Category Archives: Social values

Ever tried to get support from Intuit (maker of Quicken and Turbotax)?

I have used Quicken (by Intuit) since the mid ’90s.  I have purchased a new version each year as a new one became available (usually when I bought my tax software from them) so that I would always be up-to-date.

Generally, I have been pleased with the software but over the years the service has varied from OK to abysmal.  At the moment, it seems on the Abysmal end.

My current problem is that when I try to download my bank transactions, Quicken pops up and says that I have to log into my online account before it will let me open the downloaded transactions.  Why is this an issue you ask? It is an issue to me because I cannot be sure that Intuit isn’t getting me to log into their site so that they can play man-in-the-middle with my financial transactions. It is unlikely, but it is not outside the realm of possibility.

This issue is, in all likelihood, just a bug in a new patch for the 2016 software as it only started happening recently, but there is no way to tell and the information on their support site is dreadful.  I do know that one version of the software (which I assume to be the American version  because the documentation on the support site refers to $US) has had a similar bug because there is a patch for that bug on the support site…one that won’t install on my Canadian version of the package.

When self-help didn’t work, I was left with no choice but to ask Intuit for help. When you go to the Intuit support site you are given the option of phoning or chatting with them. The estimated wait time for calling is always about twice as long as the chat time…which means that most users would opt for the chat support. In my case the estimated wait time for chat support was 25 minutes – which is not acceptable, but what can you do? So I waited.

Here is a screen capture of my end of a one-way communication with Quicken (you can tell that I was a bit peeved when I started the chat session and things got worse from there):

Intuit service woes. My end of a one-way communication
Intuit service woes. My end of a one-way communication

So this is where we have arrived in 2016. Companies sell software that they don’t completely support or pretend to support by putting in chat sessions or phone support with unacceptable wait times (while this is bad, it isn’t as bad as companies that hide their telephone support behind circular voice messaging options that always end up leading you to recorded messages, but that is for another rant on another day).

What do you think? Should companies be able to take us for granted? In your mind, is this an acceptable level of service? Bear in mind that the software is generally pretty good save for this new bug.

So, I am now up to 1 hour and 28 minutes “Waiting for an agent…” and I would like to know:

Would you buy a product from Intuit?

Stay tuned for my next poor service story for software support or inadequate software design. As for me, I am going to end the chat session and have a beer.

 

The growing “support yourself” attitude from developers

image

How many times has this happened to you? You upgrade your software to the newest version and a critical function stops working? Or you are using software and you realise that some important functions were developed by folks that didn’t understand our didn’t care what the function was supposed to do?

So you hit help and it takes you to a poorly designed help function that hasn’t been updated since three major versions ago. So, now you Google the support page with hopes that Google will get you closer to support for your version, and voila… You are taken to a support page for your version of the software that tells you what a smart consumer you were for buying their software. It gives you a link to support for the software … and that support consists of a poorly designed FAQ page whose answers all take you back to the same “congrats for buying our software” page.

You then look for other service options … which you find are limited to a pay option (for software you purchased) or the ubiquitous “ask the community” option.

You opt for the latter option and find yourself reading about hundreds of other users with the same question with a few “try this and hope” answers from the community … but nary a comment or response from the development team.

So now you find yourself wondering why no one from the development team is moderating the discussion pages and providing definitive answers to common questions (or at the very least, taking note of the problems and either fixing them out documenting the workaround for the issue).

This happens to me all the time and I’m getting tired of it. I always try to solve problems on my own, reading the manuals; reading online help blogs; reading community fora; and then I search in vain for a way to contact the vendor.

I know you can’t talk to every user individually, but if you are putting out software, you have to let people know how you expected them to use it and you have to seek feedback for those occasions where it doesn’t work the way you expected. If you set up a community support area, you have to monitor it, looking for common problems and answering them definitively.

You also need to see where users may be confused about what you expected them to do and find ways to correct their expectations.

Finally, if some function in your software isn’t working and you can’t fix it, you need to acknowledge the deficiency and update all of the community blogs and help documents to tell folks it doesn’t work and not too bother looking for solutions. You then need to come up with a timeline for really fixing the problem and let your users know when it will be fixed.

