Adventures of Leonardo, the Traveling Bearded Dragon

Unless you live in a closet, you know that there was a huge ice storm that affected the northeast/mid-atlantic corridor (and more) Tuesday night into Wednesday (February 4-5, 2014). Many of us have lost power, and the hardworking folks at PECO (and presumably other power companies who serve affected areas) are working to restore power as fast as they can safely do so.

Current estimates are that we are likely to be without power through Sunday night (2/9/14) at 11 p.m. So, we’ve had to get creative. No power for us means no heat, no lights, and no running water as we are on a well, not public water. So, we can’t just prop up some heaters, tolerate some cold showers, and tough it out. NO FLUSHING TOILETS (without extreme measures to gather snow, melt it, and dump the water in the tanks). Grossness.

So, typical concerns: Warmth, plumbing, keeping food from spoiling (yes, I realize we can put it all in the snow or something but that seems like a lot of work and not entirely something I’m excited to take on), pets, kids, etc. But this is the first time we’ve had a major power outage where I’ve had to worry about a lizard. Yes, a lizard.

My son (Thing 2 of 2) has a bearded dragon who is maybe a year or two old, I can’t quite recall. Lizards, of course, are cold-blooded which means that they cannot produce their own body heat. Our lizard is named Leonardo. And this is his story.

Two days ago, the sun went out. I mean, completely out. One moment I was happily basking in the glow of the night-sun (it’s a reddish orange color) awaiting the arrival of the morning sun (which is much brighter and whiter). Every morning, my god (or I think he might be a god – he controls the sun, heat, water, and food, plus everything in my whole world) switches the sun from night to day and it seemed like it was about time for that when–POOF–darkness. And coldness. Looootttts of coldness.

Not long after this, my entire world turned upside-down. My god reached down from on high and removed me from my world. He put me into a much smaller world without all the fun trees, dirt, and plants I’m used to, and started carrying me around with him. First, he put me here:

Leo on table

I have to admit, the accommodations weren’t great, but it was a little warmer than my cold, dark home.

Then he started doing something weird. I have no idea what this is, but it seems like some sort of ritual. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Zach and Leo

Next thing I know, we’re on the move again. This time, the ritual objects came with us, but there was this weird new sun. It didn’t quite look like the night-sun or the day-sun, but it was definitely a nice change to a warmer environment, so I couldn’t complain.

Zach and Leo

We stayed like that for a bit, and THEN, there was some major crazy stuff going on. It got dark and cold again, and it felt like we were moving. There was some warmth, some weird “vroom” noise, lots of loud banging, and then more moving and bouncing around.

Then things settled down. It was acceptably warm, someone gave me water, and lots of god-like creatures looked in at me, reached in to pet me (love those warm god-hands), and generally speaking I was feeling pretty good.

Leo at Dtown bookshop

Leonardo takes shelter at the Doylestown Bookshop

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur. Moving, settling, touching, more moving, and then at last I was returned to my comfortable environment with the night-sun in full force. Ahhhhhhh. But then–THEN–it happened again! BOOM! The sun went out again! I didn’t think I could take any more. Again, my god retrieved me and placed me in the smaller world, but this time he had set it up with some dirt and even threw in some fresh crickets for me. We heard more “vroom” and banging sounds, and then I settled down on a nice warm spot AND suddenly the day-sun came out! It may not be home, but it feels like a slice of heaven. Warmth, crickets, soft dirt…OK so I can’t turn around without bumping into things, but I can’t complain.

Leo's temp digs

Leo at Grandma’s house

It does seem like my god is trying to take care of me. I hope I get to go home soon, but for now, all is well. Thank you for your concern.

A huge shout-out to the Doylestown Bookshop for hosting us and Leo yesterday. They even babysat for him so my kids and I could go get some lunch. I mean, if that’s not the best bookstore ever, I don’t know what is. (Oh, and we all bought some great books we’re enjoying while we weather the rest of this power outage, expected to last through the  weekend.) Seriously, if you live anywhere within driving or walking distance, I have no idea why you’d buy your books anywhere else.

And, of course, thank you to my in-laws for hosting us while we hang out to work and warm up today. We appreciate it and so does Leo!

Moolala customer service fail: The gory details

Usually, I prefer to use this blog for posting things that are positive, helpful, useful, interesting, beautiful… But now and then I use it to share customer service experiences. Positive ones, ideally. Negative ones when necessary. This is one of those times.

Moolala is a daily deal site. They offer deals from online or local merchants that represent huge savings. I get emails from them every day, and many of them are quite compelling.

