Casey vs Whataburger

It takes a lot to get on my bad side. This applies to restaurants as well as people. There are many restaurants that I prefer not to eat at however there are two that I refuse to darken their door ever again. Those two restaurants are Whataburger and Marie Callender’s.

I’m not sure of the exact date, or even year, but it had to be post TAMS so circa 1997. Some of the TAMS group were headed through Brenham late at night probably either going to or from Shaun’s parent’s house in Round Top. We were in my Grand Am with at least Janice and Jodi although there were at least one or two other TAMSters in the car too. It was late enough that Whataburger was the only eating establishment open and being hungry we pulled into the drive-thru.

We pulled up and it took them a while to take our order. I believe every person ordered something, such as a shake, carbonated beverage and maybe some side order. After we gave them our order we pulled up. Shortly thereafter another car pulled up behind us. At this point there are one or two cars in front of us in line and one behind us. The drive-thru lane is designed such that once you are in the lane you can’t get out unless you pull forward or back up – there is a curb and a slight drop off to your right. We sit there and wait for ~25 minutes in that spot, waiting for the Whataburger employees to help the people in front of us. When we finally get up to the window, the clerk very rudely asks what we ordered again and goes off. Five minutes later she comes back and hands us the correct number of items, all of which were wrong: wrong flavor shake, wrong carbonated beverage, wrong side item. We inform them that they got our order incorrect and that we’ve been waiting in the line for around 30 minutes now. The clerk calls me a liar and said she gave me exactly what I ordered. I insist she is wrong and she goes off to fix it. She comes back and only gets 75% of the order wrong. At this point we just want to get out of there and accept all of the items and give her money to pay for it. She then proceeds to hand us back incorrect change and slams the drive-thru window.

In summary, Whataburger forced me to wait 30 minutes for a drive-thru order, got my entire order wrong, called me a liar, and then gave me incorrect change. In short, they failed at every single thing they tried. This is the reason that I refuse to ever give any Whataburger my business. Ever.

The Job – Closure

Last week a gentleman from the ISST group called me for a technical interview. After finding out that I was the performance lead on the product, he quickly informed me that he would not be asking me any technical questions because I obviously knew the product at least as well as he did. Late Thursday afternoon I received a phone call and email offering me the job.

Friday morning I emailed them back and requested to think about it over the weekend and let them know. About an hour later my manager called to let me know she would be out for the day but that we should get together on Monday to discuss when my availability date was for the new job, assuming I accepted it. She also let me know that my current management team was trying to locate “moving compensation” for me in an attempt to keep me within their group. How they thought this helps is a little round-about. My manager was under the impression that I was interested in the new job primarily to allow Benjamin and I to move to another, more “family friendly” state. With this in mind my management team was trying to see if they could locate funds to assist me in moving to another state while keeping me within their organization.

Given what Benjamin and I want to do (ie: live in various cities/states for a while and see how we like them) the moving compensation wouldn’t have really helped, however it helped me realize just how much they wanted to keep me. I asked jonobie out to lunch to help me filter out some thoughts on the various options. Before we went to lunch there were two basic choices:

  1. Decline the job: maintain status quo
  2. Accept the job: travel all over the US

While at lunch Jonobie came up with another option entirely – a truly “thinking outside the box” option. I present you, option 3:

  1. Decline the job: become a mobile employee keeping my current position but working outside of Austin

Being a mobile employee would allow me to live in different locations and keep my current job that I really enjoy. Granted it would not come with the “signing bonus” or the higher bonus potential but I consider that very acceptable if I could spend more time with Benjamin and less time in a hotel room. I decided to run this past management.

Seeing as my manager was out of the office for the day I contacted my 2nd line manager and set up an impromptu meeting later that afternoon. In the meeting I explained what I was wanting to do and my timeframe for doing so. He saw no reason why making me a mobile employee would not be possible. He was quick to mention that nothing is guaranteed but said that many people in the Security organization want me to stay within Security and that if making me a mobile employee would make that happen that they would do their best to make it work. I left for the weekend to ponder the three options and discuss them with Benjamin.

After discussing the options we agreed that option 3 was the clear choice pending two important items that needed to be confirmed.

  • Danny in Colorado would be ok with the new plan and setting aside an office for me to work from
  • My manager (who has been in the Security organization longer than my 2nd line) would validate that the organization is truly amenable to having mobile employees

We were able to validate those two items on Sunday and Monday respectively so early Monday afternoon I declined the new job offer.

