Spitzit’s House

Where serious topics come to relax

Obama, McCain, Politics, Partisanship, the media, and the Great Hypocrisy

As expected, this election year has so far been an interesting if not humorous circus with the usual suspects and antagonizing cast of characters. There are of course the politicians, all slinging their profound words of political wisdom around and posturing for the voters on how they are the more stand-up and qualified guy…or woman, to lead this country into its next four years. Its the normal “baby kissing”, hand shaking photo op BS that they have all done for many years.

‘Here you go senator, put on this hard hat, sit down for breakfast in this country cafe and small-talk with the little people so they will think you give a damn and are one of them.’

The media, God Bless Them, are the biggest group of circus clown hypocrites in the entire show. While the politicians are throwing knives, swallowing swords, and doing impressive tight-wire acts, the media clowns are running around the arena and falling all over each other to get the attention of the audience.

What ever happened to fair and unbiased reporting? The tricky answer is nothing happened to it because it never existed. “Fair” or “Unbiased” reporting is the stuff that myths, folklore, and fairy tales are made of. But the media need not fear for there is a medium of information and news even more ridiculous than their own newspapers and TV talk shows.

Viral email propaganda is a wild and wondrous phenomenon filled with curious half-facts, plain lies, and inane jokes that are sure to captivate the attention of a vast culture of village idiots and actually sway their votes. Largely utilized by Republicans I get crap-loads of this partisan spam forwarded to me from many different people.   While they are often humorous email, I am aware that some people actually believe the anti-Obama or anti-Democrat garbage in these emails from total strangers. Case in point, I have received on more than one occasion an email that portrays Obama as un-American for painting his campaign airplane and removing the American Flag from it. I have advised the senders and everyone on the mailing list that McCain’s plane does not have an American flag either and does not even have American colors on it…I guess that makes him a communist? Unfortunately, no one responded to me, and I doubt that my email ever got forwarded on. Dang it!

The sad thing is that the poor GOP is simply reduced to passing their goofy propaganda through viral emails because they can’t get two words squeezed into the democratically controlled newspapers. I am going to take a wild guess that almost all of the newspaper media, and much of the TV media are Democrats? Actually, its kind of obvious. They are like a bunch of love-sick dogs humping the leg of Obama with eyes all lolled back in their heads and slinging slobber off their big stupid tongues with each passionate hump. It is quite sickening and painfully obvious who they want to hump and who they want to bite.

Geez, sometimes one just wishes they would all just get a room, because some of us are getting tired of watching the blatant “public display of affection”.

Another example for you from the other side of the fence…Let’s suppose, just for a moment, that Obama, and not McCain, had been the one to suggest delaying the debate to focus on resolving the economy crisis and proposed “bail-out” packages. How would the story have been reported in the papers then? I will GUARANTEE you that Obama would have been hailed by the media as a conscientious super-hero putting country before politics while McCain was playing partisan politics and trickery.

You see, It is not “what” is said that is important, but rather “who” says it, which then leads to how any statement made by either party can be spun in favor of the democratic leg that is being humped. That is a fact of life, politics, and the media.

About all the GOP has going for it in the media is Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Shawn Hannity, who are all a bunch of ego-maniacal windbags I wouldn’t want on my team anyway, but at least they are right up front and honest about the fact that they are biased Republicans and make no beans about it…they are still clowns just the same though.

This is a dangerous and volatile time in our history. No one knows what the future will hold, but I certainly hope it doesn’t hold a country full of people slapping themselves in the head in retrospect with a resounding “D’OH!”

Just remember…if you read it in the newspaper or read it on the internet, then by God it must be True as the sky is blue. When your done with that, I have some ocean front property in Nevada I want to talk to you about.

That is my brilliant opinion and I am sticking with it…until the media says something fair and unbiased…which means forever.

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September 26, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else, politics | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Book Review – Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver

Cold Moon, written by Jeffery Deaver, was released in 2006 and is part of what is now an 8 book series surrounding the intense cases of Lincoln Rhyme and detective Amelia Sachs. For those of you who do not know the series, it started with The Bone Collector, which became a major motion picture starring Denzel Washington as the insanely smart quadriplegic forensic sleuth with an attitude and his new and super hot detective partner with an attitude, Angelina Jolie as Amelia Sachs.

Truth be known, this is the first book in the series I have ever read and I have to admit that I rather enjoyed it. I saw The Bone Collector back in the day, but never got around to reading any of Deaver’s books until now. I know it just isn’t proper to start in the middle of a series, but I did in this case. I enjoyed this book just enough to run down to the local charity book sale this past weekend to raise money for our local library, so I could pick up as many of Deaver’s other books as I could find for the bargain price of .50 cents a piece. I got about 8 of his books in hardback and paperback for less than $10 bucks. Gotta love that!

