Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Service of Automation Hiccups

Monday, November 22nd, 2021



Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

I’ve written 74 posts in the “technology” category the most recent about the hurdles to sign up for the first Covid-19 vaccines; a restaurant where the only way to order was through a smartphone app that was faulty and platform upgrades that benefit the vendor and make life more complicated for the user.

Here are some examples that illustrate that those who designed the programs didn’t consider the vendors or customers.

Seeing Straight

I received an email asking me to make an eye doctor appointment. I’d already done that before leaving my last one but figured the office may have had a computer hiccup that erased all appointments so I called. There were 17 people ahead of me–an unusually high number. [I use telephone waits to water plants]. Turns out my appointment is scheduled and that the lovely assistant who kept her sense of humor said she’d received countless similar calls. The email had been sent automatically, she explained. My suggestion: revise the automated notification so people with appointments don’t get such reminders. Then office staff can focus on their work and patients don’t waste their time.

Here’s to Your Health

Prescription renewals usually take a minute by phone using a simple system: the customer types or says the Rx number. This time after I’d punched in the numbers the computer voice turned me over to the pharmacy department. Another wait. The pharmacy clerk who took my name and that of the prescription mouthwash was out of breath on answering and said to come in for it in the afternoon. The automated system used to do the same. Why bother drugstore staff? I have a lot of plants to water but not that many.

Do You Hear Me Now?

I’m early on this journey to unravel malfunctions galore and may write a post about the twists and turns once there’s resolution. But for this post I will simply note that to change my Verizon account from my husband’s first name to mine has caused tangles of many layers. Just one: the company is now billing me for both the cancelled account and mine. Hoping for resolution to this and the rest very soon. I think I’m in capable hands.

Have you found that some automated systems have fallen short or wasted your time? Which ones worked like a charm? What do you do while waiting on hold to speak with someone?



Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay  

Service of Thanking Before Dining is Over

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Last weekend I sat outdoors at a restaurant in the Village. The only way to get food was by downloading the menu, signing in to their website, ordering online and paying by credit card. No smartphone, no luck.

As with any restaurant credit card purchase there was the TIPS line which I filled in. I know, I know, I should have left a cash tip. But I didn’t. Next time.

I wasn’t thinking clearly. My mind was spinning from the unusual–for me–ordering process. After I clicked our choices, my first attempt didn’t go through; it took me forever to find ice tea–only coffee choices were evident. Intensifying by the second were my feelings of being a super all thumbs Luddite klutz which slowed me even further.

So I wrote in a generous tip–the percentage I would calculate at a standard restaurant. In retrospect all the wait staff did was to deliver the order and clear the plates. Turned out that they were forgetful in delivering our standard requests. We were sharing a giant luncheon salad and asked for a second plate. We had to ask two waitresses a few times. With temperature in the 90s, the water in a bottle left on the table, soaking up the sun as were we, warmed quickly. We asked for ice–several times too.

I’ll be better prepared the next time, with reading glasses at the ready, immediately locating the SEARCH icon [which is how I found iced tea as it wasn’t one of the upfront choices]. And I’ll have cash–which I don’t carry in significant amounts–on hand.

I suspect the do-it-yourself ordering process is in our futures at less expensive watering holes especially if the staffing shortage persists. It’s not a new concept. I have belonged to clubs at which the member wrote the food and drink order in the casual venues. It seemed easier.

Have you been tripped up by technology? Do you feel foolish when it happens? Have you, too, encountered such an ordering process at a restaurant? Is this a welcome trend?

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

 

Service of Vaccine Appointment Idiocy in NYC

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Photo: insurancejournal.com

I was stunned at the process to get a Covid-19 vaccine appointment in Manhattan and am shocked that I got one at all–for April 7 late in the day about two miles from home! I walk.

It took me the better part of two days of filling out countless forms to become eligible to make an appointment at a venue only to learn there were no appointments to be had. I repeated the process countless times. I grabbed one date and when I hit ENTER at the end of the process got an error message. My appointment went up in smoke.

It’s not just New York. Retired TV and radio sports broadcaster Warner Wolf, known for the catchphrase “Let’s go to the videotape!” said in a radio interview on Monday that he hasn’t been able to get an appointment in Florida. He’s in his 80s.

If your choice of venue has no available appointments you are told to “click here” for alternatives to get a Covid test. But you want a vaccine!

