6/30/09 - One thing after another

Last week, I was at church camp, had a great time, no real great stories to share, although we had a great time turning an old hotel (close to 100 years old) into a haunted house in about 15 minutes. The results were great. I did get a great tan, good times with friends, and helped mold the lives of 200 children...that is a scary thought.

Got back on Saturday...I was too tired to do anything, but it was really nice to see my wife and daughter again.

Sunday I had 6 yards to mow since I took Saturday off. The first yard was fine, the 2nd yard was horrible. I nearly knocked myself out when a tree limb got caught on my mower and flipped back into my skull. No more than 2 minutes later, I pinned my foot between my stand-on and the mower. This left me screaming in anger more than anything, but also put a pretty good gash in my ankle that bled all over my sock and shoe. Cristi later said it looked like I might have gone into some of the muscle with the cut. After mowing, on the way back to the trailer, I got a flat tire.

This flat was not going to be fixed by me as I didn't have the parts or equipment. I figured Monday afternoon I could get it fixed no problem. I could not have been more wrong. Since I was without the big mower, I had to push mow three of my lawns Sunday afternoon.

Monday afternoon I started calling around to make sure they would fix a lawn mower tire. I talked to 3 shops and they all said that they did not work with small tires. One of the shops was actually my favorite outdoor equipment shop. The other call I made was to a company that has apparently now closed. At that point, I figured I would change it myself so I bought the replacement tube at TSC. Got home, tried to change it and realized that the tire was on the rim pretty tight.

Monday night I push mowed my two largest yards with a push mower. This morning, I asked my dad to call around until he could find someone who could do it. The only place he could find was a little joint called Discount Tire where a friend of mine works. In fact, I think the only reason that that shop did the work is because my friend worked there.

I couldn't believe that you can't find a tire shop that will change a friggin mower tire. I've still got 7 yards to go in the next three days, so I'm very thankful that my dad was able to get it taken care of. I don't know what I would have done if I had to push mow all my yards this week.

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6/15/09 - Museum of Discovery

On Sunday, Cristi did not have to work, and I had no yards to mow. Since this rarely happens, we have agreed that on weekend days that neither of us work, we will start doing some sort of outing with Makenna. It just so happens that the 2nd Sunday of every month, the Museum of Discovery provides free admission. From 1-5 you can come and go as you please and do whatever you want at no cost to you. This of course, has it benefits and some downsides.

The plan was to let Makenna take a nap right after church so she would be well rested for fun times at the museum. Although she is only 15 months old, I assumed there would be lots of hands of stuff that she could interact with. I wanted to make sure she was awake enough to take some of it in. She, of course, had other plans. Instead of taking a nap, she just talked to herself in her crib, so Cristi and I decided to get her up and head on out.

It is located right next door to the River Market in downtown Little Rock, in the same building as Boscoe's and Sonny William's Steak House. We were able to park in the River Market parking for free and walk a block to the actual museum. Upon entering, I immediately noticed a fairly large number of unsupervised hoodlums. Although, I was expecting a much larger number of people to be there.

The first area we came to was an area that was for children ages 6 and under. Although there were plenty of kids that did not quite meet this age requirement, it wasn't that big of a deal as Makenna had plenty of room to play around without getting knocked over constantly (of course, at her size it does not take much for her to topple). She immediately found a few toys laying around which she picked up and carried around. I think that might be her favorite thing to do in the world...just carry something around. She really liked (monkey-)crawling through a caterpillar and although the first few times down the slide were surprising...she quickly got the hang of it and really enjoyed it.

I believe Cristi will be posting a video of this later, but there is an area full of large building blocks. Being the kid that I am, while Makenna was walking around elsewhere (under my wife's supervision) I started stacking the blocks. As soon as Makenna saw this, she came over and her first thought was to knock it over. She thought this was so funny and squealed every time she did it. Normally, I would have been very frustrated, but since it was my own daughter...I couldn't believe I could have so much fun watching someone destroy my towers.

