Thursday, October 31, 2013

New technology and efficiency part 2: Don't get mad at the phone help.

This is what life's like for them with low pay too
Left: these conditions are abusive enough, try not to add to it.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Well I have to thank modern technology and the global multinationals; they inspire me to write.  I commented on my experience with one corporate entity last week and I just had another nasty dose of it tonight with another; they’re all the same of course.

I went through the usual 15 or 20 minutes pressing buttons.  Then the computer wanted me to put in my phone number, social security number, and my street address.  It then asked me to tell it what was wrong. I just said representative again and a few other things and did eventually get to a human being.

English was not this person’s first language although I could understand her clearly.  She didn’t sound Indian which most of them are but I wasn’t sure, I like guessing accents and talking with people from different cultures and climes. I asked her where she was situated and this time it was the Philippines. She began to ask me some questions in order to help me out and each time she had to put me on hold to check on it. She gave me one answer to a question but it was different than what was on my bill, so she put me on hold again and went either to check with a human or scrutinize my bill more closely.

Each time she apologized and said that her information might not be accurate but it was what she had at her end. I could hear her trying hard to articulate the words, the way she said my name or ak-yer-ut for accurate. I forgot about my own frustration for a moment and thought of this women, a young women it sounded like, sitting there in some booth or at a desk trying to earn a living speaking a language not her own. I felt a strong bond with her, another worker.  I did this job when I came to the US and I hated it.  I was supposed to sell land in the Poconos. I remember this bossman who walked back and forth making sure we were talking to someone and were giving the pitch right.  I remember him telling us that if we could we should find out some personal details about them and if they were recently widowed this was a good opportunity we should take advantage of as it would generally mean they had received some money or death benefits.

I thought about the terms Brother and Sister that are used in the trade union movement, these are good terms and I reminded myself I was talking to a sister here, or even better, a comrade.  I like comrade because it’s gender neutral.  Earlier on in the day I had been on a picket line in my local town. Unionized workers are on strike at an auto dealership, I blogged about this last week.  They are mostly, if not all, male workers and unionized with better pay and benefits but their standard of living like all workers in the US is slowly, and at times not so slowly being degraded.  I talked to a Vietnam veteran there who pointed out how he will have to work longer and longer before he can retire and another guy pointed out that he thought he would be able to retire when he started but the bosses have changed that situation. They’re after more concessions.

The veteran mentioned to me that people in other countries have it so much harder than us but the way things are going our young people will be down there with them and many already are.  There’s a reason workers are kept apart and racism, nationalism and sexism are promoted by the capitalist class, it doesn’t take long for us to compare notes and see we’re all in the same boat; better we don’t talk at all.

This Asian woman it turned out couldn’t really help me much but I really felt for her by the time she was done. I am a retired public sector worker and am retired with a pension I can live on, the 1% want to drive us all down to third world levels, that’s why they want to smash unions and public sector unions in particular as they’ve been very successful so far in their war against the private sector.

So the woman transfers me to the department that could answer my concerns but it turned out I had to go through the same push button routine again.  This time it was a guy who came to the phone. I was so frustrated by this time that when he asked me for the information I’d already given to the computer I had to tell him how I felt and why:

“Damn bro, this is so stressful.” I told him in a in a slightly higher pitch than before. “I already gave this information to the computer and I did it before with another department. I’ve been on the phone 40 minutes and all I have is one simple question.  I hate these damn corporations”.

If the reader has been through this you’ll know that they apologize every time you mention something’s wrong. It is hammered in to them day in day out to be polite, end the conversation with something like “Have a great day” etc.  I always remind myself that their work conditions are far more stressful and brutal than what I am experiencing.

This guy got a bit nervous I could tell so I told him I was a worker and a union guy and I know he’s the bottom of their ladder so it’s not his fault; they treat him like crap too. I could tell he liked that and felt a bit more comfortable but he couldn’t say anything, they listen to you.

I know everyone that reads this will have had a similar experience at some point in their lives.  But the forces that create this situation keep themselves well clear of us that’s what the technology is for.  We don’t own it; we don’t determine its use. The worker on the other end of the phone is not really trained to help, they are given the minimum tools to help us and keep us at bay.  They are there to face our anger and abuse while the coupon clippers who own the corporation rake in the dough.  They are just human answering machines for the most part so I always try not to get angry at the worker. no way you can avoid it. It’s difficult not to get mad some times.

I always think about one particular experience I had when I think I’m going to blame the worker.  I saw this spaghetti cooker on TV once and wanted to buy it.  It was designed to avoid having to shift the spaghetti in to a colander as the holes were already in the pot.  “Damn good idea.” I thought.

I called in. I think it was the only time I ever tried to buy something on TV, and the person I reached asked for my credit card number which I gave to him.  “That was quick”,  I thought to myself and I was happy. 

No such luck.

“Can I interest you in a subscription to…?” , the guy said naming a number of magazines.

“No thanks”,
I replied, “I just want the pot.”

“We have a great deal on a set of……” , some sort of cooking utensils.

“Nah” I said, “Just the pot”, but I could feel myself getting a bit flustered.

He went on to try and get me to buy two or three other items until I eventually got a little mad.

“For Christ’s sake man, I just want the damn spaghetti cooker.”

His voice began to quiver a little and I thought he was about to cry

“Please sir” he said a little shaken, “I’m sorry but I have to ask you these questions that are written down here or I'll get in trouble.”

“Scrap my credit card number I’ll do without the pot”

 What a horrible world we live in. Who wouldn’t want to change this?

1 comment:

wendy said...

Thanks for this comrade.
I know I need a reminder sometimes.