Anyway, back to the book being reviewed…Cold Moon. I generally prefer to read a book before it becomes a

I just write about killers...I don't actually kill people...or do I?

I just write about killers...I don't actally kill people...

movie so that I can then have the right to say how much better the book was. On occasion though, a person may be turned onto a book series because of a movie, which is the case here. It is kind of cool in this case because it allows me to have a clear mental image of some of the characters as I am reading. Specifically, I see Angelina and Denzel as the characters while I am reading and I just imagine the rest. I have also decided that Jeffery Deaver himself will take on the visual persona of the serial killer in this book as well as all of the other books as I read them because he just looks like a scary serial killer.

Cold Moon is a page turner for sure, but it is chock full of what I like to call “head-fakes”. By the third one, I wasn’t falling for it anymore. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…you know the rest. The super sleuth duo is after their most villainous and challenging killer yet, the Watchmaker!!! Over the period of just a couple of days, Sachs and Rhyme are pursuing two different cases, one to capture the serial killer, while Sachs also tries to bring down a group of corrupt cops in her first lead homicide case. Big surprise, the cases somehow merge through a bizarre twist of events and evidence, and just when they have it all figured out, they realize the Watchmaker is playing them like a cheap knock-off Rolex.  Now it is up to Sachs and Rhyme to get back in the game and try to get a step ahead using a new form of investigating known as kinesics.   Their new and temporary partner in crime fighting, Katheryn Dance, specializes in kinesics and will hopefully give them the edge they need to take down the Watchmaker.

This book has more twists and curves than I have ever read. Of course it is completely unbelievable, but compelling just the same. The one thing I really liked about this book was the very profound use of “time”. In this story, “Time” is the true antagonist, and Deaver portrays the depth, importance, and infinity of it perfectly.  Each second, minute, and hour is just as vital as the next and no one, good or bad, can escape the clutches of it.  It affects and eventually undermines everyone in the story, because in the end, time kills us all, right?  The use and explanation of time-pieces from the most simple to the most complex is another fascinating part of story that I found very interesting.

If your a Jeffery Deaver fan, you have already read this one. If you aren’t a fan, but enjoy suspense and mystery, then I definitely recommend it. Like I said, after the second head fake, I wasn’t falling for it anymore, and just when I thought I had it figured out, Deaver starts spinning out the plot twists faster than I can keep up.

Deaver doesn’t need approval from me, but good job just the same. You are still one scary looking guy though.

That’s my opinion and I am sticking with it…until Deaver comes to kill me.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Book Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Restaurant Review – Mimi’s Cafe in Allen Texas – Breakfast

Evidently Mimi’s Cafe is a chain of restaurants specializing in “Homecooking” breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I will admit that the location in Allen, TX appears to be a pretty popular breakfast destination on the weekends. I have never dined here for any other meals than the weekend breakfast craving, so I have no opinion on the other menu items.

The atmosphere is good and the service is decent, but the food is just average at best. My personal order on my most recent visit was the country fried steak breakfast, which came with potatos, a muffin, two eggs, and a juice. I substituted a biscuit with gravy instead of a muffin, and proceeded to dig in. The country fried steak is your run of the mill “frozen” entree that can be purchased in bulk at most wholesale warehouses such as Sam’s or Costco. No big deal, unless you were expecting one of the more delicious varieties of country fried steak that you find at better restaurants such as Cracker Barrel, etc. For a better price, you could have got the same or similar steak from a Grandy’s, a road side Pitt Grill, or your local high school cafeteria.

The red potatoes were good, as was the biscuit and gravy. Eggs were slightly cold, but that is normal for eggs as they cool off pretty quick. Breakfast food is really hard to screw up unless you are just really awful in the kitchen, so the overall was not bad. Needless to say, I ate every bit of what was on my plate, and have no complaints of being sick…but I am not saluting it as the best breakfast food I have ever had either.

My wife had the French toast and the kids ate the pancakes without complaint or raves. It was a little pricey for the very average quality, which is really the bottom line of this review. I am sure we will be back, as we enjoy eating weekend breakfasts out, but for now our standing favorites are Cracker Barrel, Ozona, and Cafe Brazil. Mimi’s doesn’t really rank either way but I would not deter anyone from trying it out. It is a 3 of 5 stars on the Spitzometer.

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Restaurants & Dining | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CERN flips off the switch to the LHC due to “Glitch”??