What infuriates me is how scattershot the whole vaccine appointment business is in New York City. It’s a mess.

  • Why do they increase eligibility when they haven’t taken care of the earlier categories approved to receive vaccines?
  • Why aren’t the locations offering vaccines listed in the city’s website by borough? Instead there’s one in Brooklyn next to a Staten Island followed by the Bronx with a few Manhattans sprinkled in.
  • Why aren’t the venues listed alphabetically?
  • Why doesn’t the search function work?
  • Why do you have to fill out all sorts of information in some instances only to find out in the end that the clinic or hospital or venue doesn’t have any appointments?
  • If your choice of hospital or clinic in the city system has no available appointments you are told to “click here” for alternatives to get a Covid test. But you want a vaccine. [Photo right]
  • I called 311, the city’s information service, for the link to get a vaccine appointment at the Javits Center when I heard it was added to the venues [it wasn’t on the city’s website and Google was no help] and the lovely voice said, “Oh! I didn’t know you could get a vaccine there.”  She had no information.

Saw this too often. By “event” the venue meant appointment.

Once I finally saw an opening, I grabbed it. I felt like a person with scarf over my eyes being twirled in circles before heading off to pin the tail on the donkey. I couldn’t tell you which site brought me to the venue with a free appointment.

There were questions after selecting the date and time. [I had no choice of time.] One wanted your mother’s maiden name if you’re under 16. I left it blank. In reviewing the information before confirming the appointment I noticed that one of my clients is listed as my mother. I use a lot of online websites to promote my clients’ events. So out of the ether his name appeared! Apparently all of these online forms are connected.

I was asked if I feel OK, do I have a sore throat? These questions would make sense if I was getting my vaccine this week. But I won’t see the needle for three months so the question is irrelevant.

I might have booked a reservation a few weeks from now had I been willing to travel to Staten Island or Coney Island or the Bronx. I have been Covid-cautious avoiding transportation since March. I’m not willing to expose myself to the virus to travel to outer boroughs in order to get the vaccine.

I plan to duck into the system again once more vaccine is available to see if I can get an earlier appointment and perhaps one closer to home. I suspect a shortage of vaccine is the cause of the paucity of appointments.

What about people without access to the Internet? WOR radio interviewed a 90+ year old woman who gave up after a three hour wait on the phone. She’d arrived without an appointment at the Javits Center, the newest venue in the city.

I am disappointed that with all this time to prepare that New York City made such a hash of the crucial step of getting vaccines into its citizens’ arms. Which city/state has a better system? Why aren’t communities sharing their intel?

Got excited to get this far but there was no way to pick a time. Back to scratch.

Service of Assuming: Upgrades that Benefit the Vendor

Monday, January 11th, 2021

Photo: quora.com

I’ve written before about upgrades that aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be and more often than not, are of little if any benefit to the consumer.

The evening before my apartment building was to replace washers and dryers we received a notice. The dedicated plastic credit cards that start the machines were to be replaced by new ones along with a fancier digital gadget to activate them. The old cards would no longer work and after the installation there would be no way to read the old cards to see what money remained. [We are usually given at least a week’s notice if the water will be turned off of elevators repaired. This last minute notice is unusual.]

“Let the company know how much is left on your card,” the instructions stated, and there would be two ways to be reimbursed: mail the old card to the company along with the amount or transfer the money to the new one via a series of steps on the new digital gadget in the laundry room. [A tenant who’d figured out the latter step saved me time by doing it for me. Grateful, I paid for a load of her laundry. For this to happen, however, the tenant had to first notify the washing machine company with the amount on the old card.]

Armed with a new card with money on it I asked “what happens if the Internet connection is down when I need to refill the card?” I might need to take a night course at MIT or drag my laundry back upstairs and wait until it is restored to proceed.

My guess is that many tenants have no idea how much was left on their old cards–nice for the washing machine company as ours is a big building.

More important, the instructions encouraged tenants to download an app on their smart phones to use the machines in future. This presumes that every tenant owns a smartphone and that they want to download another app, creating one more potential leak for hackers to play “suck my money.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Turns out that for now at least you can use the card to work a machine.

I wrote at least based the model of the future of MetroCards used to pay carfare on NYC subways: the cards have a short life. In two years we will only enter the system by digital pay via a smartphone.

