A few weeks ago my mother fulfilled a lifelong dream by taking a trip to Italy. As this was a long trip overseas, she had prepared as well as she could for the trip. Unfortunately something she thought she had prepared for created a problem while she was there, and the process of solving the issue was a great example of why I love technology.
International data rates on a cell phone can be astronomical, and something that most people generally just try to avoid. My mother did not bring her cell phone with her; she only brought her iPad. She planned on communicating with us via Facetime while at hotels with Wi-Fi.
One morning, shortly after getting out of the shower I noticed that my phone had missed a FaceTime call, or more specifically, three calls. I also had a few iMessages from my mother indicating that she needed to speak with me right away.
I connected with my mother via Facetime and she explained that her debit card was not working. The card had been working, but as of that morning, she had tried it twice and it was rejected both times.
My mother provided me with the information about her accounts and her debit card, and asked me to contact the bank and see if they could get her card activated. While I didn’t say this to my mother the time, I was skeptical of the bank being able to help due to privacy concerns. Sure enough, when I contacted the bank despite my having all the information they would not be willing to speak with me. They were only willing to speak with the account owner: my mother.
Now this all could have been solved with a phone call. However, at dollars-per-minute and a 15 minute hold time before even getting someone on the line, that wasn’t the most viable option. I asked the bank if they would have the ability to connect with my mother via FaceTime. The exact response was based what?. I then asked next if they would be able to connect with her via Skype. Again they had no idea what I was talking about.
Unfortunately my mother is a Skype user outside of the most basic levels, so the idea of making a paid call via Skype was not really a feasible option.
So here’s the situation: my mother in Italy without access to her money, her bank unwilling or unable to help with her in order to rectify the situation, and me stuck in the middle trying to find a way to solve the problem.
After a few minutes of thought a solution occurred to me that was surprisingly simple. It was a solution that utilized high-tech in a decidedly low-tech way. I called the bank on my cell phone and once I got a human on the line, connected with my mother on Facetime via my iPad. I put my cell phone on speaker, explained the situation to the representative, and then introduced my mother on Facetime. With a little experimenting on where the placement of the phone should go so they could hear each other well, my mother through FaceTime and was speaking directly to the customer service department via my cell phone. After a few minutes of verification and assistance, the phone rep was able to access my mother’s account and correct her issue.
Overall this was an interesting experience. It definitely reminded about using technology in different ways to solve a problem. Sometimes it’s not simply technology solving a problem; it’s the unique combination of different technologies used in non-traditional ways.