Cincinnati Bell delivers the worst customer service

No Cincy BellI used to be a big fan of Cincinnati Bell. Recommended them for business services often. Same copper as Ameritech/ATT/SBC Global or whatever they want to call themselves- but cheaper. Most of the time, the guy who came out to deal with problems was from ATT.

Last August we lost our main work number for 5 days. We quickly forwarded it to the rollover number- and waited. We had 3 different service calls- each guy said the same thing- it’s at the central office. Cincinnati Bell was in utter denial. About the same time- our DSL started acting wonky too. Could barely get any work done. Constant disconnects- loss of connectivity. No amount of calling their call center in who knows where helped.

I decided to make a change. It was time to go to Voice over IP- and I picked Ooma business for a solution. I was going to drop my 2 voice lines, keep my fax and the DSL- which by this time was working, and spend the $100 or so I was saving in phone bills- and use it to get much faster internet over the air- from Dayton Digital Development (yes – I know he needs a better site). The reason for keeping one land line was for the burglar alarm and because when the power goes out- we would still have one working phone line. I also realized our business depends too much on the Internet to not have a backup.

The Federal government passed a law about the porting or transferability of phone numbers- requiring it to happen in one business day for “simple ports” – yet Cincinnati Bell and Ooma say it should complete in 30 days. Fine- I request the port in early September. It gets rejected in early October. Ostensibly because I was “in contract.” This began a series of calls, and additional report requests. To make a long story short, after the contract freeze excuse was cleared, for the next 5 months, Cincinnati Bell kept refusing port requests, but wouldn’t say why. Finally, after requesting help from the PUCO, it came out that there was an “Open work order” that was holding up the process- and yet- another month went by and still no port. Cincinnati Bell was now claiming I had never told them what number was porting.

With a few more calls to the PUCO- and their intervention, I finally got my number ported at the beginning of March. All this time, not using my number for anything but a forwarding number to Ooma. Cincinnati Bell did manage to raise my rate $3 for my DSL during this period- and continued to bill me for a number and 375 anytime minutes that we didn’t need since we were using VOIP the whole time.

Now, all requests for refunds fall on dead foreign ears.

One of the reasons I liked doing business with Cincinnati Bell was because it was “Cincinnati Bell”- and not “Voice of the Philippines” – but, alas, customer service and responding to customers problems isn’t important to them.

For 6 months, when I was calling out from my business line, the number people were seeing on their cell phones didn’t register as my business. How many calls didn’t get picked up right away, how many opportunities I lost, didn’t matter to Cincinnati Bell.

I’m filing a complaint with the FCC now- and planning on taking Cincinnati Bell to court.

One tip I can give you- you’ll get better and more attention from their Social Media team every time. Forget using a phone to complain to this “phone(y) company.”

Incompetence of Dayton City Hall on their Street light tax

Screenshot of Dayton Streetlight assessment

I don’t even own my own home according to the city of Dayton

$6.69 was how much the Certified mail cost.

Time to prepare the letter- stuff the envelope with the 4 checks totaling $577.92 to return, had to cost another $20 in labor, paper, envelope etc.

Instead of getting their money now, they’ve turned it over to the Montgomery County Treasurer- adding additional costs- of data entry, and adding to bills- in an installment plan over the next 6 years.

Instead of cash in hand, they now get it in six payments.

All because they claim it wasn’t received by their deadline- despite being mailed in the same city 2 days before.

This, is what we call in business, STUPID.

Obviously, Finance Director C. LaShea Smith doesn’t understand net present value, or labor costs.

This is a horrendous waste of taxpayers’ money.

Just opening letters and posting the accounts would take them days.

Having a hard deadline, while they may think makes things “fair”- without an unofficial grace period, is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

And note, since none of my four assessments was over $250, they never mailed me anything.

The only reason I knew where to go to find out the amount that was due- was because they had sent my father an email with a link to the site with the amounts.

There I was amazed to find out that someone in Beavercreek owned my house.

