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"These so-called systems all seem jury-rigged to me."

The Muse ordered some makeup online … This declaration does not sound like the opening sentence of a gripping NYTimes bestselling potboiler. It hardly seems noteworthy. Everyone orders stuff online. Some people hardly exist outside of their Amazon Prime® account. I rarely order anything online because the hostile user interfaces scare me off. Every provider uses essentially the same sequence of screens to capture an order, and I reliably lose my way about halfway through these series. I understand that the underlying design must have been rigorously tested for utility, but they do not work for me. I always have to interrupt the process. I probably forgot my Pastword. I enter my credit card information incorrectly and cannot figure out how to correct the error. I inadvertently ordered multiples thanks to a hyperactive Buy button. Whatever the reason, if I don't just abandon the effort, I have to call the Customer Care line and speak to someone in Bangalore about correcting the mistake.

The Muse, however, quickly consummated her transaction.
I volunteered to pick up what she'd ordered, so she entered my information into the order and I headed off to the department store to fetch it. Having never ordered online for in-store pickup, I didn't know where to go, so I went to the makeup counter and was redirected to the second floor. Wandering around the second floor, a helpful clerk directed me to a well-hidden desk in a far back corner. No, they had no record of that order. The clerk decided that she'd go down to the makeup department to check if they'd received it. I followed along. Yes, the makeup department had already received and fulfilled that order. Someone had just carried it upstairs. We returned to the upstairs desk.

The online order clerk found the order in a back room, but she could not find record of it on the system. She scanned and rescanned the sales slip, but the machine would not recognize it until on the fourth try, it recognized it. I didn't seem to be in the system, though. We tried two different phone numbers and I'm uncertain what finally brought the system in synch with the situation. I understood that these machinations were supposed to be safely out of my eyeshot. This was, after all, The Customer Care Department, and chopping sausage is generally excluded from all but the most expansive definitions of Customer Care. No restaurant invites patrons into the back to watch the dishwasher work, either. I thanked the clerk for the entertainment. About a half hour later, I received an email from the store informing me that the order was ready for pickup.

This experience amounts to Nuthin'Special. All those seamless processes actually feature innumerable seams. The seams I experience in my online shopping probably mirror the seams in the human-powered systems beneath. It's kind of a wonder anything works, though the term works always seems to need some qualification. While I cannot order anything from Amazon, others can accomplish that in their sleep. The Muse manages these interfaces much better than I, but then I tend to just quit when I reach a certain level of disorientation. She persists.

It's the CustomerCaring that makes these duct-taped contraptions work. If I could care more about ordering online, I suspect that even I could make those crude interfaces work, but even then it would be me making them work, not them working for or even with me. The systems seem designed to work against me, as if to test my CustomerCaring level. Maybe companies maintain Customer Care Departments to placate those customers who can't seem to care enough to chisel through the rust sealing the door shut. These so-called systems all seem jury-rigged to me.

I attended a conference that had chosen to use Slack to facilitate communication between participants. No paper hand-outs, they promised. It turned out to very effectively inhibit any sharing of handouts because nobody could remember how to log into the damned system and nobody cared enough to even try to subvert that system so that it might work. Insufficient CustomerCaring and also Nuthin'Special.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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