Showing the Way

I recently came across this quote on Facebook that struck a nerve with me. A good one.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ~ J C Maxwell

It made me think of how I feel about this blog.  I started it with the intention of sharing marketing and business advice with friends and clients and not with the intention of being a blogger.  A money making blogger that is.  So, posting here gets put on the bottom of my to do list after I’ve tended to everything relative to what I DO make money at.

Then there’s the whole “perception” thing that comes with bloggers. Perfect perception that is. I’m a big believer that there is way too much emphasis on being the most stylish, most put together, and most successful person out there in the blogger hemisphere and I just do not have the time to keep up with that nor do I want to mislead my people to thinking this life of mine is so simply perfect.  It ain’t.

And don’t even get me started on the whole “but who really cares what Heather Vreeland has to say?” ever looming question I ask myself everyday.  There are A LOT of people claiming to be experts on the internet and whether they are just making noise or making a living….how is my experience/take any better/different?

But, I’ve found that as a result of being concerned if this is the best way to be spending my time, or are my pictures pretty enough for this blog, or is anyone even listening… my voice has become stifled.   Which is sad because I really like helping people and I really feel like I can help the most amount of people here.

So, when I read that quote this week I realized – that’s me.  A leader.  I know the way because I work it every single day.  I don’t proclaim to be an expert, but I AM experienced.  I go the way because that is what it takes to survive and be successful.  I’m not a millionaire, but I am making money.  And, because I know in my heart of hearts that sharing those two things can make all the difference in someone’s life who is just starting out….  I will show the way.  Okay maybe not the way.  But, my way.

Minimum Wage Debate: If You Want to Make More Money, Do Something to Earn More Money

Somedays I jump back and forth between baby and business so much that I never make it into the office, rather I post up at the kitchen counter with my laptop just steps away from baby mania set in the middle of my living room. Today was no different.  I had Fox News on in the background and while I typically never pay much attention to what’s being aired I couldn’t help but be sidetracked by the minimum wage debate and protesters in California who believe fast food employees should have their hourly wage raised to $15 per hour.

Wait. What?

My opinionated self couldn’t keep quite so I charged to my personal soap box (facebook) to sound off on the topic.  Here’s what I posted….

“Imma be honest. I do not agree with the minimum wage debate.. ESPECIALLY the people who are protesting in California that fast food employees should get paid $15/hr. Are you kidding me? I have a bachelor’s degree that I paid A LOT OF MONEY FOR and I didn’t make $15 an hour until I started to pay myself just one year ago! Get an education, start a business or learn a specialized trade if you want to make more money. “Can I take your order” is not a specialized trade. It’s a minimum wage job.. that’s what you get when you don’t choose to do anything else. ‪#‎dropsmic‬ ‪#‎sorrynotsorry‬

For the most part my friends agree, but I do have several friends whom I adore that have polar opposite views thus leading to quite the debate.  You can see the whole thread here if you’d like..

To understand my opinion on the subject, first you have to know my history.  I believe in a hard days work and moderation.

I was not raised in a wealthy household of privilege. My parents both came from DIRT POOR families, my dad worked from 7am to 7pm at night while my mom stayed at home with me and my two sisters. They drove used cars for 300,000 miles, we didn’t drink soda, we didn’t have cable, we never went out to eat, we wore hand-me-down clothes, we vacationed at Grandma’s house, heck I didn’t even fly on a plane until I was 25 and that was for a company trip! I went to the same public school that everyone else did. Yes, my parents encouraged me to go to college but honestly I hated school every second of the day. I bought my first car for $1,800 with money I had saved from baby sitting over the years.  I went to college and my parents helped me pay for it.  I had a job the entire time I was in college and I also took out about $30,000 in student loans to pay for school and living costs.

Fast forward to 2008, already in debt from bad spending habits in my early 20s and student loans, I started my company with more credit cards and ZERO cash.  To date, I still have $18,000 to pay off from the original credit cards and lines of credit we used to start Occasions.  I pay them with a smile on my face every month.

So the whole… I can’t afford to get a good education, learn a trade or start a business does not fly with me.

Here’s my ultimate take on the issue.

If you want to make more money, do something to earn more money.  That means working your way up the corporate ladder, learning a new skill, save and invest in money making venues, venture out and becoming an entrepreneur yourself, start a business.  Everyone has the equal opportunity to do all of these things.  They will give loans to anyone these days so if you want to learn something new, take a class or go to school…invest in your future and pay it back when it pays off.

