10

This question already has an answer here:

I came across this story some 15 years ago, but can not remember the author or the original title (although I was certain it was "Please insert card").

The Story:

  • A man buys a book named "The Murder of Thomas Brook" (or some other name in the title)
  • A few days later he receives a notice "Please Insert Card (for identification). Payment pending, please pay for your purchase". (each time he receives a message from the computer, it starts with words "Please Insert Card")
  • He doesn't want to pay, because he already paid for it, so he sends an answer demanding to speak with a human being.
  • He again receives automated answer "Please pay, or we will have to take this to court, bla bla bla..."
  • After much conversation the case ends up at the civil court where it is taken by another computer.
  • This entire time the man tries to reach a human being to try and correct the error, but all answers come from a computer.
  • At the court happens another error - the case is wrongly forwarded to criminal court, instead of civil court. As the result, the charge is not for "Pending payment for 'The Murder of Thomas Brook'", but for "Murder of Thomas Brook".
  • At the end the man stands trial for murder and is sentenced to death.
  • Two clerks (or some other two persons) finally realize the error five minutes after the execution.

I have to think about this story each time when I order something from Amazon, but haven't been able to remember the name of the story.

marked as duplicate by FuzzyBoots story-identification Mar 14 '17 at 14:00

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Although this is very likely a duplicate, this is not a bad question. You provided a lot of plot details. :) In the future, it's a little bit better to indicate a range of years rather than "15 years ago" (or the more dreaded "when I was young" or "a long time ago") since the question will age. But overall, good work! – FuzzyBoots Mar 14 '17 at 11:46
8

This is almost certainly "Computers Don't Argue" by Gordon R Dickson as seen in this answer. The key phrase is actually "PLEASE DO NOT FOLD, SPINDLE OR MUTILATE THIS CARD", which used to be a pretty common phrase for punch cards.

I wrote you recently about the computer punch card you sent, billing me for "Kim,' by Rudyard Kipling. I did not open the package containing it until I had already mailed you my check for the amount on the card. On opening the package, I found the book missing half its pages. I sent it back to you, requesting either another copy or my money back. Instead, you have sent me a copy of "Kidnapped," by Robert Louis Stevenson. Will you please straighten this out?

And then, later:

POLICE DEPARTMENT, PANDUK, MICHIGAN. TO POLICE DEPARTMENT CHICAGO ILLINOIS. CONVICTED SUBJECT A. (COMPLETE FIRST NAME UNKNOWN) WALTER, SOUGHT HIRE IN CONNECTION REF. YOUR NOTIFICATION OF JUDGMENT FOR KIDNAP OF CHILD NAMED ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, ON NOV. 16, 2000.

  • This has to be it. Although I remember the details completely wrong, the story is the same. – Bojan Hrnkas Mar 14 '17 at 13:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.