Coworkers Wendy and Bryan’s musical-going group invited me for Circus Juventas, a local youth circus that trains students in the art of ... circusing. This year’s show was a rendition of the Wizard of Oz, and I was wowed; their costumes were exceptionally elaborate, and the overall production value of the performance was awe-inspiring. I’ve not had much circus-going experience in the past, but I was impressed. Also my neck was sore for days afterward, from craning to see the acrobats.
My filmmaking friends and I finally scheduled a one-day shoot to pick up one last scene for Paperclip, the short movie we shot in fall of 2011. It involved running around the woods with a camera, “chasing” our cheerleader actress and then dumping her in a river (don’t worry, we hired a water safety guy). Fun day, also stressful because there were many angles to shoot and not very much time to do it in. I didn’t hydrate well enough so made myself terribly ill on the way home. That part was not fun. I made my friends I was carpooling with leave me at a rest-stop, because I just could not be in a moving car any more. I called my parents, knowing it would take them an hour to get there, which would give me time to re-hydrate, breathe, call the paramedics to make sure I wasn’t suffering heat stroke, and so on. They dropped what they were doing to come get me (and fortunately I was feeling better by the time they got there). I have the most awesome parents in the world.
The following Monday my business associate Jordan and I met with the producers of a new feature film that was about to start shooting in town, to see about doing extras casting for them. Just like a Taylor Swift song, I “should’ve said no,” because doing extras casting on this thing turned into an absolute nightmare. Despite many desperate pleas to the production to give us any advance notice on what scenes were shooting, the ADs continually gave us, at best, 48 hours notice on how many extras they would need for each day. Usually it was even less. This is freaking Minnesota. People here have jobs. They can’t just take off work last-minute just because you couldn’t plan ahead a few extra days, not at the small amount of money you’re paying. It truly was unbelievable, how disorganized communication was. And then, the ADs had the audacity to be upset with us, when we didn’t hit our numbers. For the pitifully small amount of profit we made, it was not worth it. My friends Anne and John took the brunt of this frustration, they were on the front lines booking all the extras (although I did get in the trenches a couple days to help make phone calls). All told we booked 400 spots - many were repeat people (one guy worked ten days!), but many were one-offs, which meant after they wrapped, there was a crap-ton [official unit of measurement] of data-entry to add all the extras into my online bill pay, as vendors in QuickBooks, as bills in QuickBooks, and then finally, to send all the payments. On the plus side... it’s over.
I bought an elliptical from Sears. Which turned into a debacle. The salesman who helped me was wonderful, he spent way more time with me than I deserved, was incredibly patient, friendly - customer service at it’s best. If you’re ever in the market for some exercise equipment, try to find a guy named Dick Fogg at the Mall of America Sears store, he gets six out of five stars from me. However the Sears delivery service, gets a negative 3 stars. They did everything possible to make sure I was an unsatisfied customer. It started out with the first delivery team assembling the elliptical incorrectly - shoddy workmanship that frankly should have cost them their jobs - the thing was unstable, made clunking noises and had screws missing. Then followed a comedy of errors of me calling Sears to request/demand a repair, Sears agreeing to a time, then changing it, then not showing up, setting up a new appointment, showing up and only half-repairing the thing, making another appointment, showing up an hour early and wondering why I wasn’t home from work yet, and so on. This continued through I think 5 or 6 appointments/attempts at appointments, before finally they ended up replacing the entire thing and assembling a new one. And they still did it wrong: one of the foot pedals is on backwards. This I have decided just to live with, because it’s better than going through the whole rigamarole and hassle of scheduling another appointment with their non-understandable call-service (I’ve been to India, and normally I have no problem talking to a call center, but the people Sears employs do not speak English well enough to be doing their jobs). First world problems, I guess.
Matthew was moved from jail to a prison facility, so after being background-checked and approved to visit, I took a road-trip to see him. The prison - or, excuse me, “correctional facility” - looked like a castle. I mean seriously, I was surprised I didn’t have to cross a moat and draw-bridge. The officer who signed me in was very friendly, which caught me off-guard; in my very limited experience with jails and prison, everyone else who works there seems to be cantankerous and curmudgeonly. This officer, though, smiled, and patiently explained everything I’d need to know. This visit was different than at the jail - here we could do a “contact” visit, which means Matthew and I could exchange a quick hug, then sit across from each other in a row of chairs, in a larger room filled with other inmates and visitors having their conversations. We got to talk for an hour, the guard handed him “5 minute warning” slip of paper, and we said our goodbyes.
Over Labor Day weekend, Jessie, one of my best friends, came to visit from Des Moines. Her being here was my excuse to go do lots of fun entertainment that I would never do on my own: Como Zoo, the State Fair (where I ate many healthy-things-on-a-stick’s), the Renaissance Festival, the Science Museum, and had a lot of good conversations, too.
Addendum: A few hours after publishing this post, a representative from Sears wrote a comment. In the interest of preventing spam to their email address, I've kept the comment unpublished, but will include a redacted version here:
My name is Jack and I am with the Sears Social Media Escalations team. I came across your blog post concerning the delivery issues that you had with your elliptical and wanted to offer our assistance. Please accept our apology with the delivery and repair issues that you have experienced with the elliptical. We would like to have a case manager contact you to discuss this with you in greater detail and determine the best course of action at this time. If you would like to speak to us about this, please email the following information – your contact phone number, name, and phone number used at the time of purchase to ___. Again we’re sorry for any trouble this may have caused and we look forward to speaking to you soon.
Social Media Moderator
Sears Social Media Support
Saturday morning I sent them an email as requested, and less than an hour later a representative from Sears' corporate office called me and listened as I recounted my experience. She apologized, offered me a 20% refund, and promised to bring up my issues at her weekly corporate meeting. I thanked her for the refund, but stressed how it's even more important for them to fix their internal communication issues, so future customers don't have to deal with the shenanigans I did. Though there may be a limit to what she can do (and I completely understand), at least she'll raise the issues. Hopefully something will come of it. Nevertheless, kudos to Sears for A) reaching out to me, and B) taking the time to listen.
On a side-note: long ago my parents taught me always to keep notes of who I spoke to, when, and what was said, whenever it looks like the situation might turn into an ordeal. It is amazingly powerful to be able to say, months later, "I talked to Billy Sue at 10:57 a.m. and s/he told me ___." Makes you sound like a force to be reckoned with.