JANUARY 2003 ( FEBRUARY )
THE SSQQ CHRISTMAS PARTY, Friday, December 20th (9:15 pm - 12:30 am)
The music SSQQ Christmas Party is unusual since much of our music has a Christmas twist to it. It turns out that Country-Western artists have figured out a great way to make money is to record a Christmas CD. Some artists like Garth Brooks and George Strait even have two of them. As a result, there are many Christmas songs that are excellent Twosteps and Polkas. It may seem a bit odd to realize that 'Frosty the Snowman' can be a Twostep, but when it is sung by Georege Strait you can be sure the speed is right and it definitely sounds country. Throw in
'Feliz Navidad' for a Polka and 'Rocking Around the Christmas Tree' for a Swing and suddenly you have some good seasonal dance music.
However I promise we will play some normal Western tunes as well to keep the Schmaltz at a reasonable level.
This year we are adding a new feature: Room 6 will have non-stop Swing music. We hooked up one of our computers to an amp and added some speakers. You can pick the songs from our MP3 list and be your own DJ!! Besides the Swing music in Room 6, there will be plenty of Christmas Swing music in Room 1.
There are many Waltzes played at the SSQQ Christmas Party. It turns out that several well-known Christmas Carols are very lovely Waltzes. "What Child is This?", "The First Noel", "Silver Bells", "Away in a Manger", "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear", and several others are beautiful Waltz songs. If you like to Waltz, you will love this party!
There is no dress code. Jeans are fine. It would be nice to wear something with Red or Green or a Christmas Theme shirt/pullover, but it isn't necessary.
One nice gesture would be to bring a Toy along with you for the SSQQ Toy Drive. It doesn't have to be wrapped. We will be taking our huge collection of Toys to the Toys for Tots Foundation the day after our Christmas Party.
JANUARY SCHEDULE OF SSQQ DANCE CLASSES.
Classes begin the week of Sunday, January 05.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE JANUARY SCHEDULE
ADVANCED TANGO. This class was only offered once in 2002, so assume it is rare and wonderful. Taught by Judy Archer, Adv Tango covers some the toughest American Tango patterns.
BEGINNING LINDY HOP also returns to SSQQ for New Year. Taught on Sunday afternoons by Gloria Sanchez, the Lindy Hop was America's first Swing dance in 20s that disappeared in the 50s and surged back to life during the huge 90s Swing era.
The BEGINNING WHIP/WEST COAST SWING SUPERCLASS is back!! These two fascinating dances are taught side by side on Sunday and Thursday. Whip and WCS are danced to Disco, Blues, Pop & Rock music. They feature fancy footwork, sexy hip motion, and flashy spins. Historically speaking, January has always been the perfect month to take on this challenging project! As the New Year begins, grit your teeth and join!
Sharon Crawford presents SUPER-ADVANCED WESTERN CHA CHA on Wednesdays. Sharon has hinted at retirement, so don't wait for the 'next chance' to take this great class.
One great lady who definitely is intends to hang up her saddle at the end of January is Susie Merrill. Her final class at SSQQ is her favorite dance: BEGINNING NIGHT CLUB TWOSTEP. Last year Susie taught Nite Club all the way through Super-Adv. This your chance to learn this dance from the woman who knows more about Nite Club than anyone else in Houston.
DEATH VALLEY returns to SSQQ on Friday Nights. Taught by Rick Archer, the course will include some of the flashiest and trickiest moves known to Western Swing. Obviously you need plenty of Ghost Towns under your belt to join.
MARTIAN WHIP adds a new feature as Brian White will teach completely different material on Fridays than what is offered on Thursdays. Take both nights for one price & learn more West Coast Swing in a month than you can imagine!
Last but certainly not least is our first-ever four-week BELLY DANCE class taught by the Midnight Zephyr, Rachel Seff. Taught on Friday evenings in January from 6-7 pm, Rachel has only promised to teach ONE MONTH and then take it from there. If you ladies want it, here it is. A one-time shot. Interest in this class has been phenomenal.
SSQQ DANCE PARTIES IN JANUARY
THE SSQQ NEW YEARS PARTY - Tuesday, December 31, 9 pm - 1 am $15
Our Annual New Year's Eve Party is all about dancing. The party is safe, friendly, relaxed and fun. You have a smoke-free environment, plenty of room to dance, and although there is drinking, it is much less than at other venues. We have never had a problem to date.
The attitude for the evening is 'Upscale'. We expect you to dress up! Coat and Ties for men, dresses for ladies (or anything else formal you can think of). No jeans, please. You can dress as sharp as you want, but please don't come casual. Think of it as a special kind of Halloween Party where you fool people by coming dressed in disguise as a wealthy person.
This is a perfect evening to visit with friends. Many people come together and many people come without dates. Although I won't name names, I remember in particular one excellent three-year romance between two people who came alone to our New Year's Party.
The music in our main room will consist of a great deal of Big Band Swing music. There will be plenty of Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, and the other 30s and 40s Classic to Swing to. In addition we will play all of Frank Sinatra's best Foxtrot songs such as 'Witchcraft' and 'New York New York'. Another special feature are the popular Irish Waltzes with their haunting sweetness. In addition there will be a healthy dose of Ballroom music in Room 1 including Cha Cha, Tango, and Salsa music.
