Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome to Miami...Bienvenidos a Miami

Miami, Florida, May 16, 2010

Miami is a city of many talents, multi-cultural and diverse. It is a city full of character and characters. I went to the beach on my day off to soak up the sun, listening to Cuban music on my I-pod and watching “characters”: the body builder showing off his bulky muscles but no body hair, the cute couple cuddling and pretending is not 100 degrees and 100% humidity, the girls showing off a little bit too much skin and a little bit too little shyness, contrasting with the girls over floating from their mini-bikini in a huge display of an over rated self esteem and not a lot of consideration for the viewers (not even a “viewer’s discretion advice” warning before walking by, looking like the Michelin man) . It was a fun time.

Another fact about Miami is the bi-lingual assumption – almost every place you walk in to, you start by speaking Spanish and then, if no answer (or an apologetic “sorry no Spanish”), English is used. You can find food and goodies from virtually every corner of Latin America: Cuban food and coffee, Colombian hot dogs, chicken, cookies and soda, Venezuelan arepas, Mexican tacos and salsa. A wide variety of accents, looks and choices. It is a city where you can feel the human warmness in a lot of old fashion businesses, especially in little Havana.

I went back to my room to finish some work and I had to print and scan some documents. Contrasting with my beach and food experience, the business center was open 24/7 but no human interaction was to be found: the computers had a credit card swipe device installed and instructions on how to use the different services and of course, the cost for each one of them. The idea of having just electronic interfaces is great in theory, until it is not… what to do, when you swipe your card to make some copies, you follow the instructions, and nothing happens? Your sheets stay there, no scanning process, not even a noise? Well, I pressed the END CHARGES button thinking: let’s do this again since NOTHING happened, but of course then SOMETHING happened: the multi-device robot printed my receipt… charging me 2 dollars for its services and have a nice day.

Hmm, interesting. Then I thought: since the copying task was a no-go, I will try to use the PRINTER. So there I was, swiping my card again, but now for one of the computers, then the TERMS and CONDITIONS screen appeared, I accepted, and… NOTHING…. It got stuck there for so many minutes, that I started to wonder about the charges. I called the customer assistance number (outsource services, nobody from the hotel) and finally a human answered the phone, but my cell phone had no reception in the business center! It was one of those moments where you think of Murphy and all his laws. I tried to use the land line but of course, it was not enabled to dial external numbers, when I saw a big pop-up on one of the computers, and then somebody typing remotely a message: “….Are you there, m’am?”…

Yes! I was there! And I started typing back and explaining the whole computer fiasco and my fear of the surcharges. The person (or at least the typing entity on the other side of the screen) gave me instructions, such as the infallible “could you please shut down the computer and turn it on again” and the pretentious…”can you see me moving the mouse on the other computer”. Long story short, the other computer was nowhere to be ready for use, therefore the customer service rep allowed me to use the remote controlled computer for 20 minutes, free of charge. I was able to print, and then, tried to finish my copies. Stubborn as I can be, I re-swiped my credit card, selected the number of copies and of course, it didn’t work. Luckily, the remote session and the rep were still up, and I ended up acting as an IT clerk, moving the copier, checking the wires, turning it on and off again, waiting for it to re-start, and then, voila! My copies were scanning and the printer started to print them… FIVE TIMES!!!!!!

I ran to my own private cyber version of the crying wall and explained as fast as my fingers were able to type, the over-printing issue, and the response was: “…m’am, could you please press the STOP CHARGES button?”… of course I did, expecting to get the printed receipt (as I did before)…only this time, NADA…ZERO…NO RECEIPT.

“... I’ve got no receipt, is this good or bad”.. I asked naively… “mmmmmmmmmm, interesting”… was the response! …” do not worry m’am, must likely when we restarted the copier, it lost your card information, so no charges should have been made… but, in case you get any surcharges, please call the 1-800 number and we will be more than happy to process a refund”…

Of course, the only evidence I had of this was the written conversation we were having! Therefore, I asked for the rep’s name (want to guess?? His name was JOHN, no last name), I tried to print the file, and didn’t work, then I saved the file in my USB flash card, and, 1 second after saving, in a very mission impossible move, “John” shutdown the computer to erase all evidence…

It was a funny ending to a frustrating event, and for me it was a solid and living reminder that computers are only tools to help us with our jobs, but not a replacement for a head count in your payroll; that no matter what color your hair is, or how well you may look in a bikini, or how bad your attitude is, I take human interaction any day before trying to “reason” with bits, screens and interfaces.


  1. Jajaja... he estado en esa situación tantas veces que tu hasta tu John... Doe... me hubiera parecido una bendición. Las contestadoras de eternos laberintos decisionales pueden hacerme perder la poca... muy poca... sanidad que me queda. Buenísima narración y excelente descripción de Miami, es una cosa que hay que ver!!!

    Olga, quiero que escribas algo sobre la famosa (¿infamous?) ley de Arizona que empodera a los policías locales (Arpaios y esas cosas) a pedir documentos. No sé, qué te parece, qué impresiones te produce... sería un punto de vista muy interesante...

    Un abrazote,


  2. I'm always impressed by people who actually use the customer service number.

    And chances are, that the real name of your "John" is Ardracharmambara Sanjayia from Mumbai. Maybe he was just saving you the spelling troubles.

    (Did I just went all SB1070??)

    -Rafa [Castellanos]

  3. muy buen articulo Olguita, excelente narración y aunque, como sabes, yo soy de los que trabaja con interfaces y pantallas, es importante que no olvidemos que son solo herramientas, no reemplazos...


  4. Just for the record... they DID overcharge me... 40 dlls... and for the record as well, John was right: I called the 1800 number and they gave me a credit for it. Life is good again. Thanks tons for your comments!


We love your feedback! Gracias por dejar sus comentarios.