Posted by: mistyp0079 | July 31, 2013

Jackpot Johnnie Mae passes away

     JOHNNIE MAE (Smith) PARKERJohnnie Mae

PARKER JOHNNIE MAE PARKER (nee Smith) born May 1, 1937, age 75, Beloved wife of the late Carl Parker.      Loving mother of Misty P. McCrary and Monique Crank. Cherished grandmother of 5 and Great grandmother of 2. “Jackpot” Johnnie Mae passed away April 23, 2013 after a long term illness. In Lieu of flowers donations in her memory may be made to Holden Arboretum 9500 Sperry Road Kirtland, OH 44094. Services will be held at a later date. Arrangements are being handled by JAKUBS & SON, A GOLDEN RULE FUNERAL HOME. www.jakubs.com

 
Published in The Plain Dealer on April 28, 2013

Having returned to Cleveland, Ohio, Jackpot Johnnie Mae could not wait for me to put my suitcase down long enough to go for another adventure to a new internet cafe.  While I was away on business and travels, she has often frequented cafes and related to me her escapades.  I’m a little rusty in the writing department so here goes my critique for Lucky Shores.

The interior of the cafe is a dark navy color with grey flooring.  The walls were covered with wreaths in celebration of the holiday.  I loved the characters painted on the walls from the Caribbean Crunch game and another internet game.  A few of the work stations were dirty and could use some cleaning.  There is one large screen TV on the wall and it seemed to have approximately 50 sweepstakes machines.

The sweepstakes rules are clearly posted.  The atmosphere was very quiet with several people playing the games.  There is an ATM machine as well as the VS2 machine to take more money our to put more money on your card.  I registered at the desk and you can receive and extra $5.00 for $20.00 of sweepstakes play.  If you played $30.00 then you were entered into the drawing.  We arrived around 3:00 p.m.

A drink machine is available with no ice and coffee was brewing.  There was also a machine for drinks to buy but it was sold out.  There were a few pieces of candy offered at the desk and the dinner menu was posted.  There were no other snacks offered in between meals.

I played at machine 22.  The screens were very large and there was a card reader to swipe your card to begin play.  This cafe offers VS2 games so those looking for Cobra Cash will find it here.  There have been a few new games added to the VS2 menu and one of them is Galactic Fortune.   The fun games were available as well as the internet.  I did get a quick chance to check out the bathrooms and there were 2 unisex bathrooms available located near the rear entranceway.

So if you’re in the area, check out Lucky Shores for a quiet internet cafe experience.

Posted by: mistyp0079 | September 3, 2011

Verizon Wireless MiFi – not a good buy

I purchased the Verizon Mi Fi wireless in hopes of having internet that was trouble-free and portable.  I first purchased it in Salisbury, Md.  I didn’t activate it right away and once I did, it worked fine.  Once I traveled to Chattanooga, TN.  I had trouble connecting and called their customer service line on July 18th.

After spending hours with the technical service representative, it was determined that the area was a low service area.  I found out that this was the case because of the location near the tunnel.  I called back a few weeks later to determine if they would cancel my contract because of the low service and the representative said the ticket was not entered.  I called back a third time to see what had been done on canceling this contract and they stated that they would get back to me.  The fourth time I called on September 3rd, was after they sent a disconnect notice.  Funny how they were disconnecting something that wasn’t working anyway.

After discussion with the Technical representative, he stated to me that the service was high in the area and I would have to pay to cancel the contract.  I was extremely disappointed with the poor customer service and the fact that I had to call four times to get this issue resolved and it still was not resolved.  This incident has prevented future business with this company as I was considering them for my cell phone service.

Hopefully, Verizon will get their act together to provide better customer service to where the customer does not have to chase them down to resolve issues.  This was a complete waste of resources and I will look to other companies for internet options.

 

Posted by: mistyp0079 | July 27, 2011

Travel Log – Homewood Suites, The Woodlands, TX

I traveled to The Woodlands, Texas to get training on Global Shop Solutions.  This is software that specializes in machine shops.  My flight that originated out of Salisbury, Md was uneventful and I was ready for my new adventure.  My rental car was a Silver Mazda with four doors.  In comparison to driving a minivan, this car rides like a go-cart with bucket seats and low to the ground.

