The psychic burden of online registration

Verizon just sent me the following email:

Your request to be removed from the Online Billing program has been received and accepted. Thank you for your participation.  Please do not reply to this Email.  Should you have questions, please contact us at http://www.verizon.com/contactus.Please do not reply to this Email.  For questions or comments, please contact us at http://www.verizon.com/contactus.

I have multiple accounts with Verizon. A couple of years ago, I took advantage of the option to stop receiving paper bills, and instead receive them electronically in my online banking system where I pay them. Now, for no apparent reason, online bill presentment has been canceled for one or more of those accounts. But I never requested to be removed from the Online Billing program!

The headers on the email message convince me that it is genuinely from Verizon, despite its repetitition and the oddly constructed link. There’s no whiff of phishing here, and I’m not being asked to do anything, it’s just a misguided notification.

My options were:

  1. Debug whatever went wrong with my current online bill presentment.
  2. Sign up for Verizon’s own online bill payment service.
  3. Begin receiving paper bills again.

It is a sad commentary that, after contemplating the amount of my time and effort required for each of these options, I chose #3.

Is it just me, or is the psychic burden of online registration reaching epic proportions?

14 Comments

  1. I don’t know if Yodlee is the back-end of whatever online banking system you use, but I know they occasionally have problems with bill reminders and bills not showing up. However, they’ll automatically recognize it if you sign up for verizon’s bill pay service(as long as it isn’t Checkfree or some third-party deal) and continue working just as before.

  2. When opening a bank account in the UK the bank demands two utility bills (paper), or a bank statement from another bank (paper)…….two months after joing and opening said bank, branch is sending me letters trying to get me to go paperless!

    Good for the goose etc….

  3. What’s wrong with paper and snail mail? Who is the great fairy in the sky who said the rule ever since Netscape’s IPO in the 1990s is: “thou must never use paper or postal mail ever again”? Why is it that so many human beings tend to feel as if they have to be in one camp or the other? Either you’re with us (paperless digital world) or you’re against us? What’s wrong with spectrum (e.g., both or multiple uses) instead of either / or? Ever hear of the term “horses for courses”?

  4. “What’s wrong with spectrum (e.g., both or multiple uses) instead of either / or?”

    In general I’d rather go paperless, especially for things like bills, but you’re right, we’re in a long transition during which paper and electronic bills will coexist and there’s no sense railing against that.

    My point here was that, having gone to the (considerable) effort to sign up for online bill presentment, and then having the option yanked, it was sad that redoing that process seemed so cumbersome that I thought, screw it, just go back to sending paper, even though it’s more expensive for you and less convenient for me.

    It’s the friction of supposedly frictionless online transactions that’s wearing me down.

  5. “It’s the friction of supposedly frictionless online transactions that’s wearing me down.” – exactly!

    Why not put your virtual assistant on the case? :)

    Seriously, given the number of SFH (Systems from Hell) the average online person has to deal with, and that “online person” no longer means programmer/alpha geek but soccer/security mom, I think solving issues like this is a huge growing market for micro companies.

    Soon perhaps you’ll be able to say, “I’ll have my call center call your call center and work this all out.”

  6. I think calling this a burden of online registration is misdirecting the blame.

    The blame isn’t online registration, it’s willful disrespect of the time and money of customers, citizens, unwashed masses, peons.. (take your pick) by corporations that are so big now that they don’t have to give a damn, and that systematically destroy the ability of their customers and their employees to fix any train wrecks that arise. They’re turning every cost they possibly can into an externality and bearing none of the cost of their negligence.

    I work in a massive bureaucratic entity and we have a small army of people whose FULL TIME JOB is to fight with our telecom providers. Yes, fight. Daily. Who aside from megacorps and governments can afford such flagrant waste and inexcusable misallocation of resources?

    Well… now with virtual assistants, more and more small businesses will be able to feed overseas parasites to do battle with onshore parasites on their behalf.

    To me, that is a sign of a failed system.

    Basically, the myth of frictionless transactions is yet another fairy tale from the dotcom era. The business interests of all these corporations are diametrically opposed to frictionless transactions: they want as much friction as possible to make the cost of doing anything (and especially leaving them) so high that most people will just give up. After all, isn’t that in large part what DRM is about? Why should we be surprised that the same mentality pervades all business operations?

  7. “They’re turning every cost they possibly can into an externality and bearing none of the cost of their negligence.”

    In this case I can’t agree. They /are/ bearing the cost. It is cheaper for them to transact with me electronically. And I was already in that camp, having overcome significant hurdles to get there. Then they accidentally kicked me out, and I’m not inclined to leap over those hurdles again. So their loss, they have to print and mail bills at more expense to themselves.

    The real point of all this, of course, is that with a proper identity metasystem in place, and with the ability for me to selectively release information about myself to a new transaction partner with a click, the psychic burden of online registration will be greatly diminished and things will be more frictionless.

    We have been waiting a long time for that, and we are waiting still, but we will not wait forever. The problem will be — is being — solved. But indignities like these remind me how bloody sick I am of waiting.

  8. “I think solving issues like this is a huge growing market for micro companies.”

    No kidding. The personal digital assistant that people want and need isn’t a gadget in your pocket, it’s a smart human agent who can — in Gibsonian terms — crack the corporate ice and negotiate with those systems on your behalf.

  9. Unfortunately, the “burden of online registration” is extending well beyond “services” offered by “service providers” to the retail segment of the web. Some sites (like the “coffeeidiot” … name morphed to protect the guilty) won’t even take orders unless one “registers” and in fact reject / cancel orders by those who protest. Never mind the security implications of having one’s name, address, phone number, and Email spread around hundreds or thousands of (often ill-secured) servers requiring “registration” for any type of use (your own-cut registration “bait” used for phishing scams back at you); there is also sometimes a sudden and unexpected inundation of your Email and even snailmail boxes when some “entremanures” sell that information to others … though they ostensibly REQUIRE your registration in order to “offer you better customer service” (AND send you marketing blurbs of their own). This is not to mention the hassle of one coming up with and remembering all those different userids and passwords (or using the same one(s) over and over again and being less “secure”).

    And don’t forget one benefit of snailmail – the postal fraud and theft / tampering statues are still more of a deterrent and easier to invoke when the “bad guys” come at you through that channel.

  10. “extending well beyond “services” offered by “service providers” to the retail segment of the web”

    I consider those to be services too.

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