Take a look at the locations in Manhattan that are scheduled to dole out Covid-19 vaccines. [I trust the list will grow in time.] All require appointments, some made by telephone; others online. What if a citizen has no access to the Internet?

Do tenants who chose the app option need to leave their phones with a housekeeper or guest who want to do a laundry so they have the indicia to flash at and start the machines?

Should businesses and organizations assume that all potential customers are up to speed technologically?  Is the savings so great that losing a few customers because they’re not doesn’t matter? Have you gone head to head with technology?

Photo: bridgeheadsoftware.com

Service of an After Pandemic To Do List–or Not

Monday, August 17th, 2020

Photo: makeuseof.com

There are a few things I’ve put on a list to address when the pandemic cools and companies reestablish their sea legs.

  • One large corporation doesn’t recognize either my phone or account numbers so I cannot access my online account. I finally got customer service to mail a hard copy of my monthly bill. It worked once. Here’s hoping for subsequent ones.
  • Customer service at another company that’s supposed to send money can’t find me in their system so I can’t set up direct deposit. Some computer knows I exist as I get a mailed check. Don’t ask.

Photo: atlantic.net

Meanwhile, there are other companies that are buttoned up in spite of the pandemic. I use Saashost for a variety of email functions. The company was changing platforms which meant that all my devices/computers that receive email–laptop, phone, iPad and desktop–needed to make changes to accommodate the upgrade.

It’s a pandemic for me too and the timing was the worst because my IT consultant had other issues to settle and could only help so much. Life goes on.

The upgrade word always gives me the shivers. In my experience every “upgrade” makes it longer and harder for me to do what I did before, usually involving many more steps.

My IT consultant went through the first round so my laptop and phone could communicate to the new platform under the guidance of the indomitable Shaun at Saashost.

The rest was up to me. I was petrified. I didn’t need to be.

Shaun and Bradley held my hand virtually. They didn’t utter a single techie word or slap their heads in exasperation when the desktop–the mother of challenges because it’s a granny–didn’t perform or because attempted fixes took so long to download. They had me laughing as we delved into the scary depths of the ancient desktop.

Eventually Shaun had to rescue granny with some behind-the-scenes techie pyrotechnics by entering the computer remotely. He fixed it! Granny gets emails. Hooray!

Do you have a list of follow-ups you’ll be making once corporations are comfortable with the new normal? Have expert, patient, kind tech support staff worked you through treacherous steps in an unfamiliar world of behind-the-scenes letters, numbers, links and downloads?

Photo: steemit.com

 

Service of Technology: What I love and Dislike about Texting

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Photo: thesunchronicle.com

“Although we are separated in miles, we have the internet.” An 84 year old wrote this about her 6.5 decade friendships. She was responding to reporter Andrea Petersen’s Wall Street Journal article about the service of friendship and her letter, and those of other readers, made up a subsequent article.

My mother was an early adapter of gadgets and fan of the Internet. She felt independent with the help of her laptop in spite of physical constraints that eliminated her ability to go out alone and shop in person. In her late 80s she became a member of chat groups and she bought gifts online. Mom died 20 years ago so she didn’t have a Smartphone. But her example and that of the 84 year old in the first paragraph is clear: stay abreast of technology whether or not you need it for work, or you’ll miss out. You know it or you wouldn’t be reading this post but I suspect many still don’t.

My friends who don’t email or text don’t much hear from me these days. I find it a quick and easy way to stay in touch and share thoughts and news.

Photo: komando.com

At first I avoided texting. I haven’t mastered the dictation option on my phone because it takes me so long to correct all the mistakes that happen when my phone’s ears mishear me. It’s often faster to type. The tiny keyboard combined with my big fingers still makes typing on the device a challenge.

Outweighing this hassle are many benefits starting with the freedom it gives me to be responsive to clients and friends who need to reach me quickly regardless of where I am.

So I’m an enthusiast.

When I watch a debate, the Oscars, a sports event or visit a museum exhibition I’m a text away from a friend with whom to share my reactions and opinions and seconds away from hearing theirs. They can respond when they want–I’m not interrupting them with a phone call–and yet it’s as though they are in the room with me or walking with me in a museum or trade show or store.

Do you text? Do you make it a point to stay abreast of technology? Do you know people who don’t write emails or text?  I wasn’t able to ascertain if currently there’s an app for the visually impaired to hear a tweet. That would be something to chirp about, don’t you think?

