The Hunting of the Snark


Why on earth would anyone want 6 1/2 movies?

The face of a boy with glasses and a scar on his forehead, rolling his eyes

ComPLETEly ridiculous

As the Harry Potter film franchise fires its final, phenomenal, fantastical shot, I am horrified at the new marketing depths I have just seen Warner Bros. stoop to.

In the supermarket, there is a DVD boxed set for sale of Harry Potter Years 1-7, Part 1.

Are you kidding me? It was bad enough that they produced boxed sets of every sub-series up to that point, although I would have supposed they were hoping they could trick people who weren’t familiar with the books into thinking, ‘Hmm… I’ll get films 1-6 now, then 7-12 when they release those,’ and so on. (Poor Daniel, Rupert and Emma.)

But just exactly how stupid do they think people are? If anyone is enough of a completionist to want a boxed set of the entire series, why, oh why, oh why would they get this product, only to have to get Part 2 all by its lonely self?

– The Snark



Another way to re-define ‘free’

Since our family live in the US, my wife and I decided to get a broadband package from Orange that includes calls at no additional charge to some popular overseas destinations. And for calling our parents, it works great.

But get this. You know ‘toll-free’ numbers in America—the equivalent of freephone in the UK? When I call one of those, I hear a recording, ‘The toll-free number you have dialled is not toll-free if called from outside the United States. You will be charged at international direct-dial rates. If you do not wish to be charged, please hang up now.’

And it’s true. With this package I’m on:

  1. American toll-free numbers are charged.
  2. American toll numbers are free. Relatively.

It’s only a few pence per minute, and I don’t need to call often, but what gives?

The other thing is that quite a few American companies exclusively use toll-free numbers, perhaps (one might charitably think) out of genuine courtesy to their customers. Their customers resident in America, at any rate.

So I think I’m stuck with this bizarre and mildly obnoxious irony until Orange realises they’re being numpties about it.

– The Snark


America is the only country in the world

Some companies sure act that way, anyway.

And so, I present the reigning winner of the award for US Company Most Wretched at Doing International Business (with me):


Yes, the gigantic maker of TurboTax have made gigantic fools of themselves and demonstrated a degree of provincial navel-gazing that Capital One does not begin to rival.

I have been using their Quicken household finance software since arriving in the UK and decided to upgrade from version 2007 to 2010 recently, partly because three years seems like it might be enough time to have added some decent new features, partly because a message kept popping up threatening to withdraw various old features and technical support. (A victory for customer relations straightaway, there.)

So. Here is the chain of events that transpired:

  1. I went to Quicken’s website to purchase a download copy.
  2. Since my address was an older UK one and a bit dodgy besides (I had once called my city ‘NOT NY 14— USA’), I decided to update it.
  3. There was a box for ‘country’, but the only options were the US and Canada. This explained my previous remedy. (Incidentally, the treatment of Canada as the 51st state is another common ailment among companies like this.)
  4. I dug and found a link for what to do if ordering from another country, which gave me a landline number.
  5. Upon calling that number, a recording told me that it had been discontinued and gave me a toll-free number.
  6. Upon calling that number, a recording told me that all sales were now handled through a callback feature of their website.
  7. The recording read the URL very quickly. Once.
  8. Upon calling the toll-free number another two times, I was able to use the ‘just press zero’ routine to speak to a real person.
  9. She happened to be in the sales department for QuickBooks (anyone even know what that program does?) and could not answer any of my questions. At last she consulted her supervisor and referred me to the online chat feature.
  10. I hung up and laughed hysterically.
  11. The idea for this blog was born.
  12. I initiated a chat session to ask how I should go about placing my order.
  13. The chat session contained gems such as, ‘If you place a call back request, you need to enter your actual phone number in Description filed and for the phone number field you need to enter 222-222-2222’.
  14. The chat representative, P, was positive that I would need to order by phone.
  15. I asked P whether I would be subject to the $24.95 callback fee. She told me I wouldn’t, since the request was for placing an order.
  16. Quicken’s phone callback page is Coincidentally, this is the same place I was sent for the chat session. It’s called ‘Quicken Support Contact’, but evidently it handles sales, as well. Not that you would guess from looking at it.
  17. I placed a callback request, carefully pointing out the time difference, and hold my breath.
  18. The callback came through a short time later and I explained that I was trying to get a copy of Quicken in the UK.
  19. M told me he was only able to sell me the software on CD, not as a download.
  20. He told me the shipping charge for this CD was $55.00.
  21. I pointed out to M that the ordinary price of the software was $59.99 and that I had been offered a promotional rate of $39.99 plus a bonus title, and there was no way I would ever agree to pay that kind of shipping.
  22. At last he consulted his supervisor and gave me two options for purchasing Quicken via download.
  23. The first option was to use an American credit card if I had one that was billed to an American address.
  24. The second option was to get a friend in America to set up an account, order the product and give me his/her account details.
  25. I hung up and gritted my teeth.
  26. The second option sounded unwise, but I finally concluded it was really the only thing to be done.
  27. I recruited my mother to make the purchase on my behalf.
  28. She had no trouble with the transaction.
  29. I had no trouble with the download.

Thus, finally, I have the thing, and there are a few new features that will probably be handy.

Best of all, I can rest assured that if I need technical assistance, as an ongoing customer I am entitled to go through this whole mess again.

– The Snark

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