I try hard to face forward and appreciate what joy, wonder, and beauty, life brings, but the world all too often makes that a challenge. The past few weeks have been especially hard mostly because I’m at the end of my rope with tech companies. I wish I understood why we put up with such awfulness. Factor in the spam, the robocalls, and the junk mail, and I’m ready to go live in the woods far away from any of it.
On the top of my list right now is Apple with Sprint-is-now-T-Mobile in close second place. The library app, Libby, that I’ve raved about before is in third place with WordPress bringing up the rear. Not mention all the little stuff, some corporate, some personal.
Warning: Turn back now. The road ahead is bumpy. Falling rocks.
Apple and Apple News
It was in a post almost exactly a year ago that I wrote:
I decided to pony up for the $9.99/mo for Apple News+ and delete the ad-engorged Google News app I’ve been using for years.
Best ten buck subscription ever. It’s incredible how nice it is to have a news feed with no ads. It’s like eating chocolate after eating shit.
The Apple News+ subscription also gives me access to a bunch of online magazines, Time, Life, Scientific American, and many others. No ads in those, either, other than the occasional self ad about subscribing to the magazine.
I hate ads with a passion, and I’m so happy to be free of them in at least one small corner of life.
Recently, ads started appearing in my news articles. In one case I counted eight in one news article — an ad, sometimes the same damn ad, every few paragraphs.
That is so beyond the pale that I almost can’t find the words. Almost. Unfortunately, most of them I don’t feel entirely comfortable putting in a post. Suffice to say I’ve canceled the subscription and deleted the Apple News app.
For all the good it did me, I complained to Apple, first on a chat with their service and then via a feedback page. Mostly I’ve gotten back the usual glad-handing and market speak about my input being valued.
And that, even with a subscription, there can be ads. Except I enjoyed that subscription for almost a year ad-free, so this is bait-and-switch or some change Apple isn’t admitting to. Frankly, they don’t even seem to understand what my problem is despite my having explained it multiple times.
What seems unfortunate for Apple is that my once glowing word of mouth about that service will be entirely negative going forward, and any thoughts I had about their other services, Apple Music or Apple TV, are now non-starters. No way will I give them another dime I don’t have to. (I’m too deep into iTunes to stop buying music, but I’ll be buying my books from Amazon Kindle now.)
I feel like a tiny spaceship firing my ineffective gun against a Borg cube that couldn’t care less about my pathetic $10/mo, any tiny share of lost business, or the rantings of some asshole on the internet. Once again, I find myself on the fringe. Alone.
I’ve been a happy Sprint customer since 2009 when a relationship between my company and Sprint offered a good deal on a cell phone. I don’t use a cell phone very often — more like hardly ever — but now that payphones are obsolete, one needs one for emergencies.
For a decade I had a basic flip phone that was all I needed. But I started to worry my Classic iPod would die (battery failure most likely, or maybe its teeny disk drive), plus I thought it was high time for a smart phone. I love my iPod and also the iPad I bought back in 2016, so I figured I’d get an iPhone.
I can’t remember now, but something made me think I should switch from Sprint to someone else. It may have been the utter confusion I felt navigating through all the Sprint phone choices and plans. I tried Verizon, and that seemed to go well, but when my phone didn’t show up, I found they’d canceled the order for some reason (and not told me). Something about my order they didn’t like.
History made an irony of this (because Sprint-is-now-T-Mobile), but I didn’t like T-Mobile’s corporate neon pink, and AT&T didn’t have a great reputation as a cell phone provider (although I like their corporate blue), and that left Sprint (and yellow, which is also not a favored color). But fine, whatever.
I braved those choices, settled on a plan, made my order, and things went fine. My phone showed up, and I’ve enjoyed having my entire music collection, all my eBooks, and all my photos, right in my pocket. Plus, a camera, a video camera, easy text messaging, a phone, and several useful utility apps in the same device.
But I kept getting the occasional text message from Sprint-is-now-T-Mobile about being unable to deliver my monthly bill. I had autopay and they weren’t complaining about payment, so I didn’t pay too much attention. I got emails from them, so they obviously knew my email address. I visited the site to see if I noticed anything in my account, but everything seemed fine. I wrote it off as a glitch in their system.
Then about six months ago I began getting increasingly strident text messages, and even emails, about the need to upgrade my phone because 3G was going away. They even offered a free upgrade. But my iPhone is 4G, and they even sent me a new whatchamacallit card because Sprint-is-now-T-Mobile. I didn’t know what to make of those messages.
Finally, I got one that mentioned the phone line and device that needed to be upgraded, and it was the old flip phone that I assumed I’d terminated when I upgraded.
