I glared at my computer screen and tapped the mouse furiously, but still couldn't get the website to work. There have been plenty of times in my life when I have wanted to pick up the computer in front of me and throw it across the room (preferably so it hits a colleague), and this was definitely one of them. I was trying to book some flights for a short trip away, and I was keen to try out a few airlines to get the best price. While I had no problem with the websites for the main UAE carriers, when I attempted to search for a keener price on another Gulf airline, I ran up against an electronic brick wall.
For some reason the various parts of the website overlapped one another, so while I could fill in my departure date, the box for my return flight was covered up by another section of the site. Eventually, thanks to the assistance of one of the IT experts at work, I managed to get a version of the website that worked properly by opening it with a different browser. My hopes rose. Perhaps I would find a cheaper price after all.
Alas, no. Although this time I was able to fill in all my details properly, I drew a blank again when a message came up at the end of it all telling me there was a problem in pricing the flight. It then asked me to contact the airline's local office. I gave up. If there is one thing that is really guaranteed to get on my nerves, it's people - or in this case websites - who don't want to take my money.
While I am always one for saving as much money as I can, if I am holding my wallet open with a bunch of Dh100 notes there for the taking, I expect someone to relieve me of them. Coming from England, though, perhaps I should be used to the idea that whoever is doing the selling is indifferent to my custom, because salespeople in my home country never make much of an effort. Quite frankly, they could care less whether you buy anything or not. If you stand there gazing longingly at the latest pieces of electronic kit or the trendiest and most expensive pair of sport shoes, only rarely will they come up to you and encourage you to make a purchase.
How different things are in most parts of Asia. There, the enthusiasm of street stallholders - cashiers at bureaux de change - clothes shop staff and the rest is extraordinary. Occasionally it gets a little overwhelming, but at least you are never left with the feeling that the person you hand your cash to does not appreciate it. Recently, though, I was faced with a situation far, far worse than walking into a shop in England in which the staff are skilled only in the "I don't care" department.
My frustration came about after I finally discovered a legal music download site prepared to take my business. Amazon would not let me buy downloads because I was in the wrong part of the world, and try as I might, I could not figure out how to set up an iTunes account. Yet this other site I found made it so easy. For just 70 pence (Dh4.1) each, I could download any song that ever existed. I trawled through a mental list of tracks that I wanted and within a few minutes a dozen or so of them were sitting there on my laptop for me to enjoy.
A few days later, I tried it again and things went pear-shaped - at just the wrong moment. This time, I bought a few more tracks, including Michael Bolton's upbeat recent single Just One Love (I don't claim to have good musical taste), the theme song to the 1980s' TV series Moonlighting and a track called Just Like You by Robbie Nevil, which I remembered hearing on the radio during a backpacking trip through Australia in 1996.
My payment went through fine, but then, alas, the website refused to let me download the tracks themselves. An error message kept coming up. There was some problem in cyberspace. I tried time and again to download the songs. So many times, in fact, that I reached the limit in the number of downloads I was allowed - even though none of my attempts at downloading had actually worked. An e-mail I sent to the website was greeted with a reply that apologised for the technical problems and promised they would be fixed soon. But that was of no help to me, as of course I had equalled the maximum permitted number of downloads.
I had only lost a few dollars, but was still furious. Handing out money to a website and not getting what you paid for, I discovered, was an awful lot - worse than not being able to buy something online in the first place. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org