Error Message

Dealing with my health insurance’s online presence is amazingly frustrating.

One small example is this error I received when trying to reset my password:

“The reset function is unavailable at this time.

NOTE: Representatives at this phone number can only help you with Registration, Forgotten User Name, Forgotten Password issues. For all other issues, please use the number found on the back of your ID card.”

Um. I didn’t use ANY number. I’m not on the phone right now. Am I? Hello?

3 Responses to Error Message

  1. BruceS June 18, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

    LOL. That’s one of the scenarios I love in technical writing; the writer simply copies something verbatim, ignoring any errors either original to the material or introduced through change of usage. This was probably from a manual to be used for phone messages, simply copied to a web page. Another fun scenario is when the writer changes some text to “improve” it in some sense, but thereby renders it incorrect. Those were the only ways technical writing worked at one of my previous employers.

  2. weeklyrob June 19, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    It’s even worse than that one error.

    For example, typing the account number, which includes several letters: letters aren’t accepted in the field, and you’re supposed to use the number equivalents found on a phone (A=2, for example).

    There’s no mention of this anywhere on the page, by the way. I found this out while talking to them on the phone.

  3. BruceS June 20, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    Their system is clearly intended to be used via phone, and was hastily adapted to (almost) run on the web.

    This “mapping” of letters to numbers can result in a huge loss of variation. For instance, an account number that has letters in five places has close to twelve million values just for those five places. Replace those with the “equivalent” numbers from the phone, and you get about 33 thousand—a *lot* easier to get falsely duplicate account numbers. Pathetic.

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