21 Nov Painful technology: Can you hear me now?
Do you ever stop to think about how painfully complicated technology has made our lives?
My mother-in-law once commented that the best decade was the 1960s. “Everything just worked,” she said. “You pushed a button and it worked. Now everything is just so complicated.”
Case in point: I love gadgetry, but I hate to upgrade. I still have an old cell phone (relatively speaking), circa 2004 LG VX model. Luckily its CDMA technology works in India, which is where I’ve spent much of my time overseas in the past few years. I also have a second GSM cell phone for the rest of the world. I’m covered, at least so I thought.
A few weeks ago, I traveled to Korea (more on that in my next blog entry). Turns out Korea is also CDMA but a variant that doesn’t work with my existing Verizon cell without a software upgrade, which is free but can only be done in a Verizon store.
I was one of only two customers in the Verizon super store. Neat place. Big, well laid out. “Great,” I thought, “I’ll breeze in and out, maybe even check out a few of the nifty new phones I been looking at on the web. This might actually be fun.”
I walked up to the Tech counter, which was fully staffed with four techies, and explained my predicament. “Sorry,” I was told, “you need to check in with the guy in the red shirt.”
Okay, off I went to see they guy in the red shirt, five feet away, who proceeded to ask me for my phone number, last name, first name, and problem, each of which he methodically keyed into the fancy touch screen kiosk, hunt and peck all the way – I’m thinking, “give the poor guy a keyboard and a mouse.”
“They’ll call your name when your turn comes up,” he said, as he hit return. Less than 10 seconds later, I heard the techie yell out, “THOMAS.”
Back I went to the tech counter. Again I explained the problem and then watched patiently as he banged away on his keyboard for few minutes. “Can you give me your cell number?” he asked. I’m thinking, “Please just hand me over to a call center in the Philippines and put me out of my misery.” But I’m here and I’ve already invested nearly an hour. “617-224-xxxx.”
“Okay. No problem,” he said, “I can just upload the software and then you can use your phone in Korea.”
Great, a bit of a runaround, but that wasn’t so bad.
“Oh, by the way, just keep in mind, you can’t use your phone in the States once I do the upgrade.”
“I can’t use it in the States?” I said, bewildered and trying hard to show it.
“That’s right.” he went on to say, “You can use it here or you can use it in Korea, but not both.”
Nuts! I went back and forth with him trying to figure out a solution. But this guy was obviously on a different technical plain than I was. I just couldn’t get my simple mind around the problem. Finally I decided to just revert to plan “A” and asked him if he could go ahead and get me a global phone rental. “Sorry, he said, “you need to see the guy (you guessed it) in the red shirt. ”
At this point I’m getting the distinct impression that common sense and good judgement have been completely sidestepped in the name of efficiency. No doubt that a consultant had been hired to do a workflow analysis of Verizon stores in order to increase throughput.
Back to the guy in the red shirt. Do you want to guess how well he did when it came to remembering my vitals? Maybe you want to guess if my “already keyed in info” was readily available to just pop back up on the screen? So back through the drill we went yet once again. Ten seconds later “THOMAS” called out another friendly and efficient voice, this time from behind the sales counter.
I walked over and explained my predicament to the sales rep, who I think had his heart set on selling something a bit more substantial, than a weekly rental.
“Sure,” said the nice young man, ” we do international rentals, but we can’t do that in the store. You need to go online and order one.”
This was one of those moments when you contemplate how good it would feel to just let lose with a cathartic stream of well articulated, customer-centered indignation.
Instead, I came home and got on the web. At least now I was in the driver’s seat. I navigated adeptly to the global rentals, keyed in my information, selected my phone, and hit submit.
“Sorry, your requested phone cannot be processed. Please contact one of our Global rental specialists at xxx-xxx-xxxx.”
I’d come this far. I dialed the phone. Lattecia answered.
“Hi Lattecia. I’d like to rent a global phone for South Korea”
“Oh, sorry we don’t rent phones for South Korea. But, the good news is you can go to one of our stores and upgrade your current phone for free….”
My Mother-in-law was right. Someone please take me back to the ’60s.
Recent articles by Tom Koulopoulos
• Leveling a top-heavy world, one laptop at a time
• Tom Koulopoulos: Innovative teams point the way to discovery
• Tom Koulopoulos: Flat world could make dotcom bubble look tame
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.
WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.