Western Dancing is big too at this party. We open up Room 5 and combine it with Room 4 to make a very large dance floor. In addition to the Western music, there will be a healthy dose of Whip/West Coast Swing music as well. Let us add the floors will be very nice since we will be refinishing them over the Holidays. An added plus is the small hump in Room 4 should be fixed in time for this party.
Rick Archer will be on duty as your DJ. He will take requests for both rooms.
At 11:40 we put our on crazy hats, grab our noisemakers, and start the celebration. Just before Midnight we pour out the champagne and start the big countdown to 2003!
SWING CHARLESTON PARTY
On SATURDAY, JANUARY 11, we will have our Charleston Swing Dance. There is no dress code, but the ladies are encouraged to wear Charleston beads. (Hint: Mardi Gras beads will work just fine.)
CRASH COURSES 7 - 9 pm
BOXFOX - Adele/Marty
BEG LINDY HOP - Gloria
ARGENTINE TANGO - Don
SALSA DIPS & LUNGES - Martin
20s CHARLESTON - Judy
SWING CHARLESTON - Maureen
BELLY DANCE - Rachel Zephyr
Music: Swing in Room 1, Salsa in Room 4.
SWEETHEARTS OF THE RODEO
SATURDAY, JANUARY 25TH, will mark the going-away party for Susie Merrill. As a special feature, Susie is teaching an Advanced Night Club class with two brand-new patterns which you won't want to miss!
7-9 PM CRASH COURSES AT A GLANCE
BEG TEXAS TWOSTEP - Leo
TWOSTEP/POLKA CIRCLE TURNS - Mo
BEG WESTERN WALTZ - Vicki
LATIN HUSTLE - Jack
ADVANCED NIGHT CLUB - Susie (2 new ptns)
SWEETHEARTS OF THE RODEO - Rick
THE 2002 HALLOWEEN COSTUME PICTURE CONTEST!!
Mack Riley, Marlane Kayfes, and Mara Rivas, the 3 Ms, were all winners in the Halloween Costume Picture Contest. However our big winner was a lady by the tongue-twisting name of Rungnapa
Putthachareon, aka Rose Rungnapa. She somehow managed to be the only person to decipher our difficult needle in the haystack puzzle and win a free course. I would imagine just spelling her name on a daily basis keeps this brilliant woman on her toes. Nice work!
THE WONDERFUL SSQQ CHRISTMAS PICTURE PUZZLE CONTEST!
If you have any interest in solving fun puzzles, this will be a real favorite. We have 50 pictures of famous Christmas Carols and Songs such as "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree". It's your job to match the 50 Picture Puzzles to a Clue List of 100 famous Christmas Songs.
Before I forget, congratulations to SSQQ Students Mara Rivas, Randy Johnston, Sara Padilla, and Rheann Hanson for being the only ones so far to solve the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle. They are terrific!
As background, back in 1996 a former SSQQ Staff Member named Marla Jennings gave me a copy of 24 Christmas Picture Puzzles. The idea was to guess the identity of a famous Christmas Carol from the picture. Here is a sample picture. Any idea which Christmas Carol it is?? Answer further below.
I lost track of the puzzle, but three years later I stumbled over it again looking for another document. I decided to scan the pictures into the computer and put them up on my web site. I added 16 more to make an even 40.
As a lark, I had a contest between the three smartest women I knew at the time: SSQQ Staffers Kathleen Parker, Karen Clawson, and Debbie Awad. They had thirty minutes to figure out the answers. Debbie won the contest with a score in the low 30s with Karen and Kathleen just a couple steps behind. I was very impressed.
My biggest problem was that I wasn't that familiar with the names of Christmas Carols. I can remember them when I hear them, but that's about it. So to make things easier last year I added 10 more pictures and a list of 100 Christmas Carol and Song names to pick from. Seemed pretty easy to me.
(By the way, what was your answer for the picture above? If you guessed Silver Bells, close but no cigar. If you said Jingle Bells, then maybe you have some potential at this game!)
This year something odd happened. I didn't get very many responses from the SSQQ community, but I was inundated with requests for the answers from people all over the country. I wasn't prepared for the onslaught!
The thing that irritated me was that all but a few asked for the answers. My thinking was - why not solve it yourself?
Maybe I didn't have the right spirit, but I emailed each one of them that I would be happy to furnish the answers if they would first take the quiz. After all, Debbie Awad got 30 of 40 right without even a list to help. Surely these people could solve a few first to show that they tried. Here are some of the emails for your amusement:
Hi there! Would you be able to send me a list of answers for the 50 songs. I would like to do this at a Church Christmas dinner...but don't want to get any wrong! Thanks!
I would like to use your christmas carol puzzle list as an after supper game at our office staff party this year, but am reluctant to do so without having an answer key....!!!....would it be possible for you to send me the anwers?....TIA
Will you send the answers to the puzzles? I found your site and love the pictures. I'd love to use it at our staff Christmas party next week. I figured out about half...and the others are stumping me, even with the clue list!
Hi, Rick...My family is having a reunion this Christmas, and each family is responsible for one night's entertainment. I found your puzzle and would love to use it for my night (fastest family wins a grand prize). However, I can't solve all of them myself!! Would it be possible to get the answers? Would appreciate your help...
