Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Bill-ing" 01 and 02 (two stories): Nothing in life is free (particularly customer service)

Here’s a little story about customer service, even if it doesn’t involve IT (part II does).  Actually it’s two stories about “bill.ing”.   
  
I went to a movie screening at “Busboys and Poets” in downtown Washington DC tonight (link) and we could order food and meals in the little “auditorium”.  I ordered a salmon platter, and soon the waiter bought what looked like tapas filled with fish, and walked away before I could question him.  I had seen this dish at the Tapas on Charles Street in Baltimore (for the Maryland Film Festival).  I thought it was part of the meal.
Soon the hostess came by as the salmon was served and informed me of the mistake  But they wanted to charge me for the platter because it had been “eaten”   That seemed very important, to charge it.  They finally discounted everything deeply so they could still charge it and account for it.  That seemed important to keep everybody out of trouble. 
    
Who is responsible, the restaurant or the customer?   We could ask Liz on NBC4 Washington.

Here’s another little problem.  Most of the parking lots near the Washington area Metro belong to Metro and require a Smart Card for cashless pay.  The one exception that I know of is the Ballston Common Mall parking, near the Ballston Metro Station, a very busy station on the Orange Line in Arlington, VA.   (Lots of high rises and employers nearby. I used to work in the USLICO building neary, but it has been torn down and replaced by a bigger building occupied by George Washington University and Capital Hospice.  Virginia Tech is nearby.)  

At Ballston, you can park for $1 for up to 3 hours any time, and between 6 PM and midnight all nights (until 3 AM, when the Metro closes, Friday and Saturday nights).  But if you arrive at 5:59 PM and spend more than three hours, most of it in the evening, you get charged the full rate.  The computer programs aren’t smart enough to break the billing into separate segments, to make the charges “fair” to all consumers.  Why can’t they get their act together and fix this?
  

Here’s another thing. If you get back after midnight, the doors to the Mall are closed, and you have to walk all around to the vehicle entrance to get to your car.  Again, customer service?  
    
As for “Bill.ing 01” and “Bill.ing 02”, I’ve worked on billing systems much of my mainframe career:  member billing for Chilton Credit Reporting in Dallas in the 1980’s (we replaced the daily billing system), and salary deduction billing for USLICO (aka ReliaStar aka ING) in the 1990’s).  My nickname is "Bill" based on my given legal name ("John William") so I have been called "Bill Billing Boushka".  

 I'm not the first blogger or videomaker to turn his first name into a gerund.  I haven't yet taken on "Rainbow" as a last name.  

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