I don't know about you, but I have a lot of trouble trying to do almost anything on the internet so I avoid it by asking my daughter, Michelle, to do it for me.
She is a Web Master and knows more about navigating the web than I ever knew by clicking on the small 1/4-inch square icons with their universal symbols that don't give me a clue about what they do.
Last week is a good example. I ordered a new bundle of services from my cable company that included digital telephone, high-definition TV, and gee-whiz-super-wamo-high-speed internet service that came with a promotional offer of a $300 prepaid VISA rewards card.
After the service was installed, I called the company's toll-free telephone number that I used to order the service to find out what I had to do to get my rewards card.
"Wait three months, then if you have not missed any payments or made any late payments, you need to go to your portal and submit an application," the voice on the other end of the phone said. I have had TV service on auto-pay with this company for the past 16 years, had never missed or made a late payment, but I guess that was not good enough to waive the waiting period.
I knew I was in trouble right away because I don't even know what a "portal" is. Three months later when my daughter was visiting, I asked her to go to my portal and submit the application for my $300 rewards card.
She did it, but it was not as easy as she thought it would be.
After filling out the required password, user ID, PIN, and personal information like home telephone number, date of birth, email, etc., when she clicked on the big box at the end containing the word "SUBMIT" the computer did nothing as if it was locked up. The system disregarded every trick in the book she tried and would not submit my application.
My daughter then went back through the process and filled out the information again. Just like the first time, the system would not submit my application. She then called the number on the screen for help. The clerk answering the phone said he could not help and told her to call another telephone number. She made the call and a tech associate offered to fill in the application for the third attempt and submit it using his computer, which worked just fine.
The only problem: it took more than two hours to finish the process.
I would have given up in complete frustration but my daughter assured me that, sometimes, you have to be patient — and determined — when it comes to working online, and because $300 was at stake she became very, very determined.
I made a mental note and promised to be patient in the future. So what does any of this have to do with applying for a discount or rewards card? Well, it gets even better.
My doctor prescribed some very expensive medicine for me but said he would mail me a discount card that might reduce the cost. After several weeks and several calls, I finally received the discount card.
When I opened the card, the first thing I read was go to their website at inyourdreams.com to register the discount card. I knew that was never going to happen, but fortunately I could register the card by calling a toll-free number at1-800-LOTS-OF-LUCK.
I'm a lot more adept at using my phone than I am at using my computer so I figured how difficult can this possibly be? With a big smile on my face I picked up my low-tech, cordless, not-smart phone and dialed the number. The phone was answered on the second ring and I thought I only had to answer one simple question:
Are you a U.S. citizen over 18 years old? Press 1 for yes; 2 for no.
"Wow!" This is going to be a piece of cake I told myself as I pressed 1.
You must agree to take our survey if you want your discount card activated. Press 1 for yes; 2 for no.
I quickly pressed 1 and thought I was well on my way. There were quite a few more questions in the survey like entering the 15-digit ID number printed in very-small type on their card.
The one question they did not ask was my household income. That would have been easy to enter because it is a lot less than 15 digits. Unfortunately, if I made a single mistake anywhere along the way ... instead of giving me another chance to enter the correct number, the phone hung up after giving me a message that said:
We are not able to understand you reply. Thanks for calling.
After this happened several times, I was ready to give up and call it another one of life's many lessons, except that by then I was getting really good at entering 15-digit numbers without making a single mistake, and besides, I had promised my daughter to be patient and determined, so I decided to try one more time and made it all the way to the very last question:
Do you participate in any government health program like Medicare, Medicaid, Tri-Care, military or VA care? Press 1 for yes; 2 for no.
I lost my legs in an accident many years ago. I have been since been on Medicare insurance because until ObamaCare came along, Medicare was the only insurance available to me that covered my pre-existing condition, so I pressed 1 for yes, hoping that was the end of the survey. As it turned out, that was the end because I received the following message:
You don’t qualify for anything. Good-bye.
I think I wasted at least an hour on the phone trying to complete their frustrating survey, and what I have not been able to figure out is why the very last question was not the very first one.
Bailey is a retired technical writer from Northern Virginia who retired to Williamsburg 18 years ago and is very happy to live here.