A tale of 2 internets…

Tale of 2 Cities Illustration

Recently a direct mail flyer from Staples dropped through my letterbox. Now usually, these kind of things end up in the bin after a brief flick through, but something this time caught my eye.

As part of my job I produce a large amount of direct mail, so I always feel obliged to flick through any direct mail I receive because I understand how much hard work goes into creating these things. Not just in terms of design, but the logistics of making sure that stock is available roughly when the direct mail is likely to hit a doorstep is an art in itself.

Anyway, the thing that caught my eye in this instance was an all-in-one printer from HP. I don’t remember the model, however it was for sale for the very reasonable price of £49.99.

That seemed a great price to me, so I did a little research on the model, to find out what kind of compatibility it had with the Mac. After a little searching on-line I regrettably found out that it was a dog. HP’s driver’s were either flaky or non existent, and the printer itself wasn’t particularly good quality.

However, upon looking around I realised what good value all-in-one printers were, so I convinced myself I needed one (I don’t have a printer at home, I usually do any personal printing at work), and looked around for a decently priced printer with good Mac support.

I quickly discovered that the best printer’s came from Brother, and after a quick search online I found a discounted Brother DCP-115C on PC World’s website for £45.17 (online price only).

So, credit card in hand I decided I would purchase it, and here’s where my troubles started.

After placing the printer in my virtual basket I proceeded to the virtual checkout. Before I could pay (thank goodness in retrospect) they needed to locate at which branch this product was located, and if it was near, you could go and pick it up yourself.

Except it didn’t work. The part of the page that gave you the locations of the nearest PC World remained blank.

So I tried Firefox – this was a little better, it actually displayed the locations, but on clicking proceed, the website declared I hadn’t made a choice, and wouldn’t let me proceed.

So I tried Camino – a similar result to Safari.

So I tried Internet Explorer – even worse, it actually crashed the browser.

So I sent an email directly to their complaints department and gave up. I assume this will be picked up by PC World complaints, passed onto the Windows-based webmaster, he or she will simply smile and throw the request in the bin, along with all the others.

But I still wanted a printer, so undeterred, I tried various other online stores and none of them had the printer I wanted at the right price.

In desparation I tried Amazon. I’ve used Amazon before and been amazed at their Mac-support. Their website works flawlessly, and in this case that had the exact printer I wanted. A few clicks later it’s bought and I’m now waiting for delivery.

Guess I’ll be using them in future and to let them know how pleased I am with their service, I sent them an email thanking them for their Mac-support.

But (there’s always a but isn’t there?) my story doesn’t end there.

I’m still awaiting delivery. It’s not late, but Amazon have sent me an email and a link to track the order, so I decided to find out where it was.

At the moment it’s in the hands of Parcel Force UK, so armed with a reference number I visited their website to find out where my package is.

And guess what? Their site doesn’t work with Mac’s. There’s no indication that it doesn’t work, but when you get to the part of the site that displays the information you want, it’s just not there.

I’ve gone through the same steps as I used with PC World’s website, with the same results, including the email complaint, which I assume again will make it through to the Windows-biased webmaster who will silently guffaw to himself and throw the request in the bin.

It’s hard to say what part of all this makes me more angry. If the website simply did a browser check at the start of the process and informed me that this site didn’t work with Mac’s, I wouldn’t have a problem (much). I wouldn’t waste my time with it and move on.

But the problem here (and this seems to be more and more common), is that they don’t announce this at all. They simply let you click through their site, until you get to the part that doesn’t work, and you curse and curse that you’ve wasted your time – again.

Maybe they realise this, they just want to piss Mac users off as much as possible.
All this hassle, and I haven’t even installed the software to run the printer yet. Let’s hope this goes smoothly.

My main concern here is switchers. They are used to going to any online store and (viruses notwithstanding), having no problems in buying online. With the Mac it’s a nightmare and they are all too quickly going to regret their purchase.

It could just be my bad luck I suppose (I do bank online with no problems), but their has to be a solution here.

Virtualization springs to mind. It wouldn’t help me as I have an iBook, but couldn’t Wine (and open-source virtualization tool that emulates the Windows API, so you can run Windows apps without running Windows) help in this situation?

I don’t mean running a version of Internet Explore for Windows on your Intel Mac, what about a plug-in for Safari, that (using Wine), emulates the parts of Internet Explorer that are needed so that we have 100%, transparent compatibility with our Windows friends (I say friends through gritted teeth).

Maybe then Mac users won’t be classed as second-class citizens on the net, and we can end the 2-tiered internet experience.

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