I’d had a suspicion that was the phone they meant, but I’d written that off as another glitch in their system. Some database still retaining that old number. I’d meant to contact them, but my experiences with online support are almost universally negative, so I kept putting it off.
But this had risen to the level that I had to deal with it. I started with the Sprint(-is-now-T-Mobile) app on my phone, which mostly seemed like a sales thing, but after digging deeply enough I found that they were still billing me for that old line. After a long and painful chat session with someone who didn’t seem to get it, all I accomplished was getting that old line removed from my account.
They’d been billing me for it all this time. For years. On a line that, not only did I never use, but for a phone which was never even turned on.
As an aside, when my laptop failed and I bought another, Google noticed I hadn’t logged in with that old laptop and asked if they should remove it as a known device. Not that I love Google, but bravo.
This is where the billing thing kicks in. I didn’t notice they were billing me for that old line because of the autopay, and I never questioned the billing amount that showed up on my credit card bill.
After digging deeply enough into my account on their website, I discovered that they have not one, not two, but three email address slots. A primary and a backup, which, fine, but also a separate email address for sending bills to. And that, for some reason, was my old corporate email address.
Which explains those text messages. Which explains why I never noticed they were billing me for the old line.
That useless chat guy directed me to a phone line I could complain to. (Why is it that chat sessions inevitably bounce you to something or someone else?) I spent 20 minutes waiting for someone to answer while listening to annoying music interrupted every 30 seconds with annoying Sprint-is-now-T-Mobile ads. The same annoying ads over and over until I couldn’t take it anymore and hung up. (Naturally. That’s their business plan.)
And I suppose this is just enough on me not checking out the fine print or digging deeply enough or dealing with it soon enough that there’s no way I’ll ever get any kind of refund.
Defeated again by another Borg cube.
Libby (the online library app)
Yet another company I had nothing but positive feelings for has changed those feelings to rage and disappointment.
Libby has a Timeline feature that keeps track of book loans, holds, and returns. It also has a Tags feature that lets you tag books for whatever reason. I have three Tags: Pending (books I plan to read next), Want To Read (books I’ll probably add to the Pending queue), and Possibles (books I’ll read if I ever read all the books in the other two queues).
Libby also has an export feature that lets me export the Timeline and Tags as a JSON file.
Great features that I valued highly. I routinely export the JSON and use a Python app to create nice webpages for my personal website. It’s been working great.
When I first began using Libby, they weren’t able to synchronize my Timeline between my iPad and iPhone, so I made sure to do my checking out and returning on my iPhone. But shortly thereafter, they fixed that, and my Timeline was in synch between devices. It’s been synched for many months.
Then it wasn’t anymore. Worse, when exporting Tags, the JSON file didn’t contain all the books under that Tag. And the ones it did list were reversed in order from how they appeared under the Tag.
I complained, I online chatted, and that was a waste of effort. They insist Timelines don’t sync (ah, but they did) and don’t show much interest in fixing it. Again, the sense of being blown off is strong. They haven’t responded to the Tags issue, which I tendered again as a separate complaint.
Here’s the thing, though: When you export the JSON, you actually get a URL to their website, so obviously that’s where the Timeline is kept. Likewise, the Tags. What’s more, the URL for the Timeline is the same URL regardless of whether I export from the iPhone or iPad!
If I export from the iPhone, the URL gives me one version of the Timeline, and if I export from the iPad, the same URL gives me another version of the Timeline. If they can’t synchronize the two, why are they providing the same URL? And why are they even storing activity differently in the first place? Why isn’t it stored under my library card? And why is the Tag export reversed and sometimes partial. (Multiple attempts eventually result in a complete list.)
This is all new behavior, no doubt due to some change. But I can’t get them to understand the issue let alone admit to the problem. The Borg cube wins again.
When I posted an old poem on my programming site, and the WP Reader ignored important formatting, I tried complaining (once again) about the Reader. I also asked about the other issues mentioned in my posts (for instance, emitting invalid CSV files and not recognizing a perfectly valid <P > tag because of the trailing space after the P (which is explicitly called out as legal in the standard).
Suffice to say: ignored and blown off once again. Another Borg victory.
I really hate tech companies. They have us over a barrel, and they know it. They clearly couldn’t care less about us so long as the suckers keep bellying up to their bar. The question is, why do we? Why don’t we demand better?
Between winter being very old at this point, more of those box elder bugs showing up (several a day now; where are they coming from?), unrelenting robocalls and spam in email and comment sections, the social bullshit of the last five years, plus growing old and other personal challenges, I find myself defeated, dismayed, depressed, disappointed, and discouraged.
Hopefully the Vernal Equinox a week from now will cheer me up.