As I left for lunch, B**** (the person I had only recently trained) talked to me in the hall and D*****. It would seem that B**** was on a call and, being new and not knowing the answer to the caller's problem, he asked a co-worker for assistance.
D***** made a "scisors-finger" gesture. I know that to D***** that clearly means "You're taking too long on this call, cut it short." B**** said "what" because he honelstly didn't know what D***** meant. D***** screwed up his face in a classic "D'uh" expression and gestured with both hands, clearly implying that B**** was stupid for not knowing what was meant. And this was not the first time he's done something like this to B****.
What's worse is that B**** told me that this sort of behavior is recent, say in the past two weeks which, by an astonishing coincidence, is when D***** stuck his foot in his mouth concerning me.
So, either D***** has not learned his lesson and while he is keeping away from me, he is still being a bad manager to everyone else.
Or, he hasn't learned his lesson and is taking out his frustrations on the person I just finished training. Would it be too speculatory to say that he hopes to reate questions about my value by defaming the people I've trained? Two weeks ago I wouldn't have thought so but now I am not so sure.
I told B**** to write it all up with dates and times and to send it to the Help Desk Manager and HR Contact. I'm tempted to go to them right now with this but I think B**** should present it in his own words. I told him to tell them that he spoke to me about this and I advised him to speak to them. Once that ball starts rolling, I will weigh in with my own opinions.
I'm pretty think skinned and D***** cannot truly embarass me in public because most everyone knows how he is but I'll be damned if I'll allow him to take it out on someone else.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
As I left for lunch, B**** (the person I had only recently trained) talked to me in the hall and D*****. It would seem that B**** was on a call and, being new and not knowing the answer to the caller's problem, he asked a co-worker for assistance.
Friday, December 24, 2004
I don't know if you've been watching this story on the news but several weeks ago, the building manager of 927 Fifth Avenue in New York City had the nest of a mated pair of Red-Tailed Hawks torn down from his building. These marvelous birds, named Pale Male and Lola, have been living at this posh Manhattan location for over a decade and had raised over 20 children. They were famous celebreties, like apartment neighbor Mary Tylor Moore and Woody Allen across the street.
Someone (who has never been named) complained about the bits of debris and pidgeon carcases that occasionally fell from the nest and, the building manager, hoping to avoid any problems with the rent payer, tore the nest down and removed the pidgeon spikes, which would prevent the nest from being rebuilt. Of course, without the pidgeon spikes, the pidgeons would return to roost on the ledge eventually. I suppose he thought by then the Hawks would have moved somewhere else and become someone else's problem.
Well, he had problems of his own. There was a tremendous outcry. Over the weeks as Pale Male and Lola made futile attempts to rebuild their home, hawk watchers and nature lovers lobyed to have the nesting site restored. The Audubon Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The New York Times and thousands of vigil sitters converged on the cause of returning Pale Male to his home.
As a resident of the less urbanized Pittsburgh area, hawks are a common site. Nature isn't so far removed as the suburbs have deer in the yards, hawks in the sky, turkey in city parks and we even had a bear come through the area a few years back. I can only imagine the horror of a city dweller, encircled by glass and concrete, suddenly waking to find that the one piece of nature in his neighborhood was torn out overnight.
Our own urban pride is a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons atop the Gulf Building downtown. (http://www.paconserve.org/pittfalcons/gulfvideo.htm) Unfortunately, their nest is not visible from the office windows where I work but I see them from time to time diving past the windows. A distinctive silouette caught for a moment out of the corner of the eye. I would be outraged if some pinhead decided to tear down their nesting box. I feel pangs when the Gulf Building decides to remove the webcam TV from their street-level window, even though they do so when the nest is empty and there's nothing to see.
Christmas Eve brought the best news. The spike were going back up and, if Pale Male and Lola hadn't already decided to move somewhere else, a new nesting platform would be waiting for them to move back to their home.
And it's our home, too. We need this connection to the rest of the world, to remind us that we are not the world's masters but its caretakers.
I was asked, "How would you feel having dead pidgeons falling on your doorstep?"
"Every time a pidgeon dies, an red-tail gets his wings."
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Biking to work in the winter in Pittsburgh means it'll get cold. Typically, I've been using a lay of cotton long underwear under by bike shorts or, when the temperature gets down in the 20's, I'll throw a pair of BDUs over that.
Cotton Kills! That is the cry of all the outdoor pundits and, in some ways they are right. when cotton gets wet it rob your body of heat and you can have hypothermia problems. I wouldn't worry about this on a commute into work but the thing I am concerend with is bulk. For the afternoon commute home when the temperature has risen 20 degrees I have the the pants to carry home. It'd be more convenient to have something that would do the same job but pack smaller.
I had a coupon and so ordered the Sugoi Matrix Leg Warmers.
The description said that they would "add 10 degrees" so since I normall wear shorts down into the 30's I hoped they would be able to pretty much serve me for the winter. In all honesty, they did not perform as well as the cotton long underwear I got from K-mart for a couple of bucks. They did nothing to stop the wind and I think that, because they were so close to the skin they didn't allow a pocket of warm insulating air like the quilted cotton long underwear did.
With a 40 degree air temperature and rain I felt more comfortable with bare legs than I did with the so-called leg warmers.
And while they stayed up all right when riding, the gel edging around the top did not hold them up well when walking. Now I know why women wear garter belts for stockings.
I notice now that the "add 10 degrees" statement is gone from the description. One of the reviews on the site says "Ok for temps 50-65 degrees". I'm sorry, but at those temps I'm still wearing shorts. If they don't do me any good in the 30 to 40 degree range they just aren't worth it. I'm just glad the coupon paid for it and I didn't throw my money away.
I'll grade the Sugoi Leg Warmers with a "D".
I received a call this morning from John Manuel who claimed to be from UBS asking to be transferred to 800-444-5656. I said that I could not do that as it is against company policy. He asked to be transferred to the Data Center. I again refused, saying that it was against company policy. He asked "Why" and I reiterated that it was against company policy.
Then he said something like "company policy" but slightly different, as if he had misunderstood what I had said. I repeated "company policy" and he again "misheard". He then started cursing and swearing at me, calling me a motherfucker and a nigger, saying that that in a way that made me think he knew it was an insult but didn't know that it was racially specific. He laughed as he amused himself with his insults of me. Eventually he tired of my silence and put me on hold. I hung up after that.