(Editor's Note: I told Barb like everyone else if they worked the puzzle and came close I would send the answers. Barb worked the puzzle, had 44 right, and I sent her the rest of the answers on 12-10)
12-09-02 Barb again
Rick...thanks so much! These should keep us busy while we're mellowing out by the fireplace!
Would it be possible to use your puzzle in my classroom? I teach music and thought it would be fun for the kids to try. Would you send me the answers so I can be sure of my answers? There are some that I'm guessing at and a few that I have no idea! Thanks!
Found your puzzle and wonder if you would be willing to share the answer sheet. Some at the office wanted to have a few games at a Christmas party. I don't think anyone will be able to take you up on your practice night if they get 45 correct since we live in North Dakota.
Hi. My name is Susan and I'm from Chicago, IL. I was doing a search at yahoo.com on 'Christmas Carol Picture Puzzles' and your website, SSQQ, came up. My mom had a puzzle years ago where there were pictures on a piece of paper that represented different Christmas carols. Is this what you have? If so, is it possible to get a copy of that please. We are having a Christmas party and I think that would be so much fun to do again! Thanks in advance for your time.
(Editor's note: Like Barb, Susan worked the puzzle too.)
Thanks so much! That was exactly what I was looking for!!
Hi Rick, I was wondering if I could get the answers to your puzzle...I'm interested in playing it at a Christmas party.
Rick: Any chance that I can have the answers to the 50 Xmas song puzzles? I am a real chump if i can't answer them in my work group because I started this. Thanks
12-13-02 Hottie Girl
what are the answers?
We'd like to use this quiz for a Christmas Party. Can you send us the answers. Thanks.
No, I am not a student, but a teacher in Illinois. This site was found and has been presented to high school students for holiday fun! Would you please inform me of my mistakes and different answer so we can notify our staff. It really has been a fun project for us to figure these out.
I need the answers for my office Crhistmas Party tomorrow. Thanks in advance.
(Editor's Note: as usual I suggested to Frank that he work the puzzle first)
do you have a list of the answers to the christmas puzzle?
I don't have the goddamn time to work your stupid puzzle. You probably don't even know the answers. Humbug.
So, whaddya think? Was I a Grinch not to give out the answers freely or do you think I was right to make 'em work for it? I am curious for your opinion.
THE SSQQ CHRISTMAS TOY DRIVE
Sponsored by Judy Archer
"One of my most enjoyable Christmases ever was in 1998 when SSQQ collected toys to be donated to needy children in Houston. We had a tremendous response from students and staff and we all felt great about helping a child have a better, more hopeful, Christmas.
We would once again like to collect toys for donation. It's easy to do. Simply buy a toy for any age child and bring it to the studio. We'll set up a spot in Room #6 for collection. The best part? No wrapping! Either put the toy in an open gift bag or just leave as is. My absolute favorite part is buying the studio's share of toys for donation!
Please remember how lucky we are and how happy you can make a needy child this Christmas with a simple gift of caring."
(Hint: maybe you can bring a toy with you to the Christmas Party this Friday.)
A NIGHT OF FOLK DANCING AT SSQQ
SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 7-9 PM
We are in for a special treat a little bit off our beaten path. On Saturday evening, January 18th from 7:00 - 9:00 pm, the Friendly Folk Dancers will perform and teach Folk Dancing at SSQQ. There will be no charge. The Friendly Folk Dancers are members of the religious group known as Quakers. They travel around the country and the world sharing international folk dances as part of their ministry to support world community and peace. Their travels have taken them to England, Western Europe, New Zealand, Kenya, Canada, and various places in the U.S. Now they are coming to what will undoubtedly be the strangest place of all their journeys: Texas. First the group will perform several international folk dances. Then they will give a brief talk about Quakers. Afterwards for the majority of the evening the Friendly Folk Dancers will teach and lead us in dances from many cultures, including dances from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. We will then teach them the Cotton-Eyed Joe as part of our International Sharing, a dance so complex it will sorely test the learning curve of even this talented group (just kidding).
All ages are encouraged to participate in this joyful intergenerational event. Come and bring your friends and children. Everyone is welcome to attend whether they wish to dance or not. I might add that Folk Dancing does not require partners.
For those of you leery of a trap to convert you to the mysterious cult known as the Quakers, I can assure you this is no trick and there is nothing to fear. Although I am not currently active in the Quaker Meeting, I was raised a Quaker and consider it my religion of choice. The Live Oak Quaker Meeting in Houston is growing thanks in large part to their beautiful new Meeting House at 1318 West 26th Street.
It is a little known fact that SSQQ was once the temporary home of the Live Oak Quaker Meeting. They met here at the studio every Sunday for about five years till their permanent home was ready in 2001. It was no inconvenience to the studio and I was more than happy to help because the Quakers were always incredibly nice to me when I was growing up. What goes around comes around.
