Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The waiting

As I have blogged in the past, I'm a Mac guy. I expect I always will be. I bought my previous Mac in 2012. At the time, I figured I had a good six years ahead of me, which was sort of true. At the six-year point, I had a major hard drive crash, that required paying to recover data and also replace the Seagate hard drive with a nifty SSD drive. That cost me a bit, plus I lost data. Last year, the seven-year point, I had other major problems that required another fix, less expensive, but worrying. Add to that the general slowness that a formerly spry machine comes to after enough OS upgrades that it was never intended to work with. So, it was with eager anticipation that I looked forward to finally upgrading my Mac this year using some of my annual bonus money.

I had to get a custom configuration to avoid the Frankensteinian hybrid that is the Fusion Drive. The FD is standard for all iMacs. I assume Apple makes the FD standard because it keeps the price point lower. However, the lower price comes with too high a cost, IMO. After my hard drive crash experience, I wanted nothing to do with a storage device that had moving parts. I also wanted more RAM. The final cost for the configuration was just over 3K.

I ordered it on the Apple website. It had to be configured at the factory in China and shipped to my local Apple Store for me to pick up. I preferred pick up to having it delivered direct to my house because I don't fully trust any carrier anymore. Amazon Prime, for example, can't shake itself out of trying to deliver my packages to a place nearly a quarter mile away. Sometimes they eventually find me, often they just give up.

My pick-up was scheduled for March 17, St. Patrick's Day. A happy omen for an Irish Catholic like me. Alas, on March 14 Apple closed all of its stores throughout the universe (except China) because of the Covid-19 virus. They said they would be re-opening on March 27. A setback, I thought, but not so bad.

A bit later in March, the governor of my state announced a shut down that was projected to last until at least the end of April (but now seems to be indefinitely longer; end of May? June? Next year?). Anyway, the outlook was that I'd be waiting indefinitely longer to get my new Mac.

Then the emails came.

On April 4, I got an email from Apple saying that my order had been returned and I needed to reply to the email within 24 hours or my order would be canceled and refunded. I sussed out that it wasn't some phishing attack and replied emphatically that I didn't want my order canceled. The next day, I got the same email and I replied with equal enthusiasm. The day after that, another email with the same message. I replied again with full vigor, and not a little perturbation, to the same effect: DON'T CANCEL MY ORDER!

I also got on to the Apple website an initiated a chat with support. That didn't go well. I hoped that I could convey to a support person what I seemed to have been unable to convey via my email responses. The support person didn't seem to understand or care about my issue. He kept trying to have me cancel the order so I could get a refund and then order again. I tried to point out the absurdity of what he was saying, namely, that instead of Apple not canceling the order for my custom-configured Mac that had to be shipped from China especially for me, they would instead send the custom-configured Mac that had been sent from China especially for me either directly to me or hold on to it and I will pick it up at the Apple store whenever they reopen.

In the end—against my emphatically and repeatedly expressed instruction—he canceled the order and said I'd get a refund in 5-7 days. Livid doesn't begin to describe my mood. I recalled H.L. Mencken's quote that "Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." Mencken was an irreligious, bigoted, racist misanthrope. I can't find any warm feelings for irreligion, bigotry, or racism, but at some point I can start to think that misanthropy is a highly underrated philosophy.

Shortly after my chat-buddy canceled my order against my wishes, I got an email saying that I could pick up my computer on April 21. Now confused as well as perturbed, I called Apple support—called, no more chat for me.

The person on the phone was delightful and as helpful as she could be, but she confirmed that the order had been canceled and, since the cancellation had already been initiated, she couldn't promise anything, although she heavily annotated my order and promised that she'd see what she could do. I was still baffled that Apple couldn't just cancel the cancellation and re-route back to me the custom-configured Mac that had been sent especially for me from China. I began to perceive, however, that corporations like Apple (and UPS, but we'll get to that soon) are simply juggernauts. Once a process has begun, there's no reversing it or altering its course. The best you can do is stand back out of danger and hope the casualties are few.

After my phone call, I got another email confirming that my order was canceled. I was now perplexed, frustrated, and in a bloody-minded mood. I wanted to go full Mencken. I think that a huge factor in my horrible, nasty, no-good frame of mind was the impotence I felt in the face of all this. I didn't like that my only option seemed to be to jump out of the way and dig out from the rubble after the dust settled. What I really wanted was to give Apple a piece of my mind, but I couldn't find any customer complaints email address. I cast about on the Interwebs and at last found an article from some online tech mag (I forget which) that said that anyone can email Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and might just get a response if they did. So I did.

