Dec 3 – Breckenridge Ski Report

The Good

  • The people on the mountain are mostly good about social distancing in on the lift rides (two people for a four-chair lift), but not so much in line. You get a stark reminder of this when it is 10 degrees and you can see everyone’s breath.
  • While not much of the terrain is open, the runs that are available are in good shape so the conditions are good.
  • At the bottom of the mountain there is more care about distancing with extra ski racks, someone to help guide people, and cordoned off areas near the ticket windows.

The Bad

  • At the lifts, the operators are doing nothing to enforce distancing. They are also ignoring people not following the mask mandate. People wearing a gaiter over the mouth only for example, go unchallenged. The lift crews are also largely ignoring people in line and talking to each other. Rare to get a friendly greeting.
  • With only three runs open on upper Peak 9, they are more crowded than prior years. There has been little to no enforcement of slow zones or the no jumping section of Cashier run.
  • It isn’t just the limited runs, it is a lot more crowded this week than compared to prior years. With the new reservation system it sounds like a good idea to limit the people on the mountain. But apparently Vail Resorts isn’t publishing just what that limit is. So instead of being on a run with a couple other people during the first week of December, I find myself on the run with 25 or more. This does not bode well for the rest of the season. As it stands, it seems like the reservation system is purely for show. Picture above shows eight people on the last leg of Cashier, with another 20 behind me. But, at least one bluebird day this week!
  • The revamped web site is riddled with bugs, so many and so severe as to hinder functionality. Want to get a buddy ticket? Good luck since you have to sign in to view prices, despite being signed in. EpicMix statistics? Gone completely. EpicMix app? While there appear to be some good new features, they come at the cost of removing some statistics too. Want to chat with someone about it? Enjoy the 463 minute wait.

Twitter, Companies, and your Complaints

The rise of social media has been interesting to say the least. Many on twitter have found it to give them a type of power as they can voice their complaints directly to a company that has wronged them. Everything from bad customer service, bad prices, minor inconvenience, or even perceived slights that likely never happened as described.

This ability has given rise to social media teams at these companies that are often extensions of the customer support teams that traditionally handle phone and email based contact. Since the complaint isn’t a direct communication between the offended and offender, companies have figured out that it behooves them to control the narrative as much as possible. Since the original Tweet(s) have outlined a bad experience they must try to head off any additional commentary be it from the offended to friends of theirs sharing their own negative experiences or even random users that see a RT or search for those sharing negative stories.

Without fail, the offending company will reply and immediately ask you to take it to direct messages (DMs) to control the narrative. They show they are quick and eager to resolve your issue! After that they only need to provide a base level of customer service and hope that satisfies you. It is interesting to note that they will do this by asking you to send your name and specific information to assist you, even if your complaint isn’t specific to you. Don’t let them do this.

If your complaint is generic and not specific to your account or personal details, don’t go to DMs with them. Have the conversation publicly so everyone can see it and those searching down the road can find it. If you do take it to DMs and they don’t resolve it? Take them to task, again. Keep doing it until they make things right or ignore you like OptumRX did with me. Apparently you can only call them out for dreadful customer service and a web portal written by seven year-olds so many times before they give up trying to get you to go to DMs and away from the public eye.

A Small Ask of @JerseyMikes For the Greater Good

Jersey Mike’s,

Indulge me briefly please. I have a simple proposal for you that is good for everyone and I have taken the liberty to “show my work”. Read on!

You serve really tasty sub sandwiches and they have become my favorite, displacing Subway and a local sandwich shop. I get the regular #5 Super Sub but do it my way, not yours. That includes adding deli mustard and mayo. Using your nutrition calculator I see that the sandwich jumps from 830 to 1070 calories when I add mayonnaise, meaning it is 240 calories. In reality it is probably a lot more than that given how liberally it is used.

Jersey Mike’s #5 Super Sub

According to Wikipedia you have 1,592 locations. From one of your news articles we know that one location can sell over 1,000 sandwiches in a day. While I know not every store sells that many a day, and I know that not every customer gets mayo, indulge me in a hypothetical.

