The Glitch of the Week

A close up shot of a computer keyboardIs it just me or have some eCommerce systems suddenly gone glitchy?

Just as I started settling into retirement, enjoying more free time to relax and to enjoy life, I regret that some of that reclaimed time is getting gobbled up, cleaning up after glitchy systems.

It seems that at least every week or two, I am on the phone (or communicating via chat-boxes) with different companies about system issues.

For example, I had an order cancelled without notification to me (and I was still waiting for it, weeks later). I had an order shipped to a nearby store location, but no notification that it had arrived (and was soon to be shipped back). I had several orders marked “undeliverable” when a given company had delivered parcels to our house countless times before.

Of course, none of these situations were catastrophic by any stretch of the imagination. There are far more serious problems in the world, and I do try to maintain a level-headed perspective in light of these situations.

I completely understand that mishaps happen and I am always willing to offer the benefit of the doubt. But when there seems to be surprising regularity to these mishaps, not isolated to a single company, it does make one wonder what is going on in the world of system development.

Have systems been ramped up too quickly to handle the onslaught on online shopping during the pandemic?

Are systems properly designed for every eventuality?

Are companies testing their systems thoroughly to ensure these eventualities are handled properly?

Is the labour shortage (that seems to be impacting so many companies, given the help wanted signs everywhere) impacting the processes of requirements gathering, design, development, testing or implementation of system enhancements?

If you haven’t guessed, yes, over the span of my career I have worked in systems development. That being the case, when I see gaps in system logic that could (or should) have been avoided, an inner urge to fix it takes over me.

But truly, it’s about efficiency, and the point of eCommerce systems in the first place. Had the system logic addressed these scenarios, I wouldn’t have needed to call and waste a client service agent’s time (as well as my own) in dealing with a negative outcome.

However, when I do have to get on the phone or a chat box to explain a problem, I know well enough to compartmentalize my frustration. The person I am speaking with was not likely involved with the system development nor the testing process.

There is no point to spewing vulgarities when their job is reserved to fixing a transaction, not revamping their entire eCommerce system. I’d rather use humour to keep the mood light, and arrive at an amicable resolution. Then I usually wrap up with a question like, “shouldn’t the system have caught that/dealt with that?” and get their impressions on a human level, not a systems level.

I hope that if the call or chat is “recorded for quality assurance” as we are often told, the point I presented does make it back to someone who can influence a resolution for a positive outcome.

Just the same, the more I hear about Artificial Intelligence (AI), the more I wonder whether the systems world is really there yet.

If a system isn’t smart enough to send me an email or text to say an order has been cancelled, are we really ready for driverless cars?

If auto-correct keeps me “in the loo” rather than “in the loop”, I’d hold off on AI.

On the topic of cars, in June 2019, I wrote a blog post about how my new car was making me jumpy. With a myriad of new sensors and warning lights, the car was scaring the crap out of me with a new warning at least once per month. After pulling over, I would refer to the user manual to interpret the warning. It was a good learning opportunity in the interpretation of car messages… I can speak pretty fluent Mazda now!

The car seems to have settled down, given that it is not beeping at me as much. There are still minor situations that trigger the oh-so-sensitive sensors. I suppose I should be grateful, as it offers faith and trust that the car would beep at me in light of more serious situations.

I cannot let this post pass without mentioning the boundless joy I feel when a company’s system surprises me in how good it is. In particular, I love the Canadian Tire and Indigo eCommerce sites. For me, their sites have consistently knocked my socks off, keeping me informed every step of the way, over the course of a wide range of transactions. Their systems seem to have every situation I have encountered (and even some I couldn’t have imagined) handled in their system logic.

Ironic as it sounds, I have had the pleasure of never having to speak to one of their representatives about an order.

But if I did, I have all the confidence in the world that a situation would be handled expertly, saving me time, energy (and sometimes, precious gasoline) which was the point of ordering online in the first place.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,

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