Social Media Faux Pas

I admitted it.

I apologized for it.

I promptly deleted it.

It’s slightly embarrassing since I have been known to rail against it in the past.

The other day I made a mistake by falling for a news story from a satirical “news” website. The article was titled, Newly-Found Document Holds Eyewitness Account of Jesus Performing Miracle. Man, oh man, did I blow it on this one!

Being a history teacher, and a Christian, I was excited to see a story like this. What could be better than historians proving what I already believe to be true? However, I was skeptical so I went to the website’s home page and looked at other stories they had posted. Seemed fine (granted this wasn’t extensive). I even went to the “About” tab, seemed legit. What I failed to notice was the tab labeled “Disclaimer” to the right of all the others. Yeah, there was proof. How did I miss it? I really don’t know.

I normally don’t like to “share” stuff on my social media site because I am often bombarded by massive amounts of stuff my friends have shared, much of it not worth looking at. For that reason, when I do share stuff I tend to make sure that it is accurate, worth reading/viewing, and has a purpose. This particular post managed to make it past my own filters.

Time to recalibrate.

Have you ever fallen for a FAKE news story and what made you believe it? What was the story about?

Milestone – 50

This post is a bit of a milestone for me. This is my 50th blog post! I know in the grand scheme of things it probably doesn’t matter that much and I am not the prolific blogger like some. I tend to write about stuff I probably care too much about and I probably care too much about how I write. I want it to be worth reading.

That being said, it has been less than a year of blogging and for some reason people are reading me. Not a lot, mind you, but that is OK. I am writing because I enjoy it and because I think (I may be wrong most of the time) I have something to say about stuff that matters to me (and hopefully you too).

So, I looked back over my last 49 posts and checked to see what people were reading and not reading. Admittedly, there are some posts that have not been great but there are also some that I think people should have been reading and didn’t. The following lists are the posts that lots of people looked at and those that people haven’t yet.

Least Read, but Most Readable
  1. Bullying – Do Children Need to be Taught to Cope Better?
  2. Postal Possibilities – How to Save the USPS
  3. Rumors – Investigate and Authenticate
  4. Courage in the Face of Criticism
  5. Attack of the Naps
Most Read, but OK to Read Again
  1. Don’t Be So Bossy!
  2. I Kissed a Girl, and I Liked It!
  3. Eject “God Bless America” from Baseball.
  4. This is a tie: Parental Detention (or, I’m Making a Point for My Child)  OR Valentine’s Day W(h)ine
  5. Pet Perturbed

Thanks for stopping in, taking a look around, and then for deciding to click on the “Follow” button. I appreciate it! Click around some more, leave a comment, like it, share it, or don’t. Either way, THANK YOU. There will be more to check out in the future as I continue to explore this mode of communication (and as time allows).

Redbox Chat – Customer Service Lost in Translation

 KathyaE: Hi my name is KathyaE, please give me one moment while I review your question.

 Ryan G: ok

 KathyaE: Thank you for waiting, Ryan. Sorry to hear that you were unable to use your credit. I will be glad to look into this for you.

It started out great, but went downhill rather quickly.


A few weeks back I rented a movie at Redbox. I was looking forward to it because it had been on my “Watch List” for a little while and I am a history guy so I enjoy historical movies. I was looking forward to getting the “Monuments Men” Blu-ray home and devouring copious amounts of popcorn. When I got home and put the disc into the DVD player, things seemed fine. The commercials on the disc played normally, but for some reason the previews for upcoming movies were not playing correctly. Only the background tracks (music and sounds) for the previews were playing and not the voice track. Weird, I thought to myself. But then another commercial and all seemed well. However, when the actual movie began playing the sound did the exact same thing as the previews. No voices, just muffled noise, somewhere the equivalent of the Charlie Brown parents in the cartoons. I was disappointed. But, I knew that there would be a fix for it. I would rent another one, but I didn’t exactly want to pay for it again. So, I logged into my Redbox account on my computer and reported the issue with the disc. I, relatively promptly, got a response that I would have a credit issued to my account for my next rental. Great! I thought to myself again. I was just gonna have to wait till I had time to rent it again. I returned my defective DVD the next day.