So what do you think? Is there anything we can do to fix this problem? Is it a problem at all?

UPS Store – Always Get A Quote

Note: this is a repost from my Facebook timeline

Be careful to always get a quote from UPS Stores before you allow them to do any work for you! Have you ever felt ripped off by a company? irate_customersWell, today I feel really ripped off by UPS. To be perfectly honest, it is partially my fault, because I should have asked more questions before I allowed the UPS store to do anything for me. But I am still angry! Here’s my story:

I was sending a package of 31 letter-size, B&W, single-sided pages to another place in the same city but I wanted to have a copy of the pages before putting them in the mail. I could have scanned or copied them one-page-at-a-time but I was busy today so I thought I would get them done at the UPS store because they were on my way and I thought they could do it faster. Copying services are usually less than 15 cents per page at this type of establishment so I figured it would cost me less than $5.00.

When I got to the store, I decided that it would be better for the environment to simply scan the pages to a USB key since I had two keys on me at the time. I figured that the scanning would be no more expensive than the usual printing service because the scanning used the same sheet feeder on the same copying machine, and I was providing the USBUPS Store Logo keys myself. Given that and the fact that the process would take no more time and save UPS money (no costs for toner or paper), I was confident that the service would be roughly the same as a normal print job. Not validating this assumption was a big mistake!

Apparently, saving the paper and toner costs actually made the same process at least 10 times as expensive as if I had just printed the paper. At UPS, not printing to paper actually cost me $55 ($5 for the “computer rental”, $5.00 for scanning the first page and $1.50 per page for the scanning remaining 30 pages). Yes, that’s right getting this simple job done at UPS cost $55 (plus HST).

I personally won’t be doing business at any UPS stores again because I don’t trust them and there are plenty of other printing services available. But you can be sure that at those other stores I will ask for a quote before I let them to do anything for me.

Public Service Sick Leave

Unfortunately, this government and many previous governments have spent years successfully vilifying the public service so I am afraid that a large minority of public opinion will side with Clement on this.  He has successfully driven a wedge between public servants that I know to be motivated by public interest and some members of the public that they serve.

It’s funny that when the politicians abuse their travel expenses, controls get put on public service travel. Politicians get involved in partisan advertising, and public servants get subjected to advertising controls.  Politicians make poor decisions about policy and the public service gets a black eye for not being able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

I am sick of small-minded little men like Clement taking out their anger on the public service.  I have worked with some extremely dedicated public servants that display no “feeling of entitlement”. They go into the office every day and work hard trying to  support their government and provide the best service to the public in a toxic environment with shrinking budgets. These people stay out of the political fray and try their hardest to provide good advice on public policy, which is often ignored because it does not align with the dogma of the party that is in power.

I know that many Canadians have no access to paid sick leave, and that makes me very sad, but rather than trying to drag down those who do, why not fight for the same access to health leave for everyone. The money is there in the economy (you just have to look at the profit figures for big business and the compensation packages for executives), it is just not being shared. The economy exists to support the aspirations of society, not the other way around.  When the economy fails to provide citizens with stable, reasonably compensated jobs that give them the hope of be able to contribute meaningfully to society, it has stopped doing its job and it is time for a change.

Let’s not let people sow fear and discord for political benefit.  Let us, rather, look for a future when we pull together to maintain this wonderful country that we have built-up with sweat, toil and good planning.

The same old energy mix — The Japan Times editorial

The same old energy mix — The Japan Times editorial.

I follow the folks that write Japan Safety: Nuclear Energy Updates and they just posted an article from the Japan Times where they look at the current government’s plans for energy sustainability over the next few decades. The picture is disturbing in light of the disaster at Fukushima in 2011.

Nuclear energy is carbon neutral, but it brings so many other long-term risks into the picture that it should not be considered as a sustainable energy source.  At Fukushima, they are having to store huge amounts of contaminated water on a site that was completely inundated with ocean water in 2011.

Read the article here.

Sweden have successfully used taxes to reduce environmental damage.

Interesting piece, and it now has a great link to the OECD report that the statistics come from.

Sweden has shown a longstanding commitment to the environment, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and nitrogen leaching.

Renewables supply more than a third of its energy needs. Sweden has set itself tough targets for the future, however, and must continue to innovate if it is to meet them, according to a new OECD report.

