Those Web People.
“Yes, I’ll have to get my Web People on to that…”
How many times have you heard that response? I am starting to lose count. Contact someone to report that there is outdated or erroneous information on his or her website, or that a link doesn’t work, and it is highly likely that you’ll get that reply – or something like it. Frequently, it goes along with complaints about dilatory webmasters who have been given the information but have not yet gotten around to making the necessary changes. (As if it took more than three minutes to change a bit of text or fix a link and re-upload the page).
I haven’t yet tackled the people who informed me yesterday that the room I wanted to book in their fancy bed & breakfast inn will cost $10 more per night than the price currently advertised on their website. When I do, I bet they will tell me the price on the website was for the 2006 season (even though it doesn’t mention a year) and their 'Web Person' hasn’t updated the site yet. (Even though the inn's season ended last October).
So where are all these dilatory webmasters and mistresses? Probably on a nice island in the Caribbean, soaking up the sun and laughing at all the poor suckers who paid them thousands to marry their bits of deathless prose with pretty pictures and clever little mouseover buttons.
A few hundred years ago, doctors and lawyers used to write everything in Latin so that everybody else had to pay them for their know-how. A clever trick, that. These days, instead of Latin we have HTML.
Under general business law, if a bricks-and-mortar store has an outdated price label on some merchandise they are obliged to sell it to you at that price. But when you buy online, it is different. The large, online retailers, most of whom use automated pricing software, usually have wording on their sites that protects them from the results of pricing errors. So when you order something online and the price turns out to be higher than advertised you have no comeback unless you can prove that the vendor did it deliberately.
Meanwhile, those lazy, lotus-eating Web People are happily swimming and snorkelling on their island and people who are good at running fancy inns but can't write HTML are having to break the news to potential customers that oops, the room you set your heart on is going to cost you $10 per night more than you thought. Sorry about that. The site needs updating, you see. I'll have to get my Web People on to it...
If I wasn’t such a kind-hearted person who likes to think the best of everyone, I might have another phrase to describe it. Bait and switch.