In my experience the Quakers, also known as Friends or the Society of Friends, are the least pushy, least strident, least preachy group of Christians I have ever known. Their religious beliefs are pretty simple - that there is that of God in every Man, that if you look within even the meanest person you are sure to find that inner light of divinity. Quakers are noted for their embrace of pacifism. They do not believe in war as a means to defend their community or to solve conflict. In fact, I am not sure if the Quakers even believe in defending an attack on their own person, a position I admire greatly, but deeply fear adopting as my own. Quaker religious services are conducted as a silent group meditation although periodically a member of the group might stand up and share a personal insight. You might be surprised to discover there is no preacher. It is the closest thing to a 'Do It Yourself' religion I can imagine. For someone like me who doesn't appreciate being told what to 'believe', the Quaker Faith is easy to respect. Most Quakers are people who prefer to make up their own minds about the nature of the Almighty. I might add that the Quakers I have known are among the kindest, most decent, down-to-earth human beings I have ever met in my life. I am proud to be associated with their religion.
And now that you know a little bit more about the Quakers, I can assure you I scheduled this evening for one simple reason - the chance to see some excellent Folk Dancing and the opportunity to try Folk Dancing myself and share it with our community. This will be an evening of Dance and Friendship. I hope all of you will join me for this night!
MANY STAFF CHANGES IN DECEMBER - AND WHAT ABOUT JANUARY??
As December rolled in, I had a sneaky feeling changes were afoot. Sure enough I was right. The sad thing is I was a lot more right than I had hoped. Believe it or not, SSQQ lost over 10% of its staff in December.
Topping the list is Susie Merrill, Heartbeat Coach and creator of the SSQQ Night Club Twostep program. Susie has been with us since 1988. Losing her is a tough blow. Her main reason for leaving is the serious health problems her husband Bill is currently facing. Susie will stick around in January to teach Beginning Night Club Twostep, then hand the reins over to Anita Williams. We will have a Going Away Party for her at our Sweethearts of the Rodeo Party on January 25th. Susie has enormous talent and plenty of dancing left in her. I hope that after Bill mends and Susie gets some of her strength back, she may consider a return. But there are no guarantees. As it stands SSQQ will be losing one of our finest, most creative teachers in Susie Merrill.
By coincidence Sharon Crawford resigned the same day, but later said she was having second thoughts. Like several of the senior SSQQ staff, Sharon has been teaching for nearly 15 years. The pressure of working a full-time job then coming to the studio to teach a demanding class for two hours gets to her. Exhaustion is a problem not limited just to Sharon. Fortunately Sharon thought about her retirement for a couple days and decided maybe she just needed some time off instead. She will teach her Super-Advanced Cha Cha class in January, take a couple months off, then possibly return in May to teach her popular series of Waltz classes. I wouldn't mind at all if each SSQQ student looked Sharon in the eye and begged her to stay. Let Sharon know how much we all appreciate her.
The news wasn't all bad. I know when I am in trouble, so I took immediate action. After Sharon and Susie's emails, I sent out an SOS to Amanda Keiser. A very talented Western instructor with five years of experience, Amanda took a sabbatical back in October 2002. I begged her to return and thank goodness she agreed to come back on board starting in February 2003.
Another valuable teacher we are losing is Joanne Spuck who teaches Martian Whip on Thursdays. 2002 was Joanne's best year here at the studio. She is a genius at women's West Coast Swing footwork. Each Thursday our ladies learned a challenging new hijack or a new passing step or a new Basic. Our girls never had it so good. Unfortunately Joanne has three grown daughters who all live in LA. The firm she works for has an office in LA. When an opening out there occurred, Joanne interviewed and accepted a position out there. Joanne is going to be tough to replace.
Rachel Yancey has been a big help for a couple years as a Salsa assistant on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She is leaving for happy reasons - Rachel is going to have a baby! We will miss her.
Another popular teacher leaving is Sandy Baggett who was my Whip assistant on Mondays. Like Sharon, I get the feeling she is tired and needs a break from teaching. Sandy gave me the impression that she would be willing to return sometime later in 2003. As I said, I think she just needed a break. Let's hope we will see Sandy return!
Acrobatics instructor Melanie Jones actually left a year ago, but said she might come back. Melanie accepted a promotion with Continental Airlines which took her to New York. I guess a year is enough time to conclude that Melanie is probably gone for the long haul. Too bad. She is a talented lady.
Another talented lady who left is Anastasia Miller. Anastasia was only on the staff for six months but I was amazed with her talent and energy. Unfortunately Houston's pathetic job market wasn't able to create a good job for her, so she was forced to move to Richmond, Virginia, to accept a very good job offer there. I will miss her.
Jeannie Finn chose an odd way to retire. She had someone tell me she quit. Oh well. Not everyone leaves in style. I do appreciate the many Friday nights where she helped as a Western Assistant.
So who will take the place of all these many talented instructors? 2003 promises to be a very interesting year.
One change to look for in 2003 is more dancing on Friday Nights after
class. Everyone currently taking an advanced class in January such as Martian Whip, Death Valley, or Zoot Suit Riot will be given a discount to join us for dancing on Fridays. As for the students who haven't quite made it to the higher levels, please don't be jealous - this is a reward for all the hard work it takes to make it to the toughest levels of dance.
As I mentioned earlier, we will turn Room 6 into a Swing Room on Fridays. Western in Room 1, Whip in Room 4, Swing in Room 6 - the joint should be hopping!
Why wait for the summer cruise to have a big studio adventure?? Marla Gorzynski has planned a weekend junket down the Cancun for the studio in April. Here is what she has to say:
Rick Archer and I will lead the group as we get a head start on the summer season in the tropical paradise of Cancun.
We will enjoy the white sand beach, snorkel in the beckoning crystal blue water and seek endless opportunities for dancing fun.
We fly off on our Mexican adventure on Thursday, April 10, for four fun-filled days. We will be staying at the Oasis Playa, a 4 ½ star all inclusive resort located in the famous Hotel Zone.
Air transportation, hotel, meals and beverages are all included in the LOW PRICE of $499 per person (double occupancy).
Enjoy the white sand beach, beckoning crystal blue water and endless opportunities for dancing fun.
On one of our nights we will take a page from Darryl Armstrong's
book and dedicate ourselves to the Search for the perfect Margarita.
Plan to club hop ALL NIGHT LONG in search of that special place for slow dance and romance. Part of our quest will include the search for the perfect Margarita,
the Elixir which will unleash your magic ability to Slow Dance and Romance to any song imaginable.
(if you can slow dance to the Macarena, that is when you know you
have discovered the perfect Margarita!)
As an additional activity, we are planning a full day excursion to Xcaret eco-archaeological park for an enjoyable day of snorkeling.
Further details to follow in early January
but think about it over Christmas!
SSQQ SLOW DANCE AND ROMANCE - IMRE KONDOR AND EILEEN KRIEPKE GET MARRIED!
Imre Kondor and Eileen Kriepke met here at SSQQ about four years ago. Margie Saibara told me they got married recently and honeymooned in Europe. Apparently Imre took Eileen to his native country Hungary to meet the relatives. As you know, it is always smart to get married first then meet the in-laws, right?
Best wishes for two great people!
THE LONGHORN REVISITED
Written by Mike Ruland
There are rumors that the Longhorn may open. I have heard this from two different people. Apparently the Longhorn is deeply missed, which bodes well for its chances at reincarnation.
As of now the middle of December 2002, the heir apparent to the Longhorn on Tuesday is Wild West. If you get there after say nine or so be prepared to park about three parking lots away and pay five dollars to some polite slightly nervous guys speaking with what sounds like Middle Eastern accents. Scattered clusters of old people are mostly in place by 8:30 as hordes of the young come fashionably late to replace them, the aged dying off as the night wears on.
It remains to be seen whether or not City Streets can get its Wednesday night scene going even with its KILT FM promotion. The drinks there are, at a dollar, fifty cents cheaper than the ones at Wild West for the budget conscious. It seems unlikely that even all of that is enough to jumpstart the party scene there under the giant flat foam Alamo.
According to one popular account the management of the Longhorn or some other responsible party owed about $150,000 when the doors were locked. Other accounts describe them as being about 9 months behind in rent. One eyewitness even claimed that she personally saw some men in FBI jackets inspecting the pool tables. There is no word that any weapons of mass destruction were found or anthrax spores uncovered.
However, there does seem to be a serious possibility that Longhorn may indeed reopen.
According to a reliable source there people who shall for now remain nameless are reportedly trying to team up with another investor to buy out a certain person or persons with equity in the Longhorn. According to a source quoting the former employee, the remodeling should begin in a few months. If this is all true, then the Longhorn might someday reopen, probably with a new name.
Perhaps some Wednesday all of us, the Longhorn orphans shall meet again. On some humid windswept night as the humid subtropical wind whips fumes from Highway 290 through our hair we shall once again make our way through the parking lot under buzzing bug covered lights and enter the doors under the giant 75 foot long aerodynamically
windtunnel-tested cow skull to dance our nights away.
THE JANUARY JOKE PICTURE OF THE MONTH
submitted by Pat Roberts
This month's picture tells the story of two pitiful snowmen who are being robbed by a mean and merciless rabbit.
Buried deep in the pages of the Nov 14 Houston Chronicle, I discovered news of a $5 million Flood bill sponsored by erstwhile Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Kevin Brady. The purpose of this legislation is to study whether the frequency and severity of flooding is increasing in Harris County.
5 million dollars of tax payers money. Here, let me save y'all some money - Hell yes it's increasing. Why not spend some of that money on drainage improvements or is that just too difficult to understand??
AT&T IS RICK ARCHER'S CHOICE FOR THE WORLD'S WORST CORPORATION
(SEE FURTHER BELOW FOR OUR 4 LETTERS TO THE
You have my vote for AT&T as the worst corporation I have ever done business with. I am certain if I try hard enough, some other company can be found that is more poorly run than AT&T, but up to this point AT&T is the hand's down winner for "WORST COMPANY" in my book.
Here is a pathetic story.
SSQQ does not use long distance phone service very often. Maybe once every couple years I find a reason to call someone, but I usually use my home phone and not my business number. This inexperience is the reason I was so easily ambushed. AT&T took me down faster than the Spaniards killed the Aztecs with the Plague.
Back in the spring of 2002, my assistant Jill Banta tried to renew our Norton Anti-Virus subscription on-line. Something went wrong. Frustrated, we couldn't leave the business computer exposed to viruses so we decided the next step was to call Norton on the phone. We could not find a 1-800 number listed on their web site, but we did finally locate a number where we could call them long distance.
Figuring it would be a long wait, we decided to use the business phone since it had a speaker phone option. This way we could work until someone came on the line to speak to us. This trick worked just fine. 20 minutes later someone came on the phone and solved the problem.
I don't pay the studio bills. I give them to Judy Archer. So without much thought I handed Judy the studio bills from AT&T for March, April, and May. It didn't dawn on me at the time that these were new bills.
Then on June 25 I decided to review the bills before handing them to Judy. I noticed SSQQ was being billed $15.20 a month for long distance. Huh?? I hadn't made any long distance calls to anyone in ages. Why was I being billed? What was I being billed for? There wasn't even a number listed that I had called.
I read the fine print. "AT&T applies a $11.95 minimum charge to accounts when long distance usage falls below $50. Based on your business needs, you may qualify for additional AT&T products and services that could result in avoiding this charge. For more information contact the Billing Inquiries number."
Without much hesitation I picked up the phone. I braced myself for a wait, but it turned out to be far worse than I ever imagined. First I was instructed to decide whether I spoke English or not. Then I was told my communications would be taped for my protection. Then I was instructed to punch in my number. Then I was instructed to punch in my account number. Then I was instructed at another level to punch in my phone number again. Finally I was given the privilege to quit punching in numbers and just sit there and wait.
To add to my ordeal, a repeating tape started to play stating that "a survey by JD Powers and Associates listed AT&T Number 1 in customer satisfaction!" Over and over and over again I listened to this stupid message!! I was ready to scream when suddenly the phone went dead for no reason. I stared blankly at the phone. I was sick with frustration. Ten minutes were gone down the drain. Now I would have to start all over again.
Yes, I told the computer I wanted English.
Yes, I was told the call was being recorded again.
Yes, I punched in my phone number again.
Yes, I punched in my account number again.
Yes, I punched in my phone number again.
Yes, I got to listen to the JD Powers tape again.
I wondered if this was a nightmare. It wasn't. Nightmares aren't this scary.
Thirty minutes - YES, 30 !@#$%^! MINUTES - later a billing representative came on the line. And you will not believe the first thing he said to me. Guess. "Can I have your phone number and account number, please?" Unbelievable.
So I told him my problem. I finally came to understand how I had gotten stuck with AT&T in the first place. It seems my business phone did not have a long distance service on it when I called Norton Anti-Virus. So I had been assigned to AT&T on a rotating basis. As I understood it AT&T had set up my account behind my back using existing phone records from somewhere. No warning had been given. No signatures were required. No permission on my part was necessary. And no contract had been sent. SSQQ was now an AT&T customer.
Furthermore I was going to be billed 15 bucks a month automatically for not using my long distance service. Over the past 3 months SSQQ had already paid $45 for this privilege before I even caught on to the problem.
I explained that SSQQ didn't need long-distance phone service. All of my long-distance work is done through toll-free phone numbers, the Internet, and email. My home phone could handle the other one or two calls I might make if necessary. I had only used the business phone because the speaker phone made waiting easier. "Please cancel my service," I said.
The representative argued me. He said that wasn't a good idea. Huh? He said if I signed up for this option and that option, then my service would become free. You gotta be kidding. I said for the second time cancel my service. He argued with me again. Now I lost my temper. I said in a raised voice, "I WANT YOU TO CANCEL MY ACCOUNT!!! WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET YOU TO LISTEN TO ME!?!"
I swear on a stack of Bibles that I had to tell him three times to cancel the service before he finally agreed to do so. My blood pressure was so high that I thought I would pop a blood vessel. As I hung up the phone sweating and panting, the thought crossed my mind that Dracula could not be harder to kill than AT&T. 'Number One in Customer Satisfaction according to JD Powers and Associates'. Where do they get this stuff??
Finally I calmed down and called Sprint. The lady was very nice, but said I would have to have a minimum charge for long distance with Sprint too for long distance. The good news was that the charge would only be $5 a month. I said never mind, but could I change my home phone long distance service to Sprint instead without a minimum charge? That she could do. If I didn't call anyone long distance, then I wouldn't be charged. Good. Now I was happy.
In July I got another bill from AT&T. I wrote in red ink on the bill that I had already canceled my long distance service. In August I got yet another bill from AT&T. Livid, I wrote in red ink on the bill that I had already canceled my long distance service and that I had written the same thing the month before.
In September I got a third bill. Now I knew for sure that my ordeal on June 25th had done no good. AT&T was not going away.
So on September 18 I wrote them a letter which basically asked them to cancel my service. Here is what I said:
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Acct xxx yyy zzzz aaa with SSQQ Inc/Richard Archer
Back in the Spring of 2002, my assistant made a long-distance call on my business phone (713 861 1906) to attempt to rectify a problem regarding our Norton Anti-Virus protection renewal.
Unbeknownst to her or to me, this automatically created a long-distance service for my business with ATT. This service is unnecessary since my business is strictly local. I make almost no long-distance calls other than the odd problem which could just as easily been handled in another way.
Shortly thereafter I began receiving bills such as the one I have enclosed. They were paid for several months by my staff as part of our monthly routine bill payment.
Then one day I noticed the ATT bill myself. I was curious since no one had made a long-distance call in several months.
1. I was shocked to find that I had been assigned an ATT long-distance account that required NO Signature and no contract approval.
2. Then I was shocked to find I am forced to pay 15 dollars a month minimum charge despite not making one call.
This means I have been paying for a service that I don't want, I don't need, didn't ask for and HAVEN'T even USED! Nice racket.
I made a phone call to an ATT service representative in July 2002 canceling my service. It did not solve the problem. Since then I have continued to receive bills nevertheless. I am quite sure a record of this call can be retrieved if this problem continues to fester. This was a fascinating call. First I was disconnected after ten minutes. The second time I sat there for 30 minutes waiting for a representative. Imagine the absurdity of being on hold for 30 minutes listening endlessly to your tape touting the JD Powers and Associates survey listing ATT as #1 in customer satisfaction. I punched in my telephone number four different times for your computer. Little good this did - when your service rep finally did answer, he required me to list my phone number again!
Since that call in July, I have written notes on each ATT monthly bill explaining that I canceled my service, but this has done no good since I continue to receive my bill like clockwork. Now I am trying a written letter to inform you my long-distance service is canceled.
First you 'sign me up' behind my back without my permission. Then you bill me for a service I don't use. Third, you don't even remove me from your billing despite my excruciating 30-minute call to your offices in July. Now I am forced to spend nearly an hour writing this letter.
What kind of business do you run??
Now, kindly remove my service. Please be professional and do the work your 'representative' was supposed to have done back in July and cancel it. Furthermore, please clear my account of all charges since July. Finally, a written notice to the effect that the service has indeed gone to its well-deserved extinction would greatly be appreciated. My address is on the bill and the envelope.
On September 19, I sent the letter to the billing address by certified mail. I have the receipt. I dreaded making another phone call. Writing the letter seemed easier.
But did the letter work? No, of course not. In October, November,
and December I received my usual bill.
I even got a bill collection notice. In response I
sent a certified letter to this new address too. No answer.
AT&T lives. Dracula has been hired as their public spokesman. I believe JD Powers and Associates recommended him as the perfect corporate symbol.
Did I ever receive a reply to my first certified letter? No.
Did I ever receive a reply to my second certified letter? No.
But in November I did receive a $35 check in the mail and a form
letter from AT&T asking me to switch my home long distance to
them. I decided not to accept the offer.
My next step?? Beats me.
Does anyone have a suggestion? Email it to Rick Archer, email@example.com
1. Hey Rick,
Regarding your AT&T article, I'm sorry but my vote is for SBC/Yahoo's new DSL service. I swear to god, I was on the phone for TWO AND HALF HOURS with them trying to figure out why my DSL service wasn't working. When I first hooked up my DSL service, it wouldn't work so I called the "help desk", and I use that term VERY loosely. They told me that it was probably my alarm system, which uses the same phone line, that was causing the problem. They said I needed to have my alarm company come out and put a filter on the line. Simple enough, right? WRONG. The alarm company did come out and put the filter on which they've done hundreds of times for people, but it didn't work. So I called the "help desk" again in the hopes they might offer some information on filter while the alarm technician was still in my apt. I was put on hold so many times I lost count and that was after going thru the same type of AGGRAVATING computerized phone system. Several times while I was on hold waiting for someone to "find someone" who knew what the problem might be, I was suddenly transferred back to the beginning of that infernal computerized system. Several times I was disconnected. One time, while on hold, I was somehow transferred to PRODIGY. I don't know how the heck that happened. And of course, NO ONE had a direct line that I could call back on. Each time I had to start back at the beginning that dang computerized system. The entire TWO AND HALF HOURS, the alarm company repair man was forced to sit and wait and we still had no answers by the time he had to leave.
I finally got it to work. (Turned out they hadn't flipped some switch or connected some wire back at their end). But when I finished installing the software, it caused me to lose about FOUR HUNDRED email and there is no way to get it back!!! Arg!! Bett's head is about to explode from all the aggravation!
They sent me a customer service questionnaire a few days later. BELIEVE ME, they got an earful (or eyeful)!!!
I've had problems with AT&T too though. Last year I got a bill from them for about $25.00. What was worse, it said that the bill was OVERDUE. I don't have AT&T b/c I rarely call long distance and when I do, I use one of those 10-10 numbers. Anyway, I called and told them I didn't have AT&T and how could it be overdue if I'd never seen another bill. No good answer. I told them if they were claiming I owed them money, I wanted to see a detail of the calls I supposedly made. They sent a copy of a bill about one or two months back but it didn't list any calls. So, I called again. The rep said the calls must have been from 6 months or so ago and they no longer had the detail on those bills. Convenient. I told her I never signed up for AT&T and I specifically remembered that b/c when I got my new phone service, SWB asked which long distance company I wanted and I said "I don't care". The rep said Fine, I will register you with "I Don't Care Phone Company". This is literally their name, so of course I had to laugh and remembered it. THEN, she said the bill was from a previous address. (I'd been here 4 1/2 years). I said What address do you have? She said What was your previous address? (And here was my biggest mistake....) I told her my previous address and she said "Oh, that's it". Yea right. She said I evidently had a bill at my previous address and when I moved they couldn't get the bill to me. I filled out change of address forms and got all my other bills, so this didn't add up. She said that somehow they had just located me, so they sent my overdue bill to my new address. What a scam! I'll bet a lot of people just pay the $25 so they won't get a negative mark on their credit reports and to avoid the hassle. Can you imagine how much they make if they do this to just half the population in Houston???
I never paid the bill and they eventually stopped sending them. Nothing is on my credit report so far. If they do report it, I'm just going to put an explanation in there that they "slammed me" and I'm contesting it. It's a common enough problem that I think most people know about it by now. It's happened to me twice now. I think both times were AT&T.
I called Southwestern Bell and told them to switch my long distance service and I wanted my account fixed so I could no longer be slammed. They put something on my account (I forget what it's called) but no one can change long distance companies on my account without my consent and a password. BTW: SWB has long distance service that costs you nothing each month unless you use it. They are MORE THAN HAPPY to sign you up with their service. And so far I've had no problems.
A friend of mine had problems with a cell phone company (I don't remember if it was AT&T). He said that when he couldn't get a response with their "help desk" over the phone - which also charged him a long distance fee to call them and complain! - he wrote a letter threatening to sue them and listed his "damages" i.e. all his time spent researching, copying bills and fighting with people over the phone, multiplied times his hourly wage etc. He managed to get it up to about $800. He got a good response fairly quickly doing that.
You might try the lawsuit threat, even though I know you hate lawyers too.
2. Rick, I deeply empathize with your AT&T problem. I would suggest writing to the FCC or the Better Business Bureau. I would like to add that Bank of America is a horrible company as well.
3. Rick, I had a very bad experience with AT&T as well. I was so furious with them and blew my top. It was a couple years ago and because I got so angry with them, I think I lost a few too many brain cells because, for the life of me, I can't remember the exact chain of events. All I remember is the frustration. Needless to say, AT&T is history in my household. How do they stay in business.
4. Rick, A very similar thing happened to me about a year ago but I wound up looking on the AT&T website and was looking for a phone number for Michael Armstrong, the CEO for AT&T. After clicking all over the place, I found a cell phone number for one of the Public Affairs people. I called and she was in a meeting!!! I explained to her what was going on and she freaked out on me! She told me I had no business calling her! I told her that AT&T doesn't seem to mind calling me out of a meeting daily and now I was returning the favor!! Needless to say, my problem was resolved that day. I work from my home and I used to receive 4 to 5 telemarketing calls per day and even asking them to remove my name did no good. On a good note, I have not received even one more call from AT&T. I also filed a complaint with the BBB in New Jersey where they are located but I doubt that did a thing. Good Luck!
VOCABULARY WORD OF THE MONTH WITH JANE DOWNS - PALLIATIVE
PALLIATIVE: adjective Relieving or soothing the symptoms of a disease or disorder without effecting a cure. Serving to palliate; serving to extenuate or mitigate noun One that palliates, especially a palliative drug or medicine.
Ex: Soothing qualities of music palliate the woes of our lives, much like true friends do.
Contributed by Leroy Ginzel
A little Jewish woman, calling Mount Sinai Hospital, said, "Hello, darling, I'd like to talk with the person who gives the information regarding your patients. I want to know if the patient is getting better, or doing like expected, or is getting worse.
The voice on the other end of the line said, "What is the patient's name and room number?"
She said, "Yes, darling! she's Sarah Finkel, in Room 302."
He said, "Oh, yes. Mrs. Finkel is doing very well. In fact, she's had two full meals, her blood pressure is fine, her blood work just came back as normal, she's going to be taken off the heart monitor in a couple of hours and if she continues this improvement, Dr. Cohen is going to send her home Tuesday at twelve o' clock."
The woman said, "Thank God! That's wonderful! Oh! that's fantastic, darling!... That's wonderful news!"
The man on the phone said, "From your enthusiasm, I take it you must be a close family member or a very close friend!"
She said, "I'm Sarah Finkel in 302! My doctor doesn't tell me shit!"
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ADVICE TO MEN
Hi Rick, I'm currently as student at SSQQ learning swing. I have completed beginning & intermediate classes and went to your website only today. I should've read this article earlier. Your article was very informative. Just yesterday at the practice party one lady asked me to dance and said she did'nt know to dance & if I could teach her a couple of moves. Without thinking I was trying to teach her moves from intermediate which I could'nt learn well even after 4 classes. There was no chance she could pick up anything in a few minutes.
As you said, dancing to the lady's level makes a lot of sense. It would've been a lot simpler for both of us.
Regards, Kiran Patil
(Editor's Note: Mr. Patil said some very nice things which I appreciate. He is referring to an article I wrote several years ago called "Advice to Men". As I pointed out in the article, in my time I made every mistake on the dance floor that can possibly be made. This qualified me to write the article.
AND THAT'S A WRAP FOR THIS ISSUE (AND DON'T FORGET TO GO TO THE WEB SITE FOR THE COMPLETE NEWSLETTER!!)
As you can see, the SSQQ Newsletter is mostly written by people just like you who send stuff in. If you have any comments, suggestions, requests, complaints, jokes, pictures or poetry to share, please send it to me, Rick Archer, at
And thanks for reading all the way to the bottom!
. I might add I do have reason to believe some of you simply scroll to the bottom to look for any little surprises I hide down here. ;-) Anyhow, thanks to all for making it this far!
SSQQ Dance Studio