This site functions as an archive of Conner's Blog, which was a blog from 2006-2014 located at http://connermccall.com. Images and links are likely to be broken.

Uhaul, The Conclusion

The Uhaul saga has come to an end. Thanks to Lacy, who happens to occasionally handle their Twitter account, Uhaul has at least partially appeased me. They got the truck being checked in on the wrong day issue resolved, and even refunded my parents half the rental fee. Overall they came through in the end to try and make things right. They didn't quite go to the extent I would have liked for the amount of frustration they caused, but I'm dropping it, after this post.

I thought I would do something other than complain about the service I received, and throw out some ideas and suggestions that would have led to a quicker and happier resolution to the complaints. I copied the time line from my previous post and noted what I think should have happened under each event.

  • Monday, my mother calls and reserves a 17' truck from Uhaul in Belgrade, MT.
  • 1 or 2 days later they call and ask if we would accept a 26' truck. My mom says yes because they were going to give it to us for the same price.

They should have known at this moment that they were going to be very busy and might not have a truck available. Why not allow incoming renters to pay a deposit to hold the truck? That way if they don't show you at least get something out of it. Just let them cancel 24 hours prior to the time they are scheduled to pick it to get the deposit refunded. If they are later than that they lose their deposit. Again, make it optional, but then you can guarantee the rental.

  • Friday, my mom stops by to verify that a truck is reserved, she was told no trucks were available. But, they stated they would let Bozeman know they had messed up and they would give us a deal.

My mother should not have had to stop by to find out we didn't have a truck. The second there wasn't a truck available we should have received a phone call letting us know. It's terrible service to promise something and not deliver. It's even worse when you don't deliver without a warning. I still don't know what my parents would have done had we not been able to move out the day we did. They had renters moving in the next day and had to be out of the house.

  • We call Bozeman's Uhaul. They offer us a 17' truck at the normal daily price price and mileage at 1/2 price. With one caveat, we have to bring it back to Bozeman.

Don't pretend you're giving someone a deal when you aren't. 1/2 of the mileage with twice the miles to drive does not equal a discount. It's insulting to your customers to pretend it is.

  • I heard this and said, "No!" that meant we were paying the same price for the truck but someone was spending 3 hours(Bozeman is 100 miles from Helena) driving a truck back.

Again, I shouldn't need to call you to raise a stink to get a deal to remedy your mistake. We didn't fail to reserve a truck, Uhaul failed to keep it's promise.

  • I tweeted about Uhaul, they responded saying they would be in touch.

This was a comedy of errors in social media. First they should have followed me the second they contacted me so I could direct message them if I wanted to. Second, they continually asked for my phone number to be emailed to them. They should have given me a choice of how I wanted to communicate, especially once their phones went down the afternoon I first got a response.

  • I talked to the GM at the Uhaul in Bozeman and told him we would pay 3/4 of the price initially quoted plus they needed to pay for the gas we used. They came back with a quote that I was ok with.

Again, I shouldn't need to negotiate an acceptable rate due to your mistake.

  • Uhaul on Twitter asks me to send them an email with my phone number, I did this.

I realized a few days later that this email got stuck in my outbox. My mistake, but still their was no follow up after this until I tweeted again. They should have contacted me 12 hour later to check why I didn't email them.

  • We pick up the truck. It's been 24 hours and I haven't heard from Uhaul so I tweeted again, they responded asking me to email my phone number again. I got busy and forgot

Again, my mistake on thinking I had emailed them, still as mentioned above, they should have followed up with me.

  • We use the truck, bring it back on Sunday and dropped it off.
  • Tuesday morning my mom gets a text message saying the truck was overdue. I immediately found the email address which was sent on Twitter and sent my phone number, Tweeted about it, and my mother called the Uhaul store who said someone would be calling us in 2-3 hours.

Here is where things went from bad to terrible. They are claiming we still have a very expensive truck and instead of showing a sense of urgency they make us wait.