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has officially announced that they have temporarily flipped the switch off for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), also known on this blog as the Big Super Colliding Muther (BSCMF), due to a “glitch”. In case you are wondering, “Glitch” is scientific terminology for “it’s broke”.

Here is the tricky part…They revved up the BSCMF on September 10th. They successfully spun some stuff this way for a while, then they successfully spun some stuff that way for a while…then something broke, and they flipped that infamous switch to turn it off just one day after turning it on. One week later, they decide to let the world know that they encountered a “glitch”.

After so much fanfare on this machine why would they wait a week to release news that it is broke only a day after turning it on? If the press hadn’t inquired on some rumors, they would probably still be keeping it a secret. I guess on some level we should be happy that they aren’t telling us about their “glitch” from inside some “doomsday” bunker and wishing us all the best of luck.

So, the BSCMF overheated or something like that. No big deal. It is bound to happen when you have mega-tons of equipment and about a billion moving parts. These scientists are smart, but they are still human and therefore aren’t perfect. They may be certain that their big science project is safe and not going to cause the end of the world, but how could they have known it was going to over heat?

“Glitches” are no big deal, right? They are just harmless little errors that occur and rarely lead to anything bad happening like nuclear meltdowns, airplane crashes, ships sinking, etc. Sure, it is rare, but it does happen on occasion, and generally when it does it is isolated to large or fairly new technology with lots of moving parts. Here are just a few examples of some of the worlds most famous “glitches”.

  • ChernobylApril 26, 1986 at 1:23:45 a.m., reactor 4 suffers a massive, catastrophic power excursion, resulting in a steam explosion, which rips the top off the reactor like a soda can, exposes the core and disperses a crap load of radioactive junk, allowing air (oxygen) to contact the super-hot core of combustible graphite moderator. The burning graphite moderator thereby increases even more the emission of radioactive particles.
  • Space Shuttle Challenger January 28, 1986 – Disintegration of the shuttle began 73 seconds into its flight after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The seal failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it filled, allowing a flare to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent attachment hardware and external fuel tank. The SRB breach flare led to the separation of the right-hand SRB and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces promptly broke up the orbiter.
  • Japan Airlines Flight 123August 12, 1985- All 15 crew members and 505 out of 509 passengers died, resulting in a total of 520 deaths. About 12 minutes after takeoff, as the aircraft reached cruising altitude the rear pressure bulkhead failed. The resulting explosive decompression tore the vertical stabilizer from the aircraft and severed all four of the aircraft’s hydraulic systems. No stabilizer and no hydraulic systems pretty much means you have no control of the aircraft other than velocity of your engines. Therefore, you have several minutes at a high altitude to contemplate your life and your impending death while the plane flies around at its own volition waiting to crash into something. Many of the passengers on this flight had time to write letters to their loved ones.
  • The HindenburgMay 6, 1937 – The German rigid airship Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed within one minute while attempting to dock with its mooring mast at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. Of the 97 people on board, 35 people died in addition to one fatality on the ground. No one knows for sure what caused the fire on the Hindenburg. There are some sabotage theories, but most relate to some kind of electrical spark from somewhere that caused the chain reaction. My guess is the latter and I quantify that as a “glitch” in the engineering of this gigantic flying ball of fire.

So, technology is created by humans, and humans make errors. Irregardless of how many brainy scientists check, double-check, and triple-check, when there are a million moving pieces you are never going to think of every possibility. “Glitches” happen every day that we don’t know about, and the world keeps turning. However, when it comes to giant machines that have massive power to create and destroy, then the word “glitch” is not so innocent and harmless sounding. In fact, it can be a little ominous or scary.

Do you really want to hear the pilot on your flight say “We seem to have a glitch in our landing gear, so…”? Maybe that is cool with you, but it would have me reaching for a clean pair of underwear in short order.

All I am saying is that “glitch” is no simple word to be dismissed or taken lightly at any time. It is serious business that costs companies billions and in worst case scenarios it costs lives.

As for the BSCMF, I am sure that glitches will be a normal routine in the beginning, and I really hope that it has a very long and healthy future ahead of it. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that one of the glitches doesn’t cause some unforeseen chain-reaction that sucks our world down some huge cosmic toilet. That would really suck.

That’s just my opinion…and it ain’t worth much.

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Movie Review – Rendition

This movie, Rendition, evidently came out about a year ago. Problem is I have never heard of it until now and just recently caught it on cable. How a movie this good gets by me without having ever heard of it, I will never figure out. At first, I figured I must be some idiot living under a rock or something, but after telling a few people about the movie, I realized I was not the only idiot. I actually had mutual company under this rock.

