My New Favorite Fine Print

At the bottom of the screen in a TV commercial: “Santa Impersonation”

Door-to-Door Storage in San Jose: an exercise in incompetence

First let me say that my experience with Door-to-Door Storage in San Diego was exactly the opposite of the story I’m about to tell. I’m about to tell a story of a business that has proven unable to get even the smallest thing right on the first try. To the best of my knowledge, the absolute incompetence is strictly local — although the corporate HQ hasn’t seen fit to do anything about it.

It started when I moved overseas. I sold my house and disencumbered myself of most of my stuff (so much stuff!) but there was a nucleus of belongings that I thought would be useful when I started my next home in the US. So I paid a monthly charge to have someone else store it. Door-to-Door was awesome because they brought a big box to my house, I packed it, and the they took it away. Because they can store the boxes efficiently in a big warehouse, it costs less than a self-storage place.

Over the next few years I would visit my stuff now and then, and the people in San Diego were friendly, accommodating, and helpful. I never had an issue with them (except the one that was totally my fault, and they were cool about that once we got it worked out). But I don’t live in San Diego, and there’s a Door-to-Door facility up here, less than five miles from my apartment. Eventually my sweetie and I decided it was worth the considerable expense to have the big box of stuff moved up the coast to Silicon Valley.

And then the nightmare began. Before the move I agreed to a new rate based on an annual contract, and made sure that there was nothing else I needed to do. Nope; money was paid, contract was set up, and the box with most of my worldly possessions was loaded on a truck and hauled up to San Jose.

Two months later, I wanted to visit my stuff in its new home. It’s a pretty simple procedure; you call in and make an appointment and they make sure that the box is pulled from the warehouse and waiting for you when you arrive. I called to make an appointment. Confusion ensued.

The system didn’t show my box in the San Jose warehouse. I spent some time on the phone with a very friendly guy in the national office. He determined that the box had been properly recorded leaving San Diego, but had never been checked in in San Jose.

Well, crap.

After a few more days it was discovered that yes, the Big Box of Stuff was indeed in the San Jose warehouse. Hooray! As a way of apologizing the corporate guys gave me two months free, based on my annual rate. After all, my annual contract was in the system. (We actually had an extended discussion about the contract based on a misunderstanding on my part.) At that time there was no doubt at all that I was paying an annual rate.

So, finally, I made an appointment to get into my Big Box of Stuff. The day arrived and my sweetie and I went down to the facility. There wasn’t much in the way of signage, but we found the office and the woman recognized my name. She told us how to get to where the BBoS was waiting.

It wasn’t there. We checked and double-checked, and the BBoS was not there. We spoke to the guy who moves the boxes. He flipped through all his work orders and there was nothing about our BBoS. At the front of the building they knew my name; at the back no knowledge of me had penetrated.

There is obviously a computerized system that manages where all the various BBoS’s are. Just as obviously, the people in the front office of San Jose’s Door-to-Door storage don’t know how to use it.

Anyway, the fetcher of boxes left and some time later returned with our BBoS. The only catch: it was still sealed shut from transit. Usually (according to the very friendly box-fetcher), boxes are sealed with two or three screws. The San Diego Boys had used maybe seven, all clearly marked with spray paint, and Friendly Box Fetcher didn’t have the proper tools to unseal the BBoS.

Our man persevered, and eventually we got to our stuff. The important takeaway here is that Door-to-Door San Jose took more than one try for every single operation.

And then the invoice arrived, charging us at the monthly rate, rather than the annual. Twice as much, even as it showed the initial “incompetence credit” (my phrase) for two months at the annual rate.

It has taken months to get this straightened out (if it truly has been – I got a call the other day that I didn’t pick up). In that time I dealt with friendly and competent people at the national level (email replies in minutes with useful information, with a real feeling for personal attention), but the errors made by the San Jose folks took a long time to erase.

I’m hoping they’re erased, anyway.

Message to Door-to-Door: I like you guys, but your San Jose franchise is awful. Do something about it.

The Little Comet that Could

Ah, the Internet, with its almost magical ability to give you what you’re looking for — even if you didn’t know you were looking for it. Through a series of links that started with a Web comic, I learned of a little comet that just played chicken with the sun and lived to tell about it.

The best summary is on this page, which at the top says “it’ll be interesting watching this comet flame out as it passes through the million-degree corona of the sun.” As it gets close the discussion talks about new and interesting things about this comet and what it can show us about the sun, then suddenly the author says (mildly paraphrasing here), “Holy shit! It came round the other side!” A decent video of the comet shooting out the other side is here.

The comet actually left its tail behind as it whipped around the sun, and there’s really cool footage of the comet streaking toward the sun, leaving a trail (probably) whipped around by magnetic storms. It’s all pretty cool.

Part of what’s interesting to me about all this is just how many devices were available to observe the course of comet Lovejoy. In the coming days, as more data comes in from other observers, we stand to learn a lot about our home star. You know I’ll be checking in.

