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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  July 11, 2010
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Topic category:  Other/General

The old-fashioned way.

Once again, I’ve been ensnared by the demons of the computer age. This time it started with a simple catalog purchase.

My normal routine when I wish to purchase something from a catalog is to fill out an order form, attach a money order, mail everything, and wait a week or two for my order to arrive.

There’s a pace to it that speaks to the Luddite strain that makes up much of my genetic code.

Anyway, in this case, I even called the company to inquire about the item I wanted. I don’t often do this because, these days, when you call the “contact us” number provided, I too often find that “contact us” no longer means what it once did.

I can still remember a time when, if you called a company, the phone was answered by a human being who’d been around long enough to know that the person you needed to speak with was “Fred” or “Joan” or whomever and they then politely asked you to hold while they got that individual on the phone.

These days, you’re more normally routed to a menu that tells you just how important your call is (so important that you’re listening to a “canned” spiel) and would you please select the language that you’d like to use.

Once you’ve convinced the computer that you wish to speak english (another column in itself), you’re often given a set of choices that can be so long that, by the end, you’ve forgotten what the first three were.

If you do find the appropriate choice, you’re then presented with several more choices by which time - if you’re like me - you’re usually hissing through clenched teeth to “just get ‘Fred’ or ‘Joan’ on the line and let’s get this over with.”

Anyway, I finally got through to the individual who handled the orders for the item I wanted and found that she was extremely nice. Unfortunately, the item was out of stock and would take about six weeks to ship. This was no problem since I didn’t need it right away.

We discussed things and, after I hung up, I got a money order, filled out an order form and mailed it. Several days later she called to say that she’d received everything and that the order would be filled as soon as the item came in.

All was well...for a time.

Three days later, I received a very nice cap with the company’s logo on it and no explanation attached. I surmised that, since I was going to have to wait several weeks for my order, the very nice lady had sent the cap as a complimentary gift.

The problem is that this is where, in large companies, computers get involved.

In times past, what the nice lady would’ve done was walk down to where the caps were stored, picked one up, told “Al” that she was sending it to a customer as a gift and that would’ve been that. Instead, she placed an order for the cap to be sent and we were off and running.

The computer read this as a “purchase order” and, shortly thereafter, I received a bill for a cap I hadn’t ordered.

On calling the company, I couldn’t get through to the lady who’d sent me the cap but was routed to the sales department where I was informed that, according to the computer, I’d ordered the cap.

When I told them that I was faxing the original order, that no such cap was on it, and that there was a nice young lady down the hall who could verify all of the above, I could almost hear teeth gnashing because, now, there was extra work needing to be done that could’ve been easily avoided at their end had things simply been handled all down the line by people.

Even though I’ve been assured that all is well, I’m worried because I just know that somehow or other some code will be entered improperly and, in about 30 days, I’m going to get a letter - which will not make me a happy camper - telling me that my payment is overdue.

I definitely see dark clouds on the horizon.

And it doesn’t help that my inner Luddite keeps muttering to me about “the good old days.”

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2010 by Larry Simoneaux
All Rights Reserved.

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