Monday, February 29, 2016

PayPal Customer Support: "Sucks" doesn't begin to describe it.

Every month I get an Email from PayPal letting me know I can download a new monthly statement. A few months ago they went live with a new web interface.  I couldn't find my statements so I had to go back to "The Classic Interface."

Finally, I got tired of it and asked for help.

The stock answer sent in reply gives directions that do not match what is on display in the current interface.

The case has been in the hands of seven different people, only one of whom (Ailene) actually seemed to have read what I had said and responded to it.  Further attempts on my part to confirm that the wrong answer will be corrected in documentation and training elicit further DIFFERENT wrong answers to the question I answered myself on 25 February.

Unfortunately, my original question is lost.  Apparently when PayPal replies with a stock answer they throw away the original question and you have to reply to their thread and repeat the original text.

I include below the sequence of communications, with excerpts from the replies sent by PayPal:

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On Feb 15, 2016, at 2:41 PM, <webform@paypal.com> <webform@paypal.com> wrote:

Hello William Cattey,

Thanks for your e-mail. Based on your selection, we are sending you some details about PayPal account statements, user agreement, and terms and conditions. If you require additional information, please reply to this message or contact us at 1-888-221-1161, Mon-Fri 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM PT and Sat-Sun 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM PT.




A. How do I view my account history and statements? 
Your Account Statements provide a list of your last month's PayPal transaction activity. The Statement will be posted to your PayPal account on a monthly basis. You can access it by clicking "Statements" at the top of your Account Overview page whenever you were logged in.

Please keep in mind that we don't mail Account Statements and they are only available for the last 3 months, so you may want to print or download your statements for your records.

Your History Log records all of your PayPal transactions. You may search your History Log with the Basic Search or Advanced Search.

Basic Search  allows you to search for certain transaction dates or types.
Advanced Search  allows you to search by Email, PayPal Transaction ID, First and Last Name, Receipt ID, or Auction Number. Seaching with your buyer's Transaction ID allows you to locate payments from buyers more effeciently. Subscription ID and Mass Payments can be located with either search option.

To search your History Log, follow these steps:
  1. Log in to your PayPal account.
  2. Click Statements and select Activity Report.
  3. Click Advanced Search to use the advanced search feature.
  4. Enter search information and select Date Range.
  5. Click Submit to view.
If the transaction shows "Completed", the funds were successfully sent from your Paypal account into the recipient's PayPal account.
If the transaction shos "Unclaimed", the funds were not sent successfully. Check the recipient's email address to ensure the payment was sent to the correct email address.

To view a complete list of all of your PayPal transactions, download your History Log.

B. How do I view and accept our Electronic Communications Delivery Policy? 
We ask you to view and accept the terms of our Electronic Communications so that we can continue providing you information about your account electronically. This account information includes legal agreements and policies, annual disclosures, transaction receipts, account statements, and other information related to your account.

If you have additional questions about this policy, or would like to learn how to request a paper copy of a communication we have sent you, please click "Legal" at the bottom of any PayPal page and then click "Electronic Communications Delivery Policy (E-Sign Disclosure and Consent)."

C. How do I view PayPal's Terms and Conditions?
PayPal's Terms and Conditions are subject to change. Any changes to our Terms and Conditions will be updated in our User Agreement. To view the PayPal User Agreement, click "Legal" at the bottom of any PayPal webpage, and then click "PayPal User Agreement".

Thanks, 
PayPal


Copyright © 1999-2016 PayPal. All rights reserved.

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Sent: Monday, February 15, 2016 8:25:02 PM (-07:00)

To: webform@paypal.com
Subject: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS (KMM191249498V65297L0KM) :ppNA

The information provided by this boilerplate reply is WRONG!
THERE IS NO "Statements" link at the top of the page.
There is no page labeled "Account Overview" in the non-classic design.
So if you are going to presume to offer help, then accurate help must be delivered.
As a user and a PayPal stockholder I am extremely disappointed.
Please escalate this ticket to someone who will ACTUALLY READ IT and ACTUALLY GET SOME ACTION TO CORRECT basic failure in both the interface and the documentation!
-William Cattey

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Feb 16

PayPal Customer Support
RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA
Dear William Cattey,

I can feel your frustration and I sincerely apologize that the new PayPal interface is difficult to use when it comes to accessing your monthly statement.

At this time, this is the only way that you can access it since the new interface is not yet fully functional. Not all features are easily available in the new interface.

I appreciate your patience and understanding. 

Sincerely,

Lois
PayPal Consumer Support 

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Sent: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 2:39:54 AM (-07:00)

To: stkana4-NorthAmerica@smc.paypal.com
Subject: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA (KMM191337918V25365L0KM)

[From] William Cattey:

Thank you for the reply.
Was there something I clicked on to make this incomplete new interface the default?
How do I undo that?

If someone at PayPal made the decision to make this incomplete interface the default, it is harming the experience, harming the brand and harming the bottom line. Again, I say this both as a user and a stock holder.

-William Cattey

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Feb 24

PayPal Customer Support
RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA
Dear William Cattey,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide assistance to you today.

We apologize any inconvenience you may have encountered concerning the new website.

Please understand that we have developed these features on the website to provide you with all the information you need to know about your account.

We appreciate you taking the time to try out the new website though. We're continually working on improvements to help you manage your PayPal account better so if you change your account back to the classic view you will still have the option to change again to the new website. You can only switch your account back to the Classic view if you had previously been using the Classic website.

We appreciate your feedback as well as your patience regarding this matter.

Thank you for being part of the PayPal community.