Photo: textrecruit.com

 

 

Service of Late Night Shopping Online

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Photo: dreamstime.com

Erica Martell suggested this post after buying a vacuum cleaner late one night that, she wrote, she’d been thinking about for some time. A few days later, I fell for a drastic discount on a Marimekko jumpsuit. Martell continued: “People have some interesting late-night shopping habits.”

Mary-Ann Russon, BBC News business reporter wrote “New data from the John Lewis Partnership Card shows that one in 15 purchases are now made between the hours of midnight and 06:00.

“The research shows that the number of purchases made in this period rose by 23% in 2018, compared with 2017.

“Retail analyst Chris Field told the BBC that technology improvements have prompted this new trend.

Photo: covergirlshapewear.com

“‘It’s partly to do with the more recent generations of mobile phones, and the retailers are becoming much more sophisticated,’ he says.”

We’re not speaking peanuts. According to optinmonster.com: ” Online shopping is growing so fast that the global online shopping market size is predicted to hit 4 trillion in 2020. And in the US alone, we’re expecting to have 300 million online shoppers in 2023. That’s 91% of the entire country’s population!”

In the infancy of QVC, a colleague bought drawers full of jewelry. I missed that temptation. There’s something else about looking at fashions on my phone during a boring TV show or commercial. The compelling photos and ease in buying are part of the attraction.

At what time of day do you buy online? Should you stay away from websites that sell items that might be tempting to you when you’re tired?

Photo: stokker.com

Service of Marketers Ruling the Roost: When Hip Overrides Clarity

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Photo: eyecatch.co

When service or communications are poor, customers must wonder whether an operation is being run for them, the owners or the staff.

It may be none of the above.

Frequently the marketers run the show. Many are enamored of technology, to heck with whether or not the hip, new effect does the trick. It’s more important to appear to be cutting edge. Take revolving digital screens that move so quickly that customers can’t read and/or absorb the information fast enough. This isn’t a good choice for a fast food restaurant–or for anything else if the fast-moving screen features more than a few words with an image.

Hot & Spicy McChicken Photo: McDonalds.fandom.com

Britton O’Daly wrote “Wait, Where Did That Burger Go? Diners Struggle With Fast-Moving Digital Menus,” in The Wall Street Journal. In one example a customer was frustrated because he didn’t catch the name of a new chicken dish at McDonald’s so instead of waiting for the screen to return–he feared holding up the line–he ordered a burger. I wonder why he felt he couldn’t ask for “one of those new chicken dishes?”

That customer may have been intimidated by marketers who are also in love with the cutesy names they give their products. To be considered “in,” there’s pressure to use them. I break out in a rash when forced to order coffee at Starbucks [I admit you rarely see me in there]. If I want a small coffee with skim that is how I will order it. You can keep your Grande, Venti and Trenta. Phooey.

Photo: pinterest.com

Back to the original subject. O’Daly wrote: “Digital billboards are now everywhere, and companies love them. The only problem: people have a hard time reading them.”

This harkens back to an amazing looking logo in an unreadable font that also irks me. What’s the point?

Why is the public intimidated into ordering food or drink using the names a company gives it? Why does management put aside common sense and allow marketers to incorporate the latest widget or gadget to communicate with the public even if the vehicle doesn’t do the job? And why does a marketing department, or its advisors, lead its clients down so many primrose paths?

Photo: eater.com

Service of Counting on a Brand: Bye-bye Microsoft E-Library

Monday, July 29th, 2019

Photo: crosswordology.com

How do you know you can trust a brand to keep its products in business and parts available for as long as you need them? The question doesn’t apply anymore just to major appliances, motor vehicles, furnaces, solar energy technologies and gadgets like VCRs, CDs and DVDs. The subscribers to Microsoft’s E-Library know what it’s like to be left in the lurch. I heard about their loss on NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro and Josh Axelrod reported “Starting in July, Microsoft will be closing its e-book library and erasing all content purchased through the Microsoft e-bookstore from devices. Consumers will receive a refund for every e-book bought.”

Photo: e-library.co.za

I read traditional books but some of my best friends rely on e-books. I’d be irritated if I’d paid for a book and was left hanging at a crucial juncture when Microsoft pulled the plug.

