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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

My yoga app no longer connects to my Apple Watch.

That means it doesn’t track my heart rate, which means it doesn’t track my calories, which means it doesn’t track my progress, which means I have no little badges and cool stats to look at and go oooooohhhhh and be motivated.

This is a tremendous first world hardship.

The yoga app stopped working with my watch a year ago. It worked for a full year-plus before that, then one day…. decided not to.

I contacted Support.

Support told me to do Step 1-2-3. I did. Nothing changed.

Support told me to do Step 4-5-6. I did. Nothing changed.

Support escalated it to Higher Support.

Higher Support asked me 27 questions and concluded that they had no idea what was wrong, but they’d “tell their engineers.”

No further help was forthcoming.

In the interim, I updated the software on both my watch and my phone multiple times. Each time, I ran through Steps 1-2-3-4-5-6 to no avail.

Fast forward to yesterday when I contacted Support again, because there was a major software update and I thought FOR SURE this will do the trick. It didn’t.

Here’s the thing about Support: they are not helpful. Almost no person who is supposed to help you is actually helpful, it is just a bottomless pit of questions with no answers until you get too tired to keep fighting with anyone and you give up and go away.

That is essentially what happened to me for the past year, but I planned to reboot my yoga program as of October and go hard-core like I mean it all-out yoga. Except I need it to track my heart rate and give me cool little badges. It does not count as a workout otherwise.

Since this was not my first rodeo, I very carefully and explicitly told them what had happened since the first amoeba crawled out of the primordial soup. I told them that I performed Steps 1-2-3-4-5-6. I told them the result. I gave them the model numbers and operating system versions of my devices.

Support responded.

Want to guess what they said?

If you said “Perform Steps 1-2-3-4-5-6” then you get all the gold stars.

I replied – LIKE I SAID, I did all those things multiple times including TODAY and it does not work.

Support responded – I kid you not – by telling me to do the exact same thing I had just told them that I had already told them I did.

She followed up by saying there is a heart rate monitor she likes, here is the link. I pointedly replied that I am wearing a $400 heart rate monitor on my wrist and have no intention of buying another, so how about we resolve the problem of YOUR APP NOT WORKING?

No further help has been forthcoming.

This is not unexpected. I contact support for many companies on myriad occasions with no real expectation that anything will be resolved. It doesn’t matter how big the company is, though the bigger they are the less likely you are to get past a bot to an actual human.

Still, it hardly matters. A stupid bot and a stupid human are fairly interchangeable.

A bot is at least smart enough to research its own database for an answer. Humans can’t get past the script in their hands.

There is a Shel Silverstein poem called “Helping”, which I love as much as all of his poems, that comes to mind as I write this. It ends with this stanza:

And some kind of help is the kind of help
That helping’s all about
And some kind of help is the kind of help
We all can do without

I often wonder: why are people so profoundly unhelpful? I use the word “stupid” flippantly, but have we fundamentally failed as a species to teach or learn critical thinking skills? When someone says “I just unplugged the router” why would you respond with “try unplugging the router”?

We’re either a country/culture/breed of morons, or there’s malicious intent. I don’t know what the other options are. Even “not caring” is a form of passive maliciousness.

It’s like I wrote just recently, when I went online to find out what phone upgrade options were available and the chat agent told me to call the AT&T store. And when I did that, the sales person told me to contact the chat agent. How are either of those things helpful?

The last time AT&T massively screwed up my account, my phone service got disconnected so I got on chat to resolve it and do you know what they said? “Call Support.”

With the phone that’s DISCONNECTED? Do they hear themselves?

To be fair, not all support is terrible. I recently had an exchange with someone about an app that was doing inexplicable things, and she walked me through troubleshooting steps and responded to me in a way that indicated she had actually read what I sent.

I’m so used to getting no help that after a few exchanges I gave up and stopped responding, resigned to whatever the app decided to do on any given day. But this particular agent emailed me back to follow up, you know, like a HELPFUL human. I was so astonished that I fell over myself thanking her, which is annoying in itself.

Should a person feel so ecstatic about merely being HELPED?

I wanted to send her flowers and put her kids through college, that’s how amazing it was to engage with a helpful human.

The other day a client called us at 6AM in a panic. Their site was down because nobody had renewed their domain name and it had expired.

There are two key points to this story.

One, this is not a small mom-and-pop shop with a bunch of clueless techno-nots. They have their own marketing department, their own IT department, their own product photographers. They have multiple divisions with international customers and a network of distributors. Losing their domain would have been fairly catastrophic. The fact that nobody had paid attention to this or knew how to resolve it is truly astounding.

Two, they are not actually our client anymore. We do some work for one of their smaller divisions but we have not worked for the main company for years.

Still, who did they call at 6AM when they needed help?

And who jumped out of bed and got online and logged into accounts and made phone calls and had the site back up and running – the site that we have nothing to do with and no responsibility for – in less than half an hour?

We did not get paid to do it. At no point did we expect to. We HELPED. Because that, I thought, is what people do.

I really should have told them to unplug the router.

I have ex-clients from ten years ago who, to this day, will call when they have some domain snafu or can’t get their email or get a letter in the mail telling them they owe four billion dollars for using an unlicensed photo and EVERYONE PANIC!

They call us because, perhaps stupid as WE are, we always help.

Sometimes it’s annoying and thankless, but usually people are grateful, because for once in their lives they don’t have to wait on hold and press one and six and zero to speak to an operator then get escalated to three other departments only to find out that nobody knows what to do and wouldn’t help if they did.

I actually want to be that person who helps. It’s kind of nice. I get a little gratitude directed my way, and ultimately I have the satisfaction of knowing someone’s day is a little bit better because I exist.

Imagine if more of the world felt that way.

Photo: Yeah, right. That’s a WHOLE other blog.