If a store sells half that amount (500) and half ordered mayo (250) that means you sell 398,000 sandwiches a day (1592 * 250). We know from the calculator that the mayo is 240 calories so multiply by that number of sandwiches and we get 95,520,000 million calories in mayo alone each day. That is pretty incredible.

That made me wonder why you don’t offer an alternate to the full mayo, either light or fat free. Let’s take a look at a leading brand and compare the calories in 1 tablespoon. Kraft Real Mayo is 90 calories, Kraft Light Mayo is 35 calories, and Kraft Fat Free is only 10 calories. Dropping from full to light cuts out 62% (55) calories and dropping to to fat free cuts out 89% (80) calories. Since we only know your sandwich gains 240 calories and not the brand or how much per tablespoon, we have to use those percentages to figure out the cut from 240.

Now we know that 62% of the 240 means 91 calories on a sandwich with light mayo and a big difference with 89% of the 240 meaning only 26 calories on the sandwich. Jumping back to that 95,520,000 calories in mayo a day we have a good contrast. Switching to light mayo would cut that down to 36,297,600 calories a day and switching to fat free would cut that down to 10,507,200 calories a day.

While you probably aren’t open 365 days a year or if so, not full hours, forgive my short cut to just call it a year when we look at the bigger picture. As is, you are potentially dishing out 34,864,800,000 calories every year. That is almost 35 billion.

If Jersey Mike’s offered low-fat mayo it would potentially drop to 13,248,624,000 calories which saves over 21 billion a year. Moving to fat-free would cut it down to a measly 3,835,128,000 calories saving over 31 billion a year. The kicker? If you charged $0.25 for upgrading to less calories that would be $99,500 a day or $36,317,500 a year in profit, assuming you can get fat free for the same price as regular.

Finally, for the critics who might cry that fat-free mayo doesn’t taste as good as the full, you are absolutely right! But on a sub sandwich with a dozen ingredients and the mayonnaise mixed in with deli mustard? I doubt one in a thousand people could taste the difference. For those who disagree? Fine, see above. They could offer both.

Conclusion

Jersey Mike’s could offer low-fat mayo and remove 21.6 billion calories from customer diets or offer fat-free mayo and remove 31 billion calories from customer diets each year while making over 36 million dollars in the process. How about it Mike… this is a win-win.

Improving Foursquare

FourSquare is a social media application, allowing you to use GPS enabled phones to ‘check in’ to venues, earn badges, etc. As with most social media platforms, 4sq lacks several features and would benefit from additional work. Some of my ideas, after using the site for a month.

  • “Things done” is a poor choice of words for “I left a note / tip”, unless it encompasses more than that. If so, there should be better / more prominent documentation about it.
  • “Things done” part 2. Walking in the door and leaving a tip is often pointless. It’s only after you have been there an hour or as you walk out, that you may think “great drink special tonight” or “lots of hot scattered ass”. Having an option to check out of a venue with a tip would be handy, or some method to add the tip without re-checking in.
  • Editing a venue is messy. Doing it via phone allows you to edit all the fields, sometimes. Other times it just let me “flag venue info”, “flag venue as closed”, “flag incorrect address” or “flag venue as duplicate”. The one venue I did edit was not fixed a week later on subsequent checkins. The web page lets me edit tags, but not submit changes to the name (Park, not Parl).
  • Flagging a venue as a dupe, seems to do nothing so far. If they are eventually dealt with, how are they handled? Is the ‘best’ information from each merged into one? Is the mayorship based on the most checkins to either/both?
  • Why can so many dupes be added? There are at least three variations of one bar I frequent. When adding a venue, a routine should look for similar names in the surrounding 500 meters and suggest them. Why? (read next bullet)
  • Because the search feature is not as reliable as you may expect. Searching for a venue may pull up one quickly, but not show the duplicate venues. This indicates a bug in the search engine.
  • If the venue editing process is limited, I would guess it is due to the lack of employees at 4sq. This site would greatly benefit from community involvement. Having a handful of community moderators, say 1 moderator per 250,000 population of a city, would allow for considerably more accurate venues.
  • 4sq needs to stay up on current phone issues. I have a Samsung Galaxy phone, that is notorious for poor GPS functionality. The physical device is fine, the software that drives the phone just interacts with it poorly. This causes it to take minutes to get a current GPS location, sometimes be off by as much as 500 meters or simply not pull back a current location without rebooting the phone. If I check into a venue over 250 meters away, it may say “we think you are too far from this, we’ll let you check in but NO POINTS FOR YOU”. The application should detect my phone and instead, let me check in for points and offer sympathy that Samsung can’t figure out GPS 101.
  • Missing venue: Denver is known for its big selection of microbrewery / restaurants. This category should be added, as well as a “Brewmaster” badge for visiting X venues flagged as such. (this has been submitted to them)
  • The ‘find friends’ functionality is severely broken. It cannot find friends on Facebook that use 4sq already.