My first stop was to see my friend Faith, who lives not far from the airport.  Faith gave me two sets of directions.  The second set of directions included the former name of the street.   After arriving I wasn’t sure that I was at the right house.  Her place had a sign posted on the garage about having an attack dog.  I knew that I wasn’t going in before I called.  After entering her house and greeting the family, I was given a tour of her place.

Since it was Mother’s Day and Kevin wanted to take Faith out, we decided on Joe’s Crab Shack in Keymah, Tx.  We ate at the bar and our bartender, Johnny, was friendly and helpful.  After we left, we saw the train that circled Keymah’s boardwalk on the bay.  Among the many shops, a live band was playing and the crowd was enjoying the music.  It was very hot and near the band was a Cool Mist area for people to walk under and enjoy the spray.  The carnival atmosphere along the water on a hot summer day was refreshing.

Later on, we arrived back at Faiths.  After saying my goodbye’s, I put in my Garmin the directions to the hotel.  I was told before I left on the trip that the hotel was near the seminar.  I found the location of the seminar but I didn’t find the hotel.  After circling the block a few times, I finally called the hotel to get directions.   More circling around Texas with another phantom set of directions.  I had to reprogram Ms. Garmin by putting in 29777 I-45 in Spring Texas instead of 29813 Interstate 45 in The Woodlands, Texas.

I was very exhausted from all of the traveling and fine tuning of directions.  Upon my arrival, I was pleasantly surprised that the hotel lobby was very nicely decorated and I was looking forward to my room.  I had room 318 which was close to the elevator.

The room was very clean with a full size refrigerator with ice machine in the kitchen area.  There is a sink, dishwasher, microwave, range top with two eyes and a coffee maker.  The table has a grey marble top blended with chips of black, brown and cream coloring.  There are two chairs for the table and few condiments with a bag of microwave popcorn, coffee and tea bags.  The walls are cream-colored with borders along the bedroom walls.  The kitchen also has light cream-colored tile.

There is flat screen TV in the living room area.  The carpet is a deep green color with beige and blue stripes running through it.  The theme is green throughout the hotel room.  The couch was a light green and the chair and ottoman are a dark color and I can’t tell if it’s black, navy or dark grey but it has stripes as well.

I have double beds and a ceiling fan in the bedroom.  The bedspreads are true to the green theme and have white sheets beds, each have three pillows and very comfortable.  The bedroom has a flat screen TV.  The closet has a full size sliding mirrors.  I pulled out the luggage rack so I can sort out my clothes.  The bathroom sink has the same grey marble and cream-colored tile floor as the kitchen.

Homewood suites serves a great breakfast.  I’ve had waffles everyday during my stay.  I’ve never seen a waffle iron the shape of the state of Texas.  After dropping strawberry syrup and whipped cream on it, it turned out really good.  Most of the days while I was here, I had sausage to go with the waffle.  I made my own cran-apple juice by mixing the two together.

Homewood Suites also offers evening meals.  The best meal was on Tuesday when they had rice, egg roll and Asian stir fry.  They also had a salad.  Complimentary wine and beer are served with the evening meals.  These meals are served during the week, Monday – Thursday.  The menu is posted on the refrigerator in your hotel room.

My travels have now taken me to a temporary living situation in Princess Anne, MD.  I researched the internet for a relatively inexpensive place to stay for a short period of time.  I was able to find temporary housing at Arden’s Run in Princess Anne, Md.

I didn’t know what to expect.  I hadn’t been to college in over 20 years and I knew that kids were very different from when I went to school.  I did a walk through of a four bedroom place and was ready to live in my temporary home.

The roommates were away on Spring break.  I had made arrangements for furniture to be delivered for my room.  I got a further inspection of this place as I was moving in.  The filth was unacceptable so I had to do a momma clean.

