kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
[personal profile] kaigou
Not that I meant to. I just really wanted this one book, see, at least I was pretty sure I did. Mostly sure, all the way up to putting in my credit card info and then hitting submit, at which point suddenly the online ordering form told me that I had no items in my shopping cart.

Say what? I tried again, and same results. So I switched to Safari and... went through the exact same process. Three times. Well, at least I knew then it wasn't just me, if two completely separate browsers were having the same fit. Baffled (and more than annoyed at this point), I decided to wait a day, try again, and yep, go through the whole six-step dance, get to submit, and nothing in my shopping cart.

So I emailed customer support for the ebook distribution company, explaining what was going on, that it didn't work on Firefox or Safari, that this told me it was the site and not me, and I'm almost positive I mentioned I was on Mac OSX (although I may have figured that was kinda obvious considering if you've got Windoze, you are probably NOT using Safari).

Customer Support writes me back and very pleasantly explains that she forwarded the issue to the tech guys, and here was the reply, and I QUOTE:
I used the client's login to add the two items to the wish list and then add them to the cart to attempt to check out. I used a bogus credit card so of course, I cannot place an order under this user's id. Attached are the screenshots of the process. I could not replicate any problem. My browser is IE7 with the browser set to retrieve new versions of the page automatically.

I am wondering if there is an issue with the caching with the client's browser. It is conceivable that if the user's settings do not check for a new page, that they are seeing a cached or saved copy of that same page from an earlier session. If at all possible, could you determine from the client what browser and version (this is important as IE has upgraded to version 8 recently and this could be a source of problems) and if the client has page renewal turned off. To determine what the page settings are in IE7...
And herein begins the saga of how I unintentionally broke my-bookstore-and-more.

First, I must note that D, the person replying, isn't a tech person herself, so she was (obviously) stuck in the uncomfy position between a tech-savvy person writing a complaint and a few possibly-savvy but clearly idiotic folks giving her the brush-off -- not that I'm sure it was obvious to her, but it was to me. So I replied:
Thanks for forwarding the replies, but maybe I need to clarify: I tested it in Firefox and Safari, neither of which worked, which tells me it's not my cache or my browser settings but something in the way the site's coding interacts with Firefox and/or Safari -- especially if the tech guy could test in IE7 and have no issues at all. Unfortunately, there isn't a form of IE6/7/8 for Mac, so that option is completely closed to me.

More info you can forward to the tech guys: I've not changed my settings in either Ffx or Safari, and I have ordered (obviously!) in the past. So they may want to check out anything minor that's changed in the past two or three months. Second is that -- again with no idea if this is true in IE, only that it's true in both Ffx and Safari -- when I go from Saimhain books to your site, it opens with the book I want. I then log in... and it sends me to the main page -- with an empty shopping cart! In other words, logging in destroys the session ID, and I have to go back and find the book all over again -- not always so easy. On top of that, if I have the book I want open on one tab in Firefox, and I open a second tab to log in, when I go back to the first tab and refresh... it doesn't always recognize me as I'm logged in and instead requires I log in again and then I'm back at the main page, having lost everything I'd added to my cart.

That process is supremely annoying, and I'll admit it's the first reason I look for copies of any book at Fictionwise first -- but if your site's the only option, then I've just shrugged and dealt with that quirk as just bad coding but not insurmountable. Not being able to order at all? Goes far beyond even just 'supremely' on the annoying range.

But I do hope that information will help the tech guys narrow down the issue. Folks in the Apple world like to read ebooks, too, after all.
I didn't hear anything back for a few days or more. Given later exchanges, I'm willing to bet barbecue money that the tech guys just stalled D, and she wasn't really sure quite how to reply to my open question without any other information. Okay, I'm more than willing to bet the tech guys just shrugged and said, well, if the person's on a Mac, we can't really duplicate that environment, so, whatever. Not our problem.

I believe the word I'm looking for is: asshats.

Eventually, I try again, and still getting the same behavior, on both browsers. So this time I wrote Samhain Publishing itself -- seeing how it was their book I wanted! I gave a brief synopsis of the problem, along with saying:
Yes, I did notify their support about the peculiar issue, and I even noted that this failure occurred when I used Firefox as well as when I used Safari. The response relayed from their tech guys was that, well, the tech guys tested it on IE7 and it works fine, so maybe I'm using IE8 and my settings are off, and here's some info about how to properly set my browser. Obviously this entirely missed the point of noting that I'm on a MAC, and use Firefox and Safari, let alone that there hasn't been an IE for the Mac world since IE5. I wrote back, explaining this again, and haven't heard a peep out of them since. I can only presume they think the situation is resolved, but I still can't order, and I remain highly irritated by it... and what it really boils down to is this: is there ANY other way I can get books from you, short of ordering print copies through the mail?