Of course, this John Manuel person doesn't really work for UBS. This is apparently some sort of scam where the caller eventually gets the access to dial the number himself and uses a flaw in the system to make a long distance call for free. Look at the Snopes website (http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/scams/jailcall.htm) to see how this is supposed to work.
So, here is more ID10T action. . . . This is the same guy; I recognize his voice and accent. He keeps using the same name and company, making it very easy for word to get around The Bank and The Help Desk to be on the look out. He keeps calling The Bank even though he's being stopped regularly. And even when he is transferred (under the watchful eye of Corporate Security) and tracked, he is unable to complete his call. This has been going on for weeks and I can only imagine that he keeps trying because he is more often successful than not.
I wonder how entertaining it would be to transfer him the FBI.
Monday, December 20, 2004
I came in this morning to a waiting e-mail from D*****, sent to my work e-mail box Sunday afternoon.
There are times when people say things that are insensitive, arrogant, and obnoxious without thinking about the impact their words may have on an individual. We all can probably remember words that we have used to insult, humiliate, embarrass, or offend a person but never really gave any special thought to it. I can truthfully say that it can happen to anyone. When that happens, it's only fair for one to apologize to those that may be affected. I accidentally sent an Epop to entire Help Desk with inappropriate words directed toward you. Although the intent was to be humorous, the words were still inappropriate for an electronic format. I apologize for sending such a message.
This "apology", which seems to me long on excuses and short on actual regret, was carbon copied to everyone at the Help Desk. At least he made a public apology for my public humiliation but it wasn't a very good one. "There are times when people. . . ", "We can all. . . ", ". . . it's only fair for one. . . " In all of these, he's not taking responsibility for what he did. He's not saying that he was "insensitive, arrogant, and obnoxious", he saying that "people" do this. Then he says "I accidentally sent. . . " as if his mistake was in sending it to everyone.
I was not satisfied.
Later in the morning, D***** stopped by my cubicle on his way to have a smoke. I was on a call and did not want to interrupt it to hear his abbreviated apology so eventually he tired of loitering and said he would talk to me later. I suspected that D***** had been talked to by management because I don't think he would initiate a verbal, one-on-one apology on his own initiative.
Immediately after the call, I went to speak with the Help Desk Manager. He told me that Corporate had been told about this and they were taking it very seriously. He said that D***** "had a lot of work ahead of him to show that he's not tat kind of Team Lead." Both the written and verbal apologies were part of that "work."
The rest of the morning and the bulk of the afternoon had plenty of opportunities for D***** to get up from his desk and come over to me. He did not. Apparently he thought the apology was important enough for him to stop by and deliver on his way somewhere else but not so important as to make a special trip. That sort of attention to the issue makes me wonder if he's learned his lesson.
Just before D***** was to leave for the day, he finally came over and asked if I had received the e-mail he had sent. "I just wanted to say I was sorry. It wasn't ment to be offensive but it obviously was"
"This is not about remorse or forgiveness," I said. "This is about respect and responsibility. No doubt, Corporate HR has some plan for you but let me tell you how this will work with me. If you ever want to talk to me or about me concerning policy, procedure or the cost of tea in China, you will go to the Help Desk Manager. Do not approach me in the hallway. Do not hover by my cubicle. Everything goes through Management"
D***** said that he thought he should have stayed away but that he felt he had to apologize in person. Liar. He wouldn't have come over if he hadn't been required to by HR. I'm not even sure he would have e-mailed the apology, such as it was, without being impelled by HR's authority.
Oh, he's on the fast track to redemption.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
I was up at my Function Desk to talk with them concerning an update on a ticket. After that, I took a few steps to stand at A**'s cubicle to talk to him about some random piece of news.
While I was standing there, a message popped up on everyone's screen, distributed by e-pop, and application like Instant Messenger that we user internally to communicate at the Help Desk. It said:
"What's that smell??? Oh I'm sorry Geis, I didn't see you standing there."
A few Analysts looked around asking "Who sent that?" but I had a sneaking suspicion which was not difficult to confirm. The sender's login id was clearly visible on the FROM line of the popup.
Now, D***** and I have had words before. Usually it has been over some sort of dispute over policies or procedures. D***** is a Team Lead but he's not my Team Lead. That doesn't keep him out of my business, though. Well, arguements over policies or procedures are one thing (within his purvue) but during one such conversation he said that my oposition to a certain procedure was just "Geis being Geis."
Since then I have tried very hard NOT to believe that he has something personal against me, that this was merely a clash of personalities. I kept telling myself that he was just a bad manager. D***** has on previous occasions misspoken and subsequently been spoken to by Management about it but this. . . .this sort of statement is almost unimaginably inappropriate. It would be bad enough coming from anyone on a "public" forum but to come from a Team Lead is beyond my ability to write off as merely a personality conflict.
And only half an how later I was scheduled for a "Career Development" meeting with the HR Rep and my Team Lead. I wrot this incident up in a formalized letter to present during my meeting. My hands were shaking with so much anger that I couldn't even sign the document.
I could see the disbelief on their faces as they read what had happened. Yes, something would be done about this at the management level. . . just not right now. Through a quirk of scheduling, the Help Desk Manager was off today. And while he will be back tomorrow, the HR Rep will be out, as will I. This may need to wait until Monday to be resolved.
And what would be an acceptable resolution? This sort of agregious statement could get him fired. As the last straw in a hay bail of missteps he should not be a Team Lead. At the very least, I want the record of this incident, including the screen shot of the statement itself, to end up in his personnel folder. I can't imagine what they would do beyond that, given the way things like this have been dealt with in the past.
I have a tight knot right between my shoulderblades.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Employees of The Bank are apparently encouraged to add "Leadership Statements" to their e-mail signatures. Here is a sampling:
"My Leadership Causes Success Through Teamwork and the Success of Each Member"
"My Leadership Causes a Comfortable Work Environment"
"My leadership makes potential become reality"
"My leadership causes hard work and determination in myself and others!"
"My leadership accelerates consensus!"
"My leadership creates results through accountability."
"My leadership is the catalyst for inspiring compassion, integrity and excellence in others."
My first thought was to add comments to each of these but to be honest, I can't think of any snide ridicule that I could heap on these statements any worse than the statements themselves. I suppose they could be forgiven for bad grammar since no one is proofreading their work, but what are these people thinking? Is this what they really believe leadership is about?
