Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Service of Built-In Obsolescence

Monday, August 8th, 2022


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Built-in obsolescence has always infuriated me. Is it because I love antiques? In any case, I’m a victim again. 

I’ve written before about this kind of waste as in celebrities who make the news for tearing down a $12 million house to build a new one in the same spot. Can’t they buy property to build on and not destroy what is probably someone else’s dream home? The fancy makeup cases of my youth are the first examples I recall. Subsequent iterations didn’t accommodate refills forcing me to buy a new case and toss a perfectly good one. I wasn’t thinking about the environment then. My gripe was about feeling ripped off.

So how is this impacting me now? My perfectly good laptop, inherited years ago from my nephew, still works like a charm. My miracle IT man has helped maintain it perfectly. He gave it a good bill of health a few months ago. 


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

But it needs to go. Why? Because the Microsoft program it currently uses can’t be upgraded and doesn’t meet the requirements of a crucial vendor that soon is moving platforms. So I must buy a new laptop. Grrrrrr.

I have a historically terrible experience with upgrades and updates. I was forced to change a gizmo for one of my phones. It took weeks to be activated and now, every few days, needs to be disconnected because it cuts out so my phone goes dead. The original gadget wasn’t persnickety, lasted a decade and never once did it have a bit of trouble.

An upgrade on WordPress, the platform on which this blog reaches you, caused me fits until I figured out that I needed to format posts in Google Chrome not Firefox [the latter had worked for years]. Once simple changes or inserts require more steps.

I dread learning where documents will be tucked and my fingers are crossed that crucial documents, emails and photos on granny laptop can be transferred. Based on previous experience I anticipate many moments of stomach-churning YIKES and towel-tossing.

The media celebrated and applauded restaurants when they deep-sixed plastic straws and claimed they were saving the world by using paper ones instead. I’ve not read a word about the waste we make by force-tossing millions of perfectly good laptops, computers, tablets and phones–have you? Hmmmm.

What are other examples of built-in obsolescence?  Does it bother you? Should I take a deep breath, shrug, get over it and move on?


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of Above and Beyond

Thursday, March 10th, 2022



Image by marekr from Pixabay

Though service sometimes seems to have its dry spells, lately I’ve experienced a riches of the best, even if I had to nudge one instance along.

Old Fashioned Service

As you could tell from my last post I’m not thrilled with the lifting of pandemic mandates with so many unanswered questions and inconsistencies. For example, if the pandemic is over and face coverings useless why are they required anywhere? Which businesses and organizations plan to continue to check vaccine status?

To find out I left a message at the Metropolitan Museum of Art members department last week to learn if the organization was still asking for proof of vaccines. I never expected to hear from anyone. I’ve left messages on voicemail at other places before, such as on my councilman Keith Powers’ [followed, in his case, by an e-mail], and never heard back. Hence the surprise when a cheerful woman called Tuesday to tell me the vaccine restriction at the Met is gone. Oh well.

White Glove Service 1

I just came from Staples looking to replace the mouse for my laptop. I know, I know–I should use the touchpad like 99.9% of the world but I don’t. The young man I lucked into tested the mouse I brought–extremely polite asking if it was OK before heading to the back. He thought it was fine yet I still wanted to buy a backup and I said that it would be worth $20 to me. “Oh, you don’t have to pay that much!” he said handing me one for $13.99. He wished me good luck, hoping there wasn’t something wrong with the laptop portal [me too] and we had a brief discussion about the beauty of old gadgets that work perfectly well. He was in his 20s, hip enough with his long hair, and yet an old soul in this regard who gets five gold stars for service.

White Glove Service 2

Where I live, once a year handymen check the 510 apartments to change AC filters, confirm that smoke detectors work and so forth. All tenants know is that the inspections will take place between certain hours over a matter of weeks. That didn’t suit me. I wanted to know the day they’d come to my apartment, at the least.

I make use of every surface including the AC/heating element covers where plants sit so I planned to move them–but when? The staff slide open the covers to switch out the filters. And for countless other reasons, with advance notice, I could be sure to be home.

So I found out who was on the inspection team and tracked one of them down, asking him for a heads up the day before they’d land on my floor. I handed him a note with my phone and apartment numbers. They warned me and more, giving me a choice of times and they arrived on the dot! I was prepared, they were in and out in short order and everyone–especially me–was happy.

Have you enjoyed service that was above and beyond lately?

Service of Knowing When You’re Not Considered or Wanted

Thursday, February 10th, 2022


Image by Sozavisimost from Pixabay

What will seniors do if they aren’t computer literate, don’t own or know how to use a smartphone other than to speak on it or a tablet other than to read a book and have nobody to help them? The third reminder confirming an eye doctor appointment asked me to sign in to a website to fill out a bunch of Covid information. And if I couldn’t?