I sat there in the evening crafting my tale of woe. My email wasn't just venting my spleen, I really felt that there was a glaring hole in Apple's handling of this issue. I carefully explained the situation, proofread it, altered this and that, and then clicked Send. I wasn't sure what would happen. I was mostly sure nothing would. I really didn't even know if the email address I had was valid. It did come from the Internet after all.

To my surprise, the following afternoon, I got a call from Jenna from the Apple executive relations team. She was very nice and sincerely apologetic. Apparently my email struck a chord with Apple's executives. She promised to do whatever it took to get my computer to me. She still wasn't sure if she could get the actual one that had been sent especially for me from China (the juggernaut effect), but if it came to it, she would have another configured at the factory and expedited to me. This was, in the end, what they did.

Forward a week and a half. I was notified by Jenna that my Mac is on its way and I have a tentative delivery date of April 17. I was pretty jazzed.

On April 16, I got a notice from UPS that my delivery was aborted because they couldn't find my address. Pardon the following divigation, buy really? I've been receiving packages from UPS at my home for 14 years. Admittedly there have been a few rough spots, but they have been few and infrequent. Why now, and why with this order, has UPS suddenly decided that my address is like some lost city amidst a foreboding wasteland or impenetrable jungle? The pizza guy can find my house, why can't UPS? It's like that internet meme "You had one job!" UPS has, in fact, one job: deliver packages. Why can't they?

Jenna called, she'd gotten the notice too,  and said that she's working with UPS to get the delivery right. I provided all the helpful information I could that would guide the driver to my townhome. Friday's delivery attempt was another aborted mission for the same reason. Now I had to wait until Monday for a third delivery attempt.

Monday morning early, I'm on the UPS website tracking my delivery. It's scheduled for "end of day." It's always end of day. Why can't I be the delivery that starts the day? Just once? In any case, I'm kept watch on the tracking site and rushed to the window whenever any sound outside is remotely like a truck pulling up.

Curiously, about midday, I got an email from FedEx saying that I've got a delivery on Friday, April 24. It's for a Mac that's been sent from Mufreesboro, TN. I was, again, perplexed. I forwarded the email to Jenna. She said, she'll take care of it. My delivery from UPS is happening. The FedEx order must be a duplicate that somehow wormed its way into the situation.

I had an RCIA class to teach Monday night over Zoom. The virus lock down has really thrown a spanner into the works for the whole Catholic Easter thing. We've had to postpone baptisms and confirmations to Pentecost now—assuming we're out of lock down by then. In any case, the class started at 7:00 and I was still waiting after 6:00. I thought that I'd have to run out from the class for a moment to receive the package. But at 6:29 pm April 21, I saw the notice on the UPS tracking site  that the package had been delivered—left at my door, it said—but I had been looking out the window all that time and no truck had pulled up. I went to the door at 6:29:30 and no package. UPS had delivered the package, just not to me, the one whose name and address was on it. That me.

I started dialing UPS at 6:29:31. Then got on hold and waited. And waited.

I explained to our RCIA team what was going on. I logged into the class at 7:00 while still on hold, but then had to jump off at 7:18 because UPS finally picked up the phone. The call didn't go well. Apparently because the order shipped from China, I had to call UPS International to get help with it. The woman transferred me after promising that I wouldn't have to wait another 50 minutes to talk to them. About 15 minutes later, I got a pre-recorded international menu that told me to press 01 for this, 02 for that, etc. etc. etc. It was a long list. After it was done and I was perplexed as to who I needed to talk to, the recorded message started over. I pressed 01. Nothing happened. I pressed it again. Nada. The message just kept playing, "for blah blah, press 17. For blah blah blah, press 18..."

I was yelling into the phone now. It's funny that it actually has an effect. In this case, the message just paused a bit, and then continued. It was pure farce. It was like being at a customer service desk where some bland person with a soulless nasal voice is intoning my options. When I interrupt, with increasing frustration, the person stops, looks blankly at me, and then resumes in the same soulless nasal intonation. But more about the yelling into the phone bit: It does work sometimes. When I'm confronted with a lot of machine-voiced self-service options blather that can't possible help, my yelling "I WANT TO TALK TO SOMEONE!" has actually caused the machine to connect me with someone, for all the good that's ever done me. It's like being at that customer service desk again and after the umpteenth time of yelling at the person, they look blankly at you and say, in a soulless nasal voice, "Well, alright. Mr. Smithers will see you now. You needn't raise your voice."

