The other day, I labeled myself as one of those old people who complain about all this new-fangled technology. The irony, of course, (at least for those who know me) is I am an I.T. professional with multiple credentials: Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, State-Certified microcomputer repair technician, certified database administrator, certified network engineer, blah, blah, blah... Of course this sounds like a bit of bragging, but I simply want to illustrate I have a multi-disciplined technology skill set beyond the customer support phone guy in India. (No insult to Hindu-technologists.)
The greater irony is I am starting to lose a little faith in my profession. This is not about me, or even something where I suggest I know things more acutely than any other I.T. person, but rather about where technology has taken us and the trade off it presents. Let me also state this is not a doom-speak rant about how the machines will turn against us or our dependency on them will turn us into a society of Idiocracy.
However, the dependency does create problems. I love find-and-replace as well as spell-check, but there is some truth about this dependency. I have allowed my spelling to become lax because I know F7 will fix it for me. Thus, when I'm writing with a pen, I struggle with proper spelling (making it more difficult to OCR my notes later).
All kidding aside, the dependency is only part of the issue. The larger point is trust. We trust technology because of its higher degree of accuracy (or so perceived) than that of human beings. That - and the lack of emotionality to our responses. If I click "transfer to Store #123" in a browser, I trust the machines to do what I ask even if I've been bitching about the transaction, while the clerk behind the counter I trust to hang up the phone once I'm out of sight.
So, this week I have had several major issues with technological reliance, specifically in commerce. Of course, the fiasco I mentioned in my last post about filling a prescription (or inability to do so because a printer didn't work). Then there is the inventory control issue I explained in that same post. However, these are mainly inconveniences and things that probably breakdown on the human-side anyway. The clerk at the pharmacy is an idiot; that's not the computer's fault. Some stock boy probably didn't put the items on the shelf in the other incident; again, not something to blame the e-commerce website.
However, I just got charged a bank fee for an automated system's process failure and inability to deviate from the expected after it created the problem. And I'm sure this is more a human-flaw in the process than the math-machine's blame. But allow me to explain. Last weekend, I shopped online to purchase Kristina a new laptop. The "Electronics Marketplace" allowed me to do an in-store pickup and routed the order to a store where there was that particular model in stock. I selected a store I don't usually frequent because "my store" didn't have any available. I clicked the "Place Order" button, gave my Paypal details and received a confirmation receipt. Moments later I got a notice from Paypal stating the funds had been transferred from my bank and were in route to said store.
When arriving at the store, I was told that the item was not in inventory and they haven't had that model for a while. I then spoke with a salesperson back in the actual store area (not the store pickup center), who checked his computer to notice there was one available at...wait for it..."my store." You've got to be kidding I thought to myself and tried to explain my woes to the unsympathetic clerk.
Anyway, I went to the other store, checking my email on the way. I did indeed receive an email saying the original store reported an inventory problem and that the order could not be filled at this time. Further, if I wanted to cancel the order, I had to do nothing as it would expire automatically in a few days and my method of payment would not be charged. When arriving at "my store," I discovered they had the item and were happy to sell it to me; however, it could not be processed as a completion of the original online purchase; I would have to buy it from the store directly, as it was not possible to transfer the item from "store inventory" to "online-purchase inventory."
What? How does that explanation work again? I asked if I bought it online originally as a store-pickup from this store, from whose inventory would it be taken from? The answer, of course, was "store inventory." But you guys can't take it from "store inventory" now? They explained they could not because it was tied to the other store's inventory, not theirs. Despite the fact that I can select any store's available inventory for store pickup at the time of the sale, apparently there is no way to edit this, even though the email I received stated I could have the order re-routed to another store for pickup....blah, blah, blah...
I decided for convenience and ran my bank card for the few hundred dollars again. After all, the original order will automatically be canceled and money restored in a matter of days. I could float that; acting as the financial clearing house for a billion-dollar company who clearly couldn't afford to extend the credit was not something that excited me, but it put the laptop in my hands that day and no harm should have come from it.
Like a sit-com script, everyone can now guess what happened. That's right; the order didn't expire. However, the terms of timely payment did, and my bank had released the hold on the funds due to those terms. However, with the merchant not releasing the order, Paypal tried to pay on those funds anyway and requested the funds again. Of course, by this time, I didn't have the extra few hundred dollars accessible, the transfer failed, and my bank charged me a fee from "bouncing" a transaction.
I am now preparing a letter to send to what I'm sure will be a deaf customer support center to try and resolve this. I will claim they owe me the money for the fee as it is their failure which caused it. However, I am quite certain the bureaucracy will point the finger everywhere else, delay and deny, all in hopes that I won't pursue for such a small amount. I will most likely actually have to send a demand letter with a threat of litigation to actually receive any compensation, which won't arrive until weeks of threats and negotiations and of course the added duration of a full accounts-payable cycle.
None of those last items, the delay and deny part, are actually technology's fault either. These human flaws have been around since before the abacus. Yet, the catalyst of all my frustrations and now a bank charge is the trust and dependency on technology, promoting a foolish complacency on my part and on the part of the part of the store and its employees. What happened to the days where someone went into a store and knew something was available to buy or not? Or even call the store and talk to a person who could tell you if they have the item? Now we trust the e-commerce site to know the inventory is accurate because it's more reliable than those people. Ah, the irony.
Final note: spell-check corrected 11 words in this document.