Released in 2007, Rendition has an all-star cast including Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain), Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde), Meryl Streep (Devil Wears Prada), and Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine). The compelling storyline consists of the very separate but intertwined lives of the characters. I know, not a really original idea, but in this movie, the “separate but intertwined lives” are not a bunch of trendy pretentious couples roaming around Manhattan. This is actually an intelligent thought provoking movie.

In a nutshell, the movie is about an Egyptian man, Anwar, who has been living in the US, is married with child to a hot and pregnant American lady, and ends up getting abducted by the CIA through a process known as Rendition because he is suspected to have ties to known terrorists. His pregnant wife is worried sick and so pissed off she is kicking down government doors to find her man. Anwar on the other hand has been swept off on a little involuntary all-inclusive vacation to “Rendition” (country unknown and clothing not included), where he is able to catch a few volts and do a little water-boarding all at the generous hospitality of his pleasant and calm-natured host, a stern family man of unknown middle-eastern descent who is of the strict belief that the right level of pain and torture will get even the Pope himself to confess to terrorist associations. If you have heard all about water-boarding on the news and wondered what it was…well you will catch a glimpse of it in this movie.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Douglas Freeman, the straight CIA analyst with a conscience, who through an explosive chain of events ends up in a position he is not accustomed to and evidently does not have the constitution for, but must stand by and witness the “interrogations” without interfering. He struggles, does a few shots of whiskey and decides to grow some “cahones” after being somewhat of a puss for much of the movie. Good old Meryl Streep plays the part of Condaleeza Rice…oops, I mean Corinne Whitman, the hard as nails high authority government biatch who can order renditions like ordering a Starbucks and not even blink an eye when denying that the US engages in such activities.

What is rendition you ask? It is defined pretty accurately by Wikipedia as the apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another, particularly with regard to the alleged transfer of suspected terrorists to countries known to torture prisoners or to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture. Therefore, when we say that the US does not engage in torture in this country because it is illegal and/or unethical, immoral or whatever, we can believe it with full confidence. We simply kidnap them and accidentally drop them off at secret detention centers in other countries where they have no real qualms about using the human body as an electrical conductor.

What is interesting about this particular movie as opposed to say Babel or Syriana is that it is fairly easy to follow and has very human and convincing characters. Each of the characters in this film from the terrorist, to the torturer, to the CIA agent, the wife, girlfriend, and even Corinne all expend and display common human emotions that we can all identify with. Suicide-bombing terrorists can fall in love too, you know, and cold hearted torturers can have a family that they love and protect, and deceitful politicians have children and grand children they love, single not-gay CIA agents like to get action from hot exotic CIA mistresses, and pregnant American women can play soccer with their kids. No one character in this movie is really demonized anymore than any other. In fact, every single one of them, with maybe the exception of the pregnant wife, has some pretty significant flaws and struggles they are contending with. Even the hubby who is taking nipples full of electricity is not completely exonerated in this movie if you really pay attention. That is the thought provoking part of the movie….

You want to believe that torture like this is never the right thing to do, but how many lives has it really saved? How many lives has it cost? How many more terrorists has it spawned? Does the US really engage in this activity? Does Douglas really do the right thing? Is Anwar really innocent or is he really guilty? I’m not convinced either way, but it makes you think and that is one sign of a good movie.

I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it.

September 17, 2008 Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lipstick on a Pig? How about a Politician?

Come on folks, do you really and truly believe Mr. Obama meant something mean and sexist with his “lipstick on a pig” remark? Heck no, I don’t think his remark was directed at Sarah Palin, and I don’t even like Obama…not even a little bit. In fact, I don’t believe that even McCain’s camp really believes their own crap on this matter.

This is what I would call political “Abra-Kadabra”. You see, politicians are all hypocrites at heart. They all know the game and they are all guilty of using the same “smoke and mirror” tactics. John McCain and Barack Obama didn’t invent this style of politics, they are just continuing the political legacy of campaign foolery. During the battle of campaigns, it isn’t really important what candidates know or really believe to be the truth, it is what they want you, the voter, to see and believe that matters.

It is like magic, “slight of hand”, “parlor room hypnosis” or distractions that are used to temporarily capture the attention of the media and the public, and therefore derail the opponent into a defensive posture instead of talking about what is important.   If they can seize on anything and manage to get the media and public focused on some trivial crap, then they have managed a successful distraction and a couple of days click off the opponents clock to election day.  When time is of the essence, and every day counts, then to distract your opponent from the real issues for a couple of days can be a little victory that makes a big difference at the finish line.  As you can see, it is very effective, but in reality it is all just part of the game filled with tricks and strategies to get a competitive edge.  As a famous magician would say…”it’s all an illuuusion!”