Yes.  Cost of living increase is an issue, but it can’t be just the argument for minimum wage workers alone.  If a company has to increase the hourly pay rate for minimum wage workers because of a federal mandate due to cost of living… so too should they have to raise the hourly rate of everyone else.  Cost of living doesn’t just go up for some people…. it increases across the board for everyone.  So everyone’s hourly rate should be increased too right?

But here’s the biggie….

If you want to have more, spend less.  My biggest problem with the whole “deserve” mentality of this country is that many people way outlive what their incomes can afford already and it’s not buying bread and milk.  It’s buying flatscreen TVs, cable tv, sodas, eating out, vacationing at Disney, buying new cars, visits to Starbucks, highlights, haircuts, pedicures, manicures…. you get the picture.  All of the above are frivolous extras in life that NO ONE truly NEEDS, but everyone is overspending on.  If I was certain that the minimum wage workers who are fighting for $15 per hour weren’t doing any of the things I listed above, were trying to work their way up the corporate ladder and still couldn’t put a roof over their head or food on their table, THEN I would take the minimum wage debate seriously.

But if you must have all the things I listed above, then let’s revisit my first point:  do something to earn more.  I’d like to point out several careers that anyone can do without an expensive college education their parents paid for.  All you need is some moxie.

  • Event Planner
  • Florist
  • Dog Groomer
  • Trim Carpenter
  • Landscaper
  • Bartender
  • Police Officer
  • Firefighter
  • Insurance Appraiser
  • Loan Officer
  • Electrician
  • Advertising Sales Executive
  • Realtor
  • Personal Trainer
  • Truck Driver
  • Sales person
  • Direct Sales person (pampered chef, mary kay, etc)
  • Medical Billing

Don’t see what you like here:  just google “highest paying jobs without a college degree” and you’ll be occupied for days reading through the results.  Think of something I don’t have listed here?  Comment below to add it to the list.

In the end my friend Jennifer Shields said it best “A minimum wage job is a starting point, not an end point.”  Period.

Work is a Blessing

After spending the week in Palm Beach at the Inspire Smart Success Experience I’m home with a renewed sense of meaning for the work I do and inspiration for my business.  Often times (especially when you’re 9 months pregnant) we can lose the luster within us that  keeps us excited about work.  During my week-of prep last Sunday I found two bible verses to keep me grateful for the work that Lord brings to me each week and keep me energized to finish our next two issues before Baby Vreeland arrive.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 1.14.53 PM

Here’s hoping they bring you joy and remind you that work is a blessing in our lives.

“So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot” – Ecclesiastes 3:22

“Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”  – Colossians 3:23

Why I Chose to Pay AT&T and Not Fight the Data Overage Charges

If there’s one lesson that I’ve learned from the last 6 years running my company, it’s that business is business.  And, I mean that in the nicest, most sincere ways.  Between large and small businesses… we all have systems, procedures, contracts and terms and conditions we set out to make our business run smoother.  And when you as a business owner choose to do business with another business… respecting those terms and conditions should be the number one thing.

After my anger subsided over this issue, I realized….  I have customers who sign contracts with unique terms and conditions I’ve outlined and nothing is more frustrating to me when they don’t honor those terms and conditions.  I get thrown the “friend” card and “how could you do this” comment now and then when someone doesn’t like our cancellation policies or artwork deadlines.  And ya know what…. I have had to hold my ground to that fact that this is a business, those are our rules and those conditions are outlined in contracts that everyone signs.  Period.

In the case of me versus AT&T…. I knowingly signed up for AT&T’s services, used every ounce of data that I was charged for and blamed them for my big bill.  While I do wish they had better practices for notifying customers of an enormous bill they are about to receive and prevent those things from happening.  I signed and acknowledged those terms when I chose to use their service.  For that I am responsible for.

I was able to negotiate with AT&T a reduction of $1,000 from the total bill and I went ahead and paid the remaining $3,000 and change balance.  Because that was my responsibility and I own it.

My hashtag for 2014 is #thisisabusiness….  I love each and every relationship that has grown from doing business with my clients, but ultimately we are engaged together for business purposes.  I am committed to working 110% for the success of our advertisers, but that commitment and willingness to promote our clients does come at a cost and commitment.  I invite each of you to embrace this thought for 2014 and I assure you, we’ll each have cleaner, better business relationships because of it.

How AT&T and Comcast’s TERRIBLE Communication and Customer Service Cost Me $4,080.42 and a Month of Frustration.

