Slaves of Automation

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As an organizer, I am trying to simplify the life of my customers and of course, mine as well. I am seeking ways to modify our lives and am continuously falling into time traps. I have to come to the conclusion that this situation is extremely difficult and that we are at the mercy of companies that are out for profit and not for the people. Nothing is free.

I remember my life before smartphones, internet or social media and without a doubt there was much less frustration and more time for good things.

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Lets start with Black Friday. My husband tried to get a new phone through our provider. The order got screwed up and after we noticed it, we had to fix it. The new order got screwed up and we fixed it again. Yes, the third order got screwed up and we fixed it yet again. Sounds easy? No, it was not. I added up all the hours we had been on hold or explaining the situation and it cost us at least 15 hours of our time. Our provider’s big bosses are making a lot of money on this. Their employees in the call centers and stores are overworked and underpaid for the crap they have to deal with. The agents are uber polite and use canned statements, but have no authority to fix problems and frankly don’t give a shit.

Have you been to the airport lately? There is no more service! We pay high airfares, but basically you do all the work. Who uses travel agents nowadays? After you made the reservation on your time, you download their app on your smartphone and hopefully remember your sign in and you receive your boarding pass. There is very likely an additional cost to check your bag. You may get charged for seating, food, or any priority requests. Once you stood in a long line to get your suitcase checked at an automated kiosk, you get in another line to actually check your bag. You are doing all the work! Next are the security lanes that are not properly staffed and you get herded through like cattle. Once you get to your gate and your flight is delayed, you are at the mercy of the airline to make your connection. If things don’t work out, getting compensated is on you again, getting this fixed is on you as well and you get back in line to fight for a decent connection or maybe a paid hotel room in case you don’t want to sleep at the airport. Lines! Lines! Lines! And lots of tired, underpaid and stressed staff, that really can not help in a timely manner. A major US airline told my husband just the other day, they no longer put you on another carrier in order to get to the destination that you paid for. Instead he had to overnight and did not make it home until the next evening.

Just yesterday we came back on an international flight that was delayed. Many passengers where on a time crunch to make their connection, but immigration did not care. Why would they? They are separate from the airline. The passengers were split in US and Non US Citizens. We had hundreds of passengers in the US line and eventually nobody in the foreign lane. Do you think the two agents moved the people to the other lines? Oh, no! Everybody had to go through a stupid kiosk where you had to answer some questions and had your picture taken, all by a machine. Several people had questions and held up the process, because they had only two agents there that could assist. I was watching this, while people panicked, knowing they would miss their next flight now for sure. This was not the end of it, next was the actual immigration officer and then customs and then rechecking your bag for the connection. I really think they need my help to get these airports reorganized. More qualified and well paid staff is part of the answer! Pretty simple, these damn check in machines and kiosks are slowing us down. We paid for that ticket with our hard earned money. We travel a lot, domestically and internationally and I have a professional background with the airlines and the travel industry and believe me, service has gone down and prices up. Basically, sit down, shut up and don’t ask questions. Greedy company CEO’s are making a lot of money on this without a fair distribution to the ones involved doing the hard work and labor.

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An online bed and breakfast service is giving you a fine little run around and waste of your time if things are not going smoothly. We paid a fine sum per night ($500) for the seemingly perfect stay, not expecting a dirty place with roaches and some more unpleasant surprises. I spent a lot of time on hold with the company, in a foreign country with no response from the host or helpful assistance from them. It is simply poor customer service from overworked agents. So far, this was about six hours of my vacation time wasted. We ended up staying in a Sheraton Resort, that was less expensive then the bed and breakfast, with superb and beautiful personal service without any lines. Again, someone is making a lot of money and it sure is not me! The app was used for my booking and had to pay instantly, with a strict refund policy. Once I needed something, it was a struggle to click through the automated services, just to speak with a human that was not able to solve the problem and I had to hold for a long time over and over again. At this point there is no refund in sight. It will probably come, but was it worth it? No way will I do this again. Another lesson learned. All this could have been so much simpler by just booking with a hotel directly and I am not suggesting using any of the online travel services. Done with this.

Same with our cell phone provider. My husbanded ended up, after all this painful time on the phone to just get it from Apple directly. It was there the next day via FedEx. Done. We paid more, but our time and nerves are so much more important.

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Passwords, automated services, fraud, endless holds, algorithms, telemarketers, making a claim, insurance companies, commercials tuned to your recent searches, poor WiFi connections, statements that require a degree to understand…

How about free WiFi and if you pay for it, it would come without advertisements?

How about no more automated answering services and company CEO’s with employee orientated ethics, that would actually hire enough people to answer the phone. They would train them well with opportunities and compensate them to never wanting to leave as a goal. Yes, I would pay the extra costs for the service provided.

How about a social media that actually gets your posts to the people you are connected with? Not depending on the company’s stupid algorithm and no commercials- I would actually pay for this, too!

How about no more Black Friday or any other stupid deals, instead you enjoy your time. REI has been opting out and they are successful! Find fare trade organizations that treat their people well and give them your business.

How about a professional travel service that can help you with your next trip, foreseeing issues like connecting times and knowing the busy airports to avoid? Taking care of you from your check in experience, all the way to seats, hotel arrangements and transfers, possibly knowing the destination and the most convenient way to get there.

It will really be a challenge to forgo these annoying time traps, but I sure will keep my eyes open to anticipate any of them and exit before I get in line! Remember “nothing is free” and by blindly participating in this automated life, your are just another cattle in the herd.

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“It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.”  -Albert Einstein

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