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Tryst with Customer Service

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In the capitalist world, it is said that the companies survive on the hyper-consumerism of the people. The highly competitive economical scenario results in an environment where (as they say) consumer is the winner, but not without a fight.
A few weeks back, my Compaq Presario Laptop 2575us went bad. Well, the laptop is 2 yrs old and it has already been serviced twice so I guess my patience thresholds have diminished over a period of time. But this time around a person with even immense patience could have lost his mind. So here’s what happened. My laptop’s S-video port had been dysfunctional since the time I can recall but I never had so much time to let my laptop go out of my hands. This time when I sent it for repairs my laptop almost disappeared from the face of the earth for almost 25 days. And when they returned it to me to a wrong address I had a premonition of difficult times. The “repaired” laptop even failed to start.
This really infuriated me coz my 25 day wait had gone down the drain. So I called up the customer care and they asked me to ship the laptop to service center yet again. But this time around they wanted me to wait for 3 days before I could FedEx it to them. It was completely unacceptable to me. So I spoke to the supervisor and became as adamant as a stone. I continued to ask him for next day shipping and he continued to repeat that he could not do that. A 2hr45min sparring continued on the phone and it resulted in him being the loser as he disconnected the phone. He kept saying that this discussion is going nowhere as we cannot reach an agreement and I kept insisting that the call had multiple destinations : 1. To the HP supervisors and 2. To the BBB .
This guy called himself Nick and he also refused to give me his employee number. I knew very well (because of past experience that Compaq uses words like “You have no proof for your requests” etc.) so this time I needed some real strong evidence of my conversation. So I requested the permission from this Nick guy to allow me to record the conversation. I think this made him a little wary of my intentions. But still he did not give me his details. I think he was really scared because he felt that my wrath could result in him facing the music from his bosses in Palo Alto, CA. There were a few interesting discussions, for example, he said “I am Nick and you can identify me with this name alone.” to which I retorted by saying “Well…I know that Nick is a common name in U.S and you guys might as well redirect my call to NY Knicks judging by the way things are going.”.
So the next day I called up the HP Customer Care Service Manager’s Line at 1-877-917-4380 , code 94 option 1. This time I spoke to a guy called Douglas Gilmore who was equally tough with me (if not more). He refused to acknowledge any of my concerns initially. But later as the conversation progressed, it went on from being just a plain discussion to a heated argument. However, I did not utter even a single foul word because I knew that he could use my language as a pretext to disconnect my call which I was not willing to risk at all. So throughout the discussion I kept my head cool and tried to explain the things to him. But after going through the history of the whole thing, he realized that I had suffered a lot because of this laptop and that the attitude of the Customer care was rather cold. So he finally agreed to give me a replacement after much requests. This was probably my best argument till date and I think that it was some good thinking on my part as well as some codial behavior on the part of the managers that I could get what I truly deserved: a replacement to my defective laptop.
-Rajat.
Japanese art forms

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Lake Tahoe : A sporty trip

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This long weekend, the July 4th weekend, we went to Lake Tahoe. Trips are fun when the group sizes are large and this time around we broke the records of group sizes. 18 of us went to Lake Tahoe, with friends coming in from New York, Santa Barbara, Foster City etc.
We booked a house for us and it was really grand. The cost of the rental was $670 for 2 days with a minimum 2 days rental.
We left for South Lake Tahoe from Foster City, CA from Gander’s place at 9:45 am in a Jeep Wrangler . We took I-5N, I-80E,I-50E to reach South Lake Tahoe in 5hrs 15mins because of some heavy traffic. As soon as we reached Deepak had made arrangements for Jet Skiing for us in Lake Tahoe. The cost for rental was a decent $100 / hour. VK and I were on the same Jet Ski. It took me some time to get accustomed to the fact that I was gliding on the surface of water without knowing swimming. But once I became a little comfortable, I started to enjoy the surface tension of water! The life jacket that I had worn was luckily not put to full use as I did not fall into the water.
The next day was the best adventure sport that I have ever been a part of. River Rafting with Adventure Connection in South Fork Waters was simply an ethereal experience. It was grade 3 rafting and we were told that was the beginner level. Our raft guide – Dinesh, was from Nepal and had a very clear idea and excellent knowledge of rafting. He told us that in India and Nepal the water grades are much higher than in US. For example, grade 5 in US is grade 3 in India & Nepal. The 3-hour rafting experience caused us $85 but it was worth every penny of it. Personally, I think that all of us are ready to do Grade 4 but I think I need to first learn to swim before I can embark on those escapades. I was told that Grade 4 was available in Middle fork and grade 5 was available on North Fork waters.
Overall, it turned out to be a great trip with almost everyone enjoying the fun part. The total cost of the trip per person came to about $250 including food, stay and water sports. A great end to the 4th of July Long Weekend.

