Getting on with life! by Liz Saunders

I can’t believe two weeks have passed since my last blog.

During the cruise, when I was in so much pain from my arthritis, I promised myself that when I returned I would get on the phone to my hand and foot surgeon and make appointments.  Well, I like to keep my promises to myself so I did exactly that and my left hand will be fixed this month and right as rain for the new year.  Had to promise Dr. D that I wouldn’t do anything with my feet for at least six months after hand surgery.  When I saw Dr. C, he said “can’t do anything until June at the earliest”.  Perfect!  So, 6 months and 2 days after fixing my hand, I get both feet fixed at the same time!

Well god forbid I should relax and enjoy pain-free feet, instead 2 days after seeing Dr. C and having a cortisone injection in each big toe, my feet were feeling so pain-free, that I was moving too fast and slammed my baby toe (right foot) into a door frame!  Yup…broke it.  Doc thinks I may also have fractured my fifth metatarsal but I’m afraid to have x-rays.  If I walked into the hospital to have the hand surgery with a cast on my foot, surgery would be cancelled!  So, with the help of a cane, symphytym, arnica and calc phos (thanks Witchy Woman for the arnica) and okay the occasional Tylenol 3 at the beginning, I am soldiering on.  7 days later and I’m almost not limping…almost.

So, life goes on.  And that’s the beauty of being a virtual assistant.  I haven’t missed a day of work and none of my clients have any idea that I’m injured.  I continue to answer their phones, book their appointments, be the customer service rep, create their mailing labels (Xmas card labels and it’s already the 12th, but better late than never!) and clean up their databases.

Good thing they won’t be able to see my hand in a cast!

Advantage Car Rentals redeems itself – with good customer service! by Liz Saunders

I recently blogged about our “interesting” experience with Advantage Car Rental in Fort Lauderdale.  Well, having said “don’t use this company”, I take it back.

Joe did the research to discover that Advantage Car Rental is owned by Hertz.   He also found the email addresses for Vice President of Hertz, Brian Dickerson and Senior Vice President, Global Customer Care of Hertz, Joseph Eckroth on Trip Advisor.  So we crafted a carefully worded and clear email to them.

That email was sent on Friday.  Apparently we got Mr. Eckroth’s attention.  This is the response Joe got on Tuesday:

Dear Mr. McManus:

Mr. Eckroth has asked that I investigate the situation you wrote about and respond directly to you.

First of all, let me express my sincere apology as well for the difficulties you encountered in Ft. Lauderdale.  I can certainly understand your frustration and disappointment with Advantage and I’m sorry for the inconvenience this caused you while you were trying to enjoy your travels in Florida.  There really is no excuse for the lack of service and assistance you received.  I can assure you that your comments will be forwarded to the appropriate parties to ensure corrective action is taken.

After reviewing the rental record, the contract had not yet been closed by the location.  I have credited the upgrade fee on the billing and closed the contract.  The total amount billed will be $***.**.

Thank you for taking the time to let us know about your experience.  We value your business and hope you will give us the opportunity to regain your confidence in Advantage.

Sincerely,

Sharon Rose

EXECUTIVECUSTOMERSERVICE
The Hertz Corporation | 225 Brae Blvd, Park Ridge, New Jersey 07656
executivecustomerservice@hertz.com | www.hertz.com

Not only has the extra charge been reversed, the amount being charged to our credit card is $22 less than we expected to have to pay!!!   You absolutely can NOT argue with that customer service.

It all boils down to customer service! by Liz Saunders

Yes, sitting on the floor of the plane between seats!

The trip is over.  I type this sitting on the floor of the plane because we’ve got the best leg room ever  right beside the emergency exit.  But I’ve never seen this much leg room, it’s awesome.  One of the best things of this trip.

The ship was quite impressive compared to the tug boat from 6 years ago, although as previously posted, I did run into an issue almost immediately.

Met and saw a number of interesting people… both on and off the boat.  Jamaica in particular was an experience.  The country is so poor that they natives are very aggressive with tourists.  It’s too bad because it really detracts from the experience.  And since tourism is one of their major industries, it leaves both a bad and sad taste in the mouth.

Imagine, as the voice of a number of companies, if I was rude, pushy and difficult because I was desperate.  People would not call back.  Have you ever had an experience with a debt collector or know what debt collectors’ reputations are all about?  Same idea.  You will pay…you will buy…you will take my illegal taxi on a trip you don’t want to take.

At The Virtual Alternative we pride ourselves on polite and appropriate customer service/representation of your business.   If you think of tourists the same way you think of customers you have to treat them well or they won’t come back!  I certainly will not be making plans to return to Jamaica any time soon, if ever.