Sincerely,
Jean
PayPal

Copyright © 1999-2016 PayPal. All rights reserved

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Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2016 3:43:20 AM (-07:00)

To: stkana4-NorthAmerica@smc.paypal.com
Subject: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA (KMM192404879V52826L0KM)

[From] William Cattey:

Jean,

Your reply was EXTREMELY UNHELPFUL.

I have been a PayPal customer since LONG before the new site came online.
WHAT DO I CLICK ON TO GET THE CLASSIC SITE BY DEFAULT????

Your apology feels like a lot of words someone told you to say to pretend all was well when a BAD AND INCOMPLETE interface was imposed. It did not make me feel better. It made me feel WORSE! It made me feel like I was not listened to.

THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT MY INCONVENIENCE!
IT IS ABOUT A BAD DECISION TO GO LIVE WITH BAD SOFTWARE.

MY INVESTMENT IN PAY PAL STOCK IS HARMED BY THIS BAD DECISION.

MY TRUST IN PAY PAL HAS BEEN HARMED BY HOW TONE DEAF A REPLY I JUST GOT.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS TICKET TO SOMEONE WHO CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE PROBLEM, AND STOP SENDING MEANINGLESS APOLOGIES!

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Feb25

PayPal Customer Support
RE: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA

Dear William Cattey,

My name is Charlene from PayPal Consumer Support. I apologize for the inconvenience that this may caused you. Let me assist you.

William, we have updated the Monthly Sales Report to provide you with the information you need to review your monthly sales, refunds, and other debits and credits.

The Monthly Sales Report provides a quick overview of your daily sales for a selected month or 31 day custom date range. For each day, you will see the totals for payments received, amount received, payment fees, refunds sent, amount refunded, refunded fees, payments sent, amount sent, other debits, other credits, and net amount. Additionally, the beginning and ending amounts for your overall balance, reserve balance, and available balance will be displayed.

To access your monthly sales reports:

Log in to your PayPal account.
Click Activity near the top of the page.
Click Statements and then Reporting center.
Click Monthly sales report.
Select the desired month or date range (the maximum date range is 31 days).
Click View Report.

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Sent: Friday, February 26, 2016 2:23:15 AM (-07:00)

To: stkana4-NorthAmerica@smc.paypal.com
Subject: RE: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA (KMM192566277V52244L0KM)

[From] William Cattey:

Charlene,

Your answer was not correct and did not answer my question.
But NONE of the others who responded to my inquiry did.

However, from your answer I was able to find, for myself, the
answer to the question I originally asked.

My original Question was:

"How do I view my monthly statements in the new interface?"

The correct answer is below.

The original reply with instructions contained WRONG DATA, relevant to the OLD interface.

Lois's reply said the feature was not present.

Jean's reply apologized for my being the victim of a forced march.

Your reply sent me to DIFFERENT functionality than what I asked about.

Give me ONE reason why I should not paste all of this into a Blog posting announced on Facebook with the title, "PayPal customer support sucks!"

Correct Answer:

1. Log in to your PayPal account.
2. Click Activity near the top of the page.
3. At the far right of the page is a pull down labeled, "Statements"
4. Selecting "Account Statements (PDF)" will bring you to the same list of monthly statements that you found in the Classic interface.

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Feb 26

PayPal Customer Support
RE: RE: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA
Dear William Cattey,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your inquiry. I am happy to assist you further.

I apologize for any inadequacy or inconsistency of service you've received to date.

I will use your email as a form of feedback so that the representatives will be coached.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Have a wonderful day!

Thank you for being part of the PayPal community.

Sincerely,
Alaine 
PayPal Customer Solutions
PayPal

Copyright © 1999-2016 PayPal. All rights reserved.

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Sent: Saturday, February 27, 2016 3:24:32 AM (-07:00)


To: stkana4-NorthAmerica@smc.paypal.com
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA (KMM192698203V42231L0KM)

[From] William Cattey:

Thank you. That is the outcome I hoped for in my previous reply.

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Feb 27

PayPal Customer Support
RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA
Dear William Cattey,

You are welcome. We are always happy to hear from our PayPal members. We at PayPal take pride in our service, and it's a pleasure for us to know that you're a satisfied PayPal customer and that your issue has been resolved. We hope you'll tell your friends about our service.

Thank you for being part of the PayPal community.

Sincerely,
Froilan

PayPal Customer Solutions
PayPal

Copyright © 1999-2016 PayPal. All rights reserved.

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Sent: Sunday, February 28, 2016 3:43:57 AM (-07:00)

To: stkana4-NorthAmerica@smc.paypal.com
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA (KMM192785942V30228L0KM)

[From] William Cattey:

Actually there is one more VERY important thing that is needed:

If you look back in this email thread, you will see that the documentation given that is supposed to tell people how to access the statements page is for the old interface and is TOTALLY wrong. This most basic initial outreach must be fixed IMMEDIATELY! Can you see to that?

Also, it would NOT be accurate to call me a "satisfied PayPal customer."
Customer support pretty much TOTALLY failed me MULTIPLE times on a
simple "How do I find this feature on the web site." I am still planning to blog about this failure.

--------

Feb 28


PayPal Customer Support
RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA
Dear William Cattey,

Thank you for contacting PayPal Customer Support. My name is Gerard and I am happy to assist you.

I understand that you are trying to download the monthly statement on your account. I apologize for what happened. This is possible a browser issue, please be sure that you are using a updated browser. It may help to clear your cookies and cache according to the browser you are using.

Thank you for choosing PayPal.

Sincerely,
Gerard
PayPal Customer Solutions
PayPal

Copyright © 1999-2016 PayPal. All rights reserved.

