Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DirecTV: How to Piss Off a Customer 101

I seem to only be really motivated to post here when I'm pissed off about something. I'm not sure what that says about me, but it is what it is.

Last night I was watching TV with my kids and they wanted to go watch a funny, but idiotic, television show called "Workaholics." I tuned to channel 249 which is Comedy Central and it gave the same error (771) it gives on the rare occasions that weather blocks our satellite service. I returned to the channel I came from and it was still working fine. I checked a few other channels and all of them were working except for 248 and 249.  Now, I didn't check every single channel, but I checked all the ones I regularly watch and these two were the only ones out of commission.

I went online and dug around to see if there was any chatter about outages on DirecTV specifically for FX or Comedy Central, but turned up nothing. So I called DirecTV's customer service line. After fighting my way through their ridiculous voice response system I finally got to speak with Crystal. Crystal clearly knew nothing about DirecTV's systems or how they worked, but had a script that was meant to deal with any situation. Crystal had me unplug the power to my SWM. She couldn't tell me what the SWM was or what it did or even what that acronym stood for, but doggone it unplugging it and plugging it back in was going to solve my problem. Anybody want to wager a guess what the result of unplugging the SWM and plugging it back in was?  If you guessed that none of my channels would now work, you'd be correct.

Her troubleshooting script led us right to me having absolutely no TV service at all.  The 771 error (searching for satellite signal) had now become a 771a (problem communicating with the dish). I told Crystal that I was going to be a very, very unhappy customer if I just went form missing a couple of channels to no service at all.

"I apologize that almost never happens." Which I discovered was complete bullshit since their technical forums are littered with post after post about this 771a error. Maybe Crystal's script also told her to never admit that this was a widespread issue. 

"I'll get you scheduled to have a technician come out and look into the issue. The earliest I can get somebody there is Thursday morning." A service call usually costs $50, but Crystal wisely waived that charge and helpfully told me that I could still watch the programs already recorded on my DVR or I could watch shows online using their new DirecTV Everywhere service.  I helpfully told her that if I wanted to watch things online I'd cancel my DirecTV service and just use services like Netflix and Hulu Plus and maybe if I find I like watching things online due to this problem that's just what I might wind up doing. 

So I'm pissed to say the least.  I get that things break, really I do.  I mean I make my living repairing computers. But you know what?  I have enough experience with the things I repair to know that if it is experiencing certain symptoms you don't attempt to apply certain fixes because it will break it worse.  I'm 100% convinced that if the person I had reached on the phone had any real knowledge of their systems and wasn't just following a script, they would have recognized the symptoms and known that the steps the script said to try would break it worse.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Twin Peaks

So my son's girlfriend went in to apply at this place today and was hired on the spot.  No background check.  No drug tests.  I'm not even certain she filled out an application.  They just said, "When can you start?  Come back today at 2:00 for orientation."  Did I mention my son's girlfriend is a super cute Asian college co-ed?

Twin Peaks Restaurant

She begged us to come in and eat there while she is working and I told her I didn't know how comfortable I would be with her bringing me food dressed like that.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Poker with the Pip Squeak

My oldest son and I ventured over to participate in a cheap $30 donkament at Meskwaki, the local Iowa indian casino.  (Is that a politically incorrect term?  Should I have said injun instead?) He's only nineteen, but Meskwaki allows 18-year olds to play poker and the even more exciting option...BINGO.  They can't play slots or table games.  When we arrived at the casino the security guard at the front door checked his ID and then asked where we were headed.  Once we told him the poker room they put a bright green wristband on his left wrist and then stamped the back of both of his hands with a giant UNDER 21 stamp.  It seemed like overkill to me, but whatever.  Then they radio ahead to the poker room to let them know an under 21 was on the way.  I assume if we hadn't showed up at the poker room there would have been a massive manhunt. 

You start the tournament with 3,500 in chips, but for $5 you get an additional 1,000 tournament chips.  Pretty much everyone took the $5 add on.  The tournament had 25 minute levels and the blinds started at 25-50 and basically doubled every level.  There are no antes.  None of the tables have auto shufflers so the whole tournament was hand shuffled....very slowly.  The dealers at Prairie Meadows are at least twice as fast and way more efficient as a group.  I only lasted until shortly after the first break and I think some of that had to do with my frustration with how poorly the tournament was run.  It was one of the most bizarre tourneys I've ever played in.  At one point my table was four handed for at least two orbits while the other two remaining tables had 8 and 9 players each.  When I said something to the dealer about balancing tables she replied, "She'll (the floor) get to it! She has to wait until they're not in a hand!"  And in the meantime the blinds come around almost twice as fast on our table.  That seems fair.  

