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Florida Heat is No Joke- Here’s How to Be sure your Pets stay cool!

So, I rent a house in the suburbs in Central Florida.  My son, my dogs and I share a quaint and comfortable living space with relatively no issues.  Until recently, that is.

Central Florida is currently experiencing record heat! 100+ degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures combined with an average 77% relative humidity and its NO JOKE when your AC goes out.  Repeatedly.

The house reached 90 and climbing fast before we borrowed a portable AC from a neighbor.  That helped substantially, but since it was missing the exhaust hoses and a few other bits, we had to keep it just inside the back door, with the door opened.

This became an issue at night or when we left, as without supervision our 60+ lb Husky and 70+lb Catahoula Lab mix would surely scale the chain link backyard fence if left out all day or night without supervision.  Not to mention the idea of leaving my house wide open at night or when I am away was not something I would consider.

Unfortunately, our landlord was determined to find an easy fix (hint: there wasn’t one) and kept scheduling AC technicians to come out and check this or tweak that each time it failed to cool the house (often) and I wound up having to take time off of work to keep the door open and my pets cool.

Since I prefer my paid time off to include leisure time and relaxation with an adult beverage in a location OTHER than home, I had to take matters into my own hands.

See, the AC would work fine in the AM.  But once the heat of the day really kicked in, it wasn’t able to cool below 85 and eventually would freeze up and stop cooling all together.

When the portable unit was on to assist the central AC, the house would cool. But I had to stay home, as I mentioned before.  So…  to remedy the situation,

I purchased the following items:

2 HAIER 5,000 BTU 11.0 CEER Fixed Chassis Air Conditioner  (NOT DIGITAL! This is important)

2 Belkin Wemo® Insight Smart Plugs

and

2 LaCrosse Temperature and Humidity Monitor and Alert Systems

Usually the 5,000 BTU units are only for relatively small rooms. Certainly not capable of cooling an entire house, but using them to assist the central unit would be effective as long as they weren’t running constantly, causing them to freeze up as well. SO …

I set up the LaCrosse Thermometer App so I could check the temperature of the front and back of the house remotely from work.

I installed the window units in the kitchen and the master bedroom and plugged them both into their own WeMo switch, which I connected to my home guest network and installed the WeMo App on my phone.  I put the AC units in the ON /High / Cool position but turned the WeMo switch off.

Now, all I had to do was monitor the temperature.  When it started to rise, I could simply tap the WeMo power buttons and turn on the AC’s remotely to assist the central AC and keep my babies nice and cool until I get off of work.

Luckily, my landlord said he will have someone come out and install a new AC unit next week.  I look forward to that. But in the mean time, my animals are safe and cool and my home is not a sauna.

 

Whew.

 

Just thought I would share in case anyone else needs an inexpensive way to monitor and cool their home while away.

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Social Media

How Social is your Media?

Social media permeates  every aspect of our lives.  Good or bad, its where many people obtain their “news” and is even said to have the power to elect presidents.  So with virtually everyone (pun intended) on some form of social media or another, it is no wonder that everything from small family owned businesses to large corporations have taken to one or many of these platforms in order to listen to, communicate with and advertise to their customer base.

Surely everyone has seen and been annoyed by the incessant ads on Facebook.  Some even appear as if they are actual posts in your news feed made by someone you follow. These ads are a result of calculated algorithms that are analysed against your web searches, clicks and comments, but that is a post for an entirely different day.

I could write an entire series on how to effectively use social media, depending on your goal, there are multiple uses for Twitter alone.  It can be used to obtain ‘in the moment and on the scene’ news by searching hashtags and it can be a good way to share a breaking story or find out if your cable or cell services are down in your area.  Furthermore, it can be a fantastic way to connect customers and clients to business and services on a brief but more personal level and that is what this blog post is about.

While I am not quite sure about the effectiveness, nor am I a fan of such overt in-your-face advertising spam, I cannot imagine that anyone really enjoys existing in a social media vacuum; most people generally want to be heard, understood and acknowledged.  I unquestionably believe that the businesses who pay attention and respond to their mentions and hashtags on twitter really hit the nail on the head.

Now I am not certain if these twitter-fantastic personalities are run by the companies themselves, social media companies, or a blend of the two- but I am quite confident in saying that responding to tweets with witty repartee stuffed in 140 characters or less and staying engaged with your client base on a more personal and sometimes humorous level absolutely changes the entire customer experience.

