April 12th, 2014

iAm iSaid

At least I've never put the mouse to my mouth and said "Hello, computer." Except maybe for fun.

One day, I need to hope, this cliché will be defeated: that if you're someone older, you can't learn the internet to save your life.

The supermarket mega-chain I'm a voice for, at least a voice on their customer service lines (it's not like I'm in the ads), is, like many retailers, increasing its digital services. More coupons are available online; you can track fuel points and/or rewards points with online accounts; for several divisions -- like Fred Meyer, which just started doing this -- you can go online to sign up your card to also earn points towards a possible charitable donation for some deserving group. (My shopping supports Cat Adoption Team.)

This is all hard to use for anyone who thinks the entirety of the internet is Google.

I talk customers through figuring out why they can't load a web page, and there are certain (FAIRLY EASY) steps to clean up people's computers so that a web page would work, but if someone doesn't know what the word "browser" means, you're gonna have a bad time. There's that. There's also, far too often, the defeatist attitude: "I just don't understand computers."

"You can learn," I said last night to one of my customers. Who I wasn't able to help, so I put a credit on her shopper's card instead so she wouldn't have to load a coupon, but I asked her to write down exactly what she needed to do with her Internet Explorer so the site would work again. As many do, she's had a younger family member who has more computer experience than she does, and I hope that family member helps her. And that she didn't write down the message wrong.

You can learn. Like I can: last weekend I had to be that customer who wasn't sure how to make a certain website feature work. I read the troubleshooting FAQ*, but I didn't REALLY read it; it intimidated me. But talking via email to someone giving me tech support made me realize I could've gotten this! I just needed to pay more attention! And boom, less than a minute later, something that hadn't been working, was. I admitted to the guy helping me I hadn't read the FAQ well enough; he was doing his job right, I wasn't. Until then.

I have loads to learn about computers. Most of us have loads to learn about computers. Now I hope that the "An Hour Of Code" computer-training push can go not just for students, but people who are older. Any age! Always remember that computers are tools, and you can learn tools. Tools: how we became a big deal.

* Which I'll always spell out, "F-A-Q," because "Fak" sounds wrong, plus easy to misinterpret.