On December 5, 2013 I purchased two of these deals–a rainbow loom kit and two loom band storage containers that I intended to give as gifts to my nephews for Hanukkah (which actually started in November, but our family celebration was December 18, so it should have been plenty of time). Here are my purchase confirmations and voucher emails:


Moolala voucher

Moolala voucher

I redeemed my vouchers with the vendor, Belleza Jewelry, and patiently waited for my order to arrive. Here are the order confirmations from them:

Order confirmation Belleza

Order confirmation Belleza

Fast forward to later in December, I received an email from Belleza which I seem to have deleted (shame on me) saying that they were still working through orders and would likely not ship my order before Christmas. At this point they offered me a 75% off coupon, which I actually just found insulting (which is probably why I deleted the email) and I went to buy my Rainbow Loom kits at Michael’s craft store. I figured once I got the order I’d give them to a friend’s kids who love Rainbow Looming and would make use of them.

Then, on January 8, I got this email from the clearly overwhelmed folks at Belleza:

Belleza won't honor voucher

So now, I know I’m not getting my order AND I need to do something more to get my money back from Moolala. Way too much effort for a couple of Rainbow Loom sets, but money is money and I deserve a refund. I thought, hey, it’s not Moolala’s fault, so I’ll put together a nice helpful email that will make it easy for them to refund my money. Here is that email:

Refund request email

I got, of course, an automated response:

Moolala automated reply

Now, I realize that I am not the only one requesting a refund. I know that service can take time. How much time is a reasonable turnaround? 24 hours? 48? A week?

On January 15, after a week had gone by and I did not get a reply, I sent this email (which also got no reply):

No reply?

And this tweet, which did get at least a nibble of a reply (thank you, social media team) despite my unfortunate typo:

Moolala tweet

I also sent follow-up tweets on January 24 and yesterday that did not receive replies (have I mentioned that I have over 1,800 followers? Not that that’s a huge number but it’s not nothing either):

Moolala tweet

Moolala tweet

So, yesterday, I sent this email (which as of yet has also not received a reply):


So, now that I’m fairly sure that Moolala does not care about my $33 or my continued patronage, I’m left with no choice but to dispute the charge with my bank. Which is a shame, since I know chargebacks are not good for businesses (having worked many years in the financial services world), it burdens the bank resources unnecessarily, and it could have been resolved with so much less effort.

So, if you are a Moolala subscriber, take heed. Their deals aren’t worth this kind of hassle.

Now, off to request a chargeback from my bank.



3 days after I posted this, I got the following emails from Moolala. Of course now that this is happening, I have to figure out how to cancel my disputes (once I verify that the refunds happened). I figured it was only fair to share the reply I ultimately received. Whether the response triggered by emails, tweets, or the tweet of this blog post–or if I simply finally got to the front of the line–I’ll never know.

Moolala update email



Update 2/4

And…a reply to the tweet from January 15 came through TODAY. A little late, guys…

late tweet

Painting with words

The way Neil Gaiman paints a picture with words astounds me. From Stardust:Stardust

Madame Semele seemed torn between her desire to threaten and to cajole, and the emotions chased each other so nakedly across her face that she seemed almost to vibrate with the effort of keeping them in check.

Brilliant. There are dozens upon dozens of other examples, but this one struck me today as particularly visually compelling.

Marketing Junk

In marketing, there are words and phrases that were (maybe) once creative, but now sound completely ridiculous to me. Full of jargon and nonsense, and rather indecipherable in some cases, these headlines, phrases, subject lines and other marketing mumbo-jumbo are starting to irk me. As marketers, we walk a thin line between helping people learn about what they might need to enhance their lives, jobs, safety, security, happiness, etc. and hawking crap that will deplete their pocketbooks and leave them with regrets and a bad taste in their mouths. More and more, I believe there is a responsibility to educate, nurture, and enhance rather than obfuscate, confuse, scare and taunt. So, I think I might collect the offenders here just to give a sense of where I think marketers cross the line.

8/23/13 offender: Using Actionable Content to Drive Loyalty

actionable content

Actionable content?

First of all–actionable content? I understand compelling content, engaging content, maybe even content that incites action. I don’t buy “actionable content.” It barely makes sense.

And then? Drive Loyalty. As a consumer, do you want to think  of yourself as being driven to loyalty with a brand or a company with which you do business or whose products you buy? Personally, I’d rather my loyalty be a by-product of a product or service that freakin’ rocks. If it’s content, it better entertain me, educate me, move me to tears, or somehow give me something I can’t find in a thousand other places. If it’s a product, it better work as it’s intended to work, last as long as it’s intended to last, and meet my expectations for value compared to the price I paid for it. If it’s a service, it should be flawless, or if not, you better provide kick-ass service to support me. Don’t drive me. I’m not a car.