When nice turns naughty: No OLPC XO laptop under some first-day donors’ Christmas trees

When nice turns naughty
Donors give laptops to needy children, kick and scream when they don’t get theirs in return
By Joe Hutsko

Their intentions were good: Pay $400 to donate one of the so-called “$100” laptop computers to a needy child in a developing country, and in return receive one for your own child (or the child in you, if you’re an adult). The window of opportunity to “Give 1, Get 1,” (G1G1) was limited to one month, and the information on the One Laptop Per Child website (laptopgiving.org) stated orders would be fulfilled on a first come, first served basis.

But when laptops began arriving on the doorsteps of donors who participated days after the program began on November 12 but not to “D1Ders” (Day One Donors) who were first in line, tempers flared, turning what started as a nice gesture of giving into an at times nasty online “conversation” by disappointed givers who hadn’t received their half of the bargain by Christmas Eve day, as promised.

“…considering people who ordered as late as the third day are already getting theirs before those of us who woke up before the butt crack of dawn to order them because we were told they were going to be shipped first come, first served who haven’t gotten even shipping notices is a little frustrating in my opinion.”


– OLPCnews.com forum user

Located on the site OLPCnews.com, thousands of forum readers have viewed hundreds of topics ranging from what day they donated and then received their O.L.P.C. XO, to trying to crack and track the elusive ten-digit confirmation code some donors received in an order follow-up email, while others did not. I know, because I’m a G1G1 D1Der who participated during the first hours the program launched. Soon afterward I received an emailed receipt from PayPal, which handled the money processing for the program. A week or so after that I received a “Thank You” email from the program’s founder, Nicholas Negroponte. But unlike some donors, my email from the good professor contained no confirmation code.

For O.L.P.C. donors, securing this elusive ten-digit number took on the import of the “Da Vinci Code.” With it, donors could – the story went – use it on FedEx’s website to reveal the shipping status of their order in order to track it to their doorstep. Industrious donors who hadn’t received confirmation codes advised fellow forum users to call O.L.P.C.’s support line to get their code. Like many, my own calls were met with mixed-messages as to whether my order had actually shipped or not.

My confirmation code was non-existent the first few times I called. Persistence, friendliness and more than a few minutes on hold eventually paid off, and I was granted the code. I tapped it into FedEx’s tracking system, but came up with nothing. This was a week ago. I’ve repeated the process countless times every day since. Forum members offered another tip: Call FedEx and give them your street address and zip code, and they can tell if anything in the pipeline is coming your way. Repeated calls turned up only previous, unrelated FedEx deliveries to my address.

My oh my was I ever surprised to see what Santa left for me today.

I ordered on 11/25 and I live in AZ. I had heard about the slow shipping to the west coast and I looked at the official OLPC shipping calendar and pretty much resigned myself to a 2008 delivery.

Still, I had been checking the FedEx “alternate number” site daily. Nothing. Yet – – when I got home from work today, there was the box that I had become so familiar with through all your pictures.

There was nothing on the box that referenced the 700040XXX code from my original email receipt. The only “reference number” on the box started with SH09XXXXX and had nothing to do with my ref number.

The box was left on my porch and the “laptop” icon was covered with a shipping label.

– OLPCnews.com forum user

At the same time, some forum users report they’ve found an O.L.P.C. XO laptop at their doorstep without any tracking activity online – nor a ring of the doorbell or required signature from the FedEx driver. It’s as if little elves are in command of a “naughty and nice” list, dolling out XO laptops in whatever cosmic order they see fit.

With all of this order tracking and shipping frustration, it’s easy to forget the real purpose and meaning of the G1G1 program in the first place – to put a laptop into the hands of a child in need.

If you’ll allow me to be completely honest, I G1G1 because of the technology. Sure, the added bonus of knowing that someone who needs (and otherwise can’t afford) the laptop is getting one as a result of my donation/purchase gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling. …But if that’s all I was after, I could have accomplished the same warm, fuzzy feeling by simply giving (and, hypothetically, accomplished twice the feeling by donating two laptops with the $400).

What can I say? I like my gadgets and was wooed by the limited time offer. The ability to support the OLPC initiative and donate a laptop to a kid were secondary bonuses.


– OLPCnews.com forum user

I’d be lying if I claimed my motive was purely altruistic. Sure, there’s the definite satisfaction of knowing small hands somewhere in the world will benefit by my giving. But would I have donated if I wouldn’t receive a laptop in return? Not on my income and budget. It’s the tech geek in me that would have paid $400 for the OLPC XO laptop if that’s what it would have cost to buy one for me, myself and only I.

And that’s the real reason some donors in the same boat as me are so angry, treating the whole O.L.P.C. XO G1G1 program as if it were Amazon.com behind the order processing wheel, rather than a non-profit organization manned in part by volunteers.

By Christmas day my O.L.P.C. XO – which I’ll write about in a “week in a life” story for MSNBC.com – had yet to arrive. The O.L.P.C. website says it may take until January 15 in the New Year for early G1G1 donors to receive their laptops. Another call to the organization this morning revealed the unit definitely has not shipped, and that my first-day donor order was one of those which, according to the helpline person, ran into a hiccup with the system and was not fulfilled on the first come/first serve promise.

Am I frustrated my XO has not arrived, while later-date donors have received theirs? Sure.

I am just getting irritated with people here saying “well now that I have mine I’m going to tell you to just be patient.” It gets a bit tiresome, really. I am stoked for those people because OLPC obviously didn’t make a complete balls out of their orders, but they would be every bit as impatient and upset as I (and many others) am right now, so they can just stuff it as far as I am concerned. Sorry that’s a bit strong, but I think you get the point.

– OLPCnews.com forum user

Does it really matter, in the grander scheme of the O.L.P.C. program?

Not one iota. Hey, I’ll live, and so will the other big-kids or children here already benefiting from technologies far more powerful than the XO laptops we’re waiting on.

I guess with advancing age I’ve piled up lots of skepticalnessskepticity … reluctance to believe other people’s claims and promises.

Advancing age and also volunteering with an animal shelter (a non-profit, as it happens). We learn to trust what the cats and dogs can tell us, but people … not so much.

For those with kids, know that the very best “things” you can give your children are your love and attention.

– OLPCnews.com forum user

To all of the patient children in developing countries also awaiting delivery of their own XO laptops, here’s to wishing you a very new and educationally stimulating year in 2008.


2 Responses to “When nice turns naughty: No OLPC XO laptop under some first-day donors’ Christmas trees”

  1. 1 Wayan @ OLPC News


    Thanks for the synopsis of G1G1 conversations on the Forum. And that’s even more for remembering the goal of OLPC is not to make G1G1 donors happy, but to get laptops to children much more in need that those with Best Buy around the corner.

  2.   2 Jose

    If OLPC coudn’t care less because we are close to Best Buy we shoudn’t care less about getting our money back from OLPC (thank you, paypal).

    Do you want a similar, small, efficient computer (and probably better) just get the asus eeepc.

    We tried to help, but OLPC couldn’t care less abbout donnors. (OLPC == ungrateful, thankless, unrewarding, ingrato)


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