The refrigerator had stuff growing in the crisper.  There was enough growth to supply China with penicillin for a month.  There was yogurt dated September and October 2009 and this was March, 2011.  The freezer had meat that leaked blood and was frozen and stuck to the bottom.  The ice maker was sitting on the side of the sink and I wasn’t sure if it worked.  I took everything out of the fridge and freezer and threw out the unidentified boxes of leftover restaurant food and other outdated stuff.

Dishes were disgusting.  There was white powdery stuff and itty bitty brown things that may have been bugs.   The smell was awful.  I suspect is was because of the dishes that were left sitting in the water with white crap floating on top.  The microwave had a burst of food all in it.  When I cleaned it out, I was unaware that the inside was white.  Amazingly the stove was clean.  The counters were dirty and I sprayed it down with a heavy dose of disinfectant.

The floor was white linoleum and had lots of stains and spots and sticky to walk on.  the garbage disposal was leaking into the bottom of the sink and stuff was really wet.  The garbage disposal drained slow.  Empty bottles of wine and liquor were on top of the fridge

The cabinets had assorted food that I did leave alone except for the bread that was molding.  I didn’t think my roommates were going to eat that when they got back.  Sticky stars were on the cabinets.

The carpet was full of hair.  I wasn’t sure if I was living with Rapunzel or a hairstylist.  I noticed a stain in my carpet but the my room was otherwise clean.

The laundry room was full of lint and the floor was dirty.  Dirty clothes were on the floor and in a corner.  Drops of laundry detergent was smeared over the washer and dryer.

The living room furniture was a nightmare.  The yellow and putrid green couch was comfortable but butt ugly.  The day bed is sunk down in the center as if it gave up because a sumo wrestler sat on it.  There are two TV’s and only one had cable.  A mini fridge, desk and chair are also in the living room along with the broken skateboard.

I needed Don from Surf City to help me disinfect the bathroom.  The germ count was high and I was bravely going in.  Hair was everywhere.  I started cleaning the bathroom and washing the rugs.  On top of the trash can, I saw a bag and a box.  I thought to myself that this is a period pad and I was too through.  What I found was almost as bad.  It was a pregnancy test.  I wasn’t picking up that thing to see if she was or wasn’t.  To the trash it went.

After their arrival, the adventures continued.  One Saturday morning the one of the roommates alarm went off steady for fifteen minutes.  I called her and maintenance.  They couldn’t do anything about it.  I was too through and got the bright idea to start shutting off the power.  I finally got that thing quiet.

The walls are paper-thin.  I can hear my roommates conversations in their rooms and they were talking in their normal voices.  I also heard the people upstairs arguing at 1:00 a.m.  Since this was a week night, I called campus security to get them quiet.  They signed the same lease I did.  Quiet hours are between 11:00 p.m and 8:00 a.m. the next morning.  I had places to go early and they weren’t going to ruin my sleep.

I’m sure maintenance got tired of hearing from me.  They came to check the water in the bathroom and come to find out, it was plumbed backwards so the hot is where the cold should be.  Lovely.  They had to clear the drain from the tub, replace the lights in the hall and in my room, clear the drain from the sink, check the heating and cooling system, clean the vent from the dryer and fix the garbage disposal.  I’ve had my smoke detector go off and they came in the middle of the night to replace the battery.  I’ve got to hand it to Arden’s Run, they’ve got a great maintenance crew with great response time.

Overall, despite my adventures, living at Arden’s Run, I would recommend staying at this apartment complex if you need short-term living accommodations.

Posted by: mistyp0079 | April 10, 2011

Travel Log – Hilton Garden Inn, Morrisville, NC

I hadn’t seen my college age son at UNC in a while so I looked on the internet to find a hotel in the area.  He had a soccer game over the weekend and wanted me to come see him play.  I checked around to find a hotel with the most reasonable price and found the Hilton Garden Inn in Morrisville.  This hotel wasn’t far from North Carolina State’s soccer field.  I booked my reservation and away I went.

