Coming soon :)

»  olya    23 Oct 2007 @ 13:06    

Click on the photo below, it will take you directly to the trailer. The movie will be released in January (?), but some states have early screening (not UT of course) so check the website for more info. Enjoy ;)

(Mark, you should be proud of me, I figured out on my own how to post a photo with the link to a different site… Of course there’s probably an ‘easy’ button that I overlooked ;)

Stealth inflation: Part 2

»  mark    10 Oct 2007 @ 22:36    

You’re all probably tired of reading this, if you are reading. It’s much more fun to see Olya’s pictures. ;) But here is the latest un-development.

Their reply to my complaints:

Dear Mr. Nelson:

Thank you for contacting AT&T Local Service.

In reference to your e-mail regarding the charges billed, I understand your concern about being offered discounted rates for your long distance calling.

I understand your concern and I apologize that the level of service you have received is below the level we are committed to providing and the inaccurate information provided.

Your comments regarding your most recent contact with AT&T are important to us, and will be useful in maintaining and improving the quality of service you receive from AT&T.

With regards to the $25.00 bill credit, the credit is applicable when a customer has both the local and long distance services with AT&T.

As you are not longer with AT&T for the long distance services, the credit can not be processed on the account.

The charges billed on the account are correct and no credit is warranted.

Regarding the AT&T DSL service, please be informed that this office does not support AT&T DSL services and I am unable to help with your inquiry.

For assistance or information regarding your AT&T DSL bill or telephone service, please call our DSL customer care center at 1-866-596-8455.

If you are an existing AT&T DSL customer, you can also receive answers to frequently asked questions by using the following URL:

For information about DSL availability and pricing or to check order status, please use the following URL:

The balance on the account is $151.95. This also includes an unpaid balance of $81.11.

In reviewing our records, I show that your monthly bill including all your charges is approximately $65.00 to $70.00 per month.

For quick answers to commonly asked questions about AT&T Local Service please visit us at:

To change or add features to your Local Service, please visit us at:


AT&T Online Customer Service

That is about the fluffiest e-mail I’ve ever received. There are two sentences of real words, and the rest says “Go away!” They love to fill their letters with “we understand how you feel” and apologizing that “level of service you have received is below the level we are committed to providing”. That would mean something if I thought a human being wrote it. But when you get those same phrases in every message, it is obvious that they are not listening, and that they are just patting you on the head and telling you to beat it.

I mean seriously, there are links in there for people who have questions with DSL, for people who have billing issues with DSL, for people who want to order DSL. Are they even listening to me? I’m a paying customer! Why would I need a link to order DSL? We have received similar treatment on the phone. Invariably after talking about our DSL service we get asked if we want high-speed dial-up. Hello? I know they read what comes up on the screen, but sheesh. We’re already paying for the more expensive plan! Listen!!

Did you notice they are quick to apologize, but refuse to do anything about it? And that’s the ridiculous thing. I don’t feel better. I am not a loyal customer. And every time I write letters and call them on the phone I am running up their support costs. Nobody benefits from this. If they had refunded me the cost of the long distance for 6 months (approx. $30) and/or given me the $25 they promised at the beginning, I probably would have a favorable impression of the company. But it just gets worse…

My reply (desperation):


I appreciate your explanation, but I feel I’ve been deceived again! The $25 should have been applied when I first signed up. Whether you can apply it now or not, is no longer relevant. The promotion was promised and never given.

It was only after being incorrectly charged for 4 months that I decided I no longer wanted AT&T long distance service. I was never told that I had to have both. I was told a credit would be applied to my first bill because I was switching service. But this is more upsetting now, because we did qualify for it. Even by your terms, this
should be history and we should not even be having this dialogue.

I guess AT&T’s policy is “if we drag our feet long enough, the customer will either forget about it or change their plan, in which case we don’t have to pay it after all.”

Do you treat all customers this way or just your new ones?


I don’t know whether I should feel more like James Richey on “The Man Who Knew Too Little”: “Do you treat everyone this way or just Americans…I’ll bribe anyone there to just talk to me! You invented the $%#@ language! Talk to me!”

or maybe Andy Farmer on “Funny Farm” when he is talking to the operator: “crude and abusive language. That’s an automatic disconnect.”

