Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Customer Service from Arco

SUMMARY: A divergence from dog agility for a moment.
"Get an arco debit card and connect it to your existing bank account! Save the 45 cent fee every time you buy gas!"

How cool does that sound? I mean, who doesn't love saving money? And I buy gas at Arco almost exclusively because it's cheaper than anywhere and it's nearby. I can't use a credit card, and cash is a pain, and the ATM card has a 45-cent Arco fee, but it's still cheaper per gallon than other places and I don't have to waste more time driving farther afield.

(Wait-- dog agility is the primary reason for being in MUTT MVR and for using gas, so this *is* an agility-related post. Ta-da!)

So: I take their brochure home, go to the web site, fill in a bunch of data, and finally get to the point where it tells me to provide info from my card--but wait, I don't have a card yet! That's what I'm applying for! So I have to print a copy of the page with the instructions so I can pick up where I left off when the card (presumably) arrives in the mail.

Which it does, several days later. It has a sticker on the front: "Visit the web address printed on the back of your card". There is no web address printed on the back of the card. Believe me, I read every tiny mangled fine-print word and there IS no web address there.

But there is a web address on the information sheet that came with the card, so I go there. Next, I have to go to my credit union's online site and log in and look for a one-cent transaction that the Arco card has done to make sure it's connected correctly, and get the transaction code, and write it down. Back to Arco site.

(A) I have to read an agreement to get everything online, which I don't like but I have no choice--I can LATER request to get paper copies if I want, but that's a special process. That's annoying and time-wasting but I'll have to do it at some point because I do not want to get my stuff online. Why can't they just let me choose now? Because they're hoping that most people won't bother.

(B) I fill in my name, the card's 15-digit number, the 13-digit "loyalty code" (or something like that), which isn't text that appears anywhere on the card; they have to explain that it's the numbers below the bar code on the card--do they mean to include the digit that's NOT below the barcode? Dunno, it's a zero, so hopefully it doesn't matter. And my name. And my date of birth. And the last digits of my SSN. And the transaction code from my credit union. I pick a username and a password (have to type it twice) and pick a security question and type the answer (twice) and ANOTHER security question and type the answer (twice), and then it tells me that the username is taken and try again.

(C) At least it doesn't make me retype everything. I try another username and apparently that works. Then I get a box in which to to type a PIN of my choice, surrounded by a bunch of hoohah about Java. Well--can't type into the box. So I have to read all the stuff about Java. It's a little confusing (mind you, I'm a software technical writer who's been on the technical side of computing for mumble decades--and it's a little confusing). I click some link that looks useful, and it takes me to a window that talks about Internet Explorer and Windows. I, of course, am using Firefox on a Mac. I have to browse around a bit to finally find instructions dealing with Mac.

So maybe these instructions are Sun's, not Arco's, but it tells me to open a Terminal window and click the magnifying glass. There is no magnifying glass in the Terminal window. It tells me to type something into the dialog box. There IS no dialog box, fer crying out loud, this is TERMINAL! (Like the Run window on Windows.) So I skip that, because it looks like I can go to the next step, which is to type a change directory command. I type it, and there's no such directory. I recheck the spelling and I type it again and there's still no such directory. So I can't very well follow the rest of their instructions.

So I give up on that and return to the PIN window. There's a link there to have them GIVE me a PIN instead of picking my own, and OK, I figure I can probably change it later if I want to, so I click that, and it gives me a PIN, and then it says "there was a problem with your verification, call this number." Of course it's evening, and they're only open during earlier Eastern Standard Times, so I have to wait until the next morning.

Next morning, I call. Go through about 3 levels on the phone tree, and then speak to a person who says this is the wrong phone number, let me look up the right one for you. He gives me the number and transfers me (at least I don't have to hang up and redial). I have to go through what appears to be the *same* phone tree options, at which point I actually speak to the right person.

Well, sort of.

She says, there's no sign that your verification went through, you'll have to try again. And I said I already spent plenty of time trying to get it to work online, I just want to verify it now. She said that it's impossible; they require you to do it through the web site and she apologizes for that, wishes she could help me do that.

She said that browsers other than Windows Explorer just don't work, so use Explorer. I said that I don't want to have to install software I'm not using just to verify the card. She suggested that I find a friend who has a computer with Explorer on it. I said that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard--what ever happened to calling an 800 number and getting instant verification? She said they've determined that it's more secure because of their special Java online security routines.

She continues being very apologetic--says that she has to listen to people call in all the time who can't do the verification because they don't have Windows or Explorer or can't figure out how to install the required Java or the PIN window doesn't work or whatever. She said it's broken and she thinks they tried to fix it but couldn't. She also recommended a Windows system rather than Mac because it might not work on the Mac even if I get Explorer and the right Java installed. She said, Java is always installed with Windows Explorer, so if you use a system with Explorer on it, you don't have to worry about the Java.

Oh, and she said, just before we hung up, whatever you do, don't let it pick a PIN for you, because that doesn't work and you'll have to start over. What?!?

So I get a Windows system, run Internet Explorer, go back to the web site, and it does not recognize my username and password. So I start over from scratch, retyping EVERYTHING (see (A) and (B)) and get to the PIN box--and it still doesn't work! So I follow the instructions about determining whether the correct version of Java is installed, and, guess what, the instructions don't work. So I figure out that, ah ha, Java is NOT installed at all (not simply the wrong version) on the Windows machine with Explorer, so I have to get to the right page to download and install the right version of Java (and the process for getting there isn't entirely clear), and then I have to restart Explorer.

Which I do, go to the web site, and it STILL doesn't recognize my username and password! So I have to repeat EVERYTHING in (A) and (B) and finally get to the PIN window, and, wow, it works.

So, now, between trying to follow unclear, incorrect, and incomplete instructions, having to repeat typing things I've already typed multiple times, trying to figure out what the right thing is to do, getting to a computer that will allow me to do what I need to do, calling support and going through various phone trees and filing a voice complaint about what a mess this is, downloading and installing software that I was doing fine without on every web site I've visited in the last year or so including many online purchases and online banking, FINALLY NOW I can save 45 cents each time I buy gas at Arco. Which is about 30 times a year.

Given the number of what could have been billable hours but weren't because I've spent getting it all this done (and now typing this note), I figure I'll have to use the card for about 15 years to break even.

I love saving money.

1 comment:

  1. "Service" -- the alternative definition... like what you have done with your dog or cow.