The brave new world of customer service

March 12, 2023

Being a Luddite, or one who eschews technology, I am often forced to rely on the vast resources of customer service to settle daily difficulties. Some days I speak to people from all over the world. Now I can understand the accents of people from the Deep South to the Philippines.

A lot of these preternaturally patient people are obviously working from home. I can usually tell right away when my voice echoes. Also, I have heard children playing in the background. Once, and I suspect this was the Philippines, I even heard a rooster crowing in the background. Of course, we may soon hear this barnyard sound in Milton with the growing price of eggs creating a desire for some to raise chickens in their backyards.

A giant communications and television company, you probably know which one I mean, has "cast" a pall over my ability to talk with a real person. They even have a TV commercial showing a hamlet of peaceful-looking houses with smoking chimneys, all happily in sync with the internet. Everyone conforming to the new order. When I call with a question, they keep referring me tautologically to a "do it yourself" menu. This tactic is part of the proletariat shift of today.

I first resorted to angry words, and even worse, tried in vain to get a human on the line. The computer seems to be sensitive to the voice becoming guttural. Now I hang up and call again, and this sometimes gets results!

Often I can be found talking to the Philippines at 1 a.m., lunchtime for them, I suppose, but melatonin time for me. Trying to win their respect, I usually tell them that my father fought the Great Battle of the Pacific and helped win the war. They always thank me with polite sincerity. One even volunteered to be my guide if I ever visit their country!

Sometimes I'm told to pick up the black TV control box that sits on the floor and look for a multi-digit code that I can't even see. I tell them that I'm 74 years old and I don't want to loll on the floor. Many of these people tell me I sound like a child and even ask me if my daddy is home. Once, one of them with a deep Southern accent said the problem was "sulphur." I called another technician and we laughed until our sides ached. "Sulphur," he said over and over, cracking up. This went on for at least a half-hour! Finally, I realized that the word had been "software," not sulphur.

For a year or two upon moving back here, we tried to make do with my mother's ancient, wood-encased TV set. My mother-in-law had been so in love with hers that she cleverly placed her new replacement TV in the old wooden cabinet. My mother had loved hers too, and had one shipped from Illinois. We started having all kinds of trouble, I think because it had an old-fashioned picture tube and wasn't compatible with the newer digital TV cable service. I called Comcast over and over, even being referred to their think tank in Colorado where they can somehow see into your TV.

Finally, we just went to Walmart and bought a new set for $199, which has so far, knock on wood, solved most of our previous problems. Just a thought – why does the store attempt to sell you TV insurance when they are no longer that expensive and are almost disposable? Years ago, on the 4th of July, our TV that we had while living upstate was zapped when lightning knocked out our power. Our so-called TV insurance made us ship it to Baltimore. Three months later, we finally got it back – just in time for Halloween!

All of these subscription channels drive me crazy. I fear that they're soon going to take Peacock away from “the Peacock" – me! They'll get more calls from me for this outrage if they do!

When my mailed payment gets lost, more calls become uncomfortably necessary. I think they're doing this on purpose, because after worrying about my payment not being received in a timely manner, it somehow mysteriously shows up and is credited on the exact date it is due. They, of course, prefer that I give them automatic withdrawal rights, but I hate invisible hands having that kind of power over my account.

It really gets me when they say I should contact my post office to check on where my payment is. Do you think the post office knows that I slipped a plain old stamped envelope in the slot and can trace it? Not on your life!

Calling to try to solve problems from my little corner on the sofa is a little bit like taking a trip around the world from the comfort of home.

  • Pam Bounds is a well-known artist living in Milton who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art. She will be sharing humorous and thoughtful observations about life in Sussex County and beyond.

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