This is an incredibly frustrating post to write, but I am so tired of being suckered by the terrible systems at large telecommunications companies that I cannot NOT share the recent incredibly frustrating experience I had with both AT&T (not my first time being completely raped financially by them) and Comcast, so other consumers will heed caution when selecting their services in the future.  What started with a simple need to set up internet at my new office, ended up with a $4,08.42 cell phone bill.

cell phone bill photo

Here’s where it all started….

Recently I relocated from Atlanta to St. Augustine, Florida and if moving itself weren’t incredibly frustrating being 8 months pregnant, dealing with the companies we use on a daily basis to function in our daily lives makes moving the ultimate pits.

Two weeks before our move to Florida I called AT&T to transfer our Uverse internet service to our new address in Florida.  I had been pretty happy with the service and have been an AT&T customer since I bought my first Nokia cell phone in a Walmart kiosk in 1999.  I’ve never switched since.   Unfortunately when I called, the customer service rep notified me that Uverse was not available in our neighborhood and that I had to get basic DSL.  I run a magazine and web publishing company and slow internet just isn’t acceptable.  So, I kindly told the rep that I wanted to do research on other options before I opted for DSL and just planned to close our Uverse account.

After seeking recommendations from friends, I called Comcast to find out about their home internet options and was pleased to find much faster options available in our neighborhood.  Winning!  Not so fast.  The customer service rep at Comcast then told me that because our house was new construction it was not in their system and she couldn’t sign us up until they verified our address.  So… she told me she entered a ticket into their system for their tech people (or whoever) to “check my wires” or “verify my address” and that I would hear back from them within 3 to 5 days to sign me up and schedule and installation.  She gave me a case number of #018182308  Five days later… still no call, so I recalled Comcast to check in and a second customer service rep told me that even though both of my neighbors on the right and left of our new house used Comcast, the address had yet to be verified or checked and that…. “I should hear from them in 3 to 5 days.”  So I continued to wait.

Fast forward to moving day as my husband is unpacking our moving van, I find myself on the phone with Comcast yet again to see if I can sign up for their internet.  Today, this customer service rep tells me that our address STILL has not been verified and that she cannot sign me up until it is.  I STRESS to her how important it is that I get internet fast and she tells me that she’s “escalated the case” and sent to her manager to hopefully push through faster.  So, I wait.

And then I get antsy.  I start tweeting @comcastcares on October 3, 2013 and explain the frustration.. I send my case number and get a response that corporate will call me. Corporate calls me twice to follow up on my Twitter complaint but I am never able to connect with the customer rep from Comcast corporate when I call them back and leave messages each time.  I tweet them again on October 7th with an update that I’ve still received no word and again… nothing.

I see Comcast van after Comcast van run through my neighborhood… I stop them, ask if they’re coming to my house… nope.  Nothing.  No word STILL TO DATE from Comcast home internet to follow up on my original case and install new internet. Terrible business practice right?

At this point, I still have no internet and I NEED to start work again!  So, in desperation… I began to tether my internet from my ipad to my computer in my office so I can do basic email work and I call back AT&T to set up basic DSL.  AT&T signs up me and schedules my internet installation for a week later.  During this time I continue to tether my wi-fi internet from my ipad to be able to work.

Our cell phone service is a corporate account where we have 6 cell lines for our company. We have one of those “unlimited” plans they jargon about, but unlimited is a LIMTED term. We actually have unlimited Voice and Text…. not data usage.  An expensive reality I’ve had to come to terms with as you’ll see below.

A week later, AT&T arrives to install our internet, but because the wires they originally buried in our neighborhood that run from our house to the main AT&T box on the street had been damaged, the installation technician cannot connect our house with the original wire….he has to run a new wire along the street to the main AT&T box and submit a request for AT&T to return to our house and rebury the main wire under both ours and our neighbors driveway.  So, he leaves us with internet and a wire running down the street.  Fine.

A week later a new technician that has been assigned to re-run/bury the main wire from our house to the AT&T box on our street (so we no longer have a wire running on the street for kids to trip on and for it to become damaged by cars, lawn mowers, etc) arrives at 9am in the morning and proceeds to connect the wire in our house to the broken wire that is already buried and leaves.  WTF.  That is the complete opposite of what he was supposed to do.  So, as a result of this… I have no internet again! 

I go back to tethering my ipad internet to my computer and call AT&T to explain that now my internet is not working…..for obvious reasons and the customer service rep schedules a repair technician to come out to my house…. one week later.

So, in order to work, I continue to tether my internet from my ipad to my computer.  Do you see a trend here?