My son and I wound up seated right next to each other with him on my left.  To my immediate right was a guy who had to have been 80 years old minimum.  My son said he looked like the stereotypical old prospector from the old westerns so he nicknamed him "Stinky Pete" for the Toy Story lovers out there.  The old man was the most passive player I've ever seen.  Twice I saw him just call a bet or check on the river with the absolute nuts.  The second time it happened the dealer admonished him, but didn't threaten a penalty or anything. 

On the very first hand of the tournament I folded 5-7 offsuit from early position only to see it limp around.  I would have flopped an open ended straight draw and then turned the straight.  Stinky Pete and another older regular were the only two players to make it to the river. After tiny bets and calls on the flop and turn both players checked the river.  The other older regular showed pocket kings and Stinky Pete rolls over pocket aces.  The whole pot was maybe 500 after 5 players limped preflop for 50.  The dealer even remarked, "What I'm wondering is...where is the rest of this pot?"

There was only one player at our whole table who seemed like a tricky aggressive player.  The rest were either super tight-passive or just played such ABC poker that it was 100% obvious when they had a hand or not.  I had a frustrating day where the only semi-playable hands I saw were offsuit broadway cards like Q-J or suited connectors, but I always seemed to get them in early position.  The one or two times I got something good and came in raising I missed completely and one of the ABC players who only bet when they had something came out firing.  Another time I raised preflop with J-J and my son who plays just as tight as me 3 bet me.  I called and when an ace hit the flop I folded to his continuation bet.  He showed his dad (and the rest of the table) A-K suited.

I wanted to jump into a cash game, but the only one they had going was a 3-6 full kill Omaha high-low game.  I suck at Omaha, so I passed on it.  I headed out to the blackjack table and played for about 20 minutes.  I was up about ten whole dollars when there was an overhead announcement that they were starting a new 1-2 No Limit Holdem table in the poker room.  By the time the cash game got rolling I had played about an orbit and a half when my son busted and had won about $25 more to basically cover one of our buyins to the tournament.

We had a good time and I need to get him all practiced up before we go to Vegas in November of 2013 for his 21st birthday.  Next time over to Meskwaki I'm going to take him on a Friday or Saturday night and stake him in the no limit cash game.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I almost forgot the most hilarious story of the entire trip to Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino.  I was sitting in the waiting area in the hallway outside the poker room waiting to be called for the 1-2 No Limit Holdem game.  A guy came stomping out of the room on his cell phone angrily shouting into it.  I didn't have to strain to hear his end of the conversation.

"I can't find my fucking keys!!! They were sitting on the table right beside me and when I got up to leave they were gone.  I don't know!  Somebody stole them I guess!  I flopped a set and then lost to a runner-runner straight and then when I try to leave my god damned keys are gone!  I think I have another set downstairs, but I think they only work in the ignition.  I don't know how I'm going to get into the car.  Well go ahead and see if you can find them and then call me back."

About halfway through this conversation a guy wanders around the corner and patiently waits for him to end his phone call and the following conversation ensued:

"Hey, buddy, are these your keys?"


"They were sitting on the table next to my phone and I just picked them up by accident.  Sorry, man, I got all the way back to my hotel room before I was like wait a minute...whose keys are these?"

"Are you fucking kidding me?!?!? Who picks up somebody elses keys and walks off with them?!?!? God dammit!!! I was about to have a heart attack!"

Then he stomped back into the poker room to the table he just left and really loudly and equally as profanely recounted the story to the table full of dudes who looked like they could give two shits about this guy's bad beat or his lost keys.  As he got louder and cursed more and more security and the floor people were inching closer and closer to him.  He finally realized they were hovering right behind him when he sheepishly said, "Sorry...found my keys," and left.

I wound up getting seated at that table and the consensus was that he should have just thanked the guy and shut the hell up.  The guy didn't have to return the keys and could have just dumped them in the trash if he'd known he was going to take the abuse he did when returning them. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Birthday Poker

For my birthday I got a kitchen pass from the wife to go play some poker at my local card room at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino.  I headed out about 10:00 PM last night.  It was clear when I got there that they had drawn a huge crowd for the simulcast of the Kentucky derby and their own race card.  The parking lot was emptying out so I got a spot pretty near the front door, but there were cars parked in the far reaches of the lot where there is usually nobody parked.

The night didn't start great.  I checked at the desk and they informed me that I would be fourth on the list for 1-2 no limit holdem.  I asked if there any seats at 3-6 just to kill some time until my seat was available at the no limit game.  The floor asked me to wait a second and then went to check the waiting area in the hallway outside the room.  He came back in and said, "Go ahead and take seat 3 at table 6." I went and bought $100 in white chips and was just setting the rack down on the table when the floor called my name from across the room.  He informed me that the other guy who should have been in front of me had returned, so I now I didn't have a seat. He apologized and said he would leave me clocked in while I waited.  (Thank goodness! I would hate to miss out on their massive $1.00/hour comps.)

