Ask not for whom the phone ticks up charges

Ask not for whom the phone ticks up charges

A few weeks ago ARN published a games feature. Prior to that, that feature's author, Fiona Carroll, was handing out software for us to look at - on an academic level, of course. I tried to load one but the installation failed, saying something about an incorrect version of Windows.

After the third attempt I looked for the magic phone number that would get me technical support. All I could find was a 1900 number so I called that. A recorded message told me I would be charged $2 a minute for the call, then listed the sorts of services I would get for my money, including recorded hints and cheats for games.

I eventually chose the selection that should have taken me through to a support person. It rang and rang and rang, then returned me to the main menu. I made my selection again, and it rang and rang and rang and returned me to the main menu. After a third attempt I gave in, and looked up the distributor in the phone book.

A helpful receptionist explained that she couldn't put me through to anyone who could help with an installation problem - the only way to get that was to dial the 1900 number.

Oh, and she explained that the brand-new package I'd just opened contained an out-of-date 1900 number, so she gave me the new one and sent me packing.

I dialled the new number. It sounded very similar, but this time the voice informed me I'd be charged $3 a minute!!! I went through the rigmarole again, and on the second time of failing to get a person to answer the phone, I gave up and rang the switchboard again.

Paying for vendors' problems

Using my biggest, most insistent voice, I explained that I had an installation problem, and that I shouldn't have to pay for that, and that, anyway, the toll-support line wasn't answering. Reluctantly, I was put through to someone who introduced himself as the IT manager for the company. It seems he fields the insistent calls, although his job is to keep the company's network running, not talk to customers.

Luckily, he was friendly and capable. He explained that the version of the game sold in Australia would only run outside the US, and our test PC was probably a clone where the Windows 95 settings were still the factory default, so the PC thought we were in the US. A few minutes later I'd adjusted the regional settings and successfully installed the game.

He told me this problem is unbelievably common, and he's often asked why a warning note isn't included in the package. I'd like to know why, as well. I'd hate to think the distributor was trying to milk customers out of a few extra dollars.

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