Sunday, February 26, 2012

Now That is Customer Service...

This morning I got a few e-mails from DirecTV confirming that I had been charged $4.99 for The Tower Heist and another $1.29 or so for a phone access fee or some sort of nonsense.  Interesting.  My first reaction was that this was one of those Phishing e-mails where some prince in Africa is hoping to share millions of dollars from his kingdom if only I will help him get out of the country by showing a good faith effort of entering my name, date of birth, social security number, bank account number, password, mother's maiden name and semen sample.  I tend to skip my chance at the big pay day and send those e-mails directly to the Spam folder, but this one looked a little more legit.

So I logged into my direct TV account online to see exactly what was going on.  Sure enough, there it was on my account, saying that we had ordered The Tower Heist and a phone charge.  Obviously, we did not.  We had already had one incident where our niece's little girl (The Bee) tried to order Hangover 2, so I thought maybe we could be in the wrong here, but probably not.

For years, we had Time Warner Cable and I recall just hating to have to deal with their phone support.  Switching to UVerse in our last house (which rarely required any kind of customer support) was only about 90 percent better.  I have not really had to deal with DirecTV in any bad way, so I just got a cup of coffee and prepared myself for the worst.  

Imagine this:  I call the number, confirm the number I am calling from, speak to the machine long enough to tell it I have a problem with my bill, and in less than 20 seconds, I am speaking to a real live person.  A person who allows me to explain my issue without first going down a list of predetermined questions that are irrelevant to the problem.  Bree was her name, and Bree pulls up my account and says that according to the records, we had some issues with ordering directly from the box so we called in to have the movie manually authorized.  Before I had a chance to get upset or call BS, she asked me if the information they had was in error.  That is an awesome way to calm me right the F' down.  I assured Bree that neither me, my wife, nor any visitors to our home spoke with anyone from DirecTV during the time frame in question, and that we had not purchased or viewed the movie in question.

The entire investigation lasted less than two minutes and my account was credited.  Further, Bree asked me if we would like to have the ability to purchase PPV movies from our account and I said yes, since we can't even find time to watch 98 percent of the TV we are paying for already.  Done.

Thank you DirecTV for good customer service.  Now, go find out who watched The Tower Heist and had it added to my bill.  I'd start looking at all the rich princes in Africa.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pickers Meets Hoarders...

Just a few hundred yards northeast of Sheppard Road along I-35 between Von Ormy and Lytle you can see a house from the highway that is one non-stop garage sale.  My wife refers to the place as Sanford and Son's.  Well of course we had to stop in and take a look around.
There were some metal lawn chairs that had caught my eye but upon closer inspection, they were a little too rusty for the asking price.  But we did walk around the areas that were safe to explore and I thought I might share a picture or two.

I've mentioned our fascination with the show Hoarders and upon entering the yard, there was definitely a sense that this was a little bit closer to that than your standard thrift shop.  Many things were clearly placed into categories and like items, but a lot of it was just junk.  I was eager to see the pile of mummified cats, but we didn't venture into the house.
 We did peek in a bit, and I have to admit that if I had some safety gear and perhaps a shotgun, I might like to wander around a bit.  I just know there are some treasures inside this place that those guys from American Pickers would love to make a deal on.
I saw these little metal frogs sitting on tiny chairs and I didn't even bother to ask the nice older gentleman watching over the place how much he might let them go for.  I don't know why, but I feel like I may regret that.  They are just too odd not to want to throw into a garden, but I didn't bother.
By the way, do you need a fire hydrant?  This one seems to be available.
There was a lot to see out on the property but we started to chicken out once the carpet that had been laid down as a path stopped and the weeds made it safe for snakes and rats to hold their ground.  Perhaps we could go back with a weedeater next time and get a better look at things.

Lunch Report: Griff's...

There's another one we can mark off the big list of places we have been meaning to try.  I had driven by Griff's near the intersection of S.W. Military Drive and Pleasanton (or as people around her say, Plehzington Road) many times and I may have heard a few guys at work mention the place is good for a burger.  