The real trick is to not get caught up in it…which is impossible for the media or even some hard-core partisan folks who believe everything. It is almost humorous to watch the insults and accusations fly back and forth, when each side is just as guilty as the other for all the same stuff. It is political hypocrisy at its greatest.

Which brings me to my final and most significant point…You can put lipstick on a politician…but they are still just a politician.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it!

September 11, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else, politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CERN, LHC, and The End of the World, Oh My!

What is the LHC?  It is the Large Hadron Collider.  But don’t let those silly scientist fool you with the word “Large” because this thing isn’t really large.  It is Colossal; It is Huge, Massive, and Gigantic.  Large just doesn’t really do it justice from what I can tell.  It is one Big Super-Colliding Muther (BSCMF) is what it is.

It is the largest Collider in the world and they “turn the switch” on in the next day or so.  It’s ironic to me that among all of the scientific terminology that they use to characterize this machine and what its capabilities are, the one consistent term they use leaves me with the image of some janitor flipping on a light switch in the next 24 hours.  Is it really that simple?

So CERN, The European Organization for Nuclear Research (the acronym is based on the French translation, I believe), and the worlds most brainy physicists from around the globe are really eager to get down to business in Geneva with the greatest scientific experiment ever.   This ain’t your run of the mill chemistry set.  This big baddy or BSCMF and the brain trust around it appear to be looking for the secrets of the universe by recreating the Big Bang in some sort of way.  Sound a little scary?  No worries, they have assured all of us ants that they know exactly what they are doing and we have nothing to worry about.  You won’t feel a thing.

Doomsday theories and predictions have been circulating for decades, even centuries.  Fact of the matter is, it really will happen one day…the end of the world that is.  Nothing lasts forever, not even us.  Will that day be sooner rather than later?  Who knows, but the LHC or BSCMF is the kind of stuff that Star Trek and Star Wars movies are made of.

Here are some worst and best case scenarios when they get around to smashing the crap out of particles in the BSCMF.

Best Case:  We learn all the secrets and answers to the Universe and have a disease-free future filled with immortality, and free digital cable television delivered in HD over a light speed internet.

Worst Case: We learn all the secrets and answers to the Universe, and God gets really ticked that we figured  it all out and decides to vaporize Earth and start all over again.

Best Case:  Science learns awesome revelations that brings about a new era in science and physics.

Worst Case: There is a bright white light, then everything goes black, then we are flying through a giant  worm-hole and end up being pets sold on some galactic black-market to lonely aliens around the Universe that need companions…or snacks.

Best Case:  They safely smash some particles and learn some complicated scientific mumbo jumbo that won’t matter or affect me and you, at least not in our lifetime.

Worst Case:  They unsafely smash some particles and learn that they have unleashed some horrible radio-active crap on the planet.  But instead of warning us all, they run to their safe doomsday bunker and hide buried deep in some mountainside and wait for us all to die a horrible flesh-peeling zombie-like death, so that they can come back out in a few years and start the human race all over again.

Best Case:  Their findings bring about a World filled with unity and peace

Worst Case: Their findings bring about technology that evolves into a super-weapon like the Death-Star that can be used to vaporize continents or even planets, and eventually brings about our own demise.

Bottom line, the world is what it is, and as long as you have peace with yourself and God, then bring it on.  The BSCMF or LHC is most likely not going to do anything but get a bunch of scientists all excited about finding out something…well, new and scientific.  But, if I am going out by the hand of a bunch of over-confident, know-it-all scientists who think they have my best interest in mind, I have two letters for them…”OK”.  In the meantime, I’m just going to sit back and watch me some CSI, play a little X-Box 360 with my kids, and eat some good ice cream and pie.  Just let me know if you do something important like finding a cure for cancer or AIDS.  Outside of that, I don’t want to know if the world is about to explode into a gajillion pieces of anti-matter, or melt down because some janitor accidentally “flipped a switch”  that turned on the “Death Ray”.

That’s my unreasonable uneducated opinion and I’m sticking with it…for now.

September 9, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Albertsons – Modern Grocery Shopping at its…well, mediocrity.

Remember the good old days when going to the market to get your groceries was a positive experience. That was back in the days when ‘customer service’ wasn’t even a necessary business catch-phrase. That’s because it was just a cultural norm in the way people treated each other.