Outside of those few things, I was pretty disappointed. The only thing I really "discovered" was that unsupervised kids will destroy almost anything. I'd say that a good 25% of the exhibits needed some sort of repair or were just downright broken. Watching how some of the kids played with the areas that were working...I'd give them about a week before they were no longer functioning properly. This was a little upsetting for me, not because the things were broken, but because I saw many of the "parents" sitting over to the side not saying a word while their "kids" were obviously misusing items.

There were very few hands on type things which was pretty upsetting as I remember the museum of discovery that used to be in Hot Springs (I don't know if it is still there or not). I felt like the one here in Little Rock had lots of things that you could read, but not a whole lot that you could actually experience. I doubt we will be back for quite some time, both because Makenna is still too young to really enjoy a lot of the stuff, but simply because the price of admission to me really doesn't match the quality of the items there.

I will say they had a Robotics lab that looked pretty sweet...of course at 15 months, I don't know how long Makenna would have lasted, so I didn't get a chance to see exactly what they offered in that area of the museum.

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6/8/09 - My baby bro got married

Saturday was a big day for our family. I gained a sister-in-law (I think that is the correct relationship). Greg got married after what might have been a 4 or 5 year dating relationship. It might not have been that long, but I do know that it was a while. The wedding went off with no major problems.

Of course, my daughter was the wildcard as she was the flower girl and did not get her nap before the wedding which meant that it was a toss up how she was going to act. The poor thing was nodding off as we started walking down the aisle. Luckily, she was in her good mood sleepy which is simply her not crying and walking around in a daze. When it came time for her to walk the aisle, I was at the front of the church as the best man, and she was at the back of the church just kind of standing there. Greg and Jessica agreed that if this were to happen, I would go get her and walk her down the aisle. I personally think it turned out to be very cute, but I was really hoping she was going to perform like she did in rehearsal, where she just ran as fast as she could to me standing at the front of the church.

Other than that, I don't think there were any problems. None of the bridesmaids or groomsmen fell, no one passed out and the audio went great including my wife performing a solo during the candle lighting.

As I am typing this, greg and his wife are "ON A BOAT!!!" I can only hope that they have been listening to The Lonely Island song non-stop since boarding yesterday afternoon. I know they are stopping in Jamaica, but other than that, I don't know where they are docking.

That's pretty much it, the wedding itself was awesome, it was trying to juggle a crying sleep baby and trying to help my parent's clean up the wedding site, and so on, while still getting my lawns mowed that was the problem. It was a huge honor for me to be the best man, I just hope I was able to do all the best man stuff I was supposed to. I thought we did a pretty good job on the car and of course my morals prevented me from throwing the the bachelor party of the century. I didn't lose the ring and I paid the preacher-man correctly so I think I had it all covered.

I didn't mention how cute my daughter looked and although I'm partial to my daughter, she was very very close to being just a beautiful as the bride that day. I do think she will go down in history as the cutest flower girl ever, with her big white dress and big pink bow. There are pictures on facebook now if you want to go check them out, I'm pretty sure she was tagged in most of those pictures. And if you aren't friends with Makenna on Facebook....why not?

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6/2/09 - Why I probably won't ever use TruGreen again.

As most people know, I enjoy working outside. The problem is that I prefer mowing the grass as opposed to doing things to help it grow. At our first house, the yard had been sodded just before we moved in so it was very simply to maintain. In fact, the guy across the street worked for a lawncare company so I got a great deal on chemical applications to control weeds and promote good lawn growth. After the first year, the thing was set so I just applied 13-13-13 fertilizer every month or so to keep it nice and thick and green.

Since we moved into our current house, the previous owners did not care for the lawn so there are dead spots, areas full of weeds and overall the quality of the bermuda is just poor. I was starting to get tired of seeing all the junk in our yard, so I made the decision to hire a professional to treat our lawn to help get it under control.

TruGreen came out one day and gave me a quote of $55. That seemed WAY too high considering that for my lawn, I would charge maybe $50 to mow it, and that requires much less work than chemical applications. After he gave me the quote though, we talked for a while and I started to come around to the idea of having them service my lawn.

