Monday, August 22, 2016

The system IS rigged!- by Leah St. James

We've all puzzled over computer glitches, but some days I wonder if computers truly are taking over the world.

It all started when Son No. 2 (in birth order only), who lives about 90 miles away, mailed my husband a card for Father’s Day. About a week after the day passed without delivery, he called with the following message, “Hey, I got Dad’s card returned. It says, “Moved—No Forwarding Address.’”

Since we’ve lived in this house since 2009, and believe me, hubby still lives here, it was perplexing. We theorized it was a glitch in “the system” since our son had moved out about six months earlier; maybe “the system” got their names mixed up. (Yeah, we didn’t believe it either, but we like to give the benefit of the doubt.)

So our son mailed it again, only this time he used his fiancee’s name, which has no similarity to ours. About ten days passed, still no card in the mail, when our son texted that the card had been returned again, marked “Moved—No Forwarding Address.”

The next day at work, when I had about five minutes of breathing room, I called USPS customer service. I was met with the opening spiel of a pre-recorded message—press 1 for this, 2 for that, and so on. 

Unfortunately, none of the numerous presets addressed the problem of: “You’re returning my husband’s mail to sender and telling everyone he’s moved with no forwarding address!!!” So I tried, “Operator.”   

The line went dead. 

I called back, waited for the script to end and tried, “Agent.”

Response from the robo-system:  “You want to speak with an agent, is that correct?”

Me:  “Yes.” (Or maybe, “Yes, you moronic....”)

The response was that it would be a “21- to 31-minute wait.” I could hang on, or I could leave my number and wait for a call back. I would not lose my place in line. 

Not very trusting of “the system” at this point, I decided to wait it out, but after about 15 minutes on hold, I had to take an incoming call and hung up.

About an hour later, I had another window of opportunity and called back, worked my way through the phone maze and got the exact same response. This time I left my number, rushed to the ladies’ room and ran a few other office errands to make sure I’d be free in “21 to 31” minutes.

I got back to my desk with a few minutes to spare, but it wasn’t for another 20 minutes that my phone rang. I picked up.

Me:  “Hello?

Robo-Voice:  “This is the callback that was requested. When ‘Leah’ is on the line, press 1.”

Grumbling, I pressed “1” and was placed on hold for another minute before a real, live person came on the line. 

Filled with relief, I spilled my guts to the agent. She took notes, gave me a reference number and told me it would be up to 48 hours for a response. I tamped down my impatience; at least we were making progress.

The next day, I was running around at work, came back to my desk, and there was a message on my cell. You guessed it, I had missed the return call from USPS. Thankfully the caller had left a direct number for the local supervisor. I was to call to get it straightened out.

With fingers and toes crossed, I pressed the numbers into my cell. My call was answered by yet another robo-voice: 

“You have been forwarded to a voicemail system; however, the person at this number does not subscribe to this service. A valid attendance member (number?) has not been specified. Your session cannot be continued at this time. Please try again later. Goodbye.” CLICK.

And we wonder why our government is so messed up? Even its voicemail system can’t speak English. The bureaucrats probably don’t have a clue what the others are saying! (Yes, I know USPS isn’t exactly “the government,” but it’s close enough.)

A couple days went by during which I was too frustrated to take up the fight. Then hubby got a call from his dentist’s office that a statement had been returned marked “Moved—No Forwarding Address.” 

Obviously the problem wasn’t going to fix itself. I returned to battle.

Eventually I got the correct number to the local office and spoke to a supervisor who promised to delete the forwarding order from “the system.” When I reiterated that we hadn't submitted any forwarding order for my husband, he said, 

“It doesn’t matter that you didn’t do it, it’s there, 
and the system will pull your husband’s mail
before it even gets to our facility.”  

That was five days ago, and so far so good. He's actually received mail! I just know if I have to do business with “the system” again, I might go postal. 

(Next month:  Everything you didn’t want to know about tracking a delivery from the FedEx Home Delivery service.)
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Please visit her on her Facebook page where she’s been known to post goofy photos of Hercules the Kitten.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Sorry for your troubles, Leah, but thanks for an entertaining morning read. Haven't we all been there? Hopefully a silent majority no more!

Leah St. James said...

Technology is wonderful, when it works! Hope you have a great day. :-)

Rolynn Anderson said...

Ahh, Leah. Try talking to the Marriot hotel folks who upgraded my room at RWA without my asking and charged me for it. $200! Still trying to get that money back. And aren't the phone systems ALWAYS suffering an 'unusually high volume'? So frustrating, isn't it? Trouble is, more people=more red tape. Hard to grin and bear it.

Diane Burton said...

Very entertaining post about a frustrating experience. Hubs went thru something similar when his prescription mail order service said a drug that had been $12 for a 3-month supply was now costing over $5,000. Yep, that's five thousand dollars. His experience on the phone went like yours. Fortunately, he hadn't ordered it. But it was a necessary prescription. So he went round & round with the mail order service. I stick to the local pharmacy. At least you can talk to a live person and their 1st language is English. Can't wait to read next month's post.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Reading your post which follows with "Leah writes stories of mystery" made me chuckle. It's a mystery how the system works some times. I so felt your frustration. I had the same sort of maddening time with Sprint when I tried to quit them. And I hate pressing numbers on the phone! By the way, I wondered why my editor never said a word about the Christmas present I sent her. Then in April, she emailed me to tell me she just received my gift. I wonder where it floated around for four months.

Jannine Gallant said...

I wish I could say "Unbelievable!" but I'm a believer. My mortgage payment disappeared one month, and I got a snotty phone call from the mortgage company asking if I wanted to be evicted. Straightened out the problem with them with a bank transfer and finally got a chewed up half-envelope with my payment returned a few months later. The PO's version of "the dog ate my homework" I suppose... Hey, at least you got an entertaining post out of the ordeal!

