Wednesday, April 07, 2010

For Many of Us, This Program Was a Real Clunker

This morning, I attempted (along with the rest of the state of Texas, so it would seem) to take advantage of the government-sponsored "cash for clunkers" program that's not for cars, but rather for appliances. While my refrigerator, washer and dryer are still going strong (he types with crossed fingers), there's a dishwasher in my kitchen that's long past its prime. (What that means, of course, is that the dishwasher in my house is called "Kev," but let's not make any jokes about that dishwasher also being past his prime, OK?)

So my parents alerted me to this thing a few weeks ago, and it turns out that the Big Day was today. The idea was to go to the website and get on the rebate list; after that, you had two weeks to buy the new appliance starting on the 16th of this month, and you'd get an even bigger rebate if you managed to recycle the "clunker" in an approved manner. It sounded like a good deal, and, even though I knew a lot of people would be taking advantage of the program, it didn't hurt to try.

Looking back, this was probably doomed from the start as far as I was concerned. For one thing, the sign-up period didn't start until seven this morning, which gave me all of fifteen minutes to try and sign up before I had to leave for teaching. I don't have a computer in my public-school teaching (and this is one case where the iPhone in my pocket doesn't count, never mind the fact that it would be rude and unprofessional to keep using it during a lesson), and I knew that the program would probably be over by the time that I got home for my afternoon break.

Sure enough, I couldn't get on before I left; the website kept dropping connections left and right. (I felt like I was having flashbacks to the days when I was on dial-up.) And sure enough, when I got home, I found out that the program had already run out of money--all $23 million of it. They did have a waiting list, though, so I tried to get on that...and experienced the exact same problems--dropped connections and so on. Eventually, the link that was supposed to take me to the application form started defaulting to the main page; I was stuck in an endless loop. A quick check back to the site a while later showed that the waiting list was full as well.

So my question is, couldn't they have anticipated the increased traffic and come up with some extra server space for the day? I heard on the radio that people who tried to access the system by phone had just as many problems--pretty much a nonstop busy signal for hours on end. (Now I'm having flashbacks to college and the Saturday mornings I spent ordering concert tickets!) Sure, I wasn't necessarily expecting to get on and complete the application process in my tiny fifteen-minute window this morning, but I would have thought that the system would have been a bit more crash-proof. And yes, this is the government we're talking about, but state government is supposed to be more efficient than that.

I guess the long and short of it is, I'm still my own dishwasher. And that's fine, at least until the point where I need to sell the house. But I'd be lying if I said a little rebate today would have gone a long way towards this upgrade for me.

To my fellow Texans: Did you try and get through to this site today? And if so, were you successful?

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