Update on DSL
I talked to the DSL people on the phone. Same company, but they don’t talk to the phone side of the company. Probably because they are really SBC. They said that the extra $20 on the bill is for shipping and handling of the modem they sent 6 months ago. Huh? Olya and I looked back through our records and they are probably right. But there is no mention of a modem on the bill. It just uses the same language as always “DSL Service” with a higher price. They could slip anything in there under that generic title.

So looks like after all this, we won’t get a dime back. So much for “the customer is always right.”

White Pine trail

»  olya    8 Oct 2007 @ 02:36    

Another hike from the last week, probably one of our favorites… It was a long one, the sunset photos were taken at the furthest spot we got to (and yes, the color of the sky did change that much during the sunset ;) After that we turned around and hiked all the way back. Needless to say, we got to the car when it was completely dark…

Lost the count…

»  olya    8 Oct 2007 @ 02:28    

… of the places we’ve visited last week while the weather was good :) This was one of our hikes, but it wasn’t too long since we got a late start. We somehow managed to snap a few photos when it was almost dark…

Stealth inflation hits home

»  mark    8 Oct 2007 @ 00:25    

This is long. But Olya says the story is worth telling, so here goes…A few years ago, I laughed out loud reading a column in the New York Times by David Pogue about companies that appear to overcharge their customers as a new business model. Who could be so daft?

Well, that story came to mind recently as we’ve been fighting our new provider AT&T for the past several months. It is still hard for me to believe that “reputable” companies can be so inept.

Here’s David’s article: Checking Your Bill for a New Charge Called ‘Oops’

You should read it before hearing the rest of my story, because it sets the stage so well. He describes what he calls “stealth inflation” as “…when phone companies and just about anybody else who sends you a bill manages to extract more money from you without actually raising their rates.”

What amazes me is that if our experience is at all typical, then nothing has really changed since David wrote this in December 2003.

I was going to give you the sordid history, but it is way too long. Needless to say, after talking with them on a number of occasions, I decided to take digital pen in hand and fire an e-mail at their support people. It took me about 30 minutes to find a contact address on their support site (and I provide tech support as part of my job, so I’m not a novice at searching for this information). See if you can piece together the “deception” from the correspondence.

Here’s my letter:

Hello, I’m really frustrated. We have had nothing but trouble since switching to AT&T. Your Internet Service has been pretty good, but at almost every step we are overcharged, misled with inaccurate marketing, or sent a ridiculous form for a rebate that is never applied even when we send it in.

Here is the latest: Internet.
We signed up a couple months ago for DSL under the “promise” that the rate would be xxx for 1 year, then it would go up. Yet this month’s bill shows it already at xxx. Why??? We’ve only had the service 6 months!

I recently called AT&T and told them to disconnect long distance because I had been promised a rate that was never given to me and could not be given to me. I was so looking forward to a smaller bill this month and now it is higher than ever!

Please, don’t send me a rebate form. Fix the bill. If you can’t do that this time, I’m down to my last resort: disconnecting service and contacting the Better Business Bureau. /mark

Their response:

Dear Mark Nelson:
Thank you for contacting AT&T Local Service.

I received your e-mail about your dissatisfaction regarding the charges billed and the lower level of service received.

I certainly understand your concern and apologize for the level of service received on your account.

Please be informed that I am unable to assist you regarding the charges billed for DSL services. Therefore, you are advised to contact DSL department at 1-866-596-8455 and a Customer Service Representative will be happy to assist you regarding your concern.

However, our records confirm that your long distance services have been canceled on September 11, 2007. Please be informed that you were not enrolled in any plan for the discounted rates for the long distance calls, therefore, you were charged a monthly recurring fee of $2.95 for the basic plan and the charges billed were correct with other applicable charges.

Please be informed that I am unable to issue a credit for the charges billed for the long distance services on your account.

For quick answers to commonly asked questions about AT&T Local Service please visit us at:

To change or add features to your Local Service, please visit us at:


AT&T Local Service

My rebuttal:


I appreciate the response. But it reiterates to me how out of touch AT&T Billing and Sales are with each other.