A couple days later, when I realized I was too lazy to call around and get any other quotes (plus I got a coupon for a discount on the first application by TruGreen in the mail) I decided to call them up. First of all, they asked if I had received a quote and I explained that yes, I had been told it would be $45, but was wondering if they would be able to do it for $40. (See next paragraph why this does not bother me morally). They quickly agreed and said this would be no problem, that they would be giving me a call later that day to finalize the paperwork and get me in the system.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I lied. However, I spoke with one of my customers the day after I received my quote and she explained she had also gotten a quote and it was $45. Having worked extensively on both of these properties, I knew that my customers lawn was quite a bit bigger. She is a fairly attractive female, and I'm pretty sure that she was giving a better deal simply because of that. I also have experience in quoting these types of things and although I typically don't intentionally over estimate lawns to give me a some bargaining room if needed, I know that other companies do this on purpose. Therefore, I felt like I was playing the game, and in this case, won....although it only costs them about $20 to do my lawn).

Back to getting setup, they did in fact call me back that day to get more information and stuff and although there were some fishy parts during the conversation, everything was pretty smooth. I was to receive service in the next couple of days.

About a week after I set everything up, no one had come by yet, but I assumed it was because we had gotten quite a bit of rain and they were waiting for things to dry off or stay dry. About a week after that, still no service, and what made it worse was...no rain either. They had forgotten about me.

I gave them a call only to find out that their automated system had been calling me every day to setup an appointment. The problem is, they had my cell phone number in their system correctly and I had never received a call, no voice mail or missed call on my phone. They decided to manually setup a time for the next Monday (I called on a Friday) and I assumed everything was good to go. I just looked over the fact that they would have never done anything about my service had I not called them.

Monday - no one showed up.
Tuesday - no one showed up.
Wednesday - I called to find out what happened. They said the address was wrong. They decided just to not call to correct it though. We got it fixed, they said they would be out the next day and if his employers didn't get it done, he would be out personally to do it. He also said the first application would be free for my troubles, this pleased me and I was willing to give them another chance.
Thursday - no one showed up.
Friday - I call again, the manager guy says there was some confusion and he thought someone else had done it. He would be out that evening to do it. Sure enough, he shows up at 6:00 that night and does the application. He was very nice and I was pleased with the service he provided at that time.

So, after three weeks, I finally got service, the weeds started dying and I was happy. Since the guy volunteered a free application, I was going to give them another chance to make up for it. That is...until I received an invoice in the mail.

They decided to go ahead and charge me for the first service which told me that this company was completely unable to provide any level of reasonable, consistent service. I called the next day to cancel service. What amazed me about that phone call is the lady on the other end of the line was very polite and gave me the impression that a majority of her day was spent taking complaints from customers who want to cancel service, there was no hesitiation in her response that she would take care of it immediately.

I will end this post on a slightly positive note though. About a week after I cancelled service, I got a call from someone else at the company whose title I have forgotten, but I believe it was a PR type person mainly responsible for damage control. The first thing he said to me was basically this, "Sir, I'm not going to beat around the bush here, I can not blame you for cancelling our service because it looks like you got jerked around. I'm not going to make any excuses, we did you wrong."

That right there made me happy, honestly, almost to the point of maybe considering to use TruGreen again in the future. I have come to expect calls like that to be full of excuses and finger pointing and counter offers to get you to come back. This guy actually called simply to apologize. He said that in the future if I ever changed my mind to call back and ask for him so that he could do everything he could to make my return as painless as possible. I wish I remembered his name because in all my dealings with customer service over the last 5 years or so, he is the ONLY person I have dealt with who I felt not only met my expectation of what customer service is, but went above and beyond anything I could have imagined.

To summarize: I will not go back to TruGreen, they proved and time and time again over the course of a month that they were not able to provide the service that I was willing to pay for. If they don't want my money, I don't want their service.

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- I had a great idea for a blog post

And apparently, I should have written it down when I first thought about it. I have since completely forgotten what it was that I was going to write about. Something interesting is bound to happen in the next couple of days, I need a run in with a horrible customer service experience....oooo....I haven't posted about TruGreen yet....I'll start writing that one. Anyways, something else has got to happen pretty soon, keep your fingers crossed.

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