27 February 2012

Tea Cookies

Here are my tea cookie recipes. These are pretty forgiving; I’m not the sort to get very exact with measurements. Regular sugar can be substituted in the same amount for Turbinado. You can, of course, substitute any tea leaves. In fact, the stuff in tea bags is already pretty finely crushed, so that could be a short-cut.

I was intending only to make the Earl Grey Cookies, as it's my favourite. But I wanted to bring some to my friends and Nina is allergic to citrus, so I invented the Jasmine Oolong ones for her. :)

Download them as a PDF; they're formatted to fit on 5x7 index cards: DOWNLOAD

Hope you enjoy them!

25 October 2011

Local Sale Ads and Their Corporations

These are some local sale ads to which I have added labels to show most, though not all, of the corporations that control our food (or at least the food that is heavily advertised and pushed at us). Some notable missing areas: meat and veg. It is nearly impossible to know where your produce and meats are from in a standard supermarket, especially from the sale ads. Supermarkets tend to be open 24/7, but the butchers and produce managers who might be able to answer some questions, obviously, do not.

Swanson's Ad - Page 1

Swanson's Ad - Page 2

Swanson's Ad - Page 3

Swanson's Ad - Page 4

I was struck by the realisation that the absolute worst place to shop in this area if you're trying to avoid faceless corporation-controlled foods is the most "local" store: Swanson's. This is a chain of 3 family owned grocery stores in the Aberdeen/Hoquiam area. They do have a variety of locally made foods in the store (not advertised except the brownies on page 2), but the only ones worth your time are the freshly-made tortillas or tortilla chips in the little in-store tortilleria.

Safeway Insert - Page 1

Safeway Insert - Page 2
Safeway Insert - Page 3

Safeway Insert - Page 3

Safeway Ad - Page 1

Safeway Ad - Page 2
Safeway Ad - Page 3

Safeway Ad - Page 4
One of the hardest things to identify in source was wine. I don't know if this means that most wine is produced by small-scale wineries and not owned or controlled by a corporation at all, or if it's just more opaque. I find it hard to believe that big-name, heavily-advertised wines like Yellow Tail or Layer Cake are not owned by some conglomerate or other.

Top Foods - Page 1

Top Foods Ad - Page 2 - Sorry about the scanning error

Top Foods Ad - Page 3

Top Foods Ad - Page 4

Top Foods Insert - Page 1

Top Foods Insert - Page 2

This local Top Foods sale ad is the same for the Aberdeen store as the Olympia store, but if you've ever been to both you'll know how vast the differences. When the Aberdeen store stopped being open 24/7 the quality of everything went swiftly downhill. I think the company just doesn't care about this small store anymore. I know some of the employees were saying they might have to try to find a second job just to make up the hours they were going to lose (by not being open 24/7), but I think they must have cut more than just their hours; everyone in that store seems to HATE their job, and it shows in the treatment of the store and the customers. The Olympia store, on the other hand, is blissful. Always. It's beautiful, well-lit, friendly, well-stocked, I LOVE the Olympia Top Foods.
But I love Trader Joe's more.

P.S. - The Food Day presentation went really well!

P.P.S. - In case it actually needs to be said; all trademarks and whatever are the properties of their respective blahblahblah I don't own any of this. Nor did I ask anyone's permission but they do distribute the sale ads publicly, if that matters.

15 October 2011


Actually, I'm doing a much bigger project for Food Day (24th Oct 2011) and I'm building up a good post for that. It's going to be a presentation to 2 classes at Grays Harbor College. We're showing Forks Over Knives (I hope that link works, it's to the Netflix page since the movie is available on Instant) and I'm doing a lecture on knowing where your food comes from, tailored to the local area.

In particular there is a farmers market and "local" butcher that regular features factory-farm pork from Iowa (we're in WA state), mangoes from god-knows-where, etc. They do have some local produce and products, but they give the impression that everything in the market is local/organic/fresh/good for you/whatever and it really isn't. I've also got a feature of the lecture that I will try to post here when it's all done: Three local grocery circulars with added labels of every corporate parent company of everything on sale. It really opens your eyes to see just how much (say, 95%) is completely corporate-sponsored and mostly by Kraft.

