That's Not My Policy

The Comcast representative incident that has made the rounds on the Internet made me think of a time last December when I purchased a protective iPad cover from my local Verizon wireless reseller. It is not as entertaining as the Comcast incident, but to the reseller’s credit, I did get my money back. 

I returned the Ballistic iPad cover to the Verizon store this afternoon. The store is a Verizon reseller, and at first they were not going to give me my money back because as the saleswoman put it all sales on accessories are final. I explained to her my position, which was that I only had the item for 24 hours, never used it, and when I took it out-of-the-box and saw what it was and the way it, supposedly, would protect my iPad I realized it was not what I wanted. I called the store and told the salesman that answered the phone that I would be returning the item within 24 hours. The saleswoman very politely explained that I could exchange the item for another item or she could give me store credit. I explained to her that I did not want to exchange the item for another item, nor did I want store credit I simply wanted my money back. The saleswoman responded, basically, our policy is our policy, and “I’m sorry we couldn’t come to a resolution here’s your item back.” I said, “If I can’t get my money back, and you have nothing I want in exchange, and I don’t want store credit; the least you can do is take the item. I don’t want it. There is one thing you can do for me. Could you please give me the name address and phone number of someone at your corporate headquarters I could discuss your return and exchange policy with?”

She gave me the address and phone number of her corporate headquarters, (no name) and I left the store. I rolled about 100 feet away from the store and parked in front of an empty storefront and dialed the phone number the saleswoman gave me. This company has the worst automated personnel directory I’ve ever heard; only names and extensions no job titles, no departments. Undaunted, I simply dialed extensions until someone answered. A very nice woman picked up, and I explained my problem. She explained to me that the number I dialed was “a back office number,” and there was a different person I needed to speak to. She asked me to wait a moment, and I could hear a discussion the background. Then she came back on the line with a gentleman’s name and phone number. At that point it was dark, and I dialed the gentleman’s number. To my very great surprise, he answered the phone. I identified myself and explained my problem. He said all sales on accessories are final. I explained to him the sequence of events, and that the purchase had not cleared my bank yet. He asked me where the item was, and I told him it was at the store. I didn’t want it anymore. Then, he asked me if I was a Verizon customer. I answered yes. He asked me how far away from the store I was, and I told him about 100 feet. He told me he would call the store and authorize the saleswoman to run my card again giving me my money back. Not wanting to wait until he called the store, I persuaded him to stay on the line until I got back to the store and went inside. Then I handed my phone to the saleswoman and said, “Someone from your corporate headquarters wants to talk to you.” I could hear the gentleman ask the saleswoman, “Did you give him my cell phone number?” She said no. Then she hands me my cell phone and he asked me the same question and I related to him the process I explained above. I, then, gave the saleswoman back my cell phone at which point the gentleman told her to give me my money back.

No Really, I’m Fine, Thanks… Visiting a Public Restroom.

Originally posted 2010, this post is one of my favorites.

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More than twenty-five years ago when I was in middle school, I was approached by my school district and asked to participate in a program that provided students with the opportunity to meet and answer questions of students in the district with physical disabilities. During my three year association with the program, the most frequent and memorable question asked was: “How do you go to the bathroom?” I answered the question focusing on logistics; avoiding graphic details, which seemed to work. No matter where I go; every time I travel, I remember the question and think of how difficult it would be to answer it now.

Many things have changed since then, chief among them; I travel a lot more than I did then and I travel alone. Returning readers will remember I have Cerebral Palsy and use a power chair. When I travel whether it is to the National Archives in Washington, DC or to the mall to buy shoes, if I take my chair; I must use Paratransit. The Paratransit systems I have used all have pickup windows. For example, the last time I went to the mall; I wanted to be picked up at 11:00 AM, which meant that Paratransit could pick me up any time between 10:40 AM and 11:20 AM. Thus, my local Paratransit system has a 40 minute pickup window; even going to the mall requires planning and waiting. When I go on a longer trip that requires taking a train, it involves additional planning and more waiting. As a result, even on short trips, I am away from home for a minimum of four hours and on longer trips it has been as much as 24 hours. At some point, regardless of the duration of the trip, I have to use the restroom.

