Wednesday 21 March 2007

Thursday 15 March 2007

Research About

I’m a PhD student at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in electrical and computer engineering. My supervisor is Dr. Guy Lemieux and I’m studying in an area called Spatial Computing. Specifically, how to split a computer program up among a million-ish very small processors, and have it do useful work.

The rest of this is just a placeholder, until I write more.

Wednesday 7 March 2007

Ode To Whirlpool (Updated June 21)

Oh Whirlpool, how do I love thee.. let me count the ways...


So, let's see, let's go way back to the beginning of December 2006. Safeway puts 10kg bags of Five Roses flour on sale, 2 for 1. Now, I rather enjoy baking and flour is a somewhat necessary component, and Five Roses is all I use, and the Christmas season is coming up, and I have family in town, and my grandparents were going to be here for New Years.. so what the heck.. I'll buy two 10kg bags of flour.

Then the fateful day, December 6, 2006. I've got bread rising on the counter ten minutes away from going in the oven, my oven (a Whirlpool Gold gas range, absolutely love it) takes 10 minutes to preheat.. Temperature.. 400.. Bake... On.. BANG. Now, that last noise is distinctly not part of the preheat cycle. Indeed, no gas at all in the oven.. the igniter isn't even on. But the stovetop still works, and the oven light works, and all the electronics, just not the oven.

Well, that's a bummer, emergency call to my Aunt and nip over to her place to bake the bread. Then the process begins.. Calling Whirlpool.

I'm informed by Whirlpool that the earliest they can get someone out to look at it is the 11th.. Unfortunately, I'm out of the country from the 11th to the 17th.. So, they'll come on the 18th.. between 8am and 4pm. That's a rather large window but every company seems to operate like that, so whatever.. if I can get my oven fixed by then that's great, I can still do Christmas baking.

December 18th, 9am-ish. I get a call from the technician stating that he'll be at my place between 4 and 6pm.. I protested because I had evening plans, and after 4pm is outside the already rather large window of 8am to 4pm. But, I'm told that if I wanted to reschedule it would be 3 to 4 more days for his next available timeslot in the day.. wtf? Fine, whatever, I'll cancel my evening plans.. And I'll just sit here and twiddle my thumbs all day too because I cleared my daily schedule too.

So December 18th, 5:45 pm, guess who shows up.. yup.. Good thing I didn't just push back the plans to after 6.. because he spent half an hour looking at my oven.. and eventually arrived at the conclusion that "it's broke".. it needs a new control board.. 2 to 3 weeks to order one. $300. And was gone around 6:20. Charming.

So, all my Christmas baking plans.. kaput.

Lovely Christmas comes and goes, and on the 29th I phone the technician (almost 2 weeks, he should have some indication about where my part is) .. He says.. we have no idea where it is, it'll be well into the new year before we get it. Huh.. customer service eh? New year plans.. bye bye.. sorry everyone, but I can't cook anything for you... and ham and freshly baked rolls on the stovetop just, I don't know.. it lacks something...
So, here is letter number 1. Sent to Whirlpool on the 2nd of January.

January 2nd, 2007.
To whom it may concern,

I am writing this letter to convey dissatisfaction with my recent and ongoing
customer service experince with Whirlpool.

On December 6, 2006 my gas oven (GW395LEG) made a "pop" sound, and stopped
working. I called Whirlpool customer service and was informed the first
available technician timeslot was the 11th -- one day after I left the city
for a research conference.

The next "working day" timeslot I was in town was a week later, the 18th,
where I was given a 8am to 4pm window. At 9am the technician phoned to tell
me that he would arrive after 4pm and before 6pm. I had already
cleared my schedule for that day, and was then forced to cancel my evening
plans as well due to the short notice of the change.

At 5:45pm on the 18th the technician arrived, spent half an hour with my stove,
and declared that I needed a new control board. It would cost $300 + labour +
tax + site visit charge, almost half the cost of the stove, and would take
three weeks to order. I live in a major urban center, Vancouver, I find
it astonishing that there are no parts within three weeks of this

On December 29th, I contacted the technician for a status update, and was told
that it would be well into the new year before the replacement part arrived.

It has been almost a month since my oven became inoperable (stovetop still
works thankfully), and during that time I have been unable to do any Christmas
baking, cook Christmas dinner, or entertain guests on New Years. To me, as a
customer, a month (and counting) to repair a vital kitchen appliance is
unacceptable. I could have ordered a new stove and had it installed by now.

So, that's that. On the morning of January 11th, 2007, I receive a call at like 6am (wtf, these people.. Vancouver PACIFIC TIME.. hello!).. anyway.. somehow I missed that call. They left a message.. we got your message, your part has just arrived, call us and we will arrange a time for it to be installed.

Hey, great.. I have no idea if that letter actually did any good, but all I need is a technician for about 10 minutes to install a circuit board (note: I could do this myself.. but it's a gas appliance, so you have to be a Canadian gas certified technician to open it up.. even for installing circuit boards).. so I call back and get to wait on hold for a while.. And get someone.. explain my situation, explain that YOU called ME to get an appointment ASAP. "Well Sir, the first available appointment we have is on the 22nd of January..."

Now, I'd just like to skip ahead for a moment.. there's a spot on their "Whirlpool Service Quality Survey" for "Following your call for service, how long before the technician arrived?".. the choices are "Same day", "next day", "2-3 days", or "4 or more".. somehow... "4 or more" doesn't seem to capture the fact that they wanted me to wait 11 more days for a service call. 11!. Ok, fine, book that day for me..

