Win a flight to space

Win a flight to space
Holy crap. I’ve never wanted to win a contest so bad before in my life.

On April 22, KLM is launching a balloon from the Nevada desert into the upper atmosphere. If you guess the location closest to where it reaches before it bursts, you win the Grand Prize of a flight to space on the SXC Lynx. It’s a trip worth $95,000.

It’ll take you a few minutes to enter the contest, but it’s worth it. There’s a snazzy flash intro that explains it all, and then you have to choose your place in space. First, you choose your height (I chose 31km above the earth). Then you have to guess which way the wind will be blowing on April 22, and how strong it will be blowing to choose your exact place on the grid. They’ve mapped out a 3D graph of all the places the balloon could possibly end up, and each person gets to choose one spot.

Sounds complicated, right? Well not really. Here’s a hint: the wind will be blowing SSW, just like it always does on April 22 every year.

[bullshit alert]

I actually have no idea which way the wind will be blowing, but I figured 31km up and 31 km over is a pretty good guess, and SSW sounded good to me. Plus, my mouse was stuck dragging in that direction, so I couldn’t have gone north if I had wanted to anyways.

So what are you waiting for? Enter now. If you like me, click on my link, because each person that clicks it will cause my place in space to grow bigger, thus increasing my chances of winning. So, enter yourself and share it with your friends too. There are only a limited number of spaces in space (pun intended) so get yours now.

At the end of the day, if you don’t win, you can always live vicariously through me.

Here’s a video if you’re stil not convinced.

Virgin Atlantic glass-bottom plane

Best April Fool’s jokes of 2013

Another April Fool’s has passed, and there have been another batch of great April Fool’s jokes. There have also been some mediocre ones in the mix. Since I’m all about quality, here are my favourites from this year.

lululeatherMy favourite, because of the concept as well as the execution, is Lululemon’s “lululeather” campaign that introduces leather Lululemon yoga pants and “mooooo mats” made from leather to do yoga on. They updated their website with a highlight of the video and the two products.

The centrepiece of the joke is their video, complete with the organic farmer’s story, the “eco leather” concept, and a pretty funny logo. It also includes a few little nuggets like the girl with a bottle of milk next to her instead of a bottle of water. The video is high-quality, which is always important for a successful April Fool’s campaign, and was obviously produced by a talented team. Here it is:

I find it funny how some people take a joke so seriously, and you’ll note that there are a lot of “disgusted” and “offended” people if you read the comments or the #lululeather hashtag. I am not one of them, obviously.

My 2nd favourite was YouTube’s “Ready to select a winner” joke. This one needs no introduction, and is (no surprise here) announced via a star-studded video.

I also thought that Google’s Treasure Maps joke was a good one. If you haven’t done it yet go to Google Maps and search for your house. Then watch this video.

American Eagle announced a revolutionary new product, “skinny skinny” jeans, which is actually bodypainting. Again, a great idea supported by a great video. The reactions of people in the store is priceless.

One that came from my industry (the airline industry) was Virgin Atlantic’s glass-bottom plane.
Virgin Atlantic glass-bottom plane

Sometimes, though, a simple joke is most effective. Like this one of a UFO from @Cmdr_Hadfield.
Hadfield

Of course, no 2013 April Fool’s list would be complete without the one I was fortunate to work on with a talented team at WestJet. Since we moved the kids to the cargo hold last year, there’s now more space for your “extended family” in the cabin.

I hope you liked our “furry family” video. Here’s a little piece of trivia for you: the only animal that was actually in the studio with us was the goldfish. The rest are pure movie magic!

If you have any other favourite April Fool’s jokes, leave a comment below with a link so we can check it out.

Bell Let’s Talk Day – my thoughts and some numbers

Bell Let's TalkUnless you live under a rock, or don’t hang out on the Internet at all, you probably know that yesterday was Bell Let’s Talk day. This is an initiative that Bell Media has put on for the past 3 years, in an effort to get people talking about mental health. It is also, apparently, a very controversial campaign that has caused a lot of talk about whether it’s right or wrong for a telecommunications giant to be involved in something like this in the manner that Bell is.