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People are very generous with their offers of assistance on my trips. Everywhere I have gone at least one person has asked me if I needed assistance. I am always very appreciative; it is nice to know that help is there when I need it. When I need the assistance, I take it. When I do not, I thank them for their concern. Then, the Good Samaritan and I go our separate ways. For the most part these encounters are enjoyable. There are times and situations, however, when the encounters are more of an impediment to me than what I am trying to accomplish. Visiting the restroom is a prime example.

In general, I, unsuccessfully, try to avoid using restrooms. The process is tedious, tiring, and time consuming. First, I have to get into the stall. My chair is as narrow as power chairs get; it can turn 360 degrees in 18 inches. Most stalls in train stations are barely wide enough to fit my chair and allow the door to close properly; sometimes it does not. Next, I have to get out of the chair in a very confined space, and that takes time. The longest it has taken me is about 10 to 15 minutes. Once out of my chair, I can prepare to answer the call of nature. Lastly, my task complete, I reverse the process and go on my way. At least that is how I would like it to work, and sometimes I get lucky. But, the fact is the process attracts unwanted attention, and at least one person, if not more, asks me if I am okay. I have to stop what I am doing and convince them that I know what I am doing. A simple “I’m okay, thank you,” or “No really, I’m fine, thank you very much,” does not work.

Even when they go on their way, sometimes, they still do not believe me, for moments later one or more police officers will walk into the restroom and ask me if I am okay. The following actually happen on my travels.

August 5, 2006

30th Street Station Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Had to use the men’s room, and after I answered the call of nature; and as I came out of the stall a cop walked in to see if I was okay. I explained what I was doing, and he apologized for bothering me.

Four months later, I had a more intrusive experience. I was at the Amtrak station in Lancaster Pennsylvania, and the stalled door would not lock.

December 15, 2006

I went to the men’s room at Lancaster station. The stall was tiny, but I was able to get the chair in. Then it took some time to get out of it; I finally did. I am propped up preparing to go, and a man asked if I was okay. I said, “Yes, thank you.” A few moments later, I am waiting to go, and the stall door opens. I said “Excuse me!” One of the cops said, “We’re the Police. Are you okay?” I answered, I can see that! I am fine! The cop said that a man was concerned and they had to check. I said, I appreciated their concern and they were on their way.

At least they closed the door on their way out.

It is not the offer of assistance that bothers me; it is the fact that the people offering it do not take no for an answer. I understand that what they are experiencing is unique, distressing maybe even disturbing. Maybe, from their point of view, not even a disabled person would take that long, and I need assistance, but will not ask for it. So they persist, even to the point of involving the police to ensure my safety.

There is nothing wrong with asking a disabled person if they require assistance when people are in a restroom, as long as they take no for an answer. Persistence is intrusive and based on incorrect assumptions, which makes it even more difficult for the disabled person to accomplish what they are trying to do. Furthermore, persistence interferes with a disabled person’s independence. I know what I am doing when I travel. So do other disabled people. Other disabled people and I are responsible for our own safety just like everyone else.

Please, take my word for it.

09 I Got My Power Chair


In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy destroyed my power chair. After six months of paperwork for Medicare and waiting, I finally got a replacement on May 8, 2013. The above episode is my first impressions of the new chair. The chair is now over a year old, and it still functions like a new piece of equipment. It is nice to have my life back.

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Lewis and Clark

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Originally posted eight years ago, I have updated the links in this post.

Monday, July 24, 2006:

A great article in the Billings Gazette: Retracing Clark’s Journey to Pompeys . Two hundred years ago, July 24, 1806 the Corps of Discovery was on the Yellowstone River. If not for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which President Thomas Jefferson thought Unconstitutional but made anyway, and the Corps of Discovery; the United States would not be the size it is today. The Louisiana Purchase was the first step in westward expansion that led to Manifest Destiny, the Mexican War; the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; February 2, 1848 , giving the United States California and in turn the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 . It is debatable whether the Mexican War was a good thing. There is no such thing as a good war. There is nothing good in war except its ending.

The fact is the United States came out of that war with California and Texas. California, in 1848—49, was a place that people wanted to go. Land was cheap, abundant, and the weather was fair. This desire of people to get to California for its land and raw materials led to the construction of the Transcontinental Rail Road. The Road was called for by Congress in 1862 with the Pacific Rail Road Bill. The building of the Transcontinental Rail Road was the greatest industrial-economic feat in American History, and it was made possible in part by the exploration of Lewis and Clark.