So, the Jamaicans we met, while trying to survive, are actually biting the hand that feeds.

And a further example of bad customer service was that of Advantage Car Rentals.  My husband had rented a car – 4 seater with a trunk big enough for 2 suitcases.  When we got to Ft. Lauderdale – remember we were over 7 hours late – they told us they only had a Fiat.  A Fiat?!  2 seater with a trunk that would hold one small case.  Insisted that’s what we had ordered.  My husband would never have booked such a thing.  We argued and they insisted but we were both so tired and frustrated that he didn’t look for his confirmation paper.  Cost an extra $100 to upgrade to the 4 seater we had booked.

Do not use this company!By the time we returned the car, we had found the confirmation paper and we tried again.  Nope, Romel Jean insisted, we had booked a Fiat – that despite the fact that we had a piece of paper which clearly said “economy car” not “sub-compact car” and “4 seater” not “2 seater”.  Not wanting to miss the 2nd flight of our trip, we demurred to deal with it later.  What made it worth it was the horror on Romel’s face when I leaned in and read his name out loud – “What do you want my name for?”  “Well clearly”, said I, “we want it so that when we complain about the car we will also complain about your customer service…or lack thereof.”   Then he tried to fight with me!

Customer service.  It all comes back to customer service.  If you’ve got good customer service, people will return and tell their friends about you.  If you’ve got lousy customer service – or no customer service – people will not return and will probably tell even more friends the “horror story” they experienced.

If you want better customer service for your business, think of The Virtual Alternative, where customer service is our expertise.

And it bears repeating…look at this leg room! Those are my knees in the foreground. Look how far away my carry on is!

The Cruise – the Beginning

Welcome to the Carnival Freedom.  Within minutes of being on board, a waiter was rude to me.  Unbelievable!  I was so stunned at the time that I didn’t react but I will be talking to guest services…for sure!

Unfortunately, Monday I pushed my body way too far so my hands and feet are shockingly painful on Tuesday.  I think Monday I masked a lot of the pain with the Calc Phos and T-3s and as a result, Tuesday I could hardly walk.

However, other than that, let me tell you about this boat…this is a big boat!   5 levels of “staterooms”, 3 levels of bars, restaurants, shops, arcade…and probably the computer room but I didn’t see it.   Then two levels at the top that are pools, hot tubs, adults only club, sports deck, theatre and water slide.

We’re on level 1 which is at the bottom of the boat, right above the medical centre.  Unfortunately, it means we can actually feel the boat moving – hope neither of us gets motion sick.   We also have an interior cabin so no window.  Which is a little creepy.  Waking up this morning, I couldn’t get out and up on deck fast enough once I was awake.  But so much better than the tugboat we were on back in 2006 where we had tiny little separate beds.  This cabin is actually pretty nice and has lots of storage, although it doesn’t look like it.

This  week is a real test for me as I have always managed The Virtual Alternative from afar on all previous vacations since 2003.  I’m holding out against buying the online internet but not sure I’ll hold out  for the whole week.  At the moment, I’m completely blind and, although I have the utmost confidence in Siobhan, I’m anxious.

Key West is our first port of call but couldn’t find internet to post.  This is coming to you from George Town, Grand Cayman.   I was  really looking forward to Key West as I’ve read so many detective novels based there.   And I understand it’s quite a funky community full of artists and other interesting people.

Homeopathics, Rx and Cuba – Who knew? by Liz Saunders

In preparation for our vacation, I made a trip to Riverdale Homeopathy on the Danforth to pick up some Calcarea Phorphoric.  This is the most amazing stuff that Witchy Woman suggested I take for pain relief for my arthritis.  The one thing I know about Florida is that while there’s a Dollartree, CVS, Publix, Walgreen or Winn Dixie on every corner, finding a purveyor of homeopathic remedies would be more difficult than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

During the purchase, I said something to the young lady behind the counter about how Calc Phos is better than Tylenol 3 for my thumbs and out from a back room popped Ananda, proprietress of RH.  Turns out Ananda is putting together a documentary on the efficacy of homeopathics so we got into quite a discussion about them and my journey.

As she was very interested in what I’m doing, I mentioned that my naturopath (that’s you Witchy Woman) had specifically recommended Riverdale Homeopathy when I needed to purchase the B.C. and Ananda knew immediately that if WW was a student at CCNM, then she had to be a student of Dr. Ken L. or one other doctor.  She hit that nail squarely on the head as I see Dr. Ken every time I see WW.

