28 March, 2011

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Dear Friends,

Let me take you waaaaaaay back to December 24, 2010. Can you remember back that far? I know, it's tough for me, too.

Tika 2010 is sitting at her family's table after Christmas Eve dinner, a few glasses of wine in and poring over the IK Winter 2010 issue when she gets an email: Today is the last day for a 25% off bags of Malabrigo sale at a Certain Website! Visions of a gorgeous Thandie Funnel Sweater begin to dance in her head, and soon her cart is full of bags of delicious Mmmmmmalabrigo lace and Rios and worsted. She trims the cart as much as she can bear (25% off!) and places her last yarn order of 2010. 'This is it,' she thinks to herself, 'the Yarn Diet starts... tomorrow!'

Trip forward with me just 48 hours when, curious as to when her card will be charged for enough wool to smother a small Arctic village, Tika 2010 receives the following "confirmation" email for her order:

On Dec 26, 2010, at 9:05 PM, A Certain Website wrote:

Hi Tika,

We'd like to update you on the status of your order #26306 placed on 2010-12-24 13:06:02.0.

Your order #26306 is being processed and is expected to leave our shipping location within the time specified on our website.  Your "ships within" time-frame is located on each product page of the item(s) you ordered.  Did you overlook the "ships within" time-frame for your order?  No problem -- a "ships within" time-frame chart is attached to this email for your convenience.  Please remember to add 3 - 5 transit days to the "ships within" time-frame.

A Certain Website makes every effort to ensure that the products available for order on this site are current and available from the manufacturer.  There are times however when a manufacturer discontinues or backorders an item without immediate notification.

Once your order has shipped you will receive an email with your tracking information.  If you do not receive your tracking information, please be sure to check any SPAM folders you may be using.

If you require additional information regarding the status of your order, please feel free to respond to this email.

Thank you for ordering from A Certain Website.  We appreciate your business!

Customer Support
How very timely, if not very polite. And yes, Tika 2010 had overlooked the "ships within" timeframe on the website in a haze of projected wool fumes - otherwise the order may not have taken place, as the "ships within" time frame mentioned was 4-6 weeks. 'No matter!' she cried, 'I have plenty of wool to keep me busy until then!' And so it was.

Four to six weeks later, having been curious but not of the chewing-on-knuckles kind, Tika 2011 receives her next communication from A Certain Website:

Hello Tika,

We are happy to inform you that the order with Order ID - 26306 which you ordered on 24 Dec 2010 has been shipped out. It was shipped out on 04 Feb 2011 using UPS -- UPS Ground.
If you have further enquiries about your order, please email us anytime. Thank you for ordering from us and have a great day.

Well, that was six weeks to the day after the order, so hurrah! The yarn is coming! And yet the amount charged on the card is not right; some significant portion of the purchase price is missing. Worried that A Certain Website may be shorting itself, Tika 2011 sends an email asking about the discrepancy and receives the following reply:

Hi Tika,
Thank you for your email.  The Malabrigo that has not yet been shipped is:  Malabrigo Rios 69 and Malabrigo Lace 32. 
Thank you,
A Certain Website.com

Well, that explains it! Surely the missing yarn will show up both on the credit card and on the doorstep shortly. Meanwhile, some of you may recall this little Yarn Incident. What Yarn Diet?

And now I bring you forward in time once again to only 2 weeks ago. Tika 2011, in medium dudgeon about the lack of Thandie Funnel Sweater she is capable of making with only half of her yarn order still present - after all, one cannot brioche with only one yarn, can one? - sends the following email to A Certain Website:

Dear Customer Support,

On December 24, 2010, I placed the order mentioned in the confirmation email below. 
On February 4, 2011, I got an email stating that my order had shipped, but there was a discrepancy between the original amountand the amount charged on my Visa I emailed your sales department to ask why there was a difference and on February 7th was informed that two bags of yarn had not yet shipped: 

[Joe's Email here]

I understood from the phrase "not yet" in Joe's email that the yarn would be shipped close to within the 4-6 week timeframe listed on your website, which should have been immediately after the first shipment, February 4th being 6 weeks to the day after I placed my order. However, this was not the case, and since then I have heard nothing from your company. I logged in to my account today to find that my entire order is marked as "shipped," but as I have 1) not been charged and 2) not received the missing bags of yarn, that cannot possibly be the case. 