I finally hung up on the endlessly repetitive menu recitation. As much as you hate to let go when you actually have a connection, like a shipwrecked sailor clinging desperately to flotsam, there comes a time to try another tack. I called back to the UPS international customer service number and waited again on hold.

58 minutes and 17 seconds  later, I get someone who proceeds to tell me that I need to call the UPS international customer service number; she can't do anything for me. I protested, now more in whimpering appeal than righteous indignation—they'd started to break me—that I did call the international support. I tell her that I've been waiting on the phone for one minute and forty-three seconds shy of an hour and I don't want to get sent back to the menu options recording from hell. No luck. She transfered me, but to my amazement, I got connected to someone—a real person—in about a minute (perhaps the whimpering helped). My high hopes were then pretty much dashed. She told me that they can't take my complaint. I have to file a claim with Apple first.

In the meanwhile, as I sat listening to truly horrible hold muzak, I was trying to find an email option to contact UPS. I tried to start a claim, but the auto-response immediately told me that I had to wait 24 hours before I could do so. The logic of this escapes me. The driver left the package at the wrong address. It's a $3000.00 computer. Time is of the essence in tracking down whom it was mistakenly delivered to. I thought what are the odds that some random person will find a $3000.00 Mac computer on their doorstep and say, "Oh my. UPS has misdelivered a $3000.00 computer to me. I must ensure that it gets to its original recipient as soon as possible." I was more inclined to think that someone opened that package like it was Christmas morning shouting, "Ha ha! I've got a free $3000.00 Mac, bitches!" Besides, even if someone wanted to get the computer back to me, what would they do? Call UPS and wait on hold for an hour only to get told they have to call the international customer service line and get the pre-recorded international options menu from hell? I'll go through that torture because dammit I want my computer. It's a stretch to think that someone will be similarly motivated because dammit they need to give back the $3000.00 computer that the magical UPS elf left at their doorstep like a foundling.

I sent an email to the UPS customer support address. About 20 minutes later, I got an automated response saying, and I quote directly, "Dear UPS Customer, Emails sent directly to or are not monitored or received." I restrained myself from throwing things, but my impotent histrionics to no one in particular did manage to get Bogart to give me stink-eye and exit the room.

I cast about the UPS website for another option and finally found another way to send email. I sent it in explaining that while my delivery status shows that it's been delivered, it has in fact, been delivered to the wrong address. Late Monday night, I got a reply to that email, "Thanks for contacting us. We see that your package has been delivered. If you need additional support, please send us a response and we will answer your request as quickly as possible."

I replied immediately to that email. In all caps. Using the largest font size. With bolded text for words like "failure." After I sent that response, I was so livid, I sent a response to my response. Again in all caps, etc. I have often deplored the contemporary fad of using the word "fucking" as a noun, verb, and adjective for everything. If ever there was a time for me to jump on that fadwagon, this was it. Nevertheless, I resisted.

Then, about midnight, it was Miller Time—or in my case, 12-year old Glenmorangie Time. It helped, but even then I was so worked up I didn't get to sleep until 2:00 am.

I emailed Jenna on Tuesday morning and asked her to call me. I saw an email from FedEx that the shipment I'd asked Jenna about on Monday had been canceled. I needed to touch base and figure out what to do next. Jenna assured me that she's on it. She had canceled the duplicate FedEx delivery on the assumption that the UPS delivery would arrive. She then un-canceled it as son as she saw that UPS delivered to the wrong address, so that we'd have a back-up if the misdelivered UPS package couldn't be found. So Tuesday was another wait and see day.

On Tuesday night, however, UPS called me to confirm my shipping address. They also told me that the previous three delivery problems were due to the fact that the address on the package was wrong. They said they would delivery the next day.

Wednesday dawned with me manning the UPS tracking website. I had not one, but two orders coming the same day. An order from The Assault Group (Renaissance Italians, lots of 'em) had been shipped UPS at no charge (it was a large order). I spent the day tracking every movement. The delivery—both items—finally happened around 5:30 pm. I contacted Jenna and she re-canceled the un-canceled FedEx delivery and got the alternate iMac headed back to Mufreesboro whence it came.

It had seemed like forever since I ordered my Mac with such hope, and now, after a comedy of horrors, I had it. I didn't get around to setting it up until Saturday, but I'm up and running for, I hope, another 8 years or more. That may be asking a lot for a consumer electronics product, but I know a lot about resisting built-in obsolescence; I'm 59, mine is kicking in and I have every intention of extending a useful existence well beyond my warranty.

I made my apologies to UPS. The misdeliveries weren't their fault if the package was addressed incorrectly. Nevertheless, I don't ever want to have a reason to call their support again.