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Hypothetical Reality

If you’re like me, you probably wonder how often those crazy customer-service email exchanges are really as crazy as they sound.  I assure you that in at least some cases, they are.  I’m dealing with one of them now.

This is the ongoing and still-unresolved issue in which, for the second time in two years, PayPal is asking me to confirm that it’s okay for them to continue sending me electronic communications.  Unfortunately the page with the agreement text offers no link, check box, button, or anything else with which you can agree.  Nor is there anywhere else on the site you can sign off on this damned agreement.

PayPal’s monetary services are actually pretty good overall and I definitely do want to continue being notified of purchases on my account, etc.  There’s just no way to agree to their agreement, contrary to their chirpy responses noted below. The following are verbatim exchanges to date, with names/salutations removed to protect the guilty.

[Filled out on PayPal’s web form]

This isn’t an address issue. It is because once again you’ve sent out a notice requiring me to agree to your e-communications policy and yet again there is NO WAY to agree to it. I’m more than happy to agree IF you’ll kindly add the option to your page.

Dear [Removed],

My name is [Removed] from PayPal Consumer Support.I understand that you would like to accept or agree to the Electronic Communications Delivery Policy.

There are two ways to access the Electronic Communications Delivery Policy:

• By visiting and logging into your PayPal account; or

• Via the links provided in email communications from PayPal.

To provide your consent: (1) review the Electronic Communications Delivery Policy; (2) select the check-box affirming that you have “read and agree to the Electronic Communications Delivery Policy”; and (3) click the “Agree and Continue” button.

Should you have further inquiries please do not hesitate to call us at: 402-935-2050 or 888-221-1161 during these hours: 4:00 AM PT to 10:00 PM PT, Monday–Friday 6:00 AM PT to 8:00 PM PT, Saturday and Sunday Thank you for choosing PayPal.


Dear[Removed] or any human being who may or may not exist at PayPal:

Let’s try this again.

I am ATTEMPTING to respond to your request that I agree to your latest electronic communications policy. I’ve logged into my PayPal account using Firefox and Internet Explorer. Regardless of how I login, whether from your email or directly, using either browser:




Is there anyone there who can read and comprehend English???

Dear [Removed],

Thank you for contacting PayPal Customer Support. My name is [Removed] and I will be happy to assist you with your e-sign consent inquiry.I apologize that the previous response did not properly address your inquiry. Yes, we are real human beings, [Removed].

You may try the link that I provided below for you to agree and accept the Electronic Communications Delivery Policy.


Thank you for choosing PayPal. It’s been a pleasure to serve a valued customer like you.

Don’t forget, we’re always around if you need us. Just click “Help” in the top right corner of any PayPal page to visit our improved Help Center.

By now I’m not even bothering with “Dear” anybody. It’s become a point of exasperation and more. My only wish is that I could somehow convey the grinding of teeth through email.

Thank you for your response and the link. However, while the agreement itself appears at the destination link, there is still no option to agree, no button, nada. I’ll be happy to attach screen shots if it helps. The only associated clickable links are to download a PDF version or to print the page. Once again, I tried using two browsers, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer.

I’m not really expecting a response, or if I get one it’ll be more of the same mindless blather that completely misses the point.  I will probably have to phone them and hopefully reach someone who 1) speaks English and 2) is capable of grasping what I’ve repeated ad nauseam through every one of my emails.  I’d already gone to the link they sent me, did that before I ever emailed them but it was my mistake not to spell out every single step, in intimate detail, that I’d taken before going through their helpless desk.  I omitted the part about going to the bathroom, washing my hands, eating a cookie and scratching the scab off my sunburn, too.  Admittedly it was more relevant to refer to the places I’d already been on their site, but you’d think somebody would’ve taken the time to at least look at the page to see if the agreement button was there.  That’s what I got when I encountered the exact same issue last year, whereupon I was told, “Oh yeah, our engineers are working on it.”

This year instead I got the makings of a meme.  Maybe I should email it to my friends and confirm it with Snopes right up front.  Whaddya think?

It was kind of an interesting day for digging up old information.  I discovered that the very first website went online some 21 years ago,  in 1990.  The Internet existed prior to that, in the context of one computer being able to talk to another computer, but there was no WorldWide Web (that little “www” part of web addresses that have kind of become obsolete over time.  We don’t need to type that in any more to get to a page.)  The first page was at and it was originally text and links only; no pictures, no snazzy background, no animations or flash, just text.  You can see an approximation of the actual first page at this page.

It’s hard to fathom that what started in such a simple context has ballooned to such a world-changing power. It’s a little scary to grasp how fragile the Internet is, considering all it controls.  If the Internet suddenly went black, imagine the total effect worldwide.  How many utilities would fail?  Computers control a huge swath of modern life, from police records to payroll to God only knows what else.  All it takes is a nasty sunburn (by way of a solar storm) or a determined virus or terrorist to bring it all crashing to the ground.  Think of 1985, when the only way to communicate with a friend overseas was a stupendously expensive long-distance call (on a land line, no less) or by snail mail.  Can you really fathom going back to that – or worse yet, to conditions a century ago if our power grid were compromised and we were unable to sustain electricity?

The heat in this part of the world, sans AC, would unquestionably result in thousands of deaths.  In colder parts of the globe, low temperatures would be the killers.  It would be an unmitigated disaster and it’s not only possible, it’s very likely to occur at some time or another.  If we’re only offline for a couple of days or so it will be difficult but survivable.  If you extend that to weeks it becomes crucial.  Months, and our recovery as a species would be in doubt.

Yes, our ancestors survived without electricity; but they were prepared to do so.  The world in their time offered the tools needed, such as fireplaces and wood stoves.  Food was prepared for storage without refrigeration.  People had horses and wagons for transportation. If we lose electricity, we lose our oil drilling and refinery capabilities, too, remember.  There won’t be nearly enough horses and wagons to distribute to every household.  And even if there were, where would we house them?  If you’re in a high-rise apartment, do you setup a stable in the living room?  Do you walk your horse like you walk your dog?  Do you keep a goat for milking?  What if the goat and the dog and the horse don’t get along?  I was wondering about the etiquette of parking your buggy, but I guess you’d have to fit it into your designated parking spot.

I do consider all angles.  I’m weird like that.

Any way you slice it, the logistics would be staggering and the human costs phenomenally high.

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