The morning I will never, ever get back from Norton

Tuesday morning began normal enough on January 23. It was not to last.

Bright and early an item popped into my inbox electronically thanking me for my business and announcing my credit card had been dinged a not insubstantial, for a person of my relative poverty, sum of $504.28.

This happy news was served up by Norton Antivirus, the software folks who, if you pay in full, promise to draw their pistols and stand sentry over your computer, driving away all threats foreign and domestic, 24 hours a day.
Nowhere does it explain, though, how to defend yourself against Norton itself.

To back up a step or two, in the previous week or so panic-stricken MAYDAY! MAYDAY! pop-ups began to blossom on my laptop screen thick as phlox in the warm summer sunshine.

I was at grave risk, it seemed, or certainly would be soon. Disaster loomed everywhere.

My first mistake was deciding to let the Norton subscription simply lapse. Wasn’t sure what it really was anyway. Not a chance.

The sky remained in the process of falling as the messages became even more frequent and frantic. This went on for a week or perhaps 10 days until predictably my patience eroded in the face of Norton’s endless electronic harassment.

So, I sighed real deeplike, muttered a few colorful words I did not learn from my sweet mama, raised the white flag and set about renewing.

That’s when things really went south.

My fatal mis-step quickly emerged; I had let the existing subscription lapse. This relegated me to non-person status for which I paid the penalty of being ricocheted around within the bowels of Norton’s digital torcher chamber like a BB in a boxcar.

At last, all the barriers appeared to have been breached, at which point I received notice I had been returned to good standing, or at least as ‘good’ as Norton is willing to offer a person like me.

“We are happy to renew your subscription for the next five years,” or words along those lines. In my experience the toll in the past has been about a hundred bucks a year. So, it seemed fairly normal, if unpleasant.

But hold up there big fella, do we see a potential hiccup?

Further down the document where numbers appeared in columns lay two disquieting words under the ‘Validity’ column: Three years.

Despite shaky math skills never worthy of more than a grade of C in school, even I calculated at a glance that $500 for five years of service is a very different price than three years for the same money.

So, I set about to discover, is it three or is it five?

Calling the toll-free number for customer service as instructed on the invoice, I was immediately engaged in a death struggle for my self-esteem with a tapestry of recorded menu nonsense sufficient to choke a python. Eventually, however, I found myself speaking with an actual, living human being. Now, if only he spoke my language. I don’t mean to appear racist. No, mine is a practical curiosity. If a company chooses to outsource its help-line overseas would it not make sense to make sure garden variety Americans like me be able to understand what they are saying?

That might well be the first logical requirement, possibly even before bottom line considerations. One might legitimately ask, if the people you hire to answer your own paying customers’ questions cannot make themselves understood, did you really give an honest hoot about post-sale support in the first place?

And by people, I definitely mean plural. A distracting cacophony of identical accents jabbered noisily in the background during the entire call.

So frustrated was I after perhaps half an hour of this exhausting and frustrating dialogue, I finally told the man to just cancel my Norton subscription.

Big mistake. Next thing I knew we were clumsily probing the viscera of my laptop together; click on this, he said, now open that. This went on until finally enough was enough; I told my possibly well meaning antagonist to forget the whole thing. That I would deny the credit card charge and cancel in my own way. Then I hung up to his loud protestations.

Immediately, I called the 1-800 number on my VISA card. That’s when the next shoe dropped. Turns out, unlike stopping payment on a check, you can’t simply refuse a charge on your own card. Who knew? Everyone it seems but me. No amount of explaining helps. Can’t do ‘er without multiple levels of documented, bloody parry-and-thrust dispute documentation with Norton. Even jumping through all those hoops ends in a long waiting period during which Norton is invited to respond … or not.

By now, perhaps three hours into this debacle though it felt like every minute of six, I laid down my rifle, ran up the white flag and called an entirely different Norton ‘service’ number to sign up, there to be greeted by an identically indecipherable accent. I hung up immediately.

Do I have Norton protecting my tiny world or not? Early indicators suggest yes. Am I paid up for three years or five? No clue but, frankly my dear, I no longer give a damn.

Why quibble, what’s 500 bucks give or take between friends anyway?

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