I had to wait about 20 minutes, but finally got called and sent to seat 9 on table 4.  First a couple of comments about this table.  This was the type of table where if you wanted the whole table to call you raised to $6-$8.  If you wanted four callers you raised to $10-$15.  If you wanted one caller you better make it $17 or more.  I was barely in my seat and the dealer was pitching cards at me without ever asking if I wanted to post to enter the game.  Since I was still about 5 seats from the big blind I didn't argue and posted my $2 blind.  It checked around to the big blind in seat 4 who took his option to raise and made it $17 to go while shaking like a leaf.  Everyone folded except the cutoff.  After the flop the big blind kid bet $50 with an even shakier hand and took down the approximately $40 pot. 

I turned to the guy in seat 8 and asked, "Does he always shake like that or did he just have a huge hand?"  He replied that the kid had been shaking like that since he sat down, but he hadn't been there very long.  Two hands later I raised from middle position to $10 with J-10 of spades and got three callers.  The flop was a jack and two low spades.  I led out for $15 (low I know, but I felt like I was way ahead at this point and wanted action).  Only the shaky kid called.  The turn was the 10 of diamonds to give me 2 pair.  I led out $25 this time and shaky kid fumbled some chips and shakily called.  The river was the 7 of clubs.  My gut said the kid had a missed flush draw.  I didn't think he would call much, so I just bet $25 again.  Surprisingly he raises to $200 straight.  I tanked for a minute or two, but finally decided it was either a really courageous bluff or he had actually been calling with a set the whole way so I folded my top two pair.

Shaky kid soon stopped shaking so much as the night wore on and it became evident that he was just nervous at the start of the night because he wasn't very experienced at live poker.  One of the regulars made a call saying that they were on tilt and the kid honestly asked "What's tilt?"  I also learned that he wasn't one that bluffed, but way over valued top pair top kicker.  In hindsight I'm guessing I folded the winner on that J-10 hand and he likely had something like A-J.  He lost all of that money and then left and returned about an hour later with another $150 that he quickly lost.

There was one crazy hand that I wasn't involved in.  There was a standard raise preflop and three people saw a flop of Ah-Kc-Js,  The action went bet-raise-shove-shove-shove with almost no hesitation.  First guy showed Qd-10d for flopped broadway.  Second guy showed Ac-Ks for top two pair. Last guy showed Kh-Jh for bottom two pair.  The turn was the 6h and the river was the 9h to give the guy in third place when the money went in the whole $700'ish pot.  The Q-10 guy left without saying a word and A-K guy took it like a champ and just rebought.

The only other hand of note happened right before I left.  It was getting late and our table was now 6 handed.  I had about $110 left of my $200 buy in and looked down at two red queens in the small blind.  I raised to $12 and got two callers.  The flop was a beautiful A-Q 4 rainbow.  I checked my set and the next guy to act bet $10.  The button called the $10.  I made it $30. The original better called, but the button folded.  I don't recall the river, but it didn't complete any straight or flush draws.  I sense is that the other guy in the hand had a big ace (AK, AQ, AJ) or possibly some other Ace rag two pair. I now have $80 left.  I really think he feels like he is the winner and the only hand that I'm beat by is AA.  I ship the $80 and after tanking for a minute or two he folded.  I was sure he was calling.  I won a few more small pots to struggle back to even and then decided I didn't want to play short handed anymore and called it a night. 

On a whim I sat down at the $5 blackjack table.  I don't count cards.  I simply play the standard optimal strategy and bet with my gut.  I had a buddy that used to swear by a betting system.  If he won consecutive hands he would bet 1 unit, 3 units, 2 units, and then 5 units.  If he kept winning hands he would alternate between 2 units and 5 units.  So if your standard bet was $10 you'd bet 10-30-20-50. If you lose a hand at any point you drop back to one unit.

The blackjack table was 2 young "gangsta" wannabes and three very drunk 30-something chicks who had obviously enjoyed their Cinco de Mayo.  None of them were following standard strategy.  The drunk girls in particular were not just standing on 16 in situations where they should hit it, but they would hit hands like 14 when the dealer was showing a 5 or 6.  I don't get upset when somebody is playing bad strategy like a lot of people do, but I was wincing at the bad decisions these girls were making because of the effect it had on their results.  They seemed to be having fun though, so I didn't offer any advice.  I know that Prairie Meadows has a little card with the basic strategy on it and the pit boss will provide them on request.  They'll even let you sit there with it on the table.  I almost asked them for one to give the girls, but decided that as drunk as they were it would just slow the game down too much.