I would like someone to contact me immediately with information on when I can expect your company to fulfill my order. I am highly disappointed by the customer service I have received and look forward to an explanation as to what went wrong. 

Order #26306
Forceful and slightly annoyed, but certainly not the cruelest or most vitriolic of letters. I have been in customer service, after all. This is the response:

Hi Tika,

Thank you for your email.  Due to the overwhelming success of the Malabrigo sale we ran in December, our supplier became somewhat backlogged.  Per our supplier, the remaining portion of your order is still being processed at this time.  We will have the rest of your order shipped to you the same day it arrives at our shipping location.
Your patience is greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
What a great cut and paste job you've done, Joe! Clearly you've gotten a lot of emails about this issue, but did your company bother to use the mailing list to explain the situation in one simple step? Apparently not. Tika 2011 is losing her patience.

Hi Joe,

Do you have any idea when that might be? I - and I'm sure your other customers as well - have been waiting for over 3 months for yarn I expected to have within half that time. If I had known it would take this long, I would have ordered from somewhere else; now half of the yarn I need for my project is here and the other half is stuck in the backlog somewhere.  I recognize that you are a small business, but an email explaining the situation back within your original timeframe of 4-6 weeks would have been welcome. 


 Hi Tika,

We do not have an ETA.  We have tried contacting our supplier every week asking for an ETA, and none yet.  If we had known the special sale we ran was going to take this long, we would have either forewarned our customers or not have run it at all.  We sincerely apologize for this, and understand your frustration as we are also very frustrated – and losing business. 

We are hoping it is not going to be much longer.  We will let you know as soon as your order has shipped or as soon as we find out an ETA.

Again, we apologize for this delay.

Thank you,
Aaaaand there you have it: the "poor us, we're losing business" excuse. Now, I have no doubt that they are indeed losing business, but not for the reason they think. No indeed; the reason they are losing business is because they did not bother to contact their customers over the course of three months to tell them that the product they ordered wasn't, in fact, available in anything like the (ridiculous) time frame given.
I replied that if I had not heard from them in two weeks, I would be contacting them to cancel the rest of the order. That's today, and just look what was in my inbox when I came home from work!
A Certain Website has sent you a shipment via USPS
The tracking number is: [redacted]
 Surely not! Can it be? The timing is, to say the least, suspicious. And having played this game once before, I checked my credit card. Sure enough, only one of the two missing items was charged; in my account on the website the whole order shows as shipped, and there is no information in the email as to the one lingering bag of Rios that was missing - the CPH That Wasn't, if you will. /sadface

Dear A Certain Website,

Thank you for the update on my order. As it has been over 3 months since I placed the original, please cancel any remaining parts of the order that have not shipped. As I understand it, that would be the bag of Malabrigo Rios. Please cancel the remainder of this order immediately.

Two weeks ago I corresponded with Joe, who explained your company's situation in regards to the Malabrigo sale from December. While I understand the dilemma and I am sorry that you are losing business, I want you to know that the reason I am canceling my order and will not be buying from you again is NOT because of your difficulty in getting the yarn from the supplier. If I had received any sort of communication from your company explaining the situation and giving me any kind of update whatsoever, I would have been happy to remain a customer. Even this email today did not contain the information that only one of the remaining two bags of yarn had shipped and neither did my account on your website; I had to check my bank statement in order to discover that both bags were not on their way to me. 

I do not expect you to take any recommendation I might have into consideration since I will no longer be a customer after today, but I do urge you to consider being more clear in your communications with your clientele. A simple proactive email would have ensured my loyalty and patience.

