Saturday, June 30, 2007

This week's random thoughts whinging

  • The other night we watched a Nicholas Cage flick called the Wicker Man. It's the best movie I've seen in ages, despite it scaring the heck out of me. Not reccomended for younger viewers.
  • Chevrolet still hasn't got around to giving me an estimate on my car. I hear nothing today I'm bringing it home in a midnight heist. Learning to fix the thing myself will be good education.
  • on a similar vein... So I gave my resume to this local company thinking they would give me some sort of unpaid apprenticeship. We'd had a good meeting, they seemed interested, I am offering to work for free. I've heard nothing. I am a little suprised because my refrences are impeccable and I am insanely overqualified for the kind of thing I wanted to do. Did I blow the wrong manager?
  • Just kidding... Obviously.
  • For about three minutes this weekend we had a spare cat. We had accidentally left one of the doors to the house open and when we came home there were we two cats. One terrified and climbing the walls to try and escape, the other one looking around like 'what's wrong with you? Cat count has returned to one now.
  • Small fast spousal car has returned to our loving home. Has anybody else ever gotten thier car back from the workshop without any fuel in the tank? It's like the fourth time this year that I've had a car run outta gas on the way home from the workshop.
  • The girl hardly slept at all last night or the night before, awakening whiney and irritable (takes after her mom?) at six am. After I had downed about ten cups of coffee this (to prevent infanticide) she fell into a peacefull and deep slumber. She's awake and cheerfull now, and safely under the care of the housemaid so I can take a nap. Except I'm vibrating. I'm wondering if I should have a beer to help me sleep. But it's like ten am. Who drinks at ten am? On a Saturday? Me, possibly.

And that concludes what is possibly the most boring post yet. Sorry about that. I'll do better tomorrow.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Emax makes me happy.

So here's the deal.

As Muscati suggested, The Washing machine was Delivered by the supplier, in this case Al Gurg LLC also known as Better Life appliances. I spoke to Al Gurg directly and thier handling of everything was superb. They oppologised, they fixed the situation right that minute, and they called back and told me what they had done about it and how they would prevent it in the future.

the explination: Ordinarily, the supplier usues two big trucks to make thier deliveries around Muscat, however the drivers for these trucks had not returned to work since the storm. Because Indians and Pakistnis are not allowed to drive trucks of that size, the trucks were garaged and the company hired a few ittinerrant workers with pickups to assist with deliveries. It was these ittinerrant workers who gave me all the hassle. not Emax employees, not Al Gurg employees

Landmark and Al Gurg say they have never had a complaint of this nature in the history of thier business operations here. I belive that, in part because in my entire life I've only had one other similar experience.

My mother always says that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that no good deed goes unpunished. This is sort of the case here, where a law abiding couple of companies are trying to find ways to meet customer demand.

There are a couple of learnings here for both companies.

the mistake: One mistake here was to take two random workers and send them off into the homes of customers without any sort of training or knowlege of what kind of people they were

Solution: In the future, Al Gurg and all of Emax's other suppliers will not use untrusted or unproven workers for those sort of tasks. Emax and thier suppliers will try to communicate better regading what is an acheivable timeline for delivery, preventing Emax from making promises that the suppliers can't possibly fulfill.

the Mistake: The second mistake (and the one the pissed me off the most) was the lack of a response from Emax when I made the initial complaint. The complaint apparently stayed with the person I spoke to and maybe her manager. It never worked it's way up the food chain to higher management, and if middle management heard about it, they clearly were not concerned enough to call me back and tell me what they planed to do about it.

