Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good Customer Service Can Go A Long Way

I recently had an experience with a company that shows just how far some people, and some companies, are willing to go to keep a customer satisfied.

I have always had flashlights around. I grew up in an area that had frequent power-outages, and flashlights were pretty much mandatory. For years, my experience was the inexpensive (some would say cheap) plastic models available in any grocery or drug store.

Later, I was introduced to MagLites. There was a wide variety to choose from, they were durable, and could focus. I even carry a AA MiniMagLite with a Nite-Ize LED conversion kit for work.

But, there is always new technology, and more money buys better equipment, usually. SureFire is a maker of premium flashlights, knifes, and other "tactical" gear. I was lucky enough to get a SureFire E1L Outdoorsman flashlight a couple of years ago, even though I got it second-hand. This light was different than what I had experienced thus far, using a single CR123 battery, and an LED. My experience told me that it just couldn't be as good as what I was used to, since it had less power, and LED's just weren't that bright (Don't believe me? Look at the power light on your computer!)

However, it took one hit of that switch on the back end of the flashlight to discover that my preconceived notions were far from correct. The CR123 battery is a 3.6 volt battery, or about twice the voltage that a "regular" flashlight battery would put out. The LEDs that SureFire uses are not the same as the LED that shows you that your NumLock is turned on, either. No, a SureFire light is in a totally different class, and will change the way that you few hand-held lights.

The down-side is that there is a premium cost for these premium lights. The model that I got retails for about $130.00, and there was no way that I would have been willing to put that kind of money into a flashlight. Fortunately, as I said, I received one used, second hand. For the past couple of years, that has been my light to depend on no matter what happened.

But, recently the switch started to misbehave. It started not feeling as precise, but started getting worse. Then, a few weeks ago, I discovered while working late one night, crawling around in the ceiling at one of my offices, that the switch wouldn't always switch anymore. It might take two or three presses to actually change. I was tired enough that night that I missed when it hadn't switched off, and killed the battery.

The next morning, I sent an email to SureFire, asking what it would cost to replace the switch, expecting to get an email back with costs, or maybe offering to have me send in the old switch to see if it could be repaired. Keep in mind that the warranty was expired on my light by virtue of the fact that I was not the original owner (They do offer a lifetime warranty for the original owner).

Instead, what I got was an email asking for my address, and and offer to immediately ship out a brand new switch at no cost to me. In less than a week, I had my new switch, and was once again lighting up the world as needed. That action spoke volumes about the integrity and values of a company, especially in the down economy that we are currently experiencing.

What if other companies went out of their way to ensure the kind of service that SureFire showed? I may not have the quantifiable evidence to back up SureFire's claim of "the world's finest flashlights and tactical equipment", but am certain that there is nothing at this point that would cause me to not recommend SureFire as a company.

More important for the crowd that won't be spending $100+ on a flashlight, what would happen in your life if you exhibited the kind of personal integrity and commitment to values that you hold important in your life? What if you went above and beyond in your commitments to yourself? What could change? What kinds of things could you accomplish?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

KidCheck - The easy way for churches to do children's check in

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to support a few different churches with technical issues. And, there are a few things I have discovered about churches - namely, there are issues that churches deal with that other businesses just don't ever encounter. Children's care is one.

Churches need a safe, secure, easy-to-use environment for their guests children, and part of that is an easy to use, but complete children's check in system. Parents want to know that they will be able to drop off their children in the child care area and have them be safe, but they also don't want a lot of hassle. And, it needs to be quick, since we all know that invariably, we are running late for something!

KidCheck is the solution to the children's check in problem. KidCheck is a web-based package that provides security, easy notification to parents, attendance logging, and peace of mind. Some of the features and benefits include -
  • Parents collaborate with your ministry to ensure accurate information
  • Parents create and update their own guardian lists from their home
  • Contact parents over their cell phone via SMS text message
  • Rich reporting capabilities for visitor follow-up, attendance and more
  • Very affordable, starting at just $24.99 per month

And, it's not just for churches, either. Shopping centers, day care providers, activity centers, any place that has a need to maintain the peace of mind that a secure and easy to use children's check in and tracking system can provide.

