Just now I tried to get some online customer support for my AT&T (formerly SBC [formerly Pacbell]) DSL account. Their website invited me to try an “online chat” with a customer service agent. I gamely clicked the “chat” button and a Java applet window popped up with a text-entry area. In another part of the window I was greeted like this:
Hi Bob Glickstein. How can I assist you?
I typed, “Hi! I have been providing my own SMTP service for my domains but would like to start using an AT&T relay as a smart host (to get around some ISPs’ IP-blocks). What server address can I use and what settings (if any) do I need?”
Here’s how it appeared in the chat window after I pressed return:
HI I HV EE PRVIDIMY OWNST SERIE FRMY DMANS BU W LK T SAT UIG A A7TRELAY A ASMAR HOST 9T GETARON SME IPS I BLOCS0 WHA SETIGS CATSEVR ADDRSSCA IUEAN WHA SETIS 9I AY0 DOINED
I typed, “Whoa, wtf happened to my message?”
WOAW HPPENDT MY MESSGE
“I’ve gotten gibberish from tech support before but this is ridiculous.”
IV GTTENGBBRIS FOM TC SPPRT BEOEBU HSISRIDICULOS
The AT&T guy wrote:
Bob, I apologize, I am unable to understand your words.
I shouldn’t wonder!
As I am only able to assist you in English language.
Thanks for clearing that up. I decided to try putting a space in between each letter. “M a y b e i f I t y p e l i k e t h i s”
MA YB E I F I T YPE LIK E T HIS
“T h e w e b U I i s m a n g l i n g m y w o r d s”
THE W E B UI IS MA G L I NG MY WOR DS
“I h a v e t o p u t a s p a c e b e t w e e n e a c h l e t t e r”
I HA VE T O PUT A S PA CE BET W EE N E AC H L ETTE R
Bob, I suggest that you restart this chat session.
The words are really appearing as disturbed.
No kidding. Clicking the “hang up” icon to end the session didn’t work. I dismissed the window and went back through the website to launch a new chat but was placed into the same session, with the same bug. A bit more hilarity ensued (of the rapidly diminishing kind) and then I tried to tell the guy “This is the most broken thing I have ever used,” “I give up,” and “Thanks anyway.”
TH M OST BR O TG I HV EVER U
Though it prevented me from doing what I wanted to do, I can still admire this bug for the impressively gigantic fuck-up it is. I can’t help but wonder if AT&T’s customer support tool was written by disgruntled post-merger SBC or Pacbell engineers in a kind of removing the W’s moment.