Solution: The empolyee who took my call has been coached, and management is developing some better guidelines for employees. Upper management is also looking into why the complaints that Emax receives don't make it up to them. Again, better communication between the employees, management, and the head office. This may entail a shift in the culture of the store so employees are rewarded for solving problems and for bringing them to the attention of management.

the mistake: the employee who sold me the washer got high marks for enthusisam but low marks for product knowlege, almost convincong me to buy a washer that didn't actually have the features I asked about.

solution: the guy had only been with the company 18 days and was still a "trainee". They are looking at thier training procedures, and how to make the issues relevent to a consumer more relevant to the sales staff. like, why it's inportant to know if a washer heats water by itself or if it needs a seperate hot water inlet. if the salesman is a bachelor who ususally washes his clothes in a simple cool-water washer, it's hard to relate to my need for a washer with an internal heater.

the problem: the highest levels of management were genuinely astounded to come here and read so much bad feedback from the public. I don't think they had any idea that customers were so unhappy with the customer service at emax. Because the complaints were never getting up to them.

the solution: If you guys have a problem with Emax customer service in the future, and you first try to solve it through the staff and management in store, then call Vineet or one of his deputies at the head office and let them know about your experience. I publish below an email from the head office to you guys, who shared your feedback in the comments section of the original post.

Vineet is on leave for the next couple of weeks, in the interimn you can contact his deputy M u r t u z a Z a k i-Store ManagerEmax +968 95756078

Dear Customer,

Hi ! I represent E Max in Oman taking care of Country Operations.

First of all I would like to sincerely thank you for your sincere and honest
feedback and initiative you have taken to apprise us of our shortcomings in the
area of customer service.We have taken your feedback very seriously and have
already started working on training our staff to offer a better quality of service which our customers so rightfully deserve. Please feel free to call me anytime on my
mobile number 92880615 directly .

I sincerely apologise and regret inconvenience caused to you as well as your other friends.Through this mail I would like to reach out to them as well and urge and humbly request to give us one more chance.

Regards,

VINEET MEHROTRA

Retail Manager -
Country Operations, OmanMax Electronics - Landmark
Grop

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Emax Issues Resolved and Clarified.

I don't have the time to provide a full explination today, and I'm sorry for that. Tomorrow morning I'll update with something more significant. WHen I do, I would ask that those of you who were kind enough to link to the original post would link to the explanitory post as well to allow others to make up thier own minds.

Emax and the landmark group as well as the Electrolux distributors met with me this morning. They provided clear, concise explinations for the situation as well as describing the steps they are taking to prevent this situation from happening again to any of you.

I am very satisfied with the results and with thier plan of action to improve communication within the store, Landmark Group, and betwen the group and the suppliers.

I gave them the link here, so they can explain in thier own words as well should they choose to do so. Blue-Chi, I reccomended that they visit your site as well so they can speak to you.

Muscati, thanks for reccomending that I speak to the head office, it was a key step to resolving this issue.

I will post a full explination of our meeting and the circumstances leading up to my unpleasant experience here tomorrow. Hopefully Emax will also take the time to speak here.

I should add that they kindly offered me many nice free things which I declined on the grounds that it would be unethical. I hope they can give those things and the store credit to someone less fortunate than we are.

Thanks,

S

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Love you like a...

Whenever my husband signs off on a text to me he finishes it off by saying love you like a fat kid love cake, or love you like Kim Jong Ill loves weapons grade plutonium. And so on. But he really killed me the other day when he sent this text.

Love You Like a Muscat Princess Loves Handicapped Parking xox


And that, my friends, is a whole lotta of love....

Welcome to North Korea….Oman.

As sent to me by two of the PDO folks who sent the cyclone preparedness tips. They asked if I could post it here.

I've copied it verbatim, Note they sent it with the track changes info still attached… duhAccording to the grapevine, there is much gnashing of teeth ampongst the outdoorsey types regarding this missive. I don't have an opinion one way or the other.

Security Communication Note: Tour Visits to Oil & Gas Concession Areas

Dear staffColleague,

Please be advised that tour visits to Oil & Gas Concession Areas are generally not permitted on personal levels. Such visits need to be arranged only with Travel / Tours Agents, who then seek the required permission from the appropriate authorities.
Staff who wonder around on their own in the Oil & Gas Concession areas do so at their own risk and maywill face legal action by the authorities who are patrolling the areas constantlyif apprehended by Security patrols.

