Thursday, February 26, 2009

Citigroup is Pathetic

Citicorp Blows ChunksWhere to begin?  Let’s start with Citi taking over SearsCard.    My wife and I have held a Sears card since 1989 (our first “real” credit card together.)  As a young couple we had the usual ups-and-downs, but did a reasonable job of being responsible with the account, as is evidenced by our eventual upgrade to “Gold” status and a credit line increase to ten-fold the original amount.  Not a huge credit line, but the fact that it grew organically over the years was noteworthy – we never requested an increase.  When the service was offered I signed up for online payments and electronic billing notices.  We continued to tread lightly with the account, only hitting snags when extended travel caused things to get off-kilter from time to time.
Then Citigroup hit the scene.
First, the online notices disappeared (no one has ever been able to tell me why, but they did, and of course this came back to bite me – I need reminders to get bills paid and if you don’t send me one I’m not going to sit there and wonder about it.)  After things got in arrears they called and asked me why I was late – then the Citi rep and I discovered that the email notifications for my account were somehow turned off.  No problem, we got things sorted out and back on track.
Fast forward a few months.  After sailing along smoothly for some time I notice that one of my online payments was “returned” – so I made a payment in the store.  Then another online payment was “returned” so I called the fine folks at Citigroup and spent nearly 2 hours on the phone with them.  They tell me that ANOTHER payment, made months previous, had been “returned” – which flagged the account as “Bad” and led to the eventual closure (all without notification to me.)  When asked how the payments were “returned” they had no answer.  There was lots of finger pointing at me, my bank, data input errors (on my part, of course!) and just about anything other than a Citigroup error.  They went on to explain that they had different online payment systems, depending upon if your account was “Good” or “Bad” and that I had incorrect information in my “Bad” account screen (even though I didn’t even know it existed, apparently I was logging in to it to make payments that weren’t being accepted.)
They tried to tell me my recent payment was processed over the phone by their collections department (it wasn’t – I’ll take a polygraph and wager any amount of money on that fact!) as was the previous “returned” payment (it wasn’t, either.)
I’ve seen stories about credit card companies tossing payments in the garbage to run up fees – it’s obvious to me that I’m the victim of an electronic version of the same scam.  If this is how Citigroup treats someone who has held an account for just short of 20 years then I sincerely hope they crumble from the weight of their collective egos if not from the consequences of the current financial crisis.
After spending 2 hours on the phone with no less than six of their employees (usually two at a time, with someone running off to check with their manager) it is no shock to me that they are loosing money like crazy.  It’s not bad debt that’s killing them, it’s bad management and abusive policy towards their customers.
Suffice it to say I now place Citigroup on the same pedestal as AT&T/Cingular for abusive customer service policies and wish a plague of locusts upon them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wine Update

I’ve had several excellent wines in the past few weeks but haven’t had time to write about any of them.  Here are the highlights;
  • Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir
  • Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet
  • Rubicon Estate Rutherford Cabernet
  • Don Maximiano Errazuriz Founder’s Reserve Cabernet
  • Caymus Special Selection Cabernet
  • Estancia Pinot Noir – Monterrey

These wines run the gambit from $11 per bottle to well over $100 per bottle, but they are all delightful drinkers.  I’ve been told that Sequoia Grove Rutherford Bench Reserve Cabernet is drinking as good as the Caymus Special Selection at a fraction of the price and I’m working on tracking down a bottle to try.  If it’s as good as I’ve heard I’ll pick up a couple more bottles to have around.  You’ll notice a dearth of whites in the above list – I just haven’t found any recently that flip my trigger.  I dearly love an elegant bottle for under $15, the kind of wine you can enjoy with good pizza or a well-made hamburger, then I keep a selection of $20-$50 bottles in the cooler for really nice meals and holidays.  For special occasions there are a few bottles in the over $75 range, but there aren’t many of those and I like to have them with a meal that deserves such a bottle.  Wines and teas are a passion; they provide many of the same experiences, benefits and both offer an almost endless number of variations to investigate.

