August 20, 2005

Read Tom on HSAs

George has been saying, why aren't we just putting the money that we spend on premiums every month in an account--we'd probably come out ahead. Read what Tom says on Health Savings Accounts. I need to learn more and I will by reading some of Tom's links. Tom gives a good summary here:
One thing I'm looking at is Health Savings Accounts - HSAs. The US Government thinks it's ok for us to deduct money we spend on healthcare from our incomes, similar to deductible IRA contributions. But you have to have a healthcare policy that offers the HSA option -- high deductible policies. (I don't see why we can't just have the accounts without the policies, but Blue Cross probably thinks that's a commie idea.) The good part is, the premiums are lower.

The thing is, as someone who has had four surgeries of varying seriousness over the last seven years, one alone that would have cost narly $20K without insurance, I'm afraid to NOT have health insurance. BUT I think what Tom is saying--and what might be a good combo--is to have a catastrophic policy that you pay for (they're much cheaper), which would cover "emergencies" like hospitalization and surgery, and you use your HSA for every day drugs and doctors appts.

That makes sense. But what if you get cancer? Or your kid develops some rare illness that requires lots of ongoing care ($) but doesn't land anyone in the hospital? Hospitals are known for keeping folks out, not in, these days. Which is generally good for us, the patients, since secondary problems can kill you quicker.

Is that a third kind of policy?

And, now what?

Customer Service Reps--It's Your Ass on the Line Too

People who make their living in customer service ought to believe what they say to customers. Otherwise, they probably shouldn't say it. What's interesting to me is that, through the net, a trail of what you say using Internet communications will follow you. So, say, if you work for Walmart and you're among the (what must be an unwieldly number) of customer service reps handling the online channel, and you're communicating with customers putting your own name on the line, or "online" as the case may be, you should be sure you're getting paid enough to make that sit well with you. Or get another job. Or adopt yourself a more common name than your own if you have a common name.

Ted Dumont, for example, might become Ted Dunn. I don't know, I'm just talking off the top of my head here, because I will bet you that the same Ted Dumont that likes Counting Crows is the same Ted Dumont that is responding in a way that pisses me off on behalf of his employer, ICH. Or maybe IHC's Ted is someone else who adopted Ted Dumont's name as his Service name. Or, maybe Ted's a bot.

So I'm just suggesting that in the era of blogging, I hope customer service reps are well compensated for putting their identities on the line.


August 19, 2005

Not So Dear Holiday Inn

-----Original Message-----
From: +AMER HI-Guest Relations (IHG) []
Sent: Friday, August 19, 2005 4:36 PM
To: ''
Subject: RE: 1727492 Holiday Inn Buffalo - International Airport

Dear Mrs. Sessum,

Thank you for your additional message. I again want to apologize for the problems you and your family experienced during your stay in Buffalo. We have re-reviewed the situation and your additional email and, unfortunately, are unable to offer anything further from our office.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. Have a great weekend!


Ted Dumont
Guest Relations
InterContinental Hotels Group

Phone: 800.621.0555
Fax: 801.975.1846
Reference No. 1727492

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeneane Sessum []
Sent: Friday, August 19, 2005 11:12 PM
To: '+AMER HI-Guest Relations (IHG)'
Subject: RE: 1727492 Holiday Inn Buffalo - International Airport

Hello Again Tom:

In light of your decision [[above]], I would like to recommend that you remove your 100% satisfaction guarantee from your Holiday Inn lobbies and guest rooms. Truthfully, it is false advertising to have your "If you are not 100% satisfied, we will make it right" messaging when that is not what you intend to do for your customers. What I read guaranteed 100% satisfaction. What we received was quite the opposite, as you know if you have read my posts.

I offered to donate the $50 gift certificate you are sending me to Children's Hospital so that a traveling family would have some hotel money when visiting a sick child. I asked you to do one small thing--throw in another $50 so that it would cover a night's stay in one of your facilities in the Atlanta area.

