Adopting a Luddite view of life is an extreme measure. But once you sit back in your office chair and ruminate on the uncomfortable fact that technology has our collective balls crushed within its unwavering, beartrap grasp, you realize that the Luddites may have something of a point. Technology has helped humanity in an illimitable number of ways, but it is slowly taking over, getting more intelligent, seeping into every portion of our lives, and we permit technology to do so. This writing, while not quite the mad dribblings of a hard-edged Luddite, still stands as a warning: Watch out for that technology. It’ll get ya.
Now you may be thinking to yourself that technology’s role has not yet reached the point of grave concern for society, but consider this story from Oregon about a Verizon automated voice system that attempted to swindle a couple out of a cool $2.1 million.
Fox 12 reports that Ken Slusher and his girlfriend signed up with Verizon last November when, upon receiving their first bill, Slusher noticed a mistake. After a month, the couple held a bill asking for $698, with a previous balance of $451. The bill they got after that bill asked for $9.
In December, the couple canceled the service and returned the phones in January, but like the Terminator, the bills just wouldn’t stop. The couple conducted battles on several different fronts. On one hand, they kept collection agencies at bay who were demanding as much as $2,000, while Slusher bickered back-and-forth with Verizon customer service for months who admitted that there was a mistake in the system.
Then, this past Monday, Slusher called the Verizon automated system to see his balance for the month. Taking a page out of the Martin Shkreli playbook of price gouging, the automated voice service informed Slusher that he owed $2,156,593.64. More disconcerting was that Slusher and his girlfriend were planning on buying a house, which might have been problematic with an outstanding bill of $2 million.
Eventually, a Verizon spokesperson apologized for the automated service snafu. “We have apologized to an Oregon customer for a programming error in an automated voice response system,” yawned the spokesperson. “The error caused him to receive an incorrect voice message that he owed $2 million on his bill. We have corrected the error and have resolved the issue to his satisfaction.”
The spokesperson even owned up to the ridiculous customer service that the couple experienced. “We had several opportunities to resolve this issue and failed to do so. It would be a gross understatement to say this is a learning opportunity, but I’ll say it anyway. We’re looking very carefully at what happened and why so we can make changes and do better next time.”
“Programming error”? Or the beginnings of the rise of the machines? Probably a programming error. But it might be shrewd to dig that Neo-Luddism pamphlet out of the trash.