We therefore advise staff who love to adventure and explore more about the beauty of Oman and its natural scenery the following:

1- Always use the official routes for such travel, i.e. via Travel / Tours AgentsTours Agents.
1-PDO letter to the ROP notifying them of the tour of PDO staff is not enough, although it is wise to keep PDO Security in the picture always.
2- Travel / Tours Agents will take care of the formalities required to access the concessions areas, and provide an official tour guide, which is a must on such tours.
3- Such arrangement arearrangements are deemed necessary should the tourists face difficulties and require rescue services from the appropriate PDO / Local authorities.
4- All tourists are advised not to approach or camp near the International Borders, which could lead them to be mistakenly apprehended and face unwelcome escalated issuestreatment by security authorities.
5- All PDO expatriate staff who visit the PDO interior locations on business requirements are reminded not to venture outside the operations area on their own using company vehicles or their own. , else they will face legal action by the authorities.
6- It is totally forbidden to take photos of any Oil & gas Installation, Army Camps, or International Borders mark-ups.


We wish all our expatriate colleagues a welcome stay andhope they wouldstaff will appreciate that such legal procedures are for their own safety and security, and need not be seen as impeding or discouraging them from discovering the beauty of Oman. Please note that the Oil & Gas Concession Areas are considered to be of most sensitive nature and therefore such measures are necessary to safe guard PDO and other operating companies, staff and installations and operations and staff well being.

Kxxxxx Sxxxxx xxx/X
Corporate Security XXXX

Monday, June 25, 2007

The BMW 7 series... A used car review.

For the first in my series of car reviews I'm going to tell you all about a stock 1997(ish) bmw 730 iL. This was kindly loaned to us by a friend with more generosity than common sense. Already I have managed to flatten a tyre, and scratch the hell out of it. R, thank you for your generosity in our time of need, when I get my stylee new wheels you'll be the first to take them for a spin.

On first inspection, and for the first week, I LOVED THIS CAR. I was riding around in the back of it like a foreign ambassador. There was leg room galore, rear air conditioning, comfortable seat belts, and a soft relaxing ride. It's solid and quiet on the road, like taking a first class flight from Athaiba to MQ but without the free Champagne or obnoxious guy in the seat next to me. I loved it so much that I begged my husband to buy it for me Right. This. Minute.

But then I drove it. And slowly, in painful incremental steps, much like a spring romance or a holiday fling, I fell out of love.

From the drivers seat, it's a hodgepodge of too many buttons to control the smallest detail of the driving experience. So many little drawers and cabinets to break and then replace at what I can only assume is a vast cost. I honestly wonder if this car was designed to sell obscure spare parts. Annoying features include:
  • a lazy susan thing that spins out of the dash for holding parking money.
  • a button that slowly ejects the ash tray for emptying
  • a thingy that appears to be for storing six cassette tapes. Each with thier own individual spring loaded cassette tape bed and breakable flap in the front to keep them dust free.
  • A light sensitive rear view mirror that dims itself when there are cars behind you. I found it to be a little too sensitive and eager to dim.
  • a Hydraulic or pneumatic boot catch. I assume it cranks itself down to make the boot air-tight.
  • odd sized pockets and drawers that don't fit anything that I would usually carry.
  • a climate control and stereo system that features no less than fifty separate, tiny buttons, all lit up like the atlantis space shuttle when you are driving.
  • A computer that blings and flashes random messages at you while driving. none of them accurate. "release parking brake""check tail lights" "Fasten passenger seatbelt"etc...

The acceleration however is exactly what you would expect from a BMW. Flawless, swift and controlled it lends new insight to why I get the pants scared out of me by BMW drivers everywhere. A light press of the accelerator and the transmission kicks down and rockets the car forward sucking me back into the soft confines of the gorgeous seats. Once rolling, it glides along the highway, sashaying between cars and executing relaxed lane changes with grace. Most importantly, the brakes are responsive, powerful and sharp. The anti-lock system works great, and has clearly evolved from the terrifying creaky abs of years past. It's saved my life once already.