Marathon – revisited

So now that I’m well rested and (slightly less) pissed, I thought I would try a more objective posting about the Freescale Marathon.

First the objective bitching: I still adhere to the mentality that the race was the most miserable 6 hours that I have ever spent but that is almost entirely due to the weather and not the run itself. RunFar has still not corrected my time. I sent them another email on Wednesday just to make sure they haven’t forgotten about me. I also sent the ADC folks an email to let them know the situation. I’m far more interested in “proof” that I finished the ADC rather than knowing what my actual time was as I suspect that information is not going to be available. If they don’t get it resolved I will be giving preferential treatment to races that do not use RunFar in the future. And yes, I can hold a grudge for a loooong time (ala Casey vs Whataburger – ~9 years and counting).

On the positive side, I am incredibly proud of Benjamin. Even though he was in pain for the last quarter to half of the race, he finished; he gets uber-mega-points for that. As both of my fellow ADC runner friends (jeffford, jonobie) have mentioned, we ran a total of 101 miles just in the official ADC races, not including any of the training runs. Take a look at your odometer sometime – that’s a long way. Benjamin and I couldn’t have finished the race without the people who cheered us along. It may seem like such a minor thing to an onlooker, but to a runner – the people who came out to cheer for you is like an illicit drug.

We’ll very likely run again at some point although we haven’t made any plans yet.

Miserable Marathon

Benjamin and I ran the Freescale Marathon yesterday in bone-chilling weather. The high of the day was 38 degrees and a low of 29. The run was the most miserable to date. Benjamin and I completed the race in a bit over 6 hours, well past the 5-hour goal time we had set for ourselves. Due to knee and ankle problems we walked most of the second half. Many great friends came out to cheer us on which was the only thing that made the race bearable:

  • Mile 0: Nick (nickjong) in the clothing drop-off and Jan Collins in the chute
  • Mile 6: Renee (preneel) and Robert who came in from Oklahoma to cheer us and two other friends on
  • Mile 10: Jeff (jeffford) as he came whizzing by us due to a late start
  • Mile 13: Zach (zml) just before the half-way point
  • Mile 19: Sheena (sheenaqotj) jogged/walked with us for quite a ways (I’m guessing at the mileage on this one)
  • Mile 21: Sarah (quindo) who walked with us for a long ways
  • Mile 22: Matt cheered us on even though I didn’t recognize him at first
  • Mile 24: Jan Collins and Jonobie (jonobie) on the out-and-back
  • Mile 25: Nick (nickjong) who came to the finish line to cheer folks on after completing his half-marathon runTo annoy me even more, somehow they seemed to have screwed up my time: according to the website I have neither a chip nor clock time. Jeff read in one of the forums that due to a human error that some of the start times weren’t recorded forcing them to use the clock time for final race time. Since I have no times whatsoever it makes me think that they have zero or more timings for me but not a finish line marking. How exactly can that happen? It’s not like I have any control over their RF readers. I ran along side Benjamin every step of the way across every mat (including the finish line) so I know what my time is but it is very annoying to know that something is screwed up enough that they don’t even have a clock time on me. I will be particularly pissed if this isn’t resolved and the ADC does not list me as officially finishing the challenge.

    Don’t ask me today if I want to run another race because you’re likely to just get a very negative, emotionally charged response. Ask me in a week or more after I’m less frustrated about the unbelievably shitty weather, poor race timings, lack of clocks at the start and mile markers, and lack of correctly-sized finishing shirts and ADC finishing jackets (what, you have to be fast to get the size you signed up for?). In fact, check back later for a more objective posting on the subject.

Update: Job and Car

The Job
The more I thought about the Tivoli Services position the more I decided that I really didn’t want to travel that much away from Benjamin. In fact, at the gym last Friday morning I pretty much had talked myself out of the position.

Then on Saturday I had a rare thinking-outside-the-box thought that caused me to pause. What if we turned the biggest negative about the job, the travel, into the biggest positive? What if Benjamin quit his job and traveled with me? Between the “signing bonus” and the increased compensation it would almost match a year of his salary. Certainly he wouldn’t be able to (and wouldn’t want to) travel with me to all of the customers but maybe a few here and there.

Better yet – why don’t we go try out other cities? Our friend Danny has been begging for us to come live in Denver now for over two years. If it truly doesn’t matter where I live for this job, why not spend a few months in Denver? We’d get to try it out and see if we liked it before up and moving there permanently. Benjamin could go visit some of his other friends as well like Leslie in Salt Lake City, Uncle Joe in Boston, and Eric wherever he decides to move. Sure it is unlikely that all of our friends would want us to move in with them for a month or more but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind us stopping by for a week.

