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    Thursday
    Jul102014

    Dear AT&T

    For Christmas in 1997 my grandmother gave twenty-two year old me a gift: a Nokia mobile phone with a battery the size (and weight) of a brick and offered to pay the bill for one year. After that it would be on me to cancel it or keep it and pay it myself.

    Needless to say, twenty-two year old me was excited. I was entering the rarified 90s air of having a cell phone.

    Also probably because my younger self had no idea of what was in store for my cellular service under AT&T in the coming decade and a half.

    In December of 1998 I took over the phone contract, which was running about sixty bucks a month at the time (HA!!) A year later I upgraded to an Ericsson flip phone because I thought it was cool to have a flip phone. Snapping it shut after a call was cool and dramatic.

    Over the next few years I changed phones every couple of years and never really had anything you could call a major issue. I made calls, I received calls, I paid the bill. At one point I wound up with a Nokia phone that my then-girlfriend thought looked like a vibrator, which meant replacing the phone. Not for the reason you think, you pervert.

    Occasionally I’d hear about better contracts being offered by other carriers, but the process of porting a mobile number back then was a lot more complicated and took a couple of days and involved both carriers working out the details while sacrificing a chicken to the sun god Ra on the third Wednesday of the month during lunch. It was too painful to deal with and I’d gotten used to my number and didn’t want to change it. So for better or worse, I stuck it out with AT&T.

    I stuck with AT&T through the SBC/BellSouth/Cingular re-branding from 2004-2007. I stuck with them when I was told my account information wouldn’t change when my account was moved to Cingular only to have my service stopped for non-payment because the money I had been paying on my AT&T account sat unapplied to my now deactivated AT&T account while my new account with Cingular showed no payments being made. I stuck with them as it took three people to figure out how to migrate the payments I’d made to my AT&T account that was deactivated to the new account with Cingular.

    I stuck with AT&T in spite of the mishap in which I purchased an international calling plan in 2005 when I took my girlfriend to Venice to propose and let her use my phone to call friends and family to share the news only to discover on my return that somehow the plan hadn’t been set up correctly and Cingular wanted more than $600 in roaming charges.

    I stuck with AT&T after correctly setting up an international plan for a trip to Ireland went haywire when I was unable to make calls at all because the phone I was using was not quad band, in spite of being told explicitly before I left that my phone was quad band. But hey, no roaming charges!

    I stuck with AT&T because I wanted an iPhone in 2006 and they were the only carrier who had the deal with Apple.

    I stuck with AT&T because I’m a bonehead and even as smartphones suddenly became the rage and it became painfully obvious the carrier wasn’t prepared for an increase in data usage I figured they’d eventually sort it all out.

    I stuck with AT&T for years in spite of working in an area of midtown Manhattan that had absolutely no coverage at all. After numerous phone calls and emails with the office of the president of AT&T I finally got a ‘communications technician’ to visit said office and was told the nearest AT&T towers were located four blocks away and the service was being interfered with by elevator shafts and other buildings. When this was relayed to the office of the president I was told this was actually a lie and no further investigations would be performed and I was essentially out of luck.

    I stuck with AT&T when I couldn’t get service in my second floor apartment in Brooklyn except in the bathroom and not one person I spoke with could provide an explanation except to blame the building’s construction materials, in spite of the fact that my neighbor’s Verizon phone worked just fine.

    I stuck with AT&T even after I learned that my grandfathered-in ‘unlimited’ data plan was actually capped at 4GB, and anything over that was throttled. When I questioned this with customer service I was told “well yeah, it’s unlimited, but we have to cap it SOMEWHERE.” So grandfathered unlimited = 4GB limit.

    I stuck with AT&T in spite of ever-increasing shoddy reception in lower Manhattan, which has, for the last three months, required putting the phone into and out of airplane mode every hour in order to reconnect to a tower for service. This is not phone specific, by the way. I’ve tried it with two different phones and yeah, it’s the service, stupid.

    In short, I’ve stuck with AT&T for seventeen years, paying an ever-increasing amount of money for an ever-decreasing amount of service and an ever increasing amount of “I don’t care what your problem is” attitude from customer service.

    Last month I missed paying the bill on time. Okay. Shit happens. I discovered this after making a phone call and having it drop because the service had been disconnected. Upon realizing I’d forgotten to make payment, I logged on to AT&T’s site to pay the bill immediately. Within three minutes of paying the bill the service was restored on my phone.

    AT&T tacked on a $45 fee for ‘system related costs based on our process for reactivating your service’. Earlier today, before paying the bill, I called customer service and asked if this was a manual process or something that was automated, since it didn’t seem likely someone was sitting at a computer monitoring payments of accounts and immediately reactivating the lines. I got no clear answer to this. I pointed out my years of customer loyalty and asked for the fee to be waived as a courtesy.

    Nope. That’s how we do business, I was told.

    I pointed out that my contract had expired and this was going to be the tipping point that would send me elsewhere.

    We hope you reconsider, I was told.

    I took to twitter, thinking maybe they’d relent.

    I got the exact same response. Sorry if you don’t like it, but reconsider signing up for another two years of horrible service as we increase your rates.

    So. After seventeen years, AT&T has decided that the $200+ I spend a month is less valuable than the $45 fee they refuse to waive. I get that in the grand scheme of things I’m not even a cog in their system, but you’d expect a little more for a long-time customer.

    Or maybe not. This is AT&T after all, and they’re notorious for not giving a shit about their customers. Just ask Randall Stephenson. No really, ask him. Here’s his email address. rs2982@att.com or randall.stephenson@att.com

    Verizon here I come. Or maybe T-Mobile. Either way, goodbye AT&T. It’s not me. It’s you. It is most definitely you.


    Tuesday
    Feb042014

    The new thing....

    See this big ugly spider-looking thing here?

    This is Scott Cohn's work. He is, as you can see, a pretty decent artist in his own right.

    I can announce as of today that I'm joining him on Paradyme 1.0. Him artist, me writer. Release details will follow once they're figured out. In the meantime, break out a can of Raid.

    Wednesday
    Oct302013

    Wasting away again in Baccardiville

    I posted this last week at the start of the Austin Film Festival. 

    I spent all of Saturday and parts of Sunday drinking a bottle and a half of Baccardi. That sounds worse than it is. I don't need a meeting. I swear.

    I am

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week.

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week for the 20th Austin Film Festival.

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week for the 20th Austin Film Festival because I am home in Brooklyn.

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week for the 20th Austin Film Festival because I am home in Brooklyn with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a partially torn meniscus, a partially torn medial collateral ligament, and a fracture in my tibia.

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week for the 20th Austin Film Festival because I am home in Brooklyn with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a partially torn meniscus, a partially torn medial collateral ligament, and a fracture in my tibia which I sustained while jumping from a train.

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week for the 20th Austin Film Festival because I am home in Brooklyn with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a partially torn meniscus, a partially torn medial collateral ligament, and a fracture in my tibia which I sustained while jumping from a train that was leaving the Attnang Puccheim station in Austria.

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week for the 20th Austin Film Festival because I am home in Brooklyn with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a partially torn meniscus, a partially torn medial collateral ligament, and a fracture in my tibia which I sustained while jumping from a train that was leaving the Attnang Puccheim station in Austria four weeks ago.

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week for the 20th Austin Film Festival because I am home in Brooklyn with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a partially torn meniscus, a partially torn medial collateral ligament, and a fracture in my tibia which I sustained while jumping from a train that was leaving the Attnang Puccheim station in Austria four weeks ago because after getting back on the train to recover a forgotten jacket, said train started to leave the station.

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week for the 20th Austin Film Festival because I am home in Brooklyn with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a partially torn meniscus, a partially torn medial collateral ligament, and a fracture in my tibia which I sustained while jumping from a train that was leaving the Attnang Puccheim station in Austria four weeks ago because after getting back on the train to recover a forgotten jacket, said train started to leave the station and I was not carrying my passport or Eurail pass at that moment.

    I am not in Austin, Texas this week for the 20th Austin Film Festival because I am home in Brooklyn with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a partially torn meniscus, a partially torn medial collateral ligament, and a fracture in my tibia which I sustained while jumping from a train that was leaving the Attnang Puccheim station in Austria four weeks ago because after getting back on the train to recover a forgotten jacket, said train started to leave the station and I was not carrying my passport or Eurail pass at that moment and the next station stop was roughly eighty miles away.

    So….in conclusion…I am not in Austin for the film festival this week because I tried to be Colt Seavers and ended up as Elijah Price.

    Wednesday
    Oct302013

    I just can't quit you

    I've been more active on twitter and tumblr than I have here of late. I was debating just moving over there and closing this site down....but there's no way I'm letting the Who Watches the Weichmen blog (and Graig's subsequent mental breakdown in the comments) die.

    In other words: this site ain't goin' nowhere.

    Monday
    Sep162013

    Joe vs. the Landlord….or “How to beat your landlord in court for fifty bucks”

    This is quite possibly going to be the second most ridiculous thing I’ve ever posted.

    (The first being last year’s expose on the clown that is Graig F. Weich and the resulting stupidity that followed from his multiple personality disorder defense of himself, including a pseudo-threat sent from a masked computer after I’d exposed his IP posting scam…but that’s another story)

    Strap in, everybody. This is going to be long, but worth it...I hope.

    The management company that handles my apartment complex is comically incompetent. We’re talking people on life support because there’s no brain activity levels of stupid. People who are unqualified to flip burgers at Wendy's. That bad.

