my personal blog

October 5, 2005

The Annotated Guide to Customer Service

Filed under: rants,work — Alfonso Surroca @ 8:46 am

Below is a recent AP article which I've taken the liberty of annotating:

Annoying Quotes From Sales Clerks Listed
By The Associated Press
Wed Oct 5, 6:44 AM ET

"Uh, that's not my department." Ever hear that in a store? Did visions of fiendish violence against the clerk flash through your mind? "Not my department" topped the list of Most Annoying Words from Salesperson's Mouth, cited by 29 percent, in a poll of shopping mall customers by a retail consulting firm.

In a large store, people are trained for and work a specific department. And if the words "that's not my department" send "visions of fiendish violence against the clerk" through the customer's mind, then how do you expect the employee to go out of his/her way to accomodate someone who obviously has a mental disease, a latent homocidal bent, or is just a fucking asshole? (more…)

October 2, 2005

iTunes uSuck

Filed under: business,music,rants,technology — Alfonso Surroca @ 12:30 pm

Today, I deleted iTunes from my system.

I've always been a die-hard PC user and thus fairly ambivalent to the Apple crowd, despite the fact that I'm usually in-line with other "hipster" brands (case in point, I drive a Volkswagen). Note, however, that I do not shop at Urban Outfitters. (more…)

August 21, 2005

No Gas Day (Bollocks)

Filed under: humor,rants — Alfonso Surroca @ 9:28 am

I recieved the following nonsense message yesterday:

—————– Bulletin Message —————–
From: [a sheep]
Date: Aug 20, 2005 9:14 PM

august 31 no gas day!
Body: august 31 no gas day!
Due to the outrages increase in gas, August 31(Wednesday) has been declared a NO GAS DAY!


July 29, 2005


Filed under: politics,rants — Tags: , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:02 pm

The Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism. That’s right, the war on terror ain’t just for terrorists anymore! And it’s no longer a war either, it’s a struggle! Against violent extremists! So, when are we due to send troops to kill off every abortion clinic bomber in the United States? They’re violent extremists.

I guess the term “war on terror” sounded great after 9/11, when the time for being angry and sounding as tough as possible was right. But it appears the latest armed-cum-ideological war since the ill-fated “war on drugs” isn’t fairing much better these days, with more terrorists than before 9/11, an increasingly frustrated Iraqi people, and a U.S. military death toll that’s bound to exceed the death toll of the 9/11 terror attacks before we finally find our way out of there.

That’s okay, though. After all, it’s not a war, folks, it’s a struggle, like the new slogan says. Neverind the 1800 dead U.S. troops and tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, it’s a struggle! When you talk about an armed invasion as a “war”, you know, it just doesn’t workshop very well in public relations circles, especially after the public finds out the case for war was built on a farce!

The media’s alreay tried its best by neglecting to mention those little details the public doesn’t really want or need to hear, such as the largest U.S. military death toll since Vietnam and the fact that there are now more terrorists out there than there were before the whole thing started,and that they’ve set up shop in Iraq.

By the way, am I the only one who thinks about fascist and communist slogans? The Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism? Proletarians of the World Unite!

July 25, 2005

Parking Garage Labyrinth

Filed under: humor,rants — Tags: , — Alfonso Surroca @ 5:04 pm

Parking lots are amongst the least aesthetic and most strictly functional of buildings, and they are by design not unlike the modern Colosseum of suburbia, where soccer moms in SUVs and eco-kids in Priuses are forced into a gladiatorial bloodbath. With one, sometimes two entrances and exits, narrow driveways, tight turning spaces, and enough room for hundreds of vehicles, parking lots seem to have been designed expressly to pit motorist against motorist, to be the place where near-road raging motorists finally crack and go on murderous rampages.

They are also veritable labyrinths, and that leads me to conclude that the engineers and architects behind the design of most large parking lots are sociopaths. The single entrance and exit, and cramped spaces can be explained away by the fact that land is at a premium, but bizarre numbering systems wherein parking space #499 directly precedes #800? Floor levels marked 4/5 and 5/6 instead of 4, 5, and 6? Obviously the work of a murderous sociopath.

Such was the picture the other day. My librarian friend Louise and I took the metro rail to Downtown Miami, and I parked at the Dadeland station parking lot. This was not nearly as difficult as I’d previously expected. I even managed an easy to remember space: #711. Like in 7-Eleven. What I didn’t realize until we returned to the parking lot was that in this parking lot, numbers didn’t necessarily run in order. Lulu and I were on floor 4/5, which was the floor we remembered parking on, started counting upward from the 400s, and immediately ended up in the 800s.

