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Alas and alack!

| The promise of technology was that it would improve the way we do business, enabling new services and new ways to interact with customers. It has become a tyrant, an impregnable wall to keep customers at bay.

Two "experiences" in the last 24 hours illustrate what I mean.

1. Late yesterday afternoon I received a robocall from Riverside County with the message, delivered in a raspy, menacing male voice, that I was to call a certain telephone number or go to a certain website to "resolve this matter." What matter? Not stated. And since I happened not to be sitting at a desk with pen and paper at hand, the phone number and website dissolved in the ether.

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This morning I sat down — with paper and pen at hand — and called back the number from which the robocall had come. "I'm sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number and try again." You know she's not sorry in the least.

I went to the county website to look up a telephone number to call. Of course it was answered by a voice system that recounted many minutes of options to press this for that, and none of the options was "talk to a real live person." I've long since learned that such systems generally respond to 0 (zero) to summon a person, and so it did in this case. Of course she had no idea.

So I looked up the department that I believe was identified in the robocall and entered hold purgatory. "You are the next caller. Please continue to hold." Based on how long I remained on hold, "next caller" was clearly a crock.

Eventually a real person answered, listed to my story, and went away. "Thank you for holding. We look forwarding to talking to you soon." Eventually a different person answered with a cheery "How can I help you today?" I had been transferred to a totally different department. I was assured that "we don't send messages like that" and my suggestion that somewhere in the county offices there must be some technology department that would know about these calls did not find fertile soil.

Oh well, maybe they'll call again. Maybe I'll have paper and pen.

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2. This morning I logged into Chase to pay one of my credit cards and was once again annoyed to see "Welcome CANYON VIEW ESTATES #5" at the top of the page. (An artifact of when I was at that HOA and had online access to the HOA's bank account.) OK, it's now over two years, I'm going to get rid of that. Hah!

There is a link to 'Customize accounts' but all it does is let you choose which accounts to appear in your profile. It does not let you choose which profile to use, nor let you delete the one you don't want. Damn, I'll have to call customer support.

"Please enter your 16-digit credit card account number." Rummage, rummage, rummage to find the actual card.

"Please enter your 5-digit zip code." At least that's easier.

A "live person" came on the line and began his march through some "security" protocol. This is before he even asked what I wanted! Finally he said, "You just have to delete the profile that you don't want." BUT THAT IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO DO AND THERE IS NOTHING ON THAT WEB PAGE THAT LETS ME DO THAT!!!!! "Oh, well, no, I have to do that for you."

By now he knows I've keyed in my 16-digit credit card number. I've keyed in my 5-digit zip code. I've given my mother's maiden name. But now he wants to know the bank that I used to pay the credit card! Then he had the audacity to tell me that I was wrong! "Wrong? What do you mean, wrong? I just made a payment, and the confirmation email just flashed into my inbox. What do you mean wrong? I have black socks on, will that help?"

It all went downhill rapidly from there. It was no longer a slippery slope. It was now a bottomless abyss. I must now logout of the Chase webpage and log back in using a temporary password that he will give me. Of course the system says the temporary password is invalid. And of course the form replaces the characters that you type with black dots so you and the non-existent 15 people looking over your shoulder can't see what they are.

Eventually a temporary password (not the first one) was accepted and then I was forced to put in new passwords, which you know is going to f*k up Quicken when I next try to download my transactions.

The point, if it's not obvious, is that companies (and governments) are using technology in ways that make it extremely difficult to actually contact anyone at that company. Rather than apply their security precautions appropriately once they determine what you want, they apply them prophylactically. There is a vast difference between "How can I make an old profile go away?" and "Can you let me into the Chase treasury so I can withdraw a couple million." But they make no distinction. You would think that imposters calling up wanting to change the way someone else is greeted on the website was a serious threat.

Go ahead, just try to call a company bigger that Dave's Deli on Main St. By the time you get through to someone, if you do, you will have been annoyed and wasted so much time listening to "our menu of choices." Technology has become a Great Wall to keep those pesky customers from disturbing the company.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018

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