The Reason for My Silence…

It doesn't look like an object of torture, does it?

Back in 2006 (after being in business for six years), my dad and I decided to step into the 21st century and begin accepting debit and credit cards at our antiquarian bookstore.  Phone calls were made…a salesperson came to our store, and bibbity, bobbity, boo, we received our first terminal via courier a couple of weeks later.  I was able to follow the instructions provided with the terminal to install it, and a tech person on the phone walked me through the configuration of our new technological advance.

Fast forward to last month: we received a phone call from our credit card processing company about a letter they’d sent last October…apparently, we were required to switch over to a machine capable of processing the new chip cards…the deadline for conversion was the end of March.  I didn’t recall getting a letter…then I remembered my dad’s annoying habit of putting mail from this particular company unopened into a drawer (his strategy with things he doesn’t understand is to just ignore them…perhaps they’ll go away).   I apologized profusely to the woman on the phone for our lack of action, and asked her to e-mail the letter to me.  We had it within the hour.  She also sent a form which was to filled out and faxed back to them in order to get our new terminal.  We submitted it the next day.

Our new “baby” arrived on Tuesday afternoon.  I unwrapped it, scanned the pictorial instructions, and assumed I could pull out the old machine, plug in the new one, and be good to go.  Most people are aware of what happens when one “assumes”…you make an a$$ out of you and me!  Boy, was I was wrong!

The old machine had two phone line sockets…an input and an output.  The new one had only an input…what was I supposed to do with the other cord?  I plugged the power cord in on the new terminal, but left the old phone lines plugged into the old machine, and called the 800 number on the letter we’d gotten with the terminal.  I spoke to Zach, a patient guy, who told me to unplug the phone cord from the old one.  [Click]…”Are you there, Zach?” I plugged the cord back into the old one, and dialled again.  I got voicemail.  “Hi, this is Wendy.  I was trying to install our new terminal and got cut off with Zach…please call me back at 1-IAM-ANI-DIOT.”

Zach returned my call, and we replayed the last scene again, down to the last detail!  When Zach called me back again, I decided to take the easy way out.  “Hey, Zach…my fiancé’s a computer tech, and he works for the phone company…do you think it would be okay if I get him to install this, and then I’ll call you back?”  Zach quickly agreed.  I called Jim and asked him to come in to the store when he came to pick Anna and I up after work.

He assessed the situation quickly after looking at the new terminal.  “You need a splitter.  The old terminal had one built in, but this one doesn’t.”  I think he said “splitter” but he could have said “giraffe” and I would have said “Okay.”  We picked up a splitter at Dollarama that night while we were waiting for Anna to finish cheerleading practice…it was $1.25.  Jim and I had talked about going to the store that evening and installing the machine, but by the time we finished getting groceries, didn’t have time.  We agreed that it could wait until morning.  Just before we went to sleep, I had a Eureka moment:  “I bet I could just plug the splitter into the new machine, plug the two cords into the splitter, and it will work!”  I was quite proud of myself after Jim agreed that it was a good idea!

Wednesday morning, I put the splitter into my purse and took it to the store with me.  I tried to put it in the hole in the back of the new terminal…the plastic rectangle of the splitter was too close to the connection point to allow it to go in.  Foiled again!  I called Jim at 7:50 a.m. and explained the issue.  He advised me that I would have to “do it underneath.  It’s really simple!”  I looked at the mess of wires and cables under the desk, and told Jim that I didn’t know what I was doing.  He replied that I just had to plug the phone into one part of the splitter, the machine into the other, and then plug the splitter into the phone extension cord (the jack was eight feet away, in a tiny hole cut through the upright of one of the bookshelves…nearly buried).  An hour and several four-letter words later, I called Jim back…I was nearly in tears.  I repeated that I couldn’t do it and needed help.  I explained that there were two cords coming out of the wall jack (not one), and that one of them was burned and breaking because of being too close to the radiator.  I had tried every possible combination, and nothing had worked.  I also came to the conclusion that the splitter I’d bought was no good.  Jim advised that I would probably have to get a new extension cord for the phone to replace the burned one.  He also told me that he had a conference call in ten minutes, so wouldn’t be able to stop in before work (there was more swearing after that!).

At lunch time, I picked up a new phone extension cord with a built-in splitter at an electronics store…this part cost about $10…I hoped the quality was better!  With my dad at one end and me at the other, we worked together to replace the burned cord, and then pull it out from behind the bookshelves.  By this time, my black pants were getting pretty dirty from crawling around under the desk!  I tried again to get the connection to work…no luck!  I resolved to let Jim deal with it when he came after work.

It was nearly 5:00 when Jim arrived.  He spent at least 20 minutes moving connectors and wires around under the desk.  Finally, he had the new machine connected.  I forced him to acknowledge that it wasn’t “really simple” and that I couldn’t have done it myself!  As a person who finds it very difficult to ask for help, I let him know that when I do ask for it, I really need it!  I tried to get hold of the people at the credit card processing company to get the machine configured…voicemail again.  I decided to call them Thursday morning.