The grocery market has been the epicenter for social interaction for hundred or even thousands of years for many cultures around the world. It is the center point of the community where the local denizens must come to purchase or trade for their daily and weekly food staples and living necessities, where they visit and catch up on news, gossip, etc. Maybe that still exists untarnished in other parts of the world, possibly in other parts of our country. For the most part, it is a long lost part of American history, that took its last breath probably some time in the late seventies or early eighties when the corporate grocery giants began to really take over and virtually snuffed out this iconic part of American culture.

I used to actually enjoy grocery shopping. I enjoyed the whole process of selecting fresh produce, interacting with the people, seeing my neighbors, talking to the butcher about how to prepare different cuts of meat, etc. But then the grocery shopping experience changed, and what was once a fun weekly trip to the market became a dreaded chore.

I will focus primarily on Albertsons, because that is where most of my negative experience has been, but I have experienced the same or similar at Kroger, Tom Thumb, and other like stores. The negative experience can clearly be defined as just plain bad customer service. We have all experienced it time and again. Maybe many of even became desensitized to it to the point we didn’t care anymore, but I personally had finally had enough one day last December and wrote the following letter to the executive corporate staff and customer relations of Albertsons, LLC…

Gentlemen,

I recently submitted the letter below to your service email address. Like yourself, I am a corporate executive and I want you to know that I rarely write letters of this nature. However, in this case I was compelled to do so because I truly felt that it was warranted after so many bad experiences with service in your stores. As executives, I am not sure that letters of this nature ever reach your desks. I know the positive ones do, simply due to the fact that most are quick to wave the flag when it comes to receiving kudos which is fine. Unfortunately, I am not able to bring kudos to you on customer service. I feel obligated to pass this to you directly for your own review. True customer service seems to have become a lost cause in our country as the paradigm has shifted to “self-checkouts” and minimal human contact with the customer in the store. Good intentions to create “convenience” have in fact diminished the virtue of customer service. Fortunately, for the consumer there is a new generation of stores being born, and they are focused to the neighborhood grocer/market service we all knew when we were growing up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I apologize for going long and I do appreciate your consideration and attention.

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is not to notify you of your products, or whether we were charged incorrectly or received damaged goods, etc. which seems to be the main focus of your “Customer Satisfaction Guarantee”. This letter is to constructively inform you of how unbelievably poor your customer service is in general. Of course, it is only my opinion, but I will be objective, constructive, and detailed.

For years I have shopped in your stores and been patient with the immaturity and indifference of your staff. I am not talking about any particular one of your stores as it has always seemed to be pretty consistent with any Albertsons I have ever shopped at. The point is, when I am being checked out at an Albertsons grocery store, I, the customer, feel invisible to the person checking me out. My final straw was about a month ago when I was shopping at one of your stores in Wylie, TX….

My wife and I are standing in line to be checked out. A young male employee had just requested us to get into this particular line to be checked out. There is one lady in front of us being checked out by a female checker. The young male employee is at the checkout line next to us and he is having a conversation with the young lady checking out our line. He seems to be very concerned about when he is going to take his break, and is wondering when she will be back from her break. Keep in mind that we are the customers, so we are invisible to these two and their important conversation. At one point in the conversation, the girl replies back to him that she would have been leaving and getting back from her break sooner if he had not just put these people (meaning us) in her line. At this point my wife looks at me and asks “did she just say what I think she said?”. Yes, she did. The conversation continues, and then she says a similar statement about “these people in her line” as if we are stupid and can’t hear them talking about us. At this point my wife has had enough, she calmly states “we are terribly sorry to inconvenience you and your break time, so we will just go ahead and leave.” At this point we walk out and leave a basket full of groceries sitting in the aisle. Both of them look dumbfounded as we walked out, as if they can’t understand what just happened or can’t believe that we aren’t stupid and we can actually hear them. The young male runs out into the parking lot yelling for us to come back and stating, “sir, ma’am, she was talking to me, not to you!” Well, that is kind of the point isn’t it. She was in fact talking to him…about us…and their stupid break time. Needless to say, I am not going to stop in the middle of a parking lot to have a conversation with some 18 year old kid on the fundamentals of customer service.

As I stated before, I had become quite used to the poor service of your checkers and baggers talking to each other about their weekend, or what they are going to do that night, etc. They talk to each other and not the customer standing in front of them. When they do talk to me, it is generally forced, almost robotic, and obviously insincere. I have even experienced the managers talking or scolding employees right on the floor in front of me, which is unprofessional and I have no desire to see. I have another Albertsons down the road in Murphy, TX and these are the two closest grocery stores to my residence. I have shopped at many others as well, but I am done now. Yours are the only stores that I have experienced such consistently bad service in. I now drive 20 minutes out of my way to a Market Street grocery store to pay more for my groceries and receive attention and service that is not even in the same dimension as your stores.

