Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the founding editor-in-chief of MAKE. He is editor-in-chief of Cool Tools and co-founder of Wink Books. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects



How WARPO makes the most bitchingest toys of forever

This episode of Gweek is brought to you by Bombfell, the glorious clothing service for men that sends handpicked outfits to your door. Go to bombfell.com/gweek to get $10 off your first purchase. And by Stamps.com — get a $110 sign-up bonus with the offer code GWEEK!

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Comcast service rep: a deeply fearful employee trying to hold onto his paycheck

"Grumpy Tech Support Man," a stock photograph from Shutterstock.com that seemed appropriate.


"Grumpy Tech Support Man," a stock photograph from Shutterstock.com that seemed appropriate.

On Monday, we posted a phone recording of an aggressive Comcast "Retention Specialist" arguing with a customer (Ryan Block) who wanted to cancel his service.

On Tuesday, we posted Comcast's response, which basically said, "It's all his fault, not ours"

We suspected Comcast had turned the employee into a scapegoat and our suspicions were confirmed when we read this post from former Comcast employee and Reddit user txmadison. (He provided images of his Comcast pay stubs to Slate to confirm his employment there.) Here's what he had to say about it:

When you call in to disconnect, you get routed to the Retention department; their job is to try to keep you. The guy on the phone is a Retention Specialist (which is just a Customer Account Executive who takes primarily calls from people disconnecting their service).

If I was reviewing this guy's calls I'd agree that this is an example of going a little too hard at it, but here's the deal (and this is not saying they're doing the right thing, this is just how it works). First of all these guys have a low hourly rate. In the states I've worked in they start at about 10.50-12$/hr. The actual money that they make comes from their metrics for the month, which depends on the department they're in. In sales this is obvious: the more sales you make the better you do.

In retention, the more products you save per customer the better you do, and the more products you disconnect the worst you do (if a customer with a triple play disconnects, you get hit as losing every one of those lines of business, not just losing one customer). These guys fight tooth and nail to keep every customer because if they don't meet their numbers they don't get paid.

Comcast uses "gates" for their incentive pay, which means that if you fall below a certain threshold (which tend to be stretch goals in the first place) then instead of getting a reduced amount, you get 0$. Let's say that if you retain 85% of your customers or more (this means 85% of the lines of businesses that customers have when they talk to you, they still have after they talk to you), you get 100% of your payout—which might be 5-10$ per line of business. At 80% you might only get 75% of your payout, and at 75% you get nothing.

The CAEs (customer service reps) watch these numbers daily, and will fight tooth and nail to stay above the "I get nothing" number. This guy went too far; you're not supposed to flat out argue with them. But Comcast literally provides an incentive for this kind of behavior. It's the same reason people's bills are always fucked up: people stuffing them with things they don't need or in some cases don't even agree to.

As Jordan Weissmann of Slate says, "So in short, yesterday we were all listening to a deeply fearful employee trying to hold onto his paycheck."

Is it surprising that Comcast treats its workers and subscribers like shit to boost their bottom line? And how much worse will Comcast treat them after it merges with Time Warner Cable and become the only broadband choice in many areas?

A Former Comcast Employee Explains That Horrifying Customer Service Call

How Dan Shapiro created the most-backed game in Kickstarter history

This episode of Gweek is brought to you by Bombfell, the glorious clothing service for men that sends handpicked outfits to your door. Go to bombfell.com/gweek to get $10 off your first purchase. And by Stamps.com — get a $110 sign-up bonus with the offer code GWEEK!

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Mark's culture picks on NPR's Bullseye: Forbidden Island and Citizen Keane

keane

From Bullseye with Jesse Thorn from NPR:

This week's recommendations come care of Boing Boing founder and Gweek host Mark Frauenfelder.

He suggests checking out Forbidden Island, a co-operative game. It's a simple premise: collect four treasures from a sinking island.

He also recommends Citizen Keane: The Big Lies Behind the Big Eyes, a biography about the sketchy past of Walter and Margaret Keane, the couple who painted the kitschy pop-art paintings of teary, big-eyed children.

Want to hear more? For more interviews about the best in culture, comedy, and recommendations every week, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes, with our RSS feed or search for "Bullseye with Jesse Thorn" in your favorite podcast app.

Comcast promises quick action against scapegoat

After this audio recording of an infuriatingly aggressive Comcast representative arguing with a customer went mega-viral, Comcast, which instructs its employees not to take no for an answer, is now throwing its representative under the bus because he refused to take no for an answer.

Here's Comcast's statement:

We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.

