June 29th, 2013

Yahoo has become Kafkaesque

Or maybe it always was.

Although I’ve had a Yahoo email account for years, the worst thing they ever did before to me was a forced-choice change to a new format I didn’t like. And even then, they walked it back, sort of like Coke Classic—they allowed users to choose to return to what they called Yahoo Classic.

Now they’re forcing the same choice again, and this time they seem to mean business. Will there be another reprieve and a third act for Yahoo Classic? Don’t think so, but we’ll see. I forget when Yahoo says that the final transition is going to be complete and Yahoo Classic will be no more, but it’s pretty soon, and in the meantime they keep “helpfully” asking me to switch almost every time I sign in.

And don’t tell me to go to Gmail. I already wrote about the problems there, and at the moment I still prefer to take my chances with Yahoo.

But worse, the autofill feature of Yahoo email suddenly stopped working on my computer the other day when they redesigned the sign-in page, although autofill works for me at every other site, and autofill is enabled for Yahoo. I don’t like to keep myself signed in all the time because I have more than one Yahoo account (personal vs. blog, for example) and so that autofill feature was a very handy thing to have when switching back and forth.

But just try to contact Yahoo about it. Ha! I know, I know, Yahoo is no different in this respect from any of the big computer powerhouse companies these days; “customer care” is not just a joke, it’s an ironic joke. “Help” pages take all day to navigate, and you can’t find the answer to your question there anyway, ever.

Emailing Yahoo about it is an exercise in Kafkaesque futility, an endless merry-go-round where I get one of about five standard emails that rotate around and make the same 5 suggestions over and over and over. Two of those suggestions involve calling two different phone numbers. On calling the first, one gets a message (after the old “Yahoo” sing-song yodel, which becomes surprisingly irritating under the circumstances) that says that, due to heavy volume, they cannot answer calls. At the second, it merely says “You have reached a number that is no longer being supported.”

So on and on we go. I no longer expect an actual answer. Now, I’m just interested in the process—it’s the journey, not the destination, right? And yes, I’m aware that the “people” answering me are not people at all, despite their cutesy little names (each email is signed with the first name of a different person such as “Ashley” or “Eric,” to give it that oh-so-personal touch).

Now it’s come down to wondering how the program will respond to different challenges I set up for it, such as my most recent missive:

You keep sending me messages you have already sent me, over and over. I have tried ALL your suggestions and they do not address the problem. Rather than just keep repeating yourself, I need to talk to someone on the phone. You have given me two phone numbers that do not work because no one answers the phone. I need a number that works and where someone answers the phone and talks to me.

You can say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not really expecting a solution to the problem. Maybe when I almost inevitably switch to the new format, which they will force me to do some day, the problem will go away (and the new problems will show their annoying faces). And don’t tell me to switch temporarily and see what happens; I already did switch one of my accounts. I hate the new format (and autofill doesn’t work with it, either), and there’s no way to switch back.

I know that in the larger scheme of things these problems are so small as to be almost non-existent. But there’s that steady drip, drip, drip of small annoyances that one has to shrug off as one goes forward into this brave, brave new world. Back when we first started using computers, I don’t think there was anything like autofill, and we did just fine, although you used to be able to have a quick meal while waiting for a site to load. But now we’ve become accustomed to all the bells and whistles, speed and convenience and the fact that our computers remember just about everything we do and anticipate our every need.

Hmmm. It’s not hard to see a problem with that, either, when the government knows those things too.

23 Responses to “Yahoo has become Kafkaesque”

  1. kit Says:

    What a great column. This frustration is universal. They call it many things nowadays like, “customer care,” “the curtesy counter,” “the fulfillment center, the help desk.” There is very little help, no one seems to care and wishes are not fulfilled. It is hard enough in person or over the phone and it can be torturous by computer.
    The last line is superb and I wasn’t expecting it. You are a graceful writer in a graceless age. All the best with this problem and thanks for the witty column today as I sit here paying bills.

  2. Bill Says:

    I have the same frustrations with my decades-old Yahoo mail account. I was forced to go to their new format, which has the right fourth of the screen dedicated to adds. It means I have to scroll left and right to read my emails due to the diminished state.
    My old trashbox Hotmail account, now called “Outlook” is now much nicer than Yahoo. I am thinking of migrating my important stuff there, and keep Yahoo as a spam dump.

  3. neo-neocon Says:


    Glad you liked it. It almost makes all the travail worthwhile.

    Almost :-).

  4. Don Carlos Says:

    Norton keeps offering to remember all my passwords. And with my handwriting getting worse, involuntarily, I get lots of suggestions to just bill-pay on line, do online banking, stop with the checks.
    My feeble and likely futile response is “Not no, but Hell no.”
    My Yahoo homepage also features disgusting AP and Reuters “news” stories.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    The Yahoo homepage keeps me informed on the propaganda du jour, which is useful to know.

  6. Gary Says:

    I also have a dreaded Yahoo account and keep ignoring their increasingly insistent demands that I “upgrade” to their New&Improved! software. I have the same problem with my web browser not auto-filling my ID and password. It’s annoying but hey, I now know my password really, really well!

