You suck because that's all there is to do: an online shopping report.

June 14th, 2021

I'm typing this in a file named overstockhell.txt, but the name can't begin to encompass the pure and unadulterated idiocy I've been grappling with for my sins of attempting to buy some items online1. Had I but known how many hours I'd have to sink into the adventure at the outset, I'd've clocked myself, but in my optimistic naivite I imagined someone else would be doing most of the work, given as the payment was coming from my side. So I'll hazard a guess at six or seven hours of wrangling: idiots in online chat, sympathetic if powerless customer service over the phone, and a mountain of outright insanity on the website that calls itself Overstock, despite having no way to handle orders with multiple items. But I'm getting ahead of myself; structuring the chaos that ensued once I chose this outlet2 is the way I get to put some (hopefully final) hours in, so let's start at the beginning, where all good intentions go to die.

Overstock is one of the few online vendors that claim to actually accept bitcoin; others like Amazon predictably rope the shopper in only to require some shit-flavored bitcoin alternative a la coinbase. The guts of their system nevertheless eschew the beautifully simple, direct method of payment bitcoin offers in favor of a processing middleman; they use I've used this processor a few times for server bills and such and so didn't suspect any shenanigans. But somewhere in the strained relationship between them and overstock, the first ring of shopping hell was revealed to me. Here's what it looks like, for the morbidly curious:

1. Bitcoin transaction propagates and confirms on the blockchain.
2. Coinpayments sends an email confirmation of payment received.
3. Overstock sends an email confirmation of order completed.
4. Coinpayments sends an email that payment timed out.
5. Overstock sends an email cancelling the order.


At which point I used overstock's online customer service chat feature (which is where all attempts at finding help on their site funnel to) to try and untangle the mess. Whether they employ humans to sit at the other end or rely entirely on a shoddy Eliza emulator is still up in the air; any mention of bitcoin results in an appeal to "check your coinbase account", notwithstanding coinbase isn't used at any point in their purchasing process. The script, whether deployed in bipedal or binary, circles a drain of apology and helplessness, persisting even through my escalation to a "supervisor". They don't know anything, they can't do anything, but they're very sorry and how about you check your coinbase account. Coinpayments had nothing to say about its second email, but merely confirmed that the transaction had gone through, and refused to have any other part in the matter, such as for instance telling Overstock that they'd indeed been paid.


So I waited for Overstock's business hours and talked to Esther on the phone, who blessedly seemed to possess both a pulse and a clue. She spent a while trying to decipher the spaghetti on her screen, and finally came up with the notion that "Our bitcoin payments require two confirmations from the payment processor; the first one came back fine, but the second didn't, so the order was automatically cancelled". The funds being nevertheless transferred, she offered to reinstate my order, but this came with a hitch. In the time since the order was originally placed, some of my items (out of a total of forty one) had gone out of stock3. She could issue me a refund, but only for the whole amount of the order; if I wanted what remained of the items, I'd have to take store credit for the difference. So I did, accompanied by updating my shopping file with a row of asterisks and a new note for every item, indicating whether it was still in the order or had meanwhile become unavailable. In a perfect world where information was presented as just that, this wouldn't even be a problem, but of course the "client area" is designed for phones and the idiots who depend on them, making this process a lengthy ordeal of comparing several dozen descriptions of things like yes, socks, against what I'd pasted in my list. Is this the gentleman's cotton dress sock black/gray mix pack of 12 or the cotton dress socks --men's black and gray 12 that's out of stock, now? But wait! There's pictures! Before you ask, yes they use item numbers (I assume only because they haven't yet found a way to get out of having to populate their databases with them), which...well, they appear after about eight kilometers of url keyword stuffing, so highlighting an item on the site to see the url (which is the only place the item number appears) does...not so much.