When I arrived, the parking lot was full.  I imagine that there must have been a convention or reunion at the hotel.  I grabbed my bags and proceeded to the lobby.  The lobby has a green/purple theme color with white floors.  I later found out that there is a soccer team from Cape Fear in the hotel so they must be in the area for a tournament.  

I was greeted by Claire and she was very friendly and had all the aspects of a person well-trained in customer service.  Since I am a Hilton Honors silver member aspiring to be a diamond member (the diamond membership went with the ex in the divorce), I generally try to find Hilton hotels to stay as a first choice.  I like their system of how you can accumulate airline and hotel points and other advantages that I hadn’t had a chance to explore.  If you travel, it’s a great program.  That’s my unpaid for plug for the day so now on to the rest of my story.

When I got to my room, I was pleasantly surprised.  The room followed the hotel lobby green theme but in a much kinder and gentler way.  The curtains have a decor ornate print with the colors of green and a soft bluish purple.  The light brown, dark brown, cream-colored blend carpet is new and has an odd contrast to the walls that are painted pale blue behind the beds and a tannish cream on the rest of the walls.  The ceiling is white and all the painted walls have the stucco textured bits in it.

The dark brown wood headboards are five feet tall.  The double beds have white comforters with light green bed shams.  Each bed is filled with three pillows and a decorator tan and light green colored body pillow.  The desk is wood as well as the TV stand/chest of drawers and the mini kitchenette containing the mini fridge, microwave, coffee pot and ice bucket.  The flat screen TV is a nice size and is powered by Direct TV. 

I love the bathroom.  It has light brown ceramic tile floors.  The wallpaper is a cocoa brown with dark brown lines running through it.  The mirror almost stretches from end to end along the wall behind the facial bowl.  Double lantern style lights are high along the walls adjacent to the mirror.  The bathtub fixtures are silver and high quality.  This includes the faucet, double soap racks, towel rack and water knob.  There is a safety handle on the same wall as the faucet to assist with getting in and out of the tub.  The only problem with the bathroom is that the toilet paper is out of reach from the toilet so make sure you roll off a few before you sit down.

I slept well and comfortably as the mattress was firm yet soft enough for my body.  I kept adjusting the temperature for the room but I think it may be more to the fact that my body was changing through no fault of the thermometer.  I had a wake up call to get me going for the day.  The call came right on time and I got started.

I hadn’t blogged in a long time so I got on the internet.  The internet connection is really slow.  I waited for pages to load and began to realize that this was a test of patience.  I finally got the page to my blog loaded and started writing a few lines and proceeded to breakfast to complete my observations.

Breakfast was about average.  I’ve had better at Hilton Garden Inn.  I always order an egg white omelet with everything but green peppers.  I seemed to have more egg than ingredients.  I was also missing the spinach.  Bacon and sausage accompanied my meal but something seemed missing in the taste.  I asked for a to go box so I could have some snacks while on the road. 

The seating was very crowded and I’m a big girl.  I had to squeeze through the aisles bringing juice and plates.  I couldn’t have worked there as a waitress because I would be knocking stuff over all the time.  The staff was friendly and I sat downstairs for a while talking to a couple from Tennessee.  The husband was looking for a job in the area and I hope he gets it. 

Overall, I would stay at this hotel again because of the friendly staff and great decor and room comfort.  I didn’t use all of the amenities offered at this hotel but if you would like to know more about it and are in the area, come check it out.

Posted by: mistyp0079 | March 14, 2011

Travel log – Hilton Garden Inn – Atlanta, GA

I had to make a personal business trip and recently stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn at 1501 Lake Hearn Drive, Atlanta, GA.  After staying with a friend for a few days, I surfed the internet to find the best hotel rate.  I wanted to stay in a place that was warm and inviting.  I found the Hilton Garden Inn on the internet through my hhonors account.  When I called the hotel, they had a rate that was cheaper than the advertised rate.  I was satisfied and booked the hotel.

When I arrived in the afternoon, I was greeted by very friendly staff.  I checked in and the bellman offered to take my luggage to my room.  The immediate parking is for disabled guests and the regular parking was up a hill.  I was glad that the bellman took my luggage up for me and placed it in my room.

