Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pavement Hell

Let's start with the assumption that inhaling the fumes from hot asphalt year after year destroys brain cells. At least that would provide some plausible explanation as to why my 4 DAY paving project took 4 WEEKS to complete.

Yes, I've been living in blacktop hell and I think of Phil as the Devil himself.

Phil is the person that we contracted to dig up our front parking lot, add several inches of new limestone for drainage and repave... IN APRIL!

We had a very wet spring. That put Phil behind. I understood. Mother Nature is not to be messed with. Phil assured us that he would be here in May. I understood, shuffled classes, made adjustments. No Phil. June 1st, Phil was still behind. More shuffling, more adjusting. I suggested that Phil wait until the first week of August to do our job. We are closed the first week of August and he could have the whole place to himself for an entire week. Phil laughed. He would be long gone by August 1st. Ours was a "little" 4 day job - if that! Probably wouldn't take more than 3 days. He would be here next week at the latest... he recited that exact statement to me each week for 4 consecutive weeks.

July 1st, just 4 months behind schedule, Phil delivered equipment to our parking lot. Then Phil got sick. He sent his "crew" to do the job. "The Plan" was for the men to dig up 1/2 of the lot, stone it and put down the base. Customers would have half of the lot to use. The next day they would repeat the process for the other half of the lot while customers parked on the base. Day three was "planned" to be a Sunday when we are closed, the top coat would go on the entire lot.

That would have been nice.

That isn't how it happened.

Phil's guys didn't understand "The Plan"

Phil's guys tore up the pavement and delivered crushed concrete. Crushed concrete isn't limestone. Limestone drains, crushed concrete doesn't. That explains the giant puddle in the photo. The whole reason for doing the job was to provide drainage and prevent heaving in the winter. We paid for limestone - We wanted limestone. We made them rip several ton of crushed concrete out and do it again. That took a week. Phil's guys weren't happy. Phil understood, but he still couldn't make them understand "The Plan".

Then the hydraulics broke on the paving machine and I left town for a week. My darling husband promised me that he would do his best to have Phil out of our life by the time I got back. I still love him anyway.

While I was away the Stooges managed to dig a trench and fill it in, forgetting that it was to be filled with the rock that was in the truck just 3 feet away. Do over #2.

They also managed to dig up our entrance drive (thank heaven we also have an exit drive at the opposite end of the lot) park their equipment and leave for the weekend. I was not happy when I returned and neither was Mother Nature. She stormed and dumped 18 inches of mud in our catch basin. Phil's guys had to clean it out.

I have a friend that keeps threatening to make t-shirts that say "Life is hard. It's even harder when you are stupid". I would like to buy them for Phil's Stooges.

Yesterday was the virtual straw that broke the camels back. Paving day. They were finally ready to put the top coat on the entire lot. Remembering "The Plan", they were to pave one half at a time. I remembered the plan - they didn't. I began to eye the steamroller and plot evil deeds.

All of our customers were forced to use the back parking lot - where the workmen stashed all of their equipment and trucks eating up more than half of the parking spaces. Then they had to enter through the back door and climb down a flight of stairs! We also had to receive UPS, FedEx and a tractor trailer delivery of a sewing center and cabinet down that same flight of stairs. Phil had to go. What ever it takes, Phil needed to be gone by the end of the day!!! I had had ENOUGH!

At 6pm I returned to the lot to find this. They ran out of asphalt with 3 feet left to go!

Just shoot me now....

Today they returned to "finish" the job, get out of my life, and they are done....

Except that they have to come back "later" to paint the lines for the parking spaces. I said "Great, you can do that next week while we are closed". Phil looked at me with his best Customer Service smile and replied "Can't. I'm on vacation next week."

I hope my $24,000 has a good time at the beach.

Monday, July 25, 2011

And the Winner is........


Your comment was selected by the random number generator to receive the free fat quarters! I also want to thank everyone that participated. We received some wonderful feedback and we will look closely at your requests as we do our future planning.

Judging from the comments that we received, most of you will be happy to see the new website when it goes live in the near future (keep in mind that "near" is relative - I think the first of September is really, really, near - but plan is to have it ready for the first week of August!) I agree whole heartily that it should have been done much sooner, but it is extremely time consuming and tedious work. Once we are up to speed, maintaining it will be easy, but doing all of the background work isn't my idea of a fun job. Let's face it, we here at The Quilt Company are all about the fun. It is why we come to work each day.

Then there is that little matter of ever changing technology. Our suppliers have been preaching "Social Media" as the way to go for over a year now. I have a website that is getting a total overhaul, I am repeatedly told I don't blog enough, I have to create yet another Facebook page for the store so that you can "like" us (ignore the current page - it isn't a business page and the new rules require a specific business page, it will go live with the new website)

Industry big wigs can't believe I don't tweet on Twitter. Really? Do all of you really want to know the details of my world? Because I can pretty much guarantee that the tweet I would be sending this morning would read something like "Of course it is RAINING! Now the fricken asphalt guy has yet ANOTHER reason that he won't be finishing the parking lot today". Later I might have to tweet that you should "Ignore the lump in the parking lot paving - I realize it is shaped like a body that has been flattened with a steamroller but that is a coincident. For the record I haven't seen Phil". That would probably get me into trouble and I would end up residing in a place that won't allow you to have pins, needles, scissors or other sharp impliments. Then where would we be?

The whole reason for the survey was to get a good idea of what my customers really want. I hear you - Sunday hours. Every now and then Sunday hours might be possible, but 7 days a week? Not happening. I have a life outside the shop too. More evening hours? We are already open on Monday and Thursday until 9pm. That is more hours than any other quilt shop in our area. You love Brandon - I can understand why. We have award winning customer service when it comes to our BERNINA Tech. Fast, reliable, and reasonably priced. What more could you want? How about 3 years of FREE Cleaning and a fabric discount? That is what is in the works for our those that purchase their BERNINA from us and we still have the absolute best prices on machines. Events - we are planning even more! Trunk shows for October and January. Handmade for the Holidays is planned for the Community Center so that everyone that wants to can attend.

If you are sorry that you didn't take the opportunity to voice your opinion, it isn't too late. You won't be in the running for the free fat quarters, but you can still speak your mind. Email me directly: mailto: I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Don't Forget!!

The Quilt Company will be CLOSED FOR VACATION

from August 1-6.

Monday, July 18, 2011

On The Road Again

Hello from sunny and sweltering hot San Antonio, Texas

I'm off again on another business trip. This time to south Texas in the middle of July for BERNINA University. I lead such a glamorous life. Why a company would book a convention in south Texas when the average daily temperature is in triple digits is beyond me, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.

I do have to admit that the River Walk here is absolutely beautiful. Anyone that has the opportunity to visit would have to be jealous that their hometown doesn't have one. Wait - I live in the Pittsburgh area and we have three rivers! How hard would it be to dig a few canals, line them with fabulous shops and restaurants and beautiful landscaping? Someone should get right on that.

If you follow my blog, you already know that some of my travel woes are legendary. This trip started out a bit rocky when I attempted to print my boarding passes the evening before we left. A process that should be no big deal. Three hours and six phone calls later and I will admit to heaping some serious verbal a** kicking on the customer "service" operator, I had the required boarding passes. It took that long because the discount ticket agent that I used (Cheap-O Air - which should have been my first clue) "adjusted" our flights way back in April and "forgot" to "push the change thought the system" - for three months. Despite the phone conversation I had with them just three days earlier.

On the first flight I had the opportunity to catch up on some serious business reading. On the second flight I had the joy of sitting next to Quinn, an 8 year old traveling alone on his way home from his Grandma's and a trip to Disneyland. His very thoughtful Grandma packed him an entire backpack of sugary treats to keep him occupied on the trip. - gee thanks Grandma. I can attest to the fact that a zip lock bag of Oreo's, Sweedish Fish, Starburst Fruit Chews and a Slim Jim topped off with a can of Sprite are a volatile combination. - special thanks to the flight attendant that offered me a free glass of wine, but that even I don't drink at 10:30am. But I digress.

One of the business articles that I read was on Customer Service - or the lack of it, which I was experiencing first hand. In this article the business Guru's make a point that in order to provide excellent customer service, you should ask your customers what they want. Good idea.

So while I am sweltering on the River Walk here in south Texas, I have chores for you. Respond with a comment to this message and answer the following questions. I know that many of you are located in other states so you don't shop in my store, but you may order from us online. You can respond to my questions with answers that would apply to your own local quilt shop. Take part, participate, I will make it worthwhile. You have until July 24th to leave a comment, on the 25th I will use a random number generator to select a comment to receive a beautiful 8 piece fat quarter bundle. - that 2 yards of fabric for doing a little homework! Here are your questions:

What ONE thing could we do to improve customer service?

What ONE service could we add to make it more convenient to shop with us?

What ONE class or event could we add that you would like to attend?