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2012 Worldwide Day of Giving (Part 2)

Just as I said last year, you'd think as the brother of the guy who started the Worldwide Day of Giving, that it would somehow be easy for me to give $10 to a stranger. It isn't.

First off, it is just hard to approach a stranger on the street. Even harder these days that most people walk around with headphones on. So I patiently looked for people who did not seem to be in a hurry and who weren't listening to their headphones. But it took me 3 attempts to successfully give away $10.

My first failure was a woman standing outside the Jack Rose Dining Saloon. I made the mistake of starting the conversation with "Do you have a couple minutes?" She immediately responded, "No actually? I'm busy" as she started to play with her smart phone. I tried to be persistent, saying "It is the Worldwide Day of Giving, and I'd like to give you $10 with no strings attached" to which she said "No thanks." Well, I didn't want to be a pest, so I walked up the street, and waited for someone else (noticing that for the next 5 minutes the woman just stood at the corner of Jack Rose doing nothing).

Eventually I made eye contact with a man walking down the street in no hurry, and learning from my previous mistake, launched into "Hi, I'd like to give you $10 as part of the Worldwide Day of Giving." Well, that didn't work--he just kept walking without responding.

So I decided to take a walk of my own as I was having no luck at my current location. I walked around the block, and found myself near a service entrance of the Hilton Sport & Health Club. I spotted Sam quickly eating a meal while standing, presumably during a short break he had. Sam was very friendly, and didn't seem bothered by my interrupting him. I explained what I was doing and he seemed very interested in the project.

He said he works part time there at the gym (I assumed as a trainer, as he is a very fit/muscular man, but I actually forgot to ask what he does there). He works full time near the district courthouse with child services? I wish I was more outgoing and talked with him longer, but he finished his food, and I didn't want to hold him up.

I wonder if I'll do this again next year. The thought crossed my mind that my brother is so much better at this, that I may fund him to do it for me next year. In fact, I wonder if others felt the same way, if he could raise enough money to do it full-time. I suppose not, as it would take so much more than $10/day to pay him a comfortable wage.

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2012 Worldwide Day of Giving (Part 1)

Today is the 3rd Annual Worldwide Day of Giving! It is a day that was inspired by my brother's Year of Giving (Facebook Page), a project that I am immensily in awe of.

I wonder who I will give money to today. The fear and excitement is building, but having done it twice before, I know that the rush of goodness that follows will reward me. I encourage everyone to participate. And do it old school? find a stranger, and give them $10. Be prepared for rejection, as people can be wary of someone offering them money for nothing. Don't give up if you are rejected. Just move on to the next person. Explain to them that it is part of the Worldwide Day of Giving, and that they are free to give the money to someone else if they don't want it.

Oh, and please post a comment on Reed's blog or Facebook Page about your experience. In part two I'll post details about my giving experience this year.

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Turn the Lights Off

I work (for another week anyway) in an office building. I typically come in late, and leave late. When I leave on a typical day, nearly all the offices are empty. Yet I notice a surprising number of offices have lights that are on despite the fact that the fluorescent lights the office comes with are tied to an occupancy sensor.

So what gives? It turns out that the employees who occupy these offices during normal working hours have brought 300 watt halogen floor lamps in from home. These lamps get plugged into a regular outlet (not controlled by an occupancy sensor). Since during the day the overhead fluorescent lights are off while the room is occupied, I can only assume they prefer the quality of incandescent/halogen lighting to that of fluorescent lighting.

Who am I to argue with this? I mean, I try to use fluorescent lighting when possible (despite also preferring the quality of incandescents) in order to lower my carbon footprint; but those are my values and sensibilities. But there is no excuse for leaving that light on all night long. And yes, they are left on all night. I do occasionally have the odd night of sleep where I wake early and cannot go back to sleep, and on those occasions I arrive to work before those same people who leave their lights on arrive. And wouldn't you know it, all of those lights are still on.

