Thursday, March 15, 2012

In Which I am Faced With the Strange Task of Telling Coffee-Mate I Don't Use Coffee-Mate

The other day, I tweeted a movie quote, containing the word "coffee," to a friend.

A few minutes later, I received a notification that Coffee-Mate (yes, the product) was following me on Twitter. This exchange ensued. 

Me: Thanks for following me, @coffee_mate. I hope my decaffeinated tweets don't disappoint you. 

Them: @bewarika We are sure you'll live up to our flavorful expectations! Which is your favorite flavor?

I haven't responded. I'm not quite sure how. To be fair, they didn't ask about my favorite flavor of their product, just my favorite flavor in general. I guess I'll tweet back, "bacon."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How a Magazine, a Sweet Tooth, and a Couple of Murderous Psychopaths Unintentionally Saved Me 40 Bucks

Forty-Dollar Biscotti.

That's what I'm going to call it if it's good enough to add to my permanent recipe collection.

I found the recipe (under the unpretentious name of "almond biscotti") in the most recent issue of Real Simple a few days ago. I'd never made biscotti but always wanted to try, so yesterday, on my weekly trip to Target, I grabbed some ingredients as well as a new comforter to replace the white one that was beautiful until we started letting the dog nap on the bed.

This afternoon, I started mixing biscotti ingredients only to find that the almond extract I purchased yesterday had a broken seal. Being a true crime fan too familiar with a) the Tylenol murders, and b) stories of the smell of bitter almonds, I thought better safe than cyanide and took the bottle back to the store.

After picking up a new, sealed bottle, I was making my way to the customer service desk when I spotted a big red sale tag on a display of comforters. Looking down the aisle, I saw all the comforters were on sale, even the one I bought yesterday. For $39.99 less than I paid.

The customer service lady exchanged my almond extract no problem and quickly offered a price adjustment when I mentioned the comforter sale to her. I'd never been so happy to return faulty merchandise. It was truly by chance that I'd walked that aisle and saw the sale. I've had some good luck in my life, but it never seems to apply to buying things, so this really brightened my day. 

I think I'll celebrate with some hot tea and biscotti. Not in bed though—I wouldn't want to mess up my new comforter, even if I got it on sale.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So Delicious? So Awesome!

I've shared on this blog many stories of bad customer service, but today, I want to write about one of the best customer service experiences I've had in a long time.

A few months ago, I bought a pint of Purely Decadent Peanut Butter Zig Zag non-dairy frozen dessert. I am a sucker for chocolate and peanut butter, and ice cream is one of my most missed dairy treats. But to my dismay, when I opened the container, it looked and tasted like dairy free chocolate ice cream. There was no peanut butter anywhere.

I took my problem to Twitter, lamenting that my peanut butter was missing. It wasn't long before I received a reply from So Delicious, the maker of the product. It said something like, "We found your peanut butter. Please contact us so we can return it to its rightful owner."

So I did. I sent them an email, thanking them for not only acknowledging my complaint but doing so with grace and humor. And yesterday, I came home to an envelope containing a bunch of coupons, including two for free products.

It was a very cool response from a very cool company. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a reunion planned with some peanut butter.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I'm Gonna Be Alright...Soon As I Get Home

"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to." - John Ed Pearce 

I've been feeling rather homesick lately, which happens every now and then but usually subsides rather quickly. I've been living in Illinois almost a decade now, and even though I spent twice as long in Pennsylvania, where I grew up, I like my life here and think of it as the home of my adulthood.

But with my 15th class reunion coming up next month, I've been thinking a lot about my hometown, Montoursville, and all the people and places I look forward to seeing. I've even been daydreaming about some of the treats I'd pick up from my favorite hometown eateries. What I didn't realize was, as much as I needed my town, it was about to need me more.

On Wednesday, I got an email from my mom telling me it had been raining since Sunday (courtesy of Tropical Storm Lee) and flooding was predicted all over the area. I kept an eye on the Facebook updates of Pennsylvania friends that day, and most people seemed only mildly concerned.

By the time I got up Thursday morning, things had changed. I received a message saying a friend's parents had been evacuated early that morning, that their basement was full of water. Not long after I got to work, I learned that a bridge in the area had collapsed. I quickly realized that this flood would not simply be an inconvenience; it would be a catastrophe.

The water began to recede late on Thursday, giving residents an opportunity to survey the damage. It's substantial. Some people lost all their belongings. Some lost their homes as well. My mom told me one story of a couple who had gone on vacation and returned to find  their house gone. Worse, so many roads are so badly damaged that some people can't even get to their homes right now.

I hate having to watch this go on from 600 miles away. I hate feeling like there's nothing I can do to help my friends and neighbors, at least for now. But it warms my heart to see so many people in the area coming out to help each other, donating their time, their money, and their belongings to people who need them more.

It's an emotional weekend all over the country, given the commemoration of the anniversary of 9/11. I've always been bothered by people who compare their personal struggles to the terrorist attacks ten years ago, but in this case, I think the anniversary offers important perspective. This storm has destroyed homes, ruined belongings, and turned roads to rubble. But all that's just stuff. That's easy for me to say, of course. My parents' house is safe on a hill with an in-tact road leading up to it. But I don't know anyone who would disagree, especially today.