And The Bank is no better. Even though these following statements were surely built by committees, these mission statements posted on signage around the offices really aren't much better:
"We challenge reality to accomplish the impossible."
"Utilizing the power of diversity and imagination, we conquer boundaries, redefining tomorrow."
Oh, the pain! You can read those statements over and over again and still not derive any meaning from them. It may be naive of me to believe that a mission statement should actually be a statement of the department or business's mission , but is that the way it's supposed to be? If it had meaning then the managers would be actually held accountable if they didn't measure up. Do they come up with that crap specifically to avoid that sort of responsibility or do they really believe that the employees are too stupid to realize it meaninglessness?
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Close up view of Protagonist's hands, pulling on a pair of hi-tech gloves. The narration box says, "Essential Reality P5 Virtual Reality Gloves: $80."
View of Protagonist's ear as a headset is placed. The narration box says, "GN Netcom 9120 Wireless Headset: $300."
View of the Protagonist as he places a pair of goggles on. The narration box says, "I-Glasses PCHR Head Mounted Display: $900."
Panel 4 (tripple wide, below the first three):
The narration box at the top of the panel says, "Casual Fridays at the Help Desk . . . " The Protagonist is seen wearing all his equipment and only a pair of shorts lying on a lawn chair in his cubicle. A bank of sun lamps on a tripod is on his desk above his workstation. His voice bubble has him speaking; ". . . You now need to enter a new password, 5 to 8 characters long . . ." The Boss is standing beside the cubicle with his hands on his hips. His voice bubble has him speaking; "Geis, when you're done I want to see you in my office." The narration box at the bottom of the panel says, "Priceless."
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Open enrollment in the health plan of our new Corporate Overlords started today. I went through all the menus and chose the minimum coverage partially because I stay away from doctor's offices anyway but mostly because of my stagnant pay. At the end it calculated how much this new plan was going to cost me and it turns out that my health care costs will increase by just about the same amount as my "cost of living" pay increase after my last performance appraisal.
So, my relative pay continues to drop.
Friday, December 03, 2004
This tale of woe requires a little lead in to understand all the players. First, wer are the Help Desk. The Help Desk works for The Bank but we are not employees of The Bank, we are part of an IT service company that I will refer to as The Company.
Back in May we learned that The Company was being purchased by another IT services company. That company will hereafter be referred to as The Corporate Overlords.
So, now it's Thanksgiving. I was a little late in asking for the Friday after Thanksgiving off so that I could join the family get-together at my sister's in Maryland but I did get the day off. We at the Help Desk were told that The Corporate Overlords recognized the Friday after Thanksgiving as a company holiday for which we would be entitled to holiday pay. Swell! Since I was taking the day off, I duitifly filled out the PTO form.
Today we had some rolling meetings as groups of Help Desk staff were called into the break room to meat with the Help Desk Manager and HR Rep. We were told that the manager was mistaken. HeThe Corporate Overlords and the Analysts that work for them get the Friday after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday but here at The Company, there is still a separation between Analysts and Managers. That separation means that we would not be getting holiday pay for the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The way he phrased it, it sounded like he and the HR Rep (managers) would be receiving pay for that day.
Since I had filled out a PTO form, I figured I was still going to get paid, it was just going to be coming out of my pool of PTO hours instead of being a holiday bonus. I wasn't particularly pleased with that but I have a lot of PTO built up and don't spend it in big chunks (taking a day here and there instead of taking a full week vacation) so it wasn't going to be a big hit.
Except that, because The Manager though it was going to be covered by The Corporate Overlord's holiday pay, they didn't submit my PTO request.
*WHAM* I'm out a day's pay.
I am told that I can re-submit my PTO request and it will be honored but the paycheck I get next week is going to be out a day.
Hmmm, let's see what's going on at Monster.com this afternoon.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
I have noticed an unpleasant habit for The Bank's web designers. When they develop a new Intranet website to replace an old site they simply create a new URL. In yesterday's update, they apparently sent an e-mail about this change to SOME users. Users that did not receive this e-mail were getting a number of error messages trying to get into the old site. After a few hours of fielding these calls and opening tickets because we didn't know what was going on, we finally received a copy of the new instruction and new URL.
This happens all the time and our call volume spikes because of it. Sure, they often send out an e-mail warning people about the change but many do not read it. A simple solution would be a redirect at the old page that takes people to the new page or, at the very least, has a message saying that the procedure or URL has changed and providing users with the new information.
It's not hard.
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; URL=http://new address">
See? It's pretty much that easy.
In another example, there are a number of web-based applications that use a single password. There is a database within Lotus Notes that allows users to reset this password. Users who are having problems with their password is directed to this database but, of course, they are not told how to get this database if they don't already have it, prompting them to call the Help Desk.
It would be so simple to add a link to this page that would add this database automatically or to have the instructions there. But, no. They say "Call the Help Desk" and we get scores of calls every day for an issue that users could take care of themselves if only they were provided with the information.
Friday, November 19, 2004
If I had any sort of artistic talent, I'd try to boil some of my life here at the Help Desk into four panels and try to publish a webcomic. Well, it probably wouldn't go for very long but there are a few incidents and ideas that would be worthy of such a treatment. If you've read my previous posts, you probably have already seen them.
But, I will not be deterred by my own artistic ineptitude. What follows is a text version of what would be my first attempt at a webcomic.
Close up view of a Help Desk workstation. The Protagonist's hands are seen installing an access point on the telephone. A box is seen labeled "Wireless Headset."
The Protagonist, wearing his wireless headset, is standing at the copier. The voice bubble has him speaking "Corporate helpdesk, this is Geis. How can I help you? . . . . "
The Protagonist is in the break room, pouring some coffee. The voice bubble has him speaking; ". . . now, go to the lower right hand corner of the window and click on Office Network. Select Edit. When that comes up . . . ."
You see the Protagonist's feet in a rest room stall. His pants are bunched around his ankles. The voice bubble through the door has him speaking; ". . . go to Start. Select Settings and then Printers. Do you see your printer listed there?. . ." The Boss is standing outside the restroom stall with his hands on his hips. His voice bubble has him speaking; "Geis, when you're done I want to see you in my office."
On Tuesday, building maintenance went throughout the floor and pulled down all the security cameras watching the emergency stairwells and elevators and replaced them with new cameras.
On Wednesday, they pulled down all the new cameras and replaced them with the original cameras.
