We’re supposed to be in the digital age where information travels at the speed of thought and all the hassles of bill-paying and banking transactions have been done away with etc etc, I’m sure it’s all written down in a brochure somewhere. I’ve always had my doubts about these claims, but today I decided to put them to the test. Join the information age. Ditch my outdated analog habits. Whatever.
For years I’ve paid my utilities bills through an ATM account. But what if it could get even easier? What if I could pay my bills without leaving the house? So I enrolled in the online banking service. Everything was fine until I tried to register my utilities accounts. Every time I hit ‘send’, I would get an error message. So I called the bank’s call center to find out what was wrong.
Ever called a call center? Suddenly you understand Waiting For Godot. After several minutes of listening to promos, muzak, and assurances that someone would attend to me shortly, I decided to spare myself the headache. Instead, I would pass on the headache to someone who was actually paid to endure it. I popped over to the bank (it’s close by) and explained the problem in detail to the very nice staff. She said only the call center could deal with the problem, but she would contact them herself.
Amazingly she not only called me back, but she had an answer: my browser was Mozilla Firefox, and I had to use Internet Explorer to access the site. Then she said I had to call the call center. Yaargh. So I went to the nearest internet cafe to see if using Explorer would solve everything, but the cafe’s connection was excruciatingly slow and I have a short fuse. (Turns out the browser was not the problem, but I won’t bore you with the stupid details.)
After an ice-cold drink, I figured I’d try sending money using my cellphone. Texting money, what a great idea. You register by text, you hand over your money to the agent, they text the recipient, the recipient gets the money from the agent nearest to them. Telecommunications rules. Turns out that there is paperwork. You register by text, but then you still have to fill out a form and present ID. The recipient also has to register, and when they get the text they have to fill out another form to get the cash. I thought the digital economy was supposed to cut down on paper usage, and now I find trees still have to die even if you are sending money by text.
So much for the information age. Maybe it’s happening elsewhere, but not here. Because we don’t exist. We’re not real. We’re in the Matrix, where you could enroll in a credit card company’s bill payment facility and then discover that you’ve been paying the electricity and water bills of some person you’ve never met. (Maybe she took all the money she’d saved and used it to buy the entire line of Secosana bags. Long story.)