This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Calling Larry Flynt

            A notice came in the e-mail a while back from Network Solutions, which registers my business domain name, asking me to check my contact information and correct it if it was out of date. I finally got around to it and realized they still had an old address and phone number, so I went online to change those two things.
            It took more than an hour.
            Part of that, to be sure, was on me. I hired someone to set up my website (including registering the domain) nearly 15 years ago, and had no idea what my user name and password were or where I could find them. I tried several of the usual suspects with no luck, and finally had to call their help line. After verifying that I was me, they set me up with a link to change my user name (which turned out to be randomly generated numbers) and password.
            I changed the password, and was asked to create three new security questions and answers, which I did.  Then I tried to log on to change the contact information and was again asked to create three new security questions and answers from the same menu. With an appointment on the horizon and a growing sense that this was not going to be easy, I logged out and decided to come back the next day.
            When I did, I created the same three security questions as before, then went to the manage accounts section. I clicked on change contact information, and a window came up asking me what I wanted to change my name to. I didn’t want to change my name, but there was no option for leaving it alone, so I clicked continue, which opened another irrelevant window; clicked continue yet again, which opened another irrelevant window; clicked continue again, and wound up back at the first window, asking me what I wanted to change my name to.
            Time for the phone again, so I called customer service and explained my predicament to the representative. He tried to walk me through the process, but I kept ending up back where I started. Finally, and apparently sensing he had a customer about to go postal, he said he’d change the address and phone number for me. I still don’t know how he did it, but thank God, it’s done.
            Wonderful as the internet can be, this sort of thing happens way too often, and doing something online is always a crapshoot. Sometimes it’s a piece of cake, and sometimes it takes an hour and a half to register a gift card. I have been reduced to a quivering puddle of frustration by the web sites of big-name companies with reputations for high levels of competence — Starbuck’s and the New Yorker for example. In addition to having to know far too many user names and passwords, there are problems with unclear terminology, nonsensical directions, the thing you’re looking for hidden on a too-busy page, and browser differentials that can mean that the box you’re told to click below might actually be above and to the left.
            As the editor of Hustler, Larry Flynt used to dumb-guy-proof his articles (Imagine! He actually thought someone might read them,) by having someone look them over with no other object than making sure that any idiot with a basic vocabulary would know what they were talking about. Until companies do a better job of dumb-guy proofing their web sites, the online crapshoot will continue and cuss words will never go out of style.