To further complicate matters, Benjamin’s sister Evelyn is coming to live with us for at least 6 months starting in a few weeks. She just graduated from cosmetology school and is trying to get some cash to get her feet on the ground. Since we’ve already hosted my brother and sister-in-law for six months, hosting Eve is the least that we can do. The plan is for her to live with us rent-free and pay 1/3rd of the utilities until she has enough money for a place of her own. If we go the traveling route we don’t want to up and leave her by herself in a big house in a new city a month after she gets here.

Another twist is Benjamin’s career. Right now Benjamin is on a path to become a customer support manager at his Compass Bank branch by the end of the year. Things are trucking right along and although it is not a guaranteed position we want to see just how far we can go down that track.

With all of that in mind, the tentative plan is that should we decide to go this route that Benjamin will stay here in Austin until at least the end of the year. That will give him a chance to see how his banking career goes as well as give Eve some company. In January 2007 we would re-evaluate the situation and see if we should do the whole “try out Denver” idea.

Benjamin and I tossed the plan around for a while and decided that we really liked it. I sent an email to my manager letting her know I was going to investigate the position and set up a time on Wednesday to talk with one of the ISST managers to see if our “temporarily live someplace else” idea was valid.

Wednesday afternoon I had a meeting with the ISST manager who said he didn’t see any reason why that wouldn’t work. He pretty much gave me the response that I was expecting for the rest of my questions so I went back to my office and applied. No word yet, I’ll keep you updated.

The Car
On Wednesday night we finally got the pictures of the car uploaded. Both days we took the pictures it was overcast. Maybe if we have a nice sunny day sometime soon we’ll take some better ones.

Tivoli services: $20k for two years

Tivoli is trying to get more experienced people into the IBM Software Services for Tivoli (ISST). They are currently running a “promotional” program to encourage people from Tivoli development into ISST. Their carrot is $20k for 2 years of service paid up front. The other carrot is that the compensation for ISST personnel is greater than that for regular developers: ISST averages 21% bonus paid quarterly, regular developers are up to 9% bonus paid yearly. The major downside is the amount of travel, up to 75%. Interestingly one benefit of the travel is that the job is not location dependent – they don’t care where you live. That would make moving to a gay-friendly state much easier as long as we lived close enough to the airport.

Unlike IBM Global Services’s (IGS) utilization target of 98%, ITTS’s utilization target is only 50% which gives more room for education, intellectual capital development, etc.

It would amount to no less than a $10k/year bonus for the next two years (which is damn good) and around 21%/year bonus on top of that. This is going to be a tough call. Have I mentioned that I am almost a perfect fit for one of the open qualifying positions? This is going to be a really though call. They’re only hiring 30 people and to get the bonus you have to transfer by March 31th.

Update 2006/02/10 – Modified entry to be public.

Fusion, not fission

This Saturday Benjamin and I went and bought a new car: a 2006 Ford Fusion. The entire car-buying experience (from loan to insurance to buying the car) was a very stressful and frustrating ordeal. Let me break it down:

Selecting a Car
Finding which car we wanted to buy was the no-brainer. We did our research and select four cars that meet our MPG and amenity criteria. They were the Ford Fusion. Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima — all of which were in our price range. On Monday, January the 16th we went and test-drive every vehicle except the Camry (which Benjamin took one long look at and said “nope, no way”). We made it clear to the salesmen that we were only test driving and would not be buying a car that day. The test drives were very pleasant as were the salesmen. In the end it came down to the two-door Honda Accord and the Ford Fusion. After some discussion and research we settled on the Ford Fusion.

Ownership
For a variety of reasons we wanted Benjamin to own the car and thus has to be on the loan. In order to facilitate this I was going to give him $12k (the maximum tax-free gift amount for 2006) for the down payment and he could finance the rest. We were hoping to have him as the only owner for reasons that I don’t want to go into at the moment.

Loan
Benjamin’s credit union was willing to give him the desired funds at 5.80% interest – the lowest of any of our financial institutions. That was too damn easy I swear.