Leah St. James said...

That would steam me, Rolynn! Upgrade me, that's nice, but don't charge me if I didn't ask for it! Grrrrr.

Leah St. James said...

Diane - Missed mail is one thing, but messing with your medications, that's something else entirely. We've run into a lot of problems with my husband's medications as well. His plan doesn't give the option of filling at a local pharmacy, and we've spent hours on the phone trying to get it resolved. (I'm almost afraid to "say" that, fearing I've jinxed it!) Hope all gets settled for your hubs.

Leah St. James said...

Brenda - It's a mystery that I didn't march down to the post office in person, except that they're only open for window service from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Not exactly user friendly. I'm glad your gift finally got to your editor! It must have been a nice surprise. :-)

Diane Garner said...

I feel your pain. I've had similar troubles with the USPS. I hold my breath every time we put our mail on a vacation hold. Last time, I started the hold a day early so we could monitor that delivery actually stopped. It didn't. My husband grabbed the package that had been left at the door and the mail from the box, raced down the street after the mail carrier, and pointed out the problem. The carrier got snotty with my husband and acted like we were the ones who had done something wrong by still being home. Go figure. Hope your problem is permanently fixed.

Vonnie Davis, Author said...

The post office is a strange animal with bizarre behavior patterns. And any company/service that uses press 1 for English, press 2 for Aspirin, press 3 for Pizza just drives me freaking insane. Those delays are designed to make us hang up so they don't have to deal with us. No wonder people are fed up!

Alison Henderson said...

OMG, that's worse than my last phone encounter with AT&T! I'd be spitting nails.

Alicia Dean said...

I totally feel your pain!! For one, with USPS screw-ups. For another, with the freaking automated phone systems where you have to be a CIA Operative/NASA Engineer/linguistics code deciphering guru to navigate their system. UGH...

I had a package shipped from Amazon to my daughter recently. Her street address is 'Rd' after the number, but when I entered it that way, Amazon corrected it to 'Ave' and said USPS did not recognize 'Rd' - So, I made it 'Ave' - Then, my daughter called to say it hadn't arrived. I checked tracking and saw there was an issue with the address. I called the post office (and had a similar issue getting a person), but when I finally did, I was given the number to the local post office. The first lady with the main USPS line said the carrier had delivered it to the post office and we could pick it up. I told my daughter, who took off work early, and went up there to pick it up, and waited forever and was told, quite rudely, that they didn't have her package and the carrier would have it and she should check back tomorrow. However, as it turned out, it was returned to Amazon because there was 'no such address' even though the ONLY difference was Rd vs Ave, and her name is on the mailbox and there is NO Ave with that house number, so since the four digit house number was correct and the name matched, you'd think they'd have taken a chance and left it there. Heck, I've received packages where the name and address are not even CLOSE to accurate, yet they leave them anyway. But this time they decide to get precise? Sheesh!!!

Thanks for an amusing post, and one I could sympathize with for sure!

Andrea Downing said...

I think this is the story of our lives now. And even if you do get straight through with a number of companies, you get sent to the Phillipines, India or some other distant place (no offense meant) where they speak Tagalong or Hindi and have to manage the best they can while you do likewise. Believe me, I like Phillipinos and Indians but not on the end of a phone when I can't understand them.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Yeah I DESPISE automated systems!!!

And those that are part of government operations are the worst.

Good luck and God's blessings

Leah St. James said...

Jannine - Losing a mortgage payment is serious stuff! There is NO MERCY for even slightly late payments. YOu know you've mailed it, so you've got to deal with canceling the payment that's floating out there, paying whatever fee that is. Argh. I'm glad yours finally turned up!

Diane - I wish I could have seen your husband chasing down the carrier! LOL!

Vonnie - Those voice/button-response systems definitely deter people from calling. I used to work for a software development team that designed those systems, and they actually developed algorithms for what to do when the caller (in frustration) pounded on the telephone keys! (I think it was supposed to transfer to an agent.) I don't think it will work too well these days...pounding on your cell phone! :-) Plus the opportunity to speak to an agent is becoming less and less common.

Leah St. James said...

Alyson, one of these days I'll have to write about my experience with Verizon customer service. Although I have to be careful--I could stroke out recalling the details!

Alicia - that's one of the worst cases I've heard. We ran into a similar problem last Christmas (my hubby's gift to me). The tracking thing kept saying it was delivered, but it wasn't. Then it said it was returned to the shipper because no such address existed (really???), but it wasn't. Finally the vendor shipped us a new item. Two weeks later the original showed up. I hope your daughter eventually gets the package. Grrrrr.

Andi - That's such a good point. I feel sorry for the people in those offshore call centers. Most of the time they try really hard and are so polite, but so many of us bristle as soon as we hear that accent (many of us see them as symbols of American jobs going overseas). I try to be polite and calm and patient, but sometimes I just don't have it in me to listen to the script that I know won't solve my problem.

Pam - I'm with you! Machines are running our lives!!

Ashantay said...

Gosh, and automated systems are supposed to make business more efficient. It's like trying to get help from a big web site and not finding any contact info. I hope you are good to go!

Susan Coryell said...

Sounds like something out of a Kafka novel! Can't wait until EVERYTHING is placed by INefficient...such a waste of time! Nice, frustrating post!

Leah St. James said...

Ashantay - Isn't that annoying when you go online to find contact information and it's buried under something you'd never look for or just can't find? That's why I ended up calling the customer service number--I couldn't find a number for the local office. (Although strangely, when I looked yesterday it popped up! I wonder if it has anything to do with the scathing "review" I returned?! ... Nah, probably not, but it would be satisfying.)

Susan - We're getting there! The cars that can park themselves freak me out!