I just got a salutary lesson in the benefits of electronic commerce. I had gone on the Web to search for discount airline tickets, and got a good price from clubtripmakers.com, based in Los Angeles. My mistake was in not purchasing the tickets on the Web: Luddite that I am, I felt safer calling them.
First they got the name on the ticket wrong, and sent it to the wrong address.
They then tried to tell me I had given them the wrong information. I may be absent-minded, but I think I know my name and where I live. This was followed by several assurances that they had sorted things out, when, in fact, they had not.
Of course, none of this would have happened if I had sent them an electronic copy of my details over the Web.
Just give me some support. If you ask me, clubtripmakers.com needs a fast lesson in customer service. But if they take my advice, I hope they go somewhere other than to Siebel. A few weeks ago, I reported how Siebel had given its customer list away by making all the e-mail addresses visible in the "To" field of a mass mailing. Now I've heard about another snafu.
The reader had registered with the Siebel SupportWeb site, but immediately after she received her ID and password via e-mail - and before she had even been to the site - she got an e-mail from Siebel's technical support saying, "I wanted to inform you that if it is found that you are abusing the given account, or not providing postings of a Siebel-trained calibre, Technical Support reserves the right to revoke the read/write account, pending notification to the Technical Account Manager."
If you ask me, the more traditional "Welcome to our site and thanks for registering" would be a better angle.
Technical support is also causing headaches for a reader who has been dealing with IBM. The reader wrote in to agree with what I'd heard about IBM's Payment Server - that it is "a complete joke" - but this is nothing compared with IBM's technical support.
Apparently, the support person in question failed to understand that Unix does not have a C drive and did not understand how to remotely debug a GUI application running on AIX using X Windows. Instead, she argued about what he was seeing on screen.
The final insult came, after two weeks of calls to technical support, when the reader was told, "Oh! I understand the problem now: you've been sent the old manual."
Hurricane Ellison. Finally, SAP's recent SAPphire user group in Philadelphia got soaked out by Hurricane Floyd, and a gala reception in the courtyard of the Philadelphia Museum of Art turned into a mud-fest. No doubt Larry Ellison will take credit for that, as he surely will for turning the brunt of the storm away from Orlando, where his own Oracle Applications User Group opens this week.
The upshot of my dealings with clubtripmakers.com is that I have to pick up my ticket at the airport when I arrive for the flight. If you turn to this page next week and there's a big, empty hole, you'll know things didn't go according to plan.
Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld.