Don't Worry, it's Just Computer-Generated...

This has been happening a lot lately, but the canonical example ocurred today with my <sarcasm>wonderful</sarcasm> DSL provider, SBC. Some scary and/or irritating bit of correspondence arrives in the post, declaiming that I'm about to lose my health insurance, or my house, or my savings, or my left leg. Today, with SBC, it was along the lines of "your contract expires at the end of this month; if you renew for another year, we'll only jack up your rates 20%. If you fail to renew, we'll jack them up 150%."

How nice of them. You'd think that maybe, just maybe, they'd think to reward loyal customers by, oh, say... lowering their rates? Or at the very least, not sticking them with an increase?

Whatever. Maybe the price of bytes has gone up; it's possible. Then say so in the letter. At least pretend to be apologetic. "Dear valued customer, due to the increase in the cost of bytes..." But no. Just some ham-handed attempt to strong-arm me into paying more.
Well, screw SBC. So I call to cancel.

{I will spare you the horror of actually getting through to a customer rep}
"Oh," says the rep after I've told my story, "That can't be right... for one thing, your contract doesn't expire until the end of next month. And it should only go up 10%."
As if that's supposed to assuage me. "Well, the letter I got today from your company says different."

"Oh, don't worry about that. It's just computer generated ."
If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that sentiment lately, well, I'd at least have a handful of nickels. As it is, I'm just plain confused.

"It's just computer generated." Yeah, as if that explains it. As if I'm supposed to think, ah, yes, of course, these things happen... like a force of nature. Because as we're all well aware, computers do that, you know; just randomly, or of their own volition, start tossing off prankish missives to clueless, honest punters such as yours truly.

"It's just computer generated." Well hell, disregard it for sure. It's not as if anyone told the damn computer to send that letter. And I'm sure SBC wouldn't take my money if I rolled over, played dead, and let them jack up my rates without a fuss. No, someone there would notice, whip out a fountain pen, and hand-write a personal, deeply felt apology, along with a full refund and a solemn promise to never let it happen again.

I mean really, people... it's your business. If your computers are out of control, puckishly meddling with your customers, it's your problem. You have to rein them in. You can't just push off your failure to configure your billing system to the great unknowable computerius mysterium.

Well, actually, most of the time, you can, because so many people are so clueless about computing that they just go along with it. Ask yourself: how many times have you had a desktop hit with a virus? For me, I've never had one. Not once, ever. Sure, servers get hit. But desktops? Meh, real rare. For me at least. And I'll bet that most of you rarely, if ever, get hit. Why? No help from anti-virus software. It's because we know enough to keep our OS updated, run firewalls, don't truck with spammers, and don't fall for scam links.
On the other hand, I know people, smart people, who routinely get gobsmacked with spyware, malware, email worms, and what-have-you. For the life of me I don't understand why they don't learn their lesson and exercise caution, but there you have it. Something about the computing universe--that effects have causes, apparently--remains beyond their grasp.
All right, enough whinging. I'm ditching SBC and going with a local ISP. Take that, you mega-million dollar conglomerate!

reminds me

I was making a phone call to a merchant account that has a customer that tricked my grandpa into giving him his bank account number. I ask this merchant company (me in bold)

Can you STOP this transation?

Well No, not until we get a status.

Ok, when is the status going to be known

Probably in a week.

A week? you don't know? what is this like poker? I might get an Ace or I might get a 2 ??

No ma'am probably a week.

Ok, can you send me a fax with your policy on stopping payment and what you just told me.

No ma'am. I don't have a fax.

You don't have a fax? how long you been in business? 10 years?

Well we can't use it for that purpose.

Ok, let me talk to a manager.

No, you don't need to. There's no reason to talk to a manager.


and that was basically it... turns out the Bank was able to stop the transfer and Grandpa was told not to give his account number to anyone, even if they claimed to be his bank.