The room was immaculate.  It was near the elevator and very spacious. The walls were painted white and the carpet was dark green.  There was a desk with an ergonomic chair and free internet access.  I had two beds double beds, TV, small fridge, microwave and other amenities.  The bathroom had double vanity, shower/tub, toilet, toiletries and plenty of towels.

The housekeeping staff was very friendly and helpful.  As I was leaving for breakfast, I had my “do not disturb” sign on the door.  The housekeeper stopped me and asked if I needed anything such as towels, lotion, etc.  I was pleasantly surprised that the housekeeper noticed me leaving and was thoughtful enough to ask.  Another day during my stay, I was relaxing in my room and housekeeping came and cleaned around me without disturbing my rest.  I appreciated the efficiency and respect that the housekeeper gave while cleaning the room.  She was out quickly and my room was clean.

I had breakfast for the three mornings that I was there.  There is a chef who prepares cooked to order breakfast.  Breakfast is regularly $11.95 per person but I had a package that included breakfast.  The egg white omelet with everything minus the green peppers was fantastic.  Fresh fruit, bacon, sausage and other breakfast choices were available.  There is a waffle station to make your own waffle.

Customer service is at a premium at this hotel.  The toilet wasn’t working so I called maintenance.  Maintenance arrived almost immediately.  After he was finished, the front desk called to see if maintenance came and my problem was resolved.  I also had a noise disturbance next door.  I called the front desk.   The noise stopped.  A half hour later, front desk called to see if the situation improved.  It did.  Great customer service.

If you are in the Atlanta area and are staying on the north side of Atlanta off Ashford Dunwoody road, check out the Hilton Garden Inn.  I had an enjoyable stay and would recommend this hotel to anyone who would ask.

Customer service is of the utmost importance in running an internet cafe.  Customers remember how they are treated as well as the overall cafe experience.  Owners and managers must take care in selecting employees that will best represent the sweepstakes cafe and promote a warm and welcoming environment.  A few good characteristics (although not all-inclusive) for an employee to have is:

1. Must like people or select employees that are people friendly.

2. Must keep a well-groomed and neat appearance.

3. Must be approachable to ask questions about the games.

4. Must have patience to explain the games.

5. Must be conscious of hand washing frequently when handling money.

6. Must be able to come to work on time and conscious enough to call when they will be late.

7. Must be able to handle easy and as well as difficult personalities.

Owners must be hands on in developing the direction that they want their cafe to take and must lead by example.  Job duties and performance expectations should be written and clear.  Performance evaluations, comment cards, and customer feedback are great ways to know if your staff is providing good service.  Reading reviews that include customer service experience will also rate how the business is doing in overall customer service.

Other things to consider including in employee training is First aid classes.  When dealing with the public, it’s essential to know what to do in case of a medical emergency.  Internet cafes should have first aid supplies on had for minor medical treatments such as paper cuts.  Although paper cuts are small, they can cause big problems if not treated right away with alcohol or peroxide.

Discuss with staff and have a written policy on what to do in acts of God such as tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms and other unforeseen circumstances like power outages.  Find the best location in the cafe to be during a tornado and have emergency equipment on hand like flashlights, batteries, etc.  Include emergency contacts that can advise on when to close the cafe and other instructions.

In case of fire, make sure cafe employees understand the escape route.  Have training annually which includes how to use a fire extinguisher.  If a fire breaks out, no one will have time to read the instructions so if employees are trained before hand, they may be able to douse a fire before it gets out of hand and prior to the fire department arriving.  It can make a huge difference in saving time, money and lives.

 

If you are considering opening an internet cafe, selecting the right software for your business can be a big challenge so it’s important that you do your research.

A good business person gets to know the product that they want to sell. If there are internet sweepstakes cafes in your neighborhood,  go visit the cafe and play the games.  If you don’t have one in your neighborhood, find out one that’s close to you or make a trip to visit a few.  I’ve written about several in the Cleveland area with a variety of software.