Then yesterday they pulled down those cameras (again) and replaced them with a third camera design.
Apparently they discovered that the scores of cameras they had bought were incompatible with the system they had and they had to get a different camera. One would think they would have tested the camera compatibility before buying a huge order for the whole building. And even after that, they installed at least one entire floor of cameras before discovering that none of them worked instead of checking to make sure that one worked before moving on to the other dozen.
Oh, yea. I feel my security being enhanced.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Here at the Help Desk, our job performance is rated on a number of metrics. Things like First Call Resolution Rate, Average speed of Answer, Average Call Time, in all, 14 things are rated and we earn "points" for each metric we meet. The names of those who get 14 points each week and each month are put into a hat and one name is drawn to wil an incentive prize. Weekly incentive winners get 4 hours of Paid Time Off (granted without the Corporate central office knowing). Those who win the monthly incentive get taken out to lunch by the Manager in addition to the PTO. (He writes it off on his taxes as a business expense).
Most of the time, my stats are pretty good. I've always earned at least 12 points and often do better. The things I slip on are Average Talk Time and Availablility.
Availability is the most important metric. It's the one The Management is always whining about. It's the percentage of time that you are either on a call or waiting for a call. My availability wasn't bad, it just wasn't regularly quite enough to earn that 14th point.
That is, until Webcomics.
Some months ago, I started reading webcomics. Megatokyo, El Goonish Shive, It's Walky, College Roomies from Hell, Queen of Wands, Nukees, Wapsi Square, The Devil's Panties, Filthy Lies!, The Wotch, Questionable Content and Count Your Sheep. Typically, I discover a webcomic and then go back and start at the begining, catching up between calls. Some, like Megatokyo, I've gone through more than once (That can take days).
The unintended result is that rather than taking short breaks between calls to go to the vending machines or discuss the latest Megas XLR episode with a coworker, I'm sitting at the desk with my phone in the "ready" mode waiting for another call. My availability has gone almost as high as it can go and I am now earning the coveted 14 points nearly every week.
The days seems to go faster as well and, to be honest, I find that much more valuable than lunch with the boss.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
The news of the day is the "retirement" of John Ashcroft. An article in The Register summed it up quite well:
"His legacy includes boosterism of the so-called Patriot Act, a longstanding federal law-enforcement wish list of legal shortcuts that the atrocities of 11 September 2001 made it impossible for Congress to reject; covering the tits on a prominent bronze statue of Justice that always made him twitch; gleeful promotion of capital punishment; rounding up thousands of suspected terrorists, and failing to prosecute any of them successfully; advising the military that torture is fine so long as no one gets caught, and that the Geneva Conventions don't always apply; advising the federal bureaucracy that DoJ would help it fight any FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request from nosy reporters; making a further mockery of the Act of Posse Comitatus by actively encouraging military outfits to participate in terror-related law enforcement; wildly overplaying his hand whenever some small-fry terror suspect like Jose Padilla popped up on the radar; warning the public that criticizing the so-called Patriot Act is an act of disloyalty verging on treason; inventing an arbitrary class of person called an "enemy combatant" so that writs of habeas corpus can be ignored at the government's convenience; prosecuting a crusade against pornography, apparently another deadly threat to US national security; and turning out the DoJ as a sort of "copyright 911" hotline so that the public might pay the bills of companies that wish to defend their intellectual property.
Clearly, he will be missed."
I wonder what caused such a stalwart support of Dubbya's agenda to leave the administration. A pang of conscience, perhaps? Probably not. More likely that he looked out of the world of domestic civil rights and, like Alexander, wept at having no more lands to conquer.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
The Halloween costumes aren't even back in the closet yet and already the Christmas decorations are going up. Workers are stringing lights in the trees. The 20' tree is on the steps of the City Offices. The life-sized nativity is starting to go up at Steel Plaza. Barnes and Nobel has a table of Christmas books just in the store entrance.
I hate it.
I remember when the "holidays" began after Thanksgiving. That very national holiday is all but forgotten as the Christian majority and capitalist jackals rush to capture more and more of the public's attentions. Veteran's Day, Hanukah, the Winter Solstice and the opening day of whitetail season are also trampled.
So, for the next two months I will become increasingly Grinch-like as I am bombarded with Christian-capitalist messages and images. Carols will fill the public spaces. I will be shown just how much of a minority I am in this country that supposedly has "freedom of religion" as one of its core values.
Fifty-three days and counting.
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Last night I went to a Halloween party. I actually went to two but the second was with people I knew in college. C***** asked if I had done any reading recently and I talked about "Constant Battles" by Steven LeBlanc wherein the myth that ancient people were more peaceful is destroyed by overwhelming archeological evidence that prehistory was in fact filled with more and deadlier warfare than today. Ken Burns' documentary "The Civil War", "How to Make War" by James Dunnigan and "On Killing" by Dave Grossman were also discussed. All in all, it was entertaining.
And then T*** came over. It was like C***** was struck and he changed direction instantly.
"So, I assume you are going to be voting for George Bush."
This is when I made my mistake.
Back in college, with the Cold War in full swing and Ronald Reagan in office, I somehow had earned myself the moniker of "Mister Conservative". I was, in all honesty, a "fiscal conservative" and a hawk when it came to military policy but to look at my polital beliefs across the board, I was pretty liberal in the true sense of the word. My liberal interpretation of the Constitution is that when says that the people have certain rights that these rights should be interpreted as broadly (or liberally) as possible. The 10th Amendment sums it up pretty well, "The powers not delegated to the US by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." If it's not specifically prohibited, then it's allowed. A true liberal view.
My mistake: I responded "You assume incorrectly".
T*** literally threw his hands up in disbelief. C***** said "I want to start by saying that I know you to be intelligent and well-reasoned and I respect your views". Whereupon they double-teamed me at every point over why I was wrong. As the conversation got more heated, T*** would get closer in an unconsious effort to physically pressure me. C***** would periodically point this out to hold him back, no realizing that he was using the same looming tactic.
The topic turned to the war in Iraq and I stated my opinion that Dubbya is fighting the wrong war. He could kill terrorists all day long and only succeed in making more terrorists. What needs to be done is address the reason why people are willing to strap explosives on themselved and blow up a bus full of schollchildren in an attempt to catch a few soldiers in the blast. These people have nothing and are desparate. If they were economically self-sufficent then their reason for killing would disappear. This even went back to my first conversation of the evening, about the book "Constant Battles". People hate war. People don't like to kill. But they will if they feel pressured. Take away the pressure and they'll gladly go home.