[Edit] Let’s try embedding this youtube video, shall we? It’s a little wider than my format, but I think that will be all right this once.


I Just Slid Wikipedia a Couple of Bucks

I use Wikipedia regularly, and apparently it’s costing them a bundle to keep the servers going. While I have on occasion had issues with the way they run things, overall this is shaping up to be a humanity-changing effort. So I slid them a couple of bucks. If you use Wikipedia a few times a week, you should too. They’re looking for big donations, but if everyone voluntarily pays just a little we get closer to the utopian ideal.


Maybe not the Right Way to Show Support

I’m in a bar, and on one silent TV I’ve watched the same helmet-to-helmet tackle over and over. This is a big deal in American Football these days, as folks realize that slamming your hardened plastic shell into someone else’s hardened plastic shell causes both brains to rattle around in their fluid suspension dangerously.

Helmet-to-helmet is not good for brains.

So I’m watching this incident in super slo-mo, and it looks petty bad at that speed. The guy that got hit lay flat on his back for a while, took a breath, and got up. One of his larger teammates came over to encourage him and no doubt express admiration for his toughness. He did this by — wait for it! — slapping his quarterback on the helmet.

Facts Suck

I had a get-poor-quick scheme all put together in my head, the result of musing while flossing and thinking “there has to be a better way!” I thought I was just a little bit of genetic engineering away from perfect teeth forever.

Foolishly, I actually went and looked up some facts before I wrote up the post. I’ll not be making that mistake again! Holy crap facts are the last thing I needed, and not really in keeping with the get-poor-quick ethos.

I did learn that the surface of your teeth is host to an amazingly complex and adaptable ecosystem with 1000 different kinds of bacteria, forming a complex structure that changes as time passes. My little genetically modified tooth scrubbers wouldn’t stand a chance; there’s nothing I could invent that’s not already in there and part of the system.


Hang on, I’ll get back to you on this after I don’t check some more facts.

*Sigh* Back to flossing.

Cutie of the Day!

Last weekend Harlean Carpenter (who is a fiction) and I did a Christmas-themed photo shoot. While I concentrated on even lighting that didn’t flatten the subject and limiting the depth of field, Harlean concentrated on looking good.

After little bit of post production Harlean sent off one of the pics to Bachelor Pad Magazine, where online Harlean is the Christmas Cutie of the Day! (The Chirstmas Cutie pictures are safe for work unless your work is uptight. MSFW, I think the kids call it.)

We definitely got an old-school feel for the picture that I quite like. Go check it out! Quick, before the day is over!


If Daniel Craig were an Athlete, he’d Play Hockey

I just saw an ad for a movie that featured Daniel Craig, and it took me back to my time on the set of Casino Royale. Though the action was theoretically in Miami, we were in Prague in February.

Daniel Craig was a total pro. Easygoing, just another member of the cast, doing his best.

There’s a lot of time between shots in a project like this, and during a break Craig was sparring with his coach (or was it his on-screen adversary? facts are skitterish). Maybe he was working to keep warm, maybe to make the fight scene better.

He hurt his wrist. Not a big injury, not the sort of thing that slows down a pro. When he reported the setback he seemed a little embarrassed about the attention his discomfort brought. I wasn’t in his head at that moment, but I think he might have regretted bringing it up at all. But he’s a pro, and a pro tells his director if there might be a weakness in his game.

Which is totally the opposite of soccer, which I presume through national profiling is Craig’s sport of choice. Can you imagine what a soccer (football, according to Craig’s people) player would do with a minor wrist injury? Lie on the field and cry like a baby, that’s what. Aaaaah! how can I kick a ball with this terrible pain in my wrist?

Note to proponents of the game: get up off the grass and play and maybe you’ll convince me.

There are sports where the ability to shrug off a minor tweak is still valued, but when it comes down to being embarrassed about being hurt, about not wanting to make a deal of it at all except how it might affect your team, then we’re talking hockey. That’s where Craig was that day on set. He was a hockey actor.

The New Magic

I don’t actually have any use for this device, but I can still marvel at the amazingness of it:


This little puppy acts just like an ordinary storage chip for your camera, except it’s also a WiFi transmitter that automatically copies your pictures to your home computer or phone and clears the space for more pictures. With the WiFi you can also have the chip guess roughly where it is in the world, and tag your photos with the location. You can even have it upload to Picasa or whatever automatically. (Though anyone who posts every picture they take to Flikr without first editing is someone who’s photos I will never view.)

Remember when we had WiFi cards that we could stick in the side of a computer with the antenna poking out? That was pretty cool. Now this tiny chip does the same thing, only it integrates with your photo software. Holey Moley.

Technical quibbles: it only works with JPEGs (even sharing on your own network, which strikes me as odd), and the SD form factor doesn’t work in all cameras. There are adapters, however.

Back when they thought we’d have atom-powered flying cars, they didn’t think of this stuff.