The Rental

Two weeks after the original rental of “Monuments Men” I found myself outside the store in front of the Redbox again. I had time to look and I knew there was a credit waiting for me. So, I browsed and discovered there was a copy of the video I wanted available so I chose it. I got the “check out” screen and pushed the “credits” button. At this point, I assumed it was looking up my account and for the credit I had available to me. No such luck. It came back with a message saying something to the effect of “No available credits found.” Hmmmm….was my thought. That is odd. I haven’t used it yet, and I am pretty sure my wife hasn’t used it. So, I put in my billing zip and swiped my card, expecting to see along the way a message that said, “You have a credit available. Would you like to use it? Yes or no?” No where along the way did I see that. Only a message that said my receipt will be sent to my email address. Oh, maybe they just don’t bill me and credit me on the transaction. I’ll just check my email when I get home. When I go home I opened the computer and checked my email. I had been charged for my Blu-ray DVD rental. This was a little unexpected. However, I was anxious to watch the movie so I decided to deal with the following day. The movie is good, by the way. However, it is a tad slow so you have to really enjoy the subject of WWII and know the timeline to enjoy the movie.

The Chat

As you saw above, it started out well. At least normal, what you would expect, a friendly greeting and all.

 Ryan G: Thanks. I was at the kiosk and pushed the credit button but it said there were none available. I can home and looked because I knew it hadn’t been used yet. So, I got charged again.

 KathyaE: I have located a transaction for a rental made at the box for Monuments Men with the card ending in XXXX.

 Ryan G: Yes, just tonight.

 KathyaE: I show that that card is not saved to an online account, there for if credits were available they would not be accessible.

 Ryan G: So, in order to use a credit there has to be a credit card on file?

 KathyaE: That is correct.

 Ryan G: That seems a bit odd since all you have to do is pay at the kiosk. There would be no reason to have a card on file.

 KathyaE: Credits are added to your account, if there is no card on file there is no way to add credits to your account.

Here is things went sideways. I understood what she was saying and I really don’t fault her for the policies she has no control over. That being said, my account on Redbox clearly showed that there was a credit waiting in my account and I DIDN’T have a credit card saved to my account. When I logged into my account I was immediately shown that I had a credit waiting for me (see upper right hand corner of the picture below – a red circle with a white one in it – there is a red arrow pointing to it) and also on the account page it showed that I had credit available to me (see bottom left hand corner – there is a red arrow pointing to that).

Notice two red arrows pointing to areas that show my account has credit.

Notice two red arrows pointing to areas that show my account has credit.

So, the website shows that I have a credit and the kiosk clearly knows who I am once I have entered my billing zip and swiped my card because it always brings up, for my approval, the correct email address associated with my account to which the receipt will be emailed.

 KathyaE: If you had a card on file and credits were added and you still have credits available on your card I would recommend saving your card to your account so you can then use them. As you have already checkout out there is no way to apply any discount to your transaction, I do apologize. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

She must not be really looking at my account or she would be able to see that there is a credit already there, I have no card on file, and what really needs to be done is for an option to be added so that customers who have credits get the option to use it before being billed. Instead, she gives me an answer that doesn’t match the situation and then tries to hurry me along and end the chat. I try to explain why there is no card on file and why I don’t think it is necessary to enter one since they can already identify which account is being accessed at the kiosk.

 Ryan G: Nope. Perhaps there is a better way to add credits then. If you know who I am by putting in my billing zip code and then swiping my card, how does having a card on file help? There are security issues with having it on file.

 Ryan G: I also have a user name and log in to use this online account, so you must know who I am without having to put in a card number.

 Ryan G: I don’t reserve them online.

Then I get the standard “We’ll pass it along to the appropriate department” answer.

 KathyaE: Your thoughts will be passed along to the appropriate team here at Redbox but as of now it goes as I have previously mentioned. Have I answered all of your questions today?

 Ryan G: Yep

AND the “We’re done talking now” response with a quick disconnection.

 KathyaE: Thank you for chatting with us at Redbox. Have a great day!

 KathyaE has disconnected.

The part that really bothers me here is that I wasn’t asking for more credit. I wasn’t being unreasonable about how their website/kiosk worked, just pointing out that what she told me and what was shown didn’t jive. I wasn’t demanding to take command of the mothership. I wasn’t even rude. However, I feel as though I was treated this way because she thought I was doing all of the above mentioned things…

The Conclusion

Admittedly, I didn’t expect to get much help from Redbox chat. I didn’t expect to be listened to. I don’t expect that my suggestions will be passed along to the appropriate department (‘cuz they won’t be), but what I do expect is that I am treated with respect as the customer and that was something that wasn’t given. Instead, I was brushed off like dirty knees after kneeling at the beach. Next time I need to talk to a Redbox, I’ll talk to the brick wall next to it because it ought to be just as helpful.