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Sent: Monday, February 29, 2016 5:31:32 AM (-07:00)

To: stkana4-NorthAmerica@smc.paypal.com
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA (KMM192871229V18110L0KM)

[From] William Cattey:

Gerard,

Congratulations! You are the fourth PayPal support employee to pick up this ticket WHO FAILED TO READ AND UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS WRITTEN!

1. I have my answer.
2. The reply I got to my initial question means that the database of stock answers is WRONG. 
3. By offering me YET ANOTHER WRONG ANSWER BOTH TO MY ORIGINAL QUESTION AND TO THE MOST RECENT POINT I RAISED YOU HAVE FURTHER DAMAGED MY OPINION OF PayPal Customer Support.

I'm putting this whole thread up on my blog next week as a lesson to all support organizations and as a public shaming of PayPal.

--------

Feb 29

PayPal Customer Support
RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Re: Questions About User Agreements, Terms and Conditions VV44REXUS :ppNA
Dear William Cattey,

Thank you for your email regarding your account.

I apologize if the previous responses did not fully meet your needs and regret any inconvenience this may have caused.

I understand the urgency of this matter. Don't worry! I am here to help you.

I want to assure you that you can definitely download your monthly statement through the new interface.

PayPal's Monthly Financial Summary provides you with a monthly snapshot of your PayPal account activity. This report consolidates fees, payments, chargebacks, and refunds, detailing your account transactions from beginning to ending balance.

Here's how to view your monthly financial summary report:
Log in to your PayPal account.
Click on Activity.
Click on Statements on the right hand side of the page.
Click Monthly financial summary.
Enter the month or date range you want to view and click View Report.
Select what format you'd like to download your report in, and then click Download.
Note:
The statement defaults to your primary currency. If you wish, you can select to view the statement for a different currency.
For a list of descriptions for the different sections of the statement, click the Help with this page link in the upper right hand corner of the page.
You can download this report to as a PDF, Excel, CSV, or TAB file.
We appreciate your business and resolving your query is very important to me.

Thank you for choosing PayPal.

Sincerely,
Jessica
PayPal Consumer Support

--------

Your reply was sent 02/29/2016 22:39:35

[From] William Cattey:

WRONG!
YOU DIDNT READ THE REPLY EITHER!

I FOUND THE ANSWER ON MY OWN ON 25 FEBRUARY!

SINCE THEN I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO GET SOMEONE TO STOP GIVING WRONG ANSWERS AND FIX THE STOCK ANSWER AND THE TRAINING TO GIVE THE RIGHT ANSWER.

PayPal Support IS AN EMBARRASSMENT!
I AM PUBLICLY BLOGGING THIS EXCHANGE AT:

http://angrypoetnerd.blogspot.com/2016/02/paypal-customer-support-sucks-doesnt.html

READ THIS REPLY AND TELL ME:

WHO WILL FIX THE TRAINING AND THE STOCK ANSWER?

THE QUESTION AND CORRECT ANSWER FOLLOW:

Q:
How do I view my monthly statements in the new interface?

A:
1. Log in to your PayPal account.
2. Click "Activity" near the top of the page.
3. At the far right of the page is a pull down labeled, "Statements"
4. Selecting "Account Statements (PDF)" will bring you to the same list of monthly statements that you found in the Classic interface.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Eversource Website: Does everything except the ONE thing you need!

This will be short and not sweet.

What is the most common use you make of the customer support line and a vendor web site:

Well, #1 is to report an outage.  But the next most common one is to review your bill.

Check out the Eversource web site:  http://www.eversource.com

Tabs within tabs.

All kinds of buttons for products and services.

You can report an outage. (Indeed their outage map and their ability to report outages is pretty good. I've used it.)

You can pay your bill, but unless you are enrolled in E-Bills and DISCONTINUE receiving paper bills, you CANNOT see a copy of your bill on their web site.  The feature is simply not available.

When you log in, there is so much stuff on the page on offer that you could spend hours trying stuff out and trying to find the ability to see your current or recent bills. Nope.  Not available.

What WERE they thinking?

When I spoke with a telephone rep. to confirm this, she said that she hears this quite often.

I guess once you invest in the fancy web site that gets approved by the C-levels who have people pay their bills for them, there's no plan ever to learn from actual use of the site, and to incorporate the feedback that the web site is missing a basic feature.

I looked at the source code for their home page to see if there was a third party web site provider that I could shame here.  I saw mention of "Telerik.Web.UI".  Telerik is a web development platform.  So either Eversource in-house design got this, or the third party that produced the web site for them kept their identity a secret.

Be embarrassed Eversource.

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Ally Bank Bill Pay System:
A Problematic Service Now Made Even Worse

I've had a lot of problems with the Ally Bank bill pay system.

Since October 2014, I've been trying to set up automatic payment of only three household bills, Electric, Gas and Cable. It's still not working. Setup for each of the three vendors has been messed up in a unique way. I have twice gone to their highest level of support, "Executive Resolution," and the current issue is still unresolved.

In May of 2015 a name-change by my Electric company, NSTAR, broke auto pay through Ally Bank. I documented that situation at Eversource: Unintended Consequences of a Name Change. I had a great deal of difficulty getting the problem through to people at Ally who could fix it, and in coming to resolution to the problem. That difficulty of getting through continues to be an issue.

In August 2015, the Ally E-Bill system simply forgot the auto-pay I had set up for my cable bill. It took multiple phone calls to multiple supervisors to get someone to look into it and fix it. During one of my extended conversations, I learned that Ally was changing their back end bill pay provider in the fall. I was told I could expect much better service after the change.