We took the elevator one level down, hoping that the 700s would be directly below the 800s. This, however, was not the method to this madness, for after some walking we found ourselves again in the 800s, and then the 900s. In addition to this, there was a series of about ten parking spaces on each floor numbered with each year in a particular decade. Cute, really cute. I’m sure there was much back-patting for that idea. At any rate, after climbing up as high as floor 5/6 and still finding ourselves nowhere near parking space #711, we were still at a loss.

From there, the details are hazy, but I do remember entering the elevator a second time, walking down about a half level, and then back up a bit, passing the 1980s series of parking spaces, and finally reaching space #711. I don’t really know how we got back to our space, and if I ever have to park in this parking lot again, I still won’t be able to navigate it any better. I can imagine someone leering at the monitor, watching us trudge through this maze through the security cameras with a sick pleasure. When you’re lost in a parking garage, it is definitely not you. I’m a college student and Lulu is a graduate student, but we weren’t able to navigate the maze. After navigating through this parking garage, I know it was specifically designed for people to get lost in.

June 25, 2005

2 oz

Filed under: rants,work — Tags: , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:26 pm

I happened across this complaint at,

I just got back from the Starbucks at the Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I ordered a grande cappuccino with a shot of vanilla.

For my $3.45 I got a 16 oz cup with 7oz of coffee and 8 spoons of foam. Talk about expensive coffee.

Just how much coffee should you get when you order a grande? It would seem to me that you should get something close to 16 oz.

I will not be going to Starbucks again.

This is a complaint we get at Starbucks quite frequently.

First, I should note the common misconception that a beverage such as a latte or a cappuccino is just “coffee”. The espresso contained in your average coffee beverage is typically only 1-2 oz. In this person’s case, it’s 2 oz., or only 1/8 of the composition of the beverage. Whether or not the coffee itself is expensive is irrelevant because the espresso might account for literally pennies. The cost of the milk in the beverage is considerably more than the coffee. That’s why you can go to a cafeteria Cubana here in Miami and get about 2 oz. of espresso for somewhere around $.75. Because 2 oz. of espresso costs pennies.

Now, we’ve started with a 16 oz. beverage. Subtract the 2 oz. of espresso, and we’re at 14 oz. Take away the serving of vanilla syrup, and we’re left to account for 13 oz. This 13 oz. is foamed milk, poured such that once settled, it should be about half milk and half foam. This means the 7 oz. of milk and 6 oz. of foam in this example sound about right.

To answer this misguided consumer’s question, 2 oz. A 16 oz. cappuccino from Starbucks contains 2 oz. of espresso.

A final note: A cappuccino made in the authentic Italian style, e.g. a purist’s cappuccino, is only about 1.5 oz of espresso, with roughly the same amount of foamed milk, e.g. small enough to be served in a demitasse. The modern rule of thumb, however, is 1/3 espresso, 2/3 foamed milk.

May 26, 2005

Ever Read The Fine Print?

Filed under: business,rants — Tags: , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:35 am

I used to be a cash-only type of guy. It was only after being nagged by my parents about building my credit that I finally succumbed and got myself a credit card. Recently, I opened an account with Bank of America and got their credit card because of an offer for $35. Now, I find in the midst of the paperwork for a mortgage loan I’m going to get, I need to have a third credit card.

I settled on the Chase PerfectCard because it gives me some money back on fuel, and so forth, instead of offering me garbage “rewards” I’ll never use such as frequent flyer miles (I’ve never flown). I treat every credit card deal as a scam, perhaps just a notch or two more credible than your average Nigerian e-mail. So, I make sure to read the fine print. In this case:

To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account.

That’s the (in)famous USA PATRIOT Act at work there. In the old days, credit card companies took down your personal information and ran credit checks because they wanted to make sure you could pay your bills. Now, they’re doing it to fight terrorism. Apparently.

You agree that we may share personal and account information about you with our affiliates for the purpose of marketing to you their products and services, including banking, insurance and investment products.

Once they’ve collected your personal information and made sure that you’re not a terrorist, they’re going to send it off to their affiliates so that you can receive more junk mail. Here, I’m waiving my right to not receive junk mail.

The Cardmember Agreement contains a binding arbitration provision which may affect your rights to go to court, including your right to a jury trial or your right to participate in a class action or similar proceeding.

And here, I’m basically waiving my right to join a class-action lawsuit against Chase, should the need ever arise. When I agree to settle any disputes through arbitration. You’d be surprised how many times you sign away your right to sue a large company without knowing it. Many license agreements have an arbitration clause.

No annual fee first year. Thereafter, the $19 annual fee will be waived if at least nine (9) purchase transactions were made in the prior year.

And here’s the kicker. Most credit cards have no annual fee, and they make sure to make a big deal about this fact. Except, it’s not true. If I don’t use my card enough, that annual fee magically manifests itself.

Nothing I read about this credit card screamed “deal breaker”, and I sent in my application. I’m just glad to know that I have to use this card at least nine times this year to waive the supposedly nonexistent annual fee. I’m not a terrorist or criminal, I’m not planning on suing anyone, and my personal information (like yours, like everyone’s) is already for sale.

Just remember to read the fine print, people.

May 14, 2005

The 400 Drinks

Filed under: humor,rants,work — Tags: , — Alfonso Surroca @ 1:43 pm

This Friday morning, I had an annoying shift, and chose to pass the bile on in the standard way any Starbucks barista does, by giving our customers decaffeinated coffee. Unlike fast food workers, Starbucks partners are more passive aggressive in their methods. We do not spit in people´s drinks, I assure you, under any circumstances. Instead, we press the decaf button, which is directly adjacent to its caffeinated equivalent. Throughout the morning, I estimate I made about 400 drinks. Let´s think for a moment about the potential ramifications.

Our morning customers consist mostly of suits running to work. Doctors, lawyers, paper-pushers of all sorts. These customers depend on their morning caffeine jolt to survive the morning and mid morning until they can come back to Starbucks for a lunch break fix. They are faithful, like crack addicts. And let´s not think for a moment that caffeine is that different from crack, because I assure you, these people are addicted. Imagine for a moment a crack addict without his fix. Now, dress him in a suit or her in a dress and designer heels. Give him or her a manicure and a classy hair style. Now, affix a Bluetooth hands-free cellular phone earpiece to this person’s ear. Now you’ve got a solid picture of the owners of these 400 drinks.

400 doctors, lawyers, paper-pushers, and gofers, real-estate brokers, pharmaceutical reps, nurses, and coders. 400 suits of all sorts using caffeine like a crutch to get them through their mornings until they can return to their nearest Starbucks during their lunch break for another fix. During the morning, these 400 would find themselves lacking that pick me up they usually get. They would find themselves forced to run to the office Folgers, burned to a crisp and as clear as tea, filled to the brim with dusty powdered cream and granulated white sugar. They would soon find that this remnant of pre-Starbucks workplace society would not cut it.

The lawyers likely fell behind, just a little bit, on the research for their cases, and this forced them to call their spouses once again to tell them they’d be coming home late. Perhaps one, just one, called one time too many, that one time required to finally instill the suspicion of an affair. Perhaps that last cup of decaf coffee was the last straw needed to break this marriage’s back and land this lawyer in the nasty legal mess of divorce. The paper-pushers missed their Friday afternoon deadlines, and that was enough for them to stay on the spot enough for their bosses, in that Lumbergh drone, to catch them and “ask” them to come in on Saturday morning. Perhaps one of these paper-pushers was going to go out Friday night, and hang out at the beach Saturday, he’d been waiting all week for this release, and now, he’ screwed. The computer coders might have missed a line or two here and there in their rush to get out and search for another cup of Starbucks. Perhaps the one bug this coder missed in his sleepy state will grow to be a security hole in the next release of the banking software being released six months from now. Hackers will find and exploit this hole, and bank accounts from banks using this software will find themselves cleaned out. The company making this software will find themselves in that nasty legal mess of being sued.

Maybe I did end a marriage, ruin someone’s weekend, or make some hacker rich. Maybe one of these suits fell asleep at the wheel on the I-95. Who knows, maybe one of these 400 suits lost his job, and the guy in the next cubicle got it instead. And perhaps this guy in the next cubicle deserved it better, but the one who came to my store and unwittingly got decaf was just a better ass-kisser. Either way, you really can’t know what happens once you throw your action into the lake, you can’t see the ripple effect. And more than likely, you’re acting out in part as the result of someone else’s action as well. I know I was. Maybe if I didn’t have to work Friday, or if it hadn’t been that busy, or if the coworker who failed to come on time had, who knows?

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