When I mentioned that I was writing a blog about my B.C. experience, Ananda expressed some interest in reading it, so I gave her my The Virtual Alternative business card so she could check it out.  When we talked about what a VA could do, she mentioned that she knew of a pharmaceutical company in Cuba that might need a virtual assistant.  That’s when I told her I was also “Liz of iTMG” – one of my clients who happens to be her webmaster – and I was sure Jason would give me a reference.

So, who knows…pain relief, less itch…and a client in Cuba?

On our way to Fort Lauderdale…No Wait, Make that Montreal by Liz Saunders

 It has been a very interesting start to our vacation.  First thing this morning, I heard from daughter Siobhan – my computer would not connect to the internet.  This is a serious issue as she’s looking after The Virtual Alternative while I’m away.   I think it might stem from the fact that yesterday I had someone trying to help me with my internet connection and clearly he changed some setting or other.  He will remain nameless.

As today is B.C. plus 43, I managed to stay…well, relatively…calm and worked through how Siobhan could reach nameless (of course, his business card is at home on my desk).  So she’s taking care of that.  And he better show up or he will be named!

Then, husband dearest chose the wrong shuttle to take us to the airport, getting us there 2 minutes too late to catch our flight to Fort Lauderdale.  Who knew that they close off accepting luggage an HOUR before the flight?  Carry on luggage only from now on.

And of course, there was no room on any flight going to Florida – anywhere in Florida.  We asked about connecting flights in New York, Atlanta, Chicago…nope.

So, here we are, $150 poorer, sitting in the airport in Montreal where we have 1 (yes that’s right ONE) seat confirmed on a flight to Fort Lauderdale.  Thank god for free wifi!

There’s no doubt in my mind that without B.C. 43 days ago, I would not be handling this as well as I am.  So, thank you Witchy Woman for that.

I know that Siobhan will get the computer issue sorted out and in the meantime, I can check email as long as we’re on Canadian soil (which will be until about 3:45 p.m. today) and forward anything she needs to deal with directly to her.  So, The Virtual Alternative is taken care of – at least for today.

And husband is still alive to tell the tale.  Witchy Woman, I’ll tell him he owes you.

An interesting month… by Liz Saunders

Where did the last month go?

Back at the beginning of September (I know, that was 2 months ago) I signed up a new virtual client, who was actually someone for whom I had worked as a subcontractor for a colleague, a few years ago.  Great fun, booking appointments, talking to lots of people on the phone; I am really enjoying this client.

In the meantime, another potential client has firmed up, their email is set up, I’m ready to go but haven’t heard what the client wants from me yet.  Hope they decide soon as in two weeks I’ll be winging my way to Florida and a Caribbean cruise.  Thank goodness I have my own assistant to leave the business with (I practice what I preach).

On top of that, the client for whom I do minutes of meetings has had one meeting a week since the beginning of September (I know, I know, that was 2 months ago).  So all in all, I’ve been very busy.

Almost too busy to notice what’s been happening since taking the B.C. (now that was a month ago – September 27th to be exact – although it feels like 2 months).  Since then, I’ve been writing blogs (as you’ve seen) but I have also kept notes on my calendar so that I can keep my naturopath up to date.  I guess I need to put them together for tomorrow’s appointment with my own personal  Witchy Woman.

Mostly things have been pretty good, although yesterday I was crazy itchy!  Overall, I do think there has been improvement in many areas though.

One other exciting thing that I did recently, I didn’t want to write about until I had heard from someone that she was aware it had happened.  Well, nothing has been heard, so I guess she’ll see it here too.

On my way to the Bala Cranberry Festival a couple of weeks ago, I stopped at a café in Bracebridge to pick something up.  Before I left, I said “when will she know?” and I was told “Oh, we’ll call her this afternoon”.  So I waited and waited and waited, patiently, for her phone to ring.  Nothing.  Then I waited for an email from her.  Nothing.  Well, I can’t wait any longer:  Wendie…Look what I own!

My first original Wendie Donabie!

The harbinger of winter…by Liz Saunders

What a great weekend last weekend was…except for it’s the time of year to close the cottage, a harbinger of winter if ever there was one.

On Saturday we met our friends, Wendie and Hugh (and Wendie’s friend Cynthia), at the Bala Cranberry Festival.   I found some awesome elephants which were half price – so obviously, I couldn’t turn that down – had to buy both.

The early part of Saturday was good and the rain held off until about 3:30 in the afternoon giving us time to see most of the Cranberry Festival before the downpour.  Ended up at the Bala Bay Inn but no ghostly appearances this year, like last.

At the Festival, multi-tasking as usual, we ran into Bill McCutcheon of Arbortech.  I’ve been meaning to call him for ages to give me a quote on clearing some of our canopy and there he was – just as I said to my husband, “gee, the last time we were here, we ran into Bill right there” and as I pointed, he appeared.   Maybe there were spirits at work after all.

