Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rewarding behavior

The saga continues. When we last left off our hero was disconnected after a long hold. A second call yielded an AT&T customer service representative who clarified matters somewhat: we are "old" AT&T customers, and the iPhone plans only apply to customers of the "new" AT&T. Unfortunately, none of their literature, online or printed, says anything about this. Are there so few people who stay with cell service for so long? I mean, the phone works, we don't have trouble with the coverage, and the price is competitive, so why would we bother to switch? Anyway, I had to leave home to take our new dog to obedience class, so that's how it stood.

After obedience class, where we learned all about the importance of consistency and rewarding desired behaviors, I stopped by an AT&T store. The guy there wanted us to switch to a new rate plan and pay $80 for a new phone for my wife (our old phone won't work with their new network, he said). I pointed to their own literature and challenged him to find where it indicated that the rates didn't apply to long-time customers. He called AT&T customer service, and I got nowhere with the person on the phone. I did get a number to call to ask for a supervisor and, with much screaming and yelling and walking out of the store telling everyone around to avoid AT&T, I headed home.

At home, I get through, get a supervisor, and get irate. She puts me on hold so she can talk to her supervisor. At this point, I'm reminded of the experience of buying a car, at the point in the negotiations when the salesman shakes his head and says he'll talk to his manager and see what he can do. Of course, this is all theater: they spend some time talking about the weather or baseball and, after a suitable interval, he comes back and the dance continues.

Same thing here. The AT&T rep finally agrees to a "special plan" that they usually don't use, but which will work with the iPhone. The plan will cost the same as our old one, plus $20 for the iPhone data plan. She also will get my wife a new phone, with bluetooth sync capability with Macs, for free. And I can activate the iPhone once the new phone arrives, which may not be until Thursday because of the Independence Day holiday.

So, after much fuss and bad feelings, I finally get pretty much what I expected to get in the first place, and AT&T has rewarded me for my irate behavior. Which I hate.

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More on my AT&T adventure

More than an hour and a half later, I spoke with one AT&T representative who assured me that my phone was activated but, when she couldn't call me on it, decided that it was an iPhone problem. She gave me a phone number for an iPhone help line, which also turns out to be an AT&T number. The folks at that number couldn't help me; they transferred me to someplace else within AT&T -- a place they couldn't give me a direct number to. Now, after waiting on hold for a half hour, I got disconnected.

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AT&T: not ready for success

Yes, that's right, I bought an iPhone last night. I didn't need to wait all day, just showed up at around 6:30 and waited less than an hour. But even strong, though not insanely crazy, demand for the new device is apparently too much for AT&T. There was apparently something about my AT&T account (I'm a current AT&T customer) that requires attention by a human being there. But, when I call AT&T at their iPhone activation line, all I get is a message (sounding like a recording on a cheap answering machine) that says that, due to high call volume, I can't be helped right now and should call back. Did AT&T just have no idea how many phones might be sold? Or do they prioritize existing customers below new ones? Oh well, patience is a virtue.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sympathy pains

Here's a quote for you:

I didn't see it coming, but I sure felt it roll over my head. It feels really strange to have a truck run over your head.
This from a bicyclist who suffered only a concussion (his helmet was flattened). When I read that quote out loud, my daughter said, "That story you read made my head hurt." Amen.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

This is math?

Follow the link to a Kirkland Courier Reporter article on a math class in a suburban school district located near where I live. In a typical "reform math" class, fifth graders spend time inventing their own ways to solve the "problem of the day": 55 x 20. Their teacher waxes poetic about the superiority of this approach over "memorization of formulas". No mention of the fact that solving 55 x 20 is not important enough to spend that much time on. And that this time might be better spent on inherently more interesting things, like why multiplication works, the structure of number systems, etc. And that this is, at best, a fourth grade math problem.

Meanwhile, the students either lose the possibility of future careers in science or engineering, or their parents tutor them, or their parents spend money on math tutors for them (a booming business in Washington state). And then their parents join Where's the Math? to pressure school district officials to inject sanity and rigor back into K-12 math education.