    By way of example: after moving in here five years ago, we were given a rent credit because of a previously successful lawsuit against the company over the lack of the promised guard at the security desk which was supposed to be manned 24/7. Cut to New Year’s Eve when a city marshal showed up claiming we were being evicted for non-payment of rent. After going to court and providing both the company’s invoices and copies of the cashed checks their lawyer, with much egg on his face, informed me the complaint was withdrawn and all was well.

    So. Last October there was a massive leak in the kitchen of my apartment. The story I was told by the guy upstairs was that he’d had a water pipe replaced and the contractor used a plastic fastener instead of a metal one. Pipe bursts, floods my kitchen and soaks everything. By the time the water was turned off there was two inches of nature's soda on the floor and every cabinet was saturated.

    The next day my silverware drawer fell apart in my hand. Literally. Like I pulled it out and the whole thing broke apart like the Bluesmobile at the end of The Blues Brothers. The manager for the property and the super both showed up after a very angry call from me, inspected the damage and assured me it would be handled within a week.

    Three weeks later, the super had successfully dodged three phone calls asking for a status. I called the manager and was told he wasn’t a point of contact and to deal with the super. When I told him the super wasn’t answering his phone, he told me to keep calling the super and not to bother him with this again. Okay.

    Over the next four months the super ignored my calls. He was never in his office. In the meanwhile, the hinges for my cabinets rusted. The doors sagged and bulged, having been thoroughly soaked and warped. They stopped closing. Shelves started to buckle and crack. I ran into him right before Easter and he told me we would be getting new cabinets. He’d come up and measure and get things moving. Then he disappeared again.

    At a tenant meeting in late April I brought this up to the tenant lawyer, who gave me the name of a higher up to escalate this issue to.

    “And if that doesn’t do anything you’ll file an HP action. A judge will review the case and if he decides they need to be replaced he’ll order the building to do it and probably force a rent reduction until they comply.”

    Okay.

    So in May I sent a letter asking for help before I made this a legal issue.

    A month later the super shows up and measures for the new cabinets, telling me they’d be ready “in July.”

    At the same time, the contact info in the lobby changed, removing the super’s phone number and replacing it with an email address.

    In July I decided to email the account asking for an update. No response.

    I sent another a day later. No response.

    I sent a third. That begat a voicemail in something approximating English telling me the cabinets would be ready “in a couple of weeks.”

    Cue August. My silverware has been sitting on the kitchen table for ten months. The cabinets had been cleared out because of fears the shelves would collapse if a fly sneezed on them. I emailed the maintenance account again for an update. Nothing.

    The next day my wife was approached by one of the maintenance workers telling her the cabinets were in and could be replaced next week. I emailed the account to nail down a timeframe since it could be a long project.

    One to two hours, I was told. That's it? How can all that work be done so fast?

    Because they were replacing the kitchen sink cabinets. The ones where the drawer had collapsed. The other ones? The ones the super had looked at in June? The ones that were bare of dishes and barware and showing cracks and bulges?

    Those were fine. No need to replace.

    I scheduled the cabinets to be replaced on Thursday. Because something is better than nothing. Then I called the building manager. I got his assistant and left her a detailed message asking for a call back.

    Now this guy is notoriously difficult to get hold of. Example: a couple of years ago, in the middle of October, we had one of those cold spells on a weekend in the middle of the month. Instead of the heat being turned on as of October 1st, we spent the weekend wearing coats and gloves because it was ice cold inside the apartment. The super didn’t answer his phone, the manager didn’t answer his phone, and building residents gathered in the hallways trying to figure out who was the next escalation point before everyone froze to death.

    I took to Google, and managed to track down a landline for the manager that turned out to be his mother’s apartment in Alphabet City. That finally got his attention.

    “Don’t call my mother again. Call my cell.”

    “I did. Eleven times. You didn’t answer.”

    “I would have called you back.”

    “I called you Saturday morning. It’s now six o'clock on Sunday night. When were you going to call me back?”

    “Still. Don’t call here again or else…”

    “Or else what? We won’t have heat? Here’s how you do a threat. Turn the heat on because I know the address associated with this phone number.”

    The heat was turned on a couple of hours later.

    But I digress.

    So he never calls back regarding the cabinets. The maintenance guys show up to install the new ones and take one look at the existing cabinets that aren’t being replaced and shake their heads.

    “That’s some straight up bullshit, these things gotta go,” said one.

    The super showed up too. I pointed out the cabinets they weren’t replacing.

    “We no can replace. Denis say no. Denis say they fine.”

    (Denis is the building manager.)

    I tell the super I’m going to call him about this again. The super laughs.

    “He no answer. I call twice. Leave message. He no call me.”

    I called anyway. Left a message. Explained the situation was unacceptable and if I didn’t hear from him by the end of the day this would become a legal issue.

    Of course he never responded.