The Handling is another story. With a long wheel base and squichy suspension the ride is luxurious for the passengers but harrowing for the driver. The car sways here and there, and it drifts in roundabouts or on dusty tarmac. the responsiveness is akin to driving a boat, where you have to turn well ahead of time because the car takes a long time to respond. If I were to buy this I'd have the suspension replaced with something stiffer, install uprated sway bars, and replace the frame, body, and sway bar bushings with polyurethane ones. I would also put uprated rims and very sticky low-profile tyres on it.

Not that we need to worry about it in Oman, but it sucks fuel. It uses an astonishing amount of petrol and has a smallish fuel tank so I'm filling it up twice a week at least.

the interior is luxurious and well insulated so the ride is quiet. The stereo is fantastic. The A/C is heavenly. The headlights are bright and perfectly focused. The reading lamps are great. The thing that killed me though is the following; In a car with every feature under the sun and more... There are no cup holders. Not one. I have to hold my bottled water between my knees as I drive, and it makes them cold and the water warm.

My Rating- Four out of a possible Ten.

Tune in in a few days for the coming reviews of other borrowed cars... including a daihatsu runabout thingy, two different Jeep Wranglers, a 2003 Toyota Echo, a 2009 Toyota Prado, and a rental Mitsubishi Lancer.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Buy a New Washing Machine From E-Max and Get Harassment and Initmidation at no Extra Charge!

I have edited this post because Emax and thier suppliers have resolved the situation for me and are taking good steps to make sure that they improve thier customer service.

The situation with the delivery was largely a case of Force Merjure, caused by the storm, Problematic laws, and missing employees.

The guys who caused so much trouble have been removed from the company they worked for, and are likely to be on thier way back to thier home country shortly.

Emax is on probation in my books. Upper management genuinely wants to fix the problems that many of us have experienced. Time will tell if the management on the ground can pull it together.

Many, Many, Many thanks to everybody who posted suggestions and complaints here and linked to the post. It made a big difference in how seriously they took my complaints, and how hard they will work to fix them.

I'm interested to see how they do.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sultan Center is Open!!!

Can I have an Al-Humdililah? thank you.

I was so happy I hugged the fish boys. They were very embarrassed and now think I am even crazier than they had imagined.

Good bye Lulu and your zoo-like, third-world, disorganised and useless store.


Lulu... Where the (whole entire population of the goddamn) world comes to shop( all at once).

Misc Storm related thoughts.. in no particular order

  1. The Abu Shenab lives! It's running, and the Spouse drive it to work today. After pouring two years of my life, and most of my husband's life savings into fixing it I was understandably distraught at it's complete immersion. Like, almost suicidal.
  2. Thanks to Salem Al Maskiry from Shuram for the use of the only landcruiser they could get to the day after the storm. You saved us mate.
  3. Thanks also the S and R for the loan of thier spare cars for the next few months while we get our wheels sorted out. I intend to post a car review here shortly.
  4. All the mud is out of our house, Yard, and carpark.
  5. Most of the furniture survived, primarily because it was either leather or distressed wood. The wooden pieces just look (a lot) more distressed now. The sofas small a little funny.
  6. By and large, we are a nation of assholes. The attitudes of others in the run up to and aftermath of the storm leaves me unimpressed.
  7. The whole experience with people in the shops, on the roads, and around the neighbourhood has been really, really damaging to my belief that people are fundamentally good. I'll work on a post about a few of these experiences at a later date.
  8. I sort of like the Chevrolet service experience, Those guys are really nice, and they care about my rig, even though it's a total P.O.S. and difficult to work on. I'll take them over Toyota service any day.
  9. I sort of dislike the Chevrolet experience because it takes about a year to find anyone who is working there to look at the car. Even when it's just a regular service. It's like a twilight Zone episode where the rest of the world has just disappeared. I offered to help them man the desk there while they work through the storm damage (for free) and they laughed. WTF?
  10. The garage closer to my house seemed receptive whan I asked for job. I am already tired of unemployment so I'll pursue that further.
  11. Thank you Dubai, for sending down the pumps and hoses to drain the lake that used to be my neighborhood.
  12. Thank you Colonel Abdullah of the ROP for providing what information you could during the course of the storm.

