Wednesday, January 27, 2010

pearson education is fucked

never let it be said that i am afriad to name names where it's appropriate.

pearson education is yet another textbook publisher that tries to ass-rape students at every opportunity. this semester, i have to deal with them to take the second half of general chemistry. they provide a "custom edition" of the textbook (see one of my many textbook rants for the evils of a custom edition), and they also provide the homework site necessary to do homework and other required activities. like, you know, study for the exam i have thursday night.

so let me set the stage.

last week i started class and one of those evil homework site things is necessary. the code necessary to access the site "free!" came with the (exorbitantly-priced, evil custom-edition) textbook. the instructor supplied the other necessary code, to register for my particular section so that i can view things like, you know, assignments and the instructor can retrieve, you know, grades.

i was able to log in okay and all was well. i was able to access course content, although there really wasn't anything up yet as it was only the first day of class.

there is an exam in this class day on thursday, january 28. all the material on the exam is actually from general chemistry 1, but there is a review (supposedly) posted on the website.

so after class i logged in to retrieve it, and found that i am no longer registered for my section. i dragged out the syllabus, which contains the necessary code to register. i punch it in, and my browser even helpfully remembers it from last time. i get this error:

[code] is deactivated, expired, or closed. Please contact the course instructor.

so i was able to log in last week, but not this week. uh. okay. i verified my class registration on the school's registration system to make sure i hadn't been punted from the class entirely for some reason (not out of the realm of possibility for these dweebs), and then went on to the real issue -- pearson education's fucked up website,

now, contacting the course instructor has two major weaknesses.

first, it's not very practical at this late date -- i should have access to this material, and i did last week. but the exam is now less than 48 hours away. the only contact i have for her is her yahoo email address, and so i can't tell how long it will take her to receive my message and answer it. if she doesn't check her email until wednesday night, which would be a perfectly reasonable timeframe, that will be entirely too late for me. i can't spend thursday studying, because i'll be spending thursday in class. i need this material now.

second, she's simply not a technical person. to be fair, she is a chemist, not a nerd. but she doesn't really have a good grasp of how to use powerpoint (slides which have been helpfully prepared for her in advance by pearson), and so i suspect that it will actually cost me a great deal of my time to explain the problem in sufficient detail and sufficiently dumbed down so that she can comprehend it, only to find that she will be unable to resolve it, both because she doesn't comprehend it, doesn't know where to go to start fixing it, and doesn't have time before class thursday night anyway, all of which are reasonable situations. again, she's a chemist, not a nerd. offers two support options: 24x7 email, which offers no expectation of an answer in any time frame other than "within the next business day" if you actually go all the way through entering your question, or 24x7 chat.

understanding that usually chat requires that there is generally a cold-blooded vaguely-humanoid life form on the other end of these chat things, i went for that.

a most unhelpful conversation ensued, which i reprint below verbatim except for changing my real name and editing out the website codes and my email address. with any luck, daddy google might help with some positive search ranking.

also, as you read, remember that i have more than a decade experience dealing with technical support, on both ends of the phone. i have found that while vulgarity doesn't get you your way, being a firm jackass who won't accept anything except the information you need often will. but quick "get him off the phone" responses don't pass the smell test with me. i have been trained in, and used, all of them. this hominid (if i may use the term loosely) spouted several, and every time she did, it made me even more angry. (even angrier than i ordinarily would have been at the plainly obvious international outsourcing here.)

in any event, here we go.


Brenda: Hi, my name is Brenda. How may I help you?

Rainbow Warrior: I have apparently been de-registered from my class on MasteringChem. I need this resolved ASAP.

Brenda: We are sorry that you have experienced difficulties in registering for our website

Rainbow Warrior: So ... what do I need to tell you to get this resolved?

Brenda: One moment please while I investigate your issue.

Brenda: Are you trying to enroll in the new class?

Rainbow Warrior: I had enrolled in it last week. I tried to log in tonight, because there is material I need for an exam on Thursday, and I am a) no longer enrolled, and b) when I try to re-enroll, I get an error that the course ID has been deactivated.

Brenda: We verified that your course compass subscription has expired.

Rainbow Warrior: Could you restate that in English?

Brenda: Unfortunately I do not have a troubleshooting tip to resolve your issue.

Brenda: I am going to advance your incident to our next level support.

Brenda: They will contact you via email at the earliest possible time.

Rainbow Warrior: BZZZT, wrong answer. New book, new code. WRONG. I need this resolved *NOW*. I have material on that site I need *NOW*.

Brenda: Can I have the course ID?

Rainbow Warrior: [code]

Rainbow Warrior: The code I got with the purchase of the textbook was: [another code]

Brenda: We verified that you have successfully registered with the access code.

Brenda: I will advance this issue to our next level.

Brenda: Your course compass has expired on DEC-14-2008.

Rainbow Warrior: And my renewal last week ... evaporated?

Brenda: You have registered for the course.

Rainbow Warrior: Yet I can't access the content.

Rainbow Warrior: [code] is deactivated, expired, or closed. Please contact the course instructor.

Brenda: Can I have the text book title and edition for which you are trying to register?

Rainbow Warrior: McMurry/Fay General Chemistry: Atoms First, 1e

Brenda: We verified that you have successfully registered for McMurry/Fay General Chemistry: Atoms First, 1e

Rainbow Warrior: So logging in,, I get Join Course, which produces the error I pasted above. Assignments and Scores are greyed out.

Brenda: I have sent the login details to your registered email ID [address]

Brenda: Sorry. We understand that you are unable to view the link for Assignments and Scores .

Rainbow Warrior: I got it but I hadn't

Rainbow Warrior: I didn't have a u/p problem.

Brenda: Please contact your instructor regarding this issue.

Rainbow Warrior: Asking my instructor to help with this problem, which she was unable to do, is akin to asking a three year old to perform brain surgery with a stick and a plastic shovel. I was able to access this content last week. That isn't an instructor problem.

Brenda: What error you are getting in that/

Rainbow Warrior: In what?

Brenda: You have not de registered with your mastering chemistry.

Brenda: Your instructor should post assignments there.

Brenda: Then only you can view it.

Rainbow Warrior: I log into MasteringChemistry. I am presented with this URL: My options on the left are "Join Course," assignments is greyed out, scores is greyed out, eText is available, Study Area is available. When I Join Course with the listed course ID, I get: [code] is deactivated, expired, or closed. Please contact the course instructor. I was able to successfully view content last week -- Assignments were available, although nothing was actually open yet. This week I can not even get that far.

Brenda: We verified that you have no issues with your account.

Rainbow Warrior: So who's going to fix this? Magic pixie dust will fall out of the sky and resolve this sometime in the next 10 minutes so I can study for my exam Thursday?

Brenda: Your error itself saying to contact your instructor.He has to post assignment in that course so that only you can view it.

Rainbow Warrior: I contacted the instructor. She sent me to you guys. Her answer amounted to, "Uh, I dunno." She's a chemist, not a website developer.

Rainbow Warrior: So since you're obviously not the right person to discuss this with, who at Pearson is?

Brenda: We are sorry. I am going to advance your incident to our next level support.

Rainbow Warrior: And I expect to have this time-critical and grade-critical issue resolved ... when? And when that doesn't happen, I contact who, how?

Brenda: I have mentioned as urgent.They will contact you soon.

Rainbow Warrior: Which doesn't actually answer my question. Should I bug the Higher Ed support people, or should I skip straight to Upper Saddle River, NJ?

Brenda: We are sorry.

Brenda: If I have the resolution I will help you.

Brenda: I found no issues with your account.

Rainbow Warrior: Whelp. Google is gonna love this one.

You have disconnected.