same sales clerk who lied a few weeks before who I had to deal with. (All this, of course, is taking hours and hours out of my dwindling life instead of out of those whose product was crap.) She went through the incorrect warranty S.O.L. song and dance, but finally got two managers in on it. When they finally understood that GE wanted to make good, I found out I had to go first to the Sears service center about 20 miles away, which I did with Mrs. N.G. this afternoon. It only got worse. The guy there first tried to charge me $29.99 just to look at the microwave. No matter how much I explained, no matter how many times I showed him the GE warranty card with the model and serial numbers, he could not understand he owed me a microwave.

He called on a manager (did I mention that no one in all of these detours spoke English as a first language?) who, while I was on the phone with an even less helpful GE “customer service” rep, finally made me understand I had to go without a microwave for at least 10 days while they sent it to another Sears service headquarters 30 more miles away for a determination of what was wrong. Duh. IT DOESN’T WORK!

Then in 10 days or so, I will then have to go back to the service center 20 miles away to pick up either a repaired machine (no thanks) or a voucher to take back to my neighborhood Sears for a replacement. But GE told me it would be a different model. Does Sears know that? Does Sears care?

I have already mau-maued Macy’s, I am halfway there with Sears and GE will be lucky to survive as a corporation even if I do get a new microwave. This is principle! I really don’t like or much use microwaves.

Who would have thought MVA was the efficient one?

Giant steps backward

Then we went on a joint grocery run to a chain store where between us, parents and children and our parents, this family has shopped for about 200 person years. Giant Food, a Washington-Baltimore area icon of enlightened ownership, community service, consumer-friendliness and a wide selection of superior food, went into the toilet about a dozen years ago when the founding family sold to a Dutch conglomerate that has since gone bankrupt.

Now, there is little selection of name brands, empty shelves due to low inventory, stupid underpaid clerks and, worse, automation that makes you do the work of the labor force Giant has fired. That is, you scan and bag your own food, which is difficult, annoying, tiresome, confusing and lengthier than having a well-paid (once totally union) staff check you out with a smile. After that experience today, I am ready to check out either with a smile or harp music in the background. Maybe both.

Isn’t this strange! Sears and GE cannot handle a simple problem, but the Motor Vehicle Administration of Maryland zipped us both through in minimal time.

Change we can believe in

So, from the porcelain throne, to the gooey birthday cake, to the humiliation of having your driver’s license picture taken and have to keep the pose, the hair and the double chins for another six years, to the apoplexy of dealing with those corporate vermiculates known as Sears, GE and Giant, things brightened.

For my birthday, a priceless ticket became available, and I will be spending Tuesday inside the gates of the West Front of the Capitol, with a seat for what should be one of the most memorable moments in recent, or even ancient and future, American history.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:51 PM

    News update: Your new microwave is being delivered on Tuesday, but you must be home to sign for it.