I find myself tweeting about my general “goings on” quite frequently.  It can be more convenient than the cumbersome Facebook, and my friends/followers don’t feel the same obligation to ‘like’ or respond to each and every post.  I can also tweet incessantly about a product or service without flooding someone’s news feed. (unless you only follow me and a handful of infrequent tweeters, in which case lets get together so I can show you how awesome it can be if used properly!)

What have I learned, gained, accomplished in my tweeting experience?

Well, not all companies are the same.  (Obviously, right?)

But it really is THAT simple.

I can be sitting in Red Robin, and tweet about my experience-  and …crickets.  No, there weren’t crickets in my food, silly.  You know the saying- “I hear crickets”  meaning it was so silent I could hear the crickets outside.  It has been weeks and I have received nary a word from the multiple hashtags and @ tweets I have strategically pointed in their direction.

But when I mention Red Robin and Applebees in the same tweet,  the Applebees social media expert (assuming here. I have no idea who runs the campaign)  was quick to respond with friendly quick rejoinder.

When I went off on an asparagus tirade about the anemic looking dish I received at Carrabbas, they were quick to respond and attempt to address the issue.

When I found myself trapped overnight in DFW Airport, I made every attempt that a 44 year old exhausted and bummed being stuck for 24 hours in an airport could make to remain positive, and tweeted out to my friends showing them my “accommodations” for the night.  That is what drove my previous blog post.  The response from Dallas Fort Worth Airport was incredible. If you didn’t read what they did, check it out here.

Not all social media results will be equal.  I initially felt snubbed by Carrabbas once the issue left the hands of the social media team. (which reminds me, I did finally receive an email from the managing partner, I need to reply to that as it was much appreciated!) ..and my friends still text me random pictures of asparagus…  and Applebees… while I have not had any complaints for them to address, so I can’t speak to how that would be handled, the personality behind their social media absolutely compels me to visit more often. They even ended a tweet with the hashtag #applebae , which made me ‘snort-laugh’.

Olive Garden similarly has a great social media personality and responds like you are old friends teasing one another. Might they be friends with Applebees? Even for companies or restaurants that don’t have a twitter presence, when I tweet about them using a hashtag, I have received responses from other patrons who appreciated my mention.

I know that tweeting your pleasure or dissatisfaction with random restaurants or services may seem inconsequential or trivial, but to the contrary. Its nice to know that people are listening.  Its even better when they have a great, fun personality.

I have received better customer care via social media than I have ever received by picking up the phone and talking to a person.  Sometimes, its just knowing that IF there IS an issue, you know SOMEONE is listening and can get you to the right person. Yes, it makes all the difference.

I have tweeted about my disdain for my current cellular provider, only to receive quick friendly responses from competitive carriers with great offers.I have complained via tweet to UPS about a lost package that phone support could not resolve… they quickly fixed the issue once the tweeting began.

Oh and hey, businesses?  Sometimes, its as simple as an airport saying “welcome home” or acknowledging your customer’s mentions that make all the difference in the world.

But if all else fails, customers- and your tweets go unanswered…   you can hashtag the hell out of that baby and create a tweet-storm that tells the twitterverse all about the service, or lack thereof that you have received. #Win

TOP 3 Positive Social Media Experience thus far:

@DFWAirport – Dallas Fort Worth Airport

@Applebees  – Applebees Restaurant  -Fantastic personality and interaction

@OliveGarden – Fantastic Personality

Good Tweeters that Listen:

@RaysBaseball

@United – United Airlines, at least just before the recent ‘issues’  they responded kindly and addressed my concerns.

@Carrabbas

@TMobile

@UPS

@DrTeals

 

No response (there are too many to write, but more recently:)

@RedRobinburgers

@Starbucks

@FlyTPA

@Delta

@Inmotionent

@Ray_Ban

@NASA

@IAH (Dallas Airport)

@Astros (Baseball)

 

 

Uncategorized

The WORST weekend in a LONG time

What better way to start off an opinion blog than with a horrible travel experience turned great, turned kind-of “meh.”

It is because of this weekend that I am actually sitting here writing this rather than working on my database homework.  Like I have said before, “If procrastinating were a superpower I would sew myself a cape…. eventually… one day… maybe”

So… here goes:

I had to fly to Dallas, Texas on a business trip last Tuesday.  All things went relatively well on the flight over.  Because of the nature of my work, I can travel light but I cannot check my bags. So I had a TSA regulation sized suitcase I purchased at JC Penney and a Laptop Backpack I bought on Amazon.  I would go into more detail here, but it isn’t relevant at this juncture.

