Friday, February 19, 2010

"Just order it online....."

Sounds simple, right?  Sure...pick your color, pick your size, select your options, choose how many, punch a button, and voila!  Couldn't be easier, right?

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I must preface this tale.  A year ago, my beloved little PC laptop gave it's last error message and quietly died.  Dead.  Not to be resuscitated, despite the laying-on-of=hands by my favorite local Techno-Wizard, Donnie.  He tried, he truly did, but the little machine was just not able to summon enough "whatever" to bring itself back from the dark beyond.  It's little processors had finally toasted themselves into oblivion and there was nothing to do but mourn.  After four and a half years of hard labor, much abuse, and previous resurrections from the Blue Screen of Death, it was time to say good-bye.  

And so, a year ago I shifted my computer-thinking towards my MacBook Pro, and simply continued my electronic life in that mode.  This was not a huge transition, having been a teacher I've been using Macs for a number of years, so I am reasonably comfortable in moving from one environment to the other.  I've had Microsoft Office software on my Macs for a number of years, so other than remembering a few little Mac idiosyncracies, things have gone well this past year, and I have truly enjoyed using the MacBook.  

Things have gone along swimmingly well until about two weeks ago.

I was attending a Texas Association for Alternative Education conference in Austin, and had taken my computer with me to keep up with emails, etc. while I was away from home.  Working off of my 100%-full battery, I logged into the wi-fi at the hotel, and settled down for a quiet evening's session of answering emails and taking care of some personal business.  Bring on the email...I know there's a lot of it because I haven't looked at it all day, and it's nearly 10 pm.

And then it happened:  nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Nada.  No life, no cute little Mac face, no whirly color wheel, nuttin.  OH, SH-------!!  Now I am really toast.  Scramble for the power cord and plug 'er in.  Nope, nothing doin' there.  We are dead in the water.  "Houston, we have a problem."  This is a disaster.  Last seen, my inbox said something about 85 unread messages for today--and the spam folder was full to overflowing.  There's a lot of other stuff on this computer that I need to be able to get at, too, some of it pertaining to the conference I am presently attending--and not all of it is easily replaceable or "re-generate-able".  

AARGHH!   Now I'm down two computers, and my little Netbook is at home.   

[My Netbook is cute, but little, emphasis on LITTLE.  Sort of like a purse-sized dog...cute, perky, fun, but very, very little.  And until I get my new bifocals, it's almost impossible for me to read the on-screen text.  Sure, I can magnify everything, but to get it large enough for me to read it, it would take me so long to scroll across and down each page I'd be a thousand years old before I finished reading those first 85 emails.  Since I'm already 50 and some months, my time left to accomplish this task is somewhat shortened.  And, of course, none of the documents that are on the Mac are on the Netbook anyway.  I knew I should have made those back up cd's last month and transferred everything to the external hard drive...  Hindsight truly is 20-20.]

No computing for me this weekend.   Okay, I can's only two days, and I'll be so exhausted by tomorrow night it won't matter.  I'll just spend all of Sunday on Mom's computer and I can tame the email beast while I figure out what to do next with the sick (hopefully!) MacBook.  I'll call Donnie as soon as I get home.  He'll know what to do about this...I hope!

"Dead Laptop"--not mine, however.

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I recently had the "fun" adventure  of choosing a new laptop computer for myself through a "Major Brand Computer Company's Online Outlet" store.  I found exactly what I was looking for after perusing several pages of similarly equipped machines, all brand new but returned/refused for some reason.  I even picked a color for the outside case of the machine, something I never would have done on a previous order as I cannot see any reason for paying for a colored skin for a computer that spends most of its time open on my desktop.  Black or gray is just fine for me, I don't care about the "aesthetics" as long as the blessed thing WORKS.  But, I digress...