Today was the day and we zipped in for a quick bite.  Not too bad.
Inside, the place looked clean but bare.  There were just a few posters showing menu items and that was about it as far as atmosphere goes.  There are some places (Lord's, Chris Madrid, Luther's, to name a few) where you can spend the entire time you are waiting for your burger gawking at memorabilia.  Griff's is more of a fast food place - Burger King without the awkward personality.
 When we ordered the place was empty so I thought it might go pretty fast.  I was wrong.  The drive thru lane clearly takes precedence, so we waited a bit to get our food, and when we did get it, they had forgotten to drop the onion rings Eva ordered.   
Eva had the fish sandwich.  She was fairly disappointed given that it seemed a bit overcooked.  You know my rule:  Never send anything back to the kitchen.
When her rings did arrive, they were better than some other fast food places, but given that they had forgotten them when we ordered, you'd have thought they would be piping hot.  Not so.  Still, not a totally loss as onion rings go.
I did get an order of Jalapeno Poppers just to try them out, and they were actually wonderful.  Though again, I question why they were not served hot but rather just warm, they were still better than what you get from Sonic or Church's.  It was my lucky day.  And, add to the list the fries that were closer to cold than warm.  Do these people not at least own a heat lamp?
 I ordered the double cheeseburger and aside from the meat possibly being overcooked for my tastes, it was actually a really good burger.  The bun was done right, it was served hot, cheese melted and it stayed together when I started taking bites from it. 

I'm not going to plan an outing or anything but I think I would go back to Griff's and I think what I would do is go through the drive thru and order the burger and some jalapeno poppers but skip the other stuff.

Have you tried Griff's?  Did you have a good experience?  Is there another place we need to add to our long list of burger places to check out when we get around to it?  Leave a comment, won't you?

Saturday Morning Report...

I was backing out of the driveway yesterday morning and realized that the wind had blown down three decorative windmills and our basketball goal.  Driving to work up I-35 was a chore, given the fact that every time I would get near an 18-wheeler, my truck would get caught in some sort of tornado-like wind-tunnel.  

When I got into the parking lot at work and had to make the long walk into the office, I was reminded once again of my time in San Angelo.  In the summer, there was a hot wind that would feel like someone was standing in front of your face with a blow dryer set on high heat.  Imagine walking however far it was from class back to the dorm.  And of course, in the winter, swap the blow torch for a blizzard blast of freezing air in face.  The best part was, trying to walk through the wind and keep your hat on your head.  Good times.

When I came home from work yesterday, I did not realize that the force of the wind had caused the automatic gate opener at the end of our driveway to malfunction, leaving about a two foot opening.  I walked in the house and let our dog Gracie go out and about 15 minutes later when we were getting ready to leave the house, we couldn't find her anywhere.  Still unaware that the gate was partially open, I walked around the back of the house fearing that she may have been injured or bitten by a snake or something.  Meanwhile, Eva went from room to room in the house trying to see if maybe she was under a bed taking a nap.  
We have a big yard, but it ain't that big.  She was simply gone.  I gotta tell you, it is an awful feeling when you look out and see nothing but trees and brush and the sun is rapidly going down, and the dog is nowhere to be found.

When I went toward the front I was able to finally see that the gate was open and I immediately jumped in the truck to go searching.  I made it to the end of the street and found her at a neighbors gate hunkered down and literally shaking like a leaf.  She had no idea where she was and as soon as she saw me open the door she came running and jumped inside.  Poor thing sat there in the seat and trembled until I pulled into our driveway and she recognized where she was.  We have taken her for walks, but for the most part, she stays in the yard so I think she must have chased something out of the yard and then lost track of where she was.  Needless to say, I'll be readjusting the gate opener this morning.

We went to Rocky's Grill in Devine last night to grab a bite.  Eva had the kid's spaghetti plate which she loved, and in keeping with the tradition of Lent did not eat the huge meatball that came with it.  Since I don't play the 40-day game, I gladly ate it and man was it good.  I did have fish so as not to offend anyone.  The special was Blackened Drum which I have never had before.  I wish I had taken a picture to share, because it looked good and tasted better.  I have never had a bad meal at Rocky's.

I have been thinking about changing up my style.  You know, a new look if you will.  My daughter had a dream that I was wearing a sweater vest and a bow tie.  My father used to rock the bow tie look.  I suspect I have a little too much girth in the mid-section to pull that off.
But I think this guy has a look I could go for.  The little hat rand matching socks really makes it work.  Of course, Eva vetoed the idea immediately. 
At this rate,  I may never have a chance to ride on the Cool Bus.