Also, this experience hasn’t kept me from renting more movies from the Redbox. In fact, we have rented quite a few. However, we don’t usually rent that many there. We generally wait for the codes they send out via text or email  for a free one or an occasional rent one/get one offer. And, yes, I did put information for my card onto the website long enough to use my free credit, but then I took my card information right back out again.

Tell me about some of your customer service related encounters/problems in the comments section so we can commiserate together. Some day, maybe some day, customer serve will be king again. Until then, good luck and keep your head down!

My Life via the Spam Folder – A Story


Yahoo, I took 24 hours and wrote down the subject lines for the email in my spam folder. It is amazing that spam can exist these days given that the subject line pretty much gives it away. People really don’t request this stuff, let alone respond to them do they? What to do with all these spam messages…well, how about if this was really representative of my life?

Yeah, this is my (fictional) life, through spam!

 The Story (Fiction)

Life around here has been pretty difficult as of late. I am broke and have very little education, the car has problems, I am homeless, and my girlfriend decided last week that she just didn’t want to be with me any longer. Luckily, I have been able to get lots of help with all my problems. I don’t know if it is divine intervention or not, but my email seems to offer a solution to all my problems without me ever having to solicit help.

Very accurate!

I decided to get a free psychic reading to see if all this unsolicited help would benefit me in the long run. She said my life in the near future would turn around and I would be well on my way to success. She said specifically, “You’ll get an education and a new job that will allow you to find a place to live, buy a car and keep it running, and find new love in my life.” Good thing I went to see her first!

First, an education seemed like a priority but I didn’t have any money. One offer in my email stood out, I could get a government grant for cash. I assume this will be a large grant since the government is flush with cash and gives it away regularly. With four separate offers for $2500 loans (that totals $10,000 right?), an offer for an instant $6500 loan, and another offer for an instant approval of $5000, I am now flush with cash myself and able to afford that education I have wanted for so long. All of those loans, a government grant, and an offer for a Kaplan University Scholarship will get me the education I deserve!

Education has done wonders for me. I was depressed, but no longer! The antidepressants that I was taking never really worked and now they are no longer needed. So, i sued them for selling me ineffective drugs. My email gave me great advice since there were two anti-depressant lawsuits I could join. As it turns out, others were not happy with their results either.

Now that I am educated, I need a job. So I found one with the help of an email titled, “Jobs in my area.” Sure enough, there were all kinds of jobs waiting to be filled! Some that needed specific skills and some that needed no skill at all. I applied for all that needed skills since I was being educated at Kaplan University. I mean, after all, I am now qualified for everything but why get a low paying job. That is WAY below me. Good thing there are all those nice people out there fighting for a minimum wage of $15 an hour. That way the losers will have something to do too!

SMART? I don’t know.

Can’t get to work without a car, so I bought one now that I have a high paying job. Of course, there are all kinds of things with a car that takes money, like insurance. Insurance costs a lot of money and if you are a good driver you rarely have to use it, so it shouldn’t cost so much. I had two emails offering cheap auto insurance; I bought two for good measure. You never know when you might need it. The dealership recommended that I buy an extended warranty for the car since the manufacturer isn’t really reliable with all those recalls and whatnot. I said no, but luckily there were four extended warranty offers for my car in the email. That really saved me! Plus, who doesn’t like free stuff once in a while. Low and behold, a free oil change was waiting for me in the inbox as well. Life is great.

Sometimes life can be confusing too. I had an email after I bought my car that said, “Lead generator.” Obviously this was spam, because who knew there was a shortage of lead? If it wasn’t about the shortage of lead, then who would want a really heavy generator in their car? That isn’t very good for gas mileage and I need to save money not waste it. I deleted that one right away. I mean, I am not going to click on something that wasn’t intended for me and might contain a virus or something else intended to harm me. Also, there was an email for cheap life insurance. I am young, who needs that stuff? Besides, there is no one to give the money to since I don’t have kids or a significant other. That one went straight to the trash folder as well.

