Water and Sewer Upgrades – For Who???

Once again, another increase!

There seems to be some question as to whether or not the recently approved NPU upgrade to water and sewer in Norwich, Connecticut is designed to benefit the citizens who live in Norwich or those in Baltic and Sprague. I understand [from what I read this morning] that we can expect a 4% water rate increase in 2020 that is only supposed to last two years (yeah right).

When I tell people who live elsewhere what we spend now in Norwich, CT for water and sewer, they can hardly believe it!

I wonder if they bet on the wrong horse at the Kentucky Derby? I wonder if we have been betting on some wrong horses, as well?


Rein’s Deli

My wife and I have finally discovered a Deli that has been in existence for many, many years in Vernon, CT called Rein’s Deli. We happened on it when I visited a nice little record shop in the same plaza called Records The Good Kind. (in case you didn’t know it, I have an addiction to the vinyl LP).

Our first visit to that plaza did not include dining at Rein’s because there was a large line and we didn’t know how long it would take to get seated and have lunch. (We have come to realize after a couple of visits that they handle large volumes exceptionally well).

Returning on a Friday night (we thought we would have a long wait, but were not in a hurry). To the contrary, we were seated within a few minutes after a very brief time in line and were ordering our meals before we knew it. The waitress was attentive and quick. When she came to take our order, we were presented with a dish of half-sour pickles (may favorite) which I suspect they make there. They were very fresh and plentiful. Right away, I was sold.

My wife is not a big meat eater and rarely has much more than a few bites of anything beef. However, she has a particular love for good pastrami that is situated in the middle of a Reuben sandwich. I have always preferred corned beef over pastrami for such purposes, but she is the opposite. I tend to find pastrami often very greasy and salty. This was not at all that way and I found (after sampling hers} that it was truly delicious and I might even prefer it to corned beef in such a sandwich. I myself that night had a chicken salad club on toasted rye that I found to be very good, along with sides of coleslaw and macaroni salad that were enjoyable. On the way out we took a couple of pieces of cheesecake to go that were alright, although we have had better. It’s a personal preference thing, cheesecake — you may think it fantastic when compared to others. We did not. It was expensive and good, but not worth the money we paid for it. Neither was the macaroni salad worth $5 per pound (I bought some to take home) but it is very good and worth $2.99 as a side dish when dining there. I must confess I could see myself buying the macaroni salad to take home again, because it happens to be a favorite of mine. On our second visit, I had the pastrami Reuben and was very pleased with the selection. My wife had the Reuben again — go figure!

Needless to say, when we are in the area and in the mood for a sandwich, Rein’s is the place. The place is clean, service excellent, efficiently run and the food is very good. A big thumbs up to the find. When you are in the Vernon or Manchester, CT area, avail yourself of the opportunity to eat at Rein’s.

The Vinyl Phenomenon

The past couple of years have brought a renewed interest in a format many had considered long dead: the vinyl LP. While not really having died in the first place, it had taken a serious downturn and few albums were coming out in vinyl compared to the compact disc and now to MP3s and other digital formats.With a renewed interests and vinyl sales at a 28 year high, where do you go to look for those previous musical gems? Sure, you can order online from retailers such as Amazon and other similar venues, but what about browsing locally for some hard-to-find titles in good shape or perhaps some new rarities? Well I have some suggestions.

I am going to offer some recommendations as to where to shop for vinyl within driving distance in southeastern Connecticut. In Niantic, CT there is Tumbleweeds, which has been on Main Street in Niantic for 40 years, which I only recently discovered! My wife and I visited recently and I have the following thoughts on the place: great selection, sometimes expensive and they have a poor return policy for defective albums. The woman who runs the place told me they offer two days to return a record if there is a problem. I live in Norwich and sometimes it could be really hard for me to make the trip there within 2 days of purchase. I would think at least a week would be appropriate. Most eBay sellers have no trouble accepting returns within a week — not just 2 days max. Some people on Trip Advisor have written bad reviews about the place, particularly regarding price and the attitude of the owner/operator. I found her to be pleasant enough, though, and will return to peruse the large selection again. Another place I really like (and this one gets the nod as my favorite used record shop) is Mystic Disc in downtown Mystic, CT. Although very small in size, the place is crammed full of vinyl and the prices are reasonable for the quality. I find the owner Dan, who has been there for 30+ years, to be both knowledgeable and courteous. I can attest to the fact that he stands behind the records he sells, too. I have been doing business there for many years and plan to continue to do so. My third and final recommendation, if you are looking for some collectibles and “exclusives,” is Newbury Comics. A small chain of stores [I believe] based out of Massachusetts, they offer many exclusive new re-releases of older and newer albums in some crazy colors that are just fun to have. You can browse their stock in store in Warwick, R.I., Manchester, CT, and many MA and NH locations and online as well. They have a pretty decent inventory in their stores to look through. I know they have a couple of new exclusive releases of older holiday albums coming out that I am looking forward to getting.