Speaking of spiffy rides...  Have you been to SAS (San Antonio Shoes) since they've completed the remodel?  Even if you have no intention of buying yourself some fancy silver grandma shoes, it is worth the trip.  The SAS factory store on New Laredo Highway has been a favorite place to visit for years.  I wrote about it here if you want to know more.  Anyway, they have remodeled and now have the full antique car display set-up under a covered area outside.  
 Some sweet rides to look at.
 We took The Bee for some new shoes the other day and just had a nice time.  Try it, you'll be happy you did. 

If you only had any idea how much hard drive space I have dedicated to pictures of deer that come by for a an evening stroll.  I just don't get tired of looking at them, I suppose.
 This picture looks like these two guys are getting ready to throw hands.  Actually, the camera just caught them in a bit of a staring contest.  No animals were harmed, on camera anyway.
 I thought this image had sort of an artistic look to it.  The deer is caught in a thick morning fog.
And finally, I leave you with one of my favorite looks for a buck around here.  He poses as if he knows the camera is looking for a good shot.  Luckily, there were no hunters out at midnight!

Off to an exciting weekend of who knows what...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Week in Review...

We went to the rodeo on Valentines Day - I know, say what you will, but Eva thinks walking the grounds of the Stock Show is a mighty fine way to spend an afternoon, and who am I to argue?

I've posted about the rodeo before so I won't recap the same stuff over again, but I would like to point out just a few notes.  First off, I know that the entire operation is a big fund raiser to support scholarships and such.  I get it and I'm happy to pay to help support such worthwhile endeavors.  But seriously, the cost of refreshments has gotten to the point of Disney-level ridiculousness. 
On what planet is it acceptable to charge $10 for a beer - even a big 24 ounce can of beer?  Secondly, aside from the extremely well-off who can spend their money supporting whatever charity they choose and figure out a way to write it off on their taxes, or the extremely stupid, who would pay $10.00 for a beer?   
 You know this is where all 24 ounces end up.  I recall years ago being wracked with guilt because I would succumb to purchasing a $6.00  20-ounce draft beer at the rodeo or a sporting event.  I suppose everyone has a line that must be drawn, and they have found mine.  I guess the real question is, do they sell enough $10 beers that it makes up for the people like me who simply refuse to do it? 
 The only reason I don't make a huge deal out of the food situation is, it really isn't as bad.  We wandered around the new asphalt paved food court area and both of us were extremely hungry and decided to gorge ourselves on unhealthy food.  Could the food be more reasonably priced?  Sure, I guess, but at least they load you down.
 Eva got this huge hunk of chicken on a stick along with rice and some sort of noodles for probably $7.00.  I suspect you would pay at least that much at Pei Wei.  We could have easily shared the plate and been done.
 But I needed to try a Reuben from the same place I got the chicken fried bacon.  I told you we were hankerin' for something unhealthy.  My Reuben was $6.50 and I think the tray of bacon was $6.75.   It's for charity.  And in the end, we were just overly stuffed.  Realistically, a family on a budget could eat at the rodeo grounds and it isn't going to really break the bank, as long as you don't load your kids up on $10.00 beers.   
Admittedly, I also can't complain about paying $6.75 for some Chicken Fried Bacon when I dropped $10 for a bag full of gourmet dog treats for Gracie.  They actually do look better than the bacon, and they aren't as chewy. Eva thinks I spoil the dog.   
 By the way, this is Elsie the Cow.  She looks pretty good for her age.

After the rodeo we were on our way home and Eva suggested we stop into El Bufalo.  El Bufalo is like a chain of Pawn Shops and they have one in Lytle.  She has been trying to get me to go into this place for a while and I have been avoiding it, but, after all those $10.00 beers, we needed to make some cash.  I'm just kidding.  I don't sell stuff at pawn shops but I've purchased a thing or two from them.  Anyway, I figure we can walk in, I can say I've been and we can just go home.  
 Instead I found this Sharp VL-AH151 Hi8 video camera.  I know what you are thinking.  You are saying to yourself, wow, this guy probably wants to invest in Beta over VHS.  No, here's the deal.  Years ago, one of the stream of video cameras I went through for the purposes of chronicling my children's youth was one of these Video8 models.  I have a few dozen of the Video8 cassettes that have not been transferred over to digital media but as you might guess, the camera itself crapped out and is long gone.  So for the last year or so, I have been looking on E-Bay and CraigsList and such to see if I can purchase one in order to transfer my tapes.  People want upwards of $200 because they know they have people like me by the cojones.  So when I walked into El Bufalo and saw this baby for $30.00, my first reaction was that I would copy all my tapes to the computer, then put this bad boy on E-Bay and make a large profit.

