I hate to be the bearer of bad news (actually not true) but I think I’ve figured out how it works. (I don’t just bitch, either. I’ll also include solutions. I’m proactive that way.)
- Netflix is the only source for Netflix Original programming: House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black.
- Hulu is the only source for Hulu Original programming: None come to mind but I do know they’ll have commercials.
- Amazon Prime has mostly the same shit.
- iTunes offers the same content but at premium ala carte prices.
- HBO is the only source for HBO Original programming: The Newsroom and Game Of Thrones.
- CBS is a bunch of greedy dillholes: Survivor and Big Bang Theory.
- MLB is the only source for most MLB Original programming but only if you have enough money. Otherwise they won’t even stream the goddamned World Series. (I was actually surprised by this, but only for a nanosecond.)
I prognosticated to my wife a long time ago that the days of accessing “content” would soon be coming to a close. This week we moved much closer to that reality. You like some shows on Hulu and some on Netflix? You’ll have to buy both even if the remaining majority of their DNA is essentially the same. Exclusivity is the ticket to getting customers to pay more than once. And make no mistake, it is all out global thermonuclear war on your wallet. That is the only thing that matters. They don’t do this for fun.
Half-way through the shift and I was behind schedule. Panting, blisters popping, I paused for a 15-second break.
The urgent alerts from the GPS strapped to my head couldn’t shake the bliss.
Six seconds later the floor manager showed up. “That’s it,” he said. “This is a verbal.”
The GPS parroted the threat. “Verbal! Verbal!”
“Two more and you’re fired!”
Humans weren’t meant to micromanaged to the nanosecond by computers. I snapped. My lightning fast quick draw would have been enough to take out Wyatt Earp himself.
I scanned him right in the face. He screamed. I ran.
A drabble is a short storm form consisting of exactly 100 words.
I started by searching Google for the phrase “mac mini.” The Mac Mini is a super-cool fully functional computer made by Apple that is about the size of an external hard drive and sits right on your desk. I already know that I can buy a new one direct from Apple for $699 with free shipping but I was checking to see what other deals might be out there.
On the Google results page, in the left column, I clicked the link for “Shopping” which takes you to results in “Google Product Search.”
There, in third position on the list of results, was a Mac Mini with slightly different specs than offered by the Apple Store, and priced at $599. It had the same amount of memory and operating system (Snow Leopard) but a slightly slower processor (2.26 GHz vs. 2.4) and half the hard disk space (160GB vs. 320). But the listed price was $100 less.
Unlike the listing below in fourth position, the product was not described as used. (Click here for screen shot.)
I went to take a look.
The Google Products page showed a picture of the Mac Mini and featured Amazon.com’s $599 as the “lowest price.” I clicked the Amazon.com link to drill down further.
This took me to the actual Amazon.com website where … what the fuck? There was nothing listed for sale at the promised price of $599. And I thought Google was supposed to like so-called “relevant” results?
As far as I could tell, nothing in new condition was offered for sale on this page. However, the site enticed me further with the promise of “3 used from $525.00.” Like a wiggly fish on a hook I clicked the link.
This showed me a page that stated there were zero available in new condition. But there were three units, with differing specs, priced at $525.00, $629.99, and $995.00, all offered with $7.99 shipping. All were offered from different sellers, none of whom were Amazon.com.
What I want to know is, quite simply, how is this not bait and switch? The whole system seems rigged to entice me in with the promise of my desired product at a lower than normal price, which doesn’t even exist, then to try to get me to go for a used product from a third-party seller where, coincidentally enough, I believe Amazon.com collects 15 percent of the purchase price as a fee.
Why do they have to be this way?
