Friday, September 11, 2009


When I started making a list of all of the companies and products I like and would recommend, I realized it was a lot longer than I thought. It turns out there are a LOT of businesses meeting and exceeding my expectations. We just don't notice them sometimes because we're too busy bitching about the ones that don't.

Here are a few that recently stood out:

I recently had to take my car into the shop for a stuck dash light. It was a little thing, but when you’re trying to sell your car the little things tend to signal bigger things to prospective buyers. I’d taken it to a local shop first, but all they did was fix the seal on a suspect wheel and hit me up for $30 before sending me on my way. “That ought to do it!” they said.

It did not “do it.”

Against my wallet’s better judgment, I elected to take the vehicle to a certified Infiniti dealership where I figured it just might get a little more love and attention. First off, the customer service at Fields Infiniti in suburban Glencoe was top-notch. I made an appointment online and was promptly confirmed via email. When I showed up the next morning, I noticed their reception facility was unlike any I’d ever seen. They had a low-lit coffee bar serving specialty beverages and grilled panini sandwiches to waiting customers – all free of charge. There were executive workstations with telephones and Ethernet cables…and free wireless throughout. A grouping of leather couches and chairs surrounded a large flat-screen TV. And everything was complimentary. Drinks. Snacks. Car wash.

In the end, they fixed the gauge, updated an outstanding recall I wasn’t even aware of, provided a courtesy diagnostic report on the condition of the vehicle, and shined it up nicely inside and out. Everyone I dealt with was prompt and professional – and the entire visit cost about $25. When I factored in the free lunch and car wash, I left a very satisfied customer. Big thumbs up to these folks who did everything right.

Our puppy had diarrhea when we switched her food, and some guy wandering the aisles at PetCo recommended this brand. I was skeptical at first because I noticed it was a little more expensive, and because guys who hang out at PetCo are not widely recognized as credible, objective consumer advocates. The guy told me that dogs actually eat less holistic/organic food because it has more nutrients and less filler, so you’re actually buying LESS food and saving money in the end.

I was VERY skeptical of this claim, but considering the glut of equally obscure off-brand options to choose from and an embarrassing lack of knowledge about my dog's dietary needs, I elected to take a risk. At the time I just wanted our little bugger to quit squirting crap all over the place, so I was happy to try anything new. Sure as shit, if you'll pardon the expression, our little Lucy Pooper adjusted in about a day and started producing perfectly firm, compact turds the size of Lincoln logs. And, as advertised, she was eating less!

To this day there’s always food left in her dish because she fills up fast and always has a ton of energy. I didn’t believe the hype at first, but now I’m sold. Nutro Ultra delivered and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

When cutbacks at work meant I could no longer expense my wireless phone bill, I needed to make some cuts in my personal spending. I lowered my monthly minutes allotment and started shopping around for inexpensive landlines. That’s when I found Skype.

Skype is essentially an internet-based telephone connection (that also works with a webcam) that offers FREE calls to/from pretty much anyone in North America – whether they have Skype or not. So, unlike a fax machine, you don’t have to wait until everyone else gets Skype to use it. I couldn’t believe Skype was for real until I signed up for a free account and started using it. The sound quality has better than I thought it would be, and for a nominal fee of like $2.99 a month you can add voicemail and a host of additional services.

I like being able to dial in for conference calls through my laptop where I can quickly access my work files (and play games on Facebook when meetings run long). Skype also let me program my outgoing Skype line so that when I call people their caller ID recognizes my cell phone number.

And check this out – my uncle was recently traveling in Italy and was able to walk his laptop around outside to show off where he was standing and what he was seeing. Imagine getting a free video tour from friends and family from virtually anywhere you can get an internet connection. Sure beats a postcard!

Lots to love about Skype. They even have Skype handsets you can buy – cordless phones that function like landline phones, but are connected via your ISP. They ring and dial out just like an ordinary phone – but the calls are free. Yes – FREE. You may not use it right away, but I do recommend you check it out and sign up while they’re giving it away.