Expressway: Black Friday dilemma: on lines or online?
For many of us, when the Thanksgiving meal is barely eaten, holiday shopping becomes the priority. On the day after the feast last year, I decided not to stand in lines and get bumped around at Long Island's crowded department stores. In my warm house, I put on my chenille bathrobe and fluffy slippers, got out my charge cards and coupons and went online.
I had a $30 certificate for a particular store and went to its website. With its "15 percent off" coupon and all the Black Friday sales that read "online only," I was looking at substantial savings. I selected a couple of shirts for my husband and some things for a granddaughter in Florida.
Then it all fell apart.
I put in the 15 percent coupon and placed my order. Visions of sugar plums and Christmas cheer danced in my head. Then the website said one of the items was sold out -- apparently just in the half-hour it took me to place my order. Well, it was undergarments, so I chose another color. Oh, not available. OK, all white.
A cryptic message flashed across my screen. Because my account had been inactive for a few minutes, my personal ID was removed for my protection.
"What protection?" I yelled. "I'm just trying to place my order. I didn't sign off, you idiots!"
OK, Gina, calm down and try again.
I quickly placed my order again, but still didn't see the 15 percent discount or my $30 cash certificate. I sent the order anyway, but was told to log back in. Three times I tried; each time it rejected my password.
Sweating, I threw off my bathrobe.
Taking deep breaths, I checked the box that said I forgot my password. I hadn't forgotten it, but went along with the program. I went to my email to look for a new password. Nothing came. I tried again. Nothing.
Reduced to screaming at the computer, I called customer service. I was on hold for almost 15 minutes. Finally, a kind-sounding woman answered. She said her name was Sandy. I considered hanging up.
"Sandy?" I said.
"I know," she said, acknowledging that she shared the name of the recent superstorm.
I was close to tears, trying to explain the mixups. Sandy tried to fix the password, but after a few moments, explained that the website indicated that I was a violator of some sort. She tried everything to get me a password, without success. I couldn't place my order.
My hair was a mess from repeatedly running my fingers through it. I felt weak and clammy. I worried that someone might find me passed out, nose down on my keyboard.
Apologetic, Sandy said she would put my order through item by item. We worked as a team. Finally, my order went through! Sandy told me to look for a confirmation in my email. With renewed confidence, I hung up.
Of course, it didn't come. I had trusted Sandy; she was my new friend, but there was no confirmation.
Despite all this frustration, I foolishly went back and tried to log in one last time. The website did not recognize my name, and asked for my mother's maiden name. I typed it in -- and was told it was wrong.
I lost it and began laughing hysterically. I threw my fluffy slippers at the wall. I should have gone to the mall and stood on the Black Friday lines.
Reader Regina Phelps lives in Hauppauge.