Technology that doesn’t work – yet, or well

Episode One:  Finding a Toyota Dealer with misdirection from Verizon Wireless

We dropped the rental car off at O’Hare, and immediately I noticed the blower in our Toyota Camry wasn’t performing (2002, 128,000 miles, thank you).  We tried to live with it, but as the coolness of Wisconsin gave way to 80 degrees in Chicago, we thought we’d better get it fixed.

I’ve been faithful to Verizon Wireless, hoping to boost their stock and hoping that will benefit me as a former employee (but nothing yet).  I called their 411 service to find a Toyota dealer in Bloomington, Illinois, so we could get a quick check up on the blower motor, or whatever.  I should have been alert when the area code they gave me was 708, but I didn’t catch it.  The dealer was on Joliet Road.  I called them for directions, and they seemed perplexed, but gave me directions.  We steamed to Bloomington.  Literally.

Our atlas maps didn’t show Joliet Road in Bloomington.  We called for further directions, exit number, and landmarks.  When we entered the Bloomington area, we just couldn’t find it.

Did you know you can drive from Texas to Milwaukee and eat at Panera Bread outlets almost the entire distance on I-35?  We got lunch at Panera, gassed up the car, and then I had a fascinating conversation with a woman at the BP station, trying to get directions to Joliet Road.  She said she’d never heard of it.  We checked the maps.  No luck.  No listing in the index.  Then I had the good sense to ask what the area code of Bloomington is – it’s not 708.

Armed with the new information, we found Dennison Toyota in Bloomington (great place – see forthcoming post).  Joliet Road is near Chicago.  The dealer Verizon Wireless linked us to was miles behind us.

Technology 0, Humans 1.

Episode 2:  Walgreen’s automated prescription service

Kathryn came down with a doozy of the cold while fighting the remnants of Tropical Depression Ike, and when I spoke with her on Tuesday, she sounded nearly dead.  I feared sinus infection, but she refused to treat it like that.  So I flew up to help her drive back on time.

Wednesday afternoon, I started to get symptoms of a cold.  Since my sinus misfortunes while flying with American Airlines in a past life, most of the the time when I get a cold, I get a roaring sinus infection.  I call the physician with symptoms, he prescribes antibiotics.  Only once in the past ten years have we disagreed.

By Friday morning it was clear my work to keep the cold from becoming an infection had failed (I’ll spare you the specific clinical description).  From Wisconsin, I checked with my local Walgreen’s in Texas about picking up a prescription on the road.  Then I called the physician.  It was 1:00 p.m. before we got all the ducks lined up, and Springfield, Illinois, was the next major city.  I had to rely on Verizon Wireless again, but they at least got me to a Walgreen’s.

Walgreen’s’* people were most helpful.  I took the first available listing.  That store referred me to one just off the freeway.  Alas, my prescription had not yet shown up on the computer.  We had almost two hours to Springfield . . .

I confirmed the physician had phoned in the prescrip.  Then I checked with my local drugstore.  It didn’t show on their system.  We passed Springfield, Illinois, and focused on St. Louis.  Again, Walgreen’s’ people came through.  But the prescrip still didn’t show on the national computerized system.

One more check with the local, Texas pharmacy, and the technician let slip the problem:  While prescriptions are phoned in all day, the pharmacist doesn’t take them off the answering machine until the shift ends at 5:00 p.m.  Nothing would happen, technologically, until the humans intervened.

Walgreen’s found an outlet on the south and west side of St. Louis that would allow time for the prescription to show up in the system, and it was right off the freeway.  We got the prescription.  I’m on the mend.

Technology 1, Humans 2 more.

Final Score:  Technology 1, Humans 3.

*  What the heck is the possessive form of “Walgreen’s?”

3 Responses to Technology that doesn’t work – yet, or well

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Jim, Verizon Wireless’s software starts with the same question. I’ve had some errors in the past, but rarely one that goes more than 100 miles off course.

    I’ll give you guys a try. Are you sure your software adequately isolates Kingston, New York, from Kingston, Rhode Island? Since I first found that glitch in AMTRAK’s software a couple of decades ago, it’s been fascinating to see how many other applications make the same error.


  2. opit says:

    VOIP is a fairly new technology still. Wired phone companies were designed to operate from fixed locations. Nothing in the new spinoff from the internet would lead one to think an optional extra would work in the system – and I don’t believe it should be expected to. That makes it an excellent ploy for traditional companies to handicap new competition. You didn’t think the payout for graft had to be subtle, hm ?


  3. Jay says:

    Sorry to hear about your bad experience with paid 411. Not only could you have saved a couple bucks by calling 1-800-FREE411 instead of the Verizon 411 number, but you also would have gotten the real listing, since the system asks “What city and state?” right off the bat. Then you could have received turn-by-turn text message directions immediately following the call.

    Give us a try next time,


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