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Grand Canyon Trip

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Another trip to the national parks of US. This time in Arizona State! The Grand Canyon in AZ, USA lying on the Colorado Plateau in Northwestern Arizona is a blistering (not because of heat, though) example of soil erosion caused over more than 4000 years by Colorado river.
We organized a trip of 8 people in a Toyota Sienna. It turned out to be a fantastic van and it could easily carry the load of all the eight people and still not run out of steam like we did on the trail.
We reached the Canyon at around 7:50 am on the Saturday morning after an 8 hr drive. But getting apermit at such a short notice in summer is really difficult. So we ended up with no campgrounds in the Mather campground as well as the Backcountry CBG campground (Bright angel creek, just 0.5 miles from the Colorado river). So we first went to 10-X Campground just near the Grand Canyon Airport. This campground is on first come first served basis and takes only 10 bucks for a day. Anyway, we did not have too many choices with the campground so we had to take whatever spot we got.
Then at around 11:30 am we started on the Bright Angel Trail. According to the canyon officials the worst times to take the trails is between 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. But the brave souls that we were, our enthusiasm and inexperience with Canyon led us to believe our valor more than we had! So we began the trail with a backpack carrying water and food for each person. Every man for himself!
But we met a volunteer on the way who advised us that unless we were Marathon runners (which we are not by any stretch of imagination) going to the Plateau Point and coming back on the same day is not advisable. The thoughts that he put into our minds germinated into a tree of doubt which we could not climb.
We could reach only the 3-mile point and climbed back up. But as it turns out we had made almost 70% of the elevation and most of the inclining hike. Had we continued the further trail was not at all steep. But this is hindsight or may be a case of sour grapes or maybe a case of inflated self-esteem !?!!
Then after coming back exhausted from the trail we set up our tent and after some food went off for a well-deserved siesta. The next day after lot of deliberation from Gandhe and Sardar we made it again to the Canyon to look at the points on the South Rim itself. After going afound in the bus we saw most of the points and then headed back to LA with the same reverse route (64 S – 40 W – 15 S – 10 W)!
-Rajat.
My homepage.

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A disaster called Silsilay

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Silsilay, the latest movie by Khalid Mohammed, a critic famous for his Sunday Times articles, is a disaster to say the least. Mr.Mohammed, who has torn apart most of the movies in his journalism career, to my disappointment, has not proven himself any better than the pack he tore apart. I think if he himself saw the movie impartially he probably would have given it negative five stars.
Silsilay, as the movie is called, is a movie of three stories running one after the other albeit aimlessly. The first story is of a film actress (Bhoomika Chawla) who falls in love with a bookie (Rahul Bose) who is two-timing his girl-friend, who in turn is two-timing him…sounds complex…don’t bother…it’s not complex but just kiwi drainex!
The second story is of a young girl (Riya Sen) who looks stunning in the movie and is afraid to lose her virginity and is consoled by her overly promiscuous friend to do *it*. Ashmit Patel steps into the story as her boy toy (read “snuggies”) and Jimmy Shergill, who is her co-worker from work and is looking to gain her attention. Some good (aimless) smooches result between Ashmit and Riya and Khalid Mohammed succeeds in spinning a story that is as ridiculous as Riya and Ashmit’s acting. For god’s sake Riya, Nirma soap advertisements were better!
As if the torture was not enough, Mr.Mohammed had a life-saver (or at least as he thought) a still more ridiculous story. Well, some B-grade films would have called this 3rd story a *saga*…but I frankly think that Khalid Mohammed doesn’t think!
It’s a combination of a love triangle…sorry…love quadrilateral with a diagonal (please figure out what this means on your own…watching the movie wouldn’t help anyway). In this story Tabu plays a housewife whose husband (KK) is going out with a (super hot) air hostess (Celina Jaitley) and whose son suffers from Oedipus Complex ( where a person falls in love with his own mother). As if this carcass did not stink the theatres…there was more bull**** coming across in the form of Shah Rukh Khan in between stories and scenes. Mr. Khan there are many ways to win Filmfare awards…this is probably the last way to *buy* the awards. Mr.Khan does a saving act by signalling to the audience how he behaves when nature calls arrive…how he insanely goes about dancing for no reason whatsoever.
This is all a part of the crap that I call Silsilay!
-Rajat.
Awesome Japanese Artifacts!

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Batman Begins: Movie Review

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I’ve been a Batman fan since the time my father took me to watch the first Batman movie starring Michael Keaton. The latest addition to the Batman series is Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. The film is an excellent depiction of Batman and his rise as the caped crusader in Gotham City. The story is a prequel to the Batman movies which we have seen in the past.
The remaining cast is also well studded with some of the best actors of Hollywood like Michael Caine (Alfred) and Morgan Freeman. Katie Holmes also has done a good job of acting. But I still think that Michelle Pfeiffer is yet to be beaten in looks in the entire Batman series.
Overall, the movie is excellent with everything about Batman being explained and I think it’s a must watch for any Batman fan!

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Yosemite trip

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Yosemite National Park located in Northern CA, USA is like a heaven on earth, as I found out this long weekend. From LA to Yosemite, we started our trip in early hours of morning at 12:30 am in a Dodge Caravan rented from Fox Rentals.
The trip was more like serendipity of fortunate events (not that this means anything ;-). 14 of us lonesome souls set out for an adventure of the hitherto unknown. The reason I say unknown is we had no clue as to what we were doing. We set out with no reservation for campgrounds with the free spirit of desis! Reached there at around 7:00 am and noticed a huge line to get the campground reservations. Well, patience eventually paid off, when Nimesh and I got our name in the waitlist for campgrounds we saw our window of opportunity. Our name was 32nd on the list and we came to know from other people that they generally released around 10-15 campsites daily. We went off to glacier point (After loads of arguments)….will be continued in later blogs!