Archive for the ‘Personal Life’ Category

Hot Water Tank Insulation Proposal

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Below is a proposal I wrote to my Condominium Association Board and Members January 27th 2011.

Board and fellow condominium association members,

The following is a proposal for insulating our building’s hot water tanks.


Insulating the two hot water storage tanks and pipes will cost $3,200, provide more than $1,371 annual energy savings, and provide an annual return on investment of more than 43% (less than 2.33 year payback period).  I urge the Board and fellow condominium association members to support this investment; it is rare to find an annual ROI of more than 43%.


  • Two AO Smith T-200 water tanks. (Confirmed)
  • Boiler requires well ventilated room .
    • Ventilation required to constitute combustion in water heater.
    • Exposure to external temperatures year round. (See Footnote 1)
  • Gas Prices from Peoples Gas website (See Footnote 2)
  • Pipe insulation was included in the cost, but not in energy savings.
  • Hot water temperature is 130° F (Temperature measured at faucet)
  • R Value of insulation is 10.00
  • R Value of tank wall is 0.60


Water Tank Insulation Proposal


  1. Temperature data:
  2. I made a request to the Board for a copy of the utility bills on August 23rd 2010.  I did not receive a response, therefore, I used cost data based from the Peoples Gas website:

Open Letter: Chicago Bagel Authority (CBA)

January 17, 2011 4 comments

I first came to the Chicago Bagel Authority (CBA) because of a Groupon.  I loved the place!  The food was great, and the staff was friendly.  I was left with an extremely positive perception of the CBA.

Saturday, I returned with a few friends of mine.  I was excited to show them what the CBA was all about.  Although, when I tried to use the second and last Groupon I had purchased, I was unable to use it. I was told I could not use a Groupon on the weekend. Concerned, I looked at the terms and conditions of the Groupon and could not find wording which indicated the Groupon could not be used on the weekend, or wording that would allow the terms to be changed post-purchase.

I asked to speak to a manager and was told he was not in. I then asked to speak to the manager-on-duty; I was told there was not one and that every employee was a manager of the co-op.

My positive perception of the CBA quickly changed.  The customer behind me in line also came to use his Groupon.  He decided to leave; not paying for the food he had ordered.  Trying not to ruin my fiends experience I decided to stay and paid cash.

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H&R Block Confuses Customers

January 4, 2011 5 comments

H&R Block is really frustrating me; do they want me as a customer, or not?

I started doing my tax return with H&R Block online last week.  Upon visiting the site, I clicked on the “Start Now” under the FREE edition.  As returning user, I entered my username and password and clicked log-in.  Suddenly, I was thrown into the Premium service, without warning.   Thirty minutes went by as I tried to search the FAQ, support, and rest of the internet for a way to switch back to the free edition.

Giving up, I called their support phone number.  The gentlemen I spoke to asked for my e-mail address and birth date to verify my account. He verified that I was in a  premium account, but was unable to tell me how I got to the premium section without paying or how to get back to a free account, making sure I did not have to pay later.  It sounded like he was a complete novice.  I must have spent 20 minutes on the phone with H&R Block cycling between representative confusion and hold music.

Frustrated, I asked for the gentleman’s supervisor.  He requested my Social Security Number in order to verify my account.  Why would I be asked for my Social Security Number when requesting a supervisor?  And why now, not before.   That made absolutely no sense to me.  I refused to divulge the information as it served no purpose, and I had already been verified.

I was about to be late to a Fit-Core class at my gym, so I thanked the gentlemen and hung up.

Now, a week later, I am trying once again to start working on my tax return.  I login, and see this message:

H&R Block Online 2010 Screen Capture

H&R Block Online 2010 Screen Capture

What am I supposed to do? Was this proof-read at all?

  • The explanation makes no sense to me
  • There appears to be internal-use-only jargon and/or industry acronyms within the explanation
  • What is this newsletter they are describing?
  • What are the implications, other than price, for switching?
  • Will my tax data be deleted either way?
  • There is a space before a period within the explanation

I think it’s time to file with TurboTax Free edition.


Upon publishing this post, an automated Tweet went out on twitter, and I quickly got a response from H&R Block. I responded with my phone number a and the best time to call which they acknowledged.  Promptly, at the time I specified, I got a call back from H&R Block!  Within ten minutes H&R Block had apologized and solved my problem!

I would have liked to thank H&R Block for their quick response, but it is hard to do that when I had to go through all of this just to solve a problem that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.  Furthermore:  their initial line of support should have been able to solve this just as quick!

Aldi Takes Customer Service to the Next Level

August 21, 2010 9 comments

For quite some time now, I have been a deal hunter.  I’m cheap.  I love deals.  And thus, Aldi, a value oriented grocery store, has become a staple in my life.  Aldi’s strategy is quite simple; offer a low variate of store brand products at a small no frills store.

If you want a cart, you have to deposit a quarter to borrow  it (you get the quarter back when you return the cart). Want a bag?  It will cost you $0.15.

With all this attention to cost cutting, you would think they would also skimp on customer service. That is not case. I recently communicated with Aldi about a change in their Bran Flakes recipe, and I have been amazed at the level of service I have received.

The Bran Flakes I used to buy from Aldi were outstanding. And at $1.59 a box, you couldn’t find a better deal, even if your life depended on it.  However, the manufacturer of the cereal recently changed the recipe they use to produce the product, and I was not impressed with the change.  I still eat the Bran Flakes, but I don’t enjoy them as much as I used to.

I thought I would express my dissatisfaction with the recipe change to Aldi via their website.

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Chicago Signature Lounge Open Letter

July 3, 2010 1 comment

After visiting the Signature Lounge, part of the Signature Room, located in Chicago’s John Hancock building, I felt compelled to write this letter.  Both the service and product were poor and left my friends and I greatly underwhelmed.

To Whom It May Concern,

A little over a month ago on May 22nd, my best friend and I were entertaining two friends from out of town.  None of use had ever been to the signature lounge so we thought we could give it a try and see what all they hype was about.

Our first impressions while waiting in line were good; there were many staff members to direct customers through the lines and bring them upstairs, and they were all well dressed.

It wasn’t too long after we were seated that our server, Adri P., took our drink order.  Even though the wait wasn’t too terribly long, it was still much longer than one would expect given the expectations a $15 drink would bring.  Waiting for our drinks to arrive gave us the same feeling.

We were very underwhelmed when our drinks finally came. If you were unaware, the cocktails served at the Signature Lounge are quite low in alcohol content.  The presentation was decent, but that doesn’t make up for the fact we received what many would consider $15 virgin drinks.

Online Shipping; The Pain it Shouldn’t Be!

April 26, 2010 1 comment

Last Saturday I was trying to print a simple postage label for a package I wanted to ship.  All I wanted was a shipping label.  I thought it would take me five minutes at, but it turns out a pot-roast cooks in less time that it takes to print a shipping label!  After using their sites, I have come to the conclusion that the United States Postal Service (USPS) and United Parcel Service (UPS) go through very little, if any, user acceptance testing.  FedEx isn’t much better; I did get a label in 10 minutes, but their rates are significantly higher than I was willing to pay.  Here are the pains I felt while navigating though the websites of the three major United States shippers.

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