  • 24 hours later we had received no phone calls. I hunted down and called Uhaul's customer service line. Spoke to a nice girl named Lacy, she said she had let someone named Donna (I believe I was told this was the regional manager) know about our problem and I would receive a phone call in 2-3 hours. Apparently the store had checked in part of the truck but not everything on Monday.

Again, why was it my responsibility to follow up? I understand the local store was very busy, but when a customer thinks you lost a truck that they dropped off two days ago, it's a pretty big deal. This had some large financial repercussions if they continued to argue we didn't drop it off when we actually did.

  • 5 hours later I had received no phone call from anyone at Uhaul.

And again, no follow up. I didn't call Donna the next day, which I meant to do. It took me sending out another tweet, getting that message retweeted by four other people until Lacy called me. To be honest she seemed to be the only one working for Uhaul that I spoke to that cared one bit about the situation. And though she was very polite and took action immediately after our phone call, she did make excuses for the local store during most of our conversation. Being busy is not an excuse for the service we received throughout the entire life of this rental.

I was really hoping, once Uhaul responded to my first tweet, that this story would be about a company leveraging social media to provide great customer service. Instead it became a story of a company in dire need of a customer service overhaul regardless of the platform.

Fail! (or renting from Uhaul)

I know a lot of my readers follow me on Twitter and probably saw my Uhaul complaints from my trip back to Montana. Not one to let a company get away with poor service, idiocy, and just basic business ability. I'm publishing a basic timeline of what happened with Uhaul.

  • Monday, my mother calls and reserves a 17' truck from Uhaul in Belgrade, MT.
  • 1 or 2 days later they call and ask if we would accept a 26' truck. My mom says yes because they were going to give it to us for the same price.
  • Friday, my mom stops by to verify that a truck is reserved, she was told no trucks were available. But, they stated they would let Bozeman know they had messed up and they would give us a deal.
  • We call Bozeman's Uhaul. They offer us a 17' truck at the normal price and mileage at 1/2 price. With one caveat, we have to bring it back to Bozeman.
  • I heard this and said, "No!" that meant we were paying the same price for the truck but someone was spending 3 hours(Bozeman is 100 miles from Helena) driving a truck back.
  • I tweeted about Uhaul, they responded saying they would be in touch.
  • I talked to the GM at the Uhaul in Bozeman and told him I would pay 3/4 of the price initially quoted plus they needed to pay for the gas we used. They came back with a quote that I was ok with.
  • Uhaul on Twitter asks me to send them an email with my phone number, I did this.
  • We pick up the truck. It's been 24 hours and I haven't heard from Uhaul so I tweeted again, they responded asking me to email my phone number again. I got busy and forgot.
  • We use the truck, bring it back on Sunday and dropped it off.
  • Tuesday morning my mom gets a text message saying the truck was overdue. I immediatly found the email address which was sent on Twitter and sent my phone number, Tweeted about it, and my mother called the Uhaul store who said someone would be calling us in 2-3 hours.
  • 24 hours later we have received no phone calls. I hunted down and called Uhaul's customer service line. Spoke to a nice girl named Lacy, she said she had let someone named Donna (I believe I was told this was the regional manager) know about our problem and I would receive a phone call in 2-3 hours. Apparently the store had checked in part of the truck but not everything on Monday.
  • 5 hours later I've received no phone call from anyone at Uhaul.

I'm of course going to call Donna tomorrow morning. I don't expect much, Uhaul has proven themselves to be a horrendous company at communications. It's been a series of screw ups, miscommunications, and unkept promises. I'm giving them another 24 hours to fix this, how they will do this is kind of a mystery. I can't figure out a way that makes me or my parents happy. It should be noted that my parents are going to be potential customers in 6-8 months, my youngest brother will be in May, and there is a potential for me or my other brother to need their services this year. Guess what company isn't getting a phone call or a Internet visit?

