September 18, 2023

Terrible Customer Support: Nu Skin Edition

At the suggestion of my former eye doctor, I have been taking Pharmanex LifePak anti-aging packets, each of which contains four capsules. The packets come in a box of 60—essentially a two month’s supply—sent to me every two months by Nu Skin Enterprises, Inc. My most recent shipment was on August 21. When that shipment arrived, I still had nearly a month’s worth of packets left. I wasn’t sure how shipments and usage had gotten out of sync, but I put the package in the pantry and thought no more about it.

On September 16, I received e-mail indicating that my next shipment would be on September 21. This was clearly inappropriate, and I telephoned Nu Skin today with the intention of changing the shipment date to November 21. The call did not go well. First, I dialed the telephone number listed on the September 16 message. This resulted in my hearing a recorded message to the effect that the Nu Skin number had been changed as of August 1.

I then called the new number. (Happily, there was a number to call, and my call was answered after a brief delay.) I explained my consternation over the September 16 message. I was told that, in fact, my next shipment would be on October 21. I received no explanation for the message that occasioned the call. October 21 was actually the expected shipping date given that the last shipment was on August 21. I explained, however, that I had not yet opened my last package, and I asked for the next shipment to be on November 21.

Incredibly, I was told that the computer system did not allow that change to be made today. To make the change, I would have to call back after October 1. I remarked on the failures of the IT department, noting also the outdated telephone number on the September 16 message. I was told that changing references to the former telephone number was in progress. I somehow managed not to scream at the agent, something I could do after the call. Instead, I asked that my standing order be canceled, so that I would never receive another shipment. I was assured that this would be done.

After the call, I was asked to complete a four-question survey about my telephone experience. I indicated that the call did not resolve my problem and that I was unhappy with the outcome. A few minutes later, I received an e-mail message confirming the cancellation. Rather than screaming after concluding the telephone call, I decided to write this essay.

Complaints about poor customer service are legion. Often, it is difficult even to figure out how to contact a representative of a company. (I have often failed to find a telephone number on a company Web site but found one through a Google search. I highly recommend this strategy.) Nu Skin deserves credit for publishing a customer service number and actually answering the number promptly. I’m not sure if the representative was a native speaker of English, but she spoke well enough that I had no trouble understanding her.

That said, what Nu Skin did was unforgivable. Why did I get the apparently erroneous September 16 message? Why did a message carry an outdated telephone number a month and a half after the number was changed? Why is the Nu Skin order tracking software so inflexible? Why did the agent make no effort to save an account from being canceled over such a simple problem?

There is no excuse for customer service such as I experienced today. I have a standing order for cat food from Chewy, Inc. Changing a shipping date for that order has been a snap. Perhaps Nu Skin can figure out how to operate as competently as Chewy.

September 11, 2023

Digital Invariants Discussion Revised

My treatment of PPDIs/Armstrong numbers on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago has been checked and revised. I have added a new theorem and revised a corollary that it affects. Although it remains to be proven that all bases above 2 contain non-trivial PPDIs, I can now confidently assert that {302}{1208}5130 is a PPDI. I’m sure my readers were eager to learn this. The discussion on my Web site begins here.


September 4, 2023

A Meditation on Donald Trump and Juries

 That Donald Trump may soon find himself in a courtroom at the defendant’s table has led me to think about juries generally and juries that may stand in judgment of the former president in particular.

I have never served on a jury, although I once came close to being selected. (I made a first cut, but was not included in the final selection.) Conventional wisdom declares that the more education one has the less likely you are to be chosen to be on a jury. My chance of ever being on a jury is likely slight.

It is sometimes argued that jury selection is the most critical aspect of a trial. Attorneys on each side want to select jurors likely to favor their side of the case. The task is difficult, as conspicuous indicators of bias regularly result in the dismissal of potential jurors. If the defendant is accused of killing a policeman, for example, relatives of police officers will surely be excluded from the jury pool.

In a criminal case, prosecutors look for people likely to possess strong law-and-order sentiments. Defense attorneys, on the other hand, seek sympathetic souls, particularly if the defense’s case is weak. An empathetic juror who doesn’t have the fortitude to stand up for his or her opinion, however, will likely be ineffective as an advocate for the defendant.

In principle, a jury should be objective and unbiased. Our adversarial judicial system, however, does not directly seek such a jury, instead relying on the interests of competing parties to select a panel likely to render a just verdict. This system works surprisingly well. Juries make news when they render verdicts widely thought to be incorrect, but such news is uncommon. Nevertheless, the time a jury spends deliberating is a time of great anxiety for all concerned.

Again in principle, the ideal juror should be capable of understanding both the law and the evidence and be able to relate one to the other. Potential jurors are typically given a questionnaire to rule out certain disqualifying characteristics. They are then questioned by attorneys on both sides. This process attempts to weed out the prejudiced and mentally unsuitable.

What potential jurors are not generally filtered for is logical thinking. It is easy for jurors to be led astray by emotion or to reach conclusions that do not strictly follow from the evidence, the law, and the charge of the judge. Being a juror is unlike nearly every other role one is likely to experience in life. One must take into account material presented in the courtroom and exclude from consideration everything else. Jurors are expected to use their common sense yet introduce into consideration no knowledge obtained outside the courtroom. This is, in a sense, contradictory, but it usually seems to work out in practice. For instance, a juror may appeal to his or her own experience but cannot introduce something heard on a television newscast about the defendant. It is difficult to know how strictly logical jury deliberations are in practice.

Because I have a doctorate in computer science with a minor in mathematics, I believe I can reason about evidence and the law particularly well. I believe this would make me an excellent juror, but attorneys on either side might consider me either unpredictable or an actual threat.

This brings us to the matter of Donald Trump. Although I believe that, as a juror in almost any criminal case, I could logically reach an objective, proper verdict, I am less certain in any case involving the former president. I would almost certainly believe Trump to be guilty going into the trial, whatever the charge. I think I could weigh the evidence fairly. If, however, I found the evidence wanting, I just might be tempted to vote guilty for the sake of the country. Although I doubt that situation would arise, I could become, legally speaking, a loose cannon. Defense attorneys will try to filter out anyone with proclivities such as mine. I wonder how hard that will be to do. How my Americans would, given the right circumstances, be tempted to engage in jury nullification?