It has been worse, much worse.  After six months of trying, failing, calling, and complaining, my electric bill is FINALLY auto-paying again.

More careful roll out of the new system, better implementation of the connections out from Ally Bank with actual error reporting, and real-time dry-run test capability would have enabled this problem to be resolved much sooner.

Additionally, Eversource seems to go out of its way to make everything as difficult as possible.  It appears that one cannot view one's bill through their web site UNLESS one is enrolled in e-billing.
Catch-22?

Overview:


In this article I detail how:

  • Documentation and training for the new version is still incomplete 5 months after go-live.
  • Migration of customers to the new version was problematic.
  • Basic customer workflow has annoying rough edges.
  • Previous useful functionality, including vendor verification and a calendar display of upcoming payments is gone.
  • Setup of autopay is the victim of idiosyncratic workflow.


The auto-pay of my Electric bill that required the first trip to Executive Resolution, has not worked since the cut-over to the new system. I persist in trying to get this working because I prefer my bank to originate the payment, and to specify a maximum amount to pay as protection against errors.

The interface to enable "automatically pay the amount due as long as it is less than a specified maximum" is not shown for this payee. Instead I see an interface appropriate to mortgage payoff, allowing me to set an amount to pay, the period to pay it, and the amount of the last payment.

Flawed Migration:


The problem starts with how Ally Bank decided to perform the migration of payees to the new system.

It could have been worse. I didn't have to re-create all the payees from scratch. Since Ally Bank is using the Checkfree/Fiserv back end, my considerable experience with Fidelity's use of Checkfree leads me to believe re-creating payees should be easy: Checkfree is able to use my address to fill in contact information on file. I flagged this as a problem with Ally Bank's previous system. But I've not actually been through this part of the workflow, so I can't say whether or not they've got it right.

When I got the email from Ally Bank telling me to verify migration of my payees, I found that my cable TV company, my gas company, and my Electric company were there, with the contact information I had manually set under the old system, but with the Electric company's old name, NSTAR. That email also told me that I would have to re-enroll in E-Bills and when the E-Bill was active, re-enroll in auto-pay.

I knew I was not going to enroll in auto-pay for National Grid. I gave up after 5 years of arguing with Fidelity and National grid about how Checkfree, "was screen scraping the wrong part of the bill." It would arrive at Fidelity the day after the due date. Fidelity would decide it was past due, and not auto-pay.

Feeling a bit annoyed that I had to re-enroll in auto-pay, I began. After all, as I said in my earlier article, if it is a choice between keeping my payee login information in clear text and re-entering it to the secure server, I'll re-enter it. For both the cable TV company and Eversource (formerly NSTAR), I got a boilerplate acknowledgment saying that it could be 1 to 2 billing cycles before the auto-pay went live.

The next day, I got email welcoming me to E-Bills for both the cable TV company and Eversource. The email also said it might be a few weeks before everything was actually working. Thirteen days later, at the usual and expected time, I got email telling me that I had a cableTV bill. The email reminded me that I needed to either schedule a payment or set up a recurring payment. At this point, I wish I'd documented a subtle point explicitly: I don't remember if I set up auto-pay before or after receiving that first bill, and now it turns out to have been useful information in knowing why my Eversource auto-pay is still not working.

Rough Edges:


I want to flag a rough edge in the documentation and customer workflow right here:

There are TWO activities that have been smooshed into one term:
auto-pay which pays the bill in full and
recurring payment which pays a fixed amount on a schedule.

This is an example of useful functionality from the old system that was lost. Indeed, for a month after the go-live with the new back end, the online documentation talked about these two separate setups as two separate things. The new interface offers just a link "Recurring Payments" you click on from the "Make a Payment" page to do the setup.

An example of basic customer workflow with rough edges is this "Make a Payment" page. Once again two activities have been smooshed into one page:
make a payment to set an amount and date to make a payment.
manage payees where you adjust contact information and set up E-Bills and recurring payments.

When a customer clicks on the Continue button after setting an amount and payment date, the payment is enqueued. But when the Continue button is pressed after any payee management activities are done, an error page is presented because no payment information was specified. Excuse me, but customers should not be told they made a mistake when the web developers were too lazy to properly separate functionality.

One Out of Three Working:


Of my three payees, the gas company kept working, because I didn't use the Ally Bank system. National Grid initiates an ACH transfer. This is not as safe as I would ideally like, because there is nothing to stop National Grid from writing itself a check that empties my account. This is what I mean when I say, "Nationalgrid online payments are all about their convenience and never about my protection."

The cable TV company got working, but there was some rough boilerplate messaging I got saying something about how I should expect E-bills to be working in 0 days or something. I wish I'd saved that one so I could more accurately report this rough edge.

The Eversource electric bill has, for the second billing cycle emailed me at my home email address to tell me I have a new bill. Ally Bank's system hasn't seen it. The Recurring Payment setup still shows me the fixed amount setup, instead of the pay in full setup.

When I first complained to Ally Bank about not getting the pay in full interface, the Customer Support Rep. said that it was supposed to be that way. I asked to speak to a supervisor. I explained in great detail how useless that was, and left the conversation expecting a call back from someone who could help. A few days later I called back and asked why I wasn't called back and was told it was supposed to be that way. Again I explained how useless that was, and got a promise of a call back. When I got a call back, they called the wrong phone number and I spent two days playing telephone tag. They wanted me to provide screen shots of the problem.

Again I say, excuse me, but if you are charged with helping customers resolve a configuration problem, particularly after a major back end system migration, there should be tests that can be run such that your developers can see what the customer sees without having to ask the customer to provide screen shots.