One week later another repair technician returns to fix the problem only to tell me the VERY SAME THING the original installation technician told me and that was… “because the wires they originally buried in my neighborhood that run from our house to the main AT&T box on the street have been damaged, the installation technician cannot connect our house with the original wire….he has to run a new wire along the street to the main AT&T box and submit a request for AT&T to return to our house and rebury the main wire under the driveways.”

So…. she does just this, reconnects me to the internet and leaves with a wire across our driveways (ours and our neighbors) and assures me that AT&T will return to bury those wires… the right way.  A few days later the same AT&T tech who connected my wires to the old, damaged wires arrives at my house to do the job correctly now…. only he cannot because it’s garbage day… we’ve just moved so we have A LOT of debris set out by the street and it’s covering where he has to dig to repair the wire.  He explains this to me and tells me he will return tomorrow to complete the fix.

To date…AT&T has STILL NOT RETURNED TO BURY THE WIRE and COMCAST HOME INTERNET HAS YET TO CALL ME TO INSTALL INTERNET ON MY STILL PENDING TICKET.

AT&T Wire

During this time, I realize that AT&T DSL internet is NOT fast enough for me to work the way I need to.  My company uses virtual online servers and syncing all of our company data on internet that has only 6mbps of download and 1.5mbps of upload speed is like working in reverse.  So, in frustration, in October 21st I start to research other internet options available to me… and low and hold I come across Comcast Business Internet and Phone services that have speeds up to 100mbps…. so I call them.

AT this point, I am desperate for a better solution so I sign up for the $150 a month packages that gives me the fastest internet possible (works great!) and phone (which I don’t need, but they still give me).  This time the customer service rep tells me again, that my address needs to be verified, but she’s going to send me all the paperwork to sign and then call me back in 3 to 5 days to schedule my installation after my address has been verified.  Here we go again!  But, I guess when you sign up for the mamma – jamma – most – expensive – internet – you’ve – ever – paid – for – in – your – life ….. they bump your request right to the front of the line, because as soon as I signed that paperwork, three days later my address was verified and a week later my new, super fast internet was installed.  That was last Thursday, October 31, 2013.  Over a month after I began the hunt for new internet.

During this entire time, while I was waiting for either Comcast or AT&T to install our internet and while I was waiting for AT&T to repair the new internet they had just installed for us…. I had been using the wireless hotspot on my ipad to access internet on my desktop computer. BIG MISTAKE.

Last monday, I opened up my company AT&T Cell Phone bill to see a grand total of charges for the last month of $4,080.42!!!!!!!!  All the time I had been tethering my internet because of the drama I had between Comcast and AT&T I had racked up $4,000 in data usage charges.  I. Can’t. Win.  I feel defeated after this entire process but I will not back down in my quest to get resolution from all of this.

I acknowledge and accept full responsibility that I used the services provided for me by AT&T Cellular Service to tether my ipad internet to my computer periodically during the month of October 2013…. however I did so because of the negligence of both AT&T and Comcast….. and for that I do not believe I should be responsible for the entire amount. 

It’s companies like these that make it absolutely ridiculous to get anything done because of their ill organization systems and lack of communication across their teams.  Here, I was trying to do my due diligence way in advance of our move and because both AT&T and Comcast have holes in their system… I have to pay $4,000 because of it.  Not to mention the two internet services I now have set up at my house totaling about $200 a month.

I have called AT&T customer service with no success at reducing this bill or even an offer to break up payments!  Here’s something AT&T and Comcast should both know… I will not stop until this is taken care of.  I have been a customer of AT&T since 2001 and will not simply fork over $4,080.42 because of your terrible customer service and systems.  I will tweet, facebook, blog, go to the local newspapers, local tv stations, complain to the FCC and call President Obama himself if I have to until I get the solution I deserve.

My contact information is below….

Phone number is 770-595-6911
AT&T cell phone account number: 287241346489
AT&T DSL Account number: 90481999596370566
Comcast original case number: #018182308

I expect a call from both Comcast and AT&T to resolve this situation.

Status to date… 

11.9.13 – no word from either companies.
11.12.13 – AT&T called and reduced my bill by $500.  The customer service rep said she could not justify any more of a reduction because I received text messages stating that I was nearing my limit and/or went over.  I did NOT receive a text message for every time they added an additional gig to my account for $15 each… furthermore.  AT&T should not be authorized to automatically add gigs to my account.  They should shut my service down and make me call to acknowledge the new charges… especially when they total $4,080.42!!
12.2.13 – AT&T reduced my bill an additional $500 and I paid off the remaining balance… read more on why here:  http://www.marriedwithemployees.com/2013/12/why-i-chose-to-pay-att-and-not-fight-the-data-overage-charges/