“Please be informed that you were not enrolled in any plan for the discounted rates for the long distance calls, therefore, you were charged a monthly recurring fee of $2.95 for the basic plan and the charges billed were correct with other applicable charges.”

Sure they would be correct *if I had signed up for that*. I did not want long distance of any kind. But every sales person I talked to (and it took no less than 3 half hour calls for me to finally complete this process) told me that included in the basic plan was FREE (no charge) long distance, and if I made calls, it was 5 cents a minute.

The final call went something like this:

Agent: Would you like AT&T long distance service? There is no extra fee for this.
Me: No fees each month on my bill?
Agent: That’s right, it is free.
Me: No thank you. Just give me local service. I have a phone card for long distance.
Agent: But there is no charge to you for this.
Me: Nothing? So if I make no calls, I don’t pay anything?
Agent: Yes, there’s no risk. And if you make a call it is 5 cents per minute.
Me: Fine.

So of course I would be surprised by not only being charged each month (whether I call or not), but when we did make a call, we weren’t charged 5 cents a minute but 63 cents or thereabouts. I was perfectly content without long distance service because my calling card can give me 10 cents a minute calling Moldova or Uzbekistan, let alone calling long distance within my state.

The fact is, I feel deceived. Either the sales reps didn’t understand what they were telling me, didn’t understand the plan they signed me up for. Or just plain lied to me.

At the same time, I was promised by everyone I talked to that I would receive a $25 credit toward my first bill for switching to AT&T. That never happened. Only after 2 bills did I call and ask about this and was sent the ridiculous rebate form in the mail which I promptly returned and STILL haven’t seen that $25 anywhere. And how could I
possibly check to see if my rebate arrived, was processed, etc.? It’s a no-win situation for the customer, and again, either the sales reps don’t know how things work, promised something that couldn’t be done, or flat out lied.

I don’t know which it is. But a company that cares about its reputation should immediately apply credits when they promise them, and not sign people up for fee-bearing services when they claim there aren’t any fees.


PS> As for my original question of why I’m being charged twice as much for DSL, I’ll call the number below. Thanks a heap. By the way. My last bill says $81, but when I sign in to the Customer Care, it says my balance is $111. It was $91 last week. What’s up with that?

The correct amount for this bill should be around $60 and the next month precisely the same.

Haven’t heard back from them yet or called on the DSL. I know you’re all dying to know how this ends up.

First impressions of the US, Utah

»  mark    7 Oct 2007 @ 21:49    

Despite the additional stress that accompanies having guests, especially for long stays, having Olya’s father come last Spring and her mother come this Fall has enabled me to see our country through fresh eyes.

Of course they had expectations of what they would see when they came. Both had seen scores of movies and television programs while living in Moldova and Ukraine. Plus, we’ve been writing them letters at least weekly for the past 5 years. So nothing should have surprised them, right?

But then again, how do you reconcile the differences between Hollywood portrayal of America and our seemingly ordinary lifestyle? I know the local evening news tries to convince me that there are no differences. But I can’t say I’ve been in any car chases, shootouts, or hostage stand-offs lately.

So what were their initial impressions of the States? I asked each of them within the first 48 hours to try to capture their thoughts:

Olya’s Father

  • Salt Lake City is very flat and spread out
  • I rarely see apartments taller than 3 stories here; where are the tall apartment buildings?
  • Your bread is sweet. Terrible!
  • Lots of sidewalks and nobody walking on them.

Olya’s Mother

  • Don’t you carry any cash on you?
  • Flying in, I saw so many little lights, Salt Lake looked like New York.
  • Ukrainian Airlines fed us well. I didn’t dare touch what Delta was serving.
  • Why are you throwing that (soft grapes in the sink, old tomato, etc.) away? We can make something out of it.
  • We didn’t lock the door [to the house]!
  • How did all those people arrive at [LDS] General Conference? Do they really all have cars?

Tonight at the park

»  olya    2 Oct 2007 @ 00:22    

Our favorite hike

»  olya    1 Oct 2007 @ 01:56    

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