How astounding that your organization chooses not to oblige. What a statement that makes.

Jeneane Sessum

August 18, 2005

I Dug the River Denial

Okay folks. It's our annual Health Insurance Discussion forum! I haven't wanted to say it out loud, either to myself or to George who might find out by reading this post if I forget to tell him sooner, that our Health Insurance premium with Blue Cross/Blue Shield is going up to nearly $1K a month on October. That's WITH a $500 deductible that has to be satisfied first, and that's with $20 or $40 copay for RXs and $20 copay for doctor's visits.

It was $796 this year. And the year before that it was $620 and that was with an additional rider on it for therapy, etc.

Isn't there some kind of cap on this madness?

Remember when Hilary Clinton made healthcare her initiative?

Remember when it wasn't like this?

If one thing puts me out of small-businesshood, it'll be the cost of healthcare and the pressure of having to carry it ourselves.

Anyone have any better family premiums or companies I can look into?

Man oh man.

Guess now that I blogged it, I really do have to think about it.

Lawyers do it, doctor's do it, knitter's do it, mom's do it...

Why not cops?

Top of the Cop is fairly hilarious. Billed as Detective Steve Rose's North Fulton Neighbrohood Watch Report, Steve's blog gives us a look at some of the dumb things people do:
An office supply company’s alarm system activated when the offender apparently used his data card to enter at 6:24 a.m. He left the building at 6:28 a.m. His name was displayed on the card. Missing is a 15” LCD monitor, HP computer bundle and two Kodak digital cameras with one docking station.

It remains to be seen if the card was stolen or not. It could have been stolen and someone used it or the employee set up a “stolen card” scenario while in cahoots with someone else — or he could just be really dumb and forget what a data card does.

We had an ATM money stocker do that once. He set up a fake robbery at the ATM in the North River shopping center. While he was putting the money in the ATM, a man came up and robbed him, taking $37,000. During the interview with the victim at our precinct, he became nervous and developed about a dozen nervous twitches at which time the detectives changed the “sympathy” approach to a confrontation. He didn’t last five minutes before he gave up his friend as the other party to the crime.
It's a regular Cops on Blogs.

Traveling CPAPs

Paul Craig has a great post that folks who have to travel with a CPAP machine for sleep apnea (like George) should read. God bless Paul for educating the hospitality industry by calling ahead and asking/explaining/requesting for what he might need in the event of a power outage. I never thought to do this.
...I call several hotels in the area in which I am staying and start asking questions about generators and battery usage. After all, I’m not attempting to lug a 12 volt deep cycle marine battery through airports. I’m fairly certain this might arouse the suspicions of those very nice and accomodating security screeners. When I explain the situation to the hotel management, I get a quick indication of how accomodating the staff really is. Recently, on a trip to Chicago, the staff purchased a fully charged deep cycle marine battery just in case. On another trip, I was assured and then shown the backup generators with enough power for the entire facility for up to five days.
I guess I assumed, since Jenna and I have long used a nebulizer for asthma, that any real hotel chain would be prepared to provide backup power for their patrons medical devices. In the case of a nebulizer, you always know that you can go to a fire department and plug in. But with sleep, it's a different story. While you're on a nebulizer for the 20 minutes it takes for a breathing treatment every 4 hours, you're on a CPAP for 8 or so hours each night continuously.

The thing that perhaps the very young, healthy, nimble hotel 20-something Holiday Inn hotel management staff might not understand, is that these devices can be a matter of life or death. When george went for his sleep study, his Oxygen level dipped into the 70s while he slept. He stopped breathing more than once each MINUTE. During a waking state, this would probably send him to intensive care. They told him he was one of the more serious cases they'd seen. They didn't even let him finish the night there--they sent him home after two hours.

