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Monthly Archives: April 2012

I read this article in The Atlantic not too long ago and it is FASCINATING.  It’s a bit long, but you should totally give it a read.  Like I said, FASCINATING.

So, I’ve long known that certain parasites can infect the host in ways that cause them to act contrary to how they’re expected.  You’ll see articles about them pop up from time as zombie ants or zombie spiders or zombie fish or zombie lots of insects and lower order animals.  The parasite that infects the host somehow causes the host to act in ways generally to its detriment while benefiting the parasite.  Really an underhanded way of doing things, says I.  But still, it’s fascinating.

Now, it’s not too hard to believe that something like that can happen to say, an ant.  An ant’s brain isn’t terribly complex.  It probably doesn’t take much to get an ant to throw off its normal constraints in life to seek the highest branches to be better eaten by some predator.

But what about a higher order animal?  What about a relatively large-brained dog?  It’s harder to imagine some parasite controlling the mind of your dog and getting him to do something other than what he would normally do.  But have you considered the rabies virus?  It seems to be able to do some of that mind control business.  An infected dog, no matter how docile before the infection, becomes very aggressive in the late stages of the disease and is wont to bite others to spread the virus.  Seems mind controlly to me, don’t you think?  By the way, it’s pretty important to make sure your dog (and other pets) are up to date on their shots, including their rabies shot.  It’s really not a pleasant way to die for your dog or you, should you be bitten by your zombie dog.

Now, as far as that mind controlling business goes, the rabies virus isn’t really that spectacular of a case.  Stirring an animal into a rage isn’t really that impressive.  It’s pretty basic and primal stuff.  But how about a parasite that affects your personality?  What if there’s a parasite that changes you from an introvert to a raging extrovert?

Well, there isn’t one.  But the article talks about Toxoplasma gondii (Toxo), sometimes found in cat feces, a protozoan parasite that can subtly (no raging extroverts here) shift a human’s personality. When Toxo has infected a rodent, it changes the behavior of said rodent to become more fearless and more attracted to cats, since Toxo needs a cat to complete its life cycle.  When Toxo infects a human, likely accidental, there is a small change in personality, which seems to be a by-product of a heightened sense of anxiety.  Human males, when anxious, become withdrawn and more hostile.  Human females, when anxious, become more social and seek friends (extroverted).  Both males and females become less attentive and have slower reaction times.

All this is quite interesting, but what’s the purpose of this mind altering?  Well, in humans, we don’t really know.  It’s not like family cat is going to eat someone infected with Toxo, like it would an infected rat.  But it could affect us in other ways.  It was shown in studies that people affected by Toxo tend to get into more accidents because of that delayed reaction time thing.  Also, it’s been shown that the parasite can manipulate dopamine levels in the host’s brain and could very well be one of the agents that trigger schizophrenia, a disease that is heavily influenced by dopamine levels.  It seems that schizophrenia gained a foothold when keeping cats as pets started to become fashionable.  Hmm…

Fascinating, wot?  It’s too bad that this might be considered fringe science right now, i.e. not too many scientists are researching this phenomenon.  I’d really like to read more about it.

tl;dr?  Customer service seems to be a very rare thing these days, but these people still provide excellent customer service: PWR+, Quality Watch Repair.

I’ve been thinking about customer service lately.  Mostly, I’ve been thinking about how customer service is severely lacking these days.  Ok, so mostly I’ve been thinking about these examples of poor customer service (oh, and I suppose I should warn you about salty language should you not wish to brine your brain):

Ok, yes, these were brought to my attention only because I stalk some incredibly geeky yet popular people on the internets.  And yes, three of the examples involve one company and probably could be consolidated into one example.  And yes yes, I do believe that all of these issues were resolved in the end.  (I think all but the post on the Ocean Marketing PR disaster include links to new posts on the resolution.  You can google for Gabe’s resolution with Ocean.)  But still, wth?  This is how you treat people these days?  In particular, this is how to you treat customers these days?  In case you’ve forgotten, a customer is

A customer is someone a company depends upon to purchase their commodity or service.  If you depend upon someone for your financial survival, shouldn’t that logically lead you to conclude that you ought to treat that person fairly at the very least?  I realize that sometimes you’ll have the overbearing individual who tries to wheedle for more than what was agreed upon.  I understand that you may wish to discourage that one individual (politely!) in giving you repeat business.  I mean, you need to remain sane to run your business and dealing with such people probably will drive you insane.

