A Rainy Day in the French Alps

Yesterday, we flew into Geneva and were met by my parents to kick off a full week with them in the lovely French town of Chamonix. After a nice lunch overlooking Lac Léman, we started up the mountain. About halfway up, it started raining and it’s been raining ever since.

Truth be told, the rain is just what the doctor ordered. I’ve been struggling with a cold the last couple of days and it was nice to slow down and spend the day resting. We went into town for lunch and got to explore the town a bit. And every once in awhile, we’d be able to see bits of the mountains around us.

I’m told that when it does clear, we’ll have a perfect view of Mont Blanc from the little chalet we’re calling home this week. For now, the most I’ve seen is Glacier des Bossons, which I think is pretty impressive, but my dad tells me is nothing to write about in comparison to what I’ll see when the sun comes out.

Until then, I just plan to enjoy the time with my parents and take advantage of the time to read.






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A Day of Music

This morning, I awoke to the sounds of Fado on the street beneath my window.

As I slowly came into consciousness, though I could not understand the words of the singer, I was moved by the passion and emotion behind each note. Once I figured out what was going on, it became clear that a street performer was piping pre-recorded Fado to draw an audience in. It didn’t matter, I was hooked.

That voice and emotion became a theme for our day.

As we finally ventured out, we landed at Pois Cafe and had what perhaps may have been the best cappuccino I have ever had. But while there, we meat Santos Cabral of the band Guents dy Rincon. He hit us up to listen to his CD (on an old school bright yellow Discman, of all things). With just a few notes, we were hooked and shelled out real cash to take the disk with us.

After a long day exploring Castelo de São Jorge and the hills of Alfama, we ultimately ventured back into Bairro Alto to hear some Fado live. Following a tip from Anthony Bourdain, we ventured into Tasca do Chico and got our first taste of live Fado.

Somewhere along the way I read something that said that you could judge the quality of Fado by whether or not it brought tears to your eyes. Though we heard some lovely artists this evening, only one made me sob. Within the the first notes she vocalized, Inés Pereira surprised me and showed me the power of Fado. Needless to say, given the power of the Internet, before we even left the bar, we’d found her in Google and iTunes.





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Noticing Great Customer Service

Lately I have been paying closer attention to the customer service I receive. Maybe it’s the economy or maybe I am just more sensitized to the benefits of good service and the brand risks of bad service.

Just in the past week, my experiences have run the gambit.

I’ve detailed my aggravations with Wells Fargo in detail. But conversely, I had an amazing service recovery experience with United Airlines.

I went to Washington DC last week and was flying home on Saturday. Unfortunately, I boarded the plane at exactly the wrong time. A storm was coming in from the west and for our safety the tower was keeping everyone grounded. So we sat on the runway. For three hours.

Annoying? Yes. United’s fault? No.

Yet, when I awoke the next morning, this email was there:

On behalf of all of us here at United, I want to express my sincere apologies
for the experience you had on Flight 975 on May 16, 2009.

At United, we take pride in being a reliable part of your travel plans. Your
satisfaction and business mean a great deal to me, I would like to invite you
to visit the following website to select a token of our appreciation.


Please have your flight information handy when you visit the site.
Family members who traveled together using the same email address should access
the site individually.

Thank you for your time. Your satisfaction is important to us and we look forward
to serving you better in the near future.


Sherri Hermance
United Airlines
Customer Relations

The email was impressive enough, but the fact that they offered a token of appreciation (I got bonus miles) was even more surprising.

It’s refreshing to see major companies making the effort to win customer loyalty. Which companies do you think are doing it well?

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Love Citibank, Hate Wells Fargo

Never thought I’d use this blog to complain about a company, but Wells Fargo has officially pushed me over the edge. I am getting daily calls accusing me of being a deadbeat as a result of their own error.

Here’s a short history of my nightmare that never seems to end!

November 28, 2008: Requested an electronic payment of full amount due on the account be sent to Wells Fargo.
December 2, 2008: Those funds cleared my account.
Mid December: Received a bill from Wells Fargo indicating account had not been paid.
Following receipt of bill: Contacted Citibank. Filed a claim for a missing payment
December 17, 2008: Funds were recredited to my account.
December 22, 2008: Citibank sent letter confirming their inquiry and the mistake in processing (I received the letter after the holidays).
January 17, 2009: Authorized the second payment for full amount.
January 27, 2009: Check cashed.
February 10, 2009: Received phone call from Wells Fargo notifying me of delinquent payment. Immediately called Citibank to determine status of payment and file report. Citibank confirmed that the check was cashed by Wells Fargo on January 27, 2009.
February 12, 2009: Received written notification from Citibank that the paid check had been forwarded to Wells Fargo. I also sent my first letter via fax to Wells Fargo detailing all of the above. That letter put my account “into dispute” while they looked into it.

A couple of weeks later, I started getting more calls from Wells Fargo and was informed that they had determined they hadn’t cashed my check. So, I still owed them the original amount — plus growing interest and finance charges, of course. I was at a loss as to how to proceed at that point. What other recourse did I have? Who had my money?

Then I received a call on March 19th, from the only helpful person from Wells Fargo that I dealt with — Donald St. John. It was clear to him as I told my story that I was actually looking at a copy of the cashed check in question. So, he asked that I fax it to him, which I did the next day. That day, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel!

That happiness didn’t last long. Within days, I got a nasty note in the mail saying they had “researched” my claim and found that they did not have the payment and my account was past due. Again, what was I to do? Should I pay them again? Not a chance.

So, I called Citibank on March 31, explained the situation to them, and asked for their advice. The customer service representative (Gilbert) listened to my problem, pulled the documentation, and then conferenced in Wells Fargo. As we sat on the call and listened to the Wells Fargo representative verbally berate me, even Gilbert seemed appalled with how I was being treated.

Since Citibank had clear documentation of the check being cashed, they demanded that Wells Fargo complete an affidavit of non-receipt. Miraculously, on the day they were asked to sign that form, Wells Fargo found my missing payment.

However, there seems to be no end in sight. Despite the fact that they lost the payment, they are continuing to bill me for interest, finance charges and late fees. The calls from them resumed again last week and I can’t even describe the contempt in the voices of each of the people who have called me.

I just sent off my third letter detailing this saga for them and asked that they remove all interest, finance charges and late fees. For good measure I also asked that they retract their negative reports to the credit bureaus — since my credit reports show that I am delinquent.

We’ll see whether they comply. Either way, it’s a safe bet that I will never do business with Wells Fargo again.

On the flip side, I have grown eternally loyal to Citibank. Through each and every step in this saga, they have responded promptly and courteously. I suspect I will become a life-long customer!

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