Sweden is one of the few countries to have successfully used taxes to reduce environmental damage. Strong environmental record, that has encouraged eco-innovation and spurred the use of green technologies.

“Sweden is a frontrunner in using market instruments like green taxes to discourage environmentally harmful activities and foster new technologies,” said OECD Environment Director Simon Upton, presenting the Review’s main findings in Stockholm.

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New green energy course inspires high school seniors from across the country

I always look at MIT’s stuff whenever the world gets me down and I feel like giving up.  There is so much innovation and enthusiasm there that my hope gets restored.  Thanks MIT!

New green energy course inspires high school seniors from across the country.

A molecular approach to solar power (MIT News)

This is another example of excellent innovation from MIT and Harvard. This one is for energy storage and it is quite similar to one I just recently posted on the “bionic leaf”. With better solar energy conversion and more efficient energy storage the idea of moving away from fossil fuels and nuclear power begins to look possible.

Open Matters

Diagram of molecules going through solar-induced charge-discharge cycle, with heat released. The working cycle of a solar thermal fuel, using azobenzene as an example. (Courtesy of Jeff Grossman.)

A molecular approach to solar power
Switchable material could harness the power of the sun — even when it’s not shining.

David L. Chandler | MIT News Office
April 13, 2014

It’s an obvious truism, but one that may soon be outdated: The problem with solar power is that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine.

Now a team at MIT and Harvard University has come up with an ingenious workaround — a material that can absorb the sun’s heat and store that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand.

This solution is no solar-energy panacea: While it could produce electricity, it would be inefficient at doing so. But for applications where heat is the desired output — whether for heating buildings, cooking, or powering heat-based industrial processes — this could…

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The Australian Academy of Science says man-made climate change is real.

Sorry about the original posting…I posted the comment on the article from my smart phone and it “corrected” my spelling to make my comment unintelligible. Here is what I meant to say.

It is sad that, because of ill  informed or ill intentioned climate change deniers, we are just now getting around to acknowledging formally that human activities are implemented in the changes to the global climate. The need to be “balanced” means that we have spent an inordinate amount of time defending the proven and discussing the ridiculous.  It is not time to move on to finding a solution to the problems.

But, better late than never.

jpratt27

The Australian Academy of Science says man-made climate change is real and the consequences will be dire if no action is taken to address it.

The academy, in an update to its science of climate change booklet produced in 2010, says its authoritative account of the science behind global warming will help counter confusion and misinformation.

The update is written and reviewed by 17 of Australia’s leading experts in a range of climate-related sciences.

Earth’s climate has changed over the past century. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, sea levels have risen, and glaciers and ice sheets have decreased in size.

The best available evidence, the scientists say, indicates that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the main cause.

Chris Pash | businessinsider.com.au

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News Release: Annual Report: Privacy Commissioner emphasizes importance of online transparency – August 21, 2014

https://www.priv.gc.ca/media/nr-c/2014/nr-c_140821_e.asp

In an update to a previous post, as of last summer, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada was still working on the 168 complaints received about Bell Canada for its data collection and use policy.

Old fashioned telephone
Telephone

Stay tuned, it will be interesting to see what they finally come up with.

Please pass a strengthened Reform Act (and similar changes in every province)

Here is a message I received from Elizabeth May, OC, MP and leader of the Green Party of Canada. It lays out clearly a major problem with Canada’s democratic institutions.


From: Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca [mailto:Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca]
Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2014 8:14 AM
To: [protected]
Subject: RE: Please pass a strengthened Reform Act (and similar changes in every province)
Thank you for writing about Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Chong’s Private Member’s Bill C-586, dubbed the Reform Act. I fully support his bill. In fact, the proposal to remove the requirement for the party leader to sign nomination papers, as originally written, was the key issue addressed in my Private Members Bill C-503, the Democratic Local Nomination Act, tabled in May:

http://elizabethmaymp.ca/legislation/c-503

With all the talk these days about the Senate and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), it is easy to forget that we actually live in a democracy. In Westminster Parliamentary Democracy, it is Parliament—as representatives of the citizens of the country—that is sovereign. Not the Prime Minister, not the PMO, not the Party, not anyone else.