    Doncha just love Yahoo’s bug error messages, stuff like:
    Sorry! You’ve just encountered error #37. Please try again later. If you wish to report this error…” blah, blah, blah

    By reporting some of these errors, I too have found myself lost in Yahoo’s Kafkaesque merry-go-round, though I’ve never gotten to the point where they’ve actually offered me a real phone number. The usual pattern is a boilerplate email from “Ashley” followed by one from “Eric” followed by one from “George” followed by one from “Mike”… At some point the emails just stop or else they declare the problem fixed and thank me for my interest. Of course it’s not fixed and I strongly suspect some (or all) of “Ashley”, “Eric” et al are simply auto-generated replies, not actual people.

  7. vanderleun Says:

    Imagine no Yahoo Mail
    I wonder if you can
    No need for autofill or blather
    A email for the world of man
    Imagine all your emails
    Sharied with the NSA…

    You may say I have Gmail
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the autofill will live as one

  8. vanderleun Says:

    Hint: Find out the person doing press relations at Yahoo…. mail them the column.

    Maybe Jay Rossiter

    Maybe Kathy Savitt

    Or even

    Yahoo! Inc.
    Media Relations
    Lauren Armstrong, 408-718-6640

  9. vanderleun Says:

    You can thank me later.

  10. Gary Says:

    Worst Yahoo Mail Bug (Webmail version)

    1) You type 3 or 4 paragraphs into their web editor.
    2) You hit the Send or Save button.
    3) Yahoo mail decides it’s time to verify your identity and dumps you back to the login page.
    4) You enter your ID and password to re-enter Yahoo mail.
    5) Voila! The 3 or 4 paragraphs have disappeared! They are not saved or stored, they are not anywhere. They’re just gone, gone, gone.

    Never trust Yahoo’s web editor. First type your email into an editor on your computer and then PASTE into the editor. If you get caught in the aforementioned trap, you’ve got a copy on your computer that you can use.

    I reported this horrible bug and emphatically requested they fix it. Yahoo never even replied–not from “Ashley” or “Eric” or “George” or anyone.

  11. Ann Says:

    Don’t forget that “yahoo,” in addition to meaning “yippee,” can also mean a boorish, crass, or stupid person (Webster’s).

    Not sure the founders of the company were unaware of that. A bit of elitist disdain?

  12. vanderleun Says:

    Free email is always worth what you pay for it.

  13. neo-neocon Says:


    At the very least.

    It’s certainly never worth less.

  14. expat Says:

    Didn’t a woman recently become head of Yahoo? So much for wise Latinas, Whites, Crackers or whatever.

    I’m having more problem switching from Inbox to Spam, to specific folders. Sometimes I just have to sign out and sign in again to get back to my inbox. IOW, it’s a FU’d mess. I get the German news page when I sign out. It starts off with trash videos about fashion mistakes of celebrities, sex tips, etc. Below are links to their real news coverage, which is probably to keep LIVs informed. They do seem to like Obama because there is never any negative coverage of him.

    The best thing I can say about Yahoo is that the Spam filter is pretty good.

  15. neo-neocon Says:


    The spam filter is great. Someone named “Adriana” dominates. She really, really, really wants to talk to me.

  16. Ymarsakar Says:

    Hotmail has actually become easier to use, strangely enough. Then there’s all the “alternate” accounts.

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    Neo, I get that Adriana one too, from multie addresses.

  18. neo-neocon Says:


    Adriana gets around.

    I once actually clicked on one of the Adriana emails and read it out of curiosity. It was a sort of masterpiece of the genre. Actually, I should have saved it and written about it, although there’s certainly more where that one came from if I ever should want to.

    It built from a casual “hello, remember me?” beginning to very subtle hints of sex talk and fun to more outright sex talk, and then refers the recipient to several webpages of Adriana’s to see more. It was really really long, and did all of that in a light conversational tone, with a very slow development of the theme.

  19. rickl Says:

    I need a number that works and where someone answers the phone and talks to me.

    Hahaha. You’re funny, neo.

    How quaint. You must be a dinosaur or something.

  20. LAG Says:


    I recommend using an email client like Thunderbird. It allows you to store your password, pull mail automatically from your account, and send mail through the same account without ever having to deal with the service’s web interface. Also, it’s available free of charge.

    I use T-bird for several mail accounts will no problem, and nearly all mail servers work with it.

    OTH, you won’t be able to see the sites online ads, but nothing’s perfect.

  21. IGotBupkis, "Faeces Evenio", Mr. Holder? Says:

    }}} so that autofill feature was a very handy thing to have when switching back and forth.

    If I may recommend, LastPass is a fairly good setup. You can choose to put as much into it as you want (I don’t put bank logins into it, for example) but for most day-to-day passwords I use it — especially those endless throwaway accounts you get when you click on a link, want to add some comment there, and have to “sign up” to comment.

  22. IGotBupkis, "Faeces Evenio", Mr. Holder? Says:

    I, too, am susceptible to this kind of thing, but when I get annoyed, I remind myself of this routine from Louis C.K. (note: language)


  23. southpaw Says:

    I have Gmail. I agree that it is awkward and counter intutive, especially for someone using MS outlook all day. Must be a better alternative. Maybe I will try Hotmail

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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