Rather than focus too much on the controversial aspects, I’d like to focus on some of the other campaign factors to see if it’s actually worth it for Bell, and whether the campaign is successful at getting Canadians to think about mental health.

I’d also like to say, for the record, that I disagree with the skeptics, and think that it is a great initiative for Bell to be doing, regardless of their motive. Mental health is something that hits home for me – my sister suffered from undiagnosed PPD – and I believe this campaign does get Canadians thinking, and talking about mental health much more than they normally do, even on the official World Mental Health Day (October 13).

First, some of the details on the Let’s Talk campaign, which is actually a very simple concept. For every 1) text message sent by a Bell customer, or 2) Long distance call made by a Bell customer, or 3) Tweet using #BellLetsTalk/#BellCause, or 4) Facebook share of the Bell Let’s Talk image today, Bell will donate 5¢ to help fund mental health initiatives across Canada. The two main charitable partners highlighted (though not as well as they could have been) in this campaign are Kids Help Phone and Canadian Mental Health Association. There are a few others too.

Second, a few blog posts covering both sides:
Darren Barefoot: Why today is about Bell Canada and not mental health
Marc Weisblot Bell Let’s Talk Day is a pause from the cause of Bell Media’s shopping spree
Tom Megginson: Let’s Talk about Buyral Marketing #BellLetsTalk 
George Malik: Red Wings support mental illness awareness via ‘Do it for Daron’
Kent Basky: Canucks Brunch – Let’s Talk Day
Neil: Bell Let’s Talk Campaign

In 2012, the total donated after Let’s Talk Day was $4 million – and there were a total of 100,000 Tweets sent. As of midnight MT last night, that total had been surpassed after more than 88 million total actions were taken. The total donation for 2013 is likely to end up in the $4.5 million range – from just shy of 90 million tweets, texts, shares and long-distance calls.

Bell purchased promoted Tweets and a promoted trend on Twitter today. That’s no small expenditure in terms of advertising cost, but it’s also a drop in the bucket for Bell, which is a very profitable, multi-billion dollar company with a huge advertising budget. However, it is a necessary step for a brand-based online Twitter campaign to truly take off – no matter how compelling it is.

There were a lot of interesting things about how this campaign rolled out throughout the day, but I thought that the two coolest things were that Rogers got in on the action and, more importantly,  that “mental health” was trending on Twitter in Canada for much of the day. Regardless of whether Twitter users attached Bell’s brand to it, the fact that those two words were trending helps brings awareness to a much wider audience, and helps Bell achieve their goals.

The trending was in no small part due to the fact that lots of highly influential people and organizations got involved on Twitter this year (like my company did). In addition to all the TSN hosts (who work for Bell) who Tweeted throughout the day, here are some links to the other big-name Tweets that were sent: NHL, William ShatnerStephen Harper, Kevin Smith, Justin Bieber, Kristen Bell, Naheed Nenshi, Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal CanadiensWestJet, Strombo, Brandon PrustPaul Bissonnette, Rick Mercer, Trish StratusTeegan and Sarah… OK, you get the picture. There were lots of heavy-hitters in the mix.

The final numbers came in late last night and the of the approximately 89 million actions, the publicly-available social media breakdown was just under 2 million (1.6 million Tweets and 215,000 Facebook shares). The rest came from 1-to-1 text messages and phone calls. My best guess is that text messages made up for about 70 million actions, and the rest came from long-distance calls.

So, the “huge PR for Bell” that most of the skeptics refer to is based on approximately 2 million actions on social media, since the texts and phone calls don’t add anything to Bell’s brand awareness. What does that equate to?

From my experience in the digital and social media world, I can say that those social media actions aren’t worth nearly as much to the brand as people think they are. They are better than nothing for sure, but they’re definitely not worth millions in “free advertising”.

The Facebook shares will be seen by more people total, even though the total potential Facebook audience (i.e. combined total number of friends of users who shared/liked/commented on the photo) is lower than the potential Twitter audience (i.e. combined total number of all followers of all Twitter users who Tweeted with the hashtag). The reason that Facebook will have a bigger impact is because of the latency effect – posts/photos tend to hang around the Facebook newsfeed for longer than Tweets in the Twitter home feed. If someone wasn’t paying attention to their Twitter feed at the exact moment someone they follow tweeted with the hashtag, that Tweet will be pushed down into the stream and, essentially, disappear into the Twitter void.

There are a few different metrics that people use, but I believe – based on experience – that only about 1% of a user’s total Twitter followers on will actually see any given Tweet they send. So, while Justin Bieber’s 34 million Twitter followers seems like a pretty big number, his Tweet only generated 17,000 retweets, which equals about 0.05% engagement. About 350,000 of his followers would have likely seen his one Tweet.  More than 610,000 of the total uses of the campaign hashtag were straight-up retweets, which are easy to do for a user, but fewer people actually pay attention to RTs. 430,000+ users actually took the time to write their own Tweet, and those are the ones that most people will actually read.

Here are some interesting and publicly-available facts that I found in/calculated from BCE’s 2012 Q4 and year-end financial results. Bell’s total cellular user base is 7.7 million people in Canada and their average daily revenue from long distance (landlines only) is $2.1 million. During Let’s Talk Day, that would equate to each cell user sending 9-10 text messages (which isn’t that much more than an average day for most people) and a handful more long-distance calls made than normal. I actually read a tweet from a girl who sent over 1500 texts!!

If everyone is focusing on how much Bell gets from this campaign, I think they’re missing the point entirely. This campaign definitely gets them some positive PR, but not as much as they’ve spent on promoting it. I’ve seen tons of ads on TSN, CTV, etc. recently and, while they don’t have to pay for the ad to go up, every Let’s Talk ad they show on their networks bumps one paid ad so there is a cost involved.

If the total donation is around $4.5 million, this campaign would likely cost them around $5 million total. When you combine the value of the 2 million social media mentions with the revenue that extra text messages will cost users (without unlimited text plans) and a mild increase in long distance revenue, this campaign puts them in the black, but it it’s not the windfall that most expect it to be. Even the tax deduction is a joke for a company the size of Bell. A $4.5 million deduction on almost $20 billion in revenue is the equivalent of someone who makes $50k per year donating $11.25.

As Darren Barefoot suggested in his blog post, instead of having it on their own day, and putting their brand all over the campaign, Bell should join up with World Mental Health Day to help raise awareness and donations. This is an interesting idea, especially given the fact that last year’s WMHD only created a total of 5,700 mentions on the Internet (33,000 if you include the Friday prior and Monday after October 13, which unfortunately fell on a weekend last year). Maybe having a media giant like Bell involved on the “official” World Mental Health Day would help raise overall awareness… but then again, maybe not.

I have my opinions, and don’t necessarily have all the right answers, but I do have two questions to leave you with:

1) if Bell jumped onto the World Mental Health Day bandwagon with their campaign, would they be criticized for trying to capitalize on an existing “feel-good” day, or would their efforts be as successful at getting as many people to think about mental health issues as they did on Let’s Talk Day 2013?

2) is one day per year enough to remind people that we need to work more on mental health issues?

What is the NICU like?

What does it cost to have a baby in the NICU?

One of my friends welcomed a baby boy into his family a couple weeks ago, and when I saw his baby photos, I recognized the setting. His little boy had also spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Foothills Hospital. Of course, it reminded me of the time my twin boys spent in there after they were born, but it also made me think how fortunate we are that they were born in Canada, where we have health care to cover this kind of thing.

What is the NICU like?

James in his isolette in the NICU


Before the boys were born, we were prepared for the possibility that they may spend some time in the NICU, thanks to our pre-natal “twins” class. When they were born just shy of 33 weeks, we knew that “some time” would probably end up being “a long time.” In the end they ended up spending 25 and 30 days, respectively. The NICU experience is something that I’ll never forget, and it definitely deserves a blog post of it’s own. But this post isn’t about the experience; it’s about health care coverage.

I feel sad for anyone living in another country that doesn’t have universal health care, because having twins in one of those places could lead to all kinds of troubles. First, the health care may not be as good as it is here. Second, having two babies spend a month (or more) each in the hospital could end up bankrupting your family. Third, in countries, like our southern neighbours, where there is private health care, a NICU stay could end up maxing-out your kids’ lifetime maximum insurance benefit before they are even able to come home.

Speaking to the nurses in the NICU in Calgary, I learned that it costs about $1500 per baby, per day in the NICU. That covers the nurses & doctors’ wages, the equipment (isloettes, bassinettes, monitors), and the baby necessities (diapers, creams, blankets, etc.). It doesn’t cover any medication or extra tests that may be needed. That would bring our 55 “baby days” total to $82,500. Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of money, and if we actually had to pay that out of our pockets, we probably would have lost our house. Thankfully, our health care covered 100% of this cost.

In the U.S., a stay in the NICU can cost up to $8000 per day. Yikes! That would bring our 55-day total to $440,000 and would not only have caused us to lose our house, it would have bankrupted us.

Now, these costs only cover the basic NICU stay and don’t take into account any extras that may needed. Throw in a few ultrasounds, multiple blood tests, a few courses of antibiotics and other medications, a pediatrician to follow the boys once they came home, multiple visits to a hematologist, neurologist & physiotherapist… and the bills could add up quickly.

This may sound like a lot of seemingly unnecessary care, but it isn’t outside of the norm for premature babies. Some preemie babies have health problems that persist for the first few months (or years), while others are born and go home a few days later like most other babies in the world. The “extra care” list above is what we’ve experienced so far, and I wouldn’t consider either of our boys to be especially needy.

So… what’s the point of all this? It’s a commentary on the type of society we live in, and a reflection on the type of society that some nations are trying to create.

I haven’t had a family doctor for almost 15 years. I’ve been to a hospital or clinic a handful of times since I became an adult, and it has usually been for very minor things. I never considered myself to be a “user” of the social benefits that I pay for with my taxes each year. Until now.

I’ve paid my share into the tax pot, even if I never enjoyed doing so. Thanks to the foresight of those who pioneered health care in Canada, I’m now able to withdraw from that pot when I need it most. Having your babies spend 55 days in the NICU is not something that anyone plans for. Neither is a car accident or a cancer diagnosis. But the reality is that these things happen every day, and having universal health care coverage is something that you will be very thankful for if it ever happens to you.

If you don’t believe me, go ahead and vote for Mitt “47 per cent” Romney and see where you end up.

Maxim & James

2 months and 7 days as a father of twins

It’s been 70 days since my last post, but I have a very good reason why I’ve been neglecting my blog. The night after our tree fell down, my girlfriend went into labour and the next morning our twin boys were born!

It’s been just over two months since then and I can say, without a doubt, that having twins is the greatest joy I’ve ever had. I’ve realized how unique it is to be a parent of twins, and, while we were trying for only one baby, I couldn’t imagine it any other way now. With two mouths to feed, two diapers to change (6 times per day!) and two little cuties to hug and play with, I don’t seem to have a lot of time to write much these days, so I’ll let a photo of my little guys do the talking for now…

Maxim & James

Maxim & James

Since the boys were born, they’ve spent just under a month in the NICU at the hospital, and just over a month home with us. The NICU experience is a topic for another blog post or two, which I plan on doing. Needless to say, we are very fortunate to have had some amazing nurses and doctors who helped care for our boys until they were ready to come home.

Now that they are here with us, life is as awesome and crazy as it has ever been and I don’t expect it will change for the next 20 years or so. Every day is a new adventure, almost every night is as sleepless as the last, and I’ve truly learned the value of a power nap. I take one often as I can, though the urge to nap always seems to come right when the boys are waking up to feed.

So, what’s it like to be a dad of twin boys, you ask? Hard to say, but here’s a sneak peek.