Hopefully, this will give you some good starting places to get your hands on some great older and new vinyl! If you find a place worth knowing about, please email me at davew0958 @ gmail dot com.

The Norwich Bulletin

Last winter I chose to take the Norwich Bulletin up on their offer for a low cost year of unlimited digital access and a regular delivery of the Sunday paper. My wife loves the Sunday paper and especially enjoys clipping coupons and planning our weekly grocery shopping based on who has what and for how much. The value was very good at $20 for a year of Sunday papers and 24/7 access to the e paper. Or so I thought.

I had previously subscribed to the paper with daily delivery, but finally canceled when I often would not get the paper as agreed to. I would get a story about late trucks or an empty promise that someone would bring me a paper (which has never once come to fruition). Such problems have started happening again. There has been more than one occasion in recent times where the front porch held no Sunday paper for us and all a phone call did was waste my time with more stories of late trucks and promises for a delivery that never [not once] happened. For the record, we did find a note in the last paper we received that offered no apology, but did provide the carrier’s name and address so we could send him tips directly and bypass the Hartford Courant — which is now supposedly in charge of delivery services and will keep some or all of his gratuity.

I don’t understand how newspapers — which are at best struggling to be relevant in the information age we live in, can afford to lose customers over poor service? I know that when our subscription ends, I will not be renewing it. I can’t rely on it being delivered. Even at the full price, I would be getting it — if I could count on it. In fact, if these issues had not been so numerous over the past few years, I would still get it delivered 7 days a week. It is a shame such a basic service can’t be fulfilled as advertised. At least that is my personal history with it.

One More Time…

This is the third time I have subscribed to the Bulletin. They had a special on Black Friday where you pay $20 for a year of Sunday delivery and unlimited access to the ‘e-edition’ 7 days a week. Since I like the paper very much (just had bad luck with getting it delivered), I couldn’t resist the deal. So far, two weeks into it, the paper has been on my porch where I requested it be left. If I find it there again this Sunday, I’ll leave a tip! After all, good service should be encouraged and deserves compensation.

AGAIN With The Bulletin ;-(

ImageI just canceled a subscription to the Bulletin newspaper (local to the Norwich, CT area I live in) and wish to spell out the reasons: lack of service, lack of service and lack of service.  In just over a month, there have been two mornings that I had to call and inquire as to why there was no e-edition available for that day.  Moreover, I sent two unanswered e-mails to their I.T. guy to inquire about when they would fix a problem with the two editions (northeast and southeast) they offer that were incorrectly named.  I had downloaded a few editions of what I thought were for the southeast (covering the area I live in) only to discover that the articles I wanted to keep were not there, because the southeast edition was actually the northeast edition and vice-versa.

While being ignored is usually annoying in and of itself, what bugged me more was the fact that he never acknowledged my e-mail.  I didn’t expect much — a simple “thanks for notifying me, “I’ll look into it” [or something similar] would have sufficed.  Maybe they should stick to publishing one edition and try to get that right?

Then I got a call from somebody wanting to know why I had not renewed my subscription (she was calling about an old subscription I had canceled over a year ago at my former address that included a print edition that they could only seem to deliver to me about 3/5 of the time.  I think it was landing in the street and getting picked up, since I found it there more than once.  I guess throwing it on my door step was asking too much).

Then, recently, a new log-in screen appears that rejects my user name and password and tells me that I must sign up and pay lots of $ to access their web site and read their electronic edition.  I don’t think so. I was prepaid for the year and not about to shell out considerably more than I already have for the type of paper the Bulletin is.  Closing the log-in screen denies access to the e-edition and drops you back to their regular Web site.

I finally got a response from their I.T. guy when I e-mailed him about yet another issue and copied the editor and other staff in on the e-mail.  This time, the issue was the new log-in screen for the e-edition, which [at that time] I could just close and proceed to the e-edition, anyway, when it rejected my user name and password — only to discover some pages of that day’s edition and not the whole thing.  This went on for more than one day, let me throw in.  When he got back to me, he explained that the pages I saw when selecting the southeast edition were those that were different from the northeast and that  I would find the rest of it under the northeast edition.  What nonsense.  One thing after another.

All that being said, I called and canceled my subscription and my money is supposed to be refunded.  If you are considering an electronic newspaper subscription and live in the southeastern Connecticut area, I strongly suggest you go with the Day.  I have subscribed to that longer than the Bulletin and have had no problem getting the e-edition on my Kindle and full access to their Web site.  I also seem to find more content  than the Bulletin in their paper — at least it seems that way to me.  they definitely seem to cover the Norwich area fairly well.  What I don’t catch from them in terms of local news I seem to find on the local patch Web sites.  Maybe someday there will be a norwich.patch.com — that would be nice.  Maybe someday, Gatehouse will iron out their problems and service issues — that would be nice, too.

