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Chatterbox: Working out of work


A few weeks ago, we talked about the annoying phone calls we get from solicitors trying to get our personal information, or sell us some service.

Often, caller I.D. shows a local number with a person’s name ... someone with a number local to our community. We answer to find it’s someone calling himself Bob selling cheap electric.

The Attorney General’s office claims there is no way to trace these calls. Amazing. After 9-11, the government tracked every phone call and text made by every American for months, but they can’t find Bob.

Life in America has become high on solicitation but low on service. We get instructions instead of assistance no matter where we go. We are working for the corporation or business whose products we are buying and whose services we are paying for. Soon, we’ll be drilling our own teeth.

At the grocery, we take a scanner, price our own items, and bag as we go … or, we take our filled cart to wrangle with the self check-out. We get no discounts while we work free for the corporation, putting our fellow Americans out of work. We must think about that.

The downward spiral continues as more websites, whether shopping or services, show no phone numbers for assistance. Any phone services we may ferret out offer us the option to go back to the website and “do-it-yourself.”

Online fewer and fewer businesses offer live assistants even when we want to shop. We’ve got robots texting us scripted prompts, presented as live people. Even if you text and ask them if they are “live people,” they’ll tell you they are. It’s always fun to ask them the same question twice or ask if they can help recite the lyrics to Jingle Bells. Then, we find out the truth.

Then, there is the business or service for which we have to fill out forms online. Today, I spent about 20 minutes filling out an online form for a school. At the end, after all the effort, they asked me for a student I.D. number. When I didn’t have it, a new page told me to get it first, then come back and fill out the forms. Now, I’m not Einstein but, seeing as we can’t register without it, wouldn’t it be smarter if they asked for it before we fill out twenty minutes of forms? And this is a school?

Everywhere we go, we get sent to someone, something, or someplace else, or to some other time frame. I had a problem at a retail store a few months ago. They said I had to speak to the manager. Okay. Oh, but he wasn’t there today. He would be back tomorrow. There was no one, in the manager’s absence, who could handle it. Are customers supposed to come back a second time when store policy has already put them through the wringer?

We become blind to much of the abuse. Businesses start a dossier on us, for us to shop. A few weeks ago, I got on a website to browse the clothing shown in an online ad. The first thing they wanted was for me to start an account. I wonder why any business thinks a potential customer should spend fifteen minutes sharing personal information to support their business, especially before we’re sure we need it. I wondered why any curious shoppers would do that before even seeing the selection of clothes closely or knowing: whether or not we can afford the clothes; if the clothes are available in our size; or if the clothes are made of cotton, loofah, crepe paper or will to disintegrate when exposed to full sun.

Businesses soliciting new clients shouldn’t ask anything of those potential clients before they show us their wares, and they absolutely never need to construct a personal file past name, shipping address and payment method … after we order.

Last week, I called a phone number to get some details on renting a storage unit. The clerk said, “Certainly, first, may I get your email address?” No. I said that I would first like to know the price and particulars of renting the unit. “I understand. May I have your phone number please?” Clearly she didn’t understand.

There’s a comedian I love who, sadly, passed away young. He talks about buying a toaster. The clerk asks for his address and phone number. He declines saying, “No. It’s a toaster. I’m not adopting it. I’m buying it.”

Great line; we can quote him.