I will only order food from businesses that take my request over the phone or have easy-to-navigate websites and I usually pick it up. I avoid Grubhub, Uber eats, Doordash and the other delivery services and I use restaurants that have their own delivery crew on the rare instance that I require it. The additional cost appears to be prohibitive although you’d never know it by all the bicyclists whizzing around the city toting packages big and small.

Here’s one example. There’s no flat charge for a Grubhub delivery. In addition to the recommended $5 tip to the delivery person, Brett Helling explained on ridester.com “Grubhub’s pricing is based on delivery and service fees, which make up 70% of the meal price.” He wrote:

  • “Grubhub’s delivery fee is the fee charged by the restaurants to deliver food to the customers’ locations.
  • “The service fee is the amount Grubhub charges the restaurants for facilitating the order.”

In addition to the expense, and confusing pricing, arranging for delivery is done online. Older citizens on fixed incomes who may depend on such service will feel the impact most or do without.

Some restaurants are making a drastic change–the ones that Victoria Petersen wrote about in her New York Times article “Restaurants to Customers: Don’t Call Us, We Won’t Call You.” She reported: “Channeling all communication through emails, direct messages on social media and reservations apps might frustrate diners and deter those who are technology averse, but restaurants are finding that communicating this way frees up time for front-of-house employees, is more efficient for restaurant administrators and gives flexibility to restaurants operating with a small team or through Covid-related staffing shortages.”

Nice for the business, but what about customers? At the same time I read about the difficulties that restaurants are still having because of the Pandemic. I’m not sure that this is the best time for them to eliminate a form of communication that some depend on–that is, unless they don’t want taking up space, and ruining the hip vibe, older folks who would probably prefer the traditional way to reserve a table.

These marketing decisions have most impact on older citizens. Have you noticed systems and setups that convenience vendors and service providers and ignore or discount some of their patients and customers?



Image by Concord90 from Pixabay

Service of I’m Not Weeping: Feeble Crises Due To Tech Blip

Thursday, December 9th, 2021


Image by Ashish Bogawat from Pixabay 

I couldn’t tell if Sarah E. Needleman was being sarcastic when she chose the examples for her article “Amazon Outage Disrupts Lives, Surprising People About Their Cloud Dependency,” in the Wall Street Journal.

Disrupts lives? She reported that as a result there was one couple who had to manually feed their cats “like in ancient times,” the husband said, because their automatic cat feeder didn’t work.  A man complained that he had to use a broom and dustpan to clean up crumbs from the muffin he dropped on the kitchen floor because his Roomaba robot vacuum was disabled. Another felt lonely because he couldn’t ask Alexa for news updates or the weather. Alexa’s disconnect disrupted a woman’s day because she couldn’t ask it to turn on and off her lights. In addition, as the outage impacted Zappos, she couldn’t track a package.

Note: None of these people were disabled and dependent on technology to literally work for them. So I am not weeping.

About the December 7 cloud interruption Needleman wrote that “Amazon Web Services is the largest cloud-computing service provider in the U.S. The outage of much of its network lasted most of the day and disrupted several of the tech giant’s services, as well as many of its corporate customers’ websites and apps.

“It affected the company’s videoconferencing tool Chime and its home-security system Ring, plus many third-party applications that sit on top of Amazon’s cloud, including Ticketmaster and streaming services from Walt Disney Co. and Netflix Inc.

Echo smart home box
Image by hamburgfinn from Pixabay  

“For many consumers, it was an awakening to how many internet-enabled devices they now have in their homes and how much even some of their most basic daily needs depend on a connection to the cloud.”

Basic daily needs? What happened to food and shelter?

My health insurance company tried to get me to download an invoice when in the past they’ve mailed one with months worth of coupons. I was burned by linking to a fake document so instead I called to confirm what I thought was in the document.

This insurance is solely for the old and the ancient. I wonder if I’m alone in requesting paper for what doesn’t fit in an email. I’m not a total luddite: I’m happy to access my bank accounts online but I’m the one seeking the information and inserting my user names and passwords.

As technology surges on, I’ve noticed a vigorous trend for old fashioned marketing at the same time. This is the first year in ages I’ve been inundated by catalogs. I photographed the ones that came in just the last few weeks–photo below. I haven’t ordered from a catalog in a dog’s age. Can’t figure out the timing of this approach.

Are you addicted to your cloud and app-connected devices? If the reporter is serious and the lives of the owners of these devices are “disrupted” when they don’t work, impacting their “basic daily needs,” what does this say about the direction of our society? Should one company have so much “power” over people’s lives?

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

 

 

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