Category Archives: travel

Topsail Beach 2014

Morgan and I were able to go out on Friday night about sunset to try to get a few images.



A Tale of Two Customer Service Stories

I have just recently returned from a trip to New Orleans at Microsoft TechEd.  It was a great trip and a lot of information to be learned (and food to eat, and places to see)!  There was a lot of walking to do while there and a lot of swag to gather as well.  I’m really glad I took along a second bag for the return trip.  It came in quite handy.

While staying in New Orleans, my hotel was booked through the TechEd registration process at the Hampton Inn Downtown (Carondelet Street).  This was a nice hotel.  They were doing some renovations in the hotel, but that work didn’t seem to affect where I was staying.

As you may know, Hampton Inn is known for providing breakfast for guests.  While the breakfast is not five-star, it is a decent breakfast, and usually good enough to keep things going until lunch.  However, on Tuesday morning, I arrived at the breakfast room to find scrambled eggs.  On first look, they seemed a little questionable, but I tried them anyway.  The best way I can describe them is “little savory yellow marshmallows.”  This was not a great start.  I left to head to the conference center.

While on the way, I decided to tweet my thoughts about breakfast:

“Breakfast at Hampton Inn was a bit lackluster. Scrambled eggs looked and tasted like little savory yellow marshmallows. On to backup plan!”

It was just an off-hand comment.  About 10 minutes later, I received notification that Hampton Inn Corporate (@Hampton) started following me and then sent me a tweet asking if they could help.  For those not familiar with Twitter, you have to follow someone in order for them to send a direct (private) message.  I sent a direct message with my confirmation number and location.  A couple of hours later, I received a phone call from the manager of the hotel where I was staying.  He asked that I stop by to see him when I returned to the hotel later in the day.

I finally arrived back at the hotel and asked to see the manager.  He apologized for the quality of the breakfast and then removed one night’s charge from my bill.  I was not looking for this type of reaction, but he said that Hampton Inn takes comments such as these very seriously.  Needless to say, I was quite pleased with their ability to find, listen, and respond to my comment in such a positive way.  It is good to see that customer service is very much alive and well.

Unfortunately, there are also cases where customer service is not so great.  This time it is with the behemoth Time Warner Cable.  I had been a customer of TWC for many years, until last year when my local phone company started laying in fiber to the home.  I was quite excited about that since I am a geek and enjoy having my Internet service.

So back in August/September 2012, I decided to make the move to all fiber connection and leave TWC.  I went to the local office to pay my “final” bill and turn in all the equipment.  What I didn’t know is that it was not actually my “final” bill.  After asking at the desk if that completed my account, I was told it did.  Having not received any further communication from TWC that there was any outstanding balance on my account, life was good…until…two weeks ago.

I received a letter from an obscure (to me) collections agency requiring payment of $31.79 on behalf of TWC.  I called TWC to inquire about this charge and why I am hearing about it 10 months later from a collection agency.  I was, of course, told that they sent multiple statements, however, I find it hard to believe that I can get their promotional mailings wanting me to “return to TWC as a valued customer,” but yet the bills don’t seem to make it.  I guess when the NSA was sniffing for data, they forgot to put these bills back in the stream to get to me.

I have since paid the bill directly with TWC to resolve the account.  However, they still cannot tell me why, as they say, “multiple statements were sent,” but I did not receive them. When I was a customer, if my bill was even a day late, they had no trouble reaching out to call and let me know that it was overdue or simply turning off my cable box remotely.  While they can’t turn off the box since I no longer have it, they certainly seem to have working phone numbers since I was able to call them to inquire about this elusive bill.

Now, I know that this is not an uncommon story about large corporate structure and their inability to take small steps to help out when necessary.  However, I do believe that this could have been handled much better, especially since I had been such a long-time customer and they say they wish to have a “valued” customer return.  My only thoughts are that when TWC says “Thank you for choosing Time Warner Cable” on the phone, those are just words that the associates are trained to say.  They don’t have any appreciation for past, present or future customers. So keep that in mind if you are dealing with them.

