Sunday, October 23, 2016

Really Amazon ?



I have been a Amazon.com user since 2010 and Amazon.in user since 2013 (actually since the day it was launched). No doubt they do try to be the most customer centric company (at least in USA) as they call themselves. Even in India (specially in Hyderabad) I see Amazon winning the race among all other e-commerce portals. I have had terrible experiences with Flipkart where they had refused to take back defective items and delivered items extremely late several times. On the the other hand , with Amazon it has been a smoother experience. Even in India they appeared to have inherited the culture from USA helping out customers in genuine cases. Once they had immediately re-shipped a brand new sterilizer when the original one did not seem to work so that I don't have to wait for the return and repair process complete. My answer in quora. I have always been an advocate and honest about amazon because of such incidents. In this case as soon as the old item started working I immediately stopped delivery for the new item and thanked Amazon. I did not need two of them tough they charged for only one.

When Flipkart came to existence, even they were very friendly to customer, slowly I saw them degrading their services over the years. This is counter intuitive given the fact that e-commerce competition was getting tougher with the Snapdeals and Amazons who definitely took away a major share of flipkart's customer base. I barely go to Flipkart again after their new policies where they do not generally take returns and no shipping date guarantee. Elusiveness of some branded phones may be the only logical reason why one should use Flipkart any more.

Now suddenly, I have a fear , Amazon in India might just be going in the same path.

Amazon ran their sale during 16th to 20th Oct and I happened to be looking for a new phone I bought a Moto G4 Plus with my old phone's exchange and expecting some cash back with my Citibank credit card. I understand the rush days during sale but to my surprise they just shipped it within two hours. May be because I am prime customer and it was supposed to be delivered next day.

Next day I did not get any SMS or "Out for Delivery" notification. The tracking showed it is in the city. When I emailed customer care they assured it will be delivered end of the day (which is 8pm as per them). After few minutes suddenly the status changed to "out for delivery". It was already 9PM so I was skeptical about it. To my surprise no one showed up and at 10.30 the status updated to "Delivery attempt failed" , with the following email

This is to inform you that a package from your order, with tracking ID 447106033653, shipped via Amazon Transportation Services, could not be delivered as no one was available to receive it.
 WTH, I had been at home all along, security told me no one from amazon came and there was no call. I tried to call the delivery person's number that was texted to me but no one picked. I kept on trying and finally someone picked at 12 AM and told me he has no idea about any package for my address.

Next day I followed up with customer care and got following replies
I've contacted ATS and provided them special instructions to deliver your package as soon as possible. I've submitted a form to ATS to deliver your order on before of October 19, 2016.When your order does arrive, there's no need to contact us. However, if you haven't received it by October 19, 2016​, please let us know through the link below and we'll be happy to get a refund or replacement for you:
In order to compensate this inconvenience , I've immediately extended your prime membership for a month. So that you can enjoy your prime benefits additionally for a month.

And several other boilerplate template responses. They extended my prime for one month. Really, you extended the service , the very which you did not serve ? Now I have one extra month of delayed service. With INR 499 a year, you have given me approx INR 499/12 ~ 42 Rs as compensation ?

When it did not arrive even on the second day, I contacted amazon via chat and they told me there was no delivery attempted. No reason was given to me except "it could be a miscommunication". One of the customer care rep told me they attempt delivery only till 8 pm, there is no way it could have been attempted at 10.30. He offered me 100 INR gift voucher and when I told them delivery is my priority not INR 100, he immediately responded "sorry for the typo". Really the whole sentences of offering me Rs 100 was a typo? Did you mean Rs 1000 ? If yes where is it ? I asked to transfer the chat to his supervisor.


10:27 PM Delivery attempted
HYDERABAD, IN



8:53 PM Out for delivery
Hyderabad, IN

The Supervisor said the same old thing but no one gave me correct status and the reason why the fake delivery was attempted. She was stuck like a broken record saying "Please wait for 48 hours" . Seriously? as a prime customer you promise to deliver the item in 1 day and you ask me to wait for next update for two days ?

Same story next day. There was again a fake delivery attempt (this time ridiculously at 2AM) with no one showing up or calling me. Again I was given a mobile number which was switched off.
1:59 AM Delivery attempted
HYDERABAD, IN
Thursday, 20 Oct
8:14 PM Out for delivery
Hyderabad, IN
I am sure this is just to keep the records clean such that deliveries were attempted on time and it was the customer who was not present. No wonder the customer care rep argued that 95% of the items get delivered on time and mine was exception. Of course if you keep updating fake statues , it will appear to be 95% on time in your reports.

I continued to follow up. Even emailed Jeff Bozos (I really ran out of ideas as there was not further escalation possible). One of the response was
"Jeff received your email and asked me to respond to you.
However, I'm not sure how you'd like us to proceed. Normally we'd create a replacement order for the lost item right away.

I'm happy to send a replacement order to you via fastest shipping method at no cost. If this solution won't work, I can issue a full refund. Please let us know which option you'd prefer."
Lost ?? What can I do now,  then again when I asked for replacement order as I had given up on this
As checked with your order it is returning back to seller and will no longer be delivered to you.Due to certain restrictions, I'm unable to create a replacement order for your mobile.To assist you in a better way I would request you to place a new order and we will make sure it will be delivered to you on time.
I did not ask for a return but the tracking shows "customer refused to accept the package". I was pretty sure now local amazon guys are running some kind of scam to cover up their inefficiency. New order? Clearly amazon are not even sticking their own commitments they just made in last email. Whey should I go for new order ? What happens to my discounts and offers ?

Meanwhile their social media reps keeps writing the same messages over and over without any meaningful response. I am sure they fired the people and used bots like Alexa . After all they are focusing on AI these days more than customer's actual requiements.





Sunday, September 11, 2016

Back to the clear skies.

It's been a while I have updated this blog. Lets start where I left. Satellite spotting ! . The monsoon is almost over and clear skies are not as rare as it was for last few months. Recently some of the planets have been clustering together to make conjunctions. I missed Jupiter and Venus's closest approach last month due to bad weather. Jupiter and Venus were so close that they could have been seen within the field of view of telescopes and binoculars. Apparently Venus was closer to Jupiter than Callisto, farthest of the Galilean moons.

Christopher Becke did make an attempt from the other side of the world.
I managed to catch the Saturn and Mars hovering around Scorpios.

ISS and Plane 

And an Iridium flare and ISS pass at the same time.

ISS Pass SW Sky Iridium 97 Flare

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Shooting Iridium Flares

Iridium flares are sudden flares reflected from one of the Iridium satellite which looks like a very bright (as bright as -8 magnitude) moving object in the sky , sometimes brighter than Venus (max magnitude - 4.7 ) . The satellite itself is very faint in the sky (around 6 magnitude ) which almost beyond naked eye limit and since they are moving fast they can not be caught in long exposure. (because light doe not fall on a single spot in the camera sensor). I have been lately addicted to spot and capture this.

Iridium Flare
Iridium Flare Captured From Urban Sky
 These are so bright during the flare that it can be easily seen even from the most light polluted sky. Here in this photo I could only see the bright stars. I could barely see a 2.8 mag star above 10 degree of southern horizon. Thanks to heavens-above.com and its Android app I could easily notified well before the flare and track it live just before its appearance so that I can have my camera's shutter open.


 This particular time it was close to horizon during flare (about 21 degree) so I could get both the earth and sky. I have even captured this closer to horizon where its very difficult to see faint objects.


Iridium flare
Flare just 11 degree above horizon.

  In both cases sun was well below horizon and it was evening. However I could not spot or capture this just during sunset despite being magnitude -6.7. It is claimed that these bright flares can be seen in the day time also but I think I did not look at the precise part of the sky due to lack of any star , may be it was just visible. I have got the video footage , probably I will play it over and over in my leisure to detect the bright moving spot.

Camera Settings

Since the sky was not very dark and I had to take a long exposure (more than a minute) I had to reduce the aperture of the camera to F/8 so that not a lot of light comes inside over the period of time when shutter is open , I also minimized the ISO to 100 to make the censor less sensitive. Anyway I was shooting in RAW format so that I can play around the exposure and contrast later.

Since these are polar satellites , they rise in north and set in south. So all the attempts I have done till now are in the similar place of the sky. I intend to capture one in the middle of dark sky with wide angle and along with some recognizable celestial object e.g. planets and bright stars in coming days.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Geminids 2015

3 years ago I witnessed a spectacular Geminid meteor shower. This year also we set out for a view of dark sky. Its quite tough to find such place near the city. Still we referred the light pollution map and tried to find a spot in the "green zone".

Light pollution map around Hyderabad http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html
Spotted 50 odd meteors throughout the night whenever I was looking up. Most of the time I think we were busy setting up telescopes, tracker and lenses.

A meteor streak during Geminids 2015
Spotted Comet C/2013 US 10 Catalina as well in the morning sky.

 
Comet Catalina C/10 US 10

Also captured some regular objects like Jupiter, its moon, Venus, Mars etc.
Jupiter
Jupiter and its moons
Plane taking off
Plane
Regulus, Jupiter, Mars and Spica dominating the ecliptic
Mars , Jupiter and Spica
One of the arms of milky way !
Milky Way
Stars moving around Pole Star (North Star)
The north celestial pole

via GIPHY

Panorama to Movie

I take a lot of panoramic pictures either with the in camera functionality or stitching later with software like autostitch. However I did not find a good way to showcase that. I upload them to Facebook or flickr sometime but justice is not done to them as its looks a very short height image to compensate for the huge width. I posted the question in stackoverflow as well.

Finally I found a simple way to do that in Mac using iMovie.

Just import the image into a new movie in iMovie and stretch the image along the timeline for the length you want the output movie to be.

That's it. Here is a sample I generated





From the following original image.


This video format is good for Facebook and Instagram where screen with is limited and panning the across the image eventually displays the while image with proper details.

Once it is in video format it can also be converted to a GIF image using any online tool. Especially sites like giphy.com lets you post to Facebook in such a way that it animates inside timeline even in mobile app (which most of your friends use).

Here is a sample GIF made out of 3 different shots during one of my stargazing session



via GIPHY