I'm aware you have listings on Fictionwise (the venue I prefer, given the choice, just b/c their system is much more reliable and customer- friendly), but there seems to be a major lag between when your books are out on MBAM versus anywhere else. Does MBAM's current site bizarro-ness mean I'm doomed to wait until Fictionwise finally releases the titles I want (if they ever do) -- or am I just out of luck from now on? I really hope the last one isn't the answer, because frankly I'd be hugely disappointed to have to knock you guys off my buying list simply because of some tech guys who can't be arsed to remember that not everyone in the world uses Windows.

Okay, so normally I'd ignore such an attitude, but it's standing between me and some good books. And, considering those books are yours and with a quick exchange they could be mine and my money could be yours, I figured you had a vested interest in hearing about the issue.
Now, who exactly I talked to remains a mystery in some ways, because I wrote Samhain, and it's a Samhain email address, but the person's identified as being with MBAM in her sig -- so I guess the two are linked somehow. Regardless, unsurprisingly, this email prompted an almost immediate response both from the original responder, D, and someone else at S/MBAM, which would be A.

And lo and behold, A is also a Mac person -- hell, she's enough of a Mac person she makes me look positively laissez-faire about it. (iPhone, the works, it turns out.) She promised to see if she could duplicate the problem herself, and asked if I could send more information about the exact steps. D also wrote with pretty much the same thing, promising to forward it to the tech guys, who had asked for:
  1. What is the mode and operating system of the Mac you are using.
  2. What is the browser you are using along with the version number.
  3. Which books are you having problems ordering.
  4. The date of the last unsuccessful attempt.
  5. User ID.
(Didn't they have half that from the first email I'd sent? Okay. Whatever.)

I thought about it, and decided, y'know, I was NOT going to be jerked around by some guys jacking off to amuse themselves in some badly-lit basement, just because they were on the all-powerful IE and I was, well, not. Nor was I going to sit there and let someone tell me that the problem was me. Screw that.

Therefore, I sat down with credit card and screen grabber at the ready, and I took screenshots of every single step. Then I cleared the cache and history on Firefox, and I freaking did it again. And then I got on Safari, and I did it all over again. Then I cleared history and cache on Safari and did it a fourth time. I listed my steps like a good little informal case study, noted the images that went with each step, bundled it up, and sent it off with a big fat mental FU to the tech guys.

You think I KID? Oh, I kid NOT.
1st try: in firefox, cache unswept, still logged in from last visit // images: 1-ffx-s#

1. goto saimhain site
2. find book
-----click on book
-----click on purchase
3. mbam site opens on book's main page
-----img: 1-ffx-s3
-----click on "add to cart"
4. cart page opens (or whatever it's called)
-----img: 1-ffx-s4
-----click "continue checkout"
5. ordering form opens
-----img: 1-ffx-s5
-----put in correct info for card
-----click "continue checkout"
6. empty shopping cart message appears
-----img: 1-ffx-s6

second time: in firefox; log out, clean cache, try again // 2-ffx-s#

...3 mbam site opens on book page
-----img: 2-ffx-s3
-----yep, definitely logged out
4. log into site
-----img: 2-ffx-s4a
-----front page opens...
-----img: 2-ffx-s4b
...And so on. FOUR TIMES, twice for EACH browser. No stone untested, baby!

And before the day was even out, I got this reply from A:
You couldn't possible fathom how happy I was to see all of this detail about the problem. I get so sick of the programmers saying, we can't recreate the problem. So we sent them all your info kind of like bam! Take that!
I couldn't reply immediately because I was too busy laughing.

This is where we turned to conversation to amuse ourselves while the tech guys got their heads out of their asses, mostly started because MBAM has a Macon, Georgia address... so naturally, hey, if A had closed with "and if you ever need anything, feel free to drop me a line," I couldn't help but ask if she were ever near James Brown High School, and the really awesome barbecue place that's not far from there, if I recall correctly. Add in a few derogatory comments about barbecue misconceptions in my current state of residence (beef barbecue, I'm telling you, is NOT barbecue, and why do all these people stare at me funny when I put coleslaw on my barbecue? heathens! they're all heathens!), and I requested smuggling out barbecue if she were ever inclined.