After having provided the screen shots, I was informed, "You will get the 'pay in full' interface when the first E-Bill comes through." When I probed about when to expect that to be working, both I and the Executive Resolution Rep. agreed that it should be with the next bill emitted by Eversource.

Well, four days ago, I got an email from from Eversource saying my newest bill has been posted. The Ally Bank system still has not seen the E-Bill. It's the New Year's holiday, so I can't call them up and express my continued displeasure with their ability to find and fix this problem. But in what we can call "Angry PoetNerd vindictiveness", I will be pointing the Executive Resolution Rep. at this blog.

Additional Site Problems:


I'm resorting to public shaming as a way to hopefully get Ally Bank to fix problems so that I don't have to move my money away. I wish I could demonstrate the number of customers who just go away mad instead of incessantly calling with obsessive repetition of basic problems until they are fixed.

Here are several other problems that are annoying and inconvenient rather than active failures in my ability to bank with Ally. I've reported them numerous times since first banking with them in December 2012.

Managing my telephone numbers


I have several times had to play telephone tag with Ally Bank personnel because they can't seem to read, "Use this telephone number," when picking up my case. I have three telephone numbers in their system, home, work and cell. On the "Profile | Personal Information" page, Two of them are on display. Why can't I manage all my contact information from that page? Apparently because the web developers can't figure out how to have a web page display all phone numbers, I just get whichever subset was convenient for them.

It turns out that my Business Phone number (one of the two with hard-coded fields to display) is almost never the right one to use. I am blessed with very flexible working hours, and am not predictably at my desk.

The right phone number to use is my Cell number which is the one that shows up in the "Home or Mobile Phone Number" hard-coded field.

Which number do they use? My land line, that is not on display, or my business number.

To work around the failures of their Customer Support personnel, and the laziness of their web developers, my recourse is basically to call them up on the phone and tell them delete my business and land line phone numbers.

Oh yes, and the telephone number you provide to receive a text message containing the second key to activate two-factor authentication for visiting the site from a new computer is on a separate page in the profile and has nothing to do with the other phone numbers on file.

Excuse me, but it is not difficult to have dynamic HTML display any or all fields in the database. It is not hard to have one checked off as "Primary" and another checked off as "Send Authentication Key Text message".

Reporting of Transactions in Foreign Currency


When I did some international traveling, I used my American Express card, and my Ally Bank Debit card for different things. The American Express card did a fine job of displaying the amount paid in the foreign currency, the transaction fees, the exchange rate, and the total amount paid in my home American Dollars.

Additionally, while awaiting the monthly bill, I could go onto the American Express web site, and review all that. Not so with Ally Bank.

The transaction display showed me the total American Dollar amount paid, and nothing else. It was not until the monthly statement was cut that I was able to see transaction fees. The foreign currency transaction amount was NEVER shown. This made it particularly difficult to match debits with my purchase receipts which often the only comprehensible text was the amount in the foreign currency.

I wonder if that lack of transparency violates some kind of national or international banking law. I've complained about it multiple times, but as the rest of this article has shown, it's very difficult to get basic facts through Customer Support to someone who actually understands the problem and who will successfully address it.

I plan to open a complaint with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau about this.

Other admittedly minor UI annoyances


Associations between Debit cards and accounts: It is simply not possible to use the Ally Bank web site to figure out which of multiple accounts a particular Debit card is associated with. You have to call Ally on the phone.

Limited subjects for Secure Messages: The secure message system has only hard-coded, generic subject headers, so it's not really possible to identify multiple threads of similar topics.

Sub-optimal locations of functionality on web site: The groupings of functionality under the "Gear" and "3-Bars" tabs make no sense to me. If "Gear" is for control, then Profile and Account creation should be there. Regular business like Statements, Messages, Correspondence" probably wants to be under 3 bars. I'd suggest creating "Manage Payees for Bill Pay" as a separate page under "Gear", separating "Statements and Tax Forms" into separate panes, and putting "Statements" under "3-Bars". Some of what is in a third side bar under "Account Services" seems more appropriate to live under "Gear". Alas, they went live with this seemingly confused notion of categories, and we are probably stuck with it, because such changes are very poorly received by customers. You get one chance to get this right, and Ally flubbed it.

The effective date of recurring transfers is not documented: If you do a single transfer, it is effective now. But if you do a recurring transfer today, the first one does not happen today, it happens next month.

Pending status of transfers not shown in a timely manner: The pending status of newly created recurring transfers doesn't get updated on the same day the transfer is created by the customer.

Disconnect between one-time and automatic payments: (May be fixed with new system.) With the old bill payment system, if you set up auto-pay, but also paid the current bill, auto-pay would not notice that you'd performed the one-time payment. My Electric bill got paid twice, and I had no recourse except to apply the credit to a subsequent bill. The people I exchanged messages with did not seem to understand how, Adding a new payee and setting up automatic payment all at once is a common use case. I'm sorry, but I don't accept that I "just have to know" that I need to mark by hand a one-time payment I make at the same time I set up auto-pay.

Event flow of bill pay is undocumented: Documentation of what to expect when is missing. Customers need to know what to do so that their bills get paid correctly, on time, and not multiple times.

New Bill Pay feature set still obscure: The documentation of alleged new features of the new bill pay system is still not available.

Sloppy follow-through announcements: On November 4, 2015, I got email announcing, the go-live of the new E-Bill system telling me that after November 8, I need to take action to verify my payees, re-enroll E-Bills, and re-establish auto-pays. However the help page referred to with the text, "For other steps you can take to make sure that your payees and activity convert to our new system, go to ally.com/learn/bill-pay," even today is a document announcing that a new bill pay service is coming, and to watch for emails with specific steps to take. So instead of helpful follow-on documentation, we get a loop back to where we started.