And today was the saddest day of the year…closing the cottage.   This summer seems to have gone by so quickly. We didn’t make it to visit my Aunt Judy in Burke’s Falls or my aunt Mary and Uncle Bruce in Sudbury.  Nor did we do our usual visits to all the local towns for a stroll and a bite of lunch or a beer.

 

How did that happen?  It’s not bad enough that we won’t be able to go to the cottage, we won’t be able to see our friends regularly…Wendie, Hugh, Pat, Terry, Cheryl, Steve…but we will stay in touch.

And the journey continues….by Liz Saunders

It’s now been 17 days since I took the B.C.  I had a meeting with Witch Keila on day 12 and she tells me that based on certain incidents over the first 12 days, it’s working.  For the record, despite my threat to Google B.C., I have restrained myself.

I mentioned in a previous post that I thought I noticed improvement in my itchy head and painful hand…fleeting, but there.  Well, apparently that’s an improvement and I can’t argue with that.

 

One of the most stunning things that happened was letting my brother know, after yelling at me for things I couldn’t have understood, that he was out of line.  Sounds like something so simple, doesn’t it?  But it’s not something I would have done 6 months ago…indeed, not sure I have ever done something like that in my life.  I’ve always been too worried about losing something that might be important rather than standing up for myself.   Had another similar incident on day 15 with another family member that I still can’t believe I did.

After a very stressful weekend, a condition I have flared up (not surprising) but what was extremely surprising was that it only lasted 36 hours!  Instead of a week!

So… little steps.

Then the other night, I went to bed at the usual time but at 12:30 I was awake…not because something was on my mind, not because I had to take Jaden to the bathroom but because I had full body twitchies!  Unfortunately, although Witch Keila told me I can continue to take the Calc. Phos. for arthritis pain, I am NOT allowed to take my Cuprum Metalicum for my RLS (or full body twitchies).  Oh my god, it was agony.  I tried my Mindfulness Meditation breathing, I tried putting an extra blanket on my lower legs (heat and weight).  After about 2 hours, I finally went back to sleep, so very tired the next day.  But I’m sure Witch Keila will see it as a good thing.   She should try it some day.

But if that’s part of my progress, then I guess I will just have to find a way to cope.

On another note, there must be some emotional change going on for the good.  I’ve always believed that you send out vibrations to the universe and if your vibrations are negative, good things don’t happen.  When my friend, Bob, took his life, within 6 months The Virtual Alternative was almost defunct.  I had only one client left and she was a very small but loyal client.  When I finally came out of my depression over Bob’s death, business picked up.  Lately, not only did I pick up a client from a colleague who couldn’t accommodate his needs (5 day a week phone service), then an organization that I started talking to about 2 months ago finally committed and we start working together next week, but on Saturday I got another enquiry because of a LinkedIn connection.   If this keeps up, my daughter Siobhan is also going to be very busy.

On a personal level, yesterday when I woke up, my first thought was about a situation about which I had only had negative thoughts for years and that thought was “hmmm maybe if things keep improving, this can be fixed too”.  First positive thought in …I can’t tell you how long.

Woot woot! as my daughter Olivia would say!  Oh and for the record, my scalp is starting to feel like a scalp!  Another Woot!

 

B.C. plus 9 by Liz Saunders

B.C. or not B.C.?
B.C. or not B.C.?

You will recall that 9 days ago, at 6:20 a.m. (in accordance with Witchy Woman’s instructions) I took my dose of B.C.  I was hoping to report back on changes or experiences but there’s been little to report.

I had no idea what to expect – which is probably a good thing because I haven’t been disappointed.  So far, I have not experienced anything that I would say was relief.  At one point (maybe 3 or 4 days ago) I thought maybe, just maybe, my head wasn’t as itchy as it’s been.  But no, that was a temporary reprieve that only lasted one day.  On another day, I thought maybe, just maybe, my left thumb didn’t hurt as much…also a temporary reprieve.

Emotionally…no change…physically…no change, except for this rotten cold which I’ve managed to pass it on to my husband.  My nausea/heartburn has returned and gone, my head is itchy and my hands and feet hurt.  Oh, and I’m not feeling very creative or funny.  Good thing work lately hasn’t required creativity!  This week was mostly about sending out faxes, capturing and recording information written on the back of postcards, booking mediations and minutes of meetings.  Nothing requiring thinking or creativity.

Can’t wait to see Witchy Woman on Tuesday and say “now what?”  Oh, and Witchy, if you’re readying this – the heck with you…I’m going to Google B.C. before I see you on Tuesday!

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!