Monthly Archives: July 2012

A critical lesson in customer service, connections and social media

First, if you need help with a printer and you live in the Seattle area, I highly recommend the services of Infinity Communications.  Ask for Mark.

But this story isn’t about printers, that’s just where it all starts.  I have an old HP Laserjet 4000 printer.  The manufactured date is April 15, 1998.  A classic.  It’s 44 pounds of metal and only 1 pound of plastic.  Definitely Old School.  I in inherited it along with an extra toner cartridge refill several years ago when our office was getting rid of it to replace it with a fancy new multi-function printer.

It has served me well, but recently the sheet feeder started jamming.  The printer only worked if I fed paper one page at a time into the manual tray.  I decided to get rid of this old laser printer along with my color inkjet printer and a flatbed scanner and replace them with a modern all-in-one printer from Costco.  This new machine is great.  It scans, prints color photos, makes copies, send faxes via the Internet, and even allows me to print from anywhere via facebook.  Not to mention all the desk space it freed up.

On Monday, less than three months since I bought it, it ran out of black ink.  That same day, as if they already knew I would need it, I got an email from Costco advertising their printer cartridge refill service for about $10.  (Perhaps the printer has a feature to alert Costco when the toner is low.  It is certainly capable of it and if Target can predict you are pregnant by your buying habits, then Costco could certainly be monitoring printer alerts.)

I got it refilled, but I also thought back on that old laser printer sitting by the door, waiting to be disposed of properly.  It was such a workhorse.  It should be good for a few more years of printing at least, if only the automatic sheet feeder worked.

But like I said, this story isn’t about printers.  It’s about people.  It’s about customer service, connections and social media.

I decided to call around and see what it would cost to get it repaired.  I consulted the great oracle, Google, who guided me to a long list of companies in my area that service printers.  The first one I called answered promptly.  The woman at the other end was helpful and knowledgeable.  When I mentioned what printer I had, she replied “ah yes, that is considered the old workhorse of printers!  There are many still in service today.”  She went on to explain the cost for repair is $25 for the visit (they come to you) plus $75/hour.  It should take under 1 hour.  And I may want to get the maintenance kit which is $300 parts and labor.  That would be about $400 total.  “Hmmm.  Let me call you back on that”,  I said.

After a few more calls with people reporting similar pricing, I called the listing for a company named Infinity Communications, located just 2 miles from my place.  A guy answered the phone and I explained to him my situation.  “Oh yeah, that’s a great printer.  That’s what I use for all my personal heavy-duty printing.  I service several law offices that use that one and they all have over 100,000 pages.  You can get over 10,000 prints from one toner cartridge.  So here’s the deal:  You can bring it in to me and I’ll charge you $95/hr plus parts.  If it has over 100,000 prints since its last service, you might need the maintenance kit too.  But that’s pretty pricey.  You know, it’s probably something as simple as pulling the two rubber rollers out and washing them with a damp wash cloth.  If you pull out the paper tray and look inside there…”  Over the next 5 minutes he talked me through how to remove the rollers.  Incredibly simple.  I cleaned them up and ran a test print while he was on the phone.  Voila’!  I have a working printer again!  “So look on that test print page”, he says.  “How many prints since last maintenance?”  I read it to him “1410”.  He asks “And what is the total page count?”  I reply “One four one zero.”  He asks “You mean one hundred forty thousand?”  “No, one thousand four hundred and ten.”  “Wow” he says.  “That’s like a brand new printer! You’ll be using that for a long, long time.”  Yep.  he’s right.  I will also be coming to him for all my printer service needs in the future and I will tell all my friends about him.

So to all my readers, his name is Mark Ungacta and his company is Infinity Communications here in Woodinville, WA.
We chatted on the phone for a bit more and I promised him a beer for his help.  By coincidence he happens to know someone who owns a brewery nearby…

The difference between what those others did and what Mark did meant the difference between getting no business and getting a beer, a loyal customer, and potentially many more customers than just the one calling.