Overall impression:


Ally Bank has a sleek looking interface. But when you actually try to use it, you discover that these pretty pages have rough edges that more hard working developers could have fixed but didn't. The 24x7 telephone and online support may be fine for getting simple answers to simple questions, but cannot usefully respond to bug reports. Some of these bug reports represent small annoyances. Some however, are show stoppers, and if I knew about them before parking my money in Ally Bank, I would have gone somewhere else.

When push comes to shove, it really seems like Online Banking Theater with a good interest rate rather than a genuinely smooth running and helpful system of web pages and support staff.

Timeline:

22 May 2015: The First Breakdown of Eversource

The rename of NSTAR to Eversource broke auto-pay.

9 June 2015: Executive Resolution Gets Involved and Fails

After working the problem multiple times with regular support I eventually heard from the Executive Resolution Group.  But then nobody replied to my email that included screen shots of the failure.

A couple phone calls complaining that I never heard back on the email thread seemed finally to get someone onto the problem.

26 June 2015: Eversource  Working Again

Finally on 26 June Eversource bills start showing up, and on 7 July the Auto-pay does its job again.

19 August 2015: The Breakdown with Comcast Auto Pay

Ally Bank spontaneously drops e-Bill for Comcast.  First person I spoke to promised to fix it.  Second person I spoke to could find no record of any action to be taken.  Third person got a SERIOUS ear full. I told them I was paying the bill via another bank and I was mondo upset about how my trouble report was lost.

24 September 2015: Comcast Auto Pay Resumes.

After receiving email messages from Ally Bank that my Comcast e-bill was not received on 26 August, something eventually got fixed. Maybe it was Comcast. Maybe it was Ally, but on 24 September Auto Pay resumed.

9 November 2015: New Bill Pay System Go-Live -- Troubles Begin Anew

Official notice is received that the new Bill Pay back end is live, and I need to confirm my payees and re-enroll in Auto-Pay.

20 January 2016: Log Jam Broken

The Representative from Executive Resolution took extra time, and we conference called Eversource where we learned that the e-billing I set up BEFORE enabling the old Ally Bank e-billing was going to cause the new Ally Bank e-billing connections to be refused.  Although this seemed incredible to me, I dimly remembered how, with Fidelity, I was told up front to resign from any pre-existing e-billing with payees.  We are hopeful that when the next Eversource bill posts, the workflow will complete, I will see my Ally Bank e-bill, and I can then establish auto-pay.

30 March 2016: First e-Bill Finally Arrives

Finally the first successful bill notification came through the Ally Bank system, and as predicted by the developers the "recurring payment" interface self-configured to offer the 'pay in full' interface.

At last I was able to set up what I tried to set up in November:  Auto pay in full.

I called customer support to ask if I need to pay the bill by hand, or if Auto Pay will notice there is a bill.  The person I spoke to put me on hold for several minutes consulting with "a bill pay expert" who told me that the bill would auto pay.  When I checked in with Executive Resolution, I was told, I had "been provided with inaccurate information" and that the bill would not auto-pay until the next cycle.  Executive Resolution was correct.  Luckily I watched carefully and manually paid the bill. But this means that five months after go-live, the "bill pay experts" are not properly trained.

13 May 2016: Finally Working After Six Months

Finally an automatic debit was made from Ally Bank to Eversource, and the credit was shown on the Eversource online system.  It took six months, and far too much work from far too many people to remedy what boiled down to overly clever, lazy developers not thinking clearly about use cases, and not providing useful test points and intervention points to fix things up after a problem.
Six billing cycles to get auto-pay working is simply unacceptable.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Eversource: Unintended consequences of a name change.

Prologue:

I wrote a draft of this blog entry while working a problem with automatic bill payment through Ally Bank, but never published it because I wasn't sure there was value to others in my doing so.  Today, I've decided to update and publish the entry as background for a larger article I'm working on that details the ongoing problems with the Bill Pay service on offer from Ally Bank.

The particular problem I had seems to be re-occurring, this time with a different back end provider for Ally Bank.  That situation will be detailed in a subsequent Article.  So this one is more relevant for an inventory of what can go wrong, and what did go wrong in the past.

Background:

Following excellent financial advice, I'm trying to put as much of my financial management on auto-pilot.  One way to do this is to have my bank auto-pay my bills.  My bank even has the ability to say, "If the bill is larger than X don't pay more."  I think that's a really good safeguard.

The Problem:

Starting 22 May 2015,  auto-pay broke for Eversource, formerly NSTAR.

Here is what I experienced:

I got email from Ally Bank saying they could not sign onto NSTAR to fetch my bill.
I signed on and confirmed that.
I signed onto NSTAR and thought I could easily solve the problem.

When I signed onto the NSTAR web site, I was taken to the Eversource migration assistant to create a new account on the Eversource web site.  This annoyed me.  If a company is going to change who they outsourced my services to, they should migrate their database and I should not have to be involved.

However, having said that, I would have to agree that service providers should not keep my passwords in clear text for migration. So if they can't migrate my encrypted identity, then ok, send me to a migration page to create new credentials that can be verified but NOT dumped back out in the clear.

I signed back on to my Ally Bank, and re-ran the account verification.  This time it said it was successful.

Except it wasn't.

Multiple times running the verify sign-on, all successful.
But every time I went back to my list of payees: "Please verify sign-on."