Insurance
I called my insurance company about adding Benjamin to my policy. They stated that he would have to be on his own policy even if he lived with me. I thanked the woman, hung up, and went insurance shopping. I went to the HRC website and looked up which insurance companies scored the highest on workplace equality index. Nationwide insurance scored 100%. I found an agent in my area (just down the street), called him up and got a quote to match my existing coverage on both my house and my car. To do a 1-for-1 swap with my current insurance would save me $500 a year. Moreover they were willing to put Benjamin on the policy if both of our names were on the title (apparently Texas law requires the person on the title to insure the car). I received two quotes, one with Benjamin on my policy (+$800 a year) and one with him on his own policy (+$1600 a year). I went ahead and put the gears in motion to switch my coverage to Nationwide while we went back to figure out our loan.

Loan – revisited
Benjamin’s credit union would not allow me to be a co-signer on his loan because we didn’t have joint credit. We explained that we have a joint credit card (and savings/checking account) through my credit union but that wouldn’t work. Without my name on the loan we can’t have both of our names on the title and thus can’t have them on the same policy. I contacted my credit union and asked if we could get a joint loan with them. They said that wouldn’t be a problem although their lowest interest rate is 5.95%. That’s 0.15% higher but still better in the long run if we’re going to save $800 a year on insurance. We’re only financing for 3 years which yields a savings of ~$1400 over the life of the loan if you factor in the higher rate of separate insurance policies. I had wanted to have the loan completely taken care of when I went to talk with the dealership so I asked the loan officer when I could come in and fill out the paperwork. She asked what dealership we were planning on buying from. Turns out the credit union has a contract with most dealerships in town to have the dealership file the paperwork directly to the bank and “make it easier on the customer”. That means that the dealership has to run the credit report and other credit-type paperwork on behalf of the bank. The credit union’s contract with the dealership specifies that credit union customers can not go directly through the credit union that they must go through the dealership. WTF? Ok, fine – we’ll do it that way.

Car pricing
I dutifully went online and used a tool to calculate the dealer price of the vehicle that we wanted to purchase including all of the features as well. I did some calculations and decided the absolute maximum amount we would pay for the car including TTL. If the dealership wouldn’t sell me the car for this price, we wouldn’t be buying it — at least from that dealership. jeffford & jonobie had recently purchased a Mazda 3 and found out that IBM employees get a special pricing plan from Ford, the X-Plan. The X-Plan starts the price negotiations at supposedly the dealer’s price (although I don’t buy that for a minute) but the price is suppose to be significantly less than the MSRP. I did some research and did the appropriate steps to obtain my Ford X-Plan PIN that I would need to present to the dealership to obtain X-Plan pricing. By this point I think we were prepared for the war.

Buying the car
Earlier in the week Benjamin and I contacted our sales person and made an appointment to come into the dealership at 3pm on Saturday afternoon. Benjamin had to work in the morning and wouldn’t get out until 1:15pm at the earliest. Shortly after he arrived home our sales person called and said that two separate couples had come in and were wanting to buy the car, could we come in sooner? We said yes (I’m wary the whole time thinking he’s just trying to catch us off guard) and leave for the dealership.

We drive up and don’t see the car in the lot next to the other Fusions. Unsure of where it might be we walked into the showroom and there it is! The car had been detailed and placed in the showroom which was very obviously why people were suddenly interested in it. The sales person set us down and asked what kind of payments we were wanting to make. I informed him that we wanted to negotiate the total cost of the vehicle, that I was on the X-Plan, provided him the paperwork, and set back. He went to go ask if his manager would sell the cost at X-Plan cost (since there were other buyers that presumably would pay more than X-Plan pricing for the car). His manager apparently agreed. The sales person then wanted to know how we were going to finance it and I said that I wanted to complete a buyer’s order with a finalized price before talking about financing. He dutifully filled out the buyer’s order, describing each line as it was filled out. Beyond the X-Plan price (which I truly believe to be negotiable even though they won’t tell you that) the only items that I believed to be negotiable totaled $100. The final price was ~$500 less than what I had decided to buy the vehicle for and instead of haggling over $100 I decided to just take it.

Aftermath
There isn’t much more to add – except that I had to argue with the finance manager why I didn’t want his extended warranty. When I mentioned that when Benjamin worked at CarMAX that he received more in commission for selling an extended warranty than he did for selling the car the man got on the defensive and said that Covert was a “family owned and operated” dealership and that they wouldn’t rip off their customers like CarMAX – the sleaziest dealership in the business (yeah, like I believe that).

Benjamin doesn’t like the names I’ve picked out for the car: either Cold or Fission. He does, however, absolutely love the car. I am very pleased with how well it drives, how quiet it is inside, and how happy it makes Benjamin — that in itself is worth the car’s weight in gold.