That's it for now. more when I think of it. When I figure out how to post photos later I'll show a few of the cars slowly sinking in our yard, and a few of the (totally futile) attempts to make them live again. Oh how you will laugh!

hope all of you are doing well.

-S

Saturday, June 9, 2007

We Owned too Much Shit Anyway.

We're Alive, but battered. At a friends house where they have power and internet! Awesome. We were very lucky to lose nothing that can't be replaced, the baby girl is happy, healthy, and seems baffled by all the mud in the house. She's dying to play in it but it smells a lot like untreated sewage. Things in Al Ghubra not so good, but others have it worse.

Our hurricane by the numbers:

Cars written off = All four we think.
Refrigerators floating in the kitchen = 3
spoiled food in pounds = 300
Downstairs furniture soaked= 100%
Bottles of gin consumed =2 and counting
number of times Authourities Cursed for lack of information on the radio =10,222,576,127,441

But we've got everything that really matters. The family.

more in a week or so.

-S

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Cyclone Preparedness

      This was forwarded to me by three diferent people who work for PDO, and I thought it was worth sharing. I think it's worth noting that PDO deserves credit for disseminating clear, concise, and usefull information at a time when it's needed most. It's one of the many good services that PDO provides for it's staff and the community at large, the next time you see a pdo employee somewhere, tell them thank you.

      TO ALL PDO
      STAFF

      There is still uncertainty around the severity of the storm which is expected to arrive in Muscat during the night of 5 June, but it is a good idea to be prepared – without over-reacting.

      These recommendations are designed to cope with the worst storms so please apply them to your situation appropriately.


      CYCLONE
      PREPAREDNESS

      Before
      the storm arrives:

      Assemble a Disaster Supplies
      Kit Including the Following Items:

        1. First aid kit and essential medications.


        2. Canned food and can opener.


        3. At least three gallons of water per person.


        4. Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding
        or sleeping bags.


        5. Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra
        batteries.


        6. Special items for infants, elderly, or disabled
        family members.


      Prepare a Personal Evacuation
      Plan


      1. Identify ahead of time where you could go if
      you are told to evacuate. Choose several places--a friend's home, a
      hotel, or a sheltered place.

      2. Keep handy the telephone numbers of these places
      as well as a road map of your locality. You may need to take alternative
      or unfamiliar routes if major roads are closed or clogged.

      3. Listen to local radio or TV stations for evacuation
      instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Take these
      items with you when evacuating:

          a. Prescription medications and medical supplies;

          b. Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows

          c. Bottled water, battery-operated radio and extra
          batteries, first aid kit, flashlight

          d. Car keys and maps

          e. Documents, including driver’s license, proof
          of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates,tax records, etc.


      You should evacuate under the
      following conditions:


        1. If you are directed by local authorities or
        through official PDO communication. Be sure to follow their instructions.


        2. If you live or work in a temporary structure—such
        shelters are particularly hazardous during cyclones no matter how well
        fastened to the ground.

      During a Cyclone


      You should:

      1. Listen to the radio or TV for information.

      2. Secure your home, close shutters, and secure
      outdoor objects or bring them indoors.

      3. Turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest
      setting and keep its doors closed.

      4. Turn off propane tanks. Avoid using the phone,
      except for serious emergencies.

      5. Secure your boat if time permits.

      6. Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes
      such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large
      containers with water.

      7. STAY OUT OF AND AWAY FROM WADIS.
      Cyclones generate enormous amounts of rain in very short times. The
      only place for the water to go is down the wadis; they will fill quickly,
      and flow ferociously fast. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around
      and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are
      rising rapidly around you, get out of the car and climb to higher ground.

      8. Do not go out “sightseeing”
      if the storm suddenly seems to abate. Be aware that the calm "eye"
      is deceptive; the storm is not over. The worst part of the storm will
      happen once the eye passes over and the winds blow from the opposite
      direction. Trees, shrubs, buildings, and other objects damaged by the
      first winds can be broken or destroyed by the second winds.

