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The check is in the vapor

Even if you have the money, paying your bills electronically can be a major challenge. Gigglebytes hed: The check is in the vapor dek: Even if you have the money, paying your bills can be a major challenge. dek: You might as well just buy the upgrade. by Lincoln Spector

I had been perfectly happy managing my finances with QuickSand 95. Then I got a letter from Intimidate Software, the company that makes QuickSand. They wanted me to upgrade to QuickSand 2001. I’d gotten similar letters before, but this time they meant it.

“On May 1, 2001, we will be changing our online billpay service, QuickSand Knows, to a vastly improved system, QuickSand Thru-the-Knows. QuickSand Thru-the-Knows makes bill payments easier than they have ever been before. In fact, we will be able to take thousands of dollars out of your checking account without even bothering you for confirmation.

“QuickSand Thru-the-Knows works exclusively with QuickSand 2001. If you have not upgraded your current, laughably outdated version by May 1, 2001, you will not be able to pay bills electronically. Nor will you be able to write checks or use an ATM. As an additional incentive to upgrade, Intimidate Software will e-mail all of your financial data to the IRS with the following request: ‘PLEASE AUDIT!'”

I don’t know. Something just made me feel that it was time to fork over my $25 and buy the upgrade.

Accounts prayable

Once I had the new version running, I had to set up a new billpay account in QuickSand Thru-the-Knows. QuickSand 2001 provided a wizard that walked me through 27 pages of financial questions before delivering its final verdict: “You already have billpay for this account set up with another service. You cannot start an account with QuickSand Thru-the-Knows until you have cancelled the other account.”

But how does one cancel the other account? QuickSand 2001 wasn’t telling. So I called QuickSand Technical Support, spent 15 minutes listening to Britney Spears, gave someone my credit-card number, and was told that I needed QuickSand Thru-the-Knows Technical Support. Another phone call, 20 minutes of ‘N Sync, another credit-card number recital, and I was told that I needed support for the old QuickSand Knows. This time, I was on hold long enough to hear Pat Boone’s entire “In a Metal Mood” CD.

“We don’t need your credit-card number,” said the helpful person who finally answered. “You’ve already given it to two other Intimidate subsidiaries today. It’s all over our network.” As she finally explained to me, I could not start my QuickSand Thru-the-Knows service until I had cancelled my QuickSand Knows service. And that required a signed, snail-mailed letter and a two-week wait, during which time I’d better not send an electronic payment.

Three weeks later, my account was still active. What’s more, I was getting late notices from everyone I knew (you wouldn’t expect me to handwrite and mail a check, would you?). So I called again, and waited again. “Yes, we received your letter two weeks ago. No, we’ve just been waiting for you to call and complain. There; it’s cancelled.”

So I ran the Billpay Setup Wizard again, answered the 27 pages of financial questions, and was again told that I already had this account set up with another service. So I called QuickSand Knows technical support, which referred me to QuickSand Thru-the-Knows technical support, which referred me to QuickSand 2001 technical support, which referred me to QuickSand Knows support.

Somewhere along the line, I happened to blurt out my problem to a receptionist. “You don’t have to actually cancel the old service before you sign up for a new one. You just have to tell QuickSand you’ve cancelled it.”

“How do I do that?” I asked eagerly.

“It’s on the Reports menu. Click Annual Financial Reports, and select Tax Preparation, Obscure Hidden Tools.”

Due dates and don’ts

Within hours I was up and running, ready to enter my bills into QuickSand 2001. The first bill I entered was to my guru. It was rejected because the pay date I entered–four days in the future–was too close to the actual due date of the bill. “In order to guarantee an on-time payment,” the error message informed me, “QuickSand Thru-the-Knows must be notified at least 14 days before the due date.”

So I tried again, this time setting the pay date ahead and hoping that wouldn’t cause a problem. The last time I had been late with a payment, he had foreclosed on my mantra.

Once again, QuickSand objected. The program simply would not accept a date that far in the future.

Another round of tech support calls cleared up the problem. Because of conflicts with its new “Colored Lights” feature, Intimidate removed QuickSand 2001’s ability to handle payments dated more than five days in the future. Meanwhile, QuickSand Thru-the-Knows requires payments to be made at least two weeks in advance.

“So then QuickSand 2001 and QuickSand Thru-the-Knows don’t really work together, do they?” I asked.

“Well, there’s a minor problem with QuickSand 2001,” admitted the QuickSand Thru-the-Knows techie. “Nothing we can do about it,” the techie pointed out. “The problem is with QuickSand Thru-the-Knows.”

“Look,” I said, “can I talk to the receptionist?”

“You mean the one who’s been giving customers useful advice?”

“Yes.”

“Sorry. We fired her.”

In addition to Gigglebytes, Lincoln Spector writes an online general interest humor column called The Link Inspector.

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