Almost out of the blue, T*** said "So what you're saying is that Jews just didn't throw themselves into the furnaces fast enough."
Just because I don't kick my own teeth out of my mouth in knee-jerk support of Israel does not make me a Nazi and anti-semmite!
"What the hell are you talking about! Your fucking insane,T***!" My cursing outburst was out of character for me and the entire room quieted down.
What I wanted to do is drive my fist right into his face. What I should have done was walk away from the whole thing. I really don't need this short of hyperbolic bullshit. Especially when I'm trying to have a good time. But I knew that my wife was having a good time in a different conversation. and my leaving would put an end to that. It would also hand a victory to T***, utilizing some of the same tactics that the Dubbya campaign and his lackeys were using (such as the swift boat veterans calling Kerry a traitor).
I carried on the conversation, turning it to a damning of both parties and their tactics and trying to spin this as the sort of behavior that has always gone on. Of course, calling me a Nazi put a damper on things and while C***** and T*** went to get more beer, I took the opportunity to turn my back on that half of the room to join H**** and P***'s conversation on movies and the wonders of Netflix.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
I got a raise!
Several; weeks ago, I had my annual performance appraisal. In years past, my rating has been extremely high. Last year, my Manager said, "So, T*** (my team Lead) tells me you can walk on water."
Fat lot of good all that talent and skill has done. Two years ago, The Company made some bad financial mistakes and we lost our 401k matching, our bonuses and any salary increases.
I have become less concerned with my opinions at my appraisals (and at any other time for that matter) and let it be known at this latest meeting that I was not at all happy with the financial situation and if the market didn't suck as bad as it did, that I would be gone in spite of my stellar performance.
Well, The Company was bought out earlier this year by Another Company, along with promises of an improved workplace. Thus, my raise.
But, this was not a performance-based raise which, in the past, had been as high as 6%. No, this was a "cost of living" increase which everyone was going to get. Twenty-five cents a hour. A 1.47% increase.
I hate to tell you guys but with inflation running at a "modest" 3%, I'm still loosing money on the deal. My paycheck went up $6. I didn't even recognize it in the first paycheck, thinking I had snared a little overtime on one of those last-minute customer calls.
How will I be insulted next?
Thursday, October 14, 2004
After todays building evacuation drill, I had to opportunity to speak with one of the security guards (I talk to him often about guns and anime). As it turns out, during the last drill, The Bank had such a huge number of non-participants that the City Fire Marshal took notice and levied a fine.
Hoody-hoo! It wan't enough to scare The Bank into obeying the law completely and having the Help Desk and Customer Call Center evacuate but it was something at least. Their apparent response was that unless the entire city is evacuating they will not evacuate completely and are prepared to absorb such fines as the cost of doing business.
Of course, if they did the smart thing, they would utilize these drills as an opportunity to test their business resiliancy and activate their backup locations to handle the calls during these rare and short term situations. As it is, we will have to wait until an actual emergency to find out if our business resiliancy plans will actually work.
This story requires a bit of lead in, so bear with me here.
As a result of the events of 9/11, I became a Floor Warden, responsible for the safety of the people here at the Help Desk. Lots of "Business Resiliency" meetings and such. It wasn't until 2003 that The City had worked out a comprehensive plan with rules for the various high-rises. One of those rules was that each year, every building over 10 stories tall must perform a drill with a full building evacuation.
Because our building was so tall, they were able to negotiate an exemption that allowed them to do two evacuation drills, each evacuating half the building. The October 2003 drill was to evacuate the half of the building containing The Bank and The Help Desk.
Except that The Bank felt they were too important to loose 45 minutes of their day. So, the email we received indicated that The Help Desk and The Customer Call Center would not be participating.
As Floor Warden, I was in a position to follow up on this and I checked with the Building Manager. He confirmed that the law states that participation is mandatory. If the alarm sounds, the building is to be evacuated. He admitted that Building Security was not in a position to enforce the mandatory evacuation and while the City Fire Marshal was fully justified in exacting fines for non-compliance, it was unlikely that he would do so. Even so, it was against the law.
I quit my position as Floor Warden immediately. I had significant ethical problems with my employer asking me to break the law and being an accomplice to that albeit minor crime.
For this year's evacuation drill, The Bank sent out an e-mail that said "All employees are strongly encouraged to participate in this drill as it is an integral part of both US Steel Tower and PNC's emergency response plans" which implies that the drill is a voluntary event. Last year's e-mails did say "mandatory" until they realized that it would bring The Bank to a screeching halt and The Management decided to ignore the law. I checked with building security and they confirmed that the law has not changed and evacuation is still considered mandatory.
So I have been lied to and asked to break the law again. The irony of having to troubleshoot user issues with a regular battery of Code of Ethics CBT modules is not lost on me.
Monday, October 11, 2004
One of my neighbors placed several Kerry signs in his yard. Then the Bush signs went up in the yard next to his. Another Kerry sign went up. Then another Bush sign. Yard lights went up to illuminate the signs at night, first for Kerry, then for Bush. The neighbor across the street put up some Kerry signs. A 4 foot by 8 foot Bush sign went up, also illuminated at night.
And, for all these machinations I wonder what they really accomplish other than chest-beating, like chimpanzees or gorillas trying to intimidate one another. Certainly I cannot imagine two so partisan neighbors leaning over the fence to discuss the relative merits of opposing issues. More likely there will be the surreptitious re-distribution of fall leaves or flinging of dog droppings into the yard of the enemy camp.
It makes me wish I had a full-sized "Cthulhu for President" (http://www.cthulhuforpresident.com/) sign to put up in my yard.
Just because I have a degree in political science doesn't mean I like politics.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Most of the time, issues with users are cause by simple ignorance. The user wasn't trained properly, it wasn't a feature they ever used before or some other computer problem that they simply don't know. This is usually easy to deal with an not very stressful. But occasionally I see things that make me weep for humanity.
On the rest room door, someone had taped a note "Kawshun, Wet Floor".
The floor is almost the exclusive domain of technical support. The Help Desk, Network and hardware support, you know, college graduates or those at the very least with an Associates Degree. You would think that they could spell the word Caution.
