Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Important Calls

That we humans are an odd lot will come as a surprise to almost no one, but I never cease to be dumbfounded by how deeply ingrained idiocy is in our culture. We are lied to so constantly, egregiously, and universally that you'd think someone (who, exactly, is not clear) would do something about it.

I've spent a minimum of 40 minutes in the past two days trying to reach the cable company to discontinue service to my dead friend Norm's condo. I was told that "due to an unexpectedly high volume of calls" my call could not be answered immediately, but that my call was very important to them and that I should remain on the line for "the next available" service representative, who would be with me shortly. ("Your estimated wait time will be...ten minutes," I was informed.)

Okay, now since this is the very first time I had ever heard this spiel, and I'm sure you have never encountered it, let's take a look at the number of...let's call them "slight misrepresentations" presented in that encounter:

"An unexpectedly high volume of calls"? They're a major corporation...they can't have figured out what time of day the most people will be calling in, and arrange to have extra "service representatives" on hand during those times? The answer is they know perfectly well when peak calling periods are, but given the choice of their spending an extra nickel to have more staff on hand or letting you sit there cooling your heels until the two operators on duty finally work their way down the pile to you, take a wild guess as to which way they'll go.

Anyone who labors under the delusion that their call is, as they are told no fewer than 30 times in the course of a 15 minute on-hold wait, "very important" to a corporation is close to being certifiable and should not be allowed around sharp objects. My call...your call...doesn't mean squat to them. In fact, they'd vastly prefer you didn't call at all. Sticking us on hold until they deign to get around to talking with us is their subtle way of letting us know that. They know that you are an annoying whiner only calling about some petty little problem they could not care less about, but that will undoubtedly inconvenience them in some way.

Corporations are experts in the art of smiling condescension. They operate on the principle that customers exist only to feed the corporate coffers, and that they--the customers--will blindly accept any patently insincere indication of concern for their petty problems with undying gratitude. We sit on hold for 45 minutes like baby birds in the nest, beaks gaping, waiting patiently (or not...they don't care) for Momma Bird to come stuff some regurgitated worm into our gullet.

How many pieces of junk mail do we receive with a boldly stamped "Important Notice Enclosed"? How many TV programs enter a commercial break with "We'll be right back after these important messages." Important? To whom?

And just what can we do about all this? What recourse do we have? The answer, of course, is almost none. And we are so indoctrinated to simply accept the unacceptable that we say nothing. As far as bureaucracies--political as well as commercial--are concerned, we as individuals are as inconsequential as an individual grain of sand. Which does not prevent me from, if feeling particularly provoked, demanding to speak to a supervisor to express my unhappiness. I fully realize I am engaging in an exercise in futility, but I do it anyway. And who knows? If more people did the same (which we both know they won't)...if, mind you..., well, have you ever seen what a sandblaster can do?

I would like nothing better than to sandblast that condescending smile off those collective corporate/bureaucratic faces. It's a nice thought.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back...and bring a friend. Your comments are always welcome. And you're invited to stop by my website at, or drop me a note at

No comments: