Panera In Hyde Park Plaza–Neurotic Nirvana

“The end of the line is….over….HERE!”

I turned slowly to see a livid older blonde in a running suit about 15 feet away from the counter and pointing at the floor behind her. Evidently I had run afoul of the invisible beginning of the queue to the cashier and was being put in my place! Now that isn’t Panera’s fault but the clientele seem to be a little “high strung” at times. Rather than risk the wrath of this sensitive creature, I retreated behind her.

The man who was standing next to me was having a conversation with a friend. “The doctor told me that I can’t have anything I like to eat anymore. No: sugar, cream, nuts, or bread.”

“Oh nooooo,” said his companion sarcastically,”don’t tell me that you are GLOOO-TIN INTOLERANT!?!” Then there was a loud snicker.

The pissed off blonde turned and pinned the speaker with eyes resembling blow darts! Alas, he had his back turned to her and was laughing. Her fury was deflected.

The line shuffled forward, no one was reprimanded (thank God) and I finally found myself face to face with the cashier actually ordering a cup of coffee.  Simple, normal transaction.

However, when I went to fill my cup there was no coffee in the urns. OK, that isn’t a tragedy so I went back to the counter and got the eye of a cashier/worker and asked to have the coffee replenished. I got a grunt out of the employee. I took that for “OK” and went back to waiting for coffee.

Several minutes later another employee appeared. She started to fuss with the lids for the cups, making sure they were lined up correctly. Stirrers were checked, sugar packets were fluffed up.

“There isn’t any more coffee, can we please have some more coffee,” I asked politely.

“THAT CAN’T BE TRUE! THERE HAS TO BE COFFEE IN THOSE POTS. THERE HAS TO BE,” the employee had quite a deep seated belief that the coffee urns were perpetually brimming with freshly made aromatic coffees and could not possibly be drained within 20 minutes of 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.Why on earth would THAT  happen? Why? Why? Is there no justice? Am I going mad? Is this some hideous Kafkaesque plot? It’s like something from….THE TWILIGHT ZONE!!!!

“There isn’t any coffee in any of the pots. Can we have some more coffee,” I repeat to the obviously distraught woman who has just had an almost complete failure of the bed stone of her grip on reality itself.

“I can’t believe that there is no more coffee! I just can’t believe it!”

At this point I am pretty fed up with the idea that I have just paid for an overpriced cup of coffee and there is no coffee, I have asked for this simple item and now am getting the last act of Medea. What the hell is wrong with these people? Just pick up the pot and get another one, n’kay? Is this some Herculean  task?

There are 6 people darting about behind the counters. Some are actually performing work but most look like they are moving for the sake of moving and looking busy.

I still don’t have my coffee. But the drama…the drama! I need a Greek chorus behind me chanting a swaying,”The coffee..the coffee..the Gods have taken it! Aye! No more, the coffee for YOU!”

Others are gathering with empty cups. Things are going to become ugly soon. Patrons want what they paid for. Grrrr. Chagrin builds. I look at the employee who is still standing there staring at the empty coffee pots (I don’t think it occurred to her that she might try to test one and if she got so much as a drop of coffee out of it she could upbraid me for my churlishness and go back to fanning faux recycled napkins again). I state what I think is the obvious,”If you run out of coffee, then you can’t get more out of the pot. The coffee pot needs to be refilled.”

I hate to sound Draconian about it, but I hate even worse the thought of standing around for another 10 minutes waiting for the elegant notion to form that more coffee needs to be fetched from the bowels of whatever place it is created to serve to customers.

A man comes by searching for hot water. He has seen the exchange and mutters,”Thank God I only want hot water…if I had come for coffee I can’t imagine the fuss that would have stirred up.” I snicker. The woman finally beetles off with the empty coffee pot in tow. I presume that she will return with more BUT she might be heading for the kitchen to pour her heart out to anyone who will listen…the inequity of the dearth of coffee!

New pot of coffee appears.
It is drained quickly.
The employee has disappeared.
Good luck getting more.

(Panera has a hard time keeping its coffee pots filled in the Montgomery Road location as well…what is up with that?).

This past week has been filled with a series of peculiar events which have caused me to write up these vignettes of modern living in order to get them off my chest and get on with other more productive things. Makes me wonder what is so difficult and noisome about just doing what you said you were going to do and giving good service? 


Webhosts…There's No Place Like Index

MedusaAs I usually do, I went looking around for a better webhost. I had been with 1and1 for 7+ years and I was told that they were not really as great as others. I thought I would try out other hosts. I was looking for very usual things: phone support, uptime on the air, decent control panel, not much fuss. Simple.

First I tried a company which was suggested to me on a website, it was pretty local (Indiana), small and had a lot of rave reviews. The name was MDD Hosting and I signed up. Of course there were questions I had to ask in order to get started and they had a phone number listed at the top of the website (with a little phone icon next to it). So, call and ask, right? No. I was told, nicely but firmly, that phone service was only for sales. If I had a tech support question I had to make up a ticket and it would be answered promptly. Oh.

On the site or in their ads did NOT say that phone support was only for sales and that all technical problems had to fill out tickets to be tended to.

Of course, I ran into a problem and sent a ticket to the tech employees. It was Friday night. I got an answer Monday morning. Good thing it wasn’t urgent.

It seemed like I got two ticket responses for every ticket I tried to send them (there were several). Keeping track of which ticket went with which question would have been the proper way to handle it, of course this puts an extra burden on me but…that is the rule, right? Then there were the flurries of “We are cancelling your ticket since you have not responded to ours in 24 hours”. Wow, which one was that for? Uhhhhhh, I have a lot of appointments every day and things I have to do (I am an entrepreneur and that’s the way life goes as a business owner). Putting one more task on my already task heavy plate means I am working for you (and paying you), you are not working for me.

I called sales on Monday and politely cancelled my subscription to the webhost and they refunded all of my money.

Next I was told about Hostgator, they are huge. They have 24/7 phone support, 24/7 chat, mammoth servers, low prices, and moar! I signed up there. I called them and was able to talk to someone in about 3-5 minutes. The phone connection was lousy (echoing and I had to talk very slowly to keep the reverb down). The we were ready to transfer. Fine.

Two days later I called Hostgator again because they sent me an e-mail stating that my e-mail address did not match the one they had on file and that they could not correspond with me. *Good Grief* (one address has another one feed into it…they are really the same BUT Hostgator could not handle that…my current host has no problems with that at all BUT…). More reverb…very hard to talk to someone when you hear what you said 1 second ago pounding in your ears.

I waited for 10 minutes on hold. The phone was answered by a bored and slightly pissed off American man who did answer my questions but I could tell he was not pleased about being bothered by a newbie customer. Oh. Really? I held my temper. I skipped the How Are We Doing survey which comes on at the end of all contact with Hostgator, as reliable as grim death or anther attempt to fritter away your time because they can…who is working for whom here?

Then I got an e-mail saying that we were ready to transfer my data BUT first I had to get into my Windows32-Drivers-etc and modify one line of code (and make sure it was taken off after all the migration was finished), and the line of code was like this: 23.4123.90 HKUCfqlIo**^2@ BUT where to put it exactly, whether to erase the line which was in that place originally and replace it later OR to put the new line under all of the other stuff which was there—that question was not answered. In short, I was supposed to alter a very important and esoteric part of my operating system with ambiguous instructions. In my world, that is not a good idea.

Unclear directions are not a good sign.

I called Hostgator, I waited for another 9 minutes so I decided to try to use their Live Chat to solve my problem and see if I could get some clarification there before getting an answer from the pissed off American phone guy. While on hold on the phone, I signed on the Live Chat and got this message,”Your Wait Will Be 8 Minutes”. For Chat? You have to wait as long for chat as you do for phone conversations? Oh, really?

So, I (just to see what would happen) hung up and logged out of Hostgator and called my current host 1and1. The phone rang 3 times and was answered by a very polite man from half way around the world. He spoke very good heavily accented English and he sounded as if he would be happy to spend as much time as possible answering my questions no matter how simple they were. I found out they had an even cheaper plan I could sign up for and with real phone support, this was a no brainer.

I called Hostgator and was told that to cancel my account I had to go to their cancellation area and fill in a form. I did that and got a tremendously ambiguous answer (no answer) as to whether I had just cancelled my account. I followed up an hour later and sure enough, my account was still live. I cancelled again and got a good cancellation screen.

OK, what was the moral of the story? I suppose you could boil it all down to the hoary old chestnut: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. However, there is indeed something to be said for exploration to see if anything better is out there and customer loyalty is not my strong suit. But in this case, I was best off where I started and I am going to cherish 1and1 from now on. I made sure that with the new hosts I only bought one month of service and cancelled promptly when I realized that I was starting to get very unhappy with the service. So make sure you know what you need from a host, make sure your new host can provide it, don’t be blinded by what you don’t need (woo-hoo…a cPanel OOOOO). If it’s not really better, back off and don’t take it. Also, if something looks confusing, stay away from it. AND just because you are talking to an American does not mean you are going to get better service. You get better service from people who give you better service.

The Dilly Deli In Mariemont–Not So Much

I used to love to go to The Dilly Deli after a good film at The Mariemont Cinema; or to meet friends there and have a great evening chatting and drinking wine and eating in a convivial atmosphere. This Tuesday evening was just dreadful. We came in after seeing a heavy duty art film and saw that there was a jolly looking crowd outside but inside was a bit flat. There were no live bands anywhere but it was a Tuesday. Our waitress was OK, she looked like she was out of Buffalo Wings and Things but didn’t have that horrid buzz saw voice that a lot of women have nowadays. We ordered a glass of wine each which came with no fuss. So far so good.

I asked about their quiche of the evening. It was “chicken fajita”…sounded revolting. I asked what it was like. “Tastes just like a chicken fajita.” Ewwww. I fell back on the old old standby, the Mariemont Strand Salad (uninspired but great for the perpetual dieter…you can get chicken on it and so I ordered a dinner sized one). My husband ordered the gnocchi with sausage and a nice red sauce with a salad (extra). No bread came with the dinner at all.

My husband got his salad. Real ordinary. At $5 extra, I thought it was a bit high but…he wanted greens.

Then the waitress brought the dinners. My husband didn’t get gnocchi…not even close, those were some kind of rotini with old tired Bob Evans sort of sausage and a light dusting of the most average Italian red sauce I have ever tasted. Really Bad. My Strand Salad was the side salad size. I sent it back to become the dinner size. They just added more lettuce and dumped the chicken on it and that was it.

My husband was not happy with his “gnocchi” and complained. He was told the chef ran out and it was the waitresses’ fault he was not told.

The whole dinner came to $75!!! What a crock.

I know they have dismissed one of the jolly bands who used to play there. This was an utterly silent evening with lackluster food and service.

I was told by a native that The Dilly Deli was trying to find a buyer and I guess they did. Someone who had no idea of what it takes to please a loyal clientele. At least loyal until they get a forkful of the latest fare. We won’t be back. There are a lot of other places to eat around the Theatre and we will avail ourselves of them. I was sorry we walked by The National Exemplar on our way there, that was prescient of me—next time we go there.

So, if you are in Mariemont and go see an “art” film, don’t bother with The Dilly Deli anymore. It’s expensive and pretty awful.

Dilly Café on Urbanspoon