But in the above examples, the customer wasn’t being overbearing.  They were normal customers.  They could have been you or me.  And they were treated terribly, TERRIBLY, by the other party and with no reasonable explanation.  I’m also pretty sure there was a resolution to these cases because the other party picked on some popular people.  If something like that had happened to me, I would probably just have to take it.  It’s messed up, I tell you.

So, that’s the background of the whole thing.  It’s what I expect now from customer service and I’m pleasantly surprised when I’m treated politely.  Politely!  Which really should be the baseline of how we treat anyone.  Isn’t that sad?  Why should I be pleasantly surprised when I’m treated like how one human being should treat another?  What happened to politeness and respect?

Now then, I said background, right?  That implies that there is a foreground.  Otherwise, you would just have…ground.  So here’s the foreground.  I recently had two different entities provide me with wonderful customer service.  Wonderful.  It was full of wonder.  These people really did go above and beyond.

First, PWR+.  I managed to lose Codename Roodee’s AC adapter a few months back.  Or at least, I found out I had lost it a few months back and I may have lost it a long time before that.  You might find that really weird, since Roodee is my runner.  You would think Roodee’s battery would have died and I would have realized that I couldn’t charge it back up.  But no.  Because Alienware has been purchased by Dell, they all use Dell AC adapters now.  There are Dell laptops everywhere.  I would normally just grab whichever one was handy and charge up Roodee’s battery with it.  That’s why I didn’t realize that his AC adapter was missing for so long.  I thought about buying another one from Dell, but after my recent dealings with them (oh yeah, here‘s another example of bad customer service, but this one isn’t of maliciousness but one of general cluelessness) I didn’t really want to do that.  I found PWR+ makes cheaper AC adapters AND with smaller footprints!  So I purchased one through Amazon and then it broke two months later.  Electronic components fail.  This is something I know very well.  If a component fails because of a defect, normally it’s within the first few times of using it.  In this case, it was two months of irregular usage before the defective component died (it was working fine up to that point).  The rep for PWR+ was very polite and helpful, even when I couldn’t immediately find my Amazon order ID, which is apparently the only way they can look up orders fulfilled through Amazon.  He was uncommonly patient while waiting for me to find the order ID and issued me an RMA number without any hassle.  I got a new adapter shipped out to me the same day they received my defective one.  It was a very pleasant experience over all.

And second, Quality Watch Repair (QWR).  I have been sending my watch (a ’98 ladies Seiko kinetic) to QWR for several years now.  Originally, it was because I couldn’t find watch repair places in my area that were willing to take a ladies kinetic (they’re supposedly very hard to work with because it’s a lot of mechanics packed into a very small space).  Well, after the Seiko repair factory closed down in LA, there wasn’t much else I could do besides send it out for repair.  I found QWR through a quick search online and after a brief vetting, it seemed promising.  So, I mentally prepared myself for the possibility of never seeing my watch again and sent it off (to Oregon).  You don’t always know what you’re getting with online merchants.  But, my watch came back in wonderful condition…each and every time I’ve sent it off.  Yes, I’ve sent my watch (and my dad’s and sister’s watches) to QWR several times.  Not because QWR hasn’t done an excellent job of repairing our watches, but because even after I’ve found places that were willing to take older Seiko kinetics, I’ve decided that dealing with QWR is more than worth the extra step of mailing them the watch (and waiting for it to be mailed back).  The people behind QWR are pleasant, patient, fair, and do quality work.  They readily communicate the status of your repair and suggestions on what needs to be done.  They even have a “quibble-free one year guarantee.”  The last time I sent my watch back, they deemed that it the issue was a warranty item and refunded me my shipping fees and diagnostic fee.  That really surprised me.  It would have been totally fair for QWR to keep my diagnostic fee and there was no reason for them to also pay for my shipping fees, but they did.  It really was a quibble-free guarantee.

And…those were my thoughts on customer service.  Apparently it still exists.  Sometimes it exists in abundance.  We should support those businesses that supply customer service in abundance.  And we should probably avoid those business in which there is a dearth of customer service.  That’ll learn them.