Still incorrect: Go to type in my last name and see this (screen shot above):

Voucher Link Account Number Parcel ID Parcel Location Owner Name Owner Name Cont. Owner Address Street Light District Annual Amount (Advanced Payment) Total Amount (Advanced Payment)
View Voucher 15645 R72 02702 0021 113 BONNER ST DAVID ESRATI 2130 HEDGE GATE BLVD B $37.60 $225.60
View Voucher 15652 R72 02702 0028 122 BONNER ST DAVE ESRATI 113 BONNER ST B $16.94 $101.64
View Voucher 15656 R72 02702 0033 100 BONNER ST DAVID ESRATI 113 BONNER ST B $25.07 $150.42
View Voucher 15668 R72 02702 0046 120 BONNER ST DAVE ESRATI 113 BONNER ST B $16.71 $100.26

Apparently, the city IT people are incompetent as well- after talks with someone in the treasurer’s office, they determined that the city was pulling from the wrong data field- and that on my house record, someone had transposed numbers back in 2010 and fixed all the main screens- but just not this one.

Calls to the city weren’t returned in a timely manner- and the issue is obviously still not fixed.

Ms. Smith ends her expensive letter with “We appreciate your support and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.”

How about, “I’m sorry, we like to waste your tax dollars, and cost the city money, because we really don’t know what we’re doing.”

If I was a city commissioner, I’d be asking City Manager Tim Riordan about the competence of his staff. Maybe if they weren’t so busy giving money away to businesses and developers to keep them in Dayton, they wouldn’t be turning their noses up at cash being sent to them.


Soon after posting this, Kerry Gray, assistant to the City Commission, called about this. He took notes to pass to the commission. He told me that only 1.7% of the properties attempted to pay in advance. Can you say #FAIL


The dilemma of the friends and family plan comes to light

Karen Wick Gagnet and Jim Gagnet are like family to me. I’ve known them for over 20 years. I’ve watched in amazement as Jim has set his sights on redevelopment and done things that others wouldn’t even dream of. The list of his successes is formidable. At one point, he was teamed up with Tom Tornatore and they tried to rehab almost all of the Oregon business district single handedly. They ended up in bankruptcy when local lenders didn’t have the balls or vision to see what these two were up to. The buildings that house the 5th St. Wine and Deli, Roost Modern Italian, Luckys, the Samu (which has Press, Sew Dayton and  Pulse) and Johnston (with Clash Consignments) were all part of their “empire” as was the Diner- now Vex.

Jim shook off that fall, and started back. The derelict building in South Park without a roof- at 412 Hickory was his next major project. He paid $30K for a building that had negative value. He rebuilt the roof, the floors, the windows- all from cash since no bank would lend. He also took on building Coco’s number 2 on Wayne Avenue- most of which was built with his own sweat equity.

They hired my firm- The Next Wave to develop the identity, the ads, the menu design. We built their website, I was even involved with the architectural plans. They’ve been good clients for a long time.

Now, they are being drawn and quartered on the front page of the Dayton Daily news for getting preferential treatment by the city. Lots they’ve bought had been dumped on, and may have even contained some of the materials from their rehab of adjoining homes. From the DDn:

City Public Works Director Fred Stovall said the Coco’s owners called city Street Maintenance Supervisor Jim Brinegar directly and asked for the cleanup; he stressed it was for their residential property, not their business. Brinegar OK’d it, and the city hauled off roughly eight truckloads of trash.

Last Wednesday, the crew came back for another pile. At least five city workers were at the site, along with two city dump trucks and a city front-loader, which was scooping up blocks of concrete.

Stovall said city workers hauled away another eight truckloads that day, but he put a stop to it when contacted by the Daily News. He estimates the roughly 16 truckloads at two cleanups cost the city about $2,600.

via City cleans up private property for Coco’s Bistro owner |

To many in Dayton, this is an insult. Repeated calls about dumping are often ignored. Alleys and empty lots in other areas of the city are ignored. But, this is Dayton, where we have no problem shooting anyone in the back who dares to do anything other than what the herd mentality rewards.

The reality is, if our city were working properly, we wouldn’t be a dumping ground. The other reality is, Nan Whaley has fundraisers at Coco’s. We do take care of those who take care of our politicians. But, even if the bill was $5,000 or $10,000 this is a bogus chump change argument- a public lynching of good people for the benefit of selling papers (notice I don’t call it a newspaper).

