Saturday, July 3, 2021

Route - a Prime Example of a Pointless App

FedEx, UPS, and USPS all have stellar tracking services, why would you want to use Route?

I ordered some new tires for the truck, and unbeknownst to me, the company, BBWheels, which has the best price, contracts with a company called "route" that gives you shipping updates.  The tires were shipped by FedEx (allegedly) but they won't give me the tracking number - that's a state secret that only Route knows!

To "track" the package, you have to download this app, which wants permission to access basically everything on your phone, including your Google Account.  WTF???  It shows a cute map of America with a line between tracked points.   Inexplicably, it claims the tires will be delivered today, on a Saturday, on a holiday weekend, three days after ordering.  Like that could happen.

So, we have to call BBWheels on Monday to find out what happened and maybe get the tracking number - and contest the charge with the credit card company.   And for what?  So we could use some fancy-pants "app" that does nothing that the direct websites of the shipping companies doesn't already do?

I am already signed up for FedEx tracking, which sends me notifications of shipping status.  I can click on a link and go to the FedEx site which provides detailed information about the shipment - not some cutsey map of the United States with dots on it.

Tellingly, the "check order status" tab on the e-mail sent from BBWheels was dead.  What are they trying to hide and why did they bother with this nonsense?  It only gives the company a black eye.  It is like the "survey" company that ORS Racks Direct contracted with to do customer satisfaction surveys - and sell them magazine subscriptions!

Alas, the Google Play Store (and the Apple Store) are awash with junk apps like this - apps that answer a question that no one is asking - and don't work worth a hoot, either.   I noticed a lot of one- and two-star reviews left there for "Route" in addition to my own.  I just don't see the point of the app - clogging up my phone and harvesting my personal data to do something that I can do myself, better, with less effort.

But that is the point, I guess.  Once installed on the phone, they can harvest "360 Customer Data" which was a thing for a while, but today, apparently is not.  Marketers are realizing that knowing everything about a customer isn't as important as knowing relevant things about a customer.  Yes, I bought tires for my truck.  I won't be buying them again for years.  But the vaunted "AI" they keep harping about will stupidly send me ad after ad for tire deals - you can bank on that.

So, I am guessing here, but both the "survey" site and these Route people pay the retailers a modest sum per customer, which the retailer looks at as increasing their bottom line - not realizing it detracts from their reputation and marketability.   In return, the survey site sells some magazine subscriptions using negative option and "Route" advertises to the users.  What is sad is that these retailers sold off their reputation for mere pennies per customer.  Trust is a hard thing to come by, on the Internet, and easily lost when you associate with sleazy marketers.

What is scary is that the same company that runs Route must be running the McDonald's app, as they have the same "robo-we-care" message appended to every one-star review of the app.  "So sorry to hear of your bad experience!  Would you please go to our website and then re-type everything you just said, so we can consider it?   After all, we can't just capture the text online here, right?"  Hey, they must care, or at least their "AI" robot does!  So it is OK to download this one-star app, right?   Riiiiiiight!

The McDonald's app, by the way, dropped the other shoe.  They got rid of the old app with the "deals" and online ordering and whatnot, and replaced it with a loyalty program (of course, erasing any points you got from the old loyalty program, according to some users).  Nothing on the Internet is permanent.  And the problem with any "rewards" program that doesn't pay you in cash-money on a monthly basis, is that the "points" you acquire can be made worthless over time.

I recounted before how the airlines doubled the number of miles needed to get a "free" ticket, and then charged a $25 "processing fee" to get said same "free" ticket (which is no longer free, of course).  And good luck trying to get two seats on the same plane - most planes today are overbooked, and thus, the number of discount or miles seats are limited to a handful.  It just isn't worth it - go for cash-back rewards instead, or better yet, just lower prices and better deals.  But I digress.

It seems this "Route" app is just one of the plethora of useless apps out there that really do nothing for you, but ask for a lot of your personal information.  "Mint" for example, promised to show you a little pie-chart of spending (which is useful for.... nothing) provided you give them the usernames and passwords of all your financial accounts - banking, credit cards, investments, the works.

Useful?  Not really. The "pie chart" of spending only tracks things by the broad categories that credit card companies use.  Risky?  Well, here you are handing over information you would not even share with your own Mother!   Just a pointless app, from the consumer point of view.

What irks me is that this company, BB Wheels, forced me to use this app, and refused to provide regular tracking information for FedEx.   I can use a computer - even a smart phone!  It ain't hard to type in a tracking number and check order status.

Once the tires arrive - if they ever do - I will erase this "Route" app from my phone (but likely they will still be tracking me online - better clear those cookies as well!).   Quite frankly, I could do this now, as once the "app" shows something is "delivered" they just erase all the history data from their site.

And that is the irony - they say "Your order is SECURE with ROUTE!" but since the order is erased from their site the moment they claim it is delivered, there is no way to track the order through Route, but rather through FedEx, WHICH IS WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING IN THE FIRST PLACE!  Also, this claim of "securing" my order seems specious.  Are they saying they are insuring the package from damage or theft?  Or what?  From what I can see, they are not securing a damn thing, other than a hook into my Google account.

Yet another silicon valley wet dream.  I pity the Vulture Investor who threw money at this idea - it is just a pointless app that only serves to frustrate the users and damage the reputation of the retailers.

Please stop, silicon valley! Please stop trying to "help us" and "make our lives easier" by making them staggeringly more complex and more stressful!   I know this is how you all hope to become Internet Billionaires, but there can be only so many of those.

And not every idea out there is a groundbreaking idea - or one that needs an app.

UPDATE:  I was finally able to find the tracking information.  The "app" doesn't really provide it, or at least I could not find it on the app (it should be prominent, right?).  On my Desktop (old school!) however, the web site (old school!) had a pull down (slow to load) with the "detailed info."  That's nice, but I could have found this and also been notified automatically by FedEx,without having to load some stupid "app".

The tracking "data" (i.e., cutesy map) disappeared from the app, but remains on the website for some reason...

UPDATE:  The tires arrived. FedEx to the rescue.  Route added nothing to the picture other than anxiety by taking my FedEx data and then stripping it of context to give me "peace of mind" or some such nonsense.  All it did was make me feel more uncertain.  I deleted the app from my phone, cleared my data history on the phone and cleared cookies on my computer as well.

A reader writes, asking me why I didn't go to the local tire store instead.  Try finding Michelin 275/55 R20's for $208 at the local tire store.

I went to the local "good ole boy" tire store. They wanted to know "where I was from" and what I did for a living.  Then they tried to tell me there was a tire shortage and the tires would be $350 each.

The national chain store said they didn't have Michelins, but Wham-A-Lam-A-Ding-Dong brand from China, which are "just as good."   I noped out of that as well.

Of course, the Michelins are probably made in China as well.  Everything is.

UPDATE:  I never should have installed the "Route" app as it required that I grant access to my Google Gmail account, which means I had to hand them the password to my Google Account. Stupid!  They also wanted access to my Amazon account, which I denied.  I mean, they aren't asking for much - just the keys to the kingdom, and in exchange, they would give me information that was already readily available to me - or should have been.  I uninstalled the "Route" app and denied their access to my Gmail account and changed my Google password.  What a freaking hassle.  The only question that remains, is, what information did they mine from my Gmail account in the process?