Over the last two months, my life has consisted of the following: trying to sleep whenever I can, feeding babies every 4 hours, burping babies, changing diapers (every time they feed, plus a few extras), cuddling babies, swaddling babies, putting babies to sleep, hoping that they fall asleep and stay asleep, waking up when they lose their soother(s), putting said soothers back in babies’ mouths, waiting for them to look like they’re sleeping again, going back to bed to go to sleep, waking up 20 minutes later and repeating the whole soother thing, finally sleeping for about 90-120 minutes once they actually fall asleep, waking up to feed the babies again, eating adult food whenever I can, showering when the babies are sleeping, going to work, trying not to fall asleep at work when the “2pm wall” hits me, coming home from work and repeating everything all over again.

As you can see, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for a social life, Tweeting, blogging, etc. but I can’t complain. All I have to do is look into my boys eyes to see that the world is an amazing place. They’re still small enough that I can carry them like a football in one arm, and, as far as I can tell, I’m the coolest guy they know. I realize that this will soon change, so I’m loving every minute of being a daddy to my baby boys!

Now that my household has doubled in size, you’ll see a lot more twin-related stuff here. As I’ve been reading about raising twins, I realize there’s a lot of resources out there, but there is also room for more stories. I love hearing about other parents and their experiences with their kids, so I’ll share a story or two here for you to read. Just don’t expect one every day. Or every week…

What to do when a tree falls?

What do I do when a tree falls in my yard?

I woke up this morning to an unexpected sight. One trunk of my elm tree had fallen overnight.

What to do when a tree falls?

Our beloved elm tree fell last night.

I believe the first words to came out of my mouth after I saw it were, “Holy shit! Our tree fell down! What should we do?”

I suppose the next step is to find an arborist to remove the tree and to tell us if we should cut down the other side before it falls onto our garage and garden. There are a few branches on the tree that are leafless this year, so my gut tells me that the tree is dying and needs to be removed, but that’s what I need an expert for. I’d really prefer not to have to cut the rest down, but I suppose it’s better this way than to have to rebuild the roof of our garage in a couple months with two newborn twins.

I count myself lucky for two reasons.

First, we still have 5 other trees in our yard, as well as numerous bushes, etc. so losing one isn’t the end of the world.

Second, that trunk/branch has previously been used as a swing holder, and would no doubt have been used for the same once our 2 boys are old enough. I feel lucky that this tree didn’t fall on them.

Regardless of how many other trees we have, it still sucks to lose a tree, and we definitely plan on planing a new one in this one’s place. It stands in a central place on our property, offering shade during the afternoon and filling-out our yard with a beautiful green canvas. It’s right next to the garage and garden so we need to find something that will work well there.

Are you a tree nut? Do you have a suggestion for what type of deciduous tree we should plant? Leave a comment.

It was interesting to note that I didn’t hear a single noise when this tree fell. It was almost like it slowly leaned over until it was lying on the ground instead of cracking and falling violently. It made me think of this song for some reason…

Dirty u-haul trailer

My U-Haul review: aka why does U-Haul suck so much?

As someone who lives and breathes social media and online customer service every day, I am not the first person to complain when something goes wrong. I understand that no business is perfect and that mistakes happen every now and then. While I would love all my experiences as a customer to be flawless, I realize that anyone looking for perfection from a business generally won’t find it and will go home unhappy at the end of the day.

It is with this in mind that I entered into my most recent rental experience with U-Haul. I was hoping for a much more positive experience than the past two rentals my girlfriend and I had with U-Haul. Unfortunately, the people at U-Haul didn’t deliver on my lowered expectations. Some of them did (and kudos are due to a few of the people I spoke to), but the inconsistency in service attitude amongst the people I spoke to on the phone indicates that there is a much bigger problem at U-Haul.

Indeed, when I search online for things like “U-Haul Sucks“, “negative U-Haul experience” or “negative U-Haul reviews” I find a lot of stories of people who have either been rented unsafe equipment or have been treated like crap by U-Haul customer service.

I feel that it’s important to briefly note (for reasons you’ll read later) that in 50+ rentals with U-Haul, I’ve only ever had two previous poor experiences. I’ve been renting from U-Haul since I was old enough to sign a contract on my own and can’t count the number of trucks and trailers I’ve rented from U-Haul while I was moving regularly 2-4 times per year for school or for my seasonal jobs.