At any rate, hot laptop sweat and cold coffee eventually brought me through another illusion of settledness, wherein I imagined that "order received and confirmed" meant something like order received and confirmed. I floated adrift in this hard-won state for two days, after which a new email arrived from overstock confirming my cancellation. You know, the one I didn't make. No other information, no explanation, just-so, thanks for canceling your order, would you like to spend more money with us?


I got back on the phone and waited ten minutes for the Esther-like, if differently-named, operator to "inquire with the team that knows what to do about this". She came back with a phone number for their loss prevention department, which had entirely different hours, being in an entirely different timezone, and so was then unreachable. She personally couldn't offer any further information. Imagine this state of affairs wherein you're tasked with triaging customer service calls, but your company's inter-departmental communication is so poor that you have no idea why an order was cancelled and have no recourse but to try, and fail, to reach out manually. I say "imagine this", but I know you don't have to --you work there, and live there, and try to keep the wool over your eyes there, on your own, and communally, as a foundation for all your activity and so-called drive. You accept this, and thus perpetuate it, reveling in your "safety in numbers" and telling yourself that everyone does it, it's just how things go, and that I and anyone else who dares to press against it are sociopaths.

So being the psychotic, irrational maniac that I am, I waited for this new department's business hours and called them, only to encounter another flavor of Esther who told me some "agent" of theirs had gotten confused as to why I had first paid in bitcoin and then used the store credit that was refunded to me the first time the order was cancelled --essentially, they'd fucked things up so badly that now even they couldn't tell what exactly was going on with this order, so they "flagged" it, which is how you say "sweep under the rug" in bureaucratic peonnese. She apologized profusely and offered to reinstate the order yet again, though all she could do was add the items back to my cart. I'd have to go through it with another comb and confirm that everything that was supposed to be there was there indeed, and click all the required buttons to get the order "made" again.

Poor shopping file had to puff out its chest, suck in its brisket and take another pass of asterisks and notes, after which the order was supposedly re-confirmed (that's the third time, if you've lost count). Lo and behold, a few days later I started receiving some a barrage of emails from overstock reporting that certain items were shipping, or scheduled to be shipped, or that their delivery dates had been "updated", or that they were scheduled to arrive, or that they had actually arrived. Of the thirty-two items still left in my order after the multiple passes of delays-for-ensuring-shit-goes-out-of-stock, it looks like I'll be getting five or six emails for each. How long would you expect it to take to read and catalogue 160 - 192 emails?


And how much would you charge for your time? The damage in total comes to something like a coupla thousand dollars, give or take a cancelled item, but that's in terms of what's been exchanged on paper. The aggravation cost is through the roof, especially now that, weeks after placing the order the first time, in the long long ago, I've logged into my account in search of a receipt in some format apt for my shipping forwarder4, only to discover nearly every item listed has been updated with a "cancelled" status indicator. No explanation, no details, no email revoking the other five or six that promised x or y or z. I walked livid figure-eights around the house awhile, inquiring "Seriously?!" to no one in particular, until exhausted enough to sit down and attempt to make a list of all the newly-cancelled stuff. Halfway through, though, I noticed that most items have more than one entry in the endless phone-optimized scroller: one for "cancelled", and one for "delivered"5.


I don't know whether I'll bother calling back, whether I'll see if suing is an option, whether I'll wait and see if anything actually gets shipped or not, or whether I'll ever be able to try ordering something online again. What I do know is that the modern lie of convenience is an evil deeper and more insidious than nearly everyone else will admit. Far from being limited to suggestive advertising, product placement, or peer pressure, the current systems coax and groom consumers into whatever serves the systems best through outright mendacity, through discarding the genuine for the cheap, and through failing to deliver in any scenario that strays from the most common. You buy one pair of plastic socks at a time with your credit card, feeding the kind of life that keeps you limited to buying one pair of plastic socks at a time with your credit card, and the systems give back by turning a blind eye to the notion that anything else could be possible. You suck because that's all there is to do.

Until you stop letting it be so.

