Friday, June 14, 2019

#76 - Who's a good puppy? Google's a GOOD PUPPY!

The following exchange is real. I have not changed anything from the real emails involved in this. I run a small business out of my apartment; I write and publish books, I have a few movies for sale on Amazon. It’s a small operation, but it’s my operation. So….I advertise a little.

Google isn’t the only place I run ads, but each month I fork over a small chunk of cash to Google. In exchange they run ads for my stuff that turns up on various people’s searches. I’m generally happy with the results. I get a little annoyed when representatives from google contact me, expressing concern that I’m not budgeting my ads for more, and thus I am not paying them enough. But, for the most part, I’m fairly happy with things.

Then, one day in May, I contacted Google and asked them to change the date each month when they bill me. I wanted to arrange things so that I was paying Google in the middle of the month instead of earlier. I didn’t think it was that big a problem to ask about. Other places that collect money from me each month have been fairly accommodating about customizing my billing date during the month. Google, however, acted as if I’d asked them to murder someone. I received a reply from someone whose name I will fictionally call Daria. It can’t be done, Daria told me. Its an automated system, and nothing can change the billing date.

I apologize now for not taking Daria seriously. I assumed that any billing date could be changed, and that I would have to be more forceful before their ‘customer service’ instincts finally kicked in, and they made the change. I even offered to let them pause my ads during the week-long delay leading up to the new billing date.

I sent Daria a second email with stronger wording, more forceful. It’s not usually my style, but I was trying to kick them into gear.

To my surprise I received the following email from Daria. I am printing it here word for word:

Subject line: Regarding the change in billing date
Hello Peter, 
Thank you for your response.
I understand that you wish to get the billing date changed for your Ads account:---------------.
Peter, I went ahead and checked with my wider team to confirm if there could be an exceptional case just for you to change the date of the billing cycle. I'm really sorry as this is not the resolution you were looking for. However, unfortunately, we are unable to change/ shift the billing date. 
There is an automatic system that decides when the account should be charged and there is no human interference in the process.
I can imagine that this was not the resolution you were looking for however, please understand that basis our policies, our hands are tied. 
Please refer to the article on automatic payments and threshold limit. 

Please believe us, we always want our clients to get all the support they need, and have a seamless experience with our service. If it would have been in my hands - I would have done everything possible to assist you with the information you've provided us till now. 
I sincerely hope you do not get disheartened by this, I'm really sorry for the inconvenience caused to you here.
Additionally, I would strongly encourage you to fill out this feedback form to voice the same concern to the team. 
Also, if you require assistance with anything else at all, please remember that I am just an email away and always happy to help!
Again, my sincere apologies for everything.

A couple weeks later, I sent the following reply:

Dear Daria;
Thanks for your email from May 29th, explaining that once Google has put an important bit of decision-making in the hands of Google's AI automated systems, there is nothing a human can do to interfere with this automated decision-making.

This is important for me - for all humans, in fact - to know, going forward. In the old days (ten years ago), we often complained that calling in to some automated phone system, we endured mind-bendingly frustrating run-arounds, never got to speak with a live human, and failed to resolve our problem in the end. Now, the lesson seems to be that we never should have called in in the first place. The decisions are being made by a higher intelligence. Of course you are employed there - I assume you are human. Now, I guess, when we contact a company like Google, asking for a billing date to be changed, instead of an automated run-around, we just get the direct message up-front, that the robot overlords are in charge and there is nothing we humans can do.

It makes me wonder what your job is, exactly. Or, wait a minute, are you ACTUALLY human? Or are you one of the robot overlords? If so, I have some bad news for you; I figured out how to beat the automated intelligence, and change my billing date. I had to outwit your AI, but I realized that Artificial Intelligence is still mostly artificial, and not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is.

It occurred to me that automated intelligence is sort of a like a puppy dog. It can be trained to do a lot of things, but it is too dumb to know that rotten and moldy food in the garbage can is bad.

I realized that all I had to do was 'train' your artificial brain to bill me on a different date. To do this I did something very simple; I replaced my valid payment method with a maxxed-out credit card, that would be accepted on the day I set it up as a payment method, but was certain to decline your attempt to bill me on the 8th of the month. I simply waited a week, replaced the bad payment method with a good one, and paid my bill a week later. Thanks, my ads are running again, and everyone is happy. THERE'S a GOOD PUPPY!

Now...I am under no illusions that doing this once will be enough to train you to bill me on the 15th. So, I suppose I will have to keep doing this every month until the message sinks in. I apologize. I know this must feel a lot like rubbing your nose in the bad thing you did on the carpet, but lessons must be learned one way or the other.

Eventually, I have confidence that you and your robot overlords will finally learn your lesson and bill me on the 15th. AND....when you finally do, I might even buy you some of those yummy kibbles you love so much. YESSSSS....who's a GOOD PUPPY!? You are, Google! Good Puppy! GOOD PUPPY!
-Peter Wick
June 14, 2019