Posted by: bkivey | 1 December 2010


In this season of giving thanks and year-end reflection I thought I’d publicly thank some of the organizations with which I’ve had a positive experience this year.

Portland General Electric

PGE is the electric utility for most of Portland, OR, and communities in seven surrounding counties. I’ve dealt with them in a personal and professional capacity and have been favorably impressed each time. They conduct free 1/2 day seminars for energy and facilities professionals in a variety of areas and offer a number of tools on their website. Their bills have the slogan “It’s a privilege to provide your electric service”, and they act like it. The customer service department has recently instituted a ‘call-back’ feature that allows the representative to call you back so you don’t have to stay on hold. Good stuff, and a model for others.

Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles

Nearly any question you might have is covered on the website including clear instructions. Customer service in person and on the phone has been fast, efficient, and friendly. The offices are furnished in government Standard Issue but the ones I’ve visited have been clean without smelling like industrial cleaning solvent. My only beef is that they don’t take plastic in order to avoid merchant fees, but I wonder if charging a little more to cover that cost wouldn’t be worth the increase in convenience.

United States Postal Service

Though it might be argued that the Postal Service is an anachronism awash in an ocean of red ink, short of a Constitutional Amendment, we’re stuck with it. If the delivery of junk mail, bills, and greeting cards was a lucrative market, private enterprise would be after it. The fact that it isn’t speaks volumes, and the Postal Service is very good at what it does. People take for granted that mail will be delivered correctly and in a reasonable period of time: an attitude that speaks to the reliability of service.

I had a somewhat confused mail situation this year, and was able to take care of most of my business quickly and efficiently on the USPS website. When I had to go to a post office the staff were friendly and efficient, taking the time to recommend products and services that would answer my needs while saving me some money.

Special mention to Lee Ann of the Aloha, Oregon station who called me at 7:oo PM to make sure my mail situation was sorted out. Thanks!

Comcast Cable

The butt of many a joke and reliable fodder for stand-up routines, everyone, it seems, hates the cable company. This year I had some issues and was impressed with the relative painlessness with which they were handled. I had some internet phone line installation issues and everyone I talked to seemed genuinely eager to ensure that the problem was fixed in a timely manner. On one occasion a tech came out to look at a problem that turned out to be caused by operator error, and declined to charge me for a service call, although he well might have.

The one blemish in my experience this year was going to the service center on a Saturday, where the staff seemed more interested in getting their breaks than taking care of the line of customers snaking out the door. Yeah, I know state law requires a fifteen minute break every four hours, but I’ve worked service industry jobs where it wasn’t uncommon to go for five or six hours straight in an environment much more difficult than sitting in front of a computer screen, because that’s what it took to take care of business.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest doesn’t have some things found on other airlines, like assigned seating,  in-flight video, music or games (do airlines still offer decks of cards? I’ll have to ask next time). They also don’t have checked baggage fees. Reason enough to fly with them. Also, unlike another airline I normally like, the flight attendants don’t have a fit when you turn on your GPS.

The Coolest Thing I’ve Seen this Year

On a flight from Atlanta to Tallahassee there was a kid sitting across the aisle from me. It’s a short flight, but what do you imagine he had brought for entertainment? Video game? No. Personal music device? No. Nor did he bring anything to read. What he had was a gyroscope. When I saw that I knew why he’d brought it on board and what he was going to do. Sure enough, after we reached altitude, he spun it up and put it on floor. As the plane changed direction the gyroscope would tilt (actually, it was maintaining orientation while the aircraft maneuvered). It was fun to watch and I remembered the thrill I got as a child when I could see concepts I’d read about in action. If his parents aren’t careful he’ll be hacking the fly-by-wire in a few years and flying the plane from his seat.

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