Order #26306
 So I hope I made myself clear to you, dear reader, if not to whomever reads the website's emails. Annoyed Tika 2011 is annoyed! But wait! What should appear in my inbox but the following:

Hello Tika,

You have received a gift certificate from A Certain Website. You can use the gift certificate whenever you are shopping at our store within the duration specified. You are entitled to a reduction of $  10.00 with any $100.00 purchase (excluding shipping) at our store when you use this gift certificate.

Below are the details of your gift certificate :-

gift certificate ID : FE9AC0D3-00EB-9ACC-1FC857B98EADB3E6
Validity of the discount coupon : FROM 28 Mar 2011 UNTIL 04 Apr 2011 with any $100.00 purchase (excluding shipping).
Discount Value :$  10.00
Gift certificates used on any purchase less than $100.00 will not be honored.

It is easy to use your gift certificate. Just enter the gift certificate ID listed above when adding items to your shopping cart and your discount will be applied automatically.

So, what are you waiting for? Go on over to A Certain Website now and start shopping and saving immediately!

I... I don't even... WHAT AM I WAITING FOR?!?

You might well ask, Sumptuous Yarn Sale dot com. You might well ask.

26 March, 2011

101 in 1001 Part Deux-over Update: Part 1

Since my 101 in 1001 Part Deux-over is about 1/2 done, I figured I should revisit the idea a little and allow myself to tweak the list. Slightly shy of 3 years is a long time, and a lot of things can change. SO! Here is the first part of my list: the Lifestyle Section.

  1. Walk for 30 minutes 50 times (0/50)
  2. Design and find someone to start new tattoo
  3. Donate blood 8 times (0/8)
  4. Find a new form of exercise that I enjoy and engage in it 2x/week for 6 months (see #13, may extend beyond end of 1001 days)
  5. Lose 15 pounds and maintain that healthier weight
  6. Make a list of 100+ things that make me happy.
  7. Make a new 101 in 1001 list by July 1, 2012
  8. Take a multi-vitamin and vitamin C daily through one bottle of each
  9. Try 5 types/nationalities of food I have never tried before (0/5)
  10. Create an outside play area for the cat
  11. Donate 500 items to charity (0/500)
  12. Get geneology from mom
  13. Get health insurance
  14. Go to a museum once per month (0/30)
  15. Go to the dentist Summer 2010
  16. Leave someone a 100% tip (on a bill of $15 or more)
  17. 3-15-2011
  18. Rip big book of CD’s into iTunes
  19. Try 100 fruits/vegetables (3/100)
  20. Try 100 more fruits/vegetables
  21. Try 100 MORE fruits/vegetables
  22. Try 100 new recipes (5/100)
  23. Try 100 more new recipes
  24. Try 100 MORE new recipes
  25. Try 50 new foods (fruits/vegetables don’t count) (4/50)
  26. Try 50 more new foods (fruits/vegetables don’t count)

Ooooh jeez. Let's see, I guess I should start with... 

#1. I loathe walking. And really, the outdoors in general. I know that makes me a loser, but there it is. Perhaps I should revisit this idea, or just force myself to do it once the weather is nicer? Restructure it is!  
#2: I found the tattoo I want, so now I just have to find a good place to go. I like Wild Bill's where I got my wrist pieces done, but with the wealth of tattooed people in derby, I really should ask around. I'll get on that at tomorrow's practice.
#3: Donating blood is an issue for me; I don't get all woozy or anything, but I do have tiny, deeply buried little veins (to go inside my tiny little wrists and elbows), so going to the Blood Truck doesn't work. I have to go to the actual Red Cross place, and we all know how likely THAT is. Nevertheless, I looked it up and apparently there are no donation centers near here? That seems weird. 
#4: Derby. Started keeping track the first week of March. NEXT!
#5:  Derby may actually interfere with this - my shape is changing, but my weight is staying the same. I'll give it a bit more time and see what happens.
#6: I should work on this. It's now a .doc file on my desktop.
#7: Yeah yeah, not till next July. NEXT!
#8: Talk about annoying. And yet, chewable vitamin C is on my list for my next Trader Joe's run. 
#9: I love food and this goal is totally achievable if I don't slack on it. Mental note.
#10: A little chicken wire, some zip ties, and a new screen door should do the trick. Thank you to Saturday's storm for ruining my current screen door - it didn't stay in its track anyway.
#11: This one I can totally do. In fact, I cleaned out 3 of my drawers on Monday and took a big box of stuff to the Sacred warehouse for their annual rummage sale! I'll have to count how many pieces there were before practice tomorrow; I hope it's at least 25!
#12: I have this, I think? Hmm. Maybe I should ask.
#14: Jeez, ambitious much? Made a date to go with Jen either this Friday or next week sometime. 
#15: DONE this summer! Who waited 12 years between dentist visits and has no cavities? This girl. 
#16: DONE!
#17: What. is. this? They're in a book! Why would I mess with this? Stupid. Revisit.
#18-25: Argh. These definitely need restructuring. I like new food, I like messing about with recipes, and I agree that some of the 101 in 1001 should be a challenge (otherwise why do it?). But holy experimentation with my gut, Robin! Revisit and make achievable. 