Happy Blog Action Day! See you soon with more info!

24 August 2011

This is my latest attempt to get them to understand the problem.

If they're going to behave like morons, I'm going to treat them like morons. Here is the entire email I most recently sent to MyPoints. Stay tuned to see if they write back. 
-Click pics to see full size-

OK, we'll try this another way. Since I can't seem to find any of your customer "service" agents who will READ my emails and respond accordingly, let's try big, easy to understand PICTURES.

1. I go to the Local Deals section of the MyPoints.com website. I am already logged in.

2. Click GO on the zip code box. Notice above that the zip code had ALREADY been filled in, yet was DIFFERENT than what was showing. So where does it go now?

3. Click Save as Default Location. As I hope you've gathered if you're following along. I have already done this numerous times. That's why it was already filled in when I got there. But it was STILL not showing up on the map or the displayed Deals.

4. Sign Out. Lets just try this all again and SEE if it "saved my location", shall we?

5. I've signed back in and gone back to the Local Deals page. What shall I find there? Will it have actually saved my location this time??


Just to fill you in on some more details:

And this: 

And in case we don't remember the crux of the problem: this is where the Local Deals EMAIL sends me: 

Can we SEE the problem now? Is this reaching ANYONE???

Just FYI, because of the TERRIBLE customer service I've encountered so far, I've gone ahead and posted the details of this entire debacle and your amateurish handling of it to Facebook, Twitter, Tell 1000, Ripoff Report, Planet Feedback, my personal blog, my best friend's blog, and Interaction Metrics, which tracks bad customer service.

Good luck.
MyPoints member for 13 years.

22 August 2011

MyPoints Customer Service is Awful

(This is the text of my Ripoff Report regarding MyPoints.com. I also sent this to Tell1000.)

I have been a member of the MyPoints.com website for 13 years, as of September 2011. There is a section of the MyPoints website where you can get local deals, powered by Groupon, and earn points for each Groupon deal you partake in. There is also a daily email associated with this feature.

On Groupon's site, independent of MyPoints, I have entered the zip code where I would like my deals based and they remember that as part of my account. It's a very simple concept that most of the internet has figured out. However, on the MyPoints Local Deals site ("powered by Groupon") everything location-based is broken. The first thing I see is a map of an area that is rather close to where I live, but not within my actual zip code. There is a box to the left where you can enter a different zip code and a "Save this as my default location" button. Since I have previously tried to customise this site I see in the zip code box my preferred zip code: not where I live but also not what the map displays. No matter how many times I click the "Save location" button, the page will always revert to that other, strange location when reloaded. This really random location is literally neither here (where I live and the zip code registered with MyPoints) nor there (the zip code I have entered repeatedly in the zip code box). It's also not where my IP address indicates that I am, and it stays on this mystery location even when I've tried it from a friend's house.

I have considered that it might be a problem with my chosen browser and have tried every other major browser on the market; the page remains the same.

The second and related issue lies with the emails, sent daily, alerting me to deals in "my area". So far we have 3 locations in play; 1. my actual home zip code, 2. the zip code where I usually shop and would like deals in, and 3. this strange nearly-there area that comes up automatically on their site. The emails add a FOURTH location: Victoria, BC (Canada).

From my use of the term "zip code" I will hope you have gathered that I am based in the US. Not Canada. Don't get me wrong, Victoria is lovely, but I'm not going to travel to another country to take a yoga class. Also, Canadian post codes are nothing like US zip codes. Not even close. US zip codes are 5-digit numbers. Canadian post codes are 6-character alphanumeric codes. So this isn't a matter of a simple typo.

Now, the real problem: We've all made mistakes in the past, and sometimes websites can go a little haywire. That's all OK, but it needs to be fixed. So I emailed customer service.  Thus began weeks of emailing back and forth with a bevy of random, untrained, unhelpful customer "service" agents who clearly did not read the emails I sent, only scanned them for keywords and sent back a generic reply. Typically the same thing listed in the FAQ on the main site.
I have 11 emails displaying the most insultingly unhelpful and incompetent customer service representatives I have ever encountered.