Your “Customer Satisfaction Guarantee” is empty and meaningless if you do not train your people to live by it, and if you do not put the proper leadership in place that will lead by example and truly watch over the staff in place. I understand that much of your staff is often minimum paid high school kids, but that is your choice and you are accountable for their behavior. Even kids are trainable if it is done properly and they understand goals and ambition, etc. Your stores are nice and clean and your products are fine, but that is not good enough if you want to continue growing and stay successful in a highly competitive industry. You are in a new world of competition with a new age of grocery stores appearing that focus on quality products and more important “outstanding service”, which seems to be a long lost and forgotten quality from the past.

I am a senior executive in my company and I demand excellent customer service and accountability from my staff. I would not say I am hyper-sensitive to the issue of customer service, but I am aware of what is good, average, bad, very bad, or otherwise, and I assure you without any hesitation that Albertsons lacks true quality in customer service. It is bad and for that, I am no longer a customer. I hope this is helpful and hope you will begin to make the necessary adjustments in your organization to correct this before it is too late. Thank you for your time.

I did get a phone response from at least one of the executives and a call from the store manager. I appreciated the apologies, but my question to them was “do you shop in your own stores, and are you really satisfied with the service you get?” I didn’t really get a direct response, but after nearly 10 months, I returned to the stores to the pleasant surprise of friendlier service and what was evidently a possible change in customer service training. Don’t get me wrong, the service was not stellar, but was a vast improvement over the crap that it was before.

Market Street and Central Market are a new breed of grocery stores that cost more, but provide way better service in most cases. I personally love Market Street because it reminds in a lot of ways of how it should be in a grocery market. Friendly people, smiles, and a staff of people that seem to genuinely care how you are doing and what they can do to help. Alberston’s has since improved somewhat in my neighborhood, but it took more than 9 months before I would even step foot in one of their stores to give it a try again.

I can only imagine that this is a highly competitive industry with Walmart on one end of the spectrum capturing the frugal demographic with their low cost and decent service, and the new breed of Market Streets and Central Markets on the other end providing excellent product and customer service. Albertsons and everyone else is in between and quite possibly feeling the squeeze. How do you adjust to stay on top or even stay alive for that matter? First thing I would suggest, provide better customer service to your customers.

UPDATE November 17, 2008: I have returned to shopping at Albertson’s after a long hiatus and received some unexpectedly friendly service from none other than a girl that was bagging groceries. Being fair, I wrote another letter to Albertson’s management letting them know of the positive experience. They of course were happy to hear of it and advised me of the training they implemented and a new policy called the “four (4) tile rule.

The four (4) tile rule basically means that if any employee of the store is standing or passing within 4 floor tiles of a customer they must speak to them or greet them in a friendly manner.

As it turns out, upper management may have implemented such a rule on paper, but I can assure you that it is not followed in the store. My positive service experience was just an anomaly in that Albertson’s just seemed to have accidentally hired this one girl who is just naturally friendly. She is nice every time I encounter her at the store. Everyone else is pretty much the same.

I have personally tested the “4 tile rule” several times to the point of coughing or sneezing to make sure the Albertson’s employee is aware that I am there…within four tiles of them, but to no avail. They do not respond or acknowledge at all. It is actually very humorous, and has become a game I play with my children in the store, where we see who can get an employee to actually speak to us without us speaking to them first. Our only rules are that it has to be an employee out in the store, no cashiers, baggers, or deli employees. You can not touch or bump into them either. You just have to be with 4 tiles and the rest should just happen. Sounds easy enough, but trust me, getting an Albertson’s employee to initiate speaking to you on their own is no easy task at all.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Islamorada Fish Company

Dined at the Islamorada Fish Company located in the Bass Pro Shop off I-30 in Garland Texas on Friday.  It was a birthday dinner for my father in-law so we wanted to try something new and nice.   I know, I know, Bass Pro Shop isn’t what the sophisticated “foodie” would consider a place for a nice dining experience.   However, this is Garland, TX and folks around here think Red Lobster is a “high falootin fancy” restaurant for rich folks.   For Garland, Islamorada Fish Company is the Ritz.

The experience overall was mediocre at best.  Atmosphere was decent.  The massive salt water fish tank behind the bar is very cool and the tons of saltwater species mounted on the walls and ceiling throughout the restaurant are also very cool.  The food is another story.  Its not bad, but its not great.

