An open letter to my mobile phone provider

Dear SimpleMobile Customer Service person,

Hi there!

As one of your customers, I have to ask: why can’t I pay my bill online with my Mac or my iPad? (Even though your site says Firefox ought to work, it doesn’t, at least on a Mac.)

Assuming your bill pay system isn’t made of magic, but a standard HTML form submitted over SSH, there cannot possibly be any good reason to lock out anybody who’s not using these two browsers on Windows. If your system is using something like ActiveX that won’t work on a non-Windows system, then your web development team are either a pack of raving idiots or actual time travelers from 1999 and you should fire them and hire me to build you something that actually works, and also explain to them as you hand them their final checks that there is no Web technology that works solely on IE and Firefox. If it works in Firefox, it works in Chrome, Safari, Mobile Safari, etc. Lots of crappy tech only works on IE, but most web developers avoid these technologies once they’ve progressed past, say, middle school.

In fact, the only technology that won’t work on Mobile Safari is Flash…and if your bill pay system uses Flash, you need to call security and have your web team escorted off the premises after being checked for weapons, because anyone who would do such a thing is clearly dangerously insane.

Whatever the convoluted and inevitably wrong explanation for this situation might be, the fact is that it’s pointless and irritating. I am not going to buy a PC and inflict the horrors of Windows on myself simply to pay my mobile phone bill. Instead, I have to actually go to the store and pay my bill…which sucks when the bill is due on a weekend and the store is closed. (You may ask: if you know your bill is due on a weekend, why not just pay on the preceding Friday? The answer is: I’m an American. Paying a bill even a day before it’s due is an act of wretched cowardice, fit only for Communists and probably French people.)

I suppose there might be some value to irritating one’s customers in this way, but I can’t imagine what it might be. I’m not an MBA or anything, but I’m fairly sure that needlessly antagonizing customers is usually considered a bad strategy. (Then again, you are a mobile phone company, and mobile phone companies give out big shiny awards for Maximum Customer Annoyance to each other at industry conferences.)

I also can’t imagine I’m the only customer with this problem. I suspect that I’m not the only customer who has contacted you about this. Let me assure you that when your customer service person goes down to the nerd dungeon and asks Bob the Web geek about it, and Bob hems and haws and says “Yeah, I can’t really change it, it’s based on the architecture of the server, it’s all J2EE” and then continues babbling geekspeak at you for ten minutes, well…Bob is lying. Trust me. I’ve been building websites since Bob was still trying to make his MySpace page look like The Matrix. I know this to be true, because if Bob knew as much as I did, he wouldn’t have thrown up this unnecessary and entirely annoying barrier to commerce.

So: please fix this problem. Let me pay my bill with cool computers. Also consider firing the fool who caused it and paying my extremely reasonable rates to have me fix it.

(I’m also posting this to my blog, in hopes that the prospect of being embarrassed in front of the seven people and also my mom who read it might drive you towards resolution.)

Cheers, Joshua Ellis

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