The City Commission gave UPS a buyout of a lease that was to run through 2019- with annual revenue to the city of almost $2 million a year, as well as the requirement to maintain the old Emery Air Freight hub in pristine, operational condition. The city took the net present value, or about $7 million as a buyout. The commission then gave away half of it- to IRG- carpetbaggers from California- and a three-year lease on the property which is due to expire in the spring of next year. IRG then proceeds to scrap  everything of value in the building to put more money in their pockets, lets the facility go to hell, and has next to nothing to show for it.

That didn’t make the front page of the paper. Let’s see- $3,000 is iTeam worthy- but $3 million+ isn’t?

I don’t think that the city should have cleared the private lots based on published city policy. When my neighbor Rodney bought the dump  of a house next to my cottages for tax value, he’s had to pay for all the debris hauling- and he’s still being charged taxes at the same rate as I am for my cottages- despite the fact his has no utilities and is falling apart. We need to provide fair and honest service to our citizens, regardless of who you know, and how much money you have. It’s the American way.

Had it not been for the Gagnets, the city would still have a bunch of under-utilized empty buildings- not just on Warren street, but in the Oregon District as well. They are the real champions of economic development- and they deserve not to be prosecuted in the court of public opinion because our city is run by petty criminals who take care of themselves and those they like- with the  infamous friends and family plan.

I often get told that my lack of tact makes me unacceptable as a candidate for commission. I believe in open, honest discussion of issues, and stick to the facts, the truth and look at things from an objective point of view. This is an incredibly hard post to publish. It’s also risking a client. There are no other candidates who will touch this with a 10-foot pole, or open their sites up to comments and discussion- I do, I always have, and I always will. You don’t have to like me, or my positions, but I promise one thing, you will respect me for not playing favorites or ducking the hard subjects. Thank you for reading.

The honey-do in Dayton List

All on my own, I managed to kill my mower (can’t blame the little brother this time). I tried to fix what I could- cleaned the carb, got a new governor spring, changed the filter, plug and oil. Nada.

But, I had forgotten about my post- about lawn mower repair (luckily my girlfriend reminded me):

Enter ad on Craigs list:

I am looking for running or non running lawn mowers, riding mowers, snow blowers, etc……. also looking for running or non running cars and trucks that people are giving away or selling for very very cheap, if you have any of these items or know some one that does, please keep my number and let me know.

My name is Mark 937-269-3649 Greatly appreciated, thanks for your time.

We also do minor repairs on lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc…….. Thanks.

I called. Mark and his brother came out to look at my 4 mowers. I told them I just wanted one to work- preferably the big wheel one I bought a few years back. It was raining- we were discussing price- and they started talking about a receipt- or me taking down their license number. I said if I can’t trust you to do this on a handshake, life isn’t really worth it.

2 hours later- they brought back the big wheel mower working. Swapped engines with one of the others- sharpened the blade. Still needs a new plug and filter- but- it’s running.

via Small business needs help and customers: Mower repair.

Called Mark and his brother again- and they came, picked up the mower, replaced the coil and I’ve got a working mower again. All within a few hours- and inexpensively at that.

They even said that a few of my readers had called them after the last post. Thank you. The brothers are also doing light mechanical work on cars- and staying afloat, but could always use more mower work, so if your mower isn’t working- give them a call.

Next up- tree trimming. The front of our house is a mini forest- with 4 trees. One is overpowering another and we need to get it trimmed back- and the branches hauled away. Once again- my girlfriend checked my blog- and called Dan Fugate for an estimate- also from my blog- as my mother thanked the neighborhood for recommending a tree service:

David – please thank Bob for posting all the recommendations for help with the tree. You were right – it was amazing. Shows how much we care about our trees in South Park. We called several people and decided on Dan Fugate who owns D&F Tree Service, tel: 937-256-5178. Michael Di Flora recommended him.

