Adventures in interwebbery - Macleans.ca
 

Adventures in interwebbery

I buy all kinds of stuff I don’t need from Apple and Amazon. Why? Because it’s so damn easy.


 

I buy all kinds of stuff I don’t need from Apple and Amazon. Why? Because it’s so damn easy. These companies have figured out how to make the Internet transaction convenient, simple and – most important – speedy. The want-it part of your brain starts and finishes its dirty work before the what-wait-we-don’t-need-another-stupid-productivity-app part of your brain even kicks in. Things move so fast that with just one moment of weakness and one click I wound up the owner of MGMT’s god-awful new record. Curse you, Steve Jobs!

And then there are the companies that Just Don’t Get It, the companies that make the process of buying something so tedious and so unpleasant and jammed with more queries than a Ken Dryden digression. (Where are we going as a country? What do we stand for? What does it mean to be Canadian? What happened to our values? When will my pizza get here? Do I still get it free if it takes more than 30 minutes? Or is it 40 minutes now? Is that fair to the driver? Is it fair to society? Why are you getting up to leave? Are you coming back? Sharon? Sharon??)

A subset of the companies that make it difficult to buy something are the companies whose websites seem to operate using the same system of wisecracking wildlife that powered most major appliances on The Flintstones. A good example is the site for XM Radio, to which I ventured recently on an ill-conceived mission to renew my subscription. The pelican inside the website must have been asleep because not a damn thing worked right. Ultimately, I tried to start over by resetting my password. The octopus filling in for the pelican asked me to go through the process of “Security Verification,” at which point I was confronted by the following screen:

For a moment, I considered the possibility that this may be a test of creativity and my deeper comprehension of the human condition, like those philosophy exams that purportedly consist in their entirety of the question, “Why?” If Question 1 does not have a question, then the Answer to Question 1 must functionally be the absence of a reply. Then I just left and bought some music from Apple instead.

(I emailed XM to tell them about this curious feature of their security verification system. Did I hear back? I did not. I assume the stop-light monkey dropped by to take the octopus and pelican to lunch.)


 
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Adventures in interwebbery

  1. The ability to rant large at the obtuse and inattentive must be one of the great perks of the job. (I imagine it is therapeutic as well.)

    • If so, it's a perk I don't use nearly enough. I'm over 40 now and therefore find myself shaking my fist at least three times a day. (Not a euphemism, Sean.)

      • Trouble renewing your on-line access to BAF? (Bea Arthur Fetish)

        • It's hard to have trouble when you own controlling interest in the company.

  2. It's easier and cheaper to just download it for free! And you probably won't get caught!

    • Another unreported crime. I'm seeing the pattern now.

    • I don't download stuff for free. I always pay.

      • You already said you were over 40.

      • I applaud your honesty.

        • I do too, the other day I added up my itunes and my kids and wow, I have spend a small little fortune!

  3. The second "sharon??" was the key to that working. Well done, sir. I tittered.

  4. I say we all do it old-school style and head to the local Canadian Tire to get really frustrated with the 14-year old trying to find me….well, anything I actually came in for. And then failing.

    • /shakes fist at kid

    • Well.. you can't do it over the web with Canadian Tire anymore. Several months ago, their board got together, took a look at things and went, "Yeah.. that whole Web thing? It's probably just a fad, why are we bothering with this online ordering thing?"

    • You mean the kid who brings you the car part, then you drive home and take the malfunctioning piece off your car and go to put the new one on, but he gave you the wrong one and it's so close, you couldn't tell until they were side by side, so you have to put the malfunctioning one back on and drive back.

      And the same kid is the only one there to help.

    • head to the local Canadian Tire to get really frustrated with the 14-year old trying to find me….well, anything

      You mean you actually found someone in red shirt to try to help you? (whispering in great awe and wonder:) Wow…

  5. If only you could download some accountability…

  6. I feschuk-ing love your blog Scott! If it came in a downloadable version I would happily pay! As a Canadian now living in NYC's East Village there are a few things I miss tremendously: affordable housing, cheap(er) restaurants and my fair market priced subscription to Maclean's!

    • You transformed my surname into a swear, and yet still I find myself honoured.

    • Yes, Maclean's is hellishly expensive here in the States. (I bought a year's subscription in solidarity with Mark Steyn.)

    • You mean Export Development Canada hasn't subsidized it to within a micron of free, yet?

      • And this is why they call us socialists the world round. Here's looking at you!

  7. This happened to me recently when I tried to buy airplane tickets online. I had to call the human operator, who also couldn't figure out why I was being bounced to a security screen. "I just want to give you oodles of money," I explained, almost apologetically. "Why are you doing this to me? Whhhhhy????" Then I cried for a little while and felt better.

  8. If you think you had trouble doing that, wait until you try to cancel your subscription.

    I remember when I canceled mine: I called XM on the phone, and some guy sort of languidly took my information. That is, he pretended to — I could tell he was really filing his nails or something, while pretending to take down my cancellation order.

    Sure enough, the next month they deducted their fee from my account again. So I immediately closed the checking account they were using. It's much easier, and gentler on the nerves, to just forestall them. NEVER give them the benefit of the doubt for having good will and honest intentions. Just getting a new checking account is preferable to going into XM Cancellation Hell while they pretend to want to help you, while dragging out the process as long as possible.

  9. In order to reserve a library book via the internet, I need to provide a 13 digit access code and a password. It's getting tough to remember all the damn codes and passwords for the basic stuff, like online banking, and library books – did I mention books? nevermind actually buying things online.

    • Next time we meet remind me to tell you how to do that.

  10. I buy all kinds of stuff I don't need from Apple and Amazon. Why?

    Because you are a grown adult citizen with the right to vote who has nonetheless not yet developed any sense of personal responsibility over your affairs?

    Nope! Because it's so damn easy.

    Got it.