(15/16) Non-fungible by nature
When I first moved to New York and moved into my first apartment in Brooklyn in 2004 or 2005, I had to call ConEd to get some electricity at my new spot. As these things tend to go, and as everyone reading this probably knows, sitting on the phone with an electricity company takes much longer than it should and it takes a lot of patience. It can takes several minutes of waiting, several seemingly unnecessary questions, and a whole lot of repetition. It’s an unfortunate consequence of ‘efficiency’.
So, anyway, there I am on the phone giving the guy all my info. My name, social security number, address, payment information, blah blah blah, all under the pretense of ‘customer service.’ It’s not a bad experience but it does take time out of my day. No mind, it’s what we have to do. Inconvenient, but easy.
Now if you know me IRL, you know that my name is ‘James T. Platt.’ A month or so after signing up through ConEd, I’m digging through the mail basket at my apartment building and I see a bill from ConEd addressed to a ‘James Tlatt’. Not ‘James T. Platt’, but ‘James Tlatt.’ A minor inconvenience, right? It’s not going to prevent me from paying my bill or getting service, but it is…I dunno…something I should get fixed, right? I figure I’ll just call ConEd to have it fixed…no big deal. So I hop on the phone with ConEd the next chance I get, and, yeah, another half hour of forced pleasantries and answering the same stupid questions over and over and over again in order to get the name on my bill fixed. This customer service agent assures me it’s all good. Cool.
Or. Is it?
The same name was on my bill the following month. ‘James Tlatt.’ I guess it wasn’t changed.
I called again. Less patience this time.
Nothing. Again and again. At a certain point, I just realized ‘this is a goddam waste of time’ and I give up. I decide I’m going to have to live with it. It’s not a big deal, right?
And it wasn’t a big deal until I had to accept power of attorney for my Grandpa. And when I ended up linking up with a real estate agent to have to sell his home. You really don’t think it’s a big deal until you realize that almost everything you end up applying to (or for) require you to bring your ‘last two utility bills’ to prove you are who you claim you are and live where you claim to live: Library cards, bank accounts, voting, driver’s licenses, job applications, rental applications, mortgage applications, taxes and travel visas ALL ask for your utility bills. EVEN MY EMPLOYER ASKED ME FOR UTILITY BILLS at one point. How many times do you think I had to explain ConEds fuck-up over the next 5-6 years that I was in New York? I EVEN had to explain ConEds fuck-up when applying for rental applications in California!
And for what? All because some phone jockey at ConEd didn’t get enough sleep the night before I called and signed up for service? I had to live with that dude’s lack of sleep for YEARS. And even with all of the *extra time* I spent trying to fix his mistake, it was STILL never fixed and I was the one who had to deal with it. I know stuff like this happens often…but how many of you have had to deal with explaining someone else’s mistake through no fault of your own?
I mean, I know it’s definitely a first-world problem, but I think it highlights a dilemma that no one really wants to acknowledge about the internet as a whole. As an ex-Finance, ex-Tech guy, I can tell you that it happens when you have one or more shitty systems in place.
They have so many systems floating all over the place at ConEd that they likely had my name fixed in some databases, but it clearly wasn’t fixed in the ‘paper bill’ database. It sounds like it’s just a bottlenecked centralized system that can’t even interact with the other bottlenecked systems available in-house. AND THESE ARE THE COMPANIES THAT PROVIDE OUR VITAL SERVICES.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m no genius. And I’ve worked on and built my fair share of shitty systems. And this stuff happens all the time. But the thing about crypto…this *could* happen in crypto…but it’s likely *you* are the one who made the mistake and *you* are the only one who has the ability to fix it. So you fix it. Crypto relies on decentralized systems, but you are in control of your own information. It’s easy to get lazy and give that information over to a custodian to deal with, but when you realize that YOU are in charge of the information that represents YOURSELF, you tend to pay a bit more attention.
And that’s why I think crypto, in the long run, is set to win out. The decentralization of information is much more important than it just being a buzzword.
The gripping conclusion…part 16 out of 16.