Help(less) Emma

After watching this, I am literally sick to my stomach. It’s an utterly deplorable advertisement. It disgusts me that blindness is so often thought of as synonymous with helpless and I said as much on Twitter. (Disabilities in general, for that matter.) But having the Royal National Institute of Blind People perpetuate this myth in their efforts to fundraise?!

Wow just doesn’t seem a strong enough word.

EDIT: There isn’t a whole lot of chatter on Twitter from RNIB about this, but this thread would still be noteworthy regardless.

First, “based on a true story” is not the same thing as “a true story” or “the facts are these.” No matter how close that story is to the truth there is obviously an element of sensationalism added or it wouldn’t be based on anything, it would just be the story. Second, and more important, is the simple fact that presenting blind people as helpless is not only ENTIRELY inaccurate but a disservice to all blind and visually impaired people. This sympathetic view only garners pity, which isn’t helpful to anyone. Defending such an outlook is not the stance RNIB should have; they should be completely ashamed of this advertisement.

Google, You Suck!

I’ve been slowly breaking up with Google, which I know seems amusing coming after my breakup with the public as a whole. But I was being facetious about the public whereas I really have been slowly distancing myself from Google.

It pains me because for the longest time I was one of the champions of promoting Google. Their products worked! They were simple and easy to use! They offered so much to the user, e.g. lots of email space! They were magic with spam! And they were accessible!

Yeah, not so much these days. And what’s worse is the more complicated and inaccessible their services become, the more they force them on the user base. Because if it’s totally broken it makes sense for everyone to use it, right? Couple that with their new terms of service, their increasingly scary collection of your personal data, and the arbitrary way they decide whether to show websites (specifically blogs) in search results and, well, I’ve had one foot out the door for months now.

Today, I am seriously contemplating just deleting my account once and for all. I’ve been helping a friend migrate her Blogger blog to a self-hosted WordPress install and today I had to poke around in her Blogger account a few times. Both times left me wanting to hurt people and break things after I was done.

Yes, I admit my knowledge of how Blogger works is pretty much nonexistent having never used the service. I started blogging on LiveJournal — before the term “blogging” had really caught on — and since moving to my own website I have exclusively used WordPress. But this isn’t like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory learning to swim on the Internet; it shouldn’t have been too complicated for me to figure out how to navigate another blogging platform. Except it totally was. And at one point I had to switch the account to the new interface – the utterly inaccessible interface — because the option I needed wasn’t in the old interface.

If that doesn’t tell you how little Google cares about a user, well, I’m not even wasting the energy to keep typing.

In short: ugh!

Warranty Woes

I have a love-hate relationship with computers. Well, electronics in general. I’ve bemoaned the untimely demises of several in the last year. Most recently I have had an external hard drive cease working. It was entirely random; it was working one minute and quite literally the next was not. That was a month ago and I’m still dealing with it. (And, yes, it’s certainly a contributing factor to my lack of presence here.)

I tried to troubleshoot the issue myself and in doing so discovered much to my own surprise that the device was under warranty through the manufacturer. Seemed odd since I bought it refurbished — and it arrived with very obvious cosmetic damage. But I decided to give the manufacturer a call and inquire further. During the course of the lengthy phone conversation I learned that the drive was truly under warranty, though the serial number was pulling up information for a different drive. This was extremely baffling, but I was basically rushed off the phone after the return was authorized.

While making sure to fully comply with the packing/shipping requirements — as was stressed several times by the CSR I initially spoke with — I ended up reading the manufacturer’s warranty notes, which stated plainly that opening an external drive’s case automatically voids the warranty. So, before wasting time shipping the drive just to have it rejected, I called the manufacturer again the next morning and waded through all the automated red tape required to get a human being on the line again. I immediately questioned the warranty’s validity in light of the fact that the drive was purchased refurbished and while it was obviously opened (or at the very least the case was damaged to the point it would appear as such) it was in the exact condition that I had purchased it in. I was assured that wouldn’t be an issue, but rather the fact that the serial number was pulling up incorrect information was more of a problem. I was instructed to take a photo of the drive and email it to support — and much to my displeasure as I had already meticulously packed up the drive the intial RMA (and the UPS label I purchased) were canceled.