The lessons:
1.  Customer service is all about doing more than you have to.  In the end, more likely than not, the dividends will more than make up for it.
2.  Social media provides individuals with a much stronger influence than in the past.  Be keenly aware of that as you make choices. In this instance I’m hoping this blog post drives new business Mark’s way.
3.  Take the time to listen to the people you meet.  You never know where those connections will lead you.

Do you have a similar success story?  Please share it.

Footnote: if you have this printer, you can get the maintenance kit and detailed instructions at


Of Dogs and Whitewater Rafting

Recently I have noticed people bringing their dogs with them on the river when they go whitewater rafting.  As a dog lover and a whitewater boater, I want to stir a discussion on the merits and risks of taking dogs whitewater rafting.  I once had a great river dog that made many trips with me to the river.  Jenny was a black lab who LOVED the water.  We did many flat water trips where she would swim beside me for awhile and then climb onto the back of my kayak or sit in my lap and ride for awhile before jumping back in to swim some more.

But as a kayaker, there was no way of taking her down a whitewater river.  For rafters, this is at least physically possible.  I think most would agree that flat water is quite safe and class 5 whitewater is definitely out.  The question then becomes: When does the risk outweigh the reward?  Before you answer that, let me start by describing an event I experienced this weekend.  I may have some details a bit off, but it’s close enough.

I was kayaking with a group from the WRRR club on the Sauk River. 
The Sauk gauge reading was about 12,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) which I think equates to about 5000 cfs on that section. The Sauk is class 3-4 at that water level with plenty of rather large keeper holes (hydraulics).
The group consisted of 2 solo oar rafts, 2 rafts with several people, 4 solo catarafts, one inflatable kayak and one kayak (me).  One of the solo rafters had his dog in the raft with him.  Well, I guess technically that means he isn’t solo.

At one point the group was a bit spread out.  The solo rafter with the dog dropped into a powerful hydraulic.  Then one of his oarlocks broke.  His dog got bounced out of the raft while the raft and oarsman stayed in the hole. The dog had on a life jacket and was swimming down stream.  The current here was smooth and swift as it drained into the next rapid.  The dog was about 20′ from the bank and there was little chance that the dog could reach shore before being washed into the next rapid which was a class 3 rapid several hundred yards long.  Even if the dog could reach shore, it would have been hard to climb out of the river because the water level was high, the bank was steep and covered in overgrowth, and there was no slack water or eddy near shore.  All of the other rafts were already running the next rapid and were out of sight or rescue range.

The raft finally washed out of the hole and was about 50′ upstream of the dog.  At this point the oarsman moved the oar into the triangular support for the oarlock to give him some ability to use that oar.  He had very little control of his boat as he continued to wash on down the river and into the next rapid.

Fortunately, the IK was close enough to help the dog.  I saw it happen, but was too far away to help rescue the dog.  The paddler in the IK was able to get to the dog and pull it  from the 49 degree water and into his lap before washing on down into the rapid.

We were extremely lucky that it turned out so well.  As it was, only 4 of the boats in the group would have even been able to rescue the dog and still control their boat in the next rapid.  One of those just happened to be close enough to help.  The water temperature was cold enough that such a long swim through the next rapid would have been life threatening by the temperature alone (Keep in mind this chart is based on an adult human.  Heat loss is faster for a 40 Lb dog though fur helps.)  Also, the rapid downstream was long with several large hydraulics that could have drown the dog, even with a life jacket on.  At best, it would have been battered and bruised.

Dogs do not have any understanding of the dangers of whitewater, so owners should not think that the dog knows what to do if it finds itself swimming a rapid.  Thinking “Oh, he’ll just swim to shore.” is a dangerous assumption.  Even if the dog does swim to shore, is it going to the right one?  Often, the closest shore is not the safest place to go.  Once on shore, what will the dog do?  In this case, there would have been no way to get back up to the dog.  That side of the river was blocked by a rock wall along side the rapid.  Hiking back upstream would have to be on the opposite side of the river which, as you can see from the video below, is over 100′ wide.  Dogs do not understand the risks of a foot entrapment from standing up in swift water.  Dogs cannot grab a rope and be pulled to shore.  All rescue attempts are hands-on and require a person being put into the same risk as the dog.