So thanks for listening to my rant.  As you can see there are two very different corporate cultures on what customer service should be and which company actually values the business of its customers.

Ostrow Tumski – Cathedral Island, Wroclaw

On Wednesday evening after supper, I was able to walk with several of my colleagues through Cathedral Island where several of the first churches to be built in Wroclaw still stand.  The oldest of these churches date back to the 12th century.  It was amazing to stand next to and see the detailed architecture from such a long time ago.  The island sits between two branches of the Oder river in the oldest part of Wroclaw.

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Unfortunately, on this trip, I was not able to tour the inside of these churches, but hopefully I will get that chance sometime in the future.  I will highlight a couple of these churches on a different blog entry in the coming days.

St. Elizabeth’s Church – Wroclaw

IMG_1464Just across the street from the hotel I have been staying in is one of the oldest churches and tallest buildings in the Old Town area of Wroclaw.  The original church structure dates back to the 12th century.  However a lot of the church was destroyed by hail in 1529 and then suffered severe damage during WWII.  Most of what you see now in the architecture dates back to the 14-15th centuries.  A mysterious fire also caused damage to the church in 1979.
Continue reading St. Elizabeth’s Church – Wroclaw

A Unique Experience in Wroclaw

Last night, I was able to join with a couple of my colleagues on an excursion that I never would have expected to go on.  It seems that he is very much into hunting and is part of a hunting club called “Koło Łowieckie DANIEL Środa Śląska” [Hunting Club FALLOW-DEER Środa Śląska] that exists in Środa Śląska, a city not too far from Wroclaw.  So five of us, my US colleague Dave, my Poland colleague Bartlomiej, Bartlomiej’s Dad, his Dad’s friend, and myself, piled into a small SUV and headed out into the evening to find some game. Continue reading A Unique Experience in Wroclaw

A Brief Tour of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Wroclaw

On Sunday, after a brief recharge nap, I was able to explore a bit of Old Town Wroclaw. One of the sights to see is the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. It is a gothic church located near the central market square. The church was built in stages starting in 1330. There are two towers on the front of the church which were originally the home of two needle-shaped cupolas in 1481. There is also a bridge connecting the two towers called, “The Witch’s Bridge.” According to legend, the shadows seen on the bridge are the souls of girls who seduced men without wanting to be married because they were afraid of housekeeping.

Here is a view of the organ pipes that appear in the rear of the church above the entryway.

In this view, you can see down the side corridor of the church. On the right, you can see alcoves in the wall where memorials and some tombs for former church officials are located.

A First Trip to Poland

A flight to Europe can be quite tiring! My day began on Saturday with a bunch of things to get done. I had to leave shortly after lunch to drive to Charlotte for my flight to Wroclaw (pronounced “vrods-wahv”), Poland through Munich, Germany. The first leg of the trip, which left Charlotte late afternoon, was the longest…8 1/2 hours! That is the longest plane trip I have ever taken, though I am sure there are much longer trips to be had.

Continue reading A First Trip to Poland

Preparing for a business trip

Soon, I will be taking my first overseas business trip.  I am excited about it but also a little nervous…I have never been this far away from my family.

When we took our vacation earlier this year to Disney World, I had many questions from my three-year-old about the who, what where, why, and WHEN.  I decided it might be a good thing to make a little calendar for her to track when we would be leaving.  She loves stickers, and every day she was excited to put a new sticker marking off one more day before we left. 

As I get closer to my business trip, I thought she would have fun doing the same.  Not only to track before I leave but also the days I am gone so she knows when I will come back.  I do plan to keep in touch with the girls through video cameras on the computer at home, which I hope will alleviate any anxiety (on both sides of the Atlantic). 

I am looking forward to the trip and also hopefully teaching her about time and calendars in the process.  I will, of course, be posting about my trip as I am looking forward to sharing my experiences in Poland.