    So of course the next day I wound up at 141 Livingston Street to file an HP action. I spent an hour in a waiting room populated with people who made the room look like the cantina scene from Star Wars.

    Eventually my number was called, I filled out some paperwork, had a judge sign off, and paid forty-five bucks to have it processed and was given a confirmation date of the following Friday for a city inspector to review the cabinets.

    The woman at the window handed me back two copies of the paperwork with this instruction:

    “Now make sure this is sent to the building management firm with a return receipt and a delivery confirmation. You need to show that to the judge on the day of the court hearing.”

    This was the Friday before Labor Day weekend. Oh the joy this was going to be.

    The paperwork was mailed out on Friday afternoon and confirmed delivered on Tuesday.

    On Wednesday the building manager showed up and asked my wife if he could come in to take pictures. Having anticipated this, I left one simple instruction to be relayed to him:

    “My husband asked that you not come into the apartment until after 5:30 when he’s home because he wants to be present while you’re in the apartment.”

    The manager didn’t like that answer.

    “I just want to take pictures.”

    “We have pictures. Come back after 5:30.”

    He didn’t.

    The inspector showed up on Friday, took one look at the cabinets and said “Oh hell yeah. These need to be replaced. This is awful. But it’s how this company works, I’ve done a lot of inspections here.”

    I showed him the photos we’d taken of the cabinets and the pockets of water hanging from the ceiling that started this mess.

    “Show these to the judge, this is a no-brainer,” he said, wishing me good luck.

    Ten days later I had my day in court. That was earlier today.

    I showed up with copies of the court papers, the letter sent to the management company outlining the problems, the emails between myself and the super, and, most importantly, a binder purchased from Staples for two bucks filled with photo pages that cost less than a dollar total. Inside those photo pages were the pictures I’d ordered from Shutterfly that cost me three dollars in shipping and nothing else; as a first time customer I was entitled to fifty pictures free.

    The tally:

    $45  - HP action filing

    $3 – picture shipping

    $3 – binder plus photo pages

    Okay, it’s $51. Plus cost of a metro card in both directions. Sue me.

    Anyway. I spent an hour sitting in court doing nothing because justice is a slow moving thing that has little, if anything, to do with a disobedient whale.

    During that time I watched a Russian woman demand justice using only the words of English she spoke: NO, YES, and CLEAN BEDBUGS, along with a tenant/landlord dispute where the tenant was accused of throwing feces and urine on a neighbor’s door, an accusation that almost started a fight.

    Finally, mercifully, I get called in to meet with the building’s lawyer.  The same douche nozzle I fought with two years ago. The building is not contesting anything I say and ask for a date to come measure for the new cabinets. The clerk is taking notes and arranging the details.

    The catch: my pal from the city only put down a violation for one set of cabinets. I’ll need to file a new action for the others. Fine. I don’t mind a fight.

    Once we set a measurement date I start peppering the lawyer with digs at his client.

    “Your client really likes sending you here unprepared, don’t they?”

    “Last time I had a confirmed date for having the cabinets measured was March 29th. The guy showed up on June 15th. Think this time will be quicker?”

    When he asks for 30 days or more to get the cabinets replaced, even the clerk knew enough to call bullshit.

    From here on out, I’ll refer to their lawyer as Asshole McGee. Because you’ll see why.

    Clerk: “This is a class B. It has to be resolved within thirty days of today. October 16th.”

    Asshole McGee: “Bullshit. No. That’s not enough time.”

    Me: “Yeah, it’s only taken eleven months to get this far. Let’s not rush them or anything.”

    Clerk: “The thirtieth or thirty-first of October is not acceptable.”

    Asshole McGee: “We need time to measure.”

    Me: “They were already measured in June.”

    Asshole McGee: “I don’t know who did it. Maybe he doesn’t work there anymore.”

    Me: “The super measured. His name is ***** ***. As of today he’s still the super. Try again.”

    Clerk: “So the sixteenth?”

    Asshole McGee proceeds to grab his bag and storm out, loudly proclaiming he had to call his client and would get his thirty days. I didn’t know from where and the clerk was shocked.

    “I know he’s an asshole but I’ve never seen him be that much of an asshole.”

    I laughed and told her of our backstory. Of how he’d been made to look foolish last time I was in court against the building. That got a laugh from the other clerk.

    Unfortunately, his temper tantrum and departure without signing an agreement meant I had to wait. And wait. And wait.

    Finally, another lawyer showed up in his place. Asshole McGee requested he take over because he “had to go.”

    Okay.

    So an agreement is in place: measure on the first and replace by the twenty-fifth. Otherwise they get penalized to the tune of whatever rent reduction the judge orders.

    My expectation: I’ll be back in court on the second, pointing out that they no-showed on the first. But we'll see.

    At least I made a lawyer so mad he had to leave the building. Pyrrhic victories are still victories.