Absurd as the instructions were, I complied. A day later support replied with a request for a receipt, which I promptly sent to them. I heard nothing more for two days and so I called the manufacturer again and got nowhere. A week went by and I called once more, this time demanding to speak with a supervisor. I rambled for a good twenty minutes in the poor man’s ear about the entire set of events. The supervisor seemed just as keen as the initial representative was to get me off the phone. He generated a new RMA, added a detailed note in it referencing the drive’s “cosmetic damage” and sent me a new UPS label free-of-charge. Interestingly, he also stressed the need to follow their packaging requirements and bid me farewell.

I carefully packed the drive once more and practically stalked its delivery progress with UPS over the next week. The manufacturer received it last Monday and according to both the supervisor I spoke with and a notation on the website a replacement should be sent out between five and seven business days. The notation also notes that the drive was received at the warehouse, but hasn’t been processed, which should take three business days. So, as it’s now the seventh business day, I decided to call and find out what’s going on. This required having to reiterate the entire sequence of events to yet another person and sit on hold for a good thirty minutes only to be told that I should call back tomorrow afternoon if I haven’t heard anything still. He did assure me that the defective drive is in their possession, though didn’t give me any reason as to why it hasn’t been processed. (Actually, I think he said that it’s in data recovery, which is a baffling thing unto itself as there was never any mention of retrieving data from the drive. And it’s moot anyway since, thankfully, I had a backup of the drive.)

I’m failing to see how this is actually an improvement over past electronic devices that have died on me. I’ve griped how they all were out of warranty — in fact, my last external hard drive to break did so exactly one day outside of its warranty! But I’m almost regretting that I discovered this had a warranty at all because I would have long since bought a replacement and I certainly wouldn’t have had to deal with all this fuss!

Caveat Emptor

Nothing like seeing $25 missing from your checking account on a Monday morning when you’re sick to start the week off right.

I forget exactly how I heard of them, probably Twitter, but I signed up to try Disabled Discounts.1 The fact that you couldn’t see any of the supposed discounts without first forking over $25 should have been a clue in and of itself, but it promised savings to disabled persons all over the country and I thought, “What could I lose?” A lot apparently.

I went through the registration and they happily took my money and then logged in. I checked out the local stuff and was hardly impressed. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t have found without just searching for local sales and nothing was disabled specific! I didn’t even bother looking elsewhere, though they admittedly have listings all over the country. If there wasn’t anything local, what use would it be to me?

I poked around the site to figure out if I could get my money back and came up with nada. There was a link in the account to cancel my subscription and I clicked that as the site clearly stated they would just as happily keep taking $25 from me each year unless I told them not to. I sent them an email asking for my money back and it bounced back to me. They had a phone number I could call, hut it was just an answering machine and no one ever bothered to phone me back. So, oh, well. I figured that was just a mistake I would have to live with.

That was last June. I know this because I poked through my checking account looking for the previous charge. I remembered the whole automatic renewal thing and was quite confused to find that it was well over a year since I had initiated a subscription. So, how is it that I was automatically renewed? First, I canceled my subscription. Second, if this was automatic, why did it take an extra four months to go through?

I went to the website and emailed them via their contact page. I also went to their Facebook page and left a note there. Their phone number is no longer listed on their contact page, but the transaction from my bank had one attached to it and I intended to call that if I didn’t hear something this morning. Before I could, though they started to reply. First to my email:

You never contacted us via email as you agreed to regarding the automatic renewal. We have reviewed our records regarding same and find nothing from you.

Incorrect, but even so that doesn’t explain how an automatic yearly renewal actually took 16 months. They do go on to state they will refund me my subscription this one time even though it was totally my mistake. Whatever. The email continues:

We do not wish you to be a member of organization.

Well at least we agree on something there. The email ends with a reply about my statement that I will be reporting them to the Better Business Bureau:

As for the BBB: Please go right ahead. We will be more than happy to furnish the BBB with the documentation that you agreed to twice regarding the automatic renewal.