I'm grateful for my friends and neighbors who are helping their friends and neighbors in their time of need. I am humbled by the concern of my Illinois friends who want to help. And I am more eager than ever to get back to Montoursville. We really need each other right now.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Football...the Rock Paper Scissors Way

The other day, I was asked to join a fantasy football league at work. Everyone in my department was asked; it's not like the guy who organizes it thought to himself, you know, I bet Erika would really enjoy this. Still, the thought was absurd, and I told the guy so.

"Not watching football is my ultimate football fantasy," I said.

Somehow, that made him determined to get me to participate. He told me that last year, one coworker signed up, did nothing (i.e., took "best available" players rather than participating in the draft, then didn't change his lineup all season) and made the playoffs. I could do the same, he said. Besides, the thing doesn't cost any money; it's just for fun. The "trophy" is a Shake Weight with winners' names written on it.

I then described for him how I approach football if I am forced to watch a game (see my entry on the 2007 Super Bowl). I try to imagine what a football game would look like if the things the team names represent were to play. For example, my hometown team (the Chicago Bears) will play the Atlanta Falcons in its first game of the regular season. If actual bears and actual falcons played football, who would win? Bears are big and would be good tacklers, but falcons are swift and deft. Plus they can fly. I think it would take a lot of keen strategizing for the bears to be victorious.

Surprisingly, this explanation of my view of sports made my coworker even more excited about me participating. He encouraged me to choose my team that way, thought it would be a fun experiment. Since it's free and I wouldn't have to watch any football games, I agreed.

So today, I sat down to take a look at the physical and mental qualities each member of a football team must have and compared those to the qualities of the entities representing the team names. Finding out about the different positions was easy enough, but some of the team names are pretty strange. Cleveland Browns? What is that? I was picturing a bunch of UPS guys running up and down the field until I looked it up and learned the team was named after a coach. And looking up the mascots doesn't help. The Tennessee Titans' mascot is a raccoon. But a raccoon and a titan are not the same thing. (Note to the Tennessee Titans: You might get more female fans if you change your mascot to a shirtless Greek god.)

In retrospect, it would have been easier just to learn about football.

For each position on the fantasy football team (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, defense), I wrote down several team names. My coworker has promised that in the draft, which is Thursday, he'll give me the best available player on one of the teams I've chosen.

I have to admit, I'm kind of interested to find out what happens. Not interested enough to watch any games, but I'm always up for a weird experiment that doesn't require much work on my part. Especially one with such low stakes. And actually, considering the burden of winning (having to keep a Shake Weight at my desk for a year, having to explain to people why it's there), I kind of hope I don't win.

Friday, August 12, 2011

More Than Suitable

I don't know if there's a phrase that means the exact opposite of worlds colliding, but whatever it is happened to me last night.

An old college pal is staying with me while in town for a conference, and when he arrived at my house last night, I opened the door to see him in a suit and tie. I couldn’t hide my surprise.

Today, Rob is a married father of two who just earned his PhD. But when we went to school together, he was the quintessential college drinking buddy; he made a hell of a cocktail and told a hell of a story. Last night at dinner, he told me that as shocked as his friends from his undergrad days are that he’s a responsible grownup, his graduate school friends are just as shocked to hear that that shocks people.

My first thought when he said that was, growing up isn’t all that shocking. Rob was one of the first from our group to get married and the first to have a child. At the time, I guess I was surprised, but I think I’d be more surprised if he reached his mid-30s and was still acting like a 22-year-old. I had a great time in college and feel nostalgic about those days, but make no mistake; I much prefer my life as it is today. I like having a job that allows me to pay my bills and eat. I like having a car my parents didn’t buy when I was in elementary school. I like living in a place that doesn’t have bathroom mold so thick I can scratch my name into it. So while this responsible grown up Rob isn’t the Rob I once knew, he’s a Rob I’m more likely to be friends with today.

But seeing him in a suit made me realize just how different life is now. The last time Rob showed up on my doorstep wearing something unexpected, that something was a towel. His roommate had locked their dorm room door on his way out while Rob was showering, leaving him with just his towel. He went to a friend’s room to borrow some clothes to wear till his roommate returned, but the friend was out, so he walked out of the dorm, across the street, and all the way to the back of the apartment complex where I lived to get some clothes from my roommate Steve. All while wearing a towel.

Looking back, I'm actually not sure which surprised me more, the towel or the suit.

Visiting after all these years was a little strange; we have such different lives now than we did back then, and even regaling tales of the old days would probably embarrass us both a little bit. But when I look at my life and how different I am now, it makes me glad to know I have good company here in adulthood. And even in a suit, he still tells a hell of a story.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What A Duet for a Girl and Goatherd

I'm playing a German character in a musical this summer, and today, I joked with a coworker that I wanted to learn how to yodel for the part.

I realized my mistake when he said, "yodel? What's that?"

This guy is not originally from the U.S., and although he's been here for years and speaks English as well as a native, I guess this is not a word he's ever had the need to learn. The thing is, it's kind of hard to explain what yodeling is without, well, yodeling. But since I can't yodel, I found a video of Jewel yodeling and showed that to him.

After watching it, I kind of want to learn to yodel.