Next, my homelessness needed to be solved. Luckily that was also easily solved by my email! I checked out the two emails on home foreclosures and found several that met me needs. However, I am running short on funds since I just bought a car, got an education, and have to commute to a job. So, I got a reverse mortgage for seniors. I am not sure how I qualify as a “senior” because I am only in my early 40s, but they sent me an email so it was their mistake. As it turns out, they pay me to own the home! I guess the joke is on them! After I got my house I needed to fill it with cool stuff, so I waited for a pre-approval notice for an account to a store I don’t visit often, but hey what the heck! I also got a new visa card and opened a Khols account. I spent to my max, let me tell you. Now I had a big new TV to watch, along with all the clothes, furnishings, and appliances my little heart desired. The new TV was even better when I figured out how to get cheap cable.

The last and probably most difficult problem was yet to be handled. I had to get my girlfriend back. The gift card to Victoria Secret for filling out a survey was a good start. She loved that place! But wait, what is this? I didn’t need her back. There are tons of other options I could use. Besides, I didn’t really like her that much anyway. As it turns out, there are lonely moms waiting for dates or Russian brides waiting for someone to rescue them from behind the “iron curtain.” Those are two great options, but it seems a bit random and a little risky. How do I know if they will want me le alone like me? Maybe the email from EHarmony is a better option. At least then I will know the person really likes me! Now is as good a time as any to prepare for the future so I watched a seduction video aid  and read an article on a stealth seducer. It seemed like good advice, but everyone knows that the ladies really only care about one thing, forget romance and intimacy. I’m not going to fail on that one since there were three emails on how to get powerful erections. Good thing the Canadians have figured out how to offer drugs for this. The two emails from Canadian pharmacy – Viagra/Cialis offering significant discounts was my solution. Now, I am set for relationship success!

Life now is a picnic. My email offered solutions to all my problems and solved them quite nicely. More people should pay closer attention to this stuff. Their lives would be MUCH better…

The Tale of Two Accounts

How often do you look in your spam folder? How much do you pay attention to it? Maybe I am a little odd and maybe not, but I look in my spam folder every day! I look in the spam folder every day to make sure there isn’t something there that doesn’t belong there. Three out of every five days I have to rescue an email that was delivered to the wrong folder. Poor little email.

Algorithms. I completely know or understand how they work, but I know they have something to do with math (something I am not good at). I also know they have something to do with a computer’s brain. I think. But really, it doesn’t matter. I just know that when I send an email it somehow ends up getting to where I want it to go most of the time. The intended recipient lets me know one way or another that they got it. However, I am not sure what algorithms are being used when it comes to the spam folder. I have several email addresses and I watch the spam folders for all of them. Honestly, I don’t know what Google is doing with their Gmail, but it is miles ahead of Yahoo.

I have had my Yahoo email address for many years now and there has been a continual flow of spam emails. They have gotten much better at getting into the spam folder and not in my actual inbox. Remember those days when you had to actually put all that mail into the trash? Yeah, me too. Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining then, but I can’t help it. My Yahoo account spam folder typically has about 50-80 spam messages in it every 24 hours. My question is why? Why is there any spam in it at all?

I have two Gmail accounts, one for work and one for personal use. Google does a phenomenal job at getting the spam into the spam folder! I very rarely see an email that I wasn’t intended to see. However, where Google has taken the cake is in the spam prevention. Their algorithm actually works! In a typical week, between the two accounts I have, I usually only have a total of seven messages in the spam folders. Seven. So, Google, what are you doing that makes you so much better than Yahoo?

Ok, I don’t really want the answer. I just want to say “Thank you.”


MH370 and Some Confounding Questions

Why has it taken so long to find this plane? This truly is a tragedy for the families involved and there has been, obviously, a massive effort to find the plane. I am not sure what the cost is at this point, but I am sure we will all look back on it and say to ourselves, “Why did it cost so much and why did we even have to look for it in the first place.” Aside from the fact that Malaysia has fumbled the search from the very beginning, the international community has put out a massive effort in both time and expense to locate the missing jet.

There in lies the problem as I see it. Why is the search even necessary in the first place? I am not talking about the fact that we need to find planes that crash in remote or hard to reach places. That isn’t the issue I have with this whole thing. The questions that keep running through my mind is that I don’t understand is this…

When would an airplane ever need to turn off it’s transponder?

I am not in the aviation industry and I will never claim to know lots about it (though I have ridden on them and maybe slept in a Holiday Inn Express on occasion). However, this seems like a rather obvious question. A question that, as yet, I have not yet heard an answer to in the endless news cycle, commentator blather filling the airwaves.