My foray into online computer-ordering began not with the picking and choosing, but with the race for the shopping cart and finalization of my order.   "Major Brand Computer Company" has a 15-minute limit on the time the outlet store item can be in your basket before it is returned to inventory.  If you dilly-dally too long deciding on whether or not you want to add ten-gazillion options to an already-loaded-down machine, you might not get your dream machine after all and will have to start the process over again--with a different machine to configure.  I did not dilly, and I certainly did not dally.  Or at least I don't think I did.  I chose only one additional piece of software, a slightly longer service warranty,  and a natty neoprene sleeve for the thing to live/travel in, and I was on my way towards the checkout lane.  I left or took more stuff OFF of the machine than I put on.  I made quick-and-dirty decisions based on what I wanted and what I knew I needed.  It wasn't that hard, nor was it that complicated.  "So easy, a caveman (woman) can do it."  I think I'm a reasonably savvy cavewoman, and I managed to do it.

Yeah, right.  

I pushed the magic button that put my "dream machine" into my shopping cart, checked the appropriate billing information for my already-available account, and hit the CONFIRM button.  I waited.  The hourglass-thing spun round and round while I waited. And waited.  And waited some more.  And continued to wait.  Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.... BZZZZZZZZZTTTT.  Time's up, you lose.  Sorry, Chuck, ya didn't get it in fast enough and your dream machine has just evaporated into the cosmos.  Try again, Loser.

GRRRRRR.  I did not screw up, the website did.  It timed me out while it was whirring and chunking away.  My beautiful computer that I had so carefully and lovingly configured and ordered within that fifteen-minute time limit was GONE.  Not to be had.  It would go and live with some other person somewhere else in the wide wicked world.  I felt as it I'd lost a good friend I hardly knew.

Fall back and regroup.  We did it before, right?  We can do it again, right?  Yeah, Go Team!

Not to be daunted or intimidated, I started over.  If I did it before, I could do it again:  bigger, better, badder, brighter...and FASTER.  Be damned, you smug time clock, I'll beat you this time and in waaaay under your arbitrary 15-minute limit!  HA!  So there!  Take that!!  NYAH!  I am pumped now.  Don't mess with me!

I actually found a machine I liked better.  It had better features, more goodies that I wanted and fewer that I didn't, and came in a color I liked better.  Okay, we're cookin' with gas now.  Zing, zip, zap, zoom, and we are through the "process" of adding and subtracting, accounting, basket-izing, and finally confirming.  TA-DA!!!  You win!  The bright shiny new "ice blue" 17" laptop is yours for the low, low price of $XX.XX per month for the next 986 years.  You'll be receiving a confirmation email shortly...

Okaaaaaaaaaay!  I am feeling mighty proud of myself.  I did it all by myself and I got exactly what I wanted and I didn't have to ask anybody for help.  I am woman, hear me roar! Who needs a Techno-wizard when I can do this myself?

Sliding on over a couple of tabs to my email to check for the promised order confirmation, I am greeted by a rather large surprise.  Yes, there is an order acknowledgment email and a order confirmation email.  Actually, there are TWO of each, and each has different time stamps, approximately 15 minutes apart.  And, as I am absorbing this little bit of information, a fifth email from "Major Computer Company's" Finance Department pops up.   Oh, shiiiii-ooooooot.  Now what?

Opening the finance email confirms my "oh, shiiiii-ooooooot."  It seems that I wasn't really timed out on that first order after all--even though I got the "Sorry, Charlie" message.  So, now I have not one, but TWO shiny new 17"-screen laptops winging their way towards me.  I'll just have to use an "alternate financing option" for the second one since my credit limit will be exceeded with the additional order.  REALLY?  Gee, I wonder how that could have happened?

It is 12:34 am CST.  Customer service at "Major Computer Company" is closed wherever they are over there in Computer Company Customer Service Land Far, Far Away.  "Please call back during our regular business hours, 9 am - 5 pm."  You bet your sweet bippy I'll be calling back during your regular business hours.  I'll be sitting on the phone waiting for 8:59:59 to punch in that last digit and hit send on the phone.  This is NOT something for a quickie email to their online help desk..."Uh, Dear Customer Servide:  I made a little  oopsie and accidentally ordered two computers and I really, really only wanted one.  Please don't send the second one."