First thing in the morning, I called the 800 number again (I’m surprised I didn’t have it memorized by then).  After leaving yet another voicemail message, a very nice lady named Susan returned my call.  I told her that I thought we were finally ready to configure the machine.  She walked me through which buttons to push to unlock the keypad…that was successful.  Then we started to do a sample transaction.  I got a warning on the terminal screen telling me the machine was offline.  Crap!  I told her that I’d have Jim look at it again, and call them back.  I called Jim at work with the bad news:  “It’s still not right!” I said, more than a little bit annoyed. 

When Jim arrived, he unplugged the phone line from the new terminal, and plugged it into the phone to test it…there was a dial tone, so the connection was okay.  Then he asked me if I was trying to do the sample transaction while I was on the phone with Susan.  I had been.  “That’s your problem…the phone and the machine are on the same line, so it won’t work while someone’s on the phone!”  DUH!  We used my debit card and tried a test transaction for $1…it worked perfectly.  Jim says, “Let’s try one with my chip credit card now.”  It wouldn’t read his card.  CRAP!  I tried to call the company again, but got voicemail…I would call them with my cell phone in the morning!

This morning, I called the company at 8:30.  An hour later, they still hadn’t returned my call, so I called again.  After waiting another hour, I called them from the store phone, thinking they wanted to be sure it was really me calling, and asked them to call back on my cellphone.  Finally my cellphone rang.  It was my old buddy, Zach.  He apologized for not calling back sooner, and let me know there were only two people in their department.  I explained that we had gotten the debit part to work, but that the chip reader didn’t function.  That’s when he let me in on a well-kept secret: “We haven’t enabled that part yet…it won’t be rolled out until the end of March!”  Somehow, I’d missed that in the literature…

I asked Zach to stay on the phone while I balanced the new terminal from my sample transaction yesterday.  Everything worked fine.  I thanked him for his help and told him that I probably wouldn’t bother him again (he protested that I wasn’t “bothering” him).

So, after day 4, my battle with technology has ended…I wonder what will happen after the new chip reader is enabled the end of the month?  Just thinking about it makes my head hurt!



Filed under rants, satire

54 responses to “The Reason for My Silence…

  1. What an ordeal. This sounds to me like a perfect example of a company that doesn’t know how to make a transition easy for its clients. I doubt you’re alone in this, Wendy. Systems issues are never easy, and it’s the provider’s responsibility to make sure you have all the tools you need. This company failed you miserably.

    Here’s to many happy transactions!

    • To me, it’s a case of fixing what ain’t broke, Maura…we weren’t given a choice about whether we wanted the new machine or not, just told we had to have one! I understand the need for chip card technology, but there aren’t a lot of people out there stealing credit cards to buy old books with! Have a great weekend! Wendy

  2. “what was I supposed to do with the other cord?” – This made me laugh, because my first thought was “Just use the scissors and cut it off!” Thank heavens I don’t work in customer service.

    Glad you, Jim, Susan and Zach, got the new terminal up and running! And, hey, you made a new friend this week. Zach will probably be happy to hear from you if you have to call him back:)

    Have a blessed weekend. Diane

    • I worked in a call centre for two-and-a-half years, Diane, so I was being careful not to be too abrupt with Zach and Susan! I’m just glad to have gotten it done without chucking the whole machine out the window! Have a great weekend! Hugs, Wendy

  3. I swear the interaction between you and Jim reads EXACTLY like an interaction between me and Sara. I try, I try, I try with technology–I fail, I fail, I fail. Sara insists it’s easy. “Just figure it out,” she says– Biggest joke this side of Miami. It’s not easy and there’s no figuring! Now I know you are like more capable than I am. You seemed to have gotten further with this than I would have.
    But bottom line–I can relate and I’m right there with you! (Now try figuring it all out when you can’t even keep the electricity on!)

    Hugs from Haiti,

  4. WOW, Wendy, what an ordeal!! Thank the technology-customer-service gods for Zach! You sure sounded much more patient than I would have been. I would have likely ripped cords out of the wall and smashed that pretty new machine with a baseball bat. Kudos to you!!

  5. At least you were talking to the right service department unlike idiot me who called Dish Network for a DirecTV problem. Glad you got your teminal up and running.

    Anytime we get phone calls about changing our credit card machine company I say no because who wants to go through learning a whole new system and setting it up.

  6. Congratulations for getting (most of) it set up! Quite an accomplishment. I don’t accept debit or credit cards with my photography yet… just the old fashioned bartering system. Works for now. May not work for later. If I go with computer money, I’ll call you for help. Really.

    • Thanks, Koreen! I’d suggest Paypal for you…would be a whole lot easier than what we’re doing (although we also accept Paypal for online purchases). Have a great weekend! Hugs, Wendy

  7. Think of all that reading you could have got done in that time.

    1-800 numbers: Putting the vice in service.