The first time I had any sort of negative U-haul experience was in June 2010 when my girlfriend and I were getting ready to pack up and move our stuff across Canada. We took our car into one of the local U-Haul locations in Montreal to have a trailer hitch installed. The technician tasked with installing the trailer hitch was so incompetent (or poorly trained, if you prefer) that he actually resorted to Googling how to install a trailer hitch and do the electrical wiring while my girlfriend waited in the lounge.

After a few painful hours of watching him fumble his way around our car, she decided that she had had enough and told him to stop. She took the car to another company that specializes in installing racks and hitches, and in about 15 minutes, they finished checking his work (he actually installed the hitch correctly!) and corrected his wiring mistakes (he had started to hook everything up backwards and probably would have ended up damaging our car’s electrical system).

My girlfriend submitted a complaint online, and received an email apology and $60 credit a short time later. Simple, easy and appreciated.

A year later, we needed a truck to move our stuff into our new house. I went back to my old trusty rental company and reserved a big truck, complete with “Mom’s Attic” for our moving day. Everything about this rental was good, except for the fact that the agent at the rental location informed me that he was unable to apply our credit. It was unclear why, and he told us to call U-haul to have it applied. Nobody that we spoke to was able to apply our credit, so we ended up sucking it up and eating the $60 charge. With a new house to take care of, I didn’t feel like spending countless hours on the phone with U-Haul reps. Could I have pursued this further? No doubt that I could have, but it really wasn’t worth my time.

Queue the most recent experience; the one that really blew my mind and made me wonder “why does U-Haul suck so bad at customer service?”

With a now pregnant girlfriend and twins on the way, it was time to do some basement renos. After tearing-out carpet, ceiling panels, drywall and other things for the entire day, I looked at the pile of garbage that had accumulated in the back yard and decided that it would be a good idea to get rid of it as soon as possible. The problem: It was Sunday night, and I didn’t have a lot of time. I needed to be at work early the next 2 mornings and had baby-related appointments on Monday and Tuesday night. The solution: U-Haul had several locations that were open late on Sunday evening and one of them wasn’t too far from the dump! I realized that I could pick up the trailer and load it up that night, then dump it early the next morning, drop it off and be at work on time.

Awesome! I love when a good plan comes together. I made my reservation online (note: this is a big mistake) and rushed over to pick up the trailer.

Unfortunately, the weak link in this plan was the U-Haul contractee that decided they’d go home early on Sunday because business wasn’t booming. When I arrived to pick up the trailer at the location in the SE of Calgary, I discovered that the owner had closed up shop early and had gone home. Understandable that someone would want to spend Sunday evening with their family, but why advertise that you’re open if you’re not? I called U-Haul and was lucky enough to get an amazing customer service rep. who helped me find another location. She was polite, apologized many times, and actually called the other location to ensure they were open and that they had a trailer.

I arrived at the alternate location (which was about as far as you can get in Calgary from the 3 landfills) and completed the paperwork with the guy behind the counter. Again, he was awesome, and very helpful and I made a mental note to include the “Entertainment Plus” location in my good books.

Dirty u-haul trailerHe apologized in advance that the trailer was very dirty, and explained that he’s not supposed to have trailers at his location, but that someone in the U-Haul office gave the OK for a customer to drop it off there and that it showed up like this.

When I walked up to the trailer, I saw that it was caked in about 1 inch of dried mud, so I asked him to make a note on my file so that I wouldn’t be charged the cleaning fee when I returned it the next morning. I also took a couple pics (right) to be sure I’d have proof that it was like this when I picked it up.

I also asked if it would be possible to drop the trailer off at another location so that I could go to the landfill that is closest to my house and actually get to work on time. He said that he understood why I was asking that, but that I would have to call U-Haul customer service to get an exception as he wasn’t permitted to do it. When I called U-Haul, their customer service rep told me that it “may” be possible, given my circumstance, and that I’d have to call the local “traffic office” the following morning as they are the ones that arrange where each piece of equipment ends up.

What ensued was truly the cherry on the cake for me.

