Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Needle.com Chat Job Review – What it is like to work for Needle as Chat Advocate

I have worked for Needle as a chat advocate for several years. During this time there have been plenty of ups and downs and here we will go over what it is like to work for Needle as a chat advocate.

So what is Needle exactly? Needle is a company that provides the chat feature that is used for many online stores. Companies who want to have live chat help on their website will partner with Needle to get this service. Needle then hires and trains people who will be the ones to chat with customers and help them on the client's website.

Back when I started, I was looking for work from home type jobs because I was tired of working at my regular job out in the field. I tried a few different things such as affiliate marketing and internet content reviewing until I heard about an opening at Needle.com for chat jobs. I had never done a job like this before but it was for a company that I liked so I decided to give it a try.

The on-boarding consisted of filling out the application, taking a few basic skills tests, studying some tutorials, and eventually doing practice chats and final interviews through chat. If you do well on everything, you may be invited to start taking chats shortly after.

There is some training, but much of the content and website catalog must be learned on your own. It will be up to you to stay on top of any new products, policies, or information so you will be able to help the customers with any questions they have.

Taking chats can be fun especially if you are passionate about the products and enjoy helping people. The type of customers you interact with can depend on which client you work for, but for the most part customers are appreciative of the help. Of course there are times when you get unhappy customers and there is not much you can do, but you just try to do your best with the resources available.

Earnings can also depend on which client you work for. Some pay money per chat while others reimburse with a points system that gives points based on performance. Points can then be redeemed for things like gift cards and products from the client websites. Since earnings are based on chats, it can be good when it is busy but not so good when it is slow. Advocates can take several chats at the same time which can increase your pay/points but can also be more stressful trying to manage several conversations at the same time.

The chat system works pretty well for the most part, but there can be a few bugs here and there. For a workstation, I recommend a desktop with a dual monitor setup to allow two screens at the same time. A laptop or just one screen is ok but it will be more difficult switching back and forth between windows.

Hours are flexible but schedule priority is based on average points earned for the week. Points are earned from things like making sales, having a good satisfaction rating, and having a fast response time.

The experience you have can depend a lot on the management assigned as well as the other advocates you work with. Over the years, we had some good managers who were very involved and gave a lot of encouragement, but we also had some at times who were not as involved and did not provide much help.

The platform allows you to interact online with the other advocates so you can get to know them as co-workers. As with any job, there may be some you get along with well and possibly others not as much. Some communities are more active in communicating with each other than others so this can depend on which program you work with.

This job provides a lot of independence so most of the time you will be on your own. You may not hear much from the managers unless there is some important news or updates or unless there is something you really need to improve on. Recently, they have made efforts to get the management more involved with the advocates.

Overall, if you are looking for a part time work from home type job and you are a decent typer and have good internet research and navigation skills I would recommend trying out the chat advocate job with Needle.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What would you do if you were the last person on Earth?

Suppose you woke up one day and realized you were the only person around. All other people and animals had vanished, but other than that, everything else was the same. What would you do?

This is fun question to think about, and there really is a lot to think about if you put yourself in this situation. For this scenario, one direction to take it is that of survival. This would involve making sure you had food and basic necessities to survive for many years.

To make the scenario more fun, lets assume everything keeps running as usual even after everyone has disappeared. This means all utilities such as electricity, water, and internet still work. We will even say that resources like food will be automatically replenished so you do not have to worry about food expiring.

So basically everything would be the same but there would be no people or living things. Although there would still be things like the internet, it would not be populated by new content since there would be no people to create it.

If you found yourself in this situation, what would you do?

Where would you live?
Where would you go?
What would you do for fun?
What things would you try to find?
What would you like about this new situation?
What new challenges would you face?

I recommend try thinking about what you would do before reading what others would do. Below is what I came up with if I found myself in the situation of being the last person on Earth:
------------
At first, I would probably start out very cautious and not do too much out of the ordinary. I would probably explore a bit locally until I got to the realization that there were no other people around and this would be the new reality.

