AT&T U-Verse Enters Business Execution Hall of Shame

August 10, 2013

I wrote my original blog post way too early in the process about upgrading my father’s Internet capability. There were more maddening surprises–detailed below. Here are all the surprises that I know about now after several people at AT&T U-Verse failed to disclose appropriately as we went through the process:

  • To offer the low price, AT&T changes his phone from a direct wired connection to voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP). His home alarm system doesn’t speak VOIP so now he either needs to either schedule and pay for AT&T to come out and restore what was there for over 50 years as a direct wired phone line or upgrade his alarm system at a cost of about $550.
  • His new VOIP phone has a limit of 250 minutes per month. He’s never had a limit on his local calls.

New issues learned after installation:

  • This new service came with a $180 early termination fee if my father terminates before 12 months are up. This was only mentioned after the issue was escalated by the California Public Utilities Commission. No one ever mentioned this.
  • The monthly price of $40 was incorrectly quoted. The price is actually about $52 a month. They had quoted prices for a new customer and my dad was an upgrade customer. Everyone we talked to knew this was an upgrade order. Also, instead of paying a one-time equipment fee of $100 for the Internet modem, he is only entitled to a monthly, recurring fee of $6. My father wanted the one-time fee.
  • The bill they sent did not reflect the bundling/pricing we had discussed. It was off by about $30 a month. So much for the quote matching the order.
  • The adjusted monthly price of about $52 a month is a special promotional rate–it actually goes up to about $77 a month after 12 months. No one ever mentioned this.

I filed a complaint with the Public Utilities Commission on the first bulleted issues. And, AT&T U-Verse followed up with us. Even though several agents omitted material details, the company will not honor the agent commitments. They have promised possible disciplinary action and/or re-training, but, the fact that there are so many discrepancies is, frankly, baffling.

As they won’t honor the pricing, At&T U-Verse agreed to rip everything out and waive the early termination fee. I told them I would get back to them if that is what my father wanted to do. Oh, and they did refund the installation fee of slightly over $100. This is the best they can offer. I was told we could call in after 12 months and see if they’ll give another promotional rate to keep the price about where it is now. Yippee!

It’s hard to believe that there could be so many problems/issues in a single, residential transaction. And, for such a colossal screw-up (I’m trying to be kind, here) and delivering a performance worthy of the Keystone Cops, I install AT&T U-Verse in my Business Execution Hall of Shame.

Dave Gardner, Gardner& Associates Consulting

© 2013 Dave Gardner



Heathrow Airport Operator BAA Airports Ltd. enters Business Execution Hall of Shame

December 22, 2010

Heathrow Airport travelers are suffering horribly as a result of some bad weather this past weekend. This has negatively impacted the holidays for tens of thousands of people.  London Heathrow is the world’s largest airport hub.


  • The airport received 3.5 inches of snow this past Saturday.  [Chicago O’Hare and Boston would consider this a “dusting of snow.”] Cold and ice that followed have snarled airport operations for days.
  • Until December 23rd at 6 a.m. local time, Heathrow will operate only 1/3 of scheduled flights.
  • Heathrow canceled 752 flights–389 arrivals and 363 departures (58%)—on Tuesday out of 1300 flights planned for that day.
  • Gatwick airport canceled only 50 out of 695 (7%) flights scheduled on Tuesday.
  • Since the snow storm on Saturday, Heathrow has canceled 3200 flights (60% of the total) whereas Gatwick as canceled 25% of its flights.
  • Heathrow had 100 contractors clearing snow; Gatwick had 140 contractors working around the clock
  • Heathrow’s second main runway remained closed all day Tuesday
  • The airport’s operator declined an offer of assistance from the military to help with snow and ice removal.


  • Heathrow operates at nearly full capacity making it difficult to clear the snow. [Really?]
  • Planes froze to their parking stands—special equipment was required to free the aircraft.
  • This is the coldest December on record in the southern U.K.—they are not used to such conditions.

While there is little that can be done to prevent weather events, BAA Airports has shown little imagination  in getting the airport back to normal operations.

BAA does not have a sense of urgency expected for a world travel hub to get flight operations back to normal.

BAA did not have contingency plans or resources in place for a relatively minor weather event that ensued creating horrible implications for people traveling through Heathrow.  The weather event is a smoke screen for a massive business execution failure.

I fervently hope that all who have been inconvenienced by this debacle will reach their destinations in time to celebrate the holidays.

For business execution failures and the disruptions to holiday travel of tens of thousands of people, the airport operator, Ferrovial SA’s BAA Airports Ltd., is entered into Gardner & Associates Consulting’s Business Execution Hall of Shame.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

© 2010 Gardner & Associates Consulting All Rights Reserved

GlaxoSmithKline enters Business Execution Hall of Shame

October 27, 2010

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has committed a string of business execution failures—some of the most outrageous failures that I could ever have imagined in the pharmaceutical industry.  The bottom line: GSK has agreed to pay a fine of $750 million for producing and selling “adulterated and improperly made drugs.”

What is GSK admitting happened at its now-closed manufacturing plant in Cidra, Puerto Rico?  The plant:

o         Produced medications that were mislabeled

o         Produced defective medications—too weak or too strong

o         Mixed dosages of the same drugs in the same packaging, e.g., 10 mg and 30 mg tablets

o         Produced drugs contaminated with micro-organisms

According to 26OCT10 article “Drug maker to pay $750 million for defective meds,” “A big factor in the lawsuit was the role of a former quality assurance manager for GSK who became a whistleblower after she was fired.”  Her job was to monitor products produced and speak up about non-conformity to standards. This woman spoke up and it cost her her job.

Pharmaceutical products are produced under GMP—good manufacturing practice–standards.  What does this mean?

Rigorous testing and quality control practices must be continuously applied for every lot of drugs produced.  This is to ensure consistency in the drug formulation, quality, etc.  Documentation must be maintained proving that the testing was performed by a specific employee, the date and time of the testing, the serial number of test equipment used, the last calibration date and next calibration date of each piece of equipment used, the test results, etc.  All of the test information is captured.  It is not permissible to modify any information in the test process—any changes must be crossed out (not erased) and signed and dated by a supervisor and the person performing the test.

For example, if you manufacture a product called “aspirin,” there are rigorous tests that must be conducted to prove the product is indeed aspirin and meets the FDA requirements for what an aspirin is.  This would include things such as confirming that an aspirin tablet contains all right ingredients in the correct proportions but will also dissolve within a certain period of time enabling the drug substance “aspirin” to be absorbed into the human body through the digestive system.

What conclusion can we reach? GSK knew about the problems and chose to look the other way. GSK did not do the right thing even when it had the chance.

This fine was not the result of an isolated incident.  This was an out of control plant, a plant that has since been closed.

The pharmaceutical and biotech industries attract competent, brilliant, compassionate, and caring people—people with a great deal of integrity.  I’m sure those in the industry find what happened at the Cidra GSK manufacturing plant to be as abhorrent as I do.

GSK has a moral, ethical and fiduciary obligation to produce drugs that conform to industry GMP standards.  For this horrific business execution failure, Gardner & Associates Consulting enters GlaxoSmithKline in the Business Execution Hall of Shame.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

© 2010 Gardner & Associates Consulting

Dept of Interior’s MMS Inducted into Business Execution Hall of Shame

June 6, 2010

To get inducted into Gardner & Associates Consulting’s Business Execution Hall of Shame takes extraordinary effort.   The Minerals Management Service (MMS), a department within the U.S. Department of the Interior, has done everything needed to make this induction a virtual “no-brainer.”

The current Gulf of Mexico/BP oil crisis and coal mining oversight issues cinched this award.

The essential mission of this group has been poorly executed by those within the organization.  Here’s the mission statement as defined on the MMS website:

The MMS’s mission is to manage the ocean energy and mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf and Federal and American Indian mineral revenues to enhance public and trust benefits, promote responsible use, and realize fair value.

This organization has failed us badly. This failure is going to have negative implications for years and possibly decades to follow for the Gulf of Mexico and its entire ecosystem. There are also severe economic impacts for those who make a living within the ecosystem.

If I were running MMS, I would see my job as ensuring that whatever work that is being done protects the environment first and foremost, not protect and promote the interests and activities of the corporations over which MMS has oversight to the exclusion of other vital interests.

And, while an Obama political appointee left the role of heading MMS in recent weeks, the cancer inside this organization has been growing for years and years. That does not excuse this organization’s gross  negligence.

MMS has a fiduciary responsibility to the American people to provide oversight and develop process improvements and protocols that result in the safe extraction of crude and minerals from within the earth.

MMS is doing a horrible job, due in part to cozy relationships with the companies over which it has oversight and a desire to look the other way so as to not impede business.

I hope the Department of Justice is looking not only at firms like Massey Energy and BP to determine if criminal negligence has taken place but also to MMS.  MMS staff should not be exempt from charges of criminal negligence merely because they are U.S. government employees.


For the total lack of disregard for the essential function MMS is to provide, I hereby induct MMS into the Business Execution Hall of Shame.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

iPhone Leak Immensely Damaging to Apple

May 18, 2010

For a number of weeks, we have observed the drama unfold over Gizmodo’s buying a prototype iPhone and sharing details about it before its public release.

My take:  Gizmodo has, at a minimum, acted unethically and may have acted illegally.

Apple goes to extraordinary lengths to protect its intellectual property.   Gizmodo knows this.

Apple, like all high-tech consumer product companies, needs to manage the transition from one generation of product to another with great care. High tech companies do not want delay current customer purchases due to confirmed features about next-generation products.  Not only does this undermine the sale of current product inventories, but, it delays revenue.

What should Gizmodo have done?

Immediately return the iPhone to Apple with no investigative work on its own.  That’s would have been the “right thing to do.”  It would have been taking the “high road,” not the “low road.”  And, it would have shown Gizmodo respects it’s role in the industry, not made Gizmodo look like tabloid paparazzi.

If you find $10,000 of cash in a paper bag in a public place, you don’t keep it–you make every effort to try to reunite the money with the rightful owner.  That’s what Gizmodo should have done.

For Gizmodo’s reprehensible actions in this matter, I hereby enter Gizmodo in Gardner & Associates Consulting’s “Business Execution Hall of Shame.”

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

How do you price your pizza?

May 5, 2010

It’s 4 pm and I’ve got a 5:30 pm meeting at the house with my wife.  The light lunch I’d had a few hours earlier is wearing thin.

I’m thinking I’ll stop by Premier Pizza in Santa Clara on my way home and grab 4 different slices of pizza to go.  My wife is a vegetarian; my mother-in-law and I are both carnivores.  So, being able to mix and match different slices is appreciated.

Premier Pizza is a tremendous value at $3.75 per slice.  Here’s what happened in the store.

Me:  I’d like to get 4 slices of pizza to go.

Cashier:  I can only sell you 3 slices.  If you want a fourth, I’ll have to charge you for a whole pizza.

Me: Huh?

Cashier:  They are really big slices.  I can only sell you 3 slices.  If you want a 4th, I have to charge you for a whole pizza.

Me: You’re kidding, right?

Cashier: No

Me: How much is a whole pizza?

Cashier:  About $20.

Me:  So, I can buy 3 slices for less than $12 but a forth slice is an additional $8?

Cashier:  Right.  Each slice is really big.

Me:  I’ll take 3 slices.  You realize I’m going to have to write a blog piece about this.

Cashier:  Okay.

But, the slices are really big.  Sure.  And, tasty, too.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

© 2010 Gardner & Associates Consulting All Rights Reserved

PowWeb dumps customers–why?

September 29, 2009

This past weekend, PowWeb entered the Business Execution Hall of Shame for dumping with no notice a top Internet web entrepreneur after having solicited web hosting on the basis of:

  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Unlimited disk space

Why would a company so arbitrarily and capriciously dump a loyal customer of 6 years with no notice?

One could speculate that PowWeb makes certain assumptions about how much bandwidth and disk space it expects a “typical” customer to use.  It is likely this web entrepreneur exceeded the norm, perhaps by a very wide margin.

What has happened in the last 6 years to the Internet?

Two important factors are driving the need for more and more bandwidth and disk space: audio and video. These factors really didn’t exist 6 years ago and, today, represent a significant drain on resources that normal html web pages do not.

I suspect that PowWeb took a close look at who the big consumers of disk space and bandwidth were amongst their customer base and unceremoniously dumped them to protect the infrastructure needs of their other clients.  It may well be that a very small number of customers tied up a sizeable chunk of PowWeb’s infrastructure capacity.

Is this excusable?  No.  PowWeb remains in our Business Execution Hall of Shame for its actions.  It is horrible to dump a customer with no notice.  They should have given notice and a reasonable period of time to migrate to a new web hosting company.

It is not realistic for PowWeb to offer the “earth, moon and sky” at the lowest price in their market particularly given the way the Internet has involved to require more and more bandwidth and disk space.  It is not, as has been proven here, a sustainable business model for them.

The question is who within PowWeb’s customer base is next to go if not now, next week, next month, next year?

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting