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More adventures in shopping
July 27, 2018
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by Ivan Raconteur

Sometimes I wonder if other people have the same challenges shopping online as I do.

Usually I enjoy the experience, but there are days when shopping in the digital age would try the patience of a saint.

I recently attempted to purchase an item that has been on my list for a long time.

I use the word “attempted” because it proved to be much more complicated than I would have imagined.

After sorting through the various options, I settled on the item that would best meet my needs. I studied the item on the manufacturer’s website, and also read a number of reviews on other websites to make sure I was making the right choice.

Having confirmed that the product I had selected was the right one, I headed back to the manufacturer’s website, ready to pull the trigger.

That’s when my simple plan started to unravel.

The model I wanted was now listed as “sold out” on the manufacturer’s site, with no indication when or if it might be available.

I checked a couple other massive online sites that handle a vast array of products. The thing I wanted was available on both of these sites, but only through third-party sellers, and I was not comfortable with them, since none of them were familiar to me.

My next move was to check a couple large home improvement retailers.

On one of these sites, I found the model I wanted at a price I was willing to pay. It was slightly more expensive than ordering direct from the manufacturer, but it was actually available on this site.

I had done business with this home improvement store many times in the past, and I had an online account already set up there.

I placed the order, received a confirmation, and sat back satisfied with a mission successfully accomplished.

Or so I thought.

Two minutes later, I received an email from the seller noting that there was a problem with my payment and my card had been declined.

This surprised me, since I pay the card off every month and knew that the most recent payment had been posted just a few days prior.

The email I received from the seller included a phone number, and a message that I should call that number for assistance with how to proceed.

Calling the number, I had a sensation that I had descended into the nine circles of hell in the form of endless layers of phone menu options.

Apparently, this company’s phone system is designed to allow a person to do just about anything. Anything, that is, except talk to an actual human.

After finally reaching what appeared to be the right location, I was greeted by a computer-generated message informing me I had now entered the company’s voice-activated customer care center.

I was less cheerful than the computer by this point.

It required me to speak the order number and ZIP Code. Each time I did so, it resulted in the computer telling me it “didn’t quite get that.”

Next, it had another bright idea. It asked me to use my phone keypad to enter the required numbers.

I did so, only to be informed again that the computer “didn’t quite get that.”

About this time, I decided enough was sufficient, and tried a different approach.

I sailed over to the credit card company’s website to investigate things on that end.

My account showed that, as I had thought, there was a zero balance on my account, but there was a notice that my account was locked. There was no explanation, and I was unable to access the messages tab. I was also unable to contact customer service.

Then, I checked my email. All was revealed. There was a message from the credit card company stating its fraud alert system had detected unusual activity on my account and locked it as a precaution.

The message asked me to confirm if the transaction listed was legitimate. I did so, and another message confirmed that I was now good to go. My account was unlocked, and I could go ahead and re-process the payment.

This turned out not to be as simple as it sounded.

I went back to the retailer’s site, but when I tried to log in, I was blocked. Each time I tried to log in, the site emailed me a new code that I could use to reset my password.

I didn’t want to reset my password, I just wanted to log in and complete the order.

I gave up and went to bed.

In the morning, I decided to try again. I called the retailer, and after about 50 attempts, the computer became as frustrated as I was and grudgingly connected me with a human.

She informed me she couldn’t apply a new payment to the existing order number, so she would have to delete the original order and enter a new one. I begged her to proceed.

After a process that took more time than seemed necessary, and having to give her all the payment information again, she informed me she was having “system problems” and would have to delete this order, and I’d have to go to the company’s website and place a new order on my own.

I did so, and I think it worked, but I won’t really be sure until next week when the product is scheduled to be delivered.


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