(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)
Like many people these days, if I need to contact a business my first port of call is the company’s official website. However, I’m not so keen on filling out contact forms on sites because more often than not, you never hear from them again.
Sure, it’s usually a simple enough matter to stalk them on their Facebook pages and nudge them into responding to your question/concern/complaint by asking again, in public, on there – but should you really have to shame them into answering you?
I’ve had this happen so often lately that I was beginning to think it was a conspiracy against me: online businesses were adding me to some global blacklist along with the Nigerian scammers and those dudes selling the herbal viagra.
I contacted one local supermarket a couple of months ago after a wee mishap that resulted in me going arse over tit. I didn’t hear anything for a week or two so popped a message on their Facebook page saying what had happened and that I had filled in their contact form but received no reply. The response was immediate: could I please contact them again, they’d be in touch. And they were, via email, once. I haven’t heard from them again.
A few weeks later I contacted another local supermarket, this time to complain about mouldy produce.
I hit submit on their lovely wee contact form and have never received a response.
Then there is the television shopping channel website where I tried to review a product I had bought. My review wasn’t particularly positive and after submitting it twice in as many weeks it never showed up on the site.
My next move was to ask on the channel’s Facebook page if they edit reviews. And once again, the response was immediate: no, of course not. They would look into it for me.
Have I heard back? Of course not.
As you might imagine, I was feeling a tad disheartened by the whole “contact us” concept, so when I had a problem with my favourite breakfast cereal recently I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful as I filled in the dreaded online contact form.
I was wrong. So well done Kellogg’s, you’ve put the rest of them to shame. A lovely bloke was in touch immediately and things were put right straight away.
My faith has been restored. Except perhaps in Twitter.
According to Symantec, a whole bunch of Twitter users (there needs to be a collective noun for those who Tweet, a flock of Twitter users maybe?) got suckered in to following fake Twitter accounts known as @VerifiedReport and @MagicReports.
The accounts claimed to be part of a Twitter experiment between users, news organisations and journalists, and followed several Twitter users while tweeting: “This is a Twitter experiment. We are changing the way users interact with journalists and news organisations.”
Many users discovered these accounts through a legitimate Twitter account known as @MagicRecs, developed by Twitter to send “personalised recommendations as direct messages (DMs) when something interesting happens in your network.”
It seems even some Twitter employees followed the fake accounts.
Twitter has since suspended both accounts but there are some other suspect accounts still active (@MagicFavs, @MagicSmacks, and @MagicSext).
It’s not clear what these accounts were created to do, but Symantec says even when using a legitimate service like @MagicRecs, exercise caution when choosing which accounts to follow.