As I was finishing up at the landfill the next morning, I called the traffic office and spoke to what I can only describe as a unhappy, power-tripping nerd who felt that this was his time to show someone “who is boss”. Knowing how many reservation systems work (i.e. every time I talk to someone on the phone they put a note on my reservation) I said, “There’s supposed to be a note on my file about dropping this trailer off at another location.” The attitude that came back from him was unbelievable and I’ve done my best to capture the actual conversation below. It’s probably not 100% accurate, but it’s as close as I can remember.

“What are you talking about,” he said.

“There’s supposed to be a note, in my reservation, from the customer service rep I spoke to last night, about me dropping off my trailer at another location this morning,” I replied.

“I don’t see any note.”

“Ummm… OK,” I said, thinking that I’d now have to explain (for the 4th time) that I felt inconvenienced and that I was looking for a little goodwill from the company to allow me to drop off a dirty, muddy trailer at a full-service U-Haul location close to my home (read: do U-Haul a favour and get their trailer back to a location where it’s supposed to be), so that I can get to work on time.

So I explained what happened and why I’d like to drop the trailer off at another location. “The location I reserved online from closed up early last night, so I had to drive 1/2 way across the city, to a location that isn’t as convenient, to pick up my trailer. I had to go to a different landfill, and am now done with the trailer and would like to drop it off as quickly as possible, pay with my credit and get to work on time.”

“You have a credit? Why do you have a credit?”

“It’s from a previous experience I had with U-Haul. The gave us a credit to apologize.”

“Oh, so you’re one of those people who complains all the time. Why should I do anything for you?”

“I was hoping that you’d be able to see it from my perspective and to work with me to find a solution to a simple problem.”

“You can drop it off at another location, but there will be a charge for that. Would you like me to add THAT to your file too?”

“No. What I’d like you to add to my file is that you’re willing to make an exception and allow me to drop it off with no extra fee.”

“That’s not going to be possible. I’m going to leave a note on your file to say that you complain all the time and that we shouldn’t give anything to you.”

“Really?!! That’s the best you can do? Brutal. Is there someone else there that I can talk to?”

“No. I’m the only person you’re going to talk to. So we’ll see you at Entertainment Plus to drop off the trailer then. Buh-bye.” The line goes dead. The little shit head hung up on me!

The rest of the story is pretty much irrelevant after this point, but for the sake of documenting it, I spoke to about 3 more people that morning, followed by a call from a supervisor. My concerns were documented and apologies for having a closed location were made. I was also promised that my credit would be applied and that my credit card would be refunded.

It’s now one month later and it stil hasn’t happened.

Lessons learned: 1) U-Haul has some real assholes that work for them, 2) They also have some really nice customer service reps and some great contractors who use their own businesses to allow U-Haul to have locations all over the place, and 3) never reserve online close to the end of the day, 2 hours before you pick up a truck or trailer – always call the office to make sure they’re still there!

There are three obvious gaping holes in U-Haul’s policies. First, someone from a traffic office, which I can only assume is NOT a customer service office, was allowed to bring their real life problems to work and treat a customer like shit – taking an already poor experience and turning it into one that I’ll probably never forget (oh, and add a scathing, anti-U-Haul blog post to his list of accomplishments). Second, it is obvious that the group involved with developing U-Haul’s customer service guidelines (or policy) don’t really care about their customers. They don’t provide their employees with any sort of true problem solving ability (read: empowerment), and prefer to make the customer sit though another phone call. They also make it infinitely difficult to actually use a credit, further increasing the frustration.

The most important thing that a company can do after screwing up is to treat their customer with respect, offer an apology and find a solution. I got several apologies from U-Haul representatives, and apart from the first woman I spoke to – the one who found me a trailer on Sunday night at 6:30pm – nobody was ready to help find a solution to something that was a very simple problem.

If anyone from U-Haul is monitoring mentions on the Internet and reads this, I hope you can take this as an opportunity to improve what you do. I’d like to rent from U-haul again in the future, but “uhaul” has become a dirty word in my household, so I’ll probably be looking at other options for now.