    • Reading? I never read at the store, Leanne (except blogs!)…I’ve got lots of other stuff to do: photos for online books, shelving, displays, evaluations for books we’re buying, updating website and Facebook pages, etc. Have a good weekend! Wendy

  8. 1959duke

    One suggestion before the next part gets to start working. Grab your favorite adult beverage jsut in case its needed.

  9. Kim Woehl

    I so enjoyed reading your tech issues. I have had a similar week although not with technology. It just seems every little step is like climbing a mountain this week. I can even appreciate your thought for when it does go online. I wish you the very best and hope that month’s end offers you no surprises.

  10. Ugh. This makes my head spin. I can only understand 19th century technology. Everyone should have a Zach in their pocket.

  11. Urg nuggets. I’ve dealt with those companies many times over the years. I’ve had legal fights on top of technological disasters, so I can relate to your experience. So frustrating, but way to get through it and even get a post out of it. I got your back!

    • The thing I most resent is that we didn’t have any choice in the conversion…it was basically fixing what wasn’t broken (for us, at least!). Thanks for having my back, Clay…if you ever have any recipe/cooking/gardening/book issues, I’m your woman! Wendy

  12. Congratulations! I’m sure somewhere in that letter there was the phrase stating that the company was making the change “to serve you better.” That’s always a red flag that there will be pain.

  13. 1959duke

    Just trying to be helpful!

  14. N B

    Oh, the complicated things we do to make things easier! I am sorry it was so difficult for you! I am glad to hear that you are still doing pretty well. Good luck with the new machine, and I hope it all works out when they really do institute chip-scanning.

  15. The phone tech people are glad to help those of us that aren’t irrationally angry at them. Zach probably looks forward to your calls!

  16. Jess Witkins

    Oh man, I feel your pain. In college, my old computer worked as well as a loaf of bread when it came to internet issues. I had many a phone call with tech gurus. My head hurts right along with you.

    • Thanks, Jess…most people your age don’t have much sympathy for us old farts when it comes to technology! Thanks for reading! Wendy

      • Jess Witkins

        Oh I feel for you! My parents were the age of everyone’s grandparents in school, so our household was always behind the times. I typed most of my school papers on a word processor! Before we had that, I totally used my mom’s old typewriter that no longer printed e’s very well, which is one of only 5 vowels, so it comes up a lot. To this day, I don’t have a flash drive, I use a floppy disk, formerly known as a hard disk, to save my files if I need to transport them. I am old school and technologically helpless. lol.

      • I still have work on floppy disks, Jess, but no computers capable of reading them! Wendy

  17. Hippie Cahier

    Splitter. . . .Giraffe.
    Potato. . . . Potatoe.
    I am sorry to be the one to tell you this: Mercury goes retrograde at the end of March.

  18. Gosh Wendy!! That was a crazy ride and I got lost just reading about lines and splitters and what nots!! But maybe the second time round will be easier? Hope springs eternal!

    Glad you got it sorted before the weekend though 🙂 Have a great one!

    Hugs, H.

  19. See, now, this is just the sort of thing that makes me want to chew on people. I once spent an entire month dealing with Victoria, Elliott and Chauncey in India without resolution. I am one of those people, however, who asks for help really easily. Prematurely, you might say. All I have to see is the word “splitter” or “giraffe” and I’m off on an X-generation hunt.

    • Luckily, I have built-in tech people (Jim and his son, Devin) at home, but they’re not always around to help me when I’m at the bookstore! “Chauncey”…hilarious! Thanks for stopping by, Murr! Wendy

  20. The problem I always have with this kind of thing is that I try so many different ways to get it right, by the time it does work I have no idea what I did. And when faced with the task of setting it all up again, I pretty much have to repeat the same agonizing trial-and-error process. Are you going to thank me for this comment?

  21. Glad you got it sorted, Wendy!

  22. Wow, Wendy – what a major marchpast and, as you say, not something you would have chosen to do! Thank goodness you have Jim who could guide you, but I do think the supplier should have done a better job of making installation easy for you. They need a comms person, don’t they?
    Sunshine xx

    • Thanks for the sympathy, Sunshine! Jim was worried that he sounded like a jerk in the post, but I told him that wasn’t my intention! I wish they had a technician that would just come and install the thing for you! Hugs, Wendy

  23. Oh, my gosh, that made me tired just reading that. What a hassle! I sure hope everything is smooth sailing from here on. Have a great, relaxed Sunday. You surely deserve it. 🙂

  24. Gee whiz, Wendy. A gadget takes that long to hook up, it had better do something cool like stream Netflix or play Super Mario Bros. Glad you finally got it hooked up. I’m sure Jim and Zach are glad, too.

  25. 1959duke

    Just remember that the trials we face in life make us stronger. Along with some Jack Daniels.

  26. Man. Wendy–sounds like never ending torture. good on ya for coming out the other side and living to tell the tale…
    may the end of the month be ever so uneventful.

  27. i just read this and all i can say is…been there, but with other technology. At the end of the month have Jim on call.

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