So far, yet so short…

two days into my smart phone experience, i am simultaneously amazed and disgusted by the state of technology surrounding these devices and ‘cloud’ applications.

back in the day, i had a ‘hacker’ mindset. i found flaws in systems that let me circumvent security or gain privileges not intended for users (or remote people not intended to have any access). over the years, that mindset shifted away from ‘hacking’ (penetration testing as a day job) and moved more toward usability (QA). these days, the idea of hacking and pen testing is boring and i avoid it as best i can. however, i am still a consumer and end user, so when a product doesn’t work, it bugs the hell out of me. more so if i believe any standard QA process should have caught it. my new phone is a world of new opportunity to find shortcomings in applications.

the other thing that bothers me about this process, is that when i find an annoyance and confirm it with a friend, i invariably get “that annoys me too!” so i am not the only one finding these bugs and shortcomings. is it complacency? do users no longer try to demand better from vendors? do they no longer report bugs and ask for simple features?

a great example of this is the Android Market (app store), the place to get applications for your Android based phone. i have a Samsung Vibrant through T-mobile, which uses Android apps, so this is now my go-to place to find neat utilities for the phone. go to that site, and search for applications that let you do $whatever. notice that? the distinct lack of a SEARCH MECHANISM? seriously, what brain dead dickholes run this operation, that didn’t think to put some kind of rudimentary search or at least embed a Google search link with “site:android.com”? unbelievable.

it’s ok, you can search the site via the smart phone! unfortunately, when you do it via your phone, you are given results straight from a 1995 search engine. the pattern matching is horrible. search for something with a space and results are hit or miss (e.g., “my app” will frequently not find “myapp”). further, applications that appear on the site you find via browsing, get no matches when you search for the exact name on the phone. there are some 100,000 applications out there. when you search for a common term, it isn’t surprising to receive 1000 results. but, instead of giving me primitive filtering (e.g., list only free apps, list only apps with 4+ star ratings), i get to scroll through all 1000 applications that do not appear to be listed in any discernible order.

my phone lets me connect via Wi-Fi in favor of 3G if i am in range. but, if i need to enter a password for the hotspot, i can’t enter the password. i am relegated to dealing with behavior of devices from 2000 that force you to enter the hex key.

the phone is advertised as being able to multi-task. i can run multiple applications at once! of course, very few let me cleanly exit the application. instead, they just keep running in the background, slowly helping drain the battery faster. everyone downloads a third-party application to help with this, a ‘Task Killer’ app. while this app is very helpful, it also makes me scream as i see countless apps start up that were never invoked by me. why does Amazon MP3 need to keep being invoked when i never did it, and i am not using any program that plays MP3s?

