Nothing Freakin’ Works

31Dec13

I’m a huge fan of technology. I’ve been messing around with computers since the late ’70’s and I’m amazed at how far we’ve come in my lifetime and I really can’t wait to see what’s next. Technology has changed how we do everything.

But, there’s a frustrating, irritating, infuriating part of this information revolution that is driving me absolutely insane….

Nothing freakin’ works!

Seriously, every business, government agency, organization, household has all these systems in place and a huge percentage of them simply don’t work well enough to be relied upon…but, of course, we all do rely on them and that’s where the anger comes from.

And it’s not just the huge government-level mega-systems like Obamacare that don’t work. It’s all the little ones…like calling your bank, or ordering something on-line, or applying for a job.

I applied for a part-time job at Sears a few weeks ago (a job I ended up not taking but that’s neither hear nor there). I had to fill out the application on a little computer in the hallway, take two on-line assessments (Yes, I promise to show up, not drink or do drugs, not steal things, etc) before I could even speak with the HR person. Guess what, after 50 minutes going through the application process, they couldn’t find my “paperwork.”  The HR person asked me to do it all over again – yes, another 50 minutes of filling out the same forms, checking the same boxes answering the same questions and voila – they couldn’t find that “paperwork” either. What a colossal waste of time. In the end, they did find my information, sent me an offer email, then interviewed me. Yes, you read that in the correct order.

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance spent $47 million on a new system and it doesn’t work. The news media in Boston has done very little about this, I suspect they are just believing the DUA that there are “a few glitches in the system.” But, I had to write a paper letter to my State Representative, Brian Dempsey, to get my final two weeks of unemployment benefits. And I wrote to him after 12 weeks of getting no response or action from the DUA. Ten days later, I had my money. Is that really the way things ought to work?frustration

The Obamacare website has been a disaster. Think about all the money – somewhere north of $200 million and maybe even closer to a Billion dollars – that has been poured into this system and….you know from watching the news….it didn’t work…and still has problems.

I don’t know if it’s been fixed yet, but on the Massachusetts Health Connector application website, if you didn’t check the box that indicated you were currently incarcerated -and most of us are not incarcerated so that’s a box we’d leave alone, you got booted out of the on-line health insurance application. Great for the incarcerated but not the majority of law abiding citizens who are just trying to stay compliant with the law that says we are legally required to have health insurance.

I spent months inviting Comcast technicians to my home – within a 2 hour window – only to realize they had no idea why my service didn’t work properly and were equally clueless on how to fix it. I mean, geeze guys isn’t this what you do? Do you realize how badly you are at providing your core services? I finally gave up and pulled almost all my services from them and gave them to Verizon and DirecTV. Now, at least my phone and TV work.

I called a bank this morning. You know the drill, put in my account number, last four of my social…and the automated voice said she was transferring me to someone who could help me…..click…bzzzzzz….cut me off. I repeated this about four times, getting more and more frustrated each time. There was no way to reach a human without going through the same series of prompts and getting cut off at the end. I was beside myself….and decided to calm down and try again later. When I did, and reached a human being, she told me that if you call before the call center opens, that’s what happens.  And that’s okay? So, they couldn’t program the system to suggest you call back instead of promising a person and then hanging up on you?

I will say some organizations have managed to develop systems that actually work. Amazon, Apple, Ebay all have worked flawlessly thousands of times for me. Am I just lucky with these sites or have they figured out how to develop systems, write code and fix things better than anyone else?

It feels like there are 1,000,000 programers out there but only 10,000 of them actually know what they are doing.

Invariably it seems, I get stuck dealing with the systems developed by the 990,000 of them who work for the lowest bidder.

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