Friday, September 24, 2004
As the end of the month approaches at the Help Desk, it turns out that our ASA (Average Speed of Answer) statistics are down. We are contractually obligated to answer all calls in an average time of 35 seconds. Typically, one can answer within a few seconds but if things get busy, those waiting in the queue can wait for several minutes. It has to average out to under 35 seconds.
However, our numbers this month are over 40 seconds. So, for the past week we have been getting regular messages from The Powers That Be that we need to keep out talk times down and stay available.
Coworker A** was off sick yesterday and was still sick today when he came in so already he wasn't doing well. As noontime approached I noticed that he was gone and another coworker told me that he was sent home in a huff for taking 3 minutes too long on a scheduled break.
I can't be sure until Monday but I figure what happened is that D****, a team lead and the kind of person how counts every bean, made a stink. Art responded in an insubbordinate manner because he was not only physically sick but also tired of D****'s behavior. And D**** sent him home. Art didn't care because he didn't want to be there in the first place.
So, with it being vitally important that calls be answered quickly, D**** has sent home one of the more efficient and productive workers at the Help Desk. How does that help our end-of-month metrics?
I saw the Project Manager talking to D**** and might guess that he was going over the same problem with D****'s math. It's happened before. D**** and I have come to words on numerous occasions.
Half an hour later I was to leave early to go pick up my daughter at college. That would bring the Help Desk down another highly productive worker. I wonder if D**** was reminded of that as well.
Friday, September 10, 2004
I received a call from a User that said she could not access her Office applications. That they were not found. Many times, Office applications are run from a netword drive rather than being installed locally so should the user loose their network connection or their server connection, they will loose Office.
I asked the user if she had any other problems and she said that she had problems signing on but she had gotten past that. Ahh! Theory #1: She had a problem signing on to the server and selected "Workstation Only" to signon. She had thus skipped signing onto the server and thus didn't have the connection to the network drive from which the Office application would run.
I tried to explain that he first error she had when trying to sign on would be the one that tells us what her problem was but she said she didn't have any errors signing on.
"You said you had a problem signing on, what was that problem?"
At which point she puts me on hold. I know that when user's do that, they have become confused with something and have gone to get help. What confused her? I asked "what happened?"
So, her manager comes on and I explain to him that the user's problems was probably network or server related and that I had asked what her first error was because that is the one that tells us what's going on. Everything else are just symptoms. He told me that they had logged on again and didn't have any errors. I didn't believe that so I asked him to click on the My Computer icon.
Once there I asked if any network drives were listed there.
"Ahh," I said, "Without the network drives, the user isn't going to be able to access the Office applications running from those drives."
He then proceeded to read off a list of drives, A: floppy, C: windows, D: CD rom, M. . . .
"M:? That's a network drive"
He wanted my full name and asked why I was so rude.
If I asked you the question, "Do you have a thingswoggle on your desktop," you shouldn't answer either "yes" or "no" if you have no idea what the hell a thingswoggle is. Why is it that users insist on answering these questions and then call me rude for pointing it out? If I ask what the problem is, you shouldn't have to get a manager to help. Just tell me what happened. You were there at the time, right? Users often claim "computer illiteracy" but it has nothing to do with computers. It's simple literacy and observation. What does the error message say? What is on your screen? What happened next?
Finally I asked him to have the user log off and log back. Miraculously, they were able to sign on, the network drives connected and the Office applications worked.
Friday, September 03, 2004
I am a semi-bicycle communter in that I drive part of the way in to work and ride my bike the rest of the way. It allows me to get some exercise but not spend excessive time in transit. For the most part, I've been parking in Panther Hollow at a parking lot near the soccar fields and then riding the Eliza Furnace trail into downtown. It's about 4 miles each way.
Today was much like any Friday. I left work and rode back to the car. Put my bike on the rack. Opened the passenger-side door to take off my belt pack, helmet and gloves. Went around to the other side and drove home. Only after getting home, checking my e-mail, getting a shower and going back out to the car to go out to dinner did I notice the damage.
Some pinhead with a cordless drill had drilled out the driver's side lock. I hadn't noticed because I opened the lock on the passenger side. I'd been parking there for years and, so far, my vehhicle had been unmolested.
And what would they have gotten? A crappy CD player that I'm thinking of replacing anyway. Some CDs that are too ecclectic for you average amateur criminal. An umbrella.
So, when I try to call the police to file a report I am told that I cannot make such a report over the phone. Since I was currently outside the city limits I would need to come into the city and file a report in person. To serve and protect, indeed.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Geis: . . . OK. I'm going to need to get the computername for your system so if you could double-click on the My Computer icon on your desktop.
Geis: Now, click on where it says Help and select About Windows.
User: It doesn't have help.
Geis: Really. Then I'm not sure what window you're on. Double-click on the icon that says My Computer.
User: It doesn't have help.
Geis: That window should have Help.
User: It doesn't. It only has File, Edit, View, Favorites, Tools . . . . Oh.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Lotus Notes is not designed to be used by multiple users on the same PC. But, in the branches, that's exactly what we are trying to make it do. Location settings need to be changed so that the user can get into their mail. If those changes aren't made, they receive a message "You are not authorized to access that database" as the system tries to take them into the previous user's database.
The Bank created an "Authorize New User" button that appears on the Notes Welcome Page that will automatically change the location settings.
However, over the weekend there was an update that wiped the Authorize New User button off of many workstations. Expecting that since a general update wiped them all out then a general update would restore them, we at the Help Desk spend the early part of the week simply talking the users through a manual resetting of their location settings. We did a lot of them but it's a pretty straightforward procedure to talk users through.
Yesterday, Notes Support came up with a resolution that would require a ticket for each workstation with the issue. Ugh! And then, P** from support said that we weren't supposed to do any troubleshooting, that is, that we weren't supposed to change the location settings manually so that the users could get into the e-mail in the meantime. I thought this was a foolish idea but was told that P** is getting to things quickly.
Well, P** got pounded. She really had no idea what she was in for and the vast majority of those tickets were not resolved by the end of the day. In fact, as of right now, only one of the 56 tickets opened yesterday for this issue has been resolved.
So this morning, users start calling in to find out why their issue had not been resolved. It turns out that the support resolution involved sending the user an e-mail with an application that recreates their Welcome Page with the Authorize New User button.
Did you notice the flaw in the logic? Users who cannot get into their e-mail are being sent an e-mail resolution.