Dog Food

imgproplangivelogo.gifSo I’ve been feeding my critters Purina Pro Plan Chicken & Rice for many years and things have been well and good.
Until a couple months ago.
I went to pick up a bag of food (down to 37.5 lbs from 40 lbs over the years) and discovered that all they had was this stuff called “Pro Plan Chicken & Rice Shredded Blend” (now 35 lbs and a couple dollars more expensive than the 37.5 lb bag I last purchased!)  So I grabbed a bag of Beef & Rice to feed the dogs while I weighed my options.
I sent a note to Purina outlining my concerns and got this response.  While it is a nice and proper response it is heavy on marketing-speak;
Thank you for contacting Nestlé Purina PetCare Company.
We appreciate you contacting us, and expressing your feelings regarding the 35 pound bags of Purina(r) Pro Plan(r) brand Dog Food – Shredded Blend.  Please know that they are important to us.  We would like to assure you that your comments will be noted, and reported to the appropriate individuals in our Company.  We feel certain that careful consideration will be given to them and any others we might receive.Please know that the bag sizes have changed to accommodate the lighter density of the product.  The new shredded kibble in Purina(r) Pro Plan(r) brand Dog Food – Shredded Blend is a lighter/less dense kibble, which makes the whole formula less dense.  Because it is less dense, it would take less food, by weight, to fill the same size bag.Many food companies, including pet food manufacturers, have experienced significant increases in recent months in commodity and ingredient costs.   These companies are often faced with the choice of raising prices or reducing the net weight of selected items.  Purina is taking this action to remain competitively priced and to continue to offer value to the consumer.Purina(r) Pro Plan(r) brand Dog Food – Shredded Blend formulas still help reduce accumulation of plaque and tartar for overall dental health.  Calcium, phosphorus and other minerals help support strong teeth and bones.  The formulation is approximately 85% regular kibble and 15% shredded kibble.For over 75 years, the scientists and nutritionists at Purina have been working to develop the best pet foods possible.  Even though we have been studying dogs and cats for a long time, we learn something new nearly every day.  Changes are part of an ongoing process of continuous improvement to provide better products to our consumers.Because we value you as a loyal consumer, we are mailing a complimentary coupon along with some discount coupons to use towards your next purchase of any NestlĂ© Purina PetCare product.  Please allow 7-10 business days for delivery.Again, thank you for contacting us.
Now, this morning here is what I sent to them:
I’m now on the last half of my third bag of free/discounted shredded blend and offer the
following commentary;
All four dogs (Lab, Sheltie, Cavalier and Pembroke Corgi) are losing weight on the same ration.  They were all maintaining (or in the corgi’s case, as he is younger – gaining a bit - on the old Pro Plan formula. As they had been on Pro Plan for several years without noticeable change this leads me to the logical conclusion that the shredded formula lacks the nutritional density of the old Pro Plan formulation.
The corgi used to scarf down his food, now he picks at it
Both the corgi and the sheltie have now begun regurgitating on a reasonably regular basis 30-45 minutes after a meal
I appreciate your gesture of customer service but it is obvious to me that I have no choice but to switch to another dog food for the health of my animals.  Don’t feel bad. Remember “New Coke?” - it didn’t work out, either.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Favorite Gift

As anyone in my family will tell you, if I ever find the person responsible for packinging things in those awful plastic blister packs I’m likely to become homicidal.  At the very least I’ll certainly smack them around (anyone that sadistic is certainly in need of punishment.)  One of the best presents I received this past Christmas cured all of my package opening woes (the kids have come to call it “Dad’s favorite plastic” over the years after hearing my less-than-kind words as I struggled with the various packaging combinations that these sick people have come up with)  Everyone needs a set of these:

They are offset, so you can cut the edge of the packaging without cutting your hands, and you don’t have to worry about injuring yourself hacking through the plastic with a pocketknife. If I find the person who invented these little jewels I’ll shake their hand and buy them a beverage.