E-commerce Woes

Jan 09, 2022 — Reyan Chaudhry

A common sentiment often expressed in many internet technology circle jerks (which I won't name here) is the following:

As basically every facet of our lives slowly but surely finds itself trapped within terabytes large sql files and the terrible UIs of (most) modern operating systems, it's quite humbling to look back and realize how volatile our precious data is becoming.

Try this, go to any tech support subreddit, or even better, go to a forum relating just about any major company and see what people are complaining about, disappearing files, missing transactions, simple things just failing silently, and the list just goes on.

Wanna see something even worse? Go to your preferred choice of app store and check out the reviews for any banking or finance related app/service: Binance, Chase, Bank of America, Paypal, and so on and so forth. You'll immediately notice how the total reviews will be some crazy high number (4.8/5 usually) but if you sort by recent or even browse the algorithmically selected top results, you'll notice how negative most of them are.

It's a genuinely endless stream of people complaining how these billion dollar corporations have fucked them over.

H&M And Some Fantastic Programming

The other day I tried shopping online for some new clothes as in-person school was coming up and my previous fashion phase was starting to wear off on me. I decided to go for a more minimal aesthetic for the upcoming spring and following peoples' recommendations, made an H&M account.

For the longest time I didn't give a fuck about signing up for random stores, but recently a lot of them have taken away the option to check out as a guest, and not signing up gives you a massive price markup too (which companies try to hide by claiming that members get 15% off or some bullshit), I've gotten tired of so I have dump email addresses designed just for this purpose.

That's beside the point, however, I made an account, filled my cart, applied some discount codes, and completed the checkout... and the order didn't go through. I got a popup saying that there was a problem with my payment method with an error code of RM1. A quick !g session led to no avail, it was just other people complaining about the same thing, so I decided to check my bank to see if maybe it was just H&M's shitty react app of a website not updating my cart, and would you behold:

Getting Scammed
Thanks for the help.

I had been charged for an order that didn't even go through, great! And multiple times too, though I suspect that was because I tried placing the order a couple more times after getting the original error (to no avail). My immediate reaction was to get on the shitty live customer support chat, which surprisingly didn't take too long to redirect me to an agent.

The first one claimed to have "made an override" that would allow me to place my order, which turned out to be a complete lie (??) because it failed again and I got charged yet another time. The second agent was a little more helpful and told me that it could be an issue with my bank not authorizing H&M as a merchant.

I decided to go with what he said and called Chase customer support, after staying on hold for a good 20 minutes I was simply told that "there is no problem on our side sir please contact the merchant". Great, back to square one.

I decided to give H&M customer support one last chance, this time I was told (once again) that the agent had contacted some "higher upper" that placed an override on my account. I decided against my common sense to believe her and tried submitting the order... to an RM1 once again.

Great tweet bruh.
A classic from 2017 I see.

Being the stubborn idiot that I am, I decided to forget about purchasing with my card and try the other payment methods. Two of them were with Klarna (yeah I know) and claimed to let you pay in increments of 4 or after 30 days. Now I'm not the biggest fan of this kinda stuff (it's obviously just to get people to waste more money in the moment by letting them think they aren't using any) but I was too tired to care and gave it a shot anyway. I'm glad I did since neither of those methods worked, I guess even though the payments claim to be managed by Klarna the transactions are handled by the shitty merchant anyways.

Our last resort was PayPal, now while I had promised myself long ago that I would never make an account with them, I was already balls deep in adult shit and decided to give it a go anyways, since I would probably need it later on in life. I bitwarden'ed a password, added my card, and voila! My purchase actually went through this time. I don't know how but I'm not complaining, at least it worked.

How the fuck did this make it to production??

As you can see, clearly the bugs didn't end there.

But alas, what can we do.

So what's your point?

My point is what the FUCK are we paying these companies for, why does any garbage MVP always git push'ed right to the public for people to struggle with time and time again. Why—in a world where this is quite literally about to become the way everyone buys and sells things—are there still so many unacceptable bugs.

Every store has to have a barely usable but surprisingly perfectly SEO optimized suite of websites and apps, paired with membership plans and loyalty discounts for those stupid enough to come back time and time again to get their wallets milked.

Sure, mistakes happen, but what is it with billion-dollar corporations and absolutely fucking USELESS error messages, how am I even supposed to know which of the many middlemen have let me down during a transaction so I can just try and solve the problem on my own instead of annoying some poor underpaid and overworked help desk girl (who can rarely even help me) about it.

Chase being Chase

To put the cherry on top of this experience, I tried sending some money to my father over Zelle™ the next day (which has worked flawlessly in the past mind you) but got an email a couple hours later saying that the transaction was cancelled and that I had a "secure notice" waiting for me in my Chase account.

I go to check and once again behold:

Chase being chase.
"Some payments seemed unusual" huh

Filling out your SSN and account number does nothing, it just claims to be "unable to verify" (I've been doing this long enough to know that's bullshit) and tells you to call the Chase fraud hotline.

Well sure, this can't take too long right? Let's give it a shot.

I go on and spend the majority of a perfectly good Saturday running errands and waiting on hold in order to actually be able to speak to a human. I'm not that mad yet because I assume there are many others who probably have the same issue as me and are waiting in line as well.

What pissed me off was was what happened when I did get off the hold tone, all I heard was random keyboard clacking and some whispering voices with no response, and after a couple seconds of this I literally just got hung up on. I almost lost it but kept my composure and went back on the line, after an hour or so I get a representative who asks me some basic info and then goes on to say that everything seems fine with my account and that he needs me to enter my debit details to verify my identity, I say sure and type everything he wants me to.

He then proceeds to tell me that there isn't enough information to verify my account (even though I correctly answered all given queries) and that I need to go to a Chase branch in person and get my account unlocked from there. Bro then why in the living and breathing fuck did you waste 20 minutes of my time asking for information that could literally ruin my life if in the wrong hands just to tell me that you can't do anything for me?

I was in such shock that I literally asked him to his face whether he was joking and he said "No, you need to check up with your local Chase branch.", I asked him once again about the process and just hung up. There's only so much idiocy I can take in one day.

I've checked up a couple more times and no one seems to be able to tell my why exactly it was that my account got locked, which I don't find surprising—probably just the high and mighty banking algorithms eliciting yet another statistically accounted for false positive on a customer that can't do anything about it.

The Impossibility of a Decent Interface