It’s common knowledge that a majority of business communications is conducted online.
For a large number of folks, this is pretty simple stuff, especially among those who are in the 15- to 40-year-old crowd. However, what about people who are older or have worked in a field that hasn’t required them to know the first thing about a computer? For them, I bet it’s really not that simple.
The 61-year-old man who told me the following story only finished school through the ninth grade, owns no vehicle, has a family of five, and is a career nursery worker.
He had been laid off from his job, drawing unemployment.
The rural Middle Tennessee town where he resides had an unemployment office until a year or so ago. However, it shut down and reopened to another town approximately 50 miles away.
One week, he didn’t receive his unemployment check on which his family was totally dependent. He tried calling the unemployment office in question and, according to him, encountered countless impediments getting connected to the right person.
He stayed on the phone for minutes on end, only to be told that the right person wasn’t in that day. He called again. The person who answered his call lost the connection, and when he attempted to call back, the man got a busy signal.
Eventually, he got through to an employee and was told to go online to straighten out the snafu with his much-needed unemployment check.
When he told the office lady that he didn’t even know how to turn on a computer, much less own one, she told him either he would have to find someone who could help or make the 100-mile round-trip to the unemployment office.
Low on funds, nerves frazzled and with a panicky household, the man asked for my help.
I agreed to take him to a public computer and see what I could do. I warned him from the get-go, though, that I was not an up-to-date computer whiz and might not be able to help him.
We were able to pull up the website, but to make a long, annoying story short, we were unable to resolve the matter online. His face blood red, he angrily said, “If you ask me, all this online s*** is a little bit off in the head!”
He ended up having to pay someone else to drive him to the unemployment office. With a dash of ironic humor, because the out-of-work nursery worker was broke at the time, the friend drove him there on credit, saying he could settle up when he his unemployment check problem was resolved.
Similar to the scenario described above, I have heard many other horror stories about the U.S. Social Security Administration and various medical insurance providers. More and more these days, clients are forced to go online to keep abreast of changes and work out problems.
Now, my friend still had a bit of youth on his side and, thus, was able to persevere.
But what about the 90-year-old couple – one blind and the other in a wheelchair – who cannot drive, have no family, and piloting a space shuttle is as likely as either of them ever operating a computer.
Is the system saying to hell with the them and others like my friend?
My point is this: While doing business online saves both time and money for some, it could prove deadly for others.