Comcast Customer Service?

When we bought our home last July, the Comcast sales rep I spoke to gave me a “double-play” package with Digital Preferred T.V. and Internet for 79.99 per month, provided I agreed to keep the package for 1 year.  I agreed and the installer came and set everything up.  Of course, he tried to set me up with phone service, too (which I explicitly said I did not need or want to the salesperson on the phone).  He was able to remove that (after a phone call), I signed his work order and off he went.

Service was decent for about a month and then trouble began.  The Cable modem would lose its connection and I would have to disconnect it from the splitter (which went to the T.V. in the study) and it would work, although rather slowly.  Whenever that happened, On-Demand would usually also fail to work  (weak return path).  This went on for a few weeks with at least 4 visits that I can recall until finally resolved.  I do remember on one of those calls that they said something about staying on the phone to agree to the contract (I had already agreed to when I ordered the service) and I clearly stated I had spent more than enough time on the phone with Comcast (too many calls and time on hold to count) and would take care of it later when they called back.  No other calls or postal correspondence regarding the matter were received.  None.

So today I checked my bill to see if a new one had arrived and was shocked to see one for over $198 with an early termination fee of $60 added and some other charge of nearly $18 on it.  Assuming it to be an obvious mistake, I called and was told I had not agreed to the contract, so the discount was gone and the contract terminated with a $60 fee.  I was then told by a guy named Brian, who got on the phone later in the conversation, that there was nothing he could do about the promotion (I would have to pay the additional $20 per month) but he would remove the $60 fee.  I called back to see what other packages were available as I had no intention of lying still for this and, when I explained the situation to somebody named Nadia, she waived the $17.97 charge but also said there was nothing she could do about the $20 increase.  She also claimed I have the best deal for what I want and lowering the package would actually cost me a little more.  She also said she understood my frustration.  Big deal.  As far as I am concerned, I was cheated out of over $160 in discounted service.

Thus, I am left checking out satellite providers this week (I hear they offer some decent deals) and will probably switch to DSL if I can find a package with suitable speed.  I have been happy with the service — since they finally (several visits later) fixed the problem and am sorry to have to look elsewhere, but I refuse to do business with a company that treats its customers this way.  The billing has always been hard to understand and fluctuates greatly from month to month (and I am taking into account the occasional pay-per-view we had ordered).  One month I got a bill for around $34 on the Web site and paid it.  The next month I got a much bigger bill indicating that 104 and change was past due>?  How can I pay it if I don’t know about it?  Crazy.  How many people just pay a bill without questioning it?  How many people get screwed with situations like I just did and pay the bill without question?  The $118.88 (which is supposed to what my bill is without any pay per view charges) translates to $1426.56 per year.  Maybe Comcast won’t miss that; I know I won’t miss paying it to them and their poor customer service (in my opinion).

Please spread the word.  There are alternatives.  Maybe some day we will be in the same position as people in Groton and have a competing cable company to choose.  At least we have satellite providers.

Chester’s Barbecue… Avoid This One.

Karen and I paid a visit to the Bozrah Farmer’s Market again this evening and decided to try the Chester’s BBQ stand for some dinner.  I had the brisket sandwich with a side of coleslaw and baked beans (which seemed to me like they were nothing more than doctored beans out of a can).  I also had a bottle of water.  Karen had two small  pieces of chicken (one of which was a leg) and also a side each of beans and slaw.  Her chicken looked terrible – dried up and over done.  My “brisket” sandwich was pathetically small.  We both agreed that the coleslaw left something to be desired.  The cost for this small and rather un-tasty culinary experience?  Try a hefty $23.00!  Absurd.  Poor quality, small portions and way over-priced.  Avoid Chester’s BBQ – at least at the Farmer’s Market.  Sadly, there’s not much choice for dinner items there, so eat before you go.  The market itself is fun, though, and we recommend a visit.

Girard Ford: Your “Buddy in the Business?”

The following is my opinion and an accounting of my experiences with Girard Ford:

My dealings with Girard Ford began in late August 2009 when I looked at a truck at their dealership on West Thames Street in Norwich.  A friend who is a car salesman works there, having transferred from  a Kia Dealership where I had previously bought an Optima, showed me an F-150 that was pretty much what I was looking for and let me take it over night (a tactic which I am sure sells a lot of cars).