PS: If Uhaul does want to fix this they can send a Visa gift card worth $130 to my parents, or refund their credit card. Plus send me, my parents, and both of my brothers coupons for 50% off our next Uhaul rental, and those coupons should never expire. Do that and I'll even edit this post and not just comment on it letting everyone know they tried to fix the problem. Email me and I'll send you the details needed to fulfill this request.

The MT Road Trip, 2010

I'm going home this weekend. Back to Montana to see my parents, my brothers, and some of my extended family. I'm going to be gone or a little over a week. I'm leaving here Thursday afternoon and will be heading back here on the following Friday.

For the most part I'm very excited. Except for the driving part. That's right, I decided to drive home this time as opposed to flying like I have in the past. This means I'm planning on a 15 hour drive through Minnesota, North Dakota, and the most boring part of Montana. This is why I'm leaving Thursday night. I'm meeting my brother in Fargo and we are planning on driving all the way through the night, getting to Bozeman around 6 in the morning.

Back when I was in college this wouldn't have phased me. But now I'm a little nervous. Will I be able to sleep while my brother drives? Will my car make it? Will I be a functioning member of society when I arrive? How am I going to survive being cooped up in a car for 15 hours? This is insane? I'm booking a flight tonight? Ahhhhh?

Ok, I got that out there. Honestly I think it will be fine. I have plans to download a number of podcasts, load up the iPhone with a ton of good music, and invest in a case of both caffeinated and uncaffeinated energy drinks. I bought carrots this weekend that I'll be cutting up to bring with me, so I can hopefully avoid buying too much junk. I think I'll brew a large batch of iced tea or coffee as well.

So maybe that's the difference. I used to just throw a bag in the car and go. Now I have plans, but with planning comes realizing everything that can go wrong. Then again maybe I'm just going crazy in my old age. Who knows.

I plan on writing while I'm out there, and depending on the cell coverage I may even use Twitter. If I do, follow along at #mtrt2010. It should be fun, lots of time with the family, but I also hope to see what sort of local food scene is happening in Bozeman and Helena. I'll be reporting here and over at Garlic and Onion.

My Response (or giving away marketing advice for free)

So I'm posting it today because I want to post something. Here is the response I wrote to Womfire after they responded to the email I wrote to Chili's marketing department.

Thanks Howard,
I wasn't really concerned about my email address, my biggest concern was the grammar skills shown by your representative. Additionally, as someone who is passionate about social media I had a hard time with your campaign. It didn't feel genuine to me at all. Plus, as most of the comments pointed out, free chips are kind of funny considering you get free chips at every Mexican eatery other than Chili's.

One last thing that I wanted to point out. Though I appreciate you enjoying my blog, I'm definitely not your target market. My blog is full of posts and links about local, sustainable, and healthy food. Your client, Chili's, is one of the last places I would ever choose to eat. As someone who is passionate about social media, blogging, and marketing, I would hope that if you are doing a campaign like this you would be doing a quick search for "food" in blogs you want to contact. It wouldn't have taken much time to see that I was more likely to make fun of Chili's than promote them.

Again, thanks for taking the time to respond to me. I'll post a comment on the post noting that you responded genuinely and addressed most of my concerns. I do wish you success in your campaign with Chili's.

They addressed my concern about my email address, they had found it on my blog. They also apologized and advised they wouldn't contact me again. I'm considering the issue closed.

Ugh (or getting me to write about you)

I got this email today. Though it's great that they reached out to me, I have some issues.

Dear Connor,

My name is -redacted- of WOMfire, part of the marketing team for Chili's Grill & Bar. Because you are an excellent of social media insight and knowledge (and passionate about it), Chili's is excited to share with you our latest offer exclusive to Foursquare users. For a limited time only, Foursquare users will receive FREE Chips and Salsa every time they check-in to a participating Chili's Grill & Bar location and show it to their server. You don't have to be mayor with this offer because it is eligible every time you check in at Chili's.

We're also running a giveaway through Foursquare and Twitter: Users can hashtag "#FREECHIPSCHECKIN" with their Foursquare check-in and ping it to Twitter, and be entered to win a $50 Chili's Gift Card from now until August 2.