Well, that's it so far. 25 of the 101, considered! Several are on their way, and two are verifiably finished. Now I just have to come up with new or altered ideas for the stuff that's unreasonable. Yikes.

25 March, 2011

Once Upon A Time...

.. I became a joiner.

It's a reading challenge, you see. And there are several choices regarding participation, but the one I've chosen to challenge myself (As Raych points out, there is no good synonym for "challenge!") is

Read 5 books that fit into the Once Upon a Time criteria, which are: fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, or mythology.

 The quest ends June 20th.

In related news, I got a copy of The Looking Glass Wars from my dear friend Sioux yesterday in the celebration of our new holiday: I'm Thinking of You And Got You This Because of It Day, whcih is celebrated any old time we please. I can't think why Hallmark hasn't picked up on this extremely marketably named holiday, but they've sent me a letter asking me to stop trying to pitch it to their holiday department. Jerks.

I'm looking forward to curling up with my new book just as soon as I finish reading the pile of library and school novels by my bed. And speaking of which, it's Friday, so I'mma go make a dent in Mr. Horatio Hornblower, Midshipman now. I do love historical fiction.

23 March, 2011

Tika: 1, Impetuosity: 0

On Sunday, I had an overwhelming desire to learn to make paper. Think of all the things I could make! With paper! And paper slurry! Look how I looked up the appropriate words; clearly I shall be a papermaker!! I could make the buttons for my Sacred Tempest Cardi (sitting on my desk gathering Darcy fur on the topmost piece, awaiting seaming...) out of paper! It would be fun and I could use up all those annoying ads I get in the mail and the 250-lb phonebook that I'm currently using as a doorstop (for real) and the plethora of Netflix extra paper from the mailing envelopes and and and

and then I forced myself to stop. I went into my bedroom and opened my closet, which currently houses literally thousands of dollars worth of wool in varying degrees of spun-ness. There is exactly 18 inches of space for hanging items, and only because the closet does a weird little juke thing that means I can't get more tubs of yarn into it. Then I forced myself to pick up an unfinished-due-to-slacking knitting project (helloooo, Hera Mountain Shawl!), plug into an audiobook, and ignore my papermaking cravings.

At least until I finish this shawl.

P.S. - the thunder is rolling again. I have Taken Precautions: Form of FIRE (and iPod Charge!) this time, so worry not, my puddle ducklings!

20 March, 2011

Brief Update

Yesterday I wove in the ends of my Sacred Tempest Sweater while I waited for the Rat City Intraleague Bouts to start on the Derby News Network. The DNN boutcast was voiced by my friend Jake, which was a charming surprise! Now there's just the seaming/button bands/buttons on the sweater to go, and I might indeed finish the darn thing by April 16!

I also watched the first 5 and a half episodes of the amazing Jekyll, written by Stephen Moffat and starring James Nesbitt.