It has been a consistent trend in recent Canadian governments, across party lines, to shift the balance of power away from Parliament to the PMO. What this has left us with is an elected dictatorship, a Parliament not accountable to the people, and a feeling of radical impotence by Canadian citizens who no longer see Parliament as an effective defender of their rights and needs.

In this political climate, Michael Chong’s Reform Act comes as a breath of fresh air. This bill seeks to restore power to the grassroots, to the Canadian people, in granting local people the right to choose who will represent them in Parliament. While we also desperately need electoral reform, to remove First Past the Post, this bill addresses a crucial parliamentary reform — ending the tyranny of leaders.

Democratic reform is a non-partisan issue. None of these changes affect any party more than the other. It is true that these changes will change the way the party functions but this will be a positive change if it means returning power to the hands of the people. And, as Mr. Chong has been reminding us, this bill is not about adding anything new to our democratic system, but about returning to old practices that were not formally enshrined in law.

It will take support from across all parties to pass this bill. While it has passed Second Reading, Members of Parliament need to know that people will be watching to see how they cast their final vote. Please keep up the pressure on the NDP and the Liberals so that they will support this bill. With all opposition parties on board, we will have the maximum pressure on Conservative back-bench MPs to vote for the bill.

A list of Members of Parliament can be found here:

http://www.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/MainMPsCompleteList.aspx?TimePeriod=Current&Language=E

As I said on CBC “Power and Politics” recently, “Canadian democracy is on life support and Michael Chong’s bill is CPR!”

Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.

Member of Parliament for Saanich–Gulf Islands

Leader of the Green Party of Canada

JD Power – Builder Satisfaction Survey – Methodology concerns

Here is an e-mail I sent to the “ask-us” link from the JD Power web site about their survey methodology for “New-Home Builder’s Customer Satisfaction Survey”. I haven’t heard anything back from JDPA, but I will update this post if I do.

Be careful how you interpret the results of this survey as it is currently conducted.


From:   [Hidden] 
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 9:09 AM
To:  [Hidden]@jdpa.com’;  [Hidden]@jdpa.com
Subject: Builder Satisfaction Survey

Hi:

I took part in one of your builder surveys (the Canadian New-Home Builders Customer Satisfaction Survey) a number of years back; in fact, results of an earlier version of the survey formed a large part of the reason I bought my house in the first place. The idea of the survey is a very good one, but the survey methodology is fatally flawed.  You send out the survey within the first year of occupancy, when the builder is still on the hook to fix deficiencies.  A longitudinal survey would be far more useful.  Similar metrics, but taken at the 6 month mark, the 2 year mark, the 5 year mark and the 7 year mark (just as the Tarion warrantee expires).  This would help you see what owners think about their builder once the hidden problems start to rise to the surface. 

I gave my builder,  [Hidden] , a glowing reference when I responded to your survey, but if I were asked again, my response would be far different and I would be able to provide real examples of poor service and cut-corners.

Without this type of long term look at satisfaction with home builders, the survey is misleading at best. 

Sincerely,

 [Hidden] 
 [Hidden address] 
 [Hidden] ONT

Aggressive Driving – Some observations from the peanut gallery

Close Call... Don't Drive Angry / Baynard County
Close Call… Don’t Drive Angry / Baynard County (Photo credit: Phil’s 1stPix)

I often hear pundits decrying the aggressiveness of drivers.  It is hard to disagree with the premise that aggressive driving is bad, but the picture isn’t as simple as the pundits would have you believe.

For one thing, not all aggressive driving is “actively aggressive”.  The pundits rarely discuss the passively aggressive drivers, like the folks that drive in passing lanes.  They also often fail to look for root causes for the driving aggression.

I have been thinking about this issue for a long time and think I have a few suggestions on how to reduce aggressive driving.  My suggestions are in the form of tips and I have organized these suggestions around four possibly overlapping groups of people … 1) the aggressive drivers themselves, 2) traffic planners, 3) other drivers and 4) law makers.  There probably isn’t much new here, and I hope it doesn’t appear to be condescending, but aggressive driving is an issue that has been bugging me for years so I wanted to add my two cents to the conversation. Continue reading Aggressive Driving – Some observations from the peanut gallery