This is my first posting after Black Friday. To put my effort at writing this piece in perspective, my wife and I returned from a three-week vacation in Europe on Monday before Thanksgiving. On the way home from the airport, we picked our grandkids up from the hospital where they had been visiting their mother who reacted badly to her treatment, and then went to work that evening on our business. The next day was a full work day. On Wednesday we picked up another daughter and her family from the airport for a four-day visit. On Thanksgiving we had 14 people for dinner. Do you think that slowed down my annual anthropological expedition to Fry’s, Comp USA, Circuit City, and Best Buy on Black Friday? It did not.

This year’s haul was not a personal best, but I did get over $600 worth of stuff for about $30 expense. I actually needed some of it. The free jumpdrive was a stocking stuffer along with the free MP3 player I got for buying a McAfee suite. The 160 gig HD which I got for $20 is just the thing to store digital video from our trip prior to editing. I might build another system using the free power supply, graphics card, and tower. How could I pass that up?

Then later in the same day I escorted four grandkids and some adults to Legoland. Then we drove back home for a dinner of leftovers. Why are my wife and I so tired?

Of course I had a pile of urgent messages from clients. A couple of them had to do with the continuing difficulties caused by Time-Warner acquiring Adelphia during our absence. While in Europe, I had not been able to access my email either through Adelphia or the new Roadrunner alternative, but I didn’t really worry about it until I got back. I was on vacation and there was no need to let such things be a bother. When we got back, three calls to tech support finally allowed me to figure out what they had done and how to work around it. In all fairness, the last tech I talked to was both good and considerate – a real asset to T-W. Armed with the solution to my own problems, I was able to solve some clients’ problems quickly. That added to the mystique that I am a computer genius when in fact, I had suffered through the same problems and just happened to have solved them before my clients could resolve the same issues by themselves. I did this by being stubborn and not giving up. If that is part of being a computer genius, then so be it.

My clients were confused by a letter from T-W laying out in detail how they would have to jump through some hoops to activate their Roadrunner accounts before the Adelphia addresses disappear completely. I did not get such a letter, and other clients did not get one. Hmm…

Direct testing shows that my account shows that the conversion to Roadrunner took place without my doing anything (?). This sort of confusion doesn’t bother me a lot, as I said, I’m stubborn. But one of my clients went into a panic and signed up for a dial-up account to replace her cable broadband because she did not understand the instructions from T-W and wasn’t getting anywhere with the tech support. Maybe she just wasn’t stubborn enough. So she called me over to help her get rid of the useless broadband and go back to dial-up, which she had used for years and felt comfortable with.

That last sentence is the key to much of successful tutoring. Find what the client is comfortable with. Instead of telling her that such a retrograde step would be distasteful at best, I showed her how to make sure her broadband account was working. Then she took the lead and suggested that she didn’t need to change carriers. I told her that was her choice. My role is simply to make sure she understands the situation. The result is that T-W owes me one. She will stay with them to see how it works out.

They could have done the same thing by having a non-geek speaking, informed tech support answer the phone when she called. It would have saved her money and probably resulted in a more faithful customer. But who knows? Maybe the executives at T-W have done a cost/benefit tradeoff and the various interruptions of service for ex-Adelphia customers as part of maximizing their profit. I would much rather think that is the underlying reason for the snafus than think that T-W was simply not up to the job of making a painless transition.

Vacations are nice, but having grateful clients who appreciate your services is nice, too.

Click here to read about my new tutorial on helping seniors. The new version has grown considerably over the original. It has more topics and anecdotes, and fewer typos. While you’re at it, check out my expanded tutorial on decision theory.

[tags]adelphia, roadrunner, vacation, black friday, legoland, thanksgiving, T-W, Time-Warner[/tags]