Thursday, July 31, 2008

Communication Breakdown

So I was in a place known for it's coffee. This is one of those places where you can get a card and put money on it, essentially prepaying for your purchases. The transaction that occurred seemed, from my position as next in line, an understandable but relatively simple miscommunication and yet it took several rounds and intervention from another employee to resolve. (I am blaming neither the employees nor the customer here. Or at least I think it is equal.)
So the customer ordered a drink and then explained that he wanted to add five dollars to his card. The employee entered this into the register, and the total came to seven dollars and change. The customer explained that he wanted to add five dollars to the card. The employee replied that yes, the seven dollars encompassed that request. And back and forth they went. Now, I could see that the customer meant I will give you five dollars to put on the card then from that five dollars, please subtract the cost of my drink. However, while respecting everyone's right to perform their transaction as they wish, I personally would have either explained it differently or done the card reload later. The somewhat amusing thing about the whole thing was that both the customer and the employee were so locked into their explanation that they just kept repeating what they had previously said, like some strange comedy routine. It took several repetitions and the intervention of another employee for them to get to the point where they attempted using different word configurations to explain the situation. Meanwhile the line was increasing.
I read an article recently that talked about how there is a human tendency to talk to someone about an issue, and then, if it does not result in the expected behavior change, we tend to try to talk to them again, instead of understanding that their might need to be a behavior change on our side too. These too guys (who may well have been tired or ill or otherwise understanding challenged that day - not really picking on them) didn't even make it that far. They couldn't get past the words they were using.
Oh, and in the end, they voided the transaction and started again.

Monday, July 28, 2008


My thoughts are with the members and guests of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in the wake of this tragedy. They are holding a gathering and candlelight vigil tonight. Other congregations are also holding vigils this week.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

7 Things: Call Centers

1. The average person's career in a call center is two years. Average. It is a high stress environment and most people move up or out pretty quickly. Certainly there is variation within different fields and there are of course lifers who tilt the stats, but there you go.
2. The call center I worked in did not allow me to send an obnoxious caller to the person next to me who was bored and have them pretend to be my supervisor, but some do. This is not to play with you or to deny you you fabulous rights as a caller, it is simply because in this day and age everybody asks for a supervisor, even when we have explained that the request they are making violates the law. Sometimes talking to someone different makes them happier.
3. If I had a nickel for every caller who threatened to have me fired, have their lawyer call, and/or sick the IRS on me, I would be able to buy a nice dinner. So you people throwing that around, we are not impressed.
4. I always did my job (I won't promise I was always sweetness and light, but I always did my job.) In the call center I worked in, our role was mostly informational, although certainly that information helped guide people through situations, so there was very little I could do. I could not give them free benefits or refunds or gift certificates. But, for people who were nice or understanding and or kind, I could certainly give them the benefit of my time end experience. Mean people didn't get that (or seem to care).
5. The call center I worked on required me to request permission before I put people on hold. I honestly only ever did that when I needed to make another call or get information from someone else. Nonetheless some people (one caller in particular comes to mind) seemed convinced I was planning to drop them into some sort of call center abyss. While I certainly can't speak for all call center reps, I would say that I was not doing that, and refusing permission just made the call take longer.
6. Call center employees certainly don't get paid a lot, but that doesn't mean we aren't good at are jobs. Sure I can tell you about people who weren't so great, but more of the people I worked with were great at their jobs. (Of course, being good at your job often offers you that chance to move into a different role, but still.) My point is, don't assume the rep you are talking to is stupid. Don't treat the rep as if they are stupid, chances are they know more about their subject matter than you do.
7. So in the end, my recommendation is that if the rep you are talking to doesn't seem to be giving you the results you wish for, instead of going ballistic or threatening to blow the place up (actual things that happened to us), take a deep breath and ask them to explain what's holding them up. You won't always like it, but at least they won't write a nasty note* in your file. And you might learn how to prevent the situation in the future.
*The nasty note usually won't hurt you. But good call center reps, will read the notes next time you call.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Books: Between, Georgia

My apparent knowledge (or fabulous guessing skills) of the inside of famous author Joshilyn Jackson's house garnered me a copy of Between, Georgia which I have now scarfed up and read. One of the commenters on her blog was recently talking about how even in the often nutty blog entries her way with words is so lyrical. I agree. In fact Jackson is an example of an author I was introduced to through her blog and hunted her books down after.
So, Between is the story of Nonny, center of a tangle of small town relationships. (The town is Between.) Nonny is the biological descendant of the Crabtree family who tend toward drunkenness and have a few members serving time in jail. But Nonny has been raised by a deaf and now blind mother as part of the Frett family, who tend toward churchgoing, stalwart behavior.
So, as the story weaves along Nonny feels torn - is she a product of her nature or her nurture? Will these two families, who never much liked each other, come to blows now that she is grown and married (although she is working on getting divorced).
And really, that doesn't seem like much, but I almost hate telling you that much because I think the way that the story unwinds and unravels) is so wonderful, that I hate to spoil any of those pieces. So, all of this is to say that I loved the story.
Much like Gods in Alabama, which I also loved, the story progresses peeling back layers and revealing more pieces of the puzzle of how everyone came to be where there are, and what they will do next.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I am strangely relieved that the two Starbucks in the immediate area that are closing are not on my regular list. (Well, I've been to both at Wheaton, but since there are two - one inside and one outside, I am okay with losing one. Personally I like the one in the strip mall better than the one in the center, in part because it is larger.) And yes, quite a few people have asked me if I heard about the Starbucks plans.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


It's been sort of a strange week (month) which is part of the reason the posting is slowing down a bit. But it's also been interesting as, through some interesting coincidences and the power of the internet, I have gotten back in touch with a few people I hadn't caught up with in a while. It's great. It's wonderful chatting with these various folks and finding out what paths they have taken or continued on. It's also always interesting to try to sum up what is going on with your life and what things are different since the last talk.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yay, DC!

DC was chosen as the number one town to live in in the US. Woo-hoo.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Things People Should Know: The Internet

The internet is available to anyone with an internet connection. I know this seems obvious but the number of times that people have forgotten that continues to amaze me.
This means that:
If you write something about how trashed you were yesterday, people can read it. People like your parents (of particular concern if you are underage), your boss, your prospective boss, your friend who you told you were studying last night, and so on.
If you change your email address to reflect a major life change you have made, anyone who you email will notice. So, if I changed my email to or, then when you email people, they will suspect that you are tattooed or, you know, shacking up'.
If you change your profile - on your social networking site or your blog or wherever - to indicate a similar life event to the examples above, people will find out.
And just in case anyone is unclear, this is not how you make such announcements to family and close friends. Even an email is pushing it for those people, but that is certainly better than them finding out because your profile now mentions that you have three kids instead of none. Sure, we can argue that there are exceptions for estranged family and such, and possibly, depending on the circumstances, that might be true. But if you go ahead with this method of non-communication, you are likely causing further damage to that relationship. If you're okay with that, then go ahead.

Book Stuff

Yeah, I have a review coming, just needs to percolate a bit more. In the meantime, I just wanted to point you here - to Dear Author - to show that I am not the only one who rants a bit about authors getting in fights about online reviews.
Also, Super Librarian pointed out the the magical list of authors for this years RWA Literacy signing has been posted. I almost don't want to show you. Okay, alright, it's here. Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Leafy Thing

Oh, the irony. I kept poo-pooing patterns for raglans with a single lace panel because they looked boring. All that stockinette with just one panel to keep you awake. And then after the Parthenope, I could not face anything that looked hard. And I had this Ella Rae Shibu that I wanted to use. I found the Leaf T-Shirt pattern by Melissa Lynn as a freebie on Ravelry. It was a personal pattern that has been shared, so I tossed in an extra inch at the neckline, added a little shaping after the bust and there you go.
Leafy thing
And no, I haven't been speed knitting, I've been trying to convince my computer to help me upload pictures.

Elinor Tank

So, I saw the Elinor tank in this summer's Interweave and loved it. As it happened I had picked up some Rowan Summer Tweed at MD Sheep and Wool, so it seemed meant. My original plan had been to shift the mosaic strip up, but I wanted to wait until after the shaping, so it ended up not shifting that much.
Elinor Tank 1
(Please ignore the ends, I hadn't quite woven in.)
I had some fun beads that I used.
Elinor Tank 2
This was really quick knit and a lot of fun. Amazingly, I think I knit it as written. I also thinks this officially makes Wendy Bernard the person who's design I knit most frequently. Hmmm. And she has a book coming out..

Monday, July 07, 2008

Summer Memories

For the Summer of Yarn Love Swap, we have been challenged to come up with a favorite summer memory. And I hate picking favorites. (Really, just look at the memes I do, I always cheat.) So, I am going to talk about a general feeling. I love the feeling of sitting in a cafe or restaurant - at home, or somewhere new - on a beautiful day when the sun is shining and it's a little hot but you have a shady seat (and it's not so hot that the shade makes no difference). And I have a good book or some knitting (ideally both), and no specific plans for the day, except to have fun.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Starbucks and Yarn Questionnaire

1. Full name - Tara
2. Ravelry ID - RandomRanter
3. Email address - tarachef at gmail dot com
4. Blog address (if you have one) - here - aka
5. Handmade item you desire in the swap (bag, cup cozy, etc.) - bag please!
6. Starbucks item you desire (gift card, mug, beans, etc.) - card please!
7. Favorite Starbucks beverage/bean - Since I don't drink coffee (I know), Chai tea latte. Although their new iced tea bags are great too.
8. Favorite snack food: Right now - sugar cookies.
9. Favorite color(s): Blues and greens.
10. Favorite fragrance: Cucumber.
11. What types of things do you like to knit? Hats, scarves, sweaters, skirts (just not a fan of socks, although sock yarn is lovely.)
12. Do you spin? No.
13. Do you dye your own yarn? I have been known too.
14. Favorite yarns All of them? Okay, I'm a fan of Noro and Malabrigo and Fibre Company.
15. Favorite needles - I love my Denises and also the Harmony Options.
16. Do you have any allergies? Not to food or fiber.
17. Would you be willing to prepare an angel kit if necessary? Sure.
18. Do you have any special requests? Nope.
19. Do you have any pets? Yes. A cat.
20. Is your home smoking or nonsmoking? Non-smoking.