‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: The Digital World - Not All Good, by Wiggia

Running parallel to my recent move was the horrendous amount of time and effort required to inform all parties of new details, address, phone etc.

It’s not that long ago a change of address card was all that was required to send to all concerned and have your details amended, but that is so last decade; now instead of giving your details to the local card printing firm and mailing them off when printed you have to spend a couple of days, if you have the will and stamina, going through passwords, usernames, secret locations, last three digits of your phone number, 2nd 5th and 8th item of your account number, date of birth, old address and God help you if you have forgotten one or more of them.

Some to be fair are reasonably straightforward presuming you are au fait with the internet; with others some it makes no difference they are fiendishly over complicated and many do not respond in kind, they are a deliberate trap for the unwary.

Whilst Google is not involved in this list of people and organisations to be notified anyone who has lost their Google password will know what I mean, it is a catch 22 situation: ‘forgotten your password? Click here and we will send an email': email arrives, 'follow link to reset your password', click link, 'before you can go on please fill in with your old password' - errrrr... and a day later you have cracked it or not, as in one case they refused to accept my new password I had struggled so hard to set up and still wanted my old that I didn’t have.

That has absolutely, other than as an illustration, nothing to do with the countless organisations one has to inform if you move home. There used to be a rather good shortcut as regards all sorts of cards that could be lodged with CPP who would inform all those CC providers with the new details saving you the trouble; not any more, you are on your own. Why it changed I don’t know but it has lost value as that was one of the reasons I joined it.

I have just for instance had to update details on my Halifax account. I log in to the website and am then told you can only change your details using your phone app, why is not explained. I do have the app but never use it, as I have no need to, but in for a penny... I open the app and put in my password and am told the app needs updating; I press the update key, and a sign comes up telling me it will only update with a 4G phone. I am already losing patience, but I do have a new phone that is 4G, not that I would know the difference, so I read the instructions and download the app onto that phone and follow the ten steps, yes ten, you need to do to set it up including endlessly putting in your password when you finally get to the bit where you can change your details.

After that, and it took a total of forty minutes, I awarded myself a keep calm award, as it is not in my nature to suffer these things, normally I simply log off and write a letter - isn’t that and the phone how we used to do these things anyway, before the digital age?


Now though, many companies make sure there are no phone numbers to contact them with, and you are forced to use the web site. If you still can’t get to where you want or it is so convoluted that you can see no way, you often see the welcoming sign come up in the corner marked 'live chat'; this can, I stress can, be a boon, but in many cases is far from it. What you often get is “Hi, I am Doris can I help you today”, and then they go away for a day; after an interminable wait between messages you can also end up with “we cannot process your request on here” and you get a phone number to dial which involves memorable names, passwords, account numbers etc and if you give up and say I have forgotten them another list of items you do not readily have at hand are demanded; by then it is a large Scotch time.

It’s all done for us they say, security in this day and age online is paramount, except of course it is us doing all the hard work and not the providers.

While going through all the organisations that I need to contact to change my details or profile as they term it today - I always thought profile was what you had on a Penny Black! - anyway, other ways to identify your good self are appearing. I will not ask if they are necessary, but fingerprint recognition sounds a bit worrying: what if your prints are already on file, does that bar you from usage? Many people have their fingerprints on file and they are not removed by the Police as it is. Face recognition was also mentioned; I have no intention of doing a phone booth impression into my phone to get access to anything; perhaps we should all go the whole hog and put together a short singing dancing Tik Tok video that we introduce for entry to these sites, along the lines of ‘my name is x and I live at y and it rhymes with my memorable name and password’ all to a choreographed dance pinched from Fred Astaire.... I am sure we are not far off something like that.

I also had a request from the Electoral Commission to register to vote. Amazingly this involved a very simple short online form that took no time at all to fill in, all you need is the number on the letter, but there was a strange line under the request aying that if you did not return the form filled in or complete the online form you can be fined £80. As it is not compulsory to vote in this country how can they fine you for something you have a choice over? All very Orwellian.

But my piece de resistance in all this was my internet provider and yes I will name names, it was Plusnet. I was with Plusnet at the previous property so all should have been simple. Numerous emails came telling me all was well and my service would start on the 10th of Feb; we move in, I plug in as per instructions and await another email. A couple of hours later bingo! the email arrives and I can plug in my hub and get going - only my phone line is dead, it has no dialling tone and the hub refuses to show anything but red.

I wait as sometimes connection does not follow immediately but it is till dead as a dodo. I phone and get a helpful chap who listens to my story and suggests that I wait 24 hours for a refresher! And if nothing then phone again. It is obvious, because sod's law says it is, that in 24 hours nothing will happen, and nothing does. I phone again and the fun starts: all operatives are working from home and no one has a clue as to what the previous one has done or said.

Meanwhile I am getting emails or messages telling me the line has been checked and all is hunky dory; it isn’t it is still dead. New man suggests we cancel an account; I have no knowledge of what he cancelled but again the following day still nothing and an engineer from Open Reach will be with me on Friday Saturday or Monday which is helpful. The messages responding to my complaint still come telling me the engineers have checked the line and all is still well. I give up and await the engineer.

Naturally he doesn’t appear Friday or Saturday or Monday. Late Monday I phone again; this time someone who knows what he is talking about answers the phone. It appears for reasons beyond the grave that they have been checking my line at my old address and there is nothing wrong with that line, but then I don’t live there any more. The man delves deeper and says someone earlier made a big cock-up when closing my new account at the new address which answers the emails I am getting saying ‘sorry to lose you’ and it is decided another new account in a few days will take effect at a lower rate to compensate for my troubles; that leaves me with no phone or internet until then and I am left with no choice.

As I put the phone down the man from Openreach appears, my story is told again and he confirms they have been checking my old line, not this one and it has ben dormant for a year anyway as I informed them at the start. The man fixes various meters and gauges to the output plug and says he is going down the road to find the errant wiring. Over two hours later he returns, plugs all in and we wait; ten minutes later I am online - and have a phone with my old number that I don’t want as I have informed all the earlier organisations of the new number and the insurance ones charge to change details! Another con for another day, and to change back would incur more costs.

Meanwhile as I have set up yet another account the ‘sorry to lose you’ messages start again and then the ones with the new account arrive still with my old number, so I go back on the phone to clarify that I have absolutely no desire to retain my old number. The conversation was akin to a sketch from the Fast Show, with the operator continually asking if I wanted to keep the old number and me continually saying no I want the new one as shown on the new account; why he persisted is a mystery.

Then the post arrives with a parcel from Plusnet with a new hub, why? So again on the phone to discover I have no need of the new and all will be fine on the day, and mercy me it was. Anyone want a hub, still in packing unused and ready to go?

What anyone gleans from all this is their affair, for me it is a simple stating of a fact: it was much quicker and a lot simpler before the digital age. The internet has some wonderful attributes but it also has some appalling areas that are a waste of time and effort.

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