If there's any additional information you would like, please feel free to contact me at -redacted-

Best,

-redacted-
Social Media Strategist, WOMfire
4401 Rockside Road Suite #214
Independence, OH 44131

1st, they spelled my name wrong. Instantly they are on my bad side.
2nd, grammar. I don't claim to be great at grammar, but even I know that I am not "an excellent of social media insight and knowledge."
3rd, thanks for letting me know I can spam my friends with an all caps hashtag to earn $50.

Uggh

Dear Businesses (or a quick gripe about social media)

Dear Businesses:

This is a quick note to thank you for existing. Without you I would be forced to do everything myself. Make my own soap, spin my own thread, and bury my own Internet cable. So thanks.

However, I have a gripe; many of you seem to be entering a world I've existed in for quite some time. It's sometimes referred to as social media, but in reality it's just another place where conversations can happen. It's a virtual water cooler that is full of whatever beverage happens to be sitting near at hand.

Some of you get it, and by get it I mean you don't make me want to throw whale blood on your storefront. The rest of you need to step back and think about what you are doing (or what your consulting company is doing). So here are three questions you should ask yourself one week after launching your social media strategy.

  1. Have you engaged with anyone in a multi-reply conversation?
  2. Are you targeting the right people?
  3. Why are you doing this?

Question 1 addresses whether you are engaging with your audience in a meaningful manner. Anyone can send out messages, good social media should make your customers your conversation partners.

Question 2 might use the word targeting, but it's a good one to think about. In the last few months I've been followed by coffee shops from St. Cloud, businesses from Chicago, and in one case every store that a certain company has regardless of where they were located. Geography is just a part of this of course; just remember that just because it's free to follow someone doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Question 3 is one you should have asked before you launched. Even if you did, on day seven you should ask it again. Is it to broadcast your message? Then make it obvious you aren't there to engage. There is nothing wrong with broadcasting your daily specials (though it's less effective), but make it clear you aren't there to answer your costumer's complaints. If you are engaging, are you engaging as the business or as an individual? This is an important things to consider and something to decide on right now. It's annoying when businesses suddenly change their manner on a social media platform for no apparent reason.

There is a lot more to this of course. Even the best planned strategy can fall on it's face. Still, if you catch things quickly, whether you are doing it in house or paying a so-called expert. You can avoid irritating an influential customer base.

Sincerely, Conner

On Vertedness

In an attempt to blog more than once every 3rd blue moon, I'm going to focus my attention on short posts that are too long for Twitter, yet not what I normally wrote.

It wasn't too long ago that I spent more time at home then I did going out. Right now, I'm pretty sure the birds flying by my apartment see it's interior more often than I do. I always considered myself an introvert, I liked reading, playing video games, and doing anything else that only required a seat in my house. Now, no one would believe I was introverted if I told them. I'm always out attending an event of some sort or getting a beer with friends. Hell, I've even tried my hand at event planning a few times in the last six months.

So what changed? Well, in hindsight I have always been an extrovert. I've never been scared of anyone, could always hold a conversation with a brown paper bag, and loved meeting new people. What has changed is my avenues for finding things to do. I became friends with some busy people, started marking things on my calendar so I wouldn't forget about them, and kept myself informed via whatever methods I could as to what was going on. It's a snowball effect because by doing more I meet more people and they invite me to more things where I meet more people. In the last two years I went from wishing I had things to do and compensating by being introverted, to being myself.

Now if I can only get that brown paper bag to shut up.

An Unexpectedly Epic Weekend

Well, maybe not wholly unexpected, but the truth is I had a great weekend and a lot of it wasn't exactly written on the calendar. A few highlights.