  1. Why buy online, then? Well, that'd be a last-ditch effort following month after month trying to source things locally. Really esoteric and exacting items like cotton fucking socks. Everything's got to be "improved" these days, a slapdash excuse of a label covering such a poverty of craftsmanship that it's questionable whether pure cotton socks even exist anymore. Shopkeepers are happy to perpetuate the lie, of course; if you conveniently don't read labels and so don't notice that their "of course we have cotton socks" translates to 100% bamboo or 60% cotton 40% plastic, or if you buy them with a label actually proclaiming 100% cotton despite a tangible plastic feel and then don't take a lit match to one of the threads once bought, confirming the curled, flash-burn of burnt lycra or whatever, then sure, you can "have" what you asked for. If you actually want the genuine item, though, all that's available is frustration and wasted time. Bonus:


    . []

  2. Really, I've no reason to believe any of the bullshit is particular to Overstock itself, especially as they were chosen for matching a few baseline criteria and otherwise at random. I'm always tempted to confine negative experiences to the specific actors involved, but sometimes that's not warranted, and after years of unneccessary, byzantine difficulty with procurement, I know things wouldn't be much different if the name was swapped with some other. To wit, out of the voluminous grab bag: back in Argentina I convinced MP to try ordering some sushi from a local restaurant that'd previously been vetted in person, to have it delivered. I don't remember why, perhaps it was the sort of unforgivingly hot day that place occasionally cooks up, or maybe someone was sick. You've no way to access the depths of what I mean when I say "I convinced MP", and even looking at it now I wonder what miraculous event actually occurred --it could'nt have been convincing, but must have been some sort of logical or maybe pity-inducing gymnastics the likes of which oughta make me apt for courtroom work. Anyway, estimated delivery time was something like forty minutes, and after an hour I called them, pretty pissed. They assured me the order was on the way and would arrive any minute. Fifteen minutes later I hacked lunch together myself and swore to never take restaurant delivery seriously again. Another two hours later some derp on a motorbike started raising the alarm downstairs, sushi's here, etc. Why anyone would want three-something hours' old sushi is utterly beyond me, and should be beyond you, too, except that when I told this story to friends what I heard was "Oh, I hate it when that happens." Like it's a thing, like it's regrettable but necessary, familiar, oh well, whatchagonnado. The whole fruit is rotten; by now it's on providers to prove how they're different, not on consumers to supply good faith and confidence upfront. []
  3. Out of stock, at overstock, which apparently keeps one or two units around at a time. This is a mere international sourcing "solution", not some hoity-toity neighborhood fruit cart, to stock something more like dozens or hundreds per item. What do you think this is, the 21st century?! Pssh. []
  4. Why I have to use a forwarder, and why such a service wants a receipt, are just extra aggravational dipping sauces on the side of this platter of fail. []
  5. Most, not all. If it were the case with everything at least it could be discerned whether the order failed or not. But why pass up another chance for screwing things up tighter and more frustratingly than a fifty year old tangle of christmas tree lights? []

2 Responses to “You suck because that's all there is to do: an online shopping report.”

  1. These deplorable fucks are by now so damned fucking poor, their entire lives consist, like Argentine morons' a decade ago, of the five or six emails they receive, once or twice a year, when they finally get together enough government scrip to "buy" a pair of socks or whatever inconsequential nothing.

    Well done "human rights" US! You're now collectively poorer than African peasants back in the colonization days, what "continent your fathers fought to conquer". That whole echafaudage of "harassment" and "HR" and "quotas" and "rights" and "justice" etcetera really paid the fuck off, did it. Not for you, but this situation where Romania in point of fact conquered the United States isn't something one could've possibly constructed in fiction, back in the 80s. Even as lived experience... I join the chorus. Seriously ?!

  2. Hey, remember back in May, when you were being a smartass ? WELL IT CAUGHT UP WITH YOU NAO!

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