I could probably write a series of columns on my pet peeves about little and big things that bug me about technology, but I’ll start with ones that have annoyed me in just the past few weeks.
One of my biggest pet peeves is to read CAPTCHAs, which stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.”
The concept is fine — they’re designed to make sure that a real person is behind the keyboard, but the implementation is often nearly impossible for real people to implement.
My most hated CAPTCHAs are a series of letters and numbers that are obscured with lines or odd looking characters so much that neither machines nor humans can read them.
Sometimes they’ll let you hear a phrase but even those phrases are often spoken in ways that are hard to comprehend. There are much easier ways to prove a person’s humanness, including very simple math problems, asking people to identify common objects or text message verification.
Text message verification is also a great way to prove your identity. Before you can sign in you must simply respond to a text message, which means you need both your password and your phone — kind of like having a PIN number and a debit card before you can get money from an ATM. But I have been required to respond to a text message when using a find-my-phone service, which — by definition — is only used by people who don’t have their phones. It’s kind of a “catch 22.”
Companies often make it very easy to sign up for service and very hard to quit. If you allow people to sign up online, you should allow them to easily cancel online. I recently tried to cancel a service that required me to call, but despite several attempts, I could never reach their cancellation department by phone. Fortunately I had a PR contact at the company who helped me out, but I’m not sure how others could have possibly canceled their accounts.
Although I like any discount I can get, I hate that many companies offer teaser rates for six months, a year or two and then automatically raise your rate. This is very common with cable TV and internet service but also satellite radio and many others services.
Several years ago — after the teaser rate ended — I tried to get an internet provider to extend that rate or match their competitor’s teaser rate. They refused even though I said I would quit if they didn’t. When they wouldn’t agree, I switched to another service. When I called to cancel my old service, they transferred me to the cancellation department, which offered me a great rate to stay on.
I told them I would have taken the deal if it were offered before I switched and I was told I had to cancel to get this offer. But it never hurts to ask. I’ve had many companies lower rates or even eliminate fees upon request, including cable, phone and even credit card companies.
A new California law (Senate Bill 313) will require greater transparency for teaser offers that will later result in higher payments and makes it easier for California residents to cancel a service.
On a number of occasions I’ve had to enter my credit card information numerous times before it was accepted. Sometimes it’s because I forgot to check a box such as agreeing to terms or declining insurance.
Other times there was no real reason. I tried to buy a refrigerator at Sears.com and it kept rejecting my credit card. I thought maybe I was typing it in wrong, but after several tries, I kept getting rejected without it saying why. Finally, I got a call from the credit card company saying there was a fraud alert.
I appreciate fraud protection, but it would have been nice if the site told me about the fraud alert rather than simply rejecting the card. That same site also made it hard to find out the price of the refrigerator. The web page had a price which was crossed out saying that the actual price would be revealed at checkout. It took a pretty big effort to finally get to that page and get that price which — as it turned out — was exactly what other companies were clearly and obviously displaying for the same item.
I know there are times when manufacturers don’t want merchants to advertise lower prices, but this price wasn’t actually all that low. Why make life hard for potential customers?
I hate making phone calls to companies or government agencies, mainly because I know I’ll likely be on hold. If you must put people on hold, please give them an estimated wait time, and if it’s going to be for more than a few minutes, do what Delta Airlines does and offer to call them back when it’s their turn.
It’s also nice to give them an alternative to calling, such as an online chat service or the ability to get business done on their website.
Stanford Health Care has a great patient portal that lets you make appointments online but only with doctors you’ve seen before. I don’t understand why they require a phone call before allowing you to book an appointment with any of their other providers. I realize that some have special information they need to share with patients, but they could do that online or call the patient after the appointment is made.
As I said, these are just a few of many gripes or what my daughter calls “first world problems.” Do you have any? If so, I’d love to hear from out at Larrysworld.com/Contact.
Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.
Published at Thu, 12 Jul 2018 07:30:33 +0000