Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When Mercury Retrograde Attacks: Caught in the Bullseye

So Mercury had his way with me last Friday night. I'm not ashamed to say that it wasn't at all pretty.

I'm a pretty new PlayStation4 owner. I was an Xbox guy for more than 11 years, and while I still have my 360, I looked hard at both next-gen console systems and decided to go back to my roots with PlayStation. When Jen and I first got married, one of our biggest purchases in our first month together was a PlayStation. We traded in our old consoles for it and all our old games at it was still $350, a huge amount of money for us. But we loved it. So I was glad to pick up the PS4.

Anyway, we bought the PS4 over Labor Day weekend with our Target debit card, and we also grabbed one game and a PS4 Network Plus card so I could play online if I wanted to.

We took home the system and set it up, but we could never seem to get it online. Turns out our Apple router must be set up a particular way to work with the PS4's protocols, and this past weekend I finally got around to making it work. Yes, I took the chance and did network changes during a Merc retro and had no problems; that was truly a gamble and this time it paid off. So we're now online, and it's time to put in the code from the PS4 Network Plus card so we'll be good to go online and play for a year. I enter the code and the error message is one that you receive if your card has not been activated at the time of purchase at the store.

Last Friday night, I head back to Target and found that it was time for Mercury to bend me over.

Mercury rules paperwork and I show up without a receipt. But I used my Target card, so they should have a record of all my purchases, right? My iPad app shows me the purchase amount and date but not the items. Tania at the customer service desk takes my information and goes to look for the purchase in a computer to ensure that I was charged for it. I knew that I had been, but of course she had to see the proof. So she left for a few minutes and checked the purchase dates. Since it was over Labor Day weekend the charge didn't post until September 2, so she came back and said she didn't find it. After some research in my phone, I gave her the exact date of the transaction. She comes back about 10 minutes later and says she still can't find it. Then she says, "I don't think we charged you for it, which is why it's not working."

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had paid for it, and that card is $50, so I'm not going to go away quietly, but I'm trying to be very patient because I know they're doing their best. Tania asks me how much everything was that day, which I remembered, but she contends that it doesn't add up if I also bought the card. So we head over to electronics and she realizes that she had the wrong price on the PS4, that the math does check out, and that I did indeed buy the card. So we go to the electronics desk where the standard group of 20-ish guys is standing around waiting for some customers, and we meet Chris. Tania explains our problem and Chris says he's seen it before. The best solution, according to him, is to return the defective card and give me a new card. Sounds perfect to me. So we traipse back over to customer service to do the return.

Target keeps your transaction data for 30 days. But it has been more than 30 days, so of course when they go to process the return they can't find the card. They try my card, my license, and what I'm sure was either the first ten pages of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" or the complete works of Charles Baudelaire before they realized it wasn't going to work.

Enter Jodi, who has executive level privileges on the cash register. She's hoping she can help make this work. She gets further than anyone else so far as Chris looks on; Tania decided she would be more helpful elsewhere and bowed out. I'm thinking, "Awesome! We're in the home stretch." Stupid me. Before the final step of the return, however, the register freezes up and kicks her out. Clearly perplexed, she moves down to the next one and tries again. This happens a second, third, and fourth time before she starts wondering if Target's entire network is down. So she does exactly what she should have done: She called Target's tech support.

She clearly and calmly explains the situation to the tech rep, who tells her to process the return. When Jodi explains that she cannot do so because of what the register is doing--which is why she's calling, of course--the tech rep tells her that s/he sees that I didn't use the card, so they should just process it as a return and everything will be fine. Once again, Jodi explains that she CAN'T process the return, which is why she was calling to begin with. Five minutes later, Jodi is laughing at the stupidity of the situation; the rep didn't get what Jodi was saying and kept repeating how to do a return. Having been on both sides of such a call, I understand Jodi's frustration. Jodi tries once again after rebooting the machine entirely with no success. Without even saying goodbye, Jodi hangs up the phone, still laughing and shaking her head. Apparently they've had some technical problems with the registers recently. "Oh really?" I reply, with a smile. "I've heard there's a lot of that kind of thing happening these days."

I've now been trying to get this problem resolved for nearly 90 minutes, and to their credit, Target's team did a great job. But I've still got no card to show for it. Jodi explains she has no idea what is going on, but that she can give me a card for free to replace it. Before I say yes, though, she tells me that because of they way they have to process the transaction it's going to show that I didn't pay anything for this card, and if I come back with a problem on this card, I'm fucked and likely they won't be able to help me (my words, not hers!). So I can take the card and take my chances or I can have no satisfaction at all and be stuck with a card that doesn't work and go buy another one anyway. This Scorpio would not accept defeat; I took the offer and took the card home. (Warning: I'm thinking that was not a smart idea, but it's the one that made the most sense.)

At this point I'm thinking, "This is going to work or I will be really pissed. But I've gotta try." I get home and Mercury decides that he's got one final challenge for me to complete. You scratch off the back of the card for the code, but I peeled it off with my fingernails. Remember that Mercury rules paperwork? I really should have scratched it off with a coin, because half the letters came off and half stayed on. We could see some of them but the rest didn't come up. So I run to Jen, and she gets most of the rest of the letters, but there are one or two we don't know. So we spent parts of the next day looking for the right combination of letters and numbers; luckily we could make educated guesses.

After a number of attempts with the wrong letter/number combination, the code finally goes in and we've got PSN Network Plus for a whole year. And there was much rejoicing! YAAAAAAY!

The moral of the story: When you're Mercury's target, try as best you can to push through. If you can't, then you hunker down. That's all.


  1. WOW, it's a good thing you are aware of Merc retrograde. Most people wouldn't have been able to remain calm and patient or hold their tongue for that long. Kudos to you for pushing through!