Real men need real lies, not fake lies!

Twice in a week now, I've had problems with my cell phone when the local tower has been down because of thunderstorms.

I'm not as patient as I should be, but I do realize that being asked a litany of idiotic questions is part of the tech support process. So is being put on hold.

It's not being on hold that irritates me enough to write a post about it. If all they did was put me on hold, I could handle it. I'd "take it like a man" or whatever male humans are supposed to do these days.

In fact, I'm such a "real man" that over the years I have learned to tolerate the terrible hold music they play.

And you know, looking at this as an amateur classicist, I can always remind myself that if the 300 could hold at Thermopylae, then I ought to be able to hold for my customer service.

Why, if I steel myself further, and really tap into the hidden reserves of my manly Stoicism, I can even tolerate the insults to my intelligence by condescending phraseology read from a bureaucratic script.

So, I have learned to tolerate the long periods on hold, the smarmy musical torture, and the idiotic phrases. The final insult to injury -- the thing that makes my manliness founder -- is when I have to submit to having my intelligence insulted not by men, but by machinery playing automated messages like these:

"Because of the personal attention we are giving your case...."

"We are working hard on your problem...."

"We assure you that your call is very important to us...."

Over and over again they play this stuff -- in voices much louder than the actual humans so that they cannot be ignored (or excused as humans can be for reading from a script they've been ordered to read).

These are not people. By definition, they cannot be sincere. They cannot state truthfully that they are working hard on anything or giving personal attention to it. The voices are, simply, robotic lies.

And no real man (or real woman, or androgyne, transmasculinist,or even human eunuch!) should have to tolerate lying by robots.

So go ahead, ask me condescending questions! Put me on hold! Even play your awful music.

But for the sake of the immortal gods, please stop the automated insults to my intelligence!

A more disturbing question is whether machines are capable of lying, or whether their lies and insincerity are to be attributed to their creators.

But I have no time for a philosophical post; for now, I just wish they'd just add a "turn off the fake lies" button.

UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

I agree with Glenn that "the Spartans wouldn't have taken kindly to modern customer-relations techniques." From what I've read, they didn't take kindly to Oracle public relations.....

AND MORE (6/21/07 -- 2:38 p.m.): It is now a full 28 hours after writing this post, and the cell phone tower is still down.

Now I'm really thinking of going Spartan on 'em.

I don't have a Spartan sword, but I do have a Roman gladiolum.

posted by Eric on 06.20.07 at 10:14 AM


"The voices are, simply, robotic lies".

Sometimes the voices tell bad jokes -- After Comcast's interminable series of stupid questions establishes that I am calling because their internet service has failed, the robotic joker suggests that I will get a quick response if I log into Comcast's trouble-shooting site -- on the internet. Computer humor can be cruel.

Robert Beck   ·  June 20, 2007 2:13 PM

No, my call is not important to you. If it were, you would have staffed customer service with enough people to not make me wait!!!!

T J Sawyer   ·  June 20, 2007 9:58 PM

And you wonder why everyone I talk to (after they quit ranting) calls these things "Customer Avoidance Systems".

And you are sooooo right, if you call was actually important to them they wouldn't be torturing you with robots.

"Customer Service", [Spit].

fox3   ·  June 20, 2007 10:12 PM

Remember that all 300 Spartans died "on hold."

Fred   ·  June 20, 2007 11:54 PM

Look on the bright side. At least it wasn't Christmas. Holiday season hold music is the worst.

My most frequent aggravation is call centers where the reps' first language isn't English, so they have difficulty veering from the scripted exchange on their screen. My last call to our landline provider was so frustrating for this reason (I knew exactly what the problem was) that I told them, "Nevermind," then got a ladder and fixed it myself. He warned me not to, but frankly, I wasn't inclined to waste any more time on the phone with him then wait three to five days for a repairman to show up.

Melody   ·  June 21, 2007 12:07 AM

The other day I called Cox about a problem and they had an AUTOMATED SUPPORT ROBOT! I played with that for a few minutes before realizing it was hopeless, and hit keys randomly until it sent me to a human. You know the sad thing? When I got the automated robot, for a second I had the vague hope that it would be able to solve my problem better than the idiotic (or untrained) humans they usually hire to do the support.

Sameer Parekh   ·  June 21, 2007 8:05 AM

What's worse is the newer robotic systems that pretend to be voice-driven (no keys to press; you have to talk to it and it has to understand you before it can move on).

When the washing machine we bought less than a year ago broke down recently, we called Whirlpool's national service line to get a serviceman out. It took my wife 20 minutes to get a service call scheduled by talking to this robot. She had to repeat herself repeatedly...and she does not mumble. The fact that the service itself was covered under warranty and was done quickly and professionally sort of paled in the light of the difficulty getting that service in the first place.

We kept the sticker the serviceman gave us, and we'll just call them directly in the future. Hopefully one can speak to a human at Groves Appliance Repair.

Nathan   ·  June 21, 2007 10:14 AM

Over and over again they play this stuff -- in voices much louder than the actual humans so that they cannot be ignored

Thats what I hate the most. I expect and accept that I'll be on hold for 15-20 minutes, but normally I cradle the phone onto my shoulder and continue with whatever work I'm doing. Normally there's elevator music on the line, which is fine by me - I can ignore it and focus on something else while I wait on hold.

But not with some of these automated voices. They are too hard to distinguish from the real thing, so I'm held hostage for the entire 15 minutes, having to be certain I don't ignore the "voice" when the actual tech comes on line.

And of course, I'm much more irritated by then.

Fen   ·  June 21, 2007 11:44 AM

Get a speaker-phone & work productively while you wait without getting a crick in your neck.


Don Winans   ·  June 21, 2007 1:05 PM

I agree with Glenn that "the Spartans wouldn't have taken kindly to modern customer-relations techniques."

Nah, customer relations haven't really gotten any better or worse. The only difference is that back then the customer service made house calls. And when they got irritating, you could holler "This is Sparta!" and kick the s.o.b. into a bottomless pit.

scooby   ·  June 21, 2007 7:17 PM

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