So yes, I pass judgement on these people for being energy wasters. And of course I blame the company too. Somebody in facilities should be noticing this and care about it. Surely lots of money can be saved by turning these lights out. And if they don't care about money, then care about the planet, and provide plug-in occupancy sensors for the floor lamps. Or prohibit them, and offer to replace the built in overhead lighting with incandescents. Or something.

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Email to Virginia DOT

VDOT (vdotinfo@vdot.virginia.gov),

With all due respect, I believe that your consideration of imposing a $1/month/transponder fee is an abysmal idea. The use of these transponders should be reducing your costs, not increasing them. Furthermore, society on a whole benefits the more these transponders are utilized, as it relieves traffic congestion near toll booths, conserves fuel, and reduces carbon emissions. With this in mind, penalizing E-ZPass customers further (see below about the balance float on transponders) does not make sense.

E-ZPass (formerly Fastoll and then Smart Tag) has been in place in the DC area for more than 16 years. During this time, there has not been a need to charge a monthly fee. A security deposit is collected (currently $25) for each transponder. Furthermore toll payments are made in advance of toll usage when a minimum credit balance occurs. The amount prepaid carries a minimum of $35 per transponder. That is a lot of money to earn income off the "float".

If despite the revenue streams mentioned above, there is still an operational overhead for the program, I would suggest either adding a surcharge to drivers not using transponders at toll booths, or more favorably, simply incorporate those costs into the toll charged to ALL drivers. I believe this is reasonable since the use of the transponders benefits society on whole.

If you begin charging a monthly fee, my wife and I will likely return our transponders and quit using them. I suspect others will do the same. This will lead to more traffic congestion, more carbon emissions, and more fuel use. I implore you to reconsider this decision.

Regards,
Ryan Sandridge

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Customer Expectations

It is 2012. As customers, we don't have the same expectations as we did just a short time ago. In our Internet centric world, we expect to conduct business at just about any time of day, seven days a week. Companies who fail to deliver on that expectation, will either learn to shortly, or they will fail.

Consider this recent customer experience I had with my business bank:

I receive my new check card (due to the previous one expiring). I need to activate it, so I call the number printed on the sticker on the new card. I am prompted to enter my PIN. I don't know my PIN, because I have never withdrawn cash from my business checking account, but rather use the check card itself for business expenses. I try a few PINs that I've used in the past, but none are successful. After 3 attempts, I'm asked if I'd like my PIN mailed to me, and I say "yes".

Already this is annoying. I've activated cards many times in the past, and I've never been prompted for a PIN. But I shrug it off, and wait the 5-7 days it takes for my PIN to arrive.

Today (a Friday) around 6pm, I call once again to activate my card. But this time I'm not prompted for my PIN, but rather told that my card cannot be activated by the automated system, and that I need to contact a representative. No phone number is provided, and the automatic system hangs up on me. Why not just transfer me to a representative?

I call back, and spend at least 5 minutes punching various options trying to get to a representative (no, pushing zero didn't work, and none of the top level options were "Speak with a representative").

Finally I find myself talking to a person. She asks me for my account number. I explain that I can find it, but it isn't handy. She then asks me for my SS#. I give it to her. She then says I don't have an account with them. I say that I do. She asks what kind of account. I tell her it is a business checking account. She asks for the check card number, which I read to her. She then wants to know the tax ID of my business, I explain that isn't handy, and she says she needs it. So with her on the phone, I go digging in my files, and finally find it. She then asks me to verify the last 3 transactions on the account. I explain that I don't have Quicken in front of me, but she says she won't be able to activate the card without my confirmation of the last 3 transactions on my account. So with her waiting on the line, I boot up Windows, then Quicken, and I confirm the last 3 transactions.

You won't believe this, but after all this verification, she says, "You attempted to activate your card too many times. You will need to see a representative in person to have your card reset." WHAT?!? It is Friday after banking hours!

So now I need to make a trip to the bank. The catch is, it won't be to my current bank, but rather to a new bank with better customer service, and it will be to open up a new account. The next time I interface with my current bank, it will be to close the account.

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