the built in ‘memo’ program is weak. so i got ‘Evernote’, a “cloud” based application that syncs my notes between phone and the web site. in theory, this is great. i sit at my computer and create a To-do list on the web site, and when i grab my phone and go, it syncs up the list from the web site. perfect! oh wait, the second list i created, i cannot edit. i can add text to it, but i can’t delete anything in it. i can’t use ‘DEL’, i can’t backspace over anything, i can’t even highlight and ‘cut’ the text via mouse/menu. seriously, what kind of drooling idiots write this application and don’t notice this? i can do it on the first list i created, but the invisible formatting crap i notice reminds me of MS Word from 1998. un-fucking-believable. so i deleted that list, and will re-create it by hand-typing the list instead of pasting it from a web page, which apparently caused the problems.

seriously people, hire a small QA team. if you are cheap and refuse to use the product yourself, then crowd-source the QA work. you do this by giving any users who want to help the ability to quickly and easily report bugs / annoyances or give feedback on features they would like to see. if you identify a person that seems to be knowledgeable and files accurate bug reports, flag their account/id and prioritize their submissions. example: a while back, i started giving feedback on a new version of Trillian, a program i use every day all day. within a few days, the lead developer was replying to my mails quickly. i believe he recognized a user that was familiar with the QA process (i marginally am), reported problems that were not one-off issues and would try to repeat the issue or provide debug output as requested.

in short, companies and developers need to use some of their time to use their own products, test them thoroughly and consider what features users may want. whipping up new code and flashy gadgets only goes so far before you have a product that is more annoying than it is helpful.

Hey asshole business (Chase)

Ranting on behalf of a friend. We were out grabbing vegetables for the guinea pigs, a quick dinner and some wine for her. Trying to purchase wine, her debit card was declined. Figuring it was a fluke and the bad mojo of our local Wine Nazi rubbing off, she tried again at Wahoo’s and it got declined again. She figured maybe her balance dipped below 0 as she just bought a new computer and paid for three months of rent at the same time. Before heading back we swung by her bank’s ATM to let her deposit a few checks she never did, and her ATM refused to let her do any transactions. Thinking her balance was below 0, the ATM wouldn’t let her deposit money to cover the balance, how stupid is that? That seems like the bank just being dickish to help garner overdraft fees.

The next morning I get a call at 8:30AM from her bank’s fraud department. entirely automated, it ask if I am X or someone that can speak on behalf of X. I hit 1 in case I can fix the problem. The system proceeds to ask me two multiple guess questions to validate who I am, but never makes me enter the PIN associated with her debit card. It then asks me to confirm the last four transactions; “21 dollars at a liquor store, declined” (1 for yes), “8 dollars at a restaurant, declined” (1 for yes), “1100 dollars at a computer company, accepted” (1 for yes), “10 dollars at a marketing firm” (1 for yes). I have no clue what the last one is, but she is fond of buying small art and guinea pig supplies over the net, many of which show up on statements with odd names. Since it was clear the system categorized the transactions (liquor store, restaurant, computer company) I figured it was one of those. After all of that, “thank you, your card is ready for use”.

So she never dipped below the minimum balance at all, her card was put on hold for potential fraudulent purchase(s) and they found it important to wake me up before business hours to fix it. Hours later after I woke up (again) and thought about it, it occurred to me just how stupid the entire system is. Calling at 8:32 I assume is intended to reach the person before work, but I know many people who leave well before 8:30 for their 9 – 5 job. Even if the goal is to reach them, calling me outside business hours to clear up your stupidity is absurd, especially when she can’t use your ATM or online system to fix the problem outside business hours.

  1. There was ONE abnormal purchase on her card (the computer). The declined wine purchase was at the same store she frequents several times a week. The declined restaurant was Wahoo’s, where we eat as many as 4 times a week. That one purchase for 1100 was considerably smaller than another single item purchase she made in the last 9 months. That total was roughly the same amount as half a dozen purchases in a three day period in another state. Why did this one flag her account and the others didn’t?
  2. The card was locked for potential fraud, but the ATM would not allow her to go through the same routine I did? She could have entered the card, the PIN and answered those questions and fixed it without waiting a day.
  3. The only security offered in the validation process was calling the number on record. not asking for the PIN to be entered and asking two very trivially guessed questions instead is absurd.

So Chase Bank, eat a big bowl of dicks. Your policies and procedures are laughable and annoying.