So, when I go up to my Function Desk, which had farmed out the procedure that we weren't supposed to do any troubleshooting, and point this out to them, I get the response ". . . if there was a queue." So, by re-writing history (and I checked all the procedure messages they sent out yesterday) they amended their procedure to not doing changing the user's location settings ONLY if there were people waiting in queue.
This was a lie but it was said in such a manner that they might actually believe that was what they said yesterday.
So, I told my neighbor co-workers, who often turn to me for guidance rather than to the Function Desk, to open tickets and set the location settings manually so that when support sends out the e-mail resolution that the user's can actually receive it and fix their PC.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Two years ago, my team lead N*** left the Help Desk to go to Cincinnati to be the site manager for a new helpdesk. He built the group from scratch and apparently did a very good job.
Well, they wanted him to move out there but he wasn't ready to uproot his family. Nor was he really liking the two hour commute. So, when the project was over, he was looking for something else.
So, he called to see if he could have his old job back. "Oh, no, no, no", they said, "We can't hire you back." That is, until six months later when a few employees here at the Help Desk missed work one time too many and got fired. The Help Desk needed a warm body to fill a seat so N*** got a callback.
He had been a team lead but, in returning, he was going to just be a wage slave analyst like the rest of us. Part time. No benefits.
When I started, N*** trained me. Now, in a surreal turn of fate, I am training him.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
I received a call today from M****, who is one of the deskside technical contractors. (We at the Help Desk are contracted as well, so I don't hold that against him.) He had just completed replacing a hard drive and re-imaging a user's PC and was calling for a Windows password reset.
"Is the user signing into the workstation or into the NT Domain?"
I had to ask the question again and could tell things weren't going to be going well. M***** told me that it was for the domain so I asked him to put the user on so I could do the standard identity verification with the user and reset the password.
Except that the user did not have an account on the domain. It's not unusual but, as it was a workstation password issue on a newly installed PC, it really should have been his responsibility to set up.
Except that he didn't know how to signon as the Administrator. Oh, he knew that you entered an Administrator password but didn't know what was.
"Don't you need to know the Administrator password to re-image the PC?"
Apparently not. It's all handled from the install CD. *sigh* OK. We at the Help Desk have access to the utility that generates the Administrator passwords. Technically, we're not supposed to have it but since we are required to reset user's passwords, we have to have the utility. I have M***** give me the computername, read it back to him and then plug the name into the utility.
The password it gives me doesn't work. It's pretty complex with upper case, lower case, numbers and special characters so I carefully talk him through it again, using the standard phonetics. Still no luck. And again with no luck.
I can tell he's having problems because he's calling from a cell phone and trying to type one handed.
"Did you just mumble 'caps lock'?"
In typing one handed, he couldn't hit the shift key and the character key at the same time to do a capital letter so he was hitting the caps lock key. That's all well and good, but the password contained a percent sign. Putting the caps lock on and hitting the % key actually enters a 5.
He solved that problem by having the user type. But it still wasn't working. After a few more failed attempts he realized that he hadn't selected "Workstation Only" and was thus trying to connect to the NDS tree rather than signing into the workstation.
We fixed that and it still wasn't working. After more frustrating attempts I read the computername to him. He confirms that it is correct. I read it to him phonetically and realize that what he had agreed was correct twice wasn't actually correct. *sigh* So, I feed the correct name into the utility and get another password.
Which doesn't work. And then doesn't work again. Well, this is pretty much the limit. Everything that he could do wrong he did do wrong. He was going to have to contact Network Services. I was surprised that he hadn't locked the Administrator account.
I carefully read off each character of the password phonetically and had him type each one as I read it and. . . .
Now this whole, process took nearly 20 minutes on me reading the password off to him and him typing it in again and again. I want this man's job. I mean, I do this stuff all the time. I'll lean back in my chair with my hands behind my head and eyes closed and talk users who didn't even know that they HAD a workstation password at all through resetting one. And here is this pinhead, making a lot more money than I do, unable to do something so simple as type what I tell him.
So, why don't I have his job? Because I'm contracted, too. And in my Employer's contract with The Bank it says that neither The Bank nor anyone contracted by The Bank can hire me away from my current position. And being a major bank, that means that half the jobs that I might apply for are probably contractors with or clients of The Bank.
Five years I've been here.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
As I was walking from work to where I park my bike, I was approaching a couple walking in the other direction. The male of the pair looked like the kind of guy you remember being on the football team in high school, complete with a chearleader hanging on his arm. As he approached he seemed to be looking at me with an unnatural intensity and I was again reminded of school where such an approach would have often been followed by some verbal abuse at my geekiness.
I was long past looking like a high school geek so I was curious about what facination he had.
Just as he past me, he said, "Yo, man. Where's the rest of your bike?"
As usual, I was walking with my bike gear on (helmet, bike shorts, gloves) with my saddlebag with work clothes and my bike seat and post in the other. It was standard procedure no to leave my $70 bike seat with the bike where it could be stolen and I even thought that the bike being left without a seat might be less of a theft target.
I wasn't disturbed that this guy might not have understood the logic of doing such a thing. After all, he probably hadn't ridden a bicycle since he was in school and certainly didn't commute to work on one. No, what bothered me is that he felt compelled to ask the question of a stranger walking down the street. Was this some low-brow macho thing to impress his girlfriend? "Yo, look at that dork with all that bike stuff and no bike."
You can see it, can't you? It's just like one of those awful movies with the stereotypical jocks and nerds except that this particular nerd has matured by about 20 years and the jock, well. . . is still a blockhead.
I weep for the future of our civilization.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Yesterday, our users started getting e-mails with a subject line of "price". This, of course, was a new virus: Trojan.StartPage.G. But, since I work for a bank, a lot of users could conceivably receive an e-mail for a price on something with an attachment.
If they practiced safe computing and deleted the e-mails that came without human-speak in the body of the message, it wouldn't be a big deal but, like many users, the previous e-mails from Customer Outreach advising them of this technique went unread and people opened them.
One saving grace is that The Bank uses Lotus Notes for their e-mail. In my five years of watching viruses coming through our e-mail program I have never seen one successfully hijack the Notes Address Book. Microsoft Outlook might spread it's legs wide and say "Rape me with your trojans and worms" but, so far, Notes has been resistant.
Of course, we still get an increasing call volume at the Help Desk from users who tried to open the attachment. Their machines are still infected. I have to open a ticket to send to Second Level Support.
