By BILL DUNCAN
The View From Here
News item: Retail merchants concerned over internet sales up 26 percent during holiday season.
Not to worry, you still have me, a loyal customer from yesteryear.
Oh, I tried that cyberspace purchase this year because I wanted to order a book off the web that I could not find locally. Problem was, I wanted it shipped to an address other than mine.
I called up the publisher’s web site, found the book handily and followed the directions to the letter, even though I found the web way of saying things was not exactly the same as English I would use.
But then cyberspace folks speak a different dialect and with companies outsourcing everything these days you have to understand there are different forms of English.
One of the questions asked was my mailing address. Once that was imprinted and the payment method arranged, the robot at the other end confirmed my order. It said the book would be shipped in 5 to 10 days. Sales tax will be added, it noted.
It was then I noticed the book was coming to my home address.
No. No. No. I want it shipped to a different address in a different town in a different state. And since I live in Oregon, I don’t pay sales tax.
I sent a message back to the robot who responded: "Thank you for contacting us. Your order has been shipped."
This is getting a little irritating.
"Hold on Robot, I am assuming in your non-English speaking way, you are saying to me that the book is being sent to my home address. I want it shipped elsewhere. Please respond before you ship the book to me."
Reply: "Thank you for contacting us. Your shipment is being sent to the address stated below." It was my home address.
By this time any Christmas cheer I had going into this operation had evaporated. My next message got a bit sterner, so the Robot responded that I would have to start the process over.
I began by asking the simple question: Could I possibly order a book shipped to a different address than mine?
The Robot responded by asking me for my password. What password? I don’t have a password. Why would you need a password to order a book?
The Robot then told me if I had "forgotten" my password please type in my mother’s maiden name. I did. The Robot told me that was the wrong answer and to try again. I did, several times. I got the same response that it was not my mother’s maiden name.
I sent the following message:
I surrender. You have asked me for a password to order a book. I tell you I don’t have a password. You ask me for my mother’s maiden name, then tell me that is the wrong answer. Please explain how a machine can tell me I am so stupid I don’t even know my mother’s maiden name. My surname is Duncan and my mother’s maiden name is equally Scottish, so that makes me 100 proof Scot, and Scots are stubborn souls, but they have little patience. I have lost what little I did have. Let me try Amazon.Com.
The magic word. I got a reply immediately telling me five ways to change the shipping address on my account. The first one said, "Click on the ‘My Account’ section, located at the top right of any web page on our site."
There was no "My Account" section in the top right of the web page, or anywhere else on the web page.
I indeed surrendered and went to a local book store, ordered it and had it shipped to the address I gave them. Long live local retailers.
(Bill Duncan may be lost in cyberspace, but he can still be reached by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470 and you don’t need a password.)