Garcia-Navarro interviewed Aaron Perzanowski, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, who pointed out that losing a book you’ve annotated and use in your job is more than exasperating. Think of lawyers, teachers or academic researchers who have spent time to study a book and write themselves virtual Post-It notes on manuscripts. The additional $25 refund doesn’t make this customer whole, said Perzanowski who also wrote the book “The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy.”

“In a University of Pennsylvania Law Review article, Perzanowski found that users are often misled when they click the ‘Buy Now’ button, thinking that they’ve gained permanent ownership of digital content.

Photo: garageenvy.com

“‘You can go out and buy a car and you think you own the car because it’s parked in your garage,’ Perzanowski says. ‘But in reality – how it functions, who can repair it, what replacement parts are compatible with it – all of that is controlled through software code. And, so I think that line between the physical and the digital is getting increasingly blurry.’”

The culprit is a tool called Digital Rights Management or DRM software. “Your car, your smart home appliances, your home security system – all of these systems have software that allows for this kind of control over how the devices are used, and I think we’re going to see these same sorts of situations crop up in the context of physical devices that are being used in people’s homes.”

Have you lost the use of something you owned because there are no parts available to repair it or did you learn that, like the e-books you bought, you really didn’t own it at all? Do you factor in shelf life when buying things for your office or home or are you resigned to short-lived pull-by dates on almost everything but processed honey with its forever lifespan?

Photo: geofflawtononline.com

Service of Amazon Moving into Your Home & Hotel: American Passivity is Creepy

Monday, July 15th, 2019

Photo: forum.phish.net

Get the feeling that Big Brother is closing in and that our lives are under an increasingly powerful magnifying glass while we join in like gleeful children without weighing the ramifications? Recently I wrote about Walmart’s gaining access to homes when no one’s there to deliver groceries to the fridge. In June 2015 I wrote “Service of strangers knowing more about you than your family does.” Today I cover Amazon’s plan to “get more people using its services and locked into its Alexa ecosystem,” as Christopher Mims wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

In “Amazon’s Plan to Move In to Your Next Apartment Before You Do –The tech giant has figured out a way to get millions of its smart speakers into homes without consumers lifting a finger, as property managers bring in Alexa to manage tenants,” Mims reported that already 25 percent of Americans own some kind of smart speaker, the lion’s share belonging to Amazon.

Amazon’s Alexa-controlled Echo speaker. Photo: amazon.com

The brand’s Alexa Smart Properties team, a little known part of its Alexa division, is “working on partnerships with homebuilders, property managers and hoteliers to push millions of Alexa smart speakers into domiciles all across the U.S.” The division offers hardware and software at a discount as well as “new ways for property managers to harvest and use data.” Voice based wish lists and shopping habits of an increasing number of users will propel Amazon ahead of the competition in the rental and new home construction market according to Mims.

“Amazon has figured out a way to get into millions of homes without consumers ever having to choose its hardware and services in the first place.”

Alexa, which some call a personal assistant, responds to its owners voice and carries out tasks. Echo is one of Amazon’s hands-free, voice-controlled speakers.

Mims reminded readers that renters, buyers and hotel guests “may not be aware of all the parties monitoring their smart-home interactions.”

He continued “  ‘We envision a day when you can say ‘Hey Alexa, pay my rent,’ and it will transfer that money from a resident’s bank account,’ says PayLease chief executive Dirk Wakeham.”

Great: Now everyone knows your bank account number and how much rent you pay.

Thanks to smart phone technology, property managers also benefit: They save money, wrote Mims, because they can easily cut back air conditioning and heating in vacant apartments; provide access to units by contractors and change door locks.

Photo: yelp.com

Americans appear to be walking the plank on this one without blinking twice. I witnessed another example of passivity at a favorite store in the suburbs  last weekend. A long line at checkout developed an offshoot and nobody at the juncture said, “The line ends over there.” I went to customer service asking for a staffer to direct the line and sort out the confusion. The woman turned her back on me saying “I know.” Such acceptance makes me nervous. I fear that Americans are setting themselves up to be whacked for takeover by nefarious souls–like a golf ball on a tee.

Add surveillance to passivity and the sum is more than creepy, don’t you think? Are city folks more inclined than suburbanites to speak up in public? Do people signing up for or playing ball with smart speakers–installed where they will live or visit–realize what they are giving up? If your hotel room had a smart speaker/spy would you ask that it be disconnected?

Photo: pixels.com

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