Thursday, August 5, 2010

When “How May I Help You?” Turns Into “How May I Harm You?”

Just in the past few weeks alone, I’ve dithered away so much time (work time, play time, what was meant to be nap time) on the phone with customer service representatives, airing my vividly-detailed grievances to anyone who will listen, from minions to managers. I’ve been telling my stories and pleading my cases to Chase Bank, a couple of different departments within Dell, Time Warner, some kind of a shifty and shiftless parent company (or maybe it’s a child company?) of Time Warner, the company that manufactures my paper shredder, a non-profit organization that owes (but has been trying to get out of sending) me a canvas bag as a special gift. The kicker is that so little (aside from that bag finally having arrived at my doorstep three nights ago, almost one year late) has come out of it. Every single call has resulted in my obligation to continue doing mad follow-up. Hardly anything has come close to being officially resolved and I’m at the point where I can’t even imagine these people being out of my life. And then I just tried to call someone to wish her a happy birthday but she didn’t answer and I couldn’t leave a message because her mailbox was full. Which I’m reacting to as another, lighter iteration of a frustrating customer service call. I feel like having a cigarette, and I don’t even smoke - yet.

When did these institutional hotlines stop automatically serenading you with music when they put you on hold? I mean real down-time music. George Michael, Sade, old-school Madonna and Whitney Houston ballads, the Judds – stuff that will help take my mind off how disgusted I am with the underlying substance of the call. I don’t remember any of the places on my recent call-out list trying to move me with song while their reps treat themselves to long pauses from our semi-heated conversations to chuckle and roll their eyes about me to the person seated next to or across from them in [what I picture as] their very open, communal work space. During my waits, I’ve more memorably been stuck with a pre-recorded voice cheerfully offering to manipulate me with another company promotional arrangement. Despite the voice’s faux-enthusiasm, being talked at (without a meaningful opportunity to talk back) during these breaks is off-puttingly cold. At times like these, I just want to be sung to.

I would write more but, dammit, there’s no time – I’ve got to get back on the phone with the Time Warner-ish place. I had been instructed to renew contact with them 7 to 10 days after my initial call, after they‘ve had a chance to roll the audio-tape of a phone conversation I had with them 2 months back, to confirm that I did not in fact request that my checking account be charged $10/month for a “Support Squad” that (as far as I know) has done nothing for me and that may or may not actually exist.

Owning too many pieces of hyper-advanced technology has become a beast, a burden, and everything in between.

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