Paul explains the miraculous changes a CPAP machine can bring for someone with sleep apnea. For one--you reduce the risk of a certain heart attack or stroke. Second, you have a brain during the day.
After three days of using the CPAP, something rather strange and wonderful began to occur. It was a sensation unlike any other I have ever experienced. I can only describe it as feeling alive again.
The difference between the way Paul and George handle their sleep apnea and sleep machines is interesting. Paul is an advocate for himself. He doesn't want to spend a night without the CPAP on. George on the other hand has a real love-hate thing with his CPAP. He hates it. He loves what it does. After a night without it, he doesn't care either way about the machine because he disappears into the funk of semi-conscious "what's the use"ness.

Thanks to what Paul wrote, I know to ask questions when making hotel reservations that I would have assumed I wouldn't have to ask.

I guess the moral of the story is: If you depend on a breathing machine, don't assume anyone has you covered, even if you're paying them.

August 17, 2005

What I like About School--More Questions than Answers

Mom, who was your mother's mother's great grandmother? Because that's the one who saw it.

Saw what?

Saw Mars--this month is when it's closer to earth than since 500 years ago!


Yep, and we can see it at 10:00 each night if it's not cloudy.

Cool. That's right up your alley and Daddy's.

I know. So your mother's mother's great grandmother would have seen it, but we won't be alive to see it next time. Because it's 500 years from now.

I guess that's right. But your children's children's children's children, or their kids, probably will.

I KNOW! Can you believe that! So, do I have aunt sisters?

Do you have any what?

Aunt sisters--the people from olden days--Do I have them? Any aunt sisters?

Do you mean ancestors?

YES. Do I have them?

Well sure, everyone has ancestors. It just means the family that came before us.

So who are mine?

Okay let me just start your dinner and I'll think about that.

August 16, 2005

I smoke books now.

You know by now that when I quit smoking, the only thing to quell my urge to do multiple things in a single moment was to walk around with a book. Including in the pool. Which has given me quite a rep among the pool moms. They know if I'm walking laps while reading, holding the book up just above my head in the 5-foot area, then it MUST be a good read.

Well, I'm involved with hard-copy paper again. I've fallen in so far and so hard that I'm licking the bindery glue.

If I could smoke this book, I would. It's Above the Thunder by Renee Manfredi. Just super writing and characters of so many dimensions I'm not sure if one of them is typing this, or if I am. They're all over my room. They're with me when I drive. Manfredi is DAMN good.

Maybe not this week, maybe not this month, maybe not this year. But you will read this book.

New Reasons NOT to stay at the Holiday Inn

Well, nearly two weeks later I received a response . Below you can read the -- templated I suspect -- reply from Ted Dumont at InterContinental Hotels Group telling me he just sent me a $50 coupon for use at an ICH hotel or restaurant in order to retain my patronage.

Oh, I'll patronize them alright.

That represents about, what, 9% of my stay? We paid nearly $520. And had the time of our lives--NOT.

Ted, I know you're just doing your job. You could be young. You may be a bot--I don't know. But understand this: templated responses are very annoying to the Thinking Traveler. As are insulting attempts at restitution and pat apologies.

I'll do you one better. Upon its arrival, I will donate your coupon to Atlanta's Children's Hospital so that a traveling relative of a sick child will have a place to stay while here in Atlanta. And I can continue to avoid your brands as best I can in the coming years because I do not believe you have a Clue.

The problem is, it will cost more than $50 to put a family member of hospitalized child up in one of your hotel rooms for a night. I would expect your management could match my contribution? I can arrange to deliver both coupons to Children's Hospital if you'll send me another $50.

Please let your management know of my offer, as you have sent me this coupon on their behalf.

--A clued customer

-----Original Message-----
From: +AMER HI-Guest Relations (IHG)
Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2005 9:17 AM
To: ''
Subject: 1727492 Holiday Inn Buffalo - International Airport

Dear Mrs. Sessum,

Thank you for contacting Guest Relations regarding your experience with the Holiday Inn Buffalo - International Airport. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to bring this matter to our attention and apologize for any inconvenience the poor service and accommodation provided caused you and your family.