  1. The Mac and Cheese at Wilde Roast Cafe. Delicious and something I've been meaning to try for months now.
  2. Stopping by a birthday party for my friend Jessica, meeting new people because I knew no one but Jessica, and then hanging out with Sarah Burt talking food.
  3. Hitting up both the Mill City Market and Northeast Farmers Market on Saturday followed by the Minneapolis Market and Kingsfield on Sunday. I love the markets, they all have such a unique personality.
  4. Crepes by Spoonriver at Mill City, Tacos from the Chef Shack at North East, Falafel from Foxy Falafel at Kingsfield and a few mini doughnuts from the Chef Shack at some point though I don't remember when.
  5. Drinking with my friend Nola and her friend Andrea at the Red Stag Supper Club after the Northeast Farmers Market because it was pouring out and none of us wanted to get soaked.
  6. Biking in the rain after finally giving up, going to Aster Café and participating in a photo shoot with Paul, Nicole, Nicky, and Laura. Alex took some great shots of all of us, both indoors and out.
  7. Grand Old Days on Sunday. Even though it rained, seeing Dessa, Jeremy Messersmith, Doom Tree, and a few other random acts was awesome. In addition, the people watching was fantastic.
  8. Getting a phone call at 7:30 on Sunday night asking if I wanted a set of tickets to Dawes and Edward Sharpe.
  9. Watching the lead singer of Dawes bounce around like a school kid because he was so excited to be on stage. One of the best live acts I've seen in a while. Actual enthusiasm coupled with fantastic music is the best.
  10. The sight of a girl walking up to her bike, which was locked in a way that didn't allow me to get my bike off the tree. Considering I was a minute away from walking all the way home to get my previously forgotten bike lock and walking all the way back to First Ave to secure it, this was a very happy sight. Even if I was extremely annoyed prior to this.

So that was my weekend in a overly wordy nutshell. How was your weekend? Did you take advantage of the summer weather and do something fantastic?

All the Presidents

About a month and a half ago I received the first disc of the John Adams mini-series that was done by HBO. At the time I put the series at the top of my Netflix queue I didn't realize it was a book before it was a show. It wasn't until I told a couple people that I was really excited to start watching it that I had a clue. Of course the second I found out I realized there was no way I could watch the series without reading the book first, so during my trip to California I picked up the John Adams biography it was based on and have been thoroughly enjoying it.

In fact I've enjoyed it so much that I made a decision I'm probably going to regret. I'm going to try and read a biography of every president this country has had. I don't know why this seems like such a great idea, but the thought of reading about the history of our country through the eyes of those that ended up in the highest office in the land seems like a great self development tool.

So I'm finishing John Adams in the next few weeks, and since it only really makes sense to read about them in the order they were elected, I'm going back to George Washington before skipping back to Thomas Jefferson. Which leaves me to pose a question to my readers. Have you read any really great biographies of any of our presidents? Any biographies I should avoid? Do you think I'm crazy?

Indoor Greenhouse

I decided this week that I'm going to retry my garden experiment. It sort of failed last year, but I blame that on a couple things. One, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I did no research, I just thought I could pop some seeds into a jar and suddenly have herbs. Doesn't work for me very well. Two, I used much to small of pots and stuck different herbs in the same pot. I think the competition was a bit much. Three, I kept having to close my shades to keep my apartment from reaching 95 degrees during the summer.

So how am I going to remedy these? First, I'm limiting myself to only a few plants. I'm going to grow basil, oregano, and maybe some sage or thyme. By keeping it simple I can research my needs quickly and keep them in seperate pots. Second, I purchased an old roll top desk that is going to act as my garden plant stand. It has three levels I can utilize and when I put it where I plan on locating it, I can leave my shades angled a bit and get some sun without doing getting quite such a green house effect as where they are located now.

I'm also going to try growing some tomatoes. I've never tried doing this inside, but I bought the pot for them today. I'm going to pick up the plants sometime this weekend. I haven't quite decided where I'll get them, but I have all weekend for that.

So here are some questions for my readers. First, any other herbs or vegetables I should try growing inside that don't take a ton of work? Second, do you know of any great composting tutorials for doing the composting in an apartment with no outdoor access? Third, have you ever had success growing tomatoes indoors? Thanks for any feedback you might leave.