If you have any reason to need a children's check in system, please check out KidCheck and request a demo today to see how they can help you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

EDC - Every Day Carry

I first heard this term back when I played with guns a lot, but I haven't done that in a very long time. However, I have recently been hearing the term used again, in a slightly different (but still the same) context. As in, what do you carry with you every day? If you want, you can learn more about EDC at http://www.edcforums.com/.

For me, the list is pretty simple, if you are talking about things that I actually have in pockets, etc.


  • Cell phone (my T-Mobile G1) - This has been my funnest and most practical cell phone ever. I've had Windows Mobile for a long time, and it was helpful, but the G1 is at least an order of magnitude better, and I find myself actually using it to be more productive more often. I just wish that someone could solve the battery life issue.
  • Leatherman Wave - Mine is the original edition, before the socket adapter. I have been looking at them, especially in the light of EDC, and thinking that one of the new models would be nice, with the sockets and other extensions. As a sidenote, I think that I was EDCing a knife before I even had a wallet. I remember carrying an Opinel in elementary school (before that kind of thing would get you kicked out, that is....)
  • Wallet - includes what little cash I have plus ID, credit cards, and a handful of store cards, which are being replaced by an app on my G1. Oh, and my cardkeys for work.
  • Work cell phone - basic Samsung model that was purchased by work that I rarely use.
  • Keychain - Jeep remote, Jeep key, Sandisk Cruzer Micro 8GB, and a old Swiss Army knife (Classic SD model, but I see that they have some that might be a little more appropriate for me to carry, with jump drives built in.)
  • Watch - I've been wearing one more and more recently, since my wife had my two favorite watches repaired. And, I got a new one from Disneyland. So, I am kinda cycling through them.
  • Flashlight - My preferred light right now is my SureFire E1L Outdoorsman with a KL1 head. Runs off of a CR123 battery with a 10 year shelf-life, it puts out a significant amount of light, and it's as solid as anyone has a right to expect. Battery run-time isn't the greatest (about 3.5 hours), but it's nice and compact, and always works. Since I find myself getting asked to work on this or that fairly consistently, it works well for me.
  • Toshiba Gigabeat S60 - tunes. Of course, recently, I have noticed that I don't usually carry headphones.....

That is pretty much all that I carry "on my person". But, if you add in my computer bag, or the vehicle that I am almost always very near to, that increases the load significantly. Include a couple more knives, a couple more multi-tools, several flashlights, some old-fashioned (read NOT multi-tool) tools, CD's, camera (Canon SD850 IS), basic first-aid supplies, etc.


So, what do you carry everyday? If you were to think about what you were carrying, what would you add (or eliminate)?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

So much to do, so little time.

Betcha never heard that one before, did ya?

Anyway, the last couple months have been busy, but probably no more so than normal. Did the brakes and shocks on the Jeep. Couple of trips out of town. And work. That one never seems to go away.

We went to the Thousand Trails campground in La Conner last month, over St. Patrick's day, with some friends. We are looking at the cost of a membership, and trying to decide if we would really use it or not. So far, I'm not totally convinced. It was nice and all, I'm just not sure we would do it enough.

Then, over our anniversary weekend, we went to Disneyland. Had a blast, watching pirates, and getting our picture taken with Mickey, and taking naps every day. I could sure grow to love that lifestyle. Very relaxed, yet doing things most of the time. We had dinner next to the water in the Blue Bayou restaurant. Very nice. Service was excellent, and I would definitely go back. Yes, it's a little more expensive than outside the park, but I thought the price was well within Disney range. We didn't do everything this trip, which may have contributed to the relaxed feel it had. But, we did enough to keep busy.

Now, we are planning our return - in Christmas!!! Disneyland is a magical place to me, and Christmas is a magical time. Combine the two for a load of fun and excitement that is hard to forget for years to come. Imagine, snow in Disneyland! Happens every night during the Christmas season, right at the end of the fireworks. Mickey and gang in Christmas outfits. Even Santa and his reindeer are there, at least until they have to get some work done! And, there will be some new things there when we return, including the Finding Nemo submarine ride. That should be some fun times. We are definitely looking forward to it.

But, for the rest of the spring, summer, and fall, it's mostly normal stuff. Mowing lawns, going to work. You know. The normal stuff.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It's been a while

A month today, since my last entry. I didn't even realize. Things have changed since then. No more snow, just that drizzle that Seattle is used to.