It is InterContinental Hotels Group's goal to consistently provide superior service and accommodations and your comments are very important to us. The feedback we receive from our valued guests, like you, enables us to target problem areas and take the necessary actions to ensure similar situations can be avoided in the future. We appreciate the candid feedback we receive and welcome any opportunity to improve.

I have forwarded your comments to the General Manager and ownership of this hotel, and I am confident they will take the necessary steps to continue to improve their services. In addition, in an effort to retain your patronage, I have sent you $50.00 in Guest Coupons, on their behalf. These may be redeemed towards room or restaurant charges at any of the following InterContinental Hotels Group Brands: Crowne Plaza®, Holiday Inn®, Holiday Inn Express®, Express by Holiday Inn®, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts®, Staybridge Suites®, Candlewood Suites®, and Hotel Indigo®. They are valid for redemption until the expiration date printed. You will receive them under separate cover within the next 7-10 business days.

Once again, we appreciate you taking the time to share your comments with us. We know you have many choices when it comes to lodging and we hope you will continue to choose InterContinental Hotels Group for your future travel needs.


Ted Dumont
Guest Relations
InterContinental Hotels Group

Fax: 801.975.1846

I will also let you know if anyone blogs about this idea, Ted, as some folks did pick up on the original post... Since I left you a link to my original post in the feedback I sent you, I assume you know that I'm a blogger.

And that blogger's travel a lot!

Let me know what your management thinks about my idea. Thanks!!

Tech Rally Really?

You know it's for real when the headhunter calls begin in earnest. Remember when folks were shy to say they were recruiters? It was a bad word after the bust. Like somehow those poor folks were contaminated with the filth of failure for an entire industry. Then the staffing industry went through a makeover, where unless recruiters (now associates) walked and talked like a consulting firm, they were considered riff-raff leftovers from an "I'd rather not think about it" era.

Me? I love headhunters. I love to talk to them, find out what they need, get a real feel for the kind of person they're trying to find for their client. Almost always I'm glad I don't need a job right now, but I always, every time I talk to one of them, hook them up with some people I know who are looking.

A good recruiter is like a blogger, and contacts are like hyperlinks.

The other good thing about headhunters is that when the velocity of their calls pick up, you know the job market is ever-so-slightly tipping to give job seekers an edge, at least in your profession. That's never a bad thing.

Not to fear, I've got my ears on, good buddy.

August 15, 2005

more than two weeks on the run--Coco Returns

The bucket trap worked! More than 2 weeks after the poor girl popped out of her unlatched cage top while we vacationed in sunny Rochester, she is back in her cage, and, well, a lot worse for the wear. George set up a bucket in the laundry room, after we saw her down the basement a couple of days ago, and leaned it against a chair, put her food dish in the bottom of the bucket, and tossed some clothes around that would allow her to climb up and INTO the tilted bucket, from which her escape would be MOST unlikely.

Well, she fell for it, poor thing. I came down to take Jenna to school this morning and there was Coco in her bucket!

She lost A LOT of weight, her hair is all matted, and she looks like death warmed over. But she's had a half bottle of water today and a half dish of hamster food, so here's hoping she's on the mend. I hope she takes it slow but steady. I respect an animal who can figure out how to deal for more than two weeks on dirty laundry and dust mites.

Hey, you can lead a Hamster to water....

August 14, 2005

Asian Spam

I made the mistake of finally (after years of avoiding it) clicking 'yes' to install one of those other-language packs from, I guess, Microsoft--I dunno. I know I had often gone to websites or received emails that wanted me to install the language packs and I avoided it. Well, by mistake, when I received an email from a client in Italy, I clicked yes, and NOW I am fortunate enough to receive much foreign-language spam! I can't read Chinese. I will never open it. Make it stop.