I checked in to a relatively small hotel in Frisco, Texas called “Wingate by Windham”  I will probably review this in another post.  If I don’t get to it, or if you wind up here looking for that review and it isn’t linked to the words “another post” feel free to message me and ask.

At any rate, all was going well during my business trip.  The weather was beautiful in Frisco, there were lots of restaurant choices and it was an overall positive experience.  Until Friday morning at approximately 3 or 4 am when I received a text from Delta airlines.

I am already a relatively light sleeper, and my FITBIT tells me I am restless all night, so as soon as the text came in, I was wide awake.

YOUR FLIGHT HAS BEEN CANCELLED. 

Seriously? I have a CRITICAL meeting in 5 hours, but after this message I had to figure out how in the heck I was getting home.  I was on a pre-paid business trip.  My hotel, my travel, etc. All prepaid.

Luckily after refreshing the wonky Delta app, I was able to book another flight.  Or so I thought.

Rather than flying out in the evening and arriving home near to midnight or a bit later, I was now on a 1pm flight and would arrive home a tad bit sooner.

I handled my business meeting, and managed to make it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  TSA checkpoint was a breeze and everyone was rather friendly at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

Once I arrived at my gate and sat down I realized something was wrong.  There were about 200 more people than what would normally fit on the sort of plane I was scheduled to fly out on and everyone seemed anxious, frustrated and confused.

I checked in and observed from the corner as I heard passenger after passenger tell the Delta agent that they had been there for hours, days even.. and kept getting bumped off of their flights.  One after another they were added to “standby status.”

I had my seat so I knew I was good.  I kept obsessively refreshing my boarding pass app just to be sure.

and then it happened.  The scheduled time for boarding came and went.  Delta had a plane, but had no crew.  Due to bad weather a few days prior in Atlanta, apparently the entire Delta infrastructure was pretty much brought to a screeching halt.

Crews that were in one location could not fly due to hours restrictions.  Other crews were trapped in locations without planes. Etc.  A co-worker in Jersey was stuck for the same reason.  THIS happened.

And then I received another message.

YOUR FLIGHT HAS BEEN CANCELLED. 

The line for the agent was about 300 people deep at this time and there was no way I would be talking to anyone for hours.  I sat down exasperated.

Long story short(er) – I ended up stuck in DFW Airport overnight until UNITED was able to get me home.  All in all, I was probably at DFW dragging my bags around for about 30 hours.  It was pure hell.  I am no spring chicken and even with wheels, the bags get heavy after a while and you are reminded REPEATEDLY not to leave them alone.

Late in the evening, I found a place to park my rear that would be less comfortable than a hotel room but more comfortable than your average Airport chair and I posted this:

Would you have guessed that in about 45 minutes, this happened??

Yes, this most AMAZING gentleman from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport READ my TWEET and FOUND me in their 29.8 square mile bohemoth Airport.  (Second largest only to Denver) and brought me a cold bottle of water, a ladies travel kit and the best part?  Some lifesavers mints! Apripos, considering he was quite the life saver!  I sprung up from the couch and hugged him immediately.  I had a smile on my face for some time after he did that.  It really is the little things that can change an entire bad situation and can shine a bright beacon of light.  I am extremely impressed and would have loved to have been able to buy him a drink or something sometime. It made a huge difference in my experience.

While my old broken bones do not fancy couch surfing and sleep-overs at bustling airports, Whoever this gentleman is, he deserves a medal!  I do not know if it was his idea alone, or if that is the type of atmosphere DFW likes to create for its travelers, but either way,  Kudos to you sir, and kudos to the DFW Airport culture that made so many people there treat me with kindness, empathy and respect as I was stuck in a most inconvenient situation.

To the man who worked at the InMotion  store in the Delta section of DFW,  You were working hard very late into the night and arrived bright and early the next morning with a smile on your face. You were so kind to me and played some fantastic music making my situation a bit more tolerable. If you find this, send me a message. You deserve a raise for the attention you gave to your customers and your upbeat personality and charm.  Keep it up.

There is a lot more to this trip but I will close this post for now.  I will say though, if I am ever planning another trip that allows me to choose my layover; if DFW is on the list, I know where I am going.  Even if only for a few hours.

THAT was truly customer CARE.

Stay Tuned for my non-expert opinion on Delta, Wingate Hotel, A few random places to eat, United Airlines and whatever else I come up with.