I started out just betting the minimum $5 and won the first four hands I played.  I bumped my bet up to $10 and kind of stayed even after 4-5 hands.  I decided to try out the betting strategy to see what would happen.  Basically it was my birthday and I didn't really care of I lost the $100 I bought in with.  I won a hand and then bumped my bet to $30.  Of course the dealer gave me 11 and his up card was a 5.  I doubled down and he dropped a 9 on it to give me 20.  He busted and I won a pretty big hand by my standards.  I lost a couple of hands in a row after that at $10 per hand and decided to go home and get some sleep since it was now almost 3:00 in the morning.

So I broke even at poker and left about $70 up on blackjack.  Subtract the $10 or so I spent on 3 beers (alcoholic drinks aren't free at casinos in Iowa) and I profited about $60 for 5 hours of work.  Better than minimum wage suckas!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Home Game (w/bonus bank rant)

Well since I've finally earned a place in the prestigious Very Josie blogroll I figure I better up my game a little and try to post more than once a week or so.  I'm going to do my best to post something every other day at the very least.  I can't promise they'll all be award winning prose, but I'm aiming for quanitity not quality.

Last night I played in a semi-regular home game.  It plays every other Thursday night throughout the year.  I'm unable to play it during the school year because it conflicts with show choir rehearsals.  Since show choir rehearsals are over until late August I'm back to playing again.

The game is a single table No Limit Holdem SNG (like twice a year they'll do Omaha or HO) that usually draws between 8-10 players.  You start with 6,000 chips and the structure is blinds only (no antes) starting at 25-50.  The blinds basically double at each level.  The first three levels are 30 minutes and then 20 minutes for the remainder.  You're able to be somewhat patient, but if you haven't found some decent hands to play by the time it gets to level 4 you'll be out quick.

The regulars in the game are a mix of a couple tricky loose aggressive players, a few calling stations, and a couple of super tight nitty old men.  You can make a few plays on the aggressive players without having a real hand if you've established a tight image and are brave enough to play back at them.  Otherwise you better make a hand of some sort because you will get called by top pair and every straight/flush draw.

Last night I went out 5th of 8 players.  There were really only 2-3 interesting hands.  My nephew and his wife often play in the game and were there last night.  He is one of the tricky loose aggressive players.  He usually either busts out early from playing too many hands early or he goes deep.  Last night he couldn't miss.  All of his crappy hands were connecting and all of his good hands were turning into monsters. 

I only clashed with him three times.  Once I raised preflop with two black aces.  He called with what I believe was a suited king.  There was a king on the flop.  He called my about two-thirds pot bet after the flop probably thinking it was just a standard continuation bet with a plan to steal on the turn if I showed any weakness.  When I bet out again he folded.

The next time I got heads up against him it was a disaster for me.  My AK suited flopped two pair while his pocket fours flopped a set (which turned to quads on the river).  Lost about two thirds of my starting stack on just that one hand and was out a little bit later when I shoved with pocket 7s.  He called with J9 suited and hit a nine on the flop and buh-bye JT. I didn't stick around to see how it all turned out, but he was by far the chip leader and would have had to majorly screw up to not at least cash. 

And now for a bank rant.  Those of you who only came for the poker content may check out now.  I received notification from my credit union on Tuesday that my card number may have been compromised in a breach of their credit card clearing house company's systems.  They're canceling my current card as of today, but my new card won't arrive in the mail until the end of next week.  I use that card for EVERYTHING.  I rarely to never carry cash anymore and this is going to be a big hassle.

I called the credit union just because I wanted to get more information and I wanted to vent a little.  The poor twenty-something customer service call center girl was umm-ing and ah-ing all over the place trying to appease me.  Here's the crux of my beef with them.  The breach of the clearing house was reported in the news at the beginning of April.  They waited until April 30th to notify me that I was affected and now I have to go a week without my card.  It's poor customer service that they didn't coordinate this to minimize the interruption of service to their members.  At the least they should have worked with the card issuer to expedite the new cards so I was only without it for a day or two.

Their solution is for me to come to their branch and withdraw cash to tide me over and they can issue me a temporary ATM card.  It can't be used for point-of-sale transactions, but I can use it to withdraw money from ATMs.  Here's the fun thing about that.  I get 10 free ATM transactions and then I get charged $0.50 for each one after that.  I asked if they would waive those fees for this month since they were forcing me to use the ATM more than I normally would.  They said, "If you incur any charges this month, contact us and we'll waive them." I asked why they couldn't just preemptively waive the fee and they refused.  If I were a betting man (and I am) I'd wager I won't have such an easy time recouping those fees at the end of the month. 

Side note: ATM and PIN are two of my biggest grammatical pet peeves.  Lots of people around this region tend to say PIN number and ATM machine.  Since the N in PIN stands for number and the M in ATM stands for machine what they're really saying is Personal Identification Number number or Automated Teller Machine machine.  If you say PIN number or ATM machine, we probably can't be friends.