The chef’s music selection for this post: Love for Sale
Cue the choir of heavenly angels as the most as The Most Fabulous Object in the World comes into view. (And no, it’s not The Moderna Wondermajor all-automatic convenience centerette.) Ahhhhhhhh. There it sits, all sparkley and shiny as if by magic there at the end of the rainbow…
It’s pretty much the wet dream of most retail business owners that ever existed: The multi-line phone system. The fantasy of multiple phone lines each with an employee happily receiving orders all day is a compelling one. It should be noted, however, that in the vast majority of cases the person who gets a stiffy over something like a multi-line phone system is most decidedly not the same person who has to answer those incoming calls.
The reality is decidedly different than the fantasy. In our case the vast majority of phone calls start with, “I just received my shipment…” Trust me. That sort of phone call almost never turns out good. I mean, how many people call to say, “I just received my shipment and all is well?” Since we’re so inept these sorts of calls are usually the launching point into an excursion about how bad we suck.
“I just received my shipment and it’s about one-half whiskey tango foxtrot and one-half FUBAR. You guys suck!”
We’ve actually been trained to use the word “sorry” rather than the word “apologize” just because it sounds and feels more personal to the small brains on the other end of the line. The first rule of tricking someone is that they have to want to be tricked and our customers line right up for it. Yes, the primary function of this company is to be sorry. I have dubbed our segment of the retail industry as “professional apologizers.”
The owner here certainly loves his little two-line phone system. He funnels multiple web sites into it. He feels that prominently featuring our phone number on his web sites (unlike his competitors) and splashing text like “call us” all over his sites is what sets his business apart.
Speaking of phone numbers, you ever try to call Amazon.com? These bastards do it right! They make it harder than hell to actually call customer service. That’s smart. Friggin’ smart. If you are smart enough to even find the contact page, then you get to jump through hoops. First you have to log in to your Amazon.com account. They you have to select a bunch of dropdowns describing your problem. Then you have to click “email” or “phone.”
I tried it just for giggles. After jumping through all the hoops I got this:
Enter your number and click Call Me. (You’ll need an open phone line.)
We’ll call you and connect you to a service specialist.
Then you get to choose between a “Call Me Now” and a “Call Me in 5 Minutes” buttons.
Down below, in small print and ghosted, I almost missed it, I found: “Click the Call Me button or you can reach us at 1-###-###-#### to use our automated customer service system.” I don’t know if that phone number really will eventually lead to a live human being or not. I wouldn’t bet on it!
LOL! Apparently Amazon.com really doesn’t want to give up the incoming phone number to customer service. I like the way they roll. That’s where I want to work! A company that really knows how to put the customer in her place! Amazon.com, I’m proud of you. You must be a company that likes to make a profit.
Anyway, back to my boss. A natural born liar, the boss extends that particular expertise to his online business in a myriad of interesting ways. When it comes to phones, his web sites tout his “friendly customer service department” and his “specialists” who will be “happy” to help.
The first lie is that there actually is a “customer service department” much less a “friendly” one. Yes, there is a single employee who is ostensibly “customer service” and is supposed to be first to answer the phones, but just like us, she’s loaded down with tons of other duties. The rest of us are “friendly” enough people (except for me, of course) but because we aren’t dedicated customer service staff, every one of these calls we’re forced to take represents an interruption of our regular work load. Does anyone seriously think that in a scenario like that we’re going to be “happy” to help?
Secondly, the primary customer service person actually does have some training about our widgets and stuff. My job, however, is technical and the only reason I’m forced to provide backup on the phones is that I’m a warm body. That’s it! (I think being a “warm body” is my destiny.) Those are my “customer service” qualifications. I’m not a “specialist” about the shit that customers love to ask about and their myriad various problems. Our web sites brag about how awesome our customer service is, but when you call in and are lucky enough to get me, all you get back is an earful of “I don’t know” and “I don’t know.” I imagine I probably sound a lot like Marvin the Paranoid Robot when I take the call. How impressive is that?
Because of the phone we can’t properly do our jobs, and thus, our error rates go up, which, obviously, in turn increase the amount of phone load placed upon us as endless customers call us to bitch. In “boss speak” that’s probably considered a “win win” but I just call it a cluster fuck.