Saturday, April 27, 2013

Customer Service?

Have you noticed there is very little customer service left in the States?  You can never find someone to help at Walmart and even if it's a 24 hour Walmart  - and the electronics department doesn't open until 9 AM, at least at my store.  If you do find someone, chances are they don't work in that department.....  If you call any office (except mine, it seems), you'll have to listen to a voicemail forest, pressing different numbers to try to get someone to talk to - if you're lucky.  Most of the time, you get to talk to a machine and maybe get  a call back in a couple days - or not.

I use internet in numerous places, mostly at home and at a couple different offices I work in.  In all those places, I get the message that my browser is "not responding".  This could mean that it will wake up sometime soon, far in the future, or never.  Usually, I get out of the program and go back into it.  It's frustrating.  Sometimes it's just slow.  I've had better, quicker service in places like Trinidad and Venezuela.

At home, my provider would give me a "great deal" if I had a home phone - also known as landline.  The deal would get better if I had a TV to connect to their great service.  All I need or want from them is internet service - good, reliable internet service.  And for that, I pay quite a bit per month because they penalize me because I don't want a phone or TV.   For the price they charge, I would expect great service, I would really like to get great service.  They entice you with the fact that it's "road runner", assuming we're all going to think it's really quick.

A few nights ago, I was on the computer at home on the internet.   I have a laptop with a router, which means I can take the computer anywhere in the house and it still works, very convenient.     Anyway, the other night, all of a sudden, it stopped working.  No excuse, no storms in the area, nothing going on.  I went in where the modem was and of course, there were no lights blinking.  OK, cable was out, according to my modem. 

I called up the service center and got some woman on the other end of the phone who told me to reboot the modem, which I had already done - I've been through this before with them.  Then, she said it looked good on her end and it should be working.  OK, but there are still no lights on my modem.  Somehow, she learned that I had a router and told me that must be the problem - she told me to disconnect everything - again - the modem and the router, both from power and the incoming cable.  After half a minute, she tells me to connect it all together again.  Then it magically works. 

She started telling me that every once in a while, the router needs to be "refreshed" and there was nothing wrong with their service.  Seems like I never had that problem at work, where there is also a router.  Also, the router in question is relatively new, having only been in service for a couple months.  The previous router worked for a few years without being "refreshed".  I told her that and then asked her where she was.  She had a bit of an accent I couldn't place, I knew she wasn't in India - I know that accent.  She told me she was in the Philippines.  I don't know how long that's been going on.

As a side note, that same company supplies the company I work for with internet - I had to call their office one day.  Seems that I can get a human on the phone but the office that takes care of the business accounts doesn't open until 9 AM.  What about the businesses who open at 8 AM?

Betty Karl

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Urge

Most of us have urges – they could be as benign as a shopping spree, you just had to do it. A lot of my urges have to do with food – mostly things that are poisonous – cookies, candy, sweets of all kinds. I know they’re bad for me, I know it as I savor the taste of the chocolate. When the urge strikes, sometimes you just have to go with it, it’s unstoppable.

My most powerful urge was so strong it could be labeled a “force”. Once started, there was no stopping me. That would be the urge to go cruising on a sailboat to the Caribbean. I dreamed about it for years and finally, I realized I absolutely HAD to do it! There was no waiting until retirement – I kept thinking I may never live that long. This force became so strong that I had a panicky feeling that if I didn’t take steps to make this long-time dream come true that I would regret it forever.

It didn’t matter to me that I had to sell numerous houses (some of them producing income). Didn’t matter to me that I had to sell my 1966 red convertible Mustang that I loved. I was determined, I was going to do it, no matter what. I realized that we would lose track of friends when we left, they would keep in touch for a few years, but then life would get in the way and we would lose touch with them. People always say they’ll stay in touch, but usually they don’t. As far as I was concerned, I knew I was never coming back to the same place.

Now if you’ve read this far, you’re thinking about what a stubborn person I can be. I’m not really, but like I said, this powerful force was driving me and I’d I had convinced my partner that I would take care of everything, if he would go with me – I told him how much fun it would be and the wonderful places we’d get to visit. Unfortunately, even though he did go with me for a time, he would have been happy to stay behind and keep on working and having two days off per week and maybe a week off sometime during the year.

I was tired of working to pay for a house, cars, insurance and all the things necessary to live on land and keep a job. I was never getting enough time off to recharge. Every year, I had taken trips to the islands, diving or Windjammer cruises. Every year, I was so unhappy to be headed home, it was all I could do not to cry on the plane. When I took a vacation, I tried to convince myself that I didn’t mind being back at work – for about 2 hours and then I realized how far behind I was. It felt like punishment for being gone for a week and having a good time.

Obviously, I have a bad case of wanderlust – I always want to go places and see things I’ve never seen before. Possibly I have gypsy or nomad blood somewhere in my past. Maybe in my previous lives, I never got to go anywhere and I’m trying to make up for it in this life. Whatever it is, it’s a very strong force – the urge to travel.