As promised, I was on the phone the next morning promptly at the stroke of nine am.  A cheerful computer voice greeted me and took me through my number-pad punching paces until I was finally rewarded with a real, live human being.  Yeppers, a live one!  Score one for me.  Of course, I could not understand him because he spoke with a very thick East Indian accent and at about a thousand-miles-a-minute.  I did manage to puzzle out enough of what he said to give him my customer ID and order numbers before I was transferred to another customer service rep.  This lady was very efficient and considerably more understandable.  I told her my tale of woe.  "Not a problem," she cheerfully chirped.  "Let me get the order numbers and we can take care of this in a couple of minutes."  GREAT!  I'm off the computer will simply go back on the shelf at the warehouse, and I won't be buying two computers until the end of time on the easy monthly payment plan.

"Hello...How may I help (torture) you?"

Ten minutes and two more customer service reps later--there's a lot of oversight at the "Major Computer Company" when it comes to cancelling an order--success!  I had managed to cancel the first computer I ordered, or didn't order depending on your perspective, and confirmed the order for the second one, the one I REALLY wanted.  And I would see my shiny new computer in three days.

It was a long three days of waiting in anticipation, but as scheduled, the nice man from FedEx stopped at my doorstep long enough to have me sign for the box from Major Computer Company before he skipped back up the driveway and into his truck to zoom away.  (Usually our local FedEx guy is half-way down the street before we can even get the front door open even if we're standing right behind it.)  Since I was in the middle of feeding my herd of houndies, the box was relegated to the chair in the den for a few minutes until I could open it.
Upon opening the box, I discovered that the computer in the box was not the one I'd ordered, but The Other One.  


While this one was a lovely shade of candy-apple red and was bright and shiny and brand-spankin' new, it wasn't the one I'd finally chosen...the pretty icey-blue one.  I felt like I'd gotten one of those little paper comic books instead of the neat shiny plastic spinning top from the box of Cracker Jack's.  Rats. Rats, rats, rats.  And rats again.

Two things immediately run through my mind as I stand there looking at the red computer:  one, they simply sent the wrong machine, and two, horror of horrors, they've sent BOTH machines and I'm going to have to deal with sending one back.  That would not have been a problem but we were going out of town for the weekend, and house-sitter would not be in the house until late the following afternoon.  The nice FedEx man would not be able to deliver the other computer without a signature, and would have to leave his little "Sorry I Missed You" Delivery Notice on the door.  This would mean playing tag with him until Monday or Tuesday.  UGH!  This is NOT GOOD.  Find the phone number for the Major Computer Company Customer Service center--again--and find out what to do next.  I do not need this, now or even next week.  I look at the computer in the close, yet so far...  It was too bad to be true.

Another half an hour on the phone to "Major Computer Company's" customer service desk and I have wormed my way through another version of "Confuse the Customer", and I have some answers, but not the ones I want.  It seems that for all of their extreme efficiency and oversight, "Major Computer Company's" checks and balances as far as cancelling an order have failed.   The computer I wanted--and so very carefully confirmed--has disappeared into the black hole that is inventory in flux, and the machine I cancelled has arrived on my doorstep.  They confirmed the wrong one, plain and simple.  How, I do not know, but they did.  Three customer service reps checked, rechecked, confirmed and re-confirmed with me which machine I wanted to cancel and which I wanted to keep, and they still got it wrong.  Adding insult to injury,  the other machine is "irretrievable for the present time" (whatever that means--one assumes they have a very sophisticated inventory control system), according to them.  In other words, "Take what ya got and be happy with it, kid.  We're too big and too busy to go looking for the one you want.  Besides, we don't make mistakes."

At this point, I have two options: keep this one, or send it back and start over.  Hmmmm...a bird in the hand...albeit a RED bird, but a bird all the same....  I can get used to Cardinal red.  It is kinda pretty... At least the bird in hand is close to what I wanted and actually maybe it does have a few more of the bells and whistles than I had really wanted, but it's here, it works, and I am really tired of talking to Timbuktu or Neptune....  Okay, I guess I'll keep it.
"Just order it online!"  Couldn't be easier, right?  Uh-huh, sure.  That, and five bucks might get you a plain cup of crappy coffee in a flimsy recycled biodegradable paper cup somewhere, but that's about it. 

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Some good news... The MacBook is back amongst the living, so life continues on its merry way and I have taken the time to back up everything.  It seems we were having some "communication issues" betwixt power source/battery and whatever else lives inside the silver case.  I don't ask, they don't tell, and everything is right with the world.  I can continue to be semi-computer-bilingual....

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