I liked the truck, but discovered very soon after taking it that the door mechanism on the passenger side wasn’t working and for my wife to get in I had to climb in and open the door form the inside.  When I returned to negotiate the purchase, I insisted they fix it before I buy the vehicle and they agreed (reluctantly) to do so.  They thought I should take it and come back when the part needed (which they had to order) came in.  I told them no way – why would I want to buy a brand new truck that I knew already needed repair, had a malfunctioning passenger door and would also inconvenience me me (in terms of time) having it repaired?  They took the part out of another of their several F-150s on the lot – which they should have just done in the first place and not even suggested I return in a week or two when they got the part in.

Anyway, I bought the truck and immediately had them clean the stain from the seat that was left by their people who “prepped” the truck for delivery before I drove it off the lot.  It was, like the door handle mechanism, annoying — but taken care of after some complaining.  Shortly thereafter, I returned to have them fix a faulty interior dome light switch (which they needed to order a replacement for).  Not only did it often not work, it even fell out of the roof at one point.  Of course, having no parts in stock or willingness to take one from their existing stock of vehicles, they ordered one and I returned again to have it put in.  A few months later, it fell out of the cab ceiling again and required a return to have it put back in.  The service guy informed me that they would not charge me for the repair – like he was doing me some sort of favor.  Had they attached it correctly in the first place, I doubt I would have needed to return and spend my time there.

Oil changes were always lengthy there (usually close to an hour) and resulted in things like a failure to reset the oil life warning indicator on one occasion and incorrectly calculating the return mileage on two other occasions (apparently the oil changing guy isn’t too up on math).  On another trip to have the squeaking springs fixed, I was told when the job was completed — that they “torqued” the springs and everything was all set.  I immediately got in and discovered no change at all in the noise of the springs.  I wonder if they did anything at all.  I learned to live with it.  But, for the record, I noticed no difference from before I brought it in to have it fixed and after I picked it up.

In February 2011, I was involved in a serious accident (was hit by an uninsured, unregistered, unlicensed guy driving through a stop sign) and had my truck repaired there at their “collision center.”  They seemed to do a decent job and I found the manager, Rachel, to be pleasant and professional.  Shortly after getting the truck back, I noticed that the steering wheel seemed to be a little loose – moving slightly up and down and side to side.  I wasn’t sure whether or not it was just the nature of that particular model of  tilt wheel and it was the first time I noticed it or a post-accident issue.  I decided to let it go for the time being, as it wasn’t that bad.  Over the past year and more recently it began to get worse and I made an appointment to go see them and get it fixed.  When I called the guy to see if the truck was done (they NEVER have the courtesy to call me), I was told it was all set -but would cost me $101 and change.  I was informed it was not warranty work, because Ford did not cover loose nuts and bolts.  Wow, is that crazy or what?  I guess a 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty doesn’t really mean bumper to bumper when it comes to what holds the vehicle together!  When I asked if that couldn’t have been caused by the accident, since they had to replace the airbag -and I’m thinking didn’t tighten that bolt down correctly, I was basically given an “I don’t know” answer and it was explained that the collision center is separate from the rest of the dealership.  Funny, I could have sworn the name on the invoice was Girard Ford.  I got a vague response from the service rep I spoke to (who might consider another line of work) when confronted about whether or not he thought that a bolt loosening in less than 2 years and 25000 miles was normal was given an I don’t know – the same answer I got when I asked what could have caused it.  After complaining to the manager of the collision center and making it known that I would devote considerable time and energy into letting people know how bad their service is and their lack of integrity, I got a call back to tell me that she had decided that her shop would cover the bill – on the chance that their repair job had something to do with the loose bolt.  So it went from ‘no way could it be our fault’ to a possibility when I mentioned that they had lost me as a customer, I would inform both Ford and Geico of my experience and anyone else in the market for a vehicle that would listen.

So I picked up the truck – it seems to be fixed and they didn’t charge me.  If I didn’t make some phone calls and complain, I would have been screwed with a $101 nut-tightening job.

I had heard that Antonino dealerships didn’t always have the best reputation and I can say that my own experiences with Girard Ford and my wife’s with Michael Kia a few months ago seem to confirm this.  When I posted my complaints on Facebook, several people responded with similar issues.  I think, from now on, I’ll get it serviced at either Columbia Ford or Valenti in Mystic.  fortunately, we have choices.

So, there it is.  I’m sure people have had worse experiences with car dealerships, but mine is bad enough for me to warrant a little service center shopping.

Bulletin Follow-Up

Some time has passed since I cancelled the Norwich Bulletin and I can certainly say that I don’t miss it, with its random delivery and overall lack of content. Some important national or world news on the front page would have been nice…

I am finding I can get most of what I need (in terms of local news) from sites like patch.com.

I got a call from somebody at the Bulletin a few weeks after cancelling to try and lure me back for 1/2 price. I thought it necessary to explain to him, “half price for half a paper is still no bargain.”