So, how about it? Anyone in the aviation industry that can tell me why it would be necessary for a plane to stop broadcasting it’s location? Any reason why turning the transponder off is even possible? I can’t think of a single reason why a plane would need to go “stealth,” especially when it is full of passengers.

Based on my, admittedly, limited knowledge of how these things work it seems that THIS would be one of the first areas for consideration, adjustment, and redesign. In a transportation industry that relies on locating it’s moving parts at all times, this seems like a no brainer. It can’t possibly be that expensive to design new planes this way. Yes, it might be a significant cost to retrofit already produced planes but it seems worth the cost if a situation can avoid the cost of having to locate a plane after an unexplained air disaster.

Additionally, how about putting more than one on the plane? These big jets are designed to have redundant systems to keep the plane in the air. I think I heard one former pilot say that a plane such as the one missing has 10 generators on it. There is bound to be some redundancy there, right? So, why not have a backup transponder in case it gets turned off…accidentally or on purpose…or that generator goes out…or the fuse for that one is pulled…?

Here’s an article I found on this issue and it answers some questions. The explanation of “safety” makes sense, but that should be something an air traffic controller should have control over, not people in the plane.

Why are “black boxes” still on airplanes?

Those “black boxes” aren’t really black, as we all know, they are orange. So why are they called black in the first place? Well, that really isn’t important at this point. More importantly, why are we still relying on outdated technology? The black boxes collects and stores all the data the airplane systems produce and they collect the conversations in the cockpit, between air control and the cockpit, and extraneous background noise in the cockpit. This makes sense because this could all be important information while determining what went wrong on the plane or what the pilot(s) did/didn’t do. Great. These boxes have obviously proven very helpful when solving past airline incidents.

My question stems from that fact that the black boxes are still ON the airplane in the first place. Why are they even necessary at this point? With the ability to communicate with a plane nearly anywhere on the planet, you would think that it would be possible to also send data. Satellites circle the globe so there seems to be no shortage of ways the plane (or the people inside) could communicate with people on the ground. Why isn’t the data that is stored in the black boxes transmitted in real-time to a storage unit on solid ground? If computers can collect data from the Hubble Space Telescope or rovers on Mars then computers should be able to collect data from a plane that spends no more than 12 hours in the air at any one time. In the event of something catastrophic, data would be instantly available, including where the plane was at the time of the event. No hunting necessary.

The confounding part of this question goes back, at least, to the Air France Flight 447 in 2009. This plane also crashed and took time to locate the debris, though not like the current missing flight. However, there was still the mystery of WHY it crashed and that couldn’t be solved until the black boxes were found, which took two years and lots of money. Shouldn’t this crash have triggered an industry wide change in how the data was collected? You would think when mysteries such as these occur that people would want to do something to keep them from happening in the future. Of course, that costs money (and perhaps the info, or safety, isn’t as important as the bottom line).

There was an article that answers some of these questions as well. Cost for such technology shouldn’t be holding change back.

So what now?

Like I said, I can’t offer a whole lot in the way of solutions and I am probably not bringing up anything that hasn’t been brought up before. But, maybe that is the problem! I don’t work in the industry and I only have nominal experience as a passenger, but as a casual observer and information consumer it appears as though the solutions to these particular problems are fairly simple. Why they haven’t been done already is the puzzling thing to me.  These technologies should have already been incorporated into the missing plane.

These airline passengers are victims of a crime. That fact may well have been established when the transponder was turned off and the plane continued to fly. Unfortunately, now their grieving family members are victims as well. Victims of an aviation system that should work better than it does because they have failed to use technology that already exists.



Is Personalization Good in All Cases?

Computers have been making it easier and easier to connect with the world for quite some time now. They have been getting better and better at doing it as the years have passed and they are getting faster while doing it at the same time. That is fantastic, until you stop to think about what that could mean if we aren’t careful. Those at Facebook, Google, Amazon, or whatever tech company you name at this point have been working towards a web that allows them to personalize the web to your own tastes and preferences (but really mostly so they can make money marketing stuff to you). This is good to some degree because I don’t want, unnecessarily, to see ads for feminine products. Those things might be useful to those I love, but not to me personally. So, yes, this personalization is good. However, take a look at the video below. Discover what a “filter bubble” is and why total personalization of the web is a bad thing.

What do you think? Does he have a point? Is this progress, progress?