The dogs are seeming to get along, most of the time. We still have to keep them separated during feeding, and we can't let either one play with toys with the other one around. That starts fights worse than the food ones. But, other than that, they wrestle around, and chase the cat together, and seem to get along. They are definitely cute together.

I am going permanent with my company, after 3 months of contract work. Not totally sure that is the best choice, but, it is the choice I have made for now.

Last Saturday, we went to our first hockey game. Briana was singing the National Anthem, with her school choir. They did really good, even if our team lost. It was a lot of fun, too. Never been to a hockey game before, so I really didn't know what to expect. What I thought was one of the coolest things, was the first score by our team. As soon as that buzzer went off, every person in the arena started throwing teddy bears out onto the ice. There were deluxe teddy bears for sale on the concourse, or you were given a bear when you went in. The proceeds from the bears went to Children's Hospital, and the bears themselves were given to the kids suffering in the hospital. It took three cars to haul the bears off the ice, and was really a sight to behold.

However, there were bad, ugly things happening on Saturday, too. Saturday morning, while on my way to get coffee, the truck slipped a notch on the timing chain. Means I had to have it towed home, where it just sits, waiting for me to repair it.

Then, on the way home from the hockey game, the van blew a seal in the tranny. At this point, we aren't sure how bad it is, but the cost to deal with it is great enough that we decided to say goodbye to the van. It has been good for us, and we appreciate the gift that it was. However, with 200,000 miles on it, and an increasing number of problems, it's time to replace it.

So, after a week of looking, stressing, and crying because the car we found late one night got sold before we could get to it, we found a new (for us) car. It's a 1998 Dodge Intrepid ES. Nice car. Clean inside and out, seems to run really well, and it's got a nice style to it. I might even come up with a picture of it soon. The ES has larger tires, and the largest engine available, but still gets better mileage than the van got, partly due to the lighter weight, and partly due to the increased aerodynamics. Comfortable, too. with room for 5. In fact the back seats will handle a 6 footer pretty easy.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

White Things

There is a new white thing in my house. And some white stuff outside, too!

We got another snow Wednesday afternoon. Looks beautiful, but people in the greater Seattle area still do not know how to drive!!! In the business complex that I work, people were not able to get out of the parking lot, because the main street wasn't moving. And, when it did move, the inconsiderate fools wouldn't leave the intersection full, which meant that no one could get out anyway! I had to wait an extra hour just to get out of my parking lot, but, once out, it only took about 10 minutes extra to get home. Largely because I won't follow the crowd, and took the biggest hills home. No one else wanted to, so I had a clear route.



But, I have to tell you - other than the traffic, the snow was beautiful!!! The white covered all the hills, trees, and fields, and it truly was a wonderfully beautiful day. I love the snow!



The white thing we have at home, is a cousin for Cody. Crackers is working his way into our family. Crackers is another American Eskimo, which we got from my mother-in-law. They were no longer able to keep Crackers in thier apartment complex, and didn't know what to do with him, since he has a history of some, umm, behavioral issues. At first, we weren't sure that we would be able to handle Crackers and Cody, but Crackers is gradually falling into place.

There have been some significant struggles for domination, but we believe that they are being worked out. We are trying to work out some food aggression now as well. Crackers has been very possesive of the food and water, so we are feeding them seperatly right now, and working on gradually integrating them back together. Unfortunatly, I would have prefered to have them meet seperatly, and bring them together gradually. That was just not a possibility in this situation. So, we are doing the best we can. Fortunatley, this week Yvette has been able to stay home with them most of the time, and has been able to work with them much more than we normally would have been able to do in a week.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Interesting Tool

I just discovered "Joe's Goals" (http://www.joesgoals.com/) - a free, simple, online goal tracking system. Very easy to use, and you can share your goals with friends, so that they can track with you to help keep you accountable. Take a look at it, and see if it will help you with your New Year's Resolutions.

One of the favorite goals for the guy that created Joe's Goals is to "Bless Others". What a neat idea! How would your life change if you adopted that as one of your goals?

But, I'm sure that this isn't the only cool tool that you've found or know about. So, give me some suggestions of other sites or items that you know about. I'd love to take a look at them.