Appetizers:  The fried alligator was overcooked and not as tender as it should have been.  The venison stuffed mushrooms were small and you simply could not taste the venison over the mushroom, which was really disappointing because I was really looking forward to these. The Wahoo dip was so creamed up with mayo or whatever it was, you could not taste the fish.  It could have been tuna out of a can and I would never have known.  The calamari was pretty decent, and the coconut fried shrimp was the typical frozen stuff that I buy myself at Sam’s Club.  The best thing about the appetizers was the sauce from the stuffed mushroom that we all ended up dipping our bread into and trying to sop up every last drop of it like a bunch os starved wolves.

Oh, did I mention we found a hair baked into the top of one of the homemade loaves of bread?  Not just any hair…this was one hell of a long black nasty hair.  Our waiter apologized and tried to explain no one in the kitchen had long hair and it must have come off of one of the brushes they use to brush butter on the loaves.  Whatever, dude!  I suggest then you stop using your girlfriends hair brush to put butter on the bread loaves.  

For an entree I had a dish called the Fisherman, which included a filet of catfish, some Whitefish, and some other kind of fish I can’t remember laid out on a bed of regular french fries.  It wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t great.  Sorry, I didn’t try the desserts this time around.  I wasn’t in the mood to blow anymore cash on the over priced and over rated food at this place.  

Our waiter was average, but I would expect the service to be a bit more sophisticated for this place.

I have had much worse, and the Fish Company wasn’t terrible, but I guess I expected more from this place that has a pretty significant history dating back to the 40’s in Key West.   As a comparison, I would say that the menu at Pappadeaux is very similar to the Fish Company.  The big distinction between the restaurants is that Pappadeaux’s menu is more extensive, their food is way better in every way, they have fantastic service, a great atmosphere, larger food portions, and the prices are only slightly higher.

I give the Fish Company a 2.5 out of 5 stars. Very forgettable.  In fact, they can forget about me coming back, because I will be going to Pappadeaux the next time I want this kind of food.

September 6, 2008 Posted by | Restaurants & Dining | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hilary Clinton, what’s on your mind right now?

'WTF?'

'WTF?'

So I was wondering recently what must be going through Hilary Clinton’s mind in light of everything going on right now in the political landscape. I can only imagine it is one excruciating nightmare after another, but it was an interesting satirical exercise to try and imagine what I would be thinking right now if I were in Hilary Clinton’s shoes.

Hilary is a no nonsense pit bull of a woman and a fierce American who doesn’t like to lose. In private, I imagine that the profanities flow through her lips like cheap beer at a red neck family reunion, and that she has thrown more than a few obscenities and blunt objects at slick Willie in their time together. It gives me comfort to think that Hilary was privately F-Bombing like a drunk sailor when she conceded the nomination to Obama. I know I would have been. Obviously, Hilary is very loyal to her party, but privately, I like to imagine that she secretly loathes Obama with every grain of her being.

What about now with Palin as McCain’s running mate? This is a tough one.

On the one hand she could be thinking ‘HOLY S**T!! I am some odd $20 Million in debt breaking my friggin neck to get back into the White House. It is bad enough I lose the Democratic nom to that a-hole Obama, but if I have to watch that Brady Bunch bitch from Alaska, who was taking notes at a PTA meeting last month, go waltzing into the White House without ever dropping a dime…well, that would just FRIGGING SUCK big time!’

However, on the other hand, Hilary may secretly be rooting for Sarah Palin just due to the whole “girl power” and “I secretly hate Obama” thing. I like to imagine that this is the more likely thought just due to the fact that Hilary is a woman first and a Democrat second. I understand that Hilary and Sarah are on polar opposites of the spectrum in their political and personal beliefs, but sometimes in the emotional rage of those you may despise (Obama), one may secretly latch onto individuals that you may not otherwise have much in common with (Palin), and possibly even find some comfort in the few things you do have in common.

Of course, I don’t know or claim to know Hilary Clinton or Sarah Palin from a hole in the ground. I do know Hilary has a huge debt, and lost out on making history of the first female president to a young smooth talking guy that no one really knows that much about. Admittedly, I am not a Hilary fan, but I would have rather seen her get the Democratic nom than Obama. I do empathize a little for her. I know if it were me, I would be beating my head against the wall, or at least kicking old Bill in the groin to blow off some steam.

Hopefully, one day in her golden years, not too long from now, The Hil will write an honest memoir that will recount her true thoughts around this election, and I will have my fingers crossed that she really wanted to kidney punch Obama, and hug Palin, but on the surface remained the ever loyal Democrat and privately took all of her suppressed anger out on Bill instead.

I guess we will never really know, but it is fun to imagine.

September 4, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments