Not only do we have to deal with human beings judging us (not to mention our superegos nagging us at every turn), it turns out that software is carping at us from the other side of the screen.

Michael Hickins, Contributor

June 4, 2009

3 Min Read

Not only do we have to deal with human beings judging us (not to mention our superegos nagging us at every turn), it turns out that software is carping at us from the other side of the screen.A Web utility called WordWeb, for instance, is free for a thirty-day trial, but the "free version may be used indefinitely only by people who take at most two commercial flights (not more than one return flight) in any 12 month period."

At the end of the thirty-day period, you get a pop-up asking you how often you fly in a year. If you take more than one round-trip the app responds, "Sorry, you can no longer use the free version. Under the licensing terms you agreed to when installing the program, unlimited free use of the program is only available to people who fly very little."

It's not so much having to pay for the app -- it's $59 for the professional bundle -- as the combination of inane reasoning and a sanctimonious tone that galls me the most. Fly less often and save $59? And how's this for a non sequitur: "Most computer users are responsible for far more emissions than is sustainable. For example two short-medium distance return flights can be equivalent to over 1 tonne of emissions: more than an average person can safely emit over an entire year."

The relationship between computer users and frequent fliers is...?

It gets even squirrelier. A vendor named Leap, touting "an online platform that taps into people's desire to enjoy life and do things that benefit good causes," is about to leap onto the online charity scene. It is supposed to help companies meet their "corporate social responsibility" mandates. "Leap makes it easy to find an existing event that benefits a good cause and is tailored to what you enjoy doing or arrange your own event," the literature states.

It even offers some examples: "mudwrestling matches to support mentoring; bar nights for Botswana and much more." Much more what? Alliteration? Do these events actually exist? Are hallucinogens involved?

Then there's the messaging from companies infuriated by our refusal to help them serve us better.

I recently got an email from a hotel asking me to fill out a customer satisfaction survey, which I ignored. Big mistake. Hotel angry. Hotel very disappointed in me. "We noticed that you did not have time to complete the survey [note the hint of sarcasm, because who doesn't have time to complete a survey, really?] ... we are committed to providing a superior guest experience to each and every one of our customers [even to slackers like you]."

When I clicked on the unsubscribe link (yeah, that's how I roll), I was taken to a page asking me to confirm that I am indeed ungrateful enough to unsubscribe to the hotel's "guest satisfaction surveys." Upon confirming my perfidy, I got a message that said: "The email address will be removed from our invitation email list. We apologize for the inconvenience."

We apologize for the inconvenience? Did Steve Martin write this copy?

Somewhere, an alienated customer relationship management app is composing the following haiku:

Ungrateful one You may unsubscribe at any time

Get ready folks, because this is the future. The Terminator is nothing compared to the wrath of an applet scorned.

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