Ally Bank's solution: Delete and re-create the payee.
I did that, and along the way I saw they'd not fixed the bug I reported last year when I created the payee the first time.

If your payee database recognizes my payee do NOT make me supply the address and telephone number.  You have it.  Use it.

Anyway, I re-created the payee.
Same problem: Verify -> Success reported -> Please Verify.

Ally Bank's solution: Create a custom payee.
I pointed out that only payees known in their database can do auto-pay so this
was a non-solution.

Here is what I think is going on:

Ally Bank tried to get my bill this month and hit the migration assistant.
When I migrated my account basic login became possible.
But NSTAR changed where my bank needed to go to fetch bills.
The third party system used by my bank does not have an updated record for how to fetch ebills from Eversource.

So auto-pay is broken until the bill paying service updates their database to deal with how NSTAR changed to Eversource behind the scenes and broke it.

Next time you change your name, think about the consequences and get everybody on the same page.

Epilogue:

After several conversations with several supervisors, on 9 June, my problem went to my Ally Bank's Executive Resolution group, but still required multiple emails and calls to get them to admit they were actually working with their third party billing back end provider to fix the problem.

When I received an email from Ally Bank saying they'd fixed the problem, I had to forward them the failure email received on 24 June showing things were still broken and that they didn't know it. Finally, on 26 June I got email from the Ally Bank auto-pay system showing a successful restart of the service that broke on 22 May.

I wonder how many users of my bank's auto-pay simply took their business elsewhere through the month of June while I foolishly worked at dragging them, kicking and screaming to a fix for a broken service.

Future topics I'm considering:


  • EDI is not hard but Checkfree and nationalgrid refuse to play well together.
  • nationalgrid online payments are all about their convenience and never about my protection.
  • Online Banking usability considerations.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Attn: Apple: You've gotten TOO clever with the finder.

Ok, I've still not taken Yosemite.  I'm still getting used to Mavericks.

There are new things to like about it.  But I want to complain about how someone has gotten a little TOO clever in the finder.

I'm pretty sloppy with my mouse movements, and now that has become a problem.

Now when I move my QuickTime window, half the time, instead of grabbing the title bar, it grabs the text and offers me an editing window.

NO!  I want to move the window.  If I want to rename the file, I'll go to the folder window!

When I want to move a file to another folder, I NEVER want to put a text string naming the file in the destination folder.  Whoever thought that implicit cut and paste of the filename on a drag action was a good idea is just plain wrong!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why would anyone want this hands-free interface?

I have a Samsung Galaxy S4 Android phone with Verizon as my carrier.  I'm reasonably pleased with it.  However the hands-free operation has me frustrated and angry.

First there's the bug:  Sitting in the cradle on my car dash, connected to my radio via bluetooth, I hit "Voice Dial" on the radio.  If the phone is asleep, voice dial simply crashes.  So before I do anything hands free, I need to finger the phone and wake it from sleep.

It used to be better: I used to be able to call my mom at home by saying, "Call Barbara Cattey at home."  If the Google voice recognizer could make out my words it would reply "Calling Barbara Cattey at Ho..." and it would dial the phone.

Somebody broke it:  Now when I hit voice dial, I have to pull over to handle the distraction:

phone: "Please say call and then a name or number."

me: "Call Barbara Cattey."

phone: "Please say, 'Select 1' for Home, 'Select 2' for Mobile, 'Select 3' for Work."

me: "Select 1."

phone: "Do you wish to call Barbara Cattey at home?  Say 'OK' or 'Cancel'.

me: "OK".

phone: "Calling Barbara Cattey at Home."

The interface changed from one that was simple and easy to this messy back and forth.  I don't know if it is some update that broke the interface, or some deep configuration option that I inadvertently hit.

Now I hate it!
I want the good interface back!

Who created this dialog interface?  I want to hurt them until they understand how bad it is, and they get rid of it and replace it with the simple one pass interface.

Addendum 31 August:

When I announced this blog posting on Facebook, several people replied (in part because submitting comments here is mysteriously broken, even though we've checked the settings multiple times, but I digress...)

Michael Maggard pointed out the problem was that I was running the Samsung S-Voice interface.

The reality is much more complex and silly.

After about 5 hours beating on this I have learned the following:

1. I WAS using the S-Voice interface, but I had configured it to use the Google Voice Search.
2. The setup broke after I took the Verizon Android 4.3 update for the Samsung Galaxy S4.
3. There are a couple threads out in the ether about what broke, but Verizon hasn't clued in.  I believe this thread has a definitive answer about ASDP vs. AS2P protocol.  Or perhaps it's the mono vs. the stereo bluetooth headset connection.  Anyway, for Verizon Samsung Galaxy S4 phones after the May 2014 update, S-Voice quit working on SOME bluetooth interfaces.
4. The default google search is the icky dialog I mentioned above.
5. For some reason you can't get to "Google Voice Search" (which I think is a different name for their smarter "Google Now" search) as an action on bluetooth.  Your choices are S-Voice or Dumb Google Search.
6. There is an app called "Bluetooth Launch" that will let you make ANYTHING launch on the Bluetooth wakeup.
7. If you can cope with an unspeakably tiny font (I literally got out an eye loupe to read the screen.) you can set "com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox.voicesearchactivity" as the ting for "Bluetooth Launch" to do instead of "Google Search" or "S-Voice."

My hands-free behavior is now set back to what I wanted.

Questions going forward:

1. Why does the obvious Google Voice Dial app behave so badly?
2. Why is it so hard to set the good Google Voice Search?
3. Will Verizon ever clue in about what they broke?
4. Why wasn't it obvious to everyone that, "Call Barbara Cattey at home." was the best way to do this and the rest of the ways should have been pushed aside, and this way made easy?

Ok, it's 4:00 AM and time for me to simmer down and go to sleep.

Good night everybody.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stop & Shop Woburn MA -- An Opportunity Lost

The national news recently has covered the fight for control of local supermarket chain, Market Basket.

Market Basket is basically my favorite grocery store because:
  • Although its stock is somewhat limited, it manages to carry pretty much everything I want.
  • The prices are quite reasonable.
  • The store brand food tastes as good as the name brands.
  • The people are friendly and hardworking.
  • The shopping experience is pleasant.
The past few weeks I've not shopped at Market Basket.  This is not only because the shelves emptied, but also out of solidarity with the movement to keep Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO, and to continue running Market Basket the way he and his team built it.

Instead I did most of my shopping at my local Stop & Shop.  Soon Marked Basket will be restocked and I will have a choice.  The experience of Stop & Shop Woburn MA strongly reinforced my opinion to Stop Shopping at Stop & Shop.  

An opportunity to create a welcoming environment for new customers was completely wasted.  Here was my experience.

After parking my car, I go to the front entrance door nearest the middle of the parking lot and am greeted by the sign, "This entrance closes at 10:00 PM."  I remember this sign.  I remember making a previous late night trip to Stop & Shop, parking my car in the middle of the lot, and then discovering I had to walk over to the far entrance.  Why?  Apparently the staff likes to clean that part of the store early so they can get home earlier.

Entering the store I go to where the shopping carts are housed in-store.  Alas, there are no carts there. Unlike Market Basket, there apparently are no junior staffers constantly bringing the carts from the parking lot back to the store.

I go back out to the parking lot and try to find a cart that is in decent repair: with all the plastic still present on the main handle, and that has no sticky wheels.  On my third try, I get one that's mostly acceptable. Pretty much every Market Basket shopping cart I've ever touched was in perfect shape.

Re-Entering the store, I being shopping. First stop: the Deli counter.  Here is where Stop & Shop really could shine.  The activity that takes the most of my time at Market Basket is waiting to work with an employee to fulfill my deli order.  Stop & Shop has a kiosk that lets me key in an order and continue shopping.  Better yet, it has the ability to remember an order associated with my Stop & Shop card. Unfortunately, there are problems:
  • The laser card scanner, for weeks, has been unable to recognize the Stop & Shop card on my key ring. The self-checkout works ok, so I presume it's a broken scanner.
  • The first time I used the deli kiosk, the employee got my order wrong.
  • In the most recent two weeks, the deli-slicer has either been mis-aligned or subtly broken. I prefer my cold cuts to be of uniform thickness, not fat on one side, and pointy on the other.
While my deli kiosk order proceeds I do the rest of my shopping.  The next disappointment happens in the produce section. I see that the usual "higher than Market Basket prices" for all produce changed while Market Basket was closed. So I can get my Granny Smith apples pretty much for the same price I paid at Market Basket. Too bad they didn't taste as good. Differing suppliers, I guess, seem to result in issues with many items on my weekly grocery list:
  • Romaine Lettuce: How come Stop & Shop Romaine lettuce is so much more beat up, and seems to have veins of brown, and splotches of rot that I never find in Market Basket Lettuce?
  • Pre-packaged Spring Mix:  They found a supplier of "organic" spring mix that tastes about the same as what I got from Market basket, at about the same price. So this is ok, at least until the special dollar off pricing ends.
  • Red Onions: Why do they all look smaller and more beat up than what I get at Market Basket?
  • Cherry or Grape tomatoes:  Do they really have to be that expensive?
Pre-packaged foods, spices, meats, and dairy seems pretty much a wash as  long as you stay away from the flavorless Stop & Shop brand, and as long as you don't mind paying fifty cents to a dollar more per item, or per pound of meat.

I did find it rather annoying that the bakery was half a store away from the pre-packaged bread aisle.

Buying ice cream was a challenge.  My refrigerator at home, and the refrigerated display cases at Market Basket seem to be pretty much frost free.  Unfortunately, at Stop & Shop, I had to scrape the frost off the ice cream containers to verify what I was getting.  I think it may have had something to do with the refrigerator case door that's been broken and held together with duct tape for the past several weeks.  Broken shopping carts, broken deli kiosk scanner, broken frozen food case.  This is a trend.

Going back to the other side of the store, I pick up my deli kiosk order and then travel back across the whole width of the store to check out.  I skip the few stations staffed by human beings.  The lines are too long.  Instead I'm first up or second up at the machine.  It is at this point that the unpleasantness of the Stop & Shop experience becomes complete:

  • Why must I count to five while the machine acts on the deli item number I've keyed in?
  • Who organized the list of deli items to pick when I don't have the number?
  • Why do I have to select "Credit" both at the register and on the credit card scanner?
  • Why does the system need a staff member to come over to get it to accept my coupons?
  • How can I possibly bag all the groceries piled up at the end of the conveyor before the next customer's purchases start landing there?
Having taken about the same time as the first in line at self checkout as I would have taken as third or fourth in line with a person, I now exit the store.

My overall impression:  The primary management focus for the Woburn MA Stop & Shop is the minimization of costs that keeps personnel to a minimum and results in poor repair of basics like shopping carts and freezer cases, with no resultant decrease in prices to be passed on to the customer.

Making sure everything was in good repair, and creating a basic human contact could have made me say, "I can go to Stop & Shop as readily as Market Basket."  But no, it was business as usual:  I pay more for food that doesn't taste as good, and I have an unpleasant time doing it.

I look forward to never going back to Stop & Shop.