I buy all kinds of stuff I don’t need from Apple and Amazon. Why? Because it’s so damn easy. These companies have figured out how to make the Internet transaction convenient, simple and – most important – speedy. The want-it part of your brain starts and finishes its dirty work before the what-wait-we-don’t-need-another-stupid-productivity-app part of your brain even kicks in. Things move so fast that with just one moment of weakness and one click I wound up the owner of MGMT’s god-awful new record. Curse you, Steve Jobs!
And then there are the companies that Just Don’t Get It, the companies that make the process of buying something so tedious and so unpleasant and jammed with more queries than a Ken Dryden digression. (Where are we going as a country? What do we stand for? What does it mean to be Canadian? What happened to our values? When will my pizza get here? Do I still get it free if it takes more than 30 minutes? Or is it 40 minutes now? Is that fair to the driver? Is it fair to society? Why are you getting up to leave? Are you coming back? Sharon? Sharon??)
A subset of the companies that make it difficult to buy something are the companies whose websites seem to operate using the same system of wisecracking wildlife that powered most major appliances on The Flintstones. A good example is the site for XM Radio, to which I ventured recently on an ill-conceived mission to renew my subscription. The pelican inside the website must have been asleep because not a damn thing worked right. Ultimately, I tried to start over by resetting my password. The octopus filling in for the pelican asked me to go through the process of “Security Verification,” at which point I was confronted by the following screen:
For a moment, I considered the possibility that this may be a test of creativity and my deeper comprehension of the human condition, like those philosophy exams that purportedly consist in their entirety of the question, “Why?” If Question 1 does not have a question, then the Answer to Question 1 must functionally be the absence of a reply. Then I just left and bought some music from Apple instead.
(I emailed XM to tell them about this curious feature of their security verification system. Did I hear back? I did not. I assume the stop-light monkey dropped by to take the octopus and pelican to lunch.)