Discuss the legality of the software with an attorney that’s knowledgeable about sweepstakes software.  There may be local laws and regulations that may prevent you from using one software vs. another.  Have your attorney read over any contracts with software companies before signing anything.

Read the company website and find out all of the investment costs involved.  Things to consider are lease agreements, investment costs in equipment, decor, catering, vending, security, employees, etc.

Talk with cafe owners as well as the software company.  The software company will give you all the pro’s but the cafe owners will give you both sides of the story from a business standpoint.  By visiting the internet cafes and talking to customers, you get a general feel of the market as well.

Read reviews.  This is a good way to find out if customers like the software, if there are issues with the software, if the software is user-friendly, etc.  A good thorough review will give you a feel for the pro’s and con’s of that particular software.

Check out location vs. other cafes in the area.  There could be non-compete agreements preventing you from having the same software within a certain distance from another cafe.

Don’t be afraid to change software if the one you select isn’t working for your cafe.  This is why it is important to read the contract and take exception to anything that inhibits you from competing with other cafes.

Make sure the software can be upgraded to comply with local laws and regulations concerning sweepstakes.  If your software company doesn’t comply or reluctant to comply in a timely basis, refer to the provisions in your contract and make decisions accordingly.

Select software designed for the market that you want to draw.  The market is the gamers vs. gamblers.  Some software is more designed for the gamers.  It’s entertaining, the payoffs are low but enough to keep the gamers entertained.  The gamblers software has higher stakes and higher payoffs.  There are those who come to play the sweepstakes games at the highest level just to see if they can get the highest payout.

Although selling phone time and having internet sweepstakes software may be the core of your business, make sure to have a good business plan to promote other products.  An example of good business plan is Pete’s Cafe in Eastlake, OH.  Pete’s Cafe has a separate bar and grill with the adjoining internet cafe.  If the internet cafe business didn’t work out, Pete’s can always convert the additional room for private events and parties with catering provided by Pete’s Bar and Grill.

 

 

The ideal internet cafe is one that a person can frequent, relax and play games.  It’s a place of refuge to get away from stress, play a few games and visit in some cases a home away from home.  It’s also a gathering place to meet friends, make new friends or enjoy the solitude of playing your machine.  Each person coming to an internet cafe loves the chance to win big as well as spending time playing the games.

When dealing with the public, each individual has their own set of issues that they have in the back of their mind.  This can range from the loss of a loved one to family crisis.  This is why it is so important to have good customer service.  Something as simple as a smile or a thank you for coming can brighten someones day.

Cafe lighting can also affect the mood of cafe patrons.  A bright naturally lit cafe in light colors can enhance the mood for a positive experience.  Dimly lit cafes are also good in the sense that it can relax the senses to feel as if you are at a candle light dinner.

Senior citizens often frequent internet cafes during the day.  This is the time that they can get out of the house while it’s still daylight.  I’ve often seen seniors come with a spouse or friends.  Some make this a weekly event and others come at their leisure.

The after work crowd frequents internet cafes on evenings and weekends.  They are the ones that come for stress relief, dinner (if provided), the special drawings and socialize with familiar faces that also frequent the cafe.  Customers who are single, live alone or unemployed are also in the cafe at various times during the day depending on their schedule.

What owners and employees must keep in mind is that the internet cafe is a place of escape for a few hours.  The games are fun to play, entertaining to watch and can be aggravating when you don’t win.  Customers want to feel as though they are at a place that provides an atmosphere that makes them feel welcome.  Other customers don’t care about the atmosphere, they want to win and win big.  Internet cafe owners are challenged to make that balance.

Customers that have a positive internet cafe experience will bring new customers to the cafe.  Cafe employees should make it a point to acknowledge returning and frequent customers as well as make new customers welcome.  A part of good customer service in a cafe is to be proactive in the needs of your customer.  I’ve seen internet cafes that have hostesses that offer soft drinks and clear the empty plates from the terminals so customer don’t have to stop playing the games.

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