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Don Gately: Frustrating thingamajigs

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Posted: February 21, 2009 11:04 p.m.
Updated: February 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.
It came in a "blister pack" that required a hacksaw or blowtorch to open.

The first thing out of the package was a note saying "STOP," that if anything went wrong I shouldn't take it back where I bought it, instead I should contact customer support at the manufacturer. An ominous beginning.

Next was a voluminous instruction booklet - about 30 pages. Written in fractured English, apparently translated badly from Chinese, with what seemed to my non-technical mind to contain several contradictions. Confusing would be an understatement.

There was a warranty that I had to register for. Endless questions - name, address, e-mail address (twice), gender, telephone number, income category, when and where I bought it, serial number, model number, mother's maiden name - on and on and on. They recommended registering on the Internet. At the bottom was one of those combinations of letters and numbers that defy reading, which I was supposed to verify before I could submit my warranty claim.

After a dozen tries, filling out all the information over and over, I was repeatedly refused. The computer told me I was typing in the wrong numbers and letters.

Fine. The next option was to mail the card in the old-fashioned way. Then, they claimed, I would receive by e-mail - within two days - a number that would certify I was a customer and could then use the warranty. Two weeks went by without my receiving such an e-mail.

Time to give my thingamajig a try. Sure enough, I couldn't make it work. That meant a dreaded call to customer support. Of course, that meant an interminable wait to hear a live human voice. Meanwhile, about every 15 seconds for the next hour or so, I was reminded that my call is very important. My thought was, if my call really is important, they wouldn't keep me waiting endlessly - while I really needed to go to the bathroom.

Finally, at their suggestion, I leave a message for them to call me back, which never happens. After a week or so I start all over. After another long wait, I finally do get to talk to a live person - who must have been in India because, even though he was speaking in English, I mostly couldn't understand him.

The questions he asked would have been easy enough to answer - if I were an engineer or computer nerd. Stuff like how many gigabytes, who was my server, what was the operating system, what was the serial number, what date did I buy it, was it plugged in to a surge bar, etc.

The blessings of technology in our modern world are many, but sometimes I yearn for the good old days when I was a callow youth. In those days, our technology was an AM radio with two dials, one that turned the set on and off and also controlled the volume. The other changed stations.

Don Gately is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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