Betty Karl

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Medical Costs Outside the U S

LaGuardia, Venezuela
Medical care is always scary, but especially so if you happen to be in a foreign country and need something done. Most of my medical care has been in the States, but I have had medical procedures done in two other countries where I happened to be when I needed something done. I needed to be a hospital patient in both cases, luckily only on an out-patient basis meaning I was in and out on the same day.

The first was in Trinidad, a simple procedure and I had been to this doctor numerous times during my visits to Trinidad - I liked him and trusted his judgment. I can’t say it was enjoyable because when I woke up in the recovery room, I was freezing, no blankets. However, I can’t say anything bad about the care I received there.

I also had imaging and lab tests done there. In the States, we go to the doctor to get the order, go to the x-ray facility and then go back to the doctor for him to tell us what’s wrong, or not. In Trinidad, we get the order, go to the imaging facility, and then sit in the waiting room for them to develop the film and print the reports and they hand it to us. Great, no visit to the doctor unless we think there’s a problem or we need further discussion with him. This saves time, money and makes much more sense. Same with the lab, although I had to go back on another day since the blood testing took more time to complete.

All of these services, and medications, cost way less than it would have in the States. You can actually afford to go to a doctor and pay for it in these places.

My second experience was in Puerto LaCruz, Venezuela. I went to the hospital for checkin, much more complicated since I had to go through their translator, my meager Spanish was not enough. They were great in the recovery room, they had a nice blanket on me AND a hose pushing heated air under it! I was nice and warm, very comfortable. Again, this was done at a fraction of what it would cost in the States.

Medications were easy to obtain in Venezuela also, and cost only a tiny percent of the money we fork out in the States for the same thing. Certain medications that require prescriptions in the States were available over the counter there also.

A cruiser woman I knew was having treatment for cancer in Puerto La Cruz while I was there. Her husband told me that they had gone back to the States for a visit and checked in with their former doctor. He went over all the information they had brought back with them and told them that the treatment she was getting in Venezuela was the same that he would have ordered for her if she had been treated there in the States. And way more affordable.

If people go out of the States to get medical care and receive the same level of care we have here, why are our costs so high? The cost of insurance is outrageous and I don’t think it’s going to get any better. Doctors pay amazing amounts for malpractice insurance because they are open for lawsuits for any reason a lawyer might think of. Drug companies say the cost of medications is high because of the research and development, not to mention advertising, of any new drug. If that’s the case, why are the same medications available from the same companies in these other countries at a fraction of the cost? And yes, we’re talking about the name brand drugs, not generics.

I know what my opinion is and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but think about the information in the previous paragraph. The answers are there.

Betty Karl



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How To Buy a Boat

  Sea Turtle

Back in time, I was looking for a sailboat to go cruising in.  You know, just sell everything, hop on the boat and get out of the States for an unknown time frame.  Destination – Caribbean!

We went to a large yacht sales office in St Petersburg, Florida and one of the salesmen started showing us some used sailboats, about 35’.  We spent a good part of a day looking at all kinds of boats.  The only thing that caught my eye was a 35’ Morgan with a centerboard and an aft cockpit.  It seemed solid and the layout was pretty good, although I grew to hate the fact that the galley was along the starboard side of the boat instead of being a little U or L shaped area near the companionway. 

We were going through the storage lockers, looking under the cushions and generally poking through things.  My partner found the cable that brings up the centerboard or lowers it and started playing with it and checking the little winch for it.  He jiggled things around for a while, then left the cabin to talk to the salesman on the dock. 

I sat down and looked around, just soaking up the atmosphere – it really didn’t have a bad closed-up-boat smell.  Then, I realized I heard an alien noise, there was water gurgling and it wasn’t the waves lapping the hull on the outside.  This was inside the boat!   Not a good sign! 

I called up to the guys on the dock – “Hey, I hear water running in, you better check it out!”  I heard the salesman make a comment to my partner, “She’s just hearing the waves on the hull.”  Furious, I stuck my head out the companionway and said “You can think that or you can stop this boat from sinking, it’s up to you.”  And I climbed out and got on the dock with them. 

Something about my attitude worried the salesman and he decided to check below and see what was going on.  Sure enough, when my partner was checking out the cable for the centerboard, something snapped and allowed the water to leak in the bilge from the tube encasing the cable.  It was the last touch that it needed to break apart from age and use.

We left the salesman there dealing with the problem and went home.  I did like the boat and it was the only one I liked that was in my price range.  The next weekend, we called the salesman to see if the boat had been saved and what the story was.  The problem had been fixed and the boat was still available. 

We went to see it again and decided to make a low offer, figuring the owner would be glad to get rid of it because it was just costing him money at this point.  The offer was accepted and in a short time, the boat was ours and would take us from Sarasota, Florida and on to the Bahamas, through to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and then to the Virgin Islands and down the island chain to Grenada.  And that’s where I found another boat I liked…….

Betty Karl