Then I call the technician directly he says.. it'll be really fast to install it, I'll call you if I get an earlier time available.. Great.. that means.. "go away". I call whirlpool again on the 13th, and ask specifically for the person who called me.. unfortunately they can't connect me to anyone by name.. and regarding my service call, "that's the best we can do.". But they do provide me with one other tidbit.. "Sir, I see that your part was ordered, then somehow the order got cancelled, and the part was ordered again. But it's in now."..

Well, that sorta accounts for the delay, and I guess as a good little customer I'm just supposed to laugh that off ? You're fscking looking at proof that I've had to wait longer than I should have had to for this part.. and now you're telling me 11 more days is the best you can do... Somehow I resist the urge to make a comment about the best they can do being pretty lousy.

So, the days go by with me without my oven, and two 10kg bags of flour sitting there mocking me.. Which brings us to January 22nd, 2007 and a standard window of 8am to 4pm for the technician to show up and perform (what turned out to be a 10 minute repair from the time he walked in my door to the time he walked out).. You'll never guess who called at 9am.. go ahead.. guess.. I dare ya.. "I'll be there sometime between 11 and noon". Hey, great.. I can still make it to campus.

While we're playing guessing games, guess who doesn't show up between 11 and noon, and guess who calls at 1pm.. I'll give you a hint, the conversation went something like this: "My day got busy, I'll be there around 2:30.".. No? still can't guess.. well.. I've give you another hint.. it's the same person who called around 2:30 to say "I'm still busy, i'll be there between 4 and 6pm.". At this point I objected and pretty much demanded that he show up before 4pm.. because I had evening plans.

3:30 he shows up, 3:40 he's out the door and I have a working oven. Hallelujah!

Anyway, because of the, ahem, poor service, I decide to write another letter to Whirlpool:

January 24, 2007
To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing this letter to further my previous letter, dated January 2, 2007,
regarding my most recent service experience with Whirlpool. On January 22nd,
my oven was successfully repaired.

It has been 7 weeks (almost 2 months) since my original call to Whirlpool
customer service on December 6th. I have been without an oven for the duration
of this time. This has caused me to be unable to make the simplest of meals
for my own daily basic needs.

I have been forced to eat out, or increase my grocery bill by purchasing items
that were microwavable or able to be cooked on the stovetop only. This has
been most inconvenient not to mention unhealthy.

As detailed in my previous letter, I was unable to entertain guests over the
holidays. I was forced to make alternative arrangements, and tell my family
the could not come visit me for Christmas and New Years, as I was unable to
cook a traditional dinner for them. This is the situation that your
company put me in, and it has been embarrassing.

The service technician called on both my scheduled service days, December 18th
and January 22nd, saying that he would be late and outside the 8am to 4pm
service window. This is unacceptable. I cleared my schedule and missed two days
of work for him to tell me he was going to come in the evening. If arrangements
were made for him to come in the evening I would not have had to have missed
two days of work. My time is just as valuable as his and yours.

I was originally told that the control board required to repair my oven would
take three weeks to order. I thought this was an excessive amount of time,
considering the metropolis I live in (Vancouver), however, as stated above it
has been two months. I was not told that the item was on back order, nor was I
told that there would be any delay in service. It is unacceptable. I
feel that I have been more then patient and cooperative over this whole ordeal.

In light of the inconveniences that I have incurred from your poor and
disappointing customer service I feel it is only fair that I am compensated for
these inconveniences.


To date (March 7th, 2007 that letter has received no reply). However, on March 4th, I got a wonderful letter in the mail from Whilrpool.. A Whirlpool Service Quality Survey..

Our records indicate that your appliance was recently serviced. The repair work was done by an employee or an authorized Whirlpool Service Center, which is independently owned and operated.

Please help us evaluate and subsequently improve our customer service by completing this survey. The survey is postage paid for your convenience.

Thank you for taking the time to respond and for your continued trust in Whirlpool Products

Uh-huh.. It's only been 7 weeks since I called you until the date my appliance was usable again.. no problem.. I enjoy taking the time out of my life to wait for Whirlpool.. That was sarcasm in case anyone missed it. :p

Needless to say, Whirlpool didn't score so hot on their survey. I resisted the urge to make my own boxes for some of the questions because "Dissatisfied" doesn't quite cut it. Anyway, here's Whirlpool letter number 3.. This letter and the previous letter (which received no response) will accompany the survey in their postage paid envelope .. back to Whirlpool..

March 7, 2007

To Whom It May Concern,

Enclosed please find a copy of my last letter, dated January 24, 2007, which was
sent to Whirlpool Customer Service and has received no response to date. I would
appreciate a response to the concerns outlined in that letter as well as compensation
for the ordeal and inconveniences I have suffered due to the actions of your company.


June 21, 2007 Update:

So, I'm on the bus, and I get a call from Vic from Whirlpool. The whole oven ordeal happened so long ago I forgot some of the details, I think I said 4 months without an oven instead of two.. but after 6 months can you blame me for not remembering perfectly.. and I was on the bus thinking about other things.. I've gone through therapy to just put this behind me (and resolved to not purchase Whirlpool ever again).

Anyway, Vic is very nice, he explains that this just got dropped on his desk, and that he has reviewed my file and agreed that someone somewhere dropped the ball. Then he asked "what exactly are you looking for?".

Admittedly I wasn't prepared for this conversation, or to answer that question, but I think it went well, I said "I'm looking for something to indicate that Whirlpool actually cares enough about its customers to say sorry, I'm looking for something to convince me that I should buy Whirlpool appliances again in the future". Vic said, ok, leave it in my hands for a while and I'll see what I can do.

So, now we wait again.. I'm expecting something like.. $50 off the purchase of your next whirlpool appliance or something.. But it's an interesting situation, give too little a token, and you risk offending the customer.. give too much and management comes down on you... It's like chess and it's Whirlpool's move. I never was any good at chess. :p