That started the conversation, and we had a day or two of exchanging funny emails commiserating on good barbecue, the oddness of Georgians, and the beauty of life with Macs, designing shopping carts, online sites, all that jazz. Then I figured I'd given the tech guys enough time, and if they weren't going to fix things, I'd troubleshoot a bit more. I dragged out my cookies from Firefox, got snapshots of my session-ID and all that stuff, and then logged into MBAM with every intention of seeing whether the session-ID reset (in login, and in ordering) also wiped my cookies.

Only... the order went through. Amazing!

And then I wrote D, who was glad, but also apologized, saying the tech guys had wanted her to contact me to "do another test", and she'd just been cringing at the notion of making me go through all that again. I tried to be very nice when I replied, saying that "do another test" really amounts to "please order now and make sure it works" which is what I'd intended to do anyway -- without mentioning that if it hadn't worked, they would've gotten a massive bundle of info about cookies, sessions, and probably some well-chosen words about just how pathetic the site's coding really was.

Not that the fix is any better. It's really, quite possibly, the most ham-fisted fix I've ever seen: basically, when you enter MBAM, it immediately and automatically LOGS YOU OFF. Even if you weren't already logged in! It doesn't matter! (Example is Safari, btw, but Firefox does it too.)

That's RIGHT. Don't bother actually, y'know, FIXING the stupid code, just freaking END THE SESSION when someone opens the page! Oh, see, now THAT'S some graceful coding, you nit-witted knuckle-dragging basement-living morons. I so pity this company that's been saddled with your useless excuse for code, oh, how I do feel the pain. Yes, I am laughing at you, because you're freaking pathetic and can't debug your way free of a basic session-id issue to save your lives or even purchase a bag of fritos. You are NOT code monkeys! You are small code turtles! Lower! You do not rate!

However, technically, yes, the issue is fixed -- I am now able to order. But if you've not had an issue and in the past week have gone to order from Samhain, opened MBAM, and suddenly been logged off without warning...


Yep, that would be me. Sort of.

On the plus side, A mentioned they're in the middle of a massive redesign (hahaha tis the season!), so the new company will, we all hope, be more responsive and less asshatish. I told her not to worry, because nearly any redesign I've ever worked on has always ended up better, in some way, than the original, doubly so if the original was Really Broken: you learned all the things not to do, that first time, and the second go-round is thus always an improvement.

On the unexpected benefits side, I ended up ordering three more stories from Samhain within a week, which had been ones that I'd found intriguing but hadn't really been willing to bother with (being short stories or longish short stories, which aren't really my thing)... but since ordering meant seeing that crazy ham-fisted idiotic bug-fix of a forced-session-end warning every time I opened the site, and that made me laugh hysterically, I couldn't resist. It's like good humor plus reading therapy.

Sometimes, it's just the perfect combination. With character development!

Date: 6 May 2009 04:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] muffiewrites.livejournal.com
Have you ever considered the creative nonfiction market for your writing?

Date: 6 May 2009 04:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
*dies laughing*

No, but I do have a string of coworkers who insist I should be a stand-up comedian, or at least write humor books, given the stories I tell them about travelling.

It's not like I really want my life to a be a sitcom... it just always seems to end up that way.

Date: 6 May 2009 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] muffiewrites.livejournal.com
You got a gift. The humor is a side benefit, sure. The writing is great, though.

Date: 6 May 2009 12:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladystarlightsj.livejournal.com
Wow. You broke a publishing company! I am impressed.

Date: 8 May 2009 09:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Hey, we all gotta have ambitions.

Date: 6 May 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
You are NOT code monkeys! You are small code turtles! Lower! You do not rate!

*dying of laughter*

Date: 8 May 2009 09:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
*takes a bow*

Just here to serve, ma'am.

Date: 6 May 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
annotated_em: a branch of a Japanese maple, with bright red leaves (Default)
From: [personal profile] annotated_em
"You are NOT code monkeys! You are small code turtles! Lower! You do not rate!"

...you know, I know I have bad hobbies, what with liking people go off in righteous furies, but things like that really do make it totally worth it.

Date: 8 May 2009 09:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
I believe strongly in righteous furies, and all the better if it's possible to be at least marginally amusing while doing so. It's very cathartic. With a laugh track.