Yea.  Never believe Javier at El Bufalo when he tells you it works.  We fired it up before I bought it and he showed me that the power worked and such but I really didn't give it a good thorough inspection.  When I found it wouldn't actually play tapes, I took it back the next day and long story short, I'd need to come back when the owner was there and see if maybe they would give me a store credit.  I don't want to sound like a guy who can afford to pay $10 for a beer, but honestly, my time is not worth the potential of getting $30 in store credit to a place I have no intention of shopping at again.  More importantly, I have another idea.

I am currently seeking out a reputable VCR repairman who might be able to diagnose and fix the problem.  And once I get it fixed, I'll sell it for enough to make back the cost of repair.  Surely I can find someone on CraigsList who is reputable.  Or you can just e-mail me if you know of someone who tinkers with old cameras.

We went into IHOP this morning to grab a quick bite to eat.  I felt bad for our waiter because he seemed either new or incompetent.  Regardless,  the people next to us received most of their order.  It was a couple with two kids and the young man very politely sat there and let his huge omelet get cold while waiting for them to bring out his wife's order.  It was taking a long time and the man actually called over another waitress to point out the problem.  Meantime, our waiter brought out our food and he asked if we needed anything else and I casually said, Just my grits and that lady's breakfast.  I'm pretty sure the waiter crapped his pants, realizing that he had forgotten her food.  Eva also suggested he might bring us some silverware so we could eat our breakfast.  Is it just me or is service just not good these days?

Today I went to The Lytle Oil Exchange to have the oil in my truck exchanged.  I was sitting in the waiting room with my Nook finishing the last few chapters of a book (Is that you Vodka?  It's me, Chelsea) when an older gentleman walked out of the office and headed for the restroom.  I don't want to make a big deal of this, but never, I repeat, NEVER sit in the chair in the waiting room anywhere near the bathroom.  It's one thing to make your eyes water.  It is a completely different thing to drain the battery on a Nook.  
 And wrapping up here... Given the lackluster performance at IHOP this morning, I'm looking forward to my tacos tomorrow at La Palmera.  Seriously, they do have the best salsa in the county. Not unlike my experience in the waiting room today, it will make your eyes water and your nose run, but in a good way. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Burger Report: Lord's Kitchen...

It has been entirely too long since we stopped into The Lord's Kitchen which is located off of I-35 near the New Braunfels exit by Fort Sam Houston and downtown.  We haven't been in a while and there really isn't an excuse.  
Since I first found The Lord's Kitchen in 2008, I have told countless numbers of people that in San Antonio, it is my favorite burger.  Oh sure, I've had my share of really good burgers and am always open to recommendations, but if you are looking for an old fashioned, hand made burger on a grilled bun with enough grease dripping down your forearms when you take a bite to heat a small village, you need look no further than Lord's.  And for the record, yes, I rate Lord's above Chris Madrid's.
The place looks like they have spiffed it up a bit since our last visit.  New paint and such.  From the street you can smell the goodness coming from inside.

Once you are inside, you will find a small dining area filled with lots of memorabilia.   Something you will rarely find is this many empty places to sit.  We hit in the later afternoon between lunch and dinner, so lucky for us!
Eva had a 1/4 pound bacon cheeseburger with a side order of onion rings.  I love the onion rings at Lord's! 
I went with the half-pound bacon cheeseburger and added in some grilled jalapenos.  I got fries on the side so we could both share a little of each.  An important note about the fries:  Ask for them to be cooked crispy.  Every person I know who is a fan of Lord's complains about the fries being undercooked.  Order them extra cooked and you'll be fine.
One of the biggest concerns I have always had about finding a good place to get a great burger is that over time, they tend to want to cut costs and in the process, the quality goes down.  I'm happy to report that Lord's continues to put forth an awesome burger and it ranks right up there as one of if not the favorite for me. 
They are closed on Sundays, and lunch during the weeks is guaranteed to be crowded, but worth the wait.  Whenever you decide to go, wear your eatin' britches and get ready for a Tasty Treat.