Well, here I am embarking on my fifth post in which I point
out illogical situations I'm come across in my daily life and suggest that the
real world is missing some useful assertions. What started out as a fun way to
fill a blog post has turned into a series that has received a lot of positive
feedback and, as I mentioned in my most
recent post, plenty of page views. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm beating
this idea into the ground but I have faith that you, the readers, will comment
and take me to task if you're getting tired of this topic.
In my previous set of examples, I complained about how much
Web content is not date-stamped or datelined in any way. It is ironic that this
wonderful medium for real-time updates so often has outdated content. Here's
another example of that irony: online business listings. Physical phone books with
"Yellow Pages" were (and some still are) published once a year. The Web offers
many sites that list businesses à la the Yellow Pages, but with the ability to
do an instant update when a new business starts or an existing one closes. That
should be an improvement, yes?
However, any search will find many such sites that are
terribly outdated; this one
in its second paragraph plugs a San Jose donut shop that closed in mid-2006. Of
course, such sites rarely have any dates to alert that they're dusty. At least
with the physical Yellow Pages you knew whether you had the latest book and
would never be consulting listings five years of date. Many sites have
this problem but some, Yelp
in particular, do a good job of noting when a business has closed. Assertion: if
you have a Web site, date your content and keep it as updated as you can.
My second example occurred a couple of weeks ago at the
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
in San Francisco. I could go on and on about this free annual event; it's in
its eleventh year and now up to 3 full days, 6 stages, and 90 acts. I was at
the "Towers of Gold" stage enjoying some bluegrass from Ricky Skaggs when a
young woman asked me who was playing. I answered "Ricky Skaggs" and she looked
dubious. One of her two companions asked someone else and received the same
reply, at which point she started juggling her festival map.
As she turned her map every which way, she kept insisting
that "This can't be Ricky Skaggs because he's at the Towers of Gold stage." I
said "Trust me, this is the Towers of Gold stage and that is Ricky Skaggs." She
just kept pointing west and insisting that there was another stage over there.
Never mind that there was an eight-foot high multi-sided sign that said "Towers
of Gold" next to us; the three of them headed off toward the Polo Fields.
Assertions: if you can't read a map, ask someone who can and if you ask
someone for help, pay attention to the answer.
My final example involves the all-too-familiar scenario of
dealing with a utility customer support line. I wanted to make some changes
in my cable service that would entail upgrading my set-top box. I read all the
information on the site and then started a chat with one of their customer
service representatives. He was helpful enough, although he couldn't provide a
delta list of channels between two tiers of service. I didn't feel like
manually comparing the lists so I pasted them into two files, sorted them and
ran "diff" courtesy of Cygwin.
The only hitch was that the checkout process said that I had
to pick up the new box at a Best Buy store 25 miles away. The rep said he
couldn't change that, and to expect email with instructions on pickup. By the
next day I had received no such message, so I started another chat. Here's an
abbreviated version of the chat transcript:
> May I ask what specific changes being made in the account, Thomas?
> Yesterday I changed over to a new package and I was told I would receive a
confirmation email with instructions about picking up my new set-top box
> I have not received such an email
> Normally, we only send emails for installation or tech appointment
> You can actually go to your local office to swap the box or you can have
it via mail, Thomas.
> Can I go to a local service office? The online instructions said that I
had to go to a Best Buy 30 miles away...
> I am afraid to say that it could be a spam, Thomas.
> No - it was a form on your site
> Okay, actually you can go directly to the local office to have your box
swapped, Thomas, just bring a valid ID with you.
> OK, I will take the old unit to my local COMCAST service center as you
suggest. Thank you for your help!
> You are most welcome.
So the second rep told me that they never send email for
equipment exchanges (the exact opposite of what I read on their own Web site)
and that I could do the exchange at my local service center in San Jose (the
exact opposite of what the other rep told me). Assertion: if you provide
customer support, have one consistent set of information available to your
customers and all your reps. Please comment if you have any such stories of your
own to share.
The truth is out there...sometimes
it's in a blog.