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Simon Sobo Writing

A collection of opinion pieces and chapters from his novels

It’s Not Complicated


It’s Not Complicated

I had other things to do yesterday, but I got this email saying that T Mobile wanted to pay for a year of Paramount Plus, a streaming channel that was once new to me.   Last week I had watched a terrific series on Paramount, 1883Why not, I decided. So I googled how to make this come about. I followed the directions to a tee.  It brought me to a link to sign up for Paramount,  pay $4.99 for  a month at a time with automatic renewal.  I signed up. But I didn’t receive notification that T Mobile was paying for it so I went through a maze to discover how to cancel subscribing which, with the help of google, I did after 20 minutes finding my way to accomplish what needed to be done.


But then I thought maybe I had made a mistake so I decided to start over and repeat the process. Through no intention of my own, I somehow signed up this time for a yearly plan with the same result. Having already learned the complex way to the cancellation site,  the next was easy. I cancelled the yearly plan. In both cases I read that my date of cancellation and subscription were both 3/16 so I wondered if I would be charged by Roku, because on their site it says “No refunds are given for partial term cancellations.” In my case it was an hour after I signed up, but there was no one to explain this too.  It was all done by computer.


There was no telephone number to call Roku to straighten things out, but I was able to find a screen that offered a chat with a live person. I linked up, but there was no chatter to get my problem solved. I was put on a queue which finally, after twenty minutes, a live person connected. I began to type my story but then I was informed by a message that he had disconnected. I was put on another line to wait for a new person to chat with.


That was the end of that.  But today I was curious whether a charge had indeed gone through.  Sure enough Roku’s invoice site listed that I had been charged the yearly charge and the monthly charge. Now determined to actually speak to someone at Roku I again searched for a phone number.  Before giving the phone number to me  their site had me answer a few questions, which led to other questions. I could not write in the  question I had.  I had to put forward questions they thought I wanted to ask. None of them fit my situation.


I quit and decided to call my credit card number (from Costco). They answered quickly, told me that Roku hadn’t charged me yet but I could not block an anticipated charge without closing down that credit card. I decided not to do that. That would be a real pain.


I went back to Roku and on my account ,which miraculously I was able to log into, I  tried to inactivate  the credit card they had on file without supplying a new one. That way I’d eliminate the charge. No luck. To do that my Roku account would close which would be a pain. I use The Roku remote as my main remote.


So I went back to their site and went through the same rigmarole, posing question they assigned to me, trying several different ones to try to get the phone number. No luck. They  directed me to the Roku Community for help. There I found post after post from  members of the community asking others for the elusive phone number.  Not one post  had it.  Instead after each request there was an identical  reply on the community board:

Thanks for the Post.

Can you please clarify the issue you are experiencing.

With more information we will be able to assist you further.

Thanks Dan, Ricky,  Phyliis (each post ending with a dozen different names)

Following their reply   there was a link for support that brought them to the identical places I had visited.


As an aside, while at the community site  I  learned there  that others were being billed for Paramount  even though their record clearly showed they had cancelled.  There were also posts about being charged for CBS on Roku. Even before the mess with Paramount began I got an email that  my subscription for CBS on Roku was about to renew.  I knew nothing about CBS on Roku. The email  had a link which I went to, then wondered whether it was a scam. Apparently it wasn’t .  Although there was nothing about CBS the site asked for no data about me. The scammer was apparently a Roku site trying to sell Roku products, TV’s, remotes, etc


Anyway I went back to trying to find  Roku’s phone number, so I could talk to an actual person.  But this time  I went along with the questions they posted for me (that had nothing to do with my actual question) but I had no other choice other than going along.  After trying several routes using this strategy, pursuing one irrelevant question after another   my  Alice In Wonderland trip finally  ended. I found the secret number!  I  dialed.  It was answered by an actual human being but I would classify her as an answering machine.  My hearing isn’t the greatest at 78 but I had to have her repeat what she was telling me several times in English that I could understand. She told me (I think) she will escalate my concern about the charges to a senior advisor and I should hear within 7 days.  I asked her to email her response to me. I also wondered whether she was a good answering machine and got what I told her correctly.  She said she would send me an email.  She didn’t.

The reader  I assume is thinking I wrote this to get even with Roku. I’m pretty pissed but Roku is not really the point.  They are not alone in spreading mass confusion and ridiculous complications about issues that used to be handled by a simple phone call between actual people.  Nowadays every time you try to get something straightened out there is a protocol gumming things up.  It isn’t just Roku. The same thing is going on at Yale.  I will spare you all the details but I was told that my urologist who follows me for a former bout of bladder cancer with yearly visits was not willing to follow me for prostate cancer that had been discovered after a prostate procedure.  It was a very mild form of prostate cancer that would not require an examination  only a blood test, a PSA a couple of times a year.  I was emailed to go to my Yale site, remember the password and find their message. Although there would be no examination needed just a blood test I was to schedule an appointment with a different urologist. I wrote back that a trip to Yale from where I live could take up to 4-5 hours between driving there, finding parking, being seen by him and returning home.  All of it to tell me what I already knew, that my blood test was negative.  I called and left a message. (a live person never answers the phone)A nurse called to tell me to go to the Yale site.  I said I had.  She had not read my request but soon agreed that I did not have to come in.  I could set up a zoom call with him. Even that I considered an inconvenience, a silly waste of time.  Why couldn’t he simply call me and we could talk over the phone (for about half a minute)?  When I practiced medicine that’s what I would have done.

“Oh no, we cannot do that. There are protocols.”  She agreed with me it is nonsensical and yes, he could document that  he had spoken to me by phone but she could not change the protocols. Yale had its rules which must be followed  She was friendly (meaning human) and confessed that she has a dozen stories about silly protocols. I guessed only zoom call could be reimbursed but perhaps it wasn’t that.  The person deciding  on the protocols was young and didn’t know about simple phone calls that used to be a part of a bygone era.

I could add a dozen different stories not about Yale but it isn’t specifically Yale.  The same can be said about my local M.D. who the nurse tells me has to see me (for another issue) even though we both agree all I will do at the visit is salute and be gone. Pro Health has its protocols, and here too, protocols takes precedence over common sense.

But then I am 78 and a grouchy old man,  foolishly thinking the old way was better.  My generation even watched crazy fantasy movies in which robots and computers took over the world. I always knew that  wasn’t possible.  But now I am not so sure.

I wrote this article not after the Texas massacre of school children where protocols led to  disastrous  consequences but when I heard an AT&T ad.  “It’s not complicated” the ad emphasized, referring  to AT&T handing out  a free Samsung Phone. I’m not crazy about the advertising industry, but I am respectful of their ability to quickly understand social trends. If that is true I am not alone in Wonderland. How can we find our way out of the rabbit hole?

Post script: A week later my wife received an email from T Mobile that they would pay for the Paramount Plus (the T Mobile account is in her name) I didn’t pursue that further by signing up.

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