Those who have seen this will especially sympathize when I tell you that with 1/2 hour to go, the power went out, leaving me with only my phone screen to light the apartment and freaking out on the inside that Hyde was coming to keeeeellll me. Do you see that crazy Joker grin? Eeek!

I realized while I was sitting that having candles but no matches is a clear indicator that I buy candles for their smell and not their ambiance, apparently, and also that I should think a little more about disaster preparedness if I'm going to live alone. Ahem. So I chilled in the dark, listening to the storm, until I heard my neighbors talking outside and managed to bum a lighter - something I haven't done since just after high school! The ability to Make Fire is still as relevant as it was pre-electricity, it turns out.

Anyway, I'm off to finish the last 1/2 hour of Jekyll.

Anglophile, out.

16 March, 2011

Oh, it's ON.

Let me tell you, Internet, that teaching is some Hard and Time Consuming Work! And I'm only teaching 3 classes! When I have six you will hear the rending of the garments from wherever you are in the wide, wide world. The more I hear people bitching about how teachers get all this time off in the summer, the more I want to drop them behind my desk and see how long it takes for them to start longing for those three months off. And don't even get me started on how "three months off" isn't even true. 180-day work year, my right toe!

But it turns out that I really enjoy it. There is of course a daily struggle with some of the kids, and for various reasons - today I came to loggerheads with 1) a smart-but-lazy kid and 2) a smart but drug-addicted kid. The first one I won (he did, in fact, Sit. Back. Down.), but the second one I fear is an un-winable battle. In addition, today alone I had at least three pleasant surprises, three "are you KIDDING ME?!?" moments, and two compliments from other teachers at how my kids seem to be "getting it," so I'm feeling very self-satisfied. And all in a unit I've made up myself, from scratch! Reinventing the wheel, that's me.

And there has been progress on a lot of fronts. First, before I forget, I crossed off #16 of my 101 in 1001 list! And my timing was perfect, too; happy birthday to that bartender. I've started keeping track of #4 as of the beginning of March - yet another reason to make it to 2 practices every week!  It also goes along with #5; that one, I'm not sure about - I feel lighter and I'm a different shape than I was this time last year, but I suspect that I weigh the same. Wow, I haven't revisited the 101 list in a long time; it definitely needs an update, an overhaul, and probably its own post! But in the meantime, I've discovered my local library and have been reading more than ever (Education #7). Hooray, books!

Speaking of derby (because I was), I went to my first roller derby tournament this month! It was a boat (& ho) load of fun. Pictures of the Wild West Showdown are here, and here, and probably other places too. MY photos are on Facebook, but they all require explanation. Turns out that derby is a very you-had-to-be-there kind of sport.  To whit: 

That's right, diapers. On the outside. And shirts that say the F-word on them.
and this:
I have embraced the classiness of derby.
And perhaps requiring less explanation than I'd think:
A refreshing post-bout beverage.
Ahhh, it was a great weekend! Even if my awesome Sacred Tempest sweater is suspiciously absent. I managed to finish the knitting, block the pieces, and sew in the ends on everything but one sleeve before the tournament. I should have no problems finishing it in time for the double-header bout on April 16th, though:
Famous last words...

I've also finished the knitting portion of the Aria Delicato scarf. One of these days I'll get some blocking  mats since I don't have a carpet to pin anything to anymore! 

I like this yarn. It does not, however, smell like freshly-sharpened pencils no matter how much I think it should.
Madelinetosh Merino Light, "Composition Book Grey," 420 yds.
I get the yards for this one since I don't know when I'm going to get to block it. One of my master teachers is a composition book fiend, so this may end up being her thank-you-for-teaching-me/please-write-my-letter-of-rec gift. That does mean, however, that I have to make things for my other 2 teachers. This requires more thought...

And finally, I've been knitting away on this, which is discolored in the photo and deliberately dark because it's SEEEEKRIT! For a little while, at least:

No peeking! Or guessing! 
Once this and my Sacred Tempest are done, I should have a hefty chunk of knitting to add to my 11-Mile Quest. A girl can dream!