The first emails started off with the suggestion to change the zip code in the previously-mentioned "save my location" box. I can understand that they probably get a lot of emails where people haven't read the instructions and where this might be helpful, but (as I had already indicated to them) this had already been done. One of the subsequent emails apologised for a discrepancy in price from something called "Brad's Deals"; I replied that I had never heard of "Brad's Deals" nor had I mentioned them, or prices at all, in my query. The only issue I might have with any prices is that they are in Canadian dollars!

I restated my question in simpler terms.
They told me to delete my cookies.

How they might have thought this would affect an email that they are sending me, I really cannot fathom. I tried it anyway, just to be sure (I have already stated that I tried to solve the website-only problem by using other browsers, which didn't help, so this is especially useless).
I'll leave it at that as the emails basically repeated this pattern for days and days. I eventually gave up and, in a fit of pique, called them morons...

…which I wholeheartedly stand by.

MyPoints Customer Service is Incompetent

(This is what I sent to Interaction Metrics regarding MyPoints.)

I contacted customer support via email to address an error on both their Local Deals page and the corresponding Local Deals daily emails. The customer service agents clearly never actually read my complaint, they simply scanned for keywords and replied with a generic message that was completely unhelpful. I replied back to give further information and again got a cookie-cutter "we didn't read your email and we don't care" response. This went on for weeks. I included every previous email to and from in every reply I sent, in the hopes that SOMEONE would read and understand. No one ever did and the problem remains.

MyPoints Customer Service is Inept

(This is what I wrote to MyPoints themselves [aside from the mentioned emails] via PlanetFeedback)

Incompetent Customer Service and Unresolved Site/Email Errors

There is an error with both the Local Deals section of your website and the associated daily Groupon-linked emails.

When I go to Groupon independently, they know not only where I am located but also the (different) area for which I would like to receive deals. They know this because I told them. I have been a member of MyPoints for 13 years (this September), so YOU know where I am, because I have told you. Yet when I go to the Local Deals page it returns some very strange map that seems near-ish to my zip code, but definitely NOT where I live. And I have previously entered a different zip code to indicate where the deals should be located (and I have repeatedly clicked the "save location" button) to no avail. The page displays the desired zip code in the zip code box, but the map shows a strange area that is neither here nor there, literally.
And as for the emails that are supposedly based on this information: they are all for deals in Victoria, BC. Canada. So that adds a THIRD incorrect location.

I don't live in Canada. I have never said I lived in Canada, let alone Victoria (though it's a lovely place). This is a problem (as I hope you can imagine) because it would be asinine to buy a "deal" in another country. I'm not travelling across the border just to take a yoga class.

I tried a bit to fix the problem myself and I tested the site on many different computers and browsers. It's not on my end. So I contacted your customer service department with the details of the case.
I was less than pleased with their responses, which clearly indicated that they were not reading the entire email but probably scanning for key words and issuing a cookie-cutter generic reply. I tried again and again to explain the actual problem in very clear language, but every subsequent email from your agents was less useful than the last. I also included every single email of mine and theirs in the hopes that ONE of the service representatives would read the whole correspondence and understand the issues. This never happened. The last email I received from your agents was the final straw; it repeated the same instructions on the main Local Deals page for setting a location. In case you've skipped ahead, let me remind you that I had detailed in EVERY email that this was not the issue and would not solve the problem.

I would still like the original issues of the incorrect locations in the emails as well as on the Local Deals page to be solved. I would also like to impress upon you how poorly trained and incompetent your customer service agents are. I want you to retrain or rehire your customer service staff so that they are more helpful than a FAQ page. This is why people contact customer service; because the Frequently Asked Questions page did not answer their question. I am extremely fed up with this and will cancel my membership if these problems are not resolved.
This is not the first time I have had to contact your customer service reps and every other time has been an unpleasant and unhelpful experience.