About an hour into yesterday's virus festivities, I got a call from K** in Notes Support. She was letting us know there was a problem. "Of course we know. We're the first to find out when users do things they shouldn't." She speculated that the virus was hijacking the user's personal address book and I said that I doubted it. She looked at the header information for a number of e-mails and they all said VWALL, which meant it was all coming from outside. Customer Outreach was being informed and they would be sending an e-mail out to all users warning them not to open the previous infected e-mail. Of course, this was going to be a futile exercise because by the time the user reads the message saying "Don't pen the previous 'price' e-mail", they have already opened said e-mail and infected their PC.
But this was occurring near the end of the day so not only was it time for me to go home but most of the user's had gone home as well. The real joy was going to be Tuesday morning.
There was a queue as soon as I logged into the phone with all the expected virus issues. Again, because Notes wasn't propagating this virus, it wasn't as bad as it could have been but, as with all our previous virus days, we started running into an additional problem: definitions.
The Bank has its system set up to automatically update the user's virus definitions when they become available. User's don't even have to go through the server's login script.
At least, that's how it's supposed to work.
As with every virus outbreak we've had, troubleshooting reveals that a number of PCs do not get their definitions updated as they should. So far today I have opened over a dozen tickets for user's who not only opened the e-mail and infected their machine but their definitions hadn't been updating as they should. Some for as long as a year and a half (when their machines were installed). Technical Services has a website that users can access to download the latest definitions and update them manually but "page cannot be displayed" message were accompanying that attempt.
Open a ticket for Second Level support to go on site and not only update the definitions, disinfect the machine but also find out why the PC hadn't been getting the latest definitions in over a year.
It's a good thing Notes is as resistant as it is.
As of noon I have taken 42 calls, which is about the number I get on a normal day. 3.5 hours to go.
Oh, and another thing. . . .
Most of this is somewhat "normal". What one would expect with a virus issue. What I didn't like to deal with was receiving a message from the Help Desk Managers saying: "Try to refrain from using 'virus' in the tickets." So, what's really going on is an effort to skew the documentation of the events away from it being an actual virus issue. As if not using the word "virus" will make it not a virus issue.
"Also, if anyone asks for any information about what is being done or how wide spread the issue is, politely explain to them that support is working on theissue and will probably provide an update at a later time."
So, here Management is specifically telling us to obsfucate and dodge the user's direct questions. To essentially lie.
Sorry, guys. I'm not going to lie to these people. When they have been waiting on hold for 15 minutes and CNN is reporting a widespread virus issue, most user's are smart enough to put two and two together.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Through a special arrangement, Avtech Direct is offering a limited
I've been receiving this sort of crap on one of my accounts for quite some time. I have attempted to use Mailwasher to bounce it in the hopes that a MAIL UNDELIVERABLE message would prompt them to remove my e-mail address from their list. Since that didn't work, I felt that I had nothing to loose by using the link at the bottom of their email that purported to unsubscribe me. That, of course, didn't work either.
allotment of BRAND NEW, top of-the-line, name-brand desktop computers
at more than 50% off MSRP to all Staff Members who respond to this
message before 5 P.M., Tuesday, August 3, 2004.
Two weeks ago, I decided that since they had so thoughtfully provided me with a toll-free number (800-884-9510) I could call them to have them not only remove my name from the list, but make them pay the phone bill.
I asked for the Director of Marketing and was shunted to a line that never answered. Eventually I was disconnected and called back, this time asking to speak with someone in Customer Service. The person there tried to re-direct my call back to the person whose responsibility it was to take care of these things. Again, the phone never answered. I wasn't disconnected as before and the person in Customer Service took my e-mail address and assured me that it would be removed from the list.
However, that was and untruth because this Monday I not only received another unsolicited e-mail from Avtech Direct at the account that I had been receiving it, but I also received a duplicate message at an e-mail address that had never received e-mail from them before.
So, I called again. Again, the receptionist directed me to a number that never answered. I got back on with him and he said the Director of Marketing was in a meeting. (If he knew he was in a meeting, why did he direct my call to a phone that he knew wouldn't be answered?) I was unwilling to leave my e-mail address again because that only succeeded in getting me more trash.
Tuesday, I forgot to take the phone number with me to work and so when I got home I called.
The re-direct to the Director of Marketing never answered and again I didn't want to leave my e-mail address. The receptionist directed me to another mystery number when disconnected me.
I called back, this time asking to be connected with someone in Customer Service. Maureen in Customer Service wanted to take my e-mail address but I told here that it had been done before but I was still receiving unsolicited email and I wanted to speak with someone who could actually solve my problem.
Maureen said she couldn't do that and, with panic starting to rise in her voice, said "Do you want me to loose my job." Loose her job?
"Your job is not my concern. Could I speak with your supervisor, please."
"I don't have a supervisor."
"You are working completely unsuper. . . . "
So I called back and asked to speak with someone on the Executive Staff. The receptionist obsfucated saying that he could not connect me unless I give him a name.
"Is this the person who called earlier?"
"If you mean the person that has been hung up on three times already. . . "
"Maureen left the room crying because of you."
"Who am I speaking with right now?"
"Just one moment," and the receptionist put me on hold. When he returned, he refused to give me his name.
"What is your supervisors name?"
I called up again.
"Avtech Direct, how may I direct your call."
"Yes, I'd like to. . . "
All right. I've been this route before. I had one company in Atlanta that didn't even answer their phones for an hour because I kept calling back, simply trying to talk to a human being with the power to remove my name from their mailing list.
Of course, this was all just a waste of time. A search of the web makes it pretty clear that Avtech Direct has a long history of scamming customers. I'm sure their staff are experienced in giving people the run-around. The receptionist seemed particularly skilled.
Look at http://www.badbusinessbureau.com/reports/ripoff90565.htm
Am I sorry I made Maureen cry? Hell, no. She works in customer service and I've been in that boat. The first thing you do when someone asks to speak to your supervisor is give them to your supervisor. The claim that you don't have a supervisor is a sloppy attempt to avoid dealing with someone.
I am cursed with an overdeveloped sense of justice and feel that criminals like Avtech Direct should be made to pay for their crimes. Unfortunately, even the Federal Trade Commission seems unable to exact the proper punishment on these people. And while I would like to have the skies wrench open and pour a plague of demons upon Avtech's California offices, I would call it even if they would just stop sending me SPAM.