Next, I would probably start venturing out and head over to a car dealership to pick up a nice car. I would probably get one sporty car for fun, and also a van or SUV to use for transporting things.

Then I would probably go to the grocery store to pick up a bunch of food. I think it would be fun to have the store all to yourself and be able to get anything without having to worry about the cost.

I would probably go to some of the local stores and pick up any supplies that might be needed such as tools or extra clothes. I might also go to a toy store or sporting goods store to try to find some activities for fun.

For safety, I would probably find some weapons as well because you would have to ensure your own protection now that there are no other people to protect you. There would be no threat of other people, but you would have to be prepared for anything just in case.

After having explored everything locally, I would start to venture out to other cities and start traveling around the country. For living situations, I would find homes or hotels at each location to stay at.

I might pick up a large RV camper to make traveling more comfortable and convenient. I would check out notable destinations like big cities, landmarks, and national parks. I think the traveling would help give a sense of purpose and would help prevent boredom.

One of the biggest challenges other than having to deal with loneliness would be safety. Since there would be no one to take care of you, you would have to be very careful not to get hurt. You can't call 911 if there is an emergency because there would be no one to respond.

Also you would have to be careful not to get stranded in the middle of nowhere. For example, if you were traveling long distance, you would have to make sure to have plenty of fuel as well as things like food and water in case anything were to happen.

After years, if I had explored everything within the country, I might consider trying to get to other countries. The challenge would be, it would probably involve travel by airplane or boat. These are skills that would need to be learned and even once learned would still involve some level or risk.

While I think being the only person on Earth would be fun at first, I have a feeling it would get boring or lonely sooner than expected. This might lead to a desperate attempt to find if there were any other people out there.

If years of searching did not find anyone, I would probably just continue trying to find new things to do and find ways to keep myself busy. It's hard to imagine a long term plan in this setting. I think it would involve just trying to stay healthy and keep searching to find any signs of life.

What would you do if you were the last person on Earth?

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Cobra Kai Review – Karate Kid Youtube Red Series

Karate Kid is one of those iconic movies everyone should see. I remember watching it many times back in the 80's so when I saw they were continuing the story with a Youtube Red series, of course I had to check it out.  



The series is called Cobra Kai, named after the dojo from the original film and it takes place in modern time where we see what former rivals Daniel Larusso and Johnny Lawrence are up to now. While both had tried to put their karate past behind them, it manages to resurface again.

Johnny gets inspired to start up the Cobra Kai dojo again. Daniel is not happy about this as it brings back all the old memories and goes against what he stands for. There are a lot of new intertwining story lines that continue the rivalry between these two as well as the new generation of karate kids that are introduced in this series.

The Cobra Kai series features 10 episodes, about a half hour each in length. It is on Youtube Red which is a paid subscription version of Youtube, but you can watch the first couple episodes for free. Also you can get a free 1 month trial of Youtube Red in case you want to watch the full series.

After watching the first 2 episodes, it was surprisingly better than expected! It has a good amount of nostalgia with callbacks to the original. They even mix in some never before seen clips from the original movie when they do flashbacks which is a great touch! I was convinced to sign up for the free trial of Youtube Red in order to watch the full season.

After watching the full season, I would say it was pretty good! The series does have a fair amount of cliches and it is somewhat predictable, but that is ok. They do a great job at showing Daniel and Johnny in modern day with new struggles as they run into each other again.

Overall the series is pretty lighthearted and has a good mix of humor, drama, and action. I think most fans of the original film will enjoy it and even those who are not familiar with the original can still enjoy this series.

I figured this series would wrap up at the end of the last episode, but the way they left it, there is plenty of opportunity for the series to continue of they choose. You could say it was risky trying to make a reboot of a classic movie like Karate Kid, but I think in this case it was a success!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shipt vs Instacart – Which grocery shopping and delivery service is better to work for?

App based gigs are really booming right now and grocery stores are taking advantage of this trend by partnering with services such as Shipt and Instacart. These apps allow customers to order groceries from their local stores and have them delivered quickly. I have worked for both of these companies and have found each has their own strengths and weaknesses. In this article we will compare what it is like working for Shipt and Instacart.