As one commenter on the Comcast site observed:

Anyone with a modicum of compassion feels for your rep as much as they do for the customer. Certainly any cancellation works against some performance metric which will aim to objectively quantify or analyze a human interaction (in the least human way possible) on some fiscal report, tacking the loss of this customer on the rep that couldn't retain said customer's business.

I agree with this commenter. There's a reason the customer service representative sounded so desperate on the recording, and it's not because he enjoys being an asshole. It's because Comcast has made it clear that his job is on the line if he can't retain subscribers.

(Thanks, Matthew!)

This kid looks pleased with his space disintegrator gun and helmet

"An estimated 50,000 youngsters handled the Space Disintegrator Gun and Helmet. They just went crazy over them!"

(via Astro Devil)

40 Frazetta book covers at once

I've owned almost all of these Frazetta books, at one time or another. My favorites are probably the hardback editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars series that the Science Fiction Book club published in the mid-1970s.

(via Wonderful, Beautiful, and Strange Finds)

Bill Gates' favorite business book is from 1971 and out of print

Here's Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and others raving about Business Adventures, by the late John Brooks. It was written in 1971, and consists of 12 stories from The New Yorker. The print edition has been out of print for a while, but it is now available as an e-book. It sounds great!

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Ultra-pure water can kill you

David Rees, author of How to Sharpen Pencils and creator of the Get Your War On comic strip, learns how to make ultra-pure water. He learns that ultra pure water does not like to be pure. If you drink it, it will try to grab electrolytes from your blood.

Two people arrested for having sex on roof of Chipotle

chipotleA police officer in Newark, DE responded to phone calls about two people having sex on the roof of a Chipotle restaurant. "After the officer commanded [the couple] to stop, they continued for another '15 to 20 seconds,' NPD spokesman Cpl. James Spadola said."

It turns out the man arrested owns a sushi restaurant next door to the Chipotle, which is where the woman who was arrested works.

Sushi bar owner caught having sex with woman on roof of adjacent Mexican grill

A gun that shoots money

This looks like a good way to start a riot.

(via Weird Universe)

How to Be a Math Genius - Illustrated examples to show your kid the power, beauty, and joy of math

I enjoyed learning about statistics, probability, zero, infinity, number sequences, and more in this heavily illustrated kids’ book called How to Be a Math Genius, by Mike Goldsmith. But would my 11-year daughter like it as much? I handed it to her after school and she become absorbed in it until called for dinner. She took it to the dinner table and read it while we ate. The next day, she asked for the book so she could finish it. Loaded with fun exercises (like cutting a hole through a sheet of paper so you can walk through it), How to Be a Math Genius will show kids (and adults) that math is often complicated, but doesn’t need to be boring. (This book is part of DK Children’s How to Be a Genius series. See my review of How to Be a Genius.)

See sample interior pages at Wink.

The false idols of America's south seas fantasy

Ben Marks of CollectorsWeekly says: "Here's an interview with Tiki Pop author Sven Kirsten on the roots and shoots of Tiki culture in America. Have a Mai Tai-soaked, Hawaiian-bbq weekend!"

tiki Collectors Weekly: Where did the word “Tiki” come from?

Kirsten: Tiki was a mythological figure in Polynesia, a region defined by the Polynesian Triangle: There’s Hawaii in the north, Easter Island in the east, and New Zealand in the southwest. In the middle of that triangle are islands like Tahiti and Samoa. All of these islands share some common heritage and a similar language. They also had a religion based on ancestor worship, where their ancestors were deified in stories and myths and became their gods.

Tiki was like the Polynesian Adam, the creator of man, but he was sort of half-man and half-god. Eventually, all carvings and depictions that had human features became known as Tikis. The word “Tiki” was used in the Marquesas and by the Maori in New Zealand. In Hawaii, they’re called Ki’i, and in Tahiti they’re called Ti’i, because of the language variation. For example, the Hawaiian word for Tahiti is Kahiki (which was also a great restaurant in Columbus, Ohio), because the T becomes a K in Hawaiian. But that didn’t really matter to the Americans in the 1950s—basically all the different carving styles became members of the happy Tiki family, including the Easter Island Moai statues.

What the director of marketing at American Apparel carries on business trips


I asked my friend Ryan Holiday, director of marketing at American Apparel and author of The Obstacle Is The Way, to take photos and write about the stuff he takes on trips. Take a look at Cool Tools.

Jamaican earbuds, music for ADHD, and a hammer-proof iPhone screen protector

This week in Gadgets, Gareth Branwyn, author of Borg Like Me, joins Xeni and Mark to discuss Rasta-colored earbuds, a music-based brain app for increasing one’s attention/focus, a scratch-resistant iPhone protector, and a free reverse phone number lookup site.

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