When e-commerce gaslights you

With over 400 registered accounts for websites I may be in the upper percentile for web users, but I’m sure everyone has at least once had an online account “lost” by a business.

Sometimes e-commerce businesses lose their user database through data corruption, accidents etc, sometimes through migrating to new systems and not being able to or bothering to migrate user data, often from moving from a system that stored passwords cleartext to encrypted.

When you register an account you make a contract with that business that you will hand over personal details for safe-keeping in return for faster service and other benefits; you nominate them as a preferred supplier for a product or service as opposed to sites where you make purchases as a “guest” customer with no plans to shop there again.

Sometimes when online businesses recognise they may have lost user accounts they’ll own up and provide mechanisms for recreating your account in their new e-commerce system.

Sometimes they say nothing, and it feels like they’re gaslighting you, like this morning’s example from Officeworks.

I know I have (or had) an Officeworks Photos user account because I keep all my passwords in a vault; I can tell you I created the account in October 2013.

But this morning when I went to log in it told me “I’m sorry, your password was not correct. Please try again“. No that’s not possible. Using a vault like 1password means there’s no scope for typos.

But okay fine I’ll say I “forgot” my password …

Officeworks is telling me I don't have an account with them

No culpability here from Officeworks, no suggestion that perhaps something went wrong their end.

Nope, it’s all in my head. I don’t have an account. Never did. I’m imagining things. Thanks, this makes me feel like a valued customer …

I don’t mean to single out Officeworks, this has happened over and over again, and creating a new account is no big deal, but it does feel dismissive and even derisive.

Losing user data shouldn’t happen, but it does. It would be a nice gesture just to say “Hey we can’t find your account, there’s a chance we screwed up and if so, sorry”.

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