Saturday, December 14, 2013

How Walgreens Lost my Business

This is uncomfortable.  I'm not a person who gripes a lot.  But I've tried to accommodate Walgreens customer card, and it's not working for me.

In the past, perhaps two years ago, I was a happy Walgreens customer.  I liked some of their products, like the cans of nuts, and the stores were very close and handy.  There are three close enough to me to be considered convenient stopping places.  One is very handy.  I particularly liked the fact that they would often have instant discounts -- buy two cans of nuts and the second would be cheaper.

And then they instituted their Balance Rewards card system.  I first ran up against it when the discount on the counter top was rejected at the checkout.  The fine print supposedly said I only got the discount when I had their card.  So...  no discount for me any more.  I didn't like it.  And I didn't feel like signing up for Yet Another Card.

So, I continued to shop at Walgreens, but each and every special I saw under the products left a sour taste in my mouth.  Specials for other people, not for me.  And then at checkout.  "Do you have the card?"  "No."  "Would you like to sign up?"  "No".  Over and over and over again.  Some clerks were particularly insistent and kept giving me the hard sell, even after I said "No."

That lasted a year.  I stopped buying several of the products that I had previously enjoyed.  It was just too distasteful.  And then I discovered that my wife had signed up.  It was a let-down.  My principled resistance meant nothing.  Walgreens still had their hooks into our customer data.

So, I signed up, and added Walgreens to my iPhones passbook so I wouldn't have to deal with a physical card or recite my phone number like everyone else does.

It's not working out.  Checking out is smoother.  I just set my phone down on the counter next to the products and they scan it as well as the goods.  But last week, they printed out a ten dollar discount strip -- I guess the results of my bonus points.  However a closer look showed that there was a time limit -- one week from issue.  This wasn't money back to me, it was just another enticement to spend some money at their store.

So, today, on the last day of the ten dollar discount, I decided I needed a couple of items.  I could go to HEB or a convenience store, but since I had a ten dollar discount, why not Walgreens?

I picked up my three items and went to the checkout.  I set them down with my coupon and my cell phone.  They were scanned, and then the clerk said I wouldn't be able to use the discount, because it required a $30 dollar minimum.   My purchases only came up to $17.

After a moment's hesitation, I said "It's not worth it," and walked off, leaving my products and my absolutely worthless bonus coupon for the clerk to deal with.  I heard her calling for a manager to handle the cancellation as I walked out, but I couldn't deal with it.  Once again, Walgreens had used the 'fine print' to turn a potential pleasurable shopping experience into a resolve to stop doing business with them.

I know that I can't fight it.  The fine print was there, and I have to face up to the decision that I must closely check every potential bonus or sale that Walgreens offers me, or just not deal with them anymore.  In spite of nice people at the store, the company isn't friendly anymore.  I suppose I'll still go there for some drugs and emergency bandages and the like, but it's not on my list as a convenient place to pick up cokes or paper towels.  I guess I need to see what the CVS stores are like.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Genre Writer

Occasionally, when I meet people outside of conventions, AKA, in real life, and they find out I'm a writer, they ask what kind of stuff I write.  I always say, "I write science fiction."  That either interests them or I get a wave off, since they don't read that kind of stuff.  That's normally okay by me.  I'm not generally talking to them in order to sell books.  I'll ask about what they do -- what interests them.  That's the best way to meet people in my opinion.

However, my latest book -- the one I'm currently writing, is just barely science fiction.  Am I still a science fiction author if I write a mystery/detective story?  Let me tell you a secret.  I've got a whole stash of stories that I write that will never see print.  It's not because they are bad, but because I write more than I'll ever have the chance to publish and market.  I have to pick and choose which of the stories will be able to find readers.  And a lot of these hidden stories are not science fiction.  They are mysteries and adventures and romances.  They are all lengths.  There are a few that are novel length, but most are novella and short story length.  The story dictates the length.

Now, while I could slap some of these into a kindle book and sell them as 99-cent shorts, it's not something I've chosen to do.  For one thing, I'm trying to provide a known quality for people that have taken the gamble and read one of my books.  I want them to know what to expect from a Henry Melton book, at least in a general way.  That's the whole purpose of my book categories.

If someone reads one of my Small Town, Big Ideas stories, then if they see another with that marketing label, then they'll know what they're getting.  It's the same with The Project Saga.  Different styles for different people.  Now, I like both.  Many people do, but setting expectations is part of the process of making people happy.

So, about this new book...  Amarillo Texas is a small city, not a small Main-street town like some I've written about, but it's a adventure tale with a high school aged main character who has been dropped into extraordinary circumstances.  It's a Small Town, Big Ideas natural.  It doesn't hurt that I've pushed the boundaries of certain medical theories, so I can easily claim it as science fiction.  That's what comes naturally to me.  I see what's real now, and then keep on writing even if reality hasn't quite caught up to what I have in the story.

But, if you look at the action and the plot, this story lives in the Mystery genre.  I wrote it that way deliberately, even if I'm not "Henry Melton, Mystery Writer".  I'm sure this kind of cross-genre business would get me in trouble if I were writing for a New York publisher.  Luckily, I'm writing for me.

I have a great fondness for this one, and a lot of it comes from my memories.  I grew up in Amarillo.  The main character lives on my old street, in my old house.  I've had to change a few things, because the world has changed.  My old high school burned down, for one.  A new one was built with the same name, but the school districts changed.  You see the problems.

It will be 2014 before it comes out.  I still have to fix all those persistent typos and grammar glitches and get my helpers to look over my shoulder to find the plot gaffes.  But you'll like it.  I'm sure.

Now, if I could just find a good title.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Things That Work: My Jeep Wrangler at 300,000 Miles

I was at work, so my boy Thomas and my wife Mary Ann picked out my new car, a 97 dark green Jeep Wrangler.  All I had to do was drive it off the lot. For some reason this, more than any other vehicle, felt like my car -- not a hand-me-down, nor a family vehicle.
Today, after 300,000 miles and many years, I pulled off the side of the road and took a picture of it.  That's the original paint job as you can guess, and the forth rag top, but it's still going strong and it's my dependable day to day vehicle.

Now that 300K miles doesn't include more than 50K+ miles being towed behind our RV touring the country.  The Jeep was our expedition vehicle while the RV stayed at the campground.  We went everywhere, from San Diego to Bar Harbor, including places in Canada.

This Jeep is my main utility vehicle.  I removed the rear bench seat and use the space to load up my books when I go to a book signing or convention.  There's plenty of space for all my books, signage,  luggage, and even the trolly to carry it all.

From time to time, the question of a new car has come up, but I've always said I didn't want to give up on my Jeep until it reached 300,000 miles, but considering how well it's holding up, I may move that goalpost.

I want to acknowledge the help of Pit Pros of Round Rock for my regular 3000 mile oil changes and their help keeping me on track with all the other regular maintenance a good car needs.   For all the mechanic help, Round Rock Muffler and Automotive has been the place where I've gotten tires and belts and the occasional transmission tweaks, water pumps, door locks and whatever else goes wrong.  They always do the job and put my Jeep back into service quickly.