Monday, November 01, 2010

What Good is a Glass Promise

I've recently been disenchanted with the miscellaneous claims of service being offered by a lot of businesses. In particular, drugstores and banks.

I tried to get a flu shot last month. It's a good thing to do, the cost is reasonable (although higher than it should be) and virtually every pharmacy and grocery store (with pharmacies) were advertising how easy t was to come in and get one.

It took me two hours

And it took visits to 5 pharmacies. In our neighborhood there are over a dozen top name pharmacies within a 5 minute drive. This includes Tom Thumb and Target.

Everyone had signs saying "no waiting", "get it when you want it", etc, etc indicating they were willing to immediately gratify my impulse to get protected from the flu. They are all offering the 3-antigen vaccine this year, and the prices ranged from 25 to 35 dollars. In Ireland they were free.

But, in reality I got responses (at 2pm on a Tuesday) like:
  • "Our pharmacist who gives them won't be in until after 6"
  • "Come back tomorrow, he's gone home already"
  • "Come back in an hour, we have to treat it like a prescription"
  • "We're not doing them today"

One place would have had me sit at their mini-clinic which is run like a doctor's office...there were 4 people in front of me with real complaints. That is OK, but not what the advertisement out front indicated.

Ultimately, I found a CVS where the pharmacist who gives them was on his first day and then even he discovered that the store was not quite ready to respond quickly...the injection supplies, such as gloves, swabs, alcohol, etc. were not in a central place for the delivery of shots. He , however, scoured the shelves in the store, gathered things together and managed to deliver the goods (left a hell of a bruise though).

I still had to wait 50 minutes in that pharmacy to receive the shot but 2/3 of that time was spent with the pharmacist trying to get my insurance to cover it. But since I had not begged permission from them first, and the pharmacist who is licensed to administer the shot without a doctor's order was not himself a doctor, the insurance declined it.

This was not totally unexpected since I assumed my insurance would not cover preventive just took up even more time.

I presume that the difference between the ads and the actal implementation, like the difference between a fast food ad photo and the delivered product, can be put down to marketing. But if a pharmacy is going to advertise the availability of a product or service on an ad hoc, walk in basis, they should be prepared to deliver. The notion of a sort of circuit or roving pharmacist moving from Walgreen's to Walgreen's or from CVS to CVS and being the only one capable of delivering the shot, seems outdated and bizarre.

Now on another note:
Today, I called a bank to verify that a check drawn on one of their accounts is good. I am told that they no longer verify funds. I must confess, I have not accepted a check for a purchase in a long time and so this may have been a service dropped years ago as banks ceased wanting to do business with we the people). They verified the account was open and active, but it is essentially a banking crap shoot as to whether you will incur a fee for depositing a bad check. I was offered the opportunity to drive 45 miles and present it in person to discover whether it is good or not.

Merchants, banks, governments, and service providers of all sorts need to remember that they are not our masters, we are their customers. Advertising a service as being available should mean it is really available...if not enough people take them up on it to make it viable to make it available all the time, then the sign should say, 'by appointment' not ''get it anytime'.

And the people who handle our money need to remember that it is actually OUR money and they are being entrusted with it...they are not granting us the boon of having them take our money...they are not our masters, they are our servers.

just a rant

PS the flu shot worked. Linda and I went to the state fair the following Saturday. By Monday she had the flu...I did not. Yes, Ikeep urging her to go get one.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Home Again -- A New Begining

Well, after 4 years and some fascinating experiences, we have returned from Ireland to the US. we have, in fact, returned to our Dallas home.

DERI was fun, but funding was drying up (as could be expected in this economy) and I have been bitten by the entrepreneurial big again.

So, rather than do things halfway, I have started three new companies instead of just one.

SemantiStar, Inc. here in the US is a software product company focusing on knowledge sharing solutions for Enterprise. it is commercializing the eLearning platform we developed a few years ago at DERI, but targeting the emerging Mobile Knowledge Sharing market. We are porting the ideas from Pergamon to the enterprise and including mobile platforms such as the iPad from the outset.

SemantiFace, Ltd is an Irish company I have formed with one of my DERI colleagues, Mark Leyden, to develop visualization interface technology for semantic networks, social graphs, and other complex data visualization efforts.

NKA-Decker, Ltd is an Irish consulting company I have formed with my former director at DERI, Stefan Decker, to provide semantic technology consulting, training, and design.

Nothing like a fresh start!!

Life back in the US is good, but very hot now in TX...about 104 F today (40 C) ... but the sky is crystal clear and that blinding blue we have here in north Texas. Our house has survived 6 years of intermittent occupancy although we have no front lawn to speak of ... working to correct that.

Moving was a trick. It is amazing how much STUFF you can accumulate in 4 years in a small apartment. At least THIS time, I was present and Linda did not have to do it all.

All else is well and we look forward to getting things going and getting business off the ground.

I've been acquiring Apple equipment for development including several iPads. The iPad is a great device...not perfect, but excellent for its first release. However, mine went south this morning when the volume and rotate switches apparently developed a short, bug, or something which renders them useless while leaving the volume control image on the screen.

Apple has given me a 6.30 slot for the GENIUS BAR to examine it...not sure why they can't just replace it...there is absolutely nothing to be done about physical switch issues, I suspect.

The issue I have (aside from a 6 week old device developing a problem) is that it is just as we loaded our first app onto iPads. Also, Apple, who have been most professional to date, seemed more interested in sort of disclaiming the problem ("I can't recall ANY iPad coming back for a problem") than in just getting it fixed and letting me get on with my work.

Well, I must go talk to the bank now and to the post office...trying to get forwarded mail turned back to the original address is a real challenge sometimes.