Getting Started / Applying
Both companies are fairly easy to apply for and do not require too much experience or prerequisites. You will need your own car if you will be delivering. Driving record and background is also checked to ensure there are no issues. There are basic training tutorials for both that need to be completed before you start. If you are accepted, you receive a company credit card and can begin scheduling hours to shop.

Basics
While both services work a little differently, the main concept is the same. You are given a customer's list of items and are assigned to a store to shop for them. In the store, you scan the items using the camera on your phone. You check out using the company pre-paid card. Then you deliver the order to the customer. It is pretty straight forward and not too hard as long as you are organized and enjoy grocery shipping.

Scheduling / Getting Orders
This is one of the biggest differences between the two. With Instacart you are able to schedule hours for the week starting at a certain time. Some people who maintain a high amount of hours each week are able to schedule earlier. You are only allowed to schedule for hours that are open so it can be hard to get hours depending on how many shoppers are in your area and how busy it is.

With Instacart you basically have to be on call when you are scheduled and if there is an order, they will send it to you during this time. You are expected to accept it and be on your way to the store quickly once you are sent an order.

With Shipt, you are able to put yourself on the schedule for any hours you want, and they will send you orders that are to be delivered during those times. They send you the orders ahead of time so you will have time to prepare and plenty of time to shop for them.

Using the App
Both the apps for Shipt and Instacart work fairly similar. They each use a scanning feature to check off items on the list. They also allow you to contact the customer by text or phone if there are any issues or questions. I find Instacart's app to be a little more responsive and the scanning feature works better. I also like that they show the pictures of the items in the list without having to click on each one manually to see the pictures as is done in the Shipt app.

The Shipt app does have some benefits of its own for example you can customize the layout of the categories which can make it easier to navigate the shopping list. Also I find the customer text communication to be more reliable with Shipt.

One really helpful feature with Shipt is they tell you the item location such as which aisle it is in. I believe some stores with Instacart have this feature but none of the stores I have shopped for in my area have this option.

Delivering
The delivery procedure is very similar between the two. Each gives you the delivery address which opens up in your map app of choice and then you just use the navigation for directions. Once you arrive, you give the groceries to the customer and mark it as delivered. That's about it!

So what are the strengths and weaknesses for each?

Pros for Instacart
- Better pay. While the pay can vary greatly depending on which zone or location you are working, I found that when comparing similar sized orders, Instacart pays significantly more per order. Shipt does offer bonuses sometimes, for example if an order is getting close to when it needs to be delivered and no one has picked it up yet, they may offer to pay more.

- Better bar code scanner. It's really amazing how well the Instacart scanner can pick up the bar codes. You can hold it at any angle or distance, moving around, crinkled packaging, and it will still pick it up. I find with the Shipt scanner, it takes much longer to read and sometimes it will not read at all even when it is very clear, still, and centered.

- Images in shopping list make it easy to scan quickly. In the Shipt app, to see the pictures, you have to click on each one individually which takes up time.

- Less things to worry about. With Instacart, it is more automated, for example it lets the customer know what you are doing from the time you start to the time you mark the order as delivered. With Shipt you have to text them to let them know when you start and when you are on the way. Also with Shipt for some reason you have to fill out a tax exempt form for each order. You also have to scan the receipt and take a picture of the receipt, all steps which make the process more difficult compared to Instacart.

- More stores to shop for. It can vary depending on the area, but for example in my zone, Instacart partners with about 10 different stores and many locations for each of these stores. With Shipt, my zone has only 1 partner and one store so it is much more limited in terms of shopping locations. Shipt may grow over time, but right now it seems to be more limited.

Pros For Shipt
- Better transparency. With Shipt, you are given all the order details ahead of time so you know what you are getting into. For example, you know the customer name, address, number of items, and list of actual items in the order before you commit to head out to the store. With Instacart, this information is hidden and most is not revealed until you are at the store or have completed shopping for all the items.

- Better morale / community. Browsing the Facebook support groups for each service gives two very different impressions. With Instacart, most of the posts tend to be negative and complaining in nature while most of the posts in the Shipt group are more positive. This could be because the Shipt group is managed by Shipt, while the Instacart group is managed by the shoppers, but the difference in morale is very noticeable.

- Easier to schedule. With Shipt, there is no fighting for hours or constantly checking the app for new openings. With Instacart, everyone is trying to schedule at the same time and it can be hard to get hours.

- No Timing. With Shipt, since you are given the order details ahead of time, you can go to the store as early as you want so you can give yourself as much time as you need. The shopping is not timed either. With Instacart, everything is timed and you are expected to act immediately when you are sent an order.

More details for finding items. For many stores, Shipt gives the aisle and exact location in that aisle for the items. This makes it much easier to find items especially if you are unfamiliar with the store layout or if something is very hard to find on the shelf.

Conclusion
As you can see, there is no clear cut winner as to which grocery delivery service is best to work for since each has their own positives and negatives. While Instacart tends to pay better, the morale of the shoppers tends to be lower. With Shipt, it does not pay as much, but shoppers tend to be more happy overall.

The good thing is, with these apps, the developers are constantly working to make them better so hopefully they can both get better over time. Businesses like these in the gig-based economy can change overnight so it is a good idea to keep your options open. If you like grocery shopping, I recommend trying out both Shipt and Instacart first hand to see which one you like best.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Season 2 Review


The 2nd season of A Series of Unfortunate Events was released on Netflix recently and I just got a chance to complete the full season. I was pretty excited to watch it after having enjoyed the 1st season last year. Season 2 picks up where the last one left off and covers books 5-9 of the novel series by Lemony Snicket.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it is a fictional series that has a unique visual style and almost a world all its own. The 3 main characters, the Baudelarie siblings lose their parents and are bounced around from guardian to guardian as the notorious Count Olaf tries to figure out how to get their fortune they stand to inherit.

The series has a good amount of humor, creative characters, an adventurous story line, and is just overall fun to watch. I had not read the books prior to watching the show so it is all new to me, but as I understand, it follows the original material very well and fans of the books seem to enjoy it as well.

Violet and Klaus, the two older siblings do a great job as they strive to find decent living conditions and find out more about the organization their parents belonged to. Their baby sister Sunny is one of my favorites who is super cute and surprising helpful and talented when she is needed. Neil Patrick Harris plays Count Olaf with an over the top personality who is evil yet funny at the same time.

There are many new stand out characters such as Carmelita, the rude obnoxious girl who they meet at their boarding school. Also Esme Squalor who makes a great addition to Count Olaf's troupe as is the Librarian who joins forces to help the Baudelaries.

The 10 episodes cover the middle 5 books of the series and each one takes place in a different location so there is a good amount of variety throughout the season. It should come as no surprise given the title of the series, that it seems the Baudelarie orphans just cannot catch a break. They are resilient though and one can only hope one day some good fortune may come their way.

So should you watch this show? As the theme goes “Look away, look away.” But really you should watch it because it is a great show! If you are looking for a creative and imaginative family friendly series that is fun and has great characters and visual style, I highly recommend checking out A Series of Unfortunate Events!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Fixing a zipper that keeps getting stuck and won't close

I have a jacket that I like but recently it started having trouble with the zipper. It would get stuck and sometimes it would zip up half way and sections of the zipper would not close together so there would be openings where it is supposed to be zipped. This became very inconvenient because I could not rely on the zipper to work properly, so I started looking for solutions to fix it.

First I tried putting some oil on the zipper to make it go more smoothly. This worked a little bit but after a few days it would start getting stuck again and had the same issues with the teeth not closing like they should. I also tried to use a small pliers to see if I could adjust the slider piece in case it was stretched out. Unfortunately I was not able to do much with this.

Finally I decided to look for a replacement zipper slider. They come in different sizes and styles so you have to to try to find one that is the same size and for the same materials, for example metal or plastic. They usually have a number on the back. Mine had a 5 and a 6. Also you can measure the width of the zipper when it is closed to get the millimeter measurement.

