Monday, July 14, 2008

Adventures in Internet Bureauracy

For the last two Christmases, my grandma has sent me $25 checks and asked me to buy Chickie $50 U.S. Savings Bonds.

The first check was sent to me in December 2006. Here it is July 2008 and I haven't bought the bonds. I know--BAD granddaughter!

In my defense, I also procrastinate terribly on buying gifts, getting haircuts, getting oil changes, and pretty much anything else that constitutes "running an errand." Since the advent of the Internet, things like gift purchasing have become easier.

So recently it hit me.... I might be able to avoid a trip to the bank by buying Chickie's bonds online. A quick Google search confirmed that bonds can be purchased on the fabulous World Wide Web. Woo hoo!

Today I entered the Treasury Direct website where I expected to quickly and easily purchase a $100 Savings Bond for Chickie. Little did I realize I was exiting the relatively simple world of mommyhood and entering the pointlessly complex world of...

Internet Bureaucracy.

First I had to create an account. Simple, right? Not quite. To create it I had to provide the following:
  • My Social Security Number.
  • My name.
  • My address.
  • My phone number. (Fields were also open for work and cell numbers, which I chose NOT to disclose.)
  • Driver license number.
  • Driver license expiration date.
  • Bank account information.
  • Permission for any government official processing my information to seamlessly assume my identity.
I carefully filled out the form, clicked the "NEXT" button, and was greeted with the same data entry page along with this notification: "You have entered a character that is not valid for one or more fields on this page. Please re-enter and click Submit."

Hmm.... It would be nice to know a little more detail. I proceeded to remove a comma and periods from my bank's name, the period after an initial in The Engineer's name, and one or two other possible culprits. This time the "NEXT" button worked.

The next step was to create a password and answer security questions that they might wish to use to confirm my identity.

The password was easy (or so I thought.) But instead of one simple security question such as "What is your mother's maiden name?" I was greeted with around eight options and asked to choose three. Options included, "What is the location of your dream vacation?" and "Who was your best friend in high school?" I managed to find three security questions I'm pretty confident I'll remember the answers to.

"NEXT" button.

Another error page. This time my password wasn't sufficient; I guess I didn't read the directions carefully enough. "Use at least one letter, one number, and one special character, excluding < \ >." So I added an "@" sign into the password, and I was good to go.

Done with the registration.

Ready to buy the bond.

Or so I thought.

Upon clicking the "FINISH" button I was greeted with this cheerful message: "
We are now sending your account number to the e-mail address you provided on your application. You will also be receiving an Access Card in the mail shortly. Your account number, password, and Access Card are needed to log into your TreasuryDirect account."

Seriously? An Access Card? So that I can use a website? But I've waited over a year and a half since the first check my grandma sent; what's two more weeks, right?

Okay, Uncle Sam. I'll wait on my snail mailed card so that I can use my high-speed Internet to order something.

Bureaucracy in action, my friends. Bureaucracy inaction.


Special K said...

Oh goodness!!! Craziness! I was laid off last year and the amount of effort I put into doing unemployment took about 3 hours of brainpower to understand the darn thing! And I is smart rights?

PS- I'm a procrastinator on stuff like oil changes too. Big time.

Bri said...

Im a huge huge procrastinator, as I sit here with boxes to be mailed and laundry to be folded (from last week).

They are being a bit "overprotective" arent they? It's not like you are buying government secrets or anything LoL

Anonymous said...

So it's one of those days and I meandered to your blog from a freecycle post ... =) I *hate* password/security question junk and I /knew/ I wasn't using very good ones since I had to use 3 variations of the same one to be sure I'd not forget them! My saving grace was when my TechieBoy™ gave me a copy of info.xhead. If you use a Mac, I can't suggest it enough - I even use it to store size info on people for ordering those last minute gifts I've forgotten (& cc #s so I don't have to figure out where my wallet is!)

I'm sure there's something similar for Windows, but I'm not familiar with it.