Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tech Toxic

Nothing propels me downward more speedily than a new "piece" of technology - whether a new computer, Smart Phone or "app". Without exception every new device or software is a legend of frustration and annoyance, anger and regret. Considering that in my lifetime I've owned and adjusted to more than 30 different automobiles (the latest of which are computers on wheels) - but without the agonizing alteration surrounding those new pieces of technology - it infuriates me that I am compelled to endure the predictable lack of achievement every time. I would have expected the pernicious exasperations to be on decline as the technology market widens - but inevitably the latest technology is non-functional at the outset.

Under such offensive circumstances it is a wonder anyone willingly submits to new technology. The simple explanation however is that when it's working it's marvellous! For it is equally true that following the predictable torment, the succession is masterful! Technology advancement is far more than mere fashion; it isn't a matter of style or choice. It's about utility and specificity - and need.  In spite of the trauma associated with anything new there are inevitably palpable emanations. Each product is better than the last.  But getting there is no easy matter.  Today was a case in point.

The specific source of toxicity was a Wi-Fi Hot Spot - essentially creating a Wi-Fi network in the car that operates through my iPhone. Once operational the Hot Spot can be used by several people in the car at the same time (maybe as many as eleven).  The Hot Spot is superfluous if the user already has a data plan (that is, a Wi-Fi connection from the phone or other device to a service provider like Bell, Rogers or AT&T). In our case we have opted to avoid a data plan, relying instead on Wi-Fi service in our apartment or through public connections at coffee shops, hotels and most other retailers (car dealerships, shopping malls, grocery stores and even hospitals). Our only motivation to activate the Hot Spot in the car is that the trial service is provided free for three months or 3 GBs whichever comes first.  We thought it would be useful to have during our upcoming travel to Florida.  Once we're at the condo in Florida we have Wi-Fi service in the apartment; and the other usual retailers prevail as well.

To initiate this service I called Roadside Assistance (a number which was provided upon purchase of the car).  The person with whom I spoke revealed that he was connected to Ford Motor Company, not specifically Lincoln. Though he offered to attempt to discover and review the required Lincoln procedure, I said I'd contact Lincoln directly at another number.  The other number I had in mind was the Concierge named on the MyLincolnWay app which was already installed on my iPhone.  The problem is that connecting to MyLincolnWay requires an internet connection (namely, Wi-FI). The reason I was anxious to connect to MyLincolnWay (MLW) while in the car is that I had been told that to initiate the car feature one must first connect to MLW (and I had presumed it was preferable to do so contemporaneously).  When however the Wi-Fi connection was not possible from the car (because I could not piggy-back on the internet from either my apartment or a coffee shop for example) I succumbed to parking the car and going to the apartment directly to initiate the Hot Spot connection through MLW using the apartment Wi-Fi.

Using the apartment Wi-Fi I was successful in initiating the Hot Spot which parenthetically diverted me from MLW to an AT&T website (the "partnered" supplier of the service).  When I subsequently returned to the car, I was pleased to discover that the the Wi-Fi Hot Spot Settings indicated the AT&T user name and password.  I then opened the Wi-Fi Settings on my iPhone, found the network and entered the password.  All seemed to be connected.  Yet when I tried to access the internet or email, nothing happened.

It was at that point that I called the Lincoln Concierge.  The operator began her assistance by asking me to confirm all the usual details about my email, address, VIN for the car, etc.  I then summarized what I had done to date to initiate the Hot Spot through MLW then connect to the car Settings.  Somewhere in this discussion she began repeating what was clearly a mantra for dealing with disgruntled customers.  I tried to curtail her indulgence and superfluity in that department by asking her specifically whether it might be necessary to activate "Cellular" or "Personal Hotspot" on my iPhone (as a possible explanation of the conflict) but my impatience only exasperated her. She then spoke to me in the manner of a Kindergarten teacher to a child, saying that if I persisted in my voice elevation she would be obliged to hang up on me.  Since I was by this point completely frustrated I invited her to hang up on me.  This tact she had apparently not anticipated.  As a result she proceeded to mollify her opening gambit, but I repeated my request for her to hang up.  The reason I asked her to hang up rather than doing it myself was that because my contact to her had been initiated through MLW I could not see the customary "End Call" button with which I was familiar during a regular telephone call.  In spite of my request for her to hang up she continued talking.  I turned off the volume. I was already determined to abandon this trial service.  I headed into the city to  do what I had intended to do in the first place.  On the way there I resolved to go to the dealership.

First I attempted to reach my salesman but he was engaged with a client. When I reached the dealership I was directed to a so-called "tech man" who it turns out has no particular knowledge of this feature of the Lincoln.  He said I would have to speak to my salesman.  When I told him my salesman was engaged (and that I had not had a return call) he suggested I speak with another salesman.  When I asked how to do that, he said I would have to drive my car to the front of the dealership and look for a salesman.  I then explained that accessing the front of the dealership (which is already an extremely confined space) is especially difficult at the end of the business day because one must cut across two lanes of endless traffic.  I therefore asked whether he was able to contact one of the salesmen; and if the salesman were capable of walking, could he possibly come down the stairs from the front of the building to join me in the service bay where I was at the back of the building?  The "tech man" was visibly annoyed by having to do this, which I found odd considering that he was employed at the front desk of the service department within meters of where I was parked.

After a prolonged wait of about 15 minutes a salesman appeared.  I invited him to sit in the passenger seat of the car to review the matter.  He did not introduce himself.  He concluded his analysis by saying he did not know what was wrong, that everything appeared to be properly connected but it still didn't work.  At that point another service agent (whom I know) appeared.  He too couldn't figure it out and he suggested I should return for a service appointment some other day.  By this point I could have cared less about Wi-Fi Hot Spot and Lincoln.  As I drove away I made it clear that I was giving up.

By the time I afterwards reached the car wash, I continued to try whatever other gimmicks might activate the service.  Suddenly it began to work.  When I finally was able to access the internet I tried to connect to my account on the AT&T web site.  While I was able to connect to the web site, it reported that my personal account details were not accessible - and I was told to call an "800" number.  This I did.  When I began speaking with the AT&T agent I enquired about where she was.  She was in Lisbon, Portugal. She clarified that her accent (which initially I mistakenly thought was from the South Pacific, something like Australia) was from South Africa.  When I explained to her the problems I had been having she explained that it can take up to 24 hours to activate all account data even after the account has been properly established. We then speculated that the same delay might explain why the MLW Hot Spot connection had not initially worked.  In any event, I was now only slightly interested in those details since everything else was working as it should.

When I got back to the apartment I received a telephone call from my salesman who confirmed that my speculation about the delay as the reason for the problem was correct.  I did however explain that I found it odd that nobody among the initial Ford contact, nor the subsequent Lincoln concierge nor the dealership service department had mentioned anything of the sort.  This was particularly tiresome because I later recalled that several years ago when initiating a Sirius radio account I had specifically been told by the agent that a 2-hour delay was to be expected.  And while I naturally accept that delay is reasonable, I am less enthusiastic about having to guess at its applicability.  It seems to have been a fundamental consideration that was remarkably never canvassed by anyone other than myself with someone from AT&T in Lisbon, Portugal.

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