Computers Are Too Smart to Take the Blame Anymore

November 13th, 2008

Categories: Technology

I’m fascinated to see my name when greets “Jeanne,” and my address printed on the cover of a magazine [instead of on a label], and how LinkedIn alerts me to people I might know-and I do.

How do they do that? Spooky. Google gets its arms around flu epidemics faster than the Center for Disease Control because it can track and report inquiries for “flu symptoms” almost as fast as they happen. When technology works, it’s miraculous.

I become annoyed when it doesn’t which is every time I open e-mails from a certain company. Why? Each message starts out, “Lauren.” No Lauren works at the agency, nor have I ever worked with a Lauren.

People spell Jeanne wrong all the time, so I’m used to that, though I try not to spell anyone else’s name incorrectly. But getting my name wrong altogether reflects the slapdash way this company would treat me, or my clients. Happens once it’s a mistake–we all make and forgive those. But Jeanne gets the Lauren e-mails weekly.

That’s why I often take the time to do some jobs the old fashioned way even when technology is supposed to simplify and speed things. If, when using the newest and latest technology, I can’t be positive about the outcome, I select a proven, if longer, path.

While President-Elect Obama’s flawless campaign was largely run on the Internet, volunteers visiting voters door-to-door or calling them on the telephone, not depending on robo-calls, accomplished a critical element of his outreach. [My name was always correct in his campaign’s e-mails.]

Not taking care can be very expensive for the sender as well as annoying to the recipient therefore defeating the purpose.

I got an attractive 6 x 11-inch color postcard from a big box store announcing a blowout handbag sale. On the card was the instruction: “If you want to be notified of other special promotions in future, please sign up on the web.” It was Saturday and I tried, frittered away precious time, wondering why the site would not accept the numbers, and finally dashed off a note to the company.

The response: “Although the sweepstakes entry states a ‘10′ digit postcard code, it is actually the ‘13′ digit code that we are asking that you provide. You will want to enter the entire 13-digit number from your postcard. We apologize for any confusion.”

First, there was no sweepstakes. Second, I wasn’t confused-they had made a mistake. I think in an upcoming post we’ll cover the issue of taking ownership of mistakes and how doing so relates to service.

I didn’t return to the web to enter the code. By the time I’d heard from the store I was back at work and I’d lost or tossed the postcard with the numbers on it. After spending hours writing, designing and printing the project, nobody took 30 seconds to test the system. [Don’t you always call a client’s toll-free number before noting it in material to make sure the number is correct?] What an expensive mistake this was! Add to the cost of printing, handling and postage the fact that the company annoyed loyal and potential customers while adding few customers to its database.

7 Responses to “Computers Are Too Smart to Take the Blame Anymore”

  1. Elizabeth R. Baecher Said:

    I have a happy love-hate relationship with computers and other members of the technological family. But then, I am a Gemini, so what do you expect?

  2. Ryan Said:

    Isn’t blogging the most fun? Good write up!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thanks Elizabeth,

    I’m not a Gemini…but have the same feelings about computers–you can’t live without them, that’s for sure. One thing I keep forgetting–unless you have tremendous skills or hours to spare, call on specialists when confronted with tech glitches. You’ll save time and agita. Like a toothache that you nurse, hoping it will go away, but eventually you end up seeing a dentist who asks why you didn’t come in ages before, find an expert and go for help. It’s worth every cent and hours of stomach-wrenching anxiety.

    And thank you, Ryan, for the compliment! Means a lot as you have a great blog–

  4. Seneca Said:

    I’m not a fan of enforced informality to begin with. I believe it erodes the respect of one human being for another. However, it is fraudulent intimacy when a piece of advertising mail, or email for that matter, comes dressed up to look like a letter from a friend, and it offends me. I’m only sorry that I don’t have the patience to keep track of the senders so as to be able to boycott their products.


  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Know what you mean. When I get a sales call from an inarticulate person and the voice tortures my first name–I am often called Gee-Anne–it signals a stranger and although I don’t mind informality, I think that in this case, adding a last name would be more appropriate. I think I wouldn’t wait to hear most pitches, with one exception: Telephone pollsters. But I am pretty sure that they use my full name –or they ask for head of household. If I have the time, some polls can be fun to take. Thanks for your response. Jeanne

  6. Carol Said:

    Jeanne, I totally agree with your comment about the need to call on a specialist when confronted with tech glitches. When I was getting ready to launch, the first thing I did was to buy a new computer with a lot of firepower and the largest screen I could find (I knew I would be staring at it all day and my eyes aren’t getting any younger). The second thing I did was to find a local computer guru. Keith, a Fortune 500 IT refugee, has a local repair shop and makes house calls. He has saved my sanity many times. Knowing this “safety net” exists has allowed me to focus on developing my site rather than waste time trying to fix technical glitches that I know absolutely nothing about. I’ve had virtually no down time.

  7. Linda Said:

    I love the posts….I recently had my mortgage broker spell my name wrong on my commitment letter. Imagine what faith I have in them now. I only hope my closing has no typos or mistakes.

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