How was I able to agree to a second renewal when I’ve only ever logged into the site one day? Let alone I still am confused about how an automatic renewal is automatic when the charges are not in the designated time frame. Sounds like fraud to me.

On Facebook I received a similar response that they didn’t find any record of me canceling my subscription, but I was most amused and baffled by the following:

Since we have received less than 10 phone calls over that past 60 days but dozens and dozens of [thank you] emails,we have deleted the phone to keep costs down for everyone . . . In addition, since there are hundreds of listings for each state and county how could you have possibly found nothing to be useful to you?

How are they getting any phone calls without a phone number listed now? I searched the Internet and found a number that matched the one on my bank statement, but again it’s just an answering machine and it doesn’t identify the phone as part of any business. Perhaps if they actually answered their phone or gave some indication they were a real live business they might receive more than 10 phone calls. Moreover, what does it matter how many other people find the service useful or how many listings they have because I didn’t find it useful. That’s the point! There are lots of people who find a great use for yellow squash, but you’ll never see me pay for one because I think they’re disgusting. It doesn’t mean that other people can’t find them yummy and satisfying or that if I was charged for one randomly I wouldn’t say something about it.

Between lying to me about my cancellation and subscription renewal, flat out telling me that you don’t want me as a customer and the baffling logic of throwing your satisfied customers in my face I truly don’t understand how they make any money whatsoever. The Internet says they’re making about $57,000 yearly, which isn’t amazing but that’s a lot of $25 subscriptions. How many of those are being taken without permission?

Buyer beware indeed.

  1. Google them if you wish, I’m not giving them the honor of referrer rank from me.

GAH!

Definitely not my best day ever.

Thanks to the mix of migraine and medications to fight the migraine, I had the worst case of insomnia imaginable last night. Meaning that I maybe slept 20 minutes. Most of that was not consecutive. Finally gave up this losing battle at 6 a.m. Did the morning stuff and afterward decided to be constructive and work on school things until it was time to catch the bus to head to downtown for various errand running.

At 6:26 a.m. the Internet crapped out. The modem was lit up and blinking away properly so when my computer refused to connect I figured it was the computer being moronic. Prior to upgrading to FIOS this computer used to randomly wage war with my router for no reason I could ever figure out, but usually a reboot fixed things. This was the first time it flipped out at the FIOS modem, though and a reboot didn’t fix it.

Instead the reboot gave me a screen telling me my service was suspended and prompting me to fork over money for a bill that had been paid weeks ago. During the subsequent NINE phone calls it took to diagnose the issue I was hung up on seven times by various automated messaging systems telling me the call volume was too high and they couldn’t answer my call. Call number eight finally provided me with the necessary information I needed to supposedly straighten out the mess my account was in, but call number nine only confirmed that my account was suspended and required a payment. Just my luck that the proof of said payment being made already was locked away in the recesses of my inaccessible email account..

After more than an hour and a half fighting with different toll-free numbers I decided that I’d just pay the supposed outstanding balance so I could submit the paper I had just finished working on.1 Thankfully I was smart enough to check my checking account balance before doing so because while my ability to balance my checkbook remains perfectly intact it seems that Amazon is not having the same skill level with their Subscribe & Save program.

Turns out that there was roughly $75 in holds on my checking account thanks to items shipping out that aren’t supposed to go out until the end of October. Another lengthy phone call ensued. The CSR very kindly apologized for the glitch that must have created the orders, but unfortunately she was unable to cancel the orders so those holds would be charged to me. The best part is that those items shipping out won’t get here until the end of next week, so even though I don’t need them it’s pointless to refuse the packages because by the time they get back and processed for my refund, it’ll be about the time they would be sent to me in the first place.

The one saving grace was I checked all this before heading downtown where I would have apparently stranded myself because I wouldn’t have had enough available funds in my checking account to get the cash needed to take a return bus! Of course, this doesn’t exactly fill me with happy since I’ve spent nearly $200 without any actual need.

Needless to say, it’s been a trying day. I leave you with Uschi being adorable:

Uschi lying on the sofa with her head tilted back, licking the air as she enjoys a good scratch from me

  1. And get credited for paying my bill in excess!