      9. You will probably lose electrical power. That is almost a given. If this
      happens:

          a. Only use a flashlight for emergency lighting.
          Never use candles!


          b. Turn off electrical equipment you were using
          when the power went out.


          c. Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer.


          d. Do not run a generator inside a home.


          e. Assemble essential supplies, including:

          i. Flashlight


            ii. Batteries


            iii. Portable radio


            iv. at least one gallon of water


            v. a small supply of food.


            vi. Due to the extreme risk of fire, do not use
            candles during a power outage.


      If you feel you are in danger:

      Go to a safe room (windowless
      room near the centre of the house). If you do not have one, follow these
      guidelines:

        1. Stay indoors during the cyclone and away from
        windows and glass doors.


        2. Close all interior doors—secure and brace
        external doors.


        3. Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be
        fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm - winds
        will pick up again.


        4. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet,
        or hallway on the lowest level.

      After
      a Cyclone:

      1. Listen to the media for regular updates.

      2. Inspect your home for water/wind damage
      before
      restoring electrical power.

      3. Do not make unnecessary demands on the emergency
      services.

      4. Inspect your vehicles for flood/impact damage;
      especially the undercarriage/brakes if your vehicle experience high
      water.

      5. BEWARE
      of displaced animals. Wadi dogs, cats, snakes and many potentially nasty
      insects will have had their living areas flood. They may seek refuge
      in your home, carport or even auto. Be very careful assessing storm
      damage and look carefully before lifting any storm debris; animals may
      lurk there.

      6. Do not touch wet switches, and beware of fallen
      power lines, treat them as if they are live.

      7. Do not drink water that could be contaminated.

      8. Stay at home, resist the urge to go sightseeing.

      9. Use common sense.



Issued by: PDO Corporate Emergency
Control Centre: 5 June 2007


(with thanks to Marty Leipzig)



Monday, June 4, 2007

You. In the Black Pugeot 407

Reg # 2764 A
I thought you were drunk, until you passed me and I realised you were sending a text.
While driving.
At 100 kph.
On the motorway.
In the middle lane
Just before rush hour.
I should be grateful that you didn't have an unrestrained child on your lap at the time.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Oman is making the news overseas, but not for the right reasons this week.

Balqis blogged about this, and having followed the link and read up on it I'm blogging too.

Obviously, I am not on the inside of the courts, and cannot vouch for what is what. My point is that the courts should have a chance to hear from her, and from her Ex-Husband and decide what is in the best interests of the children. To deport her before she is given a fair hearing is a grave miscarrage of justice.

The following is Excerpted from the website linked below, and is according to Kahdijah's american family:


Khadijah Heather Jones is an American citizen born in St Louis Mo. She has3 children. Zakaria, Amani, and Yosef. Heather went to St. Louis to be with herfamily, and receive cancer treatments and her children were with her on the trip stateside. When she returned to Oman, her father assisted her in traveling with the three children. When they were picked up at the airport, they were separated into 2 cars. This is where Jamal abducted the children. Her husband, Jamal Mohammed AlBalushi then told Heather he was divorcing her.

Jamal has threatened her life repeatedly. One time in front of US Embassywitnesses. Jamal pursued her in a car chase, Heather drove to US Embassy grounds where the guards there protected her, her father and the children behind Embassy gates. Suffice to say, there are many harrowing occurrences. There are too many to enumerate now. Bottom line is this, she is was forced out of the home, forced out of her job, and now looks at being forced out of the country without her children. She will not be able to enter Oman again, and due to the actions of Jamal canceling the kids American passports, the kids are not able to leave Oman.

You can read more here


Friday, June 1, 2007

Overheard at our breakfast table.

Suburban Sibling #1 has decided to return to Oman and finish her education here. She'll be staying in the house with us. This means the Spouse will be outnumbered 5 to 1 by women.

Me: Poor thing, you're outnumbered in a big way. I bet you're worried about becoming a submissive, henpecked, wage slave now.

Him: Really? I was thinking of myself as a giant Silverback Gorilla.

Him: pooks out his lips, squares shoulders, narrows eyes to slits and does a reasonable impression of a no-nonsense gorilla overlooking his kingdom.

Just another reason I love you sweetheart.