I went to a hobby store and found some replacement zippers for a couple dollars in size 5 which looked to be about the same so I picked them up.

The next part was kind of tricky because you have to figure out how to remove the original zipper slide. They usually have pieces at each end of the garment that prevent the zipper from coming off the top or the bottom. I tried to pry one of these pieces off but it was really stuck on there. Finally I just decided to cut off the piece at the top which would allow the zipper to slide off the top of the jacket. I never zip the jacket all the way to the top so I figured it would be ok.

Once the old zipper slide was off, I put on one of the new zipper slide. I tried it out and sure enough, it worked! I was able to zip the jacket and it did not get stuck or have any sections that were not connected. So it looks like it was in fact an issue with the original zipper slide. It is possible it may have worn out or stretched out over time.

If you are having a similar issue with a zipper, I recommend try replacing the zipper slide like this as it is an affordable option and is pretty easy to do. Also it is much better than having to buy a new jacket!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Netflix Picks and Recommendations for 2018

Last year around this time, I did a recap of some of my favorite shows and specials on Netflix and since some time has gone by and new titles have been added, I figured I would make another list of recommendations to check out. Here are some of the tv series, comedy specials, and movies worth checking out now on Netflix:

Glow
Set in the 80's and based on a women's professional wrestling organization, Glow is one of my favorite new series available now. It features Alison Brie and Marc Maron as well as a large cast of characters as they try to put together a women's wrestling show from scratch. There is a good deal of drama, emotion, and even a great soundtrack! 

Haters Back Off
I reviewed the first season of Hater Back Off last year which I really enjoyed. Recently I got a chance to watch the 2nd and final season which was very good as well! It is about a girl who wants to make it big as a singer and entertainer but is oblivious to the fact that she really does not have that kind of talent. This show is not for everyone but if you like quirky off beat style shows, I recommend checking it out. 

Somebody Feed Phil
Phil Rosenthal, the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond has started making documentary style shows such as “I'll Have What Phil's Having” and his most recent series “Somebody Feed Phil”. In these shows, he travels around to different countries and tries out some of the best local food. If you like travel shows and shows about food mixed with a little bit of humor, this is the show for you. 

Ozark
Ozark is about a family man who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd and ends up laundering money and working with drug cartel leaders. If the description sounds similar to Breaking Bad, it is because it is very similar. While it may not be quite as good as that show, it is still very suspense filled and enjoyable to watch. If you like thriller type shows, I recommend checking out Ozark. 

Ryan Hamilton – Happy Face
If you have not heard of comedian Ryan Hamilton yet, now is a good time to check out his new comedy special. His routine is professional and well polished and covers many original topics in a funny way. His style and even his voice can be compared to Jerry Seinfeld, so if you like Jerry, chances are you will enjoy this special. 

Fred Armisen – Standup for Drummers
One of the most unique and interesting comedy sets I have seen recently belongs to Fred Armisen with his Standup for Drummers. It is a combination of stand up comedy mixed with musical drumming performance and really shows a wide range of talent in both areas. Even if you are not familiar with drumming, this special is very funny and educational as well! 

Dave Chappelle – Equanimity
No stranger to the stand up comedy world, Dave Chapelle has some new specials on Netflix now including this new set entitled Equanimity. Dave has confidence and stage presence and is not afraid to talk about controversial issues and tell it as it is while maintaining a sense of humor. 

Crisetla Alonzo – Lower Classy
Another funny special is this one by Cristela Alonzo where she talks about her life growing up and some of the events that shaped her life to what it is today. It a good mix of comedy, nostalgia, and even some emotional stories mixed in at the end. 

The Founder
Also streaming now is the movie The Founder which is the story about how McDonalds was started and how it grew into the biggest fast food restaurant in the world. It stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the man behind the success of the franchise. It is an interesting story and fascinating to see what can result from hard work and perseverance. 

If you have any favorite series, specials, or movies on Netflix now, feel free to recommend them in the comments below!