So not only does having a dog on the river pose a risk to the dog, it introduces an inherent risk to the entire group.  In this example, the person paddling the IK took a risk by rescuing the dog and running a rapid with it sitting in his lap.  I took a risk by trying to get to the scene to offer help.  The dog owner took greater risks trying rescue the dog while dealing with a broken oarlock.  This time it turned out well, but there are plenty of other places or circumstances on this river where things could have been much worse.  What if the oarsman had also been thrown from the raft?  We would have given all our attention to him, not the dog.  This swim happened in class 3 water.  What if it happened in a class 4 rapid?  What if it happened just upstream from a strainer log?  What if it happened in the hydraulic upstream where one of our rafts got caught in a keeper hydraulic for 45 minutes?  Yes, 45 minutes!  Here is a brief video of that event.

We did not take any big risks to try to free this raft from the hydraulic.  But what if the dog were in that raft?  I assure you, the group would have taken much greater risks.

I have had my share of whitewater and flat water rescues. One of the things I was taught as a professional lifeguard was to always be asking “what if…?”  and “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” then plan for it.  Inevitably, you probably didn’t think of the worst thing that could happen, but it would at least help you prepare for what actually does happen so you don’t end up on the six o’clock news.

So I ask you:  Do dogs belong on whitewater?

Lotus Notes Quick Tip: Hold the Ctrl key while opening a different view to jump to the same document in that view

Mat Newman’s tip about a clever use of categories reminds me of another useful but little-known feature.  First, put the focus on a document in a view (click once on it.)  Now hold down the control key and click on another view or folder where that document also exists. The view will be opened with the focus on that same document rather than where it was the last time the view was opened.  One example of how this is useful is if you want to see other documents that are related and appear near the document in the other view.  For example, in your mail file, find a document in the All Documents view.  Now hold down the control key and click on the folder where it is filed.  Another valuable effect is that if the document doesn’t exist in the second view, the view will be opened in the same place it was when last opened, so you can tell that the document doesn’t exist in the view.

Another place that this used to be helpful was in the help files.  If you found a topic in a search, you could switch to the Table of Contents view and it would jump to that same document so you could read all the related documents in the chapter.  Unfortunately, that broke with the new navigation format of Help.

Geoffrey Castle: Proof the Violin is not Just for Orchestra Music

The Notes Guy in Seattle isn’t just about software.  There are some musical roots to the name too.  I would like to tell you about my friend and the inspiration that got me to pick up the violin as an adult.  He plays this crazy 6 string electric violin.  Yes Six strings.  As if a violin isn’t challenging enough.  He is an amazing musician and has a great stage presence.  One of those musicians that sounds great on the radio as well as on the stage.  Rock, Celtic, Blues, Country, it doesn’t matter, he plays it.  The only thing I haven’t heard him play is rap…yet.  He even has a  Christmas CD with his own original music. Then there is the musical ambassador work he does with schools. I think this speaks well to his character.
Geoffrey recently posted a great video of his story that I think you’ll enjoy. Check it out:

I have seen my share of big musicians in small venues before they were big names: Jewel at a free concert on Clearwater Beach FL; KT Tunstall in a bookstore here in the U district; Tom Petty at Dubbs in Gainesville, FL; The Church and R.E.M. at The Moon in Tallahassee, FL.  I am confident that one day in the future you will recognize Geoffrey Castle’s name the same way.  Here are a videos of three distinctly different pieces from his performances. Listen in and tell me what you think. Check out his website too.

Eric Robert and Dan Connolly, I don’t mean to sell you short. Post videos of your stories so I can link to them too.

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