In addition to being a top-notch pro, Mr. Fugate gets points for personality and price. He says that word of mouth is always helpful so anyone who would like to hear more about him should feel free to call us: (You can e-mail me- david at elect esrati dot com if you want to chat about this)

By the way, he spotted the empty cottage next door and expressed an interest. Said he would like to come back and live in South Park. We’d love to have him as a neighbor.

via How a connected neighborhood works.

And, while I’m at it- if you think you have a bedbug problem in Dayton, call Reene Gonzalez of Militerriers– 937-969-0898 who will bring out their bedbug-sniffing dog and locate the infestation so you can deal with it most efficiently. They bought three buildings in South Park and are working on them diligently, he’s active duty Army with 7 deployments to the sandbox- and the dog is amazing. (Full disclosure- they are a client of my firm as well). A neighbor came home from a NYC shopping trip- and thought she got bit in the hotel. She called Reene- and had been smart- leaving her luggage in her car- the dog came out- checked the house and the car and luggage for bedbugs- and found them in the luggage- saving a major infestation.

I also am going to mention my two favorite, reliable handymen. Bob Thade of Thade Construction- 937-256-5290, for doing any kind of remodeling, repair, fine carpentry (crown moldings, stairs etc). He’s worked with me on 5 properties and always done an amazing job at a reasonable price. This is a twenty-year-plus experience- and I can’t recommend him highly enough.

Lastly- when it comes to heating and air, Matt York of United Heating and Air is one of the smartest mechanical guys I’ve met. He’s licensed as a plumber, electrician, boilers, heating and air and probably as three other things. He works really hard, is reliable and will save you money. He’s also forward thinking- and has been doing geo-thermal installations, solar and even wind. Call him-937-239-5011. [Update Oct 2011- Matt seems to have fallen off the face of the earth]

If you’d like to recommend anyone else as if your life depended on it- as the best people to solve your honey-do problems, feel free to add them in comments- however, I ask that only those of you willing to put your full real name and real e-mail on the form- do so. I will not let this become a place for self-promotion or spam links.

With all that said- I’m going to go cut grass before the rain comes.

It’s all about “protection”

The thing I love about insurance companies is that they are like the mob now. Ever since we allowed them to stop being mutuals and they became faceless corporations- they’ve been allowed to run a racket where they get rich no mater what- and you pay through the nose if you don’t purchase their services.

Ever notice how every time there is a “disaster” – the fed jumps in and covers for them? Did AIG go bellyup? Nope.

Well, we seem to have the same mobster mentality in Dayton City Hall- that government is going to protect us from “irresponsible owners” of liquor licenses. If you don’t play our game- you won’t have a license- never mind that there are already rules in place at the State complete with a department of enforcement.

Mayor Gary Leitzell seems to miss the point that being business friendly (that thing they spend our tax dollars on in the name of “economic development”) means not adding extra hoops to jump through at every step- but, his approach to the long-running liquor permit issue in the Oregon District is more hoops:

The residents of Oregon have no protection if a license is sold to an irresponsible owner which is why they cling to the saturation ruling. If all additional liquor licenses were “Agreed Orders” (also called cooperative agreements) and written in such a way that would prevent the license from transferring if the business were sold and the nature of the business were changed it would give the residents some protection.

via Three-minute thinking.

What right of oversight should the residents have? And how is it going to be enforced? Will the question be put on the ballot- or run in a kangaroo court like the Priority Boards? Who gets to vote? The Oregon District belongs to all of us- not just the people who live within 3 blocks of E. Fifth Street. Would it be a precinct vote- or a citywide vote? What happens when the BOE redraws the precincts?

How does an “agreed order” or a “conditional use” or any of these other zoning type of restrictive covenants really protect people? Or does it just diminish the rights of owners by the government writing itself into the operation without compensation?

My business is in a residential neighborhood. The building was originally built as a commercial grocery store. However, the city has restricted the type and nature of business that may occupy the building- to include making it illegal to actually put a corner grocery back in it. Do I receive a tax break for the diminished opportunity value of my business? Of course not. Does it limit the resale value of my business? Absolutely. This “Agreed Order” rule is just another example of a government run extortion scam.

What we really need protection from is the pedantic potentates we elect. Can I buy insurance for that?