When I was a teenager in the 1960s, like most young men, I spent a lot of time working on my first car, a fixer-upper. I mail-ordered parts from JC Whitney, that Chicago retailer of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories with the big catalogue. At one point, I ran into trouble communicating exactly what I needed, and that resulted in a fruitless exchange of several letters with customer service representative “D Jones.” I would have phoned, but there was no phone number in the catalogue—and back in the days before the internet, no easy way to find one.
I happened to be going to Chicago, so before leaving East Texas, I threw all the correspondence in my suitcase. Then, a few days later in front of the Conrad Hilton, I boarded a cab and asked to be taken to the address I had been mailing to, 1917 Archer Avenue. I swear the cab driver snickered, and that should have been my first warning. I was dropped off in a dingy industrial district on the south side of Chicago in front of a blank wall. There was no such address as 1917 Archer. Around the corner, in the same building, was an auto parts store named Warshawsky. But they brusquely feigned ignorance about the address that was a blank wall or where “D Jones” was. Basically, they told me to get lost.
I ended up at a nearby hamburger joint, where the waiter gave me the skinny. The mailing address on those auto-parts catalogues was a phoney, but the company seemed to have an agreement with the postal service to deliver mail to another address unknown to customers. And about “D Jones”? The waiter asked if I had not noticed that each of the signatures was in different handwriting. “There’s no such person. Everyone who works there signs their name “D Jones,” the waiter said.
Now, as then, some companies choose to minimize their expenses associated with providing customer service by making it impossible to reach them. That is a business decision, plain and simple, and never more evident than when dealing with advertising-focused services that offer free email, like Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo.
Recently, a new problem has emerged when people who forget their email password go hunting for a phone number to request their password. None of those companies provide telephone support for free accounts, so if you go looking for that phone number, you will never find a real one. You may, however, find a phone number listed on what seems like a legitimate Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo site, but all of them are fake. Some of these crooks have succeeded in bilking hapless callers out of hundreds of dollars. Others are not criminals, but neither are they able to help callers do anything more than what the callers could not have done for themselves and for free. Caveat emptor!
So remember your passwords! If you lose your Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo password, there is no phone number you can call to get it back!
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. Contact him at 415 101 8528 or FAQ8@SMAguru.com