Jul/Aug 2019 Reviews & Interviews

Why I didn't have the time to write this issue's column on the glorious experience of freelance writing in the Internet Age

Comments by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

Buy now from Amazon! The landlord surprised me totally when his letter arrived with notification of a rent increase inside. Actually, it was from the property management company that handles the financial side for him.

An increase did not surprise me, in itself, but rather that it arrived two weeks after the deadline for such things as specifically stated in the lease. I had breathed a sigh of relief two weeks before and almost put the matter out of mind.

The letter was dated prior to the deadline. I received it well after. The USPS meter mark (for it was metered mail) read the date of the day before I received it. The letter was sent from a couple of miles away. The notice was dated 18 days earlier.

Most interesting of all, the envelope sported a second metering date. The franking machine at the property management office dated its meter-mark still 24 days earlier than the date on the notice. Follow the dates, and it must be the case that the property management office sent an empty envelop into the USPS system on May 6. On May 30, they composed a rent increase notice which materialized inside the envelop after it had been 24 days in the mail. After another 18 days in the mail, the USPS time stamped the envelop June 17. The piece of mail can only have fallen behind the USPS break room microwave, where it lay for a month. The letter could at last be delivered to me on June 18, some 15 days after the deadline.

As I have been dealing with this, Amazon decided that I wanted its Free Prime Customer Trial Offer. I tried to tell it that there had been some kind of a mistake. I didn't want the offer, just the product I'd ordered with the free shipping that was supposed to be available to all.

The product is an Uninterruptible Power Supply. This being an impoverished neighborhood, the electrical power is regularly interrupted. My ancient computer was expressing serious exasperation that the old UPS was no longer preventing instantaneous "hard shutdowns."

Luckily, I felt compelled to put in the hours of research, over a couple of weeks (and several more hard shutdowns), to make sure that the new UPS would actually work in my exact circumstances. It turns out that nowadays the manufacturers mention key information only in the tiniest of print in terms the implications of which only a serious computer geek could possibly understand. Customer reviews made it clear that those manufacturers considered this sufficient and refused to accept returns from customers who had failed to realize the import of terms such as "Pure Sinewave Power Supply."

After the best part of an hour trying, Amazon still refused not to give the Trial Offer to me. More to the point, I expected that the offer came with an unspoken automatic charge against my credit card for a year's paid subscription at the end of the trial period. It took the rest of the hour to verify that this was indeed the case and another half-hour of dedicated effort to assert again and again that I authorized absolutely no automatic payments of any sort until finally a little box appeared that I purportedly could "uncheck," thus preventing the automatic paid subscription. I am receiving the Free Trial Offer regardless of my objections. Apparently, once given, it cannot be escaped.

This reminded me that last August, Norton had automatically charged an unconscionable amount to the credit card for an automatic renewal after I had expressly said I approved of absolutely no automatic renewals or charges. Another renewal approaching, I logged into my account, hunted down the "Automatic Renewal" feature and attempted to switch it off. Norton refused, at first, then asked me why I was "ending my subscription." Of course, I was trying to do no such thing. I still had more than a month of subscription service coming to me. But this was the only alternative I was offered. I could either continue to approve automatic renewal or I could prematurely end my subscription.

Three hours later, I was manually renewing my subscription for 45% of what I had automatically been billed the year before. The "chat" representative was polite but clearly aware that our interaction was being timed toward his productivity profile. Still, I would not be rushed. I asked the necessary questions, and, prior to purchase, demanded the automatic renewal feature be turned off.

Unfortunately, the rep had failed to do one of the actions we agreed he would do. I requested another chat. After once again entering to preliminary information required before a chat, and clicking the "Chat" link, Norton redirected me to an FAQ page. It would not send me to the chat page. Several attempts made it clear I would not be permitted to chat with Norton reps any more for the time being. I simply would not be permitted under any circumstances to access the chat feature.

My new purchase now comes with an advertising banner splashed across the control panel. It offers a month additional subscription time if I will authorize Automatic Renewal of their products.

While dealing with the above, Blogspot began to behave even more erratically than usual, leaving me with extra problems to solve. It has the occasional habit of posting random pictures to its Facebook Link Previews. The newest piece ("A Brief History of the Castle Jakes") would not display the picture I'd posted at the head of the article. The random pictures it chose bore no relation to the content and furthermore could leave me accused of spamming.

An hour-or-so taught me that I was stuck with the problem for the time being. The workaround I came up with was moderately effective, but still the traffic to the piece is definitely being affected for the worse.

Amongst all of this, the intrepid managing editor of Eclectica asked me if I had sent anything to him for the Review and Interview section. The server that hosts the journal was experiencing a serious persistent failure and not accepting emails. He was flying blind.

A plan was agreed upon to resend the materials via Facebook Messenger. Then the server was working again. Ummm. Then it wasn't.

By the way, had I seen the submission from last December on the Submittable Control Panel? No. I'd checked Submittable more than once since March and seen no active submissions. I checked again. There it was. A submission that had been sent in December, well before several other submissions I'd downloaded from the platform and processed.

Submittable does not recognize the email platform I use, so it was better that I send the reviewer apologies via my personal box. The acceptance of his piece required a blank Submittable acceptance letter in order to close it out on that platform. Picking my way around the Delivery Demon notices I'd received in reply to the materials I'd previously sent to the editor, I composed an actual acceptance letter from my personal box.

To give a true picture, I should include descriptions of the two Facebookers who have managed to become de facto gatekeepers for almost all of the audience for my essays and books. As always, they were trying to be as constantly unpleasant and obstructive as possible, as all of this was going on, unless I will flatter them, declare my insufficiency before them and let their organizations automatically charge my credit card at least once a year (preferably more often). But, sadly, I must break off here in order to write my column for the issue describing the glorious experience of freelance writing in the Internet Age. There simply isn't the time to do both.

Note: Eclectica offers its sincere apologies. The Review and Interview Section columnist did not turn-in a column for this issue. A diligent search of his ghostly, book-lined apartment revealed only these few pages of whining on the failed hard disk of a seriously outdated computer, connected to a universal power supply with an exhausted battery, beside a moldy, half-full pot of store-brand coffee. We expect he will be more attentive to his obligations in the future. Unfortunately, our email server is not working and we will have to thoroughly chastise him at a later date.


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